tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN November 19, 2015 9:00am-7:01pm EST
the soviet union tried a different way and it didn't work out very well for them. we depend upon private industry but at the same token a lot of people get inspired to come in and be part of this great future opportunity, so i'm not a pessimist at all. we have a lot going for us. so it's not all a defensive game at all. >> you've been very nice to spend some time with us on a busy day, a busy week. i appreciate it very much. we're blessed to live in these interesting times. thank you again. >> thank you all. good to be with you. appreciate it. thanks, jerry. appreciate it. thank you. >> thanks very much. and we're live on capitol hill this morning as the house judiciary subcommittee on immigration and border security is holding a hearing on syrian refugees and whether admitting them to the u.s. poses a risk to
national security. republ republican congressman trey gowdy, south carolina chairing the immigration subcommittee, and legislation regarding syrian refugees being debated in the house today. you'll be able to watch that this morning on c-span. the house gavels in at 9:30 eastern. the judiciary committee comes to order. we welcome everyone to this morning's hearing on the refugee -- syrian refugee crisis and its impact on the security of the united states refugee program. i would just tell everyone that proper decorum is going to be observed, the witnesses deserve to be heard, the members deserve to be heard. this is your one and only warning in that respect. secondarily i would tell our witnesses we're going to do things a little bit differently this morning. i have some colleagues that will be here very shortly, so we are going to recognize our witnesses
for their opening statements before we recognize the members for theirs. and because there's a lot of floor activity this morning at 10:30, we want to get as much done as we can, so while each of you has very vast and impressive resumes, i'm probably going to skip them as i introduce you and just recognize you by your name before your opening. before i do that i would ask everyone to rise for the administration of an oath. just the witnesses, i'm sorry. that was my fault. that was my fault. i was ambiguous. that was my fault. do you swear the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth so help you god. may the record reflect all the witnesses answered in the affirmative. i am going to introduce you en banc and recognize you for your
opening. we are delighted to have ms. ann richard, mr. leon rodriguez, mr. seth jones, we are delighted to have mr. mark corcorian and we are delighted to have mr. mark hatfield. ms. richards, i recognize you for your five-minute opening. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman, and thank you to the subcommittee for holding this important hearing at such a key moment in the discussion about the program of very successful program that the u.s. government has to bring refugees to the united states so that they can restart their lives after living through very, very difficult situations of war and persecution. i know the murderous attacks in paris last friday evening have raised many questions about the spillover of not just migrants to europe but also the spread of violence from war zones in the middle east to the streets of a
major european capital. let me assure you that the entire executive branch and the state department that i represent has the safety and security of americans as our highest priority. as an essential fundamental part of u.s. refugee admissions program, we screen applicants rigorously and carefully and in an effort to make sure no one poses a threat to the safety and security of americans is able to enter our country. all refugees of all nationalities considered for admission into the united states undergo intensive security screening involving multiple federal agencies, intelligence, security, and law enforcement agencies including the national counterterrorism center, the fbi's terrorist screening center, and departments of homeland security, state and defense. consequently resettlement is a careful and deliberate process that can take 18 to 24 months. applicants to the u.s. refugee admissions program are currently
subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the united states. these safeguards include biometric and fingerprint and biographic checks and a lengthy in person overseas interview by specially trained dhs officers who scrutinize the applicants' explanation of individual circumstances to ensure the apple cant is a bona fide refugee and is not known to present security concerns to the united states. now leon will talk more about this. it's really in his department that the responsibility lies to determine who comes and who does not come, but we work so closely with them, i want to say that they are incredibly careful, and if they have any doubts, they will not allow anyone to enter the united states. no one has a right to resettlement in the united states. it is something that we offer out of our -- based on our history and our humanitarian values. the vast majority of those
admitted to the united states including from some of the most troubled regions in the world, have proven to be hard working and productive residents. they pay taxes, send their children to school, and after five years many take the test to become citizens. some serve in the u.s. military and undertake other forms of service for their communities in our country. and, in fact, our program is so well regard ed, other countries come to us to learn more about it. and i'll be taking the british member of parliament richard harrington, who is responsible now for trying to get more refugees through a process to the uk for a visit to one of our centers tomorrow. so i'm happy to answer any questions you may have about anything in my testimony. my testimony talks about our humanitarian assistance overseas and our diplomatic efforts, but i know that right now the american public wants to hear that our first priority is the safety of the american people.
thank you. >> thank you, ms. richard. mr. rodriguez? >> thank you, mr. chairman gowdy, and good morning congressmen keen and smith. we can stipulate to two things -- the united states has a proud history of admitting refugees from some of the worst crises in the most dangerous places in the world. and, secondly, that the situation in and around syria is an untenable one with 11 million people displaced. the question is if we are to continue that tradition of being a welcoming country, can i, as the director of the agency that vets refugees assure the american people that we are using all the resources that we have and that those resources are meaningful resources to vet refugees. the process as assistant secretary richard described is a
multilayer multilayered, robust and intensive process individuals must pass before they can travel to the united states. given the limitations of time, three critical phases of that process. there is the united nations high commission on refugee phase, there is the department of state phase, there is then the phase conducted by my refugee officers and hopefully i will have a little bit of time during questioning to dig into some of those elements further. during the unhcr process, those are reviewed into the claim for refugee status extensive biographical information is capture as well as preliminary analysis as to whether there are disqualifiers as applies to those individuals. the fruits of those interviews are then passed to the state department. at the state department stage a
second layer of interview is conducted. a serious of buy graphic checks are initiated. there are three critical legs to that check. the first is the lookout advisory support system.hosted . most importantly of all the interagency check. that is checked against a number of both law enforcement and intelligence holdings and important for me to let you know this morning that through that suite of checks we have, in fact, either denied refugee status to individuals or at a minimum placed them on hold based on derogatory information that came up through the check.
that check is populated by the work being done by the u.s. intelligence services which is, indeed, one of the most robust, well-developed intelligence services in the democratic world. at that point they come to my refugee officers who have extensive training both generally and protection law, refugee law, and interviewing but then also very specific and targeted training as to conditions in syria including the lessons learned during the refugee process as we interview each refugee or each family of refugees, we gain more and more information and more and more clarity as to what's going on in syria. that is coupled with another round of fingerprinting, a set of biometric checks, checks against department of defense databases, customs and border patrol databases, fbi databases which further check the status
of these individuals. also, when i talk about the interagency check, i would note the fact that is now a recurrent process, so these individuals are checked on an ongoing basis so that if new derogatory information arises about these individuals during the process, that comes to our attention during the process. i hope i have further opportunity during the questioning to elucidate each step because i think it's critical for the american people to get the reassurance they need to continue to be the kind of welcoming country that we are. i also ask us to consider the price of inaction, the fact that being welcoming to refugees contributes to the stability of the region. it puts us side-by-side with our allies in europe who, in fact, are taking on this problem to the same extent greater than we are and honors our tradition. thank you, chairman, thank you, congressman. >> thank you, mr. rodriguez.
mr. jones? >> thank you, chairman and distinguished members of the subcommittee. this is an important subject and the tragic attacks in paris over the weekend and the links with syria make this hearing particularly important. i've divided my comments into two sections. the first will provide an overview from syria and the region. the second implications for refugees and the homeland. my background and the focus of my remarks is primarily on terrorist groups and foreign fighters. that's my expertise. working for the 9/11 commission where we did look at the stuff for director comey. the first -- let me just talk about the extremist threat from syria, just to put this into perspective. u.s.-led air strikes and strikes recently from france and other coalition partners have probably halted the advance of the
islamic state in syria and across the border in iraq the u.s. efforts including special operations forces on the ground have helped halt the advance in places like sinjar and supported iraqi army operations. the group remains strong. daash is not on the ropes. in syria probably is more capable now, that is fighters, funds, territory, than at any time since its creation in 2011. it's an affiliate which means it's pledged ali january to al z zawawari. the fighters we have seen traveling to and from syria and iraq. the battlefield is the largest concentration of extremists we have seen in any major war, certainly ones that i have participated in and looked at the numbers in pakistan, in
afghanistan, in somalia, in libya and foreign fighters who traveled to syria to fight, about 17% of them have come from the west with depending on how you counted in the neighborhood of 200 americans that have traveled or attempted to travel to syria mostly to fight against the assad regime. we've seen plots by islamic state, in garland, texas, in copenhagen, in ottawa, canada, in brussels and then in other locations. the threat is clear. i note the head of domestic intelligence saying they have 750 british extremists that traveled to syria.
they have been foiled. the threat is notable coming to our european allies and to some degree to the u.s. homeland. let me just start by saying that refugees have played an important role in ensuring cultural diversity. the plots we looked at last year on the 9/11 commission from azazi to the times square bomber to david hedley based out of chicago who was involved in the mumbai attacks and plots in copenhagen. almost none of these major attacks or individuals were refugees. the threat has been relatively small but i would just highlight a couple of things that make the syrian picture and iraq also to some degree worth noting. one is, as i said earlier, we see the highest number of foreign fighters on any modern
jihadist battlefield in the syria/iraq border and that border is very porous, and there obviously has been an exodus of fighters into the west. second. several european intelligence agencies expressed concern about refugees particularly in europe that have been in contact with daesh or the islamic state so there have been some concerns, in some cases after they've gotten into europe, and then, third, i would say -- and this is based partly on my own experience -- what we had in iraq and afghanistan was a pretty good intelligence architecture to collect information on individuals including those that came through prisons. we certainly don't have this in the syrian context. happy to talk in more detail about this. let me just conclude by saying that the u.s. has a longstanding tradition of offering protection and freedom to refugees but an integral part needs to be
ensuring that those individuals considered to the homeland. the battlefield is of some concern just because of the u.s. collection gap. thank you very much. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. corcoran? >> refugee protection policy has to be based on two principles. one, whatever policies we adopt must not pose a threat to the american people and, secondly, whatever money we take from our people through taxes to devote to these purposes should be -- should yield the maximum humanitarian effect and, unfortunately, resettlement of refugees in the united states from syria or from yemen or somalia or other failed states fails on both of those counts.
hillary clinton said at the debate this weekend that the united states should spend, quote, whatever it takes, unquote, to properly screen syrian refugees. i think everybody would agree with that. but it misses the point. the problem is not that we're devoting inadequate resources. it's certainly not that our people in dhs or fbi or state are not committed. our people are doing the best job they can. the problem is that proper screening of people from syria cannot be done. we are giving our people an assignment which they cannot accomplish successfully. we imagine in a modern developed country like ours that everybody in the world leaves behind them the kind of electronic traces that we do. birth certificates, driver's licenses, all those things we take for granted. the fact is those tracks, those traces are nonexistent in much of the world even in the best of circumstances.
in syria or in somalia or yemen or libya or afghanistan, what little information that might have existed has probably gone up in smoke or at the very least is inaccessible to us. jeh johnson said we're not going to know a lot about the individual refugees who comfort, unquote. that's true. and, in fact, just this week we found more evidence of that. the french sent our intelligence agencies the fingerprints of the attackers in paris, and there was no trace of them anywhere in our databases, the very databases we're supposed to be using to screen the syrian refugees. our screening of refugees resembles -- and i don't mean to be flip here -- but it does resemble the joke about the drunk who loses his keys in the park but is searching for them under the street light and when asked why he's doing that he said, well, the light is better he here.
the clearest statement of this came from matthew emrick, nothing personal, in charge of fraud detection. he told the senate, we check everything that we are aware of within u.s. government holdings. because the light's better there. the second point is efficacy. in other words, is the -- are the resources we're devoting to humanitarian protection for refugees, whether it's syria or anywhere else, being used to the maximum effect? and, you know, bringing refugees to our country makes us feel better. i assume mr. hatfield will give us warm stories about that, and it does make us feel better. humanitarian protection of refugees is to assist as many people as possible with whatever resources we've decided to devote to this purpose. and what we found, we did research on this, and we found it costs 12 times as much to
res resettle a refugee from syria from the middle east in the united states as it does to provide for them in their own region. in this case, in, say, syrian refugees in turkey or jordan or lebanon, which is where most of them are. the five-year cost we conservatively estimated is $64,000 compared to u.n. figures that indicate a five-year cost for caring for people in the region would be about $5,300. in other words, each refugee that we bring to the united states from the middle east means that 11 other people are not being helped with those same resources. the image i like to think about when considering this is imagine you have 12 drowning people. what are you going to do? do you send them a one-man yacht that's a very nice, beautiful yacht but holds only one person or do you throw them 12 life preservers? the moral choice is obvious there and what we're doing through the best of intentions is sending the one-person yacht
instead of throwing them 12 life preservers. in conclusion, congress has a variety of measures to address the syrian refugee issue, and i'm not qualified to say whether we should have a temporary pause or whether there should be a suspension of funding or a broad change. these are questions you'll consider. but in considering them, i urge you to keep in mind these two points. the only way to reduce the security of resettling syrian refugees or somali or yemeni or afghan is to reduce the number we resettle and the government's obligation to make the most effective use of the funding that we have taken from our people to devote to refugee protection compels a shift in emphasis away from resettlement toward greater protection for people in the region. thank you. >> thank you. mr. hatfield?
>> thank you, our ranking member lofgren, for having me testify here today. our highest is the oldest refugee agency -- >> your mike isn't on. >> can you hear me now? okay. thank you, chairman gowdy, ranking member lofgren, and distinguished members of the subcommittee for inviting me to speak here today on behalf of the oldest refugee agency in the world. we've been resettling refugees since 1881, not just because it makes us feel better but because it saves lives. refugee resettlement has saved millions of lives since 1881 but not nearly enough. we're confront iing the world's most horrific crisis since world war ii with 60 million displaced across the globe, 20% of whom are syrian fleeing a conflict that has taken over 240,000 lives. without considerably more international assistance, countries like lebanon, jordan and turkey are beyond their saturation points with over 4
million syrians causing refugees to risk their lives to flee for a second or a third time. the crisis finally attracted international attention and attention in this country when the body of 3-year-old syrian washed up on a turkish beach on september 2nd, one of 1,813 to to make the perilous journey to europe. this requires extraordinary leadership, but so far the united states' response has been tepid at best. while this is the largest refugee crisis of my lifetime, we're resettling fewer than we did in 1980 when we resettled over 200,000 indochina he's or in 1993 and 1994 when we resettled over 110,000 refugees each year. but my great sadness at the murderous acts perpetrated has been compounded by the reactions
of some politicians in this country. they have diverted the focus away from fighting terrorism and toward keeping refugees out of our country and out of their states. they have blamed the victims. this plays on people's fears, turns prejudice into policy, and weakens our national security and our national character. i mistakenly thought that attitudes and signs like irish need not apply, no coloreds, no jew jews or dogs allowed were ugly relics buried in the past, but apparently not. governors are clearly saying openly, no syrian muslims are welcome in my state. one governor even said, from my home state of new jersey, no syrian orphans under 5 are welcome either, which can only recall the ugly debate that occurred in this house in 1939 which resulted in the defeat of the wagner rodgers' bill that would have saved 20,000 refugee children from nazi germany. governors are right to be concerned about security, but so
is the federal government, so are the refugee resettlement agencies and the extensive screening process and our program reflects that as director rodriguez has already testified and as is my testimony. the number of syrian refugees being resettled here today is relatively anemic, the security protocols in place are stronger than anything i have ever seen in my 26 years working in this field. so strong that it has made the refugee resettlement program into more fortress than ambulance causing massive backlogs of legitimately deserving and unnecessarily suffering refugees. the fear of resettled refugees here is based on erroneous assumptions. the flow of refugees to europe is entirely dissimilar to the refugees accepted through the u.s. refugee resettlement program. the refugees who arrive in the u.s. have undergone ex tensive vetting prior to stepping on u.s. oil. refugees are not screened until after they enter.
this is the distinction. it simply does not make sense for u.s. lawmakers to react to the tragedy in paris by proposing legislative changes to the u.s. refugee program. history has demonstrate that had our democracy cannot only withstand large influxes but will prosper as a result. when we welcome millions of refugees from communist, fascist regimes, our country did not become infected with any of these ideologies nor with the terror associated with them. if anything, these refugees immunized us from the totalitarian ideologies they were fleeing. the u.s. rap is hardly a piece of swiss cheese. it is not even the wide reaching rescue program it was intended to be. given the complexity, intrusive ness for refugees, it seems highly unlikely, if not impossible, that a terrorist
would choose the refugee resettlement program as his or her pathway to the u.s. my written testimony outlines a number of suggestions to improve the program while increasing both security and efficiency but it does not recommend a certification process. thank you for inviting me to testify here today on syrian f refugees. this country must continue to be both welcoming and safe. >> thank you. i will reminded witnesses and the members to direct their responses and comments to the appropriate audiences. for members it would be not to one another and to witnesses it would not to one another. with that i would recognize the ranking member of the full committee, the gentleman from michigan, mr. conyers. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i apologize for appearing late,
but this is an important hearing which focuses on the syrian refugee crisis and its impact on the security of our nation's refugee admissions program, has the potential to shed meaningful light on critical issues of interest to all americans, to all of us. unfortunately, the value of today's undertaking is greatly diminished by the fact that immediately following the conclusion of this hearing we will go directly to the floor to vote on hr-4038, the so-called american safe act, a bill that would effectively shut down refugee processing for syrians and iraqis. clearly there are no easy solutions to the humanitarian crisis of this magnitude as well as the security threats we will
hear about today. yet 4038 is not the right answer, in my view, and i want the witnesses to please let us know what should be our response keeping in mind these factors. to begin with, while ensuring the safety of all americans should be our top priority, hr-4038, which would effectively debar syrian and iraqi refugees from the u.s. refugee admissions program does nothing to promote security. this measure sets unreasonable clearance standards that the department of homeland security cannot meet and would halt refugee resettlement in the united states. which is perhaps what the whole point of their doing this is.
so without question the program should be held to the highest standards to ensure to the greatest extent possible the security screening is thorough, effective, and timely. refugees are subject to the highest level of vetting, more than any other traveler or immigrant to the united states. performed by the departments of ho homeland security and state in conjunction with the cia, the fbi and other law enforcement agencies relies on extensive background checks that often take up to 24 months on average to complete and even longer in some cases. . like any system there can be room for improvement. i would appreciate your thoughts
here and after this hearing on how we can accomplish that goal. our nation was founded by immigrants and has historically welcomed refugees when there was suffering around the globe, whether it's an earthquake in haiti, a tsunami in asia, or four years of civil war in syria with no end in sight. the world looks to the united states. we provide protection for refugees and asylum seekers especially women and children. nevertheless, in the wake of september 11 attack on our shores and the tragic november 13 terror attacks in paris we must be vigilant especially in the midst of a global refugee crisis.
our latest security concerns, rather than shutting our door doors -- the good intentions of our citizens to welcome and finally congress needs to do its part by funding refugee resettlement as well as funding our federal agencies so that they have the necessary personnel and programs to complete security checks. rather than slamming the doors to the world's most vulnerable, we should be considering legislation to strengthen and expand refugee programs. i'm a co-sponsor of the protecting religious minorities persecuted by isis act.
allows persecuted those in isis-held territories in iraq and syria to apply directly to the u.s. refugee admissions program. legislation that was introduced just two days ago and has not been subject to even a single hearing. we should devote our legislative resources to developing meaningful solutions. i thank the chair very much for this opportunity. >> i thank the gentleman from michigan. the chair will recognize himself. national security and public safety are the pre-eminent functions of government. national security and public safety are not simply factors to be considered in the administration of some broader policy objective. national security and public safety are the ultimate policy objectives. the safety and security of our fellow citizens should be the driving force behind all decisions that we make as representatives. and as representatives it would
be incongruent for us to undertake any act or fail to undertake an act calculated to jeopardize the safety and security of those who sent us here in the first place. people do not employ us to represent them so we could take risk with their security. they send us here to put their security at the top of our constitutional to-do list. this country has a rich and long history of welcoming those fleeing persecution. we have a long and rich history of liberating those suffering under oppression. we are the most welcoming country in the world, and we are the most generous kcountry in te world, and we help those in need both here and abroad and we administrate that aid in greater quantities than anyone else. our country has welcomed over 3 million refugees since 1975. those who cannot protect themselves and we provide a defense for those who are defenseless.
in perfect and seemingly becoming more imperfect. it is because we are free and secure and an orderly society that we have the liberty of being generous to other people. rather than address the underlying pathology that results in displaced people, those in charge of our foreign policy seem more interested in treating the sim tolls. there are refugees from the middle east and northern africa because those regions are on fire and riddled with chaos and bright lines and policies of containment and smart power or whatever we call it today have failed. terrorists took the lives of over 100 innocent people in france and injured many more for no other reason than the fact that they could. they killed 100 because they couldn't kill 1,000. and their objective is evil for the sake of evil, it is murder for the sake of murder. it is wanton and premeditated
depravi depravity, calculated to take as many lives as possible. the acts of barbarism are the latest in a long line of malevolent acts committed against innocents and that line is not likely to be over. cia director brennan said what happened in france was not a one-off event. we know isis terrorists are intent on finding ways to attack america and our allies including here. director brennan said isis has an external agenda, they are determined to carry out. another official said i wouldn't put it past isis to infiltrate operatives among refugees, so that's a huge concern of ours. those are not the words of some gop presidential hopeful. those are the words of our own intelligence officials who serve this administration. the president has said he's too busy to debate the critical issue and unfortunately what passes for debate in this political day and age is some
absurd conclusion about widows and orphans. precisely cutting off debate rather than discuss foreign policy that has unite this had country and only this one fact. we have no idea what our foreign policy is in the middle east. the people i represent are kind and generous and they're asking this administration and this president one simple question. what assurance can you give us with respect to our public safety and national security? and so far no one has been able it to provide that assurance. on monday the president said the country would continue to accept syrian refugees but only after subjecting them to rigorous screening and security checks. those are wonderful words. but at some point you have to ask what does that mean? and ahead of our own fbi said the concern in syria, the lack of our footprint on the ground in syria, that the databases won't have the information we need. so it's not that we don't have a
process. we don't have any information. so you're talking about a country that's a failed state, that doesn't have any infrastructure, all the data sets, the police, the intel services you normally would go to and seek that information don't exist. that is not a republican hopeful. that is the head of the fbi. he said we can only query against that which we've collected. if someone has never made a ripple in a pond or seyria or ay other place in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home but nothing will show up because there is no record on that person. i cannot say there's no risk associated with this. what amount of risk is acceptable? if our experts are telling us this is not a risk-free endeavor, and few things in life are, but someone's going to need to tell me and the people i work
for what amount of risk is acceptable when you're talking about national security and public safety? scared of widows and orphans, with all due respect to him, what i'm afraid of is a foreign policy that creates more widows and orphans. maybe he ought to start as a foreign policy in the middle east including syria where people can go back to their homeland which is their preference, go back to their homelands. maybe ought to defeat that jayvee team you thought you had contained. that would be the very best thing you could do to help people who aspire to a better life. with that i recognize the gentlelady from california. >> when we're elected to congress, our first responsibility is to make sure
that the security of the american people is attended to. that's number one, two, three, four. that's the first obligation. i take it very seriously. that admonition has caused me once again to review the procedures and policies and laws relative to our refugee programs. now refugees from syria and other places in the middle east are arriving in waves unscreened at europe's doorstep, as mr. hatfield has recalled. we were shocked to see the body of a 3-year-old child on the beach of families trying to escape from isis who is beheading people. but our process is different. we have an ocean between us and europe and the middle east and that has allowed us to provide
for a rather extensive process, and here's really what it is. in order to even be considered, the united nations refers you to our system for screening and only a few people actually make that process to be screened. at that point we have a resettlement support center that does an interview. we do biographic checks and use the class system, the constant lookout and support system which queries data that's classified what all of it is, but it includes the dea, the fbi homeland security, immigration, customs, and on and on, the marshal service, and then for
certain refugees and that includes the syrians, we have a security advisory opinion which is a positive sao clearance from a number of u.s. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, again, the participants are classified but it is everybody. and then we have the interagency check which was new. before 2008 and this administration we didn't have that. unfortunately, we admitt eted f iraqi refugees who turned out to be terrorist under the bush administration. we reviewed the process and changed that to avoid that repetition of that as well as the biometric checks and the next generation and information system along with the automate biographic system and the identification system. that's all followed by in person
interviews and some post interview efforts. following that there are additional checks for syrians. so it's no small surprise that this process takes a couple of years for someone to pass. now, you know, i listen to the fbi director who we all respect but i'm mindful the fbi essentially has a veto. i mean, if there's somebody that we don't know who they are, they can't come in. that's our process. they can't come in. that's the current law. and that's as it should be. you know, that we would think querying what assad thinks about a refugee, i don't really care what assad thinks about a refugee. he thinks all sunnis are terrorists and they're not. hope that the u.n. will refer me
to the system, and honestly, because of paris, this has now been further extended because everyone wants to make sure that every "t" is crossed and "i" is dotted and then two or three years, if i'm lucky, i might make it as a refugee. i don't think so. i don't think so. we need to take a look at all of the systems that we have. most of the terrorists, it looks like at this point all of the terrorists in paris, were europeans. they had belgium and french passports. they could come to the united states very easily. and so i think we need to take a look at what processes we have in place to make sure that the country is safe. it doesn't include being afraid of a 5-year-old and i think -- i just want to say, mr. hatfield,
it's important that you are here. i was listening to my colleague louise gutierrez and yesterday a syrian family's refugees arrived in chicago and the nonprofit group that was resettling them was the jewish community center. that tells isis and the world we're on the right side of history and they're on the wrong side of history. how do you recruit more terrorists when the united states stands up for what it is? and that's part of this equation. we need to win this militarily but we need to win it in a value fight and we're not going to win that value fight by backing off from being free and being american. thank you, mr. chairman. >> the gentlelady yield back. the gentleman from virginia.
>> perhaps the most essential lesson from the 9/11 terrorist acts is that foreign nationals who wanted to do us harm will he can mroexploit all to do so evef it takes months or years. tragically our allies in france learned that same lesson when over 120 people, including at least one american were slaughtered by isis terrorists. and we know that at least one of the perpetrators registered as a refugee from syria while in transit to paris. armed with that knowledge today we examine the administration's plan to admit thousands of syrians into the u.s. as refugees. the president admitted 1,682 syrian refugees to the u.s. then in late september the administration announced that during this fiscal year they planned to admit at least 10,000 more and that number could go
higher as secretary of state john kerry stated. it is not a ceiling, it is a floor. since the overall ceiling for fiscal year 2016 resettlement it's 85,000. nearly 12% from a country with little infrastructure and complete turmoil that foreign fighters have poured, parts of which the islamic state controls and in which we have no law enforcement presence. i understand that the administration conduct security checks prior to admitting refugees. these checks are robust with regard to the syrian population. but are they enough? they will not commit terrorist attacks once in the united states. dhs secretary jeh johnson told consider that agencies involved in the vetting process are committed to doing the best we
can and as deliberately as we can. such a statement doesn't exactly instill confidence in the vetting system. islamic radicals from around the world are chanting death to america and mount iing attacks. isis is saying we will strike america at its center in washington. top administration security officials have told congress that the refugee vetting process is not adequate. in fact, fbi director james comey told this committee while the vetting of refugees has improved, the reality is that with a conflict zone like syria where there is less information available to use during the process director comey could not offer anybody an absolute assurance there's no risk associated with admitting syrian nationals as refugees. and not only did his boss, attorney general lynch, not
refute his statements, she concede that had there are, in kt if a, challenges to the refugee vetting process during her testimony in this committee on tuesday. i wrote to the president last month asking why he continues to ignore the concerns of some of his top security officials. i look forward to the witnesses' thoughts on such concerns today. exactly who the individuals fleeing syria are is also a question of immense concern. there is little doubt that members of the islamic state and some of the foreign fighters who have streamed into syria over the last few years are now some of the very individuals leaving the country. in september, the director of national intelligence, james clapper, noted regarding the millions of individuals fleeing syria, i don't obviously put it past the likes of isil to infiltrate operatives among these refugees. so that is a huge concern of ours. media accounts note non-syrians trying to pass themselves off as syrians to try to get into
european countries. articles point out the booming fake identification document industry where a forged syrian passport can be bought on the turkish border for $200. i know the administration is trying to implement the refugee laws that congress puts in place. but if implementation places americans in danger, it is clear that congress must take a look at the refugee provisions in the immigration and nationality act to determine what changes should be made. lastly, i would like to thank the witnesses for testifying here today. i know that some of you had to rearrange your schedules to make it here today. and we appreciate your willingness to testify on this important topic. mr. chairman, thank you. i yield back. >> thank you, mr. chairman. the choir will recognize the gentleman from idaho for five minutes of questioning. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you to all the witnesses for appearing here today. i'm actually a proponent of the refugee program. so when i hear somebody like mr.
hetfield talk about as if we're going back to the 1930s, i'm actually very offended. i think your testimony was completely out of line and out of place, because most of us are here concerned about the safety and security of the united states while at the same time we want to make sure that we can continue with this humanitarian program that has helped so many lives, so many people throughout the world. so it was very disappointing to hear your testimony. the mission, however, that we have with humanitarian concerns must not come at the cost of our national security. with recent testimony from both fbi director james comey and attorney general loretta lynch that the administration is not able to properly vet incoming refugees, congress has a duty to act. we're not acting out of just plain fear based on a few members of congress just talking to each other. we're acting after we have had testimony after testimony after
testimony from our top national security experts telling us that we have a problem with the vetting process. miss richard, you reference an intensive security screening that all refugees must undergo prior to the admission. do you think the current vetting system is appropriate? >> yes, i do. it's the toughest one for any traveller to the united states, congressman. >> it's the toughest one. but do you think it's sufficient for the current crisis that we're in? >> yes. and i will tell you why. because anybody -- we have any doubts about anyone who we think might pose a threat to the united states in any possible way is not allowed to come in. >> do you agree with that, mr. rodriguez? yes or no. >> i do agree. >> how about you -- >> i do agree. >> so all of you, i assume, disagree with director comey's
testimony that it is not sufficient when processing that population due to intelligence gaps? >> may i answer that question? because i have given this some thought. you know, what director comey doesn't say is that it is normal for the u.s. government to have no information about -- >> that's not true. he was here in this committee. and he testified that there was a huge difference between the syrian population and the iraqi population because we got intelligence on the iraqi population. >> the reason for that is iraqis and afghan programs were not like the normal refugee programs. we take people who have served for the u.s. military and have worked alongside our troops from iraq. so there is a great deal of information about them available to the fbi. normally, you would not have that. >> reclaiming my time. he testified, has testified again and again and again, that we don't have sufficient
vetting. i trust him, with all due respect, a lot more with my national security that i respect you. you have a mission which is to bring more refugees to the united states. i respect that you have that work. but i'm concerned about the national security of my constituents. i'm concerned about the national security of the people that are in my district. we have two -- as you know, two refugee centers in the state of idaho. we are concerned about what's going to happen in the state of idaho if we don't do the proper vetting. so it's my responsibility to make sure that they are protected. mr. rodriguez, i want to briefly touch on the interviews conducted with potential refugees. how are the interview questions generated? >> they are generated -- they are generated by -- first of all, intensive briefing on country conditions, including classified information as i explained before.
they are generated based on the information received in prior interviews of that same individual. they are also generated by the experience and training of that officer and what we have learned from other refugees. >> how often are those questions altered? >> they are determined very carefully on a case by case basis. there's obviously constant communication among our officers. >> what's the typical duration of a typical -- of a refugee -- >> i have observed them to be an hour. have i i have observed them to be two hours. the more complex, the more questions we have, the longer the interview will take. it takes as long as it needs to take. >> okay. in your opinion, if security protocols are not updated, what's the future of the u.s. refugee admission program? if security protocols are not updated, what is the future of
the u.s. refugee admission program? >> look, i think the challenge we have, as i look at it, is the databases we have that are feeding into the refugee programs. we just have gaps in syria. in the iraq and afghan cases where i was involved in, we had large databases, biometric information, names based on people coming into prison systems at checkpoints. we don't have them here. i think this is a notable concern. we have gaps of information we generally haven't seen in many other cases. >> thank you very much. >> the chair will now recognize the gentle lady from california. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. rodriguez, we have heard that refugees for admission to the u.s. are subject to more rigorous screening than any other traveller or immigrant. the screening is often conducted
because refugees in particular may not often have the documents that we would have walking down the street. i mean, they have in some cases fled for their lives with just the clothes on their back. they may not have boxes of documents. how do we proceed to establish identity in those cases? i mean, it's not just syria. if you've got -- we had the lost boys in sudan. we have congolese refugees. we have people who have fled with people chasing them and here they are. how do we go about identifying -- >> and i think it's important -- i appreciate your distinction between syrians and others. the fact is actually most of the syrians that we see do come with documents that are authentic documents on the whole. what we do though is an
expensive process of assessing, mapping out family trees, ail y ailiases as the case might be. other processes when we do have less documentation than is the norm, we have trained our personnel, both by the way to recognize fraudulent documents when they are presented, but also to use the interview as an effective way of determining identity in those cases. committee organized a congressional delegation to visit the middle east. one of the most interesting elements of that trip -- i thank the chairman for organizing it, was the trip we took to the refugee camp on the syrian border in jordan. we had an opportunity to meet a large number of refugees. i would say almost all of whom wanted to go home, but their
homes had been destroyed. by the way, they were very grateful to the united states for the efforts that we have made to provide support for them. that was very rewarding to hear the recognition that the united states has among the refugees for our efforts. but do we ever crowd source information? i mean, those people had -- that we met, some of them were computer science students. some of them were widows. you can find out a lot about somebody by doing not just an interview with them but crowd sourcing the information with everyone around them. do we do that? >> well, we do -- that's a great phrase. we do so in two respects. one, we're always comparing and vetting what we hear from any one refugee or family of refugees, which is more typically what we're encountering, with what we're learning from other individuals from that town. in fact, as we see refugees,
they tend to come from at least the ones we have admitted, tend to come from particular areas. and also as part of the classified information that we receive, there can well be information that gives more detail in the manner that you have described. >> so in terms of the role of the refugee corps and the training they receive, what steps are taken by officers with the syrian refugees as compared to all other applicants? >> the manner in which they are briefed on country conditions and regional conditions is more intensive than what we do for any other officers. so they have their basic training on protection law, their basic training on refugee law and interviewing. they then have two series of
briefings. one is a general briefing on actually syria, iraq and iran. and then prior to deployment, there is an eight-day period when they receive intensive briefings of an unclassified and classified nature from a number of different sources, including consultations with security experts to really steep them in the specifics of the environment they're going to at the time that they are going to it. there is an effort to ensure that that information is current. once in the field, those individuals have a ten-day mentoring, shadowing period before they are able to move off and interview on their own. >> i see that my time has expired, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> the chair will recognize the gentleman from virginia. >> thank you, mr. chairman. director rodriguez, i would like to follow up on that line of
questioning. if the interview process is so effective, why do we have five million over stays in the united states? five million people who are lawfully admitted to the united states through the interview process and have overstayed their visas, violated the terms, the promises they made when they entered the united states? >> what i can speak to today is the actual refugee process. i mean, i think when we say -- >> you think refugees where we have talked about the greater difficulty of obtaining background information that you have a more highly accurate set of circumstances than you do for people who are applying to come into the united states for other types of visas? >> i'm not sure i understood the question. >> the question is very simple. if the interview process is so effective and we interview the people who apply for a multitud
of different visas and are coming from places where we have greater presence on the ground than in some refugee countries and particularly that we don't have at all in syria, why would that good process that you describe do we still have five million people who are illegally present in the united states that didn't come across the border illegally, entered legally after you said they could? >> no, i do understand the question now. sir, what i can speak to is the refugee screening process which as assistant second richard mentioned specifically as to syrians is the most intensive process. it consists not just of the interview -- >> as the fbi director noted, you have little inside syria that you can contact. you can't access local or national databases there. you can't interview neighbors. you can't interview business associates. you can't interview other contacts with people because
they're either in the country and we can't get to them or they're dispersed around the world. why do you think this interview process is so effective? >> because, again, it is based on extensive detailed mapping of family relationships, associations, credibility assessments based on prior documents. and, this is really critical, it does not follow from anything that director comey may have said that we are querying a void. in fact, people have either -- >> the director seemed to think so. i'm paraphrasing, but he said, you can query a database until the cows come home, but if the information isn't in the database, you are not going to find anything. and i think that is exactly what he thinks is the situation. >> but there is information. that is why we have placed people on heightened review. is that why there have been denials. that is a why there have been
holds. >> why not do what so many members of congress and other people have said on both sides of the aisle, and that is hit the pause button on this? the situation in syria has been going on for a few years now. it continues to deteriorate. the situation in terms of gathering information about people, we have a problem with forged documents that are fooling the europeans and maybe fooling us as well. why not simply delay this for a period of time until we make sure that the criteria that we have set forth in the legislation athat we're putting forward today would could be met? >> because the process is currently constituted and currently resourced. your question is the best we can do good enough. the fact is that it is the most intensive process. it has resulted in denials and
holds. it is a redundant, rigorous process to which we put the refugees. >> do we have a way of distinguishing individuals from refugees and individuals posing as syrian refugees? >> they can try. i have no doubt that u.s. cis officials, state department, fbi and the rest are doing their best to distinguish between people pretending to be syrians and people who aren't. but there's a limit to how effective had a can be since there's an extreme lack of data. sometimes have i no doubt they will, in fact, smoke out people who are lying or cheating. i'm sure it happens all the time. but as miss strack said to the senate, more than 90% of syrian refugee applicants are being approved.
that might go down a little bit as those cases that are in limbo are formally decided. but the average worldwide is 80%. how stringent really can a vetting process be when more than 90% of the people are being approved? >> thank you. mr. chairman, my time has expired. >> thank you. the chair will recognize -- >> i ask unanimous consent to submit to the record of this hearing 37 statements, including from the christian reform church, the lutheran immigration services, the southeast asian resource center and the disciples of christ. >> without objection. the chair will recognize mr. conyers. >> thank you. my questions seem to be directed to mark hetfield. the first one is -- i respect
the important testimony of the other four witnesses. but i'm trying to see how much difference there is between the european refugee model and the u.s. refugee resettlement program. is there much of a distinction there, sir? >> there is a very significant distinction, which is why it is so surprising to me that the attacks in paris have resulted in even more intense scrutiny of the refugee resettlement program. the refugees who arrive in europe are not vetted in advance. they are asylum seekers. their vetting does not begin until after they touch land in greece or in europe. in the united states, as director rodriguez testified and as you have heard over and over
again, they are vetted, refugee applicants are vetted upside down, sideways, every which way you can imagine before they are admitted to the united states. then the process continues after they arrive. they have to apply for adjustment after a year in the united states. they continue to be under close watch. the risk in the refugee program of admitting terrorists is very, very low. >> you know, we're considering hr-4038 on the floor today. conservatives around here argue the bill does nothing more than add a certification process that would ensure no terrorist elements enter the country through resettlement. do you think that's the whole story behind this?
>> well, it is a short bill. is it does add nothing but a certification process. but that process would totally cripple a system without making it more effective. refugees are already thoroughly vetted as we have testified prior to arrival. and having three different high ranking officials certify each and every refugee case is a guarantee that the system will come to a screeching halt. it also moves so slowly. it's no longer a rescue program. it saves lives, but it saves lives very, very slowly. that would bring it to an end. >> mr. hetfield, you're with the hebrew immigrant aid society. are you concerned that refuges s we will be accepting would pose -- from syria and iraq
would pose a specific threat to the jewish community in the united states? >> we are, as everyone else, very concerned about screening people out who want to do us harm, especially those who have a particular ax to grind against the jewish community. but, again, these refugees are thoroughly vetted. what worries us much, much more, because we feel the vetting is being done, but what we're also seeing right now is islam phobia driving a wedge between muslims and the rest of the world. we're afraid that can do far more damage to muslim jewish relations, to who we are as a country, to our security as a country and make us even more vulnerable to attack, because we have basically said, syrian muslims are not welcome here. we do not trust them.
>> my final question to you, sir, is for you to try to explain why our war with isis and other terrorist groups is different, because they do not comprise enemy states or governments? shouldn't the safety and protection of our people be our first concern, even if it means not allowing some refugees into the united states? >> it absolutely should be our paramount concern to keep the united states safe and secure. i can say with great confidence that my colleagues in the department of homeland security are doing that to a fault. that is their mission. and they vet every refugee to make us safe. and i really can't imagine what additional protocols they could
possibly install to make us any safer. no refugee -- no terrorist in his right mind would use the refugee program as a way to enter the united states. they may find out channels. it's not going to be through the refugee program. it's too intrusive. it's too invasive. it's too thorough. >> secretary richard, do you have anything to add to that comment? >> the people who we are bring ing are gone through this process, but they're also referred to us in the first place. because unacr knows the type, the profile of refugee that we want to help. and so we're looking at people who have been tortured, who -- burn victims from barrel bombs, people who are widows and children, but also the elderly, families that have been ripped apart as members have been
murdered in front of their eyes. so, of course, every single one of us feels that the first priority is the safety of the american people. if we can't provide for that, we would shut down the program. but we believe strongly that by the time a refugee is brought here, we are bringing some of the most vulnerable people, giving them a second chance at life. and we have screened out anyone about whom we have any question. they weren't even probably referred to us in the first place, which may be why we have a higher acceptance rate. and i think that the proof is in the success of the program and communities across the united states. so thank you for the opportunity to provide some information. and we also are happy, if given the opportunity, to explain more about the nuts and bolts of the process. we think it can withstand
scrutiny. the chair and ranking member of this subcommittee have spent a lot of time on this already this year. but we're happy to meet with other members to go into the point that, for example, the fbi holdings would only tell you a limited amount of information about refugees. for example, if a refugee had ever commit aid crime in the united states, the fbi would tell you. most refugees have never been to the united states before. that's why we have to use many more databases and many more techniques and many more approaches to get the full story, make sure their story holds up. if it doesn't hold up, if there's any question, they are not included in the program. thank you. >> thank you. thank you, chairman. >> the choir will recognize the man from texas, mr. smith. >> i would like to single out mr. krikorian and thank him for his testimony. i honestly don't know how anyone could disagree with one word. before i get to a question for
miss richard, mr. chairman, i have to tell you how it seems to me right now. that is that the president of the united states says he wants to protect the security of the american people. we have a bill on the house floor where the fbi has to certify that a syrian refugee is not a threat to the united states. and yet the president of the united states is threatening to veto a bill that tries to protect the security of the american people. i have no rational explanation for the president's threatened veto. it's astounding to me that a president of the united states would want to veto a bill that tries to protect the security of americans. i just don't get it. but miss richard, my question to you is this. this year, we have admitted i t 1,700 refugees from syria in the
last several months. how many of those 1,700 refugees have been arrested for committing a court room? >> so we have brought 1,700 in the last fiscal year, which ended september 30th. 2,000 since the start of the crisis. as far as i know, none have been arrested, unless you have contradictory information. >> do you track the refugees from syria, including the 6%
united states, after a year of being here, they become legal, permanent residents. after five years, they're allowed to -- >> i understand that. i'm talking about the early period. >> they are treated pretty much like ordinary americans. they are not tracked. >> right. but what i'm saying is, are they treated any differently than any other refugees? do you consider them to be more of a threat than other refugees or not? >> well, they're not treated differently than other refugees. >> i think most people would consider syrian refugees about whom we have heard -- >> syrians are less of a threat, actually, because they have fled their country. they voted with their feet. >> syrians -- let me stop you there. let me stop threw quick. you say syrians are less of a threat even though we have had testimony from the fbi director that of all the cohorts of refugees, including iraqi refugees, we have less
information about the syrian refugees than the others? the fbi director says he regrets he doesn't have more data about the syrian refugees. and i has concerns. he thinks it's risky. apparently the administration disagrees with the fbi director. you are saying -- i want to make sure that -- syrian refugees are less risky than other refugees? >> well, my point is that syrian refugees have been outside their country. so we know what they have been up to. there's a record of the time they have spent outside their country. >> they may not have a record of terrorism. they would be would-be terror i ha have, in training. they said they will use the refugee program to try to infiltrate the united states. you say you are less worried about syrian refugees than other refugees? >> i am very worried about terrorists. i think we should focus on terrorists. i think we should prevent ter r terrorists from coming to the united states. i think the odds of a refugee
being a terrorist are very, very small. that doesn't stop us from focusing on program to make sure nobody comes in who might be a terrorist. >> i appreciate your trying to focus the program that way. we have heard from law enforcement officials that you don't have the data you need to makekáá determination. let me go on -- >> the fbi said they don't have a lot of data from inside syria, which makes sense because the fbi has not operated in syria. >> exactly. i don't think there's any way for you to -- >> it's normal for us with most refugees not to have data. the exception is iraqis and afghans. >> if you don't have the data on the syrian refugees, it seems to be very difficult for you to give the american people the assurance that they're not going to commit terrorist attacks. >> we have lots of information. the fbi does not have a big amount of holdings on syrians based on u.s. presence in syria. >> right. the fbi -- >> we have a lot of information about syrian refugees.
leon's program is -- it collects the information and does a fantastic job. i have sat through those interviews. instead of doing scores of visa april ply kanlt m applicants and they do three or four. >> every law enforcement official -- i have heard a couple testify, they say they have less data, less information about the syrian refugees. if you are an outliar on that, you are entitled to your opinion. i'm saying what voerz testified. last question is this, if the citizens of a state or a city do not want to have syrian refugees resettled within their jurisdiction, state or city, is the state department -- is the administration going to force them to take those refugees? >> well, there's a legal answer and then there's the reality answer. the legal answer is -- >> let's go to the -- >> there's a federal government program. the federal government has a right to resettle refugees all
across refugees. all types of cities. >> what's the reality? >> this program functions if we have the support of the american people very much at the level of communities and societies and towns to come forward and help these refugees and help them get jobs. >> you are saying -- i appreciate that. you are saying the administration while it might assert it has a legal right is not going to force the resettlement of -- >> that's for the president to decide. >> let me finish. let me finish, please. you are saying the administration while they have the legal right to force resettlement is not going to exercise that legal right if the local communities oppose the settlement of the refugees? >> no. i haven't said that, congressman, because it's up to the president to decide that. but i certainly would not want to resettle anybody in a hostile community. i don't think we have many of those in the united states. >> i would refer to them as -- they are acting in what they could be their best interest in
protecting their people. thank you. my time is up. >> the gentlemen yields back. i would say in light of the fact that votes are coming in 15 minutes, i will try to do a better job of limiting folks to five minutes, including myself. >> thank you, mr. chairman. to all the witnesses who have come, thank you to the ranking member for her valiant effort on trying to strike a compromise with the bill that is being debated on the floor. i was delayed because i was speaking at the rules committee and trying to find -- on the rules on the floor trying to find a reason for us moving forward with hr-4038. i want to thank the witnesses. let me be very, very clear if i might.
let me ask to put the u.s. refugee admission overseas diagram into the record. i ask consent, mr. chairman. >> without objection. >> if i can hold this up. it's difficult to see the maze of which it is. let me say that the inquiry being made through this legislation and this hearing is legitimate. i having started on the homeland security committee as the recovery at 9/11 was still occurring, having been to ground zero and seeing that and feeling the pain, there is no memory that sears the minds of americans as much as 9/11, although we have experienced uch such as the bombing of pearl harbor that resulted in the internment of japanese-americans. i'm not sure whether at that time it made the nation safer. this process troubles me. i'm going to quickly ask miss richard and mr. rodriguez a scenario.
i understand that approximately 23,000 individuals are referred about the united nations from syria. i don't flow if they include iraq. out of that in the last year, you took about 7,000 to interview and about 2,000 came forward in terms of the process. the process lasts 18 to 24 months, is that correct? >> yes, that's correct. >> they include mostly the people -- they include the people who are outside of syria who are either in the camps and not that you directly go into the bowels of syria and pull somebody out? >> we do not operate inside syria. this is for people who have fled outside of syria. >> the individuals pry organization are those who -- women and children, families, 2% of the them happen to be unmarried men, is that correct? >> of the ones we have brought to the united states, 2% are unmarried single men traveling without family. most are families, women and
children and then multiple generations. >> mr. rodriguez, you have read hr-4038? >> i have, yes. >> very good. it's not one our tall ones. it's limited. >> it was within my attention span. >> it has not had any hearings. it has not had a hearing before the homeland security committee, which has the basic jurisdiction of domestic security. it hasn't had a hearing in front of the crime subcommittee of this committee, though it deals with refugees, but it also deals with issues dealing with terrorism of sort. you are the tactical man, if you will, in this process. as you look at it, do you read it as i read it that the elements of certification or the persons engaged in certification must certify every single person, syrian or iraqi? do you read it in that terminology? >> i would not dare right now to
opine or interpret other than to say i'm aware of it. >> you sent -- >> i will talk about what we do right now and what we're planning. >> let me do this. maybe somebody else wants to opine. i think you can opine. i need you to understand -- to be understood. it says that everyone in 24 category has to certify each refugee, does it not? can you say that? >> i think our basic position, as the president stated last night, is that the process -- 4038 doesn't add anything to the already rigorous process in which we engage. >> well, let me go back to miss richard then. as i read this, each person would have to be independently certified. if you are a 5-year-old syrian
girl, would you have to be certified by the long list of persons that do it collectively. is that not accurate? >> well, i don't know. i haven't spent time looking at the bill since it's brand-new. but we do have interviews for cases which are either individuals or families. the interviews that leon rodriguez's uscis carries out are meeting with the whole family and then -- >> let me get mr. hetfield -- >> the time has expired. i do want to give every member a chance and votes are imminent. i'm going -- >> i yield back. >> chair will recognize the gentleman from iowa. >> i thank the witnesses and direct my first question to mr. rodriguez. that is, when you do this extensive vetting process, do you take into account the religion of the applicants?
>> we do not accept as that being a possible. in many cases it is a basis of persecution. but we do not disqualify anybody because of their faith. >> do you take into account -- do you ask them what is your religion? >> again, if that is part of the basis for their persecution, then we do inquire into that, sir. >> whether -- even though the law requires whether it is or isn't the basis for that that you are required to take into account religion. can you explain to me the data out here and what we're seeing happen in the real world? i came from there a week ago. i was in the kurdish region and over to the front lines as close as i could get to isis and into a refugee camp and up to turkey and into croatia and serbia and then over to sweden to see the end result. but i ask in turkey, take me to the refugee camps where i can talk to persecuted christians.
they couldn't do that. i said, take me to the camps. they couldn't do that. the reason is christians are being taken into the homes and being taken care of in that fashion. it almost turns out to be muslims within the camps as near as i can determine. i don't have data. i have the answers that i got to the questions i asked. some of them from state, i might add. can you name for me or identify for me a suicidal terrorist that was not a muslim? >> i'm not going to answer that question, congressman. what i can talk about -- >> why can't you answer that question? you can say i can or i can't. >> would the gentleman yield? >> no. i would ask if you would prefer to simply say that the administration policy is not to utter these words, we have to walk around this rather than directly speak to it, then i'm willing to accept that, too.
>> what i can say is that we do our job. if terrorists are attempting to gain admission to the united states, they we do our job to prevent them -- >> you are vetting them. >> i think that's what the american people are asking of me. >> you are telling me that you are doing a thorough vetting process but you aren't able to tell me you specifically ask them what their religion is. if you don't specifically ask them, then neither are you able to quantify the risk to the american society. i want to move away from that. i think my point is made. i would like to make this point, that we're operating on the wrong premise. we're operating on the idea that we can vet potential terrorists no matter how much professionalism that we can bring here and examine them up, down, sideways as the gentleman testified and that they come into america then and we're going to be okay if we do a good job of vetting the refugees that we would allow into america. yet when i look at the
situations here, for example, here is an article, the headline, america's enemies within, how nearly 70 have been arrested in america over isis plots in the last 18 months, including refugees who had been given safe haven, turned out to be bringing terror against americans. nearly 70. that is actually 66. so i understand that we can't be perfect with this. but some of these people that came in as terrorists were vetted. i don't think they were terrorists when they got here. they became terrorists after they came here. some were and got through. some were radicalized. when i look at this i think we're talking about a huge hay stack of humanity. that is benign but in that are needles called terrorist. the proposal is that we are so professional that we can examine that hay and identify any of the needles in it, terrorists and we can sort them out and somehow
prevent them from coming into america. we're not putting them down to g gitmo and then it can become part of the culture and society and it will assimilate. that's nuts to think that. further more, even if it wasn't, i would say to you, the benign hay that you have envisioned that we have purify and cleaned needles out of, now that that hay never turns into a terrorist. we know by this article that people are radicalized in this country. they attack us. we have multiple attacks in america. when i look at the map of europe and the dots of the hot spots where they have been attacked in nearly every country in western europe, and it's proposal to the populations that they brought in from the middle east and north africa. we cannot stick our heads in the sand and say that somehow that we're not bringing this upon ourselves. we are watching this. we're slow motion cultural suicide in america, slow motion, a generation behind europe. have i traveled all over there.
i walked through the no-go zones in country after country to see it. i talked to the people there. i'm watching them. they feel so guilty about political correctness that they are willing to accept about any kind of violence brought into their country because they feel guilty about this. >> the gentleman is out of time. >> i will conclude that if we are going to save ourselves, we have to also intervene and provide a safe zone, international safe zone for the persecuted religions. >> the chair will recognize the gentleman from illinois. >> thank you so much. we're all shocked and horrified and deeply saddened by the news coming from paris. as a member of the intelligence committee, i know there's much to fear. both from our allies -- for our allies and for us. in light of the attacks on france last friday, i urge my colleagues to keep a cool head and not to react exactly the way
isis and other terrorists hope we do. with fear, with chaos and with lashing out. sadly, that's what we have seen. republican governors and elected official and candidates and media figures do. have i been here long enough to know a thing or two about opportunityism. maybe it's just too much to resist when you got 15 guys and a lady running for president on the republican side. politicians and celebrities will be tempted to say whatever they can to get in front of the news cameras and have them pointed at them. the governor of illinois, my home state, could not resist saying our state was closed to syrians fleeing the terror of isis and the assad regime. he said there was no place in illinois for women, children, elderly, muslims fleeing the assad regime and the isis terrorism. the murder, the rape, the selling -- there's no place for those children and for those women.
luckily, just as he said that to show the opportunism, a wonderful syrian family arrived in chicago just two days ago and found a safe place. that is the message that destroys the hate of isis. not the real that they're going to have of people saying, we don't want like muslims, we can't trust muslims, muslims are somehow going to create a cultural system in america that's going to destroy us. every community of people that has come here has strengthened this nation. i just had to say that when you use fear, when you use fear -- i do remember last year we were here and the last fear that i remember talking about was when the kid showed -- remember when the kids showed up, the refugees from central america? we had doctors, medical doctors, i don't know what medical school, saying that those
children were bringing ebola to the united states of america. they went to africa, came back, crossed the border and came here with ebola. a year later, where is it at? remember? i remember governors saying that they are going to close down their states. every time we hear this, it's about they're coming because they're murderers, rapists. they're coming because they are drug dealers. it's fear, fear and fear. you know what the best tradition of america is when people have stood up against fear mongerers who traffic in hate and bigotry and prejudice. that's what i sadly believe is happening now with syrian muslims fleeing. if they were only all crist y christians, it would be fine. reminds me of the irish. if they were only white protestant, but no they had an allegiance to the pope in rome.
they were suspicious people. we have heard these arguments time and time again in america. america is always responded to them correctly by welcoming those to our nation regardless of the faith that they hold so that they could celebrate that faith, so that they could live in that faith freely in america. because we don't have those kind of tests here. look, we used fear during world war ii. boy, did we regret it. the internment camps of the japanese. a stain and a blemish on america. we used fear and we used bigotry to say that those who would flee the prosecution and the persecution and the death of the nazis and the holocaust, we said, no, there's no room in america for you. there's room certainly in
america. i understand that there is a terrorist system out there that wants to hurt us. i understand that. but i also understand that there are tens of thousands of american men and women patriots that are out there protecting the homeland every day. and they're not working 100%, they're working 200% and they're keeping us safe and that we are taking those measures. they don't let anybody go through a screening process. those are americans watching out for americans. i think we impugn their integrity and who they are and their patriotism to this country. i would like to say, look, we made the mistake before. let's not make it again. let us have a system -- if you said, all we want do is we want to add an extra layer, that would be good. but they're not what be are doing. they are in the camps. they are getting vetted. we should welcome them to america. we shouldn't fall into the trap
of isis. thank you so much. >> the chair will recognize the gentleman from colorado. >> thank you. director rodriguez, i want to tell you about my experience. i was the district attorney in northern colorado. we had between 1,500 and 2 thoesh2,000 somali refugees. they were welcomed for the most part and have lived there happily and in a community that is open to them. how many refugees are there around the world that are in a position to come to this country? how many potential individuals are there? >> well, we have our admission target -- my understanding generally is that there are about 19 million refugees worldwi worldwide. >> 19 million worldwide?
>> and assistant secretary richard can correct me. but the number is the largest it has been. >> that's all i was wondering. 19 million refugees. how many of those -- why are we -- how many of those can come to the country? what is our number that we would allow into the country? >> currently, every year we establish a target. our target for this fiscal year is 85,000. >> so 85,000. a drop in the bucket of those 19 million. why are we taking -- why would the administration object to a pause on syrian refugees when we have 19 million potential refugees that we could take from other countries where we have been successful in integrating those refugees, for the most part, into communities? >> because a quarter of all the those refugees worldwide are in fact syrian. the potential for an even greater number exists with the continued activity of isil.
>> we have 75% of 19 million people. again, 85,000, we could certainly find 85,000 from that 75%. why are we so interested in taking syrian refugees? this isn't a matter of religion as my colleague from illinois pointed out. there have to be various religions in that 75%. >> the situation in syria is devastating to the extent that there is no reasonable prospect of return. >> taking 58,000 syrians wouldn't do anything to change that devastation either. >> it would start us on the road. it's something that we are doing alongside our european allies. the germans, for example, are expecting 1.5 million people. >> i want to move on. my point is simple. there are plenty of other people that we could take in, hit the pause button and do some research on this.0bmñ director rodriguez, mr. hetfield
said he was attacks in paris resulted in more scrutiny for america's refugee program. are you surprised there's fear in this country over relocating syrians into this country? >> congressman, there are enemies of the united states. those enemies of the united states are in sear -- >> i was asking if you are surprised. >> i know the united states has enemies, whether in europe, in syria, whether they are -- >> your point doesn't answer my question. my question,are you surprised that americans are fearful over what happened in paris? >> i am neither surprised by the fact that there are fearful americans. i'm not surprised by that nor am i surprised by the fact that many americans want us to be a welcoming country to those in fact who are victims of conflict and war. >> okay. so let me tell you one of the reasons why americans are distrustful at this point. we have a president who after the murder of an ambassador in benghazi and the murder of three
heros in benghazi, four people total, told the american people that the attack was the result of a video. we have a secretary of state who immediately identified that it was not the result of a video, that it was the result of a well planned attack. and then the administration paraded out one official after another to lie to the american public. the american public has very little faith in this administration when they assure the american public that somehow they are able to determine that syrians that come to this country are going to be tr trustworthy and we will be safe. it's a result of this administration's lack of credibility that has caused the fear and panic among many of the americans in this country. i yield back my time. >> the chair will recognize mr. trott. >> thank you. director rodriguez, kind of
following up on mr. buck's questions, do you think americans have a right to be fearful today in light of what happened in paris and the threats against new york and washington? >> sure. i mean, there are threats to the united states. there's no question about that, congressman. >> do you think -- i'm going home this afternoon. what should i tell my constituents we're doing about their fears? >> what we're doing is engaging in the -- i assume we're talking about syrian refugees, because there's a lot more that we're doing to protect the united states that goes beyond what we're doing to scrutinize the 10,000 or so people -- >> your assumption is correct. >> what i would tell them is that this the most rigorous process in the history of refugee screening. that we have denied people admission. in fact, there are hundreds of people on hold because either their stories lack credibility or because there was derogatory
information about them. the work is being done. >> but can you sort of understand the complete lack of confidence that most of my constituents -- let me continue, sir. whether it be veterans over the v.a., seniors over the future of social security, families over the affordability of their health insurance premiums, as i go back to michigan, can you sort of understand why people have apprehension about the competence of the federal government, congress included? >> i do think, congressman, i think it's a benefit of this hearing that we have a little bit more of a burden of information with people than i think we perceived. we need to make sure the american people understand in a calm, reasoned dialogue what we are doing. because what we are doing is rigorous, extensive, redundant, careful. >> sir, you are 100% confident that the process we have in place is going to work just fine going forward? >> that it is a meaningful,
rigorous, robust process that we are engaging in as aggressively as -- >> there's no value in just hitting the pause button? many people have made this vote this afternoon into a political vote. it's not political at all. what congress wants to do -- i think there will be many democrats that join us, is hit the pause button and work in a collaborative fashion to make sure that our homeland is safe. there's no value in considering doing that? >> again, i stand by what i have said about the process. i don't think it's necessary that i repeat it. i do think we need to think about the cost of inaction. >> i spent -- processes can never be improved upon? >> of course. in fact, we are working every day to make sure we refine our understanding about what's going on in these countries. we learn more by the way as we screen each and every refugee. of course, there's room for
improvement. but the process as it exists is a robust, intensive, meaningful process. >> i yield back my time. thank you for being here today. >> the chair now recognizes the gentleman from texas, mr. radcliffe. >> appreciate you holding this hearing. i appreciate the witnesses being here. i had a town hall meeting with the people of the fourth congressional district of texas that i represent just two nights ago. it was similar to many of the telephone town hall meetings i had before. i had 8,000 people on the line. i had 300 and 400 people in the cue to ask me questions. it wasn't typical was the uniformity and lack of diversity in the questions that i had. i didn't have a single question about obamacare. didn't have a single question about government overreach and the epa. i didn't have a question about $18 trillion of debt. i had 300 questions about the
syrian refugee issue and the concern that isis may try and use gaps in our process to make america less safe. there's really no making americ safe. i think it underscores and highlights the grave concern that the people have about this. it is relevant for us because texas in the last year has received -- historically has received the largest percentage of refugees for resettlement of any state in the country. 10% of all arrivals in the united states were resettled in texas. i think we can all agree that the conflict in syria and isis has promised to infiltrate the
syrian refugee process presents us a unique challenge. it is incumbent we assess whether our system is equipped to protect the american people. if it's not, we've got to hit pause while we fix the problem. and i know some have demonized saying it lacks compassion. to those folks i would emphasize that american is the beacon of freedom to the world in part because it is a refuge. because it is a safe place for people to come. and if we sacrifice national security, we will weaken one of the very aspects of our country that attracts it to our shores. with that in mind, i will start with you, director rodriguez. i understand that an applicant for refugee status must be cleared -- or must clear all security checks prior to final approval. do we admit individuals unless something negative appears
during the screening process or do we admit only for those for whom we have information? >> yeah. we need to have confidence, one, that they can sustain the claim for refugee status. they are screened according to priorities by the high commissioner of refugees. that's why a substantial number of them come as family units, are victims of torture, people who have been injured in war. we screen very carefully as to whether there are exclusions or bars that they apply. whether they have been affiliated with a terrorist organization. we have, in fact, ruled people out on those bases or placed them on hold because we had suspicion -- >> i don't mean to interrupt. but it sounds -- do we screen on the presence of information or based on absence of information? >> we screen for both. we screen for both.
in other words, if there is in sufficient information, in sufficient context for us to be confident this person is who they say they are and their claim is what they say that it is, that would be a basis at a minimum. >> okay. let me move on quickly. i want to address it from a state and local perspective. i understand that the current law requires consultation with state and local government officials regarding refugee settlement in the community. but i understand that the extent to which that consultation actually take place varies greatly. the consultation is supposed to result in the development of policies and strategies for the placement and resettlement of refugees. as all of on you probably know, as of yesterday, more than 25 governors, including my governor in texas said it would par syrian refugees from settling in their states. so i want to ask that question. would consultation take into
account a desire on the part of the state's governor and residence to decline to accept refugees? >> congressman, i think secretary richard will take this question, actually. >> all right. >> on the issue of consultation with state and local governments, you are absolutely right. that is an important aspect of this program. we require that the local organizations that are partners with us in carrying out the refugee program and quarterly consultations, that they do this with the community leaders. every state has a state refugee coordinator who is reporting to the governor but who works with the department of health and human services to make sure that there is a suitable provisions made for the refugees. one of the things that chairman gowdy has reinforced if in our discussions is that it's important that our partner organizations talk to the people who are the most responsible
authorities at the community and state level. that they don't just talk to people who are interested in the program but that they go to the police chief, the mayor, the school principal, health care center. and that this then reinforce's the community's acceptance and preparedness. you're right that texas is the most welcoming state in the united states for hosting refugees. and i was surprised that so many governors spoke out so quickly. we had a phone call with the governors that the white house arranged the day before yesterday. and i think we have to get more information out to people so that they understand what this program is, how it operates, and why we take such care in making sure it's done in a way safe for the refugees who have been through so much. but especially is run in a way
that the security of the american people is not endangered. >> i would like to follow-up but my time has long since expired. i thank the chairman for his indulgence. >> the clock is on zero. i am more likely to miss votes. i don't want you to think that any of my colleagues left because of disinterest. they have been called to the floor. sit an important issue in my district. i am willing to risk the wrath. i wanted to hear everyone else's perspective. and i wrote a number of notes down. and i think i wrote them as accurately as they can be written. this kept going through my head. this past weekend i saw a gentleman in my hometown walking away from a gas station carrying a gas can. so even i could figure out his car ran out of gas. and i had to make a decision whether or not i was going to
offer him a ride. and i did. i offered him a ride. that is a risk, however small, that i was willing to take for myself. i would never ask any of to do that. you have to weigh and balance that risk yourself. i want to get on an airplane today to get home quicker. that risk is small. i'm not willing to risk going bungee jumping. you can't say there is no risk. mr. hatfield i think he put two veries in front of it. he said it's very, very low. i don't know if it parpbts two veries in front of it. nobody hthe potential
consequences of us getting it wrong are cataclysmic. we have to be right every time. so the risk can-can still be small and something bad can-can happen. what i'm trying to get folks to do is weigh and balance the risk versus the potentiality of us getting it wrong. so let me start here. have we ever gotten it wrong in the past? i'm not talking about syrian refugees. any category of refugees. have we gotten it wrong? has our vetting failed in the past? is anybody aware of the circumstance where it has failed in the past? not all at once. >> i'll take that one. the answer is, yes, many times. an uz beck refugee was convicted of assisting terrorism. a couple years ago, two iraqi
refugees who had been admitted in kentucky. the defenders are bringing syrians. they insist on saying no one has been convicted. no refugee has been -- no syrian refugee has been convicted of syrian activities in the united states. but these iraqis killed americans a abroad. that doesn't make me feel better. >> the conviction doesn't mean anything to me. the terrorist is not going to be convicted because he's dead. you can't use conviction as a barometer for whether or not somebody has been a threat. they may not be around to convict. does anybody disagree there have been failures in vetting? anybody take the position that we have made no mistakes?
>> chairman gowdy, i agree with you that in the history of the 3 million refugees who have come here, there have been a handful that have been a threat to the united states. and fortunately they have been stopped before anything bad happened. and the two iraqis in kentucky were of most shocking example. they had done bad things in iraq. they had lied to get into the country. and had our current system been in place, they would have been caught before they came, before they got here. that's why the system has been improved since that episode. you said few things in life are risk free. i heard thor of washington state say you take a risk when you get out bed in the morning. there are a lot of dangers. but the program we run does as much as humanly possible to
reduce the risks of bringing refugees to this country. and we have great confidence in it. and we invite members to come out to the field and meet some of the people who interview the refugees and sit through some of the briefings by leon's team that i have sat through. it is a very impressive, very thorough -- >> that's what makes me hate waste, fraud, abuse, deception so much. is that when anyone engages in it it also impacts those who would never consider engaging in it. it makes everyone have to stop and think. there is some risk. there's a great reality that if we get it wrong, something bad could happen. and you have to balance the risk with the potentialities of something happen. when you have people who abuse any system, believe it or not,
there have been federal judges who undergo rigorous screening, including going back and talk to go neighbors from 25 years ago. and they still turn out. we get it wrong with them from the. united states attorneys, serious background checks with every available database. we still get it wrong from time to time. even members of congress we get it wrong from time to time. so that's what i'm -- we can't do it this morning. but you can't say there is no risk. and i appreciate the fact that nobody has tried to say that. we all agree that we are dealing with an enemy that affirmatively wants to do whatever bad thing they can do to us. and i just think it has put the american people in a really, really tough position, particularly given the fact that public safety and national security are depraving their functions of government. ive do want to end, mr. richard, for thanking you to coming to south carolina and noting that
the reason you had to come to south carolina was nothing that you had done. and to mr. hedfield and others in his line of work, you're right, the superintendent needs to be talked to, the sheriff needs to be talked to, the community needs to be talked to. if you want to find out the truth, you have to talk to everybody, including those who may not support the program so you can weigh and support competing evidence. you should not have had to come to south carolina, quite frankly. it should have been done well before you and i ever met. so i think a lot of the information -- the sooner it's shared and the more fully it's shared the better people can make informed decisions. so as i leave to explain the majority leader why i missed the vote, this is what i would encourage everyone to do. mr. rodriguez and ms. richard, what i really wanted to do if we weren't going was to get you to walk the american people through
every step of the vetting process. i really do like the director of the fbi. i also knowledge they may be experts in this realm of data. you have other access to realms of data. sit really none of my business. until you have all the facts you can't draw any conclusions. to the extent that you or someone else can just lay out for the american people every single step and every database you can access and every question you can ask and the training of the people doing the questioning, folks are still going to come down on different sides of this issue. they just are. but at least they will know they did it having access to every bit of information. so with i want to thank all five -- i do want to thank the administration, witnesses for agreeing to a single pam. i know that that is unusual.
ore live coverage here this afternoon on c-span3. the senate homeland security committee holds a meeting on last week's terrorist attacks in paris and whether the u.s. should change its refugee policies. two of the witnesses will testify at this afternoon's hearing. ann richard and leon rodriguez, director of u.s. citizenship and immigration services. that hearing starts at 2:00 p.m. eastern live here on c-span3. >> and tonight on our companion network c-span2, hillary clinton will speak before the council on foreign relations in insure city about national security. that's at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span2. >> all persons having business before the honorable supreme court of the united states give their attention.
>> coming up on c-span's landmark cases, we'll discuss brown versus the board of education for linda brown, separate but equal went a block walk to school. her father sued, along with four other similar cases, and made it all the way to the supreme court. we will explore racial tensions in the times.wt:ç the personal stories of the individuals involved, and the immediate and long-term impact of the decision. that's coming up on the next landmark cases live monday night at 9:00 eastern on c-span, c-span3, and c-span radio. for background on each case while you watch, order the companion book available for $8.95 plus shipping at c-span.org/landmashcases >> the 2015 united nations
climate change starts earlier this week. west virginia senator chaired the two-hour hearing. >> the hearing will come to order. i am not the chairman of the full committee. the chairman sit to go my right. chairman inhofe is on the conference committee for the highway reauthorization. and so he has asked to make some statements. then he is going to go to his meeting. with that i recognize chair inhofe. >> thank you, madam chair man. we actually have three members of the conference to talk to the witnesses and explain to them. it is very significant what's going on. we are actually going to have a formal conference on the highway reauthorization bill. that hasn't happened since 2005.
so we are very excited about it. and i'm sure that another conferree, senator fischer, will want to go over there. she has allowed me to make a brief opening statement, which i will do now. and i'm sure senator carler won't mind if i go ahead and make my statement. all right. good, good. let me start by saying all of our prayers to the people and what's been happening in paris. so regrettable. we are a week and a half away from the start of the united nations 21st session of the conference. this is the 21st year that we have had this. and several of us on this panel up here have had different ideas about what is to be accomplished there. my idea is nothing.
so i just sent a letter in july seeking information related to the president's intended nationally determined contribution. now, that's where he is supposed to be able to document what he wants. and he did send information in that he is going to be reaching between a 26% and 28% reduction in emissions but failed to say how he is going to do this. so we tried to have a conference. we tried to have a meeting of this committee and asked the epa to attend. and they refused to attend. now, this is the first time in my experience in the years that i have been here that the committee of jurisdiction making a request that they don't appear. so i think there is a reason. i don't know how the calculation of 26% to 28% is working. today we are here to discuss the potential legal forum of the
cop21 agreement. i think that goes without saying. there have been a lot of things published. is it legal, is it binding. until yesterday when we had in the financial times, secretary kerry announced that there would be no binding agreement from cop21. no binding agreement from cop21. that incurred the wrath of president hollande on of france and several other people. anyway, that was app honest statement because there won't be any. when it comes to financing, the 192 companies will assume that americans are going to line up and joyfully pay $3 billion to this fund? but that's not going to happen either. so, anyway, this is going to be very similar to the other 20. and so i'm sure there will be many on this panel who will be attending. i don't plan to attend. that you can, madam chair. >> we thank the chair.
good luck and quick work on the conference committee. we are all looking forward to having is that piece of legislation before us. i will go ahead and open if that's okay with youment i want to welcome the pammists, first of all, and the senators here. much of what senator inhofe has said is caped in my opening statement. but i think some of it bears repeating. just yesterday we passed two bipartisan resolutions on the congressional review act, one i sponsored. and i brought them up pause they are tied to the upcoming climate negotiations. president obama could not meet his goal of 28% reduction of co2 without the full implementation of this regulation. we believe that stands on shaky ground. we expect the house to do the same. and then the president will have a chance to make his opinion
known. but over 27 -- over half our states, 27 to be precise, sued the epa to block these rules. last week, as chairman inhofe said, it was reported that secretary of state insisted that the international climate agreement expected to be reached in paris was, "definitely not going to be a treaty and chairman inhofe mentioned he said there would be no binding agreement. that prompted foreign minister fabias to say secretary kerry was confused. the french president weighed in. "if the agreement is not legally pwaoeubding, there won't be an agreement." and "we work on the basis that the paris agreement must be internationally binding agreement." if major participants in the upcoming cop21 negotiations cannot agree on the legal status of any forth coming agreement, no wonder those of us here today
have questions. will this agreement be legally binding or not? if so, will it be submitted for ratification as required by the constitution? chairman in of of invited the epa, seq, and state department to testify before the committee and provide missing information related to the president's 26% to 28% greenhouse gas emissions target. they have thus far said they lack involvement and expertise. i share that hope that the chairman will reconsider and allow witnesses to come before the coming year given press reports such as last week when administrator mccarthy meets regularly with white house staff alongside secretary of state kerry and secretary of energy munoz to repair. it is one we must resolve.
financial payments by developing countries of the united states and the united states are another. and i hope we will touch on those today. the president pledged to send $3 billion to the green climate fund. he included a $500 million request in his fy 2016 budget. the house and the senate, state and foreign op appropriators have allocated zero dollars. it is important to make clear i think to the rest of the world as climate talks approach that congress has the power of the purse. i look forward to hearing from our distinguished panel of witnesses and thank them for coming and that we have a robust discussion as we always do. i would like to recognize senator carler for an opening statement. >> it's a pleasure to have a couple west virginia people leading the charge. thanks to our witnesses for joining us on a much welcomed
hearing. today we are here to discuss our country's efforts to fulfill a promise in 1992 to address global climate change. george herbert walker bush was our president at the time. it established the framework dimension on climate change. the goal to find a way to limit global climate pollution and limit the impacts of climate change to preserve and protect our environment for future generations. 1992 president bush signed the treatment and the senate ratified it. today, 196 countries that are part of that treaty. over the past 23 years, the united states and our treaty partners have held meetings each year to address these goals and later this month, the 21st meeting will take place in paris. these negotiations are critical. because to effectively address
climate change we cannot act alone. we cannot do this alone. we have to work with our neighbors around the world. there is a host -- there are a host of scientific studies. but for me the most compelling in supporting efforts to address climate change is personal. i live in the lowest lying state in america. i have children. some day i hope to have grand children. i want to make sure they have a bright future in delaware and frankly around the world. and the science is clear. our future generations face no greater environmentally threats. there is no greater environmental threat than climate change. it pales in comparison to doing nothing. we have an absolute duty to fight and change our behavior. not only in delaware and across
the country but also around the world to stem the tide of climate change. when it comes to global challenges, the united states doesn't just sit back and wait for someone else to lead. we lead. this should be no different. when the challenge was fascism, communism, terrorism, cyber attacks, the u.s. has led as the world has risen to foes those challenges. climate change is real. sea level rise is real. we see it happening every day in my own state. and my neighbor to the east and south. the u.s. cannot do it alone. we can provide leadership. somebody needs to do that and that should be us. since the current administration has taken a leadership role on this, other countries have filed. china and brazil have changed their tune. i think largely because we have acted. and someone born in coal
country, beckley, west virginia, spent most of his adult life in the lowest lying state in the nation. however, we conclude by saying i have confidence this administration, working in conjunction with 50 laboratories of democracy, our states across america, using common sense, sound science will find the right recipe. a broader global agreement in paris so together we can successfully meet the challenges facing our planet and ensure a brighter future for our grand children and for their grandchildr grandchildren. thank you, madam chair. thank you, senator. we will begin to hear testimony from our witnesses. i am going to introduce everybody briefly. mr. julian cue, distinguished
professor of constitution law and faculty director of international programs. that is one long title. at the maurice a. dean school of law. next we will hear from mr. oren cass for policy research incorporated. next we have mr. steven uhlich chamber of commerce institute for 21st century energy. and mr. david woskow, world resources institute. and then ms. lisa jacobson. again, thank you all. five-minute statements. your full statements have been submitted to the record. mr. can cue. >> i want to thank the ranking members for inviting me to participate in today's hearing. i am professor of law at hofstra
university in new york. my testimony will consider the requirements and limitations under the institution for an agreement lead to go climate change. in my written testimony i review each -- the legal status of each. a sole executive agreement. and i explained in my testimony why the paris agreement if that contains legally binding emissions reduction targets and timetables. and i'm happy to take questions on that issue in particular if members of the committee are interested. for the purposes of my oral remarks, i want to focus on the paris agreement will contain nonlegally binding political commitments. and so i think this is the direction that the administration is heading. in response to a letter from senator bob corker, the state department has indicated that the united states is not seeking
an agreement in which the parties take on legally binding emissions targets. and this response means that the heart of the paris agreement, the emissions targets will not object legally binding iffed united states gets its way in paris. i do not have any constitutional objection to the use of a political commitment in the manner described by the state department as long as all parties understand what a political commitment as opposed to a legally binding commitment is. as a political commitment, no future president or congress would be bound to reach these emission targets. so as a matter of law, a nonlegally binding paris agreement would be no different than the president giving a speech saying i promise to reach
certain emissions targets in future years. however, as add ma'am chairman noted, press reports indicate that other countries in paris are not expecting the agreement to be a legally binding agreement. i am quote again from france president hollande who said if the agreement is not legally binding there will not be an agreement. statementing will make it difficult to call the paris agreement legally binding while they are in paris while at the same time ensuring it is not legally binding. and i think this kind of deception or at least some confusion is troubling. because it either results in misleading federal governments as to what the united states is promising. or it results in the united
states -- president violating the constitution by concluding an agreement as a sole executive agreement. so as i explained in my written testimony, i don't believe the constitution allows the president to use a sole executive agreement without any approval from congress to legally bind the united states to particular greenhouse gas emissions targets. and a lack of clarity are the legal nature of the paris agreement could spur future litigation where a plaintiff might sue to demand u.s. compliance with a legally binding paris agreement. so for this reason if the paris agreement is finalized with political commitments as secretary kerry and the department of states seem to indicate, i recommend that the senate request that the administration identify publicly which particular provisions of the paris agreement, if any, are legally binding and which particular provisions are just political commitments. such an explanation ideally should take the form of a public
statement. ideally, secretary of state kerry himself that reviews each provision in the paris agreement and explains what is binding and what is not. such a statement will make it clear that it is or is not binding under international law. and if it's not binding no future u.s. president or congress is bound to fulfill the substantive obligations in the paris agreement. and shield a future president from litigation on this question. so thank you. i will take questions on other issues if you're interested. >> mr. cass? >> thank you for inviting me today. my name is oren cass, senior fellow at the manhattan institute for policy research. my primary message to the committee is this. climate negotiations no longer bear a substantial relationship to the goal of sharply reducing greenhouse emissions. rather, the upcoming conference
will focus on a commitment by developed nations, including the united states, to transfer enormous sums of wealth to other countries. u.s. so-called leadership could persuade the developing world for the sake of emissions reductions. it differs from the popular narrative which in the historic culmination to bring countries together and act on climate. my written testimony makes three points, which i will summarize here. first, the negotiating process is specifically designed to produce an easy consensus and excuse inaction. it relies upon each country announcing the determined contribution that represents propose said actions and emissions reductions. however, the contents itself are entirely discretionary. there is no requirement that achieves certain levels or that
it uses, metrics or baseline. no consequence for missing a planned goal. boosters are highlighted the structure and the parade of submitted plans as proof that the world can make meaningful action on climate. that is exactly backwards. negotiations have followed this discretionary, unenforceable pledges because they are so i reconcilable that no substantive agreement is possible. that brings me to my second point, which is that attempt at so-called leadership have not spurred others to action. my written testimony details the various manipulations that have proved impressive estimates for indc impact. these efforts, not the actual commitment made, or compare the actual commitment to plainly incorrect baselines that the unipcc does not recommend.
this is precisely the basis citing in mr. waskow's testimony as well. it suggests total impact of all the indc is less than 0.2 degrees celsius. and using the ua 1 b baseline, there is no improvement at all. country by country analysis tells the same story. china has committed to reaching peak emissions around 2030. you studies show they were already on this trajectory. india's commitment manages to be even weaker. the most obvious is in the indc itself. energy efficiency improved more than 17% in that country between 2005 and 2012. india could improve only half as fast going forward and still meet the goal that it set for itself. such efforts have received loud applause from the white house, from the media and by n g o's demanding climate action. but if the indc relies on peer
pressure and naming and shaming those who drag their feet, then cheerleading for empty noncommitments destroys the premise of the entire enterprise. political point scoring has taken precedence over addressing climate change, which brings me to my third point. the paris negotiations are not about emissions reductions. they are about cash. the developing world offers $100 billion per year in climate finance. the rationale for the money, the source of the money and the use of the money are all unclear. developing nations believe they are owed an ecological debt for past emissions and reparations for the damage from storms they linked to climate change. these are plainly nonstarters for the united states. but the developing world is asking to reimburse the cost of
mitigation pressures they make. india alone needs $2.5 trillion between now and 2030. but if the indc represents business as usual, funneleding is clearly inappropriate. realistically, developed world leaders are pursuing a transaction in which having state their political capital and legacies on achieving an agreement, any agreement, they will now pay developing nations to sign on the dotted line. to conclude, we should worry that u.s. negotiators and their colleagues desperate to produce an agreement will commit dollars from tax payers they cannot actually deliver and get nothing in return. the senate should reemit a clear, simple resolution rejecting enormous transfers of wealth from the united states to other countries, highlight the issue for the american public, tie negotiator's hands and ensure any future climate change negotiations actually focus on climate change.
i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you. mr. uhli? >> thank you senator and members of the committee. this hearing could not be timelier. it is important for policymakers to take a clear view of what a post 2020 agreement might hold. the main point you would like to make, which are detailed are as follows. unilateral emissions commitment for paris is unrealizedic and doesn't add up. we estimate that 41% to 45% of the emissions target remains unaccounted for. selling such an uncertain plan internationally may prove very difficult. second, the emission goal nations have offered hugely unequal. while the united states, europe,
japan and a few others offered large emissions cuts, nearly all developing countries, the large emerging economies have offered little beyond business as usual. even in the unlikely event all country phrepbgs are implemented to the letter, global emissions will rise 18% between 2010 and 2030. within or close to the range of where emissions were headed anyway. given how it is structured this should surprise no one. third, the disparity and national commitment results from the fact that most countries place a greater priority on economic development than cutting emissions of greenhouse gases. a billion people lack access to the modern energy services that could lift them out of poverty. coal will remain for some time the fuel of choice in developing countries using data from plants we estimate that on the eve of the paris climate talks, 1.2 trillion watts of new cole fired
power plants are under construction or planned throughout the world. that is 3.5 times the capacity of the u.s. u.s. fleet. fourth, the administration's plan will likely result in emissions from the u.s. leak to go other countries. merely moving, not reducing them. the united states has a tremendous energy price advantage over many of its competitors. overregulation from epa, however, could force industries to flee to other countries similar to what we are seeing in europe. they are two to four times higher than here in the united states. >> fifth, china, for example, has proposed that developed countries kick in 1% of annual gdp from 2020 on. in 2014, would have applied $170 billion. other suggestions are equally extravagant.
whatever the final finance provisions look like, a great deal of the u.s. share of this funding will have to be appropriated by the congress. >> six, technology is the key. it is a technology challenge. existing technologies can make a start. as we have seen, they are not capable of cutting on a global scale and acceptable cost. the chamber will continue to exercise policies designed to lower the cost of alternative energy rather than raising costs of traditional energy. finally, a larger question about the real goal of the framework convention. secretary kwrat fergaris had this to say. "this is the first time in the history of mankind we are setting ourselves the task of suspensionally within a defined period of time to change the economics development model that has been reigning 150 years since the industrial revolution." the same free enterprise the secretary wands to discard is
the same model that produced the larging flourishing of human heating in history. affordable, available, and scaleable energy is not the problem. it is the solution. given all of this, the paris agreement, whether it has legal force north, should be committed to the congress for its approval. otherwise, it is hard to see anything agreed to in paris will bind any future administrations or congresses. back in 1997, the clinton administration offered entrepreneur realistic goal and this clear guidance from the senate kind the protocol. it was political poison and therefore never bothered to submit for consent. it looks like it is set to repeat signing on a lop-sided deal and making future presidents and congresses neither willing nor able to keep. it is a late great yogi berra might have said, it's deja vu all over again >> thank you.
mr. waskow. >> good morning. and thank you, mr. can capio and mr. carper. i'm david waskow, at the world resources institute, nonpartisan, think tank. my testimony this morning makes three main points. first, taking action on climate change can bring substantial economics benefits and is in the national interest of the united states. a growing body of evidence shows economic growth can in fact, go hand in hand with efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and recent experience at the national and state levels demonstrates we can achieve both. a prosperous low car upon future such as more efficient use of energy and natural resources, smart infrastructure remit haves and technical innovation. businesses have recognized the economic value of action as
well. 80 major global companies, including a number of u.s. companies, dell, coca-cola, general mills, and probg tar and gamble this set emission reduction targets in their own supply chains in line with science. taking this action is also essential because if nations fail to come together to combat climate change the u.s. will suffer billions of dollars to agriculture, forestry, fisheries and coastal areas. in a recent report from the military advisory board of retired high-ranking military officers highlighted the growing threats of national security from the effects of climate change as well. it is in our national interest to act at home and work with other countries to achieve an international agreement where all countries act together and where most of the impacts in the united states can be avoided. my second theme, the u.s.
reductions target is in fact, achievable. am pweurbgs but achievable. we can meet this target using existing federal laws, combined with action by the states. well designed policies can accelerate recent technology and market trends in renewable energy, alternative vehicles, energy efficiency and other areas to meet the 26% to 28% below 2005 pledge by 2025. the recent report delivering on the u.s. climate commitment shows several pathways to get there. we can achieve this target while generating multiple co-benefits and maintaining economic growth. for example, the clean power plant will result in reduced exposure to particulate and ozone and epa estimates these health and other benefits are worth $32 to billion to $54 billion. the united states is paying significant dividends, helping
dispell greater action by all countries around the world. countries have submitted plans representing 90% by global emissions. countries like china where reductions and coal use are already taking place are taking unprecedented action. these national climate plans will deliver significant reductions in emissions. the international energy agency estimates a shift to 2.7 degrees down from almost 4 degrees given business as usual policies. it's not enough yet but it is a significant step. moreover, the agreement will be reached between all parties, all countries at the climate summit in paris and is a major step forward to meeting u.s. objectives in this venue. most important, this will be a universal agreement, applicable to all. based in and implementing the
u.n. framework on climate change, ratified by the senate in 1992 by voice vote, the paris agreement will reduce emissions by all countries both developed and developing. and its structure on nationally determined plans as enabled broad bass action. the agreement will include transparency and accountability and should ensure all move forward in a regular and timely way toward a commonly understood goal. finally, help mobilize climate resilient economies from an array of countries, including developing countries and from the private sector. and it can address the serious climate-related impacts experienced around the world. especially by the most vulnerable countries. to conclude, the actions that countries are taking around the world, along with the
international framework for the efforts should be viewed as a significant success for the united states and its leadership role. meeting the global challenge of climate change requires global shraoubgzs with action by all. the world is now on the kufp of an international agreement that will realize that vision. thank you. >> thank you. miss jacobson. >> thank you, senator and members of the committee. the business council for sustainable energy is a broad-based industry association and we represent countries and other trade associations in the energy efficiency, renewable energy and natural gas sectors. since its found anything 1992, the council has been advocating for policies at the state, national, and international levels that increase the use of commercially available clean energy technologies, products, and services. as an important backdrop to my testimony, the council would
like to share some in the fact book. it was researched and produced by bloomberg new energy finance and commissioned by the council. it is an objective report intended to be a resource for policymakers with up to date accurate information. its goal is to offer benchmarks on the contributions that sustainable energy technologies are making in the u.s. energy system today. it provides information on finance and investment trends. the 2015 edition points to the dramatic changes under way in the u.s. energy sector the past several years. traditional energy sources are declining. natural gas, renewable energy and energy efficiency are playing a larger role. these changes are decreasing the energy mix, improving energy security, cutting energy waste, increasing productivity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. the fact book also shows that the u.s. economy is becoming
more energy product and i have less energy intensive. by one measure, gross domestic product, productivity has increased by 54% since 1990. between 2007 and 2014, gdp grew by 8%. this was driven by advances in efficiency and power generation and building is sectors. carbon die ox i.d. decreased by 9% in the 2007 and 2014 time period. members in the energy efficiency natural gas and renewable energy sectors offer readily available low carbon and zero energy solutions. this portfolio of technologies can be used today to provide reliable, affordable and clean energy for private sector customers n. 2014, u.s.
investment and clean energy technologies reached $51.8 billion. and these sectors are providing hundreds of thousands of well paying jobs in this country. council will bring members of the cop21 as business absorbers. bcsc participates to offer information on deployment trends, technology costs and policy best practices. council members view the climate change negotiations as a valuable forum to chair information on policy frameworks and help inform the policy choices of countries looking to reduce greenhouse gas and deploy clean energy options. council members view the outcomes of the international hraoeuplt changes as important signals to the market that cups are serious approximate investing in low carbon solutions.
they will serve to reduce the uncertainty to install private sector investment. leadership and engagement in the process supports u.s. business interest and expands clean energy outside our borders. further u.s. leadership increases the ambition of other nations and helps showcase u.s. technology innovation frame works and helps to protect u.s. business, such as property rights. it calls for deposits to deliver a clear, concise, durable agreement at cop21. with over 91% of global missions and 90% of global population covered by the nationally determined contributions of 161 countries, nations are showing collective commitment to spur shreplt, innovation and clean technologies in countries around
the world. we 23450ed to be focused on the trillions not the billions of investment. the markets cannot afford any backtracking at this critical time. and the business community is increasingly considering climate change and its impacts as part of its corporate strategies. thank you. >> right on the dot there. very good. thank you very much. i will begin with the question. professor cue, there are two questions i would like to get to in my five minutes. the first is the legally binding issue, whether there is a treaty, sole executive agreement. so it's kind of a two-part question. some have argued that the senate -- that the senate
approved emissions in 1992 but didn't the administration, bush administration in '92 say amendments to that frame work, ones establishing targets and timetables should be presented as new treaty and have separate consent? so that's my one question. was the intent that any further targets that would be established are part of an approval process? and then i will ask the next question. you can answer once. on the sole executive agreement issue, it is stated that those have been used to justify the authority for cop21. and would you say that those are typically used in narrow and limited circumstances and do you believe that cop21 would be considered a narrow and limited circumstance? so i want to dig down in the legality issue. >> okay. thank you. thank you, senator. on the first issue, i think that
the framework convention did not authorize -- to set the framework for further negotiations in the process but did not in fact, and should not be read as authorizing new agreements without having to go through that process. it requires any new agreement for legally binding emissions to go back to the senate. in fact, i think back in 1992 the senate, as part of the process for approving the unfcc asked the bush administration whether future protocols to the treaty would require -- meaning going back to the senate and the administration says if the new protocol contains legally binding emissions, targets, or timetables, they would accepted that back to the senate. so that's essentially a promise by the executive branch that we will come back to the senate. it is the type of thing that should be represented as inner branch dialogue.
sit one of the reasons i think an agreement should be sent back to the senate for its approval. on the second question, sole executive agreement, just quickly, is typically done in pretty narrow circumstances. the format typically is article 2 treaties or congress specifically authorizes the president to make an executive agreement in a particular area like trade, like the ttp or something like that. a sole executive agreement is when the president acts under his own authority. it's not unusual but is narrow. i think in this circumstance it's possible the president could say, well, i agree to every year report on what we're doing. and that would be something that he could do as a sole executive agreement. i don't think he could commit the united states to reduce emissions by a certain amount, by a certain year, in a sole executive agreement. i think he would either have to get congress to approve that through new legislation. the best way to do it is to go back to the senate.
>> thank you. mr. cass, you mentioned a giant transfer of wealth. if the president -- obviously the president is going to go to this negotiation with no money in a green climate fund that's been appropriated by the congress. what kind of effect will that have, do you think, in terms of future commitments that the united states is supposedly making if this congress won't appropriate any money, there's no guarantee that future congresses would. at the same time i'm certain the world community is counting on the united states to bring money to the table. what comments would you have on that? >> well, i think probably everyone including negotiators from other countries understand the president can't appropriate money on his own. i think the larger concern is that faced with the choice of paris collapsing without an agreement or saying yes, i'll go
find a way to get the money, u.s. negotiators will say we'll find a way to get the money and essentially shift the onus back to congress and say, if you do not appropriate the money will be at fault for the agreement failing. so to preempt that, i think it's actually very important that congress act first and say to the world, let's be clear, we will not appropriate that kind of money, don't come back with an agreement that requires it, because that should not be the linchpin of an agreement that does not even include significant emissions reduction. >> senator car per? >> thanks so much. thanks to all of you for being with us. some of you this is the filter we've met you, some of you we've known for a long time. new or old, we're happy to spend this time with you. just a word on leadership. i think that leadership is probably the most important
ingredient of any organization i've ever been part of or led, yolk whether it's the navy, military, business, this place, sports team, college, hospital, school, leadership is the most important thing. and leadership is demonstrated in a variety of ways. leaders are those who look at a problem and say, what is the right thing to doe, not the eas or expedient thing. the right thing is to provide leadership. we lead by our example. it's not do as i say but do as i do. that's why it's important for us to actually set an example and encourage others to lead. a lot of times in my experience they do. leaders should be aspirational. camus said leaders are purveyors of hope. as i listen to this testimony today, i heard some testimony that was doom and gloom.
frankly i heard some testimony that was aspirational and uplifting. you can probably figure out where those came from. leaders don't give up. you know you're right, you're sure you're right. you don't need a tutorial on leadership. it's the most important thing here and every place i've worked or served. i want to talk about sid raacid. we're in the mid-atlantic northeast. 30 years ago we had a problem with acid rain. you may remember that. george herbert walker bush said we can't do it, it will kill the economy. as i recall, what we finally did in implementing the plan that he proposed, we achieved our goals in half the time and one third
the cost. imagine that. we spurred innovation that turns to economic products, technologies we can expertiort over the world. george voinivich were hearing testimony on coal-fired plants. somebody said, we can never do that, it would cripple the economy. we had one witness sitting where you're sitting today, a guy from the association of technology companies said we can do this. we were talking about 80% reductions in mercury emissions. he said, we can do that, in fact i think we can do that in the time frame you're talking about. guess what, we did. we did 90% and created technology and innovation we were able to sell all over the world. if you're smart about it, these coal plants in china can have the kind of technology that we
have put in or are prepared to put into coal-fired plantins he. lisa, i'll ask you to take a minute and give us a comment on one of the things we've heard from our first three witnesses that you think needs to be rebutted or addressed. would you do that, please? >> yes, thank you. i think, you know, on the indc topic. >> indc stands for? >> commitments other nations have brought forward. the council in our experience, in discussing with other countries and what's expecting in cop 21, we did not expect those would be legally binding commitments. there may be other aspects of the treaty that have more legal force. that topic is one that's not yet been resolved. just the fact that that scope and scale of countries have come forward with greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation plans in any shape or form is a major
breakthrough. as companies, we see that as an important market signal, and we can respond to that. we can look at the experience in the u.s. where the state and local governments have made policy frameworks that signal low carbon investment. we roll up our sleeves and say, how can we get that done, similar to the comments you made about controlled technologies for mercury. we have innovation and investment capital to bring to the table. when we see 160 countries say i want to consider my energy policies and i want to consider low carbon solutions, we will step up and work with them through public/private partnership and through investment to help them reach their goals. we see business opportunities for u.s. companies and jobs in the united states. >> thank you so much. >> thank you. >> thank you, madam chair. i want to give everybody an opportunity to comment on one particular part of this. the part i'm concerned with, any
time we have a leader who steps forward and says we want to make some changes, in the united states this is a case where you have to bring congress with you. it seems as though everything works out better if you have a bipartisan effort to get something done. what i'm concerned about is there's been a little bit of a discrepancy in terms of the discussion here today among our panelists with regard to what occurred in 1992 with the unfccc or the united nations framework convention on climate change. for each of you, if you could give us your brief thought process. did that particular framework, as agreed to by the senate by a voice vote, did that provide the opportunity for the president today to step in and to have a binding agreement for this country to reduce levels with regard to climate change issues? and i know that there was
specific language placed within the provisions of the ratification agreement as put forth by the senate foreign relations committee when it was presented to the senate in 1992. i would like your thoughts to see if we agree or disagree or where the discrepancy might be with regard to how that might be interpreted today. and if we could, i'll just go down the line and simply ask each one of the members here if you could give me your thoughts, if you could care to. >> sure. i mean, as i said, i think that it's pretty clear from the approval of the senate, they were worried about giving -- when they approved it, that there would be implicit authorization for a new agreement which didn't -- so i would read it as requiring a promise by the president to come back if i have legally binding emission targets and timetables. and i don't know that they are are that many people who disagree with that. that was an understanding when the senate approved the unfcc.
>> i would agree with professor koo that anything binding with respect to emissions targets would need to be approved by the congress or the senate. >> i would agree with that as well. i just remind everybody, the kyoto protocol, which had legally binding timetables, the expectation was that would have to go to the senate for advice and consent. >> on the original unfccc, it obligates all countries to take steps to reduce emissions in order to avoid dangerous climate change. and in the present instant i think what is important to keep in mind is the administration's position, which they've stated as being that they are seeking agreement that's consistent with existing u.s. law, and also one that does not have legally binding provisions having to do with mitigation obligations, emissions reductions. i think that sets in a critical way the framework for thinking about what's happening in the current negotiations, along with
the fact that in fact all countries essentially are stepping up to put there mitigation plans as well as adaptation plans on the table. >> but does that mean legally binding limitations that they would have to come back to the senate for ratification? >> i wouldn't presume to know exactly what the legal outcome of the agreement would be and what the implications of that would be for senate ratification. i think, however, the administration has made clear how it is looking at the mitigation obligations or the mitigation provisions in particular and that those should be nonbinding. in that instance, i think that assuming that the agreement is consistent with existing u.s. law, i think the law -- and i think professor koo would agree with this, the law would suggest that the administration, the
president, can enter into agreement under those circumstances. >> ms. jacobson? >> thank you. i mean, i think the framework convention on climate change was a catalyst for significant policies at the local, state, and national level that aim to address climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation. i think it will depend what comes out of this agreement in paris, to how congress will engage. but i think no matter what, congressional engagement is a positive and constructive part of the country, thinking about how it's going to manage energy and climate change concerns. so our organization is first of all very pleased there will be delegations and have been every single year from congress, both members, senators, and staff that come to the negotiations. also we look forward to engagement with congress in the present time as well after paris to assess what's been agreed to and to a oversight functions it feels is necessary.
so we welcome that. >> thank you. one more real quick question. secretary of state john kerry recently told the "financial times" that the paris agreement is definitively not going to be a treaty, responding to criticism from european counterparts, the state department quickly backtracked the statement by saying "our position has not changed, the u.s. is pressing for an agreement that contains provisions both legally binding anbinding." while the exact legal form of a cop 21 legal agreement remains unclear, do you believe there is a role for the senate in assessing these policies that stand to have broad reaching economic and employment consequences? >> absolutely, senator. as i said in my testimony, i think whether the treaty is legally binding or not shouldn't make a difference. a treaty that really extends into every nook and cranny of the u.s. economy should go to the senate and the house for approval. >> that would follow then with
what we would find under the state department circular 175, in which they lay out eight items identifying what are the differences between a binding or nonbinding item or that they would expect to be under a treaty provision. >> yes. >> thank you. thank you, madam chair. >> senator markley. >> thank you very much, madam chair. i appropriate the testimony. i appreciate this discussion, because the impacts of global warming are extensive and current. certainly on the ground in oregon, where we see growing damage from pine beetles because winters are warmer. we see extensive increases in forest fires. the fires have gotten more extensive. destroying natural resources, we have a huge loss of snowpack in the cascades, affecting not only our streams, making them warmer and smaller, but affecting agriculture with an extensive
three worst ever droughts in a period of 15 years in the klamath basin. the ocean is 30% more acidic than it was before the industrial revolution. there's no great mystery over the legal status of this. under authority of ratified treaty and u.s. domestic law with nonbinding emissions targets and responsibilities to report on our progress. we can try to divert our attention from the core issue, but let's not. let's look at the fact that it's a huge devastation to our agriculture, our fishing, and our farming. so this is does the the u.s. must exert leadership on. and bringing together the nations of the world to be able to put forward their vision of
how we can collectively take this on is an important act of the collective international community. it has been said that we are the first generation to be feeling the impacts of global warming and the last generation that can do something about it, because of the fact that it is so much harder as the momentum builds in the warming feedback loops. so we have a moral obligation to act. and certainly many of the major corporations that make up the u.s. chamber of commerce are coming forward on their own to say that this is an important objective, that they are deeply committed to making change. and i hope their voice will start to be heard in key forums around the world and take us forward. i just want to note that in the conversation, it is often said,
well, we really need to need developing nations participate. well, now we have developing nations participate. it's been asserted, i believe mr. koo or mr. cass, in your testimony, china is not doing very much. china has pledged in the next 15 years to deploy as much renewable energy and electricity as all the electricity generated in the united states by coal, by gas, and by renewable efforts. that's a massive, massive deployment in a very short -- in a decade and a half. and it represents an extraordinary change in their disposition, in their sense of responsibility. i would also like to note that the senate appropriations committee did act. they acted on an amendment, an amendment that was put forward and had bipartisan support, to say that the united states should provide funds to the green climate fund, that this is certainly part of the equation, because developing nations around the world could say,
we're not going to act until the per-person footprint of the united states is equal to our footprint, which is much smaller. they could say that. but if they say that, our planet is doomed. so they have courageously come forward and said, we understand that this is something that has to have every nation involved, but you know what, we haven't produced much carbon, and the carbon that the developed nations have produced is having a big impact on us, so can you help us out a little bit to address these issues. that certainly is a reasonable proposition to put forward. so i commend the u.s. senate committee for having voted in full committee to provide some assistance in that regard. i want to just invite david to ask, to address whether we can wait another 30 or 40 or 50
years to take action and expect not to have catastrophic consequences. >> thank you for the question. not acting increases the cost of action. the longer that we delay in acting will increase the cost of action, because we will have infrastructure lock-in and other dynamics that will make it increasingly difficult to in fact shift to low carbon economies. we do have the opportunity, and i think we in fact are the trajectory as lisa and others have said, we are on the trajectory of moving very rapidly toward that low carbon economy. the price of solar panels for example has fallen 75% in the last five years. >> and we can create hundreds of thousands of jobs in doing so? >> there are hundreds of jobs in texas alone. >> thank you. i want to welcome sam adams, former mayor of portland, who
works with the world resources institute on climate change and did a tremendous amount as mayor of portland to take the city forward in this regard. >> thank you, senator sessions. >> thank you. this is an invaluable hearing. it's very clear the president does not have the power to unilaterally bind the united states in these kind of agreements. there is bipartisan agreement and support, and we've made a lot of process together on things like reducing pollution, which often means improving coal use. we've made progress on automobile mileage. we've had strict requirements on that. and so far, the automobile industry has done that. we haven't made the progress we should have made on nuclear power, membership. that has the greatest potential over time. so we've got electric cars and other ideas that could become reality. solar panels are getting more
competitive and maybe can play a larger role in the time to come. but the american people are not sold on this, and neither am i. the idea that we have to spend billions, even trillions of on co2 as a result of the concern of global warming is what's not being sold effectively and is not being accepted by the american people. maybe i'll show a couple of charts in just a second here that -- hold that chart. so this is polling data, a gallup poll earlier in the year, in march. it shows 18 issues. and the last one on the minds of the american people as an important issue was climate change. and i think the data shows that we're not seeing the kind of increases in temperatures that
were projected. if you take the objective satellite data, over a hundred runs of those models shows the temperature would increase at a rather dramatic rate. i thought number of years ago we would actually be seeing that. but the blue dots and light green dots represent climate temperatures actually occurring according to satellite and balloon data. in essence, i'm just saying that the projections of disaster aren't coming through. dr. pilke testified from the university of colorado or colorado state, in which he said we're not seeing more hurricanes, not seeing more tornadoes, we're not seeing more droughts, and we're not seeing more floods. so that's part of the background of where we are.
the green climate fund proposal and copenhagen commitment is a commitment of developing countries to provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. do you know what the united states's share of that likely would be? has that been discussed? >> i don't think it's been discussed. the administration has proposed a $3 billion amount that would go to the green climate fund. that's pre-2020. >> we pay about 25% of the u.n. >> right. actually when you take a look at the countries that are responsible for providing funds to the green climate fund, the countries are in what's known as annex 2, a small subset of developed countries. and the u.s. accounts for about
45% of the emissions from those countries. in reality, we could be on the hook for about $45 billion. >> 45. >> yes. >> that would be annually? >> that would be annually. now, you have to remember that's just the starting point. you know, a group of developing countries have said that should rise up to $600 billion. the chinese have said it should be 1% of the gdp of developed countries, which the u.s. share of that would be $170 billion. >> we're pushing on $18 trillion of gdp. so 1% is -- >> a large amount of money even by washington standards. >> i would agree. an african group is insisting on-ramping up the money by 16 billion a year by 2030. >> that's right. >> my time is about up, so i
think we made the concerns pretty clear here. yes, let's go do the things that make sense. let's look for the efficiencies and antipollutants, which i don't consider co2 to be a pollu pollutant, plants need to grow. if we work, madam chair, in a bipartisan way, we'll get reduction in co2 and reductions in pollutants. to impose this cost on the economy when there's no realistic expectation that the other countries who sign it will meet their requirements is note. >> thank you, madam chair. the countries will meet in two weeks in paris. countries from around the world are coming in order to make
their commitments, 160 countries that are actually responsible for 90% of global pollution, have already made climate pledges in advance of the paris talks. and we are positioned to have a very successful outcome from this huge international meeting. and i believe that the united states can meet our goals. president obama has made them at different times before this huge summit. that's because our fuel economy standards are going to 54.5 miles per gallon, the largest single reduction in greenhouse gases in history of any country. that's still on the books. the president's clean power plan will dramatically reduce emissions from that sector as well.
we have energy efficiency standards. and we have massive deployment of wind and solar all across our country that's unleashing business opportunity. so i guess i go to you first. do you agree that the paris agreement includes meaningful emissions reduction pledges from all the countries including developing countries, in your opinion? >> thank you. as he mention as i mentioned, there are 119 developing countries that have put forth plans. we've seen significant actions from many of them. i would note in the case of india, their domestic plans are to increase renewable energy to 175 gigawatts total by 2022. and 100 gigawatts of that would be in solar energy. that's more than half the current global installed capacity. that would then ramp up. >> that's 170,000 megawatts of
renewable electricity. >> that's right. >> that is incredible. and china is making a comparable commitment, even larger in terms of its deployment by the year 2030. do you anticipate that an agreement reached in paris will include procedures for reporting, monitoring, and verifying those pledges? >> the underlying u.n. framework convention in fact has provisions for countries to provide information about their emissions, to report on their inventories. this agreement will build on that. we already had progress forward in the copenhagen and cancun agreements about increasing the degree of transparency. this agreement i think will increase that to an even greater degree and have convergence between developed and developing countries in terms of the requirements they face in terms of transparency. >> thank you. has america's leadership been the key to bringing all the other countries to the table, the fact that we've made this
commitment to reduce 26 to 28% by 2025, has that been the forcing mechanism that says to china and india and other countries that you too must do something? >> i think our actions have been noted around the world. i think that when one goaes to the negotiations, one has a sense that countries see what we're doing. one of the underpinnings of the agreement is the work the united states has done with china in particular to move forward. >> i think you're right. honestly, you can't breach temperance from a bar stool. so we had to put up our commitments. and that's what the problem was back at kyoto, we weren't putting up what we were going to be doing. so here we've got that. and we've had a response from countries all around the world. and in the business community, i think they're looking forward to this, are they not, ms. jacobson, so there can be a signal that's sent to the business community that they can rely upon, that there is going to be an investment atmosphere
that's going to unleash hundreds of billions, trillions of dollars into this renewable energy sector? >> very much. and energy efficiency and other clean generation options. i mean, what the business community needs is a clear, sustained market signal to drive investment. right now we're seeing investment sitting on the sidelines, because there is not enough clarity. the united states has made tremendous progress in providing clarity over the last several years in terms of its domestic policy agenda in the energy sector. we need to see that in more countries. we believe that the paris discussions and the outputs from the conference are going to create a stronger investment signal in other countries outside of ours. >> what would it mean if we extended the wind and solar tax breaks for 15 years in this country in terms of the climate for investment? >> we've seen, just looking at the itc and the production tax credit experience just in the last five or six year, you can see when we had a sustained development policy for the itc,
we saw investment and deployment increase dramatically. when we didn't have that clarity in other tax provisions for clean energy, things dropped off. so it's a very clear spotlight on what the power of policy certainly can provide to the investment community. >> thank you. we'll have 300,000 jobs in wind and solar by the end of next year. we would revolutionize our own country but give the leadership to the rest of the world and be able to export these technologies, by the way, around the rest of the world. i thank you for all of your help here today. >> it's my understanding we've had a vote that has been called. so what i'm going to do is step away from the chair while senator bozeman questions, make my vote really quickly, and then get back so we can keep
continuing with the hearing. thank you. mr. hughley, as you know, it was revealed earlier this month that china's coal consumption is 17% higher than was previously reported. this confirms what many of us have been saying. we can't trust china to keep track of carbon emissions and play by the rules. i've said many times that one of my major concerns is when we impose expensive carbon mandates here and force the price for electricity to necessarily
skyrocket, it just forces our manufacturers to close and their competitors in china will grow and emit even more into the atmosphere. mr. hughley, is china the only country that has problems keeping up with its co2 and ghg emissions? >> no, it's x6znot. when you take a look at the error that the chinese made, we're not talking about a rounding error here. this is a huge error, equivalent to about the ghd emissions from germany. so what is going on in china is going on in a lot of other countries in the world that just don't have a handle on how much greenhouse gas emissions they're actually emitting. >> if china can't accurately account for its emissions, should we expect them to actually deliver on setting up a complex and sophisticated national emissions trading system? >> frankly i don't see how they can do that. part of an emission trading system is the idea of trust,
that when you purchase a ton of co2 emissions or co2 allowance, that actually represents a ton of co2 emissions. right now we don't have that confidence. and i'm not sure, in the next year or so when the chinese expect to roll out their emission trading, i'm not sure that confidence can be instilled in such a short period of time. >> thank you. mr. cass, you highlighted in your testimony that the cop 21 negotiations will focus little on greenhouse gas emissions and almost entirely on climate finance, specifically on motivating developed countries like the u.s. to offer more than $100 billion a year starting in 2020 through the green climate slush fund. of course thankfully congress is not going to provide that money. but for those countries that might put a few dollars into this fund, is there any indication of how these funds
would be used? >> thank you, senator. i think, you know, one of the open questions right now is exactly that, which is what does this funding look like. the green climate fund actually just announced its first set of grants. and it was a sort of hodgepodge of small dollar grants to build resilient infrastructure, potentially some investments in the direction of clean energy. but there frankly at this point is no clear guidance on how the money would be spent. and i think most importantly, we know from our experience with foreign development aid that sending large amounts of money to developing countries, even to say build a school, is enormously challenging and rarely produces the desired result. sending that money to build a revolutionary electricity grid where none has existed is doubtful to work very well. >> that was my next question. we're really talking about countries that really have trouble with governance.
lots of corruption. you know, money not put to good use. so again, i guess your testimony is that that would be very, very difficult to manage. >> i think it is. we take for granted, as we developed green structure and renewable energy in the united states, we have all of the existing structure to build off of, and we're adding a few points to an enormous structure of reliable energy. and we're could doing that in t developing world which has no baseline. that's why the developing world doesn't want to go in that direction. >> what level oversight would be assigned to the global fund? is there any oversight in place? >> there is an elaborate u.n.-style structure of oversight over the green climate fund, with boards and committees and guidelines. in practice, how the money comes and goes i think will likely look more like what we have seen
from other u.n. efforts than what we are used to domestica y domestically. >> thank you. senator booker? >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. so there clearly is a crisis. i'm glad i didn't hear anybody sort of denying that we don't have a climate problem. and the data and the facts speak for themselves. just over the last few weeks scientists have reported that the parts per million threshold have been competed, and carbon levels are substantially higher than at any point in the last 800,000 years. global temperatures have now competed about 1 degree celsius above the preindustrial age with 2014 being the warmest year on record. these are facts. 2015, actually, is on pace to be even warmer than 2014. this is something that is not just heralded by the scientists
around the globe but also important global organizations. earlier this month the world bank announced that due to currently projected sea level rise and an uptick in extreme weather, climate change could force an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030. it seems i hear in washington over and over again that america must lead, that our leadership is important. indeed, as we see with the war on terror, people are calling again and again for american leadership. well, clearly this global crisis is another case where we must lead. america has led throughout the decades in generations past, from the space race, which has yielded billions and billions of dollars in economic benefit to the united states, to even important global issues like mapping the human genome. and so in the face of this need for american leadership, in the face of these facts about a global crisis, it is important
to me that there are actually things that paris can do and will do, if not the least of which is increasing communication, transparency, and greater levels of accountability. more important for me is the fact that leadership has its benefits and crisis has its costs. this country's leadership is something i'm proud of and this is an occasion where we must rise again. by exercising leadership, the united states economy can benefit, and benefit in astonishing ways, with trillions of dollars in new investments, increased jobs, and most importantly as i'm seeing on the coasts of new jersey, we can avoid the social costs. a reason nyu report finds that a global agreement to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees celsius will provide $10
trillion in direct benefits to the united states. i know the costs both to local communities in new jersey, from our fisheries to the storms and the weather changes. but the opportunity, the upside for this leadership is profound. so i would like to ask questions first to david -- am i pronouncing that right? in your opening statement you mentioned some of the potential economic benefits. this is something that's not often talked about. people talk about the cost, the cost. but the upside is pretty extraordinary. if you could elaborate for me about what our country, what the united states of america could see when it comes to economic benefits, job benefits from reducing carbon emissions. >> sure. the benefits are quite extraordinary, as i mentioned. the epa has estimated that the benefits of the clean power plan
themselves, from health benefits and others, are 32 to $54 billion by 2030. that in itself is substantial and noteworthy. in addition to that, key actions such as energy efficiency provide economic benefits. the evidence is that for every dollar invested in emergency efficiency you get at least two back. and the appliance efficiency measures that the united states has put into place in the last two years alone will bring benefits to consumers. >> i appreciate that. i saw a triple bottom line when it came to deal with energy efficiency, trying to deal with global issues. we not only reduce our expenditures by doing environmental retrofits. we're able to lower our carbon footprint. but we created jobs for our community and began to deal with crisis in urban areas like epidemic asthma rates. ms. jacobson, similar question
for you, can you describe some of the potential economic opportunities in the united states that would result from strong international agreement in paris? you've got 30 seconds, there is a ferocious chairman here and i want to stay on his good side. >> i want to go back to my point on energy productivity and look at what productivity gains our economy has achieved. you can reduce emissions, cut energy waste, you can create jobs, and you can improve the competitiveness of the u.s. economy at the same time. so these things make economic sense. >> mr. chairman, i would like to note that i finished before my time had expired. >> senator wicker. you surely did. 3, 2, 1. let me just make a statement, because we do have a vote and many other things to get to. i will not have a chance to do a question. i want to put in the record at this point, mr. chairman, a
peer-reviewed article by -- entitled impact of current climate proposals. >> without objection. >> i would like to pull the into the record a press release issued by the copenhagen consensus with regard to that peer-reviewed study. >> again, without objection. >> and let me just say this. mr. lombourg and i have not always seen eye to eye on the causes of climate change. but he has i think released a very important peer-reviewed study. and of course i look on the internet and i see the first thing that happens when you challenge the status quo is that there's a chorus of people saying that the data is wrong and faulty and should be
disregarded. but here's what dr. lombourg tells us about the paris promises. he basically says this. if paris accomplishes everything they want to, and if you use their own projections, if we measure the impact of every nation fulfilling every promise by the year 2030, the total temperature reduction will be 0.048 degrees celsius. in other words, by the end of this century, if everything they say is correct, we will have accomplished a change in degrees celsius of less than 5/100ths of a degree celsius. my friend from new jersey may or may not be correct about the problem. but the questions is, we spend
all this money and divert it from all of these other areas, what are we going to get for it in dressiaddressing this proble? this peer-reviewed study says you're going to get 135/100ths of a degree by the end of the century. the united kingdom is going to divert money over to climate change. we're going to divert almost $9 billion and get 5/10ths of a degree celsius? i think people are correct, when asked where action related to climate change ranks out of 16 categories, they rank it dead last. i think the people that are most disadvantaged in this world
would rather have us use money to improve education, to increase electricity availability, to fight malaria. malnourishment claims at least 1.4 million children's lives per year. yet we're taking money away from programs that do that. or we're taking money that could be used formal nourishment and putting it on something that's going to give us less than 5/100ths of a degree. think what the united nations could do with the money we're going to put, $100 billion or whatever, think what we could do to help people in poverty, help children dying, dying from malnutrition. 2.6 billion human beings on this planet lack clean drinking water
and sanitation. we could prevent 300,000 deaths a year if we took this money and put it on malaria. so i just say, i hope this congress, i hope this senate will act with caution. i hope the representatives of the american people will act with caution when they go to paris. i hope whatever is done, hope we make it clear, and the word should go out from this hearing and from this capital, that whatever is agreed to by the people representing the united states of america and paris, should come back to this congress for debate, for consultation, and for approval or disapproval by the congress. thank you, madam chairman. >> thank you. senator gillibrand. >> thank you, mr. chairman. you wrote the u.s. business community is considering climate change impacts in its energy and corporate strategies and that companies are pledging to
decrease greenhouse gas emission. can you give us examples of how companies are moving to promote greater sustainability, and have they used efforts to combat climate change as an opportunity to innovate and grow? >> thank you for the opportunity to speak to this. and several business council for sustainable energy members made recent pledges this fall related to greenhouse gas mitigation and other compatible sustainable energy initiatives. these include calpine, ingersoll rand, pg&e, qualcomm, and schneider electric. this really shows, them plus their peers, you know, in the recent announcements, as was mentioned by david, there are over 80 companies that come together representing i believe $3 trillion investment. and they provide hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country. and they offer their technologies, products, and
services in a competitive and effective way globally. they see this as a mainstream business issue. and the range of tools they use vary, but they may be things like energy management practices, setting targets for reducing their energy use, working through their supply chains, some even put carbon pricing into their investment decisions. they're doing this because they get economic benefit from doing so. and the last decade, through tools like the carbon disclosure project and other initiatives, track how businesses have really evolved in the way they've responded to the call from their customers and from shareholders to consider sustainability initiatives. now we're seeing companies take it to the next level and look at what science and policy make remembers doing for their own trajectories and managing them in their corporate strategies. so it's a mainstream issue, and
companies are responding in different ways. but i think the essential piece is that companies are responding. >> can you please describe the importance of reaching an international agreement in paris to the business community that you work with, and what effect do you think the global commitment to reduce greenhouse gases will have on the ability of u.s. companies that have already increased sustainability to compete nationally? >> the u.s. has a path forward at the state level, at local policy level, and we have it at the federal level through investments we're making in energy research, development, and deployment, through things like the clean power plan. we already have a roadmap. other countries, where we compete for customers and to invest, need to be on a similar roadmap. what the international climate change agreement does is it brings to light, provides transparency not only on what we do but what other governments
are doing. that sends a very strong signal to investors of where to place their capital. in the energy sector, these are long lived investments. these are decades long investments. and right now, with a lack of clarity in many parts of the world, capital is sitting on the sidelines. that's not good for u.s. firms and it's not providing the job creation opportunities that u.s. firms would like to provide here at home. >> thank you. in your testimony you state that the leadership shown by the united states has paid substantially dividends internationally. can you please elaborate on how the united states leadership has spurred action by other countries, and what changes have we seen from the leadup to the copenhagen meeting in 2010? >> thank you. the leadership that the united states is showing has really had ramifications sort of rippling outwards. the underpinnings of that leadership has really been the agreements that the united states has entered into or
arranged with china. and beginning a year ago, with the joint announcement by the two countries, where each put forward what its climate plans for the coming decade and in china's case for the coming decade and a half will be. that really laid the ground for an understanding that action was going to be international in scope. when the two major emitters came forward that way. what we saw coming out of that was a ripple effect that turned into a wave of action internationally. we've now seen all major emitters as part of that 160 set of countries come forward with their plans. we've seen actions, as i mentioned, the indian renewables target have come forward, for example. india has gone beyond those numbers to commit that it would have 40% of its energy supply from nonfossil sources by 2030. and we've seen this happen in any number of countries.
this is very different from the copenhagen situation. we've seen a doubling of countries that have put forward plans that have greenhouse gas emissions targets in them as opposed to general actions. and we're seeing a plethora of renewable energy plans as well. we've analyzed the national climate plans, the indcs, to 32 renewable energy in particular. just the eight largest emitters have put plans in place for more than 8,000 terra watt hours of renewable energy by 2030. this is about 20% more than what they would have done in business as usual. so we're seeing something that's really remarkable. >> thank you. if we could hold here for just a minute or two, senator whitehouse is on his way back, and would like to participate in some questioning. so we'll just kind of -- at ease would be a way to say it.
>> madam chair, can i be recognized, please? >> sure. >> a little bit of levity here, who mentioned yogi berra? there you go. deja vu all over again. one of his teammates came in and said, did you hear the news, a jew has been elected mayor of dublin. yogi thought about it and said, only in america. another yogi favorite was, he once said, when you come to the fork in the road, take it. i think we're at the fork in the road. my hope is that we'll take it. i've learned a few things in preparing for this hearing, madam chair. one of those is how many of these, i'll call them other executive agreements not approved by congress have there been.
i had no idea, but it turns out there's been something like 18,000 of them since 1789 compared to about a thousand treaties that have been agreed to. and i thought, what are some of those executive agreements that have not been approved by congress? one was the yalta agreement. the other was the paris accord agreements that ended the vietnam war in which i served. more recently, the convention on mercury from 2013, a global agreement to protect human health from mercury pollution. all of those were not treaties, they were essentially executive agreements. i'll yield back my time and thank you. >> thank you. senator whitehouse. >> that you are, chairman. >> sure. >> may i first ask unanimous consent to enter into the record the key vote alert from the chamber of commerce claiming to represent, and i quote, the interests of more than 3 million
businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, threatening to, quote, score the vote yesterday to destroy the president's clean power plan. >> without objection. >> thank you, madam chair. may i also ask unanimous consent to enter into the record a letter signed by more than 360 companies, including general mills, nestle usa, dannon, staples, adidas, gap, levis, and schneider electric, that was sent to the nation's governors for strong support of the epa's carbon pollution standards for existing power plantings. >> without objection. >> thank you, madam chair. may i will unanimous consent to enter the white house -- two words, american business act on climate pledge into the record. this is 81 companies with operations in 50 states who employ over 9 million people, represent more than $3 trillion
in annual revenue and with a combined market cap of over $5 trillion. the signatories include alcoa, car guilt, coca-cola, google, walmart, and walt disney. >> without objection. >> thank you. and finally, let me ask unanimous consent to enter into the record a financial sector statement on financial change from financial giants bank of america, of the citi, goldman sachs, jp morgan chase, morgan stanley, and wells fargo, calling for a strong global agreement. >> without objection. >> i don't have it with me but i will get it before the record of the hearing closes. i would also ask unanimous consent that an advertisement in support of climate action put into the financial times by unilever, by general mills, by mars, by nestle, by ben and jerry's, and by kellogg's, there it is, be added to the record. >> without objection. >> and i would like to, with the chair's permission, ask a question for the record of the
chamber of commerce which is present here in the form of mr. hughley. the question for the record is, how does the chamber's relentless opposition to any climate action represent the views of the companies on these letters who are chamber members? i think that will probably take a little bit of time so i would like to make that a question for the record. let me also add into the record an article called -- >> let me clarify, that means you're wanting a written response from mr. hughley, correct? >> yes, and/or the chamber, if they want to respond through some other personage. i would also like to put into the record a recent press story called the koch atm, which reports that the u.s. chamber of commerce received $2 million from freedom partners, which is a koch-backed operation.
less and reflect for the record here that the center for media democracy reports that from 2001 to 2012, the manhattan institute received over $2.1 million from foundations associated with the koch brothers, including the charles g. koch foundation and the clawed r. lamb foundation and the union of concerned scientists reports that since 1998, the manhattan institute received $800,000, $475,000 of which has come in since 2007, from exxon mobil. thank you. i think the point i'm trying to make here is that the so-called voices of the business community that we are seeing here are in fact the voices of the fossil fuel industry, specifically exxon mobil, the coal industry, big oil, the koch brothers, and
that the bulk of the broader american corporate community is active supporting taking action on climate, setting aside the parts of the economy that are actually involved in the clean energy economy. these are kind of just neutral american businesses. as opposed to companies like, i think it's called mid-america power which is providing so much wind power in iowa right now and other big ventures that are investing heavily in creating jobs, developing technology and doing good things for the american economy. so i wanted to make sure that the record of this proceeding reflected both the position of the broader american corporate community and also the funding behind two of the gentlemen who are here today. thank you, madam chair. >> well, i think we've reached the end of our hearing. i want to thank all of you for part itting. i think we've gotten good
discussion and -- >> madam chair, you and i are both from west virginia. i was born long before you were but when i think about this issue i think about the golden rule and how to apply the golden rule so it's fair to everybody. my state we face global -- sea level rise is going to do us in if we don't do something about it. my native state, west virginia, some of my neighbors, my dad worked as a coal miner out of school but i've been a long time supporter of clean coal technology for 20 something years. we spent about $20 billion on clean coal technology and we have a plant up and running now in southwest texas next year that will be up and running producing 250 megawatts of energy. we have other plants that are -- work is being done on those. i'm encouraging that we're making progress so when i apply
the golden rule to those five coal producing state, west virginia, kentucky, illinois, pennsylvania, wyoming, and others i think what's the fair thing to do and i think it's to continue to look for innovation and invest in clean coal technology. all the coal plants they're building in china and other places, if they could use this technology that could be a good job development for all of us. >> i would agree in the form of letting the panel know that senator brasso is on his way so the same courtesies we extended to senator white house we'll extend to him and wait longer for him to make questions. and i believe innovation but i do believe when we talk about the human price and the human consequence consequences of what's going on in terms of climate change you have to look at what's going on in states like mine right now and the human consequences of
the highest unemployment, 4% cut in our state budget, the first time we've ever had to cut education in many, many years by 1%. more people in poverty, a sense of gloom and doom and depression that i've not seen in our state and we have highs and lows in our state so we've had experience with being -- feeling that our economics can't move forward. but it's just -- it's indescribable where i'm living right now so i see the human consequence of moving forward without the innovation, without longer timelines, without more common sense. i'll just make that a statement. and i'm going to ask a quick question because you brought up the executive agreements that have been made. how many over the past 800 -- >> actually about 18 -- well, 18,000. >> so my question is if this
becomes a sole executive agreement by this president who's leaving office in a year, does that for the next president coming in -- what kind of parameters -- does that have any kinding measures for the next president and could the next president undo what has been done in that sole executive agreement? >> thanks, senator. this is -- sole executive agreement is the weakest kind of commitment that the united states can make. there are a lot of them but they're usually for small things. so the supreme court has said that only for things that historically congress has acquiesced in using executive agreements would the court uphold. the way to think about this is that the president has -- if he makes the executive agreement, the president can withdraw the executive agreement under his sole authority. now -- >> and that would mean the succeeding president? >> yes, so a succeeding president would have the
authority to withdraw executive agreement made under the sole authority of the previous president. if the other countries feel like the previous president made a binding promise, the fact that this new president doesn't make them feel much better about it so there's a cost to fit the next president withdraws even though it's legal the other countries become unhappy about it and that's why the court, i think and scholars think the use of sole executive agreements has to be carefully used where it's clear the president that has the authority and there's long standing precedent for use of a sole executive agreement in that circumstance. >> well, thank you. >> madam chair, before we turn to senate or barrasso's remarks may i associate myself with the thoughtful remarks of senator carper a moment ago. i have to leave but i would like to associate myself with his remarks. >> all right, thank you. senator barrasso? >> thank you, madam chairman. if there is one message i would like to said to the international community ahead of
the conference it is this -- without senate approval there will be no money. secretary terry says a treaty requiring senate approval will not emerge from the international climate talks. this is despite the fact the state department is pushing for parts of the agreement to be legally binding on the united states. on november 13 the state department stated our position has not changed, the u.s. is pressing for an agreement that contains provisions both legally binding and non-legally binding. any agreement reached in paris that contains legally binding requirements on the american people must come to the senate for a vote, this isn't only the right thing to do it's also what the constitution requires. as we know, the united nations green climate fund was proposed during the 2009 conference of parties in copenhagen, denmark. the fund facilitates a giant wealth transfer of taxpayer dollars from developed nations
to developing nations to help them adapt to climate change. congress has never authorized funding the green climate fund. the united states and other developed nations have pledged approximately $10 billion for the initial a capitalization of the fund with a goal of raising $100 billion annually. piece people think that's a misprint but it's true. $100 billion annually is what they're talking about. on november 15 of last year the obama administration pledged $3 billion in u.s. taxpayer funds over the four years during the g-20 meetings in australia, the administration's fiscal 2016 budget request asked for $500 million for the fund. we can not support this if congress does not get approval of an agreement. so i want to make it clear to the administration as well as foreign diplomats across the globe looking for u.s. dollars which is the linchpin of this
conference, without senate approval there will be no money. period. i and many of my colleagues will be sending the president a letter stating that soon. we've circulated a copy of the letter. now for the questions. mr. cass, it was reported in the "new york times" -- where is this, page one. don't have to go very far, page one above the fold, wednesday november 4, "china is burning much more coal than it claimed." the article states even for a country of china's size the scale of the correction is immense the sharp upward revision means china has released much more carbon dioxide, almost a billion more on thes a year than previously estimated. a billion more tons a year than estimated. the increase alone is greater than the whole german economy emits annually from fossil fuels. so how does this impact the chinese indc submission and
should we be premising u.s. action based on a promise from china when they can't or won't accurately account their coal consumption? >> thank you, senator. i think the chinese restatement is an important fact because in that very article they actually quote china's climate advisor somewhat smugly noting this makes it even easier for them to meet their target. china has never committed to a level its emissions will peak at, it's never committed to how its emissions will decline so after having putting out its commitment noting "oh, and we're burning more coal than we told you" they are making it easier to meet a goal they were on track to meet anyway without making any changes to their policy. >> but it sounds like the cost in concessions is to be made by the u.s. in the agreement with china are much more real a than that what china will do and ours have to be done by 2025 and
china can continue to go to peak in 2030? >> that's correct. and what's most concerning about that is that we've heard so much about the importance of u.s. leadership and this process that requires what is called naming and shaming, the premise of getting action from the developing world is that we will call out those who do not commit to action and shame them into action. whether there was ever a good idea or not, it's how we proceeded, yet the talking points from the most vocal advocates of climate action are now that china is doing a great job. >> and if a sophisticated country like china can't keep up with its emissions what level of confidence do we have that other countries with fewer resources in capacity will be able to or willing to produce a reliable system for measuring, reporting and verifying emission reduction activities?
>> in the chinese experience, my guess nothing new. there's a lot of count these don't have a handle on how much greenhouse gases are emitted. so it's an excellent question and we're not sure at this point that measuring reporting verification can be set up so that we can with assurance guarantee the emission cuts they promise will be delivered. >> and for both of you if you could, there was a recent opinion piece in the "wall street journal" by bjorn lundberg who noted that in the runup to the negotiations he says "rich countries and development organizations are scrambling to join the fashionable ranks of climate aid. this effectively means telling the world's worst off people suffering from tuberculosis, malaria, malnutrition that what they need isn't medicine, mosquito nets or microneat reut but a solar panel. could the effect of the negotiations make it harder for country to raise their own people out of the abject poverty in the name of climate change?
>> i think that's certainly a concern and i think senator wicker called attention to the fact that the uk under pressure to provide climate finances said "we will shift our other development aid into climate fiennes." the good news for people in developing countries is that their own leaders are refusing to prioritize emissions cuts over economic growth. the bad news is that the developed world for the sake of getting a signed piece of paper may reorient their own aid towards solar panels instead of drinking water. >> mr. cass said what i was going to say. when you look at what developing countries are doing, they've set their priorities and their priorities are economic development, poverty eradication and energy accesses. it's not about addressing greenhouse gas emissions and that will be the way it will be for the foreseeable future. >> change, madam chairman. >> if i could make a unanimous
consent request to put in a copy of u.s. pledges for the general climate fund which appear to be around $3 billion instead of the $45 billion quoted earlier. i'll say to my friend from wyoming, you missed this but we have a number of states -- i was born in one that produced a lot of coal. as we go forward to figure out how to deal with the issue we need to be mindful of how to help the states adversely affected as we try to help the states that are in danger of being drowned, and i would say if we don't provide leadership the rest of the world won't do much at all. why should they? if we do provide leadership we have a chance. >> thank you to the panel and those who attended and i'll call this hearing adjourned.
>> is there going to be a sense of the senate resolution on the week of the 30th? >> we'll have to wait and see. i don't think any decision has been made. >> do we know who's going to paris? >> i heard senator cardin had a group going but i don't know. >> what about on the republican side? >> i don't know either. i think senator inhofe has been the last two times but i don't know what his plans are, he
hasn't shared them with me. >> -- [ inaudible question ] making funding for the green climate fund? on approval of the agreement? >> i don't see a scenario where this senate is going to approve in the omnibus bill any language that would open any door for any clean climate fund. >> regardless of the agreement? >> right. >> is that fund -- aren't some of those funds already appropriated under existing authorities? >> that's what the administration sort of said that these funds are -- except for $500 million are already there, it's not new funds. the first trend that it's -- we zero appropriated it. they asked for $500 million, we gave them nothing in the appropriations committee and that's probably going to be ran withed into the omnibus that we have in the next two weeks so --
i don't know where they'll come up with $3 billion without congress appropriating it i don't know. i have to go. thank you. sorry. more live coverage from capitol hill this afternoon here on c-span 3. the senate homeland security committee holds a hearing on last week's terrorist attacks in paris and whether the u.s. should change its refugee policies. two of the witnesses from the house hearing that just ended will also testify at this afternoon's hearing. assistant secretary of state ann richard, who heads the bureau of population refugees and migration and leon rodriguez director of u.s. citizenship and immigration services. that hearing starts at 2:00 p.m.
eastern live on c-span 3. and tonight on our companion network c-span 2, hillary clinton. she'll speak before the council on foreign relations in new york city about national security. you can see that at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 2. t. book tv. 48 hours of non-function books and authors. our featured program this is weekend include the 32nd annual miami book fair. our live all day coverage starts saturday and sunday at 10:00 a.m. eastern. saturday at 10:00 p.m. eastern afterwards with historian neil ferguson. the. >> i think it's what made his contribution fundamentally distinctive and stand out from
the path of people who thought you could solve the cold war with systems analysis or something of that sort. >> he's interviewed by carla anne robbins with the council on foreign relations. and sunday night at 8:00, abdel bari arwan, author of the book "slate, the digital caliphate, on the rise of isis, their methods used to take over much of syria and iraq and their rivalry with al qaeda. watch book tv all weekend every weekend on c-span 2. senator elizabeth warren yesterday spoke at the national press club in washington about the u.s. tax code. she said american companies are using offer shore tax havens to avoid paying u.s. taxes and she called for the tax code to be fairer to the middle-class and small businesses. this is almost an hour. >> welcome to the press club.
i'm one of the business editors at npr here in washington and i'm also on the board of governors of the club. our guest today is massachusetts senator elizabeth warren but first i'm going to introduce the folks at the head table. if you'll hold any applause until i've introduced everybody. this is jerry zaremski, the chair of the speaker's committee. betsy fisher martin who helped organize this event. thank you to both of you. and i want to welcome our c-span and public radio audiences. you can follow this action on twitter. please use #npcnewsmaker. now our guest speaker, she's been called america's most popular populist and although you won't be seeing her name on the presidential primary ballot next year, she's very much a force in the 2016 race and that's because she has been on a
mission. her mission is to hold candidates from both parties accountable for the issues that matter to her. those include -- it's a long list -- wall street accountability, transparency, college affordment, income inequality in general and women's equality in particular. but now as hillary clinton moves closer to solidifying support in the democratic party, can senator elizabeth warren still serve as the progressive power broker and continue to help the public policy debate? senator warren began serving her first term in the u.s. senate from massachusetts. she's a democrat, she is widely recognized as the architect of the consumer financial protection bureau which i wish had a simpler name, but it's cfpb. >>. [ inaudible ] [ laughter ] >> she served as chair of the congressional oversight panel for -- another great name -- troubled asset relief program,
tarp, in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis before the cfpb. she was elected to the senate in 2012 and she made a name nationally through her passionate attacks on big banks and financial institutions. she's written extensively on issues relating to economic fairness. she was a professor for nearly 20 years at harvard law school. she's publiced 10 books and three best-sellers. "a fighting chance," "the two-income trap" and "all you're worth." she's a native of oklahoma. senator warren grew up in modest circumstance which is she has called the ragged edge of the middle-class. she entered law school after having her first child and practiced law from an office in her living room before becoming a professor. in washington she seems to be everywhere. i've seen so far today you've had at least two previous press
conferences and those are just the ones i know about. one was dealing with women's wages. another was dealing with the transpacific partnership. despite this high visibility, the senator said on many times and on the record that she is not running for president but while the "ready for warren" super pac has now thrown its support behind bernie sanders, senator warren herself has not made an endorsement in the democratic primary shechblt raised eyebrows a few months ago when she had a "private lunch" with vice president biden while he was weighing his decision on whether the enter the race. after much speculation, the potential for a biden/warren ticket evaporated when the vice president said he would not be participating. so it remains to be seen who the senator will endorse but for now we are going to welcome her to the press club where she wants to talk about the international
corporate tax and reform and she will take questions from the audience. welcome. >> [ applause ] >> thank you very much. thanks so much, it's good to be here. appreciate your doing a list because i wanted to come here to expand that list a little bit. change is in the air in washington. the lobbyists are swarming on capitol hill. the buzz is everywhere. congress is going to revise the corporate tax code and the time is nearly here. so the lobbyists have a strong elevator pitch that goes like this -- u.s. corporations are paying too much in taxes, the top tax corporate rate is 35% which is much higher than the rest of the developed world and it's forcing u.s. corporations to flee abroad. the solution is to slash corporate rates across the board. so that's the elevator pitch. the story of overtaxation is
everywhere. it is told and retold by lobbyists for giant u.s. corporations. told and retold by their friends in congress and promoted by more than one republican candidate for president. so i put together a sampling of what the republican candidates have said. ben carson: "our government is driving businesses to other countries because our corporate tax rate is the second-highest in the world." donald trump: "our multinational corporations can't compete because we have the worst corporate tax rate in the industrialized world." marco rubio: "the u.s. imposes a double tax on the corporate earnings of u.s. multinationals, holding back our nation's potential to compete around the globe." only one problem with the overtaxation story -- it's not true. there is a problem with the corporate tax code but that
isn't it. so let's go through some of the numbers, let's stewart the climb that u.s. corporations pay more than their foreign counterparts. it's true the highest nominal tax rate on paper is 35%. but hardly anybody actually pays that rate. multiple studies have estimated that the average effective federal tax rate for u.s. corporations, the tax rate that corporations actually pay to the u.s. government after they take advantages of the deductions, exceptions, credits, is only 20%. and 20% is right in the middle of corporate taxes paid in the rest of the world. right in the middle, so the tax separate about average. what about the trendline? are corporate taxes getting more burdensome as lobbyists claim? nope. in fact, there has been a 10-point decline in effective tax rates for u.s. corporations
between 1998 and 2013. but there is something deeper hidden at the center of the elevator pitch. the tax code is so tangled up with exceptions and credits that with some of the biggest corporations the effective federal tax rate is 0. not 35%, not 20%, 0%. for example, over a five-year period boeing, general electric, and verizon paid nothing in net federal income taxes. that's across a five-year period. these three "fortune" 500 companies reported nearly $80 billion in combined profits and actually got tax rebates from the federal government. so what's the problem with our
corporate tax code? not that taxes are too high for giant corporations as lobbyists claim. no, the problem is that revenue generated from corporate taxes is far too low and the trend line here is unmistakable. over the past 60 years corporations have contributed a smaller and smaller and smaller chair to the cost of running the government. back in the 1950s corporations contributed about three out of every ten dollars in federal revenue, today corporations contribute just one out of every ten dollars. how does that compare with other countries? well of all the countries in the oecd, 75% of them collected higher corporate tax revenues as a share of gdp than we do here in the united states. that means that three quarters of all developed countries require corporations to
contribute more than the u.s. does. japan, canada, the uk. these are just a few of the countries that collect a bigger share of corporate tax revenue than the united states. now think about this. fortune 500 companies proudly proclaim that they are making record-breaking profits and then they hire armies of lawyers to make sure they don't pay taxes on those record-breaking profits. i could give you a dozen examples of how different tax dodges work, there's check the box, there's reverse hybrid mismatches, inversions, earnings strippings, but before you all head for the exits because you're afraid that's what i will do i'm just going to focus on one. i want to highlight one of these and this's attributing corporate income to the subsidiaries set up in offshore tax havens. as of last year, nearly three quarters of all "fortune" 500
companies operated subsidiaries in tax havens. based on files with the s.e.c. these 358 companies reported at least 7,622 tax haven subsidiaries. and for the mathphobes in the room, that's more than 21 subsidiaries for the "fortune" 500 company also in the tax-dodge business. how much money can you save by doing that? well, the savings are huge. the tax dodgers that shift noun these low-tax jurisdictions are on average paying effective tax rates of just 3% on their tax haven profits. not the 35% of the elevator pitch but a tidy little 3%. the amount of money tucked away
in tax havens is truly staggering. together u.s. corporations have $2.1 trillion in untaxed profits sitting offshore. and once again look at the trend line. in just the past ten years the amount of untaxed offshore profit has increased nearly five-fold. in other words, one of the hottest investments in america in the past decade hasn't been biotech or big oil, it's been tax lawyers. the money sheltered overseas is now about the same as the combined total earnings of all u.s. corporations in 2013. but here's the trick that tax
bonus is not shared evenly. out of the billions of businesses in the u.s. just 50 corporations hold 75% of the $2.1 trillion in untaxed offshore profits. and even in that rarefied air there is a tax dodger hall of fame. just 10 american companies hold more than a third of all of those offshore profits. and here's the real kick northbound the teeth. if the average american household pays a federal tax rate of 17.6%. the average effective tax rate for an american corporation with fewer than 500 employees is 17.5%. even mitt romney paid 14%. is but the biggest american companies are paying far, far less. in many cases nothing at all.
so they enjoy the benefits of being an american company but they leave it to families and small businesses to pick up the bill. for years gridlock in washington has worked in favorite of the tax dodgers despite the occasional exposé in the media. the corporations and their top executives continue to sleep comfortably, secure in the knowledge that they can block any real tax reforms. but now there is change in the wind. why? because the giant tax dodgers themselves are lobbying for change in the tax laws and they are lobbying hard. they're even signaling that they just might be willing to bring some of that sheltered money back to the united states if we will give them a sweet enough deal to do it. so what's going on? why this sudden change? a burst of conscience?
patriotism? yes, i notice you laugh. no, as always, it's about money. while the united states congress may be asleep at the switch other countries are waking up to tax dodgers and they are starting to rewrite their tax laws. global global competitors have started cracking down on the infamous levels of tax avoidance by u.s. companies. they want their cut. the uk is developing a new tax to go after profits hidden away by u.s. companies. what's the name of the bill? they're calling it the google tax. the european court of justice is striking down sweetheart deals for u.s. tech companies and for their subsidiaries throughout europe the european commission
has been clawing back tax benefits collected by u.s. corporations. and the g-20 just released a sweeping new plan for cracking down on cross-border tax gains. there's a move afoot internationally to shut down tax dodges. now even here in the u.s. the treasury department is entering into tax information exchange agreements with other countries to uncover hidden cash and treasuries also developing new country-by-country reporting requirements that will shine a light on the scams used by the tax dodgers. in fact, it's so bad that tax advisors have been sending out panicky alerts warning that other countries have tumbled to the tax dodge game and as a result the days of single-digit corporate tax rates are coming to an end. so these giant corporations have suddenly found religion.
they say it's time for tax reform. of course, they plan to write this tax reform. and their strategy is simple -- tell a story about high u.s. taxes, demand tax cuts from the united states congress and threat on the leave the united states for good if they don't get what they want. i say it's time to call their bluff. why? first because i know that tax rates for giant american corporations are far lower than the lobbyists claim. second, i know that the tax deals available abroad are disappearing fast. but third and most of all i know that america is a great place to do business and that's worth a lot to these multinational corporations. we have the world's best work force. smart, skilled, hardworking. we have the world's most attractive consumers. hundreds of millions of people who are ready to buy. we have the world's most reliable and transparent legal
system. we have the deepest and most liquid capital markets. we have copyright and patent laws that reward innovation. you want evidence for why this is a good place or how much people believe this is is a good place to do business? look at where startups are going. fewer than 3% of newly started businesses with physical headquarters in the u.s. chose to incorporate not in a tax shelter. i said it backwards. fewer than 3% chose to incorporate in a tax shelter. tax shelters didn't build the tech sector in cambridge and silicon valley and tax shelters won't build the next new industry, either. america is a great place to do business and our companies know it. so as we think about fixing our broken corporate tax code we should bet on america and we should focus on the actual
probl problems not the fake ones pursued by tax dodgers, lobbyists and presidential campaigners hoping to attract contributions. it's time to reford the tax code but let's do it right. how about three principles? first, tax reform must substantially increase the share of long-term revenues paid by big corporations. not just over the next five or ten years but permanently. our tax system has already been so corrupted by tax dodgers that a revenue-neutral rewrite of our corporate tax laws leave this is country with too little money to operate basic services. if america is going to build a 21st century infrastructure, operate 21st century schools and invest in 21st century research then giant corporations must pay a fair share of the cost. second, tax reform must level the playing field between small
businesses and big businesses. patti's lunch in cambridge doesn't stash profits in luxembourg and the lakota bakery in arlington doesn't put money in the canaan islands. salvato electric in north billerica can't hire an army of lawyers to set up a reverse hybrid mismatch to lower their taxes. these loopholes and gimmicks are available only to giant corporations. and when small businesses have to pick up a disproportionate share of the taxes paid it makes it that much harder for them to compete. and third tax reform should promote investment and jobs here in the u.s. the loopholes that litter our tax code and allow tax dodgers to hide cash overseas actively encourage multinationals to sou outsource jobs and invest money
abroad. right now u.s. companies can pay a lower rate by investing overseas instead of in the u.s. and foreign companies can set up u.s. subsidiaries and strip out profits more easily than local companies. this is nuts. our tax code should protect jobs and investments at home period. these three principles -- raise more long-term revenue, level the playing field for small businesses and invest in jobs here in america seem simple. most americans probably agree with these common sense ideas but congress doesn't talk to most americans. congress talks to ceos and their army of lobbyists and lawyers who are pushing genuinely terrible ideas. consider three proposals now getting the most attention -- first, deemed repatriation. this is a giant wet kiss for the
tax dodgers who have already parked $2.1 trillion overseas. deemed repatriation says bring home the money but only pay half of what you owe or with negotiations going on on capitol hill right now if that kiss isn't wet enough some are suggesting the repayment rate should be less than half, maybe around 14%. think about what that means. all small business owners who have been paying their taxes in full can keep right on paying in full but the tax dodgers will get a special deal. patti's laununch gets zip but ae gets a tax break of $27 billion. lakota bakery gets nothing, but microsoft would save $18 billion. bob salvato gets zero, but citigroup would save $7 billion.
and what's the total price tag for this juicy smooch? estimates are in the range of $300 billion to $400 billion paid by u.s. taxpayers. right at the moment when other countries are starting to get tough and the tax dodgers might finally need to move some of their money back to the united states washington's top reform idea is to give the tax dodgers a big tax break. now the second idea is even worse. the idea is to tax overseas income but to do it at a rate that's lower than u.s. income. so for example, money earned in the u.s. would have a top tax rate of 35% while the top rate for money held abroad would be 19% or maybe less. it's like holding up a giant sign to all corporations that says "higher taxes if you invest in the u.s., lower taxes if you
invest abroad." the result would be every small business and every family in america would be subsidizing foreign investments of multinational corporations which would be a great deal for those multinational corporations and for our foreign competitors but a terrible deal for us. the third idea is called an innovation box. i think of it as the gift for lazy tax dodgers. to get this loophole there's no need to move money around or incorporate subsidiaries in tax havens. no. instead, a corporation can just check the innovation box on its tax return and magically pay lower taxes on the earnings it claims came from innovation. for big pharmaceutical companies and giant tech companies a provision like this just makes
paying taxes or at least a chunk of taxes optional. i strongly support a robust innovation policy like investing in nsf or nih. i believe in funding basic research and encouraging companies to invest and research but the innovation box doesn't do a single thing to encourage new innovation. lobbyists and lawyers are really excited about the prospect of tax reform tax nerds are abuzz. but when i look at the details i see the same rigged game. a game where congress hands out billions in benefits to well-connected corporations while people who could really use a break, the millions of middle-class families and small businesses that have been squeezed for decades are just left holding the bag. and that's what this tax battle
is really about. who does this country work for? is it just for the rich and powerful? those who can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers? or can we make this country work for millions of hardworking people? the corporate giants are lined up to make sure that the tax changes all tilt their way. america's working families don't a zillion dollar pr team to counter the false claim that corporate taxes are too high. small businesses don't have a zillion dollar lobbying organization to fight back against tax give aways for giant corporations. mostly what they have is you, the people in this room. the people who report on what's going on in washington. the people who will hear the elevator pitch over and over and
decide whether to repeat it or to push back. as tax reform moves forward i hope that each and every one of you will be paying very close attention. thank you. [ applause ] >> i've got some questions here that have been handed up by the people participating in the audience here you've been talking about corporate taxes but there's a question here about individual taxes as well. a lot of americans sympathize with the republican argument that the tax code is too complicated. is it too complicated and can it be simplified in a way that is fair? would you simplify it? >> yes, it's too complicated. it's hard. i always made it a point of pride -- before i got into politics -- to fill out my own taxes and it's got lots of moving parts to it. it's complicated.
but what worries me the most is what's hidden in the complications. it's that the system overall is tilted. it's not like there's just a bunch of random stuff in here and sometimes it will help poor people and sometimes it will help middle-class wage earners and sometimes it will help this group or that group. no. it's that the tax code has been reshaped over time and particularly over the last decade. and the reshaping has expanded the number of twists and turns that permit billion dollar multinational corporations to say whoo-hoo, this is great, invest in tax lawyers. because we won't have to pay money if we can exploit enough of these loopholes. and those things aren't available to anybody else. now i don't think the answer is to figure out how we can get middle-class americans to
shelter their money in the cayman islands. i think the answer is that we have to get a system that's level. and that means that giant corporations should not be getting a competitive advantage in this economy simply because they can exploit tax loopholes not available to anybody else. so for me that's the thing. >> some candidates have suggested eliminating the irs all together. just not having an irs. is that a practical idea? is there any formula for that that would make sense? >> no. [ laughter ] >> all right, thank you. what about the republicans who want to impeach the irs commissioner? is there any validity to their charges against him? >> look, they can make whatever claim they want to make and
thaek do whatever they want to do with the politics but i want to talk about what's really in the tax code. i'm serious about this. this issue is a bonus. tax lobbyists are swarming capitol hill. everyone is talking tax rewrite, tax rewrite, tax rewrite. we need tax rewrite that's got the voice -- a voice at the table for middle-class families. a voice at the table for small businesses. a voice at the table for those who are left to compete in a tough economy. right now the united states taxpayers are subsidizing some of the largest and most profitable corporations in the entire world. that's where the scandal is and that's where we need to be flipping on all the lights and exposing it. >> obviously one of your main concerns has been income
inequality. this morning you did another press conference about women and equality and wages. is the best way to get at income inequality, can it be done significantly through the tax code or is that really more of an issue with things like the minimum wage or -- which way do you get pat income inequality more efficiently? >> so i'm going do a little bit longer answer to this because this is why the whole list you were talking about, all of these pieces are woven together. let me start it this way. america was a boom-and-bust economy until we hit the 1930s. and in the 1930s, the real genius of the moment that came out of the great depression was our saying we can make this better going forward. we can put regulations in place to make it safe to put money in banks. we can put a cop on the beat on wall street, we can separate high-risk gambling from boring
banking, that was glass seei-stl and we can do progressive taxation and invest in building a middle-class and that's exactly what we did. we invested in education. g.i. bill, ndea loans, we invested in infrastructure and interstate highway system and a power grid that was upgraded. we invested in basic research, in medical research, scientific research and engineering research. with the idea that if we made those investments together we would create the right environment. we would flplow the field so businesses could grow at home and create great new jobs in america. people who worked hard and played by the rules could get an education and have real opportunity and for half a century it worked. from the 1930s to basically 1980
what you watch happen across that period is that gdp keeps going up and so does median income in the united states. the 90% of america, everybody outside the top 10%, the 90% of america got 70% of all income growth from 1935 to 1908. okay, top 10% moved a little faster but the point is we built america's middle-class. and then just picking the 1980 as the point of inflection, the years overlab a bit here and there but a new idea takes hold and the new idea that comes is trickle down economics. and trickle down economics has basically two parts to it. one is deregulate, fire the cops. not the cops on main street, the cops on wall street. and the second is cut taxes for those at the top. and how can you do that?
the only way you can afford to do that is that you cut all of those other investments that helped us build a middle-class and this is what happens. we can go through the numbers but let me cut to the bottom line. 1980 to 2012, the latest year for which we've got data, how is t -- how has the 90% done? the group not in the top 10%? remember they got 70% of all income growth from 1935 to 1980? well, from 1980 to 2012 they got 0% of income growth in america. none. nothing. 100% of income growth in this country went to the top 10% in america. is it related to taxes? you bet it's related to taxes. it's related to what we spend in
investing in education, what we didn't invest in jobs in america. what we didn't invest in research. it's related to firing the cops on wall street and saying have at it. build an entire industry out of cheating people on mortgages and credit cards. that's the heart of what's gone wrong. and now those people have so many lobbyists in washington, so many lawyers crawling across capitol hill that we're ready to rewrite the tax code and their view is you bet. they want to rewrite the tax coat to pick up even more benefits for themselves and that's why i say the fundamental question in america today is who does this government work for? does it just work for those who can hire an army of lobbyists or lawyers or will we make this country work for the rest of america? that's it for me. >> the plans that you've talked about of changing the corporate tax code. would moderate democrats in the
congress support you? how much support is there for this idea, reshaping the tax code in the ways you're talking about? >> well, we'll find out. part of it starts with how about we push back on the elevator speech? the elevator speech is everywhere. you heard the republican candidates, did anybody even fact check them on these assertions about how much american corporations are paying in taxes? we have to start by having the conversation and then, look, my view is anybody who claims to want to rebuild america's middle-class, anybody who claims to be there for small businesses, even mid-sized businesses anybody who claims to care about jobs in america insti instead of subsidizing jobs overseas should want to sign up hook, line, and sinker for these tax proposals. >> i'll start moving us towards the lightning round.
>> lightning round? i thought i was going pretty fast here! >> you're very good. i want to switch to other topics people have tossed out. the minimum wage. there are different pro poisals out there for $15, $12. do you support either the $12 or $15 and would a steep hike have any impact on hurting job creation in low-income states. >> are there some problems with having a federal anybody mum wage that's set so high? >> i want to see the minimum wage go up and right now i'll put wind in the sails for anything that will raise the minimum wage. i think it's the right direction for us to go. i'm a data nerd if you haven't already figured that out then you were asleep in the back row. the data just don't support the claim that when the minimum wage goes up that employment goes down. just look at study after study,
the gold standard of studies when the minimum wage was put in place across a metropolitan area and because after the stay is in one state and half the stay is in another or half the city is in the county and half is outside the county. you can do comparisons what happens before and after. you just don't see a strong measurable impact as a consequence of raising the minimum wage. and there are a couple reasons for this. one is that it turns out a higher minimum wage means lower turnover. and that people are more stable in their jobs and employers aren't having to spend as much training people and so on. and part of it is people who work at minimum wage spend all that money and they spent it locally so that it's a real shot in the arm for a lot of local economies for people to have more money. i hear from small business owners around massachusetts who
say they are doing the right thing, they get out there and they try to give their workers a living wage, they'd just like everybody they're competing against to have to do the same. and that's what i think raising the minimum wage is about. it's about trying to level the playing field. i know you wanted a lightning round. [ laughter ] but let me say something really quick about the minimum wage. this one is really personal to me. i'll do the short version of this but my family had really tough times and when i was 12 my dad was out of work for a long time, i had a stay at home mom. we lost our family car. we were right on the edge of losing our house when my mother pulled on her best dress, put on her lipstick, put on her high heels and she walked to the sears roebuck and got a minimum wage job. that minimum wage job saved our
house and it saved our family. but i grew up in an america where a minimum wage job would keep a family of three afloat. today a minimum wage job in america will not even keep a mama and a baby out of poverty. this is about economics but this is also a fundamentally moral question. no one in america should work full time and still live in poverty. we can do better than that as a country. [ applause ] >> there's another issue you've been dealing with today, that's the transpacific partnership. the information that has been made public -- all 6,000 pages, i've leafed through them all -- can you tell us more about your thoughts on why you oppose it and give us an update on where you see this issue moving forward?
congress would have to approve it. will it move in 2016 to the floor of the senate and the house and what do you think is likely to happen? >> lots of questions there. if i don't do them all you can elbow do them all you can elbow on me on it an i'll try to cover it. let me start with the trade deal with the process of getting to where we are today. and that is that as the negotiations took place, there were cleared advisers, that is, people here in the united states who whispered in the ears of the actual trade noeshegotiators. 85% of them were either corporate ceos or lobbyists. that builds a tilt into the entire process. and now, we've seen the product. and the tilt is right there in the product. and let me just give you one example.
the administration talks a lot about the great promises in the trade deal on employment and competition for workers around the world, on human rights, on the environment and there are some good promises. but promises without enforcement aren't worth the paper they're printed on. so what's the enforcement? and the answer is, it's the same old enforcement of every trade deal that proceeds it that hasn't worked. so, i want to be clear on this. going back years and years now, democratic administrations and republican administrations have not enforced the labor provisions, the environmental provisions, the human rights prosituations in earlier trade agreements so the promises can get fancier but if there's no enforcement there's nothing there. on the other side, what about
the giant corporations? the one who is want to do trade all around the world and want local countries to follow rules that make it profitable for the corporations? if they don't like how something has gone and what they believe are the promises that they're entitled to what do they have to do? they just have to go to a private arbitration board. private. and that private arbitration board will then issue a ruling and there is no appeal. there is no court process that comes out of that. the country that loses in that deal has to write a giant check. and that's it. now, there are a lot of countries that have already ended up on the short end of the stick in that process. and for some of them, writing a giant check is just not possible. so what's the alternative?
they back down and simply change local law. that's the kind of power that this trade agreement magnifies for the giant multinational corporations. and that is a tilt in trade policy that doesn't work for american workers. it doesn't work for the american people. >> just to move on to another topic that's been huge this week is the republican suggestions that we stop resettlement of any syrian refugees to the united states. can you comment on that the situation with syria? >> i can. and actually, on the refugees in particular, i did a speech on the floor of the senate yesterday that's available if anybody wants to look at it so there's the longer answer around this. but let me just say on the shorter answer, it is our responsibility to protect our country. it is our responsibility to
protect our people. but we don't do that by turning our backs on refugees who are fleeing the butchers of isis. right now, to make it as a refugee in to the united states from syria requires a screening process that lasts from 18 to 24 months. and look. we should always look at it. see if there's something else that we should add to it. but we are screening syrian refugees. screening them very carefully. if we are concerned and we should be concerned about terrorist threats, the much more worrisome problem is across europe. i recently traveled to greece and visited a refugee center. greece is so overwhelmed at this
moment by refugees -- last month 100,000 people came through turkey and into greece. that all they can do basically is fingerprint them, write down their names and pass them in to the rest of europe. but think about what that means. there is know fektive screening process on the front end. people are passed into europe. and end up with european passports which permit them to travel throughout europe and to travel to the united states. we need to focus our security concerns more carefully on where threats actually exist. if we want to make a real difference in threats to europe and to the united states, then we need to help the greek government. and europeans need to be helping the greek government. they need the resources to deal with the refugees who come ashore. and they need the expertise to
do more screening of the refugees that arrive in greece. we got to get the focus in the right place here. you know, and i should say one more thing. i'm sorry. it really was a long speech yesterday but i do have to say one more thing. this is not who we are. we don't turn our backs on people fleeing from terrorists. we are a nation of immigrants and refugees. we were founded by people who were seeking to escape religious persecution, who were seeking religious freedom. the idea that we would turn back children and babies to the murderers of isis because somebody doesn't like their religion? they just fundamentally
un-americ un-american. that is not who we have ever been in the past and that is not who we will be in the future. [ applause ] >> and i want to remind the c-span audience and others that if you hear applause, many of the people in the audience are not journalists. so -- >> good. they never applaud. >> journalists don't applaud. so, i want to just quickly turn to the topic of some politics. it seems when you republican to the republican and democratic debate the topics aren't the same and seems like there's two parallel conversations going on and so very little ground in the middle but we have a new house speaker, there's still one year left in the obama presidency. is there time, is there space, is there any opportunity for finding some sorts of middle ground for having a productive year in 2016? can anything still get done in
washington? >> look. i hope so. no. i do. there are places that we are working. right now, we're working on an education bill to replace no child left behind. and we're still going over the details but it's got some really good features in it that both republicans and democrats have agreed to. and have hammered out. we talk about medical innovation. this is an area where we should all be able to come together. you know, who doesn't want more funding for the national institutes of health? you know, can i just do one aside here? a little commercial here. last year, in america, collectively we spent $225 billion taking care of people with alzheimer's. and what could we offer them? we couldn't offer them any help.
we couldn't delay the onset by a single day. we couldn't reduce the impact of it by one inch. so what should we be doing as a country? we should be investing in brain science. in alzheimer's research. do you know how much we spent last year from the nih? less than 2/10th of 1% of that $225 billion. the nih budget over the last dozen years has effectively been cut, their spending power, by 25%. we don't build a future by turning away from the medical problems that are bearing down on us. we build a future by investing in medical innovation, investing in that research. so, there's a place i am hopeful that we can get there with the democrats and the republicans together. i've got a bill out there. i'll always put in my plug for my bill, right?
that would add another $5 billion to funding n ih. there are some other ways we may do that. i'll take anything as long as we get more money into nh ih. i'm hopeful there are places we could do this because that should be why we're here. we should be here to try to build a stronger country and i think there are some places we should be able to agree on that. >> and just to push a little deeper into the political questions, hillary clinton's wall street contributions have become an issue in her campaign. are you concerned about her ties to wall street? >> i'm concerned about everybody's ties to wall street. i mean, look around washington. i am worried about the influence that wall street has on washington period. maybe that's partly because i watched in the aftermath of the great crash in 2008 when congress was trying to put together response, the response
that ultimately became dodd-frank. i assumed when they started this process of we've got to have a response just like they did back in the 1930s that the giant financial institutions that had been permitted to load up on risk and then had crashed the economy and then had been bailed out by the u.s. taxpayer would at least be humbled enough to stay out of the political process. boy, does that show you how naive i was about it. wall street was spending more than a million dollars a day for over a year to lobby against financial reform. and they haven't let up. in fact, when dodd-frank passed, a lobbyist is quoted as having said, we didn't lose. it's just halftime. and that's the case.
they've come back. and they're there day after day after day. they want to punch this hole in dodd-frank. they want to punch that hole in dodd-frank. they want to get an exception. they want to treat it like they do the tax code. they want to make it work for the biggest financial institutions in the country and so this is -- this is the fight. and this is the one i'm deep in. >> looking at how surprisingly well bernie sanders has done, do you look back on it and wish you had gone ahead and run? >> no. >> okay. before i ask you the last question i have a little bit of housekeeping to take care of. first, the senator is going to have to depart immediately. >> i'm sorry. >> so please stay seated until she's left the room. thank you for that consideration. and the press club is the world's leading professional organization for journalists and we fight for a free press
worldwide. for more information about our club, visit website press.org. to donate to our non-profit, it is the journalism institute and that's at press.org/institute. i'd also like to remind you about a couple of programs we have coming up on the 23rd secretary of the air force deborah lee james is going to come and join us to discuss budget cuts, sexual assaults and other issue that is are facing the air force. she'll be at a press club luncheon on wednesday, december 2nd. tuesday, december 8th, the club will have david scortin, new secretary of the smithsonian institution at that luncheon he'll discuss his plans for the 169-year-old institution. and now i'd like to present our guest with the famous traditional press club -- here it is. i'm ready. >> the press club mug. >> thank you. >> and i will now ask you our
last question which -- this is just kind of a yes or no. >> one more question after i already have the mug? >> yeah. after you get the mug. >> this is -- i could run now because i got the mug. >> if hillary clinton asked you to be her vice president, could we have an all-women ticket? would you do it? >> let me put it this way. if hillary clinton were running for president an i were running for her vice president, i'm pretty sure it would be an all-women ticket so i'll just leave it at that. >> okay. outsmarted me. all right. for those who are free to applaud, can we have a round of applause for our speaker? >> thank you. [ applause ] >> i'd also like to thank the national press club staff including the journalism institute and the broadcast center for organizing the event. the know more about the club, again, press.original. we are adjourned. wait. i hit to this.
>> yeah! all right. thanks very much. >> thank you. >> thank you very much. that was -- thank you very much. thank you all. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> and from that event yesterday we take you live to capitol hill where the senate homeland security committee is holding a hear on syrian refugees and whether admitting them to the united states pose a risk to national security. you should know that the house a couple of moments ago approved a bill calling for greater scrutiny of syrian and iraqi refugees and the vote on that 289-137. with democrats crossing the aisle to vote for that bill. the first panel of witnesses for the hearing today is assistant secretary of state ann richard who heads the but owe of population refugees and
committee as they are holding this hearing this afternoon on syrian refugees and whether admitting them to the u.s. pose a risk to national security. earlier today, earlier this afternoon, the u.s. house voted to approve a bill calling for greater scrutiny of syrian and iraqi refugees. 289-137 was the vote tally on that. and over in the senate, the hill is reporting that senate democratic leader harry reid is saying that that house bill suspending the resettlement syrian refugees will not make it to president obama desk and democrats will block the legislation requiring the secretary of homeland security to affirm to congress that every refugee being admitting is not a security threat. senate democrats are pushing alternative legislation to be unveiled after thanksgiving and that would tighten up security gaps in the visa waiver program. again, that article from alexander bolton in "the hill."
you can read the rest of it at thehill.com. while we wait for when hearing, earlier this week, cia director john brennan appeared at the strategic for international. >> my opening remarks are different from those i reviewed and finalized in the early afternoon of last friday because our sensibilities and souls jarred once again by the horrific and wanton violence perpetrated upon the innocent in the streets, cafes and concert halls of the beautiful city of paris. our hearts ache for the scores killed and injured in those savage attacks and our thoughts
are with them and their families. like wise, our condolences and our thoughts go out to those killed in the crash of the russian airliner a little over two weeks ago in the sinai, egypt. and while we await confirmation of culpability, they bear the hallmarks of terrorism carried out by the so-called islamic state of iraq and la vant. an organization of muddous sociopaths that carries out the actions under bogus religious pretense. with the roots in al qaeda in iraq, and empowered by a large influx of foreign, isil over the past several years swallowed up large swaths of territory in iraq and syria, brutally killing thousands upon thousands of men, women and children along the way. not content to limiting the killing fields to iraqi and syrian lands, and to setting up local franchises in other
countries of the middle east, south asia and africa, isil has developed an external operations agenda that's now implementing, it is implementing with lethal effect. i'm sure we'll talk more about isil in the question and answer session but let me note that the grave threat posed by the phenomenon of isil makes it absolutely imperative that the international community urgently commit to achieving an even greater and unprecedented level of cooperation, collaboration, information sharing and joint action. in intelligence, in law enforcement, in military operations and in diplomatic channels. the isil threat demands it. at cia, we work closely with foreign intelligence security services around the globe to advance our shared counter terrorism goals. over the course of many years, we have forged broad and deep partnerships with our closest allies in europe such as great brita britain, france and many, many others.
these strategic relationships have been instrumental in helping to knit together a transnational architecture that allows counter terrorism officials and experts to work closely together across sompb borders to disrupt terrorism plans and activities. and while many terrorist operations have been thwarted as a result of strong, transnational team work, tragically, not all terrorist plans are uncovered in time. these strategic counter terrorism relationships need to stretch far beyond the traditional transatlantic environment and alliances which is why we're working closely with so many services in different starts of the world. for instance, we are working very closely with the egyptian partners working tirelessly to prevent isil terrorists from launching attack that is are aimed at derailing egypt's political reform initiatives and economic development objectives. i reiterated our commit to strengthening the partnership with cairo in a call to -- >> this hearing will come to
order. i think it is appropriate that we begin today with a moment of silence out of respect for those individuals that have lost their lives in paris and beirut and egypt over the last three weeks with the result of isis' barbaric activities. so a moment of silence, please. thank you. welcome our ranking member. >> thank you. >> when i took over chairman of this committee working with senator carper, we developed a rather simple mission statement for the committee. it is simply to enhance the economic and national security of america. we've committed ourselves to that.
the threat of isis, of islamic terror, threatens both. i mean, we have seen the tragic loss of life repeatedly. obviously, that threatens national security. but think of the economic harm, as well, that these acts of terror result in. so it is fitting and appropriate that this committee of the senate committee of homeland security government affairs take up this very serious issue of the threats that isis poses across the board. now, in speaking with ms. richards earlier, she acknowledged the topic, primary topic is about the administration's plan to allow about 10,000 refugees in from syria. we are compassionate. a humane society. and so i think as we have had secure briefings, we're going to lay out the reality in terms of what the vetting process will be to make sure that we maintain a secure nation. that we minimize if not
eliminate the risk that any of those refugees may cause america. so i think we have had secure briefings. i think we are going to hear a pretty robust vetting process and so i really do appreciate not only the department of homeland security with u.s. c.i.s. and mr. rodriguez and this is very short notice but i truly do appreciate and i think everybody on the committee appreciate it is fact you're taking the time to lay out that reality for the american public. refugees could pose a risk. but i think when we take a look at what the vetting process will be and we consider all the risks that isis poses to america, we may find there are far greater risks. i think in our briefings we had questions by members of our visa programs, the visa waiver program or student visas or the whole pan plea of visas reoffer. what type of controls, vulnerabilities, how are we exposed because of the openness of our society?
i think all of these things are very appropriate questions. and i think they definitely need to be explored. but if you really want to tick a look at where we are most vulnerable, this committee dedicated itself as a priority is border security. we have held 12 separate hearings on that problem, trying to play out the complexity, the difficult nature of that problem. and the conclusion that certainly i've come to, i think most committee me believes have come to is our borders are not secure. a few members including senator carper and i made a trip down to honduras and guatemala a couple of weekends ago and there was a new -- apparently not new. first time i heard this. i heard otm, other than mexico and described in the committee hearings, this is frequently people from central america. but when we were down i believe in guatemala, i heard a new term. sia, special interest aliens. currently most of those are
cubans coming in through central america taking advantage of the dry foot policy in terms of immigration law. but we're also told it includes syrians and somalis and pakistanis. that is concern to us. i believe there were five syrians just apprehended in honduras. we had some syrians ahended at the border. we don't know what threat level. it is reported they weren't a threat. but this is serious concern. we have heard now the new government in canada is going to open up and potentially streamline their refugee program to allow 25,000 syrian refugees. we certainly discovered in this committee that our border with canada is far from secure. again, our border in the southwest is very, very far from secure. the one metric that stands out in my head, proving how unsecure our border is, general barry mccaffrey testified we are only intradikting between 5% and 10% of drugs coming in through our
southern border. so, again, we've got to look at. we'll talk about the refugee and vetting process and fitting we do so and we really do need to understand the threat that we face. it is real. it is growing. and coming from manufacturing background, i've done a lot of problem solving. and the first step in solving any problem is first laying out the reality, acknowledging that reality, looking for the root cause. and let's be honest. the root cause of the problem is that isis exists. that it was able to rise from the ashes of what was a defeated al qaeda in iraq. and so, what we need to do is address the root cause. the refugee crisis, the flow into europe, the fact that we're even here today considering bringing in on the basis of compassion refugees from syria. that is a symptom of the problem. the root cause is isis. and so, the solution is
committing this nation together with a coalition of the willing of the civilized world to destroying, to defeating isis. that's a goal that president obama stated. degrade and ultimately defeat isis. i would argue ultimately ought to be very, very soon. so, again, i want to thank the witnesses. not only this panel, the next panel, for taking the time for your thoughtful testimony. i look forward to the questions. with that i'll turn it over to senator carper. >> thanks, mr. chairman. let me just set aside by prepared remarks. i would ask consent they be submitted to the record and make a couple comments if i can. a lot of attention paid to refugees coming from syria to the united states. in the last year there have been about 2,000 refugees. it's not an easy process to go through azumi colleagues know.
it's a process to make as much as two years. and it starts with vetting by the united nations, one of their high commands. and if folks make the cut to get to the next step then they go through a bunch of screens, personal interviews, in person interviews. data to the extent that we have data files to check, we do all those. dhs does some. we work with other countries with whom we're allied. out of the 2,000 that have come in as refugees in the last year or two, about 2% were military-aged males. 2%. of the folk that is have come to our country so far i'm told out of 2,000, not one person is arrested. not one person's been arrested. it takes two years and it's a process that if i were a bad guy trying to get in, that's the last place i'd try -- last way
i'd try to get in. if i were trying to -- bad guy, i'm might try a visa waiver program or a student or a tourist. and good news. i understand now the four french nationals who were killed in paris either three or all four of them folks who never would have been allowed to get on a plane because we had suitcased in terms of who they were, they would never get on a plane to come to the u.s. one of the things that challenges for us is i think is to understand -- had a hearing already on this visa waivers as i recall. and we need to dust off the books and see what we have learned. what started off as a travel facilitation program has now become an information sharing program. with 38 other nations. and in order to participate in the program with us they have to
agree to provide our assess to every kind of data and intelligence file we ask for. if they don't, then they're not included as one of the visa waiver countries. one of the latest, one of the other developments is not too long ago was if you want to be a visa waiver country, of these 38 countries, you have to make sure if a passport is stolen or lost it is reported to interpol and then when someone shows up to try to come to the u.s. or some other place, they can be stopped in their tracks. preamble to the constitution says to form a more perfect union. my guess is that as much as we're trying to make the visa waiver program better, it still isn't perfection and our goal should be perfection and work on it every day and i think there's things we can do legislateively and hopefully in this committee and work with colleagues of jurisdiction. the last thing that i would say,
we have -- we face a moral dilemma here. the pope was in town two months ago. spoke to all of us. invoked the golden rule. invoked matthew 25. did you take me in? everybody stood up and applauded and the joint session you may recall that when he said those words and now we're not so sure we believe those words and we have a moral imperative to the least of these. we have an equally strong morally imperative and i think a duty by virtue of our oath of office to make sure that we don't meet that moral imperative to the least of these by putting at risk the citizens of this country. and the question for us is can we do both in can we do both? i think we can and i think morally and just by common sense we need to do both. our dhoonlg figure out how to do that, thread the needle, build on the good work.
last thing i'll say is this. what the department of homeland security is doing good work and committee of large muslim population in this country, just to try to make sure we're inoculate against the success and the chairman mentioned this, the success of efforts to use social media to radicalize our own people and there's a request by the administration to increase the funding for that program. it seems to be working and i think as we consider the appropriations bills i hope we keep in mind what works and doing more of this and lastly, there's a guy, a fellow named adam zubin i think who is -- senator is that right? adam zubin. heavily involved in a leadership role and trying to cut off iran's access to international financial markets. when we were trying to cut off north korea and their access to international financial markets and i understand he's been nominated to -- at a very senior
position in treasury and there's obviously work that still needs to be done and can you -- senator heitkamp srks that still pending? >> it is pending and the hearing is completed. pending vote in in the banking committee. >> this committee's done great work making sure that senior level leadership, department of homeland security, vacant positions year and a half ago, they have been filled and done very good work in that regard and this is another nomination that's going to be very helpful in terms of the root cause, cutting off isis money. it's all good well and good to face them on the battlefield. we have a good guy willing to serve. we need to get him done. thank you. >> thank you, senator carper. i also have an opening statement to enter into the record without objection. a couple of housekeeping items. great we have such strong attendance and going to limit questions to five minutes. i thought there might be a few
acronyms thrown around and i had the staff publish a little acronym glossary here. speed things along. a 13-step vetting process, just put out by the u.s. committee of refugees and migrants and help the committee asking questions. it is the tradition of this committee to swear in witnesses so if you'll both stand and raise your right hand. do you swear the testimony before this committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? thank you. please be seated. our first witness is ms. anne richard, the assistant secretary of state for the bureau of population refugees and migration at the u.s. department of state. prior to her appointment, ms. richard was vice president of government relations in advocacy for the international rescue committee, the irc and international aid agency that helps refugees internally displaced and other victims of conflict. ms. richard?
>> thank you very much, senator johnson, senator carper, all the senators on this important committee for holding this hearing today on the impact of isis on the homeland and refugee resettlement. i have provided some testimony that talks about the humanitarian assistance we provide overseas, the diplomacy in the humanitarian area. working with other countries but what i would like to focus on right away is the refugee resettlement process. i know the attacks in paris last friday evening raised many questions about the spillover of not just migrants to europe but also the spread of violence from war zones in the middle east to the streets of a major european capital. let me assure you that the executive branch and the state department i represent here today has the safety and security of americans as our highest priority. as an essential fundamental part of the u.s. refugee admissions program we screen applicants
rigorously and carefully in an effort to ensure that no one that poses a threat to the safety and security of americans is able to enter our country. all refugees of all nationali nationalities considered for admission to the united states undergo intensive security screening involving multiple federal agencies. these are intelligence security and law enforcement agencies including the national counter terrorism center, the fbi's terrorist screening center and the departments of homeland security, state and defense. consequently, resettlement is a process to take 18 to 24 months as you mentioned earlier. applicants to the u.s. refugee program are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the united states. these safeguards include bio metric or fingerprint and buy graphic checks and lengthy in-person overseas interviews by specially trained dhs officers
who scrutinize the explanation of individual circumstances to ensure the applicant is a bona fide refugee and is not known to present security concerns to the united states. these dhs interviewers report to director rodriguez as part of his leadership of u.s. citizenship -- citizens and immigration services. so he is really the expert on this. what i would like to say is the vast majority of the 3 million refugees who have been admitted to the united states including from some of the most troubled regions in the world have proven to be hard working and productive residents. they pay taxes, send their children to school and after five years many take the test to become citizens. some serve in the u.s. military and understood take other forms of service for their communities and our country. i'm happy to answer any questions you have about any part of my testimony that i didn't get into. but i think the hot issue today
is the security aspects of our program and, therefore, i'm very pleased to be here today to answer any questions. thank you. >> thank you. our next is leon rodriguez, is director of u.s. citizenship and immigration services at the department of homeland security playing a key role in the u.s. admissions program. prior to this position, mr. rodriguez served as the director of office for civil rights at the department of health and human services and deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights at the department of justice. mr. rodriguez? >> thank you, chairman, thank you ranking member, thank you members of the committee. and thank you in particular for convening this very timely hearing. i'm going the use the time that i have to do something which i think is really critical at this juncture to lay out with some care how the refugee screening process works, what its structure is, what its
redundancies are and what the resources are that are utilized as part of that process. most refugees, the overwhelming majority in the case of syrians who enter the u.s. screening process are first encountered in refugee camps. in the case of syrians the majority of those will be either in turkey, jordan or lebanon. their first encounters with the united nations high commissioner for refugees where they register their claim for refugee status, some are referred to the united states. others are referred to other countries that have also expressed a willingness to the united nations to receive refugees. the united nations conducts an interview. it explores possible inadmissibilities that may apply in the case of the united states or other countries. it also makes a determination of priority based on particular
vulnerabilities of populations. once those determinations are made if in fact there is a con hisible claim and do not appear to be severe inadmissibilities at that point the u.n. refers that individual or case because they come very often not as single individuals but family units traveling together and refers to them whatever country it is. in our case, to the state department. where a series of things occur. at that point, a second interview is conducted by ms. richard's staff an a set of bio graphic tests and conducted at that point, querying holdings, state department holdings including databases that are of an intelligence nature. security advisory opinions in the large number of the cases which is a database hosted by
the fbi. and very critically for our discussion here, what is called the interagency check which is a network of queries hosted by the national counter terrorism center of a broad swath of intelligence and law enforcement holdings. i know we have talked about the comparison of this case and iraq. the fact is when we talk about syria, we are talking about isil, we are talking about al nusra, the syrian government itself. all of which have interests and desires very much adverse to those of the united states. there is a constant process of gathering information about what's going on in those places. and as a result, in several cases -- in a number of cases, rather, our queries of those databases that phase have registered hits, those hits have been basis either to deny
outright admission or place people on hold. if the individual clears the state department process they are then referred to u.s.c.i.s.. we have the benefit of the work done prior. the state department interview, the u.n. interview, the fruits of those background checks. and we place in particular those officers who work in environments like syria or others through a particularly rigorous battery of both training and predeployment briefing as well as apprenticeship while out in the field with that briefing they then conduct very intensive interviews of the individuals to identify credibility issues, possible inadmissibility issues or other possible derogatory admission. at the same time they're fingerprinted and run against u.s. customs and border patrol holdings, fbi holdings and department of defense holdings.
only after they clear that process and after their cases are carefully analyzed do they move on. if there are concerns identified at that point they move into what is called the controlled application resolution and review process which is a joint undertaking of my refugee affairs department and my fraud detection to national security dire direct rat. in fact, a number of cases going back a while now, hundreds of them, in fact, are on hold because of concerns identified during the process. only after an individual has or a family unit has cleared that entire process is the decision made in fact to have stamped approved that file to allow that individual then to have plans made for both cultural orientation, medical examination and then planning to move to the
u.s. i also underscore when i talked about the bio graphic checks earlier, that's a recurrent process, meaning that even though we do it before the interview, in fact, that system is constantly queried now. it's a recent improvement to the manner in which we do our work and means if new derogatory information arises about that individual we'll be notified about that information in order to take appropriate action with respect to that case. i look forward to the questions which i think will give me further opportunity to aluis date this process. thank you, chairman. >> thank you, mr. rodriguez. i want to start out because we've been told in briefings the fact that only 2% of the 1,869 syrian refugees that have been allowed in the country over the last year were men of military age. 21 to 30. but that's little more narrow than that, isn't it? i'm looking at figures of 994
men, 875 women. out of that 1,869. ms. richard, can you tell us the difference, the distinction there? >> yeah. thanks for bringing that up. there's been 2,000 syrians resettled to the united states since the start of the kri sis 4 1/2 years ago and 1,700 came last year and of all the one that is have come, 2% are young, single military age males who don't -- who aren't with a family or don't have a family connection in the united states so truly on their own. the number of males, the percentage of males is a little over half but that includes boys to grandpas. >> right. okay. i just kind of want to set the record straight there. you know, my concern is we where the vulnerability is, where's the holes of the system? i think in briefings people are
very concerned about, okay, you checking databases, watch lists. first question is, what does it take to get in a database or a watch list? how do you avoid it? what people wouldn't be on there and then completely rely on interviews? let's first start. how do you get on a watch list an how do you stay off it? >> yeah. in some of the specifics about how that works are things that we would need to address in a classified briefing. >> okay. >> but suffice it to say, if there is a heightened level of concern that somebody is a terrorist or otherwise an actor who would be seeking to harm the united states, that would be the basis of either nomination to one of the databases i described before, watch listing, again, and i think in a classified briefing we could probably go into deeper detail as to how that -- >> they would have had to do something or associated with
somebody that's nefarious. correct? >> those are at least two ways. >> so let's say they're a citizen of syria or a citizen of france, that really didn't travel or maybe citizen of france that snuck into syria, never had the passport stamped and sneak back, there would be no -- there would be no reason for them to be on a watch list or a database, kr snekt and then during the interview process, they would be able to answer all the questions and not come across as particularly suspicious, right? >> yeah. i go back to what i said at the beginning. there is no question that isil, al nusra, syrian government itself are our enemies. there is therefore a constant process of looking for information about those entities, about their activities, about where they operate, about who they are that in turn becomes -- again, without describing the techniques of now that occurs,
in turn becomes information that's available to us through these various databases that i describe. and therefore, becomes a reason either directly or through association in some cases to at a minimum hold the case and subject that case to further scrutiny. >> again, if you had a clean record and from syria or a citizen, you may not be on the databases and you'd have to have a pretty good interviewer to potentially catch that. what's the current and hopefully you can talk about this in open session, when's the current estimate of the number of foreign fighter that is are european citizens or citizens -- let's put it this way. citizens of a country that has the visa waiver program in place, with the united states, how many of those foreign fighters are we aware that have gone to syria, possibly come back? >> i apologize, chairman. i believe that's sort of analysis exists. i don't have it at my fingertip. >> ms. richard, do you know? okay. i think that's -- i think one of
ourvulnerabilities. as other people ask questions, we'll see a robust vetting process for refugees. and probably a less robust process for other forms of visa waivers or visas coming into this country. and i think that's part of the vulnerabilities we need to explore. with that, i'll turn it over to senator carper. >> thanks. again, we appreciate very much your being here with us today. you know, just given what we have talked about here today and learned in the last several days about the rigor of the refugee program, the screening process and refugee program, if these guys aren't stupid that we're dealing with. bad guys. and i can't imagine why they would want to spend two years going through a refugee screening process when they could try to get to this country and any other country with a tourist waiver, tourist visa rath we are a student visa.
come through the visa waiver process we have with 38 other countries. so, we're going to continue to focus on the refugee process for folks to get over here, whether it's 2,000 this year, 10,000 next year. it's hard to imagine if i try to do mischief to wait two years to go through that process. knowing that at any step of the way i could be bumped out. and probably would be detected. okay. i think where we need to as a committee focus our attention is on the visa waiver program and i might be mistaken. we have a lot of hearings in this committee azumi colleagues know but i believe we had one in the last year or so on the visa waiver situation and it was good an we learned there had been -- was it perfect? no no it wasn't. is it better? yes, it is. are there other things to do to make it better sill? there probably are.
i don't know, mr. rodriguez, rodriguez? if you could just talk to us about a little bit -- may be outside of your lane in the visa program but give us some advice as to what legislateively we can do to strengthen it further. >> i confess it is outside of my lane although the individual that that runs that lane doesn't sit too far away from me and that would be the customs and border patrol. >> is there anybody here with you from -- >> no. but we could work with the committee to arrange a briefing or a hearing as the case might be to discuss those issues. >> all right. good. you said something in your testimony, mr. rodriguez, about i think the term you used was recurrent process. going over -- reexamining as new information comes to the fore. and that can be used in terms of
either denying or revisiting somebody's ability to come here and stay here. >> i talked before about the interagency check which is essentially an electronic query of a number of different law enforcement and intelligence databases. we have now upgraded our approach to those checks to have the system advise us if further information is entered into that system about an individual, about who there has been previously a query. so if we had queried in the initial phases -- rather, the intermediate phases of the screening process an individual, new information arises about that individual, we would be notified about the existence of that new information and that occurs right up until the very moment of arrival in the united states. that query process continues to
occur right up until that point. the other thing that i might say about -- if i may, senator, about the interview process. my training is as a state and federal prosecutor. i spent a lot of my life around law enforcement of all types, state, local and federal. and i have conducted and observed thousands of interviews. i have taken the opportunity to observe my officers in action. i was with them in turkey this june. and i can tell you that the quality of the interviewing that they were conducting was as good as any i have seen. in my professional career. >> okay. the -- will you talk to us a little bit about whether or not we need to examine more closely -- we have talked about the process of the refugee process of getting here. visa waiver process of getting here. how about student and tourist visa process of getting here? i'm told 40% of the people
here -- say there's 12 million, i think 40% came here under some kind of a legal status, maybe using a tourist visa, student visa. anythings that we should be mindful, thinking about the rigor of those processes? >> yeah. i think the main -- >> the vetting of those people. >> i'll try to say it in five seconds is those processes also involve both law enforcement and national security database checks so it is -- the fact they're outside of the refugee process does not mean that we're undertaking some of the same rigor applied to the refugee screening process. >> all right. thanks so much. >> senator portman? >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for holding another hearing on this topic. we were here last month talking with the secretary of homeland security. your boss. also talking to the fbi director and the counter terrorism folks about this very topic.
and i think it's clear that we live in a dangerous world and it's something we have to be concerned about. not zwrus on the refugee program but all these various entry points. one, of course, is if visa waiver program. we talked about the fact that there are 5,000 foreign fighters coming from 38 countries with a visa waiver arrangement. that's a huge risk. and i think it is appropriate that this committee focus on tightening up those standards. i know there are a couple of proposal s floating out there now. we also, of course, have to worry about visas. 9/11 terrorists came here, overstayed the visa. that's an immigration reform issue. legal immigrants. we have foreign fighters ourselves and some coming back to my home state of ohio. columbus, ohio. plotted to commit terrorist acts in the united states and was arrested for it. it's happening. we, of course, have the issue of illegal entry.
this morning we hear about the five individuals who were stopped in honduras with fake syrian passports and then we have apparently a couple families in mexican border this morning. and this is a problem. and and this goes to our need to have a secure border not just for immigration purposes but for money, guns, drugs, and certainly for terrorism. and then homegrown terrorists. my hometown of cincinnati we have one person currently incarcerated and under arrest for wanting to come to this capital, blow us up here. and in akron this month we had a homegrown terrorist arrested. this is in ohio, the heartland. so, this is a very real issue. but i don't think we should ignore the refugee side of it either. let me tell you a story and maybe you can tell me that this is something that could never happen under the current program. but there were a couple brothers who were brought in as refugees from iraq, not syria, but from iraq. they were in the heart land right across the river from
where i live in kentucky and recently the sixth circuit court of appeals confirmed their conviction for terrorist activities including providing assistance for al qaeda in iraq and they were taped saying they wanted to build a bomb in the united states. and they were quoted as saying, quote, many things should take place and it should be huge. these were refugees. so, this notion that somehow we need to worry about all these other issues but it's okay in the refugee program. of course, we need to know who is coming in. and we need to be sure not only who they are but what their intentions are. and with regard to these iraqi refugees who came in, they had been fingerprinted at the border in syria because they had to go through syria to come to iraq. they were entered into a biometric database and when they were checked by your department and department of defense they
were clean and admitted to the united states. and later they bragged about what they had done to attack and kill u.s. soldiers in iraq. they weren't picked up. my concern which was something that came forward in our last hearing on october 8th in this room where we had your boss, fbi director, counterterrorism officials, they told us point-blank we do not have the intelligence in syria to be able to do the appropriate background checks. here's the quote from director comey, the fbi director, in response to asking about our gaps in intelligence, collection and sharing process that posed great risk he said, senator, to me there is a risk associated with bringing anybody in from the outside but especially from a conflict zone like that. my concern there is that there are certain gaps i do not want to talk about publicly in the data that is available to us. end quote. you said something similar this morning. you can't talk in open session about the gaps we have. but obviously we don't have
intelligence on the ground there. we've just sent 50 special forces there. that's great. they're not there to collect data on refugees so i to think it's a concern. i do think we have to tighten it up, and if we do not we are ignoring -- agreed many other threats. some of which may be greater threats in the sense of numbers of people but for us to say we're somehow against refugees because we think there ought to be proper checks in place, that's ridiculous. we're the most generous country in the world and thank god we are. and i along with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are in support of the refugee resettlement programs but let's make sure we don't have the same thing happening in bowling green, kentucky, we had less information with regard to the iraqis. your response? >> yeah, a lot has -- since the bowling green case, a lot has been done to upgrade the security check system. i've heard it recently said by others that those individuals
would have, in fact, been picked up under the kind of biographic screening that we do now. nothing of what i'm saying should be seen as contrary to what either secretary johnson orwhat director comey did. there is, in fact, risk in what we do. what i am saying is that we engage in the sort of process with redunntandancies with resos and highly trained officers to keep those risks to an absolute, absolute minimum. >> thanks, senator portman, out of respect to all of our members i will be using the gavel to keep the question and answer period as close to five minutes as possible. with that, senator mccaskill. >> thank you both for being here. i won't ask you to take the time to identify all the different ways that foreigners can come to our country, but i think it's obvious and it's been stated today and many times over the last few days that these radical
jihadists are all over the world. they are in our country. they are in many countries. and if you look at the number of refugees that have been brought in from other countries there's a number of countries on that list that we brought in much more than syria like somalia, like iran, like yemen. and we have intelligence gaps everywhere there's intelligence gaps. so, the question i have for you is, if you were a terrorist, well, maybe this isn't a good question because we don't want to tell terrorists this. let me ask it this way. let me ask it this way. which of all the ways to get into this country are you subjected to the most scrutiny? >> yeah, i can say with great confidence that applicants for refugee status and in particular refugees from syria are subjected to the most scrutiny
of any traveler of any kind for any purpose to the united states. >> so, my biggest concern is, listen, let me acknowledge america's on edge. people i love are on edge. we're worried and we're angry. worried and angry. and what i would like us to do on a bipartisan basis is to calmly come together as a country, democrats and republicans, and figure out what we can do that enhances the security in all of the categories. but it seems to me we've gotten distracted by the shiny object of refugee because of this image of people swarming our borders without any checks not realizing that this, of course, is not like europe where all they saw at the border of france is welcome to france. that's it.
i mean, once they got into europe, you have free access around that country -- around those countries. so, what i would like you to tell to us, both of you, is if you were going to spend time and energy crafting better policies to keep america safe, from those people who want to come here, where would you focus attention? >> for me, it is -- that is an operational question as much as a policy question. and it is an operational question that we ask ourselves every single day. in what we do, which is, you know, to the extent that we're screening be they refugees or the other example given was individual student visas, what are we doing to plug up risks that we identify in those processes. so, even though i've identified what i think is a very rigorous process, we are constantly
looking for opportunities to upgrade that process. to improve the scope of information that we access, to deepen the training and understanding of our officers. one example actually is to the extent that we talk about increasing admissions, our officers learn a lot from the refugees that they interview. >> right. and all that goes -- that all goes into our process. >> that's correct. and that deepens their ability to be able to screen the people that -- >> what about students? are we doing this for students? are we checking them in all the databases? >> in many cases depending on where they come from and the circumstances in which they come, we're certainly checking in the databases. we do that for just about every immigration category that we operate. the configurations are different depending on the categories, but we basically do a national security check, a criminal justice check, just about every applicant for immigration benefit or other sort of
immigration consideration who we encounter. >> what about biometrics for all of the 38 countries that we have visa waiver programs with, how many of them now do not have the facial recognition and the fingerprint recognition and the chip-embedded passports that we think now should be standard? how many of those countries do not have that as a bare minimum? >> yeah, senator, i'm going to respectfully defer to my customs and border protection colleagues. they really are the experts on the operation of the visa waiver program. >> if we're crafting legislation i think it's a big mistake not to use this as a moment of leverage with our visa waiver partners to insist on the same kind of biometric protections that we have in our passports for those passports since clearly i believe the foreign fighters in those countries i believe pose much more of a risk to us than the small number of refugees who have gone through a great amount of vetting.
>> senator mccaskill. senator ayotte? >> i want to thank the chairman. i wanted to, director rodriguez, just to be clear following up on senator portman's question about the current program and the refugee program. director comey not only did he testify before this committee with what he told senator portman, but also i think what has concerned many of us is the testimony he gave before the house committee on october 20 -- excuse me, 21st of 2015 and in which he basically said that the u.s. government may not have the ability to vet thoroughly all the syrian refugees coming into the united states. he explained that if a syrian person is not already in the fbi's database, that person is unknown to the agency. leaving an inadequate basis for the person's background to be screened for terrorism risk.
he said, quote, we can only query against that which we've collected. he cautioned, he also said so if someone has never made a ripple in the pond in syria in a way that would get their identity or interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home and there will be nothing because there is no record on that person. i guess my question is i understand all the multiple steps you're taking but isn't one of the big gaps here we don't have the kind of intelligence we had in iraq where we actually had because we had many representatives on the ground we had men and women who fought there, we had diplomatic representatives that we do not have in syria that this presents a different challenge to us? >> yeah, there's no question that in iraq we had a unique level of intelligence saturation to what i think was senator mccaskill's point, though -- >> but i'm asking this
question -- >> no, no, no. >> how do we reconcile what director comey has said about these gaps with concerns that are very legitimate about the vetting process based on a gap in information? >> i'm trying to explain. this is not the first time by far that we have been vetting individuals coming from a country that was a zone of conflict where we were not participants. where we did not have the intelligence gathering ability that we had in iraq. the fact is that we are gathering intelligence throughout the world. >> okay, just simple question. do you diminish at all the concerns raised by the fbi director to the congress? >> i think i was very clear that what we do is not without risk. what i am saying is that we are using multiple intelligence resources -- >> i understand that. just a simple yes or no. do you disagree or do you have any quarrel with the comments that he has testified to in the house committee? >> i do not have quarrel with
what he said. i think there is context that is critical. >> okay. i appreciate. i just want to understand. so, i want to understand so of all the individuals involved in the paris attacks can either of you answer the question of how many were on our no-fly zone -- list? >> i am -- i don't -- i know that i'm not in a position in an open hearing to discuss that information. >> okay. and can either of you answer the question of how many were on our terrorist watch list or is that something we cannot answer in an open session? >> again, in an open session i don't -- >> i would agree with senator mccaskill, i think there are -- that our allies on this visa waiver program which we -- this committee actually has been focusing on for a while, a number of hearings related even prior to this on the visa waiver program, that we do need to understand what information and what gaps were on that, based on whether those individuals who are engaged and perpetrators of
the attacks in paris were on our list, number one. i think that we've all received some briefing on that in a classified setting, but this is something we have to have an open discussion about as well. where are those gaps that need to be fixed because if they can't get on on no-fly zone list this is a real problem with the visa waiver program because potentially they can come here. so, that's something that needs to be addressed. i don't think that it's mutually exclusive that we address these gaps in the visa waiver program that need to be addressed. obviously there's legitimate and important reasons for people to travel to the united states of america but we need to make sure that we address that issue as well. but i think many of us are concerned based on what we're hearing from some of our top intelligence officials and the director of the fbi that the gaps we have don't allow us to fully know what we need to know
on some of the individuals that are coming potentially to our country. finally, i just want to say on a point that if we do not address isis, with what they are doing in syria and iraq, then we are going to be in a position if we don't work together with our allies to defeat isis, then the refugee problem is going to continue because these individuals will not have a home and i hope that's something that we all work together on a bipartisan basis. thank you. >> senator tester? >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for holding this hearing and thank both the people who are testifying coming today. if a refugee's application is denied is there a tag put on that form, on that record? >> in other words, if we see the individual again, i assume that's the essence of the question, senator. >> that's the next question, yes. >> we certainly make sure that we know who that individual is. >> okay. >> it's also if critically if
future cases demonstration some connection to that denied individual that's something that we are able to identify. >> okay. >> we are always looking at networks of people, family networks, networks of associations as part of our vetting. >> so, is it fair to say that a refugees that have been denied acceptance none of them have tried to reapply? and none&7lky of them have rece once been denied they're out? >> i can't say whether that's unheard of. we can certainly get you an answer to that question. >> could you tell me, what would cause a denied application to become one that would be accepted at a later date? >> i suppose if -- if it was a situation where it turned out that the individual was able to effectively refute the basis of the denial, that would be a pretty high bar. i would just underscore that. >> could you give me an idea how many refugee applications are
received and how many are accepted? >> in any given year we admit -- this past year -- >> what i'm talking about is you applied, you're turned away or you're accepted. can you give me the difference between application and acceptance. i know how many people have come in already. if you can't answer that, you can get back to me. >> i will get you that. >> let me ask a little bit about the process or screening that you went through and i appreciate that, by the way. you said that the refugees were continually queried through databases for additional information. is that while the vetting process is going on or does that even occur after they're admitted right into the country? >> from the time that the check is first run during the intermediate portions of the screening essentially the state department leg of the screening and that occurs right up until the time of their admission. >> okay. without getting into the
specifics, we've talked about visa waiver. we potentially will talk about political refugees and the difference. talking about different ways of getting into this country. does your department put together a list of things as an ask of congress to give you additional tools to make sure that the vetting process is where you believe it needs to be, if any are required, are you willing to give us your suggestions on what needs to be done, not only with refugees but with the entire -- the entire overlay, political refugees and others? visa waivers and others. >> sure. we're always willing to work with the congress on those issues. i think important to understand that my agency is a fee-funded agency. >> yeah. >> the fees paid by most of our fee payers subsidize the --
payers. >> okay. >> it's not from tax revenue. >> i've got you. but that isn't the question. the question is if we need to tighten up visa waiver, for example, or if we need to tighten up political refugees and the regimen that they have to go through to get accepted into this country, are you guys willing to put forth those recommendations to us? i'm not saying there are any needed, but it would be nice to deal with the folks who deal directly on where the gaps are. you know them better than i. >> senator, we absolutely are willing to work with this congress at any time to refine the way we do our work absolutely. >> okay. let's see. what else is there? that's probably about it. i just want to say thank you for your work. i think that there's not anybody that serves in congress who doesn't want to make sure this country is as secure and safe as it can be. i think what happened in france rattled people to their soul.
and so we need to make sure the work you're doing fits the risk. thank you. >> senator, before you yield back your time, let me just share something. at our briefing yesterday and some discussion at our lunch today, there was some mention of a program i think it's funded within dhs. the number of $45 million per year sticks in my mind and the money is used to combat the radicalization in this country. could you just take, like, 20 seconds and just tell us about that? because we heard yesterday that that's something we should do more of that. if it works, we should do more of it. >> secretary johnson has assembled at a high level in departments something of called the the office of community partnersh partnerships, to engage in the activity we call counterextreme and that is a series of engagements at a national, state and local level, at a community
level, with youth, with nongovernmental organizations to really identify the root causes of radicalization and to use smart approaches to, in fact, interrupt the process of radicalization. >> senator baldwin? >> thank you, mr. chairman. like my colleagues i certainly -- i'm hearing from the public in wisconsin, with sincerely held concerns and fears about an attack such as the horrific attack we saw in paris happening here in the united states. so, i was grateful to hear your response to senator mccaskill's question about which methods of entry into the united states would set up or provide the
greatest amount of scrutiny. and i think i heard you say fairly specifically that the refugee path especially if you are a refugee from syria would provoke, prompt, the most intense scrutiny. is that correct? >> yeah, that is correct. that is absolutely correct. i mean, i know what we do and across all lines of business, that's absolutely the most scrutiny to which we subject. >> so i wanted to follow-up because a number of the governors in the united states have come forward to try to cut off that path in terms of announcing some sort of refusal to participate in a refugee resettlement program that is a national program. governor walker from the state
of wisconsin, the state that i represent, was among those governors. and i just wanted to share what he communicated in terms of raising concerns. he said that there are not proper security procedures in place to appropriately background and accurately ascertain the identities of those entering our country through the syrian refugee program, end quote, and additionally that, quote, this deficiency in the program poses a threat to the safety and security of our people, end quote. can you respond to those concerns? >> sure. one of the things -- there have been refugee populations that because they come from conflict zones, because they are, you know, running from their house, have not presented a lot of
documentation when we've encountered them. that has not generally been true of the syrian refugee population. i would also point out that our officers as part of their rigorous training are trained in identifying fraudulent documents to the extent that that's something that we're always looking for as a concern. it is also a critical part of the vetting process from end to end, in other words, what unhcr does, what assistant secretary richards folks do, what we do, to really drill into the identity and associations of these -- of these individuals. so, i do have a high level of confidence that when we stamp a case approved, we know whose case we approved. we know the identity of that individual. >> thank you. miss richard, my next question has to do with the implications on funding that flows from the
federal government in support of refugee resettlement programs generally. if a state were to announce that it wasn't going to participate in that program. i know that you work in partnership with the department of health and human services, office of refugee resettlement in all of this. let me just ask, do you think the state decisions jeopardize this funding stream and a series of programs that back up refugee resettlement such as medical assistance, social services, and housing? and i'm particularly concerned about refugees who may have settled in our states from other places in the world aside from syria. >> thank you for your question. three departments of the federal government are the ones who help run the process. although as you've heard, a lot
of law enforcement and national security and intelligence agencies are involved in the vetting process. in terms of running the process, the state department is responsible for working with unhcr. unhcr refers refugees to us. we have staff in centers around the world who help the refugees to put their case together and tell their story and collect their documents. the essential decision of whether they come or not rests with dhs. the vetting process itself as you've heard and we also are responsible for getting them to the u.s. working with partner organizations and met at the airport and get settled here in the first three months of their new lives in the united states. at that point the department of homeland -- the department of health and human services has a program to provide assistance through the state governments to give additional support to refugees. they'll have refugee-specific programs. it varies from state to state. so, in the past there has been
at least one governor who said i don't like refugees coming here. i'm not going to accept this money and a member of congress from that state told him please accept the money. i work very hard up here in washington to get assistance for our state to help with these kind of tests and this is a federal program. the governors do not have the ability to block the resettlement of refugees. but more important than that is this program depends very much on the support of the american people. it's run at the community level. there are a lot of community organizations, volunteers, churches, faith-based groups, temples involved. a lot of the things that help a refugee family get started once they get here are furnished by charity. i've been to places in miami where recently where i have cuban refugees get furniture from a furniture store that where the founder was a cuban refugee.
those, these contributions are a big part of this program. it's a public/private partnership. it only works if the people at the community level support it. so, i'm less concerned about the legal ramifications of the governor's actions and much more concerned about the message it's sending to the american people. -- no desire to do that. and we also need public officials and senators and members of congress to help us -- the responsibility is mine but i can use the help, educate people about what this program is and why we do it and why it's in the best interests of our nation to honor this tradition of bringing refugees to the u.s. senator. >> thank you, mr. chairman. a couple things. first off, just to -- just because i know you guys have deferred a number of times on the visa waiver program.
i'm not going to ask you specifics. but i do want for the record to acknowledge that 20 million people last year in 38 countries and i'm not saying say they all traveled to the united states used the visa waiver program. and we know very many of those 38 countries do not have the same level of scrutiny, do not have the same level of biometrics, not even looking at e-verified passports, that we've allowed in the interest of commerce and certainly with allied countries, maybe not being as enforcement minded as what we are. and so i think that this is a huge part of what we need to be concerned about. but we're here talking about the refugee program. and so i'm going to just ask a simple question. you to think it's legitimate for the american public to today ask you to provide answers to their questions about this program?
but also for you to take a look at this program and analyze whether, in fact, there are any gaps, things that we could be doing better, choices that we could be making? let's say, mr. rodriguez, for example, we have someone that we know nothing about, compelling story, but we know nothing about him. another compelling story over here we know a lot about that person given the competition for resettlement in this country, don't you think it makes sense for us to prioritize those folks that have compelling stories but that we know a lot about? >> so, first off, i am [ inaudible ] my apologies. whatever questions. i am accountable, let me say it with the microphone. i am accountable to the american people first and foremost, so whatever questions they have are questions that i'm fully prepared at all times to answer. and i think their questions are about how we conduct this
process and how we prioritize within this process. the basic design of the refugee referral process is to prioritize individuals in the most need. and at that point it starts what is a very rigorous process of screening and a lot of information is gathered from everybody that we encounter. and if we can't get that information, we don't clear them. we don't approve their cases and they either go on hold or they're outright denied. >> i think that's something that's been missed in this discussion today because a lot of people are saying you know nothing about them as the fbi director has said and what you're saying now is if you can't really find out about them, if there isn't any third party verifiable information that person may not, in fact, probably won't make it into this country? is that what you're saying? >> not entirely. in other words, the individual has to give us enough information that matches other information that we know about
what's going on -- >> wouldn't that be third party information? >> i guess you're right, senator. >> that's an important question about how you prioritize because no one here is suggesting there isn't a need or there aren't compelling stories. but there's a lot of compelling stories. and maybe we prioritize those where we actually have a higher level of assurance. i don't have a lot of time. and i want to get to this issue of the northern border, because obviously we have a fairly open border with canada. i can attest to that. and i think the ranking member who has flown over the canadian border can testify to that and i think the chairman mentioned the northern border in his opening statement. i think border security remains critical priority for this country. i think we also have to include the northern border, which i've been beating the drum for on this committee since i've been on this committee, so we have to
make smart investments on the northern border. one of the issues or questions i have regarding the refugee program especially as it relates to canada, are there any issues with how the canadians vet their refugees, any suggestions that you've made to expand their vetting process or improve their vetting process, and can you speak to what would occur if someone was admitted into canada as a refugee and that person later tried to legally controls the border to the united states? would that person even though they may not have passed the rigor in our country be allowed entry through canada? >> and i'll ask assistant secretary richard to add what i miss. we are in constant consultation in particular with the other english-speaking countries on how we conduct our refugee screening process. the canadians have been in this business for a long time.
they do conduct at least sort of a basic outline of their system which is what i'm familiar with is also quite rigorous. but we are in a constant state of dialogue with them to make sure that we're learning from one another. >> is the canadian system as rigorous as ours? >> i can't say. i can't say. it appears to be, again, from where i've been watching -- >> that's something you can get back to me on. >> certainly. certainly. >> i've used up my time and the chairman has offered to gavel us down if we go too far over, so this is a dialogue that i think we need to continue. >> senator, i'm meeting with the canadian official tomorrow, so if you give me some questions i'll get answers for you. >> i'd like fear being a motivating factor. senator peters? >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you to our panelists for your testimony today. this has been an interesting hearing. one that i'm sure we're going to be discussing for some time. but it is of particular importance to me and the folks in the state of michigan as i
think both of you are aware, we have one of the largest middle eastern populations outside of the middle east is in primarily the detroit metropolitan area. we are the home to many refugees from around the world but particularly from the middle east that come to the detroit area. i've had an opportunity to work with refugee resettlement groups, with the religious community, and get to know many refugees who have come to this country who contribute to the country. they are for the most part -- i should say the most part the refugees that i talk to are patriots. they are so excited to be in the united states because they are away from a very hazardous situation where their life was in jeopardy and this country opened up their borders and opened up our hearts to bring them here. they are store owners. they're entrepreneurs. they're physicians. they're engineers. contributing folks to our country, and basically it's what this country has been about since its founding that we are about folks that come from
around the bord that want to pursue the american dream as patriots. but i think it's important that the context that we're discussing this we're dealing with a humanitarian crisis in proportions i don't think we've seen since world war ii. we've got literal millions of people who have been displaced from syria and they are displaced because thousands and thousands of syrians were murdered and they left because they are not -- they fear for their safety, for their families and their loved ones. i was at about two months ago at a syrian refugee camp in jordan. i had a chance to visit the largest refugee camp there. at the time there were 85,000 individuals crammed in a camp in the desert not far from the syrian border and not the best of conditions to live in. they were receiving food allowance that was equal to 50 cents a day is what they were living on. you can't buy a whole lot of food for 50 cents a day. you have one propane bottle for
your family to cook from. you can't do a whole lot of cooking. but what was most impactful to me was the conversations i had with those refugees who just had a sense of hopelessness. that they had been there for a long time. usually when you go to a refugee camp you go for six months and you're back in your country. that's not the case here. the folks were there for four years those that i talked to with no idea what their future held for them. and the children had difficulty surviving and getting an education. i asked them where do you want to go. you know are in this camp, you don't know what your future is. do you want to go to the united states or to europe. every one of the refugees that i talked to had the same answer. we want to go home. we just want to go home. i think everybody here certainly everybody in this room today if we were in that situation, we would just want to go home. so, obviously the most important thing is we have to stabilize the region. we have to deal with isis. we've got to have a credible
government there and a strategy to make sure folks can go back and be comfortable but we know in the meantime it will take some time. it won't happen overnight. you have folks not just where i visited but the millions of other folks that weren't in camps, jordan has taken on an incredible responsibility opening up and saying they are going to help the people who are displaced and hurting and running away from the bad guys. these are folks who are running away from war. they are running away from violence and trying to find a place for peace where they can raise their children. the united nations visits that camp where they were looking at folks to prioritize. i want to get a sense of how we get screened. you talked about the prioritization that the u.n. has as to how do they determine which families should be in this program and i think another important number if both of you could respond to is my understanding is about 20,000 folks have been referred to the united states from the united nations as potential refugees roughly. out of that number i understand we have looked at about 7,000
and that we admitted less than 2,000. so, already the u.n. has done some screening, prioritizing, probably those who are in most need, who have been there a long time, but i'd like to know what that is. how we can continue to screen down. so, i think those numbers alone show how robust the system is and that -- i think we heard some folks discuss here, you know, if you're a terrorist wanting to get into this country you're going to take the path of least resistance. i look at this process, this is far from the path of least resistance. you have to be in a refugee camp for a while before you're looked at by the u.n. this is a multi-year process that folks go through and from seeing it first hand, it is horrible conditions that oftentimes these folks find themselves in and there isn't anybody in this room that would want to be in that position and they would want someone to say we have some compassion. we know you can be a valuable contribution when you come here as well. if you could talk about that,
please, the priorities and why we've moved those numbers down so much. >> so, unhcr works with us all around the world and refers refugees to us and they know that we would like to take the people who are most vulnerable and could most benefit from the safety and the economic prosperity that america offers. and so they send us some of the most vulnerable people. so, and my experience has been like yours, senator, that most of the refugees you meet want to go home again. so the resettlement sort of tears families apart in some ways. but the people who we offer resettlement to, then, are widows with children, sometimes an older generation as well. people who have been victims of torture, trauma, people who have seen terrible things happen in front of them for whom there really is no going home ever again. we also give a home to people who are persecuted religious minorities, people who are
lesbian, gay, bisexual, lgbt, and we also anyone who for perhaps people who feel that there would be a death threat on them if they went home again. >> thank you, senator peters. just a couple quick questions and i'll give you each a chance to kind of wrap up, if you have some closing comments. mr. rodriguez -- -- goal of going from 70 to 100,000 that's a 43% increase from 2000 to 2017. do you have the resources to take on that large of increase? >> we do. it requires us to look for efficiencies in our process. i've often said when organizations are challenged in this way, it actually becomes an opportunity to improve themselves. that's how we're treating this challenge. but it does require us to move some resources around. it requires us to improve our
processes where we can. keep in mind we're a $3 billion a year organization. so, the challenge is an operational one more than a financial one, but we are rising to that challenge. >> how many syrians are currently in the hospitaler that are being reviewed? >> currently in review, i thought i had this information -- do you know what, i will need to get back to you with that information. >> that's fine. the house just passed the american safe act of 2015. i've introduced the senate companion bill. it basically says that no refugee may be admitted until the director of the fbi certi certifies to the secretary of homeland security and director of the national intelligence that each refugee has, quote, received a background investigation that is sufficient to determine whether the refugee is a threat to the security of the u.s. then the refugees may only be admitted to the u.s. after the secretary of the department of homeland security and director
of the fbi and director of the national intelligence certifies to congress the refugee is not a threat to the security of the united states. now, that passed on a pretty strong bipartisan basis 289-1 37. that seems like a pretty reasonable way to assure that these checks that this robust process you've been describing is carried out. under sarbanes/oxley, ceos have to certify that their financial statements are accurate. do you think that's pretty reasonable response? >> yeah, i think you saw that the white house took a position indicating that its view was it didn't add that much. i will say that the process that we engage in is essentially equivalent to the process contemplated in that bill. people are subjected to the most intense scrutiny. there is intense supervisory review. cases that present concerns are actually elevated, our fraud and detection and national security
directorate brought in to participate in the analysis of those cases. so it would be my view along the lines of what the president has said that, in fact, it would not necessarily add much beyond the process that we already have in place. >> as you're seeing by the very legitimate questions of the panel, the concerns of our constituents, i would think this would just be one additional level of control to provide that kind of comfort to make sure that these, you know, this redundant system would actually work both -- ms. richard, do you have any closing comments? >> yes, sir, thank you. i want to assure senator mccaskill to make america safer is work with the europeans to make their borders safer. that's an active discussion overseas. senator peters asked about the 23,000 who had been referred to us and we have brought 2,000 to the united states. but we continue to review cases and we'll get new referrals and
it's really more of a pipeline that people are flowing through. senator tester asked how many have been denied and worldwide and i'm sorry i didn't tell him this when he was here, under our current screening worldwide it's about 80% are approved. 20%. so one in five are denied. and so i don't have specifics by nationalities. the issue about the fbi having no holdings, it is normal for the u.s. government to have very little information about most refugees at the beginning of the resettlement process. refugees are after all innocent civilians who fled war zones. iraq and afghanistans are exceptions. we have a lot of information about people that worked alongside the military or nearby and the people who are, therefore, referred to the program we work with them so they tell their stories and put together a case file and fill in the gaps that i know are a concern right now to everyone based on the fact that the fbi doesn't have the whole picture
on hand for syrians. so, i don't think that has to be -- stop the program. i think that we can work with the nctc and with other intelligence agencies to help fill in those gaps working with other agencies. i want to reassure this committee that we work very closely with dhs. this is my fifth time on the hill in the last three days. and that's partly why i was so glad you gave leon all the tough questions. but we're very happy to continue to -- we work together on a daily basis and we're happy to continue to respond to you. one question was, you know, should we be looking closer at our program. the white house has already asked us to really go through the entire process carefully to look at are there ways to have efficiencies with it without cutting corners on security. you know, is it really the best process that we can possibly
have. we're convinced it's a very secure process, but everyone has noticed it's lengthy. so, we're willing to do that. that's part of our jobs. thank you very much. >> mr. rodriguez? >> chairman, ranking member, senators. i want to thank you first and foremost for leading what i think has been an incredible from my perspective an incredibly thoughtful and productivity hearing. i think the questions you've asked of us were questions we needed to be asked, and i hope the answers that we offered, offered some clarity. i think one of the things that's become very clear to me over the last two weeks is that we have a burden with the american people and really explaining to them how this process works. what the safeguards are in that process. and this has been a great opportunity the way this hearing has been led to accomplish that. i was asked a question that i fear i didn't actually answer which is are you looking for ways to make your process better and the answer is absolutely
yes. it's something that i and my staff and some of my leadership is here with me today, we do it every day. because we realize what this means to the american people. we realize what this means to the individuals often in great distress who are asking us to admit them to the united states. and so to that extent we always are looking to improve and we always are willing to engage with this committee to talk about how we can improve that process further, so thank you, again, for your invitation up here today. >> we want to thank you both for your service and taking your time. want to appreciate and thank the administration for making you available. this was very short notice but we all agree it was very important and useful information for the american people to hear. thank you very much. with that you're dismissed and with that we'll call up the next panel.
so we are going to leave this hearing at this point as they switch panels. this will continue live on our companion network c-span. we'll move to a justice department hearing with loretta lynch and james comey and they're expected to talk about u.s. counterterrorism efforts. this is live on c-span3. should start in just a moment.
>> all right. we're coming close. >> what's a close minute? within five. >> again, we are awaiting the start of a justice department briefing with attorney general loretta lynch and fbi director james comey expected to talk about u.s. counterterrorism efforts. while we're waiting for that very quickly the house earlier today ignored a veto threat from the white house and overwhelm g overwhelmingly approved a republican bill that provides extensive background checks for syrian and iraqi refugees trying to enter the u.s. 47 democrats joined all but two republicans as the house did pass the measure. the measure was 289, the vote was 289-137. you can read more about this in politico. you can also watch relevant house debate on that issue on our website cspan.org. we also have a question --
we're acting aggressively to diffuse threats as they emerge, and we are vigorously investigating and prosecuting those who seek to harm the american people. in fact, since 2013 we have charged more than 70 individuals for conduct related to foreign fighter interests and home grown extremism and continue to take robust actions to monitor and thwart extremist activity. the department of justice and the fbi are working closely with the department of homeland security, with the broader intelligence community, and our partners around the world in all of these efforts and we're bringing every resource to bear in the service of our mission. as i think it's important to note that as we do this work, we are guided obviously by our commitment to the protection of the american people but also by our commitment to the protection of our american values which include the timeless principles of inclusivity and freedom that have always made this country
great. we need to say we will not let our actions be overtaken by fear. we will not allow merchants of violence to rob us of our most precious ideals. our values are not secondary considerations in the fight against terror. they are central to the work that we do and they are essential to the nation that we protect. they're also a target and they are what terrorists want most to seek to have us abandon. they want us to live in fear and we refuse. they want us to change who we are and what makes us quintessentially american and that we will never do. now i'll turn the microphone over to jim comey for remarks as well. >> thank you. i'd like folks to know three things -- how we think about the threat, what we're doing about it, and what you should do as a citizen in this great country of ours. first the threat. we are not aware of any credible
threat here of a paris-type attack. we have seen no connection at all between the paris attackers and the united states. isil and its supporters put out all kinds of propaganda like videos and magazines but that is not credible intelligence. of course, we investigate all of those propaganda threats. but instead the threat here focusing primarily on troubled souls in america who are being inspired or enabled online to do something violentr÷q5v for isil. we have stopped a lot of those people this year, especially leading up to july 4th, and there are others we worry about and we cover all across the country using all of our lawful tools. so that's how we think about the threat. second, what are we doing about the threat? the taxpayers of this country have invested a lot of their money in building a national counter-terrorism capability since 9/11 and that has built something very strong. we are not perfect but we are good. starting minutes after the paris
attacks on friday, we did four things -- first, we began looking for connections between paris and here. second, we made sure that we were tightly connected with our state and local partners, that they knew everything we knew, and that they were as energized as we are. third, we began covering every tip and every lead immediately, and we have continued that to this moment. and last, we have made sure that our over 100 joint terrorism task forces are focused intensely on our investigations and, in fact, that they have taken them up a notch. that is very hard work, but we are very fortunate to have the help of our state and local partners around the country. together we are watching people of concern using all of our lawful tools. we will keep watching them, and if we see something, we'll work to disrupt it. that's what we're doing about it. last, what should you, the people of the united states, do in response to this threat? the most important thing i think is do not let fear become disabling. that is what the terrorists
want. they want you to imagine them in the shadows. they want you to imagine them as something greater than they are. instead, we hope that you will turn fear into healthy awareness of what's around you. if you see something that gives you a bad feeling, tell somebody in law enforcement. since september 11th, we have really worked to get ourselves organized in such a way that if you walk up and tell any police officer in this country or any deputy sheriff in this country that you saw something that didn't seem right, you heard something that didn't seem right, or you read something online that seemed off, that information will get to the right people immediately. you can count on it. and we will check it out. if it's nothing, no harm done. but if it was something, great harm may be avoided. but counter-terrorism is what you pay us to do. tell us what you saw and then go on living your lives, living your life while we do our work. that's channelling fear into something healthy, which is an awareness of your surroundings and not something disabling.
that's what we hope you will do. thank you, madam attorney general. >> thank you, mr. director. thank you. tonight on our companion network, c-span 2, we'll show you a speech from democratic presidential candidate hillary clinton as she talks about national security. you can see her remarks before the council on foreign relations in new york city. that's tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span 2. and following that, another democratic presidential candidate, senator bernie sanders with a speech at georgetown university about democratic socialism. that's at 9:00 p.m. eastern.