Skip to main content

tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  May 14, 2013 12:00pm-5:01pm EDT

12:00 pm
12:01 pm
12:02 pm
12:03 pm
12:04 pm
12:05 pm
12:06 pm
12:07 pm
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from virginia. mr. kaine: thank you, madam president. i rise today to talk about the continuing efforts by a minority of this body to block a federal by blocking a compromise with the house to find compromise. i spoke about this one week ago but the stalemate continues. today there is an announcement that in my commonwealth, 90,000 civilian department of defense employees and hundreds of thousands of d.o.d. civilians nationally will be furloughed for 11 days between now and the.
12:08 pm
this furlough announcement, along with ample other evidence that we've discussed in this body in the last few weeks, demonstrates that budgetary gridlock, budgetary indecision, budgetary stalling has real-life consequences. i rise to implore my senate colleagues to do the right thing and to do the job that the american public has sent us here to do. madam president, this is about budgets but it's also about something even bigger than budgets, it's about something fundamental to the entire system of government we have: the willingness to work together to find common ground, to find solutions. mr. kaine: i truly view this budgetary stalemate as an attack on compromise. we cannot survive as a senate or as a congress or as a nation without finding common ground. madam president, i know that you, like me, were out on the campaign trail a lot in 2012 and i heard a repeated critique of
12:09 pm
this body as a body that was unable to produce a budget since 2009. now, there were some arguments back and forth about whether that was technically accurate, but as i looked at it as a candidate, it was although leasr that a normal budgetary order, in accord with the budget act of 1974, has not been followed for a number of years. and so as a citizen of the commonwealth and country and as a candidate, i said, if i have the opportunity to serve in this body, i'm going to work with my colleagues to make sure that we do the public's business in the way that was contemplated in that statute. madam president, i didn't ask but i was assigned to be on the senate budget committee as soon as i got to this body, and i immediately made clear, along with many other members, both newcomers and members who'd been on the committee for awhile, and along with the new committee chair, senator murray, that this body needed to return to normal
12:10 pm
budgetary procedures. it seemed like in the past few years, congress had tried a lot of other things, supercommittees and sequesters and continuing resolutions, and none of those alternate methods were working to do the nation's fiscal business. so along with many senators of both parties, i said, the right strategy is for us to return to normal budgetary procedure; we can make that work as congresses in the past have made it work. so i entered the body in january, the 3rd of january -- now more than four months ago -- with a profound belief that we needed to just embrace the normal procedures about doing a budget. those normal procedures are known to all. people read them in textbooks about how bills become laws. the senate and house in the spring under normal procedure would each pass a budget. those budget bills would likely be significantly different, even when the -- the parties controlling the two houses are the same, the two house budgets are different. there is then some a compromisee
12:11 pm
two differing versions, often through use of a conference committee, and once that compromise is found, then that compromise is sent back to each house for a vote and it then becomes the guidance that is used by the appropriations committee to write the bills appropriating dollars for the next fiscal year. that is the normal process and it's the way that congress has operated under both parties, under split houses for many, many years. well, madam president, here's the good news. the senate budget committee embraced this challenge. chairman murray worked with staff and members of the committee to create a draft budget, and then in early and mid-march, we had robust committee hearings and a full debate and a full amendment process about a senate budget. in march, the committee ultimately considered the chairman's mark for 13 hours and we had a full amendment process,
12:12 pm
voting on over 30 amendments, the majority of which were made by republican members of the committee. we debated and we voted on those amendments. i sat there. i voted for a number of the republican amendments to the budget that then became part of the ultimate committee product. republican members offered numerous amendments and at one point i remember my colleague from maine, senator king, asking in -- in response to an amendment offered by a republican member, "if i vote for your amendment, are you going to vote for this committee budget?" and the answer was -- was given in public, the answer was, "no, i want you to vote for my amendment but i'm still going to vote against the budget. and i'm going to vote against it because the house will produce a republican budget. the senate will produce a democratic budget and then we can get those two budgets together and find compromise going forward." that was what was said when we met as a budget committee. at the end of the day, the senate budget committee passed
12:13 pm
passed it without a single republican vote but the budget was passed and it was forwarded to the senate floor. now, madam president, i know you remember this. this is emblazoned upon all of our memories. we then took the budget to the senate floor in late march. the budget was the subject of floor activity in this body for 39 1/2 hours. now, we don't do a lot of things around here for 39 1/2 hours but the budget was subject to floor activity and numerous speeches by senators just like me over the course of that week. the entire body then considered and debated and voted on nearly 110 amendments to the budget, passing 77 of the amendments. the amendments that were passed were offered both by democrats and republicans. i remember voting for many of the republican amendments that then became part of the ultimate budget bill. this amendment activity, 110
12:14 pm
amendments -- 77 passing -- is significantly greater than has been the norm in earlier senate deliberations. and at 5:00 a.m. in th a.m. in g of saturday, march 23, the senate passed its first budget in four years. not a single republican voted to support that budget even though many of their amendments had been included either in the committee or in the floor amendment process that we had during those hours in late march. madam president, i've done a lot of budgets as a mayor and as a governor, and like all my colleagues on the budget committee, i worked hard on this one in the committee and on the floor, and my staff did too, an so did the senate budget committee staff and the staffers of all the members on that committee. i'm proud that we passed that budget on march the 23rd and i believe firmly that if that budget were implemented today, without changing one appos fee,, comma or punctuation mark, that it would do a number of things.
12:15 pm
it would help create jobs, it would help the economy, and it would deal with our debt and deficit in a fiscally responsible way. madam president, i also understood this, that that senate budget that was passed was not the final product. it was the senate's best effort to find a budget that would move our economy and our country forward. we knew that budget would be placed in a conference with the house budget. the house had passed their budget the same week. we my that there would have to be discussion and compromise and an effort to find common ground, but we did our best version and the house i assume feels like they did their very best version. now, the tw -- two house budgets are very different. i deeply believe that the senate budget is superior and that the american people, watching the discussions between the two houses and comparing them, would reach the same conclusion, but at the very least, i know this -- the american public are entitled to see that debate and discussion. they are entitled to look at the house budget and look at the
12:16 pm
senate budget and compare them just as the conferees would be comparing. they are entitled to watch that process of dialogue and debate and hopefully compromise. that is, in fact, what they have sent us here to do, and that's what congresses have done for many, many years and decades. the process of a budget conference would not be an easy one because the two budgets are quite different, but there is no substitute for dialogue and compromise. in fact, i think all of us in this body know that dialogue and compromise at its core are what we are about here. when the framers of our constitution in article 1 set up a legislative branch with two houses, a bicameral branch and required that most items to pass through congress would have to go through both branches, they understood very well what they were doing. they were creating a system of checks and balances that required dialogue and listening
12:17 pm
and compromise in order to do the good thing for the benefit of the nation. at our very root, a bicameral legislature existing in a system of checks and balances with a judiciary and an executive branch depends upon republic servants who are willing to find common ground. well, madam president, since march 23, nearly seven weeks, a small minority of senators, often one at a time, have done all they can to block a budget conference from even beginning and therefore to block compromise. as we have taken steps to begin a budget conference with the house leadership to put these two budgets together and find compromise, again and again individual senators have stood up on the floor of this body and in my view abused the u.c. rules to block a conference from even beginning. even as budgetary indecision and
12:18 pm
sequester are leading to furloughs, they have blocked a conference from even beginning. even as we are seeing reductions in the number of people who are able to receive meals on wheels or children in head start, they have abused senate rules to block a budget conference from even beginning. i serve on the armed services committee. we're working on the defense authorization bill now, and we have the service chiefs come in and talk to us every day about the challenges that they're facing, about the degraded readiness. one-third of our air combat command unit standing down because of these budgetary challenges. we hear the steady drumbeat day in and day out about degradation and readiness, challenges to our modernization programs. we had a hearing about the marine corps this morning. yet, even as we're hearing these in hearings in the morning and afternoon, members coming to this floor and stand up and try
12:19 pm
to block a budget conference from even beginning. this is very, very serious. when we're talking about the readiness of our military who are facing challenges, we don't -- just pick up today's paper and read headlines about syria or north korea or iran as we are facing significant challenges, continuing challenges in afghanistan. to have members of this body block efforts to find compromise is a very chilling thing. let's be clear about what this is. this is not just an attack on the budget itself, because those who want to attack the budget voted against it in committee. those who didn't like the budget had a chance and voted against it on the floor. even in the event that a conference committee would produce a budget compromise, that compromise would come back and those who didn't like that budget would have a chance to vote against it again. that's how you attack a budget.
12:20 pm
that's how you express disagreement with a budget. you stand on the floor of this body and you vote against it. and the members have had a chance to do that in committee and on the floor and they'll have a chance to do it again at the end of a conference process. note the effort that has been under way in this body since march 23 is not fundamentally attack on budgets. it is an attack on the whole notion of compromise. to block a conference committee from beginning so that house and senate conferees could sit down and try to listen to each other and iron out their differences is fundamentally an attack on compromise, and we have seen that too much in this body. anyone in this room knows that if you are not a her mitt, if you are a member of a family, if you are a member of a parish council, if you are on a p.t.a., if you are part of the organizing group of a little league, if you have a in an elee
12:21 pm
from the school board to the united states senate, everyone knows if you participate in group life, it has to be about compromise. our founders knew it, and they created a system that relies upon compromise, and what we have seen in this body since march 23 after people had a full opportunity to amend and vote on a budget is not really about a budget. it's an attack upon compromise. i stand here and conclude and say that just as no family can succeed without compromise, just as no community, just as no business, just as no school board, just as no group of people can succeed without compromise, congress, the senate and our nation cannot succeed without a spirit of compromise. and so i implore and ask my colleagues to rethink the path that they are on, to stand down in this attack upon compromise, to allow the budget to go to conference so that we can do the tough work of listening to each other and finding common ground
12:22 pm
for the good of the american people. thank you, madam president. and i yield the floor. madam president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
12:23 pm
12:24 pm
12:25 pm
12:26 pm
12:27 pm
12:28 pm
12:29 pm
12:30 pm
12:31 pm
quorum call:
12:32 pm
12:33 pm
12:34 pm
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that
12:35 pm
proceedings under the call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. under the previous order, the senate stands in recess until 2:15. >> so senators have recessed for their weekly party lunch meetings. the senate continued work today on a bill authorizing dozens of various federal, water, coastal and environmental projects. also awaiting action this week, votes on president obama's picks to head the energy department and the centers for medicare and medicaid services. live coverage when senators return at 2:15 eastern here on c-span2. the senate agriculture committee began considering today of amendments to what is called the farm bill. it sets agriculture, conservation and forestry policy. michigan democratic senator
12:36 pm
debbie stabenow chairs the committee as it goes through the changes before it makes it to the full senate. we join that live now. >> in this farm bill that we could pass on as savings to the american taxpayer without impacting the beneficiaries, the people who depend on this program which is pointed out in previous discussion on previous amendments by the senator from new york. a lot of folks across the country do need help from this program. this is an administrative cost. this is a cost that doesn't come out of beneficiaries, it doesn't cut benefits to anybody out there who gets these programs or benefits from these programs today. it simply reapportions the way in which states use dollars to educate people about some of these various programs that are available. >> is the senator could yield to a question? can you explain how you get your $2 billion for the savings?. >> i didn't, it's, that is cbo score. >> you about what, where is that $2 billion coming from? where is it going now that
12:37 pm
it will no longer be going -- >> it is going to grants to states that probably are getting funding today for education purposes. >> so it will come out of education programs currently being used today. >> it would come out of administrative programs that don't impact, that they're not benefits that go directly to beneficiaries. that is correct. >> as we go to vote i would urge a no vote because it does in fact take $2 billion away from important education efforts related to obesity. but i also want to just remind everyone that the most recent child nutrition reauthorization, actually the snap education formula was changed so that more resources could be given, across a larger number of states that transition is taking place right now. we expect that to begin to change under the new formula that was put into place under child nutrition. so is, if there is no further discussion we'll go to a vote. i believe a record roll call was requested, is that
12:38 pm
correct? the clerk will call the roll. >> senator cochran. >> no. >> senator mcconnell? >> wait. >> senator -- [inaudible] >> senator roberts? >> aye. >> senator chambliss? >> aye. >> senator boozman? >> aye. >> senator hoeven? >> yes. >> senator johanns. >> aye. >> senator grassley. >> aye. >> senator thune? >> aye. >> senator leahy? >> senator leahy votes no by proxy. >> senator harkin? >> senator harkin votes no by proxy. >> senator baucus. >> senator baucus votes no by proxy. >> senator brown. >> senator brown votes no by proxy. >> another close by char? >> no. >> senator benett? >> no. >> senator gillibrand? >> no.
12:39 pm
>> senator donelley? >>. no. >> senator heitkamp? senator heitkamp votes no by proxy. >> senator cowan? >> no. >> chairman stabenow? >> no. clerk will tally the vote. >> total ayes eight. total nos 12. >> the nays having the majority it is not adopted. are there further amendments to the nutrition title? senator roberts. >> madam chairwoman, i have a bill that encompassing many of the amendments that have already been considered and some that are about to be considered. so this is a comprehensive amendment with regards to what i call food stamp reform. i'm going to introduce this. i'm going to read it very quickly. i'm going to withdraw it.
12:40 pm
and see if it could be considered on the floor. and in that respect, perhaps the senator from new york could check her blood pressure a little bit and, we can move on down the road. this amendment cosponsored by senators thune and johanns would help rein in the largest expenditure within the department of ag's budget. we're talking about snap of course. we can restore integrity to program while providing benefits it those truly in need, save over $31 become. that figure may astound some of the committee but i think it is accurate. first the amendment eliminates the liheap loophole. i have an amendment on the liheap loophole that could possibly follow. let me be clear. eliminating the liheap loophole does not affect snap he will gooblt for anyone uses snap. it decreases snap benefits for those who would not qualify for the higher snap benefit allowances. we also tie the categorical
12:41 pm
eligibility to cash assistance. eliminating a loophole that states are exploiting by offering the provided informational brochures and informational, 1-8 numbers. we talked about that in an ongoing effort to streamline the government programs we should also try to eliminate the duplicative snap employment and training program, the snap nutritional education grant program, combine the two programs, cost over 8 billion. do not represent any direct food benefits. the amendment also ends the usda practice of giving 48 do million in award every year to state agency for basically doing their job. finally the amendment terminates the on going stimulus enacted by american recovery and reinvestment act of 2009 which provided extra funding to increase monthly snap food benefits. let's not forget that snap was exempted from across-the-board cuts known as sequestration. i will withdraw the amendment and look forward to working with the committee to improve the program's integrity.
12:42 pm
i thank the indulgence of my colleagues. >> thank you very much. the amendment is withdrawn. do we have other amendments in nutrition title? senator gillibrand? >> i want to thank senator roberts for working hard with the committee. >> thank you very much have. >> senator thune? >> madam chair, this would be amendment 9. >> for purposes of a time check if i might because we are coming up to the 1:00 hour where there are caucus lunches and i'm not sure how many amendments we have left. if we might get some sense we could get complete everything before lunch or we'll have to come back after. so i wonder if we might just get a check on how many amendments are left to be offered at this point? after senator thune's amendment, do we have others on the nutrition title? okay. all right. and then i'm not sure if we have any on the commodity crop insurance titles? >> commodity title.
12:43 pm
>> commodity title? and is there more than one, senator thune? >> i've got more than one, yes. two. >> okay. all right. well let's move forward at this point, senator thune on your nutrition. >> thank you, madam chair. this amendment is, deals with what's referred to as abods, able-bodied adults without dependents currently eligible for snap benefits for three months and every three years. to continue to receive benefits they have got to demonstrate a desire to work by entering the workforce part time, participating in job training or workfare programs or even volunteering in their communities. these requirements are waived in areas with high unemployment but the waivers are being awarded in alarming rate using overly broad regulatory authority. changing these requirements does not affect he will fwablt of teenagers -- eligibility of teenagers, the disabled or families to receive snap benefits for an extended period. this amendment also assures
12:44 pm
that able-bodied adults without dependent waivers are still available to individuals living in areas with above 10% unemployment or other areas identified by the bureau of labor statistics to have insufficient jobs. by stating these definitions in legislation we save dollars and the cbo has not scored this yet accept to say it will achieve savings insuring limited snap dollars preserved for those who are truly inneed. madam chair, i would say i think this is fairly common sense thing. i want to reiterate what i said earlier. changing these requirements does not affect eligibility of teenagers, the disabled or families to receive snap benefits for an extended period of time. it also has waivers that are available to individuals living in areas with unemployment above 10% or other areas that are identified by the bureau of labor statistics to have insufficient jobs. but what it does for this category of people who receive snap benefits encourages them to get back into the workforce, to participate in job training or as i said, even volunteer
12:45 pm
is something that is permissible in terms of meeting that requirement. now one of the things i just wanted to quickly point out is i think everybody knows this, but this is a 10-year number, a 10-year program, snap is, $760 billion. nutrition title is now 77% of the farm bill baseline over that 10-year period and much of that i think attributable to the increase, or the increase can be attributable to the struggling economy. since 2010 the unemployment rate is steadily dropping from a high of 10% to the rate where we are today at about 7.5%. over that same period snap participation increased by approximately 7 million people. i think part of that discrepancy can be attributed a abod waiver system that is overly broad and encourages able-bodied adults to stay on snap benefits without participating in job training. it tightens the abod
12:46 pm
categories and insure able-bodied adults without depends cents find work and ultimately get off the snap program. that is the explanation of the amendment, madam chair and i would, encourage my colleagues to support it. >> any further discussion on the amendment? it is my understanding it's not been scored yet, is that correct? >> that is correct. >> any other, i would urge a no vote. any further discussion? if knot all those in favor say aye. those opposed nay. the nays have it. anything else, any other amendments on the nutrition title? senator roberts. >> i have two. one on liheap and one on employment and training. i am not going to offer them in committee to expedite the process of the farm bill but i will be speaking about them in my efforts on the floor. thank you. >> thank you very much. any other nutrition title amendments? if not, nutrition title is
12:47 pm
closed. we'll move to title 1, the commodity -- excuse me. >> madam chairwoman. thank you. as you know i was at the immigration markup and i'm glad to be back. i wanted to reopen the energy title for klobuchar amendment and i appreciate your willingness to allow me to do that. >> we do have agreement and support to do that. so you may proceed. >> okay. very good. if we want to recruit a new generation of farmers and ranchers, madam chairman, we want to bolster our economy in rule america. what this amendment does is it strengthens the farm bill in four areas, reserve, road development, conservation and energy, all key in this bill. just one example in the rural development area there is a usda backlog of applications in 2012 that is really paralyzing a lot of our communities. this amendment funds the backlog of projects over five years and will go a long way toward getting those projects done. i can go through each area. if there are questions but i think it is very important
12:48 pm
that we bolster those areas of this farm bill and it still keeps $24 billion in savings over the last farm bill. >> thank you very much. is there further discussion? senator hoeven. >> madam chair, i would like to speak in support of this amendment. in addition to some of senator klobuchar's comments, this bill, this amendment is also very helpful in terms of working with our farmers and rural landowners on water management and water protection watershed issues that will really help them in terms of flood protection. so much of that is geared toward our urban areas. this will help protect our farmers and ranchers and others in rural areas in terse of some of the flood prevention, flood protection that we're undertaking in our part of the country and really throughout the country. >> thank you very much. i would, madam chair ask for a voice vote. >> i would urge a yes vote on this amendment. all those in favor say aye.
12:49 pm
those opposed nay. the amendment is adopted. thank you very much. we are back now to the commodity title, title one. senator thune, did you have amendments? >> madam chair, i do. what this amendment would do, this is thune number five for those of you who are following. what this does, madam chair, is the adverse market payment program does not exist in current law. it is iteration of the target price and countercyclical program that is currently in the current farm policy and the chair's mark includes that the amp program for all commodity crops and rice and peanuts, amp leaves target prices now called reference prices same for all commodity crops same as they were in the 2008 farm bill but does substantially increase rice and peanut target prices from the 2008 farm bill levels. under amp, the rice reference price is $13.30 per00 weight and peanut
12:50 pm
reference price is $523.77. also under the amp provisions in the chairman's mark, peep nut basis and yields are allowed to be updated and only rice yields are allowed to be updated rice basis at the 2008 farm levels because rice has been underplanted for the past five years. what the amendment does very straightforward, very simple, it just leaves rice and peanut's in the amp program and removes the other crops. a target price counter-cyclical program my view is step backwards to an old outdated policy we removed in last year's senate passes farm bill. nearly owl producers of crops and other than rice and peanuts taken position they do not support a target price counter second quarter kal program. this is giving producers and growers what they want in many cases. and this by the way saves according to the cbo 897 million, i should say, million dollars over 10 years. but almost a billion dollars in savings by simply backing
12:51 pm
out from the target price program included in the base bill crops other than rice and peanuts. and, so, again, very straightforward. just removes those from the amp program and saves us almost a billion dollars over 10 years. >> any further discussion on the thune amendment? >> madam president? >> senator cochran. >> madam chairman, i'm constrained to oppose the amendment. we worked hard to reach a compromise on the commodity programs. this would be disruptive influence in the process of commodity programs that are presented to the committee for its consideration today. so i urge a no vote on this amendment. >> thank you very much. senator roberts. >> thank you, madam chair person. and thanks to senator thune for introducing this amendment. time and again some of us have expressed our concerns with target prices and the
12:52 pm
wto. this, throughout this entire farm bill we, everybody knows are giving up a direct payment, which were considered in a green box, okay? for a new adverse market payment program and new subsidy program is best in an amber box and slowly growing red as i speak. at the levels the target prices for rice and peanuts have been set above the cost of production on average world price i'm afraid the wto will consider the high target price as trade distorting and thus put us in the redbox. that's a big red flag for me and my producers. why should the two commodities dictate that all others have to have target prices when we don't want them? just leave wheat and corn and soybeans and everybody else alone. we don't want to open up ourselves for retaliation. let me remind the committee in the house bill the target price for wheat is 550.
12:53 pm
used to be 6 bucks, in the third year of a drought guess what my farmers will do? we used to have 12 million areas of wheat. that has gone down to eight. for other crops this will be a situation where farmers farm for the government. it accomodates rice and peanuts, i know that. we worked very hard to accommodate rice and peanuts. there is a feeling that fine, if rice and peanuts wants or want a target price, fine. put it in the bill but it isn't prudent it take that same risk with other commodities when we already know the pitfalls. it would save 897 million that could be used for deficit reduction or whatever purpose the committee would find. i would respectfully my colleagues vote yes for this amendment. >> i would urge a no vote on the amendment. we accepted the managers amendment, a change that will create a rolling average for all of the commodities outside of rice and peanuts.
12:54 pm
it saves $400 million in the mark. and i believe focuses on a more market-oriented way on this provision. i appreciate the concerns that have been raised but i do think we have, we have a balance that really strikes the right set of issues and brings it together. i would urge a no vote from colleagues and senator boozman. >> no. i would just echo that. i think everybody's really worked hard to actually produce a farm bill. the house is not going to accept this. and again, i think this is the kind of stuff that is going to get us another extension very as you five-year farm bill which is so important for all of us. >> thank you very much. madam chair. >> for discussion, senator thune. >> if i could just respond to that. i don't think this is any way derails or makes problematic passage of a farm bill. i mean what i'm simply saying here is, and these are crops that, these are programs that would benefit
12:55 pm
my state. all i'm saying this is the old way of doing business. we need to move to a new way of doing business and in this farm bill ought to be about reform and it ought to be about savings. this amendment, which didn't do anything to after affection southern crops. it is not attacking the southern crops. it is simply saying those crops in our region of the country don't want this program, we want reform and we can save a billion dollars by doing this, i agree that the house is going to have target prices, probably fixed target prices. i appreciate what the chair has done in trying to at least create a rolling average. i think that is an improvement. i credit the managers for including that in here but it's still maintains a system that really is something that we ought to be moving away from and so i just had to respond to that particular comment. i yield. >> thank you. senator chambliss. >> madam chair, just quickly. you know this is a balance,
12:56 pm
a balanced approach that we've taken in this bill versus the bill that was up back in december and while i appreciate what the senator is saying, all his farmers have to do, they don't have to opt into this. they have bottom the choice. if they want to go under purely crop insurance says, a safety net, so be it, they can do it. they ought to be able to do it. i may have some farmers in my state that want to opt to do that but, as we discussed last year, the crop insurance provision does not work. it's a safety net for rice and peanuts and, my farmers are most likely to accept the amp program but if farmers in some other part of the country don't want to go into that program they don't have to and i think that's a smart choice on the part of the chair and the ranking members the way to approach this. >> thank you very much. senator johanns. >> thank you, madam chair. let me speak in favor of the thune amendment.
12:57 pm
i had an opportunity as secretary of agriculture to spend many, many hours with the brazilians. they are the individuals who brought the cotton case. they made it very, very clear to me that their case was not about cotton. it was about the entire approach to farm policy that the united states had. we are exacerbating the situation with rice and peanuts and applying it to these, to earth commodities, corn, wheat, and soybeans. i couldn't agree more with senator roberts. take rice or take soybeans and corn and wheat out of this. i think there's going to be a wto challenge to this. i think if history is any guide, and it almost always is with the wto, that challenge will be successful. we're already paying brazil
12:58 pm
every year 10 of millions of dollars because of the defeat of the cotton litigation that they had. i think this is just begging for a additional litigation. so i speak in favor of the thune amendment. i think it's absolutely the right approach. >> thank you. we want to make sure this is an important discussion. i do want to indicate we're very much, we are within sight of completing the bill. i'm going to ask everyone to hang in there with us for another few minutes and we will, i believe be at a point to have a final vote. senator roberts? >> i understand that we want to get a fair and balanced bill. i understand that peanuts and rice and a had a lot of difficulty with the previous bill that passed the senate last year. i understand that the chairman, chairwoman and myself work hard on that. we didn't, we didn't cross the finish line. you have now. in getting rice and peanuts what they feel that is a
12:59 pm
responsible way to treat them as long as they're under the budget. that is a philosophy that's been present for some time. but then you extend that with regards to target prices. let's just call it what it is, it is a government subsidy, for a certain target price and then you say, well, wait a minute, we don't want to interfere with the market. we want to make it more market-oriented and i'm going to be one of the persons that introduce the five-year rolling average. the thought occurs to me because they have a five-year rolling average means they will never take place. why in the world would he extend a target price program we don't want at a level that won't provide any income protection? why? it is cover. we can say everybody is covered with target prices when in fact we don't want it. it is sort of like a sore thumb amendment. i will do the five-year rolling average so we can get to be market-oriented but i have a lot of mixed emotions about it. let's not really kid ourselves.
1:00 pm
we know exactly where the house is going with higher target prices that gets down to the basic issue when people after a third-year of a drought, okay here is $6, target price or 5.50, what you do think they will do? out of protection they will go ahead and sign up. now i don't blame them for that. my distinguished colleague and friend from georgia, well they don't have to sign up. with a 5 or $6 you're going to, and that is what is going to happen in conference. i can't determine who is on the conference. i can't determine what that vote is going to be but that's where we're headed. so i think this is a, thinly-veiled disguised amendment to go back. that's why i call it a rear view mirror policy of going back to target prices. we might as well go back to lone rates and same kind of argument we've had before. i've said too much. . .
1:01 pm
>> any other discussion on the thune amendment? if none, all those in favor say aye. >> aye. >> those opposed, nay. no. the nays have it. are there further amendments to the commodity? senator johanns. >> madam chair, i call up johanns amendment number 3, it also deals with target prices. my hope is, madam chair, if we continue to work on this, we'll get a better farm bill out of our efforts here. um, basically what this amendment would do is it would restore target prices for rice and peanuts to the levels in the
1:02 pm
2008 farm bill. this amendment would reduce the reference price for peanuts, peanuts and rice to the last farm bill price levels. it saves $1.5 billion. i spoke in my opening comments about my concern that about half of the savings that we're claiming here are really an illusion. they are not a savings at all. we need to find some savings. when we should be decreasing the likelihood of payments, this bill actually increases target prices that trigger payments for these two commodities, therefore, payments will be more likely not less likely. one of those target prices increases by over 25%. that's remarkable in this day and age. the others are already so high that it's triggered payments from the taxpayer to the producer every year for the past
1:03 pm
decade. farmers responsibly manage risk every single day. they take into account the market price for each commodity they plant and harvest. agricultural commodity programs should be market-driven. congress should not be in the business of raising target prices for commodities. this is truly a 1980s-style policy. i fundamentally disagree with it. madam chair, i offer in this amendment. >> further discussion on the johanns amendment? if not, i would ask for a no vote on this amendment. all those in fave say aye. >> aye. >> those opposed, nay. >> no. >> the nays have it. thank you. are there further amendments to the commodity programs, title i? if not, the title -- senator johanns. >> i have an amendment, pad dam chair, that -- madam chair, that i would like to offer, and it's a study request.
1:04 pm
it's johanns amendment number 8. it's a second-degree amendment. madam chair, i pull back. on that amendment. i want to think about that for a second. >> all right. senator thune. >> madam chair, i have an amendment here i want to just bring up, and i will withdraw it. i think the floor's probably a better place for this. but i just want to mention again the way the crops are treated in the farm bill, in the history of farm programs, bases and yields have always been updated concurrently. and updating rice yields without updating bases would set an undesirable policy precedent, and that's what we do with regard to rice here. and in doing so, it's almost a billion dollars in additional spending in the bill. so as we look for ways to find
1:05 pm
savings in this bill, it strikes me at least that, you know, i've already put forward several amendments that have savings associated with them. this is yet another one that would save you almost a billion dollars, and all it does is requires that rice, the rice base be updated. again, which is something that has been done all the time as a matter of precedent with regard to farm program crops. so i'm not going to, i'm not going to require a vote here today on it, but with i want to put it on people's radar screens because as we go the floor and we're looking for additional areas of reform, we're looking for additional ways to save money, this, to me, is another, another example of something that we we shouldn't be allowino happen, particularly based on the precedent that has been set in the past on yield and base updates. thank you. >> thank you very much, if you're not offering -- yeah, senator boozman. >> madam chair, i would just say if the senator had offered it, i
1:06 pm
would like to have a secondary amendment that would insert wheat, oats, grain, sorghum, barley after rice and replace every place that rice appeared. >> okay. well, we will, as we go the floor, we can discuss that more. and senator roberts. >> well, we do plant cotton in the kansas, but not rice. so maybe we would be exempt from the senator's amendment. i think the real problem with this amendment is the fact that for the first time i know of agriculture committee would allow commodity to increase their base yield without requiring an update to the base acreage. the senator from arkansas' amendment, second-degree, would fix that or really get us into a fix, i'm not quite sure. the fact that the amendment would save 900 million demonstrates it would be almost one billion worth of payments going to farmers that no longer plant rice. and i don't know what that's all about. with the exception that, you know, we have -- and require an update for the rice base acreage
1:07 pm
only because they're getting a higher target price and a yield update too. so i agree with the senator's amendment, and i know he's going to withdraw it, but at least i wanted to speak in favor of it. >> thank you. senator johanns, do you wish to introduce an amendment? >> thank you. as i indicated, i have an amendment on the arc program just simply calling for a study. we've had some conversation with your staff about this, and i think it's something we can work through as this bill moves forward. so i'm not going to offer the amendment today. i only want to highlight it to indicate that i think it's an important study. i think it's something that we should do, and i'll be talking to you more in the future about it. thank you. >> and look forward to working with you on it. are there further amendments on the commodity title? seeing none, the commodity title is closed. further -- are there amendments on the crop insurance title, title xi?
1:08 pm
seeing none, that title is closed. we have come to the conclusion of the farm bill discussion. let me thank everyone again for working very, very hard as usual in a -- >> we're leaving this hearing on the farm bill markup which you can continue to follow at to take you to today's white house news briefing. >> and i have no announcements to make at the top, so i'll go straight to the associated press. >> thanks, jay. before stating the obvious, the white house right now is confirming a confluence of issues, benghazi talking points, irs reviews of political groups, review of journalists' phone records, and in every instance either the president or you had placed the burden of responsibility someplace else. on the benghazi talking points, it's been political motivations on the hill. on the irs it's been the bureaucrats at the irs, and on
1:09 pm
the justice department issue yesterday in your statement you said those matters are handled independently by the justice department. but it is the president's administration, so i wonder doesn't responsibility for setting tone, for setting direction ultimately rest with the president on these matters? >> well, the responsibility to set tone and to focus on the priorities of the american people is absolutely the responsibility of the president. and you see and hear him do that every day. as he fulfills his duties as president. you know, i think you have to separate these issues, and i think if you look at the answers the president gave yesterday in response to questions on the one hand about the clear political circus that benghazi has become and his response to questions about the reports of activity by the irs, i think you see, um, something different. he made clear that ifhe
1:10 pm
reports about the activity of irs personnel prove to be true, he would find them outrageous, and he would expect that appropriate action be taken and that people be held responsible. he has no tolerance for targeting of specific groups, conservative groups if the reporting is true on this, and he would expect action to be taken. but this is a matter when it comes to the irs that is under review by the independent inspector general. we have not seen that report. it is our understanding that its release is fairly imminent, and once we have that report, we'll be able to assess next steps. so at this point we have to, you know, wait for the action of an independent investigator, if you will, the inspector general before we can jump to conclusions about what happened, whether there was a deliberate
1:11 pm
targeting of groups inappropriately. and if that's the case, what action should be taken. but you can be sure, and i would point you to the president's response yesterday, what his feelings are about this kind of action if it, in fact, took place. on the issue of what is a department of justice investigation as i understand it, you know, the president is a strong defender of the first amendment. and a firm believer in the need for the press to be unfettered in its ability to conduct investigative reporting and facilitate a free flow of information. he also, of course, recognizes the need for the justice department to investigate alleged criminal activity without undue influence. and as i said yesterday in my statement, other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the justice department to seek phone records of the associated press. we are not involved in the white
1:12 pm
house with any decisions made in connection with ongoing criminal investigations as those matters are handled, appropriately, by the justice department independently. and i understand there are a lot of questions about the reports about doj's actions, and from my background i understand them well. but in this situation where the department appears to be conducting a criminal investigation, it would be wholly inappropriate for me to have answers to those questions. i don't have them. and i have to refer you to the department of justice. >> i'd like to go back to the irs issue. the president did use the word "if" these activities had taken place. but there has been an acknowledgment on the part of the irs leadership that these things did, indeed, occur, so i wondered why the president used that phrasing in claiming that it was an outrageous -- >> those in the irs who have spoken about this, obviously, have much greater insight into what took place than we do.
1:13 pm
we have to -- we have not seen the report, we have not, you know, independently collected information about what transpired. we need the independent inspector general's report to be released before we can make judgments. you know, one person's view of what actions were taken or what that individual did is not enough for us to say something concretely happened that was inappropriate. i think if you look at some of what's been said, you know, that the actions were inadvertent or not or constituted something that was specific and inappropriate or not. and i think that what we have to do responsibly is wait for the independent inspector general's report to be released before we assess next steps. but again, if you look at what the president said yesterday, he was very clear that if there was deliberate, specific targeting of groups, that would be outrageous and would require, in his view, action be taken.
1:14 pm
>> and that action, would there be something that the white house could do unilaterally? >> i think we have to wait and see what next steps are because, obviously, there is, you know, a significant amount of independence of the irs as, obviously, as well as the naig. decidehave to wait for the ig what next steps might appropriately be taken. jeff. >> jay, it sounds clear that senior tax officials knew about the extra scrutiny of -- [inaudible] since 2011. which means also during the can election and -- during the the election and that it was withheld until after the election. should the white house have been informed earlier? >> my understanding is that when there is a review as there was and is by an inspector general, that when the end of that process is nearing and a report
1:15 pm
is about to be released, a notification is appropriate and routine. and that is what happened. and that happened several weeks ago. prior to that there was no knowledge here at the white house. now, before i make judgments about or anyone else here makes judgments about whether, you know, the white house should have known more or others in the administration should have known more, we have to find out what exactly happened. and that's why it's important for us to wait for the release of the inspector general's report which, you know, will hopefully be fairly imminent. >> based on the reporting, do you have any concerns that this was withheld when it could have been a big story? >> well, we have serious concerns about what's been reported. i think you saw that reflected in what the president said. and, again, it's been reported, and we have to make sure that the independent review of this by an inspector general is revealed, and we can assess that and assess what actually happened, what motivations there were behind whatever actions were taken and can then decide
1:16 pm
what action is appropriate and who should take it. >> when did the president find out about the department of justice's -- [inaudible] of the associated press? >> yesterday. >> and -- >> let me just be clear, we don't have any independent knowledge of that. he found out about the news reports yesterday on the road. >> what was his reaction to that? does he belief there was an -- believe there was an overreach? >> all i can tell you is i cannot and he cannot comment specifically on an ongoing criminal investigation or actions that investigators at the department of justice may or may not have taken. it would be wholly inappropriate. and if we did comment on it or if we did have insight into it, you would appropriately ask why, and, you know, is that correct procedure. because it would not be. so i can't comment on the specifics of that. but i can tell you that the president feels strongly that we need a, the press to be able to be unfettered in its pursuit of investigative journalism, and
1:17 pm
you saw when he was a senator the president co-sponsor legislation that would have provided further protections for journalists in this regard. and he is also mindful of the need for secret and classified inio to remain secret and classified in order to protect our national security interests. so there are, there is a careful balance here that must be attained. but i think it's important to look at the president's past here to understand where he comes from many this, broadly speaking where he comes from in regard to issues like this. but we simply can't comment on a specific investigation. >> president obama's being compared to president nixon. how does he feel about that? >> again, i don't have the a reaction from -- i don't have a reaction from president obama. i can tell you that the people who make those kind of comparisons need to check their history, because, you know, what we have here with one issue in benghazi so clearly, as we're learning more and more, a
1:18 pm
political side show, a deliberate effort to politicize a tragedy. the president feels very strongly about that. you heard him address that yesterday. on these other issues, these are things that we are finding out about, and we need to wait appropriately for independent action to be completed before he can in any way take action or comment specifically on it. you know, i think that it is a reflection of the, you know, sort of rapid politicization of everything that you have that kind of commentary. everything becomes, you know, a huge political issue when if you look at the facts -- and i think benghazi instructive in this -- the real issue is that four americans died. and we need to do everything we can, as the president has committed himself to doing, to
1:19 pm
finding out who did it, finding out why and taking the steps necessary to insure that our dip loomatic personnel -- diplomatic personnel are protected so that what happened in benghazi doesn't happen again instead of enjoyed in the 20th. and that is, that is what he fo. that and the paramount interests of protecting the national security of the united states. jen? >> you say check on history, rapid commentary, but you have to understand and hear how it sounds like the administration might be hiding something. so can we take these one at a time? on the irs on friday they gave one version of the story that changed several times. so can you just say plainly, does the president believe that they're being truthful, and does he think that the leadership there needs to change? >> well, i don't have that, i don't understand how that tracks with your first sentence about assertion here. we have seen the reports, as the president said, and if the reports are true, he would consider them outrageous.
1:20 pm
>> irs has acknowledged some of this wrongdoing. so the president and this administration could agree -- >> and i think you heard the president say yesterday that if it turns out to be the case, and again, there's a lot of reporting -- not all of it -- >> but, jay -- [inaudible conversations] irs personnel which sounded like it was isolated. we've now learned that it was -- >> how could irs personnel be isolated? that could be the entire agency. [inaudible conversations] >> does he infer that this is a broader problem? >> he's concerned by every report he sees on this. you can believe that he is concerned by that. and that is why he looks forward to finding out what the ig report says. and then deciding what next steps need to be taken if -- and who needs to take them. and that's, you know, instead of rushing to conclusions or, you know, perpetrating consequences before we even know specifically what happened and the whole
1:21 pm
story would be inappropriate for a president to do. and so, again, he made clear what his view of this action -- if there was specific, deliberate targeting of conservative groups or any groups inappropriately -- he would be and he suggestions of that to be outrageous. but we cannot and we should not -- [inaudible conversations] >> what is the consequence of his outrage? >> well, how could he possibly say what the consequence will before we know what the facts are? >> okay. >> shouldn't we let the facts be revealed by this independent inspector general report before we make some conclusive judgments about what actions need to be taken? >> on the irs/doj story, we understand you guys can't get involved in an investigation that could touch the white house and administration and that it's a legal issue that's happening. but this involved multiple months, multiple locations, many
1:22 pm
phones. is the president at all concerned about the breadth of the investigation, about the breadth and depth that the doj is using to do leaks in general which has become a priority for this president? he's prosecuted in this administration more people for leaks than every other president put together. >> jessica, what i can tell you is that this president believes strongly in the first amendment and is a strong defender of the first amendment. he believes strongly in the need for the press to be unfettered in its pursuit of investigative journalism. he also believes strongly as a citizen and as president in the need to insure that classified information is not leaked because it can endanger our national security interests, it can endanger american men and women around the world. but i cannot and he cannot appropriately comment on the specifics of an ongoing criminal investigation for the reasons that you yourself just raised. >> it's not about the specifics of this investigation.
1:23 pm
>> you listed the specifics of the investigation. >> okay. is he concerned at all about the precedent this is setting and that this is the legacy of his attorney general. >> this, i think, refers to this investigation, so i cannot comment on that. what i can tell you is that the president be absolutely believes in the need for, and co-sponsored legislation that would enhance protections for the media and the principles that are behind that effort are ones that he holds to this day. but i can't, i can't then take that to a specific case that's been reported in the press, again, that we learned about from the press appropriately. because if we learned about it any other way, it would be inappropriate. >> comment on it after the case is decided. >> well -- [laughter] >> okay. >> thank you. hey, don. >> jay, can you say categorically that nobody at the white house and nobody on the president's political team had any knowledge or was involved in any way in the targeting of tea party groups by the irs?
1:24 pm
>> yes. >> absolutely not? >> i mean, look, we found out about this in -- or at least the counsel's office was notified about this investigation, this activity, potential activity very broadly just a few weeks ago. and beyond that, you know, we have to -- we learn about everything we know about this from what we see in your reports. so that's why we have to wait for the inspector general's report before we can assess based on that and what it tells us what we know about what happened and what didn't and what actions should be taken and then decide on what next steps should be taken. >> are people going to be fired over this? >> again, that -- we'll have to see what the report concludes and what else needs to be done to find out, if necessary, what happened. the reports that we've seen to t specific organizations as
1:25 pm
reported, conservative organizations, that would be outrageous in the president's view. and there should be consequences. >> and while you clearly can't comment on the justice department investigation, as a principle, does the president approve of the idea of prosecutors going through the personal phone records and work phone records of journalists and their editors? >> i appreciate the effort to generalize the question but, obviously, that goes right to the heart of some of the reporting on this specific case. i can tell you that the president believes that the press as a rule needs to be, to have an unfettered ability to pursue investigative journalism. >> how can it be unfettered, if you're worried about having your phone records? >> well, again, i can't respond to this in the specific. you know, i am very understanding of the questions on this issue and appreciate the nature of the questions. and i think they go to important issues, and they go to the fundamental issue of finding the
1:26 pm
balance between when it comes to leaks of classified information of our nation's secrets, if you will, between the need to protect those, that information because of the national security implications of not protecting them on the one hand and the need to allow for an unfettered press in its pursuit of investigative journalism. so this is a balance the president believes is important that we have to find, and, you know, how he views these issues can be seen in the actions and proposals he's made in the past. but when it comes to this specific case, i simply cannot get into the details of our view or his view of it. >> just the last question. is all of this, all this swirl of controversy and stories affecting the president's ability to pursue his agenda? >> the president is focused on what he believes the american
1:27 pm
people expect from him and from their leaders in washington. and you have seen that, and you will continue to see that in the days and weeks and months ahead. overwhelmingly, americans are concerned about continuing the recovery out of the worst recession since the great depression, building on the job creation that we've seen, continuing to expand and make more secure the middle class, taking the necessary steps to invest in our future so that our economy can grow later, and that means bipartisan investment on infrastructure in the kind of innovation hubs that the president talked about in austin last week. you know, these are the issues that he's focused on. they include comprehensive immigration reform which he is constantly discussing with leaders and members of congress.
1:28 pm
a bipartisan effort that he believes can and should produce a law that he can sign that reflects the principles that he's laid out a long time ago. so there's a lot of work to be done, and he's focused on that work. >> [inaudible] >> welcome back. >> i appreciate that. as you know, numerous members of congress over a period of a couple years wrote the irs and asked if conservative groups were being targeted. those officials did not respond. if it turns out that those officials did know at the time that they were, that conservative groups were being or had been targeted, should those officials be punished? >> that goes into -- i mean, the "if" phrasing is appropriate. if what we're seeing in some of these reports about specific targeting and actions taken by personnel within the irs turns out to be true, then, you know,
1:29 pm
people should be held accountable. and what that means in concrete action we'll have to see based on the information and the facts that are gathered principally at least at first by the inspector general. so you heard from the president yesterday. you heard the outrage that he conveyed at the reports of this kind of activity -- >> outrage or potential outrage? >> well -- >> [inaudible] >> i don't think you would want a president to be outraged about something that's turned out not to be true. >> he apologized for part of it. don't we know that part of it is fact? it's not in the if anymore, it's fact. >> i agree with that, and i think that was reflected in the tone and the nature of the comments you saw from the president. but on the broader issue here about getting all the facts, it really is important, in our view, in the president's view, that we let the independent inspect beer general complete -- inspector general complete that report, that we assess it when
1:30 pm
we see it because we haven't seen it. there have been suggestions in the reports that some of it has leaked out, but we haven't seen it. we don't have access to it. and when we do, we'll be able to assess it a lot more specifically than we can now. >> and one other question following up on jim's question about what he called the confluence of issues. you've got benghazi, hhs, doj. if you read some of the articles on this, it almost sounds like there's a siege going on. is there a siege mentality back there in the west wing right now? >> absolutely not. we are focused on the things that we can do to help the middle class, the things that we can do to move our economy forward, to help our kids get educated, to work with congress to achieve what will hopefully be a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill that this president can sign into law. working with congress as you've seen over the last weeks and months to see if we can find common ground on reducing our
1:31 pm
deficit in a balanced way that will help the economy grow, help it create more jobs. you know, we are focused on, you know, these fundamental issues that the american people sent this president to this office twice now to focus on. and, you know, i understand the, you know, the effort, i mean, the understand -- i understand the natural inclination to try to bunch some of these things together, but there really is a distinction here, and i think you heard it from the president that, you know, the ongoing obsession -- and i'm quoting now somebody describing the speaker of the house -- the ongoing discussion with the talking points on benghazi and attempts to politicize that constitute a side show that's driven purely by or largely by political interests and not the interests of finding out exactly what happened and who was responsible and taking the steps that we need to take to insure that our
1:32 pm
diplomats and our facilities are secure. that's what the president's been focused on, that's what you've seen in the report from the arb, the accountability review board, that was overseen by admiral mullen and ambassador pickering. and it's what you've seen in the president's insistence that the investigation led by the fbi into finding out who is responsible for the deaths of four americans reach a point where we can bring those responsible to justice. >> jay, on the ap phone record, what prevents the president from picking up a phone, calling eric holder and asking him what happened? >> an enormous, a great deal preventing the president from doing that. it would be holy inappropriate for the president to involve himself in an investigation that, as jessica points out at least as reported, involves leaks from the administration. i mean, imagine the story on fox if that were to happen.
1:33 pm
[laughter] so that's why. and -- [laughter] you know, this is -- we have seen from the press reports the information about attempts to seek phone records from the associated press, and we're not involved in those decisions. and we can't comment on an ongoing criminal investigation for reasons that i think -- i know maybe the question was rhetorical, but i think are pretty apparent to everyone who's covered these things over the years. >> is it your understanding that no one could have ordered this by the attorney general? >> it isn't -- well, it's my understanding that this is the something that the department of justice does and that the investigators at the department of justice handle. there is, i believe, when it comes to these kinds of things a decision making process, but i would refer you to the department of justice for who actually made the decision that's been reported. because, again, our information comes only from press reports on
1:34 pm
this. >> if that turns out to be the attorney general or whoever it turns out to be, will the president have confidence in that person? >> the president has confidence in the attorney general. he has confidence in his team over at the department of justice. i think that the -- again, i'm not going to comment on the specifics of an investigation here. i think that it is important to note that, as i've said earlier, that there is a balance here that has to be struck between our national security interests and the need to prevent classified information from leaking, classified information that can endanger americans and harm our national security -- >> and -- >> on the one hand, and the president's firm commitment to the need for reporters to be able to, in an unfettered way with, pursue investigative journalism. >> and do you believe it's possible to strike that balance and at the same time subpoena the phone records -- >> i just can't comment on the specific reports that you cite. i can say that the president does believe that that balance should be sought and can be found. but it is a, it is a balance
1:35 pm
and, therefore, something that, you know, we need to constantly work at. and you've seen from the past from the measures that the president supported as a senator that he believed actions should be taken to alter the balance. but i cannot comment on this specific investigation for all the obvious reasons. >> but we know it happened just as the irs admitted what it had done in terms of the tea party and other groups. the ap knows its phone records were subpoenaed because the justice department told the ap. the president find in any way that might fit in the balance -- >> again, it would be inappropriate to comment on the specific investigation and the methods that have been reported. i can tell you that it is important to protect our national security, classified information. it is also, in the president's view, essential to allow journalists to be able to pursue in an unfete beered way investigative journalism.
1:36 pm
>> jay -- >> [inaudible] >> you keep talking about then-senator obama supported a piece of legislation, but it's a fact as president he killed that piece of legislation in october 2009 that made it so that the protections that supported having judicial review on -- >> [inaudible] >> and then he, there was an opportunity for this bill to be passed. chuck schumer was supportive of it, and he said it was the white house that had problems with it. >> well, i think, first of all, you're talking about separate pieces of legislation and a legislative history that bears a little more looking into. the president's position on this is what it was as a senator. the, but the fact is i cannot then appropriately apply his support more that measure -- >> he supported this piece of legislation, we wouldn't be having this conversation today, because there would be a -- he supported a judicial review when it came to some of this and what happened to it in 2007?
1:37 pm
>> i'm asking what happened to it in 2009 -- >> the legislative history here is a little more complicated than you present -- >> the democrats were this charge. this is 2009. who cares about 2007? we know what he said on the campaign trail in 2008 when it came to this issue. he had a chance to support this and make it happen. why did he change -- [inaudible conversations] the administration said, essentially, the president changed his position because of certain things on national security. can you explain -- >> again, broadly speaking the president does support the ability of journalists in an unfete beered way to pursue investigative journalism. he believes we have to find a balance between that goal -- >> so he believed in the '08, he didn't believe once he was president? >> again, i think he has addressed this some, and i think he, you know, you are obviously free to ask him the a press cone to ask him about this. but the fact is as president, as
1:38 pm
president he, obviously, has responsibilities as commander in chief to insure that classified information that the nation's secrets that is highly sensitive information is not leaked because the leaking of that information can endanger individuals. >> he believed the point of the press is sometimes to be the watchdog of the watchdog a little bit and that the judiciary branch is probably the appropriate place for them to make that determination. look, you guys will claim classified, you know, in the views of an administration, any administration claims anything can fall under the rubrics of that. but having a third party make that decision about is it truly going to endanger lives, is it truly going to do this, and you make your case in front of a third party. does the president support that kind of -- >> well, i -- >> that kind of protection for
1:39 pm
media sources. >> i don't have an answer to that specific she yea owe. -- scenario. >> he supported it in 2008. >> well, then he does support protections for the media. he does believe we need to take measures to insure that the media can pursue investigative journalism in an unfettered way. and we have to balance that goal with the very real national security interests we have as a nation. and, you know, understandably there is great concern when classified information is leaked that can jeopardize our national security interests or endanger individuals. >> i want to follow up, i still, i still don't quite understand the timeline. we had members of congress complaining about for two years. did it just never reach you guys here at the white house that there was these complaints that conservative groups felt that they were being singled out and targeted? any point -- >> i'm not sure that people, i'm sure people were aware of and knew some of the stories, but i -- that had been reported about the complaints, but we were not aware of any activity
1:40 pm
or of any review conducted by the inspector general until several weeks ago. >> should you have been made aware sooner? >> well, i was asked that before, and i don't want to -- >> i don't understand -- >> let's just say that -- >> why wouldn't you want to know that? >> well, first of all, for all the reasons why there should be distance between, you know, why the irs should not be politicized. you know, there has to be that distance. but on the specific question that you have, i want to wait and see what the report says and wait and see what we actually know happened and what the facts are before we comment beyond what the president said yesterday on this matter and before we make any decisions or pronouncements about what actions should be taken. i mean, you heard a what the president said about what he believes and what he feels should what's reported about specific targeting turn out to be true. but we need to wait and see if that's, in fact, the case and
1:41 pm
how -- and what the scope of it is before we make decisions about how to proceed. >> do you have any update about when you're going to -- i know that republican senator bob corker of tennessee is saying he's been waiting for an explanation on the hamid karzai claiming cash payments from the cia and that these cash payments are continuing, and he's been confirming this and claiming it in afghanistan, and senator corker was hoping for an explanation from the president. and he said it's now been two letters, and he hasn't gotten an explanation. >> i'm not aware of the letters. i'll have to take the question. the specific story itself involves the cia, and i'd have to refer you to them. >> still -- >> with with regard to the letters, i'll let you know if there's a response. >> jay? >> yeah. >> jay, you've used this formulation about the president's support for unfettered investigative reporting a number of times here. to what extent is he, is the former constitutional law professor in the oval office
1:42 pm
torn between that philosophy and the case for, you know, going after leaks? >> i think the appropriate way to describe it is that the president believes there needs to be a balance. because there is an interest in making sure that classified information that isceps -- that is sensitive is not leaked because of the consequences to national security and to individuals. but there is also an interest, in the president's view, in insuring that the press can pursue investigative journalism and be unfettered in that pursuit. and, you know, to the earlier point that chuck was making, you know, even after he became president the attorney general and director of national intelligence -- after the president took office -- his attorney general and his director of national intelligence sent a letter to congress in november of 2009 expressing the administration's support for media shield legislation.
1:43 pm
so the position that the president held as a senator he continues to hold as president. but that balance is important. and, you know, again without commenting on specific reports about specific cases, you know, we have to be mindful of the fact that national security interests are significant and classified information needs to be protected. finish. >> well, he has to know that a reporter can't be unfettered if a reporter is subjected to a fishing expedition, personal phone records and office phone records. >> well, broadly speaking, i think that the president understands that a reporter needs to be shielded in the way that he's supported as a senator and is supported as a president. i cannot, because of the nature of your question, express an opinion about reported developments in a criminal investigation currently underway
1:44 pm
at the department of justice. >> with say, jay -- >> you just said categorically that no one from the white house or on the president's political team was involved and yet the bulk of this press conference saying you don't have all the facts. >> what il you is that -- >> what gives you that confidence? >> i can tell you that as i think i said yesterday, the white house counsel was arelaterred about this -- alerted about this ig review and the general topic of it just a few weeks ago. and prior, i mean, i -- >> how do you compare from being categorically certain that anybody from the team -- >> i have no reason to believe. >> so you're doing this on good faith? >> well, i can tell you that i am not aware of anyone here knowing about it. it would be, obviously -- >> so it's not your direct knowledge of being aware of anyone here. >> you know, you can ask me if, you know, somebody --
1:45 pm
>> you've asserted something categorically -- [inaudible conversations] >> i am certainly not aware of and am confident that no one here was involved in this. we found out about it just a few weeks ago and when i say, "we," i didn't, the president didn't, the white house counsel found out about the review being conducted and coming to conclusion. >> so what gives you the confidence? >> i can say i feel confident, but i don't have any -- >> because you have the facts? >> you're asking me to prove a negative, hans. >> well, you've made the assertion. you're the one that actually put the, you know, put it out there. >> again, you heard the president express his views. and we're going to wait and see what the facts are based on the independent inspector genre view. and then we will -- general review, is and then we will make judgments about those facts and what next steps might be taken and by whom and what actions might be taken. but i'm not going to get into
1:46 pm
any more details about it, because it would be inappropriate to do so. >> i want to follow up on a question, this has nothing to do about the -- [inaudible] this administration in the last four years has prosecuted twice as many leakers as every previous administration combined. how does that reflect balance? >> i would say that the president is committed to the press' ability to pursue information, to defending the first amendment. he is also, as a citizen and as commander in the chief, committed to the proposition that we cannot allow, you know, classified information to be -- that can do harm to our national security interests or to endanger individuals to be leaked. and that is a balance that has to be struck. >> but the record of the last four years does not suggest balance. >> that's your opinion. >> twice as many prosecutions as all previous administrations combined. that's not even clo. >> i understand that, you know,
1:47 pm
there are ongoing investigations that preceded this administration, but again, i'm not going to -- i can tell you what the president's views are, and the president's views include his defense of the first amendment, his belief that journalists ought to be able to pursue information in an unfettered way, and that is backed up by his support for a media shield law both as senator and as president. and it is also true that he believes a balance needs to be struck between those goals and the need to protect classified information. and, you know, you're not going to hear him say that it's okay for the nation's secrets to be freely reported when that information can end danger our national -- endanger our national security and endanger individuals. >> do you think a fair analysis of this administration's actions reflect the views you just described? >> i believe that the president supports balance and that he has made that clear both as president and within his administration. you know, i cannot comment on the specific case, but i can tell you what the president believes in, what his actions
1:48 pm
have been in the past. >> [inaudible] [inaudible conversations] >> okay -- [inaudible] made the goal ofalce within his administration. can you describe how he's communicated that within the administration or within the justice department as far as guy dance? >> well, the president's -- i think i just cited a november 2009 letter to congress from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence expressing the administration's support, the obama administration's support for media shield legislation. so that is a clear expression from several components of the administration about the president's views. i can tell you that as somebody who spends a lot of time with him and speak about the press frequently that he firmly believes in the need to defend the first amendment and the need, you know, for reporters to be able to do their jobs. he is also, as commander and chief and a citizen, interested in the protection of sensitive
1:49 pm
information that can, if released, endanger our national security or endanger individuals. and i think that is a balance that every american would expect a president to seek in his views and in his actions. >> is that reviewed privately? >> i'm just saying that i know because i've spent time with him what his general views about this matter are. >> [inaudible] >> jay, a couple of questions. did you know that the attorney general has recused himself of this investigation? did you know that? >> i did learn that before i came out. it was reported right before i came out. >> so you said earlier that it wouldn't make any -- it would be inappropriate for the president to talk -- >> as a general matter for the president to pick up the phone and talk to the attorney general about an ongoing criminal investigation at the department of justice, it's safe to say it would be inappropriate. >> okay, let me ask you two more questions. is there an expectation at the white house that the leak investigation should expand to more news outlets beyond the
1:50 pm
associated press? >> again, this is something we would have no knowledge about, and i would have to refer you to the department of justice. >> and one more question. at any time during this administration, do you have any knowledge of any wiretaps or any tapping of work space as reported -- this is a serious question -- >> no. and, again, this is -- [laughter] i don't. and any suggestion that somebody here would is, you know, goes to the heart of what i'm saying. you know, these are questions for the department of justice. and, you know, i would refer you to what's been reported. >> [inaudible] >> first of all, connie, happy birthday. >> thank you. is there a possibility that any of the -- [inaudible] could have instigated these leaks -- [inaudible] >> instigated the leaks? >> [inaudible] >> i have no idea. i mean, i think that the reporting, you know, that people, sources that are cited, you're asking me sort of hypotheticals about things that i wouldn't be able to answer.
1:51 pm
>> and one more question. the president is human. when he first found out about these, the ap stories, did he curse? >> i'm not going to talk about private conversation, but i can tell you that he found out about it yesterday. [laughter] >> three questions. first of all, when you're saying the department -- [inaudible] involves itself in an ongoing criminal investigation, just to clarify, which ones are we talking about? i'm speaking about trayvon martin and -- [inaudible] >> the president, these are, the federal investigation that has been reported, again, based on news reports, and we do not -- appropriately so -- have any insight into that investigation or communications about that investigation. so, you know, we have to knowledge of independently any attempt by the justice department to subpoena phone records of the associated press beyond the press reports that we've read. >> second question about the irs, following up on what -- [inaudible] were asking you, it was reported
1:52 pm
in very -- [inaudible] news organizations for several years the complaints from the organizations that felt that they were being targeted by irs. we have very prominent lawmakers on the republican side of the aisle who actually gave speeches about it and talked about it long before we would have known about the ig report. so i just wanted to make sure, are we going to find out because of the president's animosity or mixed feelings or shortcomings about citizens united that he himself appreciated or wanted the irs to be looking into -- [inaudible] >> that's a preposterous assertion, alexis, and you've heard from the president that if this turns out to be true, he would be outranged. and he specifically said if there was specific targeting of conservative groups, that would be wrong and outrageous, and there should be people held accountable for it. it's not who we are, it's not the way the irs should ever operate. if it turns out to be true.
1:53 pm
>> [inaudible] third question, quick question. on benghazi -- [inaudible] obtained part of an e-mail as part of that e-mail trail, and -- [inaudible] so my question is, because we're eight months into what you called a political circus and part of that e-mail has come out -- >> i think the entire e-mail, the report i read showed the entire e-mail, and what it showed is republicans who were leaking these press, these e-mails that had been shared with congress didn't just do that, they decided to fabricate portions of an e-mail and make up portions of an e-mail in order to fit a political narrative. and i think -- i'm not surprised by it because we've seen it again and again. we've seen it in remember the issue in the committee's report, the republican committee report about, you know, secretary clinton's signature and the fact that they, of course, didn't include the truth behind that, that this was an automated signature, and she had no
1:54 pm
involvement in that e-mail. so, you know, i think it just reinforces what we've seen which is an ongoing effort to politicize this, to take -- to cherry pick information or in this case just make it up in order to fit a political narrative. >> so my question to you is after eight months of what you called a political circus, why not just put out the e-mails now? do the data dumps now? >> well, i think a couple of things because not in your question is the fact that we provided these e-mails to congress to relevant committees as well as leaders several months ago. at the time some republicans said they were fairly satisfied with the information, that they felt they knew what they needed to know. this was about the confirmation of john brennan as the new head of the cia. they moved forward with that nomination and confirmed john brennan in that position. the speaker of the house is reported to be obsessed with benghazi and the political nefits of this pursuit. >> [inaudible] >> well, hold on, i'm just doing a great prelude to the answer which is -- [laughter]
1:55 pm
preface. so the speaker of the house is obsessed with this, has made all sorts of demands, and it turns out his office wasn't provided the information, but as obsessed as he was, he didn't show up to get the briefing, but a staffer did. so he's known all along what these e-mails do and don't contain. so i think the evidence is pretty overwhelming -- >> [inaudible] >> the answer is what i've said before which is that this is as it has been consistently the case with administrations of both parties, the internal deliberations of -- alexis, shake your head and editorialize -- >> [inaudible] covering other administrations when it didn't work and the information comes out. just put it out. >> well, the information comes out but not -- if people leak information as they have on the hill, you know, for political purposes, that's one thing. as a party of course, releasing internal deliberations is something that goes to the kind of protections that have existed for the executive branch for many administrations of both
1:56 pm
parties. and the fact is, and i think, again, in the full reporting of this story we did something rather extraordinary which is provide these e-mails to the committees, the relevant committees in camera -- fancy legal term for meaning they could spend all the time they wanted with them, make notes, copy them verbatim or not so verbatim as it turns out -- and then, you know, go on their way and make their assessments which is what we did. >> [inaudible] >> thank you, jay. has the president spoken to pakistan's incoming prime minister after elections? >> he has. today the president spoke by phone with sharif, president of pakistan -- [inaudible] to congratulate him on his party's success in the may 11th parliamentary elections. as you know, over the weekend the president also commended the people of pakistan on the successful completion of their parliamentary elections. the united states stands with all pakistanis in welcoming this
1:57 pm
historic, peaceful and transparent transfer of civilian power which is a significant milestone in pakistan's democratic progress. it really is important to note the significance of consecutive democratic elections and the transfer of civilian power from one government to the next. the united states and pakistan have a long history of working together on mutual interests, and this administration looks forward to continuing our cooperation with the pakistani government that emerges from this election as equal partners in supporting a more stable, secure and prosperous future for the people of pakistan. >> [inaudible] incoming prime minister spoke about -- [inaudible] did that issue come up during the conversation? >> not -- i think the contents of this conversation were reflect inside what i just, what i just said. mark. >> does the white house amid all those nice words about the pakistan election have a position on the fact that "the new york times" bureau chief was
1:58 pm
asked to leave the country with 72 hours' notice literally on the day of that election? >> i don't have a specific reaction to that from the white house. we, obviously, have a broad interest not just in the matters that we've been discussing here today, but in general including in international reporting if governments around the country permitting journalists, american and otherwise, to operate freely. and i don't have the specifics on this case, at least in an official capacity. i certainly have followed it and read about it. but, you know, it's a general principle that we believe reporters ought to be able to work and to work safely around the world. >> can i follow on one of -- [inaudible] on benghazi? >> uh-huh. >> does the white house, and this goes back to a talking point, does the white house believe that the state department has valid equities that needed to be protected in the drafting of those talking
1:59 pm
points? >> i think, well, i would refer you to -- i would point you to the cnn story about, you know, a particular e-mail that was misrepresented in the reporting about it originally where no discussion of the state department specifically. but in general the process that we've described where agencies with a stake in an issue like what happened in benghazi, obviously, you know, are part of it and present their views. in this case the cia had the lead when it came to drafting the talking points. much unreported is that the many iterations of these so-called talking points or at least the discussions about what should be included contain changes made from within the cia, as i think people have recognized. but in the end, you know, what was produced by the cia was a distillation of both the view of the agencies involved, but most importantly, reflective of what the cia felt at the top was a
2:00 pm
fair representation for public use of what they knew at that time. and, you know, as we know and as was made clear in the talking points themselves because they were caveated to explain that more information would become available, that our picture would change and evolve with what happened. you know, some of what was originally put forward as what we believed to have happened in benghazi turned out not to have been true which we acknowledged and talks about when that became evident. so as the president said yesterday, the head of the nctc went up and talked about just that just a few days after ambassador rice was on the sunday shows. >> the key misrepresentation of that e-mail was the fact that the e-mail as reported had the state department singled out, and it appears a valid e-mail did not have the state department singled out. so i guess my question is the state department raised a series of concerns. are we to believe that those concerns were not uppermost in the minds of the white house? >> i think you should believe that, as i understand it, it
2:01 pm
was -- there was an effort here, a focus here and elsewhere on making sure that what we said as an administration and what we provided to congress was as accurate as it could be and did not, you know, there was a lot of misinformation as is always the case in an incident like this in the initial hours and days afterwards, and a lot of, you know, assessments about what might have happened but contradictory information about what might have happened. and it's the job of the intelligence community in this case to sort of filter think that and assess -- filter through that and assess what its position is and what those points for public consumption can reflect. and that's what happened. i don't think it was about one particular agency. i think it was about, you know, the community at large led by the, in this case, cia. [inaudible conversations] >> one more? >> one more. >> thank you. does prime minister -- [inaudible] explain that -- my first
2:02 pm
question, two quick questions -- [inaudible] border town in syria 50 people got killed and dozens injured. what's your reaction and any reaction from the white house? and is this going to change your approach to -- [inaudible] one of your allies? and second question -- [inaudible] >> well, first of all, the united states condemns the car bombings over the weekend. and we stand with turkey against such horrific violence. we extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims, and our thoughts are with those who are wounded. it's important to note always but particularly appropriate with the arrival of the prime minister that turkey is one of our strongest partners. we have worked shoulder to shoulder with the turks to counter terrorist threats, and this attack will only strengthen our resolve to work together to protect our people and fight
2:03 pm
instability and violence in the region. this is something that i fully expect, this incident, will be a matter of discussion between the prime minister and the president. as friends and nato ally, the united states and turkey are partners in addressing a range of critical global and regional issues. they will clearly discuss syria which is an interest that they share. they will also talk about stability in the middle east, trade and economic cooperation and countering global terrorism overall. the prime minister's visit underscores the close friendship between the u.s. and turkey and the strategic importance we place on broadening and deepening that relationship moving forward. last one. >> on the chemical weapon in syria, u.n. chemical weapons chief said that time is running out. he says this a few days ago, and he says there's traces of attack might be impossible to obtain very soon. and it has been -- [inaudible] that your administration
2:04 pm
admitted that it was used. what's the latest update? is that -- and the evidence, do you have it? >> well, we are working with our allies as well as with the syrian opposition to gather evidence. we continue to call on president basharal -- bashar al assad to allow the united states to conduct an investigation into the use of chemical weapons, an investigation that president assad said he wanted but has now blocked. but we're not relying on the u.n. alone. we are pursuing and gathering information independently of that and working with our allies and the syrian -- most importantly, the syrian opposition. i don't -- i don't have the depth of information about the progress that's being made to assess whether or not the report you said about the evidence available, whether or not that's the case. i know that we have been for some time now working in an
2:05 pm
effort to build on the intelligence community's assessment about the use of chemical weapons to make sure that we have a case, if you will, a set of facts that can be corroborated and reviewed. and from which we can make assessments about possible policy actions. even as that takes place as you have seen at the direction of the president, we have stepped up our humanitarian assistance, we have stepped up our assistance to the syrian opposition. we have made assistance available directly to the military, supreme military council of the opposition. nonlethal assistance, but we have stepped it up. and, you know, that process of constantly assessing the options that are available to us in this situation, assessing the ways that we can provide assistance to the opposition will continue even as we gather facts about
2:06 pm
possible chemical weapons use. thanks very much. [inaudible conversations] >> spokesman jay carney wrapping up today's white house briefing. if you missed any of it, it is available at our web site. go to the u.s. senate is in session today. right now the senate's in recess for their weekly party lunch meetings. they will be pack at 2:15 eastern -- back at 2:15 to evaluate coastal, water and environmental projects. also coming up this week, votes on president obama's pick to head the energy department. we will have live coverage when senators return here on c-span2 and, again, that will be at 2:15 eastern. the senate judiciary committee is working today on an immigration bill to bring to the full senate. earlier today a group of house
2:07 pm
republicans vowed to oppose the bill as bipartisan support. the news conference led by iowa representative steve king, we will show you as much as possible until the senate returns at 2:15 eastern. [inaudible conversations] >> well, good morning. i appreciate you being here. we ordered up a nice day for an outdoor press conference so that we could look at the capitol in the background and comment on what's happening with the immigration issue across the, in the senate and what's happening in this country. i'm congressman steve king, i represent iowa's 4th congressional district. and about three or four weeks ago, some of us were in discussion wondering when the conservatives were going to speak up on this amnesty bill that was unfolding in the united states senate and that was being, i'll say, put together behind the scenes in the house. and congressman lou bar let and i had a conversation on the floor. that started, that started a
2:08 pm
meeting that we had, and about six people were -- arrived at that meeting to discuss how we were going to protect and defend the rule of law. from that time we've had several other meetings, done a little bit of other press and also pledged ourselves that we were going to do one-minute floor speeches, op-eds, press releases to get the message out that there's another viewpoint here. it's not the one that is being stampeded in the senate and maybe stampeded in the house. and so i would just submit to you that i have said on the immigration subcommittee, i'm into my 11th year. i don't know how many have spent more time studying this issue than i have. there likely are a few. one of them is lamar smith who is the author of the 1996 immigration reform act, and just the most recent past chairman of the judiciary committee. he sends his regrets. he would very much like to be here. he has a pinched nerve in his back that disallows him to be here today. as is the case for lou bar let
2:09 pm
that who badly wanted to be here and couldn't make the transportation work out. he'll be passing out a letter that he wanted to submit. but both of those gentlemen wanted to join their support in this press conference. i would make this point, that through an 844-pag in t senate, whether amended or not in what ways we can anticipate it might be, is still a terrible idea if you look at it from an economic perspective. at no stage in their lives do, does the universe of those who would receive amnesty make a net financial contribution to this country. at no stage. not a single year out of all those years, and that's off of heritage foundation's report, robert rector's report which many of you are familiar with. it destroys the rule of law. and the rule of law is an essential pill hard of american exceptional limb -- pillar of american exceptionalism. if we reward people who break the law, they're unlikely to
2:10 pm
raise their children to respect it. the rule of law, at least with regard to immigration, it would be destroyed. and the promise that the law would be enforced from this point forward, i don't know how we can listen to that with a straight face. we remember the '86 amnesty act, and each amnesty act since then -- there were about six after that, smaller ones that didn't meet the news so much -- and they also were the promises for the next group that would be amnestied. this group of 11.3 million that they're calculating will be bigger than they say. that always has been the case. it was roughly going to be a million in 1986. it became three million in 1986. this number will be larger. it's predicted to be something like 33 million by the time you add in the legal and illegal. and i think that number perhaps grows from there. the assimilation that's been an important part of america is a different scenario than we have had in the past. i've noticed that the people that are for open borders aren't really the embracers of assimilation. and assimilation is what has made america greathe giant
2:11 pm
melting pot. i'm for that. i want t see people comingle and intermingle. i want to see them embrace this thing i call cultural continuity. that's the american culture and civilization. the promise about learning english, it's easy to follow through with that promise, let's just pass the official english bill. they aren't willing to do that because they're not serious. and it doesn't either take into consideration the illegal drugs that come across the southern border. it's a promise to secure the border, not much of a promise, but a promise. 80-90% of the illegal drugs consumed in america come from or through mexico. that's a problem that needs to be addressed. we can secure this border. i can tell you that i could secure this border with the resources that we have in less than five years if you gave me janet napolitano's job and the president didn't tie my hands. the resources are there. they are not serious. we can't take these people seriously because the people on the other side of the aisle, they want am messty for a number of reasons -- amnesty for a number of reasons. the biggest one, it's a big
2:12 pm
political boost for them. i don't understand how republicans think it's a good idea, but somehow they've bought into this idea. from are a national security stand point, we know we have large numbers. some of it's classified, some of it was quantifiable that flow across the southern border that come here to do us harm. so the big question i would pose out there is why, why is that 844-page bill, why is it good for america or americans? i can't get that answer on why it's good for us, but perhaps some of my colleagues do you doe some answers to that. i suspect they have some criticism. and i'd like to first introduce the gentleman from texas, my good friend, louis gohmert. >> this is a very, very critical issue for this country. we are a land of immigrants, native americans, but then the thing i loved that i saw the day after the worst attack in
2:13 pm
american history is people gathered around in courthouse squares like we did in my hometown. we held hands, we sang together, we prayed together, and as i looked around the circle at all races, creed, colors, we had all types of folks there. but that day on 9/12/2001, there was no hyphenated americans anywhere. we were all simply americans. that came from people immigrating and becoming one people. e pluribus unum. out of many came one people. and that makes us strong. and when we ignore the rule of law, we actually become like countries that many immigrants are fleeing, because the rule of law if it's and so you have to come to a country where the rule of law is enforced. the only thing worse is to come
2:14 pm
and say now that we're here, we want you to ignore the rule of law that made you -- >> live now to the senate floor for more work on the water projects bill.
2:15 pm
2:16 pm
2:17 pm
mrs. boxer: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: what is the order? the presiding officer: the senate is considering s. 601. mrs. boxer: okay. we are working on our finite list and we expect to make our unanimous consent request shortly, but i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
2:18 pm
ms. landrieu: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. ms. landrieu: thank you, madam president. i ask unanimous consent to dispense with the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. landrieu: thank you. while we had some downtime on the floor as we wait for the 2:30 hour, where i believe we're going to have some action on the wrda bill, which is very important, i thought i would take this time to talk about an amendment that i have pending on the wrda bill. it's an amendment i offer for myself, madam president, senator vitter, senator schumer, senator menendez, and several other senators have expressed their strong support over the weekend on both sides, republicans and democrats. because there are many states in the union -- louisiana is only
2:19 pm
one -- but the state of florida, the state of california, the state of mississippi, the state of alabama, other coastal states, and, yes, some inland states are going to be terribly disadvantaged if the landrieu-vitter amendment does not pass on the wrda bill. what's going to happen, because of a reform bill that -- parts of it were necessary but there were some parts that, in my view and in the view of many senators, should never have passed as part of the flood insurance reform bill. the reason some of us are fairly exercised about this is that the bill itself, the "reform bill" to "reform" the flood insurance program of the united states never came to this floor for debate. it came out of the banking committee and then it was basically tucked into a larger omnibus bill, which happens sometimes -- it's not the only or the first time it's happened;
2:20 pm
it's very unfortunate it happened on this bill. because in our haste and our good intentions to try to put the flood insurance program on a more even financial keel, we have put the ability, unfortunately, in this bill for rates, flood insurance rates, to go up 20% a year on hundreds of thousands of first homes in this country. not second homes, not vacation homes, first homes. now, the landrieu-vitter amendment doesn't try to solve this whole problem on the wrda bill, okay? it's going to take a little bit of work, which we can do, working together in good faith on behalf of our constituents. this is big government at its worst, you know, passing a reform bill and making the -- you know, the cure worse than the disease. and in this case, for my
2:21 pm
constituents and for constituents in florida and in mississippi and california and new jersey, you know, we would have taken the disease as opposed to the cure. the cure is going to kill us. i mean, we were a little -- we weren't sure about the disease, but the cure is going to kl us us. our papers have been editorializing now for days since this issue has come to the surface on the wrda bill. our largest newspaper or second largest newspaper editorialized this morning and called out the young -- well, a couple, not very young, quite senior, a woman in her 80's that lives with her daughter in her 60's in plaquemines parish, very, very typical of families living together, different generations. they were in plaquemines parish before the flood insurance measure was ever passed. i mean, we were living in louisiana before this nation was a nation. our people have been down there a long time living in this wat
2:22 pm
water. they built their house centuries -- not this couple, but we have houses centuries built before this bill was ever passed. and now what the law, "the cure" that's going to kill us says, says this is what their choice is. they can elevate their home 18 feet, which probably roughly would cost $50,000, which they don't have; or their flood insurance would go up to something like $15,000 or $20,000 a year, which they can't pay. so you say, well, that's too bad. let them sell the house. their house has no value. now, this is a dilemma not just for people of louisiana, for people of mississippi, alabama, california, new york. and we have a solution. and guess what? the solution that i've offered is temporary until we can be smart and think about how to fix this, and it doesn't cost anything. so i am begging the -- the
2:23 pm
members here, allow us this short period of time to get this cure correct. we can find a way to make this program balance. we don't have to do that today, at this moment, and give us a little breathing room to figure this out. now, i believe this program could be self-sustaining. i'm not an expert on insurance, but i am very fortunate to serve with colleagues that are. i am sure we can put our heads together and come up with something better than what is being -- you know, what's coming down, you know, like a fire hose out there to lots of people in communities in florida, in louisiana, in mississippi and alabama. so my understanding is the manager -- themanagers are not - that there are about eight or nine amendments that have been worked out hopefully on both sides of the aisle. one of them is the landrieu-vitter fix the flood
2:24 pm
insurance program amendment that has zero cost to the taxpayer. zero. it is a temporary reprieve of rates going up for grandfathered homes which affect many people in florida and louisiana and in other states as well. zero score. c.b.o. has testified. we have letters from c.b.o. please give our people this breathing room, and i promise you i'll work in good faith. there are probably a few other things that need to be fixed in this flood insurance bill as we find a better way to lower costs to the taxpayer and to provide opportunities for people to be able to live on a mountaintop if they choose or in a valley if they want or on the coast, but to live safely, to be sustainable. and if we all work together as a country, we can find an affordable way for our people and not just millionaires to be able to live on the coast. we have to make room for our
2:25 pm
fishermen and, you know, our agriculture, our farmers, our aquaculture folks that have invested a good amount of money in helping to build a more sustainable fisheries for our nation. we have people that have to live near the water for commerce and trade. not everybody lives by the water to vacation. you know, some people live by the water to work, an essential part of the work to keep this country moving forward. and we've got to figure out a way to allow them to do that in a affordable manner, madam president, without completely undermining the coastal countries of our country. so the -- senator schumer's on the floor now and some others who have really been working, and i thank them for helping over the weekend. let's hope we can get this list of amendments cleared, and one of those amendments will be the landrieu-vitter amendment on fixing temporarily, giving some reprieve for thousands of homeowners who are desperate for
2:26 pm
a signal from us that we get it, we understand, we didn't cre this appropriately, and we are going to respond, as a democracy should, and give them a little signal today that as the wrda bill moves forward, we can fine-tune and modify this flood insurance reform. i yield the floor and i understand we're ready for some action on wrda, and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
2:27 pm
2:28 pm
2:29 pm
quorum call:
2:30 pm
2:31 pm
2:32 pm
2:33 pm
2:34 pm
2:35 pm
2:36 pm
2:37 pm
2:38 pm
2:39 pm
2:40 pm
2:41 pm
2:42 pm
2:43 pm
2:44 pm
quorum call:
2:45 pm
2:46 pm
2:47 pm
2:48 pm
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: madam president, for the interest of senators --,. the presiding officer: we are in a quorum call. mrs. boxer: i ask that it be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: we are very shortly
2:49 pm
going to profound a consent agreement cleared by senator vitter and myself. and we'll see where that takes us and if it needs to be modified, we may well do that. but i wanted senators to know it is our hope we can avert a cloture vote at this time. so i ask unanimous consent that the following amendments be considered and agreed to en bloc. baucus number 847, boxer-vitter number 899 as modified, inhofe number 895, wicker number 895, inhofe number 867, boozman number 872, thune number 912, corner number 880, murkowski number 904, klobuchar number 884, wyden number 870 as modified, cochran number 911 as modified, carper number 882, murkowski, number 903 as modified. durbin number 906 as modified,
2:50 pm
levin number 893, collins number 89 , cardin number 861 as modified, brown-graham number 907 and wyden number 896. further, that the only remaining amendments in order to the bill be the following, inhofe number 797, barrasso number 868, sanders number 889, johnson and landrieu, johnson number 891, landrieu number 888, coburn number 815, coburn number 816, boozman number 822, merkley number 866, udall of new mexico number 85 , and hoeven number 909. further, that no second-degree amendments be in order to any of the amendments prior to in relation to the amendments and the time until 5:00 p.m. be equally divided between the two
2:51 pm
leaders or designees for debate on all of the amendments and that at 5:00 p.m. the senate proceed to vote in relation to the amendments in the order i have listed, that all after the first vote be ten-minute votes, that there be two minutes equally divided prior to each vote, that the following amendments be subjected to a 60 affirmative vote threshold, sanders number 899, johnson number 891, landrieu 888, and barrasso number 868. and finally, that upon disposition of the hoeven amendment number 909, the cloture motion be withdrawn, the senate proceed to vote on the passage of s. 601 as amended. the presiding officer: is there objection? a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. toomey: madam president, reserving the right to object, i just want to point out there is one amendment in this package that is very troubling to me. under the current flood insurance law that we passed just ten months ago, we put in
2:52 pm
place a mechanism to diminish the subsidization that occurs now where homeowners in low-risk areas are made to subsidize homeowners in high-risk areas by the way of the nature premiums are set. the existing law is designed to diminish significantly that unfair subsidy that occurs. and i think that's why the chairman and the ranking members of the banking committee and many others of our colleague oppose this amendment. if this amendment goes through, the landrieu amendment number 888, then for five years this reform can't take place. and that means not only do people in low-risk areas continue subsidizing people in high-rescue areas, but because people in high-risk areas are paying lower premiums, it creates the moral hazard of a risk to continue building in high-risk areas with the expectation if this will continue and jeopardizing taxpayer funds. this is already a program that's
2:53 pm
$24 billion in debt and that's the reason that i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. the senator from california. mrs. boxer: so it is my understanding listening to my friend from pennsylvania that he objects to the landrieu amendment. it is also my understanding that senator landrieu would like to be heard on this matter, and then i will propound a new consent. i ask she she get the floor and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. ms. landrieu: i want to clarify through the chair the senator from pennsylvania is not objecting to the long list of amendments as described by the chairman of the committee. he is only objecting to amendment number 888, and objecting to a vote on amendment 888 by myself, senator vitter, senator schumer, senator menendez, senator lautenberg, and others. is that correct?
2:54 pm
you objecting to a vote or to the amendment? mr. toomey: my understanding there is a unanimous consent request for a series of amendments on this bill, and i'm objecting to that consent request because it contains the landrieu 888 amendment. ms. landrieu: so it's my understanding through the chair that the senator is objecting to a vote on the amendment. he is most certainly entitled in my view to vote against the amendment. that's what debate on the floor is all about. but he's not objecting -- he's not expressing his objection to that, he's -- he is objecting to having a vote on the amendment. is that correct? mr. toomey: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. toomey: as i said earlier, this is a matter that has been litigated and adjudicated in this body. we have had a vote on this. this has not come back through committee. this would cause i think
2:55 pm
considerable risk to taxpayers, and if the senator from louisiana believes this is something that 23450edz to be addressed yet again despite the fact that ten months ago we had a vote on this and we did vote, then i'd be happy to work with the senator on how we might address that. but my objection still remains. ms. landrieu: madam president, i'm just trying to get clarification through the chair from the senator from pennsylvania. i understand he objects to my amendment. i'd just like a yes or no answer. is he objecting to a vote on the amendment? mr. toomey: madam president -- the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. toomey: i think i answered the question. ms. landrieu: he did not answer the question clearly, but since he won't which is unfortunate i want to make it clear that the senator from pennsylvania is objecting to a vote on the landrieu-vitter amendment.
2:56 pm
he most certainly is entitled to vote no on our amendment. other senators may vote no but i want the record to show that he's just saying no, we can't even have a vote. and if i could have five more minutes -- three. i'll take three more minutes. i want to say how disappointing it is to me because the senator is, unfortunately, wrong on several counts. number one, this floor never voted on the biggert-waters bill. as i've said a dozen times, the bill came out of the banking committee with broad bipartisan support. a different bill was passed by the house. and then these two bills that were very, very different and tried to, quote, reform the flood insurance program, we're tucked into a conference committee report. i want the record to show this floor never voted on the reform. and the cure that came out of the conference committee is worse than the disease, and
2:57 pm
secondly, i want to tell the senator from pennsylvania i think this is going to come back to haunt him because the people of his own state are going to be negatively affected by his actions today. there are 74,000 people in pennsylvania, 4,000 in philadelphia alone, but 74,000 people in pennsylvania that pay flood insurance rates. and under the proposal that never came to this senate floor, those rates in some cases can go up 20% or 30% in a year. now, for the record, i want to put in in florida, two million people are affected, texas, 645,000. louisiana, 486. california, 256. new jersey, 240,000, south carolina, 205. new york, 178, north carolina, 138, i'm going to read all of this, virginia, 116, and pennsylvania, 74,000
2:58 pm
and i could go on and i'm going to submit this for the record. secondly, a letter from the national association of home builders. not a liberal leaning organization and not a group that just works in louisiana. people build homes all over america. including in pennsylvania. they gave a strong letter urging us to adopt the landrieu-vitter amendment which will just temporarily put a hold on raising rates 20% to 60% to 80% on grandfathered homes that were around before the flood insurance program was ever vented by members of this body, well before i was even a senator. and what the program says is the program should be widely available, it should be affordable so that people can live in many different places in america because this is one big great country with lots of different kinds of neighborhoods. that's what the home builders said and i'm going to submit their letter. evidently the senator from pennsylvania doesn't understand this so that's fine. we have disagreements and i
2:59 pm
respect him. he should vote no. but to stop a vote, and the third and final argument i'm going to make in my 30 seconds left, we worked so hard on this amendment that it doesn't even cost anything. we have a zero score. zero. zero. it does not cost one dime, not one dollar. and still the senator from pennsylvania, with 4,000 people in his state that could be affected, is objecting to even voting on giving people a chance. well, let kneel you something. we're going to be on this issue again. it is going to come back. i pray thoi praise nor senator d vitter for their hard work. this is really a shame that we can't even get a vote to postpone this issue, to try to see if we could make it more affordable, and it doesn't cost anything. so i am sorry, senator boxer, for holding you all up. i thought this was important.
3:00 pm
we worked on it all week. everybody is cleared except for one thor from pennsylvania. -- one senator from pennsylvania. and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. vitter: thank you, madam president. madam president, i rise to very briefly agree on two key points with my colleague from louisiana. first of all, on the substance of this amendment, i wholeheartedly agree with her; that's why i am a sponsor of the amendment as well. and we will visit this issue again because it is vitally important that we get it right, not just for tens of thousands of folks from louisiana but for millions across the country. we need to get this right, and we don't yet have it right. secondly, and also very importantly, i absolutely agree that we should have votes -- debate and votes on the senate floor. and i don't think any member should object just to having a
3:01 pm
vote on a matter. my colleague, the senator from pennsylvania, has been a leading advocate to have an open amendment process on the senate floor to allow votes. i agree with that. and that's why i fought with the chair of the committee to have that open amendment process in the context of this bill. we got it, and then at the end of the day he objects to even having a vote on a particular amendment he doesn't like. you can't have it both ways. and if you want an open amendment process on the floor, as i do, you're going to have to accept that you may have to take votes on amendments you don't agree with. i accept that. i wish he would accept that. and i wish this open amendment process -- and i hope it will continue and grow from here. thank you, mr. president. mrs. boxer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: mr. president, i think everybody who is listening to this understands there's been a disagreement here.
3:02 pm
a pretty tough one. but i have to praise senator landrieu for saying, look, i'm going to bring this fight back another day. and she has told me she would be willing to support a new, modified request, the same one i made about ten minutes ago, and take out johnson ohm 891 and landrieu amendment 888, and i believe that that new request will be acceptable to all in the senate. so i would renew any request with that change, the change of johnson 891 and the landrieu 888. and i ask unanimous consent that we move forward with this agreement at this time. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. rubio: thank you, mr. president. we were all scandalized o.i.f. the last 72 hours to learn that the internal revenue service of the united states, employees within the internal revenue
3:03 pm
service, were targeting fellow americans and political organizations because of their political views. and i think the scandal -- quite frankly, the feeling that we have is bipartisan. i hope it is because i don't think any of us want to see an agency of government being ud to target fellow americans because of their points of view on a political issue. it is a very serious issue. yesterday i called for the president to ask for the resignation of the acting chief of the i.r.s. i asked that there be a criminal investigation launched in this matter, which attorney general holder has announced today. that's why i have prepared an amendment that i think it's timely and i hope we will nuclear this body. and that is an amendment knacks it a crea crime that makes it ff the i.r.s. to target because of points of view. stand to ask the chairwoman if she would consider to allowing my rubio amendment 892 to be included in the unanimous consent agreement. mrs. boxer: if i might respond to my friend's request, the
3:04 pm
american people need to know we are dealing on this senate floor with a bill that's the water resources development act. it's about flood control, so that we don't have more hurricane sandies. so that we make those improvements in flood control. it is about ports, it is about 500,000 jobs, it is about restoring the everglades in my friend's home state -- what a beautiful spot that i say to my friend; it is about restoring chesapeake bay. it is not about the i.r.s. scandal. and let me just say, i couldn't agree more with my friend. anyone who would play politics at the i.r.s. is doing a disservice to this nation. and i'm happy to look at this law. they ought to be canned. the and i want to ask unanimouse i.r.s. into a church in my
3:05 pm
state, in my state, in the district of adam schiff, an democrats and republicans, this was the all saints church, asked for investigations into this and this is from 2505. i'd ask unanimous consent to place this into the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: aimed ask unanimous consent to place into the record an article that talks about the investigation of the naacp, which was involved with the i.r.s. in 2006. this is a continuing scandal. it's outrageous. and i think anyone who goes after a liberal group should be canged. anyone who goes a of a conservative group should be canned ... unless there is reason to do so and they are not following the rules of nonprofits, which is you can't be political. so i ask that we place those items in the record only to
3:06 pm
remind people that this is a bad thing that is happened, a terrible thing, and it's been a while. so i would object to request at we place such an urgently important matter on this long-term bill. it's going to take a while 230rr us to get it through the house. we don't know when the conference will come back. i would object to the unanimous consent request to turn a bill about this into a bill about the i.r.s. scandal. the presiding officer: the senator from california, on your second request, is there any objection? the chair hears none. it will be entered into the record. this. [inadinaudible] mr. rubio: let me close by saying that we need to understand what's happened here over the last 72 hours, what we found out. employees of the internal revenue service made a decision that they were going to -- they were going to specifically target groups that had things
3:07 pm
like "tea party" and the word "patriot" this their organization, groups that looked do things like protect the constitution of the united states. this is outrageous, and there is growing evidence that higher-ups, significant people in the i.r.s. knew about this and were not disclosing that to members of congress, people -- members of this body were asking the i.r.s. directly, are you involved in this? is this happening? and they were not giving them information that we now knew they had. so i will not to be this unanimous consent request, because of the importance of this issue. but this issue will not go away and cannot go away because of the importance of it. the presiding officer: is there objection to the request of senator california? without objection, so ordered. mrs. boxer: it is my understanding, mr. president, if i might -- and i would ask the floor staff to correct me here -- is it so that we just now passed the first number of bills
3:08 pm
that don't require votes, that that was just done in the unanimous consent? is that correct? the presiding officer: the senator is correct. mrs. boxer: i am very pleased with that because we had about 15 of these amendments, quite bipartisan, you know, half democratic, half republican. so that's good. now what we're going to do is take up the bills that -- the amendments that require votes. and it's my understanding that senator vitter wants to speak on the barrasso amendment, which is just fine. i just would say to colleagues, you now have approximately two hours to come down and make the case on your votes. so senators inhofe, barrasso, sanders, coburn, bozeman, merkley, udall, and hoeven much that's where we are. so if you wish to be heard, then it's time to come on over and be heard. but at this time i would yield the floor. mr. vitter: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from lewis lou. mr. vitter: thank you, mr. president. first of all, let me thank my
3:09 pm
colleague from california, the chair and all of my colleagues for allowing us to move forward with a very, very open amendment process. it's not quite as open a process as i would have wanted -- namely on the landrieu amendment because of the objection from my colleague from pennsylvania -- but it is, by any senate standard, a very open amendment process, and i think that is very healthy. and i join the chair in urging all of our colleagues who would like to debate upcoming votes to come to the floor now. the time is now. the time is between now and 5:00 p.m. please come to the floor. that's what i'm doing right now, because i want to talk about one of those amendments on which we will vote, the about about a ao amendment, about waters of the use. this is an important issue, mr. president. we believe -- john barrasso,
3:10 pm
many others -- that the e.p.a. should not be able to define and expand its regulatory jurisdiction in this case under the clean water act without undertaking a formal rule-making process that provides everyone, individuals, businesses, other stakeholders, the opportunity to give meaningful input. the clean water act authorizes e.p.a. to regulate the discharge of pollutants into -- quote -- "navigable waters." again, that is a very clear term, "and a halfabland a "navi" the act defines it as "the waters of the united states including the territorial seas." now, the trouble is clearly understanding what constitutes -- quote -- "the waters of the united states." for decades courts have considered the meaning of waters of the u.s. and yet uncertainty
3:11 pm
still remains. recently in 2006 -- about seven years ago in a rapanas decision -- the supreme court considered heath the army corps of engineers properly determined wet lands in michigan as being in -- quote -- "waters of the united states." now, although the court determined that the corps viewed its authority under the act too broadly, a majority of the justices still quo not come to a precise agreement into what waters of the u.s. means exactly. so they agreed about what it didn't mean in the context of that case, that the corps had gone too far afield, but they didn't clearly agree on exactly what it meant. more recently, justice alito in the sackette case, observed that the reach of the clean water act remains "notoriously unclear.
3:12 pm
"now, although justice alito and others have called on congress to examine the clean water act statutory language to make it precise, to clear up the confusion, he also noted that e.p.a. -- quote -- "has not seen fit to promulgate a rule providing a clear and sufficiently lomented definition of the phrase" -- that trays being "the waters of the united states. "instead, the e.p.a. has done something and unfortunately this is a trend at the e.p.a. the e.p.a. issued what it calls "guidance" on this issue. now according to the earnings the guidance -- quote -- "clarifies how the e.p.a. and the corps understand existing requirements of the clean water act and the agency's implementing regulations in light of relevant decisions. the problem is this: guidance is short of what the e.p.a. should do, which is to promulgate rules and regs.
3:13 pm
and it's short of that for a particular reason, because there's no clear-cut, nailed-down process for guidance. the e.p.a. can just make up what it wants without having to take input from affected parties. under law, there is clear-cut guidelines, rules for promulgating rules and regulations. and that's what the e.p.a. should do. so in this instance be, there are two problems. first of all, the guidance is simply mistaken. it's way too expansive in the view of many, many folks, including myself, including the author of this amendment, senator barrasso. but also very importantly, guidance doesn't have to go through a process. guidance doesn't elicit input from citizens, from impacting parties, from stakeholders, and that's another crucial issue involved. and so this bar rea regard barrt
3:14 pm
would go to the substance of the guidance and we think the e.p.a. is getting it wrong with regard to that substance. but it would also help underscore that there is a process for the e.p.a. to issue rules and regs and that's what the e.p.a. should be doing on important matters like this. not short cutting, circumventing that process by simply issuing guidance. so if the e.p.a. wishes to examine the meaning of -- quote -- "waters of the united states," in the clean water act, it needs to do so in a fair and transparent manner and in a way that provides all americans the chance to offer meaningful regulatory input. guidance doesn't do that. this guidance gets it wrong. but just at importantly, guidance doesn't fulfill that need for transparency and openness and the ability to accept input. this barrasso amendment would
3:15 pm
provide e.p.a. with precisely that opportunity, make them accept input and make them get it right. and that's why i strongly support the barrasso amendment. again, mr. president, i invite all of our colleagues to come down to the floor to debate any part of this bill, any aspect of pending amendments. we're open for business now until 5:00 p.m. on that. i think that's going to be a lot of time. we'll have a series of votes starting today going into tomorrow. i very much appreciate the chair of the committee and others who have allowed this very open amendment process on the floor of the senate. with that, mr. chairman, i suggest the absence of a quorum the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
3:16 pm
3:17 pm
mr. barrasso: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i'd like to call up amendment 868.
3:18 pm
the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: the senator from wyoming, mr. barrasso, for himself and others proposes an amendment numbered 868. mr. barrasso: mr. president, i ask reading of the amendment be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, this amendment restricts expansion of federal authority, and it's a federal authority attempting to encompass all the wet areas of farms, of ranches and suburban homes all across america. so this amendment is designed to restrict that expansion of federal authority. specifically, the amendment eliminates this administration's guidance to implement this expansion of federal authority both through proposed guidance -- that's the key phrase there, guidance -- federal agencies are preparing to expand the definition of waters of the united states. i think it would make sense, people would inherently understand what waters of the united states would be.
3:19 pm
but the federal government is preparing to expand the definition to include ditches, including dry areas, other dry areas where water happens to flow; and when it only flows even for a short duration after a rainfall. the american people know that shouldn't be considered as waters of the united states. well, federal regulations have never defined ditches and other upland drainage features as waters of the united states, but this draft guidance coming out of the washington does do that, and it will have a huge impact on farmers, on ranchers and small businesses that need to put a shovel in the ground to make a living. the e.p.a. and the army's corps of engineers' guidance amounts to a federal user fee for farmers and ranchers to farm the very land that they own. now, just as troubling as
3:20 pm
ignoring congressional intent, the guidance absolutely disregards the fundamental tenet embodied in two decisions of the united states supreme court. one is called the swank decision, the other rapanos decision, and those are decision that is say that there are actual limits to federal jurisdiction. it's particularly troubling to me and to others around the country and certainly at home in wyoming, particularly troubling that the guidance allows the army corps of engineers and the e.p.a. to regulate waters now considered entirely under state jurisdiction. so as somebody who has served in the state legislature, talking to you, mr. president, as someone who has served as governor of a state, we know the key importance of state jurisdiction in making local decisions. so i would like to say, mr. president, that this guidance would grant the environmental protection agency and the u.s. corps of engineers
3:21 pm
virtually unlimited, virtually unlimited regulatory control over all wet areas within a state. in addition, if this guidance is allowed to go forward, the guidance that i'm attempting to prevent to protect the americans from today, if this guidance is allowed to go forward, enormous resources are going to be needed to expand the clean water act federal he regulatory program which could lead to longer permitting delays and the delays today, mr. president, are significant. increased delays in securing permits are going to impede a host of economic activities in wyoming as well as in all of our other states. commercial and residential real estate development, agriculture, electric transmission, transportation and mining, these will all be affected. these are not sectors of our economy that we ever want to deliberately hurt, but we certainly would not want to vote for guidance that would harm
3:22 pm
these sectors while we are in economic times like these. that's why, mr. president, i come to the floor, come with my amendment and will be urging a "yes" vote on this amendment 868 at the appropriate time and continue with the rights and responsibilities with the states and the private landowners impacting the significant water, which is the lifeblood of our states. thank you very much, mr. president. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
3:23 pm
3:24 pm
3:25 pm
3:26 pm
3:27 pm
3:28 pm
mrs. boxer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: mr. president, i rise now to speak in opposition to the barrasso amendment number 868 and explain why i feel that way. i also just want to, before i talk about why i hope that the senate will defeat this, i do want to thank colleagues on both sides of the aisle for working so closely with myself and with senator vitter. the bill, the underlying bill is a very good bill, and it really protects every state. i mean really look at every state's needs, whether it's from flooding, whether it's preserving the fishing, whether it's about their ports, whe inlr coastal, medium, small, large; we really, i think, have gone
3:29 pm
out of our way on both sides of the aisle to accommodate senators. i want to speak about barrasso amendment 868, which will be the first amendment to come before us. it will require 60 votes. it is an anti-environmental rider. now here we go again and again and again and again. it gives no reason to bring these antienvironmental riders on to every single piece of legislation that goes through here, but yet and still that's what we face. so i agree that we would have a vote on this, and in the spirit of good faith, because it certainly is not germane to this bill. it is not. it has to do with the clean water act. it doesn't have to do with the water resources development act. and what this barrasso amendment says is that the guidance that has been developed by the army corps of engineers and
3:30 pm
by the environmental protection agency as they get ready for a rule making after a court decision is null and void. without a hearing, without giving the corps a chance to explain their guidance, without giving the e.p.a. a chance to explain their guidance, without looking at the court decision, he would say the guidance is blocked, because he doesn't like the guidance. well, trust me, i'm sure i don't like everything in the guidance either, but let the process go forward. the guidance is necessary so that there can be a rule making which is essential. right now there's nothing but chaos after the court's ruling. people don't know what the clean water act covers. so the arm corps, working with the e.p.a., has issued some guidance. it's not the final rule, it's guidance.
3:31 pm
and the barrasso amendment throws the guidance out, throws it into the garbage can, says it can't be used and if anything like it is ever used, there can be no rule making. mr. president, the barrasso amendment stops, therefore, the rule making. now, he may not say it explicitly, but if you can't use any of the guidance, any of the work that's been done, then you can't have a rule. and let me tell you who opposes not having a rule -- the business community. the business community opposes it. everybody opposes it. everybody wants a rule. the vague restriction will make it impossible to initiate a rule making to define what waters are protected under the clean air act. the barrasso amendment locks into place the current confusion created in the wake of two supreme court decisions and he
3:32 pm
does it by prohibiting any future update of the corps clean water act regulations or related guidance. now, industry associations and 30 republican senators who are opposed to the guidance developed by the obama administration have called for a rule making. mr. president, they have called for a rule making. the letters were just sent to e.p.a. last month. and what we believe to be absolutely accurate is if you throw out the guidance, if you vote for this barrasso amendment and you say no guidance that looks anything like this will ever be used, there can be no rule making. now, for decades, the clean water act has provided broad protections for the nation's waters. the barrasso amendment stops the corps from restoring these long-standing protections, leaving many waters at risk. now, let me tell you what that means. streams that provide drinking
3:33 pm
water for up to 117 million americans may not be covered by the clean water act. mr. president, that's dangerous for the people. because there's all kinds of pollution that gets dumped into these streams. 20 million acres of wetlands that provide flood protection and serve wildlife habitat. there will be no rules governing them. because of the way the barrasso amendment is written, any effort to clarify uncertainty that has resulted in delays and confusion and slowed efforts to hold polluters accountable will be null and void. can have no effort. you can't use the guidance, you've got to throw it away. and if anything comes forward that remotely resembles it, you've got to throw it away. then you can't make a rule. so this is harmful. now, in closing, i want to talko protect the people from. we know some of the dangerous pollution that gets dumped into
3:34 pm
our nation's waterways. sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident. but we have chemical pollution, all kinds of industrial pollution, and it includes such chemicals as arsenic, very dangerous for people. and i will have more to say on the specifics. but we know there's waterborne diseases, people get very ill if the drinking water is not good, if the swimming water is not good. and the warmer our waters are getting, the more dangerous it is. certain organisms that live in these warmer waters that never used to exist before. we had a case in ohio where a child got deathly ill because the water was so warm, it attracted these different kinds of bacteria and organisms. so when we -- when i stand up here, i speak from the heart, and all of us do. but i know that we shouldn't vote on something that precludes us from protecting the health
3:35 pm
and safety and the lives of our people. who are the most vulnerable? the children, the pregnant women, the elderly. my goodness, if we're here for any reason, it certainly would be, do no harm to them. and the barrasso amendment does a lot of harm, and it doesn't belong on a water resources development act, which is about building projects to protect people from flood control. it's about dredging our waters. it's making sure that commerce can move. this is an antienvironmental rider. it doesn't belong on this bill. it's dangerous for the people. and i urge my colleagues to vote "no" when the vote comes before us. and i would yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i see the senator from vermont here and i won't be belong, but i did
3:36 pm
have a few comments to offer about the unusual developments of the last few days here in washington, d.c. back in 2011 and 2012, my office was contacted by some constituents who were active politically in organizations like the king street patriots, true the vote, the tea party, particularly in waco and san antonio, and they were concerned that they were being targeted by the federal government, specifically the internal revenue service, for their political activity. and they were concerned that the activities of the internal revenue service seemed excessive, unreasonable, and improper. they feared the government officials were targeting them for doing nothing more than exercising their constitutional rights under the first amendment of the united states constitution.
3:37 pm
so i did what i think any senator would do, any member of congress: i wrote a letter to the internal revenue service and i asked them, first of all, about any indication they had that -- that this was the case. and douglas schulman, the commissioner of the internal revenue service, testified later before congress and categorically denied that any type of targeting was, in fact, taking place. mr. cornyn: well, last friday we learned that my constituents were correct and the internal revenue service is wrong. it turns out the internal revenue service really was targeting american citizens for exercising their most fundamental rights. and even though the internal revenue service did not acknowledge this until last friday pss has reported that senior agency officials learned about the abuses as early as june 2011,
3:38 pm
nearly two years ago. let me be clear. these abuses are not simply inappropriate, they're a breach of faith with the american people and they are potentially violations of our criminal law. now, as my friend from vermont knows, if the i.r.s., if the government can target conservative groups, like the king street patriots and the tea party, they can target anybody anywhere across the political spectrum. that's why you're seeing such bipartisan outrage over this news. but not only was the i.r.s. targeting tea party groups, they were targeting other people based on their advocacy of restoring the federal government to its basic constitutional .ramework. meanwhile, there's evidence that the i.r.s. also in some cases
3:39 pm
targeted jewish organizations as well. i would hope we would all on a bipartisan basis rise up and say, this is unacceptable and it's immoral. it's the kind of behavior we associate not with the greatest democracy in the world but with corrupt tin-pot dictators. president obama has said, to his credit, that all guilty parties will be held fully accountable. well, i wish i could take some comfort from the president's comments. unfortunately, the -- this administration has repeatedly stonewalled and misled u.s. officials investigating programs like the fast and furious gunwalking scandal and the 2012 attacks in benghazi, libya. the president of the united states got four pin noa pinnochy from the fact checker in "the washington post." that's got to be a first.
3:40 pm
so why should we expect the internal revenue investigation to be any different? unfortunately, this administration has shown a tendency to put politics ahead of the rule of law too many times. for example, during the government-run chrysler bankruptcy process, the company's secured bondholders received much less for their loans than did the united autoworkers' pension funds they favored over the obama administration. as solyndra was going bankrupt, the administration violated the law by making taxpayers subordinate to private lenders so the taxpayers got gored first before private lenders were at risk. last year the administration made unconstitutional recess appointments to the national labor relations board and to the consumer financial protection bureau. and last year the administration illegally waived key requirements of the 1996 welfare
3:41 pm
reform law. finally, to help implement obamacare, the i.r.s. has announced that it will violate the text of the law and issue health insurance subsidies through federal exchanges, something congress did not authorize. the law clearly states that these subsidies are not available to the federal eexchange but only to the state-based exchanges. indeed, it's the case that the president's health care law will dramatically expand the power of the internal revenue service because the agency is responsible for implementing so much of obamacare's most important provisions. well, given what we've learned about i.r.s. malfeasance, does that really sound like a good idea, to give them more responsibility, to hire more agents before we get to the bottom of the present scandal? do we really want the i.r.s. to
3:42 pm
administer a law that will affect one-sixth of our economy, as obamacare will? and do we really want the internal revenue service agents collecting so much personal information about millions of american citizens. , even before obamacare -- remember, even before obamacare became the law, the i.r.s. had more than enough power to destroy the lives of individual americans. chief justice john marshall at the very beginning of our country, chief justice of the supreme court of the united states, said, the power to tax involves the power to destroy. and those words are still true today. with trust in the federal government already at an all-time low, the i.r.s. scandal will further diminish public confidence in public institutions and in washington, d.c. as a result, this scandal will make it much harder for us to work together to adopt the fiscal policy and economic reforms that our country so
3:43 pm
desperately needs. when the i.r.s. starts behaving like a rogue agent that considers itself above the law, we've entered truly dangerous territory. so, mr. president, today i am going to join others of my colleagues to call on the acting i.r.s. commissioner, steven miller, to resign. if it -- if it is true what currently appears to be true, that mr. miller willfully misled congress when inquiries were made earlier about this sort of scandalous political activity, he should resign today. furthermore, i'm encouraged actually by chairman max baucus of the senate finance committee and senator orrin hatch, who said that they believe it's important for the finance committee, as the appropriate standing committee of the senate with jurisdiction over the internal revenue service, to conduct an investigation.
3:44 pm
and i hope that the first witness they will call is the treasury secretary, jack lew, who's the boss of the i.r.s. or overseer of the i.r.s. mr. miller's direct reporting boss. i -- i look forward to a thorough bipartisan investigation that will deliver justice to these government officials who betrayed the american people in such a shameful and egregious manner. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: mr. president, i would like to call up amendment number 889. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the amendment. the clerk: the senator from vermont, mr. sanders, for himself and mr. leahy, proposes an amendment numbered 889. mr. sanders: mr. president, i
3:45 pm
ask that the amendment be considered as read. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sanders: mr. president, this amendment is cosponsored by my colleague from vermont, senator leahy. and what it does is it addresses a very serious problem facing the state of vermont, and i think potentially states all over the country. mr. president, as you well know, tropical storm irene impacted some 225 vermont communities with 90 bridges and 963 culverts damaged or destroyed statewide, and in a small state, that is a lot of damage. long before irene, a vermont state legislature enacted extreme standards that prevented flood hazards, damage to fish and wildlife and damage to adjacent property owners.
3:46 pm
these standards result in resilient infrastructure and are looked to as a model by other states. in other words, what the state legislature did appropriately is pass standards that would do the job, that would protect communities in times of floods and natural disasters. as we all know, fema compensates communities for the rebuilding of bridges and culverts damaged during large storms like irene, but fema -- and here is the main point -- in many cases is insisting on overriding vermont's stronger standards requiring communities to build inferior projects that are unlikely to withstand the next major storm to hit the state. in other words, communities are standing there wanting to do the right thing, the state has promulgateed regulations as to what these culverts and bridges should look like and what fema
3:47 pm
is saying, we are not going to compensate you for doing the right thing. in other words, fema is insisting that local communities in order to get reimbursed for these expenses or replacing damaged infrastructure must build culverts and bridges to standards that have already failed and are likely to fail again. this is vermont's problem today. it could be your state's problem tomorrow. the point here is we should not be rebuilding culverts culvertsd bridges in a way that will result in them failing once again when another flood or extreme weather disturbance takes place. that makes no sense at all. in vermont, at least 39 bridges -- bridge and culvert projects would benefit from this amendment, and half of these projects have not yet gone
3:48 pm
forward because of this dispute with fema. in other words, if we have many communities in the state of vermont that are not going forward rebuilding the damaged culverts and bridges waiting because of this ongoing dispute with fema. and again, today this is vermont's problem. tomorrow it could be west virginia's or california's. it makes no sense to rebuild bridges and culverts in a way that has failed. you want to rebuild them in a way that will enable them to remain strong during the next flood or extreme weather disturbance. if another hurricane irene were to hit, those towns would be vulnerable to severe damage yet again. in other words, they're sitting in limbo. they don't have the money to do the right -- the job that they want to see done, and they're
3:49 pm
not getting help from fema. in fact, communities in states across the country that adopt more resilient standards for infrastructure replacement would benefit from this amendment. so today it impacts vermont. tomorrow it could impact any state in this country. local communities and states have a better sense of the kind of standards that are required for bridges and culverts than fema, and they should be allowed to go forward with those standards and be compensated by fema. fema's current practice throws good money after bad by preventing states and local communities from rebuilding with more resilient, better designed infrastructure after devastating storms. the amendment that senator leahy and i are offering will save taxpayers money, will save lives and better protect communities from future natural resources and extreme weather
3:50 pm
disturbances. in short, the sanders-leahy flood resilience amendment requires fema to recognize state standards when providing federal reimbursements for bridge and culvert replacements after natural disasters, supports communities that want to rebuild more resilient infrastructure after natural disasters, harmonizes the approaches of the army corps of engineers and fema, stops throwing good money after bad, saves taxpayers at the local, state and federal level by making smarter investments in more durable infrastructure. and with that, mr. president, i would ask my colleagues to support this amendment, and i -- and i would ask unanimous consent that the time during all quorum calls be charged equally to both sides. the presiding officer: without objection.
3:51 pm
mr. sanders: with that, i would yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
3:52 pm
3:53 pm
3:54 pm
3:55 pm
3:56 pm
3:57 pm
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: mr. president, first, let me thank senator
3:58 pm
boxer and senator vitter for the incredible work they have done in bringing forward the water resources development act, the water legislation. this truly has been a bipartisan effort to bring forward an extremely important bill for our economy, for jobs, for infrastructure, for competitiveness. i can speak for the citizens of maryland how important this legislation is to the economic life of our state, maintaining the chipping channels that are critical to the ports in our state, the port of baltimore. this legislation will provide the wherewithal for maryland and our nation to remain competitive. and in this environment, it's not easy to get a major bill to the finish line. it looks like as a result of the work done by the chairman and the ranking republican memr, we are o move this bill forward. i know we're going to have a few votes in a few moments, and i wanted to take this time to urge
3:59 pm
my colleagues to reject the barrasso amendment that would deny the regulation of a lot of the waterways in our -- in our country. for 40 years the clean water act dramatically improved the health of a generation of americans. without this law which for decades has protected rivers, streams, wetlands, lakes and coastal waterways from toxic pollution, all of our nation's waters would be less safe to swim in, to fish in, and to especially drink. mr. president, we're talking about the health of the people of this country, the clean water act. we're talking about the health of our streams, which people live next to, we're talking about families depending upon clean, safe water when they turn their tap on so they can have water to give their family. we're talking about our environment. you know, i'm pretty aggressive on this because i had the honor
4:00 pm
of representing one of the states that's part of the chesapeake bay watershed and the presiding officer also represents a state, west virginia, that involves the chesapeake bay as does pennsylvania. as does delaware. as does virginia. as does pennsylvania. the district of columbia. my point is, there's over 100,000 streams and rivers that feed into the chesapeake bay. now, the chesapeake bay is the largest estuary in north america, has thousands of species, yet life fends upon the waters that flow into the chesapeake bay. the barrasso amendment would deny the effectiveness of regulating the health of the waters leading into the bay. i would inject into the clean water act a way in which we would be denying the protection to the public of the clean water act. i would just urge my colleagues to reject this amendment.
4:01 pm
it is anti-environment. there is no question about that. but let me give you another reason. you know, i hear my colleagues on both sides of the aisle talk frequently about predictability, we need to know what the rules are. we thought we knew what the rules were on the clean water act but then the supreme court came through with some -- some cases that quite frankly are baffling because it changes the long-standing tradition of regulating under the clean water act. we thought we understood what it was all about. there's a great deal of uncertainty today. what the barrasso amendment what do is take us back to that uncertainty. the obama administration has given us the responsibilities for clean water. i don't think we want to return back to that uncertainty and the barrasso amendment would lead us back in that path. there are many, many other reasons why this is just the
4:02 pm
wrong thing to do. i know that when you take a look at how we've lost so many wetlands, so many streams and brooks in this country, do we really want to turn back the clock on the regulation of clean water on the streams and the brooks and the wetlands that are involved in our water supply in this country. it's because of the protections of the clean water act that literally we know we're going to have a safe supply of drinking water in this country. it's because of the clean water act we know we can go to the beaches this summer and enjoy the recreation activities along the water. and the barrasso amendment would take us to a point where we really could lose the effectiveness of the clean water act and protecting the public health of the people of this nation. we have a good bill before us. it's well-balanced. i do again applaud the chairman and ranking member. there are provisions in this bill quite frankly i'd like to
4:03 pm
see written in a different way but it was done with full bipartisan cooperation and the barrasso amendment should be rejected by this body and i urge my colleagues to rejectd the amendment -- reject the amendment. with that mr. chairman i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
4:04 pm
4:05 pm
4:06 pm
4:07 pm
4:08 pm
4:09 pm
4:10 pm
4:11 pm
4:12 pm
4:13 pm
4:14 pm
quorum call:
4:15 pm
quorum call:
4:16 pm
4:17 pm
4:18 pm
a senator: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be suspended. officer without objection. senator thor mr. president, rise to speak on legislation that i've introduced in regard to surplus water fees. i call it the states' water rights act or states' water rights legislation abc news have introduced this legislation as an amendment to the water resources development act. mr. hoeven: essentially what it does is that it would prevent the corps of engineers from unlawfully and unfairly imposing water usages fees on the missouri river states. joining me in this bipartisan legislation, senator john thune from south dakota, senator heidi heitkamp of north dakota, senator max baucus of montana, and also nor tim johnson of -- senator tim johnson of north
4:19 pm
dakota. so it is bipartisan legislation. in fact, i expect that senator thune will be joining me here on the floor very shortly. also senator heitkamp, so that we can engage in a colloquy in regard to the legislation. the missouri river of course flows through the state of north dakota and the other missouri river states. we've got seven states the missouri river flows through. in 1944 through the pick-sloan act, waters were damned up to create large-scale re: reservoirs. there are six reservoirs. the primary purpose for the dam reservoirs was to provide flood protection downstream which we have been doing now for more than 50 -- it is actually over 60 years. now, at the same time, just as we're providing that flood protection with these reservoi reservoirs, statement, the upper basin states, states throughout
4:20 pm
the basin, have drawn water from the reservoirs for a whole variety of uses -- municipalities, tribes, business and industrial, the whole gamut of uses. and this all that time, more than 60 years, the corps of engineers has never charged the respective states -- montana, north dakota, south dakota, nebraska, any of them -- has not charged them for using the water. and that just makes sense. because if they draw the water out of the river -- i mean, every one of the states has water rights; tribes have water rights. so they draw water out of the river. of course there is no charge. so likewise, because the states gave up the land for flood protection in order to create the reservoirs, the corps has never charged for drawing water out of the reservoirs eemplet well, that's changed now. now the corps is saying, gee, we're undertaking a study, and
4:21 pm
in our study we're going to look and decide whether or not we're going to charge a fee, if you take water out of the reservoir. even though we never have, now we think maybe we're going to charge a fee. well, this amendment blocks that. it says, hey, you can't do tax the states have water rights, just as if they take it out of the water. you can't charge us for that water. you certainly can't flood our land and then charge us for it. doesn't make any sense. furthermore, because states have water rights, they'd they are be able to -- they'd never be able to do it. if in fact the corps were to proceed and put those fees, we'd sue. it makes this kind of an unusual situation bogs we've put this legislation forward frankly to avoid the cost litigation, the cost to the respective states, and cost to the federal government. so the relate city, without this
4:22 pm
legislation we're offering, it would actually cost the federal government money because they would have to undertake litigation against the states to impose fees on the states in violation of their water rights, which are well-established in law. so this amendment, in fact, in actuality, saves the federal government money. but the c.b.o., under their scoring regime, says, well, no, no no ... wait a minute. somehow, you know, we're going to look beyond that. i guess pretend that it wouldn't really happen and so we're going to sign a cost to this legislation because you might get sol - some -- the corps migt some fees down the road somewhere. in spite of these things, they might get a fee. so they have aassigned a $5 million cost over the ten-year scoring window. $5 million over the ten-year scoring window.
4:23 pm
well, we've managed to address that by saying, we've also added in addition to the fact that under this legislation the corps can't impose the fees. we've also said, you've got to find $5 million in sakes over the next ten years out of your operating budget. since they have just their operations alone $2 billion a year, obviously that would be a very simple matter. and the fact is, it's frankly a technicality anyway because they're offsetting money they're never going to get, so there really is no cost to it. from an accounting standpoint, we do that so that the c.b.o. does not assign any score to this legislation. i think -- you know, that's kind of some of the nuts and bolts of the legislation. but the key is this: this really is about states that have -- have given up fertile
4:24 pm
farming, thousands -- hundreds of thousands of acres in order to provide flood protection for other states further downstream. they were able to not only use the land, but they were able to draw water from the river, as they wanted to, without being charged. so here comes the corps and say, now that we've flooded your land, now that you've provided that flood protection, oh, golly, we're going to charge you for flooding wu'er land. we're going to charge small towns, we're going to charge che tribes, we're going to charge farmers and business and industries, whatever. this amendment addresses that. it makes sure they don't impose those fees in clear violation of states' water rights. and, in fact, the legislation, even though scored by c.b.o. as having no cost, will in fact
4:25 pm
save not only the federal government money but the respective states money as well. i'm very pleased to note that my distinguished colleague from south dakota, senator john thune, is here, and i would like to ask that he express, as a cosponsor of this legislation, express some of his thoughts as well. mr. thune: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator in south dakota. mr. thune: may i ask the senator fro if he would just yid for a question. this is an issue that is important to both his state and my state for many reasons, not the least of which is is we have, you know, basically flooded 1.6 million acres of prime bottomland, some of the richest agricultural land this our states, in order to prevent flooding downstream and then of course it was also stated other uses, various uses of the water that were to be allowed for the states that were impacted when this occurred. but i wonder if my colleague from north dakota -- he's already touched upon, i think, many of the reasons why this shouldn't happen. but he's a former governor of of
4:26 pm
his state, and i know that our governor and our attorney general have made it abun can'tly clear that if the corps moves forward, they do intend to file a lawsuit. as a former gone governor, if ts now-senator from north dakota could respond as to how his state might act in the event of this were -- this actually were implemented by the corps, because it strikes me at least that this is without precedent. this is something that the flood control act, which passed in 1944 and the dams were built subsequent to that, for the past 50 years our states have had access to this water and it is something tha that is a state r. there is no statutory, no historic precedent for doing this. i'm just wondering how the former governor of north dakota might view this as a governor, as to what his action might be in any event the corps of engineers were to move forward with this, because it would
4:27 pm
impact a the although of the industrial water users in the state, businesses, tribes, a lot of folks are going to be impacted in the corps moves forward with this proposal. so tell me again, if the senator from north dakota might, as a former gone, ho governor, how ht view this and what he would intend to do and what our governor and attorney general might intend do if the corps moved forward. mr. hoeven: i would like to thank the distinguished snore from north dakota for joining me and for his question and of course he's anticipating exactly what will a th happen. the states will initiative action against the corps if they proceed. they're either not going to charge a fee or they are going to charge a fee. if they do impose a feerks here is what it would be. at that point they would be sued by the states. in fact, in the case of north dakota, the legislature has already set aside moneys to fund a lawsuit and both the governor both when i was governor and the
4:28 pm
current governor and the attorney general have already said very clearly that they will commence litigation. it will be multistate litigation, like i said, they've already set aside funds. so that's the point i'm making. we can talk about the c.b.o. score which we've now scared away so it doesn't score. but the reality is we're saving both the federal government and the states money with this legislation because there will be -- absolutely be litigation and that's already made clear. mr. thune: if the senator would yield for another question, if i might. other attorney general wrote a letter to the corps here and this is one statements he made. "this proposal whether disifies guised as a reallocation of surplus water, exseized the corps's regulatory authority and violates basic principles of federalism." and it went on to lay out the reasons why they are -- our state would obviously enter into litigation if it comes to that, if it is necessary, in order to protect the rights of south
4:29 pm
dakotans to the water that is rightfully theirs. and i guess i would be interested in knowing as well from the senator from north dakota if in fact during the course of the last many, many years, if his amendment would change anything. if his amendment would change anything that is happening today. in other words, today what happens if a state wants to use water in one of the mainstream dams, *fr -- and there are six mainstream dams, one in montana, a big one in north dakota and four in south dakota, all created by the flood control act, dams there to prevent from flooding downstream. and then also authorize various uses of that water. and i might just point out what some of those uses are. they were to be for enhanced navigation, hydroelectric power, irrigation, programs to increase public recreation facilities,
4:30 pm
municipal industrial water supplies and fish and wildlife population. those are some of the things that are stated that the water is to be used for. the senator's amendment which would prevent the corps for charging for this water as i understand it, doesn't change anything, the practices that exist today because a state or water user, i should say, would go and request an easement from the corps, and then the state essentially would have to issue the water right. that's my understanding of how it works today. and under the senator from north dakota's amendment, if it's passed, does any of that change? mr. hoeven: mr. president, absolutely not. it doesn't change any of the authorized purposes for the reservoirs and for the system. so this does not impact in any way any of the authorized uses for the main stem dams, reservoirs. i want to emphasize that because
4:31 pm
we've got the seven missouri river states. sometimes we get the upstream, downstream interests. this does not change any of those authorize purposes or how they're utilized or how the respective states interact with them or even the amount of water usage. so to try to bring any of those other issues in which typically have been concerns on the missouri river does not apply here. again, this is simply about whether the respective states -- and this is one where we can really come together because it is upstream and downstream whether any of the states are going to be charged for water that is rightfully theirs. and that makes this very much a states' rights issue that all of the states should be concerned about. how can we allow federal agencies to come in and simply impose a fee because they want to? i mean, and then to impose whatever fee they want. well, we'll do a study, and then we'll impose a fee of whatever size we determine we feel is
4:32 pm
appropriate. clear violation of states' rights and on a very important issue -- water rights. if i could, i want to also invite the good senator from north dakota, senator heitkamp, to join us as well in this colloquy. she also brings expertise as the former attorney general in tphofrgt tkabg and -- attorney general in north dakota and can comment on the legal issues as well. i will turn, though, mr. president, to the senator from south dakota who i think had another question and/or comment. mr. thune: i want to welcome our other colleague from north dakota who has experience as a litigator in protecting the interests of her state. perhaps she could also comment on what action the states might take as the corps moves forward. but i wanted to point out to my colleagues -- i don't know, perhaps you are already aware of this but i'm looking at some
4:33 pm
things that are proposed charges that the corps would make under this proposal. again, right now they haven't stated, i don't think, explicitly what that might be but it ends up being a significant amount. lewis and clarke lake which is gavins point in south dakota they are talking about $174 per square point per year at lewis and clarke lake. you're talking about businesses and tribes, industrial users who today have access to something they believe and i think we all believe to something that was promised them when this legislation was passed way back in the 1940's and we have essentially now 70 years of precedent where it's been the case where the states have access to rightfully use that water for various purposes as authorized under the legislation. and that this would move away from that and now start to impose these fees, which i think
4:34 pm
over time could get to be quite excessive. i appreciate the work that's been done by the senator from north dakota, senator hoeven in terms of trying to get the c.b.o. to evaluate this in a proper context. for awhile there they were talking about the scoring impact that was much larger than many of us believed it would have. it's a hypothetical situation. it is not happening today. all you're simply doing is saying we want to keep in place the rules of the game as they've applied to the mainstream dams, main stem dams for the past 50 years, 70 years since the authorization and the legislation that created them but also since the dams were built. i guess i would say to my colleagues from north dakota, i appreciate their good work on this and would simply reiterate as a south dakotan downstream from north dakota, our states and i think all the states in the upper basin would be dramatically impacted by this because it would be a precedent that is something that would be entirely new, something we
4:35 pm
haven't dealt with literally in all the time that we've had the dams, the lakes in our states. and again, at tremendous sacrifice in terms of the amount of prime bottom land that was given up when the dams were built and when the land was taken. i guess i would defer to the former attorney general of north dakota, senator heitkamp, who also joined us here on the floor for some observations that she might have with respect to that issue. the presiding mr. hoeven: i thank the senator from south dakota for joining us. she is absolutely right. the scoring number in actuality is reduced because the probability of them getting it is so remote because they, as i mentioned earlier, they're flying in the face of well-established law, well-established water rights that the states have. so once you assign the probability that they would lend to it would reduce the amount
4:36 pm
that would get scored which shows they are trying to impose a fee where they have no right to do so. it did create some scoring issue. it really never should. the fact is the litigation would far outweigh the score that c.b.o. has put on it both to the federal government and to the respective states and in the end there would be no fees because there really is no right to assess those fees. i think on that very issue, we have someone who is a former attorney general, dealt in fact with this very type of issue during her tenure as attorney general. so i would turn to my colleague from north dakota and just ask her to comment both on the legality of the issue as well as her thoughts in terms of just the fairness and the states' right aspect which truly makes this an issue that our colleagues should join and support because this is exactly the kind of thing that could happen to them too and could happen to their states.
4:37 pm
so i would turn to senator heitkamp for her thoughts in that regard. the presiding officer: the junior senator from north dakota. mr. heitkamp: thank you, mr. president. and thank you to my colleagues from north dakota and my colleague from south dakota. this is not a new issue. this is an issue even back in the 1990's that i dealt with as the state's attorney general. why do i mention that? i mention that because we were able to persuade the corps at the time that the intake pike that they were attempting to charge for surplus water was actually in the original riverbed. and i did just tongue and cheek a little bit suggest that i was going to charge them for putting their water on top of our water, and maybe they should pay a fee to us for the storage that we were going to allow them. but in all seriousness, i will tell you this is not an issue that is going to go away. if any of our colleagues think that this is an issue that, you know, just let it go, ride it
4:38 pm
out. this is an issue that has percolated for a lot of years, culminating right now to this effort, to be proactive in this body to prevent litigation, prevent excess expense and really prevent a deterioration of a relationship that is essential to making sure that we have flood protection and all of the other good things that came out of the flood control act. and so the time is now to take an immediate step to prevent this issue from going any further and to address the concerns that upstream states have. i want to just spend just a few moments talking about this from a legal perspective, from straight up what could happen if in fact the federal government engaged in litigation with the states. and you've heard today both south dakota and north dakota, and i'm reasonably sure montana would not let this precedent
4:39 pm
stand without some push back, without absolute commitment from a bipartisan standpoint for all the upstream states to push back. so let's talk about why there is problems, legal problems with the corps approach. charging fees for surplus water, i believe, would violate a state's right to the water that naturally flows through the boundaries, as historically recognized by the federal government and as recognized by the 10th amendment. charging fees would violate statutory law. section 1 of the 1944 flood control act provides protection for water resources in western states. so we have a common-law water rights argument, an historic argument. we have a statutory argument. i think charging fees would reverse decades of corps policy on surplus water. creating that precedent that should not be established in the upper missouri basin, but should
4:40 pm
not be established any place in this country. and that's why this is an issue not just about the dakotas, not just about montana and the upstream states. it's an issue that every one of our colleagues have an interest in reviewing. if you can do it in this case, why couldn't you do it in any other reservoir? charging fees would penalize montana, north dakota and south dakota for charging for water that is available in the absence of the corps reservoir. if there were no reservoir there would be no issue here. the fact that they tried to charge, most of our colleagues would find that absolutely atrocious. and this is in the face of what we know we have sacrificed for flood control in that basin. and i want to mention here the unique interests that the mandan hirakra nation along with sandy rock nation along with what they have sacrificed for flood
4:41 pm
control, what they sacrificed in terms of loss of their land, division of reservation boundaries, division of their property. now what the corps is saying, yes, we took your land, yes, we disrupted your natural boundaries, disrupted your natural way of life. now we're going to charge you for the water that's on your historic homeland. mrs. boxer: -- request for just -- and get the floor right back. i just want to lock in a vote. thank you. hoef hoef i ask unanimous consent for another -- mr. hoeven: for another five minutes. mrs. boxer: we have a vote locked in at 5:00. it's going to go right back. the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: thank you. i ask unanimous consent that at 5:00 p.m. the senate vote in relation to the inhofe-barrasso and sanders amendments as provided under the previous order, that following the vote in relation to the sanders amendment the senate proceed to a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak up to ten minutes each; further that when the senate resume consideration of s. 601 on
4:42 pm
wednesday, may 15, it resume the voting sequence in the previous order with all after the first vote being ten-minute votes and all other provisions of the previous order remaining in effect. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mrs. boxer: for the information of all senators, it is our expectation that the inhofe amendment will be the subject of a voice vote. and if that occurs, there will be two roll call votes this evening, and the remainder of the votes will occur tomorrow. and i yield the floor, and i thank my colleagues for their courtesy. and i ask that the record not interrupt my colleague's statement. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. heitkamp: mr. president, if i can just conclude, and maybe we can continue to have the discussion. you know, when you look at water surplus fees and you think about the fact that we've given our land, we've given our opportunity to have free access to our water, we've done all
4:43 pm
this with the idea that it is for the better good of this country, and now to charge our citizens and to charge people who have always had historic access to that water a fee looks a whole lot like a tax. it looks a whole lot like adding insult to injury. and i can guarantee that you this issue will tpwhot -- not go away. if we don't prevail, what we are buying is a lawsuit because the corps is not going to give up. the corps of engineers will continue to advance this idea, will continue to promote this idea until they implement the idea. and then we're going to be in litigation. this issue will not go away. the easiest way to resolve this issue in an amiable way, in a way that's going to maintain the relationships and maintain the kindf historic relationship that we have with our tribes is to deal with it today, to deal with it within the water resources development act that we're enacting and to support my
4:44 pm
good colleague, john hoeven's, the senator from north dakota's amendment number 909 and put this idea to bed once and for all. that the corps cannot charge us for water that historically and legally belongs to the states where that water is located. i yield the floor. mr. hoeven: mr. president, i'd like to thank again my colleague, both for her comments in regard to the legal aspects -- and again she brings experience, direct experience working with this issue. so i thank her both for the comments in regard to the legal aspect. but also she makes another very important point. this isn't just about states' rights. this would be a taking of tribal rights too. and i'm going to turn to my colleague from south dakota and ask him a question on this very same subject. but in fact, in north dakota,
4:45 pm
it's going to be one of our tribes that is most disenfranchised by this action of the corps. because again, we've made the point, we can take water out of the river. we can continue to do that. they can't charge us for water out of the river. the only place they're trying to charge is water out of the reservoir. but most of the reservoir in north dakota is inside the three affiliated tribes' reservation. so the people who would be most dramatically impacted in fact would be native americans in our state. and i'm going to turn to our colleague from south dakota. i'm guessing that that's true in south dakota as well. mr. thune: i will just say to both of my colleagues from north dakota that that's an absolutely accurate observation. if you look at who is impacted by this -- and we have one of our tribes, sandy rock's tribe partly in north dakota, partly in south dakota so it crosses the state border. sheyenne river sioux tribe, coal creek sioux tribe, yankton, we've got a whole bunch of
4:46 pm
reservations as you go right down that corridor of the missouri river that would be profoundly impacted by this. and like, as we mentioned earlier, when this land was given up, when the dams were built, this is a lot of not only private land but tribal held land which they gave up and this would directly impact the access that they would have to water that is rightfully theirs. and so in addition to the concerns that our states have and our attorneys general have, we also have a lot of tribes that have a very vested interest in making sure that this doesn't happen and that's why it's so important that our colleagues here support the senator from north dakota's amendment, because as was pointed out senator heitkamp, this is a precedent setting thing. if they can do this here, they -- they may try and do is someplace else. and i also think that the point that was made by both of my colleagues fromme from north da- cal consideration -- it will cost the federal government and our states a lot more than what they're saying this is
4:47 pm
going to achieve in terms of revenues when this thing goes court. and both the states and the federal government would be locked up, i would suspect, in litigation for some time and the amount of revenue that would be raised by the fees that would be imposed under these various proposals that are being advanced by the corps simply would pale in comparison i think to the litigation costs that would be involved with this. so that's a very practical consideration and i -- i concur. and i'm not a lawyer and i certainly am not a former attorney general or former governor and i know both of you have experience with these issues, but i can tell you from talking with our governor and our attorney general, they are highly confident -- highly confident -- that legally there -- there is -- this is a very open-and-shut situation and case in which our states would prevail and be successful. so it sort of crazy in a way that we would have to even go down that trail and i hope that we can prevent that from happening by having our colleagues join us today and support this amendment.
4:48 pm
mr. hoeven: again, i'd like to thank my colleague from north dakota and turn to my colleague from south dakota for any final thoughts before we yield the floor. ms. heitkamp: mr. president, my colleagues from north and south dakota, you know, we come from practical states. we come from states where you try and anticipate problems and you solve problems before they turn into big, expensive pieces of litigation. and that's really what this amendment does. this amendment addresses in a proactive way a policy that we know will not be put to bed until this body speaks. let's do it now. deletes it kind of in the way that we do it in our -- let's do it in kind after the way that we do it in our states. let's be proactive. let's make sure we're not wasting money and wasting relationships on litigation, that we move forward to manage the upper basin as best bes we n and do the best we can to represent the people in our states and our tribal governments and our native
4:49 pm
american neighbors. mr. hoeven: mr. president, with that, i'd like to set aside the pending amendment and call up the hoeven amendment 909 and just close with a couple other thoughts. senator baucus from montana had wanted to join us in this colloquy. the time line didn't work out but i wanted to express my appreciation for his support and sponsorship of this legislation as well. i want to again make the point, this isn't about using the water. our respective states will still use the water. the issue is being charged for it. that's very important so that nobody tries to confuse this issue in order to try to get opposition to the issue. we will still use the water, it's just that we will be charged for it unfairly, oh, except for the fact, as we've said, this would be tied up in litigation, create a bunch of costs for the state and the federal government so that that wouldn't really happen. so what we're doing is solving a
4:50 pm
problem but we're solving a very important problem. it's one that all of the states need to be cognizant of. because if a federal agency can come in and try and do it to one state, it can do it to any one of the states. this is a fundamental issue in regard to states' rights. and if any of our colleagues have questions or concerns on it, i encourage them to come to us. we want to talk to them about it. we truly believe if they understand the facts here, they are going to be strongly supportive. again, i'd like to turn to my colleague from south dakota. mr. thune thune: one final poinf clarification and perhaps the senator from north dakota would react or comment on this as well. my understanding is -- of course, this doesn't have any impact on the master manual, the way the corps manages the reservoir. and so the degree to which there might be concern about, is this a our water versus their water that historically has plagued a lot of the discussions about the missouri riverup stream, downstream interests, as the senator from north dakota
4:51 pm
pointed out, the water gets us used. the water is going to get used. this is -- this is water that's either stored or it's used. and -- and i think it's a question of whether or not we're going to be charged. and the users of that water are going to be charged and that, of course, create a precedent. and if it's something that they can do here, the question is, what is the next state? because this violates a principal of federalism, as was pointed out by the south dakota attorney general in his letter to the corps of engineers. but i just wanted to, for the record, for those who, perhaps, are viewing this as a -- as a battle upstream, downstream battle, not the case at all. this does not impact the mast you're manual, to my knowledge -- master manual, to my knowledge, and if the senator from north dakota would care to react to that as well. mr. hoeven: mr. president, again, the senator from south dakota is absolutely right and i want to thank him for emphasizing that point. it's very important. and, again, that's why i encourage any of our colleagues to discuss this issue with us if they have any concerns whatsoever. it is -- it is just a
4:52 pm
fundamental fairness issue an and -- and we ask for an affirmative vote from our colleagues. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: mr. hoeven: i ask that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. without objection, the clerk will report the amendment. the clerk: the senator from north dakota, mr. hoeven, proposes an amendment numbered 909. on page 190, after line 123, add the following -- section 2060, restriction on charges for certain surplus water. a, in general -- mr. hoeven: mr. president, i ask that -- the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. mr. hoeven: i ask that further
4:53 pm
reading be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: mr. president, shortly we're going to vote, i believe it will be a voice vote on the info ininhofe amendment,a controversial -- inhofe amendment, not a controversial amendment, everybody agrees to it, then we're going to proceed to the barrasso amendment which i've spoken about before which i want to urge my colleagues to be very careful on this one because it has unintended consequences. the way the barrasso amendment is drafted, it tries to say in advance of a rule making that if the rule making includes any information from the guidance that has been put forward by the corps and the e.p.a., if it even contains anything like it, the rule will be considered as having been vacated. that's a quote.
4:54 pm
so the bottom line here, is the barrasso amendment is such an overreach that we will keep the whole issue of waters of the united states in chaos. and it's in chaos. we've received letters from business people begging us to allow the rule making to go forward. but because of the way the barrasso amendment is drafted, essentially we are not going to really ever have a rule. now, why is it important to have a rule that is very clear and explains what waters are covered under the clean water act? let me tell you why. without protections of a rule, dangerous pollutants could be put into our waterways. now, this isn't just hyperbole. we're talking about toxic heavy metals like arsenic and lead. we're talking about toxics that cause cancer and harm the health of infants and children, in
4:55 pm
particular, who are the vulnerables here? the infants, the children, the -- and the elderly and those who are disabled. they're the ones that are the victims of filthy, dirty water. now, i'm not saying my friend, senator barrasso, wants to get people sick. i'm not saying that. but i'm saying an unintended consequence of his overreach in this amendment is pretty clear to all who read it. it says that if the guidance that has already been the draft -- the draft guidance that has already been looked at is included in any way, shape or form into a final rule, then the whole rule is thrown out on its face and that leaves the situation in chaos. mr. president, ifenou and i said, i want to write a book about mathematics and you said, that's very exciting,
4:56 pm
barbara. but there's only one thing. i'm your publisher and you can't put one single number in the book. not a 1 to a 2 to a 3. you write a book on mathematics but it can't contain any numbers in it. i mean, that's the most ridiculous situation, but this s is the essence of the barrasso amendment. it's telling people who are going to write a rule that they can't take anything that was put in the draft guidance and put it into that rule. it makes absolutely no sense. and i want to protect people from toxics like lead and arsenic. and without these safeguards of a rule, our drinking water supplies would be more at risk. and the loss of these protections would increase the risks of dangerous floods in downstream communities because it would eliminate wetlands protections. one of the things i learned when i was a county supervisor a very long time ago, that wetlands
4:57 pm
kept in their natural state and enhanced are the best way to have flood protection. and when i went to louisiana after katrina i was struck by the fact that the whole community understands the importance of the wetlands because they absorb the flood waters. so now because we're not going to be able to find -- to define what is a body of water that falls under the clean water act, we're going to have a major problem with our wetlands. we're going to have a major problem with our rivers. we're going to have a major problem with our streams. we are talking about enormous bodies of water here that are unprotected now because there is no rule. and under the barrasso amendme amendment, my opinion is -- and it isn't just my amendment -- there will not be any rule, because if the rule picks up anything in the guidance at all,
4:58 pm
anything substantially like the guidance at all, it will be automatically overturned. you know, i want to say to my friend, if you don't like a ru rule, you have the c.r.a., the congressional review act. wait until you get the rule. don't prejudge it. don't say the rule is vacated. that's pretty dictatorial to people who are in charge of protecting our water supply. nobody wants our kids to get more cancers. nobody wants this to happen. we have to protect streams that provide drinking water for up to 117 million americans. we have 20 million acres of wetlands that provide flood protection, improve water quality, serve as wildlife habitat. so what we're going to do -- the hour of 5:00 is upon us. we're going to vote on the inhofe amendment first. then we'll turn to senator barrasso for a moment to make his case and then i'll have a minute after that. so at this time, we would turn to the regular order.
4:59 pm
mrs. boxer: i note the absence of a quorum, please. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on