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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  December 19, 2013 5:00pm-7:01pm EST

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quorum call:
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mr. cardin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: i would ask consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: i ask unanimous consent the floor privileges be granted to elise medical mellinger for the dwraition of senate consideration of h.r. 3304, the national defense authorization act. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: let me first comment about the national defense authorization act. it is an important bill for us to pass and i thank senator levin and senator inhofe for the manner on which they worked on this legislation, bringing it together, in the committee it was a bipartisan bill, as it came to the floor it maintained that focus on helping our troops and helping preserve our national security. and as we are starting to
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consider amendments, i think that same cooperation was there there. powerful we lost track -- unfortunately we lost course, but the bill before us represents a bipartisan effort to make sure we provide the men and women who are defending our nation the tools that they need in order to carry out their mission and we give them the support that they deserve for serving their country. so this bill is a critically important bill and i'm glad that we're on track by the earlier vote to send this to the president for his signature before the end of the year. it's very, very important. it provides many important provisions for the health care of our troops, many important provisions for their compensation, and it's important that we get that done before january 1. it also provides the tools that they need, the direction that they need in regards to foreign policy in our military.
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i want to thank the committee, several of the suggestions that i made during the committee process were incorporate rated in the bill that came to the floor. i have the honor of chairing the east asia and pacific subcommittee, and in that capacity we worked to deal with some of the issues in that region, the provisions dealing with health care of our military personnel and many of the other issues, i'm glad to see that the committee did incorporate some of the concerns that have been expressed. two specific amendments that i had noted during the amendment process have been incorporated in the bill before us, one that deals with health care and the other that deals with parity between our civilian work force with the department of defense and our contract work force. i'm -- i appreciate that those two amendments are incorporated into the bill that we have.
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as many of my colleagues have come to the floor, i'm disappointed, disappointed not -- any bill that comes forward that's a bipartisan bill there are compromises there are always disappointments about not being exactly everything you want. that's understandable. what's bedisappointing is we didn't have -- what's very disappointing is we didn't have a chance. i think there are many other amendments that could have gotten onto this bill that would have been important and i will look for other opportunities. i have three i'm going to mention that i'm going to look for other opportunities to advance. one comes directly out of the subcommittee that i chair and that deals with the maritime security issues in the china seas. that's a powder keg in which china recently took steps in regards to airspace that only make that situation more tense. the maintaining of maritime security is critically important to the united states, it's the
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major shipping lane for commerce, not only in that region but globally and it is an area that could bring about unfortunate conflicts between countries in that region and they could mushroom into active situations. so maritime security is a very important issue, the united states has taken a very active position on that. to say look, these matters have to be talked about directly by the countries involved in a peaceful manner, not in an intimidating manner and that amendment i offered -- would have offered would have furthered the united states senate in supporting that position. i was also disappointed an amendment i offered that dealt with the accountability, particularly of a bash are a in syria, and war crimes in syria, the presiding officer knows the testimonies that we've had in regards to the gross violation of human rights by the
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government officials in syria, the numbers that have been killed and have suffered as a result of that. the war crimes tribunal at the haig -- the hague should have the ability to deal with these types of issues and the amendment i offered ask that the united states ask for full accountability in regards to war crimes. a third amendment that did not get in because of the reasons i just said was an effort many are working on to form a partnership between the united states and vietnam in regards to education programs, higher education. and we have a way to do that, senator mccain was very helpful to me in trying to advance this, and we will look for another opportunity to get that done because i think it's critically important. plane of us understand -- many of us understand we have to improve our relationship between the united states and vietnam
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but vietnam needs to deal with its human rights violations, needs to deal with its good governance and one way that we can -- help -- we can help this is by dealing with institutions that promote democracy and that is, of course, higher education. i'm looking in all those areas to look for other vehicles that can deal with the issues we're not able to deal with through the amendment process. i would ask our colleagues to let's get this bill to the president so he can sign it before the end of this year. mr. president, i would like to comment a little bit about elise mellinger and ask that appear in a separate part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: as i mentioned earlier, elise mellinger is a pearson foreign officer fellow. let explain what that means. she's an experienced member of the department of state's foreign service, she has served in india and indonesia, singapore, she is a person who has served our country for many
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years and she's a career diplomat at the state department. and for the past year, she's been assigned to my senate office and as -- acted as a valuable member of my staff. now, that helps a career -- our career diplomats understand the congressional process better but it also gives us the opportunity to have an experienced individual who really understands the workings of diplomacy to be in our office and help us carry out our responsibility. in elisea's case that was particularly helpful to me because at the beginning of this year i took on the new responsibility as the chair of the east asia and pacific subcommittee. throughout my career in congress i've spent a lot of time on europe, i've chaired the u.s. helsinki commission, traveled extensively to europe, but it was a new venture to chair the east asia and pacific subcommittee.
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and elise mellinger brought me the expertise so we could in the united states senate, the committee on foreign relations carry out our responsibility in regards to congressional oversight and initiatives in regards to that region of the world. as a result of her hard work we were able to have numerous hearings in 2013 and the rebalance to asia initiative that president obama has brought forward and to talk about many of the issues in that region of the world from the maritime security issues that i've already talked about to environmental issues, to dealing with north korea, a huge problem with their -- not only their nuclearizing the korean peninsula which is unacceptable but the human rights violations in that country and how their people are being treated as far as economic growth, and the list goes on and on. vietnam, a major country of
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interest, we've been able to be involved in that. we had a hearing on the typhoon in the philippines that elise mellinger was critically important in putting together in a matter of days so that we could become knowledgeable as to what's happening with one of our allies in that region, the philippines and what we can do and the international community can do and the private sector can do in order to help the people of the philippines. i traveled to that region and elise mellinger was extremely important in preparing me for that trip tripp. mr. president, i just want to share with my colleagues this program that we have where we have executive employees, career diplomats who come and work in our office so that we can work together and advance foreign policy here in the united states, there really should not be a difference between the executive and labors -- legislative
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branches, of course, we have separation of -- separation of powers and for the year elise was in my office she was a 100% loyal person among our staff to carry out that responsibility. as i said to her earlier, i hope it does not affect her career when she goes back to the state department, and i know that it will not. i was very fortunate, indeed the united states senate and believe the american people were very fortunate that elise spent a year in service to her country through the united states senate. she will be leaving very, very shortly, the end of this month, i want to thank her and her family, her husband and her daughter for sharing elise with us. we wish her well, we're going to miss her. she's going on to return to the canadian desk within the state department before she accepts her next mission that will most likely be outside the united states. and on behalf of all my colleagues in the united states senate i wanted to express my thanks and appreciation to elise
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mellinger. with that, mr. president, i would yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: mr. president, this week the senate is considering a couple of fairly big things. we had a vote earlier this week on a budget proposal to fund the government, you know, for the next couple of years, and we also are going to be voting on a defense authorization bill that is really important to america's national security interests. as we've, you know, brought this legislation to the floor there's been something conspicuously and noticeably absent and that is open debate. something that used to be taken for granted in the united states senate, a right that was accorded to united states senators, the nice thing about getting to the senate when you come from the house of
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representatives is that when you get to the united states senate one person can actually have the opportunity to get amendments voted on and to have those amendments debated. the house of representatives, those of us who served there know there's a rules committee. the rules committee decides what comes to the floor. what amendments are made in order. how much time is allowed for debate on each amendment. it's very structured process. what the founders conceived for the united states senate was something very different. they wanted us to have an opportunity to openly debate the big issues of the day. and there are no bigger issues, i would argue, mr. president, than the budget proposal that will fund the government for the next two years, it will spend literally billions, trillions of dollars of the american people's tax money and the defense authorization bill which will authorize, in this case, over half a trillion dollars of spending of the american taxpayers' money. these are big, consequential
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pieces of legislation brought to the floor of the united states senate but not open to debate. not open to the amendment process. i just heard the senator from maryland get up and talk about amendments, that federal the chance to offer, he would have offered. i think that applies to a lot of us. the defense bill, when it comes to the floor here, is, i think, probably gone -- has probably gone through a fairly good vetting process. i servinged on the armed services -- i servinged o servee armed services committee for years. they do a good job of prioritizing these things when they come to the floor. there are only about 25 or so members of the armed services committee, which means there are 75 united states senators who haven't had an opportunity to have their voices heard on a big piece of legislation like that. same thing with the budget. the budget conference really consisted of a people couple of people. the conferees, i'm told, the people who are members of the
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budget committee and were supposed to be members of that conference, really didn't vote on it. there was no vote on it when it left the conference. it was negotiated, again, by a couple of people and brought to the floor to be voted on. something that's pretty darn important, i would argue, to the future of this country but not open to amendment, no opportunity for senators here to have the opportunity to improve upon. perhaps we can improve on it. maybe we couldn't. but we should at least should have had the opportunity the opportunity to bring issues to the forefront that i think very correctly, rightly, be debated when we're talking about something like a budget, a two-year budget in the defense bill which spends enormous amounts of the american people's tax dollars. so no debate, shut down here in the united states senate by the majority leader. why? well, i guess because we -- it's really critically important that we get to some of these
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nominations that need to be voted on, voted on before the christmas holiday. why? well, because, lord knows, we couldn't vote on them next year, i guess. well, evidently, i guess we can vote on them next year. the and now that the majority has broken the rules here in the u.s. senate, chappinge changed , they can approve those with 51 votes. so i don't know what the big sense of urgency is on these nominations that would prevent us from having a full and open debate on something as consequencconsequential as the e authorization bill or the budget that just -- are being voted on here in the united states senate. i don't know why these nominations would take precedence over that. it seems to me at least that if there was any sense of urgency tacheattached to this, most mems on both sides would acknowledge that we need to do that. but clearly these are all nominees that can be voted on next year, and now approved with
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51 votes, thanks to the majority breaking the rules in the senate and making it possible to approve nominees with 51 votes. so the very notion, as the majority leader came out here and said repeatedly now, that we would be here next week on one of the most christian holidays of the year, voting on nominees that can be voted on a week later after the 1st of the year when congress comes back into session seems to me to be really sort of stunning in terms of its audacity and i would think the american people would conclude the same thing, that we would take a defense authorization bill, that we would take a huge budget bill, and actually sort of just try and sweep them under the carpet, fill the tree so tee w we don'te an opportunity to offer amendments or vote on amendments and have to rush to get these nominations through, nominations
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that can be considered earl i didn't next year -- early next year and approved with a 51-vote majority. think about that. we've had these threats up here -- the majority leader comes to the floor, we're going to be here, we're going to be here on christmas eve because we've got to do these nominations. and yet we don't have any time to do the important work, like having a chance to debate and vote on amendments to bills like the defense authorization bill or the budget. so that's where we are, and, again, mr. president, i think it's pretty -- pretty stunning really that that's what the united states senate has deteriorated into, and it's regrettable. but hopefully -- hopefully -- at some point people will come to the realization, come to their senses that yes, this is sort of an important week next week for a lot of people around this country and that perhaps being able to do the nominations a week later after the 1st of
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the year when they can be approved with 51 votes might make some sense and might be a reasonable approach to take with all this. but, any washings i hop anyway,s here, like most americans, have the opportunity to celebrate christmas with their families. as dhow that they do that, mans will use this to reflect on the past year. for many americans is knight might be -- for many americans, they'll reflect on things like a marriage, the loss of a loved one. but this is a time when normally people around this country i think reflect on significant changes in their lives in the last year and start thinking about, with anticipation, what the next year might bring. well, some things people can't control in their lives. you know, changes that some people don't like and can do
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nothing to control and one of them i think is they start thinking about last year and start thinking about next year and the impact that obamacare will have on their lives. people are thinking about the fact that they have these sky rocking premiums that are now coupled with these -- skyrocketing premiums that are now coupled with these deductibles. president obama promised the american people -- i quote -- "obamacare will cut costs and make coverage more affordable for families and small businesses." end quote. the reality is that family premiums have already skyrocketed since obamacare became law. american apriewl of this law is now in the -- american apriewl of this law is -- american approval of this slaw now in the tank. most uninsured people, 57% of those uninsured, think the cost of their health care will increase and just 23% think the quality to get better. tbhi that. 57% of the people that have no insurance, they're uninsured, people who are uninsured think
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that they are cost of health care is going to increase. and many of them in that same poll, a majority, are opposed to the health care plan. those are people who don't have health care insurance today, a majority of them are topped this plafnlt -- are opposed to this plan. for many americans, the holiday season will be filled with uncertainty as they look at facing a coverage gap on january 1. more than 10,000 iowans were told that they should equal foy for federal health coverage by officials have not sent information to state administrators who are supposed to review the applications and enroll people in the programs. my colleague from iowa, senator grassley, is on the floor. constituents that he represents who are going to be filled with requesa lot of uncertainty. percy smith of des moines is concerned about a coverage gap, "i'm losing my optimism because we're getting close to january and i don't know if i'm going to be covered or not." end quote.
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that's what he said this week. but this problem will affect more than iowans. according to "the washington post," and again i quote, "those facing a potential coverage gap include an estimated 15 million people. the law's insurance cancellations mixed with the web site's problems might leave some people who have coverage now uninsured in the new year. these are obamacare's biggest losers." end quote. that's from "the washington post." a week ago. today george will has an article in "the washington post" that explores this administration's abuse of executive discretion. under this administration, if they don't like what the law says, even if they wrote that law, they just simply ignore it. example after example exists of how this president believes he's above the law. look no further than their delay of the employer mandate or their rewrite of the laws governing
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the work requirements as a condition of receiving welfare. as mr. wills says in his acialtion "in 1998, the supreme court held that there is no provision in the constitution that authorizes the president to enact, to amend, or to repeal statutes." end quote. yet as mr. will further points out, this president often claims, and i quote again, "he can't wait for our system of separated powers to ratify his policy preferences." end quote. well, unfortunately, mr. president, this isn't how our country was founded, not what our photographs established in our -- what our forefathers established in our system of government. "the accumulation of all powers in the same manned whether of one, a few or many, and whether her readtory, self-elected or appointed may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." the american people are wising up to this abuse of power and i believe this president must
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respect the rule of law, despite his clear self-interest to act otherwise. and i believe it is only a mast time before -- a matter of time before the president continues to abuse executive discretion to correct problems with this law. instead of becoming -- forthcoming with the american people and congress and explaining why parts of the law won't work, he relies on his agencies to issue leaks to the media-to-announce delays in portions of his signature law. another way is to put the burden of fixing problems on others. last month the president tried to fix the problem of canceled plans by kicking the can to state insurance regulators to determine whether in 48 days from the dates of his announcement in november they can change their state insurance regulation policies quickly enough to permit plans to continue to offer those plans available in 2013 and 2014. he expected state insurance commissioners to bail them out
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to allow americans to keep plans that were promised they could keep. he's also expecting insurance companies to bail the administration out of problems as well. the insurance industry will now extend the deadline until january 10 to americans -- for americans to pay for coverage that starts on new year's day. this doesn't fix the problem of coverage gaps, but it is a convenient talkingpoint for the administration. while 2013 was filled with one broken obamacare promise after another, the president's inability to follow through on making coverage more affordable for families and small businesses was one of the biggest. in a rare moment of candor, secretary sebelius was forced to admit -- and i quote -- "there are some individual whose may be looking at increases in their health care costs." a recent associated press poll confirms that some individuals will be facing sticker shock thanks to obamacare. 69% say their premiums will be
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going up while 59% say annual co-payments or deductibles will be increasing. just 5% of americans believe that obamacare will actually reduce their health care costs. et reality is that for many americans dramatically higher premiums, dcialtion and -- prem, deductibles, and copayments mean they are they'll have less money to spend for college or to invest in a small businesses. obamacare should be delayed. 53% of respondents would vote to repeal the law. this holiday season, democrats should give the american people what they were promised all along: lower costs while keeping the doctor and the plan that they have and like. as we begin 2014, this president and administration should commit to abandoning their power grabs
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in complete disregard for the rule of law. mr. president, this law was passed, hurried, rushed through here on a sparnt vote a partisaa single republican voted for it. and we are now seeing the effects of that. one-party rule, one party running roughshod over the other to try to get something enacted into law, which now as the american people are finding out, they're vetting it, they're the people impacted by it and we're seeing all the harms that come with it. higher premiums, canceled coverage, lower takehome pay, higher deductibles, and a less promising future for the american people. we can and we should do berkts and i hope that -- we can and we should do better, and i hope that as americans reflect on the past and think to the future this athat we will resolve around here to do what's necessary to give them a
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brighter future by putting in place policies that will grow the economy, rather than give them another gut punch that makes it harder for them to provide for themselves and their families. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. grassley: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i rise for two purposes. one, to discuss the national defense authorization act and the fact that we can't offer amendments to it and the process that has deteriorated in the senate for deliberation. and, secondly, i would speak very shortly about the nomination of mayorkas, one of the first nominees we'll be voting on this weefnlgt the senate is poised to vote on a final national defense authorization act after considering only two amendments. the senate has not been functioning like it should for
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sometime and the way that the national defense authorization act has been handled is just one example. i've served in the majority and the minority with democratic presidents and republican presidents, so i've seen it operate from every perspective. what's unique about the senate is that the rules as well as the traditions force senators to work together. that leads senators to understand where the other side is coming from, resulting in mutual respect and scrutiny. i hear from a lot of iowans who are upset at the tone they hear in washington and the lack of bipartisanship. i've often said that the senate functions best when no party has more than about 55 seats. if you have much more than that, there is less of a tendency to want to work in a bipartisan fashion.
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that was true for most of my time in the senate, but not now. despite a current margin of just five seats in the senate, there has been very little bipartisan cooperation. i suppose some democratic senators really believe -- believe it when they say that this is all republicans' fault. i think anyone who remembers how the senate used to operate and has paid attention to how the current majority leadership has been running things in fact knows better. in fairness, quite a few members of the senate don't remember how the senate is supposed to operate because it has been dysfunctional ever since they were elected. some senators previously served in the house of representatives where the majority party controls everything that happens. what the -- in the house of representatives the rules committee sets out the terms of debate for each bill.
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if you want to offer an amendment in the house, you have to go hat in hand to the rules committee and say mother, may i? if the house leadership doesn't like your amendment, quite, frankly, you're out of luck. if that sounds familiar, that's because it is how the current senate leadership has been running things lately here in the senate. we have seen an absolutely unprecedented use, or i should say abuse of cloture motions paired with the tactical -- a tactic called filling the tree to block amendments from being considered. that not only affects the minority party but democratic senators are affected as well. i would say to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle how many times have you had an amendment you wanted to offer that was important to your state but you couldn't do it because
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amendments were blocked? the senate majority leader has effectively become a one-man version of the house rules committee, dictating what amendments will be debated and which ones will never see the light of day. this strips the ability of individual senators to effectively represent their states regardless of party. it also virtually guarantees that any legislation the senate votes on will be more partisan in nature. i would ask my colleagues across the aisle, isn't your first responsibility to the people of your state, not to party leadership? are you really content to cede to your party leader the trust and responsibility placed in you by the voters of your state? how much longer can you go along with this proposition? the people of iowa sent me to the united states senate to represent them, not simply vote
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up or down on a purely partisan agenda dictated by the majority leader. everyone complains about the lack of bipartisanship these days, but there's no opportunity for individual senators to work across the aisle on legislation that's drafted on a partisan basis and amendments are blocked. bipartisanship requires giving individual senators a voice regardless of party. when senators are only allowed to vote on items that are preapproved by the majority leader, those senators lose the ability to effectively represent their state and in the end become mere tools of party leadership. it's no wonder americans are so cynical about government right now. in the last decade, when i was chairman of the finance committee and republicans controlled the senate, we wanted to actually get things
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done. in order for that to happen we knew we had to accommodate the minority. we had to have patience, humility and respect for the minority. attributes that don't exist on the other side anymore. and we had some major bipartisan accomplishments from the largest tax cut in history to a medicare prescription drug program to numerous trade agreements. these kinds of major bills don't happen anymore. the senate rules provide that any senator may offer an amendment regardless of party affiliation. each senator represents hundreds of thousands or -- hundreds of thousands to millions of americans, and each has an individual right to offer amendments for consideration. the principle here isn't about political parties having their say, but duly elected senators participating in the legislative
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process as imagined by the constitution. again, as part of our duty to represent the citizens of our respective states, each senator has an individual right to offer amendments. this right cannot be outsourced to party leadership. the long-standing tradition of the senate is that members of the minority party as well as rank and file members of the majority party have an opportunity to offer amendments for a vote here in the senate. that has historically been the case with the annual national defense authorization act, the very bill we're debating right now. but not this year. it typically takes a couple of weeks to consider the national defense authorization act. this year the party leadership chose to wait until a week before the scheduled thanksgiving recess to bring it up, leaving little time for customary open debate and
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amendment process. once the defense bill was brought up, rather than promptly starting to process amendments, the majority leader immediately blocked amendments so that he could control what came up for a vote. obviously, the senate ground to a halt, wasting time that we didn't have when we could have been considering amendments from both sides of the aisle. this process as everyone in the senate knows is called "filling the tree" where the majority leader offers blocker amendments that block any other senator from offering their own amendment unless the majority leader agrees to set aside his blocker amendment so other amendments can be offered. filling the tree doesn't appear anywhere in the senate rules. it's based upon combining two precedents: the precedent that the majority leader has the first right of recognition by
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the presiding officer and the res dent that only one first-degree and one second-degree amendment can be pending at any one time. basically, the majority leader abuses his prerogative to cut in line and offer an amendment that doesn't -- that does nothing more than simply say changing the enacting date by one day, for instance. that then blocks any other senator from exercising his right to offer an amendment. this so-called filling the tree tactic used to be relatively rare, but it has become routine under current leadership. this way, the democratic leadership can prevent other senators from offering amendments that they don't want to have to vote on. then with amendments blocked, the majority leader makes a motion to bring debate to a close, or around here that's called cloture.
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when cloture is invoked, it sets up a limited time before a final vote must take place. by keeping amendments blocked while running out the clock, the majority leader can force a final vote on a bill without having to consider any amendments other than amendments that the majority leader might might approve. it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that members of the minority party who wish to offer amendments will vote against a motion to end debate until their amendments have been considered. when republicans vote against the democrat leader's motion to end debate, we are accused of launching a filibuster. in other words, unless we give up our right to participate fully in the legislative process, the other side says that we are filibustering. does that really count as a filibuster? well, no. the nonpartisan congressional research service answers this
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question and has been very -- has a very helpful report on cloture motions and filibusters that make this point very clear. the c.r.s. report is entitled "cloture attempts on nominations, data and historical development" end of title by richard s. beth, contained a section entitled" cloture motions do not correspond with filibusters." it starts out although cloture afford the senate to overcome a filibuster, it is erroneous that situations in which cloture is sought are always the same in which filibuster occurs. filibusters may occur without cloture being sought and cloture may be sought when no filibuster is taking place. the reason is that cloture is sought by supporters of matters whereas filibusters are conducted by its opponents. it then goes on to explain
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various scenarios to illustrate this point. several members of the majority have made a point of trying to confuse cloture motions with filibusters. we hear constantly that there have been an unprecedented number of republican filibusters. they often point to a chart that purports to telethe -- tally the number of filibusters and say this is evidence of abuse of the senate rules by the minority. the number they quote is the number of cloture motions, not the number of filibusters. it's true that there have been a record number of cloture motions, and i also agree that the number of -- amounts to an egregious abuse of senate rules. but, again, very significant difference. cloture motions do not correspond with filibusters. cloture motions are filed by the majority party leadership, not
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by the minority party. this abuse of cloture is a major cause of the senate's current dysfunction. again, this abuse of cloture often combined with the blocking of amendments prevents all senators from doing what they were sent here to do, not just members of the minority party. and it's gotten even worse. even where the majority leader has decided he's going to be open to amendments, he has created out a whole -- out of whole cloth new restrictions to limit senators' rights. first, he normally only opens up the amendment process if there's an agreement to limit amendments. and this is usually only a handful or so. then he has magically determined that only germane or relevant amendments can be considered. of course, nowhere do the senate rules require this other than postcloture. senators elected in the last few years appear to be ignorant of that fact. you'll hear some senators here
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argue against an amendment saying it's nongermane or nonrelevant. they've totally fallen for toarp's creative rule making thus giving up one of their rights as a senator with which to represent their state. i can't count on how many nongermane or nonrelevant amendments i had to allow voted on when i processed bills when republicans were in the majority. they were usually tough political votes but we took them because we wanted to get things done. we wanted the senate to function. now, you don't see that nowadays. the current majority leader avoids tough votes at all costs and that's why we don't get much done around here. the american people sent us here to represent them, that means voting, not avoiding tough votes. we sometimes hear that this is a question of majority rule versus minority obstruction. again, that ignores that each senator is elected to represent their state, not simply to be
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an agent of the other party. while the majority of senators may be from one party, they represent very different states and agendas, the majority leader will not always be consistent with the interests of their states. when one individual, the senate majority leader, controls what comes up for a vote, that is not majority rule. in fact, there are policies that have majority support in understand the that have been been -- what happened during debate on a budget resolution this year seems to prove that point. the special rules of the budget resolution limit debate so it can't be filibustered. but allow for unlimited number of amendments. a republican amendment to support repeal -- repealing the tax on life-serving medical devices in president obama's health care law passed by an
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overwhelming 79-20 vote with more than half of the democrats voting with the republicans rather than with their party leader. a republican amendment in support of the approval of keystone x.l. palestine to -- pipeline past 62-37. now, those are two examples because votes like these that split the democrats and hand a win -- to the majority are what the majority leader has been trying to avoid by blocking amendments. that's why the senate didn't take up a budget resolution for more than three years. still the budget resolution isn't a law, so unless legislation on those issues is allowed to come up for a vote, nothing will happen despite the support of the vast majority of the united states senate, as demonstrated by those two roll calls i just mentioned. as a case in point now, we're on the national defense
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authorization act that we're considering now. one of the amendments the majority leader blocked would have imposed sanctions on the iranian regime. everyone knew that this amendment enjoys broad, bipartisan support and would have passed easily, had it been allowed a vote to take place. it had majority support, but the senate was not allowed to work its will, so why? the iranian sanctions amendment was blocked because the president opposed it and it would have been a tough vote that divided the majority party. now, is that a valid reason for shutting down the traditional open-amendment process for the defense bill? i don't think so. until we put an end to the abuse of cloture and the blocking of amendments, the senate cannot function properly and the american people will continue to lack representation that they're entitled to. as i said, i had just a short --
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just short remarks on the mayorkas nomination. i spoke to great lengths on this quledyesterday, aand i and i woo great lengths today. but i have concern about mr. mayorkas's nomination. so i have additional information for my colleagues. today the office of inspector general for the department of homeland security released an embargo version of its audit for the eb-5 immigrant investor visa program. the report states that the u.s. custom immigration service has difficulty ensuring the integrity of the program and does not always ensure that regional centers meet all eligibility requirements. specifically, the report said -- quote -- "u.s. custom immigration service did not always enforce its own regulations and procedures to
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assist with managing the regional center programs." end of that quote. another quote -- "until imriewsmimprovements are made, . customs immigration service is unable to prevent fraud and national security threats." eppedthreats. "end of quote. "it cannot report the results of the program accurately or ensure the eb-5 program is benefiting the u.s. economy and creating jobs for u.s. citizens as created by congress." end of that quote. you understand mr. mayorkas is in charge of these programs. the i.g. said that the agency needed to improve coordination and rely on the expertise of of other agencies. the i.g. had several recommendations for the u.s. customs immigration service that, frankly, should have been in place before now, if the director was doing his job.
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his comments on the draft report, mr. mayorkas claimed that he was always addressed on the issues in the inspector general's -- that the inspector general raised. he said his agency had -- quote -- "dramatically enhanced collaboration with key government partners." meaning he was cooperating with the f.b.i. he also wrote that when his agency has concerns about eb-5 cases, it doesn't decide the cases until it has -- quote -- "fully coordinated its approach with enforcement and intelligence partners" -- end of quote. i've seen examples of this so-called coordination that mr mr. mayorkas talks about, but, again, his words don't comport with the actual practice. when homeland security's law
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enforcement database, tecs, has a hit on someone applying for a regional center, immigration -- customs immigration service sends an e-mail to the law enforcement agency that put the record in. but the problem is that the customs immigration service isn't waiting for law enforcement to make an investigation. in fact, information has come to my attention that c.i.s. employees are told to move afford if law enforcement doesn't respond within just five days. now, that's just five days to find out what sensitive security or fraud information caused that person to be flagged. if law enforcement doesn't get back to the customs immigration service soon enough, then that
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agency just goes ahead and the person's application is approv approved. now, that's not coordination. that coordination is a sham, and that should be simply unacceptable to any of us that are concerned about the national security of our country. it's not the sort of way to run a program with national security vulnerabilities. everybody should wait until the law enforcement response. you need to know who's coming into this country and particularly with they're involved in a program where you buy your way into a country by buying a visa because you're supposed to be investing in this country and creating jobs in this country. but for some people that may want to get p into this country for ulterior motives, it may violate our national security, they don't care about creating
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jocks. -- about creating jobs. but if it gets them inside the country, you need to know if they're a threat to our national security. the only reason that the customs immigration service even does check on regional centers at all is because of a push within that agency that mr. mayorkas and his management resisted. now they're trying to take credit for it. more important is what his agency has not done. they refused to kick out regional centers that are -- invite national security problems. mr. mayorkas claims that he doesn't have statutory authority, but the inspector general audit recommended that mr. mayorkas should make clear on his own that fraud and national security concerns are a reason for regional centers to be kick out of the program.
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the bottom line is that mr. mayorkas hags not taken the steps that -- has not taken the steps that were within his four guard against security vulnerabilities in the eb-5 program. the inspector general's audit report concludes -- quote -- "currently u.s. customs immigration service cannot administer and manage the eb-5 regional center's program effectively." end of quote. mr. mayorkas has had ample notice of these problems for years. he has failed to take adequate action. i yield the floor. hagumrs. hagan: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. hague schaig that privileges of the floor be granted to margaret
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linowicz on november 19. the presiding officer: -- on december 19. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. hagan: i ask to speak as if in morning business. sphefer officer without objection. mrs. hagan: at the end of this year, 1.3 million americans will be cut off from their federal unemployment benefits at the hardest time of the year. 1.3 million people will lose the lifeline they have a relied on to support their families while they struggle to find jobs in this challenging economic climate. unfortunately, for 170,000 north carolinians, this has already been a reality. earlier this year the north carolina general ahe ssembly -- assembly slashed unemployment benefits making north carolina the only state in the nation to actually stop receiving federal emergency unemployment insurance, the only state in the nation. this irresponsible and cold-hearted action by the
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general assembly has been devastating to the thousands of individuals and families across my state who were already struggling to make ends meet. sydney houston is one of 170,000 jobless north carolinians who would have received federal unemployment benefits were it not for this new state law. a month after the law was enacted and sydney no longer had her benefits, she told a north carolina tv station that she was ironing her clothes in preparation for a job interview when her electricity was cut off because she couldn't pay her bills. it's been excruciating, she said, adding that she feared her landlord knocking on her door too evict her at any moment. people have to understand that these extended federal unemployment insurance benefits help these families pay for their rent, pay for their food, and pay for their electricity,
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just like in sydney's case. i also received a letter from shari haras harmon. "i have lived in north carolina my entirely life and felt proud of my state. this has changed drastically now. end quote. she was laid off from her job at a law firm and her husband lost her job a month later. shari was drawing unemployment and attending classes at central piedmont college in sahara lovment sneefs her third semester of school when she found out that her unemployment would end. we are at risk of losing everything we've worked for in the 24 years we've been made, shari told meevment me. "i am completely lost." we have heard so many stories
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like these just like sydney's and shari's. north carolina tax dollars are going to unemployed workers in every other state across the nation except for north carolina. our citizens are paying their federal taxpayer dollars for federal unemployment benefits to 49 other states, even though our citizens cannot rely on the same safety net. this is not only unfair, it is hurting my state, which continues to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 8%. some of the rural counties in north carolina are up to 14.5%. as the senate considers an extension of the emergency unemployment insurance program, i believe it is crucial that we right the wrong that has been done to north carolinians through no fault of their own. for this reason, mr. president, i come to the floor today to express my thanks to my
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colleagues, especially majority leader reid, senator max baucus, and senator jack reed, for working with me to ensure that north carolina's needs will be addressed as we work to extend unemployment insurance benefits into 2014. i would also urge my colleagues not to leave their constituents to the same fate as the citizens of my state and to swiftly pass the emergency unemployment compensation extension act. this bipartisan legislation introduced by senators reed and heller would extend federal uninsurance benefits and it would restore north carls eligibility to participate in the program. we must continue to work on bipartisan policies that will boost job creation and get americans back into our workforce. we need educational institutions, local employers, and job-training centers to join forces to ensure that unemployed
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workers are being trained for the job opportunities that are available right now. i have a bill called the america works act that would do just that. it would close the skills gap that has been plaguing our country, and it would take the guessing game out of of hiring. the america works act would ensure that community colleges and job training programs develop curricula that will lead to portable industry-recognized credentials that will help make and help train our unemployed workers so that they would be outstanding applicants for jobs that are available in their local communities right now. in the meantime, as the unemployed struggle to get by, while they look for jobs, we should not cut them off from the safety net that has served as their last lifeline for take care of their families and putting food on the table. and we should make certain that the unemployed in north carolina have that same opportunity once
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again in spite of the action taken by the north carolina general assembly. i am glad to be joining my colleagues in pushing to extend the unemployment insurance for both north carolinians and people across our country. there is no reason to wait any longer to pass this critical legislation. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. sanders: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: mr. president, i want to take this opportunity to thank senators levin and inhofe and the committee on armed services for their very hard work on the department of defense authorization bill. unfortunately, i must vote against it, and i want to take this opportunity to explain why i am voting no and to express my very serious concerns about our nation's bloated military
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budget, particularly in light of the many unmet needs we face as a nation. at a time when the united states has a $17.2 trillion national debt and when we spend almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, the time is long overdue for us to take a hard look at the waste, at the cost overruns, at the financial mismanagement that have plagued the department of defense for decades. as a point of comparison, the international institute for strategic studies estimates total global military spending in 2012 at $1.583 trillion. the united states portion of that spending is over 40%,
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$645 billion. in other words, mr. president, the united states is spending almost as much as the rest of the world combined on defense. we are spending about $645 billion, china spends $102 billion, the united kingdom spends $64 billion, russia spends $59 billion, and other countries spend less. according to "the washington post," since 2001, the base defense budget has soared from $287 billion to $530 billion, and that is before accounting for the primary costs of the iraq and afghanistan wars." end of quote, "washington post."
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in addition to the trillions spent on the war in iraq and what seems to be a never-ending war in afghanistan, the department of defense consistently engages in wasteful, inefficient and often fraudulent spending. at my request several years ago, the department of defense issued a report detailing the breadth of fraud that exists within the pentagon. the simple issue of massive fraud. the report showed that the pentagon paid over $573 billion during the past 10 years to more than 300 contractors involved in civil fraud cases that resulted in judgments of more than $1 million, $398 billion of which was awarded after settlement or judgment for fraud. when awards to parent companies
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are counted, the pentagon paid more than $1.1 trillion during the past ten years, just to the 37 top companies engaged in fraud. bottom line is, mr. president, that almost every major defense contractor in this country has in one way or another been involved in fraudulent dealings with the taxpayers of this country and the department of defense. further, above and beyond fraud, the waste at the pentagon is rampant. we can go on for many hours just documenting the waste, but let me give you just a few, a few of the kinds of wastes that the pentagon regularly engages in. these are just a very few examples. in july, 2013, the pentagon decided to build a 64,000 square foot command headquarters for the u.s. military in afghanistan
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that will not be utilized or even occupied. even though the $34 million project was deemed unwanted by military commanders three years ago, the military still moved ahead with construction, one example. just another example. according to a report released by the department of defense inspector general this year, the pentagon has been taig contractor boeing more than 3,357ed for a piece of hardware they could have purchased from their own hardware store, the defense logistics agency, for for $15.42. it seems to me it would be a pretty good deal to get a product for $15 that you are paying over $3,000 for, but that is the way the pentagon runs. furthermore, another issue. a july, 2013, special inspector
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general for afghanistan reconstruction report includes the purchase of over $771 million of aircraft that the afghans will be unable to operate and maintain. the afghan special mission wing has only one quarter of the personnel needed to maintain and uprig the fleet, and there are no existing d.o.d. plans to reach full strength. the pentagon is moving forward with purchases. most of that money, $553 million, has been awarded to a russian company that also sells weapons to syria. and these are just a few examples. needless to say, there are many more. a recent other in "mother jones" has some interesting numbers about our military spending. according to the article, 70% of the value of the federal government's $1.8 trillion in property, land and equipment
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belongs to the pentagon. the american people will no doubt be interested in understanding that the pentagon operates more than 170 golf coarses worldwide. at a time when we now spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined on defense, we can make judicious cuts in our armed forces without compromising our military capability. i think everybody in the united states congress believes and understands that we need a strong defense, no debate about that, but we do not need a defense budget that is bloated, that is wasteful and that has in it many fraudulent -- many areas of fraud. madam president, in this respect, i hope my republican colleagues and in fact all of my colleagues remember what former
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president dwight d. eisenhower, a good republican, said on april 16, 1953, just as he was leaving office. what he said then was profound and it is as true today as when he said it 60 years ago, and this is what he said. he said, and i quote -- "every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft for those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. this world in arms is not spending money alone. it is spending the sweat of its labors, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. this is not a way of life at all in any true sense. under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from
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a cross." end of quote. and i would just ask all of my colleagues to remember, remember what eisenhower said, and understand that today when we have this bloated and huge military budget, there are people who are talking about massive cuts in food stamps, massive cuts in education, massive cuts in affordable housing, cuts in social security, cuts in medicare, cuts in medicaid, and i would argue, madam president, very strongly that before we cut from the elderly and the children and the sick and the poor, maybe we take a hard look at this bloated military budget. now, that is my view, but let me mention to you what the kato institute has to say. not bernie sanders, but the cato institute, one of the most conservative organizations in this country. here is what the cato institute said on may 3, 2013.
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and by the way, as i think most of you will know, my views are as far apart as possible from the cato institute on most issues. this is what the cato institute said, and i quote, and some of my conservative republican friends might want to pay attention to this -- quote -- "u.s. military spending is far too excessive for legitimate defense needs. after sequestration, we will still spend more on defense against much less severe threats than at the peak of the cold war. the u.s. now accounts for 44% of all global military spending." put another way, the u.s. spends nearly as much on the military as the rest of the world combined. 20% of the u.s. federal budget is devoted to military spending while the average -- and this is an important point made by cato -- while the average for our nato allies is a mere 3.6%.
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5% of u.s. annual g.d.p. is allocated to the military, but for the nato countries, japan and china, it is well below 2%. today, the amount washington spends on the military each year is $2,300 a person in the u.s. the comparable obligation to the average nato country is $503 a person. for china, it is less than $200 a person." end of quote. that is not bernie sanders. that is the cato institute. madam president, the situation is so absurd that the pentagon is unable to even account for how it spends its money. earlier this year, the government accountability office cited its inability -- that's the g.a.o.'s inability to audit the pentagon. they wrote that they were unable
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to do a comprehensive financial analysis due to, and i quote, serious financial management problems at the department of defense that made its financial statements unaudittable, end of quote. that's from the government accountability office. so we are voting for a budget that the g.a.o. says they cannot even audit for the most expensive agency in government. madam president, let me now quote from an article that appeared in the "washington post" on august 29, 2013. the defense budget, a purposefully opaque document, includes what is known as the black budget -- and the information i am providing here comes from the "washington post." $52.6 billion that funds the c.i.a., n.s.a. and other secret
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intelligence agencies. the c.i.a., n.s.a. and national reconnaissance office received more than 68% of the black budget, with the n.s.a. receiving $10.8 billion annually. at a time when the n.s.a. has been gauging -- been engaging in what i consider to be unconstitutional activities, widespread collection of american citizens' data, i think we can find the ability to make some cuts in what they are doing. madam president, i support a strong defense for our country and a robust national guard and reserve that can meet our domestic and foreign challenges. the national guard provides a well-trained, disciplined and operational ready force for a fraction of the cost that active duty soldiers require. the reserve forces do not require nearly the same level of overhead in terms of full-time employment and infrastructure costs. so as we move forward trying to develop how we have a
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cost-effective defense, i think we should put a great deal of emphasis on our national guard and on the reserve. let me just conclude, madam president, by saying this. in america today, our middle class is struggling. we have more people living in poverty than any time in the history of our country. our real unemployment is over 13%. youth unemployment 20%. african-american youth unemployment close to 40%. we have an infrastructure which is crumbling. we have large numbers of young people graduating from college deeply in debt. we have others who can't even afford to go to college because of the high cost of college. in other words, this country faces monumental problems, and on top of that we have a $17.2 trillion national debt. it would seem to me, madam president, that it's
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important that we get our priorities straight, and one of the priorities that we should be getting straight is that we cannot give the department of defense all that they want, and it is time to take a very, very hard look at that budget in a way that we have not done up to this point. and with that, madam president, i would yield the floor. a senator: madam president? mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. coburn: i ask unanimous consent that the senator from massachusetts be recognized for five minutes and then i follow with my comments until i complete them. the presiding officer: without objection. the senator from massachusetts. mr. markey: i thank the presiding officer and i thank the senator from oklahoma. this final couple of days that we are going to be in session are very important because they are the days preceding the expiration of the wind energy tax break.
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it expires on december 31. there are energy efficiency tax breaks that expire on december 31. now this is unfortunate because these are industries that are rapidly growing. but let's take note here. if you're the oil industry or other older fossil fuel industries, your tax breaks are not expiring on december 31. for the wind industry, for the renewable energy industry, we have to come back out here every year and try to get those tax breaks renewed. and each year as we reach this december 31 date, we talk about a congress just adjourning without completing it, sending total corporate unpredictability out into the marketplace, knowing that we need to have a robust competitive marketplace. and so honestly, adam smith is
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spinning in his grave as he watches a senate expire without continuing the tax breaks for winds as the tax breaks for all of its competitive industries continue on year after year. they're permanent tax breaks. so actually adam smith is spinning in his grave so rapidly that he would qualify for a permanent tax break because he would be generating so much energy wondering how can you have such inconsistency? how can you have one source of energy have come in each year begging and then having the year expire after having added 13,000 megawatts of new electricity to the grid last year, knowing that the entire nuclear industry only added 100,000 in 60 years. and here we are again, those tax breaks are going to expire. we're going to leave here.
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we could not get unanimous consent in order to take them up here today to extend those tax breaks. and once again the energy sources of the future, the ensraeu alternative new energy -- the innovative new energy sources pay the price. they're not allowed to be given permanent status or, as we leave here, any status at all as of the end of this year. the young people in our country, for the green energy generation, they look and they ask why can't we have our energy technologies given permanent tax breaks or at least a year to year before you go home? why can't you have that kind of a debate? and why is there a debate at all, to be honest with you, given the fact that there's $7 billion a year that's going to be given to the oil industry on permanent tax breaks. we're not looking for that for wind. we're looking at much smaller
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amounts of tax benefits. from my perspective, i look at the he warming planet, i look at the chinese and others who are targeting wind sources. i was in china in 2009, and we rode by a wind factory with with wind turbines, hundreds of them. and they were all in a lot of ways just pointing right at the american economy in the same way that those cuban missiles were pointing at our country in 1962, pointing right at us, a threat to us. but in the 21st century a threat to our economy because we're not investing in these new technologies in the way that we continue to invest in the old. the least it could be and should be is a level playing field. let's see who wins. let's let capitalism work. let's have this true paranoia
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inducing capitalism that allows for winners to be selected based upon the same kind of tax breaks for everyone. if that's the case i think everyone would be happy but that's not the way it's going to be this year and that's not the way it is most years. permanent tax breaks for the old technologies and this kind of halting, questioning capitalism, killing corporate questioning tax breaks for the nascent but growing and vibrant new technologies that the chinese and germans and danes and others see as their job-creating sectors in their economy. i thank the gentleman from oklahoma for this opportunity, and i yield back to him. the presiding officer: the gentleman from oklahoma. mr. coburn: just to comment on my colleagues from massachusetts, he is correct
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that the tax credits for the wind energy are expiring. but he is incorrect in his ascertainment that all tax credits are the same. the tax credits in the oil and gas industry are deferred tax payments, and the $7 billion they collect this year in terms of deferred payments, in terms of intangible drilling costs will in fact be made up for with $7 billion of payments from ten years ago. for the net-net is zero. whereas the wind industry has a tax credit which the american consumer subsidizes to the tune of a significant amount. the value of the electricity that we get there. and so it is viable. if we were to put the wind energy tax credit the same as we have in the oil and gas industrial, i'd happily support it. where it was a delayed capture of later revenues flowing back
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to the treasury, but that's not what we want. we want to give a refundable tax credit directly to the wind energy, and it's not the same. the apples are not the same. i come to the floor this evening really regrettably having to come and make the statement i'm making. in the last month we've seen a lot of things happen in the senate which have led to other things happening in the senate, and i don't think anybody's happy about it. but today the leader is taking an unprecedented step. and i say that underlining the word unprecedented. of having the senate vote on a nominee that is currently under active investigation. and i have no premonitions or knowledge about the facts, specific facts of that investigation. but what i do know in checking with the senate historian, the
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senate library and, and the history of the senate is that it's never been done before. it's never been done. my reason in coming to the senate is, number one, is to defend my position and what should be the position of the senate and to make the case to my colleagues that we're doing a disservice both to this nominee and to the department that he will fill. by all letters of recommendation, alejandro mayorkas is an honorable man and president obama is nominating him to be deputy secretary at the department of homeland security. under the new senate rules the minority has essentially no right to stop the majority from forcing through a nominee that
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possibly, just possibly may be unfit for office on the basis of this investigation. and nobody's saying that he is. they're not saying no. they're saying wait. this is in fact the very act the republicans were afraid of when leader reid facilitated the change in the senate rules by breaking the senate rules. the senate's going to cast this vote without knowledge, full knowledge of advise and consent on his fitness for his position, and we can do nothing to stop that. we realize that. the precedent that we're talking about is both historic and holding this vote in light of an active investigation into serious, relevant allegations of misconduct by any nominee appears to be virtually without any precedent in this body.
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we searched extensively for any precedent for the decision to hold a vote on this nomination. the congressional research service studied this. it's never happened before. in fact, they discovered the opposite. the senate has established a history and followed a practice that should lead us to postpone consideration of any nominee under investigation. here's some examples they found. in january of 2005, president george bush nominated ken tomblin son to be chairman of the broadcasting board of governors. an active investigation into allegations of unethical behavior by mr. tomlinson led the senate panel to delay for months. he was never confirmed. later that same year president bush nominated roland na sr*e to
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u.n. ambassador to the netherlands. at the time he was being investigated by regulators in 30 states for predatory lending. then foreign relations committee chairman republican senator richard lugar consented to a request by democrats that the october -- that october to delay voting on the nominee because of the investigations. senator joseph biden spoke out in favor of the delay, as did senator paul sarbanes who cited -- quote -- "long-standing precedent for delaying the vote until the nominee was 'clear.' he was voted out of investigation, but he was not confirmed by the full senate until the following february, seven months after he was nominated when his company agreed to end the investigations by settling the cases against him. my friend, president obama, who nominated mr. mayorkas, was a member of the foreign relations
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committee at that time. then he seemed to agree that nominees facing investigation should not receive a vote. a 2006 l.a. times story on mr. narles nomination quoted then senator obama as saying because a settle has been reached senator obama will not seek to block his nomination. a vote on lester crawford was delayed in 2005 while the inspector general of the food and drug administration proclaims allegations that mr. crawford had an affair with a coworker and gave herring preferential -- gave her preferential treatment. once again review was complete, the o.i.g. concluded that the allegations could not be substantiated and the health, education, labor and pensions committee voted to confirm him. and in 2004, the senate banking committee did not schedule a vote on alfonso jackson to serve
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as chairman of housing and urban development until the h.u.d. inspector general determined mr. jackson had not violated the department's workplace violence policy as subordinates had alleged. all of this advises us strongly to delay a vote on mr. mayorkas until the o.i.g. investigation into his alleged actions is concluded. i would suggest that we should learn from history and not move forward with this nomination. if it was true for the senate then and if it was true for senator biden, if it was true for senator obama, if it was true for their colleagues and many maintain this precedent until today, it should be true for us now. last week when mr. mayorkas was considered by the homeland security and governmental affairs committee my chairman justified moving forward with the nomination by asserting the d.h.s. o.i.g. had not identified any criminal wrongdoing by mr. mayorkas. at present the d.h.s. o.i.g. is
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only considering allegations of conflicts of interest, misuse of position, mismanagement and the appearance of impropriety. in none of those situations identified were the nominee's under criminal investigation. yet the senate delayed its vote until each investigation was finished. since the d.h.s.-o.i.g. has not completed its investigation, we don't know if there will ultimately be any criminal findings and i doubt that there will. we do know based on the precedent i cited, an investigation into any potential wrongdoing, whether criminal or not, is enough for the senate to delay a vote on an important nominee. or at least it used to be. of course the senate recently changed. the majority leader exercised the so-called nuclear option,
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changing the rules by breaking the rules, granting my colleagues new power to push through administration nominees through the confirmation process with a simple majority. and the leader is attempting to use this new power to push through scores of nominees in the last few days of this session. that is -- but scrutiny and judgment should not be diminished in a partisan rush to get one's way. forget t -- forget the rest of the nominees. this is one where an open investigation is currently underway. with this nominee before us, mr. mayorkas would do well to wait for all the facts. as we all know, the d.h.s. o.i.g. is also currently under investigation. they're reviewing this office, the leader who recently resign resigned. they're reviewing allegations of conflicts of interest, misuse of position, mismanagement of the
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eb-5 visa program, and an appearance of impropriety. they're all serious concerns. i hope they aren't true. but right now we don't have all the facts. while i understand the o.i.g. is not currently aware of any criminal activity, since the investigation is still open and several interviews remain, that could possibly change. as i understand, however, the o.i.g. plans to complete its investigation and release its findings in a few short months. until then, we won't know what is just an allegation and what will be proven by evidence and facts. most concerning to me is the fact that the white house failed to alert myself or the committee chairman to the fact that mr. mr. mayor kis may or ma may ma r
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investigation. the white house was less than honest with him about a nominee he was expected to fast-track for nomination. my staff has spoken to a number of whistle-blowers from within d.h.s. who have concerns about mr. mayorkus' fitness for position. these whistle-blowers have made serious allegations about how mr. mayorkus has overseen and influenced the eb-5 program. they are just allegations but they do raise questions. they raise questions about his allegiance to d.h.s.'s core mission to prevent terrorism and enhance security. a number of the allegations extend well beyond the eb-5 program and raise concern about the fitness for the number 2
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position at d.h.s. they include the following. attempt by mr. mayorkas to obstruct investigations by congress. allegations of preventing program integrity measures requested by the federal bureau of investigation. intimidation of employees who questioned agency policies. susceptibility to political influence. failing to properly enforce program integrity mechanisms resulting in potential threats to national security. whistle-blowers who spoke to the "wall street journal" said that mr. mayorkas fast-tracked approvals of certain eb-5 applications over objections regarding the suspicious source of funds to rebuild a casino in las vegas which, in fact, was noted in a recent article by "the washington times" which i ask unanimous consent to enter into the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coburn: i understand that some of my colleagues on the
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other side are frustrated that the whistle-blowers have not come forward to speak with them. to be clear, i have communicated this request to the whistle-blowers and invited those whistle-blowers who have spoken to my office to speak to the majority twice but they have told me that they have -- they have the fear that they will face retribution if their identities become known and that they will lose their jobs. putting myself in their shoes, i can't blame them. i cannot provide them with protection. and they've also heard members of this senate dismiss their serious allegations. for example, senator carper -- the senator from delaware referred to the whistle-blower allegations as rumor and innuendo. if you were an official who had come forward with serious concerns about improper behavior potentially putting your livelihood at risk, would you feel comfortable speaking with somebody who has already dismissed your allegations as rumor and innuendo? so we will leave it to the
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inspector general's office to consider whistle-blower allegations and all of the evidence to determine whether any criminal or inappropriate activity took place. once again, we will know that judgment in a short two months. however, we do have other information that raises serious concerns about this nomination. in the committee's business meeting last week to consider mr. may orkas i -- mayorkas is a perfect example. at that meeting, the chairman gave a lengthy opening statement that made a number of concerning and inaccurate statements which served to denigrate the 650 employees at the office of inspector general at homeland security. the office deserves some criticism, that is for sure, as our subcommittee on financial
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and contract oversight is determining. rather than rely on their insights, he came up with some of his own. they are actual misstatements of fact and they only served to further obscure a complicated and difficult situation. for example, the chairman claimed that three days before the confirmation hearing on july 25, information about the o.i.g. investigation was leaked to congress and the media in a highly irregular manner. as he knows, and his own committee records should indicate, the investigation -- the existence of the investigation was not leaked to congress in a highly irregular manner. it was e-mailed to his staff as well as mine as an official communication by the d.h.s. o.i.g. congressional liaison office. if there was anything irregular about the situation, it was that the white house had not already confirmed that there was an investigation ongoing.
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we had a right to that information and it had been improperly kept from us. in the face of the white house's inappropriate omission, the o.i.g. chose to inform us. i'm sure it was a hard choice but i believe it was the right one. if they not done so, we would not have known of the investigation of the sort which the senate in normal times would have given great weight to and not moved forward on. as d.h.s. often tells us, if you see something, say something. the chairman -- the chairman also repeatedly faulted the o.i.g. for refraining from interviewing mr. may spur kas until -- stay in mayorkas until the end of its investigation. colleagues, i'm sorry, would you please be quiet. the chairman also repeated falsely -- repeatedly faulted the o.i.g. from refraining from
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interview mr. mayorkas until the end of the investigation. this appears to be a criticism borne from a lack of experience and knowledge of the investigative process. i would quote -- "to my amazement, director mayorkas has never been contacted by the o.i.g. about this eb-5 related investigation" he stated at one point. and later he said, "i cannot understand why they have not talked to mr. mayorkas." "it is common practice to investigate the central figure in an investigation closer to the end of an investigation, after evidence has been reviewed and collected. there are many reasons for this practice. one is that you do not know what to ask the subject until you've gathered all the information that you can about his or her alleged misconduct. another is that it minimizes the impact of the investigation on the subject, which can be an understandable concern when investigating a busy top official like our present nominee. early meetings can result in having to hold several interviews with the same
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official, asking questions about topics or allegations which could eventually be dismissed without their testimony, by identifying exculpatory evidence beforehand. while the scheduling of this interview was upsetting to the chairman, it should not be to mr. mayorkas. he's a seasoned prosecutor and familiar with the process of investigations and he knows what to expect. the chairman also claimed at the committee vote that the o.i.g. has repeatedly given him deadlines and had missed them. the chairman inferred that we could not trust their word on when this investigation could be completed. specifically, he said -- and i quote -- "i was informed that the investigation was likely to conclude in october. later he claimed we have no guarantee this investigation will simply not drag on and on. it has already slipped several times. each time we get an estimated time line for completion, the date slips," he added. "first we were told october. then perhaps december. and as of last week, the i.g.
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said there was at least months of work remaining. " none of this is true. according to my office records of the conversations with the inspector general, we have no record or recollection that the inspector general ever promised a date certain of completion in october. neither do we have any record indicating the i.g. suggested december. unless the i.g. communicated to the chairman these deadlines in a private conversation -- in private conversations which he arranged without my knowledge or involvement, these statements appear to be simply false. i would also say, i cannot imagine the chairman or his staff would engage in a private conversation with the inspector general regarding a sensitive investigation into a political official. such conversations would be a breach not only of our practices but could raise ethical concerns of exerting undue influence upon an official proceeding. i urge him to correct the record
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or show us in detail what conversations the i.g. made these points and promises. the chairman also stated this fact and news outlets erroneously reported this inaccurate claim, that the investigation is being handled by only one investigator and two assistants. his quote was, "we learned that there's only one investigator assigned." he claimed one investigators and two research assistants. this is not true either. the o.i.g. has told our staff the case has a lead investigator, that's true, an absolute common practice for investigations in most investigative and sensitive endeavors. but they were further told that the o.i.g. had a rotating team of investigators, experts, research assistants and staff help on various aspects of the investigation. this is a common practice. assigning leads to individual investigations but sharing a larger poor of assistants and
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investigative resources. it is followed to a great extent by our own permanent subcommittee on investigations. i don't understand why the chairman's characterization would stray so far from the facts established in conversations involving both our staffs or from common sense. i'm also disappointed that he characterized the investigation as having the lack of progress which was unacceptable and unfair to mr. mayorkas. but to a department full of people who need leadership and to a nation that is counting on the department for -- to help protect them, end quote. the truth is, it's not uncommon for investigations of senior officials to last a year or longer, and it is not a matter which should be rushed by anyo anyone, certainly not the chairman of the authorizing committee. this is the kind of rhetoric which causes concern in some quarters that the chairman and others are applying inappropriate pressure on an agency's internal processes and deliberation. political pressure is simply not helpful to anyone. in fact, it can actually hinder
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the investigation and weaken public acceptance of the findings, particularly if they exonerate mr. mayorkas. people may allege, as they have already, that the office of inspector general waters down and weakens its finding in response to political pressure such as this. if the o.i.g. investigation results in a clean bill of health for mr. mayorkas, how many americans, how many d.h.s. employees will wonder if the chairman's repeated disparaging remarks were indicative of a political pressure he applied which improperly swayed the results? no one is served by his commen comments. what's more, they are not a reflection of the shared concern he voiced with me in our joint correspondence to the inspector general. i simply do not understand why he would intervene in such a vocal, public way which could cast doubt and suspicion on the results of the investigation. the other thing about this vote is it's unfair to mr. mayorkas.
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i've talked a lot about process and the need for us to know the findings of the d.h.s s. o.i.g. report before we vote on mr. mayorkas, but no one seems to understand that just how fair this vote is to the nominee. by pushing his nomination through the -- both the committee and the full senate, senator carper and leader reid have denied mr. mayorkas a chance to win bipartisan suppo support. i've only voted against one nominee that's come through our committee, only one out of 20. i would like to be able to vote for mr. mayorkas. if, in fact, the o.i.g. shows him a clean bill. the reason it's sad that he can't win bipartisan support is under the new senate rules, it's possible for my colleagues to confirm him without a single republican vote. and when they do that, they will be delivering to the department a nominee who arrives with only
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his party's support and he will be trailed by a cloud of doubt and discontent. the allegations against mr. mayorkas relate meanwhile to his management of the eb-5 immigrant visa program. as i understand it the investigation into mr. mayorkas began in an unconventional way by one person speaking out after their develop document -- heavily documented concerns were dismissed. this adds validity to the investigations. in the course of the investigation, the d.h.s. o.i.g. discovered other allegations of impropriety including conflicts of interest, misuse of position, mismanagement and the appearance of impropriety. those allegations could speak to a candidate's fitness for public service especially if he's not fully cleared to help lead the department of homeland security.
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it is wholly unreasonable to ask senators tony doars the nominee's fitness for service until those questions are answered. in an attempt to discredit the investigation, some people have cited the problems plaguing leadership in the d.h.s. o.i.g. office. the inspector general in particular. in fact, the financial and contracting oversight subcommittees of homeland security and government affairs is currently conducting and will release soon their bipartisan investigation into a number of allegations. while i agree those allegations surrounding o.i.g. leadership are troubling, the problems of one person do not invalidate the work done by wan office of 650 people. o.i.g. work in every agency should be taken seriously. in january of this year senator carper joined me and members of the homeland security and government affairs committee in sending a letter to president obama urging him to fill the
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vacant inspector general positions at a number of key agencies including d.h.s. in that letter we said -- and i quote -- "inspector generals are an essential component of government oversight. we do a disservice to that statement when we preclude that statement to at a minimum review the work done by the d.h.s. o.i.g., draw our own conclusions and then vote accordingly without all the facts before us. even more concerning by denigrating the open d.h.s. o.i.g. investigation, the senate is sending a message to other o.i.g.'s that their investigations don't matter. obviously that is incredibly significant given our dependence on these watchdogs to oversee the huge government agencies and bureaucracies created by this this body. we must respect the support work done by inexpector generals.
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in my opinion the damage done to o.i.g.'s is far worse than any damage done by the current leadership. the results of this investigation are not the only unknown regarding mr. mayorkas' service at immigration services. despite a number of concerns regarding national security and criminal vulnerabilities in the eb-5 program we know the program expanded drastically under the nominee's hand and we've not yet seen evidence that he pursued significant regulatory changes to address the weaknesses that were known. two months ago i personally asked d.h.s. and other agencies for an answer on how the administration is dealing with the concerns and i've received no response as of yet. these include an october 18 letter i requested information from acting secretary rand biers
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on concerns identified by the agency itself in a draft report. i received no response. the same day i also asked acting director i.c.e. director john sadwick for the same information. i received no response. i also requested information from national security advisor susan rice regarding no national security concerns created by the eb-5 program. to date i've received no response. just last month on november 1 senator grassley and i requested information from acting secretary biers on how the agency is directing the known concerns with eb-5. again, silence, no response. i've asked unanimous consent that these letters requesting information be entered into the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coburn: given that we are considering promoting mr. mayorkas to be secretary in command at d.h.s. it is appropriate we consider how he
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managed this program and whether he addressed criminal and national security concerns including exploitation of the eb-5 regional center program by terrorists, spies and other threatening actors. these are weaknesses were apparently the subject of repeated examinations by the administration. i have repeatedly press the administration for more information regarding the weaknesses under the program under director mayorkas and what actions it has taken to remedy those weaknesses. the chairman has declined to join in this inquiry. why is that? why would the chairman decline to join to find out the truth? i've not received documents or any of the information i've requested. at the same time, there is no public record of steps director mayorkas has taken to address eb-5 concerns. for example, to date uscis has failed to promulgate any
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regulations shutting down regional centers exploited by terrorists. this raises serious concerns with me. when congress created the eb-5 program in 1990 the goal was to speculate stlait the u.s. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. to that end the original program called the basic immigrant investor program required immigrant investors to receive $1 million in a commercial enterprise that would create or preserve at least ten jobs. the investors initially granted permanent residency but after two years improving the creation of ten jobs they're eligible to become a permanent resident. in 1992 congress authorized a second eb-5 pilot program allowing immigrants to pool through approved regional centers. in seeking approval from d.h.s. the regional center submits a proposal to d.h.s. detailing how it plans to promote economic
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growth in that region. by investing in a regional center, immigrant investors can take advantage of relaxed job standards to measure both direct and indirect job creation while direct jobs are identifiable jobs for qualified employees, indirect jobs are those created collaterally by the investment. while the regional center program was set to expire at the end of 2012, last september it was reauthorized for three more years despite no national security concerns, no changes were made to the program by the judiciary committee. in total over 25,000 people are currently in the united states senate through -- the united states through the eb-5 program. since its inception the program has been plagued with wide-ranging problems. mr. mayorkas took over this program in 2009. there has been a notable expansion of the program since he took it over. it now sees $3.2 billion passed
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from foreign investors in exchange for visas to reside in our country. yet the serious security weaknesses persisted as well as an alarm among senior officials. these problems include the agency failing to determine if the program is meeting its basic goal of creating ten jobs per investment and breaches of national security with suspected terrorists using the program to enter the united states. in 2012 the national security staff coordinated a review of the eb-5 regional center program by five agencies focused on vulnerabilities relating to the financial that routinely accompany the investment in the program. that draft report raised major concerns with the investments made by eb-5 investors. for example, the investigation found one regional center filed false documentation in attempt to support the creation of jobs.
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the same report noted investments being made in a business that never existed and could never exist headed by an individual using a pseudonym due to a record of importing counterfeit products. it noted the participants may use the program as a tool to channel or a channel for money laundering, tax evasion or other illicit financial activity. this type of activity was aided by the fact that known criminals are not statutorily prohibited from owning, managing or recruiting regional centers. we just reauthorized that. this national security staff draft reviewed also references another interagency review looking at the national security threats associated with eb-5 program stating that the vulnerabilities relating to possible infiltration by foreign operatives are before the n.s.s.
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and are addressed by the interagency task force. understanding we've only seen a draft of the national security staff's forensic audit and not information about the interagency review of possible infill the nation by terrorist groups or foreign operatives i wrote to susan rice on october 18 requesting that information. she has not addressed any concern, she has not answered our letter. the department of homeland security also conducts its own internal assessments -- its own internal assessment of the program, examining criminal and national security vulnerabilities. in response to a tasking from d.h.s. secretary, i.c.e. pre-- prepared a review of the program. export of sensitive following, economic espionage, use by government foreign agent's espionage, investment fraud by
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regional centers, fraud by investors in this country, fraud conspiracies, illicit finance and money laundering. the agency's own draft analysis makes clear that the eb-5 program can be exploited by terrorists, criminals, and foreign operatives. further, it identified regional centers as a means for facilitating etch nawj at -- espionage at the highest level by foreign governments. i.c.e. proposed the program be sunsetted, done away with because there can be no safeguards put in place that will ensure the integrity of the regional center model. as i stated before, i sought more information about d.h.s. and i.c.e.'s internal review of the eb-5 program. i wrote to acting secretary biers requesting information about the findings of this review and what actions taken in
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response. i have not received a response to my inquiry. recently we received a draft d.h.s. o.i.g. eb-5 regional center audit. it's my understanding that we're soon to get this final report. in the draft it includes the following statement, under secretary microa fails to ensure , says under the nominee, mr. mayorkas, officials can inconsistently apply program regulations and policies. doesn't always properly document decisions and responses giving appearance the program is vulnerable to inappropriate influence. all under the guise of the nominee that we will vote on late tonight. since the program is so poorly run by usis the draft o.i.g.
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determined it is limited in its ability to prevent fraud or national security threats that could harm the u.s. nor could the agency see where the eb-5 program was improving the question economy and creating jobs as intended by congress. this draft report also outlines a number of recommended actions for the director. last week senator carper asserted it was congress' fault the eb-5 program was susceptible to fraud and national security threats because it hadn't provided the proper statutory authority. and that new statutory authority that was included in s. 744 the immigration bill would have solved the problem but the draft o.i.g. report makes clear under its existing authority the agency has the ability to issue regulations to deny and terminate regional centers identified as fraudulent or national security risks but has failed to do so.
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they also recommended that the director provide usis with the authority to deny and terminate regional center participants at any phase of the process when known connections to national security or fraud risks are identified. that they should make explicit that fraud and national security concerns can make a cause for revocation, that he should give them the authority to verify that the funds created u.s. jobs, ensure requirements for the program are applied to all participants. none of these recommendations request any additional congressional authority. therefore it's at least arguable that the action could be taken by director mayorkas to prevent programs difficulties in the program. that didn't happen. the draft reports recommends other corrective actions to be taken by director mayorkas as well. since usi s failed to apply its
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existing policies and procedures, d.h.s. o.i.g. recommended the developing memorandum of understanding with the department of commerce, labor, and the s.e.c. to provide expertise and involvement in the adjudication of applications and petitions for the eb-5 regional center program. a third recommendation in the draft report related to the failure of the agency to maintain any metric whether the program was actually achieving its intended purpose. the dsigs acertified that director mayorkas should stimulate how the funds have stimulated the economy nowrns with the intent of the program. that hasn't been done. fine laicialg thfinally, the drt directs mr. mayorkas to institute quality control steps to ensure that regional centers comply with the code of federal regulations. the implication there is that they


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