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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  December 11, 2014 8:00pm-10:01pm EST

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alliance and the federal law enforcement association all support these rules, and so do consumer public health groups and safety groups like advocates for highway and auto safety, citizens for reliable and safe highways, the consumer federation of america as well as the american public health association, the john lindsay foundation, the truck safety coalition, kids and cars.org, the trauma foundation public citizen. these are the preeminent public safety and consumer advocacy groups in this country. they all support these rules. and tragically and, unfortunatey there are organizations representing the victims, like parents against tired truckers
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and road safe america, who also have been inspired to support these rules. i say tragically and unfortunately because none of us welcome the fact that there are victims of crashes resulting from tired truckers. most regretful are the truckers themselves, which is why they're supporting this rule. but the families and loved ones of victims of these crashes support the rules, and even many trucking companies, like those represented by the trucking alliance support these rules. the fact is, there's good reason for the rules and there's good reason to strip the bill of the provision that negates and in effect undercuts and eviscerates these rules. section 133 of division k. there's good reason in the 2005
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study conducted by the federal motor carrier safety administration, demonstrated under the old rules that 65% of drivers reported feeling drowsy while driving and 48% admitted to falling asleep while driving at some point the previous year. under these new rules, the motor carrier safety administration says it will save 19 lives and prevent 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year and estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large-truck crashes, and $470 million in savings from improved driver health. these are dry, abstract statistics, but they measure compelling losses in human lives. and in dollars. unfortunately, the folks who
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want to put these rules on hold simply delay their implementation, have found a home in that omnibus appropriation bill that may be coming over from the house later today. and in addition while the rules are on hold the language in the house bill would also require that they be studied further. now, they've been studied a lot, and if there's a need for further study, fine. i am completely on board with study and fact finding. but in the meantime, let's keep the rules as they are, as prescribed by the federal motor carrier safety administration. they're in the business of safety. they've said these rules are necessary. let's have the rules implemented and study them to a fair thee well. if they're going to make any
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changes, it should be done with proper analysis and debate, not in a spending bill. it ought to be in the bill and in the committee with jurisdiction, the commerce committee, where i serve. that's why in late july my subcommittee held a hearing on truck safety, and this issue featured prominently. we gave everyone a chance to testify, to debate all points of view, and until then the only discussion was in the context of appropriations and spending bills, not in the context of real policy. the hearing that i held highlighted some real issues. first, with these changes, drivers will be able to drive nearly 80 hours a week. in other words, if this provision is adopted, if the rules are implemented, drivers will be able to drive nearly 80 hours a week and hundreds more a
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year. it's more likely that the trucking companies will push their drivers to drive the maximum limit, which is about twice the average americans workweek. and that is exactly what the 2013 rules were designed to prevent, truck drivers being forced to work too many hours, getting exhausted and endangering themselves and other drivers on the road. all we're trying to do with the rules is take tired truckers off the roads. and not tell them when they must sleep or what they must do while they are off the roads. it's about taking tired truckers off the road. and the changes that would enable driving nearly 80 hours a week and a hundred more hours a
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year will really impede their resting as they should. the rules implemented by the federal motor carrier safety administration were the result of compromise. to roll them back further undermines that compromise. if anything, we ought to be instituting greater safeguards. if there is fact finding that justifies stronger precautions and protection, we welcome that study. but in the meantime, allow the rules to work and protect drivers, truck drivers, and other drivers on the road. americans are in favor of these rules. they're in favor of truck safety. polling data released in october shows why so many americans are concerned about allowing drivers to be on the roads while they're
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fatigued. americans simply don't want these large trucks which in many respects operate like -- really like missiles zooming down the road, a missile out of control can do huge, humongous, enduring damage to life and limb to the futures of people whose lives may be transformed by a fatal or serious crash. let's make sure we have a real conversation about this issue in the commerce committee. let's make sure we do the fact finding and have the rules in place while that fact finding takes place. let's make sure that americans are protected against weary and tired truck drivers, and let's give them the same attention and
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care as we would want our families during this season on the roads while they're driving late at night, maybe in bad weather because there are going to be storms as there are inevitably in december and january and february, but every day, every season, these rules deserve to be implemented and that's why this provision that would roll back those rules, make changes, endangering the lives of ordinary americans on the roads, is so antithetical to safety, such an anathema to the values of saving and preserving life and increasing the safety of our drivers on the road. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor and 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 connecticut. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: thank you. mr. president, i'd like to inform my colleagues, although the hour is late, that the clay hunt bill, h.r. 5059, has been cleared on the democratic side and i hope that we will have unanimous consent to move it tomorrow in the session that we have on friday. this bill is of tremendous
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importance to not only me as a member of the veterans' affairs committee and my colleagues, many of them, including i believe senator mccain, who introduced and updated and improved a version of the suicide prevention for american veterans act, but also to the families who have been affected. and i want to say in particular to susan silky -- selki who testified before the veterans' affairs committee, and i was there for her testimony, speaking on behalf of herself and her husband richard, as the mother of clay hunt, a marine combat veteran who died by suicide in march of 2011 at the age of 28. i'm not going to speak at length about the reasons that we need to provide more assistance and
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support to prevent other wonderful young men and women like clay hunt who serve and sacrifice for our nation, the kind of resources and support that are necessary to prevent them from becoming victims of this kind of tragic circumstance. we owe it to susan selki, clay hunt's mom, and all the families who lose loved ones to suicide, to do better and do more and do it now. the reforms and programs directed by this legislation hopefully will enable the v.a. to better serve and treat veterans suffering from the hidden or invisible injuries of war. the mental health and other conditions that ought to be
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addressed to save young men and women like clay hunt. i will seek to move this bill tomorrow by unanimous consent, and i hope my colleagues will enable me to do so. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. ├Ěhe presiding officer: the clerk -- the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: the presiding officer: the senator from florida.
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mr. rubio: i wanted to speak on the pending item. we're in a corum call. i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. rubio: i want to speak on the thiet we're on, the national defense authorization act. but taking a look at the -- by taking a look at the condition of the world today -- and this is an important time to do this, as we look fiewrtd t forward tow year, to take a look at the complexities of the world and the threats that exist, because i think they're directly on point as to what our military capabilities are going to need to be in the 21st century. i know that the tendencies have often been on a number of owe occasions just in my lifetime, where we have tried to take for lack of a better term what's known as a peace dividend, at the end of the cold war, for example, and then again after the events of 9/11. the idea that the threats around the world and the challenges we face have somehow ended and it's time to nationwide. the problem is that now today in
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the 21st century, more than ever, there is no such thing are as a remote problem. there is no such thing as any issue that is of major importance abroad that doesn't somehow impact us at home. this is true more than ever. i think this has always been true but it has every been more true than it is today because of the global nature of our economy. as you look around the world -- and i wanted to take a brief moment to go over some of the parts of the world -- you start to see the need for american leadership, how important it is in this new global commitment . let's begin by looking at the middle east, the most troubled region of the world. that's been true for a very long time. we begin by talking about the negotiations that are going on with iran. and, look, i would hope -- we all do, i think -- to wake up one day to the news that iran has decided to walk away from sponsoring terrorism, iran has walked away from its desire to
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blow up israel, that iran has rejected their human rights abuses, and that iran has ended its -- the truth is that while we shouldn't root against the negotiations that are going on with iran, we shouldn't be naive enough to believe that they have a serious chance of success. for a couple of very simple reasons. the first is that i think iran looks at what's happened with north korea, a country that barely has an economy, it's really an area of land run by a criminal as syndicate. and they have seen in north korea because it has a nuclear weapon, has been able to be immune to international pressures, up to a certain point. and then iran looks to libya, they look to iraq. they say, look what happened to the people that don't have
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nuclear weapons. so i'm convinced that the supreme leader wants that nuclear capability. whether he'll ever actually build the weapon or not may not be something they've decided yet. but the ability to build that weapon, i have no doubt that's what they want. i have no doubt -- and i will the administration believes this to be true -- that they've gone into these etion goes with a very clear -- these negotiations with a very clear objective. that is, we want you to get rid of negotiators, as many sanctions as possible without agreeing to any irreversible quetions. it is an interesting plan because their idea is get rid of the sanctions, we'll do what we need to do in the short term, whatever that may be, as long as they're not irreversible, and at some tints time i time in the fl restart the wrep weapons progra. that's what their mandate has been. evening that has its limits. because when we look to knows negotiators and there is a history of this when you look to
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these negotiators. there have been times in the past when iranian negotiators might have agreed to something at the table and then they pull the offer because when they take it to the supreme leader, he says "no." the supreme leader is an isolated individual. this is not a person that travels the world or interacts with other international leaders of other nations. this is a person who is an ideologue, a religious fanatic. i don't care what the negotiators agreed to or what the president of iran agrees to. it ultimately is the supreme leader's decision. and i hate to say this, but they are not going to agree to any sort of deal that is good for the national security of the united states. that's -- that i believe is to be true. and we need to be prepared for that. i hope one of the first items we will take up in this chamber in the you ar new year is a bill to require congressional authorization for any deal. and i think we should also consider putting in place sanctions for the day when that deal fails.
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in the meantime, as we talk about this and negotiations are going on and iran has already acquired a concession on the part of the west that they can leave in place some level of the infrastructure they need to enrich uranium and preprocessable plutonium, in the meantime, they're still expan expanding their missile capability, they're still sponsoring terrorism all over the world, they're still deeply embedded in the line with shia militias. we should not be naive about the situation with iran. i hope more clarity will come to that. the second issue is the conflict in iraq and syria with regards to isil. the speed by which they have spread throughout two countries -- and their goals are very simple. the goal of isil is to establish
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an islamic caliphate that stretches from europe literally from spain all the way to the middle east, into india and afghanistan. that's their very clear goal. they've said so. that is their plan. and it began in syria and is spreading to iraq. they made some impressive gains before they started getting hit from the aimplet they are the best-funded and best-armed terrorist organization in modern history. we already will beginning to see the spread of ey isil. one place to keep an eye on is libya. they control an entire province in libya. a group that has pledged a. lee janes to them controls an entire region. they need an ungoverned space, they need a piece of tearer to where no one is shooting at home, where no one is contesting their presence, where they have no one to fight against them. that's what they need. that's why al qaeda was able to
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grow so fast in afghanistan, because the tail bang gave them that ungoverned space. that's why isil was able to grow so quickly out of syria and into iraq, because they were able to carve out an ungoverned space where the syrian government wasn't. in libya, they have no one to fight. there is no functional government right now. there is no rival rebel groups to shoot at them. and they are going to use that ungoverned space to grow their capability. in fact, it would not surprise me, unfortunately, if in a few months, maybe a year, the hub of isil's activities are located largely in that province of libya and beyond. by the way, isil's presence isn't just a threat to iraq and syria. their they are hay an immediate threat to the kingdom of jordan. if they are a threat to juror darnings they are a threat to israel and ultimately to saudi arabia. they are a threat to turkey already. they are a threat to lebanon. and, as i said, their presence
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in north africa as we speak. this is a very dangerous development and must be dealt with seriously. we also can't anticipate the ally janes that isil might make. as they make these gains or supposed gains, they've also become very good at propaganda. and they are convincing young radicalized individuals, including here in the united states, that they are the preeminent jihadist group on the planet, thatte they are the most successful jihadist group, that they will succeed, that they are an insurmountable force and they are convincing people to abandon other groups and join them. they're convincing donors to stop giving money to other groups and give to them. and we don't know what he this is going to develop into. but you could foresee in the very near future where other groups begin to align themselves with them just to remain relevant. by the way, as a side note, there is an additional danger to isil's spread. that is, that the other al qaeda-linked groups, the
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other jihadist groups in the world who are now losing recruits, feel an urgency to go out and carry out some speck tack cal attack, like here in the homeland or arab interests. they have an interest in carrying out a spectacular attack. but back to my original poirnghts the danger here is that these groups -- new groups in order to remain relevant and not lose their fighters may decide they're going to pledge allegiance to isil and the host of groups that are already exploring that are dangerous. the taliban in afghanistan, the taliban in pakistan, the haqqani network that are both in afghanistan and pakistan. we need to keep an eye on this threat because a year ago if i had stood on the floor and say we need to take isil very seriously, no one would know what i was talking about. that's how quickly it has spread
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and we have no idea what it could morph into this the next few years, in not to mention the next few months. one additional point i want to make. the city of mosul has a university with a significant research capability, and one thing for us to be very cautious about is that isil is not using that university and its research capabilities to develop rockets or, god forbid, chemical weapons or even a dirty bomb. that's something to keep an eye on in the months and weeks to come. another example of a complex national security threat that our nation faces. our ally in israel, their struggles and their challenges are well-documented. it begins with iran. we talked about this. it is the single-greatest threat facing israel today, the prospect of a nuclear iran and what it can mean to israel's security in the long term. they face a very difficult challenge with the palestinian authority. there was a poll i read about
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this morning that talked about a large majority of people, palestinians, who believe that it is morally right to kill israelis. to kill jews. now, i'm not saying to you that i believe all palestinians think that. but it bears noting what that poll found. it should not surprise us when the educational institutions of the palestinian authority, not to mention what's being taught in georgiin gaza, that not onlyt right, but it is heroic to be an anti-semite. and then they're being pressured, israel is, to enter into a peace agreement with these individuals, with those so-called leaders. how can you enter into a peace agreement with people that want to destroy you? how could you possibly he enter into a peace agreement with an organization that wants to eradicate you? what are you going to negotiate? the terms of your destruction? i don't know of any nation on earth that wouldn't want -- that
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wants peace more than israel does. what do they have to gain from this constant conflict? but how can you have peace with an organization, with a group that is committed to your destruction? and i stead of saying, israel, your number one-problem right now is the threat of an iranian nuclear weapon, this administration and some political leaders even in this chamber believe that we should be pressuring them that their number-one objective should be into some sort of a peace agreement with an organization that wants to destroy them, that in some quar quarters won't even recognize their right to exist. an organization who harbors individuals who deny that jews were ever present on the temple mountain in jerusalem, which is absurd. i would just encourage them do a little archeological research to confirm the longstanding jewish presence in the region. suffice it to say that israel is
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our strongest ally in the region. it is everything we wish the middle east was. a prosperous, free-enterprise economy, a stable democracy with a vibrant political process and a loyal friend of the united states and international forums. i wish there were more countries in the world like that. we should do everything we can to support israel, and we should stop putting pressure on them, because every time that we put pressure on them on these things and we create daylight between the united states and israel, we imperil their security and we encourage their enemies to become even more aggressive. the last point i would make about israel: let there be no doubt there is a global effort to de-legitimatize their right to exist as a jewish state. itit's infiltrated throughout europe and you're starting to see it rear its ugly head in academia here in the united states. as if the middle east was not complicated enough, you turn your focus to europe and the threat that russia now poses.
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interestingly enough, a year and a half ago, mitt romney, former governor of massachusetts, the republican presidential nominee, said that russia was our most serious geopolitical threat. he was mocked by elitists in the press, even by many here in washington. it turns out he was right. as were many of us who were saying the same thing. the truth is that vladimir putin many, many years ago concluded that the united states was a threat to russia. many years ago concluded that he wanted russia to be reestablished as a world power and the only way he could achieve that is by confronting the united states and being seen as a counterbalance to the united states on the global stage of you see that in place after place in international forums, when it comes to syria, on issue after issue, russia is against us because they believe -- putin believes that it gives him relevance on the global stage. there is a second issue here and do not take this lightly.
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the russians honestly believe -- you and i don't spend all night thinking the russians are going to invade us. but they do. there are leaders in the russian government that believe that the united states wants to -- wants to get into a military conflict with them. and they increasingly believe that now more than ever you can see it in the military moves that they're make. these are not just prof indications. this is an all-out change to their defense posture. to their defense theory. a defense theory that is increasingly looking like a cold war one. a defense theory that is increasingly looking like they need to have the ability to prevent a u.s. first strike or somehow to be able to react to a u.s. first strike. i know for toc sounds absurd that the u.s. would launch a nuclear tac against russia. but there are russian leaders that believe that's plausible and you're seeing it rear its head every part of the world.
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not a day goes by where there is not an intrusion here or a submarine appearing somewhere or an airplane intercepted by bombers. these are not provocations or muscle flexing. this is a change in their defense theory. and it's a very dangerous change. not to mention the fact that i believe that the evidence now exists that russia is in violation of multiple treaties that they have signed with the united states and there needs to be consequences for that. and then of course as part of that strategy they believe that they need strategic depth, which means they need all the countries that border them, especially the former soviet republics to be in their camp. they don't want anyone near them turning towards the west and the best example of that is what's happened in the ukraine. what's happening in ukraine is easy to understand. as ukraine turned westward, russia said that was unacceptable. they invaded crimea and took it
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and are now engaged openly in a conflict with the ukraine, an outrageous one. russian troops entered rue cranean -- ukrainian territory. they made incursions and carried out combat operations against ukrainian armed forces. the russians are supplying the ukrainians with weapons and armored vehicles. they'll claim these armored vehicles are armored vehicles that we seized and they're clever about the armored vehicles they supply them with. they are only supplying them with armored vehicles that look like the ones that the ukrainians already have in the current stockpiles but they are arming, equipping and training ukrainian separatists and their goal is to achieve one of two things. the first objective, plan a, is to force ukraine, because of the pressure they're putting on them through these separatists, because of the economic levers that they hold on a very fragile ukrainian economy through energy and exports and so forth, the first objective is to force
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ukraine into a federation system of government. basically a system of government that gives those eastern provinces and areas more autonomy because that will keep the country sufficiently divide sod it can never turn towards europe and the west. if that doesn't work, however, then plan b that they're perfectly comfortable with is to freeze the status quo, to basically freeze the current conflict as the status quo for the long term and for the next 15 or 20 years there will be armed and trained separatists support bid russia carrying out combat operations against the ukrainian government in the eastern parts of the country. plan a is the federation. plan b is to freeze the status of the current conflict. that is the realtyity we're facing. here is what russia is banking on. what they're banking on is the sanctions that have been imposed against their economy will not be sustained. that after a couple of years europe will say okay it is time
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to accept what happened here and move on and the sanctions will be lifted. that is what putin is probably telling his inner circle. don't worry we'll get through this. these sanctions will be lifted off of us and everything will be back to normal. those sanctions are hurting right now. i would hope the european nations understand what a direct threat this poses to them if russia can just invade a country and take it over. but time will tell. i think a strong american leadership is critical. i think reinvigoration of knee knee -- nato is critical. that is what putin is telling everyone around him. don't worry about these sanctions they're going to be gone in a while. we'll get through this. interesting, to give you insight into putin, the inner circle around him, elites that are closest to him, they're being shielded from the impact of these sanctions to a certain point. one of the people, igor suchin
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specifically sanctioned, he actually convinced putin to indict an energy rival of his, take his property and his assets and give it to igor suchin as compensation. that's how cynical this has become. the elites that surround and are closest to putin they're being protected by the impact of the sanctions but be everybody else is paying a terrible price. i also think there is clear evidence that putin is increasingly isolating nermings who he -- in terms of who he listens to and who he consults with. it will have a devastating impact on russia. next year their economy is predicted to contract. to give you a true indication of where russia is headed and to give you insight into where we should be headed is that despite this cross-examination of their economy -- despite the
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contraction of their economy, putin announced budget cuts throughout every part of their government except for one, the one part of their budget they're holding harmless: military spending. i hope that gives you insight into where they're headed. my last point on russia, they're increasingly present in the western hemisphere. they're actively seeking lease agreements in nicarauga, venezuela and cuba to be able to have aircraft stationed in our own backyard in the western hemisphere. let's talk about asia, another place that poses very significant national security and military implications for the united states. i talked about north korea earlier. i think it bears repeating. north korea doesn't have a government. it is a nation or it is a territory governed by a criminal syndicate run by an insane and erratic leader, but an insane and erratic leader with nuclear weapons. an insane and erratic leader
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that is developing long range missile capabilities and an insane and erratic leader that may end up overestimating his military capabilities and miscalculate and trigger a dispute with south korea that could quickly escalate and implicate the united states who has a very strong and important military arrangement and defense agreement arrangement with south korea, our allies in the south that bears watching. let's focus for a moment on china. first of all, we cannot ignore the aggressive territorial claims against both the philippines and japan. interestingly they picked on the philippines first, a nation that doesn't have much of a military to speak of and this was the first nation they've gotten into this conflict with. but they have them also with japan and vietnam and have been pretty aggressive about it. to understand you have to understand history. for thousands of years china was the dominant nation in that region and for them the last 200
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years is an aberration and their increasing assertiveness is they believe it is time to go back to normal which is their dominance of the region. their dominance doesn't mean they're going to invade these countries and take them over. they are not going to invade the philippines or japan. what they believe is all these countries should be tributary states, that all these countries should fold under chinese leadership, all these countries should recognize that china is big and they're small and they should listen to china's directives and orders. you see the silk road initiative, you see them trying to come up to an initiative to the other global institutions. they want to displace the united states and the global order that existed since the end of world war ii with their own order run by china for china's advantage. and that begins with territorial claims. the next time you have a chance to see in some chinese passports, they have a map that indicates something called the nine dash line.
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that is what they think the world looks like in terms of territories. if you look at what that means, they believe the entire south china sea is their territory. that is why they made these aggressive moves against these islands. let me tell you how the strategy works. they send fishermen to these areas to fish or exploit resources. the other countries send out the coast guard to defend it. they send their coast guard or navy to push back. they show you if you want to fight against us there is nothing you can do about it. what they want these nations to conclude is there is no point in fighting china because we can't win. the u.s. is not going to come to our defense, so we might as well cut a deal with them and accept their dominance. and that is their plan. slowly but surely to change the facts on the ground, to assert themselves, to convince these other countries there is nothing they can do about it. they can't count on the u.s. anymore and eventually these countries will say china, we'll do whatever you want, and cave. that's their plan and they're carrying it out.
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they have also shown their true colors in hong kong. when that agreement was signed to turn hong kong over from the united kingdom to the chinese one of the things that was important in that agreement was autonomy, that hong kong couldn't have its own foreign policy but it could have its own domestic system of government autonomous from the chinese system. but now things have changed. now the chinese basically want to have veto power over who can run for office and who can lead hong kong. the criteria they have established is you have to love the nation. but i'll translate to you what that means. you have to love the chinese communist party and do what they want you to do. and so this is an important development that we need to keep an eye on. beyond that, going back to military affairs for a moment, because we're on the ndaa, just look at what china is doing in its military expenditures. dramatic increases in military expenditures. the true nature of which we don't know because china doesn't pass a budget like ours for
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public knowledge. we know what they spent but we don't know how much more they spent than what they've declared but they are developing antiaccess denial weapons, antiaccess weapons. they tested, for example, missile, super sonic missiles fired off their ships designed to penetrate u.s. missile defense. here's why they developed these things, because they want us to know that if we were to encroach upon these territories, if there was a conflict in asia and the u.s. responded militarily the chinese can destroy one of our aircraft carriers, one of our expensive naval capabilities. that is what they want to be able to prove to us. what they hope the calculation will be is the u.s. knows if one day china invades taiwan there is nothing we can do about it because we're not going to lose two aircraft carriers over a conflict. that is why they're investing so much in denial capabilities. they are also investing in space
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warfare, the ability to blow up our satellites. china is racing to militarize space, very serious threat to keep an eye on. a couple more points on the military. i want to close by talking about the western hemisphere. the western hemisphere poses its own set of challenges as outlined earlier. let's start with venezuela. we took up a bill this week with venezuela. it was an important bill and i'm glad we passed it. it's on its way to the president's desk. it sanctions human rights violators. the government of venezuela is not an ally of the united states. they vote gents this country in -- against this country whenever they can. they actively undermine u.s. national security interests and there are serial human rights violators at home and we passed a bill that will sanction those violators. the president indicated he's
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going to sign them and i think they'll have a real impact but venezuela is headed for catastrophe. this is a rich country headed for economic catastrophe. basic goods like toothpaste and toilet paper are unavailable in venezuela. the venezuelan economy today resembles the cuban economy. there is no embargo against venezuela. it shows you socialism doesn't work. they have run out of things to give away. it's not a democracy. venezuela is no longer a democracy. they have something called the national electoral commission and they are actively as we speak trying to replace people not loyal to the government on that commission with people loyal to the governing party. the second thing i predict you're going to see is the current president of venezuela maduro is going to move up the legislative elections to july or june of this year because he knows the longer this crisis goes on the less and less popular the governing party is going to be. so i predict the venezuelan elections could be moved up.
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i also predict financial disaster. here is a curious thing that we've received calls about in the last few days. venezuela is begging basically the petro caribo nations to buy venezuelan products. they are going to the car reeb nations and saying instead of paying us cash for the oil you can pay us by buying our products. there is going to be a financial disaster in venezuela. the price of oil and its collapse is not helping them. what i predict is not just financial disaster. but severe repression. and i predict in the year 2015, we're going to see severe human rights violations, severe repression on the part of the government and everything that can -- and all the impact that's going to have on the region, and i hope we're ready to confront that. it's something we need to begin to think about. because that's going to lead to mass migration, into colombia, into the united states. that's going to lead arlington
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stability in the region. that could potentially lead to armed conflict, between the professional armed services of venezuela and the cuban agents that now, for all intents and purposes, are on the cuban government, talking about cuba, a nation that i talk a lot about because my parents came from there. i live in a community of people who came from there and had to leave to flee communism. let me begin by saying that alan gross is still a hostage. alan gross committed no crime. he did nothing wrong. he is a hostage in a cuban prison. a hostage that the cubans are holding because they want to exchange him for five cuban spies convicted in the courts of the united states. alan gross was not a spy. all he wanted to do was help the small jewish community in cuba, and for that he has been jailed. it's outrageous. it shows you the true nature of this government. we shouldn't be surprised. they still detain on a -- on a -- as a matter of course, they still detain dissidents and
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people that disagree. every sunday, they beat up and harass the ladies in white, which is a group of mothers who have sons in jail or fathers who have been killed or husbands who have been killed or jailed, who every sunday march, dressed in white to protest the government, and every sunday the government of thugs come after them. it's shameful to me that people know this and look the other way, but that's the reality of what's happening every single day in cuba it is still going on. it is the most repressive governments in the western hemisphere and one of the most repressive governments in the world. they are also a violator of international agreements. we know for a fact that a ship going to the panama canal from cuba to north korea was -- was carrying equipment and material in violation of the u.n. sanctions on north korea. the u.n., which is not an easy place to get to condemned -- to get to condemn cuba, found the
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same thing. and our response to that has been nothing, absolutely nothing. the cuban government assisted north korea in evading u.n. sanctions, and we've done nothing about it. on the contrary, we still have people saying let's lift the embargo, let's normalize relations, which leads me to some point directly related to this. the nomination of tony lincoln that's before the senate. i -- i will use every procedural method available to me to ensure that this senate will have to take as long as possible to confirm him, and i'm going to tell you why. because on three separate occasions, i asked mr. blinkan, is the united states going to ignore -- is your government going to ignore u.s. law and unilaterally change policy towards cuba, and he would not answer my questions. and so until i get a clear answer on that, i intend to hold his nomination as long as the rules allow me to. i want to make one more point about cuba, and that is in addition to being the ally of
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every tyrant on the planet from assad to iran to qadhafi before he died and fell, they also, by the way, cuba is the home of a significant number of medicare fugitives, people that have come to the united states, stolen money through medicare fraud. medicare, that's a subject for another day, but medicare fraud in south florida is rampant. it is out of control. in fact, law enforcement officials in south florida will tell you that if you're only willing to steal -- if you're just willing to steal $200,000 a month, they will never catch you. you have an inordinate number of people coming from cuba, stealing from medicare, and then when they are about to get caught, they go back to cuba with all that money. they are housing numerous medicare fugitives in cuba, and it's hard to believe that they came here and were able to mount such operations so quickly without assistance from somebody. so i would just say -- and now we see signals from the white house that we're going to invite cuba, that we're open to them being invited to the summit of
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the americas. the summit of the americas is a forum for democracies, not for 20th century relics like the cuban government. and now all this talk of unilateral policy change, i want us to change policy towards cuba, but the first step has to happen from the cuban government. they have to change first. and let me tell you what would happen if we lifted the embargo on cuba tomorrow. what would happen is what's happening now with china. you know, we passed the bill today out of foreign relations on the issue of hong kong, and i'm getting phone calls in my office from american companies who do business in china who are saying hey, why don't you guys drop that. what they're really saying is hey, why don't you guys drop that. it's bad for the deal we have going with the chinese. that's the same thing that will happen if we lift the embargo, american companies will become invested in whatever deal the regime gives them, and they will come to washington, d.c., and lobby on behalf of the interests of that regime without any interests for the freedom and the liberty of the cuban people. i hope and i will fight with
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every marrow in my bones against any sort of unilateral change to u.s. policy towards cuba. from a military perspective, cuba is not a benign country, although they don't have the military capability they once had. and in fact there have been open source reports that cuba's looking to restart with russian cooperation an intelligence gathering station in the city of lourdes in cuban whose sole purpose is to collect against the united states and particularly southern command in south florida. so as we look at the ndaa, that's something to keep in mind. so i would close by four points that we should think about as we get into the new year and as we debate this bill on national security and national defense. the first is this -- we should stop confusing tactics with strategy. we had a debate today in the foreign relations committee about authorizing the use of military force, and everyone wants to debate tactics. should it be for three years or one year. should we have ground troops or not have ground troops?
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should we define the geography of where it is or where it isn't? tactics are not the same thing as strategy. and time and again around the world, many of these problems, this administration has not articulated the strategy. they're telling us what they are tactically doing. we are doing air strikes. we're imposing sanctions. but they don't tell you what the strategy is. what is the strategy behind all these things? the strategy should be clear. we are in favor of a world that is free and a world that is prosperous, where more people than ever live in a prosperous middle class so they can buy the things we sell and invent and innovate and make and the services we offer. we want there to be peace and prosperity throughout the world, and we believe the best system for that is an international order that respects human rights and democracy and freedom and the dignity of every individual. that's our overlying aim. and of course the security of the united states is deeply tied to all of this. and then in each region of the world, we need to have a
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strategy, a strategy that because it's backed up by strong national defense tells our partners in asia, we are here for the long haul, and not only are we here to pivot to asia, we have something to pivot with through our military capability, that tells nato you still do have a purpose, and that purpose is to ensure the territorial integrity of the nation's of europe. a military strategy that tells our partners in the middle east we stand with you and we will do what we need to do to defeat radical jihadists and prevent iran from having a nuclear weapon. and so that's important. the second thing is we have to spend money on these things. the sequester cuts to the military are unsustainable. at a time when the world has gotten more complicated, where the threats that this nation faces have gotten more complicated and more difficult to deal with than ever before, we are severely cutting back on military spending in an unsustainable way. in fact, no one believed that the budget cuts that we're facing in the military now were realistic or sane, for that
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matter. that's why they put them in that bill that i voted against because they thought these budget cuts were so bad that it will force them to actually do something about the debt. they underestimated the willingness of this congress to do bad things, because those cuts are here to stay, and we have the smallest air force and navy, at least since the end of world war ii, while our potential adversaries are ramping up military spending and their military capabilities. my third point directly related to national defense and national security, we cannot continue to try to erode our intelligence-gathering capabilities. the threats that we face around the world are real and they are significant. they are threats from nation states like russia and china. they are the threats of rogue states like iran and north korea. they are the threats of nonstate actors like al qaeda and isil, and they are the threat of transnational criminal groups who steal personal data of americans and who could
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potentially conduct other cyber attacks against our infrastructure. these threats are real, and i hope the day never comes, but if it does that another major attack occurs here in the homeland, perhaps one even worse than 9/11. the first question people are going to ask is why didn't we know about it. why weren't we able to stop it? and the answer cannot be because we took apart our intelligence gathering capability, because we took down our ability to identify these threats and we took them down because of conspiracy theories, because we have people running around telling people that all your phone calls are being listened to, that all your cell phone calls are being tracked. that is false. that is categorically and patently false. that is not true. and yet we are prepared to dismantle our ability to acquire information that could prevent those sorts of attacks, and by the way intelligence capabilities that also give us a
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strategic advantage over potential adversaries and intelligence gathering capabilities that also inform our diplomacy, by the way. and yet there are people advocating to take that apart. in fact, just a day ago, we had someone come to the floor of the senate and divulge classified information on the floor of the senate, unprecedented, outrageous, irresponsible and unacceptable. and last but not least, we have to truly believe with all our heart that the world is a safer and better place when america is the strongest military power in the world. no nation is perfect. ours never has claimed to be, but i know of no nation that has used its power more benevolently than ours. it is americans who have sent its sons and daughters abroad to fight for the freedom and liberty of other people. it is americans that have gone abroad to fight against communism and radical islam and
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nazism and imperial japan and other threats to human dignity in the survival of mankind, and we did so without taking a single inch of territory. we didn't turn iraq into the 51st state. we didn't turn afghanistan into a u.s. territory. this is the nation that after we defeated japan and germany in world war ii helped rebuild those countries, and today they are among our strongest allies. this is the country that even after a cease-fire in the korean war still stands so many years later on the front lines of south korea, protecting their freedom and their territorial integrity, to a point where south korea, a nation that just two decades ago was a beneficiary of global aid is now a donor. a country that has gone from being with an economy smaller than north korea's now has one of the top ten economies in the world. this is the nation that did that. we're not perfect, but i
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challenge you to find another nation in human history that's used its military power for the good of mankind more than we have. and let me tell you, the world knows that, too. and as we talk about national defense, it's not just about bombs and bullets. let me close with a story that i picked up earlier this year when i traveled to asia. i went to the philippines to an area badly hit by the storm last year. this area was devastated. these people were already poor to begin with. the typhoon made things even worse. and i got to speak to some of the people there, and i asked them when did you finally know that there was hope? what was it that actually? was it when the humanitarian aid groups showed up, was it when the u.n. got here? when was it that you finally thought to yourself there is something to live for, there's hope here? and the gentleman turned to me and said you know when i knew that there was actually some hope? when i woke up one morning and looked to the horizon and there was a u.s. aircraft carrier. that's when i started to believe
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that maybe we were going to make it, maybe things were going to be okay. that aircraft carrier didn't stay long but it stayed long enough to make a difference in those early days after that storm, and it stayed long enough to give people hope. it's the same aircraft carrier they saw off the coast of haiti after the terrible earthquake. it's the same aircraft carriers they saw off the coast of japan after they had a nuclear accident. that's also america's military power. that's also what we have done with our national defense capabilities. we have not been perfect, but america has been a source for good in the world. no nation in the history of mankind has ever done more good for the planet than we have and for the people of this earth, and we should be proud of that. now is not the time to dismantle that capability. the world needs a strong america today and now more than it ever has. with that, madam president, i
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yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. reid: madam president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i ask unanimous consent the call of the quorum
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be terminated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: madam president, we're going to pass sometime tonight before 12:00 a resolution that will ensure that the government doesn't shut down. the house passed the omnibus. it was by a nice margin. not overwhelming, but a nice margin. and as a result of that, we'll take up the long-term spending bill tomorrow. senators will want to debate this legislation. they'll have that opportunity. the senate will vote on the long-term funding bill as soon as possible, and that's -- we're in the senate. as soon as possible could be tomorrow, it could be two days after cloture's filed on it, it could be a lot of different times. but we're going to work as hard as we can to expedite things around here. but if we're going to do this tomorrow, we need cooperation from everyone. we had, -- as i have indicated, we had a number of things we had
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to do. we had to keep the government functioning, and we're going to do that tonight. we're going to do a short-term extension, as i have indicated, until we finish this bill. i think the extension will be for two days. that means we have to finish this bill in the next two days. we have to finish the defense bill. that's now before the body. that time runs out tomorrow afternoon. no one can stop us from the time running out tomorrow afternoon. we hope to be able to expedite that. there is conversations going on now to make that so we could finish it sometime early tomorrow afternoon. i want to take this time, though, to spread on the record my admiration for the work done by senator barbara mikulski, the chairwoman of the senate appropriation committee. of this good woman came to the senate when i came. we came together. and i was fortunate to be on
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that appropriation committee as a program. that was really a big deal for this young senator. and senioritywise, there was always one person ahead of me, and that was barbara mikulski. she has done a remarkably good job as a senator. as i've said many times, when we came to the senate together, she was it. there was no other woman here. and look what she has done as mate remark of this body. everybody looks up to -- as matriarch of this body. everyone looks up to her. men and women, she is admired by everyone. and her taking over this appropriation committee was something she had wanted to do for a long time, and she has done such a good job. she's proud of the committee. she's trying to re-establish the committee as to what it used to be. you know, we as legislators have to recognize we have three separate branches of government,
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and under the terms of the constitution, they're supposed to be equal. we have had a lot of our power taken from us by the executive branch of government, and barbara mikulski is trying is re-establish that so we have three separate equal branches of government. and what took place in the house today a few minutes ago will help her establish the appropriation committee for what it should be. we have an obligation as legislators to have congressionally directed spending. that's in the constitution. all the decisions as to where the money goes shouldn't be made down at 16th and pennsylvania avenue. so the bill that she and congressman rogers worked on is not a perfect bill, but, madam president, as the presiding officer, you know, you're a legislator, there are no perfect bills. there are some people that are upset about things in this bill. to be candid with you, i'm kind of upset about some of the things in the bill.
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but this bill is so much better than a short-term c.r. it would have been -- when i mean short term, i mean three months. over and over again, threatening the government to shut down, especially at about the same time we have to raise the debt ceiling again. so i want to end by saying this would never, ever have happened about -- unless we had had the good work -- i'm sorry. let me say this would never have happened but for barbara mikulski. tomorrow should be a very interesting day. with a little bit of good fortune, we could complete the spending for the country for a fiscal year that's fast upon us, we could finish the defense bill and then look to doing the tax extenders and completing the work on tria, whatever that might be, and from that point forward, we would work on nominations and be out of here fairly quickly, but everyone's going to have to work together to get this done.
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ms. mikulski: thank you very much, leader reid, for your very kind words and your support and assistant -- oh, ahmadinejad? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. ms. mikulski: madam president, i rise to speak on the omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2015. madam president, i wish to thank the democratic leader, the majority leader, for his kind words. but it's not only about his kind words about me, it's been his advocacy to make sure that as we look at the need for funding for the entire government, that there would be no government shutdown and the no government on autopilot. just a few minutes ago, the house of representatives did their part. they passed the omnibus spending bill, passing it

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