tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN September 11, 2014 12:00pm-2:01pm EDT
challenge of rebuilding a stable and inclusive and hopefully someday peaceful society after decades of dictatorship and more than three years of a withering civil war. the united states and syria's neighbors and the entire international community needs to be invested and engaged to help them along this difficult path. now, we need to be direct with the american people. this is not going to be easy and it is not going to be swift. we must ensure our military has the resources it needs to carry out this mission. as president obama said last night, the lives of brave american pilots and service members will be put at risk, but we must also be clear, in their courage and service, they will be part of an important effort to eradicate from this earth one of the greatest threats currently walking upon it. last night president obama asked for the support of the american people as our armed forces and our partners begin in combination to carry out this mission. let me say, he has mine.
i am committed to working with my colleagues, as later today all senators attend a classified briefing and an update on isis and as next week committees in this senate hear testimony from secretary of state kerry and secretary of defense hagel, i am committed to working with my colleagues and with chairman menendez on the foreign relations committee to review, consider, draft and approve an authorization for the use of military force when submitted to us by the president that gives congress an appropriate role in oversight and the president the authorization he needs. mr. president, we need to do everything we can together to ensure that isis will be stopped. it has already shown itself, demonstrated its capability to commit unspeakable crimes, and if left unchecked, these terrorists will spread their reach beyond our abilities to stop them. we cannot let that happen. as my colleagues discuss and
debate this mission, i only ask that we leave the politics of the moment out of it. with an election soon upon us, the temptation is strong to use every opportunity to achieve any short-term partisan advantage, but this is too important and too much is at stake. while today all over this country we call to mind and honor the sacrifices of americans who've served and those who lost their lives 13 years ago today. we must consider this new mission with the utmost gravity, humility and caution. i am eager, then, to work with my colleagues here in the senate and with the administration in a bipartisan way as we move forward to take on the difficult task of defeating isis and strengthening the forces of inclusion and moderatation in iraq and -- moderation in iraq and syria. i urge my colleagues to support this mission every step of the way. thank you.
quorum call: mr. walsh: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. walsh: madam president, i rise today to remember september 11. the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. walsh: madam president, request to rescind the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. walsh: madam president, i rise today to remember september 11, 2001. we all know the changes that came about that day were terrible. i watched the events unfold with my colleagues at the montana national guard, and we all knew it would change the course of america's long-term military
strategy, and that, madam president, is what i want to talk about today. the victories, the consequences, the true costs of sending america's men and women to defend our country. in the 13 years that have passed since that awful day, we have experienced more tragedy and adversity. what hasn't changed is how as a nation we triumph over adversity. throughout our history, americans have united to face our biggest challenges. past and present, the need to work together and to support each other, to lift each other and to inspire each other is what makes the united states a nation that triumphs over adversity. our nation is not living up to the promises we made to the men and women we sent to war following the attacks of 13 years ago. the president and congress have stepped up to provide more direction and more resources to the v.a. and the department.
we are addressing the unacceptable waiting times and we have taken steps to improve the services our veterans have earned, but when it comes to caring for the mental health care of our nation's veterans, we still have a long way to go. madam president, 22 veterans die each day by suicide. let me say that again. 22 veterans die each day by suicide. it is simply intolerable. imagine if 22 service members were dying each day on the battlefield, our nation would act. too many veterans have returned to their homes, to their families, to their communities changed people. they are suffering from the unseen wounds of war. ptsd, traumatic brain injury and post concussive syndrome. as the only member of this body
who has fought in iraq, can i tell you, madam president, these unseen wounds are real. madam president, our nation's veterans and their families are crying out for help. they are suffering, many of them in silence and isolation, and we must provide them with the support they have earned from the grateful nation they fought to protect. one of the first bills i introduced when i got to the senate was a suicide prevention for america's veterans act, the save act. with the partnership from the iraq and afghanistan veterans of america, the bill now has bipartisan support in the senate and a companion bipartisan bill in the house. veterans who suffer from unseen wounds of war need access to specialized mental health care in order to be properly treated. in montana, many veterans live in rural or frontier areas where access to mental health care means long journeys and long wait times.
in august, president obama unveiled an important executive order to tackle the challenge of helping our nation's veterans better adjust to civilian life so that no veteran ever feels like they are left alone. the president's action was a win for veterans and their families, and this action included several elements of the save act, including better standardization between the department of defense and the v.a. with regard to prescription medication, improved health record sharing between agencies, greater training for -- to identify veterans at risk of suicide, a new focus on recruiting more mental health care providers to help our veterans and service members and important accountability measures to track the success of the v.a.'s mental health care programs. and recently, secretary hagel announced that the department of defense will more fully consider
service-related ptsd when evaluating a veteran's petition to upgrade his or her discharge status. all of these are steps in the right direction, but even with the president's important actions, there is still more we need to do to prevent suicide among our veterans. one essential component of the save act addresses the need to extend combat eligibility. ptsd can take years to manifest, and we owe it to the men and women who return from combat to give them more time to come forward to receive treatment. under this bill, veterans who have returned from conflicts can seek treatment for ptsd up to 15 years after returning home. i am committed to lengthening this eligibility time which is currently only five years. the save act would also require the review of wrongful discharges for troops who struggle with mental health issues. behavioral health issues are often caused by invisible wounds
and troops who have service-connected mental health problems may have been discharged incorrectly. or cut off from the benefits and support that they need to heal. madam president, as we observe national suicide prevention week and the horrific events of 9/11, we must remember our men and women who served our nation so honorably. we must remember the sacrifice they made to defend us, and for many of them, the sacrifices they continue to make after their return to civilian life. our veterans deserve our support, and we have a responsibility as a country to provide it. so today, i ask my colleagues to join me in the fight to live up to the promises this made to our veterans. madam president, i yield the floor.
the quorum call be suspended and that i be recognized to speak as if in morning business for such time as i may consume and engage in a colloquy with my colleague from south carolina, senator graham. the presiding officer: without objection, the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: today senator graham and i on the 13th anniversary of the attacks of september 11, 2001, this anniversary sadly and unfortunately we cannot agree and we cannot say as president obama did last night that america is safer. in fact, in many respects, america is in more danger than at any time since the end of the cold war. if we look around the world at the challenges, the aggression,
the provocations, the continued slaughter of innocent ukranians, it is a classic example of what happens when the united states of america decides to withdraw from the world and create a vacuum, that vacuum is filled by the forces of evil and innocents throughout the world suffer and america's security is threatened. so i strongly disagree and i believe most objective observers would strongly disagree with the president's assertion last night that america is safer. by no objective measurement is america safer. in fact, when you look atwitter and facebook, you will see that isis is threatening the united states of america and urging
others to come to the united states of america and attack the united states of america and yesterday in a hearing before the department of homeland security, it is very clear that our border is not secure. and that is a recipe for at least attempts of those of isis who have dedicated themselves to the destruction of the united states of america to be made possible. mr. baghdady, the head of isis, who was once resident in the united states-run prison camp in iraq called camp buka, spent four years there, left and on his way out he said to his american captors, see you in new york. i'm not making that up. he said see you in new york. mr. baghdadi, the leader of
isis, message has been attack and destroy the united states of america. so no, mr. president, america is not safer. in fact, because of a feckless foreign policy, america is in greater danger than it has been in some respects in my lifetime. not in all, but in some. i'd like to say that -- and the fact is the president of the united states sees isis as some kind of terrorist organization. it is not. isis is a terrorist army. isis has the archest area in history of wealth, of military equipment, and capability of a terrorist organization in history and they spread in an area larger than the size of the
state of indiana. i'd like to say the president got some things right in his speech on isis. he seemed to have read the op-ed piece that my colleague, senator graham and i wrote in "the new york times" two weeks ago, because he adopted most of our proposals. most, but not all. the president compared his plan to the counterterrorism approach he has taken in somalia and yemen. that -- that is so disturbing to think that a strategy against isis would be the same as against al qaeda in somalia and yemen. there are terrorist organizations in somalia and yemen, and yes, we have been killing with drones but we have by no means defeated them. and to compare what isis has done, is achieving, and the slaughter that isis is carrying out compared to the terrorist
organizations in somalia and yemen reflect a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of the president of the united states of the threat we face. the problem is also that even al qaeda has not been defeated in those countries. so the president says he wants to degrade and defeat the way they're attacking al qaeda in yemen and somalia. they're not defeated. so what the president proposed last night can possibly if done correctly degrade isis, but it can't destroy isis, and we must destroy isis or sooner or later, according to our heads of intelligence, whether it be the director of the c.i.a. or the director of the f.b.i. or the secretary of homeland security, they want to attack -- their goal is to attack the united states of america. so let's start out with what the president got right. he described the right goal, to
degrade and ultimately destroy isis. he scald for expanding ire strikes to go on offense against isis. he explained the need to hit isis both in iraq and syria. he called for training and arming moderate syrian opposition forces, and he described the elements of a comprehensive strategy, diplomatic, economic, and military, all of which we, senator graham and i, have long champion. he talked -- championed. he talked about the formation of a coalition, his secretary of state, he said he wanted as many as 40 nations. so far he has nine. and the interesting thing about it, there's not a single middle eastern country that has joined this so-called coalition. why is that? is it because they're not afraid of isis? of course they're afraid of isis but they don't trust united states the united states of america and i hear that directly
from leaders all over the middle east. they don't trust us because of the presence -- the president's bungling, incredible, bad decision after he once said that if syria crossed certain red lines and used chemical weapons, that then we would respond, they crossed that line, he didn't -- then said we were going to respond and then after a 45-minute walk with his chief of staff announced to the world that we were not going to strike, he was going to congress knowing full well he would not get that permission from congress. that nuance was lost on countries in the middle east that were prepared to join us, were prepared to join us with airstrikes into syria. so it is not surprising, it is not surprising at all that so far, the president and his secretary of state have been
unable to convince any of these middle eastern countries, and we need them. we need them very badly. well, one of the main things the president didn't say and should have said that is that he recognizes he made a mistake. every president has made mistakes. certainly george w. bush did in iraq. and had at least the courage to fire his secretary of defense, adopt the surge, which had basically stabilize iraq. it had stabilize -- stabilized iraq before we made the decision not to do so. every one of the president's military advisors, the smartest people any of us know, general 1993 tray us, general king, general alan, i could go down the list, argued strenuously nor leaving a residual force behind. the president of the united states decided not to. now we are trying to rewrite
history and say well, the president really wanted to, find me one statement that the president of the united states made publicly that he wanted to leave a residual force behind and i can find you 50 where he bragged about the last combat troop had left iraq and we'd left a safe, stable, prosperous iraq behind. a lot of howellers, a lot -- howlers, a lot of howlers about how well we had done in iraq. if we had left the residual force, the situation in iraq would not be where it is today. that allowed the iraqi security forces to weaken, squandered our influence in iraq and harmed our ability to check prime minister maliki's worst instincts. his failure to support and arm the free syrian army two years ago. i have been in syria. i know how brave these people are. i know how disappointed they were when we failed to arm and equip them. two years ago, his entire
national security team, including his secretary of state, secretary clinton, strongly urged the president of the united states to arm, train, and equip the free syrian army. the president of the united states turned them down. the president of the united states overruled the unanimous opinion of his national security team, and that, my friends, was a huge impact. again giving rise to isis, again i've bashar al-assad the ability and capability to slaughter innocent syrians. it breaks my heart that 192,000 syrians have been massacred by bashar assad. he continues to drop these barrel bombs which are horrible killers. he continues to have 150,000 syrians dying dyeing in his prison camps. i would wish every american
would see the pictures smuggled out of the tortured, starved to death syrians, 192,000 of them and we could have turned turned that around two years ago and three years, it was when the president of the united states said it's not a matter of whether bashar assad is leaving, it's a matter of when. he also said three years ago it's time for bashar assad to leave. and bashar assad today continues to slaughter innocent men, women and children, millions of refugees have fled the country and the horrors continue of this butchery. and what change -- one aspect that changed the battlefield equation when the president of the united states said it's not a matter of when, was when iran, who some now are asking us to work with, iran sent in hezbollah, 5,000 of them from lebanon and it changed the
momentum on the battlefield. finally -- not finally, but senator lindsey graham and i were called over to the white house. we went in to meet the president of the united states after the president of the united states had said that he was going to strike syria. we sat there and the president looked us in the eye and he said i want to do three things -- degrade bashar assad, upgrade the pre-free syrian army and change the battlefield equation. senator graham and i taking his word for it wept out on the driveway and said we are backing the president of the united states. several days later without being notified we were stunned to read that the president of the united states had changed his mind. he had not told us the truth in the oval office. that is a unique experience for me, where i've been in the oval office under many presidents of the united states. i'm confident that the steps the
president laid out last night can degrade isis but that's not sufficient to protect our people. we need special forces and advisors on the ground. when the president continues to say there will be no boots on the ground, there are 1,700 boot on the ground right now, there will be more boots on the ground, but they won't in the form of combat units. but if we're really going to defeat isis, we're going to need close air support, air controllers, intelligence capability, special are forces and many others. we'll soon have more than 1,500 there and there will have to be more. tell the american people the truth, mr. president. those young men are -- men and women are going there in harm's way and they're going to be exposed to combat. tell the american people the truth. we need to do a lot more. i'd like to mention one other aspect before i turn to my friend from south carolina, who was with me in 2008 at a town meeting, a man stood up at the
town hall meeting. he said how long will we be in iraq? he said we may be in iraq for a long, long time. iraq, although we have sustained the situation, we have stabilize it -- that was after the surge had been implemented -- but it's very fragile. we're going to have to leave a residual force behind as we did in japan and germany, korea, bosnia, where we have left residual forces behind for the sake of stability. well, in case many of my colleagues have forgotten, i was pilloried. mccain wants to stay in iraq. yes, i wanted a residual force in iraq, to provide stability and intelligence and other capabilities. now we know what happens when we left iraq. now we know the consequences. i hope that all those people
that called me all of the names that i am not going to repeat here will render an apology because i was right because i said if we leave iraq completely, then we risk the great danger of it deteriorating. i'm saying to my colleagues what has happened today, and the situation today didn't have to be this way. none of the challenges we now face in iraq and syria had to be this dire. the rise of isis did not have to happen. we've lost too much time and missed too many opportunities but we can still defeat our terrorist enemies and we must protect our people and our partners and secure our national interests in middle east. the president's plan if he implements them, if he understands that this is not yemen and somalia, if he understands that this is a direct threat to the united states of america, if he comes to congress and asks for -- not
welcome, but asks for -- debate and amendments and votes that shows the american people's representatives will support them in this effort, then i think we have a chance of succeeding. but i have to tell my colleagues, i'm not very optimistic from the start i saw last night. i'd like to yield to my colleague from south carolina. mr. graham: thank you. if i may, this is the anniversary of 9/11. 13 years ago on this date our country was attacked by radical islamists who do not want your car, they don't want your bank account, they don't want your television, they're not criminals; they want to destroy your way of life. and the sooner we come to grips with the fact that there are people like this still out the there, the better off we'll be. and it's hard for the average american to understand why people think this way. i can't explain it.
i've been to the mideast more times than i can count and i promise you, there are plenty of devout muslims who worship according to the muslim faith, the islamic faith, that would have plenty of places for me and you to reside in this world without fear. there are plenty of people, the vast majority of people of that faith we could live in peace with. but there's a string called radical islam that would kill every moderate muslim, kill every christian, destroy the state of israel and would kill as many of us as they could if somebody doesn't stop them. so 13 years ago, we had close to 3,000 americans killed in the attacks on our country by the bin laden group. the only reason it was close to 3,000 and not 3 million is
because they couldn't get the weapons to kill 3 million of us. if they could, they would. so what do we do? we've got to keep them away from those weapons, we've got to keep the war over there so it doesn't come back here, and we need allies. i'm here to tell you, contrary to what i hear in my own party, most people in syria have two things in common -- they don't like assad and they sure don't like isil. and if you don't believe that about syria, you really don't know much about syria. this whole enterprise in syria started when people demanded to be free from the dictator, and our lack of attention in not responding to the needs of those syrians who would have defeated assad and lived in peace with us, has cost us greatly. three years ago, senator mccain said, it is in our national security interest to side with the free syrian army to get assad out because he's the guy that helped kill americans during the iraq war.
he's the guy that's cozy with iran. well, they had them on the ropes, the free syrian army was about to beat assad, then in came 3,000 to 5,000 hezbollah fighters, iranian-inspired militia from lebanon, and the russians doubled down and we withdraw our support and the army eventually collapsed. that happened simultaneously with our decision by president obama -- president obama's decision to withdraw all of our troops from iraq. we disengaged from iraq, we had no presence there, and the rest is history. about the speech last night. what bothered me the most is the way it started. the president tried to tell us as a nation, we're safer today than we've ever been. do you believe that? i don't. there are more terrorist organizations with more money, more capability, and more weapons to attack our homeland than existed before 9/11. we are not safer than we were
before 9/11 and that's just an unfortunate fact. the president also said that this operation against isil will be like other c.t., counterterrorism, operations over the last five or six years. no, it will not. this is not a small group of people running around with ak-47's. this is a full-blown army. they were going to defeat the kurdish peshmerka, a pretty tough fighting group, if we hadn't have intervened. to underestimate how hard this will be will follow -- will bite us. mr. president, please square, be honest with the american people about what we face. somebody's got to beat this ar army. this is not a small group of terrorists. they have howitzers, they have tanks, they are flush with money, they are getting fighters from all over the world, but they can and will be defeated and they must be defeated. now, as to the family members who remember this as the day
that your life was turned upside-down, you will always be in my thought and prayers, like everybody else in the country. this is a day where most of us remember with sadness and it's a hurtful day. but if it was one of your family members who lost their life this day, it's the day that your life turned upside-down. but there are four other americans that died on september the 11th that i don't want to forget. chris stevens, shawn smith, ty woods, glenn doughtrey. they died two years ago in been geaz. i'benghazi. i don't want to forget them or their families. and we're going to find out what happened in benghazi. that's my commitment to you. now, how do we move forward? mr. president, if you need my blessing to destroy isil, you have it. if you need to follow them to the gates of hell, i will send you a note -- "go for it." if you need congress to
authorize your actions, let me know. you say you don't. i agree with you. but if it makes us stronger for this body to vote in support of your plan to destroy isil, i will give you my vote. but here's what i expect in return. your full commitment to win. i'm tired of half measures. i'm tired of misleading the american people about what we face. there is no way in hell we're going to beat these guys without an american ground component in iraq and syria. there is not a force in the mideast that can take these guys on and win without substantial american help. you don't need the 82nd airborne but we're going to need thousands of troops over time on the ground holding the hands of the arab armies that are going to do the fighting along with the syrians to make sure we win. and the one thing i can promise the american people -- if we take isil on and lose, we will unlock the gates of hell. and hell will come our way. this is the last, best chance to
get this right, mr. president. you made plenty of mistakes, so have i, so have senator mccain. and senator mccain, nobody's going to apologize to you. i think they should but they're not. and i'm not looking for anybody to apologize. we've all made mistakes. this is a time to do some soul-searching as a nation. me and you could do some soul-searching. those who have not seen the threat for what it is, all i ask of you is be willing to embrace reality. all i'm asking of president obama is to do what president bush did -- change your tactics and your strategy because it's not working. senator mccain and myself went to the white house during the bush years and we told presiden- president bush, this is not a few dead-enders, mr. president. it is not working in iraq. you don't have enough troops. and if we don't change course, you're going to lose the country. to his credit, he went from
training and advising the iraqi army to a full-blown counterinsurgency strategy, taking the fight to the enemy. the surge led by david petraeus, and it did work. that was an admission by president bush that he had gotten it wrong and he had to change course. every president, every senator makes mistakes. history judges you not by the mistakes you make but by what you learn from them. and here's what i asked of president -- quit caveating everything. look the enemy in the eye and say, we will destroy you and stop. look the american people in the eye and say, we have to win, we will win, and i will do what's necessary to win. come to the congress and say, we're in this together. the american military, they're tired but they're not too tired to defend this country. if you had a bunch of them in front of you and you asked them
the following -- would you go to iraq and syria to fight isil? -- they would say, send me tomorrow, because they know what these people will do to the rest of us. why do they serve over and over again? why do they go to iraq three and four times? afghanistan three and four times? they've seen the enemy up close, they know what comes our way if we lose. so this is a day to reflect as a nation. i am so sorry that 13 years after 9/11 we're having to deal with greater threats than before 9/11. 50 years from now, long after i'm gone, there's going to be an american soldier somewhere in africa or the mideast helping indigenous populations fight radical islam. but over time, just as sure as i'm standing here, radical islam falls, because here's the truth.
what they are selling most people don't want to buy. they don't have the capacity yet by themselves to stand up and stare these people down. as to americans who are frustrated with the pace of democracy in the mideast and who believe those people can't do this, all i ask you is to pick up an american history book. within the first hundred years of our country, we're at war with canada and mexico. within the first hundred years of our country, we're at war with ourselves and it started in my state. this is not easy. it is not easy to this day. to expect people who have lived under brutal dictatorships, had their society divided and destroyed for decades to get to where we are in 12 or 13 years is unrealistic. and here's the hope for me.
there is good news. there's plenty of will throughout the world to stand up to radical islam. our goal is to provide capacity to that will. sometimes it will be american soldiers. sometimes it will be clean drinking water. a small health care clinic that you wouldn't send your child to for five minutes, that will save lives in africa. a small schoolhouse where a young girl can get an education. if we're not willing to do these things over there, they will come here. mr. mccain: would my colleague yield for one question? mr. graham: absolutely. mr. mccain: i note the presence of our colleague from california and so i will make it short. but last night i had an exchange with the former spokesperson for the white house and again this issue came up that -- and the assertion, the incredible assertion that it was the iraqis
that did not want to leave a residual force behind, a statement that continues to amaze me that anyone would believe such a thing, particularly given the circumstances which the iraqis were left under, including, by the way, every single one of our military leaders urged that we leave a residual force behind. and many of them, like general keen, general petraeus and others predicted what would happen if we pulled everybody out. i wonder if, for the record, the senator from south carolina would relate the experience that we had in iraq and our personal experience with the issue of residual force behind. mr. graham: i remember getting the phone call from then-secretary clinton asking me and you and i think senator lieberman to go to iraq and see if we could intervene and help
the iraqis make a decision about a residual force because we thought it was in our interest. president obama has always looked at this issue as fulfilling a campaign promise. he got the answer he wanted, which was zero. the military told him we need some people but he really was intent on ending the war in ir iraq. here's the problem. without a residual force, we've lost everything we've fought for. when we met with barzani, allawi and malaki, i was convinced they were willing to accept an american follow-on force. we just had to put it on a table in a way that mattered. when we were talking to prime minister malaki, he said, well, senator graham, how much -- how many troops are you talking about? i turned to general austin and our then-ambassador jeffries, and said, well, how many? he says, we're still working on that. we went from 18,000 recommended by general austin, the last time
i got a number from the white house, it was below 3,000. this cascading downward from 18,000 to below 3,000 was not because the iraqis said that's too many. it's the white house couldn't pick a number because they didn't want to stay. it's about as accurate to say that the iraqis didn't want us to stay as it is to say the president never called isis the j.v. team. he did. he's trying to rewrite that statement because it looks pretty naive. look forward. let's beat on the republicans for a minute here. the republican party, the party of ronald reagan, embraced sequestration. and to those who don't know what i'm talking about, it is a budget proposal that will gut our military over the next decade, to have the smallest army since 1940, the smallest navy since 1915, the smallest air force in modern history. republicans embraced that
concept. if you want to defeat isil, you better change sequestration because we're about to gut the military at the time we need it the most. there's plenty of blame to go around here. here is the key for me. we as a nation have one last chance to get this right. i will make the same offer to president obama that i made to president bush. if you come up with a strategy that makes sense and you're understanding and you're learning from your miss stacks, as i try to learn from mine, i will with there with you. there was not much help coming from our friends on the other side when iraq went bad. bush got absolutely no support when his mistakes came back to haunt him. i will not make that mistake. the mistakes that president obama made are real, and they have to be corrected. if you will correct them, i will stand with you ... no matter what the polls show wha about the troops on the ground.
and i know how you stand with south carolinians, not very well. but not about you or about us. so if you will destroy sile and mean it, you'll have an ally in senator mccain and senator graham. i yield. the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: i ask unanimous consent that i speak for three minutes followed by senator merkley for -- how many minutes? -- eight minutes, followed by senator -- anand, senator vitter, shall i d to you that list? and filed by senator vitter for -- how many minutes, senator? -- ten minutes. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, please proceed. mrs. boxer: madam president, i watched every word of the president's address to the nation last night, and i have to say to him, thank you for your clarity, thank you for taking
the time you needed to put the pieces together so that we don't march into another iraq war. when i hear my colleagues, who are th cheerleaders for that wa, who told us that war would be over in iraq in six months, come down here and try to lecture in president on how to deal with isil, i get the chills. when i watch dick cheney come up here to talk to house republicans and lecture them about house, you know, they had it right ... had it right? they couldn't have had it more wrong. because what happened is, we know 9/11 -- and as we revere the heroes and we mourn the loss of those from that horrific day, it was osama bin laden and al qaeda. it wasn't iraq and saddam hussein. so our then-president bush turned around.
he could have had the whole world in his hands. instead, he marches into iraq -- thank the lord i voted "no" on that. i voted "yes" to go after bin laden and "no" to go into iraq. and all those sunny provisions of six months and we'll get the oil and the money and the rest ... the worst foreign policy disaster and these same people who backed that come down heard and tell the president, look me in the eye and tell me you want toto do exactly what i want to . well, mr. president, since they addressed you, i want to address you. i thank you for putting together a winning strategy to defeat isil. we have to. we cannot sit by and watch a group with tensions of thousands of -- with tens of thousands of members, vicious, trained, some foreign, some even from this country who go around -- i ask for one more minute. who go around and convert people
who won't convert. -- and kill people who won't convert. we have to stop them with the world, with combat boots that are combat boots of those in the region. like we're seeing in iraq and we will see in syria if we give the president the funds he wants to train the moderate syrians. so here's the deal for me: we're going to go after isil, we're going to do it with a coalition of the world, we're not going to have a drumbeat of going back into the iraq war. this is a counterterrorism mission. and i voted for that when i voted to go after osama bin laden. and i believe the president has this authority. i also have no problem with voting to put might feelings right there and mark that checkbox. but, madam president, beware of the people here who are the cheerleaders of the iraq war who want to get this president to
now say he's going to put combat boots on the ground. that is the wrong recipe. we learned it. 4,000 dead americans, tens of thousands wounded. let's do this the right way, the way the president laid out, with a coalition and not make any of the same mistakes. so, mr. president, please keep on the a simple track. you're keeping on senator kerry. we already have nine nations and nato and the arab league. we're going to get the u.n. that's the way to go. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor to senator merkley. the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: i rise to call atten to an -- to call attention to an issue affecting millions of families across america. that is the rising school debt and the impact it's having for every single american. as college stiewfnltses return to campus, they're thinking about their hopes and treems for
the future. but increasingly they're also thinking about how the future might be constrained by the debt load they will carry by the time they graduate. education is the key to the pathway for the american dream. when i was young, my father took me to the schoolhouse doors and he said, son, if you go through those doors and you work hard, you can do just about anything here in america. now, my father was a mechanic that keeps a sawmill operating. and the vision that he had for america and the vision that i had for america is that every child should have the opportunity to thrive, whether you are the son or daughter of a c.e.o. or you're the son or daughter of a mill wright. but the cost of college and the consequential student loan debt
is diminishing, degrading and destroying that vision. i was the first in my family to go to college. i never dreamed i'd have the chance to end up in this esteemed chamber fighting for the vision of the american dream. but flute m throughout my servie senate, that's exactly what i will do. it is the heart of what our nation is about. it is the "we the people" vision, not the few and power vision, but the "we, the people" vision of our constitution that everyone should have the opportunity to thrive. now, we are competing today in a national economy and a world economy that is much more knowledge-based. it is a global international --l knowledge economy and we have to be able to compete. that means a path to college. but for too many young folks today, the doors to the college
are looking a little less like doors to opportunity and a little more like trapped doors. they see those doors and they're not sure they see opportunity and mobility. they're concerned they see a lifetime of unaffordable and unescapable debt. i live in a blue-collar community and i hear this all the time, parents wrestling with whether their students should incur the debt necessary to go to college, knowing that that debt might be the size of a home mortgage and will be hung around their neck like a millstone and that possibly their monthly wages won't even be enough to pay the loan payments. that prospect of high levels of debt and low levels of pay has parents sending a different message to their children, not the message my parents gave to me. the message that everyone has the opportunity to thrive in america, even from our blue-collar community. they're sending the message to their kids that the path of
opportunity is being diminished by the enormous debt load and cost of college. this situation, it's unacceptable. it's a threat to the future of our chin. it's certainly a threat to our economy. the economies that thrive in the world are going to be the ones where the students have the ability to compete with a thriving economy. and it is destroying the aspirational vision of america, the american dream. so there is a lot we can do to take on this challenge. we are not helpingless in this. we must control the galloping costs of tuition. we need to invest more in our community colleges, the most cost-effective portion of the high education system. we need to enhance the bridges between our higher education community colleges and four-year colleges and our high schools. we need to make sure that students have the opportunity to get some college credit in high
school through a.p. classes and that gives them a step up in their route to college. they can see that vision and that path. and we should explore new models of financing, like the pay-it-forward model that would he would the fears that students have of being trapped between high debt and low pay. but when pell grants are not enough, when the job you carry at college is not enough, when tuition is too high and students of modest means still need loans, then those loans should be at the minimum possible interest rate. loans should never be viewed, as they have been by my colleagues across the aisle, as a source of profit to the u.s. government. that vision is the wrong vision for america. it's why i so strongly support senator warren's proposal that our students should get the same
low interest rate on their student loans that our big banks get when they borrow money from the federal reserve. and, moreover, we should enable every american to refinance their student loans, taking advantage of today's low interest rates. in my home state of oregon, there are 500,000 folks with student loarntion many o loans,t high interest rates. these students would benefit enormously from being able to refinance, just as you can refinance a mortgage or you can refinance a car. they should be able to refinance those loans. and not only would that help those individuals a lot -- and 500,000 people in a state of about 3.7 million is a lot of people -- but the additional purchasing power they would have would enable them to contribute to the economy and raise everyone up, more likely t to by a house, for example. did you know that for the first time we have a situation where
those young adults -- 25-30 who have gone to college and graduated -- are less likely to own a home than high school graduates. the reason why is simple. they are burdened by massive student debt that doesn't give them the credit standing or income necessary to buy a home. that shows how much is wrong. so those individuals on this floor who are trapped in the few and powerful vision of america and have forgotten the first three words of the constitution, that we're fighting to enable every child to thrive, need to rethink their position, need to quit blocking the bill that would allow every student to refinance their student loan. 040% of graduates with -- 40% of graduates with student loans have delayed may being a major purchase like a car, 25% have put off continuing their education or have moved in with relatives to save money.
this is extraordinarily real. it is having a drarnlings dramatic impact. -- it is having a dramatic, dramatic impact. so, madam president, let us give a fair shot for every child to thrive. let us let every parent say to their children with confidence, if you go through the doors of the schoolhouse and you work hard, you can do just about anything here in america. thank you, madam president. mr. vitter: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. vitter: thank you, madam president. here on the floor we have a significant proposal, a proposed constitutional amendment to rewrite the first amendment to the constitution, the first portion of the bill of rights. and it would fundamentally alter and take away certain free speech rights of millions upon millions of americans -- not a few, not a few ultra-wealthy,
many, many americans. i have a real problem with that. i think it's misguided. arntiondz and, instead, you think we should focus on other proposals, other provisions that can address what we all see and feel and hear from our constituents, the huge gap they see between washington and the real world, washington and main street u.s.a. it's also unfortunate, madam president, that this i believe is the first time in u.s. senate history that we're debating a constitutional amendment on the floor of the senate with no opportunity so far -- zero opportunity of floor amendments. unheard of. and that's unfortunate. and that's why i bring up two proposed floor amendments that i would strongly, strongly support that go to that real problem in america of washington placing
itself up here, separate and apart, higher than the american people in the real world. the first idea was a floor amendment offered by my colleague tom coburn of oklahoma. i strongly support it. i have the leading bill regarding this proposal in the senate: term limits. term limits for members of congress. i believe this is a significant step, but it's one, fortunately, necessary and long overdue because of the separation i've described between washington and the real world. americans of all political parties, all background, all races think that washington's on a different planet. and members of congress just don't get it because they come up here and go to washington. we need to get back to the best traditions of our democracy which include having true
citizen legislators to come here to serve, to represent their constituents. yes, but for a limited period of time, knowing absolutely they're returning home after a significant but limited service. i strongly support senator coburn's amendment. i strongly support the same provisions in my stand-alone bill. and i urge senator reid to again open up the floor of the senate. let's have the process the founders intended. don't be the first u.s. senate leader in history to shut down all amendments under a constitutional amendment under debate on the floor. the second proposal which is a floor amendment i have at the desk also goes to this same concern of washington living on a different planet than real-world america.
and it has to do with what i call the washington exemption from obama. in the obamacare statute, we actually passed through an amendment on the floor, through being able to pass a floor amendment, language that says every member of congress, all of our staff should be treated like all other americans who are forced to go to the so-called exchanges. we will go to the exchanges for our health care. no special deal, no special exemption, no special subsidy, no special carveout. unfortunately, after that floor amendment passed, after the overall bill passed, i guess some folks took nancy pelosi's advice -- we have to pass the bill in order to read it. so after the fact some folks around here started to read it, and they got to that provision and said oh you know what. how are we going to deal with this? and so a furious lobbying
campaign began which resulted in president obama issuing an executive order, a special rule clearly illegal in my opinion because it is contrary to the statute, to create special treatment, a special carveout, a special subsidy for members of congress and our staff. that's not right, and we should live by that original language passed right here on the senate floor in the floor amendment. we should say the first rule of american democracy should be that what washington passes on america, it lives with itself. and we should treat ourselves the same way as we treat other americans who have to go to the exchanges under obamacare. that should be the first rule of american democracy. what we pass for america we live with ourselves. tblaws' the right thing to do.
that's the right principle. also for a very practical reason. because, you know, sometimes the chefs in the kitchen should eat their own cooking, because sometimes that makes the cooking get a whole lot better. it's a very practical rule to follow. so, madam president, i urge support for this proposal, and i urge an open amendment process and a real debate which, fortunately, heretofore has been completely shut down. and i urge consideration of this amendment. i urge us to place ourselves along with everyday americans in how we're treated under obamacare and everything else. and i urge full debate and consideration of the measure and then passage of it. so, madam president, to further that, i ask unanimous consent that when the senate resume consideration of s.j. res. 19 that it be in order for my
amendment number 3786 to be called up. the presiding officer: is there objection? a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. murphy: reserving the right to object. the senators heard the reasons for these objections before, but the fact is that staff working here in the senate are covered by the exact same plan that is offered under the exchange to millions of americans. it works just like it's always worked before for employees here in the united states senate and, frankly, for millions of employees in the private sector. senate employees, house employees pay their premiums and the employer picks up their employer share. no different than it's always been before. specifically, the law doesn't allow for any employees mere to take advantage of the tax credits that are available to many other americans. and this is, of course, just another attempt to undermine the law that is by every available metric working.
the uninsurance rate in this country is plummeting. health care -- mr. vitter: madam president, reclaiming the floor because i think there is objection. i'd like to reclaim the floor and state my objection -- must have been must have -- musr that reason i object. mr. vitter: madam president, reclaiming the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. vitter: that is flat-out not true. no other american is getting the huge subsidy that members of congress. i'm not accepting it but that members of congress of getting it. no other american gets that deal and that was nowhere mentioned and nowhere included in the amendment we passed on this
topic during the obamacare debate. so what the gentleman says is just flat-out misleading. if he wants us truly to be treated like other americans under exchange, absolutely, that's what i'm asking for. but don't pretend the present practice does that. it does exactly the opposite. and the american people are sick and tired of it. the american people are tired of being put down as second class and washington lifting thesms -- themselves up above thing. that is the fundamental thing wrong with america democracy today. that is what my amendment goes to regarding treatment under obamacare. that is what senator coburn's amendment goes to with regard to term limits for members of congress. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor.
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. lee: madam president, september 11 should always be a day when we both remember those who were tragically lost on this day in 2001 and simultaneously reaffirm our solemn resolve as a country to keep america free and to keep america strong. madam president, i rise today for a third time in opposition to senate joint resolution 19. the majority's orwellian attempt to amend the bill of rights to permit the government to decide who is allowed to speak about political matters. this, make no mistake, is an attack on the first amendment's
single-most important protection under our constitution, the government never gets to be the arbiter of permissible political debate. never, not ever. that's something that we just decided that we finally resolved back in 1791. of all the things the government might do, it should never, it may never, it can never be the arbiter of what constitutes permissible political speech, of who gets to criticize the government and how. that can never happen, not in our land, not in this free land. not ever. and yet, under this proposed constitutional amendment, the one that is being debated on the floor of the senate right now, senate joint resolution 19, congress and the states would be given the power not just to become this kind of arbiter, not just to regulate this kind of
speech, but to potentially, to prohibit churches, civic associations, labor unions and even the aclu from speaking about political matters. that is a shocking proposal repugnant to our traditions, dangerous to our liberty and utterly ineffective in combatting corruption. but what is even more shocking, quite frankly, is the manner in which an amendment to our constitution has been debated on the floor of the united states senate this week. now, we have to remember, madam president, that our founding fathers painstakingly debated and discussed and crafted the text of the constitution in philadelphia for nearly four months. and what we know today as the bill of rights was not even in
james madison's first draft, the first congress extensively debated it, eliminated objectionable parts, changed the language to better reflect congress's consensus and ultimately passed it and sent it out to the states for ratification. what we've seen this week by contrast is nothing like that. the majority leader has refused to permit any amendments from being introduced or considered or voted upon by this body, any amendments to senate joint resolution 19. its language is not up for discussion, nor in truth is it really up for debate. in fact, ironically many of the same people who have signed their names to this legislation, who have cosponsored it, who have supported it, have refused to even come down to the floor to speak about it.
smskt, some of those same people have been openly critical of the fact that the senate is devoting time to debating this constitutional amendment, which would be the first time that we've ever made a change to the first amendment or the bill of rights since 1791. the american people should be offended that the majority thinks that this is how it changes to the united states constitution should be discussed by the people's elected representatives in washington. but watching the senate this week has been a useful lesson. the majority says congress can be trusted somehow to impose -- quote, unquote -- reasonable limits, reasonable restrictions an political debate, on core political activity. look no further than this debate occurring on the floor of this legislative body to see what the majority thinks reasonable debate looks like.
what it looks like here is a take-it-or-leave-it vote with no opportunity to provide amendments, no opportunity for discussion about the intricate details of this proposal, and very, very little discussion. one of the reasons why i find this so distressing in this particular circumstance is that we're talking here about what it is that enables the american people to remain in charge of their own form of government, of their own system of laws that affects their livelihood, will affect their day-to-day operations. when you tinker with the processes that allow the american people to remain in control of their own government, you're playing with fire. so under this proposed amendment, if it were somehow to pass by a two-thirds supermajority out of this body, if it were to somehow pass by a two-thirds supermajority out of
the house of representatives, and if it were somehow to be ratified by three-fourths of the states, and if it were to become, say, the 28th amendment to the u.s. constitution, it would dramatically change the balance of power, not between america's two leading political parties, not between one state versus another state, but between washington, d.c., and the american people. under this amendment, if it were to become part of the u.s. constitution, congress would have the power to set up a system of rules that would restrict many americans in their ability to influence the political debate process. under this proposed amendment -- there is, of course, a carve-out, a carve-out that says it's there to protect freedom of the press. so presumably someone who owns a newspaper could still devote a lot of money -- thousands of
dollars, tens of thousands of dollars, maybe millions, or even tens of millions of dollars to promoting the candidate of her choice; that is, if she's fortunate enough to own a newspaper company. but if the owner of a newspaper company could do that, why not swhown chooses nosomeone who cha newspaper company or someone who wants to contract with a newspaper to run a political advertisement? why should they be limited on the basis of whether or not she owns a newspaper company? she shouldn't. nor should the american people be prohibited from entering into voluntary associations. most americans aren't wealthy enough to own a newspaper company or a radiobroadcasting company or a television broadcasting company. but many americans, let's say
thousands or tens of thousands at a time, could pool their resources, each of them contributing what money they choose to devote to political debate and discussion in order to promote the keands o candidaf their choice. why should they lack that opportunity, the same opportunity that the owner of a newspaper company has, simply because they can't afford to owner a newspaper company or a broadcast company? the fact is, they should not. the fact is, madam president, that there are many unanswered questions about this proposed constitutional amendment, but all of those questions relate back to how we debate things. and if the manner in which this proposed constitutional amendment is any indication about what this constitutional amendment would do to debate in american society, it signals caution, it signals to us that a chill wind blows if this is the direction in which we're looking. you see, when the power of
government expands, it does so at the expense of individual freedom. when the power of government expands within the area of political speech, that is perhaps where the danger is at its greatest. that is perhaps where it comes at the greatest cost to the individual liberties of americans, because that affects not just the liberties but also their ability to control their own liberties in the future. because if they lack the capacity to decide who's here in washington representing them, making decisions that will dictate the future of their government, then they lack the ability to make those changes. that's where the threat to liberty is at its greatest. that's why we should be so concerned about senate joint resolution 19. it's important for us to remember, madam president, that we are great as americans, not because of who we are but because of what we do. we've set in motion a sequence of events.
we have adopted a constitution, a rule book that has itself fostered the development of the greatest civilization and the strongest economy the world has ever known. this isn't because we're great so much as it is because we've made good choices, we've made good choices that delineate the proper boundaries of government. we decide what bloption to the e decided what belongs to the people and what belongs to the government. and where there are appropriate actions taken with regard to the government, there are rules deciding which government may do which thing. this transgresses those boundaries. this would undertake a critical breach into that realm which distinctively, unavoidably belongs to the people and not to the government. speech is a sacred thing. freedom of the press is a sacred thing. we must never allow them to be
trifled with. we must never allow them to be tampered, we must never allow them to be weakened. this, madam president, would weaken them. this, madam president, is what the majority would have political debate in america look like. here we are moments before casting a critical vote on a constitutional amendment that could forever change the political dynamics of this country that have made us strong, and yet i find myself speaking to an empty chamber. the american people deserve better. the american people can expect more out of their government. the american people can expect freedom. this is incompatible with freedom. and so, madam president, i would encourage each of my colleagues to oppose senate joint resolution 19, just as they would oppose any other effort to intrude on the sacred right of
the american people to express their political views, whether they be republicans or democrats or belong to some other political party, whether they be liberals or conservatives or whether they would describe their political ideology in some other way. this is an issue that is simply an american issue, an issue that is simply about freedom. the american people today will choose freedom, and i hope and i pray that they always will. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor, and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: madam president, we've had a number of discussions on this floor on different things, and i know on the upcoming vote i think we all know how we'd vote. i just want to put my -- first
i'd ask consent to put a full statement in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: i want to commend senators coons and durbin and menendez and others who have introduced s. 5401. i am a cosponsor of that. it's on the ebola epidemic which poses a potential devastating threat to africa and people everywhere. before the august recess, we were preparing to receive dozens of african heads of state here in washington. at that time, doctors without borders and other nongovernmental organizations had been ringing alarm bells for weeks about the worsening ebola outbreak in west africa. but the world health organization and governments, including our own, were slow to respond to what was viewed as a manageable, localized public
health problem rather than a crisis that could spin out of control. well, no longer controllable. infections and deaths in liberia and sierra leone are increasing rapidly, potentially into neighboring guinea. but official reports are only a piece of the picture. the ability of these countries to locate and diagnose and isolate and treat patients and trace and monitor contexts and safely bury the dead can't possibly keep pace. while the epidemic is finally receiving the attention it deserves, it is spiraling out of control. huge numbers of the cases are overwhelming local capacity to isolate and treat patients or trace their context or safely bury the dead. unless we have aggressive,
coordinated actions taken immediately you there will soon be tens of thousands of cases. of course, then the disease spreads into much of africa and becomes an ongoing global threat for many years to come. just as when you have a raging wildfire, you deploy all available resources to provide immediate support. well, that's what we should be doing now for those on the front lines. congress has a role to play. i hope as additional funds are needed we're going to act responsibly and provide them. this is not a partisan or political issue. it is a public health issue. it is a moral issue. it is one that should unite all of us in the united states to do what's necessary to defeat this terrible disease. these are times when we're called upon to seek our moral
core as a country. we should do it here. we'll be debating in the coming weeks military actions around the world -- in one area in particular -- and the tens of billions of dhars that will cost. let's -- of dollars that will cost. let's also talk about helping people. that's one of the things that should unite all americans. madam president, i ask consent my full statement be made part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
quorum call: a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from kentucky. mr. paul: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. 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 debate on s.j. res. 19, the joint resolution proposing an amendment to the constitution of the united states relating to contributions and expenditures intended to
affect elections. 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 debate on s.j. res. 19, the joint resolution proposing an amendment to the constitution of the united states relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections, shall be brought to a close? the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote: