tv U.S. Senate CSPAN May 9, 2013 9:00am-12:01pm EDT
scars to prove it, they were accused of rationing health care. which, of course, we do every day in america. >> you say that the health care debate is shoehorn into the budget debate. one might also say that's happening as well with immigration reform. he recently said you expected to pass but you also make the case for immigration reform, comprehensive immigration reform will help improve the u.s. economy. you might also know there was report just out yesterday come heritage foundation said 6.3 trillion in new spending and entitlement as well as social programs will be sucked out of the american budget, if you will, if comprehensive immigration reform is passed. obviously, your comment is the u.s. economy will improve. >> i disagree with that. for one thing it shows only the downside and the worst-case downside scenario, with none of the upside for immigrants.
thinkberry but whoever came to this country as an immigrant and started a company or to a good job and built a film and became middle-class taxpayers and send their kids to college. i mean, it's one side of the ledger and the worst-case scenario on one side of the ledger. i am for immigration reform because we need to stay younger than our competitors. we are younger than japan. we're younger than your. ireland is the only country in europe with median age younger than america, and it continues to give us diversity and contacts in the rest of the world. and i'm for it. there is some dispute about something bill knows a lot more than i do about, which is whether, i've always favored increasing these h-1b1 systems, getting more skilled workers in your and everybody in the high-tech field tells me we need more, and now there's a little debate about it, people aren't they just want our people from overseas because they work for less money. i think it's clear that if you
get more talented people in this country and to make them feel welcome to stay, and you let them sort businesses and do all these things, it will strengthen us. we can handle more people in america, and we can't afford to be in the world where we are old. you want to counter some of his budget problems, have more young workers and taxpayers relative to the number of people that are no longer working and spending their health care money. privately or publicly. >> mr. gates, a number of big names as they say in silicon valley spending millions right now getting into the immigration debate, people have been previously described as a political, if you will. your name has been listed as someone involved him and to condone if this is truth about, i in the media so sometimes we get it wrong. a lot of times we get it wrong. but the reality is that there's millions coming in to participate in this debate on immigration reform. how does that move us forward? does president clinton make the
case it includes the best and brightest for others countries? back to the innovation. >> i'm glad to hear that i am apolitical. seriously. it's not a -- i do think that, just about the democratic facts about what decision, how things are measured is in some ways the best contribution, whether it's how to prevent health care or how to make sure foreign aid is spent directly. i am one of the backers of activities around immigration. immigration, it's always important to separate two pieces. one is the high skill peace. that is, of the people that we have come into the country should some portion of that include the people who have computer science griscom including the people we have given subsidized education here in the training. that is if i'm a graduate
student at uc berkeley in computer science, i'm going to get a job for 100,000 a year. the question is should the job being india and the other job creators around the person there, or should be in the united states? that person is going to get hired. i guarantee you because we helped provide them a great education. so the high skilled piece, there's no doubt the economic benefits, you're careful about who is using it and after using it, which the compromise proposal has all of that. don't have the broad immigration debate, where again the economic benefits i think a very clear. i'm less expert on this piece by the idea of someone showing that as a net negative, that's very strange. we are the india the world as the president said because we have a growing population -- the in the of the world. what you get into what italy and russia and japan are in with shrinking population, that is very bad for investment. the number of working people to
the retired people, it's a very tough problem. so immigration has always been a huge sense of vibrancy, and economic improvement. so you know i'm hopeful that we get the whole thing pushed it through and all the issues that seem to be the most likely that something will happen. >> i would just like to also point out that we need to stop being so arrogant in some of our rhetoric, like we're doing everybody a big favor. i did read the other day, maybe just because a better, like you said doesn't make us so. but there was an article the other day that says every year we had the man for more or less 120,000 people with computer science degrees, and in aggregate on an undergraduate level we were only producing 40,000. if that's true why in gods and which give everybody here wants to stay who got an undergraduate or graduate degree? and why wouldn't you have a
decent program that wasn't a bureaucratic nightmare -- visa program, to fill the crack. while we are trying to increase more young people in the sting fields of the things we did the clinton global initiative when president obama said we need another 100,000 stem future. we knew the government weren't going of the money to do this state and local level so we got two dozen partners and going to fill about 30% of that gap to just totally private commitment. but why wouldn't you do that? the other thing, we need to be careful here. one of the great good news stores in the world over the last five years is texaco. which has followed brazil and reducing income inequality. a president who just left, called around, is too famous for the drug was on her border and too little known for starting 140 tuition free universities that produced, among other things last year, 113,000 engine and graduates.
and we've had no net in migration from mexico for the last two years. the dream of nafta is going to pay off. they're going to be are equal trading partner. we're going to work together to build up the americas. they're getting all kinds of investment from asia, moving back here. and in satellite areas like, people are coming to the caribbean now, all because we believe in the promise of a partnership with mexico. we should be wanting these people here, not acting like they're all knocking down the doors to get here. a lot of those mexican people who went home have better economic opportunities at home and here now. visited force. we should do this because it is both morally right and smart economics. >> i want to switch to a facebook question. people submit questions to both of you. president clinton, how does our current budget reflect our values and priority? where do we need to adjust? >> we need a long-term plan to
balance the budget that doesn't have so much restriction for the next two years that it slows the economic growth more than austerity already has. we need, we need to, i think, i do having idea whether in the current climate this is fixable, that what bill said about health care is true. and just noting people out of the public system into the private system, which is already more expensive than publicly funded health care, is not the answer. we could figure out some way to score for five years a number we were going to stand, and give us the opportunity first, give us five years to try to reform the system, and failing that go back to the old meat cleaver approach. i think that would be important. the fundamental problem for me is that the budget spends too much money on the present and too little investment in the future. and it's all the things that bill has found out and the great
work that gates foundation has done on what works in education and it's all this investments. i spent $3 billion of your money to sequence the human genome. now they're saving lives of children at the saint jude hospital in memphis for $5000 a map. and it will soon be $500. and by the way, we have bipartisan agreement to do that. we spent $500 million of your money to do the first federally funded research into nanotechnology. now it's a whole new section of the economy. we have to keep spending money on the future, which includes also things that are more expensive like modernizing the infrastructure. >> i want to talk or education and infrastructure by want to follow up, the democratic national convention you famously said it is arithmetic. that resonate with a lot of people. you talked about the president's plan. he's offered a reasonable plan over a decade with two and half trillion dollars coming from for
every to have trade has been because he raises 1 dollar in the revenue. you go on to talk about tightening controls on future spending but here we are again going back to juan's remarks just a short time ago of the oxygen, if you will, being taken out of the room. we are back to the initial start of this conversation of how do we move forward, with specifics? >> i don't know, because i think all the president can do is make his proposal and keep playing golf with republicans. [laughter] in other words, -- i'm not making fun of them. i think it's a good thing. in other words, fugitives keep trying to work on it because the truth is in the current climate, it's not possible to make the kind of individual agreements to put, you know, for the president, the white house can't get things out the way the used
to. these guys, the most important thing is never to raise taxes. and so they say, we already raise taxes, we're never going to do that again. and even in tanks reform. so i think the only thing i think is that maybe you go back, start talking about the details of tax reform. i also think that the white house should offer a corporate tax reform without getting all the individual things worked out. and they're worried about a minute after what they're worried about. they are worried about they repeal the extraterritorial tax, that they'll be even more parking of mone money overseas interaction of it but there's a great deal that i think bill would say this, there's a great deal of difference in the business operations that microsoft might have in china or indonesia or europe or anywhere, and some transaction that is make it look like it -- we all
know it didn't, except for tax purposes. so i think there's ways to sort through the. i still wish they would find some pieces of this puzzle they could do, like the tax reform piece. >> i think the question about does the budget reflect our value, is a very good question because, as president clinton said, what we have done in the sequester is cut nondefense discretionary spending disproportionately. what does that mean? it means we cut the nih budget. so in the base -- the face of the opportunity and others are spending more, in the face of the need for innovation that cut these medical expense increases, we cut basic research. we cut the aid budget, where over the last decade, it's been
exemplary in spending it better and making sure things like hiv medicine that the u.s. took the lead in getting those things out there. so unlike foreign-made 20 years ago, it was more about who will are a cold war friends, now it's about real human values. so certainly the sequester, i don't think reflect our values. and there really will have to be a discussion about funding the future, how much of a priority that is. because even before the sequester under the budget control act, congress has said okay, the nondiscretionary is going to come down quite a bit. and understanding what did that really mean, which programs in there, some of which i think are quite important, education, research, some of those four and eight pieces, i think those to reflect who we are as a country. and so until we can get into the long-term piece, the mandatory piece, we are going to be moving away from what i think our
unique contribution is and what our values are. >> in following up on our values, we know your work, policy, education to this is not a plug for my country, education nation, a lot revealed about the desires for this country moving ahead. i always look back at this quote from you, mr. gates, when i was a tenured i wa was captivated by computers to cuba not is a 30 years ago my colleagues and i envision a computer on every desktop. that is not happening. is that a reflection of our values? we have the passion and we want these things acceptable. i did a google hangout chat yesterday with eight teachers from the inner-city. that the county would not have been able to was 10 years ago, 20 years ago. nevertheless, the technology that you conduct is not available, i believe come in many believe, due to education still not being a priority that it needs to be in the country. and your foundation seems to mirror that thought. >> well, over the next two years
the two things that i think will be great in education, one is to get a personnel system that really gets teacher feedback so we can improve the average quality. that actually is only about 3% of the payroll that needs to be invested. we need to do that well. other countries do that. the second dream for education is the use of technology. and although we are a very early stage to get rid of textbooks and get tablet pc type devices out there, you get the best teachers online, get first line learned, there's a lot of excitement that is shaping that in the right way. we need to make sure it works for low income, middle income, and all different types of students. so still a lot of research. but there is a hope that during the next 15 years that education can improve a lot. the greatest resource in equity in the country today. i think most people excep accept
the budgets aren't going to go up much because of health care cost. it's even a fight to make sure that's the case. but i think even in a flat budget era, if we go after the personnel and if we go after the technology, we can be optimistic that we will get back to the equality of opportunity that we try and stand for. >> mr. president, the other end of the spectrum, a higher education, and you've recently had a lot of comments about the cost of college and alternative that need to be strictly discussed, whether they be online classes, but the amount of debt people are leaving college with and how it affects the economy is stunning. >> well, the delivery system, college costs have not gone up as much as health care but they have gone up roughly twice the rate of inflation over the last 20 or 30 years. for example, at the end of my term we passed the biggest increase in financial aid since
the g.i. bill, and within five years it was all gone in terms of its neck and back to beneficiary. that is, price increases had caught up and swallowed. so now we've got a new student loan mod, and it's going to be swallowed. on the other hand, a college degree is delivery could do. i mean, yes, not all college graduates are getting higher paying jobs that they were 20 years ago, and that won't happen again until the labor markets really tightened up. and yes, some of them don't get jobs but the unemployment rate among college graduates is still way lower than it is in the population as a whole. so it's still a good investment. i just think we need to, over and a 12 and in the university -- k-12, we need to consciously talk about this more. for example, how do you may you
can, i personally think we have more technology and more access to sites like the con academy, the dropout rate would go down but i think that if kids had, could learn in different ways and you could integrate the different disciplines like these a+ schools in north carolina and oklahoma and louisiana come with a couple of them in my home state of arkansas, the integrate the arts and teaching english, social studies and history and math it and without exception the dropout growth goes down and the achievement level equals or surpasses the date average in the poorest schools. there's all these things we know that i think will free teachers up to do whole different functions in a way that will really help education. and we've got to decide how do you credit them in k-12? how do you credit these moves,
these massive online open courses in college? and how do you maintain the experience? college and university s. not entirely for economics. you know, you do get something out of life learning, how to think and be exposed to different people, and all that stuff that makes it, life more interesting. but i think that technology, we have a big piece of this but we have to think about how we're going to do and how we are going to integrate it, and credit it. bill is one of john's more about this than i do, but that's what i think. >> everybody is just learning ld they were at an early stage. like you i see very exciting examples where it has strong possibility. in the current form, it's mostly been used by the students were doing well already. said the idea is how do we make sure we get it to the intercity kids. and there will be some hybrid. it won't just all be online, but some online like rico and learn
the math equivalent lecture, called flipping the cloud, when you do that at home. then you're just doing problem-solving, gripping kids to get it according to where their personal level of knowledge is. that's very promising. education is another thing with the entanglement of what the role of the state, which the role of federal government makes it very complicated. as the states have had budget problems, they have raised tuition at the institutions. they have withdrawn support, and the federal government through more power money, more loan money, is basically had to make up that equation. now when you talk about, okay, what are best practices and house do you incent that practice, how do we measure the output, you have the same dilemma in health care, which is if you really understood output, then you wouldn't find some people to do some procedure. well, various universities are much, much better from providing
the right type of education. and we are finally getting some of that data out about outcomes as opposed to just saying, okay, do they take in a very good student body? technology have a lot of promise to make this a part of economy that we bring efficiency to. but we have challenges of how to drive that forward. >> i want to get one more faced the question is and it is posted with the and arrays, i've read a handful of regional economist that was the largest in times before manufacturing in the near future will shift from cheap labor to cheap energy. what do you think? what are some other alternatives you see in our current energy problems? mr. gates can you talk about raising the living standard of the world's poorest. some of the complexities that come along, which include cheaper energy or cheap energy. >> well, the energy situation you ask is a very positive story, and everybody excited
about how low-cost natural gas means that our electricity prices and our energy independence looks very positive. that's in a medium to long-term, that creates a huge problem in terms of co2 emissions. how'd you either get carbon capture on assistance or carbon tax so that you solve that problem? manufacturing, there's a tiny bit of a renaissance in the united states, and there's various people have written about it but the reason why people care more about the energy cost and labor cost is a lot of it is very automated. so it's not creating as many blue-collar jobs as it would have. that's just a fact. that's partly why we've got to get more people with for your degrees to match the demand in the economy. but the energy story is quite a positive thing. >> basically, every year labor
is a smaller percentage of overall manufacturing costs, and materials, energy, and transportation our larger percentages. so it shouldn't be surprising that since the american workforce is productive, and basically now less expensive, for example, in many european workforces, and with the chinese wages rising at everything, we are getting a lot of american companies bringing production back on. i think it's really important. another reason why i think r&d is important, increasingly people wanted in modern manufacturing where they have the research facilities. they want them close together. and it's an important part of the picture but i think we ought to keep working on it. but i think that, if i could say one thing about this energy thing. i think the natural gas boom is good. it's an important bridge, the co2 emissions or gas are half what they are for cold.
and the u.s. has made the biggest gains in greenhouse gas reduction of any major economy in the last few years because primarily of shutting down coal plants and burning natural gas. and becoming more efficient. on the other hand as bill points out, it's still under the law dishing it's under the law dishing it's still in middle of carbon into the atmosphere. i think we need basically a three-point strategy. we need to use the gas. we need to act come we still don't have a program that is comprehensive enough to suit me, that recognizes the study that was done to you before last saying that we could buy ourselves 20 more years and slowing down climate change if we got rid of the more rapidly dispersing greenhouse gases in an aggressive way. hillary worked a lot on this in black carbon, trying to stop wood-burning cells, for example, and charcoal burning stoves.
that's one. methane is a huge one which is basically urban garbage and agriculture. and our foundation works a lot on the. and then the best news that i've seen is the chinese agreement recently to phase out hydrofluorocarbons which are basically in room air-conditioning units. according to the montréal protocol, and they can save a huge amount, something like 80 billion times of co2. the equivalent of two europe's -- two years of europe's emissions over the next few years but if we concentrated on those, and then didn't give up on solar and wind where the price is dropping and used our aid programs to put solar and wind where it is now economical with no subsidies, they would make a big difference. i've been arguing that the u.s. should basically make the entire caribbean energy independent with clean energy because they have the highest electric rates
in the world. so all clean energy technologies are economical there today without subsidy. it would be good for the economy. be good for theirs and ours, and would make a huge statement. so that's what i think should be done. but i think this gas thing has bought a sometime and it's bringing us some wealth and we ought to make the best use of the. but if we go to sleep and pretend like climate change is not happening, that's not the best use of it. >> we have about 25 more seconds to go. we've covered a wide range of things. there's an elephant in the room that i've not addressed your. just quickly, so indulge me. not a donkey. [laughter] women are clamoring at the edge of our seats, wondering what is next. we know that she is dynamic -- [laughter] her leadership is unmatched. or voice for women, the poor,
families. so i have to ask it. mr. gates, when is melinda jumping into politics? [laughter] [applause] >> i'm for it. >> we are both very likely to have amazing wise to keep us on track and did amazing work in their own right. >> president -- [laughter] spent i don't think melinda is going to run for president. she hasn't mentioned it to me. >> i give it to you, mr. president spent hillary hasn't mentioned it to me either. [laughter] spent i don't know what's going to happen but i know this. that is the worst expenditure of our time. you know, she, taking a role in the foundation, she's writing books, she's having a little fun being a private citizen for the first time in 20 years, and she's, you know, that's fine, but we need to be worried about the work at hand, all of us do.
so whoever the next president is, has an easier set of choices before him or her to build america's future, and build a more peaceful, more prosperous world. and it's frustrating when i think we're majoring in the minors can either over the budget debate or going right back to politics as soon as the last election is over, instead of getting into the grimy details where the future of america will be written, how we resolve these details. i think i will pander to bill gates a little bit since we were together and he has money and i don't -- [laughter] but the gates foundation, i think maybe the best foundation, not just now, ever. and part of it is they worry about big things with clarity, but they also get into the grimy
details. a lot, this stuff has to work. all that really matters in the end is whether what you do terms good intentions into real changes. and it obscures our capacity to do that and place to our national tendency to attention deficit disorder when it comes to politics and public problems, if we get off on politics too early and forget about the details. >> certainly we hope we stay in the future this as they focus on innovation and a topic that we discussed today will be followed up to the day, and the bright and bold ideas we know that are in this country can certainly be shined upon. thank you both of your time. >> thank you much. [applause] >> the u.s. senate is about to gavel in this morning on the agenda today, continued work on a water infrastructure bill. authorizing a number of flood protection, sewage and water we improvement projects around the
country. senators also expect to debate and vote on a couple of judicial nominations. and now to live coverage of the u.s. senate here on c-span2. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. today's opening prayer will be offered by reverend miniard culpepper, from pleasant hill baptist church in dorchester, massachusetts. the guest chaplain: let us pray our god and our lord, our help from ages past and our help for years to come. we thank you, lord, for this is a day that you have made. let us be glad and delight in it. thank you, lord, for watching over our senators all night long and waking them clothed in their right mind. we pray, lord, that you would
bless them this day. let them be the voice for all that is good and just. let them it be the voice for all that is peaceful and prosperous, loving and lifting. bless the senators as they deliberate, that they would be mindful of the homeless and the hungry, the rich and the poor, the hopeful and the hopeless. lord, we realize and acknowledge that you are a god of our weary years, a god of our silent tears, that, lord, you are the one that brought us this far on the way. lord, you are this god who has by thy might led us into the light, lord. we pray, god, that you will keep us forever in the path we pray. these and all other prayers we
ask in your holy name. amen. and amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington, d.c, may 9, 2013. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable william m. cowan, a senator from the commonwealth of massachusetts, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: patrick j. leahy, president pro tempore. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i would yield to the senator from massachusetts, senator warren.
ms. warren: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. ms. warren: thank you, mr. president. thank you, mr. leader. and a warm thank you to the reverend miniard culpepper. your words of faith and community are greatly appreciated here today. for a long time now reverend culpepper has been praying over me. last winter before i was sworn into office reverend culpepper held a special sunday prayer service for me in his home church, pleasant hill baptist in dorchester. that december evening the pews were packed. at the conclusion of the service, the ministers circled
around me, wrapped their arms together and pray to god to give me the strength to work for the poor and powerless among us. i feel blessed to have received their prayers, and i've tried my best to keep them in my heart, in my work here. but i'm just one of many who appreciates the hard work that reverend culpepper in pleasant hill baptist have put into strengthening and protecting their community. you see, reverend culpepper and his congregation understand that their community extends well beyond the walls of their church. when jamal norfleet, a former gang leader left prison and showed a desire to turn his life around as a peacemaker between rival gangs, it was reverend culpepper who reached out to him. after jamal was tra genetically
shot to death -- after jamal was tra genetically shot to death, reverend culpepper worked hard on the perhaps based on his conversations with jamal. when in january of this year 1-year-old gabriel clark suffered grievous gunshot wounds just blocks from pleasant hill baptist church, reverend culpepper and his congregation resolved to start up their annual neighborhood patrols just a little earlier. after all, as reverend culpepper remarked, this is not somebody's problem down the street or on the other side of town; this is my problem. pleasant hill baptist church was founded more than 70 years ago by reverend culpepper's grandfather, reverend samuel h. bullock. reverend bullock was deeply involved in the community, working to educate children and reduce juvenile delinquency.
reverend culpepper and the congregation at pleasant hill baptist church have carried on that legacy of community involvement with spirit and determination. reverend culpepper, thank you for your blessing, thank you for gracing us with the same spirit that drives you and the pleasant hill baptist church family back home. and thank you and your church for reminding us that the problems that affect our neighborhoods, our cities, our commonwealth, and our country aren't someone else's problems; they're all of our problems. i'm honored to have you here today. thank you. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: following leader remarks, the senate will be in aered pooh of morning business for the hour -- will be in a period of morning business for an hour. following morning business, the senate will resume consideration of s. 601, the water resource
development act. we'll continue to work through amendments today. we may also consider two district court judges sometime today, the dick nomination of louisiana and the roman nomination of new york. senators will be notified when those votes are scheduled. mr. president, by now the minority's tactics -- republican tactics of obstruction and delay are well-known, but they're also well-worn. those methods were once again on display yesterday when republicans delayed for the second time in two weeks the senate help committee vote on the nomination of tom perez to lead the department of labor. the able and considerate chairman, tom harass quinn, had already postponed the vote for two weeks, at the request of republicans. it was terribly disappointing that after they were granted
additional time as a matter of courtesy, an anonymous republican would employ an arcane procedural tactic to prevent the committee from even meeting. of course voting on that nomination. republicans had seven weeks, 49 days, to consider this nomination. he was nominated on march 21, and since his confirmation hearing in april, he's responded in writing to more than 200 questions. he is an extremely qualified candidate for this job. the president was smart this nominating him. he has -- he's what the american dream is all about. he is a son of immigrants. he paid his way through colleges by working as a garbage collector and at a warehouse. and he went to become the first lawyer in his family. mr. perez was appointed by governor o'malley of maryland to be the secretary of the department of labor, where he helped to implement the country's first statewide living
wage law. in his current role as the head of the united states justice department civil rights division, he helped settle a case on behalf of families targeted by unfair mortgage lending. as anyone can see, he is an extremely well-qualified nominee. his knowledge and experience will make him an outstanding secretary. unfortunately, impressive qualifications around exceptional characteristic are no longer enough to satisfy senate republicans. instead of fair and constructive confirmation processes, republicans have chosen to play partisan political games with dozens -- dozens, scores of president obama's appointees. they've also slow-walked now the nomination of dedicated public certificatservant for the e.p.a. a letter was sent to chairman boxer indicating that they will
boycott the nomination of ms. mccarthy's nomination. this type of obstruction used to be unheard of. now it's become really, i guess, the pattern that the republicans have adopted. they'll use any procedural roadblock or stall tactic to deny president obama qualified nominees. my republican colleagues can try every trick in the book. they have and they probably will. but i assure that you mr. perez will have his day in the senate. i assure everyone that ms. mccarthy will have her day in the senate. and i will do all i can to ensure that these highly qualified nominees are confirmed, as the president has requested.
mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: today the president plans to travel to austin, texas. i understand his trip includes a visit to a technical high school and a chat with workers. the idea, i presume, is to show folks that the white house is once again pivoted to jobs. and if you're someone who's all about the visual, then of course putting on a pair of goggles or showing up at a factory is a great way to at least look like you're doing something about job creation. whether or not that means you're actually getting the job done, well, that's a different story. and, unfortunately, robust job creation has been talked about a
lot -- a lot -- in this administration. even as millions -- millions -- remain out of work or stuck in part-time jobs. just take a look at last month's jobs report. it was touted by the white house as proof of an economy on the mend. and surely we on this side hope that will soon be the case. but we're not there yet. i mean, you only have to drill down below the topline to find a lot to be concerned about. for instance, the unemployment rate technically edged down to 7.5%, but it actually moved up to% in my home state of kentucky -- to 8% in my home state of kentucky. and while the federal rate is still pretty high, even those numbers don't really tell the full story. because so many americans have stopped looking for work altogether, we now have the lowest labor force participation rate since jimmy carter. so our actual federal
unemployment rate is nearly 11%. that's quite a ways off from the 5% or so that the administration boldly predicted we'd have by now if only congress would pass the stimulus. consider this: if all we did was match the average of recoveries since world war ii, we'd have about 4 million more private-sector jobs than we do today. that's how much worse this recovery is than other recoveries since the war. unfortunately, mr. president, that's the obama economy. with i hope the president is traveling to austin today because he's finally serious about turning that around, about changing course and implementing policies that might actually work to get they moving again.
ggiven that he'll be in texas, e might want to think about developing more jobs in the energy sector. that's a huge industry -- huge -- not just in texas but all across our country. his administration has the power, if it chooses, to spur more job-creating energy resource, exploration, and development. now, there's a lot more texas is doing right, too. that's why it has been touted as the national leader in job creation. one study showed that texas, with less than 10% of the population, accounted for almost one-third of private-sector jobs created in high-paying sectors in recent years. and if the president is interested in duplicating that success at the federal level, he might take note of the fact that policy-makers in austin have taken a very different approach from washington when it comes to how they tax and spend.
basically, they do less of it. with no income tax, for instance, and a low ratio of spending per capita. and they don't ram through laws like obamacare. now, i hear that the president plans to hold another event tomorrow. he will claim that obamacare is helping women. let me tell you the story of how obamacare is affecting one woman, and i am sure there are many more just like her. "the wall street journal" recently profiled a business owner named elizabeth. she is in the clothing business, and she had been hoping to hire more employees. but thanks to obamacare, elizabeth is now being forced to turn to independent contractors because if we brings on just a few more people and exceeds 50 employees, the government could punish her business. there are many other small business women who will see their dreams crushed under the weight of obamacare's nearly
20,000 pages of regulations. there are many women in their 20's and 30's who will be unable to afford the law's massive premium increases. and there are many mothers who won't be able to get by if their employer has cut their hours due to obamacare. or if they lose their jobs because of it. and here is something else to consider. this morning, speaker boehner and i informed the president that we will not be recommending individuals to serve on the independent payment advisory board. the ipab, as some call it, is a commission set up by obamacare that is charged with reducing medicare payments to health care providers and determining what services should be available to seniors. of course, we know that will lead to access problems, waiting lists and denied care for seniors, what most people would call rationing. and it threatens to disproportionately affect women, too.
according to the department of labor, women make approximately 80% of health care decisions for their families and are more likely to be the caregivers when a family member falls ill. that family member could be a child, could be a spouse or more often these days a parent who relies on medicare. we want to know that medicare will be there to take care of them, and we want to know that those decisions will be made between patients, their families and their physician, not an unaccountable board of bureaucrats like the ipab, one that has the power to overrule payment decisions made by congress and signed into law by the president. that's how powerful ipab is. so the president should rethink the purpose of this event. i hope he will use it instead as a platform to prepare women for the actual consequences many of them will soon face under obamacare. more broadly, the president needs to get out in front of
this train wreck before americans, men and women alike, are completely blindsided by it. polling suggests that almost half of americans are unsure how obamacare will affect their families, so he really needs to get out there and prepare them for what's coming, and if the president is truly concerned about jobs, then it's time for him to admit that obamacare was a mistake and work with congress to repeal it, because we need reforms that lower the cost of care. what we don't need is a 2,700-page law and a resulting hour of red tape that will continue to kill jobs and hurt our economy. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business for one hour, with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each and with the time equally
business. the presiding officer: we're in a quorum call. mr. coats: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vacated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coats: mr. president, last week as i attended various events back home in indiana, i heard from many hoosiers concerned about the impact of obamacare. i went back to listen to the people, and almost invariably, no matter what subjects were on the table, the impact of obamacare was the one that was brought up first and discussed the most. i particularly focused on those businesses that are in a position to expand and hire but simply are not doing so, and the question is why. and the answer was that they are deeply concerned about the implementation of the so-called affordable care act, basically saying for us it's unaffordable. number one. number two, we're concerned about what it means and what it
doesn't mean. these regulations are continuing to come out but many of them are delayed, and so there is a huge cloud of uncertainty over our future. as a consequence of that, we are having to make decisions about hiring or not hiring, about expanding or not expanding, about buying new equipment or not buying new equipment, about building new factories or not. we have positioned ourselves in indiana to be a very business attractive state and in fact a major survey came out just a couple of days ago basically saying we were in the top five states in the nation in terms of being business friendly. and so we have a lot of inquiries from businesses from other states, but essentially what they're saying is we would like to come there and we have a lot of people in our state operating businesses, saying we would like to hire more but we are frozen in place. we are frozen in time because this health care bill that is
coming down and all the regulations and all the penalties and all the taxes and all the uncertainty that surrounds what is going to play out here is just leaving us in limbo. we're treading water. we can't make decisions. the word of the year is uncertainty, uncertainty about what washington is going to do, uncertainty about the impact of what washington has already decided they're going to do. anc that beats all the rest is the impact of the affordable care act, the obamacare act, that is now starting to impact our various bases across the state. these concerns have been expressed both by business owners and by employees working this work ina wide range of occ.
and their concern have been confirmed by data released by the labor department last week. a recent report revealed that retailers appear to be cutting working hours at a rate unseen of over the last 0 years. -- 30 years. now we saw some positive news coming out of the jobs report last week. unemployment coming down slightly. of course, it doesn't begin to address the issue or use the statistics of those who have literally dropped out of the workplace or have hiltly give ly given up trying to find a job because they aren't there. now we face another problem. more and more americans are being pushed into part-time work. last month nearly 280,000 americans involuntarily entered part-time employment. weekly take-home pay continues to decline and of course the number of hours that employees can find gainful employment for
continues to shrink. why is this occurring? i.b.m. "investors business dails all evidence points to the coming of obamacare. beginning next year, job creators will face fines of $2,000 and in some instances up to $3,000 for every full-time worker who receives subsidized coverage in the exchange created by obamacare, if qualifying coverage isn't available in the employee's workplace. or if that employer is no longer able to afford the cost of government-mandated health plans. many have worked out with their employees -- these are small -- we're not talking about fortune 500 companies here. we're not talking about those firms that can hire the back room full of accountants that
can figure out how this is going to impact them and what it is going to cost. we're talking about the service industry, we're talking about the retail shops, those that employ anywhere from 30 to 40 to 60 to 70 or 90, or whatever. a lot of them are trying to stay under the 50 level, the exclusion for small businesses is 50 and under. and so a lot of them are stuck at ha 45, 48, and they are a not going to hire to go above that of the and they're looking for ways with which to move to part-time employment so that they are not burdened with these fines. many hoosiers told me that they would like to expand and grow more full-time workers, but they simply cannot afford to do so, given these fines, taxes, and regulations that will hit when the obamacare act is implemented
starting this year and into 2014. the u.s. chamber of commerce has said 71% of small businesses say that this health care plan makes it harder to hire more employees. i talked to a small business owner in indiana who runs an employment management service. he told me that small businesses like his have decided to use a combination of cuts to keep many of their employees under 30 hours a week to avoid penalties while pushing full-time workers well over 45 hours a week. well, that's fine for the full-time workers who are getting some overtime pay, but it is denying job opportunities for new hires because employers are put in this position by the mandates of the health care act. and i.t. not just limited to the private sector. i recently talked to a state
representative from indiana who is concerned about how this law is going to affect school districts in his area. he says that some schools are being forced to move nonteacher personnel to part-time status, affecting food service providers, teachers' aides, bus drivers, maintenance personnel, substitute teaches teachers, and also nonteacher coaches. people from all walks of life have a cloud of -- a dark cloud of uncertainty over their future plans to run a business, to hire employees, to do what's necessary to expand their business. and what is so desperately needed here, given our now entering the fifth year of underemployment had thi in this. so that incentive to employ part-time workers means fewer hours, lower wages, less economic growth, less production, and it means a
middle-class -- that middle-class americans will continue to pay the price of washington's ineptness. one of our colleagues here said it best when he was looking at the imloamentation o implementah care law. "i just see a huge train wreck coming down. i think it's becoming clear that we all see a huge train wreck coming down." and if both sides of the aisle understand that this is a train wreck on the way, then let's do something about it now before it hits. hits let's stop the train from crashing before its full impact takes effect. americans want a health care system that's an improvement but not a burden. we need to replace obamacare with commonsense health care reforms that will lower costs without penalizing american workers and job creators. and, mr. president, if we don't act, if we don't stop this train wreck from happening, we will continue to see a struggling
economy with anemic growth and the american people will continue to pay the high price of it. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. mccain: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that senators -- myself, senator levin, senator menendez, senator graham be allowed to speak in a colloquy for up to 40 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. mccain: and if it's greebl - agreeable to senator levin, i say to my colleague from south carolina, if we could each make a brief opening statement, or maybe a six-, seven-minute opening statement, and then have a colloquy amongst us, would that be agreeable to the senator from michigan? mr. levin: mr. president, it
is agreeable to me. my statement will probably be about seven or eight minutes. i think -- i don't know how long senator menendez -- was he the fourth senator who i think is glgoing to participate -- how lg his statement will be, i think 40 minutes will be enough. mr. mccain: i thank my colleagues and i want to thank my dear friend from south carolina whose efforts on another issue -- that of benghazi -- has brought the attention of the american people to a tragic situation that happened there and we need to place responsibility for it. and if it were not for his tenacity on this issue, i do not believe it would have been brought to the attention of the american people yesterday. so i'd like to thank him for his usual and unusual continuation of efforts on behalf of the families of those who were killed.
but today, mr. president, i and my colleagues are here concerning syria. the strategic and humanitarian costs of this conflict continuing to devastating, not just for the people of syria but for vital american interests. as today's "washington post" editorial makes clear, nearly all of the terrible consequences that those opposed to intervention predicted would happen if we intervened in syria have happened because we have not. there's mounting evidence that chemical weapons have been used by the assad regime, as many of our colleagues have noted, including senator feinstein, the chairman of the intelligence committee, president obama's red line on syria has been crossed. instead of act, the obama administration has called for additional evidence to be collected by u.n. investigators, who have not yet set foot in syria. and probably never will. in the absence of more robust action, it will not be longe
longbottom until a-- it will not be long until assad uses chemical weapons again. by drawing a red line on chemical weapons, the president actually gave the assad regime a green light to use every other weapon in his arsenal with impunity. more than 70,000 syrians have been killed indiscriminately, with snipers, artillery, fighter jets and even ballistic missiles. according to a recent human rights watch report, more than 3,300 civilians have been killed by assad's airstrikes alone since july 2012. at the same time iran and hezbollah is bill ago front. according to estimates that have been published in the media some believe there were no more than a few hundred fighters in syria
last year. but today it is widely believed there could be thousands of extremist fighters inside of sear yavment they are gaining strength by the day because they are the best, most experienced fighters. they are well-funded and are providing humanitarian nance in the parts of syria where people need is most. at the same time, this conflict is having increasingly devastating consequences to the security and stability of our allies and partners in israel, jordan, turkey, iraq, and lebanon much the situation has been characterized as a extension shall threat for lebanon where the government estimates that 1 million syrians have entered the country. 1 million syrians have entered the country of lebanon, which has a population of just over 4 million. similarly, over the past two years, more than 500,000 syrians
have flooded into jordan, a country of just 6 million people. consider, for a moment, that in proportional terms this would be equivalent to 26 million refugees or the entire population of texas suddenly crossing our own borders. in short, syria is becoming a failed state in the heart of the middle east, overrun by thousands of al qaeda affiliated fighters with possibly tons of chemical weapons and poised to ignite a wider sectarian conflict that could profoundly destablize the region. yesterday brought news that the administration plans to organize together with russia an international peace conference later this month to seek a negotiated settle to the war in syria. all of us -- all of us are in favor of such a political resolution to this conflict. no one wants to see this conflict turn into a fight to the death and total vickery for
one side or -- and total victory for one side or the other. we all want to work towards a political settlement that forms as new government in syria reflective of the democratic aspirations of the syrian people. one of the lessons of the past two years is that such a negotiated settlement will not be possible in syria until the balance of power shifts nor decisively against i assad. until assad as well as his iranian, hezbollah, and russian backers no longer believe they are winging, what incentive do they have to come to the table to make a deal? this is what two well-meaning united nations senior envoys have already learned. yes, syrian opposition forces are gaining strength and territory on the ground. but assad still has air power, a decisive factor in that climate and that terrain.
ballistic missiles, chemical weapons, and host of other advanced weaponry, and he is using all of it. furthermore, today's news reports that russia has agreed to sell -- today's news reports, russia has agreed to sell an advanced air defense system to the assad regime should lead us once again -- ask us whether the path to peace in syria really runs through moscow. i know americans are war-weary, eager to focus on our domestic and economic problems and not foreign affairs. i also know the situation in syria is complex, and there are no ideal options. but the basic choice we face is not complicated. do the costs of inaction outweigh the costs of actions? i believe they do. no one should think that the united states has to act alone, put boots on the ground, or destroy every syrian air defense
system to make a difference for the better in syria. we have more limited option optt our disposal, including limited military options that can make a positive impact on this crisis. we could, for example, organize an overt and large-scale operation to train and arm well-vetted syrian opposition forces. a course of action that was recommended last year by president obama's entire national security team. i'm encouraged that senator menendez, chairman of the foreign relations committee, has introduced legislation this week on this very issue and that he is speaking out about the need for more robust action in syria, including addressing assad's air power. several key leaders in our own military pointed out in system that the senate armed services committee over the past several months we have the capacity, we have the capacity to
significantly weaken both the assad regime's air power and its increasing use of ballistic missiles which pose significant risks as delivery vehicles for chemical weapons. to address this threat, we should use our precision strike capabilities to target assad's aircraft and scud missile launchers on the ground without our pilots having to fly into the teeth of syria's air defenses. similar weapons could be used to selectively destroy artillery pieces and make assad's forces think twice about remaining at their post. we could use the patriot missile batteries outside of syria to help protect safe zones inside of syria from assad's aerial bombing and missile attacks. would any of these options immediately end the conflict? probably not, but they could save innocent lives in syria. they could give the moderate opposition a better chance to succeed in marginalizing radical
actors and eventually provide security and responsible governance in syria after assad falls. however, the longer we wait, the worse the situation gets and the tougher it will be to confront as we will inevitably be forced to do sooner or later. i'm encouraged that a consensus is emerging and many of our colleagues, democrats and republicans alike, share this view. i note, mr. president, the leadership of senator lee vin, the chairman of our armed services committee. i joined in writing a letter to president obama urging him to take more active steps in syria. i also note the important voice senator bob casey has lent to this debate and that his op-ed printed last week in the huffington post titled act in syria which calls for consideration of more options including cruise missiles strikes to neutralize the syrian air force be included in the record.
mr. president, let me conclude with one final thought for america. our interests are our values and our values are our interests. the moral dimension cannot be lost from our foreign policy. if ever a case should remind us of this, it is syria. leon weishalter captured this point powerfully in "the new republic" this week, and i quote -- "70,000 people have died in the syrian war, most of them at the hands of their ruler. since this number has appeared in the papers for many months, the actual number must be much higher. the slaughter is unceasing, but the debate about american intervention is increasingly conducted in realist terms, the threat to american interests posed by jihadism in syria, the
intrigues of iran and hezbollah, the rattling of israel, the ruination of jordan and lebanon and iraq. they are all good reasons for the president of the united states to act like the president of the united states. but wouldn't the prevention of ethnic cleansing and genocidal war be reason enough. is the death of scores and even hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions less significant for american policy and less quickening? the moral dimensions must be restored to our deliberations. the moral sting. or else obama, for all his talk about conscience, will have provided -- will have presided over a terrible mutilation of american discourse, the severance of conscience from
action. two decades ago, i worked with democrats and republicans in congress to support president clinton as he led america to do the right thing in stopping mass atrocities in bosnia. the question for another president today and for all americans is whether we will again answer the desperate pleas for rescue that are made uniquely to us as the united states of america. thank you, mr. president. i would ask my friend -- i first would ask both of my colleagues one question and then -- if it would be all right. there is news today that the secretary of state is convening -- wants to convene a conference including the russians in order to try to bring about a resolution. at the same time we read reports that the russians are selling syria the most advanced weapons. i guess i would ask my colleague from south carolina and then senator levin because i know he
has a statement. mr. graham: well, that would be a big contradiction. i would just yield to senator levin to answer the question and make his opening statement. mr. levin: i thank, first of all, the senator from arizona for the leadership that he has taken on the question of syria and answer the question to the best of my ability at least it wouldn't be the first time that russia has taken an inconsistent position, and i am hoping that the additional military pressure on assad, which we are all calling for this morning, would help put pressure on russia to understand if that military pressure is forthcoming that they should participate in the military -- in the political solution. i don't know that we can stop them as much as we would all wish to taking the inconsistent position that they have, but i believe and i think the senator from arizona would probably agree but he could speak for
himself, obviously, that -- that if president obama does as we are urging him to do, which is find a way to put additional military pressure on assad, that that would be an important sign to russia that, okay, join in the solution. you have participated enough in the problem already. join in the solution. so i think they are inconsistent, but i think our goal of trying to get more military pressure on assad is very consistent with the idea that maybe there will be a political solution, but if there is, it will be promoted by military pressure on assad and his understanding of that fact. mr. president, the worsening situation in syria and the snowballing plight of millions in the region requires a response. since nonviolent demonstrations demanding democratic change began in syria in march of 2011, bashar assad and his click of
supporters have unleashed a massacre that have claimed the lives of at least 70,000 syrians. the region already suffers from a massive refugee population, it has sparked a civil war with a multitude of divergent ethnic groups and religious secretaries and placed a serious chemical weapons stockpile which is one of the world's largest at risk of falling into the hands of terrorist groups. despite the impact of this horrific campaign, assad's commitment to continuing the fight appears unwavering. one must look no further than the increasingly indiscriminate tactics with which he conducts his campaign. in recent months, in addition to assad's possible use of chemical weapons, he has increased his reliance on air strikes, scud missiles, rockets, mortar shells and artillery to terrorize and to kill civilians. assad's ability to conduct this
campaign hassen -- is enabled by two actors -- iran and russia. iran's financial, personnel and materiel support have been critical to ensuring assad's military remains operable and that the impact of defections is mitigated with reinforcements. russia supports the more serious, more advanced military weaponry, most notably air defense systems is critical to assad's continued ability to project power into areas of the country that he no longer controls. to add further complexity to the situation, the al qaeda offshoot continues to spread its influence in some areas of syria. its presence is of concern and countering its spread needs to be a priority. it is also critical that we ensure that countries in the region that are seeking to force an end to the assad regime are not enabling and enhancing the capabilities of violent extremists that will ultimately turn their weapons on moderate
syrians and on religious minorities in syria such as the syrian christians. the combination of these circumstances in syria demonstrates that the status quo is unacceptable and that time is not on our side. many officials in washington share this sentiment, but in the same breath remind us that the situation in syria is complex, volatile and asymmetric. syria's government institutions are crumbling which would create a dangerous vacuum. any action by the united states or the west, even if it's with our arab partners, risks significant escalation, and that any security vacuum could be filled by islamist extremists. well, mr. president, i have supported and i will continue to support the president's contributions to provide humanitarian relief to the syrian people throughout the region as well as the additional assistance he has pledged to jordan to help with the devastating impact of this conflict on that country, but it is essential, mr. president,
that the united states, working with our allies in the region, step up the military pressure on the assad regime. of course, doing so in a carefully thought out and regionally supported way. certainly, there are significant challenges to any plan of action in syria, but we not only have to figure out the consequences of any action. we also have to figure out the consequences of not taking additional actions. in my view, the facts on the ground today makes the consequences of inaction too great, and it is time for the united states and our allies to use ways to alter the course of events in syria by increasing the military pressure on assad until he concedes that his current course is not sustainable. taking steps to add military pressure on assad will also provide backing to secretary kerry's efforts to bring the
russians into the dialogue politically, which is aimed at leading to assad's departure, and i commend secretary kerry for his efforts to bring russia into that dialogue. at the same time, of course, we condemn russia's support for the assad regime, and i happen to feel very strongly that even though we are condemning and should condemn russia's support for the assad regime, it is still in our interests that russia participate in putting pressure on assad politically to depart if secretary kerry can possibly do so. i have joined senator mccain recently in writing to president obama urging the president to consider supporting a number of efforts, including the creation by turkey of a safe zone inside of syria along its border, the employment of our patriot batteries closer to that border in order to protect populations in that safe zone and to
neutralize any syrian planes that threaten it and also to provide weapons to vetted elements of the opposition in syria. these actions, raising the military pressure on assad, will send the critical message to assad that he is going to go one way or the other. the armed services committee, which i chair, recently held an open hearing on the situation in syria and the defense department's efforts to plan for a full range of possible options to respond to the contingencies in syria. our committee is set to receive a classified briefing on sear cora next week, and i intend to raise these issues are our witnesses at that briefing, and i know that senator mccain and senator graham and others are also going to forcefully raise these issues with those witnesses at that briefing and to urge them to carry the message back to the administration that it is time to up the military pressure on
assad. i thank the chair. i thank senator mccain and others who are participating in this discussion. and i also would ask unanimous consent, mr. president, i have five unanimous consent requests for committees to meet today during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders, and i would ask consent that the request be agreed to and that they be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. levin: and i yield the floor. mr. menendez: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. menendez: mr. president, i want to join with my distinguished colleagues here in our collective call for a greater engagement, and i start off as i always do in my years in congress between the house and the senate with two questions -- what is in the national interests of the united states, what is in the national security interests of the united states? and from those -- the answers to
those two questions is in essence how i determine my views, my advocacy, my votes and the policies i want to pursue. and there are vital u.s. interests engaged in syria. first, of course, there is a humanitarian crisis, probably the most significant humanitarian crisis at this moment. 70,000 dead and climbing, 4 million displaced, and that is, of course, an urgent call. but beyond that, we have large chemical weapons stockpiles that potentially can fall into the wrong hands. and some have, by a whole host of public reports, already been used against the syrian people. unless you believe that somehow the rebels have in their possession chemical weapons, then this largely has to be from assad. and he has used them, and i think once you use them, you are willing to use them even in
greater quantities. and that is a real concern. the syrian state could collapse. that would leave a safe haven for terrorists, constitute ago new threat to the region. you already have al qaeda-affiliated groups. you have his hez. yo-- you havehezbollah. you have the rai iranian guard. you have the opportunity for a safe haven for terrorists, constituting a new threat to the region, with broader implications for our own security. the refugee crisis and sectarian violence spread instability through the region. the king of jordan was here about two weeks ago and sat with our committee, and he made it very clear, this population has already increased by 20%. at the rate it is going, the population of jordan could double. that is not sustainable for the kingdom. this is one of the countries that has been one of our most significant and faithful allies, and a cruck stiff ally in the -- and a constructive ally in the
region. we cannot afford fo for that aly to find itself in a position that which it could very well collapse. so we look all that, and finally, there could be no more strategic setback to iran, which is our -- this body has spoken collectively and in a bipartisan united fashion to stop its march towards nuclear weapons -- than to have the assad regime collapse. that would be a tremendous setback to iran and would cause a disruption in the terror pipeline between iran and hezbollah in lebanon. so these are just some of the vital national security interests of the united states in changing the tide. now, under the present set of circumstances, assad believes that he is winning and for so long as he believes that he is winning, he will continue the during thcoursethat he is on. there has to be change in the tipping point here. after two years i believe that there are those in the
opposition, rebels that we can and have thoroughly vetted, that we can assist in trying to change that tipping point. if you have a monopoly on air power and on artillery, then the realty is you won't see a change on the ground. so the legislation that i have introduced and in working with colleagues -- and am working with colleagues on, begins to move us in a beginning direction. it is to seek to arm thoroughly vetted elements of the syrian opposition so that we can change the tipping point much it is to, of course, it into provide humanitarian assistance and at the same time work for the assistance of a transition fund to help those rebels that are already controlling parts of the civilian population, to help them add minute straight and prepare for the future. unless we change the dynamics on the ground, we will not have a
change in the regime. and for so long as the regime can continue to bomb indiscriminately its citizens and if the reports, as we have seen it from various countries, including our own, suggest that assad has used chemical weapons against his own citizens, that is only an invitation to allow him to continue do it unless we act. and so i am willing to consider other options. i know moo my colleague, senator mccain, the very distinguished senator had this field, is willing to consider those. i'm willing to consider those as well. but i think that finally we strengthen the hand of the administration and secretary kerry. we all want to see a politically, diplomatically achieved solution. but in the absence of change the calculus not only of assad but of his supporters that have propped him up to believe that he will -- unless they believe
he will fall, i am not sure that we will changed the cal could you laws for the -- calculus for the political opportunity to take place. you think that these efforts strengthen the hand of the administration, creates a parallel track that if diplomacy fails, we have have an opportunity to pursue our vital flat interests and security interests and the humanitarian tragedy -- end the humanitarian tragedy and create the type of stability we want to see in the region. i appreciate my colleague briggy colleague bringing us together on the floor. with that, i yield the floor. mr. mccain: i thank the distinguished chairman. and may i say, it's been a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to serve on the foreign relations committee of which senator menendez is the chairman. his stewardship of that committee, i think, has been outstanding, and i appreciate the very articulate argument that the chairman just
presented, including the strategic dimension of this whole issue, which sometimes in our -- i particularly, when you focus so much on the humanitarian side, that the strategic interests of the fall of bashar al-assad is something that adds another dimension. i thank the senator and chairman of the foreign relations committee. greenhouse gas emission greenhouse gas emissio-- mr. graham: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south carolina. mr. graham: i would like to note that the tide of war in syria changed today because of what's happening on the floor in the united states senate. that may be hard for people to understand, but i really don't think so. how do you change the tide of battle? you make it certain to the world that assad will go, and you provide hope to those who are fighting him that you will prevail.
and i would suggest that a bipartisan consensus is forming in the united states senate, that now is time to do more not less when it comes to syria, including arming the rebels, the right rebels, the right opposition, with the right weapons, which will eventually change the tide of battle. to those who have been following this debate about syria, to those who have been in the fight trying to topple this regime, i cannot stress you to how important today is in your cause. because when you get senator levin and senator menendez, two institutional, important figures because of their chairmanship, but also because of who they are and what they bring to every debate around national security, combined with senator mccain and others, you have turned the tide in washington. as to senator mccain, you have been talking in the most
eloquent terms for at least a couple years about stopping this war in syria, ending the assad regime, and replacing it with something better. you have been right, as are usually are, but now is not the time to look backward; it is to look forward. i think an effort by the senate and the house to acknowledge that the tide of war needs to change and that we should be bolder in our support for the opposition is going to increase the likelihood of a peaceful solution through diplomacy. the russians have to after today, if you know anything about american politics, the game has changed when it comes to assad. and this is a monumental sea change in terms of the war in syria, by having four united states senators who care about this speak out and say we will
be more involved militarily. to the opposition, this is a great day for you. to assad, this seals your fate. now, what do we do and how do we do it? it won't all end tomorrow because of this colloquy tomorrow, but we're well on the wayed to ening this with regard. here's the choice clan the current regime which is evil to the core, you can fix the second once you can't fix the first. it's that simple to me. the sooner the war ends, the better not forel saving people in syria for further slaughter but by preventing what would be an erosion of our national security interests in four areas perform this war goes six more months, a failed state will emerge in sear yavment it will be so fractured you can't put it back together again and the 6,000icaid-a associated fighters will grow this number and there will be a safe haven in syria like there was in afghanistan. that's not good for us.
unlike afghanistan, there's enough chemical weapons in syria to kill thousands, if not millions, of americans and people who are our allies. i worry greatly not only that chemical weapons have been used in syria on the opposition by the regime but those same chemical weapons will be used in the future by radical islamists against us. the next bomb that goes off in america may have more than nails and glass in it. and the only reason millions of americans or thousands of americans haven't been killed, hundreds of thousands by radical islamists, they just can't get the weapons to kill that many of us. they would, if he could this. and i've never seen a better opportunity for radical islamists to get ahold of weapons of mass destruction than i see in syria today. and every day that goes by, their opportunity acquire some of these weapons grows dramatically. if you ask me what i worry the most about in syria and why we should get involved is for that
very reason p. if these weapons get compromised, they'll fall into the hands of the people who will use them against us and to believe otherwise would be incredibly naive. jordan, probably the most stabilizing figure in the mideast in these dangerous time, is the king of jordan. his country is being overrun by refugees. if it war goes on six more months, that's probably the end of thinks kingdom because it will create economic chaos and political instability. and he will be a victim of the civil war in syria, which will have monumental consequences for our own national security. as we talk about syria and chemical weapons falling into islamist radicals' hands, if you think the ayatollahs in iran are trying to build a nuclear power plant at the bottom of the mountain, you're wrong. they're trying to build a nuclear weapon to ensure that you are survivable.
and god only knows what they would do with nuclear technology. but if you believe what they say, they would wipe israel off the map and we would be next. so i tend to believe what they saivmensay. if you allow syria to continue to deteriorate and have a hands-off policy towards assad, then i think you're sending the worst possible significant mall to iran because, as senator levin said, the really only ally that iran has today is assad in sear yavment how can we convince the iranians we're really sear why about your nuclear program when we're not serious about assad using chemical weapons against his own people. what a terrible signal to send. i would just we understand this thought: taker that this is goio pay great dividends, it will being helpful to the president. we can end this war sooner rather than later. no matter what there will be a second war in syria, unfortunately. that second war is going to be between radical islamists who
want to turn syria into some kind of al qaeda-inspired state and the overwhelming majority of syrians who want to live a better life and be our friends, not ouren miss sm our enemies. this war will end the right way the sooner we get the first war over, the shorter the second war will be. i think we can bring this war to close without boots on the ground. one last thought. as to the opposition, you would be helping your cause if you would let the world know that you don't want assad's chemical weapons, that the new syria will not be a state that wants weapons of mass destruction, that you would agree that these weapons should be creeled by the international community -- controlled by the international community and destroyed, that you would agree to an international force coming on the ground with your blessing the day after i assad false ando
destroy them for all times. to senator mccain, i really appreciate your leadership for a couple years. but persistence does matter in politics and all things that are important. and i think your persis persists paying off. to senator menendez and senator levin, the way forward is pretty clear. to president obama, we want to be your ally, your supporter, we want you to get more involved, not less. we realize it is hard, there are risks. as senator mccain said before, the risk of doing nothing or continuing on the track we're on is far greater than getting involved and ending the war sooner. mr. mccain: if i could ask one question of my colleague, i understand recently you made a trip to the middle east. and there's nothing like seeing the terrible consequences of war, and i understand you
visited a refugee camp. maybe for the benefit of our colleagues you could take a minute to describe the horrible conditions that -- the things that people, i believe now over a million refugees have been subjected t to. mr. graham: it was one of the most compelling trips we ever made to the mideast. we went to turkey and a refugee camp in jordan. 40,000-somethine now in jordanian schools. the burden on jordan is immense, but when you talk to people in the camps about what they have gone through and their loved ones have gone through, it is heart breaking. but just from a national security point of view, once you visit the camps, you understand what's at stake here. they tell you about radical islamists moving in.
they want no part of them, but at the end of the day, they are having more influence because we're in the fight and you can do this without boots on the ground. the more chilling thing they tell us, senator mccain you have been echoing for a long time, they are telling us that their children are watching the united states, and like it or not, we have a reputation in the world that we can do almost anything. well, we can't do almost anything but we are seen as a force for good, and the people in syria are just beside themselves wondering where is america. america to them is an idea. they want to be like us because it means freedom, economic opportunity. it means having a say about your children's future, and they are just dumfounded that we're not more involved given the stakes that exist in syria, and they tell us without any hesitation that the young people of syria will remember this moment.
they will told this against us. i think i know what they are telling us. here's the good news. there is still time to act. it doesn't have to end that way. the conditions in syria are horrible. the refugee camps are beyond imagination. the u.n. is doing a great job. they are running out of money. jordan is about to fall if we don't stop this war. from a human point of view, senator mccain, we have got to get this war over and america needs to be seen as part of the solution, not part of the problem. from a national security point of view, syria is going to become a nightmare for the whole world, including the united states. mr. mccain: i thank my colleague. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to include in the record a piece by senator casey called time to act in syria. it was in the huffington post, "washington post" editorial entitled repercussions of inaction, "wall street journal" article u.s. has warned planned
syria arms sale, and finally a piece by leon wieseltier that is in "the new republic." the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: i thank my colleagues. i yield. the presiding officer: morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of s. 601 which the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 44, 601, a bill to provide for conservation and development of water and related resources and so forth and for other purposes. mrs. boxer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: mr. president, for the interest of all senators, i want to thank everyone for cooperating with us. we have handled a number of amendments, one quite controversial and nongermane but we dealt with it. it's not on this bill. i'm happy to say we're trying to keep this bill, a water
infrastructure bill. there may be a few exceptions, but for the most part, that's what we want because it will increase the chances of passage all the way through to get it to the president's desk. the bill we are dealing with, the water resources development act, was last authorized in -- i believe it was 2005 -- 2007, 2007. it is high time we did a follow-on bill. and what we're talking about here is flood protection, projects we need all over the country to protect our people from the ravages of floods. we need to make sure that our ports are operational. i know my friend in the chair certainly deals with all these matters in his great and beautiful state of hawaii. we need to make sure our ports are deep enough, that they have enough funding to stay modernized and can move that cargo in and out with ease. we have environmental restoration. we have to take care of all of our -- of our water
infrastructure. i know senator merkley is here to say something about the bill which i am very pleased about. so i'm going to be very brief but i'm going to talk for about two more minutes and just say that we -- we have a really great committee, the environment and public works committee when it comes to infrastructure. we see eye to eye. we work together. yeah, we have our differences but we can bridge those differences. this bill is a project of collaboration. not only in the committee where we work together, but even here when it got to the senate, we have worked, senator vitter and i, with individual members to meet all of their needs. there are no earmarks in this bill, so whatever we do is really setting policy. it's an exciting bill. it includes reforms that i think are important. and most of all, i think the people at home are going to like it because it gives them a lot of -- it puts them in the
driver's seat and protects them from delays and other problems as they move forward with projects that their people need. so we have some terrific supporters of this legislation, and i will close these early remarks. afl-cio, and we have the chamber of commerce, we have the american society of civilian engineers, we have association of equipment manufacturers, we have many, many. i will show you the next chart. we have the transportation construction coalition, the united brotherhood of carpenters , store management agencies, surveyors, engineers. so i think what you see here is really mainstream america is behind this bill. the bad news is our infrastructure has been rated at a d-plus. you can't be the greatest nation in the world and have an infrastructure that's rated d-plus. so while we have major problems
and other friends on our committee -- and i have to admit today was not a good day for me or the committee or the american people when the -- boycotted the markup. after she answered more than 1,000 questions, she is the most qualified i think ever to be nominated after having served for, how about this, four republican governors. what more do they want? and the fact is that 70% of the american people want clean air, want clean water, want safe drinking water. gina mccarthy deserves a vote, not a boycott. they say they don't like her answers. i'm not surprised. she is not mitt romney's nominee for the e.p.a., she is not rick perry's nominee for the e.p.a. she is barack obama's nomination for the e.p.a. it is her position as it is the president's that we should
enforce the clean air act, the safe drinking water act and so on. when the president's put up nominees for e.p.a. that i didn't agree with, i didn't filibuster them. i said okay, i'll vote no. let them -- let them go. so it's -- it's really a sad day for me on the environment side of my committee. on the public works side of my committee, it's a good day because we're making progress. we have now about a half dozen amendments that have been cleared on both sides. we're waiting to try and make them pending or clear them, and we're asking all senators please get your amendments in because this can't go on forever. we need to pass this bill. 550,000 jobs are supported by this legislation. hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of businesses are looking forward to our doing this. that's why we have this amazing array of support. so with that, i would say to senator merkley the floor is
yours and i would yield the floor at this time. mr. merkley: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: thank you, mr. president. i rise today to talk about one particular aspect of this bill, which is wifia, but before i explain what wifia is, i want to thank the chair for managing this bill in a very bipartisan discussion in committee that has come to the floor with full committee examination, thorough debate, amendment process, and here we are having a very thorough, visible, accountable process for considering this bill on the floor of the senate, and that's just a very good
example of the senate working well. thank you, madam chair. the -- the heart of the wifia program is about jobs. it's about infrastructure. five years after the greatest economic crisis in 80 years, we still face a serious jobs crisis. too many are out of work and too many are unemployed. a good living wage job is the most important pillar of the american dream. there is no public program that can compare to the importance of a living wage job for the stability and success of a family. and so we have to do more to create those jobs, a lot more. now, wouldn't it be great if we could both create jobs and fill a desperate national need at the same time? well, that is exactly what wifia, which is short for water infrastructure financing
innovation act, that is exactly what wifia does. low-cost loans for water infrastructure projects create good jobs now while protecting our communities from devastating costs or public health crises in the future, and wifia does all this while making taxpayers money over time. the need for water infrastructure is great. across oregon and across america, our infrastructure is aging. an aging infrastructure needs to be replaced. our communities are growing. the demand for water structure increases, whether it's water treatment on the front end or water treatment on the back end. sending the water out to our homes and businesses and then treating it after it comes back. so much of our infrastructure is approaching the end of its life span and needs to be replaced. now, we should recognize that america is behind much of the world in terms of investing in
infrastructure, and that is not only not good for our future economy, it is certainly not good for creating jobs. china is investing 10% of its gross domestic product in infrastructure. europe is investing 5%. but here in america, which had a phenomenal infrastructure built after world war ii, we're investing only 2%. that is barely enough to repair the aging infrastructure that previous generations so thoughtfully funded, let alone prepare the infrastructure to meet the expanding needs of the nation. infrastructure really can be thought of as kind of the bread and butter of the success of our nation. building and maintaining infrastructure is one of the most effective ways also to create jobs in the short term. and having the infrastructure in place is absolutely critical to strong private sector economic growth over the long term. so it's time to take water
infrastructure seriously as a public policy challenge. for too long, we have been putting water infrastructure on the back burner. we're not investing enough in water froos to keep clean, affordable water accessible to all americans. in fact, we are not even coming close. there is a gap, a significant gap, a growing gap in the area of water infrastructure needs versus actual funding. if we do nothing and stay on the same course, that gap will be $90 billion per year by 2040. that is a disaster for our communities. that gap would lead munis -- leave municipalities with a terrible decision -- allow the infrastructure to continue to degrade, which is obviously not a good idea, or have to raise utility rates astronomically to pay for long-neglected improvements.
already we're seeing this kind of lose-lose proposition play out in my state, in oregon. some communities are having to set aside their plans because they can't afford them to expand their infrastructure, to improve their infrastructure, to replace their infrastructure that is aging, and other communities are proceeding to upgrade their infrastructure but at costs that are doubling or even quadrupling the costs of water to the citizens. so we need a new way to finance critical water projects. that is why the water infrastructure finance and innovation act or wifia that is contained in this bill fills a key missing link in our system. currently, federal funding for water infrastructure and sewage through the e.p.a. clean water and safe drinking water state revolving funds is helpful, but many projects do not qualify and we need to expand the amount of funding available. into that gap comes wifia,
modeled after the very successful transportation infrastructure financing innovation act or tifia. so we have a proven finance model for infrastructure and transportation. let's take that proven model and apply it to the challenge of our communities on water. i hold a meeting with our local officials, our city officials and our county officials before we have of my town halls and i hold a town hall in every county every year. i can tell you hardly a meeting with local officials goes by that there aren't two or three or four critical water project needs discussed. that is the motivation for having this wifia program before us today. and i want to note that i applaud my colleague from oklahoma, senator inhofe, who has come forward and said let's not only make this work, but let's lower the threshold, the minimum threshold for projects
so that we make sure that we can get smaller communities, more rural communities involved. that was previously addressed in the bill by saying smaller communities could aggregate their projects and submit their applications. but this was a very helpful addition to the conversation, and i really appreciate that type of bipartisan problem solving that is evidenced in this bill as it is and in the amendment that was proposed by my colleague from oklahoma and passed yesterday. now, the reason that funding in this pilot project -- and we're talking $50 million a year for five years -- is effective, is it has a huge leverage. i can fund because it's guaranteeing loans that rarely go bad. the historical default on water and sewer bonds is less than 1%, in fact, it's less than .1%. so that $50 million to cover defaults can be extraordinarily
leveraged. the community gets the funds they need to complete their project at the lowest interest rates possible. and the american public can sleep soundly at night knowing the treasury funds being invested are being invested in a manner that is both prudent and productive. this source of financing will allow communities to take on three types of projects necessary for safe and reliable water systems. repairing the aging infrastructure, upgrading the old systems to modern standards and expanding the projects to meet growth needs. another advantage of this structure of financing is that under wifia projects would be selected by a competitive process rather than state-by-state allocations so we get funds to the greatest need across this nation. we have communities all across oregon, every corner of our state facing these infrastructure challenges. i know the same is true, i know from my colleagues talking about it how true this is across our nation. and communities that are in good
shape now in five or ten years they may see that challenge of meeting new standards or meeting the growth of their community. i want to talk about another key aspect of our recovery and that's manufacturing. if we don't make things in america, we will not have a middle class in america. now, our manufacturing sector lost five million jobs over the last 14 to 15 years. it's starting to make a comeback. but we should do more to create good manufacturing jobs. one very sirm thing we can do is support buy america provisions in legislation such as this. we recognize the principle that if we are using taxpayer dollars to complete a public infrastructure project in america, it only makes sense for american businesses and workers to do as much of the work as possible. and for that reason, i will be filing an amendment to this bill to expand the buy american
provisions for our water infrastructure. these two are very much connected together. yes, we need to be building infrastructure but we need to make sure those tax dollars build our american economy when the work is being done. so in closing, let's pass this bill which has a tremendous amount of good in it, and one of those very good points is this water infrastructure act, wifia. let's support good jobs and good infrastructure across america. and i want to mention, mr. president, the great work that my science associate, mervette 7 abelhack has done on this bill. we are fortunate to have folks who work for us for a year bringing tremendous expertise and trying to develop a really important piece of legislation. we has been very involved in this, and i thank her and i thank the program for making those kind of expertise available to our offices.
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. ms. landrieu: can i ask unanimous consent to get 802 pending before the senate, please. the presiding officer: we are in a comboarl. ms. landrieu: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: we are in a quorum call. ms. landrieu: vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. landrieu: i ask unanimous consent to call up as pending 802. the presiding officer: is there objection?
ms. landrieu: there is no one here. i'd like to call the amendment up. if there is objection, i can talk about the amendment now and then -- okay. i will talk about the amendment now and then attempt to call the amendment up later in the day, and i thank the chair. mr. president, the amendment that i have pending, or trying to get pending for the wrda bill would delay the increase in flood insurance rates for people in this country that are going to be suffering in unbelievable ways, not just homeowners, not just business owners, but communities, mr. president, across america. this isn't a louisiana issue, it's not a louisiana-texas issue, it is a national issue, as this chart will show. these are all the states in the united states that have flood
insurance policies starting with florida, who has the most millions, over two million flood insurance policies in the state of florida. texas is second with 645,000. louisiana has 486,000 policies. california, the fourth state, has 256,000. new jersey has 240,000. super committee has 2 -- south carolina has $205,000, new york, 178,000, north carolina, 138,000. virginia, over 100,000. georgia, close to 100,000. and mississippi at 75,000. mr. president, this is a very serious issue and i thank the chair, senator boxer, who has worked so hard on this bill, the underlying bill of wrda which is so important and i thank those members that came last night, i understand
senator menendez gave a very fiery and passionate speech about the problem that he's facing in new jersey. i want to thank senator schumer, senator gillibrand and senator lautenberg for cosponsoring this important amendment. we want to work with the chairman and the ranking member to pass a wrda bill. there's no state that benefits more from the wrda bill than louisiana, and i am extremely grateful for her leadership not just on this bill but on the restore act, which she helped shepherd through which has helped the gulf coast in immaterial measurable ways. her support of the fair act on revenue sharing that helps the gulf of mexico get -- gulf coast, to be able to build our own levees and not have to be such a drain on the federal treasury, we can and are willing to do our own work. but, mr. president, the flood insurance bill known as biggers-waters, i just want to
call to the senators' attention, never passed the senate. the bill was never brought to the senate floor. the flood insurance bill that's called biggers-waters came out of the banking committee with a bipartisan vote, a similar bill -- that was a house bill but a similar bill came out of the senate. but it never came to the senate floor for a vote. none of us ever got to debate it on the floor. if you weren't on the banking committee, wake up, because this bill is going to affect your state and if you're not on the banking committee, please listen to what i'm about to say. the bill never came to the senate floor, although some of us protested about it at the time, there are statements in the record that show the protests that any number of us made at the time. the bill was then sort of -- went dark. the next time it appeared it was
tucked into the transportation bill, which had the restore act in it and the biggers-water flood insurance, which might have passed the house of representatives, i'm not sure, maybe it just came out of the house committee. and i'm trying to get clarification if this bill ever was passed by either body. and i want clarification on that in just a few minutes, please. but it most certainly never came to the senate floor. so no one here except members of the banking committee, which senator vitter is a member and he knows this issue very well, voted on this. and so it's become somewhat of a not a surprise to me but a surprise to others to find out that flood insurance rates based on the reform bill that was tucked into the transportation bill into the restore act bill, is now going to raise rates by 25%, 50%, 100% on homeowners,
and when the grandfather clause, which was put in the bill to grandfather many property owners, expires, my constituents tell me that their properties will become worthless. now, you can understand how a property that's even worth a million dollars or half a million dollars over $250,000 that has a insurance premium attached to it of a reasonable amount of money, $500 billion --, $500, $600, people on the coast understand we have to pay insurance rates, and builds better and faster which we're doing as fast as we possibly can with the moneys that we have. there's not a coastal community in america that's not fully awake after katrina, rita, giews of a --, gustav, ike and sandy.
trust me. from the east coast to the gulf coast region unwe are awake and we are trying as hard as we can to make our communities as resilient as possible. we are not, as you know, completely to blame for the increased frequency of the storms or the rising sea levels. it is happening and we are on the front line. our communities have been devastated. our people are literally drowning. we lost 1,800 people in katrina, 2,400 between louisiana and mississippi, drowning and literally dying through these storms. we lost several hundred people in sandy. so we understand what's happening, and we're doing everything we can. this flood insurance bill that never passed the senate -- and i'm not sure it passed the house, but it did come out of
both committees, different versions of it, and now it's known as biggert-waters, known as biggert-waters, i understand congresswoman waters is no longer a member of congress -- biggert is gone, waters is here. biggert is gone, waters is here. so the bill was pushed as a way -- and i understand the importance of getting the flood insurance program on a financially sound footing. we most certainly don't expect all the people of america to subsidize coastal communities some of which may be second homes, etc. but in my communities, we're not talking about second homes. we're not talking about vacation properties in large measure. we're talking about primary homes. of fishermen, of dockworkers, of people that work on the river, of boat captains, of, you know, these industries, the oil and gas industry, the
roughnecks, the engineers that have to work by the nature of their work near the coast, which is where the trade and commerce of this nation comes from. if we could operate our trade and commerce only on railroads and highways, maybe we could all go live in oklahoma. or in nevada. but, mr. president, you're from hawaii, you understand that we have coastal communities all the way from oregon to california to texas to louisiana to mississippi, and yes, there are some lovely vacation spots along the coast, but there are also communities that i represent like in tarabon parish and jefferson parish where people wake up before the so sun and ty don't come home before it's dark. and they're working at coastal
businesses that are very important to the entire economic strength of this nation. but this bill, bigger waters, puts the entire burden of supporting coastal communities on the people that live on the coast. well, some people that have a lot of money and can afford a mountaintop view go on the top of the mountains in other states, and, you know, i'm not picking on colorado and utah but those come to mind, multimillion-dollar homes sitting on beautiful views that look out across, you know, lots of land. and maybe they're not mindful of the work that's done on our coast. so this is an issue that is important for the whole nation. and so to have this bill pass -- and i knew it when -- when it happened, and mark pryor, i understand, put something in the record at the time, but now we're on the water resources bill, a very important bill for coastal communities and it's an opportunity for us to fix this
bill or to get a reprieve for a short period of time until we can find a better approach other than rendering thousands of properties along the coast, whether it's in texas or california or florida or new york or new jersey who were just, you know, battered badly by sandy, to put additional stress on these communities. and so while i don't have the specific answer as to how to fix it in the long term, my amendment would simply hold off these rate increases for a year. it doesn't repeal the bill. it -- it will just hold off these rate increases for a year, giving these members here in congress a time and an opportunity to fix what is terribly broken and to try to find a better, more affordable way to do so.
there are 480,000 policyholders in louisiana who are already complaining about the flood insurance rates as they are today. some people are -- and when i go home now, and i go home often, very frequently, this is all people are talking about. there are other important issues that are going on and i don't blame them. and i most certainly understand it as a homeowner in louisiana. and our delegation understands this, the people are saying, we're getting notices from our insurance that our insurance is going to go up hundreds if not thousands of dollars. and what happens when the grandfather clause, which is about to happen in october of 2014? so this flood insurance issue is a very important issue for the people in louisiana, as i said, in texas, and in mississippi, in florida, and that's what my amendment will do. it's -- my amendment is not
pending but i've filed an amendment. we're waiting for a c.b.o. score. we most certainly want to offset this if we can find the revenues that it will take to offset this temporary reprieve. and i ask really the leadership of both republican and democratic leaders to work with me and work with the other senators that are interested in finding a solution to send a signal to these coastal areas that congress understands the pressures of flood insurance. in our low-lying areas that would be in maryland or virginia or new york or new jersey, that we hear them, we understand what is about to happen, and we would like a chance to try to adjust, to fix, et cetera, et cetera. so i'm going to leave an additional statement for the floor. i'm going to be working with the leadership. i know there are other members that have amendments that are important to the wrda bill.
it is not my intention to stop this wrda bill. it's a bill that i most certainly support. louisiana can be greatly benefited. i want to thank senator vitter for his strong work as the ranking member of the e.p.w. committee on wrda, and we have some very important authorizations. but let me also say something about this wrda bill in relation to actual dollars. i happen to sit on the appropriations committee -- the appropriations committee for energy and water, mr. president, and i appreciate serving on that committee and our job is to actually find money and direct funding to build some of these water resource projects. just yesterday, senator feinstein held a hearing and she chairs our committee, senator lamar alexander is our ranking member, on the budget for the corps of engineers. and i see my good friend, ben
cardin, here and others that are very interested in projects in the wrda bill, but they will be shocked to know -- shocked to know -- that when we asked -- i asked joellen darcy, the leader of the corps of engineers, civilian leader of the corps, what was the number of backlogged projects, new construction projects that were backlogged and how much money was in the bill to build them this year, the first number was $1.6 billion. that's how much is in the appropriations bill roughly to build new water projects in the country, $1.6 billion. it sounds like a lot of money until you hear the second answ answer. then i asked her, how many projects are in the queue for funding, ready to go, meritorious projects, urgently needed new construction? and she said, $60 billion.
okay. we have $1.6 billion in the budget to spend and we have $60 billion worth of projects. we follow these numbers pretty closely because many of those projects are in louisiana. and so while it's important to get the wrda bill passed, which is authorizing not only new projects but it is also putting in some very important corps reforms to expedite the way some of these projects are built. the real problem and the real dilemma is closing the gap between what we've authorized and what we can actually afford to build. again, only $1.6 billion in the corps budget for new construction and pending, even without this wrda bill, $60 billion in backlogged, authorized, important program in all of our districts. and with this wrda bill, there are an additional $23 billion in
authorizations. so, yes, i support new authorizations. yes, i support the wrda bill. yes, i most certainly support the reforms to the corps of engineers that are embedded in the language of this wrda bill. but i cannot allow this to move forward, at least without raising a red flag and asking for some reprieve on the flood insurance issue. now, i want to be flexible. i want to be open. i want to be a team player. this is not my way or the highway kind of time. i've tried as much as i can to avoid that kind of politics here because it's very difficult for all of us to move forward together. and i have so much respect for senator boxer and a good bit of respect for senator vitter, who's the ranking member. but, mr. president, this is the only way i know right now, to raise this issue and to say that we cannot in louisiana, with
480,000 flood insurance policies, manage to build our communities, to recover -- which we're doing beautifully. i mean, we'd like to go faster but you haven't heard a lot of complaints coming from us. our people are working hard, rolling up our sleeves, our communities are coming back. we're using the insurance money, we're using the community development block grant money to build as smartly and as quickly as we can. we've created a water institute. every single one of our parishes has gone through what we call sherettes and community meetings to see how we can elevate our homes and build them more resiliently. but this is just a huge and -- and very tough burden to lay on the shoulders of our coastal communities, not just in louisiana, in terrabone and st. mary parish and the river parishes, st. john's, st. james,
st. charles and jefferson parish, it's hurting others as well. we have flood insurance policies all the way up in our state and we would have flood insurance. why would we have flooding? because we have the mississippi river. and we're happy to have the mississippi river. but the mississippi river doesn't belong only to us. may i remind everyone that the mississippi river, the missouri river, the ohio river are the -- is the spine, the backbone of our commerce for the whole nation. so why should the people of louisiana that drain the entire continent, the river runs right here through the mouth of the river through new orleans, why is it that the people that live in south louisiana have to pick up 100% of that risk? and that's the way this bill is structured, to put the burden, 100%, instead of spreading it to everyone, to the whole country in a -- in a reasonable and responsible way, is to say that you have to be self-sustaining
in your flood insurance policies. so we're sorry the mississippi river, which provides commerce and -- and -- and wealth and creates huge, huge amounts of wealth and jobs for all of us but the people that live at the mouth have to take the water and pay for it yourselves. that is not going to work for us. it's not working for us. and so that's why i am standing on this floor. i want to work this out. i am open to a number of suggestions. i hope that the senators that have lots of flood insurance issues like senators in missouri and senators in illinois and senators in other states will, you know, give us some suggestions about thousand move forwarmove -- about how to move forward. again, if this bill had passed the senate, and it was the will of the senate and i had been on the losing side of that, i would not be standing on the floor
here today. this bill never came before the senate. never came before the senate. it was tucked into a bill that we had no chance to amend, none. you cannot amend a bill come oug out of conference. there was no chance to amend this, no chance to fix this, which is why i hope that my colleagues will understand and be patient with me that this is not about losing an issue last year and coming back and crying about it. this is about we never got a chance to even talk about this on the senate floor, and now this is a water bill, it has everything to do with the subject matter. it is not, not germane to the subject matter of this bill. and i would like to have a vote on my amendment or a vote in some way to declare that we are acknowledging this problem, that we might not have a solution today but we most certainly are willing to work on it because this is devastating for coastal communities all over the country. and it is not fair for our
working coast, whether it's fisheries or oil and gas or wind or manufacturing, for our coastal communities, or commerce and trade, to pick up the entire burden of this flood insurance program. so let's try to be reasonable. i'm going to be as patient as i can be. i understand how important this bill is to everyone. i am most mindful of how important it is to my state. we've been trying to get a wrda bill out here now on the floor for several years and we finally have one. but i'm going to leave my amendment as it is. it's not pending. it's been filed. i'm going to ask for this vote to be worked out and until then will object to any other amendments coming up for a vote until we get some way forward. and, again, i want to be flexible, i want to be open and i would like to eventually see the wrda bill pass. thank you, mr. president.
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: reserving the right to object for just a moment. and i, of course, will not object. i just want to make it clear that at 12:00 noon, the two leaders are coming to do a back-and-forth. so up until the time they arrive, i think -- i just wanted to let my friend know. and then after the leaders, senator vitter should be recognized to speak about the issue senator landrieu just raised, to be followed by me, if that's okay, if i could do that in a u.c. so it would be senator cardin, the two leaders, senator vitter, myself. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: thank you. mr. cardin: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, as we prepare to celebrate mother's day this sunday, i am today introducing a joint resolution which would remove the deadline for the states' ratification of the equal rights amendment, the e.r.a. i want to thank my cosponsors, as of this morning, my cosponsor
included senator kirk, senator mikulski, senator murkowski, harkin, sanders, levin, menendez, stabenow, heinrich, boxer, gillibrand, durbin, murphy, baldwin, landrieu, brown and begich. when congress passed the e.r.a. in 1972, it provided that the measure had to be ratified by three-fourths of the states, 38 states, within seven years. this deadline was later extended to ten years by a joint resolution enacted by congress. but ultimately only 35 of the 38 states required ratified the e.r.a. when the deadline expired in 1982. congress has the authority to give the states another chance and should do so. in 1992, i want to point out to my colleagues that the 27th amendment to the constitution prohibiting immediate congressional pay raise was