Skip to main content

tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  December 11, 2013 2:30pm-4:31pm EST

2:30 pm
majoritarian power. anything it takes. anything. to get around anyone who disagrees with them, whether it's obamacare or the judges they expect to defend it. anything at all it takes they're willing to do. and let me say it again. nobody who supported this rules change can walk away from nominees like professor pillard or their rulings. they own them. but let's get back to obamacare for a few minutes because that is the issue the american people are most concerned about right now.
2:31 pm
that's the issue the democrats want to distract us from. the american people should know what the liberal play book is here. the left believes that the president's agenda runs straight through the d.c. circuit court. the president's agenda runs straight through the d.c. circuit court. that's why they pressured democrats to change the rules of the senate to pack this court with folks like professor pillard. the goal here is actually twofold. first, grease the skids for an agenda that can't get through the congress, then build a firewall around it by packing the court with your ideological allies. that way, democrats can keep telling folks what they think
2:32 pm
they want to hear about obamacare and anything else. but they can also rest assured that nobody's going to tamper with it. nobody's going to tamper with it. all of this is in the context in which the national debate over obamacare and its failures should be viewed. but none of it, none of it should distract us from what obamacare is doing to our health care system or to millions, literally millions of ordinary americans who have been suffering under its effects. over the past couple of months, the american people have been witness to one of the most breathtaking indictments of big government liberalism in memory. and i'm not just talking about the web site, the subject of late-night comedy.
2:33 pm
i'm talking about the way in which obamacare was forced on the public by an administration and a democrat-led congress that we now know was willing to do and say anything to pass the law. they are willing to do or say anything. here in the senate, we had the cornhusker kickback. we had the gator aid. we had the louisiana purchase. then they finally got up to the 60 votes they needed. they had to have every single democrat. they got them any way it took. that coupled with the grossly misleading statement if you have your policy and you like it, you can keep it. if you have your doctor and you like him or her, you can keep it. the democrats were so determined to force their vision of health care on the public that they assured them they wouldn't lose the plans they had, this they
2:34 pm
would save money instead of losing it, and they have certainly been able to keep using the doctors and hospitals they were already using. and the stories we're hearing now on a nearly daily basis range from heart breaking to comic. so americans are really upset. you know, finally the big government crowd messed with an issue that affects every single american. in my state, they have shut down the coal industry, and that sure had a big impact by creating a depression in central appalachia. but you could argue you can go after the coal industry because they are confined to certain areas of the country. but here they are messing with everybody. the one issue that every single american is affected by and cares about, their own health care. all these stunts do is -- the
2:35 pm
attention-getting stunts that the president has been engaged in, you can have those until you are blue in the face, but they don't change anything. all they do is remind folks of the way democrats continue to set up one set of rules for themselves and another for everybody else. one set of rules for us and another set for everybody else, whether it's obamacare or the i.r.s. or the nlrb or pushing the button on the nuclear option. it's all basically the same debate. we're going to do what we're going to do. we don't care what the rules are. we'll break the rules. we'll do whatever it takes to get what we want. it's a party that's clearly willing to do and say just about anything to get its way,
2:36 pm
anything. millions of americans are hurting because of a law washington democrats forced upon them. and what do they do about it? they cook up a fight over judges on a court that doesn't even have enough work to do, a court they would argue a few years ago shouldn't have any additional members because they had a light workload and now they have an even lighter workload. so that we know what this is about. as i indicated, i would want to be talking about something else, too, if i had to defend dogs getting insurance while millions of americans lost theirs. this isn't going to work. and the parallels between the latest move and the original obamacare push are really all too obvious to ignore.
2:37 pm
the majority leader promised over and over again that he wouldn't break the rules of the senate in order to change them. on july 14, he went on "meet the press" and he said we're not touching judges. that was july 14 of this year. that echoed the promise he made back in january of this year. it sounds a lot like if you have your policy and you like it, you can keep it. then there are the double standards. when democrats are in the minority, they argued strenuously against changing the rules. and let's not forget about the raw power at play here. the american people themselves decided not to give democrats the house or to restore the filibuster-proof majority they
2:38 pm
had in the senate in the last two elections. an inconvenient truth for our friends on the other side. they don't own the place anymore. they did the first two years. 60 votes in the senate, 40-seat majority in the house. not anymore. the american people took a look at that the first two years and issued a national restraining order in november of 2010. but our friends don't want to be deterred by that. they are going to pursue their agenda through the courts and through the regulatory schemes the administration propounds. so they have just changed the rules of the game to get their way. i think it's pretty clear if you can write the rules of the game, you ought to be able to win them. earlier this year, the senior senator from new york said senate democrats intended to -- quote -- "fill up the d.c. circuit one way or another." end quote. it couldn't be any more clear
2:39 pm
than that. we'll do it one way or the other. so we break the rules and change the rules and do what we want to do. the arrogance of power on full display by an arrogant majority. on full display right here in the united states senate. so our colleagues evidently would rather live for the moment than to try to establish a story line that republicans -- i just heard it here from the majority leader, republicans are intent on obstructing president obama's judicial nominees, a story line that is patently ridiculous. i mean, you can keep saying things over and over again, but it doesn't make it true. it doesn't make it true to keep saying the wrong thing over and over again. here are the facts.
2:40 pm
before this current democratic gambit to fill up the d.c. circuit one way or the other, as the senior senator from new york said, the senate had confirmed 215 judges and rejected two, two. some provocation for breaking your word and breaking the rules of the senate in order to change the rules of the senate. that's a confirmation rate, by the way, of 99%. 99%. republicans have been clearly willing to confirm the president's judicial nominees. on the d.c. circuit, we recently confirmed one 97-0. so the democratic strategy of distract, distract, distract is getting old. it's not working. the american people are not listening to this ridiculous argument. they're worried about their health care.
2:41 pm
and they are angry at the people who caused them to lose their policies. 280,000 lost their policies, and on the exchange, 26,000 have been able to get private policies. the rest of them are all medicaid recipients. the democratic play book of broken promises, double standards and raw power, the same play book that got us obamacare, has got to end, and with the represent of the american people, we'll end it a year from now. meanwhile, republicans are going to keep pushing back to get back to the drawing board on health care, to replace obamacare with real reforms that help rather than punish the middle class. now, i'm, mr. president, at this point going to refer to some constituent letters that i've
2:42 pm
gotten. that i think the senate would find noteworthy related to obamacare. here's a letter from a constituent in bowling green. i'm a 35-year-old college graduate and represent many hardworking middle-class kentuckians who are being directly impacted by obamacare. i'm a married father of two young children. we are by most accounts an average american family. before obamacare was passed, my family was insured through a health insurance policy purchased on the open market. we shop several different -- shopped several different policies and chose the one that was the best fit for our needs.
2:43 pm
we recently received a notice from our insurer that our plan didn't meet the requirements of the new health care law. according to the letter, we were required by law to be transitioned into a plan that did meet those new requirements. also included in the letter was our new premium, and that shocked us. according to the letter, our premiums would be increased 124%, more than double what we had budgeted for this expense. according to a speech by the vice president on september 27 of this year, a family of four earning $50,000 a year could get coverage for as little as $106 a month. should i have to pay eight times that amount because my wife and i both work hard to provide for our family and earn more than the vice president's limit of $50,000 a year?
2:44 pm
why should the price of a product be based on my ability to pay? very good question. why should the price of a product be based upon my ability to pay? would that work at the gas station? should the price of a gallon of gas be decided by my income tax return? or at the grocery store, should the price of a gallon of milk be determined by my income tax return? or in shopping for a home loan, should the interest rate on my mortgage be higher if i earn more than $50,000 a year? this predatory pricing structure runs contrary to the basic american foundation principles of free enterprise and is illegal in every other marketplace. it should be illegal in health care, too. larry thompson from lexington.
2:45 pm
my health plan that i have had for ten years just got canceled. and the least expensive plan on the exchange -- listen to this -- is a 246% increase. that means hundreds of extra dollars per month we don't have. obama lied and made a promise he couldn't keep when he said repeatedly that if we wanted to keep our current health care policy, we could. that's what mr. thompson from lexington said. he has really affected our lives for the worst. much worse. i am so mad. we must stop insurance companies from canceling policies now. and of course the reason they're having to cancel policies, because the law makes them. sheri harris from nicholasville in my state.
2:46 pm
do you know the lake cumberland hospital in somerset is not on the network which means anybody in pulaski and surrounding counties that qualify for a subsidy and want to use it will have to drive to london, corbin or lexington to get care. do you seriously believe when this comes to the attention of the citizens they're going to appreciate you voting it back in the budget? please be sure you know what you're voting for. it may be too late for you. i'm surprised you took that step instead of standing up for what is right. harriet white from warren county near bowling green. dear senator mcconnell i'm deeply upset because of the affect the health care act has on our health insurance. it's negatively affected our finances and our quality of care. the president promised if you had health care, you would not
2:47 pm
be impacted. the sad truth is that like my coworkers, my deductible has doubled along with my premiums. the only way to be able to adjust is for us to either reduce or stop our 401(k) contributions. this is hardly affordable health care. i don't understand why such a blatant lie has been allowed to go this far. do we not as american citizens have a right to choose basic services? i don't think the government should make choices for the people that impact us in such a negative way. thank you for your time and please keep fighting this gross abuse of power. aaron mclemore from louisville. seeing as i'm a single male, 31, policy being canceled, by the way, with no kids or dependents,
2:48 pm
and i'm paying for pediatric dental care and maternity care, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me as a single male age 31 having to pay for pediatric, dental care and maternity care; doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. he makes more than $100,000 a year and doesn't qualify for a subsidy on the obama exchange. this 13-year-old's -- this 31 -year-old's policy is being canceled. his higher costs aren't subsidizing lower-income policyholders. his subsidy has already been paid by the government. but he's providing a subsidy in another way. the new act requires him to buy a policy with features he doesn't need. here's what he says. seeing as i'm a single male with
2:49 pm
no kids or dependents and i'm paying for pediatric dental care and maternity care, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. what obamacare is doing is moving mclemore out of the individual market where people are covered by age and history to a group policy in which young and older workers get the same coverage and pay the same premium. mr. and mrs. spears from louisville. i think you should note no, they say, what is going on in kentucky with the web site. i had to sign my wife up since our governor canceled all of our policies effective january 1, 2014. i signed up through the benefits firm advertising them that i wanted no subsidies since we've
2:50 pm
already paid our way in 42 years of marriage. he told me the full pay option of $517 a month and advised no income verification was necessary since no subsidies were involved. so i chose the kentucky co-op plan as i felt the moneys would stay in kentucky with this plan he went on, mr. president. he said and then i received four mailings from connect, one stating she was declined coverage unless i send income verifications. also one stating i have to fill out a voter registration and return. they have no information on my voting record. whether you're registered to vote or not, what does that have to do with signing up with obamacare. i called connect today and said i feel i do not feel i should be required to send this
2:51 pm
information to them, and if they wanted this information i file taxes every year and would be easily assessed. in regards to voter registration, i advised this has nothing to do with health care registration and i strongly object to language linking the two in the letter. any clear-thinking person would be upset at our state government trying to bring voter registration into this mess, not to mention personnel information they should not need since no subsidies are involved. the stories go on and on. alana lynch from brandenburg. my out-of-pocket expenses for my family of five went from $1,500 to $7,000 a year. the best policy that is available by my employer has a $7,000 out-of-pocket a year provision, and she works for a very large health care provider
2:52 pm
jeanine gentry. we're covered by my husband's policy through his employer. we have not found out exactly how much the premium is going to rise but have been told to expect between 150% to 300% increase per paycheck. we do know for certain that our deductible will rise from $5,000 annually to $8,500 annually. ann nauer from shepherdsville. i received my insurance papers from united health care and found that my premiums have risen from $214 to $480 a month. i only get $1,181 in social security a month. that's after my medicare
2:53 pm
payment. so i went online to see if i could get my husband signed up for this a.c.a. insurance. i filled out the information but was told that what i stated for our income was incorrect and that i needed to send in proof of my income. then they insisted that we fill out this form about voter registration. voter registration. we're already registered to vote and felt this was completely unnecessary. the form did have a spot that stated we were already registered, but i don't trust the web site so we declined. we got forms in the mail anyway. i'm just going to stick with my old insurance and pay the higher premiums because i know what it covers. i have medicare and united health care. i've kept this insurance because of my husband who is also retired but not covered under any other insurance. my insurance came from my sob
2:54 pm
that i had before i retired as part of the retirement package. and mike calm from prestonsburg. it is in eastern kentucky in the heart of appalachia which is also suffering a depression as a result of this administration's war on coal. so this person who corresponded with me is also in the middle of a depression, the depression-riddled part of my state created also by the obama. here's what he said. a policy that has similar coverage to what we had would cost us around $1,100 a month. this is a 100% increase for me and my wife. i was informed by the
2:55 pm
individual, i guess, that's helping me find coverage that it was because we live in eastern kentucky and our insurance company currently is not available there. says we're not going to pay that. i don't blame him. giselle martino, of prospect. my premium health care at premium cost to me is being canceled. i paid a very high premium to have a major medical plan. i'm now forced into the exchange for a lesser plan with more exclusions and higher deductibles. i will most likely never reach these deductibles so how does this help me? i'm basically paying into a plan for other. if i must pay for my higher-tier heart drugs anyway, why should i
2:56 pm
bother with the health plan? what a disappointment this administration has caused. cheryl russell from owens owensborough. we got a letter from our insurance company saying our current policy will not meet the affordable care act, which means it will go away. according to our insurance company, we will have to take pediatric dental and vision insurance. pediatric dental and vision insurance. we don't have any kids, she said. they said it was because of obamacare. they're allowing us to keep our plan until december 2014 for an additional 38 more a month so we can final another plan. another plan through this company that we had our whole
2:57 pm
life will cost us at least $900 to $1,000 a month. it will cost us over $150 more a month plus -- listen to this -- plus our deductible goes up to $5,700. i sent you a message last week, she says to me. i'm sending this again. please keep taking a stand against obamacare. our president lied to us, she said. our president lied to us. not only are we going to lose our insurance, but when we go to a different policy, we have to pay more. we'll never be able to retire. we are 58 and 56 years old. we will have to work the rest of our lives just to pay for our own insurance. the company we work for doesn't provide it. this isn't fair and it isn't right. thanks for taking a stand for all of us who are in kentucky. so, mr. president, in wrapping
2:58 pm
up my remarks, here's the situation. on christmas eve 2009, on a straight party line vote, 60 democrats voting for, 40 republicans voting against, the administration jammed through a 2,700 page rewrite of 16% of our economy. the goal, one could argue, was a noble goal, that of trying to reduce the number of uninsured in america. from an estimated group of about 45 million americans. the first problem with this particular solution is that c.r.s., congressional research
2:59 pm
service, which doesn't work for republicans or democrats, said when all is said and done, you're still going to have 30 million uninsured. what's the cost-benefit ratio of taking $1 trillion out of providers of health care, roughly $750 billion in cuts to hospitals, health care homes and the like, hospice, billions of dollars in taxes on medical devices, tax insurance on health -- taxes on health insurance premiums kicking in the first of the year. a $1 trillion on providers of health care. and over on the consumer side, i've just given you a series of stories about how it impacts the consumers of health care. higher premiums, higher deductibles, lost jobs, record number of part-time employees, wreaking havoc with the american economy from the consumers of health care and on the providers
3:00 pm
of health care, all to reduce the number of uninsured from 45 million to 30 million. this has to be the worst cost-benefit ratio in the history of american government. all of this disruption, this catastrophic impact on 16% of our economy in order to make a marginal reduction in the number of insured -- uninsured. this has to be the biggest mistake in modern times. in fact, i'm hard pressed to think of a single bigger mistake the federal government's made, and it's made some whoppers over the years. i'm hard pressed to think of a single example that comes anywhere close to this. a gargantuan, massive mistake which has had a lot to do with the fact that we have had such a tepid recovery in our country after a deep recession. you know, the pattern since world war ii has been the deeper the recession, the quicker the
3:01 pm
bounceback until this one. deep recession, tepid recovery. the government itself is the reason for that. massive overregulations, an army of regulators who will now have their work sped through the d.c. circuit court, that believe if you're making a profit, you're up to no good. you're obviously cheating your customers, mistreating your employees there to help you. this massive bureaucratic overreach has definitely slowed our recovery. so i hope the american people will give us an opportunity in the not-too-distapt future to pull this thing out root and branch and start over and do it right. and, mr. president, i think that concludes my time, and i believe that senator rockefeller is here, so i yield the floor. mr. rockefeller: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia. mr. rockefeller: i want to speak about an issue of great importance to the national
3:02 pm
security of the united states and to all of our allies, which is preventing iran from ever having a nuclear weapon. there is no doubt in my mind that we will, in fact, do that, but certain things have to happen. the question is how, not whether, we prevent a nuclear armed iran. for the first time in years, there is a real opportunity to take a good step, verifiably eliminate iran's nuclear weapons capability through tough negotiations rather than the alternative, which is inevitably acts of war. the initial interim agreement between the p-5-plus 1 that iran is encouraging is a first step, and i urge my colleagues not to
3:03 pm
put it at risk. how would they do that? by passing new sanctions right now. a lot of talk about that. it's easy to look tough. i'm kind of amazed, to be honest with you, that i don't think anybody from our side has gotten up and made a speech about this subject on the senate floor. i meant to yesterday but i couldn't. thank you, senator johnson, chairman of the banking committee who has come to the rescue of all of us, he's not going to allow it to happen, and i totally congratulate him for that act of quiet and strong courage. instead, we should simply state the obvious. if iran reneges or plays games, there is no question in anybody's minds in this senate that we will quickly pass new sanctions the very moment that the need arises.
3:04 pm
to me, this is a very clear-cut case, and again i frankly do not understand why more of us, at least on this side, have not got up to make this case. i wonder -- i think i have some ideas, but i do wonder. there is still a long way to go, no question, but this diplomatic opportunity is real. why? because iran wants and needs to find a way out of the financial isolation that our crippling sanctions have inflicted on its government and its business and its people. it's horrific. of what our sanctions have done. iran's people elected a president who proposed a different path. ayatollah khomeini, iran's supreme leader, has given president rouhani some flexibility to try to find an agreement. that's unprecedented, and most people think it's for real. we shall see.
3:05 pm
and they did, in fact, agree to the initial deal, so already one step has been taken with a good result. i don't think it's a coincidence. the immense power of u.s.-led global financial sanctions backed up by our allies has created the opportunity to resolve this issue diplomatical ly with verifiable agreements and skeptical inspect ors rather than with bombs or boots on the ground. i spent much of my tenure on the intelligence committee going back before 9/11 with the director of national intelligence, the c.i.a., the n.s.a., the f.b.i. and the treasury department to build our tools to exploit and to freeze the international web of financial networks that enable terrorists and proliferation
3:06 pm
programs, particularly iran's nuclear program, their programs up. i have staunchly supported the multilateral regimes that are currently suffocating the iranian economy and that force the current iranian regime to the negotiating table. they would not have been there otherwise. the effect of inflation and devastation of economic reduction and all the rest is -- is devastating. we don't choose to see that. but it is. the initial agreement is the first concrete result of those sanctions, madam president. it stops progress on iran's nuclear program. it neutralizes iran's most dangerous stockpile of nuclear material -- that is, 20% of enriched uranium -- and it establishes strong monitoring mechanisms that enable inspectors to verify that iran is in compliance with these
3:07 pm
commitments. the first step maintains the powerful sanctions regime that has forced iran to the table. it maintains it. the agreement maintains that. the very small amount of targeted and reversible financial relief that it provides, roughly $7 billion out of $100 billion in sanctions that the agreement leaves fully in place only underscores the grip that we have and that our allies have on iran's financial position. the grip will not loosen during this six-month agreement as we try to go to a next step. we will continue to control and limit iran's access to money during the six-month agreement if iran, in fact, reneges on the terms of the interim deal, iran
3:08 pm
will not even get all of the small relief that we have agreed to. they will, however, get more sanctions, and over the next six months, the small amount of financial relief that iran can gain in the deal will be dwarfed by the amount of their loss in their oil revenue, that our continuing sanctions will deny iran that was in place, that is in place. iran will be in worse shape financially, madam president, six months from now than it is today. that's a fact. the pressure does not cease to relent. it just keeps going. it just keeps going. so it's a good situation, tough, agreed to and in place. that is why iran needs to
3:09 pm
complete a final comprehensive agreement to eliminate its nuclear weapons capabilities. does that guarantee it? no, it doesn't, but we're a step further than we were before, because this interim agreement does not give iran what it needs to escape financial ruin. which counts. i appreciate the concern of colleagues who want more now. it's muscular, you know. but we must give this opportunity a chance. however you see the first step, whatever your view of it is, the fact is that today iran is further from a nuclear weapon than it would have been without this deal that we have just completed. and we have accomplished this first step through diplomatic strength without a shot fired. i think we can agree that that's
3:10 pm
pretty good. we all want to put pressure on iran to comply with the commitments that it's made to the interim agreement, and we will, and to agree to a long-term comprehensive deal, and we hope that it will prevent it from ever developing a weapon, but we have taken the first step. and my colleagues, the pressure already exists for them to continue on this path. again if iran reneges on the commitments that is made in this agreement or blocks on a final deal that verifiably ends its nuclear weapons capabilities, we will go right to, without doubt, the congress imposing new and evermore powerful sanctions on iran, but we don't have to do that now. in fact, it's a terrible mistake to do that now. given the indisputable credibility of that threat, i
3:11 pm
urge my colleagues to consider how unnecessary and how risky it would be to preemptively introduce new sanctions right now, new sanctions now could be criticized as a violation of the interim agreement. it could be blown up that way. such a move would separate us from our negotiating partners in p-5-plus-1. those are called our best friends. and it could further complicate the already difficult negotiations of a final agreement, which we all pray for. i know some senators doubt these risks, but i ask my colleagues this -- if there is any chance at all that new sanctions right now might disrupt the agreement or jeopardize a future agreement, why on earth would we
3:12 pm
risk that? why would we risk that? we know where we stand, we know where we're going. we can't be sure that we're going to get there, but we know that we always have the power to increase sanctions if they try to avoid certain things. but they haven't. so why pile on now and threaten to blow the whole thing up? why, madam president, would we risk an opportunity that may very well be the only chance we have to resolve this enormous problem without the use of military force? and i do not know of an alternative to that. if we lose this diplomatic opportunity, then the use of force will be the only option to stop iran's path to a nuclear
3:13 pm
bomb. all of us have lived with war for the past 12 years, intimately, painfully, who are i haviccally. we have all seen -- horrifically. we have all seen close up the burden of these wars put on our troops, our families and our economy, therefore our people. this has only hardened my resolve to ensure that this immense sacrifice never happens unnecessarily, that we take great care to exhaust every possible avenue to diplomatic resolution. colleagues, we now have an opportunity to eliminate iran's nuclear weapons capabilities. we can do it peacefully. let's not put that at risk. i thank the presiding officer
3:14 pm
and yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. baucus: president lincoln once said character is like a tree, and reputation like its shadow. the shadow is what we think of, the tree is the real thing, end quote. it is my distinct privilege to rise today to speak on two nominees that are indeed the real thing, justin brian morris and judge susan watters. the senate will soon take up both their nominations for united states district judge for the district of montana. one of the most important responsibilities i have is providing advice and consent to the president on nominations to the federal bench.
3:15 pm
i approach each vacancy with the same criteria. i want the best, regardless of whether they are republican or democrats, liberal or conservative. the best. judge morris and judge watters are the best. their quality of character and breadth of experience are income able. justice morris was raised in butte, montana. he earned a bachelor and master's degrees in economics from stafford university and received his law degree with distinction from stanford university law school in 1992. justice morris' experience at the law school is as varied as it is noteworthy. he clerked for judge john noonan jr., the ninth circuit court of
3:16 pm
appeals and chief justice william rehnquist of the united states supreme court. he spent time working abroad as legal assistant to the iran-u.s. claims tribunal in the hague and was legal officer at the united nations kpwepbgs division in geneva, switzerland. he spent time in private practice handling criminal and commercial litigation at the law federal of goetz, madtk-pb and dunn. he served for four years as the state's solicitor general. he was elected to his current position on the montana supreme court in 2004 and demonstrated integrity, fairness and superb analytical skills on mt.'s highest court. justice morris is known for his approachability, evenhandedness and down to earth manner. after all, he's from butte. he can often be found reading to students at smith elementary
3:17 pm
school in helena. he commanded the respect of his colleagues at the highest level of the law for eight years served the people of montana on the bench in the community. his nomination is an extraordinary mark in his career and i have no doubt he'll continue to serve at the highest level. i congratulate justice morris and his wife and children on this achievement. in 1916, montana's elected jeanette ranken to be the first woman to serve in congress. four years before women had the right to vote. we in montana are especially proud of that. judge susan watters is another traeubl blazer. not only is judge watters a respected jurist and dedicated public servant, but once
3:18 pm
confirmed she'll be the first woman to serve in that court in the state of montana. she was born and raised in billings, montana, graduated with honors from eastern montana college. she raised two young daughters while attending the university of montana law school, receiving her law degree in 1988. since then, judge watters has cemented her reputation as a skilled trial lawyer and a judge. after law school, judge watters served as deputy county attorney for yellowstone county, handling a multitude of civil and criminal cases. in 1995, judge watters entered private practice taking hundreds of cases to state and federal court. in 1999 government marc racicot appointed to sit as a state district court judge for montana's 13th district in billings and since her appointment judge watters has been reelected three times most recently with over 87% of the vote. judge watters has tried hundreds of cases during her 14-plus
3:19 pm
years on the bench. she has heard civil, criminal, probate, civil and family law cases. she further served her community by establishing the yellowstone county family drug treatment court in 2001. the first of its kind in montana. its overwhelming success has made it a national model. judge watters is known for being fair, hardworking, possession strong analytical skills and excellent judicial temperament. her stiff trial experience as a practicing lawyer would be a valuable addition to montana's federal bench. judge watters embodies the qualities that service on the federal bench requires. she has served the people of yellowstone county for over a decade. i am absolutely confident she'll bring the same professionalism and dignity to the federal bench. i want to congratulate judge watters, her husband ernie and their two daughters on this
3:20 pm
outstanding achievement. justice morris and judge watters are supremely qualified. their service is sorely needed. we have two vacancies in our state. we have three federal district court judgeships. the vacancies that judge watters and justice morris will fill are both considered judicial emergencies. chief judge dana christianson, our lone active judge, travels over 300 miles round trip to hear cases. in fact, i just spoke to him yesterday telling him that we filled these two positions in montana. he said, yeah, max, i'm getting in the car right now to drive, a four-hour drive to great falls, montana, from missoula, so he could sit and hear some cases in great falls. judge don malloy travels over 340 miles one way, greater distance between d.c. and hartford, connecticut.
3:21 pm
they have the qualities montana demands of their federal judges. their intellect, experience and integrity are above reproach. i urge my colleagues to join me in supporting their nominations. i yield the floor. mr. roberts: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. roberts: i rise to address the nomination of cornelia pillard for the d.c. circuit. it appears to me the environment in which we are discussing these nominations is a good example of the new rules of the senate. we're already getting a taste of the new world order around here. it didn't take long. it's only but a few weeks but we are already experiencing life in the new senate. those in the majority who wanted to change the rules are now certainly getting their wish.
3:22 pm
it should have been obvious that the rule change would impact the senate in many unforeseen ways. we in the minority have had to find other ways to make our voices heard. as we watch the majority use its new power to move whoever it wants through this body, we should realize that we have started down a course from which we will never return. indeed, we should expect more changes in the future. the majority changed the rules because it did not like how they were operating to frustrate ambition, an agenda. if other things come about that frustrate the majority, we may have new changes to get rid of those frustrations too. the invocation of the nuclear option has set us on an irreversible course. a few weeks ago i came to this floor and quoted our former parliamentarian bob dove. he and richard arenberg, a
3:23 pm
onetime aide to former majority leader mitchell wrote a book called defending the filibuster and this is what they said. it bears repeating. if a 51-vote majority is empowered to rewrite the senate rules, the day will come, as it did in the house of representatives, when the majority will construct rules that give it near absolute control over amendments and debate. and there is no going back from that. no majority in the house of representatives has or ever will voluntary, voluntarily relinquish that power in order to give the minority a greater voice in crafting legislation. unfortunately, the majority didn't seem to care about the concern these wise men raised and went ahead with their rule change anyway. now we are feeling this effect. this power grab is having other consequences too. today i attended a hearing in the rules committee, as the
3:24 pm
ranking member for nominees to an agency called the election assistance commission. you probably never heard of it. madam president, i doubt if you've ever heard of it. it's a small agency with four commissioners, two democrats and two republicans. nominations to be bipartisan -- nominations to bipartisan commissions have traditionally been paired and moved jointly. this practice ensures each party has a voice in such bodies. before the rules were changed, the minority could be assured that their consent would be needed for appointments. that assurance is now gone. will the majority just make its own appointments to commissions like this now? i hope not. that is under discussion in the rules committee. but what motivation do they have to ever confirm any republican nominee if they so choose to even consider minority views in this regard? we're going down a dangerous
3:25 pm
path, madam president, and no one knows where it will lead. the same is true in regards to the atmosphere that we find with the affordable care act. for some reason, the executive has decided to make any changes to the law without really considering coming back to the senate or the house or the congress to make these changes. so in part, i come to the floor to speak about an issue that continues to keep me up every night and every kansan as well, and that is the implementation of this affordable care act, the health reform law. this is indeed the president's legacy legislation. based on what i'm hearing from kansas at home, i would think the president would want to be remembered for something else entirely.
3:26 pm
unfortunately, since the implementation of obamacare began, the stories and reports have only confirmed the many warnings that i and my colleagues have made during the debate for the last three years. people can't keep their coverage despite the many even hundreds of promises made by this president and the supporters of this law. people are losing their coverage. premiums are increasing, even though the president and supporters of this law said premiums would decrease by $2,500 for all americans. most of the stories i hear about, and especially kansans, involve many hundreds of dollars in increases in monthly premiums. even more recently, folks are realizing that what they had to pay in out-of-pocket costs are going to skyrocket. deductibles are higher and the products, drugs and services, kansans have to pay to reach
3:27 pm
their deductible has virtually exploded. this doesn't even count the increases to co-pays and other costs that patients are seeing, especially with regard to prescription drugs. and this is being done in a way so that patients are getting the full information they need. so much for being the transparent, most transparent government in history. and along these lines, i believe it is my responsibility to come to the floor and remind kansans about several other provisions of obamacare that patients may not be aware will put the government between their, the patient and the doctor. their doctor. during the health care reform debate, i spoke at length in the health, education, labor and pensions committee and in the finance committee and on the senate floor about something called rationing, a subject that
3:28 pm
is very controversial. specifically, i want people to know about the four rationers -- boards, commissions, whatever you want to talk about; the four rationers included in obamacare. first is the c.m.s. innovation center, center for medicaid services innovation center, which was given an enormous budget to find innovative ways to reform payment and delivery models. what this really means is, that c.m.s. can now use taxpayer dollars to invest in ways to reduce patient access to care. it gives c.m.s. new powers to cut payments to medicare beneficiaries with a goal to reduce program expenditures, but the reality being that they will reduce patient access. there are new authorities also granted to the u.s. preventive services task force.
3:29 pm
i don't know what the acronym is here. it's the uspstf. too many consonants. to review testing and preventive health data and made recommendations for primary care practitioners and health systems. i would guess that many would agree that that is still what they do today. however, the weight of their recommendations holds significantly more weight as of today due to the affordable care act or obamacare. because of this law, the health care law, the uspstf can now decide what should and more importantly should not be covered by health care plans. if the uspstf doesn't recommend it, it won't be cover by your
3:30 pm
health plan and you will bear the cost of the procedure. already we are seeing this with things like prostate exams, mammograms for breast cancer, which many people say have saved their lives. reach a certain age, no p.s.a. test. the same kind of criteria to some degree with mammograms. ration number three, there is the patient-centered outcomes research institute. that's pcori. i suppose the acronym for that is pcori. just a guess. this is the outfit that was given millions and millions of dollars to do comparative effectiveness research, also known as c.e.r. now, i'm not opposed, i don't know any member in this body who would be opposed to research, especially when it's used to inform the conversation between a doctor and their patients, but there is a reason this was
3:31 pm
formerly called cost-effective research. there is a very fine line between providing information to doctors and patients to help them make the right decision that works the best for them and then using that information to decide whether the care or treatment is worth paying for. i have long been concerned that this research will be abused to arbitrarily deny patients access to treatments or services to save the government money by federal government decree. and finally, there is my personal nemesis. ipab, which stands for the independent payment advisory board. just now making the news as various people within the media are finally recognizing ipab. this is a board made up of 15 unelected bureaucrats who will decide what gets to stay and
3:32 pm
what gets to go in medicare coverage. they will decide what treatments and services will be covered and which will not, all to allegedly save money, with no accountability, no accountability whatsoever. when proposed, i remember it well, both in the help committee and the finance committees, supporters in the finance committee tell me we are too close to our constituents. really? we are too close to our constituents. it makes it too difficult to make the hard decisions. let's have somebody else do it. it will be more fair. we know them too much. we trust them too much. i could not believe it. i believe i am elected to make the hard decisions, me, and others in this body and take the hard votes, and i believe that is the way kansans and every other state constituency also wants it. even worse is the fine print of
3:33 pm
ipab. now, get this -- if kansans determine that they do not like the direction the ipab is taking, and many of us as well, and call for my office and every other office here in the senate to ask the senate to do something about it, ask me to do something about it, we in congress can overturn their decision, but it has to be by a certain margin. on the surface, this sounds okay until you realize the president will never support congress overturning the recommendation of this board, so he'll veto it, and overrieg a veto takes a two-thirds vote. that's 66 votes to overturn a decision by ipab. my colleagues have been changing the rules around here because they think 60 votes is too high a threshold. what are the chances of reaching 66 if an arbitrary decision is made by ipab with regards to medicare. but wait, there's more. if the secretary appoints a
3:34 pm
board unable to make a recommendation for cuts to medicare, then she gets the authority to make the decision of what to put. this president has already cut a half a trillion dollars from medicare to pay for obamacare and he gave himself the ability to go after even more medicare dollars and have no accountability with ipab. this, i think, is egregious, if not ridiculous, but it isn't new. i have been talking about the four rationers for a long time and what it means to patients. i will have more to say about it when the opportunity presents itself. what really scares me as i watch all the other warnings and broken promises come true is what is going to happen to kansans -- and i know other senators have this same fear -- when the warnings about the four rationers do come true. we need to protect the all-important relationship between the doctor and the patient, which i believe the
3:35 pm
four rationers put at risk. in order to do that, we need to repeal and most importantly to replace obamacare with the real reforms that work for kansans. now, in this atmosphere here of uncertainty and the new senate order, i'd like to talk about another subject that is related for the lack of any progress that we might have. this is becoming an all-too-familiar situation for kansas farmers and ranchers and all of americans' agriculture -- american agriculture. in some respects, we are closer to signing a farm bill into law than a year ago, but we still have not yet completed this important task. as one of the 41 members named at the conference committee on
3:36 pm
october 1, i was able to give a quick opening statement outlining my biggest priorities for the farm bill, including addressing regulations that protect crop insurance, reforming the snap program, i.e. food stamps. unfortunately, that was the one and the only time that the full conference committee has met to date. with time in short supply, the core principles of the truer committee in both the house and the senate, the ranking member, the chairwoman and the chairman and the ranking member in the house, are trying to make the majority of decisions as best they can among themselves and behind closed doors. sometimes you can get things done behind closed doors without 37 people offering their opinion, i understand that. but with all due respect to those members, we have real policy differences that deserve to be debated publicly, particularly in the commodity and the nutrition titles.
3:37 pm
the other 37 of us have been ready and willing to be put to work, yet the conference committee has only met once with no future meetings scheduled. i am very disappointed in an agreement on the farm bill may be close, yet some of our ideas and suggestions and concerns will go unheard or unanswered. such as the new environment we live in in the senate. as i said during the agriculture committee markup and our only conference committee, i have real concerns with the direction of farm programs in this year's bill. we have what's called target prices. you might just say subsidies. whether named countercyclical payments or adverse market payments, and they have proven to be trade and market distorting. for some commodities, these prices are set so high that they
3:38 pm
may offer a producer's cost of production. that's right. you have a government subsidy over the producer's cost of production. i essentially guarantee that a farmer's profits yields are average or above average. in this budget environment and at a time when we are looking to make smart cuts, i simply don't know how to justify this subsidy program that can pay producers more than the cost of production and essentially becomes nothing more than an income transfer program, not a risk management tool. after the committee markup, i had hopes that we could improve on the farm bill to more resemble the risk-oriented and market-based approach the senate had previously taken. working with the distinguished chairwoman from michigan and myself as ranking member, last year i worked with the senate leadership from both parties to consider the farm bill through, of all things, regular order. everybody had a chance to offer an amendment. the first amendment was offered
3:39 pm
had nothing to do with the farm bill by senator paul. regular order. giving all senators the chance to improve the bill or make their concerns known. however, this year we considered a mere 15 amendments last time around it was 73, 300 offered, 250 were offered this time, but we only had 15 amendments. all amendments regarding the new target price program were blocked from consideration and votes on the senate floor, all of them. senator thune had amendments, senator grassley had amendments, senator johanns had amendments, i had amendments, all serving on the agriculture committee. of course, the real problem with farmers planning for a government program and not for the market is that these programs then only serve to extend the period of low prices due to overproduction. besides high target prices for
3:40 pm
low commodities, the house wants to recouple payments with current production for the first time since 1996. the chamber of commerce has warned that if we go down this road, we will quickly invite other nations to initiate dispute settlements against the united states and to do so with a good chance of success. i also have long-standing w.t.o. concerns, the world trade organization, and the united states lost, and i mean really lost. the w.t.o. stove was really hot in a case to brazil. the target price program. we are still paying for that. i am hopeful we can come to some agreement that works without further setting us up for a further trade dispute, not ruled in our favor. another sticking point seems to be snap, the supplemental nutrition assistance program. i think everybody is aware of that. it is important to note that at least 80% of the united states department of agriculture's
3:41 pm
budget goes to nutrition programs, and snap was exempted from across-the-board cuts known as sequestration. the senate bill only trims $4 billion out of a nearly $800 billion program in a ten-year budget. that is less than 1% of a reduction. and doesn't cut anybody's benefits. it looks at eligibility and other problems that are within the snap program. we have the responsibility certainly to do more to restore integrity to the snap program, eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse while providing benefits to those truly in need. i offered an amendment during the committee markup and on the floor that would have saved an additional $31 billion from the snap program. i thought in a smart and responsible way that will not take away food from needy families. the house took a similar approach and also included work requirements for food stamps and found a total of $39 billion in
3:42 pm
savings. that's about a 5% reduction over ten years. it has also been mentioned that snap has already been cut by $11 billion this year. however, the end of the american recovery and reinvestment act of 2009 stimulus boost for food stamps was a temporary increase in benefits to assist individuals and families hurt by the recession. the end of this temporary increase is in no way related to the farm bill and the congressional budget office agrees that no budgetary savings are achieved. reconciling the difference between $4 billion and $40 billion in savings has proven really tough so far if not impossible. however, unlike the majority of the programs in the farm bill, if we don't have a bill signed into law, the food stamp program, the snap program will go on unchanged and there will be no savings or reform to the program. last week, i spoke with the kansas farm bureau. 800 members of the farm bureau
3:43 pm
and their families. and once again, the number-one priority for virtually every producer was crop insurance. even after the devastating drought the last few years, the crop insurance has proven to work, and producers from kansas to illinois and all over the country are still in business helping our rural families and our communities. in 2013, producers across the country insured a record number of acres, covering nearly 295 million acres and over $123 billion in liabilities. the takeaway message is clear -- more farmers are purchasing crop insurance policies to protect their crops than ever before. in both versions of the farm bill, we were able to strengthen and preserve crop insurance. we just need to keep that commitment through the final legislation. the farm bill is the appropriate time and place also to address regulatory overreaches by the environmental protection agency and the rest of the administration that impact farmers and livestock producers.
3:44 pm
in that respect, i appreciate the house in addressing several burdensome regulations that i have worked on in the senate, including pesticides, farm fuels tank storage, the lesser prairie chicken, bless the heart of the lesser prairie chippen, gipsa, country of origin labeling called cool. but overall, i am disappointed that it looks like we will not finish the farm bill before the end of this year, despite the need for certainty and predictability all throughout farm country, not to mention the department of agriculture. our folks back home have to make business decisions regardless of the status of negotiations. just one example -- kansas weed growers have already -- wheat growers have already planted their 2014 wheat crop and have been required to recertify their acres. they just don't know what programs will be available to them. while we all want to provide long-term certainty to farmers, ranchers and their families, and american consumers, we have already let one extension expire
3:45 pm
in september. the house may pursue extending the 2008 bill yet again. however, our senate majority leader harry reid said yesterday even if the house passes a short-term extension of the farm bill, the senate will not pass it. a year ago in august i went to the floor upset with the leader for failing to pass a bill to reinstate the life stock disaster programs from the 2008 farm bill in response to the devastating drought in the midwest. went on for three years. at the time i called it shameful and an abdication of our duty to the cattlemen and the women who feed the world and warned the consequences of inaction. we were unable at that time to finalize the farm bill. it is still the same farm bill a year later and our livestock producers are continuing after multiple years of drought and yet livestock disaster programs remain on hold.
3:46 pm
then the devastating blizzards hit the dakotas and they were left with little support, a problem we could have addressed a year afplgt every member throughout congress should be equally troubled if we leave this year without addressing the farm bill. i'm committed to resolving these difficult differences in order to provide certainty and a forward-thinking farm bill that is responsible to kansans, farmers and ranchers and consumers as well as taxpayers. we've got to end this environment here where this so-called nuclear option has really gotten us into a hole that we keep digging, whether we're trying to get a farm bill done, whether we're trying to improve the affordable care act or repeal it or whether or not we have a commission that nobody heard of in the rules committee that is sitting doing something but we don't know what and what to do with it. madam president, i see the
3:47 pm
distinguished senator from louisiana who i think would like to be recognized at this time, and so i yield the floor. ms. landrieu: thank you, madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. ms. landrieu: i'd like to -- i see my good friend, the senator from north dakota on the floor today, and i'd like to have her begin this very important discussion on the importance of flood insurance relief for the country. she's been an outstanding spokesperson and a true advocate to help us get us right, the flood insurance program that can help sustain the program itself for the benefit of the taxpayers and also for the people in north dakota, louisiana, pennsylvania, new york, new jersey that depend on it so much. let me turn the floor over now to our leader, senator heitkamp. ms. heitkamp: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. ms. heitkamp: we're coming today to talk about something that is critically important to very many middle-class families
3:48 pm
who have homeownership across the country and business ownership. and it's the bipartisan, truly bipartisan homeowner flood insurance affordability act which seeks to address the recent flood insurance rate escalations across the country. this bill is measured, it's reasonable and it allows for fema to complete a study on flood insurance affordability and provides congress with the assurance that the, about fema's ability to accurately determine flood risk before implementing pieces of the biggert waters flood insurance reform act. and i think it's true in many cases in the united states congress that good intentions, when they passed the biggert-waters provisions, passed the act but implementation has been a nightmare. and i don't think we're exaggerating, has been a nightmare for very many of our community members and especially across the coastal areas.
3:49 pm
but i think it's important that i speak as someone from a plain state who will tell you repeatedly that flood insurance is a huge impediment to success and to homeownership in north dakota and very many of my communities. i want to just mention some of the provisions of the bill. the bill would delay rate increase for the following properties: primary, nonrepetitive loss residents that were grandfathered. all properties sold after july 6, 2012. and all property that purchased a new policy after that date. and it's important that the folks out there who have already gotten these tremendous flood insurance bills understand that our effort is to make this bill retroactive to october 1 of this year so that those rate increases that were mandated by that date don't take effect. the basement provision is something that we've spent a lot
3:50 pm
of time educating other members about. it's a provision that very many communities in my state, including 14 north dakota, some of our largest communities have flood proof basements. they've lived by the rules, they've done all the things they should do and so they have been granted an exemption from flood insurance taking a look at where the foundation is as opposed to where the basement floor is when they determine vulnerability. that basement exemption is in danger of being repealed by fema, and we want to make sure that whatever we do recognizes that when those homeowners played by the rules, did the right thing, flood proofed their basements that they get that investment recognized in the flood insurance program. you know, generally i want to say i came to the united states senate to fight for north dakotaans, and i have to imagine most of the senators here are here because they want to fight for the people in their states. and a major way to do that is to protect he american families and
3:51 pm
their homes and stop putting undue pressure on them. it's a simple idea but it's proving much harder to complement than i would like -- to implement than i would like. flooding is a reality far too often in north dakota and there are many other communities across the country who see the same kind of plains flooding. just in the last few years we've seen communities like fargo, minot and others that have destroyed their homes and businesses. this fall home insurance rates went up for millions of families. this puts families at risk so many of them have to struggle to pay for flood insurance or they have to walk away, literally walk away from their investment in their home. biggert waters is having an immediate impact in my state. i'll give you one example. we have a woman from grafton, north dakota, named allison and
3:52 pm
her husband kyle. they purchased a home in that community about a year ago. at the time the flood insurance rate was $901 for $100,000 worth of coverage. but when the policy came up for renewal their flood insurance skyrocketed to more than $4,200 a year. let me repeat those statistics. their flood insurance cost when they bought their home was at $901. today their bill is $4,200. a 375% increase for the same amount of coverage. in an e-mail to me, allison expressed a desire to raise her children in grafton but unfortunately they can no longer afford their home and she said had she and her husband had known about the rates when they bought the home they would have never purchased the home. we need to take a new look. we need to take a new look at this flood insurance program. we need to take a new look at a
3:53 pm
affordability of homeownership. everybody knows that the last, certainly since 2008 we've seen a slow recovery in homeownership. we've tried to make sure that people can realize the american dream. a big part of that is in fact the owning of your own home. but, yet, here we are in the united states congress making it virtually impossible for middle-class families to buy and live and enjoy their homes. that was never the intention of the biggert-water provision. the intention was to bring the flood insurance program to a more reasonable market-based evaluation. but i don't think anyone in this body anticipated these dramatic and very, very devastating increases. and so i think we absolutely need to do something to send a message that we are listening to the middle class in this body. we are listening to the middle class. and when every person who runs,
3:54 pm
in their campaign -- i bet you there isn't one person in this body who didn't say i'm there to help protect the middle class. well, this is our opportunity on a bipartisan way to step up, protect the middle class, to tell people that that grasp of homeownership, that piece of the american dream is within your reach. and it's within your reach because we are doing devastating things here in washington, d.c.. and so i want to yield back to my great friend from louisiana and i want to publicly thank her. i don't think i -- i as a new member preside frequently on the floor of the united states senate. and i think if there was a canary on this issue, that early bellwether who you look to when you say we're going to have problems, it was senator mary landrieu who alarmed this body from the very beginning, who knew that these increases were coming and so ably advanced her leadership on this issue. and i want to applaud her for
3:55 pm
that. i want to applaud senator menendez and senator schumer and so many people on the other side who have worked with us to try and develop a bill that truly has bipartisan support. and i really want to urge this body to send a very important holiday present, a christmas present to the middle class of america by passing this reform bill, by delaying these increases and making that hope of homeownership possible in the future. ms. landrieu: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. ms. landrieu: madam president, i thank the senator's kind and very generous comments, but she -- about me, but she underestimates her own just tremendous leadership skills arriving here as a new member, she jumped right into this issue. she didn't need a lot of prep work. she understands her state. she understands basements, which we don't have in louisiana, because if you dig down even a few inches you'll hit water. so i had to get very well educated from my good friends,
3:56 pm
senators from new york, new jersey and north dakota about true basements. it just goss to show you that -- it just goes to show you when we work together we can come up with legislation that can really help our people, give them relief, be in partnership with them, helping them to keep the equity and strength and equity in their homes and businesses and also do right by the taxpayers. so, senator, thank you very much for your kind comments. and i recognize -- i'd like to through the chair recognize the senator from new york who has been just an absolute, outstanding advocate for the people of the east coast, particularly new york but the entire east coast in the aftermath of sandy and was so helpful to that region to bring them the relief they needed, which has worked, senator, i understand is still going on and we have to do more. but if we don't fix this flood insurance, which in fact was a man-made disaster, it is going to make the natural disaster sandy that much worse.
3:57 pm
and i'd like to ask senator schumer if he has any comments to add to what has already been said. mr. schumer: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: thank you, madam president. i want to assure my colleagues you don't have to be wearing a blue jacket to be supportive of this legislation, as the senator from north dakota, the senator from louisiana and i happen to be wearing today this afternoon. secondly, let me thank my friend and colleague from louisiana what my friend from north dakota is exactly right. she has been the paul revere on this issue, running up and down the aisles of the senate, if you will, letting people know flood insurance increases are coming. flood insurance increases are coming. because she saw it in her own state, and she's been a great leader on this. and i hope that we will pass the measure that she has helped so importantly to craft when it is offered a little later by my colleague from new jersey. and i do want to say to her that she is exactly right about
3:58 pm
sandy. we have families who were devastated by sandy. they struggled to rebuild their homes. and then all of a sudden because of remapping and because of changes in the flood insurance law, they're hit with a flood insurance bill of $8,000, $9,000, $10,000. and let's make no mistake about it, these are not wealthy people. lots of people in new york state who live along the water in long island, queens, brooklyn, staten island are middle-class and working-class people. their homes are modest. their jobs are modest. they can't afford $9,000 a year. and for those who are told yours isn't going to rise, but when you sell your home it will, they can't sell their homes. now there are some things, madam president, that make the rest of the nation scratch their heads in wonderment and say what the heck is going on in washington, d.c.? there are all too many things. one of them is flood insurance. how can we demand that people,
3:59 pm
average, middle-class people pay up to in some cases $25,000 or $30 thousand for a policy capped at $250,000? how can we have so many homeowners have to pay $5,000, $8,000, $10,000 when they ill can afford it? we cannot do that. and that is why this legislation is so important. it's just wrong. now when we wrote the original sandy bill, we put in an affordability provision. there was supposed to be a study about how people could afford the insurance before any increases were put into effect. that did not happen. and i have to say the people at fema -- they are good people -- but they don't understand affordability. they're not measuring affordability. they're not paying attention to affordability. and what is the job of congress? well, one of our jobs when an
4:00 pm
agency doesn't do what it's supposed to do is for us to correct it and oversee it. and that's what's happened with fema and flood insurance. and so we called for a delay until an afford ability study is done, until we can figure out a new way to avoid average folks, middle-class folks from being forced to either not have flood insurance, abandon their homes or not sell their homes when they desperately need to do so. and i would say to fema, they're saying, if we don't charge these people, the program will not be solvent. well, i'll tell you something, if they continue to charge these rates, no one is going to buy flood insurance. people will drop out of the flood insurance program, and it'll be even less solvent. so we have to come to a reasonable, thoughtful, and careful solution. and, as the first two of us who have spoken have shown -- and my colleague from louisiana, new
4:01 pm
jersey, florida, new hampshire, who are all here to discuss this issue -- this affects every part of the nation. it doesn't just affect florida, although they have hurricanes, it doesn't just affect louisiana, although they have hurricanes and floods. it affects the missouri and mississippi river basins, it affects the west coast, where flash floods can be very, very dangerous. it affects ver affects anyplacer water, which is most of america. we have so many issues. the m maps that are drawn are wy off-base. i have areas in my state that are five miles from base and have never been flooded. the plains have never been measured in nassau. we have forced them to go back and start over. there is so much wrong with the way the program is now existing that it must be put on hold so
4:02 pm
we can come up with something better than fema is doing. and so i hope my colleagues will support us. we have bipartisan support. the senator from georgia has been a great advocate. others have been a great advocate on the other side of the aisle. and you -- and if you say to yourself, i'm going to object because it isn't affecting my state, believe me, it will, because as fema draws maps in state after fate stat state afte across the country, the very same thipg that is now afflic afflicting other states across the country will affect your state. you'll be coming back to us i uo years from now, let's enact in a legislation. let's avoid that problem. let's do what we have to do. put this on hold, go back to the drawing board and create a fema program that both works and is
4:03 pm
affordable. i believe we can if this senate and this house will give us the chance, and i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senior senator from florida is recognized. mr. nelson: mr. president, before the senator from new york departs, i want to say, this is a real-life example. in panellas county, florida, current flood insurance premium of a homeowner, $4,000. new flood insurance premium, 10 times -- $44,000. now, do you think that that homeowner can afford that, and do you think that that homeowner can now sell their house since that is the flood insurance premium that is facing a
4:04 pm
potential buyer and, of course, the real estate market dries up? and so it's a question of affordability. and i would merely underscore what the senator has already said and what the great senator from louisiana is going to talk about. and that is, you have a pause. you get fema to do an affordability study, and then you phase this thing in over time. now, it just so happens that 40% of these policies are in my state of florida. we have more coastline than any other state, ca state, save for, and they're not afflicted by the same things that we are and they don't have a population of 20 million people. and lo and behold, our people are hurting, and we've got to give them relief. so i beg anybody in the senate,
4:05 pm
please, when this unanimous consent request comes up, we have to have this relief for our homeowners and for the real estate market. now, the maps recent a different question. and eventually we need to address the issue of the maps because they are obviously drawing some areas that are not flood-prone. they're well above the flood stage, and somehow these maps have gotten misaligned. we can address that. but right now we've got to address the affordability question. this is no fooling time. and i beg the senate to let this legislation go by unanimous consent, and i am anxious to have my colleagues make their statements. mr. president, i am chairing the
4:06 pm
aging committee hearing right now. i look afford to the senator from massachusetts joining us, after her statement, and so with that, i yield the floor. mr. menendez: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senior senator from new jersey is recognized. mr. menendez: in deference to my clique, who i understand my -- to my colleague, who i understand may object, and though i have a statement, let me first precede it by saying that i want to ask as if in legislative session, i ask unanimous consent that at a a time to be determined by the majority leader, after consultation with the republican leader, the banking committee be discharged from further consideration of the homeowner flood insurance affordability act fof 2013, that the senate proceed to its consideration and an amendment at the desk making technical changes to the bill be agreed to, that no other amendments be in order to the bill, there be up to two hours
4:07 pm
of debate on the bill equally divided, that upon the use or yielding back of time, the senate proceed to vote on passage of the bill, and finally that the vote on passage be subject to a 60-vote affirmative threshold. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. roberts: mr. president, on behalf of the ranking member of the banking committee, this bill has not been through the committee process. it would undo the important reforms that have put in place in the most recent flood reform bill to address the $25 billion debt to the taxpayer. we must ensure that all members have the ability to understand the changes being made to this bill. this unanimous consent request would bypass this important step in the legislative process, and i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. menendez: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator new jersey. mr. menendez: mr. president, i have to say, i'm disappointed to hear objection because this is a
4:08 pm
bipartisan effort that is being pursued here in the senate, and the majority leader has been very gracious to offer us time to debate and vote on an important proposal. and i'm sure we'll be back here again to try to ai achieve that. this isn't a republican bill or a democratic bill. it is into the republican or democratic priority. it is a commonsense measure that has broad, bipartisan support, exactly the type of support and cooperation the american people are yearning to see from their elected officials. and more importantly, this legislation is critical to the lives of hundreds of thousands of homeowners. and i would hope that -- we shouldn't let just simply senate procedure get in the way of finding solutions. now, met me just briefly speak in support of s. 1610, which is the homeowners flood insurance affordability act that we just had consent to bring to the floor. it is a bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation that would help people afford flood
4:09 pm
insurance so they can stay in their homes and businesses can stay open, all the while while preventing property values from plummeting. at a time when there is far too little bipartisan cooperation, this stands as an exception. it is cosponsored by 17 of my colleagues, including seven republicans. it supported by the national asages of realtors, the national association of homebuilders, the american bankers association, the independent community bankers association, and you have heard from several of my colleagues who have snoan this shall did and there are others like senator warren and my fellow colleague from new jersey, senator booker, who i'm proud to say that is chosen this bill as the first piece of legislation to cosponsor. the reason for that broad support is because flood insurance isn't just a coastal or northeast issue. it is an issue that affects the entire country.
4:10 pm
every state in the nation has properties covered by the national flood insurance program, and every state in the nation will see premiums on some of these properties increase as a result of borders. some of these increases will be modest. others will be prohibitively expensive and act as a de facto eviction notice for homeowners who are lived in -- who have lived in their homes and played by the rules their entire lives. we certainly know this because we're all already hearing from our constituents, and many more colleagues are hearing the same desperate crisis from across the country, and -- desperate cries from across the country, and many more will are hear them as flood insurance maps -- will hear them as flood insurance maps get outlined under the legislation and as renewals come up and all of a sudden they'll hear an outcry from their homeowners who say this ultimately creates a set of circumstances for me where i am going to lose my home. the value of their homes will be
4:11 pm
dramatically reduced. their ability to sell will be dramatically altered. and they will in essence have taken what they've work add lifetime to achieve -- they've worked a lif lifetime to achievd have a human catastrophe made by the united states congress. this is going to drive property values down. the housing market is still struggling to recover. and we all know that declining property values have a domino effect, affecting neighboring properties to decline in value, which hurts the broader commitment of we need to understand the impact of this before it i it is too laivment e nee--before it is too late. recent reports suggest that only about 18% of properties in the flood zone participate in the program. if rates are raised too high and too quickly, people will opt to drop their insurance, decreasing participation and the risk pool
4:12 pm
on the national flood insurance program will ultimately find the consequences of of that. one study has shown that for every 10% increase in premiums, program participation decreases by approximately 2.6%. and the sharper increases, the higher the proportion of dropouts. as with any flood insurance fund, the smaller the risk pool, the greater the risk. so increasing rates could have the unintended consequences of actually making the program less solvent. reduced program participation would also increase the amount taxpayers are on the hook for in disaster assistance payments. and since fema grants s.b.a. loans and disaster assistance are reserved for unmet needs, more uninsured homeowners mean more disaster assistance payoffs. we should be incentivizing people to purchase insurance so they have skin in the game and they will be motivated to take
4:13 pm
proactive mitigation measures, not pricing them out of insurance so they're forced to rely on taxpayer-funded disaster assistance. now there is no question that we need to reform the national flood insurance program in order to put it on the long-term path afford solvency and sustainability. unfortunately, biggert-waters forces changes that are far too fast. it increases rates far too dramatically even mor morpheme - even before fema knows the impact. wreer making dramatic changes in policy which could impact more thank 5.5 million policyholders, have written l effects throughout the house -- ripple effects throughout the economy before we know the extent of these changes or their impact. i have heard from countless new jerseyans, many coming to me in tears, who are facing this predictable. these are hard working
4:14 pm
middle-class families who are now being priced out of their homes. that's why we've collectively introduced this act that would impose a moratorium on the phase-out of subsidies for most primary residences until fema completes the study that was awe offered, that i offered as an amendment, until fema completes the affordability study that was mandated in the law and proposes a regulatory framework to address the issues found in the study. so we're going ahead with all of these actions and all of these ax he increases without -- without knowing the consequences of that study. it would also require fema to certify a righting of a flood mapping approach before certain rate reforms are implemented. we saw this in snurnlg where in fact -- we saw this in new
4:15 pm
jersey where in fact large swaths were put in a v-zone only when we pressed fema and brought information to them, those were reduced. the difference between being in the v-disoandz and not can mean the difference between being able to own your home or not. we believe that this legislation is critical. why did we come and ask unanimous consent -- and i ask unanimous consent to include the rest of my statement in the record in deference to my colleagues who have been gracious enough -- senator graham and others -- who have been gracious to let us intercede here before they rise to speak. i would like to have my full statement included in the record. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. menendez: why do we ask unanimous consent? why did we ask unanimous consent? why will we continue to ask unanimous consent? because there is an urgency of now. if we do not act and we go out of session and we come back next year, unless we get to this early on and make it retroactive, we are going to see
4:16 pm
the consequences of this take place across the landscape of this country. and that's why you have members from coast to coast. that's why you have members from the south. that's why you have members from the midwest who all understand the consequences of not acting. and that's why we have taken the unusual step on a bipartisan basis to ask for that unanimous consent request. let me close, mr. president, by asking, we have four unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent these requests be agreed to and they be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. menendez: with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator -- senior senator from louisiana is recognized. ms. landrieu: thank you very much. senator menendez is the leader of our effort. he and senator isakson have joined together and have put together an extraordinary coalition. i'd like just to read the names into the record for just a
4:17 pm
moment because it's a testimony in a place that can't get three members to agree on anything. we have over 20 members to agree to change the biggert-waters law. i ask the senator from massachusetts. both senators are here. the senior senator to be recognized for just a moment, and then the junior senator to speak on this issue. but senator menendez and senator isakson are our lead. again, new jersey, georgia, two very different states but very similar challenges. they have people, middle-class families, small business owners that have poured their life savings into homes and businesses only to be destroyed by a piece of legislation that had great intentions but disastrous results, and we don't have a lot of time to fix this. we need to do this before this
4:18 pm
body leaves, which is next week. myself, i'm on the bill, of course, senator cochran, senator merkley, senator vitter, senator hoeven, senator scott from south carolina, senator wicker, senator heitkamp from north dakota, senator schumer, senator gillibrand, senator markey from massachusetts. of course senator warren from massachusetts, senator gillibrand, senator nelson from florida, senator begich from alaska, senator manchin from west virginia. there is no ocean anywhere near west virginia, but they have many middle-class families that are getting caught up in a quagmire here, and this bill is the only bill that can release them and save taxpayer money. bob casey from pennsylvania, amy klobuchar, of course our new senator we're very proud of who is on the floor helping us, senator booker, senator hagan and senator lindsey graham who is also on the floor.
4:19 pm
and our newest cosponsor said, lisa murkowski from alaska. this is a very unusual coalition. i have been here a long time now. i have hardly seen a coalition this broad and diverse, so clearly we have something meaningful to say that needs change, and please let us not let procedures and pride and, you know, -- i don't know, just bad tempers keep us from doing what we know we need to do for our people. so i want to just thank senator warren who has been just a tremendous help to us in putting this bill together. might i add that it costs nothing. there is no score on this bill. so anyone that could object because it costs the taxpayers nada, it doesn't cost anything. it is a zero score. we have done it that way to be respectful of all different opinions, but it will help to give us relief. and through the chair, i'd like to ask senator warren to add her terrific voice and perspective on how it's affecting massachusetts, one of our most
4:20 pm
important states. the presiding officer: the senior senator from massachusetts is recognized. ms. warren: thank you, mr. president, and thank you, senator landrieu. i rise today to join my colleagues in urging support for 1610, the homeowner flood insurance affordability act of 2013. this is a bipartisan bill that will help homeowners across our country who are getting hit with the newly revised flood maps and increased flood insurance premiums. i am very pleased to join colleagues on both sides of the aisle to call for this commonsense delay which gives fema time to get this right, and i thank senator menendez who has been a terrific leader on this, senator isakson, senator landrieu who has gotten in there and gotten us all mobilized, senator cochran, many others of the cosponsors on this bill for their leadership and their commitment to work on this important issue. i also want to thank my partner in all things, senator markey,
4:21 pm
for the work that he has done on this bill and for giving me the chance to speak first here so we could get going. you know, families purchase flood insurance to prevent the loss of their homes, but now many families fear that the price of flood insurance could be just as devastating as any storm. you can't protect someone's home by pricing them out of it, yet that's exactly what's taking place around the country. congress changed the national flood program to move toward a more market-based system that more accurately reflects the true costs and risks of flood damage. this is a well-intentioned bill, but unfortunately homeowners are being blindsided by high rate increases and new flood zone maps. many families are learning for the first time from news reports and letters that their mortgage companies are sending that they must purchase flood insurance. this is simply not an acceptable
4:22 pm
way of informing the public that flood insurance bills are skyrocketing. when fema released these flood maps this year and last, they knew they were placing hundreds of thousands of homeowners into a flood zone for the very first time. it's critical that these maps be spot on and correct, but many people don't trust many of the new changes, and their concerns are growing by the day. in fact, a recent independent review conducted by coastal scientists at the behest of my colleague, congressman bill keating, concluded that fema used outdated wave methodology, better suited for the pacific coast when they drafted new flood maps for massachusetts. they believed this resulted in fema overpredicting the flooding that could occur from once in a
4:23 pm
century storms for much of our state. we need to pass this bill to give the government the time it needs to make sure that the maps are accurate, reliable and reflect the best available scientific data. we also need to make sure that hardworking families who play by the rules can afford these policies. the homeowner flood insurance affordability act that i have proudly cosponsored will provide relief to homeowners who built to code and were later remapped into a higher risk area. furthermore, this critical bill will delay rate increases until fema completes the affordability study that was mandated by the biggert-waters flood insurance reform act and until subsequent affordability guidelines are enacted. homeowners are facing flood insurance premium increases that can cost $500, $1,000, even more
4:24 pm
per month. most hardworking families and seniors don't have that kind of extra money on hand to spend on flood insurance premiums they never knew they were going to need. fema has a lot of work to do, and in the meantime, these families shouldn't be hit with high costs when they challenge the flood maps and win their appeals. our bill will help address this injustice and will allow fema to utilize the national flood insurance fund to reimburse people who successfully appeal a map determination. it also gives fema the added financial incentive to get those maps right the first time. i'm pleased to join colleagues on both sides of the aisle in this call for commonsense delay which will give fema time to get this right. i urge my senate colleagues to support this much-needed relief for homeowners. i thank senator markey for his leadership. i thank senator landrieu for her
4:25 pm
amazing leadership in this and for all my colleagues who are ready to move on something that is common sense and very much needed by families across this country. thank you, mr. chairman, and i yield back -- i now yield to my colleague from massachusetts, my partner, ed markey. the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts is recognized. mr. markey: i thank the senator, and i thank her for her leadership. she and i have met with people all across the state of massachusetts who are fearful for the impact that it can have upon their ability to live in their own homes, to sell their homes, to continue to operate their businesses, to sell their businesses. this is a fundamental issue for our state, and senator warren and i, we bring this concern to the floor even as we know that it is a concern that is felt all
4:26 pm
across the country. it is louisiana, it is new jersey, it is south carolina, it is west virginia, it is the coastlines of our country. yeah, it is. the warmer the climate becomes is the warmer the oceans become. the warmer the oceans, the higher the tide, the more devastating the storms, the changes that take place in terms of the impact upon the homes, the businesses all along the coastlines. but climate change just doesn't affect the coastal areas. it's affecting our whole country, the whole planet. there is a huge change which is taking place. that's why we're out here, ladies and gentlemen. we're out here because of climate change. now, the storm that hit new jersey, hurricane sandy, it was devastating and we saw the courage of the people of new jersey and new york in responding to that storm.
4:27 pm
but, you know, just with a couple of changes in the direction of that storm, it could have wiped out everywhere from cape cod up to newburyport, right through maine and new hampshire. but for a small change in that storm, it could have been down in delaware, virginia, beyond that coastline. it's there but for the grace of god go -- go the states that we represent here. and the same is true all across the country. we know that the pollution we pump into the sky heats the water and the air and it gives storms more power. we know this scientifically. and with more powerful and more frequent storms, we realize that this tragedy is lapping right at the doors of every citizen, and we have to do something to prevent it from becoming worse.
4:28 pm
but at the same time, we also have to realize that these families are innocent victims. they did not have anything to do with a policy that did not deal with climate change for a generation, that ignored the science. they are now dealing with the consequences of a failure to deal with that issue. and we cannot allow the failure to act to be borne by those who are the least able to afford it, and that is what is happening. it is going to be innocent americans who now have to suffer because we did not come to the political will to deal with this issue of climate change. and i have heard, along with senator warren, from people all over my state. i have one business that
4:29 pm
relocated several years ago, thinking that that was going to satisfy the need to protect against climate change, against the change in the flood plains. now under the new plan, they will have to move the business again. it's nonsustainable long-term for any business, any family to think about living in these kinds of areas. unless we begin to think through how we are going to adjust to this law that is on the books which will have an almost immediate impact upon families all over our country. so we need to fix the flood insurance provisions that would have devastating economic impacts on coastal communities, and that is why i am proud to support the legislation of the gentlelady from louisiana, of the gentleman from georgia, mr. isakson, senator menendez, senator merkley, everyone who
4:30 pm
has worked on this issue. we have to ensure that we have addressed the issue of affordability for these homeowners, affordability for these businesses in terms of the increase of the flood insurance rates caused by the new flood maps and ensure that we put that before we add any additional crippling flood insurance rate increases to go into effect, we have to deal with affordability first. if afford a*bt is not dealt with, there is going to be a devastation felt by millions of homeowners and businesses across this country. climate change is real. it is here. it is dangerous. but the fear of rising flood waters should not be compounded by the fear of an unaffordable speak in insurance premiums for homeowners and businesses across this country.

46 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on