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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  December 11, 2014 4:00pm-5:29pm EST

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montanans come with a lot of opinions, but one issue that unites us is take care of our public lands and keeping our public lands in public hands. we want to make sure that our kids and grandkids can hike in the bob marshal wilderness, that they can catch their first fish in the clean waters of the madison rivers and that our outdoor traditions remain strong for generations to kovment as the senator from montana, it is my responsibility to make sure that we preserve these treasured places, that we responsibly use our lands to advantages the interests of our state and of our country. and that's why i'm proud to support the montana lands bill that will probably be voted on tomorrow. these bills are a product of years of negotiations. ranchers, conservationists started working on the rocky mountain heritage act before i became a senator.
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these bills are a product of montana's congressional delegation working together to move montana forward. we all know if congres congresso agree on much these days. few people are willing to compromise. but when you give a little and you get a lot. that's how montana's lands bill becomes a part of this legislation. these bills have been vetted on the ground by montana ranchers like dusty prairie and carl raphold. they have been approved by committees an negotiated for years. they not only deliver on our promises to montana's ranchers but also to the outdoors men and women and tribes. they are montana-made bills. take the rocky mountain heritage act. this protects access along the
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rocky mountain front. the front is a special place in montana lower. it's where the rocky mountains shoot straight out of the plains into the sky. i.t. it's a breath-staking, magnificent -- it's a breathtaking, magnificent +saoeugt. the heritage act designates the front as conservation management of area. adds another 67,000 acres to the bob marshal wilderness and supports a noxious weed management program. it follows b.l.m. recommendations on approximately 14*,000 acres of wilderness study areas. and it requires new assessments of oil and gas poe essentia poto others. some will question the details of this bill and others in the package, but montanans know how to responsibly manage our land. we know what irresponsible
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development looks like. mining corporations pillaged our land in their search for copper and other minerals. not only did they turn our mountains inside out and pollute our waters, they ignored workers' rights and bought influence over montana's elected leaders. in response, montana passed legislation bayh way back in 1912. we followed that up in the 1970's with on one of the most progressive state constitutions to date enshrining regulations into law. the same max baucus who worked on an introduced the rocky mountain heritage act in 2011. passing this lands bill helped fulfill max's legacy in montana and honors the hard work of his staff and the bill's many supporters. before max introduced this bill,
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he received letter from a rancher along the front. ben pierce was his name. ben told max that he wanted to see the front remain a place with both well-managed working ranches and vibrant wildlife values. ben supported the bill because he knew that preserving the rarchling culture was critical to our way of life. but he also supported the bill because he knows we must preserve montana's most special places. that's because montana's outdoor treasures are not only symbols of our heritage, they are also incredible economic drivers. montana's outdoor economy, thanks to places like gley schuss and yellowstone, creates or sustains some 64,000 jobs and contributes nearly $6 billion to the state's economy every year. that's impressive in a state of just one million people. from outdoor stores to park cafes, montana's economy thrives
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when montana's outdoors are spreerved and accessible. preservation and access are also the cornerstones of the north fork protection action, another legacy of senator but a kusms the bill permanent -- senator baucus. it permanently protects the north fork river water head by banning future mining. the land is jai sent to glacier national park, bounded by snowcapped mountains, ringed by you a-inspiring valleys and bisected by beautiful green-green waters, home to some of the best whitewater rafting. thanks to this bill, the american side of the watershed will be protected from oil and gas development forever. preserving the north fork is not just good for wildlife or the hiker who enjoys t it's also good for our economies and nearby communities. that's why this bipartisan bill is supported by the local chamber of commerce and by the mayor of nearby whitefish, who
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said this bill's passage -- quote -- "means permanental protection of our community's water supply." and we all know how important water is. these two measures are not only -- not the only bills that will benefit montana in this lands package. the cabinet fee act provides economic certainty for folks who have seen their fees skyrocket. many of these cabins pass from generation to generation and this bill makes sure that family cabins can be enjoyed by those who cherish them. this package also does right by our nairng friends. the northern cheyenne lands act restores the tribe's mineral rights to 5,000 acres within its boundaries, strengthening the tribe's control over its land, resources, and trust fund. it corrects an error that was made by the federal government more than 100 years ago. that in and of itself makes this a worthy endeavor.
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but there are other areas that we can work together. just as these bills are montana-made solutions, we can and i believe welcome together over montana-made solutions to better manage our forests. mr. president, for decades, folks in montana have argued over our lands. they've battled over access, we fought over resource development, we've sued and countersued over logging, but in montana, we haven't had a new wilderness designation in 31 years. why? because we haven't been able to compromise. but now we have. and it means progress for montana. this agreement is bipartisan, and i was proud to work with senator walsh and senator-elect deigns to bring it to a reality. i hope we can find more ways to compromise over land issues and other legislation moving forward. because, after all, it is a future that matters most. whether this body is debating immigration reform or our
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education system, how to rebuild infrastructure, we must always look to the future. we want the best for ourselves and for our communities. we want to leave this world in a better shape than how we inherited it. and we want to pass our treasured lands and outdoor traditions down to our kids and our grandkids, wherever they may live. places like the rocky mountain front and the north fork are living legacies to montana's greatness. there are many reasons to preserve these places but the best i've heard comes from jane sens. she wrote a book about the rocky mountain front. in it, he quoted another montanans who said "some places on earth should be left alone, even if solid gold lies beneath them." and i couldn't agree more. montana is home to sky-touching mountains and beautiful plains that roll on as far as the eye can see. it's home to hardworking men and women and native americans with deep connections to the land.
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but it's the last, best place because we are all of these things and because we're willing to work together to plea serve and strengthen them. i'm very proud of this historic agreement. , and today i am particularly proud to be a amongian. mr. president, i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. ms. heitcamp: i ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, the senator is recognized. ms. heitcamp: thank you. i rise today and i was struck by the last two speakers, my great friend, senator heinrich and senator tester, showing you amazing pictures of the beauty of western -- the western part of our wonderful country, and i thought, well, those are really
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beautiful pictures. not quite as beautiful as north dakota, but we'll -- we'll -- we'll acknowledge that these are areas that will open up your soul and open up your eyes and make it possible for you to see the beauty that is this great country and the resilience of the people who settled in the areas of the west. and it got my thinking -- and i think more, importantly, understanding that awful what we are in this country is only possible because men and women for centuries have stepped up to serve our country and to serve our country in the armed forces. i want to rise today and talk about an issue that hasn't gotten a lot of attention, i don't think, in this country, this quiet thing that's going on in the v.f.w. halls and the amvets and the d.a.v.'s and american legion halls in my state, talking about not only
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that kind of sacrifice but recognizing and moving to a special recognition this year. and so i want to talk about north dakotaans because we all are extraordinarily proud of our states but we know in north dakota that north dakotans have always answered the call to serve in particular the native american community who have answered that call to service in record numbers. i've made it a priority during my time in the united states senate to meet as many of my state veterans as i can. i want to hear their stories and i want to learn about the challenges of their everyday lives and what we need to do to fulfill our obligation and our sacred trust to live up to the commitments that we made as they lived up to the commitments that they made to serve our country and to carry our freedom and
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protect our freedom in the battlefields across this world. through these trips i've met a lot of wonderful veterans. world war ii veterans and their proud stories of their service in the pacific and europe. i met korean war veterans with memories of what is often referred to as the forgotten war, maybe forgotten by others but not by me and veterans in north dakota. then there are veterans from the conflict in iraq and the overall war against terror. these young veterans, men and women both face many different challenges and i think different challenges from their counterparts from previous service relationships. but i think they're helping change the way our nation sees our veterans. all of these veterans, without a doubt, deserve a place of honor in our society. all of them serve and deserve
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our thanks for their service and their sacrifice. together they have protected our freedom and allowed our nation to flourish. but today -- today -- i want to talk and focus on america's vietnam veterans, north dakota's vietnam veterans. we are in the midst -- and i'm not sure a lot of people know this. we are in the midst of a remembrance of the 50-year anniversary of the vietnam war. on may 25, 2012, president obama issued this proclamation, a proclamation that i have right here, issued this proclamation to honor our vietnam vets, those brave servicemen who gave their lives and their families, to honor all the veteran service but particularly to recognize those who lost their life. i want to quote from this proclamation. "as a grateful nation, we honor
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more than 58,000 patriots. their names etched in black granite not too far from this symbol of american democracy, our nation's capital, who sacrificed -- these patriots who sacrificed all they had and all they would ever know. we draw inspiration from heroes who suffered unspeakably as prisoners of war, yet who returned home with their heads held high. we pledge to keep faith with those who were wounded and still carry the scars of war seen and unseen. this special period of honoring our vietnam veterans runs through 2025. since our involvement in the war stretched through 1975" -- and that's the period to which we're going to recognize the 50 years -- 50-year commemoration and anniversary, "as this period continues, it remains important to talk about the vietnam war and its veterans as much as
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possible. the vietnam war represents a difficult time in our nation's history. by taking time to thank our vietnam vets and honor their service, our nation makes another great attempt to bind up the unhealed wounds left behind. in north dakota there have already been a number of veterans events related to the 50th anniversary of vietnam. i'm sure such events are happening in many other states. in fact, there's a web site. if you want to check it out, there's a web site where you can look at what's happening in every state across the union honoring vietnam veterans in ceremonies that are being prepared mainly driven bivens groups, but -- driven by veterans groups but hopefully and one of the reasons for coming here is to urge my colleagues to participate in those events, to participate as they do every day in saying thank you to our iraqi war vets and afghanistan war vets, participate in any event that
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you can to say thank you to our vietnam veterans and for the families of those people in your state who lost their lives in service to their country. for myself, i plan to hold an event to honor all vietnam veterans throughout north dakota next year. through this effort, i hope to help make our nation remember and never forget the needs of our vietnam veterans. the congress needs to make policy decisions so that the v.a. can meet the needs of the next generation of veterans. but we can't forget the unique needs of our vietnam-era veterans. i will tell you, mr. president, i have spent hours talking to vietnam veterans who will tell me repeatedly when i got out of the service, the last thing i wanted to do was go to the v.a. and there's a lot of reasons for that. in the 1970's the v.a. wasn't the place where people thought
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you could go for quality health care, where they thought you could go for help. they wanted to forget that part of their service, so a lot of those unseen wounds of service in vietnam went unhealed and it manifested itself in a high rate of homelessness, a high rate of poverty, a high rate of substance abuse and a high rate of despair. and we are seeing now -- our vietnam veterans both those who have lived incredibly fruitful lives, are who are now aging into the system, coming back to our v.a.'s across the country, coming back to our community-based outreach clinics, coming back to our v.a. hospitals. and for the first time asking for access to service. and they are finding that maybe they don't always see the level of service that they're entitled to. i recently worked to restore and provide the appropriate paperwork so that a vietnam
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veteran who had earned, clearly earned a purple heart actually received the benefits of a recipient of the purple heart in the v.a. all of these issues will now begin to work their way through the v.a. they will continue to work their way through our veterans service organizations, and it's time, i think, to take the pause. as the president did in his proclamation and to understand the basis of this, it was required by a bill similar to the one that we're debating today, ndaa. it was required by ndaa to begin this proclamation. it was a mandate from this congress -- not this particular congress but from the united states congress to begin to have this ceremony. and so i was struck, i think, by the fact that when our veterans have lost their lives in iraq
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and afghanistan, most of us have pictures in our office. we have a poster or some kind of commemoration in our office of that sacrifice. but yet, we've never seen that kind of commemoration or that kind of depiction in -- for our vietnam veterans. so a loaning with the amvets -- so along with the amvets in the great city of dis mark who have done tons of research in collecting pictures and images of the 198 veterans, 198 servicemen from north dakota who lost their life in vietnam, i thought it an appropriate commemoration for my office and for us, is to have something that we walk by every day and tell the families of all these young men who are on this poster that every day we honor your sacrifice. we honor your loss.
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we honor the fact that we will never know what this, these 198 young men could have been had they survived this war. we don't know if they could have been standing here giving a speech instead of me. we don't know if they would have been mayors of our small town. we don't know if they would have been the industrial leaders who invented a product as lucrative and as innovative as the bobcat, which was originated in north dakota. it was invented in north dakota, and it's manufactured in north dakota. we will never know. but one thing we do know -- one thing we do know about all of these men is they lost their life and sacrificed to the greatest extent that you can sacrifice in honor and service of this country. and they deserve to have this period of remembrance.
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they deserve to have a recognition. and their family deserves to have the united states of america pause, pause for a period of time and say thank you. thank you from a grateful nation. so posters like this will be in every one of my offices across north dakota and certainly here in the nation's capital. i know for states like the presiding officer's state, when you look at the numbers, it's probably not possible to have a photographic image of every vietnam veteran or every person who served in vietnam who unfortunately lost their life, from massachusetts. but it is possible to have their name. it is possible to have a place where they can be honored during this time period, mandated by this body, approved and proclaimed by the president of the united states, a place of honor and remembrance.
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and so i intend over the next year to come and talk a little bit about the lives of each one of these young men, to talk about the challenges of vietnam veterans, to talk about what it is that we need to do today to make up for past sins of this country in not recognizing this service. and i challenge the other members of this body to do the same thing during this period of remembrance and recognition and honor, and to think about not just the past, but to think about the future. think about the amazing sacrifice of 198 north dakotaans who gave their life in service to our state and in service to our country and for the betterment of all human kind. and so with that, mr. chairman, the challenge is issued, and i yield the floor and note the
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absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: madam president, i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to calendar number 560, senate 1535. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar 560, s. 1535, a bill to deter terrorism, provide justice for victims, and for other purposes. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure at this time? without objection. the senate will proceed to the motion. mr. shiewrp: madam president, i ask unanimous consent the committee-reported substitute be considered, that the schumer amendment it is -- be agreed to. mr. schumer: the bill as amended be read a third time and passed and the motions to reconsider be
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considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. schumer: thank you, madam president. now, i rise today on a very important partisan bill that has just been approved by this body unanimously, and that is the justice against sponsors of terrorism act or jasta. and i want to thank first my cosponsor and partner in this and many other issues, i'm happy to say, senator cornyn, the senator from texas, and i want to thank chairman leahy, our chairman of the judiciary committee. under his leadership, it has twice been passed by the senate judiciary committee. now, i feel so strongly about this bill, madam president, because it would allow the victims of 9/11 to pursue some small measure of justice by giving them a legal avenue to hold foreign sponsors of terrorism accountable for their actions. this bill, quite simply, does
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right by the 9/11 victims. we new yorkers can never forget the terrible day 13 years ago when terrorists attacked our city and murdered more than 2,700 of our friends, our neighbors, our relatives. we were shocked, our hearts were broken. the whole nation mourned with us. but i'm proud to say that new york and america came back stronger after that horrific attack. i'm also proud to say that congress and presidents bush and obama have been there to help new york heal but never forget. from the first days after 9/11, it has always been the families of those we lost who have been at the vanguard of advocacy. the families have accomplished so much along the way in terms of remembrance and justice and change in national security policies. i so salute them. not only those who worked with me on this legislation but all the families who have worked on
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so many bills. you know, madam president, when something so evil and so terrible befalls you, when you lose a loved one through an abject act of evil, such as was committed on 9/11, 2001, the natural reaction is to curse the darkness, to say why me, why was this so unjust? but the bible tells us, madam president, that it is the great part of humanity, almost saint-like, to light a candle to try and rectify the injustice which you can never, never undo for the loved one you lost but might undo for others. and these families -- and i know them well and have cried with them and worked with them and struggled with them -- they have all lighted candles. they are amazing. they are saint-like. and there are so many families and loved ones who have stepped up and petitioned for help after 9/11. as i said, it would be easy for
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them to sit and curse the darkness, but they have instead chosen to light that candle and show a way forward, not back. the bill i hope the senate will pass today helps victims of terrorism seek justice, one of our most cherished american values. now, let me tell you, madam president, about miss terry stratta who is seeking justice for her husband tom. tom lost his life in the north tower on september 11. terry didn't just lose a husband. she lost a father to a young son of 7, a daughter of four and a newborn baby boy. she lost a loving father and her best friend. but terry stratta, madam president, is strong. she is a profile in courage, and she seeks what we always seek, what we all would be compelled to seek if we suffered such loss at the hands of hate and evil. she seeks justice. terry and her three children have championed this bill for over a decade now. i thank them and all the other families for their tireless
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advocacy and patience. and of course no amount of compensation will ever repair the broken hearts of a family that lost a loved one to mindless hate, but right now these families are being denied the ability to hold accountable foreign sponsors of terrorism because of a major loophole in our legal system. the courts in new york have dismissed the 9/11 victims' claim against certain foreign entities alleged to have helped fund the 9/11 attacks. the courts are following what i believe is a nonsensical reading of the foreign sovereign immunities act. but for the sake of these families, i want to make clear, without a shadow of a doubt that every entity, including foreign states, will be held accountable if they are found to be sponsors of the heinous acts like 9/11. our bipartisan legislation that senator cornyn and i are so proud to support closes that loophole and amends the foreign sovereignty immunity act to
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allow victims and their families to sue foreign states and financial partners of terrorism. terrorism need -- terrorists need an unfathomable amount of hate in them, but they also need a great deal of money and materiel support to carry out attacks like occurred on 9/11. and unfortunately, some countries provide that lifeblood with no legal repercussions. for countries to aid the evil of terrorism and walk away scot-free while families suffer silently every day with the loss of loved ones is wrong, it is unfair, it is unjust. it adds insult to an unimaginable injury for these families. jasta, our bill, hopefully to become law soon, will finally help the victims of 9/11 pursue justice by allowing them to sue countries that fund terrorist groups like al qaeda. the foreign sovereign immunity act has been amended and amended again in its relatively short
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life in order to tip to strike the proper balance between our interests abroad and the rights of our citizens to obtain redress when they are a victim of wrongdoing, no matter who the perpetrator is. specifically, our bill brings the foreign sovereign immunity act closer to that balance by ensuring that victims of terror inside the united states receive the same protections as victims of terror outside the united states. that liability clearly exists for aiders and abettors of terrorists, and that foreign states that commit terrorist acts can be held accountable under the antiterrorism act. cognizant of that ideal balance i just mentioned, we have extended legal protections for victims and expanded liability in a very focused way. in response to concerns from the business community as well as members of congress, we have made substantial changes to the bill so that those that are liable under the changes to the
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foreign sovereign immunity act are only and only the really bad actors. we have worked so hard so this bipartisan bill enhances the original aim of the foreign service immunity act. to create a uniform and predictable means for protecting the immunity of sovereign states with limited exceptions that are consistent with our own national as well as international norms. jasta is a long overdue fix, a responsible fix to a law that has extended too large a shield to foreign actors who finance and enable terrorism on a massive scale. the victims of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks have suffered such pain, physical pain, heartache, but they will not be denied justice. the justice against sponsors of terrorism act will take measured steps to make sure these bad actors are held accountable and that victims can pursue justice where justice is to be had.
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i look forward to working with my colleagues to see that it becomes law. i know senator cornyn will want to say a few words, but first i'd like to enter into a colloquy with my friend from texas because it's important to underscore one point. the purpose of the justice against sponsors of terrorism act is to hold foreign sponsors of terrorism that target the united states accountable in federal courts. one thing that's come up in our discussions of this bill is whether the bill's provisions would extend civil liability under the antiterrorism act to situations where someone has been forced to make payments or provide aid to a foreign terrorist organization under genuine duress, or, for example, as ransom payments for the release of someone taken hostage. this type of conduct is outside the scope of traditional aiding and abetting liability, and our bill does not seek to change that. i recognize senator cornyn. the presiding officer: the republican whip.
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mr. cornyn: madam president, i want to thank the senior senator from new york, my friend, senator schumer, for working on this bipartisan legislation. it's a good example of the kinds of things we can do working together, even though he and i come from different parts of the country and different political parties, he has been a good partner on a number of things that we are -- we have worked on together, and i'm hoping that we're setting in place some good habits that will continue on in the next congress. but i agree with senator schumer that jasta is a good example of the kind of good work that we can do together to solve problems facing our nation. this bill passed out of the senate judiciary committee without opposition because of the careful work that we were able to do to ensure the bill accomplished its goals while addressing concerns about unintended consequences. so i appreciate our work together and look forward to continuing it, both for the duration of the 113th congress and into the 114th congress.
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mr. schumer: thank you, senator cornyn, for your good work. thank you, mr. president. and i yield the floor. a senator: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. schatz: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii.
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mr. schatz: i ask unanimous consent to vacate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schatz: thank you. the house is now considering the funding bill for fiscal year 2015 and the risks of not passing it are extremely high. but tucked into this must-pass bill is yet another attempt by republicans in the house of representatives to gut dodd-frank. what's really scary about this is that this is just the beginning. we can expect much more of this in the 114th congress. dodd-frank was designed to reduce the systemic risk that large banks posed to our financial system. it was meant to prevent another taxpayer-funded bailout of these massive institutions that were and continue to be too-big-to-fail. by chipping away at dodd-frank, we're once again letting special interests prevail over the safety of the financial system and protection for consumers.
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there were many roots of the financial crisis but economists agree that the unregulated and pervasive trading of derivatives was a major factor. we permitted financial institutions to gamble and regulators looked the other way. when these financial institutions made bad bets and nearly took down the financial system, we had to bail them out on the taxpayers' dime. working families who are struggling in a slow economic recovery are the still paying the price. so one of the goals of dodd-frank was to get the banks to go back to doing the normal business of a bank, to collect deposits and extend credit. that means no longer allowing banks to leverage fdic insured deposits and their access to the federal reserve for speculative trades. in part, dodd-frank accomplished this through the swap pushout rule. the swap pushout rule, which is
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section 1716 of dodd-frank, makes federally insured institutions move their swap trades into a separate uninsured entity that does not have access to federal reserve discount window or other fed assistance. these trades are incredibly complex and risky and there's no public policy justification for the government to effectively subsidize them. before we even passed section 716, the biggest financial institutions were able to water it down. they won an exemption for swaps for -- quote -- "hedging purposes," which could be interpreted to mean a wide range of activities. but that was not enough. now they want to do away with section 716 by making the exemption so broad that the rule becomes meaningless. let's be very clear. this change primarily benefits the five biggest financial firms in the country.
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they account for well over 90% of swap transactions. these activities net them over $4 billion in profits. before the crisis, swaps brought in over $7 billion. one of these firms actually wrote the language in the house bill. these financial institutions and their lobbyists know what they are doing and they are doing just fine. they know that when something as important as funding the government is on the line, they can convince republicans to slip their priorities into a must-pass bill at the last hour. but again, this is just the beginning. make no mistake about it, this portends much worse things when it comes to the republicans taking over the majority in the senate in the 114th congress. this is a big problem because we've been down this path befo before. we know where it leads. we let risk build in our
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financial system before and the fallout was disastrous for our economy and the well-being of working families. it's on us to hold back against special interests. we have a responsibility to protect the public from this attempt to roll back dodd-frank. we can't take our eye off the ball. we have to continue to guard against systemic risk in our financial system and we have to put a stop to the practice of holding the government hostage over the pettish you'res of special interest groups. the house is in a recess subject to the call of the chair and they are trying to round up votes for the omnibus spending bill which contains this provision. but they have another option. they can strip this provision. if they find that they don't have sufficient votes, they don't have to pass a three-month continuing resolution. they can simply remove this provision from the omnibus bill which was negotiated in good faith with both parties and both
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chambers, remove this provision and i have no doubt you will have a resounding bipartisan super majority in both chambers. we should remove section 716 and pass the omnibus properly. madam president, i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. booker: you know, i really appreciate the words of senator schatz, which are spot on. people are so frustrated right now with congress and it does not take a ph.d. in political science to figure out why common americans of all backgrounds are frustrated with congress. it's because people are just frustrated with business as
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usual here in the senate and the house. in this case, as senator schatz points to, here we are at the end of the 113th congress and facing a $1 trillion spending bill, a bill with funding that is critical to our national defense, it is critical to the health and well-being of americans, it is critical to the strength of our communities. i know the sincerity and passion with which senate and house negotiators have been working to get this done. they've been focusing on making sure that the american public has those critical services that we need. i give tribute to many of the leadership in this body for working on it. senate leaders should get credit also, like barbara mikulski, for holding the line on so many
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critical priorities, for putting in this trillion-dollar spending plan some very important things that should arouse the gratitude of many people. they've also stood up against and foughtly and prevented from getting into this some very extreme proposals -- and fought and prevented from getting into this some very extreme proposals. but for people watching this proposal across this country and in hawaii, what they are seeing unfortunately is a bill packed with policies pushed by very connected special interests, special interests with armies of high-paid lobbyists looking out for their own protections and looking to roll back commonsense protections for people who cannot hire those high-priced lobbyists or make donations to political candidates and elected officials.
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i say this right now, this omnibus, this cromnibus as it's called is a jagged bitter pill for anyone to swallow. let me start with the provision that senator schatz mentioned. the provision that is rolling back aspects of dodd-frank. you see, risky transactions involving asset-backed derivatives were at the heart of the 2008 fiscal crisis. economist at the reserve bank of dallas estimated the crisis costs the united states between $6 trillion and $14 trillion. this amounts to about $50,000 to $120,000 for every u.s. household. or the equivalent of 40% to 90% of one year's economic output. it was cataclysmic. but i don't need economists to describe the pain that americans
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felt. i saw it myself. i felt it as a mayor of a big city in america, newark, new jersey, new jersey's largest cities. you see when the nation goes through a recession, rural and urban areas, vulnerable populations, people living at the margins, go through a cataclysmic depression. many americans even today remain unemployed or underemployed and are still struggling to make ends meet because of the risky behaviors that we saw within the financial industry. and so now dodd-frank, this wall street protection act, was passed to enhance consumer protection and increase safeguards against risky activities so we as a country do not go through this again. dodd-frank isn't perfect. i'm the first to admit that are ways to change it and improve it
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and implements its provisions that why have yet to be fully implemented. but changes to financial regulations should be done through a much more transparent process, in the public eye we should debate these issues on the floor of the house and the senate, openly. it should not be done like this was, behind closed doors and definitely not through what they call a must-pass omnibus bill. this is wrong. and so here we are, in the last moments on an omnibus spending bill with a provision that goes to the heart of protecting american taxpayers from the risky, reckless schemes that helped launch the crisis in the first place. this provision is literally called the prohibition against the federal government bailouts of swap entities, which ensures taxpayer dollars will not be used for the more risky wall
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street speculation and gambling. americans, it looks to do, to make sure that americans are on the hook for the risky gambling of a few seeking to make extraordinary gains. i'm outraged. i am frustrated that we are not on the floor debating this and instead are having this put into a bill that everyone says must pass. and so i'll say this -- there are arguments on both sides that we should be having. if these provisions of dodd-frank should come up, we should discuss them, the public should see it and know about it. i'm not condemning the entire financial service industry. indeed we need in this country a robust network of financial institutions that support the vibrant economic activity in the united states. however, we must ensure that the necessary and important
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protections that shield taxpayers and our economy from the failures of 2008 remain in place. i rebuke the slick and secretive ways that this has been done and i'll echo the concerns of people all over new jersey that this kind of business as usual must end. but there are other concerns that should be out in the public eye. take, for example, truck safety. there is this hours of service language right now protecting america's highways, but now in this bill that language protecting us has been changed and altered, inserted through the appropriations process, this language suspends the administration's rules designed to prevent driver fatigue. let me read you from the rule that is now being suspended under the omnibus. this is the rule being
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suspended, stopped. it states that only drivers who drive nights and work more than 60 or 70 hours in a week will be impacted. drivers who will be impacted by this provision work heavy and irregular schedules that include nighttime driving. the limitation reduces maximum time during which a driver may drive up to an average of 70 hours in a week. a decrease from 82 hours average allowed under the previous rule. working long daily and weekly hours on a continuing basis is associated with chronic fatigue, a high risk of crashes, and a number of serious chronic health decisions. these right here are commonsense rules, put in place to protect americans who are driving to and from work, with their families, to church, to
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protect them against these heavy, irregular vehicles barreling down the highway that might now have an overfatigued driver. these regulations were put in place to try to limit those drivers from straining human endurance, but now they're being suspended within this omnibus bill. these rules are based on years of sound scientific study, and i'm outraged that despite the efforts of my colleagues, the safety community, the provisions to suspend these safety rules were included in this omnibus bill. each year, nearly 4,000 americans are killed in truck accidents, every year. and over 100,000 americans, people, are injured on our highways in truck accidents. these drivers who drive trucks are hardworking men and women,
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and they have, unfortunately, being pushed to tread on the limits of human endurance. the number of fatalities caused by truck accidents has risen 16% since 2009, and the number of people injured in these crashes has increased 40%. at a time when accidents are in such a savage rise, we are in no position to be crippling existing safety measures designed to keep our roads safe. for the sake of our nation's security and the untold anguish and loss that comes from these highway accidents, this provision should be taken out of the bill. now, there's more in this omnibus, and i feel compelled to mention another objectionable thing. you see, it's because the very idea of taxation without representation, and the
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self-determination of peoples is at the core of our democratic ideals as a nation. yet despite this, washington, d.c. with a population larger than two of our states, sees the constant undermining of this very principle. i believe it is an offense to americans of all states and americans in the district of columbia and all those who believe in our cherished ideals that this is done so, and so when the district of columbia votes just like colorado, just like washington, just like oregon, just like alaska, to change marijuana laws, when washington, d.c. grapples with the devastating impact of the drug war, sees the pain and the challenges and the struggles involved therein, when the people of this city come together and decide to try a
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different way forward, should we not honor their results, should we not respect their self-determination as is going on in other states? this provision in this omnibus undermining the democratic will of the district of columbia, these great americans, should be taken out. now, my list of concerns in this bill go on. i could continue. we should be having a discussion and debate on issues of this magnitude. take, for example, there are rules on pensions that will slash benefits for thousands of retirees. make no mistake, we need to address the state of multiemployer pension plans, and we need to discuss the tough choices that have to be made, but this is not the way to do it , not business as usual with no discussion and no debate. this bill also includes provisions that roll back
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protections for wildlife and endangered species. this is not how we should do this, no discussion, no debate. there are discussions that keep the us today from -- usda from addressing retaliatory practices which will now undermine important protections for farmers against unfair practices. this is not the way to do it. business as usual. no discussion, no debate. when people wonder how washington does things in such a manner that is skewed in favor of the connected, skewed in favor of high-priced lobbyists, skewed in favor of special interests, when they see how the common good and common sense
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gets undermined, this is how it happens. this is how it happens. i've been in this body for a little over 12 months, and this is offensive, the way we are doing this. the american people deserve before. we should do better. i object to so much being put in this that deserves to be on this floor, discussed and debated, in the light of the public. this is no way to run the globe's greatest democracy. i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that floor privileges be granted to kelly long swayne, the deputy director of the office of public affairs of the state department's bureau of east asia and pacific affairs who is
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currently on my staff as a brookings fellow for the duration of today's session of the senate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: i thank my colleagues to join with me, kelly mckellogg swayne for her exemplary service and as she returns to the state department as her fellowship in my office comes to an end. i think you'd agree the fellows program we have in the united states senate is so valuable, we get people who really are experts in their areas in the state department who serve in our office and can advice -- advise us and work with us in order to make the right policy. i think it also helps the state department because they will get back on their staffs individuals who have a better working understanding as to how the united states senate operates. so the senate and the state department can work closer
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together on the foreign policy considerations of our country. that has certainly been my experience during this past year with kelly. she's been an incredibly valuable member of my staff, advising us on so many important issues that we have to deal with and she's really stepped in to be a valuable member of my staff. the uncertain hours and working conditions have placed a strain on her family, and i thank her very much for being willing to entertain these long hours. so i want to take this opportunity to thank kelly's husband brian and son findlay for sharing her with the united states senate. kelly has been a key member of my foreign policy and national security team over the last year. before kelly joined my office, she was the deputy director in the office of public affairs in the bureau of east asia and pacific affairs at the u.s. department of state. she brought her expertise in matters pertaining to east asia and the pacific and her
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expertise and counsel have been critical to me for this year, this two years of congress, i have chaired the east asia and pacific subcommittee of the senate foreign relations committee. this has been a particularly busy year as president obama has followed forward on his policy of rebalanced asia, recognizing that asia is critically important to the united states, our security interests, our economic interests, our environmental interests, kelly has been an extremely important part of our team working on the subcommittee for east asia and pacific in carrying out that responsibility during this past year. her hard work allowed us to hold five hearings. in addition to developing and executing my subcommittee agenda, kelly ensured that i was up to date on the latest regional developments and more than adequately prepared for
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office visits with foreign officials and my trips to the region. so she gave me the expertise that i needed. appeared during this past year we've had significant challenges in east asia. we've had maritime security issues involving china and vietnam. we've had the current crisis in hong kong. we've had north korea and its problems that it has created. we've had the relationship between two of our close allies that have been strained, japan and the republic of korea. in each of these instances, chill gave me the type of help i needed so that the senate was properly exercising its functions on foreign policy. kelly's outstanding work does not stop there. she -- when my permanent foreign policy advisor went on maternity leave this summer, kelly stepped into that roavment within the first few weeks of his expanded role, the plail shan flight 17
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was so shot down and militants d isil terrorist groups wrecks spanning their siege. all that happened when my staff person went on maternity leave and kelly stepped right in there and took on the responsibilities and helped our office meet our responsibilities. this summer was a particularly busy and challenging time around the world, and not surprisingly kelly rose to the occasion. this fall i had a chance to get to know kelly even better when i went to the united nations general assembly in my capacity as a united nations delegate. i represent the senate along with with senator johnson at the 69th session of the united nations general assembly. kelly not only accompanied through the trip and prepared me for all my high-level meetings, but she also became a trusted advisor. as i told her just a little while ago, as i walked through the halls of the u.n., my ego was a little bit affected
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because more people knew her than me. she was incredibly important to me in carrying out my responsibilities as part of the u.s. dpel gas emission gas deled nations. kelly has demonstrated to me and the entire united states senate that her foreign policy extends far beyond the asian region. my staff and i will miss her and her sense of humor and extraordinary work ethic. she has been a tremendous asset not just to my office but to the foreign relations committee and the entire snavmen senate. so, madam president, i urge my colleagues to join me in thanking kell schthanking kellyg service to our nation. we are for the into the have people devote their life to public service. i know she's going to go back to the state department and continue to serve her country. with that, i thank her and would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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hatch madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. hatch: i want to take a few minutes to talk about the nomination of carolyn colvin to be the commissioner of the social security administration. in recent weeks a number of disturbing facts have come to light about her. her tenure as the acting social security commissioner. these coupled with the facts that there is an ongoing
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investigation of conduct of people in her immediate office raise serious questions about whether she is qualified to serve in this position. let me make one thing clear: my doubts about ms. colvin's nomination have nothing to do with partisanship. i, along with 2161 of my colleagues voted to vote her out of the committee and saw no reason to oppose her nomination. i like her personally. but like i said, madam president, since that time, new facts have come to light that are extremely disconcerting. just lace before ms. colvin appeared before the finance committee, we became aware of allegations concerning potential waste and mismanagement at the s.s.a. as well as allegations about a possible cover-up of that waste and mismanagement. several sources including the house ways and means subcommittee on social security,
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the house oversight and government reform committee, and individual whistle-blowers reported that s.s.a. had over a six-year period burned through $300 million in a failed attempt to develop and development the disability case processing system or dcps. these sources derived their information from a report issued in june by a private contractor commissioned s.a. -- s.s.a. this report was subsequently provided to congress by s.s.a. whistle-blowers. according to the report, mismanagement and poor planning at the s.s.a. stalled the development of the dcps. this in turn reported in the substantial waste of taxpayer dollars. once again, the amount was, i'm informed, roughly $300 million. these allegations were just breaking when ms. colvin appeared before the finance committee but dimension them
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during the hearing, needless to say, as we've learned more about the failures surrounding the dcps, the picture has only gotten even cloudier. at a minimum, these allegations call in question the quality of s.s.a.'s overall management and the leadership skills of those managing the agency. it certainly calls into question their commitment to preventing waste and preserving s.s.a.'s already scarce resources. sadly, it gets worse. on july 23, 2014, the house committee on oversight and government reform sent a wil ler to ms. colvin that raised even more issues about the failures of s.s.a. partially under her leadership as being aing commissioner, including possible actions by agency officials designinged to intentionally mislead congress and the i.g.'s office about the deficiencies and the development of the dcps. indeed, the allegation is that congress may have been intentionally misled so as to
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facilitate approval of ms. colvin's nomination to be the next social security administration commissioner. subsequently, on november 18, 2014, a press release from the house ways and means subcommittee on social security indicated that the results of the criminal investigation regarding the implementation of dcps are still pending -- unquote. in addition, whistle-blowers have informed the senate finance committee that the ongoing i.g. investigation has centered on high-level officials at the s.s.a. including members of ms. colvin's immediate office. and that the alleged criminal conduct may extend to irregularities in the awards of contracts for the dcps project. this is a serious problem, madam president. i don't know how the senate can with good conscience vote to confirm anyone with this type of ongoing investigation going on
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around their immediate office. it may very well turn out that ms. colvin did nothing wrong, but we need to know for sure. this is a really important position. that's why i along with all the republican members of the senate finance committee sent a letter to ms. colvin last week asking for more details about the


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