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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  December 11, 2013 10:30pm-12:31am EST

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an outrageous amount for something we have had for the last three years isn't right. this increase is a game changer for us and will dramatically affect our standard of living moving forward. it is important that you understand what is happening and the need to change this unfair law i hope the president, i hope members of congress are listening. the next constituent, jeff kubinski, writes "i'm sending you this email about the 2014 affordable care act. i just received my letter from humana stating my insurance is going to increase nearly 300% from $55 per month to -- $550
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per month to $1,950 per month. i cannot afford this. how is this affordable care? i've carried insurance all of my life, being self-employed. what is this plan trying to put the self-employed out of business? i want to keep my plan the way it is. why are we being forced to change a plan that -- to a plan that has benefits we don't need? please help us citizens that have been carrying health care. please make government for the people, by the people again. let me just quick answer that question. why is this individual being forced to change to a plan that has benefits that he doesn't
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need? well, i guess it's because there are people here in washington in this alternate universe that believe they're so smart, they're so clever, they know what is best for every american. they're so compassionate, they're just trying to help. they're not helping much. this law is not helping much. it is doing real harm. president obama, democrat members of the senate and of the house, please listen to these constituent letters. have a change of heart. work with us to limit the damage before it gets greater. those are the individuals who we continued who were willing to be identified. the rest of the individuals were either not contacted in time or
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decided like the couple that they had seen their government be used as a weapon against other citizens and decided to remain anonymous. so the next wisconsinite rights, i'm writing you to inform you that as of january 1, 2014, my family of six and i will no longer have health care. this will be the first time in my life or the life of my children that we will be in this position. the reason for this is the affordable care act, laughable name. on that day, my premiums through work will go from $250 per month to well over $1,000 per month. in look through the marketplace, my family's
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premium would also be well in excess of $1,000 per month. we are a typical middle-class family and my wife and i both work full time. our combined income is in the $75,000 range. we are homeowners with a mortgage. we drive 8- to 9-year-old cars. our children go to public schools. we do not live an extravagant lifestyle. i've been struggling to figure out what to cut to be able to offered this new health care system the government has stuck us in. no matter what we cut, it will not add up to $1,000. the other option is to put our house on the market and try to find something else outside of madison. that is not what we want to do.
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our kids are in high school. one with special needs. and we feel that would be unfair to them. so do i. mr. johnson, please explain to me how on earth this is affordable and fair. i can't. it's not affordable. it's not fair. it's utterly unfair. and it is utterly unnecessary. but it's a fact. it's one i hope everyone who supported this bill can live with. i hope it is a fact that everyone who voted in support for this bill thinks about, and is held fully accountable for.
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i find this affordable care act to be divisive, unfair, and an unjust tax on the middle class. i will not vote for anyone that supported this act or continues to support this act, given the effect it is having on my family. sir, i am begging for your help please find a way to help my family and the rest of the americans like us. did you hear that? an american citizen begging for help from the harm that the affordable care act, the patient protection and affordable care act inflicted on his family and he is begging this congress, this chamber, this president for help.
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please hear him. another constituent writes, "i'm feeling very upset and stressed over the new health care laws. i feel they are unfair and hurting working families. our household income has shrunk and our health care cost is going up over $300 a month. according to if insurance costs more than 9.5% of gross income it is considered to be unaffordable. when a single person applies only his or her income is taken into consideration. when a family applies, total household income is used to figure out affordability of single-only coverage. single-only coverage for myself
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is about 8% of our family income. single-only coverage for my husband is about the same. that means 16% of our income would be used for insurance. through employers, just for us. 16% of our income would be gone and our four children would be uninsured. family coverage costs 1% of our family income, still higher than 9.5%. where is our tax credit? we don't qualify for tax credits because we have affordable insurance through our employers. if total household income is used, why isn't family coverage affordability taken into consideration? last year my family made about $55,000. 174% of the poverty level. next year we will make less due to reduced hours. money is already tight. this new law will make things very uncomfortable for my
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family. i'm turning to my representative for help. please, help families in my same situation to the best of your ability. we need your help. this law is hurting us. be our voice. be our voice." another wisconsinite writes "i just called physicians plus to find out about the status of our health insurance policy. our policy will not be renewed due to the affordable care act. i guess this constituent decided to drop the patient protection because he obviously wasn't feeling particularly protected. my husband and i are free-lancers in the video production field. my husband works so hard to support and take care of me and our two children. we are not rich, not by any means. just taking care of business.
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we have paid 100% of our premiums for 15 years. we have bought coverage that makes sense for our family at different times. currently we pay $513.60 per month with a $3,000 deductible. when i called physicians plus yesterday, the person said that my plan cannot be renewed. he said the new premium for a comparable plan would be $1,743. again, that compared to $513. that would be $1,743. we cannot afford this in any way. i guess we are the collateral damage. i've tried to get on the affordable care act to find our options. i refuse to give them personal information so i can only go by
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the kaiser foundation estimate. there's only one plan that will keep our peed tra ya transition and looks like we'll -- pediatrician and looks likes we'll be looking at a $12,000 deductible with close to a 1,000 per month premium. we are on the high end, so get a very minimal subsidy. we do not want to get any help from the government. we want to be independent. but the government is forcing their hand on us. again, we live in the land of the free, the home of the brave, and yet these brave wisconsinites are being forced, they are being coerced. this is the an 'tis sis of freedom -- antithesis of freedom and choice. please understand we want people to have health care but why are they destroying us in the process?
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i'm in the process of scrambling to find a job that provides insurance. i was offered an educational assistant job that's changed to 29 hours, no health insurance. gee, i wondware caused that change -- wonder what caused that change in employment. most opportunities i'm find having recently dropped insurance coverage as a benefit. we are scared about the future. that's what the affordable care act has done. that is what the patient protection and affordable care act has done to americans, to episcopallites. -- wisconsinites. it has made them fearful. they are afraid, they are scared for their futures. good job, congress. good job, president obama. my, aren't we a compassionate lot here?
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didn't we do a fine job? aren't we smart? the next wisconsinite writes "i'm extremely unhappy with the so-called affordable care act. unfortunately, for my middle-class family the new law is creating an unaffordable health insurance. i'm a 35,000 -- 35-year-old consultant and my wife and i have two children. we currently purchase health insurance on the individual market and are very happy with our coverage. we currently pay $352 per month to cover our family of four. the plan offers a co-pay of $35 when going to the doctor. and has a $7,500 deductible for our family. i've begun-reaching what our premiums will cost going forward
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under obamacare, and i'm outraged what with what i have found. the cheapest policy i can find is $761.70. let me refer back to the fact they're paying $352, so that's more than a 100% increase. so $761.70 per month for a bronze plan with a $12,600 double compared to the deductible with the plan they are, quote, happy with. this is 116% more than what we currently pay, with a higher deductible. if i look at a comparable plan to what we have now, the new cost will be around $900 per month which is a 156% increase. also, our income is slightly above the threshold to get any subsidies.
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new regulations in obamacare will not benefit our family. but they will more than double our cost. we need to repeal this terrible law and replace it with simple market-based incentives. health insurance should be more like car insurance. you don't submit a claim to get your oil changed in your car. same goes for health care. we should pay out of pocket for routine health care using a transparent price structure that allows consumers to shop for the care they want. and have a cheap insurance policy for major illness coverage. republicans need to communicate this alternative and make it simple for people to understand. i could not agree with this individual more. i realize repeal and replace is not possible -- is not possible until after the 2016 elections, but i appreciate and support
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wholeheartedly your new if you like your health care you can keep it act. for the millions of people out there like me, we should be able to keep our current plan indefinitely. hold the president to his promise and pass this law to grandfather in all existing policies. let me just stop a minute and talk a little bit about the bill that i did introduce, if you like your health care plan, you can keep it act. it's a pretty simple act. i encourage my colleagues to cosponsor it and pass it as soon as possible. i wrote it a certain way. i wrote it using the exact same grandfather language that was in obamacare. the problem with the grandfather language within the patient protection and affordable care act is they had grandfathered plans as long as you totally changed them.
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we took the grandfather language and we just pulled out the you have to totally change your plan. we madate gras grandfather provision -- made it a true grandfather provision, the same language, the true intent, the honest intent. so i urge my democrat colleagues to support that bill. again, let me emphasize, we cannot salvage most -- unfortunately at this late hour, most of these plans that have already been lost. to the individuals i'm reading from their e-mails tonight. but there are millions of americans who will lose their coverage in the future. let me tell you how it's going to happen. i bought health care for the
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people that worked for me for 31 years in my business. i always was going to do that. there was no way i was ever going to subject the people that worked with me to the financial ruin of not having a health care plan. that being said, like the previous writer was saying, you know, i didn't pay for their auto insurance. i didn't pay for their homeowner and property insurance. i always kind of wondered, well, why am i having to make these very personal decisions for the people who work with me? why am i having to decide on their levels of deductibles? why am i having to decide whether it's a p.p.o. or an h.m.o.? well, i know the reason why, it was government interference in the marketplace back in the 1940's, wage price controls. unions very naturally said, well, you can't raise our wages, give us some other benefit
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tax-free. that began the destruction of our health care system in terms of patient involvement, in terms of a competitive marketplace. back then, 68 cents of every health care dollar was actually paid by the patient. there was free market competition to ensure cost restraint, ensure high quality and high levels of custom service. that's what a free market does. today only 12 cents of every dollar is paid directly by the patient. but getting back to the millions that are going to be losing their employer-sponsored care, most employers care deeply with the people that work with them. they also would not expose the people that work with them to financial risk. but under the patient protection and affordable care act, the decision is totally different now. now an employer is going to be facing double-digit premium increases when these plans that
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they were able to quick renew before january 1st come due in 2014. if the exchanges, as they should have been from day one, start operating properly, employers are going to be faced with a decision, hmm, should i pay $15,000 per family for family coverage -- by the way, that's up $2,500 per year not down $2,500 per year, as president obama promised us -- do i pay $15,000 per family coverage and try and comply wit with 20,000-s pages of law and rules and regulation or do i pay the $2,000 or $3,000 fine and i'm not putting my employees at financial risk? i'm potentially making them eligible for subsidies in the exchange. that's the decision employers are going to be facing. and here's the kicker.
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even those that are saying, well, i'm not going to do that, i'm going to keep providing that coverage. just wait until their first competitor drops coverage, pays the $2,000 fine rather than $15,000 fine. marketplace competition is brutal. it's not fun. it's why businesses that succeed should be celebrated, not demonized. but that's -- that's a decision to be made by millions of employers and as a result tens of millions of additional americans will lose their health care coverage that they get through their employers using pretax dollars and get forced into the exchanges. maybe some will get subsidies paid for by the american taxpayer. actually paid by a debt burden placed on the backs of our
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children and grandchildren because we can't afford the affordable care act. that's what's really going to happen. that's what this chamber, this congress, this president needs to consider. that's why i'm asking my colleagues in the senate to join with me to pass the, "if you like your health plan you can keep it act," so we can protect millions of americans, so we can honor that promise that was made repeatedly by this president and members of this chamber that voted for and supported this bill. accept responsibility, be held accountable, act responsibly. join me in that effort to protect americans. another wisconsinite writes, "please allow me to introduce
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myself and my family. we are an average, middle-class wisconsin family that is having a really bad year. my husband was diagnosed with cancer in may. i lost my job and our family health insurance in june. because of preexisting condition, our only insurance option was the high insurance risk-sharing pool." again, that's the plan in wisconsin that i certainly found worked for real americans. it worked. and it will now be obsolete because of the health care law. "for our family of three, myself, husband and college student daughter, our monthly premiums are $783 per month with a $7,500 individual deductible. with the high insurance risk-sharing pool ending december 31, 2013, i am
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searching for insurance as i have yet to find employment. i've tried over 20 times to get on the affordable health care web site. over 20 times with no luck. i've been able to set up a log-in and user name and have entered some information which is never saved when i have had to dog out due to a "please wait" message that never goes away. i am working with an insurance agent to secure quotes outside of the government web site, as i am sure we are way too middle class to be afforded any type of subsidy. although i'm unable to determine this through the defective web site, our cheapest quote is $1,580 per month." again, that compares to $783 per month, again basically a 100% increase with a $12,500 deductible. the previous deductible was $7,500. "therefore, the affordable care act will cost my family over $7,500 more per year in premiums
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and our total deductibles to meet will increase to $37,500 from $22,500 for the family. the total effect is $24,500 additionally in 2014. are we seriously supposed to be able to absorb this into our budget? what does our family do in this situation? we simply cannot afford $1,580 per month for insurance or $24,500 per year. what are our options? my husband will undergo chemotherapy and has a surgery scheduled for 2014. i am feverishly --" do you hear that word? "-- feverishly looking for employment with health insurance coverage. i'm sure we are not the only family adversely affected by the law. please provide answers for all of us. i look forward to hearing from
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you." again, my plea is, please provide true protection. please provide security. please accept the responsibility of what this law, what your support for this law did and is doing to millions of wisconsinites, to millions of americans. it is simply immoral what this law is doing to people, to their lives. it's not going to be pretty what this law is going to do to our health care system. it will lower quality. it will produce rationing. because the only way the government can afford to provide all this access is actually by
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limiting access. and, of course, we're already seeing a very limited number of doctors that are actually accepting these contracts from the networks that are providing the exchange. primarily because of all of the mandated coverage that are dramatically increasing the price of health care, as we've demonstrated -- or as i've demonstrated this evening in these e-mails and these letters that we're receiving from -- from real people, from people that are suffering because of the patient protection and affordable care act. mr. president, i yield the flo floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. toomey: mr. president, i
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rise to speak on the topic of the nomination of cornelia pillard to the d.c. circuit. but before i do that specific topic, i want to address a broader topic which is how we got in these circumstances in the first place. now, why we're here today, why we're having this discussion, and how this nuclear option, as it's been described, has come about. now, most immediately, it was november 21, 2013, just a few weeks ago, that the majority party here in the senate unilaterally decided to break the rules of the senate, violate the rules and rewrite the rules themselves. despite the fact that the rules clearly say, it takes a two-thirds majority of the senate to do that. they just decided to disregard that, that they would just change the rules themselves. so they did that on november 21,
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2013. and what they specifically did, the specific rule change that they imposed unilaterally on the senate was to completely eliminate the opportunity for the minority party to have any ability to be a check or a balance on the process of selecting and confirming the nominees of a given president to the judiciary of the united states of america, the federal judiciary, or to the executive branch. it's a little bit sweeping but that's exactly what's been done. this is contrary to the entire history of the republic, where this has never been done before. and it applies to lifetime appointees, judges, of course, federal judges, as we all know, once they are confirmed, they hold that office until they decide that they're done, at
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whatever age that might be. it is a lifetime appointment, and unless they commit an impeachable offense, there's nothing anybody can do about it. well, one of the things that's interesting about this decision by our democratic colleagues is that they decided to eliminate the rights that minority -- the minority party has had in the united states senate for centuries, they decided to do that despite the fact that 20 of them warned vehemently against engaging in this very activity just a few years ago. as a matter of fact, none other than the senate majority leader, who personally led this effort, senator reid said in 2009 -- and i quote -- "the right to extend the debate is never more important than when one party controls the congress and the white house.
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in these cases, the filibuster serves as a check on power and preserves our limited government" -- end quote. the senior senator from new york also in 2009 said -- and i quote -- "the checks and balances which have been at the core of this republic will be evaporated by the nuclear option." the checks and balances say that if you get 51% of the vote, you don't get your pay 100% of the time." that's what our friends, the leadership of the majority party, the democratic party, that's what they said very, very recently. so you have to ask yourself why would they do a complete reversal? why would they do a 180-degree
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switch, why would they go from a position of absolute vehement opposition to the nuclear option that denies the minority party any say whatsoever in the confirmation of federal nominees, why would they go from that to where they were just a couple weeks ago when they executed their plan and unilaterally changed -- broke the rules so they could ching the rules to -- change the rules into flict that very policy on the current minority party, the republican party? well, we can look at what the majority leader said at the time. one of the things that he said and i will quote, from november 21 of this year, the day on which the majority leader made this change, he said "there has been unbelievable, unprecedented obstruction. for the first time in the history of our republic, republicans have routinely used
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the filibuster to prevent president obama from appointing his executive team or confirming judges" -- end quote. that's what senator reid has asserted as his justification for this unilateral, unprecedented deprivation of the minority party rights. in fact, just this evening senator reid was back on the senate floor and he used the word "obstructionism" about a dozen times. so, mr. president, i think it's worth considering what's actually happened. what does the record show? let's go back to march of 2011 because that's an interesting moment in this discussion about how and whether and when and under what circumstances to confirm nominees. in march of 2011, republicans
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decided that you know what, it probably would be a good idea if the president -- president obama at this time, obviously, would be able to get a very large number of nominees appointed and confirmed without even having to go through the senate process. the legislation is called the presidential appointment efficiency and streamlining act of 2011. and under this act, thousands of appointees from the executive branch were simply no longer subject to senate confirmation. so what republicans did in march of 2011, far from obstructing anything, what we actually did was to say, mr. president, here's a huge category of federal nominees and we won't even -- we won't even require a
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vote, you get these, all of them. you nominate them, they're done. period. does that sound like obstruction? not to me. this was passed by a republican-controlled house, supported by republicans in the senate, signed into law. and so today the law of the land as a result of republican cooperation on this is that this president enjoys a luxury no previous president has had. this huge category of nominees that are solely ex cluesively at his discretion. it doesn't matter if a single senator or every senator strongly objects, doesn't matter. totally irrelevant. so i think we ought to consider that legislation in the context of this discussion. but let's take a look at those nominees who remain subject and have been subject prior to this legislation to senate
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confirmation. so one category is federal judges. now, in the district court thus far, among district courts in the country -- we have many district courts around the country. so far the president has nominated 174 candidates to federal district courts around the country. of the 174 that the president has nominated, i wonder if you could guess how many have been confirmed. i'll tell you how many have been confirmed. 174. 174 confirmed, zero rejected. now, at the circuit court level, prior to the recent episode, the president had nominated 41 candidates to the circuit court. of the 41, 39 had been confirmed. so the total, mr. president, of
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judicial nominees that president obama has sent to us in the senate, total of 217. 215 have been confirmed, and two have been objected to. so by my math, that's something like 1% objected to, 99% confirmed. this doesn't strike me as unreasonable obstruction. but judges aren't the whole story. there's also the nonjudicial nominees and we ought to consider those as well. so far at least as of when we exiled this data --, compiled this data, the president had nominated 1,488 individuals to various federal spots throughout the executive branch, the agencies, departments, and so
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on. of the 1,488, 1,486 have been confirmed and two have been blocked by republicans. that would include 100% of the president's cabinet nominees and 100% of virtually every other category but not every last one. the total if you add these together, 1,707 of the president's nominees, both judicial and nonjudicial, 1,707 confirmed, four rejected. that works out to something like the senate has confirmed, with republican support because it can't happen prior to the rule change, couldn't happen without republican support, the senate
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has confirmed 99.99% -- 99.9% of president obama's nominees to judgeships and nonjudgeships. you got to ask yourself, could that possibly constitute outrageous obstruction? unprecedented obstruction, as senator reid has said, preventing president obama from appointing his executive team or confirming judges? how can this possibly be? i know the majority leader came down to the senate floor on the date on when he decided to unilaterally change the rules by breaking the rules, and he cited as an example the outrageous case of chuck hagel who had served in this body.
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chuck hagel. whatever became of chuck hagel? oh, that's right, he was confirmed to be secretary of defense. as has virtually every single other nominee the president has proposed. the leader seemed to think it was completely unreasonable that republican senators would demand some information from senator hagel along the way, former senator hagel at the time. seems to me the fact that he is a former senator should not change his obligation to provide the information that the senate requests and when he provided that information, he was confirmed easily. so it seems pretty clear to me, it seems pretty indisputable
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that this is -- never was about obstructionism. 99.9% confirmation rate, it just can't be about obstruction. it's clearly not. so we've got to ask ourselves, if it's not the case that republicans have been obstructing the president's team and it's clearly not, then why did the majority in this body decide to unilaterally change the rules and deny the minority of the opportunity to have any say whatsoever on the confirmation process? well, fortunately, some of our colleagues on the other side have -- they've explained this to us. they've told us why they -- they made this change. but let me put it in a little bit of context. you see, we're in a situation
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here where we have divided government. it's true, american people elected president obama to a second term and elections have consequences. but on the very same day the american people reelected republicans to be the majority party in the united states house, and all elections have consequences, not just presidential elections. so the reality is that the very liberal agenda that president obama would like to pursue is very difficult. he can't get most of the liberal things that he wants to do whether it's some kind of cap-and-trade or his war on coal, this is well outside of the mainstream of where the american public is and not where the consensus is in the house of representatives, so his slave agenda isn't going anywhere in the house. the administration understands that very well. the president understands that very well. and so do the members of the
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majority party here in the senate. so what do you do if you have -- an agenda that's out of step with the american people and can't pass in the duly elected house of representatives? well, some people think that the thing to do is do an end run around the legislative body. bypass the legislation and use an undemocratic, i would argue, unconstitutional process, and have unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats imposed by -- impose by fiat and through regulation that which you cannot achieve through legislation. now, of course, that is completely inconsistent with our constitution, with the way our federal government is intended to operate, with the principle of the separation of powers. i would require -- it would require pursuing an agenda that is out of step with the american people and without the consent of congress, which, of course,
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is supposed to be a partner with any executive branch, with any president in pursuing any agenda. of course, our founders foresaw the danger of an executive that would try this sort of thing and would do an end run around the legislature and try to use the enormous power at the disposal of the executive who has massive staff and huge agencies and all kinds of resources, and understood that it's quite possible that you could have an executive that would try, for instance, selective enforcement of laws, maybe unilateral suspension of laws as we've seen this administration do, writing rules and regulations that are inconsistent with the law. this is all -- these are all behaviors that we could anticipate. and our founders did. they did, anticipated that this
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could happen. so what they did was they built a system that would have some checks and balances. that would provide some limitations. among the other ways they did -- many ways this was done but one of them was a separation of powers. and specifically, the creation of an independent judiciary which would kind of be a referee on whether or not, for instance, a given agency, a given regulator was, in fact, complying with the laws or whether they had gone rogue, overboard, whether they were overreaching, pursuing some agenda for which they didn't have authority. this -- and these courts play an absolutely vital and i would say completely indispensable role in giving individual americans their last hope in seeking to preserve their liberty against
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an unfair, arbitrary, and even unconstitutional executive overreach. that's what the courts do. now, as it happens, there is one particular court that plays a disproportionate role in this process of adjudicating and officiating over federal regulations. it just so happens that by virtue of its location, a big majority of cases in which an american citizen challenges a regulation because that citizen believes that this is a regulation that is unfair, unconstitutional, illegal, or otherwise not consistent with our laws, the -- the -- the venue where this ends up finally getting adjudicated is very often the d.c. circuit court of appeals. so this has become a bit of a
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problem for the administration and some of our friends in the senate because the d.c. circuit court of appeals has become a bit of an obstacle to some of the ambitions that they would like to impose. one example, for instance, is last year the d.c. circuit court of appeals struck down for the second time in four years the e.p.a.'s regulations on cross-state air pollution. so these are -- this is a complicated story. we don't have to get in to all the details, but bottom line is these are regulations that, among other things, have a devastating impact on states like pennsylvania that have a big coal industry and that have a big utility industry that uses coal to fire generators. the court found that the e.p.a. had gone beyond its legal authority. the statute clearly says what the e.p.a. may do and may not
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do. they were going beyond what they're permitted to do, and the d.c. circuit court of appeals said so. that's not the only case in which the d.c. circuit court of appeals has ruled in ways that are problematic to some of our friends here. another was a decision they made regarding recess appointments. you may remember this. awhile back, the president made a very extraordinary decision. the president decided for the first time in the history of the republic that it was up to him to determine when the senate was in recess and when it was not. that was his unilateral decision to make. no other president ever took it upon himself to decide that it was his power to determine when a different branch of government was in recess or not, but this president did. he said, that's -- that's his decision. so i guess by his logic, he could decide when we're out on
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lunch. that's a recess. over a weekend, that's a recess. you know, it's up to him by his standard. and so he created an opportunity for himself to make appointments that he knew wouldn't be confirmed in the senate or were unlikely to be confirmed. there was bipartisan in some cases concern about some of these folks. well, he went ahead and made the appointments. the d.c. circuit court of appeals said, actually, no, the constitution's pretty clear. you don't have that authority. these just are a couple of examples where a nonpartisan, completely competent and a very highly respected appellate court made decisions about executive behavior. this has not sat so well with some of our colleagues. and so why do i bring this all up? because this is what this is
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really all about, mr. president. this isn't about republican obstructionism. what this is about is our democratic friends want to pursue a very liberal agenda. they can't do it through legislation so they intend to do it through regulation, as they overreach and go go beyond the legal authority which they have already done and continue to do, the victims, the american citizens who are a victim of this overreach are going to challenge these rules and regulations in court. and when they do, they're going to end up in the d.c. circuit court of appeals, and some of our friends want to do whatever it takes to make sure they can win those decisions. that's not just my words. the senior senator from new york complained about the d.c. circuit. he was on record claiming the d.c. circuit overturned the e.p.a.'s ability to regulate existing coal plants. okay. he further went on to hold that the s.e.c. can't pass rulings
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unless they do what's called a cost-benefit analysis. that was another complaint that the senior senator from new york made about the d.c. circuit. and so he told a group of supporters that in order to reverse this, democrats will -- and i quote -- "will fill up the d.c. circuit one way or anothe another." mr. president, i think this is about as clear as it could be. there are people that don't like the decisions coming out of the court and so their intention is to pack the court with people who share their political views and will, therefore, sustain decisions about the advancement of their liberal agenda. but it wasn't only the senior senator from new york who's made these comments. the majority leader himself explained this as well, referring to the d.c. circuit
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court, he said -- and i quote -- "they're the ones that said the president can't have recess appointments. they've done a lot of bad things, so we're focusing very intently on the d.c. circuit. we need at least one more. there's three vacancies. we need at least one more and that will switch the majority." could there be a more direct, straightforward statement about what their real intent is? their intent is to pack the court with partisan people who will give them the decisions they need so that they can advance the agenda they want when it's blocked through the ordinary, legal and constitutional legislative process. that's what's going on here. that's why we're here tonight. that's what's taking place.
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mr. toomey: so when republicans decided that we -- we really don't think it's a good idea to manipulate courts this way, to populate them with partisans, to try court stacking for the purpose of advancing an agenda, that's when our democratic friends decided to go nuclear. the pity of this is, you know, our founders had enormous foresight, absolutely brilliant. they constructed an incredible document that -- series of documents that have guided this republic for centuries now. they anticipated a lot. i don't think they anticipated that the leader of the majority party in the united states
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senate would just turn it over to the control of the executive branch and make this institution just a rubber stamp for what the president wants to do. but that's where we are. so now what is the practical consequence of all this? why is it that this is such a terrible idea? let me -- let me touch on a few of the things. there's a lot of reasons, mr. president, why i think this is disastrous policy but let me touch on a few of them. one result of this is undoubtedly a further polarization, in fact, a radicalization of the federal government. a second is that as a direct result of this unilateral decision and the ability now of our democratic friends to simply steamroll nominees through without any consideration by the minority party, we will have to expect fluctuations, volatility
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in administrative and regulatory rulings. and then lastly and probably most disturbingly, i think there's a real danger that a justice system that has been the envy of the world and is recognized for its impartial and nonpartisan integrity may very well be increasingly viewed as a partisan and biased one. let me explain these a little bit. the idea that we'd have a more radicalized federal government. for 200 years, a president has always known that in order to nominate and to get confirmed one of his nominees, he would need broad support in the united states senate. it -- it wouldn't fly if he selected someone who was only appealing to a few or even a very small majority. and so what does that do? that forces any president, whether it's a republican or a democrat, to nominate people who would have that broader
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bipartisan appeal. and, frankly, presidents of both parties are always under pressure from their respective bases to pick the most extreme people. that's what pleases the base of either party. and it's always served the republic well that a president could say, well, you know, i've got to get that person confirmed through the senate, and if i pick the most extreme people, that's going to be a problem. the fact that a president has needed that bipartisan support has essentially required that a president look for people who represent a broad consensus across america. now, in this post-nuclear sena senate, that moderating influence is gone. there is no such influence anymore. and i think it's a safe bet that we can expect more extreme nominees.
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and we've already seen some evidence of it. "the hill" ran a story recently, it reported that now that the nuclear option has been detonated, the far left interest groups are -- quote -- "pressing president obama to select left-wing nominees for key regulatory and judicial posts, nominees who could never have been confirmable before." well, that's no surprise. that's exactly the kind of output, kind of consequence that we should expect from this. second consideration is stability in rules and regulations that are promulgated by the various regulators and agencies. you know, i -- i hear every day across pennsylvania one of the grave concerns about business that is hampering our ability to have a stronger economy, to have the kind of growth that we'd like to have is uncertainty about regulations. and it's true, and it's
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important. and guess what? it's likely to get worse. because, first of all, this huge administrative bureaucratic state that we -- that we've devolved in to recently touches on virtually every aspect of our life, and there are hundreds of agencies, boards and commissions that the administration contro controls. well, what's likely to happen now is that if the white house and control of the senate changes parties, we're likely to see big swings in the ideology and the partisanship of these folks because they weren't consensus candidates in the first place, right? given that now we've got a situation where a majority party just steamrolls their way through whomever they want and have every incentive to go to the extremes, when they lose an election, what are we going to have? we're going to have the exact opposite swing. and so for businesses trying to make a decision about whether or not to invest in america, to
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grow their company, to hire more workers, they're going to worry and wonder, well, what will the regulatory regime look like in just a few years, depending on how the election goes? there's much less predictability, less stability. and the direct result of that is going to be less investment and fewer jobs. this is not good news for our economy at all. and then, finally, my concern is that for the -- for similar reasons, we're going to see a diminishing of the judiciary -- of the status of the judiciary among the american people, of the credibility, the respect that the american people have had. i said a moment ago, i think one of the great strengths of the american federal government throughout our history has been that we have, generally speaking -- there have been exceptions; there always will be some exceptions -- but generally speaking, over time, by and
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large at all the levels, the american people have had a pretty high respect for the judiciary. they've respected the fact that our judges are capable and competent and tend not to be partisan hacks, they tend not to be polarized political figures trying to advance an agenda. they have tended to be men and women of ability and integrity who are calling balls and strikes the way -- the way they see fit. they realize they're the umps, they're the referees, they're not players on the field. they're not there to advance an agenda, they're there to officiate based on the law and the constitution. that's been the case. that's why our judiciary has been so respected, because it's nonpartisan, it's independent of the other branches of government, and it's behaved that way.
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and the confidence of the american people that they can go before a federal judge and receive a fair and unbiased hearing whether they're a democrat or republican, liberal or conservative, the fact is most americans don't worry first wait a minute is that judge a republican? that doesn't occur to most people to ask that question and nor should it. because it doesn't matter in most cases. and this -- this respect for the judiciary the american people have is extremely important. alexander hamilton in federalist 78 talked about the importance of this deep respect for the judiciary. he said -- and i quote -- "the judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power, whereas the executive branch has the military and congress has the power of the purse, the
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judiciary cannot enforce its own decisions. it relies on americans' respect for it and willingness to enforce its rulings as essential ." that was alexander hamilton. and the fact is that the deep respect the american people have had for the judiciary has allowed our courts, including the supreme court of the united states, to issue decisions that have profoundly affected our lives, profoundly changed our society, so many times, so much for the better. a famous example would be brown versus the board of education which reversed the separate but equal doctrine that ended the southern governments' laws that banned white and black persons from associating together. now, this created a certain upheaval at the time, but it stuck, and part of the reason that it stuck was the public saw
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that this was a decision by this nonpartisan court that was acting as an arbiter of our constitution, and the respect that the american people had for our courts was a big part of why a contentious decision quickly became accepted and became part of our fabric. alexander hamilton explained that the judiciary's integrity and independence are absolutely critical. otherwise, americans' confidence in the court will be replaced by what he described as universal distrust and distress. he said -- and i quote -- "the benefits of the integrity and moderation of the judiciary must have commanded the esteem and applause of all the virtuous and disinterested. considerate men of every description ought to prize would what will fortify that temper in the courts as no man a may be
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sure he may not be tomorrow the victim of a spirit of injustice by which he may be the gainer today." and further quote from alexander hamilton, he said the inevitable tendency of such a spirit is to sap the foundations of public and private confidence and to introduce universal disstrus and -- distrust and distress. mr. president, when a president with the cooperation of a legislature which rubber stamps judicial nominees for the purpose of ratifying a political agenda when this happens, the american people's trust in the judiciary will be badly damaged. and we are at the threshold of that moment now. of course, it also completely undermines our whole system of separation of powers. the fact is, when judges are seen as being at the beck and
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call of the legislature or a president, or a party, our individual liberty is simply not secure. again to quote hamilton, he said the general liberty of the people can never be endangered from the court so long as the judiciary remains truly distinct from both the legislature and the executive. he goes on to say -- and i quote -- "liberty can have nothing to fear from the judiciary alone but would have everything to fear from its union with either of the other departments." and when you have one party ruling this process, completely controlling this process, and controlling it for the purpose of advancing a partisan agenda, well, that strikes me as exactly the danger that hamilton warned us of. so where does that leave us,
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mr. president,? this regard? i don't think we're doomed here but i do think it's very important that the american people rise up and make their objection to this clearly heard. i think it's important that the american people contact their members of congress and exercise their ultimate control of this process at the ballot box and urge the senate majority to give up its plan to pack the court, to use the courts to achieve a legislative jeanld they can't get -- agenda they can't get through a duly elected congress that represents the american people. and, by the way, there's another big incentive for our friends to want to pack this d.c. circuit court. and that is because the front burner, the most prominent policy and political issue of
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the day is largely going to be litigated right there soon. it's the d.c. circuit that is going to hear a very, very important case that goes to the heart of obamacare. the d.c. circuit is hearing a case about how the i.r.s. was chosen to implement some rules. you see, the law is very, very clear. the law states unambiguously that the subsidies that obamacare has designed for many people who buy health insurance through their exchange, those subsidies will only be available through the state exchanges. as you know, mr. president, obamacare contemplates two different categories of exchanges through which people are forced to buy the mandated insurance. there are state exchanges and in those states that don't operate an exchange, their federal changes exchanges. the law says the subsidies are
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available only for the people who purchase their insurance through the state exchanges. what the administration is attempting to do is to completely disregard the law. and make the subsidies available to people who buy through either the state exchange or the federal exchange. that's not what the law says. and i understand this administration routinely disregards the law, but that's what we have an independent judiciary for. to impose a check when they do this. there's a legal scholar who is falling this case, named mike carveenand i will quote from his writings, he said "congress knew that the federal government cannot require the states to establish or operate exchanges
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so it offered subsidies to entice 125eu9s to undertake this responsibility. instead, fully 33 states have texas to ohio to president obama's and vice president biden's home states of illinois and delaware have said thanks but no thanks. instead these states have chosen to shield their businesses and residents from the worst of the potential train wreck. well, that creates a bit of a problem for the administration because with so many states choosing not to participate in this disaster, and having only a federal exchange, if they actually comply with the law that they signed, then there would be a lot of people wouldn't be eligible for the subsidy. so if the d.c. circuit court of appeals were to simply, oh, follow the law, impose the law, then that would create a huge problem which strikes me as
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yet another incentive for why perhaps we've gone through what we've gone through the last couple of weeks because it's so important for our friends on the other side to get the decisions they want out of this court. all of which brings me to what we really ought to be working on. by the way, all of these nominees that are here before us tying up -- tying us up this week, it's all entirely at the choosing of the majority leader. none of these are essential, none are these are urge eptd, none of these are emergencies. we could be talking about, we could be passing legislation like our defense authorization legislation, got a budget deal that could be on the floor, got a farm bill that's overdue, got a lot of things we could be doing. we could be trying to deal with the enormous problems caused by obamacare. but we're not. we're dealing with nominees instead.
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but i think we ought to focus on the problems that obamacare is causing, and it is, i will admit it's hard sometimes to know where to begin because these problems are so huge. let me just start with the taxes that obamacare has been imposing on us, continues to impose on us. it's pretty extraordinary list. but as best we could tab you'llate there are something like -- tabulate there are something like 20 different taxes that were created as part of obamacare, over a trillion dollars worth of taxes to burden this economy, diminish our opportunities to grow and invest and create the jobs that we need, just at a time when our economy is weak and needs -- needs an opportunity to recover. instead we saddle it with all of
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these taxes. we have, for instance, an excise tax on charitable hospitals. we have a tax in the form of the codification of the economic substance doctrine. it's a tax hike of $4.5 billion that allows the internal revenue service to disallow completely legal tax deductions. the black liquor tax hike on a type of biofuel. a tax hike on innovator drug companies, $2.3 billion annual tax on the industry. we have a blue cross/blue shield tax hike, a special tax deduction in current law would only be allowed if 85% or more of the premiums were spent on clinical services. that's a tax increase. that went into effect in 2010. we have a tax on indoor tanning services. we have the taxes that took effect in 2011, there's the medicine cabinet tax. americans are no longer able to
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use health savings accounts to help reimbursement pretax dollars to purchase over-the-counter medicines. so the inability to use these taxpayer accounts for legitimate medical needs, that's a tax increase. we have the h.s.a. withdrawal tax hike. going into effect in 2012 we have the employer reporting of insurance on w-2. in 2015 we -- 2013 bee got a surtax on investment income, a whole new 3.8% surtax on investment incomes and this can only diminish investment in our economy, diminishes the return on investment, the incentive to take a risk and start a new business, provide capital to a new business, grow a business. all part of obamacare. we've got the hike in the medicare payroll tax. and one of the most egregious of them all, we've got the tax on
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medical device manufacturers. now, this one, this one is a particularly egregious because it's so badly designed. on top of being ill conceived. this is a 2.3% tax on the sale of medical devices. this is irrespective of whether a company has any income whatsoever, makes any money from this. we're imposing a tax on the sale of these products. the average medical device company has a profit margin of less than 5%. 2.3% tax is about half of all their income that goes now to a new sales tax and, by the way, they still have to pay incomes taxes, all the ordinary income taxes. this is devastating because what these companies are then forced to do is virtually the entire bottom line goes for taxes, they don't have the money to reinvest in their business. medical device industry is one of the best industries we've got in this country, it is so
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dynamic, it is so creative, the -- mr. president, i wish you could come with me to parts of pennsylvania with this industry is thriving or was thriving, not so much anymore, because of the creativity and the devices, the inventions that people are making that that arism proving the quality of life, extending the life, amaze wag the marriage of technology and creative minds and experts in health care, what they're cre -- they're creating. but it takes a long time for these products before they're profitable for the company that tells them. long after they've begun sales. this law poses the burden before they ever become profitable. what's the effect that have is it makes this whole industry less appealing to invest in, less attractive to entrepreneurs, to investors, whether it's venture capital or private equity or whatever the source might be. guess what?
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less is going to medical devic devices, an industry that's saving lives, improving the quality of our lives. by the way, big manufacturing industry. most of these companies manufacture their products in the united states, many in pennsylvania. oh, and, by the way, we sell a lot of them overseas. we have a big trade surplus in medical devices because we lead the world in this. and what does obamacare do? slap a new tax on the sales. it's a terrible, terrible policy. we have a high medical bills t tax. currently those people who face high medical bills are allowed a deduction for medical expenses to the extent that those expenses exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income. the new provision, which took effect just earlier this year, raises that threshold before you can take that deduction. that's just a complicated, convoluted tax increase on people who have high medical bills. there's the flexible spending
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account cap, elimination of tax deduction for employer-provided retirement drug coverage in coordination with medicare part-d. there's the individual mandate excise tax. there's the employer mandate tax. there's the tax on health insurers. there's an excise tax on comprehensive health insurance plans. mr. president, this is 20 different taxes. the combined effect of which is without a doubt to significantly weaken our economy. but that's not the only way that obamacare weakens our economy. you see, the mandate that obamacare imposes on employers kicks in on employers who have 50 or more employees. i can tell you, i have spoken with a number of pennsylvania employers who have 45 or 47 or 48 employees.
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they're not subject to the hugely expensive mandates of obamacare. and do you know what they tell me? they're not going to be subject to it. they'll go to great lengths to avoid hiring the 50th employee. they're high temps, they'll pursue automation, they'll do all kinds of things that they wouldn't otherwise do because this government makes it too expensive for them to hire a 50th employee. at a time when our work force participation rate is at a record low because so many people have given up even trying to find work, obamacare makes it too expensive for employers to hire new workers. oh, it has a similar effect on hours worked because this 5 50-employee count applies to anybody who works 30 hours or more, so one of the ways a business can avoid these crippling costs is cut back on the number of hours for their workers.
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well, that doesn't work out so well for somebody who needs those hours to pay their bills, to support their family. it's happening all across the country. another -- another aspect that is really outrageous is this mandate in obamacare that employers must, regardless of whether the employees want it or not, they must provide contraception and abortivation coverage. now, one of the problems with this is these services run completely contrary to deeply held religious views. for a lot of people, faith-based institutions and others. so the administration decided, well, they'll -- they'll offer an accommodation for faith-based institutions. the accommodation that they offered is pure sophistry.
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what they offered was to say, well, you won't have to -- you, the faith-based institution -- you won't have to actually pay for those services which you find objectionable based on your faith, you won't have to pay for them but you have to buy an insurance plan that has them and the insurance company will just have to give you that for free. this is the most ridiculous thing in the world. private companies aren't in the business of offering their services for free. if there's an aspect of it that they have to supposedly give away, then they're simply going to pass on the cost for other services that they provide. nobody's fooled by this. this is just yet another of the details of obamacare. but really the big -- some of the biggest problems i've saved till the end, mr. president, and that's the series of broken promises that obamacare constitutes. and one of the most glaring is
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this promise that we heard i don't know how many times we heard it, but we all did, we heard the president say, and so many of our democratic colleagues who support this bi bill, they said that if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan. now, mr. president, let's be very clear. everybody who supported this bill who was familiar with it -- and that would certainly include the president of the united states and our friends here -- they knew from the beginning that that was not possible. and they knew that because the legislation was designed to prevent many people from keeping their health insurance. it was written for that purpose, in part, because they had to. the whole point, a big part of the point of obamacare was to establish sthanders the -- stane government tender were termed a, regardless of whether an
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american thinks that adequate or not or suitable for herself or family. it was up to government to make this decision, not the individual. and they would establish criteria. and if your plan didn't meet the criteria, your plan was going to be canceled. that's in the legislation. that is codified. it always was. it's at the heart of this legislation. so for anybody to go around the country saying, "if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan," well, they were knowingly stating something that was completely untrue, was always untrue, and was necessarily untrue. and the examples abound. mr. president, i've got -- i've got e-mails from constituents, i've got too many. i wouldn't have i won't have a n through them all this evening -- i may have to come whac come ban another occasion -- but i'll share a few of them. this is from an individual in lancaster, pennsylvania. i got this just -- i think i got
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this earlier today. and i'll just quote from this e-mail from my constituent. addressed to me, it says, "as my congressional representative, you need to know how obamacare is harming my life and health care. i work for a small construction company. my cost for family health care was already over $11,000 per year. we received notification that our policy was being canceled since it did not comply with requirements of the affordable care act. our company looked for the best rates they could find for comparable coverage which did comply. they chose a new insurance company. we just recently were given the cost for next year. my costs to cover myself and my family will be over $17,500 per year, a 59% increase. even with that, the deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums are higher. this is not affordable care. this would eat up a major part of my income. i attempted to log on to the
11:54 pm several times but always get kicked out. i do not hold much hope that i'll get any better rates because i don't qualify for a credit. we were already struggling to live on my take-home pay. we cannot afford to have it reduced by over $6,500. we may have to drop health coverage for my wife or kids and pay the penalty. i suspect that this law will result in many more people losing their health care at the expense of a few getting free or reduced-cost health care." i got this just a week ago from a man from cumberland county, pennsylvania. he said, "my wife barb and i have been trying for almost three weeks now to get signed up. all income and health info and private information is on the unsecured web site and the application is accepted but we have not been able to get on to pick the plan or get our price so nobody's been paid. thus, our canceled insurance ends on december 31st and we look to be out. a big mistake by the folks that voted for this. i've had cancer a couple of times.
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my wife has had cancer. and we both see our doctors when needed. this a.c.a. will ruin many families if we can't get on an insurance plan." i had a woman from lebanon county, pennsylvania, sent me this e-mail a week ago. she said, "we had our health care discontinued and after an appeal, we were able to get it reinstated but only for this year. currently we have a health care savings plan with a deductible of $3,000 a year. in the new plan, our deductible would increase to $12,000 and our premiums would increase to $9,000 a year. how is a middle-class married family supposed to pay for this? this is absolutely ridiculous and this is our situation. i hope every government worker has to purchase their plan through this plan." here's another. a man from delaware county in southeastern pennsylvania. "i'm 66 and i'm on medicare. my wife is 63.
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her insurance company canceled her long-standing policy due to the requirements of the a.c.a. her new policy cost $350 more per month. we're on a strict budget. we're the hardworking middle class. who stands for us? here's another promise we frequently heard and that promise we frequently heard was that if you like your doctor, you'll be able to keep your doctor. this, too, mr. president, was known to be impossible since the law was designed to discontinue health insurance plans and force people on to alternative plans. not all plans cover the same doctors. certainly some were going to lose their coverage. let me give you an example of an e-mail i got from a woman from west more lanwest moreland coun. she writes, "i've been self-employed for 13 years and have never been without health insurance. three years ago i was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. having an expensive preexisting condition was not a problem for me, as i had never let my
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insurance lapse. my medication costs without insurance $4,000 per month. i received notice several weeks ago that they would now cancel my plan and would do so as of january 1st and i had to sign up for new coverage through the health insurance exchange." so my staff reached out to this woman and tried to help, and after several attempts, she was able to access the exchange. you know what she learned? she learned that in her region, there were two options available to her. one, mr. president, covers her doctors who've been treating here for her m.s. for years. the other covers her prescription drugs. and neither one covers both. this is the kind of decision that people are being forced to make all over america. it's the kind of decisions that people are being forced to make every day. it is a direct result of the loss of personal freedom that this legislation imposes on people.
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and this is the topic that we ought to be addressing in this body so that we can, frankly, the only solution, which is to repeal this bill and move health care in a completely different direction. i believe, mr. president, that my time has expired so i will -- at this time, i will yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: well, thank you, mr. president. and i rise to speak about a particular incident that occurred in webster, new york, a beautiful town near the city of rochester. on christmas eve 2012, nearly one year ago today, the 125-member west webster volunteer fireman's association, a volunteer fire department east of rochester, new york, faced an unimaginable tragedy when four of their brave members were wounded, two fatally, when they responded to a fire but instead faced an ambush of unspeakable
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proportions. while many families across our nation were waking up last christmas eve morning to finish preparing for christmas dinner, shopping, wrapping presents, picking up the family from the airport, four webster families were instead confronting a heartwrenching tragedy. the call of a house on fire came in to the west webster fire did not at 5:30 a.m. on december 2 24th. and although it was a cold, snowy morning, still dark before the sun rose, everyday heroes from the west webster fire department courageously did what they volunteer to do on behalf of their neighbor and on behalf of their home towns. they, like millions of brave volunteer firefighters throughout our country and throughout its history, left their homes and their families in safety to put out a fire that always creates danger.
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this routine call turned into a tragedy which shocked the community, people throughout the country, and even people throughout the world. firefighter joseph hoffstatter, 14-year volunteer for webster, arrived first on the scene. firefighter theodore scardino arrived soon after with lieutenant mike chipperini in a pumper truck followed by 19-year-old firefighter tomas cachuka driving the department's s.u.v. what they didn't know was that the fire was intentionally set by the home's owner in order to lure these innocent firefighters into a senseless sniper ambush. the sniper was hiding behind a berm amidst the chaos of the fire and began shooting and the responding firefighters. the firefighters were confused at first to hear popping sounds and thought it might be from the
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fire but lieutenant mike chipperini a webster police officer, knew better and shouted to his fellow volunteers to take cover but, unfortunately, mr. president, it was too late. firefighter hoffstatter was shot in the pelvis whieg while trying to alert dispatchers on the radio to the situation. ted scardino was shot in the shoulder and five minutes later shot again in the leg. the 16-year volunteer lay there while bleeding for over an hour enduring the december cold while sustaining second-degree burns on his head as the fire now spread to consume six other neighboring homes. lieutenant chipperini and firefighter kachuka both beside dyed in the ambush. as news of this senseless christmas eve tragedy spread, well-meaning people from across the rochester and finger lakes
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area, across new york state, across the nation and the world reached out to the west webster volunteer firemen's association to offer support and prayers. thousands of incredibly generous people flooded the department with countless financial contributions to support to the volunteer department, to support the four firefighters and in the case of lieutenant chipperini and firefighter kachuka to support the families they left behind. not realizing that collecting and distributing the funds to the families would jeopardize the association's tax-exempt status with the i.r.s., the association accepted donations from generous people all around the nation wanting to help the four families who suffered the most on that day. they collected these donations for the victims, for their families, and they want to give these donations to the victim and their families. it defies reason that they'd be unable to do so now because of a
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technicality in the tax code. and just as we did after 9/11 and again after a similar fire department tragedy in california in 2006, it's our obligation to make sure the west webster volunteer firemen's association can now disburse to these families the contributions that their neighbors and unknown countless generous others wanted them to have. as it is, the disbursement of these funds have been delayed for months and now almost a year and that's why i'm asking the senate to proceed with consideration of the fallen firefighters assistance tax clarification act. the proposal merely clarifies as it did after 9/11 and again after the california tragedy in 2006 that the west webster volunteer fire department will not lose its status as a nonprofit by distributing the know daitions -- donations to
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these firefighters and their families. as we again enter the christmas season, and approach the one-year anniversary of this tragedy, now is the time to make this right. we need to do it on behalf of the families of the fallen and the injured, the family of 43 yield lieutenant mike chipperini includes his wife kim, his 19-year-old son nick, and his daughters, 4-year-old casey and 3-year-old kylie. known to many as chip, lieutenant chipperini was a west webster volunteer firefighter for 25 years. he was past chief of the west webster fire department and advisor of its fire explorer post. he also served with distinction for 19 years as a police officer with the west webster police department and rose through the ranks as a dispatcher, police officer, investigator, sergeant and lieutenant. in short, he committed his
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entire life to public service for the town of webster. likewise, 19-year-old firefighter tomas kakhuka left behind his parents and his twin brothers and a large extended family. he was selflessly devoted to his family and community. in fact, he wasn't even supposed to be on duty that christmas eve but elected to make the shift so that older department members could be home with their families that day. and the surviving firefighters have had to endure long rehabilitations for their injuries, their families have had to deal with life owe ordinary challenges and day-to-day expenses as ted and joe recover and move forward with their lives. the fact is, mr. president, that ordinary americans moved by
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the heroic sacrifice of these volunteer firefighters have offered generous support. they've intended their contributions to help these families in the wake of the tragedy. and in recognition of the service of these brave firefighters. these were volunteer firefighters. volunteers. i know many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are well acquainted with the volunteer fire service. many may have a membership in a volunteer fire company themselves. you all know men and women just like the members in west webster. they're the epitome of the american service. de tocqueville was visited when he visited the rochester area in 1831 and thought rol vol tierism is one of the things that set america apart from the rest of the world. that was true then, it is still true today. these heroes don't ask for
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anything. they just want to protect their neighbors and their community. it's just plain wrong that they would lose their not for profit status simply for being a pass-through to convey donations to these families whatever an unspeakable tragedy. and in that same spirit, mr. president, tonight i had hoped to request unanimous consent this evening to move forward with the consideration of this legislation. who could object? who could object? however, i understand that some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle object to me making the request at this time. therefore, i will withhold that request this evening and sincerely hope my colleagues will think about this overinside knight and allow us to proceed with consideration tomorrow. it is indeed the right thing to do. i yield the floor.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: thank you, mr. president. i appreciate the comments of my colleague from new york city who has been a tireless champion for the terrific dedicated self-sacrificing firefighters of new york city. tonight we're here on the floor addressing the question of whether we should confirm cornelia pillard as a candidate for the d.c. circuit court. she is a law scholar with a long track record of public service. she served twice in the justice department as successfully defended the family and medical
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leave act, a crucial piece of legislation for working families. she teaches law at georgetown university, one of the top law schools in the nation. the truth is she's an supremely well qualified nominee who would be an excellent addition to the d.c. circuit court. she has personally argued and breached supreme court cases brought or defended by government lawyers from republican administrations and republican appointed justices have authored majority fins pins in her favor. she is currently the codirector of the supreme court institute at georgetown law where she personally aconsists lawyers on a pro bono first-come basis without regard to which side they represent. in fact, professor pillard chaired the bar association reading committee that reviewed samuel eliteo's writings during his nomination process for the supreme court. her committee's assessment led
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the a.b.a. to give justice eliteo their highest rating of well qft. -- qualified. her unbiased approach to the law has won the respect of her colleagues in law and government including former department of justice officials who have endorsed her nomination to the d.c. circuit. in short, professor plarpd is a fair -- pillard is a fair-minded, accomplished liggetdor with an outstanding reputation for public service. then why are we here now after midnight carrying on this debate? and to get to the root of that question we have to examine the dysfunction that's present here in the u.s. senate. virtually all americans know that congress is not working
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well. virtually all americans know that the u.s. senate is broken. i saw a poll that said 92% of americans believe that congress is dysfunctional. and i wondered what's wrong with the other 8%? they must not be paying attention. because what we have experienced here in the u.s. senate is a continuous campaign of obstruction and paralysis of the normal proceedings. there was a time, there was a time when we had a senate that had a core principle which was up and down votes with rare exception, up and down votes with rare exception. that was the tradition of the u.s. senate. and that tradition really was rooted in the courtesy, the courtesy of hearing out every
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senator who wished to share their opinion on a topic before the senate would make a decision. now, maybe that was something easier to do when there were only 26 members of the senate. we now have 100 members of the u.s. senate. so maybe it takes a while to hear the opinions of every member. but still, that courtesy has been honored through the years. but the counterpart to that is that folks knew in the end the senate with very rare exception would get to a simple majority vote. the entire structure of our constitution and the vision of our founders was that this body would make decisions with a simple majority vote. recall, if you will that the founders put into the constitution special occasions for a supermajority. those occasions were things such as overriding a presidential veto. thosing special occasions were
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things such as reviewing a treaty. but they envisioned a simple majority vote for the legislature because they felt that the majority decision most of the time would be a better direction to go than the minority opinion. that's the principle of democracy. the direction that most senators believe is the correct direction is the basis for going forward. well, this principle has been completely lost in the last few years. a small group of senators here decided that they should replace the constitutional principle of a simple majority with a supermajority that virtually every action would be subject to a requirement to have 60 votes to close debate rather than the constitutional 51.
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now, this has been applied in ways that american citizens can't even imagine. let's take motions to proceed. now, a motion to proceed simply says it's time to take up this bill. let's vote yes or no on taking up this bill. that's a motion to proceed. but in recent times, the minority has said you know what, we can -- we can use this motion to proceed as an opportunity to paralyze the senate. we can object to having that simple majority vote and then we can deny there being the supermajority to close debate even if we have nothing to say and we can simply waste the senate's time on debating whether to debate. i've argued for a long time this abuse must end, and it's time to get rid of the filibuster on this motion to proceed but nonetheless we have it and my colleagues in this permanent
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campaign to paralyze the senate have chosen to exercise this filibuster if you will this supermajority requirement simply on a motion to debate an issue as opposed to actually being in debate. or let's take conference committees. it was extraordinarily rare for conference committees, the formation of them, to be subject to a supermajority in the history of the u.s. senate. conference committees were very common in the 1970's and 1980's. i was first here as an intern in 1976 with senator hatfield and was here on capitol hill working for congress in the 1980's. and if one chamber of congress and the other chamber had reached a common -- had both passed a bill, well, then, automatically you had a conference committee meet and resolve the differences. that's just common sense. why would you delay that for a second? but when i came to the u.s. senate in 2009 as a senator, i
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was mystified to discover that conference committees were not being held. so i inquired why that was. and the answer was that the minority had decided to use the filibuster, the supermajority, on establishing a conference committee, in other words, block the house and senate from even talking to each other to resolve differences between two bills. and that drove the debate out of the public realm, in a public room, with a tv camera into private discussions as negotiators tried to resolve and develop a common version of the bill. well, there, too, i proposed that we need to get rid of this filibuster on conference committees. it is disrespectful of the most valuable commodity of this body, that its time -- that its time is wasted on filibusters, on
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whether to start a discussion with the house when both the house and senate have passed a version of the bill. and then, of course, we have the ongoing campaign of subjecting virtually every nomination to a supermajority. well, in fact, in -- in the history of the united states of america, in the entire history, before president obama, only three times was there a filibuster of a district court nominee. but in the time that president obama's been in office, we've had 20 filibusters of district court nominees. only three in our history until president obama is president, and then 20 filibusters when he became president until now. 20 out of 23. that's just pure, deliberate campaign of paralysis and obstruction undermining the contribution of this body, its responsibility as a legislative
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body. well, it just isn't judicial nominees, it's executive nominees as well. in our entire history as a nation, 168 nominations have been filibustered. 168 in our entire history. 82 of them have been nominations by president obama. 82 nominees just in the five years president obama's been in office out of the 168 in our entire history. so we see whether we are looking at motions to proceed or conference committees or judicial nominees or executive nominees a campaign of deliberate paralysis and obstruction rather than a dedication to serving our nation, as the constitution requires. indeed, some have justified this ongoing paralysis, some of my colleagues have said, but,
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remember, president washington said that the u.s. senate should be a cooling saucer. the concept is that you have a cup of hot tea and it's too hot to drink, you poor it into a saucer, it cools and then it's just right. well, president washington would never recognize this strategy of obstruction and paralysis as legitimate under the u.s. constitution. and, indeed, there were elements designed to make this body deliberative. but there's a difference between deliberation and the destruction of the legislative process. there is a difference between a cooling saucer, thoughtful deliberation, and a deep freeze. but certain members of this body have decided they've not come here to fulfill the constitutional vision of the u.s. senate as a deliberative body. they, instead, have come here to
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paralyze the function of this body, to obstruct this body. so there we saw it in the filibusters of the conference committee, in the filibusters of the motions to proceed, in the filibusters of the executive branch nominees, filibusters of the judicial nominees and, of course, the filibusters of legislation, what have reached extraordinary levels never seen in the history of our nation. now, just a little while ago, one of my colleagues chose to quote alexander hamilton in defense of this strategy of paralysis. well, i would encourage my colleague to actually read more of alexander hamilton because he actually directly addressed this question of filibusters and the potential to obstruct the will of the majority. and what did alexander hamilton say? he said, "the real operation of the filibuster" -- quote -- "is
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to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of government, and to substitute the pleasure, caprice and artifices of a insignificant turbulent or corrupt junta to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority." and he went on to say, "when the majority must conform to the rules of the minority, the consequence is -- and i quote -- "tedious delays, continual negotiations and intrigue, comtemptible compromises of the public good." that's a pretty good description of what americans see happening in this chamber as a result of this deliberate campaign of paralysis and obstruction. tedious delays, continual intrigue, comtemptible compromises of compromises of t. now, many in this chamber have
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tried to reason and convey to members that we should return to the tradition of the senate, up-and-down votes with rare exception. in 2005, it was the democrats who were in the minority and it was the republicans who were in the majority, and at that time, the democrats decided to filibuster a series of judicial nominees. so this is certainly a tactic employed by both democrats and republicans. well, our republican friends, who were in the majority, said, that's not acceptable. they said, that's not consistent with the philosophy of up and -- up-and-down votes with rare exception. they said, that's not consistent with the power invested in the constitution and the president to be able to place forth his nominees for consideration under the advice and consent clause of the constitution. and our republican colleagues were persuasive and the democrats and the majority agreed not to filibuster judges
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except under rare exceptions, exceptions of extraordinary flaws of character and experience. well, then the clock turned and it came to 2009. now we have a democratic president and democratic majority. and the deal that was cut in 2005, agreed to by both sides, that there would be only rare filibusters based on exceptional flaws of character or experien experience, disappeared. it disappeared completely. the new minority did not honor the deal that had been negotiated in 2005. so come january 2011, there was a debate on this floor about trying to again restore the traditional understanding, up-and-down votes with rare exception, and there was a deal made.
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and it didn't last but a few weeks. so then there was another attempt in january 2013, and on this occasion there was a promise made on the floor of the u.s. senate. the minority leader came to the floor and said, the republicans will return to the norms and traditions of the u.s. senate regarding nominations. what are those norms and traditions? those norms and traditions are a simple majority vote with rare exception. well, within weeks that promise was completely shattered. the first-ever filibuster in u.s. history of a defense nominee, ironically a former colleague for the republican side of the aisle. and then we had 43 senators write a letter and say they would not allow anyone to be confirmed for the position as director of the consumer financial protection bureau,
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certainly consistent with up-and-down votes with rare exception for issues of character. well, then there was another big effort in july 2013, just earlier this year. we all got together in the old senate chamber and we shared our frustrations and our views, and again the promise was put forward, we will stop filibustering except under rare circumstances related to character or qualifications. well, that was terrific. we had confirmation of the person, the individual waiting to be director of the environmental protection agency, gina mccarthy. we had confirmation of the person who had been waiting for a very long time as nominee of labor department, tom perez. we had the confirmation of the folks who had been waiting to be confirmed to the national labor relations board. in fact, i think for the first time we had all five members senate confirmed in 10 years. we had the director of the
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consumer financial protection bureau, richard cordray, was finally confirmed. shortly thereafter, we had samantha powers confirmed to the united nations and so forth. the norm was restored. but only for a couple weeks. and then came the nomination of mel watt to be the federal housing finance agency. and suddenly the commitment to up-and-down votes disappeared. and then we had a whole new strategy on the judiciary. now, this strategy had never been experienced in u.s. history, and it was no matter who president obama nominates for the d.c. circuit court, we are going to block that nominee because we only want to leave in place the nominees that were put in place by president bush. well, that's a direct contravention of the vision of the constitution, where each president as elected has the
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power to nominate. this chamber is a check. it gets to vote up or down and decide whether or not they should be in office. but this was a deliberate strategy to pack the court, to say that when a president of my party is in power, there will be up-and-down votes, as was insisted in 2005 when the tables were turned. but when the president is of the other party, we're going to have a perpetual campaign and we are going to block up-and-down vot votes. now, let's picture down the road and the new president is a republican president. is there truly any member here who would say from the republican side that when the republican president is in pla place, that they were still going to believe they shouldn't fill vacancies on key courts around this country? well, it is too bad that this campaign of paralysis has been allowed to go on so long. we should have acted long before
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to fulfill our responsibility to have a deliberative body because that's what a legislation is. you know, it's doing enormous damage to the united states of america. first, because of this paralys paralysis, we're not doing the work that we should be on legislation, we're not addressing the big issues facing america. there are all kinds of job creation bills that have not been able to get to this floor because they haven't been able to get through the gauntlet of paralyzing filibusters that ha have -- have been laid down. you know, americans actually want to work. americans want to have living-wage jobs, and they expect us to act to make that happen, not to paralyze this institution so that it is unable to do so. well, indeed, in addition, we are damaging the view of the united states around the world. because it used to be the world looked to the u.s. and they said look how well their congress works. they had this great depression
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and they took on and fixed all kinds of flaws in their financial system. they established insurance for bank accounts so there wouldn't be runs on the bank. they replaced a flawed mortgage strategy which involved callable balloon mortgages with non-callable, fully amortizing mortgages so that we didn't create a series of dominoes. they took and created an organization, the securities and exchange commission, to oversee stock market so that folks could have faith investing in stocks and could put their capital in knowing that there was a very good chance that capital would be well utilized because there were accounting standards and qualifications that -- that blocked predatory practices on wall street. and then the world saw the u.s. respond to world war ii, convert our economy through enormous amounts of legislation in a -- in a single year to apply it to the war effort and take on the big challenge of defeating the nazis. and then the world saw america
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use its legislative power to build the largest middle class the world has ever seen. those living-wage jobs, every one of them means a foundation for a family. if you want to talk family values, then fight to have this body, this senate work on legislation that creates living-wage jobs. quit paralyzing the senate. then we have, of course, the fact that this new strategy just in these recent months, so -- a deliberate attack on the balance of powers. the constitution envisioned three branches in balance. it has no hint of any kind that a minority of one branch should be able to undermine the operation of the other two branches. but some colleagues have seized upon a strategy of trying to undermine the integrity of our


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