tv U.S. Senate CSPAN November 17, 2014 2:00pm-6:01pm EST
next three and a half hours or so, votes at 5:30 eastern including reauthorization of childcare block grants to help low income families afford childcare, and votes to advance three judicial nominations for district courts in georgia. tomorrow the senate's expected to take a vote on its version of a bill approving construction of the keystone xl pipeline. live now to the floor of the senate. o order, and the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal spirit, we praise you for being with us this day, for you have embraced our nation as a prized possession, providing us for protection when we need it most. sustain our lawmakers as they
seek to do your will. empower them to see you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly this day and always. may they look to you for guidance, claiming your promise to direct their steps. in challenging times, give them the wisdom to lift their eyes to you to receive your grace and mercy. most holy god, thank you for your love and faithfulness. we pray in your great name.
amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of 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. mr. reid: mr. president? the president pro tempore: the majority leader. mr. reid: following my remarks and those of the republican leader the senate will be in morning business until 5:30 today. during that period of time the senate can speak for up to ten minutes each. the senate will proceed to four roll call votes in relation to the child-care block grant bill and on the abrams, ross and cohen nominations. mr. president?
mr. president, in the great play fiddler on the roof, it was said, among other things -- quote -- "good news will stay and bad news will refuse to leave. that's what was said. and here in washington, we all too often focus on the bad news that lingers instead of highlighting any good things that are being accomplished. obamacare is a perfect example. the affordable care act is working. americans who enrolled in health plans through the affordable care act are happy with their coverage. mr. president, there is a good article in newspapers all over the country today, including that in "the washington post," which i saw. and in this article, there is a citation of a recent gallup survey of americans who have coverage through obamacare. the findings are very positive, and that's a gross understatement. 74% of obamacare enrollees rate
their coverage as good or excellent. 75% say they're satisfied with the cost of their plans. mr. president, i repeat that. 74% of obamacare enrollees rate their coverage as good or explents -- excellent and 75% say they are satisfied with the cost of their plans. good news to me. the affordable care act is working for the american people. it is providing quality aforeperson health -- affordablh care for families across our country. mr. president, the senate has a lot of work to do before this congress comes to a close, the 113th. there are a few important priorities in this work period. we have to pass an extension of tax credits for american families and businesses. we have to pass the defense authorization bill. and the presiding officer, the president pro tempore of the senate, is concerned about extending fisa legislation, the
americans freedom act. it is so important we do these things. but also we have to fund our government. that has to be done very soon because early next month the funding expires. we have lots of nominations that have not been completed. almost 200 have been held up by my republican colleagues. john kerry called me, the secretary of state, said he had almost 100 himself. that's a little exaggeration. he had 60-something. i don't remember the exact number. but we must keep our government funded. i've been having productive bipartisan conversations with speaker boehner, the republican leader, and appropriations chair senator mikulski. it is clear to me that republican leaders want to work together to keep the government funded. we've heard there are going to
be no government shutdowns from the leaders, but members of their caucuses are really saying some very scary things. so the question is whether the republican leaders will be able to stand up to the radical forces within their own party. it is more than just one or two people, mr. president. it's a large number of members of the republican caucus over here and of course the republican caucus in the house. can these republican leaders stand up to these people who are intent on holding our government hostage? there's been a lot of talk in the last three or four days. so we have a government shutdown. so what? it's become increasingly clear these last few days that a number of republicans are looking for an example to use to get their ideas, that are somewhat bizarre in the minds of some people, ideas.
they are using a number of different things as an excuse. executive action. the president is not doing enough on making sure that the iranians are held down tightly. and on and on; all the stuff that they have is an excuse to derail bipartisan legislation on the part of our government. sadly, though, mr. president, we've seen this before. the government has been shut down. the government's debt has been defaulted upon. so how is it possible there's even talk of not funding our government again by anybody? but that's what they're doing. two weeks ago the american people sent us a very strong message. work together. and in the press conference that followed this month's midterm elections republicans were saying all the right things about compromise and bipartisanship. instead of looking to compromise, some of these republicans are more interested in threats and ultimatums. and why? because these radical republicans object to president obama using his constitutionally
established authority to do what president ronald reagan and george -- both bushes have done. fix as much of the system as he can to protect families suffering under the broken immigration system. mr. president, going back to dwight d. eisenhower, every president since then has used executive authority to fix america's immigration system. every president. republicans and democrats. for republicans to take issue with president obama for doing this same thing is hypocritical. mr. president, why didn't they complain when the bushes, the two bush presidents did things administratively? why? so i hope republicans in congress will reject this brinkmanship, a scorched earth policy is no way to govern. instead responsible leaders within the republican party need to work with us to complete the business of funding our government rarlts -- regardless of when the president acts to keep families together.
mr. leahy: mr. president, will the distinguished majority leader yield? the presiding officer: will the majority leader yield? the floor is yours. mr. leahy: mr. president, in the years i've served here, i've never seen a time when so many noncontroversial nominations are being held up, whether we've had a republican or democratic president. and i note for the majority leader, we have on the calendar 18 nominees for federal judgeships that passed unanimously. every republican, every democrat in the judiciary committee voting for them. many of them recommended by republican senators, and four of them, four judicial emergencies. now, and the oldest one has been
pending since june, having gone through the committee unanimously. mr. president, this is not being responsible to the american people. the distinguished majority leader talked about the use of executive orders. concerns have been expressed by the other side about executive orders on immigration. i would remind everybody that this body, by a two to one margin, republicans and democrats joined together last year, passed a comprehensive immigration bill which covered everything from guarding the tbroardz -- borders to those who are already here in this country. the republican leadership in the house has refused to take it up. they complain about the president a year and a half later during all this time waiting for action to take up
the bill that passed with republican and democratic votes here. they refused to take it up, and yet they complain if the president is going to do something. i say bring it up and vote "yes" or vote "no" stop this we'll vote maybe. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: to the president pro tempore of the senate, if the speaker of the house of representatives, john boehner, brought up the bill that passed here in the senate, if he brought it up, it would pass overwhelmingly in the house. virtually every democrat would vote for it. and i would suggest half the republicans would vote for it. he won't allow a vote. what is this about? what is this about? i just -- it's beyond my ability to comprehend how they are willing to do everything they can to stop this president from doing what presidents have done since dwight eisenhower. i would also say this,
mr. president. we've gotten some judges done. it's because we changed the rules to do the outlandish thing of having a majority of the senate determine whether someone should be confirmed. mr. president, if you look at the constitution of the united states, the people that drafted that constitution were very smart. we know that a number of them were geniuses, and they were very, very precise in what they wanted to have supermajority votes on. and judges, they didn't want supermajority votes. a simple majority of this body. and that's what we did in changing the rules. but i say to my friend, in spite of that, we've been able to get a lot of judges done. we're going to wind up by the time the judiciary committee continues to do the good work
that they do, we'll probably have over 20 judges that need to be approved in this congress. now, postcloture under the rules we have, there's only an hour time that can be used. so we get through the judges quickly. for subcabinet officers, it takes eight hours, of which we're normally willing to yield back our time. so four hours on every one of those. we have scores. we're approaching, counting the judges and all the nominations well over 150 that have been held up. people who have been waiting and waiting and waiting. these are jobs that are needed in our country. these are not new positions we've created. so i would hope that we can get past this bitterness that has been created in this body and get the nominations done. there's no reason that a judge,
a judge to be should have to wait for all this time, as the senator from vermont has indicated, just to get a vote. whatever he's doing now has been put on hold, and this is through the whole government. so i would hope that we can get a lot of these done. if not, we're going to have to spend a lot of time here, because we cannot leave this congress with all these things undone. i hope that we can work together, as i've indicated. mr. president, i want to say one thing while my friend is on the floor. when i came to the senate, i was -- my friend from vermont had already been here a dozen years. i remember -- and i know he will -- a man that had, was secretary of the majority and
the minority who controlled the staff of republicans. you remember howard green, the guy that didn't smoke a cigar. he chewed on it all the time. chewed on the cigar. that is when the rules weren't as strict as they are now about smoking. howard green was so nice to me. he had l a lot of authority for a new senator. for over three decades he was a recognizable person here on the senate floor. in fact, specifically for 28 years he held many positions. he was a doorkeeper. he was a cloakroom assistant. he was secretary both for minority and secretary for the majority. howard finished his distinguished career as sergeant at arms. he retired in 1996. i offer my condolences to howard green's family and his loved ones during this difficult time. i hope they know how grateful we are for howard's many years of service he will be greatly missed and he was very kind and thoughtful to me as a new senator.
and i say to my friend, you do remember howard green, don't you? mr. leahy: i do. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserves. the senate flb a period of morning business until 5:30 p.m. with senators permitted to speak up to ten minutes each with the time equally divided and controlled between the leaders or their designees. mr. leahy: mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask that further proceedings under the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, the quorum call is suspended. mr. mcconnell: i would like to say a word about howard green, whose passing we mourn today. howard was a leading figure here in the senate for many years. i know members from both parties remember his time here with fondness, even though he retired from the senate nearly two decadedecades ago. and i think that says a lot about howard. he began his service here modestly enough, as a doorkeeper right outside this chamber. the year was 1968.
howard was 26. he was a student at the university of maryland. he originally intended to become a history teacher, but over time his ambitions changed, from wanting to teach about history to wanting to help shape it. what a lucky break for the senate. his considerable talents were soon put to work in the republican cloakroom. it was a big promotion. even if howard had to first explain to his mother that working in the cloakroom didn't mean he'd be hanging up people's coats. howard quickly gained the confidence of senators as he rose rapidly through the ranks. his deep institutional knowledge, his strong work ethic, honesty and sense of humor were appreciated by those who worked with him, and his talents were ception for the many who relied upon him. after the reagan landslide of 1980, howard put his institutional knowledge to work as secretary to the new
republican majority. after so many years out of power, it was a challenging task, but he was up to it. all told, howard would serve the institution he loved for more than 28 years, woking under republican leaders like howard baker and bob dole. until stepping down from his final position, sergeant at arms, in 1996. senators from both parties have a lot of nice things to say about him back then. the late-senator from alaska ted stevens said, "it seemed like howard had a crystal ball when this came to counting votes on the one hand predicting outcomes" and praised him for his careful analysis, understanding of the members, and horde work that often made his forecasts correct. senator david pryor from arkansas, a democrat, noted that howard respected and served and answered to not only the senators on the republican side of the aisle but to the members on his side as well. it's clear that this man from
lewis, delaware, had uncommon talent and ability. we are grateful he chose to share it with us for so many years. we honor him for it today. and we send our sincerest condolences to his family in this difficult time. now, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the consideration of s. res. 579 submitted earlier today, further, that the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, the motion to reconsider be laid on the table, with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
mr. burr: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. burr: coy come to the floor today because -- i come to the floor today because in just a little over two hours we're going 0 it take up the child care development block grant act
of 2014. let me explain what that is. the child care development block grant was something we created in 1990 and it was created to provide a tax credit for families to meet their child-care needs of their children. those families that were in risk -- at risk of making a decision that one or both couldn't work because child care had such a tremendous expense with it, but we wanted them as part of the productive part of our economy and society. and i can honestly say this is one of the most successful programs i think that congress has ever produced. it, like every bill, is required to be reauthorized after a certain period of time, and we started in 1995 -- i might add, the year i got here -- and it was reauthorized in 1996. that was the last time this bill was ever reauthorized.
now, l let me point this out. authorization and funding are two different things. these tax credits have existed in the system, but congress has not reauthorized the program. therefore, we haven't changed the program since 1996. i ask my colleagues, stop for a moment and just think about how society has changed since 1996. the world has changed since 1996. things that we took for granted in 1996 we need proof today. things that we didn't worry about in 1996 we worry about them today. well, let me suggest that child care is no different. there's still a need for some type of tax credit for families who are on the bubble, and i dare say child care has gotten incredibly expensive since 1996. but i rise today to congratulate this body because this afternoon in just under two hours we're
going to pass the first real --t reauthorization of the child care development brock grant since 996. and i'll be real honest. it wouldn't be possible if it weren't for my partner in this, barbara mikulski. senator mikulski has been tenacious. she has stood by my side. she's pulled me when i didn't think we should move forward. because, as easy and as common sense as this sounded, it's been really, really difficult to get to this point. this has been a three-year process, so for those that criticize congress, let me assure you, we have touched every base that one can touch. several years ago while we served as chair and ranking member of the subcommittee on children and families, senator mikulski and i promised at that time to address the shortcomings in the cdbg program so that
children could attend child care and their families could expect a healthy setting that fostered their development. now, for years we've heard stories about abuse and neglect in many child-care settings, stories that continue to break my heart and i think break every american's heart. we saw numerous i.g. reports -- inspector general reports -- that documented unsafe conditions where children were neglected and federal tax dollars were misused. let me stop here and say this: that everything that we do in this bill only applies to a child-care facility that accepts cdbg money. they can be a private institution, they can be a faith-based institution, their construction can be a combination of all the above. and if they accept one penny of
cdbg money, they're now required to meet the quality standards and safety standards that we set in this bill. now, in north carolina, that covers practically every child-care facility. but in every state, dhee go to the -- they don't go to the lengths that we go to in north carolina nor that we go to in this piece of legislation. and i hope my completion will go -- and i hope my colleagues will go back to the states that they hail them and suggest things like background checks for workers in a child-care facility is common sense. to say to a parent h's a dropping a young child off whether the federal government ask subsidizing that through a tax credit or not, that parent should feel 100% confident that the worker there is not a convicted felon, that they're not a drug addict, that they have passed the minimal background check that most of us would think is common sense.
now, i might also take the opportunity to stop and say to the president who represents virginia, you might think, gosh, this is a financial burden on all child-care centers. no, this is a $15 investment in the safety of every child that is housed in their facility. so, for a program that in many states represents almost all the funding used for child-care subsidies, barbara and i knew that it was an obligation to act and reauthorize this law so appropriate boundaries were put in place. to have continued to ignore these realities would have allowed federal dollars to keep funding abuse, waste, taxpayers and children disserved of action. since then, between the two of us and our staffs, we have held four help committee hearings.
we have 236 hours of negotiation. we have dozens of meetings with 44 advocacy organizations supporting this legislation. the united states senate had 18 amendments considered and voted on in this institution, the senate, back in march when the legislation passed this body of congress 96-2. that was march. well, we're here today because the house changed the bill a little bit with our blessings and this afternoon we're going to take up passage of the child care development block grant act of 2014. my hope is that this is going to be a unanimous vote by the united states senate.
bringing the help committee together, as the president of the senate knows, is a very difficult thing because of the diverse ideology of the makeup of members on the help committee. so it's no small feat that we've gotten to this point and we've held together the support of people who look at the world a little bit differently than i do, may geographically come from a different area than i do. but i want to publicly say today, i want to thank chairman harkin, ranking member alexander, ranking member enzi before that because if it wasn't for the leadership on the full committee, senator mikulski and i would not have had the opportunity to mark it up in committee, to pass it on the senate floor, to work with the house and now to have a bill back. but as i conclude, let me just say, for the 1.7 million children served nationally by cdbg, and the 80,000 served in my state of north carolina, safe and quality care will now be a
priority, ensuring working parents trying to better their lives and those of their children will feel safe using their federal vouchers. in short, i urge my colleagues to unanimously support this legislation. we've waited way too long, since 1996, to make the commonsense changes that provide safety and quality in the child care that we, the taxpayers, provide for those families on the bubble. i thank the president. notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. cornyn: i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection, the quorum call is suspended. mr. cornyn: mr. president, just a few years ago a prominent democrat firmly and unequivocally rejected the idea that the president of the united states could single-handedly enact an amnesty for millions of immigrants who entered the country without legal authorization. in 2011, for example, this same person reminded us that -- quote -- "there are laws on the books that congress has passed" -- close quote, and that therefore it should not be permissible for the president to -- quote --"suspend deportations through executive order." then in 2013, this same individual noted that granting a unilateral amnesty for adults who came to the united states illegally was -- quote -- "not
an option." because it would amount to -- quote -- "ignoring the law." a few months later this same individual was speaking at an immigration event and interrupted by a heckler. who urged him to stop the deportations by executive fiat. in response, he said -- quote -- "if in fact i could solve all of these problems without passing laws in congress, then i would do so." but we're also a nation of laws, he said. that's part of our tradition. and i close quote with that. and of course you might have guessed who that person was. that was president barack obama at numerous different occasions in the last few years saying he did not have the authority to issue a unilateral executive order granting in effect a right to waive the law with regard to
illegal immigration. i have to say it, that our president has a preteen natural ability to say one thing and then do another. the opposite. now the president is threatening to authorize exactly the type of action he previously said he did not have the authority to order. and he's threatening to do so even after his go it alone approach on immigration and so many other issues were so roundly repudiated in this most recent election on november 4. in other words, he's showing contempt for the constitution, for the voters, and blake anyone who disagrees with him. it's a classic my way or the highway approach. according to press reports, he will act as early as this week
and he will unilaterally grant work permits under what authority, i have no idea, how he can legislate authority to grant work permits from for people who are illegally entered the country, but but he said apparently he's going to try. it's of maneuver we would expect see from if tin pot dictators in banana republics, not from the commander in chief and the chief executive of the world's greatest democracy. apparently the president now thinks that he and i assume by precedent any future president can simply ignore the laws that he finds inconvenient. that if congress hasn't passed a law, that's good enough excuse for me to go it alone and do it my way, go around it, go against the will of congress,
and the american people. this is a dangerous precedent, i hope the president recognizes if after the next election a president of the other party, my party, is elected, won't this be viewed as a precedent that's been established by this president that could be used on everything from taxes to regulation to obamacare, you name it? but that's not how our constitution is written. that's not how the separation of powers doctrine, which is an essential element of our constitution, that's not what it provides. even "the washington post" not known as being a bastion of conservative thought, has said that failing to get his way in congress does not -- quote -- "grant the president license to tear up the constitution."
unfortunately, the president has shown that he has very little patience with constitutional safeguards. especially when they hamper his agenda or complicate his political needs. after all, this is the same president who has unilaterally rewritten obamacare by granting extensions, waivers, and the like, who has unilaterally gutted welfare reform and blatantly -- made blatantly unconstitutional appointments to the federal bureaucracy and to the federal judiciary, only to be corrected by the courts. for that matter, the president has already made a number of unilateral changes in u.s. immigration policy with disastrous results. we have seen literally thousands of convicted criminals released from u.s. custody, including
those with violent records, and, of course, it wasn't that long ago we had seen what had been called a humanitarian crisis unfold along the southern border in my state. as tens of thousands of central american children made a treacherous journey in order to cross illegally into the united states and take advantage of a loophole in a 2008 law that we tried to correct but couldn't even get a vote on it here in the united states senate. at the height of the crisis, in early june "the new york times" told the story of a 13-year-old honduran boy who was detained in mexico trying to reach the u.s. border and his story was pretty typical of what you heard from many people, the department of homeland security conducted interviews what with many of the immigrants who came across at that time. he said -- quote -- "like so many others across central america, -- excuse me, the
"times" reported like so many others across central america this boy -- quote --"said his mother believed the obama administration had quietly changed its policy with regard to unaccompanied minors and that if he made it across, we have a better shot at staying." in other words, the impression that we're not going to enforce our law is itself a magnet. i have no idea what -- how this unilateral action by the president will be interpreted, granting legal status presumably to millions of people by a swipe of his pen. will that be viewed as a green light for people who want to come here from all around the world saying, well, if i can just get to the united states, president obama will let me stay, too? about a week later "the washington post" confirmed that the influx of unaccompanied central american children is -- quote -- "being driven in large
part by the perception that they'll be allowed to stay under the obama administration's immigration policies." i mention these stories, madam president, because they highlight the all-too-predictable consequences of failing to enforce the law. so much of the law enforcement is the deterrent value. in other words, stopping people from breaking the law in the first instance, not just catching them after they actually break it. and sending the message that get here if you can and might, too, be one of the ones to win the lucky immigration lottery and get to stay in the united states is a huge magnet for illegal immigration and undermines, indeed, guts the deterrent value of enforcing the law. and for what? the president's reportedly -- unless he are rethinks this misguided strategy -- will
provide some form of temporary relief that will not even be able to be implemented before he leaves office in two years. with uncertainty for these immigrants and their families as to what's going to happen beyond and how he's drawing the line is beyond me. i read that apparently the reports that have been troubled out in the press and, of course, this town is famous for intentional leaks to sort of issue trial balloons to see how are people going to react to this. if the trial balloons are correct, the stories are correct, the president's order will cover roughly 40% of the people here in violence of our immigration laws, 40%. so why did he decide to stop at 40%? and do 60% or 80% or 100%? and what about the people who have been waiting patiently in line complying with our immigration laws to have these
millions of other people jump right ahead of them and be given some form of legal status? it's just not fair to them, and it certainly doesn't encourage people's compliance with the rules or the law. and then have you to look at who benefits the most and i'm not talking about the immigrants. i'm talking about the criminal organizations for whom this is part of how they operate and their business model. such criminal organizations would be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the president's executive order which would make it even harder for our friends in mexico to reduce violence and uphold the rule of law. it would just be like a pipeline of additional money and resources into the cartels and the cartels don't care whether they traffic in children,
whether they traffic in drugs, or weapons, this is how they make money. that's why they exist. that's what they do. and this ill advised action by the president will do nothing but ensure that a pipeline of money will continue to flow into these criminal organizations. time magazines has reported that cartels control most of mexico's smuggling networks through which victims are moved, while they also make -- take money from pimps and brothels operating in their territories. and yet again, president obama just doesn't seem to care. he also doesn't seem to care that his executive action would harm our opportunity to reform our broken legal immigration system. republicans and democrats alike have ideas for how to reform our
immigration system, and many of them have bipartisan support. we do know that a comprehensive bill, we've tried to pass one of those for ten years and ain't worked so it makes sense to me to break it down into smaller pieces and try to build consensus for those and get them across the floor of the house and the senate and on the president's desk. even in a very controversial subject, on a controversial subject like immigration. yet the president has now appeared to decide to trample the normal legislative process and to do immigration policy by fiat. what about the 60% who won't be covered by his executive order? they don't get any relief under his executive order. they're going to need to look to congress to know what the rules are. so in the president's desperate attempt to placate some very
vocal activist groups and to make up for years of hollow promises, he's decided to flout the rule of law and end up making real immigration reform that much harder to pass. i saw congressman from south carolina, trey gowdy who said in the first two years the president had 60 democrats in the senate and controlled the house of representatives. if immigration reform was such a priority for the president why didn't dough snap -- he do that? well, don't just take my word for it that this will make our jobs much more difficult. the junior senator from maine, an independent, but a member of the democratic caucus said of the president's executive amnesty he said i think it will
create a backlash in the country that could actually set the cause back and inflame our politics in a way that i don't think will be conducive to solving the problem. as i mentioned a moment ago, the results of this anticipated action are all too predictable. so i would ask the president why in the world would you want to encourage children to make one of the most dangerous journeys from central america through mexico and the subject of the tender mercies of these cartels who care nothing about them? why on earth would you want to establish yet another big incentive for people to enter our country illegally? and why on earth would you want to help contribute to yet another humanitarian crisis on the texas-mexico border? i would urge the president in the strongest of terms to
respect the rule of law and the democratic process and to give the new congress that will convene in january a chance to do our job. i don't underestimate the difficulty of dealing with our broken immigration system, but i don't think we have a choice. we do not have a choice. we must. and it won't be something i like 100%, and it won't be something any senator or congressman likes 100%, but that shouldn't cause us to shrink from our duty. that the president is actually interested in having his last two years of office more productive than simply a lame-duck session for his last two years in office, he needs to work with the congress rather than to go around the congress. and i'd urge him to put his constitution ahead of his campaign promises, and i'd ask him to consider the likely human
the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. ms. mikulski: madam president, i ask that the call of the quorum be vacated. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. mikulski: madam president, pryor pryor. what is the pending business? -- madam president, parliamentary inquiry. what is the pending business? the presiding officer: the senate is in morning business. ms. mikulski: thank you, madam president. i wish to speak on a legislative matter on which we will be voting later on this evening.
i yield myself ten minutes. the presiding officer: the senator is recognized. ms. mikulski: thank you, madam president. i'm here to say that -- i want to say that in a few minutes, we will be voting on the child care and development block grant reauthorization bill. i'm here to urge my colleagues to vote for final passage. this bill. >> thord by myself -- this bill is authored by myself working shoulder to shoulder with senator richard burr of north carolina under our chair and ranking member senators harkin and alexander. in this bill we've shown we can work together to get things done. we've worked across the aisle and across the dome with our counterparts in the house. madam president, today we have an opportunity to pass a bill that will actually help american families with one of the biggest
challenges they face: affordable child care. everywhere i go in maryland, i hear young mothers and not-so-young mothers and grandmothers and actually dads saying we need child care that is affordable, accessible, reliable and safe. this child care development block grant will meet those compelling human needs. but it focuses on families of modest needs. parents who want to work or get ready for work by going to school but can't afford child care. i'm going to talk, take a second to talk about the process and where we stand. this is a bipartisan bill. it is the result of more than two years of work, three hearings on the help committee, hundreds of meetings of stakeholders. the house unanimously passed the bill, and last week the senate voted 96-1 on a cloture vote.
it's time now to take the bill over the finish line and vote tonight. this bill began in 1990 when we created the child-care program as part of our first step towards welfare reform. eligible families receive vouchers to pay for child care of their choice, whether it's a large day care center, a small in-home day care center or faith-based. this program is important. child care -- because child care for parents is significantly expensive. child care is the highest household expenses faced by dual-income families. the average child care for two children is about $15,000 a year. in some places that's tuition at a prep school. $15,000 a year.
$20,000 a year. it's expensive whether you are a two-parent household or a single-parent household. and for middle-class families, it's really tough. and for those earning the minimum wage it is out of reach. the costs keep increasing. last year the cost of child care grew eight times faster than the average family income. it's not that child care only increased, but of course you and i believe family income has been stagnant for eight years, so we've got to do something about raising the income as well as raising child care standards and the ability to provide child care. the child care is important because it helps people in my own state, this bill will give parents the kind of child care vouchers needed, helping 1.5 million children being able to have child care. in my own home state of maryland, this bill will help
families for as much as 19 now now -- 19,000 families get child care. this is a pretty big deal. in maryland child-care costs about $13,000 a year. i held round tables across the state. i sat in classrooms, conference tables and meetings listening in baltimore county, allegheny county. i heard from parents struggling to pay child care in this age of scrimp and save. i heard from teachers worried about children not being prepared for a lifetime of learning. i heard from the american pediatric -- american academy of pediatrics concerned about children staying healthy. i heard from the good folks of the maryland family network who were worried about quality, safety in the certification of child care. i believe the many of the best ideas and recommendations come from the people, so i brought those ideas to washington and
sat down across the table with my colleagues, senator richard burr, to really talk about these issues and how we could hammer out a bill that was affordable to the taxpayer and yet reliable for parents. you know, madam president, one size doesn't fit all when it comes to our kids. what i heard over and over again were concerns about availability and about quality. and also affordability. my bill, the mikulski-burr-harkin-alexander, or whatever order we can put them, makes child care better. it makes it safer. it makes it more reliable. and it also focuses on helping children be school-ready, to be learning ready. it requires, first of all, in terms of safety, comprehensive background checks. madam president, are you aware that only 13 states require
comprehensive background checks for child-care providers? we require more background checks in security guard malls -- i mean security guards for malls than we do for our own children. this is unacceptable. parents deserve peace of mind knowing that their children are safe from anyone who could possibly have a criminal record. under our bill, 50 states will be required to be able to do this. it also strengthens health and safety standards. listening to both parents who are concerned and the academy, the american academy of pediatrics, we will have health and safety standards. child-care providers will be trained in first aid and c.p.r., prevention of sudden death infant -- sudden infant death syndrome and also how to respond to food allergies. this is big. you know our children come and
some of them have really -- those little guys and girls really have some significant health challenges. it also requires inspection of facilities. currently many states do not require inspection of all the child care facilities. "the washington post" recently found that 43 children have died since 2004 in unregulated child-care centers in virginia. we now correct that where facilities will actually be inspected to make sure that they are safe. it also will make sure that the inspectors will be looking for anything that presents a danger to a child. an unsecured swimming pool, unsafe sleeping arrangements, fire hazards. the other is that it will improve reliability and stability of care. now, we really focused on improving quality. and what did that mean?
we have significant sums that means that states have to invest in training and professional development of child-care workers. it also will evaluate what's working and what isn't. we develop and improve quality rating systems to give parents the consumer information to pick the right bill. madam president, this bill will provide vouchers to people who are the minimum wage or lower. in my own state, to qualify for this type of voucher subsidy, it is income based. in maryland, for a family of two to be eligible for the ccdbg, their incomes cannot exceed $24,000. a family of four cannot have an income that exceeds $35,700. the children must be less than 13 years old and the children must live with parents who are
working -- working -- or enrolled in an education program that is leading to a job. this is really good. madam president, this bill, as good as it is, is only the first step in child care. it can't be the only step. so while we're looking about how to help parents be able to work, particularly those at the minimum-wage level, we have to be able to look also at our middle-class families. that's why i was happy to join senator kirsten gillibrand in introducing the child care tax deduction bill set at 1975. this bill would allow all families to deduct the cost of child care as a business expense. can you imagine that? to actually be able to do this. so many women in the middle class also find that the cost of
child care is so expensive. with this bill, families can deduct up to $14,000 in child care expenses from the amount of taxes they owe. we have to show that we are on the side of families, that we are on the side of the middle class by offering a substantial tax deduction for child care. and we have to show that we are on the side of the people who want to be middle class, who are working hard or going to school to be able to move ahead and move into that middle class, that they have a child care bill. this legislation that we're talking today, however -- the child care development block grant -- will maybe be a significant step forward. i urge my colleagues for really helping and supporting this. when i work on this bill, to me, it's not about numbers and
statistics. 19,000 or a million children or so on. it's about people in my own home state, whether it's the single mom in baltimore county who due to some major changes, found that she was needing to work full time instead of part time, but was barely above the minimum wage. she wondered how was she going to have that job at the minimum wage but have child care that was safe. when she went to the department of social services, she found a child care subsidy that could help her be able to work today, have her children in day care today, and lay the groundwork for a better job tomorrow. or there was theresa in prince george's county. she was a single mom. she has four children. they were enrolled in a child-care program while she worked in another, but she was making $23,000 a year. again, below the minimum wage. thanks to the voucher program, she was able to provide her
children in child care, actually work in the field and begin to get the kind of training that could enable her to move on up to being a child care worker. madam president, it is about these people who want their child to be safe and secure. they want to make sure that they're going to do the best and be able to continue to work in our society, make sure their children are taken care of and also we're able to provide this important step. i would hope that we pass this bill tonight, and i would also hope that we develop a comprehensive child care approach so, yes, we're helping those of the minimum wage and slightly above tonight, but we also want to be able to help the middle-class. remember what our goal is. we need to focus on the day-to-day needs of our constituents. what does that mean in terms of national policy? so, what we need to look at is
for those who are middle class, through their hard work, their education and determination, how they get to be there, and they have a government and a tax code on their side. for those who are trying to get to middle class, that they have an opportunity ladder and these self-help tools that enable to move ahead. madam president, thank you for your attention, and i really hope my colleagues vote for this bill and we move it to the president's desk for signature. i yield back my time and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
harass i ask that proceedings you were the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. harass first i ask unanimous consent that mark sungerside, marcia sidedry be granted floor privileges for the remainder of today's session. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. harkin: madam president, i want to speak in support of the child care development block grant act of 2014, the bill that is before us. it's taken us a long time to get to this point. i could not be more pleased that we're on the verge of sending it legislation to the president for his signature.
we know -- we know that learning begins at birth and the preparation for education begins even before birth. that's why i'm very excited about my committee's bill to reauthorize the community development block grant act. this bill will lead to important reforms and improvements in the early care and education of our nation's children. this bipartisan legislation is also a big win for working families. it helps make it possible for over 1.5 million kids to receive quality child care every month. the last time we reauthorized the child care block grant was 1996. when we did that child care was seen principally as a work-support activity and only incidentally as something that could have a great impact on the development of children. today, backed by impressive scientific research, we know
that child-care settings can and should be much more. in addition to providing critical work support for the parents, early childhood settings are now widely recognized as a rich early-learning opportunity for all children. so i.t. not just child care. we have taken care and watch them and make sure they don't get in trouble. it is now child care that is now part of the learning process. and as i said, it is beginnings at birth and even before birth. because much of a child's intellect and skills begin before he or she begins kindergarten, we need to give all children every opportunity to reach their full potential at this early stannel. this means supporting access to high-quality, early learning programs including high-quality child care. that's why reauthorizing the community development block grant with the array that we have of reforms and improvements is so important. this bill contains many
commonsense improvements to a program that hadn't been reauthorized since 1996. that's nearly a whole generation. things like improving health and safety requirements, asking states to increase the amount of funding they set aside to serve infants and toddlers, requiring pre--service training and ongoing professional viment for child care workers, asking states to inspect child-care providers at least -- at least once a year. hopeful i had more but at least once a year. i'm particularly excited about a set-aside that we have in the bill to provide access to and quality of care for infants and toddlers. this is something that i have included for cephal years in my appropriations subcommittee bill. i am pleased it's now an important component of this reauthorization. knees are the kind of commonsense, research-based activities and services that any
parent would want for their child and they deserve it. that's why i'm so pleased that we are now on the cusp of passing this important reauthorization. i should note this legislation passed the senate in march of this year by a vote of 96-2, and after a few changes by the house, it passed that chamber by acclimation in september. and so i think last week we had the cloture vote and i think there was only one vote even then against it. so i encourage every member of the senate again to vote in favor of final passage and finally get this bill to the president's desk. i would especially like to thank senators mikulski and burr, two members of our committee, the original sponsors of this legislation for their persistence and commitment in getting this bill done. i'd also like to thank many of the staff for their years of work on this legislation. i'd like to thank brent palmer
and jessica mcniece o neese of senator mikulski's staff. david murray, peter oppenheimer, and chris symms of senator burr's staff and i'd like to thank current and former members of my staff, pam smith, derrick miller, millard oterio and mario cardona. of course, i also want to thank our help committee's ranking member, senator alexander, for his key role in reauthorizing this vital program. and my debt of gratitude to senator alexander extends far beyond this particular bill. madam president, this likely will be the last bill originate not guilty the help committee -- bill originalling in the help doe see -- originating in the help committee to see floor and thus coming out of the committee that i so proudly chair that will come before the senate. so i want to take this opportunity to express not only
my gratitude to senator alexander but my respect and admiration for the senior senator from tennessee. in the new congress in january, he will assume the chairmanship of this help committee and this important committee i know will be in very able hands. throughout my 30 years in the senate, i've been blessed to share many excellent working relationships with republican colleagues, both when i served as chair or ranking member on various committees. senator arlen specter was my partner across many years on the appropriations subcommittee on labor, health and human services and education. in fact, from 1989 until date he left the senate, senator specter and i were either chair or ranking member of that important appropriations subcommittee. on the agriculture committee, i had great relationships with senator dick lugar, senator thad
cochran, senator saxby chambliss. and since 2009, as chair of the help committee, i've enjoyed very productive relationships, first with senator mike enzi, who had been both the chair and then ranking member of the help committee, and more recently with senator lamar alexander, with whom i've worked on ccdbg -- that's the child care development block grant program that we're authorizing now -- and many other successful bills this year. in fact, i'm proud to note that when this bill is signed into law by the president, this will be the 21st help committee bill enacted into law in this congress. in a congress that has been criticized, rightfully or wrongfully, for its lack of productivity, senator alexander and i have forged a partnership that has enabled us to chart a different course, a course of bipartisan productiveness. to cite just several examples, we worked together to pass major legislation to revamp and
modernize america's job training system, to overhaul and improve america's food safety system, to improve drug safety and speed the approval of potentially lifesaving drugs. so 21 bills. and someone has that said our committee really represents probably one of the widest spectrums ideologically in the senate, both from very conservative to very progressive on our committee. and yet we've forged these relationships to get things do done. now, these relationships and getting these bills through doesn't mean that we've always agreed on everything. the fact is, our disagreements have been often and at times vigorous. after all, i'm a proud progressive. senator alexander is a proud conservative. but our disagreements have never been personal and they were never the last word. we've consistent the sought areas of agreement and more
often than not we found them. as a result, together we have forged a remarkable record of accomplishment in the help committee -- 21 bills in two years signed into law. and more importantly, we've accomplished big things for the american people. thanks to the legislation passed in our committee, lives will be improved, lives will be saved. drugs will be approved faster and they'll be safer. workers will have access to quality job training and retraining opportunities, including young people with disabilities who will now hav have -- who will now have provisions to support them in school to get them ready for competitive integrated employment or for higher education or for technical education which they have not really had before. that's one big park of the work force investment and opportunity act that we passed that not too many people know about.
so from now on, kids in school who have an i.e.p. -- that's an individualized education program -- will now have internships, summer jobs, job coaching that will again raise their expectations and hope of what they can do or they'll be able to visit colleges and have college internships or college support systems which they've never had before to enable them to seek a higher education, or perhaps to go to community colleges. so that's a couple of the things we've done in our committee. soon with this bill, babies and kids across the country will have better access to safe, high-quality, affordable care. so it has been with great pride that i've been chair of this help committee. i still think it's the best committee in the -- in the congress. i remember once dan inouye,
senator inouye said that i chaired the committee that helped define america. he chaired the committee that defended america but i chaired the committee that defined america. and i like to think of the help committee as doing that, madam president. as an american where our kids are -- where every kid has the possibility of going up there ladder or ramp of opportunity no matter the circumstances of his or her birth. where health care is a right, not a privilege. where everyone will be -- can have affordable health care coverage. where, if you fall off of that ladder of opportunity because of an illness or an injury, you can get back on it. you can get back on it with job retraining and support services. where every person with a disability, either through an accident or through birth or through illness, that that person can have a full, meaningful, productive life.
where our elderly know that they're going to have the kind of support systems that will enable them to also be productive in their retirement years and their golden years, as they say. so the labor, education, health, pensions committee covers a broad array of how we define america as a caring, compassionate and productive society. and so it has been a -- a challenge but it's also been a great honor and a privilege to chair this committee. as i leave, i can say that we are fortunate to have someone of senator alexander's depth and breadth of experience. in fact, including secretary of education, governor of tenness
tennessee, president of the university of tennessee who will be taking over this committee. so he's well qualified and i know that he will do a great job in leading this committee in the future. so i want to thank all my committee members but especially senator lamar alexander from tennessee and to note on the record how much i've valued or collaboration and how much i've benefited from his counsel and his wisdom. and i urge all senators to support this new reauthorizati reauthorization, first time since 1996, of the child care development block grant program. with that, madam president, i yield the floor and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: i ask consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. alexander: thank you. i see my distinguished friend, the senator from iowa, on the floor. i'm here simply to say that we're about to vote on the child care and development block grant , a piece of legislation that will provide assistance to 1.5 million children when their mothers, usuallily are going to school in order to get a job or are working. i've repeated on this floor several times this story of a young woman in memphis,
tennessee, who attended lemoin-owen college and while she was there would receive about $500 or $600 a month to pay for daycare for they are child so she could get a degree. she got her degree, a business degree, now is an assistant manager at wal-mart. she has another child and she is able to pay for the daycare costs herself. this bill has strong support on both sides of the aisle but we republicans especially like it because number one, it is a block grant to the states which gives states flexibleity with a minimum number of federal rules and includes vouchers for the young woman, the young mother i mentioned so she may choose among her various options for child care. it's exactly the kind of legislate week ought to be doing in the internet age, although this legislation was created 20
years ago in the first place for anyone paying much -- before anyone paid much attention the internet. it doesn't mandate from washington, it enables from washington. and it recognizes that states actually have very good judgment themselves and what might work in hawaii might not in tennessee or might not in iowa and differences -- different programs may work better in different jurisdiction and that mothers themselves when they're choosing daycare ought to be able to make that judgment. i want to thank senator harkin, who is retiring this year and who is chairman of the committee that has produced this bill. he and senator mikulski and senator burr from north carolina have worked literally for years on this piece of legislation. it's had a model consideration in the senate and the house, it's been through the committees, we talk about that a lot on the senate floor, we'd like to see the senate function better, it did function well
here. when we brought this up in march there were 50 amendments. there was no objection to moving to the bill, the majority leader didn't fill the tree, didn't file cloture. we considered all 50 of those amendments, adopted 18 of them, i believe, 14 of them we agreed to adopt by voice vote, four of them we voted on, and then we passed the bill by a large margin. the house made a few more than changes in it consulting with senator harkin and me and others who had been working on the bill and we've come to this point today. so this is a very important piece of legislation. 900,000 families, 1.5 million children, in tennessee alone 21,000 families will be helped by this. helped to find a place for the child while the mom works so the mom can get a better job or so the mom can work.
in our society today, work site daycare is not available to every single mother or father who has a child. and this helps with that. so i think the senate -- i thank the senate for its consideration of this, i thank the house for working with us, i congratulate senator harkin, i imagine he's mentioned it but if he hasn't this will be the 21st piece of legislation that the health, education, labor and pensions committee has produced this year with that will become law under his leadership. and as he goes back to des moines, iowa, and rocks on his front porch or goes into the next chapter of his life which i'm sure will be an exciting and useful one he can know in a senate which didn't always work that well in this congress, his committee did and it's benefited lots of families and lots of children. so i'm -- i urge my colleagues to vote yes on the bill and i'm
morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the motion to concur which the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to concur in the house amendment to s. 1086, an act to reauthorize and improve the child care and development block grant act of 1990, and for other purposes. the presiding officer: under the previous order, all postcloture time is considered expired. the motion to consider with amendment numbered 3923 is withdrawn, and the question occurs on the motion to concur in the house amendment to s. 1086. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote: