tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN July 10, 2014 10:00am-12:01pm EDT
enable our senators to gaze upon your power and experience your glory. lord, encourage them with your precepts that provides light for the dark road ahead. answer their prayers and arm our lawmakers with your might. give them reverential awe that will keep them from evil. strengthen them to be faithful during life's crises as well as the routine of daily duties. o god, we belong to you. crown our years with the bountiful harvest that your
mercy provides. we pray in your holy name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge f allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington, d.c., july 10, 2014. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable john e. walsh, a senator from the state of montana, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: patrick j. leahy, president pro tempore.
mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i move to proceed to calendar number 438, s. 2234, the terrorism risk insurance. officer the clerk will report the motion. the clerk: motion to proceed to calendar number 438, s. 2244, a bill to extend the termination date of the terrorism insurance program and so forth and for other purposes. mr. reid: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that at 11:45 earnlg the senate resume consideration of s. 2363, the bipartisan sportsmen's act, and the senate proceed to vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the bill. further, that notwithstanding rule 22 following the cloture vote, the senate proceed to executive session, as provided under our previous order. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: so following my remarks and those of the republican leader, there will be a period of morning business until 11:15 today. senators will be permitted to speak for up to ten minutes each during that time, with the time equally divided and controlled
between the two leaders or their designees. at 11:45, there will be a cloture vote on the bipartisan sportsmen's act. the filing deadline for all first-degree amendments to that is 10:30 a.m. this morning. the deadline for second-degree amendments is is amendments is . following that, the senate will turn to the votes of shaun donovan, do douglas silliman, ad dana smith. at 2 p.m., the senate proceed to vote on confirmation of the nominations in the order listed. mr. president, i was late coming in here today. i had just completed a conversation with john kerry, the secretary of state of our country. because of his travel schedule and my schedule and the time difns, it's been difficult for us to talk the last 24 hours.
but we were able to speak, as he was rushing to an airplane going to china and afghanistan. mr. president, he called me to lament what's going on in the united states senate about these nominations. he has 53 state department nominations pending -- 53. we have problems all over the world. we have the afghan war, we've got the problems with pakistan, we've got the middle east, which every country there is in some form of difficulty, we've got a problem in the far east, all kinds of problems there. it's all over the news today. we have the situation in israel, the palestinians, rocket fire coming from palestine,
nondirected missiles, like the 4th of july. they just set them off. they don't know or care where they go. and we are being held up here as a country from doing the country's work as a result of this stalling, this obstruction, the constant filibusters we have here in the united states senate. we have these ambassadors, mr. president, who have worked their entire lives. they work -- they start out, they're brilliant. it is hard to be a foreign service officer. but these men and women work really hard all over the world. they digfy ou dignify our countd then they work their way up to make it to this super-goal, and they are selected to be an ambassador. you know what happens? they get stalled here. so who are the republicans
hurting? they're not hurting me. is this some payback for me? what about the president? he's got a country to run, a world to take care of, and we're being held up here. i really appreciate today -- we get two ambassadors. we only have 27 more to go. plus all the other state department people. the secretary of state is a very busy man. he's been trying for 24 hours to tell me how bad the situation is around the world. he doesn't have people to do this country's work. 25% of the ambassadors in africa are not there. so, mr. president, i don't understand this. if they want to hold up some of the president's nominations to be assistant secretary of this or deputy secretary of that --
it's unfair, but that's fine. what they're doing to these ambassadors is just outrageous. there are two bills at the desk due for a second reading. the presiding officer: the clerk will read the title tz of the bills for the second time. the clerk: s. 2579, a bill to require the secretary of state to offer awards totaling up to $5 billion for information on the kidnapping and murder of a dual of israelly united states citizen. a bill to ensthiewr employers cannot infear that that i remember employees birth control and other health care decisions. mr. reid: what is the name of the legislation, is $2578 s. 25
s. 2578? the presiding officer: to ensure that employees cannot interfere that their employees' birth control and other health care decisions. mr. reid: mr. president, i would to be any other further proceedings with respect to both of these bills? the presiding officer: objection is heard. the bills will be placed on the dample
the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the border seems to be getting washeworseby the day. large numbers of foreign nationals are unlawfully entering our country, and it's mainly due to the administration's failure to enforce immigration laws and secure the border. this is a real crisis, so we're taking a hard look at the proposal the president sent over. but we want to make sure we actually get the right tools to fix the problem. and that's not what we've seen so far from the president. what he appears to be asking for is a blank check, one that would allow him to sustain his current failed policy. last night in a speech that attempted to shift the blame from his failed approach, he doubled down on a blank check, which is what he's asked for.
he led americans to believe that the problem can be solved if only congress would pass his last-minute request. but i.t it's not that simple. much more needs to be dorntion -- much more needs to be done, and the president knows it. his original letter called for reforms that we all know are needed. under pressure from the left, he has since back ad way from these critical reforms. but lawmakers in both parties have not. so needs to work with us to get the right policy into effect, not just throw money at the problem; get the right policy into effect. and needs to halt this endless campaigning, at least for a moment. with the president actually in the region right now, you'd think he'd be able to carve out just a few minutes to view the situation on the border for himself. apparently, though, he's decided
that there are more important things to do. like campaigning with gary hart and practicing his bank shot. all this continues to make the president look detached from the ongoing crisis on the border. even a democrat congressman has called it -- quote -- "bizarre" -- end quote -- and honestly, this is just the latest example of a much broader pattern he's displayed, a pattern that makes him appear disconnected from the day-to-day concerns of most americans. the fact is, on issue after issue but especially on issues affecting the middle class, instead of addressing the huge problems his policies have created, the president keeps retreating into the bubble with his favorite left-wing pals. the kind of folks who always tell him what a great job he's doing, and of course that's what
they do. unlike most americans, these aren't generally the kinds of people who worry about car payments or utility bills or tuition or medical costs. when the president does try to approvprove he's willing to liso the concerns of average americans -- like he did this week -- it's usually little more than a photo op. but if the president is serious will helping the middle class, he'll stop trying to convince everyone of that. he'll just join republicans to actually do something about it. because we've been asking him to join us for a long time now. it is about time he took us up on the offer. we've already introduced a number of bills aimed squarely at addressing the squeeze our constituents are feeling. one of our bills would restore the 40-hour workweek and reverse a paycut that's built into obamacare. others would do things like increase educational opportunities and put an end to policies that prevent women from
getting pay raises when they outperform their male colleagues. one bill i introduced with senator ayotte, the family-friendly and workplace flexibility act, would allow workers to take time off as a form of overtime compensation. it's an idea that's tailored to the needs of our modern workforce. it's something a lost working men and women say they want, and there's no reason not to provide a little more flexibility to working families. another bill i introduced would ryreduce the cost and hassle of child care by allowing them to write off a home office even if they happen to have a crib in the room. current law prevents working moms and dads from taking that deduction if they care for a child while working at home. this is simply unfair. so making that change is just common sense and really so are all the bills we've introduced. our middle-class agenda is not
built around creating massive government bureaucracies or taking from one struggling neighbor to give to another. it's about identifying smart, commonsense fixes that can have a significant impact on the lives of the people we represent. middle-class americans who never felt more squeezed. and there's no reason the president and his democratic allies shouldn't be able to embrace such commonsense ideas too. unfortunately, president obama's democratic majority in the senate has blocked just about everything we've proposed. just like they blocked the dozens of bills that have already passed the house of representatives. as just about everyone acknowledges at this point, the democratic-run senate has become the place where good ideas go to die. the democratic leadership won't even listen to its own members anymore, so it's no wonder one
democratic senator remarked he's never experienced a less productive time in his life than right now in the united states senate. that was a democratic senator saying that. never experienced a less productive time in his life than right now in the united states senate. it's time for washington democrats to stop obstructing jobs and opportunity for the middle class. they need to understand that their powerful pals on the left will continue doing just fine in the obama economy. it's time to stop worrying so much about them and to start paying more attention to the vast american middle class, to the people who feel like washington hasn't been listening to them over the past few years. i'm talking about people whose wages are stagnant, people who are either unemployed or can't find work to match their skills, and people who feel the burden of outdated policies that are diminishing opportunities in the workplace, and leaving them torn between the demands of work and
family. republicans are committed to doing everything we can to delivery lef and innovative -- to deliver relief and innovative new ideas to help these americans. i hope president obama and washington democrats will at some point, some point here finally join us in the effort. the presiding officer: under the previous order, leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business until 11:45 a.m. with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each and with time equally divided between the two leaders or their designees. mr. mcconnell: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: without objection. mr. enzi: mr. president, we're back for another week of work, but the playbook hasn't changed. once again the majority leader has prevented 98 senators from offering amendments to improve a bill he chose for us to debate. i'd thic like to speak for a mot about the democrati amendments e democratic leader prevented us from investigate on. i have been work on amendments to allow bows andag and archery equipment. some bow hunters need to travel across national barks to hunt on land. it is also important to our archery competitors to have to go out of their way to avoid national parks to get to their tournaments. a lot of people don't realize
that yellowstone park, which is in the upper lefthand corner of wyoming is about the size of connecticut. to get to idaho, sometimes you have to go to 250 miles oust your way if you can't go through the park. there's a lot of the competition between wyoming and idaho when it comes to archery. and vice versa. the same can happen getting into montana. mr. president, this just is a commonsense amendment because it provides parity for bows and firearms. in 2009 congress passed a law to prevent the right of individuals to bear arms in units of the national park system and the national wildlife refuge system. this body considered it a commonsense provision before. language on this issue was included in the 2012 sportsmen's act, s. 25356789 but now the senate won't even get a chons to seat chance on whether to add this to the 2014 sportsmen's act. this is the appropriate place
for sportsmen's issues to be brought up u second, i offered an amendment with senators lee and thune to ensure that those traveling with a properly secured knife cannot prosecuted under local or state laws which ban certain knives. this amendment is necessary because there is a broad patchwork of state and local laws regulating knife possession. for example, 36 states allow civilian possession of automatic knives to varying degrees, but no restrictions at all in 22 states. but in some states possession is a serious crime. this can be incidental, again just passing through state. the current situation sw knives is similar to the circumstances that exists for gun owners before the passage of firearm owners protection act in 1986. that law protects law-abiding gun owners from an instint consistent patchwork of laws and my amendment provides parity between knife and gun owners. this commonsense amendment uses language similar to that used in
the 1986 law. i've also filed an amendment with senators barrasso, crapo, harchtion lee, murkowski and risch to require the department of interior to suspend for ten years a listing decision in states with approved or endorsed sage gross mangtsd plans. wyoming has an endorsed and approved plan an sage gross is coming bafnlg the new report on numbers just showed an increase. the amendment allows states to manage and conserve sage gross in a manner that protects their jurisdiction over state wildlife and takes into account local state stakeholders. i believe it is related to the underlying bill because of the substantial impact the sage gross list wooing have on sporting and recreation in western states. even though they say there is a sage gross problem, the bag limits for huntin hunting them t gone down. i have also cosponsored some amendments that would improve
this bill. one of these amendments by senator barrasso would prevent the e.p.a. from regulating all bodies of water, even ones that are dried up. even ones that are seasonal. no matter how small and regardless of whether the water is on public or on private property, mark twain once said, "whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over." so for states like wyoming where water is scarce and we try to save every drop, one-size-fits-all federal control like the e.p.a. wants to impose won't work. but senator barrasso won't get a vote on his amendment. another amendment by senator wicker that i've c co-allow fols to carry firearms on recreational property. this is another parity amendment. in this case, we'd allow law-abiding gun owners to carry firearms on corps land. but senator wicker won't get a
vote on his amendment. i'm also supporting an amendment from senator tester to make cabin user fees more predictable allowing families to keep their families on forest service land which some have been on for generations. wyoming cabin owners shouldn't have to worry about the forest service trying to drive them off with ever-increasing fees. incidentally, the federal government pays taxes in lieu of private ownership of the land. those don't go up by 300%. it seems to me like if the value of the land went up by 300%, the federal government's payment in lieu of taxes would go up by the same amount. it doesn't happen. wyoming cabin owners shouldn't have to worry about the forest service driving them off with increasing fees. this provides a formula for how the fees are calculated so families can spend more time
enjoying the outdoors instead of worrying about the uncertainty of next year's fees. but senator tester won't get a vote on his amendment. these aren't the only good amendments to this bill. there have been 80 amendments filed to this bill, about a third of them filed by the majority party. many of those amendments are bipartisan, but it sounds like only the ones chosen by the majority is going to get a vote. mr. president, i'm sad to say that thoa one should be -- that no one should be surprised by this because it's become par for the course. in 2005 and 2006 the senate voted almost 700 amendments on the senate floor. in 2011 and 2012 it was about half that, around 350 amendments. in the past year the majority leader has allowed only 11 senate republican amendments. let me repeat that. in the past year the majority leader has allowed votes on only 11 senate republican amendments. over that same period of time
the house has voted on 169 democratic amendments. how can the house, which has more constraint than the senate, have that many more votes for the minority party? 169 to our 11. and the majority party in the senate isn't faring any better. i'm told the majority leader has only allowed his own party to have seven amendments voted since july of last year. in fact, my friends on the other side of the aisle haven't gotten a vote on one of their amendments in over 100 days. and they're in control. to prevent us from offering amendments, the majority leader has used a tactic called filling the amendment tree. in the last eight years he's used this tactic 90 times. by comparison, the last six majority leaders combined -- the last six majority leaders combined only filled the tree 40 times in over 16 years.
let's see. the last eight years, 90 times. the previous 16 years, 40 times. now almost half the senate has been here less than six years. 45 of the 100 sitting senators are in their first term, so they may think this is the way that the senate does business. i say to those senators, there is a better way. we need to be able to vote on amendments. we need the bills to go to committee. we need to have bills come to the floor. we need amendments both places. all 100 members of the senate should have an opportunity to improve the bills we consider because each of us looks at every proposal from a different point of view and different experience. when all the decisions are made by the majority leader, the vast majority of americans get shortchanged. this won't change unless those who are here exercise our rights. it's time for the 99 senators who are being denied the opportunity to represent their constituents to stand up to the
leader and insist on amendments. we should all be -- all demand that we be allowed to do our jobs. and that will show up in votes, and it has shown up in votes. when our side doesn't get amendments, we don't let the bill pass. we have that capability, and the minority needs that capability in order to get control of situations like this. we need to be able to vote on amendments. it's been the process of this body for the history of the united states, with unlimited debate in the senate. occasionally when debate has drawn on two, three days, two, three weeks, there has been the exercise that we see here. but not at the start of a bill so that no amendments can be voted on. it doesn't take very long to vote, if you get to vote. but what we're going through is a process of negotiations to see if the majority leader can pick
the votes for the minority party. that's not right. that hasn't happened. and we don't intend to let it happen. it's time that we got to have our amendments, particularly amendments that are relevant to the bill. this is a sportsmen's bill. i'm talking about the right to take archery equipment through a national park. you can do that with guns. you can't do that with bows? some of those parks are pretty big, and you have to go 250 miles out of your way to go around them. that shouldn't be imposed on sportsmen. they ought to have the right to do that, and we're going to be denied that vote and all of the others that i mentioned this morning. mr. president, i yield the floor and reserve the balance of our time. mr. booker: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey.
imrook imrook i rise today to speak -- mr. booker: i rise today to speak about our nation's broken criminal justice system, a system that is taken an unimaginable and i believe unsustainable toll on our nation. the united states remarkably is home to between 4% and 5% of the entire globe's population, but we have 25% of the world's prison population. this phenomenon is unacceptable, that the land of the free would have 25% of the globe's imprisoned people. and what's startling about that is that the majority of those people are nonviolent offenders. in fact, the majority are nonviolent drug offenders. this phenomenon has largely emerged since around 1980, a period during which the federal prison population has grown
nearly tenfold. since 1980, we've seen a ten times increase in our prison population. and again, if we were locking up violent offenders, people that are terrorizing our streets or inflicting vicious and violent harm on our communities, then ridding our streets of such dangerous criminals would be understandable. it would be a price worth paying. but that is not the story of this unbelievable explosion of our federal prisons and our nation's incarcerated people. the reality is, again, that nearly three-quarters of federal prisoners are nonviolent and have no history of violence whatsoever. what's worse and what is anguished is that once you are convicted of a crime, american
citizens then face daunting obstacles to successfully rejoin society, to being able to raise their family, put food on the table, provide for themselves. our state and federal prison exits as a result of that have now become revolving doors, with two of every three ex-offenders getting rearrested within five years. two-thirds of those nonviolent folks leaving our prisons come back in within five years. when ex-offenders return to prison again and again and again, they are not just paying a price. we all are paying the price. we are contributing so much of our national treasure, so much of our national treasure to rearresting the same people over
and over again, to reincarcerating the same people over and over again. a recent pew report concluded that if just ten states -- just ten -- the study, cut the recidivism just 10%, it would save taxpayers $470 million, money that this nation urgently could use either to keep in the pockets of taxpayers or invest in things like lowering the cost of college or investing in our roads and bridges and our crumbling infrastructure. as hardworking tax-paying americans have increased the fund for our prisons, funding more and more and more, there have been fewer and fewer resources left for these other crucial parts of our society. less resources for law enforcement. less resources for
rehabilitative programs. less resources for proven investments in children that help prevent crime in the first place. the result has been a cycle of spending and incarceration that has led to the ballooning of this federal prison bureaucracy. more than a quarter of a trillion dollars a year from our economy going to unproductive and even counterproductive uses. our country's misguided criminal justice policies place an economic drag on local communities and on our nation's global competitiveness. remember, if we're putting 25% of the globe's population, prison population in our american prisons, paying the price for that, our competitive democracies, our competitive economies aren't paying that
price. and we're doing this, paying this egregious price, and it's not making us any more safe. in fact, i would say it's making us less safe as a community. now many of my colleagues in this body, i am proud to say, recognize the urgent need for reform and have already put forth pieces of legislation that seek to improve various parts of this broken system. i'm grateful to applaud the bipartisan efforts that exist in this body amongst my colleagues. senators leahy and flake, durbin and lee, whitehouse, landrieu, franken and othersing standing up to say, you know what, we've got to save taxpayer dollars. we've got to elevate human potential. and we've got to make our streets safe. and so to build off the momentum of these leaders in the senate,
i've joined with senator rand paul to introduce today the record expungement designed to enhance employment, or redeem act. this bipartisan legislation will establish much-needed sensible, pragmatic reforms that keep kids out of an adult system in the first place, protect their privacy so that a youthful mistake can remain a youthful mistake and not haunt young people throughout their lives, and help make it actually less likely that low-level nonviolent offenders do not reoffend. among other measures, our bill incentivizes states to raise the age of original jurisdiction for criminal courts to 18 years old. trying juveniles who have committed low-level crimes,
low-level nonviolent crimes as adults is counterproductive. they don't emerge from prison reformed and ready to reintegrate into high school. the criminal record they have won't help them as they try to get a job. we need a system that treats juveniles toughly but fairly with an eye towards a productive adulthood, with an eye towards restorative justice. for kids in seven states that treat 16-year olds as adults, no likely would getting into a scuffle at school result in an adult record that could follow individuals for the rest of their lives. restricting access to a college degree, limiting employment prospects and increasing the likelihood of further criminal activity. it is time we encourage our children to succeed, not undermine their longts prospects
for life -- their long-term prospects for life success. the redeem act provides for the automatic expungement for kids who commit nonviolent crimes before they turn 15. an automatic sealing of records for those who commit nonviolent crimes after they turn 15. it will also ban the very cruel and counterproductive practice of juvenile solitary confinement that can have an immediate and long-term detrimental effect on youth detainees' mental and physical health. in fact, the majority of suicides by juveniles in prisons happen by young people who are in solitary confinement. other nations even consider it torture. for adults, this legislation offers the first broad-based federal path to the sealing of
criminal records. a person who commits a nonviolent crime will be able to petition a court and make his or her case. furthermore, employers requesting a background check from the federal bureau of investigation will be provided with only relevant and accurate information. thanks to a provision that will protect job applicants by improving the quality of the bureau's background check. think about this. 17 million background checks were done by the f.b.i. last year, many of them for private providers, and upwards of half of them were inaccurate or incomplete. often causing people to lose a job, miss an economic opportunity and be, again, trapped with few options. to address the basic economic insecurity that can lead someone to reoffend in order to feed a child, the redeem act lifts the ban on receiving supplemental
nutritional assistance program or snap. these benefits were conceived in a way that should empower people when they have a time of need, and those convicted of drug use or possession, who've paid their dues, have now a path to the reinstatement of those benefits so that they can get their lives together, so that they can be empowered and successful. taken together, these measures will help keep kids who get in trouble out of a lifetime of crime and help adults who commit nonviolent crimes become more self-reliant and less likely to reoffend. the time to act is now. we cannot afford to let our criminal justice system continue to grow at the rate that it is. we cannot afford to sap billions of taxpayer dollars into a
broken system that is locking people up and then doing nothing to empower them to succeed. we are wasting human potential, human productivity. we're hurting our economy. and by trapping people without options, we often end up making our communities less safe. we've seen how other states, individual states are doing things to address this issue and are actually lowering recidivism and lowering their prison population, and, on top of it, lowering actual crime in their states. it's time that the federal government act to do the same. i urge my colleagues to support the redeem act so that we can make our communities safer and stronger and truly be a nation that savors and values freedom and empowers its citizens to
live productive, strong lives of contribution. thank you, mr. president. mr. booker: i noter: i yield thr and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: the presiding officer: the republican whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i'd ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, before i begin my prepared remarks today, i want to offer my sympathy to the community of spring, texas. last night in this quiet suburban area north of houston,
they experienced a horrific murders of six people. it's reported that four of these people who were killed were young people. and as we move forward in the days and weeks ahead, i hope we'll keep these victims and the community in our thoughts and prayers. shifting to a different part of my state that's experiencing another type of crisis. every day this week i've come to the floor and spoken on president obama's refusal to travel to the southern border of texas where a humanitarian crisis continues to unfold. those aren't just my words, those are the president's words -- a humanitarian crisis. as i've said before, the president has been in dallas, he's been in austin, where he spent the night last night, and he's there this morning speaking reportedly on the economy. why he persists in his refusal
to travel to the border really is beyond my imagination. i just don't understand it. the fact that the president has himself described it as a humanitarian crisis makes this even more strange. people can infer whatever they want to about his potential motivations. i don't know whether it means he doesn't really understand it, whether his handlers have kept him in the bubble so much he just simply -- the facts aren't getting through to him? or whether he's surrounded by political advisors who say this is going to be a political liability for you, mr. preside mr. president. don't travel there. if you show up there and have your picture taken with these children who are traveling by the tens of thousands unaccompanied from central america to mexico, you will own the problem. i don't know whether that's the advice he's getting or not.
surely it can't be that he doesn't care. but i will tell you that many of my constituents, republicans and democrats alike, and many of my colleagues in the congress are wondering, why would the president show such little respect for what the communities along the border are experiencing as they're trying to deal with this humanitarian crisis, why would the president show such little respect for t the, fema, and other federal actors who are trying to help these communities deal with this crisis? it just doesn't add up. since the president so subbornly refuses to visit the border, even though he's in texas, has been for the last two days, people ask me, well, if the president showed up, what would he see? well, first of all i think he
would learn that this crisis is in large part a product of the president's own policy judgments, particularly starting with the i.c.e. memo in 2011, the so-called morton memo number one. and then the morton memo number two. and then the deferred action executive order, saying that certain -- certain young people would never be returned to their country of origin but the president would act alone to defer action against them. and then the continued discussion that the president has here in washington that says he wants to go even further. so i think one of the things the president would learn is that people actually pay attention to what he's saying and the impression is that he is not going to faithfully execute the law. and so the children continue to come. and they will continue to come until we fix the problem.
and the president has to be an important part of that solution. so as i've said before, these young children travel through some of the most dangerous territory on the planet, because they -- the smuggling corridors are controlled by cartels like the zittas. these cartels are in the business of crime, smuggling people, drugs, weapons, you name it. smuggling women for sex slavery and human trafficking. they don't really care about the human element here. they care about the money. and so migrants who travel across mexico from central america are subjected to rape, kidnapping, where they're held for ransom so their relatives will pay off the cartels to let them go and continue their
journey. and we don't know how many of the children that start this long journey from central america, some 1,200 miles from guatemala city to mcallen, texas, alone, how many of them die in the process and never make it. so these are -- the 52,000-plus so far who have been detained at our southwestern border since october, those are the ones who made the trip successfully. we don't know how many children and their parents have died in the process. i do know, having traveled to brooks county, texas, i've seen some of the grave sites of unknown migrants who have actually died trying to get through -- get past the border patrol checkpoint at falfurious, for example. so i'm sure tragically that many migrants don't make it and die in the process.
there is a powerful incentive for people to travel to the united states. obviously we understand people who want opportunity, people who are trying to flee violence. but the president has effectively encouraged children and their parents to make this treacherous, life-threatening journey by suggesting that he won't enforce the law. the president himself admits that even under his deferred action order, his executive order that he issued in 2012, these children wouldn't be covered. but they come because they have the impression that they will be allowed to stay once they make it here. "the new york times" recently reported the story of one 13-year-old honduran boy who was detained in mexico trying to reach the united states. the "times" reported that this young boy said that his mother believed that the obama
administration had quietly changed its policy with regard to unaccompanied minors and that if he made it across, he would have a better shot at staying. and, in fact, that's proving to be true. so many of these children are now, because of a 2008 law, placed with relatives here in the united states who themselves may not be legally present. they're given a notice to appear for a subsequent court hearing and they -- the overwhelming number of them never show up. and having done so, they have made it because we don't have the resources, we certainly don't have the laws on the books necessary to fill this hole that the cartels are exploiting. and that's what we need to work on together to try to -- as part of this supplemental appropriation to try to fix. we can't just vote for more
money where the cause of the problem that needs fixing remains unfixed. the cartels are happy to tell parents, "yes, send your kids to america. turn them over to us. write us a check for $5,000" or whatever the amount is, "and maybe they'll be able to escape central america and make it to the united states." and you know, for every one of the parents who take the cartels up on that deal, for every one of the children subjected to this horrific journey from central america to mexico -- to southern -- the southern part of the united states, the cartels are making money. so as long as the hole in the 2008 law remains unfilled -- and the president certainly hasn't requested that we fix it, but we need to do that -- we'll keep spending billions of dollars and continuing to see the surge of
unaccompanied minors continue to go up. in 2011, there were about 6,000 unaccompanied minors detained at the southwestern border. but just since october, more than 50,000. so something's going on here and this 13-year-old honduran boy interviewed for "the new york times" story said, "well, my mom thought president obama was changing his policies and i would be able to stay if i made it." since the president decided not to make the short trip from austin or dallas to mcallen, texas, i wanted to share a few stories about what i saw there when i visited. i had the chance to visit the mcallen border patrol station, one of the busiest and most crowded facilities that are trying to deal with this surge of unaccompanied minors. there i met another 13-year-old boy who had just arrived from central america.
now, we asked him to come out of the detention cell that was so jam packed with teenaged boys that nobody had even space to lay down and sleep. i hate to think about how unhigh unhygenic those circumstances are. but this young 13-year-old boy, we asked a wonderful young woman who works with me in my office in south texas, asked him in spanish, said, "where are your parents?" he said, "they're both dead." it was heartbreaking. i think the president would benefit from seeing and talking to young victims of this trafficking like this honduran boy. as i said, inside these facilities, there are dozens of children packed into holding cells with one toilet that are meant for just a few people.
there are young women only 15 years of age who are pregnant, some of whom already had babies that they were nursing. the babies clothed only in diapers and sleeping on cement floors. unless you see it for yourself, i don't think you get a full appreciation for the nature and the scope of this crisis. that's something i think the president could benefit from. conditions are so bad they're even housing people in the garage at the border patrol facility. i don't have to tell the presiding officer, but it's hot in texas in july, and you can imagine what the conditions are like in that garage. there must have been a hundred people basically sitting or standing on that garage floor because they simply don't have the capacity to deal with it. and certainly the capacity to deal with the numbers that are coming through. i want to do something,
mr. president, that i wish the president of the united states would do, in person, by traveling to mcallen. i want to thank the border patrol and particularly the leadership of chief kevin oaks, who's been doing a magnificent job under very, very difficult circumstances, and all of the border patrol, fema and other federal employees that are down there trying to help the local community and the state of texas deal with this crisis. chief oaks has maybe one of the toughest jobs on the planet these days. he's in charge of the rio grande valley sector, and this is a -- encompasses more than 17,000 square miles in 19 texas counties. it shares 320 river miles with mexico and 250 coastal miles. this is the sector through which this flood of humanity is comi
coming. 418,000 people detained last year alone. that number is going up and they're mainly coming through the rio grande sector. 418,000 people from 100 different countries. if you go down to brooks county and look at some of the rescue beconsequence -- they've actually put out rescue bbeaconsthat if an imtbrants is, so dehydrated, they could actually hit the rescue beacon hit and the light will go off and the border patrol will come rescue them. so if they're at risk of losing their lives, sure, they may not want to be caught but they'd rather be caught than die there due to exposure. those rescue beacons have language not just in spanish, not just in english, they have language in chinese. i said yesterday, i don't know a
lot of chinese speakers from brooks county, texas. it's a small, rural county. the reason why that rescue beacon is written in chinese, among other languages, is because people are -- can come from all over the world through the southern border of mexico into the united states. 418,000 were detained for more than -- from more than a hundred counties, most of which admittedly are mexico and central america, but they also come from nations that are state sponsors of international terrorism. which is why general kelly, the head of southern command, has said this is a national security threat. but the president would learn more about this i think if he took the trouble to go to the border and to talk to people like chief oaks and learn of the challenges that they are dealing with day in and day out. they are doing the best they can
but they simply don't have the resources or the manpower to handle this massive influx, particularly of unaccompanied children. and you know what i'm told is that because the border patrol is now having to deal with children -- these children and to make sure they're taken care of -- which they should be -- they're not interdicting illegal drugs coming across the border. and that should concern all of us. mr. president, i'd ask unanimous consent for an additional five minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: i thank my colleague from maine for his courtesy. well, one official from the mayor's office in mexico reported, when talking about the cartels that control this smuggling, this is something i hope my colleagues who maybe haven't spent as much time thinking about this -- and that's logical because they don't come from texas, they maybe don't -- don't come from a state that's contiguous to the mexican border or central america and south america -- but
the fact is, these areas are now controlled by cartels, by transnational criminal organizations. but one official at the mayor's office in suia d hidalgo, mexico, reported that they control all trafficking and sending men and women to central america and sometimes even kidnapping migrant women rugged buses. they sell the women -- they sell the women to truck drivers for a night and then throw them away like unwanted scraps. the bottom line, mr. president, is there is nothing humane, nothing compassionate about encouraging people to travel through cartel-dominated smuggling routes in hopes of reaching the united states, only to find out that our law does not permit them to stay. nothing humane about that, nothing compassionate about that.
yet that's the impression. nobody should be traveling to america this way, and especially not young children. so, mr. president, this is something that the president of the united states needs to see. i mean, if it's serious enough for him to call this a humanitarian crisis and ask congress to appropriate more than $3 billion on an emergency basis to help pay for additional capacity, it's serious enough to warrant his personal attention. and i just don't get it. i really don't. i had occasion to work with president obama when he was in the united states senate. i see him less often now that he's over in that big house on pennsylvania avenue. but that just doesn't strike me as who he is. so i just wonder, what in the world could be going on? is he so much living in the bubble that i guess all
presidents live in that he needs to break out of the bubble and find out what's actually happening on the ground? so at the very least, i would think the president would want to take the opportunity to say thank you to chief oaks and the border patrol, fema and other federal agencies that are working to try to help local communities. so the invitation still stands. i think the president's still in austin speaking at the paramount theater in my hometown, where i live now, but he's talking about the economy, he's not talking about this crisis. so i -- i would bet the invitation still stands for him to take the short trip to mcallen and to take about an hour out of his day to say thank you to the border patrol and other federal agencies and to see for himself this unfolding and i would say escalating humanitarian crisis. i thank the chair and i thank the senator from maine for his courtesy.
mr. king: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maine. mr. king: mr. president, a few years ago, tom brokaw wrote a brilliant and important book called "the greatest generatio generation," and he described our fathers and grandfathers and mothers and grandmothers and what they did for this country coming through the searing fire of the great depression, fighting and winning world war ii, and then rebuilding our economy in the 1950's. we owe that generation everything we have. that generation sacrificed -- i want to repeat that word -- sacrificed on our behalf. we are literally standing on their shoulders. we are driving on the highways that they built. we enjoy our freedoms because of
their sacrifice in world war ii and in korea. if tom brokaw writes another book about us, i don't know what it will be called, but it won't have "greatest" in the title. instead of a compliment, it would be more of an epithet. we are leaving our children a gigantic national debt, crumbling infrastructure, and a changing climate that threatens their well-being and their future opportunities in this country. i rise today to talk about one of those factors and that is infrastructure. i had a great insight when i was the governor of maine because every year governors go to new york to go through a ceremony of
genuflecting and kissing the ring of the rating agencies in order to try to get their states a good, high bond rating so that we'll have a low interest rate on our loans. i was all prepared for my meeting with the rating agencies and had all kinds of data about how prudent maine was, how low our debt level was, how we paid it off in 10 years, how low our debt level was per capita. and i was in the middle of this presentation when one of the rating agency officials stopped me and said, "governor, just because you have low debt, if you're not fixing your infrastructure, that is debt. just as if it's debt on the books, just as if it's dollars that you owe because the infrastructure is eventually going to have to be fixed." and, of course, when it's fixed, the later you do it, the more it's going to cost. that was an insight for me that, you know, we have this sort of
mental bookkeeping where we have the dollars that we owe but we don't think about a bridge being fixed as a form of debt, and yet that's exactly what we have in this country. we are handing our children a gigantic debt on all fronts because we're unwilling to pay the bills. i had another exchange once with a fella who was a clerk in a hardware store. this was in the early 2000's. and i said, what do you think of the tax cuts we recently passed? i was just making conversation. and he said, there haven't been any tax cuts. and i said, what are you talking about, you see in the news, there are all these tax cuts we just passed in washington. and he said, no, no, we haven't passed any tax cuts. yoi said, don't you watch the news? he said, look, if you pass tax cuts when you're in a deficit situation, all you're doing is borrowing more money and your
kids are going to have to pay for it with interest so you're merely shifting the taxes from us to them. i'd never thought about it that way before. of course he was exactl exactly. if you cut taxes and cut expenditures at the same time, okay, that's legitimate public policy. but if you cut taxes and borrow the difference, you're really just shifting the cost to the next generation. and that's what we're doing. that's what we're doing right now. today. and we're doing it on all fron fronts. we're doing it on our federal debt and deficit posture and we're doing it in our infrastructure posture. this is going to cost all of us. the subject, which i neglected to clarify at the beginning, is the fact that the highway trust fund goes broke in just a few months.
in fact, in a few weeks. funding from the federal government for highways, for infrastructure around the country will decline precipitously starting in augu august. and we're talking around here about a patch, about something that will get us through a few months, two or three months, maybe eight months. but nobody's talking about really solving the problem. and everybody's talking about all of these convoluted ways to avoid the reality that we need to pay for what we do. we need to pay for our highways, for our roads, for our bridges. and right now we're not doing it. this is going to really hurt maine. the estimates are from our department of transportation it's going to cut our highway funding in our state by 17%, almost 20%. and it's particularly going to hurt if we don't do something in the next month because we have a short construction season. if we lose our funding between august and october, we've effectively lost it for the next
eight or nine months. it's going to impair projects that are going to -- that are ongoing and it's going to essentially eliminate across the country new highway and infrastructure projects. by the way, if you're the head of the department of transportation, you're funding's going to be cut, what are you going to do? you're going to maintain, not invest. and maintaining is the bare minimum but it's not investing, because that's where we -- investing is where we have our wherewithal to compete in a global economy. it's very revealing to me to compare our funding levels of our infrastructure, maintenance and investment with other countries. that's a fair comparison. it sort of tells us how we're doing. it puts it in perspective. right now our infrastructure investment is about 2.6% of gross domestic product.
2.6% of g.d.p. in europe, it's 5%. and in china, it's 8.5%. it's all -- it's three times, more than three times the level in other parts -- in our principal future economic competitor. they're investing and we're disinvesting. because the infrastructure is crumbling faster than we're fixing it. the joke in maine this winter was, the potholes were so bad that instead of filling them, we're going to lower the roads. that's a joke but, boy, it says something about the seriousness of this issue. and maine is no different than any other state. in fact, i would argue we have some of the best roads in the country. particularly given the far-flung nature of our state. but this is going to hurt us. it's going to hurt every state in the country. and yet we're around here trying to avoid talking about paying for them. there are indirect and direct
costs. there are -- not fixing the highways is costing our drivers more than an increase in the gas tax. in terms of delay, in terms of -- of maintenance of automobiles, in terms of bent -- bent wheels from potholes. i was -- i talked to some people from united parcel service, u.p.s. their fleet nationwide, a five-minute delay per vehicle, delay, because of congestion, because of lack of infrastructure investment, a five-minute delay per vehicle nationwide costs that company a hundred million dollars a year. five minutes a day. multiply that by everybody in the country and we're paying a high price. the point is, we're paying a high price but it's hidden, we don't notice it f. we increase the gas -- notice it. if we increase the gas tax, everybody's going to notice that. but that's called paying your bills. as a young man, i represented a
client before the maine legislature, it was an engineering firm that was owed a bill by the state of maine and for some reason it hadn't been taken care of. i ended up appearing before the appropriations committee -- this was 40 years ago -- but i remember distinctly going before the committee saying here's this bill and it has to be paid, and the members of the committee -- by the way, the senior members were all republicans -- looked at each other and said, we've got to pay our bills. that's called governing. and right now we're not paying our bills. and it seems to me that's what we have to do. and it's interesting, one interesting thing about the gas tax is, which, by the way, hasn't been increased since 1993, 21 years ago, it's fallen in value something like 35% because of inflation over that period, but the interesting thing about the gas tax is, it's the only tax that isn't effectively indexed. and by that i mean, the sales
tax, which many states have -- my state does -- 5%. you say, well, that's fixed over time. it's not indexed. but it is because the value of goods to which the sales tax applies goes up over time. on a hundred dollar tire, the gas tax -- the sales tax, 5%, 5 bucks. but five years from now, that tire is probably going to cost $110 so it's going to be, you know, a higher revenue. same thing with the income tax. it may be at a -- at a flat level, 22% or 15% or in maine 5% or 6% -- but incomes go up so revenues go up proportionally to the changes in the economy. the gas tax is a fixed number, 18.6 cents. that's what it's been since 1993. it doesn't change at all. do you think, mr. president, that the cost of building roads is the same today as it was in 1993, 21 years ago? the answer is no.
now, we have to grapple with this. to me, what bothers me about this, it's part of a pattern. and i started with tom brokaw and "the greatest generation." and if you think of the legacy that that greatest generation left us because they were willing to make sacrifices on our behalf and then you say, what is the legacy of our generation? and it's debt. and it's crumbling infrastructure. and it's the crippling of our ability to compete in a globalized economy. shame on us. now, i don't know exactly what the answer is. i don't know whether it's a gas tax, a mileage tax, a change of the tax to the -- to the wholesale level as opposed to the retail level. i don't -- i don't know. but i do know that no matter what we do and no matter how much we try to avoid it, we're going to have to pay our bills. and to not pay our bills, we
have to realize is simply passing those bills to our kids. that's unethical. it's immoral. it's wrong. and it's not what our parents and grandparents did for us. i think we owe the same level of consideration, the same level of sacrifice, the same level of realism, the same level of paying our bills to our children and grandchildren that we have been the beneficiaries of. so i hope as we -- as this debate unfolds in the next several weeks that we pay attention to the critical importance that infrastructure plays in the competitiveness of our society and in our future for our children. the greatest generation built the interstate highway system and we can't even keep it maintained. that's inexcusable. it's inexcusable, mr. president,
and i'm sorry to be so preachy about this but i think this is a really important issue and i think it goes in some ways to the heart of our politics today, where we're trying to do things and accomplish things but not pay for them. the -- the point of my comments, though, is they are going to be paid for, it's just going to be somebody else -- that is, our children and grandchildren -- who are going to be paying that bill. i think we ought to stand up and pay the bills ourselves and maintain the infrastructure that this country needs to compete and give the same opportunity to our children and grandchildren that we were given by the greatest generation. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: would the senator from maine withhold his request? mr. king: i withdraw my request.
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mrs. hagan: mr. president, thank you. mrs. hagan: mr. president, in a few minutes, the senate will vote on whether to invoke cloture on the bipartisan sportsmen's act of 2014 legislation that i have introduced with my friend and colleague from alaska, senator lisa murkowski. at a time when washington is stuck in political gridlock, i am proud to have partnered with senator murkowski to develop this sportsmen's package that is cosponsored by 46 of the senators here in this chamber,
almost half of this body. 19 democrats, 26 republicans and one independent. we actually put politics aside to get behind a bill that benefits tens of millions of hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts across our country, a bill that protects the outdoor traditions for future generations and ensures that outdoor recreation economy can continue to support jobs, local communities and our states nationwide. this kind of widespread bipartisan support has been virtually unheard of in these days. and not surprisingly, the list of organizations that support the bipartisan sportsmen's act is equally long and diverse. more than 40 organizations that span the ideological spectrum have actually endorsed this bi bill. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to add six letters and
statements of support that i've received on the bipartisan sportsmen's act to the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. hagan: and i also just want to share some excerpts from these letters and statements. this is from the national shooting sports foundation. "the bipartisan sportsmen's act is simply the most important package of measures for the benefit of sportsmen in a generation. this package of pro-sportsmen legislation will promote, protect and preserve our cherished outdoor activities of hunting and the shooting sport sports." the c.e.o.'s of the national wildlife federation, the theodore roosevelt conservation partnership, the isaac walton league of america and trout unlimited in one letter wrote this -- "the bipartisan sparts men's act of -- sportsmen's act of 2014 includes valuable provisions that conserve fish and wildlife habitat and expand the public access for the
fishermen and the hunters. we know that time on the senate floor is extremely limited and precious but we believe that this bill is worthy of expedited floor consideration. it is a rare and splendid occurrence that such a large and diverse coalition of hunting, shooting, angling and other conservation organizations are so united behind this bill." and then a letter from jeff crane who is president of the congressional sportsmen foundation. and i know that i have -- lisa and i both, senator murkowski and i both have worked very closely with jeff crane, who is president of the congressional sportsmen foundation. in his letter, he said, "we thank congressional sportsmen's caucus cochair, senator hagan, and member senator murkowski for introducing this bipartisan package of legislation that includes provisions vital to
protecting our hunting and angling traditions in the u.s., which the c.s.c. and organizations within the sportsmen's community have been working on for years." from the wilderness society, in their letter, "on behalf of our 500,000 members and supporters, i am writing to express our support for the bipartisan sportsmen's act of 2014. we believe that hunting and fishing are important uses of our public lands and this legislation would advance several vital programs which would both safeguard sportsmen's access to world-class hunting and angling opportunities while simultaneously supporting many programs that protect the high-quality fish and wildlife habitat upon which sportsmen rely." that was from the wilderness society. this, the woman of safari club international, wrote to senator murkowski and me. this letter was dated in april.
"we are delighted to learn that you are working together to introduce bipartisan pro-hunting and pro-conservation legislation. your ongoing effort to introduce bipartisan legislation is a monumental step in breaking the deadlock that hunters have felt in previous legislative efforts." the c.e.o. of ducks unlimited said, "more than 140 million americans participate in outdoor recreation activities, including hunting and fishing. ducks unlimited appreciates the bipartisan effort of this bill in bringing to light the economic impact and importance of sportsmen and women to the united states. we're also grateful for its inclusion of the north american wetlands conservation act, which is an ideal model for a successful private-public partnerships." mr. president, i agree. we have an opportunity today to take action on a bill that
advances critical priorities for a wide range of sportsmen and conservation groups across the country, bringing those two groups together. i am proud of the package that senator murkowski and i crafted and put together. and i also recognize that members on both sides of the aisle have ideas on how to strengthen this bill. it was always my hope that we could take up, debate and vote on sportsmen-related amendments to the bill, including amendments on some gun issues that are important to sportsmen and women in my state and across the country, and i am disappointed that we were not able to reach an agreement to do so. however, we should not let partisan politics get in the way of passing a good bill that already has strong bipartisan support.
it is fiscally responsible and it's endorsed by more than 40 groups and stakeholders across the u.s., six of whom i've just made statements about letters that we've received. so here is what i'm going to ask all of my colleagues today. if you support this bill, vote for this bill. outdoor recreation activities are a way of life in states across the country, and just as importantly they are the lifeblood of many of our local communities. these activities actually contribute $145 billion to our economy every year and they support over 6 million jobs in this country. this is big business, and especially at a time when we're looking at jobs and the economic recovery. so, mr. president, at a time when we are desperately trying to help the job market and get
our economy back on track, i urge my colleagues to please put politics aside and vote to move forward with this balanced, bipartisan bill that boosts our economy, protects our outdoor traditions, and preserves the special places in this country where we hunt, where we fish, where we enjoy the outdoors and to do this for our future generations. thank you, mr. president. i ask -- i see the -- ask for a quorum, an absence of a quorum. mr. president? i have five unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent that these requests be agreed to and that these requests be printed in the record. and, mr. president, i ask for --
i yield the floor. the presiding officer: without objection. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of s. 2363, which the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 384, s. 2363, a bill to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, shooting, and for other purposes. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion. we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate, hereby move to bring to a close the debate on s. 2363, a bill to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing and shooting, and for other purposes, signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived.
the question is is it the sense of the senate that the debate on s. 2363, a bill to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing and shooting and for other purposes shall be brought to a close. the yeas and nays and the nays are mandatory under the rule -- the yeas and the nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote: