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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  November 21, 2013 10:00am-12:01pm EST

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society. so the gillibrand amendment, of course, is we don't trust those commanders. when we trust these young people with their lives. we ask them to have the ultimate responsibility which is that of defending this nation, but we don't trust them to prosecute, to do their job, to do their duties. .. i've had with the men and women who are in command and the senior petty officers, the master chief petty officers and the master sergeants that are responsible for the good order and discipline of our men and women in our armed forces. so i won't go into the fact that this gillibrand amendment includes things like burglary and house breaking and perjury and robbery and forgery. it's been expanded beyond belief in its areas that have to be referred out of the chain of command. i won't even bother with that. awon't even bother with that.
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out of the chain of command. i won't even bother without. what im am saying, and i say as passionately as i came to my colleagues, that if we do not trust the commanding officers who take our young men and women into battle, our most precious asset, if we don't trust them, then we obviously have better reevaluate our entire structure of the military. but i do trust them, mr. president. i do trust them. the finest people i've ever known in my life are those we have given, who will work their way up to positions of authority and command to a very severe screen process. if they make mistakes, can we find an example for a case where the right thing was not done? of course we can. there's no way -- nowhere in a society where we can't find examples of people having not done the right thing. today i'm embarrassed that navy
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officers were involved in some kind of bribery scheme about overseas ships. and from time to time we are embarrassed by leaders of her military, but they are the exception and not the rule. and so if you pass the children a minute, my friends come you're sending a message to men and women of the men and women in the military we don't trust you. that's what this is all about. but if we do, with significant change, 26 changes in the defense authorization bill, to ensure that if there is a wrong decision made, that decision has to be reviewed in some cases all the way up to the service secretary. that anything that is done regarding this horrific problem, and it is a terrific and horrific problem in our armed forces today, but we have done what we believe and what the military believes, and what our military leaders believe is the
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right thing by relieving -- i leaving the commander officer in the decision-making process concerning the lives and welfare of the men and women under whom they command. so, mr. president, i hope we will realize that if we pass this amendment, the gillibrand amendment, our signal to the men and women in leadership, whether they be our senior enlisted personnel or officers, we don't have any confidence in you. we don't trust you. that's the message we will be sending if we said, if we pass this amendment today. and are th the perfect? know. have to make mistakes? no. that's why we put provisions in this bill which would circumscribe much of the decision-making process but still leaves final decisions in the chain of command. i urge my colleagues to reject the gillibrand amendment. i yield back.
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spent senior senator from south carolina is recognized. >> thank you. i would like to speak in support of the best gaskill -- mccaskill, a hot, levin, et al. and and. can you let me know in 15 minutes -- thank you, sir. mr. president before we get started, i really want to thank senator levin, read, mccaskill, a hot, fisher and others have been trying to carry the burden here to make sure that we are reforming the military justice system and the way the military operates, these are the sexual assault and misconduct, but at the same time make sure that we still at a military that can continue to be the most effective fighting force on the planet at a time when the absolute immediate. if you believe as i do our military is the best in the world, you have to ask yourself
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why. is it because of the equipment? we have great equipment. i would argue that the reason our military has become the most effective fighting force in the world is the way we are structured. if you're looking for democracy, don't look to the military. the military as a hierarchical and paternalistic organization that is focused on meeting the challenges of the nation. being able to project force at a moments notice to deter war, and, therefore, ever comes, to decisively ended on our terms. i've been a military lawyer for over 30 years. i've been assigned as a military defense counsel for two and a half years, seeing a military prosecutor in the air force for four and half years, a military judge. i served in the guard, reserve, and on active duty for six and a half years. i have learned a lot as a
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military lawyer about the military. to my colleagues who are deciding what to do and what's appropriate, the goal should be to make sure that america remains the most effective body force on the planet. and here's a proposition. you can't be an effective fighting force if you have rampant the sexual assault or misconduct within the ranks. and this idea that sexual assault in the military are unacceptable, too large a number and scope, sign me up for that proposition. but the problems of society don't stop at the gate. they continued inside the fence. i would daresay that if we did
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surveys in south carolina, in missouri, new hampshire, new york about sexual assault and their frequency, we would all be disturbed. and the goal of our times here is to make sure that when it comes to our military, that we turn the corner and that we create a legal system where people feel that if they filed a complaint, they are going to be fairly treated. and also a legal system, if you're accused of something, you are going to be fairly treated. to my colleagues, there is a reason that every judge advocate general of all the services have arched us not to adopt senator gilda brands solution to this problem. -- you will brands solution to this problem. and the military, it is
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impossible in my view to correct a problem without command abiding and holding commanders responsible. military commanders have awesome responsibility, and almost absolute liability for the job that we give them. it is their job to make sure that all under the command are ready to go into combat, perform their assignment in the most difficult task, make sure that your medical records are up-to-date, to make sure that you are squared away when the nation needs you. this concept of the authority of the commander goes back to the very beginning of this nation. military justice is an essential part of good order and discipline. after 30 years of experience in this area, the number of cases where a judge advocate recommends to a commander that
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you proceed to trial in a sexual assault, or for that matter most any other alleged crime is a rounding error. so, please, don't suggest that our current system that you can get a case into trial because our commanders routinely blow off legal advice. that is not the case. commanders decide as to whether or not to proceed to a court-martial, and what level of court-martial based on it advice of the judge advocate community whose job it is to provide professional advice. the commanders of job is to make sure that unit is ready to go to war. the lawyers job is not to pick and choose who goes into the
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battle. the lawyers job is to give that commander the best legal advice possible, including who to court-marcourt-mar tial and who do not. but one thing that i hope you understand in this debate, that no lawyer, no judge advocate is ever going to have to deal with a situation of picking and choosing in that unit who takes the most risk. we have for 200 years now allowed commanders the authority under the uniform code of military justice since 1952, and before, the ability to maintain good order and discipline, the absolute -- the absolute responsibly to make sure the force is effective when it comes to the fight, and given them the tools to make sure that happens. what would bother me greatly is this conversation occurred.
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sir, ma'am, did anybody the command is, there are more and more female commanders in the military, there was an alleged rape last night, a sexual assault in the barracks last night, and the command would say, that's no longer my problem. send that to washington. ladies and gentlemen, that is the commanders problem. and to those commanders have failed to make sure that we have the right climate in the military when it comes to sexual assault, their job is at stake. the military justice system, when it comes to rendering justice, i will put up against any -- the reforms in this bill are going to become the gold standard i hope over time. and very few jurisdictions will be able to do what we've been able to do. thanks to senator mccaskill, ayotte, levin and other can we taken a problem in the military, and i think brought a good
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solution. every victim will now be assigned a judge advocate to help them through the legal process. i wish that were true in south carolina, like it is not. every commander who was advised to go to trial in sexual assault cases and who declines to accept the judge advocates recommendation, that case is automatically sent of to the secretary of the service in question. so when the future as commanders have to decide how to deal with sexual assault allegations, when the lawyer tells them, sir, ma'am, this is a good case, and if for some reason the commander decided i disagree, and that case goes up to the highest civilian member of that service, the secretary of the air force in case of my service.
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that to me is a reform that will emphasize from the chain of command how important it is that we take these cases seriously. if we take the chain of command out, here's what we are saying, in my view. to every commander in the military, you're fired your country in -- you're fired. we immunize states senate have come to conclude that you, the commanders, are either intellectually insufficient to do this job, or you just don't have the temperament or your morally bankrupt. we're going to take away from you this part of being a commander. you are fired. i will never ever say that until i am convinced that there is no hope for our commanders, that our commanders are hopelessly
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lost when it comes to these type issues. i don't believe we are remotely there. in the 1970s, particularly in the military we had race riots on aircraft carriers and tensions ran high. how did we fix it? we made sure that every commander was held responsible for the atmosphere in the unit when it came to race relations, and now i would dare say that the most equal opportunity employer in the whole country is a united states military, because commanders change the climate. under senator gillibrand's approach, we take out a group of military offensives, to the committee, you're fired, you can do this anymore, and we send the decision to end '06 judge advocate, which i happen to be
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one by the way, and washington. i cannot stress to my colleagues enough how ill-conceived the system is from a military justice point of view. and again that you're going to do to the command and to the fighting force if you go down this road. and let me tell you why. you're in afghanistan. there is a larceny, and you talk about employment. senator coons mentioned the workplace. a barracks sees is one of the worst place -- worst thing you can do in the military. you don't pick and choose who you really with. we pick who you room with. you don't get to decide where you're going to stay. we pick for you. we throw you in the most incredible conditions. we don't give you the comforts of home, and you have to trust your fellow soldier in the
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barracks and in deployment. and soldiers, like everybody else, most are great, some are bad but the bad apples, thank god, or if you. but under this construct we are coming up with, the you're in a deployed environment and it was a barracks death case, a tent death case that really does hurt morale, because you got to worry about somebody killing -- stealing your stuff, naturally tough given the conditions you are living under. the commander could not deal with this. it would go all the way to washington, d.c. to be disposed of, rather than being disposed of on site. and why does it need to be disposed of on site quacks you need to render justice quickly, effectively so the truth can see what you are doing. and if you're the commander, they have to respect you.
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and they have to understand your role. so i cannot understand why the united states senate, when we we been at war for 11 or 12 years, would come up with a solution to a problem that's real, that does harm to the very concept of what makes our military special. the inability to go to war, military, the ability to be effective and have the commander make decisions that only a commander should be making. i'm a military lawyer. i am telling you right now, don't give me this decision because i am not required to decide who goes to battle. don't take away from our commanders in a theater of operation the ability to render justice in a way that the truth can speak. >> mr. president? with the senator yield for a question?
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>> yes. >> i want to make sure i understand something about nonjudicial punishment. censure on the barracks siege in afghanistan the notion that everything is going to stop and we will send this case off to a lawyer half a continent away, to make a decision, let's assume that the lawyer, the colonel over in washington besides there's insufficient evidence for that there is a speaker that months later. meanwhile, it is still there and let's assume that it comes back. it's my understanding, and i think there's some confusion about this by people are advocating this amendment, that you cannot exercise in nonjudicial punishment on a soldier if he chooses a court-martial proceeding. is that correct? >> that's exactly right. and nonjudicial punishment is a 40 the commander has to put people in confinement for up to 30 days, reducing rank one or two levels depending on the rank
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of the commander, and to withhold pay. it is nonjudicial punishment. you don't have a trial. the person is represented by a lawyer but there is no jury. the commander is the jury. >> so that commanders did the senate has spoken for 15 minutes. >> so that commander who has to now send that there speak is to washington, that soldier is not going to greater nonjudicial punishment the he's going to succumb out take my chances with the lawyers in washington and to those in washington say no, and that commander stands are completely tied to including in the barracks for 30 days, i mean in the brink for 30 days. >> exactly right. every military lawyer has look oat this is very worried about what we are about to do in terms of practical military justice. now, if you're 18 years of age, you have too much to drink, you write a bad check.
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part of being a commander and to first sergeant is a paternalistic aspect of the job. how many of us have made mistakes at 18? instead of going to college or going into a military unit. you balance for five checks. has that ever happened? under this system, the military commander no longer house the ability to deal with it in unit. you send back a soft washington. the ability to give an article 15 a lesser punishment is taken off the table pick your taking an 18 year old mistake and potentially turning into a felony. now, does that help sexual assault? our commanders can send you to your death, but we don't trust them to deal with manslaughter cases. all i can tell you for 30 years, i've been a practicing military lawyer, and from my point of
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view our commanders take the responsibility to impose discipline incredibly seriously. they are skilled men and women. and we'll let the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines down when it comes to sexual assault. all of us are to blame in the military. we are going to fix that, but the problem, ladies and gentlemen, is not the military justice system. we don't have a military justice system where commanders tell the lawyer go to hell, we're not going to deal with it. that's not the way it works. this new system takes a portion of offenses out of the purview of the commander and since then to somebody in washington that nobody in the unit will ever get to see that will delay justice, will take tools off the table to make sure that is an effective fighting for in terms of deal with the barracks is becoming terms of you with the bounced checks. but also it's taking young people who make mistakes and put in an arena where the only
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avenue is to be charged with -- >> with the senator from south carolina yield for another question? >> yes. >> so under this situation where you said we have commanders that aren't going to ignore what was brought before them in an investigation from there jag lawyers, particularly i sexual assault let's assume that they did do that even though the evidence is there that they do it, under our proposal, the proposal that i have, that senator mccaskill has and senator fischer, that decision is the commander makes a decision not to bring a sexual assault case, anything goes up to review to the civilian secretary, of whatever force, the army, the air force, and the navy. so what do you think that would in terms of accountability? >> if you want to improve the system, and we all do, i'm not questioning anybody's motives, if the commander knows that when they turn down the jag advice and one of the four situations we've identified, sexual
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assault, the nature of discussion here, that that decision will be reviewed by the second to the service, i can assure you that will do more good to make sure commanders understand how important this situation is to us in the country than taking their authority away. you are doing absolutely the worst possible thing to solve the problem from senator gillibrand's approach, in my view, but every judge advocate general agrees with what i'm saying. utility no to justice system into chaos. you basically take the commanders authority away, and irrational way. what you do is you hold the commander more accountable by having what is the commander's worst nightmare i guess come anybody in the military -- how do you promote in the military? people over you judge your work product. and let me just say this. it is not a military justice problem here. the reforms that we are going to engage in our historic, will be
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the model for assistance in the future but very few people can afford what we're about to impose upon the military. because we're going to make this a priority and for going to assign judge advocates to victims and there's no other state in the nation bill to the people of something we should be proud of. were going to hold commanders more accountable. is the essence of the argument. you've got to take us out of the chain of command because there's something defective about the commander. because the commander doesn't have the ability or they have a bias against the victims that you know longer can trust them to do the right thing. that to me is an indictment of every commander in the military that i think, quite frankly, is not what we should be doing or saying given the track record of how our military has performed. in the area of sexual assaults, the problems that you see in the military are all over the country. they are just talking him were
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in the military. the people in the military should be held to the highest standard, but you will fix no problem in the united states military a few deal that commander out. >> with the senator yield for a comment? and, in fact, the evidence is looking at the facts, that commanders are bringing more cases, are pursuing more cases than over the recommendation of their jagged in sexual assault cases, the evidence we've gotten from a letter we received from admiral winnefeld, the deputy of the chin of the joint chiefs of staff basically he had pointed out that there were over 90 cases, in fact, where commanders had a different view than their jag. dedication go forward, and guess what? convictions were had and people were held accountable. >> there are situation were joinwherejoint jurisdiction lie. the military has jurisdiction. the civilian community has jurisdiction.
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there's been cases where the civilian community went first. there were 49 cases in the army where the civilian community decided not to prosecute in sexual assault, that the army took up and they got an 81% conviction rate. in the marine corps 20 cases turned down by the civilian community where the marine base was at, that went to court, 67% conviction rate. in the navy, and air force, it's the same thing where you have civilian jurisdiction saying no to the case. the military saying yes we're going to go to court. because there's a difference between what the discipline committee is trying to college and with no to community must accomplish and that is to let the troops know their certain conduct it's out of bounds and if it's even close you're going to pay a potential price. now, having said that, please do not blame sexual assault problems in the military on a broken military justice system because it is not broken.
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the commandercommander s are not telling the lawyers take a hike. they cases the was recommend to go to trial actually do go to trial. juries in the military, it's not a jury of one. this is not a civilian system. everybody that goes to trial to listen, is judged by officer. you can request one-third of the military jury to be enlisted members but they will be the most senior people on the base. please understand that military juries are not constructed the way civilian juries are. they are told to be fair, and they do their best to be fair. but it goes into the concept of how the military works. the only person entitled to a trial in a military of equivalent rank is an officer. an officer cannot be tried by people of lesser rank. and that may sound unfair but in the military it makes perfect sense, doesn't it? officers eat in one corner of
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the base, and enlisted people deep in the other corner of the base. not because they hate each other. they admire and respect his chain of command, these lines of authority make us -- i asked for one extra minute if i could. >> without objection, so ordered. >> thank you. this unusual situation for most americans works in the military. it may not sound right to you, but it works because the military is about when you're ordered to do something, you answer the order. you don't disobey. so if we don't elevate the commanders to have the tools available, to make the right decisions, and if we don't instill those below the commander to follow, it all breaks down. and when they commander let's the troops down, and they do sometimes, fire the commander. don't take away the authority of
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the commander to win wars that we will inevitably fight. this is not a civic organization. this is not a democracy. this is a situation where one person can choose to send another person to their death. that person is the commander. and there are plenty of checks and balances. ladies and gentlemen, sexual assault is a problem, but for god's sake, let's don't know every commander in the military, you are fired. you are morally bankrupt. you're incapable of carrying out the duties of making sure that justice is done in these cases. >> the senator's time has expired. >> u.s. senate gavels index for more work on the fiscal year 2014 defense authorization bill. we may also hear from senate majority leader harry reid regarding senate filibuster rules and presidential
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nomination. one of the reporters who we are following on twitter writing the majority there may trigger the quote nuclear option today to win confirmation of three of president obama's judicial nominees. he writes that sources say he could use a tactic known as the nuclear option to change the senate rules with a majority vote. we do expect to hear from the majority leader. he is at his seat. live coverage now here on c-span2. the chaplain, retired admiral barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal lord god, the giver of every good and perfect gift, during this thanksgiving season, we lift grateful hearts to you in prayer. thank you for the splash of raindrops, for the warmth of
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sunshine, for the melody of the moonlight, and for the stars that hang like scintillating lanterns in the night. lord, we're grateful for strength to meet life's challenges, for the fulfillment of honorable labor, for friendships that dispel loneliness, for the laughter of children, and for the joy of the harvest. we praise you for the privilege to receive your forgiveness and to make operative your redeeming grace in our thoughts, desires and hopes. we also express gratitude for our senators, who have an
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opportunity to participate in history's great events and to serve your purposes for their lives in this generation. lord of all to you we raise, this our prayer of grateful praise. we pray in your holy name. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. mr. reid: mr. president? the president pro tempore: the majority leader. mr. reid: i move to proceed to calendar number 243, s. 1356,
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the workforce investment act. the president pro tempore: the clerk will report.. the clerk: a bill to amend the workforce investment act of 1998, and so forth and for other purposes. mr. reid: mr. president, following my remarks and those of the republican leader the senate will resume consideration of the national defense authorization act. i filed cloture on that last night. as a result the filing deadline for first-degree amendments to the bill is 1:00 p.m. today. mr. president, i'm told that s. 1752 is due for a second reading. the president pro tempore: the clerk will read the title of the bill for the second time. the clerk: s. 1752, a bill to reform procedures for determinations to proceed to trial by court-martial for certain offenses under the uniform code of military justice, and for other purposes. mr. reid: i would object to any further proceedings -- the president pro tempore: objection is heard. the bill will be placed on the calendar.
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under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. mr. reid: mr. president? the president pro tempore: the majority leader. mr. reid: i'm a strong supporter of the iran sanctions regime and believe the current sanctions brought iran to the negotiating table. i believe we must do everything possible to stop iran from getting nuclear weapons capability which would threaten israel and the national security of our great country. the obama administration is in the midst of negotiations with iranians that is designed to end their nuclear weapons program. we all strongly support those negotiations and hope they will succeed and want them to boost the strongest -- produce the strongest possible agreement. however, mr. president, we're also aware of the possibility that the iranians could keep the negotiations from succeeding. i hope that won't happen. but the senate must be prepared to move forward with a new bipartisan iran sanctions bill when the senate returns after the thanksgiving recess. i'm committed to do just that.
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a number of senators, democrats and republicans, have offered their own amendments on iran, and they've done a couple of amendments in the defense authorization bill. and i know that other senators also have their own sanctions bills that they would like to move forward. i will support a bill that would broaden the scope of our current petroleum sanctions, place limitations on strayed with strategic sectors of the iranian economy that pursuit its ambitions. while i support the administration's diplomatic efforts, i believe we need to leave our legislative session options open to act on new bipartisan sanctions bill in december shortly after we return. mr. president, i would note the absence of a quorum. the president pro tempore: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the president pro tempore: the majority leader. mr. reid: i ask consent the call of the quorum be terminated. the president pro tempore: without objection, so ordered. the majority leader. mr. reid: mr. president. the american people believe congress is broken. the american people believe the senate is broken. and i believe the american people are right.
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during this congress, the 113th congress, the united states has wasted an unprecedented amount of time on procedural hurdles and partisan obstruction. as a result, the work of this country goes undone. congress should be passing legislation that strengthens our economy, protects american families. instead we're burning wasted hours and wasted days between filibusters. i could say instead we're burning wasted days and wasted weeks between filibusters. even one of the senate's most basic duties -- confirmation of presidential nominees -- has become completely unworkable. mr. president, there has been unbelievable, unprecedented obstruction for the first time in the history of our republic, republicans have routinely used the filibuster to prevent president obama from appointing
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his executive team or confirming judges. it's truly a troubling trend that republicans are willing to block executive branch nominations even when they have no objection to the qualification of the nominee. instead they block qualified executive branch nominees to circumvent the legislative process. they block qualified executive branch nominations to force wholesale changes to laws. they block qualified executive branch nominees to restructure entire executive branch departments. and they block qualified judicial nominees because they don't want president obama to appoint any judges to certain courts. they need -- the need for change is so, so very obvious. it's clearly visible. it's manifest we have to do something to change things. in the history of our country, some 230-plus years, there have
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been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations. half of them have occurred during the obama administration. mr. president, 230-plus years, 50%. four and a half years, 50%. is there anything fair about that? these nominees deserve at least an up-or-down vote, yes or no. but republican filibusters deny them a fair vote, any vote, and deny the president his team. the gridlock has consequences and they're terrible. it's not only bad for president obama, bad for this body -- the united states senate -- it's bad for our country. it's bad for our national security and bad for economic security. that's why it's time to get the senate working again not for the good of the current democratic majority or some future republican majority, but for the
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good of the united states of america. it's time to change. it's time to change the senate before this institution becomes obsolete. mr. president, at the beginning of this congress the republican leader pledged that -- and i quote -- "this congress should be more bipartisan than last congress." mr. president, we're told in scripture, let's take for example old testament. the book of numbers. promises, pledges, a vow, one must not tkpwraeubg his word. -- break his word. in january the republicans promised to work with the majority to process nominations in a timely manner by unanimous consent except in extraordinary circumstances. mr. president, exactly three weeks later republicans mounted a first in history filibuster of
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a highly qualified the senator from fee for secretary of defense. despite being a former republican senator, a decorated war hero, having saved his brother's life in vietnam, defense secretary chuck hagel's nomination was pending in the senate for a record 34 days, more than three times the previous average of a secretary of defense. remember, mr. president, our country was at war. republicans have blocked executive nominees like secretary hagel not because they object to the qualifications, but simply because they seek to undermine the very government in which they were elected to serve. take the nomination of richard cordray to lead the consumer financial protection bureau. there was no doubt about his ability to do the job. but the consumer financial protection bureau, the brainchild of elizabeth warren, went for more than two years without a leader because
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republicans refused to accept the law of the land, because they wanted to roll back a law that protects consumers from the greed of wall street. so i say to my republican colleagues, you don't have to like the laws of the land, but you do have to respect those laws and acknowledge them and abide by them. similar obstruction continued unabated for seven more months until democrats threatened to change senate rules to allow up-or-down votes on executive nominations. in july after obstructing dozens of executive nominees for months and some for years, republicans once again promised they would end the unprecedented obstruction. one look at the senate's executive calendar shows that nothing has changed since july. republicans have continued their record of obstruction if no agreement had ever been reached. republicans continued their record of obstruction as if no
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agreement had been reached. there are currently 75 executive branch nominations ready to be confirmed by the senate, have been waiting an average of 140 days for confirmation. one executive nominee to the agency that safeguards the water that my children and my grandchildren drink, and the air they breathe, has waited almost 900 days for confirmation. we agreed in july that the senate should be confirming nominees to ensure the proper functioning of government. consistent and unprecedented obstruction by the republican caucus has turned advise and consent into deny and obstruct. in addition to filibustering a nominee for secretary of defense for the first time in history, senate republicans also blocked a sitting member of congress
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from an administration position for the first time since 1843. as a senior member of the house financial service committee, congressman mel watts understanding of the mistakes that led to the housing crisis made him uniquely qualified to serve as administrator of the federal housing finance agency. senate republicans simply don't like the consumer protections congressman watt was nominated to develop and implant. so they denied a fellow member of congress and a graduate of the yale school of law even the courtesy of an up-or-down vote. mr. president, in the last three weeks alone, republicans have blocked up-or-down votes on three highly qualified nominees to the d.c. circuit court of appeals. this doesn't take into consideration they twice turned down one of the most qualified people in my 30 years in the senate that i have ever seen come before this body, caitlin
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halligan. so we have got three more to add to that list. the d.c. circuit is considered by many to be the highest court of the land, and some think maybe the most important. it deals with these complex cases come from federal agencies and other things within their jurisdiction. republicans have blocked four of president bush's five nominees to the d.c. circuit, whereas democrats approved four of president bush's six nominations to this important court. today, the d.c. circuit court, at least the second most important court in the land, has more than 25% in vacancies. mr. president, i ask order. there is a conversation over here that's quite distracting. the president pro tempore: the senate will be in order. the senator is -- has the right to be heard. mr. reid: thank you.
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mr. president, there isn't a single legitimate objection to the qualifications of any of these nominees to the d.c. circuit that president obama has put forward. republicans refuse to give them an up-or-down vote, a simple yes or no vote. republicans simply don't want president bush to make any appointments at all to this final court, none, zero. further, only 23 district court nominations have been filibustered in the entire history of our country, 23. you know what? 20 of them have been in the last four and a half years. 230-plus years, three, last four and a half years, 20. that's not fair. with one out of every ten federal judgeships vacant, millions of americans will rely on courts that are overworked
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and understaffed are being denied the justice they rightly deserve. mr. president, more than half of the nation's population lives in parts of the country that have been declared a judicial emergency. no one has worked harder than the presiding officer to move judges. the presiding officer is the chairman also of the judiciary committee. no one knows the problem more than the presiding officer. mr. president, the american people are fed up with this kind of obstruction and gridlock. the american people, democrats, republicans, independents, are fed up with this gridlock, this obstruction. the american people want washington to work for american families once again. mr. president, i'm on their side, which is why i propose an important change to the rules of the united states senate.
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the present republican leader himself said, and this is a direct quote -- "the senate has repeatedly changed its rules as circumstances dictate." close quote. he's right. in fact, the senate has changed its rules 18 times by sustaining or overturning the ruling of the presiding officer in the last 36 years. during the tenures of both republican and democratic majorities. the change we propose today would ensure executive and judicial nominations an up-or-down vote on confirmation. yes, no. the rule of change will make cloture for all nominations other than the supreme court, the majority the threshold vote, yes or no. the senate is a living thing, and to survive it must change as it has over the history of this great country. to the average american, adapting the rules to make the senate work again is just common sense. this is not about democrats
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versus republicans. this is about making washington work regardless of who is in the white house or who controls the senate. to remain relevant and effective as an institution, the senate must evolve to meet the challenges of this modern era. i have no doubt my republican colleagues will argue the fault is ours. it's the democrats' fought. i can say from experience that no one's hands are entirely clean on this issue. but today the important distinction is not between democrats and republicans. it's between those who are willing to help break the gridlock in washington and those who defend the status quo. is the senate working now? can anyone say the senate is working now? i don't think so. today democrats and independents are saying enough is enough. to change the rules regarding
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presidential nominees will apply equally to both parties. when republicans are in power, these changes will apply to them just as well. that, mr. president, is simple fairness. and it's something both sides should be willing to live with to make washington work again. that's simple fairness. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: the president pro tempore: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the president pro tempore: without objection, so ordered. mr. mcconnell: over the past several weeks, the american people have been witness to one of the most breathtaking, breathtaking indictments of big
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government liberalism and memory, and i'm not just talking about a web site. i'm talking about the way in which obamacare was forced on the public by an administration and a democratic-led congress that we now know is willing to do and say anything, anything to pass the law. the president and his democratic allies were so determined to force their vision of health care on the public that they assured them up and down that they wouldn't lose the plans they had, that they saved money instead of losing it, and that they would be able to use the doctors and hospitals they were already using. but of course we know that that rhetoric just doesn't match reality. and the stories we are hearing on a near daily basis are now ranging from heart breaking to comic. just yesterday, i saw a story about a guy getting a letter in the mail saying his dog, his dog had qualified for insurance
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under obamacare. so yeah, i would probably be running for the exit, too, if i had supported this law. i would be looking to change the subject, change the subject just as senate democrats have been doing with their threats of going nuclear and changing the senate rules on nominations. if i were a senator from oregon, for example, which hasn't enrolled a single person, a single person for the obamacare exchange, i'd probably want to talk about something else, too. but here's the problem with this latest distraction. it doesn't distract people from obamacare. it reminds them of obamacare. it reminds them of all the broken promises. it reminds them of the power grab.
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it reminds them of the way democrats set up one set of rules for themselves and another for everybody else. one set of rules for them and another for everybody else. actually, this is all basically the same debate. and rather than distract people from obamacare, it only reinforces the narrative of a party that is willing to do and say just about anything to get its way. willing to do or say just about anything to get its way. because that's just what they're doing all over again. once again, senate democrats are threatening to break the rules of the senate, break the rules of the senate in order to change the rules of the senate. and over what? over what? over a court that doesn't even have enough work to do?
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millions of americans are hurting because of a law washington democrats forced upon them, and what do they do about it? they cook up some fake fight over judges. a fake fight over judges that aren't even needed. look, i get it. as i indicated, i want to be talking about something else, too, if i had to defend dogs getting insurance while millions of americans lost theirs. but it won't work. and the parallels between this latest skirmish and the original obamacare push are just too obvious to ignore. think about it. just think about it. the majority leader promised, he promised over and over again that he wouldn't break the rules of the senate in order to change
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them. this was not an ancient promise. july 14, on "meet the press," said we're not touching judges. this year, july 14, "meet the press," we're not touching judges. then there are the double standards. when democrats were in the minority, they argued strenuously for the very thing they now say we will have to do without. namely, the right to extend a debate on lifetime appointments -- to extended debate on lifetime appointments. in other words, they believe that one set of rules should apply to them, to them and another set to everybody else. he may have just as well have said if you like the rules of the senate, you can keep them.
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huh? if you like the rules of the senate, you can keep them. just the way so many democrats in the administration and congress now believe that obamacare is good enough for their constituents, but then when it comes to them, their political allies, their staff, well, of course, that's different. and let's not forget about the raw power, the raw power at play here. on this point, the similarities between the obamacare debate and the democratic threat to go nuclear on nominations are inescapable. inescapable. they muscled through obamacare on a party-line vote and didn't care about the views of the minority. didn't care one whit about the views of the minority. and that's just about what they're going to do here. the american people decided to give the democrats -- not to
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give the democrats the house or to restore the filibuster-proof majority they had in the senate back in 2009, and our democratic colleagues don't like that one bit. they just don't like it. the american people are getting in the way of what they'd like to do. so they're trying to change the rules of the game to get their way anyway. they said so themselves. earlier this year, the senior senator from new york said they want to fill up the d.c. circuit one way or the other. fill up the d.c. circuit one way or the other. and the reason is clear. as one liberal activist put it earlier this year, president bush's agenda runs through the -- president obama's agenda runs through the d.c. circuit. you can't get what you want through the congress because the american people in november, 2010, said they had had enough.
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they issued a national restraining order after watching two years of this administration unrestrained, so now it runs through the bureaucracy and the d.c. circuit. as i said, in short, unlike the first two years of the obama administration, there is now a legislative check on the president and the administration doesn't much like checks and balances. so it wants to circumvent the people's representatives with an aggressive regulatory agenda, and our democratic colleagues want to facilitate that by filling up a court that will rule on his agenda, a court that doesn't even have enough work to do, especially if it means changing the subject from obamacare for a few days. and get this -- they think they can change the rules of the senate in a way that benefits only them. they want to do it in such a way that president obama's agenda gets enacted but that a future
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republican agenda couldn't get his or her picks confirmed by the supreme court using the same precedent our democratic friends want to set. so they want to have it both ways. but this sort of gerrymandered vision of the nuclear option is really just wishful thinking. as the ranking member of the judiciary committee, senator grassley, pointed out yesterday. the majority leader changes the rules for some judicial nominees, he is effectively changing them for all judicial nominees, including the supreme court, as senator grassley pointed out just yesterday. so look, i realize this sort of wishful thinking might appeal to the uninitiated newcomers in the democratic conference who served exactly zero days in the minority, but the rest of you guys in the conference should know better. those of you who have been in the minority before should know better. let's remember how we got here. let's remember that it was
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senate democrats who pioneered, who literally pioneered the practice of filibustering circuit court nominees and who have been its biggest proponents in the very recent past. after president bush was elected, they even held a retreat in which they discussed the need to change the ground rules by which lifetime appointments are considered. the senior senator from new york put on a seminar, invited laurence tribe, cass sunstein. in the past the practice had been neither side had filibustered circuit tkphorplt niece. in fact -- nominees. in fact i can remember senator lott voting cloture on circuit court judges to the ninth circuit knowing full well once cloture is invoked they would be confirmed. this business of filibustering circuit court judges was entirely an invention of the
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guys over here on the other side, the ones you're looking at right over here. they made it up. they started it. and this is where we ended up. after president bush was elected, they held this retreat that i was just talking about. they made a big deal about it. it was all a prelude to what followed. the serial filibustering of several of president bush's circuit court nominees including miguel he is -- estrada whose nomination to the d.c. circuit was filibustered a record seven times. know they want to blow up the rules because republicans are following a precedent they themselves set and i might add are following that precedent in a much more modest way than democrats did. so how about this for a suggestion? how about instead of picking a fight with senate republicans by
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jamming through nominees through a court that doesn't even have enough work to do, how about taking yes for an answer and working with us on filling judicial emergencies that actually exist. yet, rather than learn from past precedents on judicial nominations that they themselves set, democrats now want to set another one. i have no doubt that if they do, they will come to regret that one as well. our colleagues evidently would rather live for the moment, satisfy the moment, live for the moment and try to establish a story line that republicans are intent on obstructing president obama's judicial nominees. that story line is patently ridiculous in light of the facts. an utterly absurd suggestion in light of the facts. before this current democratic gambit to fill up the d.c.
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circuit one way or the other, the senate had confirmed 215 -- 215 -- of the president's judicial nominees and rejected two. that's a 99% confirmation rate. 215 confirmed and 2 rejected. 99%. look, if advise and consent is to mean anything at all, occasionally consent is not given. but by any objective standard, senate republicans have been very, very fair to this president. we've been willing to confirm his nominees. in fact, speaking of the d.c. circuit, we just confirmed one a few months ago 97-0 to the d.c. circuit.
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so i suggest our colleagues take a time-out and stop trying to jam us, work with us instead to confirm vacancies that actually need to be filled, which we have been doing. this rules change charade has gone from being a biannual threat to an annual threat now to a quarterly threat. how many times have we be threatened my colleagues? do what i say or we'll break the rules to change the rules. confirm everybody 100%. anything less than that is obstructionism. that's what they're saying in effect. let me say we're not interested in having a gun put to our head any longer. you think this is in the best interest of the united states senate and the american people to make advise and consent in effect mean nothing, obviously
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you can break the rules to change the rules to achieve that. but some of us have been around here long enough to know the shoe is sometimes on the other foot. this strategy of distract, distract, distract is getting old. i don't think the american people are fooled about this. if our colleagues want to work with us to fill judicial vacancies like we've been doing all year, 99% of judges confirmed, obviously we're willing to do that. if you want to play games, set yet another precedent that you'll no doubt come to regret, i say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, you'll regret this and you may regret it a lot
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sooner than you think. let me be clear, the democratic play book of broken promises, double standards and raw power, the same play book that got us obamacare, has to end. it may take the american people to end it, but it has to end. that's why republicans are going to keep their focus where it belongs, on the concerns of the american people. it means we're going to keep pushing to get back to the drawing board on health care to replace obamacare with real reforms that do not punish the middle class, and we'll leave the political games to our friends on the other side of the aisle. mr. reid: mr. president? the president pro tempore: the majority leader. mr. reid: what is the business before the senate right now? the president pro tempore: the business before the senate is the motion to proceed to
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s. 1356. mr. reid: i move now planned --e to proceed to the vote on the millett nomination. the presiding officer: the question is on the motion to proceed. the yeas and nays have been requested. the clerk will call the roll. is there a sufficient second? the yeas and nays are ordered. the clerk will call the roll. we ruled there is a sufficient second. the yeas and nays have been ordered. the clerk can call the roll. vote:
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the president pro tempore: could we have order in the senate so the clerk can be heard. vote:
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the president pro tempore: on this vote -- could we have order, please. on this vote, there are 57 yeas, 40 nays, and three responded present. the majority leader. mr. reid: i move to reconsider the vote by which cloture was not invoked on the millett nomination. the presiding officer: the question is on the motion. the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: parliamentary inquiry. the president pro tempore: the republican leader will state the parliamentary inquiry. mr. mcconnell: is it correct that more than 200 judicial nominations have been confirmed
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by the senate since 2009? the president pro tempore: the chair is informed the secretary of the senate confirmed more than 200 judicial nominations have been confirmed since 2009. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, further parliamentary inquiry. is it correct that under the bipartisan streamlining provisions of s. res. 116 and s. 679, in the 112th congress, the senate removed 169 nominations from senate consideration completely, moved 272 nominations to the senate's expedited calendar and removed from senate consideration approximately 3,000 nominations for the noaa, officer corps and the public health service? the president pro tempore: it is the understanding of the chair that pursuant to s. res. 116,
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and s. 679, the 112th congress, a large number of nominations were moved to a newly created expedited consideration process or removed from the advice and consent process of the senate altogether. the chair cannot confirm the exact number. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, i move to adjourn the senate until 5:00 p.m. and ask for the yeas and nays. the president pro tempore: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be a sufficient second. the question is on the motion. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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the president pro tempore: are there other senators wishing to vote? if not, on this vote the yeas are 46, the nays are 54. the motion to adjourn is not agreed to. the majority leader. mr. reid: are we now on the motion to reconsider the millett nomination? the president pro tempore: we are. is there a sufficient second? there is a sufficient second. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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the president pro tempore: could we have order so the clerk can be heard. vote:
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