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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  December 15, 2014 4:00pm-6:01pm EST

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proceed to their consideration en bloc: h.r. 3027, h.r. 4416, h.r. 4651, h.r. 5331, and h.r. 5562. the presiding officer: without objection the senate will proceed to the measures en bloc. mr. carper: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the bills be read a third time and passed en bloc and the motions to reconsider be laid upon the table en bloc with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. carper: as if in legislative session, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the veterans' affairs committee be discharged from further consideration of h.r. 4276 and the senate proceed to its immediate consideration. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: h.r. 4276, an act to extend and modify a pilot program on assisted living
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services for veterans with traumatic brain injury. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? if not, the committee is discharged and the senate will proceed. mr. carper: mr. president, i further ask the bill be read a third time and passed, the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. carper: finally, mr. president, as if in legislative session, i ask unanimous consent that the homeland security and governmental affairs committee be discharged from further consideration of h.r. 5687 and the senate proceed to its immediate consideration. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: h.r. 5687, an act to designate the facility of the united states postal service located at 101 east market street in long beach, california, and so forth.
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the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? if not, the committee is discharged and the senate will proceed. mr. carper: mr. president, i further ask the bill be read a third time and passed and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. carper: and, mr. president, that's all i have at this time. i see we've been joined by the senior senator from the state of hawaii. aloha. and i'm happy to yield the floor to senator hirono. mr. sessions: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: i have been -- i have indication that if i were here on the floor that i be recognized. i don't know if there is any agreement on that or just an informal understanding. the presiding officer: there is no order to that effect. mr. sessions: well, mr. president, i believe i have the floor and i'd like to share
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some remarks at this time. mr. president, i understand senator hirono was expecting to speak after senator carper and informally been promised time, and senator carper went a little long. and so i would be pleased to yield to her. i will yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii. ms. hirono: i thank the senator for yielding. mr. president, i rise today to speak in strong support of the nomination of dr. vivek murthy for surgeon general of the united states. in these brief remarks i'm going to explain why i think he's a highly qualified nominee, why his age should not be a limiting factor at all and finally why we
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need a surgeon general now. dr. murthy has been waiting for a vote on his nomination for months, and i'm glad that today the time has come to give him that vote. i met with dr. murthy a little while ago and found him to be one of the most interesting and likable people that i have met, and that is saying a lot. he has accomplished much already and has a deep commitment to giving back through his work. i found him to be a breath of fresh air. i was particularly impressed by his work at a company he founded when he identified inefficiencies in clinical drug trials and came up with a solution. his innovative ideas will help medical treatment move to market faster. in other words, he wanted to get drugs faster to the people who needed them. we often speak with admiration of americans who are technologically proficient, and it is rare to find someone who is not only tech savvy but is
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able to take that skill and combine with with the kind of medical training, creative mind and ability to identify and solve real-world problems. and dr. murthy, in dr. murthy we have that someone. while there are some who feel dr. murthy is too young and inexperienced to be surgeon general, anyone who has met and talked with him as i have would, i believe, come away impressed. dr. murthy is not yet 40 but certainly his age has not prevented him from accomplishing many things. he is someone who has done much to solve public health challenges in his years as a physician and well before that. he has leadership experience through his work starting and running a public health company advocacy organization and includes founding a technology company. he has a strong medical background and experience that demonstrates his ability to take
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complex health information and translate it for others, exactly what we need in a surgeon general. if anything, we should be doing all we can to get young, bright, committed, driven people like dr. murthy into public service. recently this nation found itself worried about ebola. misinformation and fear were palpable in our communities. we did not have a permanent surgeon general to coordinate the information tsunami that descended on the american people from government and scientists. and without a surgeon general, it has been a struggle to ensure that accurate, timely information about ebola was disseminated to the public. today it's ebola. we don't know what public health crisis will come next. we need a surgeon general who will roll up his sleeves, survey the evidence and take action.
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dr. vivek murthy has demonstrated that he will be that kind of surgeon general because he does not shy away from asking tough questions, listening and then developing solutions that are driven by evidence. his listening skills and his ability to engage and communicate with a broad spectrum of people combined with his medical and business background -- he does have a masters degree also in business -- will make him extremely effective as surgeon general. think about this. we have a nominee who is not only a well-trained physician but also has business management skills and the ability to engage stakeholders, be they medical professionals, faith-based organizations, or the public at large. he can start conversations and effect real change to improve the health of our communities, particularly in priority areas
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of obesity and mental health. again, i found in dr. murthy a combination of an ability to be very creative with the very important ability to listen. because although he has both a medical and business background, he doesn't think he knows more than anybody else. so this listening ability is very important with the ability to solve real-world problems. i urge my colleagues to vote in favor of dr. murthy for u.s. surgeon general. i yield the floor. mr. sessions: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: we're not in quorum call, i believe? the presiding officer: no, we are not.
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mr. sessions: mr. president, i rise today to speak in opposition to the nomination of sarah r. saldana. she has been nominated to head the nation's top immigration law enforcement agency which has been at the epi center of this administration's refusal to enforce our nation's immigration laws. i'm sure she's a person of integrity and character and who's got experience, some at least, as united states attorney in texas, but fundamentally i'll share with you some of the reasons i think this is not the right nomination at this critical time. when asked in the judiciary committee whether she rejects the president's unlawful action to unilaterally grant legal residence and work permits to five million individuals illegally in the country, she
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said that she did. she supported that action. her answer reflects a remarkable disregard for the rule of law that demonstrates the difficulty she'll have as being the leader of this important i.c.e. agency. i.c.e. is the immigration customs and enforcement officials. they are immigration enforcement officials. they are hired to work as enforcement officials. as united states attorney, i worked with immigration and customs officers, prosecuted their cases in mobile, alabama, on the gulf coast in shipping and those kinds of issues and immigration issues. that's what they do. but the president has decided to tell them not to follow their duties, and now he's gone so far as to unilaterally direct that those officers not enforce the
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law, but they've created a mechanism, a new office in crystal city, across the river in virginia, and that office is beginning to process these millions of claims. and they're hiring 1,000 new employees to do that work. so what we're involved in is a situation in which the law enforcement officers, agency are being instructed not to enforce the law. not only that, the department of homeland security has gone beyond that and actually providing a legal status and work permits and social security numbers, photo i.d., medicare, social security program participation to all these people that enter the country illegal liquors which congress refused to do. rather than ask for it, congress said no. congress says you didn't act,
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i'm going to do it on my own, after having said for months 20 different times you didn't have the legal authority to do so. so i'm not going to vote for it. i don't think our colleagues should vote for a person to head this agency that believes that this action by the president is lawful. because it's not lawful. you say, well, somebody says it's lawful, jeff. that's your opinion. well, i served 15 years in the department of justice. i've been on the judiciary committee here for 18 years. and my opinion is not lawful. it's not constitutional. it's not a legitimate use of prosecutorial discretion. if it goes beyond anything i've ever seen, perhaps this nation has ever seen in terms of violating the laws passed by congress. so, that's the problem we've got here. and i think we should take a
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moment to listen to some excellent legal scholars on the question at play. and i would just add parenthetically that the department of i.c.e. -- immigration, customs and enforcement officers -- have the lowest morale of any of the subagencies in government. it got so bad and they were so frustrated at their not being able to do their job, the i.c.e. social i think is 10,000, 12,000 members, sued their own super vie so, the job that this lady will be taking, sued mr. martin who held it previously, mr. martin held it previously, and they said our super -- visor is violating the law, directing us not to do our duty that the law
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says plainly we must do this and shall do this. and they filed a lawsuit in federal court. i've never heard of any group of law officers filing a lawsuit saying they're being denied the right to fulfill their oath to see that the laws are being enforced. and that's what happened. a judge was very sympathetic. he said this president is not above the law, but he found technically that the i.c.e. officers didn't have standing to bring a suit and that's now on appeal. it's been on appeal for some long time. it just goes to show how demoralized this agency is, and the fundamental reason is that every officer out there knows what's happened. they're being directed not to do their duty. and it's up to congress to pass laws, and congress has passed laws, and the president cannot do away with that. let's just examine some of the comments that we've seen from
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professors and others. professor jan ting at temple university law professor. he also was one of the top officials, assistant directors in the immigration department, experience in that. he testified before the judiciary committee just last week, and he said -- quote -- "the most comprehensive analysis of the administration's deferred action policies that have been produced to date is a 77-page law journal article purchased -- published last year by berkeley law professor john ewe and st. thomas law professor robert delaheny. in that article the professors reviewed the most commonly offered and generally accepted excuses or justifications for the breach of the president's duty to execute the laws and concluded that the daca" -- this was the action he took some time
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ago not to deport people. the daca program does not fall within any of it. close quote. so basically he agrees with the professors who have written this comprehensive article that says this isn't any prosecutorial discretion question. and so the conclusions of professors lui and delahunte have been repeatedly endorsed the last couple of years by former professors of constitutional law at the university of chicago law school, president barack obama. by professor obama himself. so indeed, president obama said over 20 times that he does not have the authority to do what he's done. for example, on march 28, 2011, he said -- quote -- "with
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respect to the notion that i can just suspend deportations through executive order, that's just not the case, because there are laws on the books that congress has passed. we have got three branches of government. congress passes the law. the executive branch's job is to enforce and implement those laws. there are enough laws on the books by congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with any -- with my appropriate role as president." close quote. that's the president himself in detail. he had considered it at this time you can tell from the detail in that answer. these were people saying well, just give people amnesty yourself, mr. president, and he
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said know. later, the president said regarding his own lawful deferred action for childhood arrivals program the same principle, the same program -- quote -- "if we start broadening that, i would be ignoring the law in a way that i think would be very difficult to defend legally. so that's not an option. what i have said is there a path to get this done, and that's through congress, close quote. that on march 6 this year, he stated that the daca program -- quote -- already stretched my administrative capacity very far. but at a certain point, the reason that these deportations are taking place is congress said you have to enforce these laws. they fund the hiring of officials at the department
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that's charged with enforcing, icy officers being part of that, and i cannot ignore those laws any more than i could ignore, you know, any of the other laws that are on the books." close quote. in august of this year, just a few months before announcing his executive amnesty, just a few months ago he said -- quote -- "i think that i never have a green light to push the limits of executive power. i'm bound by the constitution. i'm bound by separation of powers. there are some things we can't do. congress has the power of the purse, for example. congress has the power to pass a budget and authorize spending. so i don't have a green light." close quote. well, that's true. congress does have the power of the purse and congress is not authorized -- has not authorized the president to set up an office in crystal city and hire a thousand people to provide
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legal status and job authorization, social security numbers and other such documents and allowing them to take any job in america, they have not authorized that and haven't provided them money for that. congress should explicitly and directly -- and i'm disappointed it hasn't this year -- block that, which it can easily do. article 1, section 8 of the constitution is clear that congress is vested with a plenary power over naturalization law. in 1954, the supreme court stated -- quote -- "that the formulation of these policies is entrusted exclusively to congress as -- that it has been exclusively entrusted to congress has become about as firmly embodied in our legislative and judicial tissue of our body public as any aspect
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of government." close quote. so in exercising his plenary authority, congress has declined to pass an immigration bill bestowing legal status and work permits upon illegal immigrants. congress has recognized the need to control the number of individuals who can come to this country to live and to work. it has passed laws to establish rules, to protect the interest of american citizens and set up a fair system by which people apply to come to the united states. they are properly evaluated, and up to a certain number each year they are admitted. we admit a million a year lawfully on a permanent resident status. that's the most generous numbers in the entire world, and in addition to that, we have 700,000 guest workers here. and then in addition to that, it appears that another 11 million illegally have gotten into the country.
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now, what about what's happening said that this new icy officer says she supports but i believe is absolutely wrong? president obama's recent unlawful executive amnesty and work authorization actions have essentially established another system of immigration apart from the one that's in law. he's created another system of law to process people who want to come to america. in so doing, he's violated the constitutional structure that gives congress the power to set the laws for immigration. in a recent paper, professor jan ting who i noted before said this -- "in effect, the president's deferred action program constitutes an alternate immigration system authorized by
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a cabinet secretary's memorandum while the statutory system limits a number of employment-based visas to several hundred thousand per year, the presidential immigration system in a single year allots comparable privileges, the same privileges to several million who enter the country unlawfully. in light of many supreme court hearings on the plenary, complete and exclusive authority of congress to fashion immigration policy, an alternative presidential immigration system that nullifies the limits of the statutory immigration system is plainly unconstitutional." close quote. so that's what professor ting, who spent years in the immigration system, described.
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professor ting further argues that the administration's assertions of authority to justify its -- quote -- alternative presidential immigration system -- close quote -- that's a pretty good way to describe it, his alternative presidential immigration system. through prosecutorial discretion to defer action, provide parole authority and the issuance of work authorization directly violate constitutionally enacted immigration laws. he goes on to say -- quote -- "ordering icy agents not to inspect or place into removal proceedings illegal aliens they encounter violates 8 united states code section 1225 which
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expressly -- expressly sur tails the president's discretion concerning inspection and detention of aliens not lawfully admitted to the united states. he goes on to say another point -- quote -- "granting advance parole to deferred action recipients so that they may travel back and forth between the united states and their native countries violates 8 u.s.c. section 1182 d-5. amended in 1996 specifically to prevent the use of parole to admit aliens who do not qualify for admission under established legal immigration categories." close quote. another one. quote -- "granting work permits to millions of illegal aliens ignores nearly a century of case law, including supreme court decisions, holding that the executive branch may not sir
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circumvent the statutory employment-based visa system by opening the labor market to aliens not eligible for such visas, thereby defeating congress' purpose of protecting american laborers from an influx of skilled and unskilled labor." close quote. those are some of the things professor ting laid out, directly violating law that the president has carried out in this scheme. he concludes -- quote -- "in other words, the president's deferred action program sits on a plainly unconstitutional stew which itself rests upon three plainly illegally legs." close quote. i think that's a fair analysis of it. chapman university professor john eastman also testified before the judiciary committee -- quote -- "the president has not just declined to prosecute or to deport those who violated
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our nation's immigration laws. he has given to millions of illegal aliens a lawful permission to remain in the united states as well. and with that, the ability to obtain work authorizations, driver's licenses and countless other benefits that are specifically barred to illegal immigrants by u.s. law." in other words, he has taken it upon himself to drastically rewrite our immigration policy, the terms of which by constitutional design are expressly set by congress. close quote. i think that's indisputable. so somebody can say that's just your opinion. i'm here to decide the question. all of us are here to decide the question. did the president act responsibly, lawfully or unlawfully in this action? it's not a close question, colleagues. you can find excuses. you can find some professor that says this or that, but it's not
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accurate. at some point in our nation's life, we need to be able to ascertain and speak with clarity. congress has the power to write immigration laws. congress rejected the president's request to provide this power, and congress should not allow this to continue because it's unlawful and in fact violates the constitution. now, additionally, george washington law school professor jonathan turley, nationally recognized constitutional scholar. he describes himself as a supporter of president obama and his policies, testified before the house judiciary committee in the house recently regarding the president's unilateral action on immigration. this is professor turley. he has testified many times before congress, and frequently most usually, i believe, as a democrat witness. he said this, quote -- "it's not
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prosecutorial discretion to go into a law and say an entire category of people will no longer be subject to law. that's a legislative decision. prosecutorial discretion is a case-by-case decision that is made by the department of justice. when the department of justice starts to say we are going to extend that to whole sections of law, then they are engaging in a legislative act, not an act of prosecutorial discretion. wherever the line is drawn, it's got to be drawn somewhere from here. it can't include categorical rejections of the application of the law to millions of people." close quote. i think he's exactly right. he goes on to say -- quote --
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"many of these questions are not close, in my view." this is professor turley, supporter of president obama. "many of -- many of these questions involving this amnesty are not close, in my view. the president is outside the line, and that's where we have the most serious constitutional crisis. our view, that's where we have the most serious constitutional crisis, i view, in my lifetime." and that is congress' becoming less and less relevant" -- close quote. professor turley further testified clothe i believe the president has exceeded his brief. the president is required to faithfully execute the laws. he's not required to enforce all laws equally or commit the same
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resources to them, but i believe the president has crossed the constitutional line in some of these areas. the problem of what the president is doing is that he is not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system, he is becoming the very danger the constitution was designed to avoid. that is, the concentration of power in any single branch" -- close quote. that's exactly what madison and the founders of our country wanted to create was a system where there's separation of powers, and the power to make law is in congress' hands. according to i.c.e. officers and agents they are already being ordered to implement the president's unlawful directives. one i.c.e. supervisor told our office -- quote -- "if you sneak in through the border, stay
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under the radar for a few years, have kids, you will be rewarded with protection from deportation. this is not merely prosecutorial discretion, even if you come to the point -- port of entry and claim credible fear you will eventually released from custody because you're not a priority." according to the partnership for public service best places to work in the federal government, rankings released on december 9 of this year, just a few days ago, the department of homeland security is the lowest of all the federal agencies. that's a tragedy, that great agency. of all federal agencies --. the presiding officer: senator. your time has expired. mr. sessions: i didn't know we had a time limit.
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the presiding officer: under the previous order, there will be one hour of debate equally divided in the usual form prior to a vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the nomination. mr. sessions: i see. thank you. i would ask for 30 seconds and i will wrap up. the presiding officer: if there is no objection, please proceed. mr. sessions: allow for the full remarks for the record, would just note that this is not a little bitty matter. this individual is going to take this law enforcement office, immigration, customs enforcement agency and and she is going to execute to her direction to all those officers a policy that violates law and violates the constitution of the united states, as a bipartisan group of professors has so
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declared and therefore i think none of us should support such an action and therefore i would urge my colleagues to vote no on this nomination. i thank the chair and would yield the floor. mr. durbin: madam president? the presiding officer: the assistant majority leader. mr. durbin: madam president, i don't understand this. i'm glad the senator from alabama is still on the floor but i just don't understand this. how many speeches have we heard on the floor of the senate that the number-one priority of the republican side is border enforcement? how many times have we heard over and over and over again that before we can have any conversation about those in the united states, we've got to seal our borders from the illegal immigrants coming into our country. i've heard it from the beginning. in fact, i've heard it every time a republican member has initiated a conversation about immigration.
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isn't this interesting. two nights ago -- two days ago, we passed the budget bill for the remainder of this fiscal year that it was initiated by the house of representatives and sent over here. it was not called an omnibus spending bill, which would have meant all of the agencies of government are in the budget. it had this peculiar name, cover any bus. -- cromnibus. what they were trying to say was there was one agency of government not included in overall budget. what was that agency? well, it turned out it was the department of homeland security. the republican leadership in the house of representatives refused to send any spending bill here that would give ordinary appropriations to the department of homeland security. well, what does the department
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of homeland security do? guards our borders. stops illegal immigration. it has a massive responsibility at the borders, which the republicans have said repeatedly is their highest priority. so the first thing they do is send us a spending bill that has what's known as a continuing resolution to tie the hands of the department of homeland security when it comes to spending money to enforce our borders. and stop illegal immigration. but that was not enough. now we hear the opposition of the republican side of filling the position that is responsible for enforcement of our borders. the position responsible for stopping illegal immigration. it's called i.c.e., immigration and customs enforcement, part of the department of homeland security.
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created in 2003. it is the largest investigative agency of the department of homeland security, it is the second largest criminal investigative agency in the federal government, it has an annual budget of approximately $6 billion, has more than 20,000 employees in more than 400 offices in the united states and 48 foreign countries. what is the responsibility of i.c.e., immigration and customs enforcement? to enforce the border, to stop illegal immigration. so the first -- mr. sessions: will the the gentn yield for a yes? mr. durbin: first i finish the point, they send us an appropriations bill and won't pay to stop, now they come to the floor and argue against filling the position that is responsible for making enforcement at the border and
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stopping illegal immigration. how long has it been since the senate has confirmed a person to head this critical agency? july of 2012 was the last time, more than two years, because of repeated objections by the republicans to fill the vacancy of the person responsible for stopping illegal immigration. so here the president has sent us a nominee. let me read to you what has been said about that nominee. her name is saldana. sarah saldana. i quote, "ms. saldana is the first latina united states attorney in texas history. she's only the second woman to hold that position in the 135-year history of the texas northern district of the federal
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courts. second woman. in her role as u.s. attorney and prosecutor over the past decade, ms. saldana has served our state with honor, this person said, fighting corrupt public officials, organized crime, sex traffickers and other dangerous criminals. throughout her career, ms. saldana has developed a reputation for her decisive and fair temperament and her commitment to excellence. can you imagine a more ringing endorsement for someone to head up i.c.e., immigration, customs and enforcement? you would expect that came from the white house, wouldn't you? you would think this must have been sent by president obama personally, such glowing tribute to this nominee. no, the -- quote -- "that i've read -- the quote that i've read to you comes from the senior senator from texas, senator john cornyn. senator cornyn, of course, sits on the republican side of the aisle. senator cornyn didn't vote for
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ms. saldana in committee. let me take that back. i want to take that back. every republican senator in the judiciary committee, including senator cornyn, voted against her nomination. so that part is accurate. but all the republicans voted against her. get the picture? all the speeches about border enforcement, all the speeches about stopping illegal immigrants being the number-one priority of the republican party in immigration, first they don't fund the agency, second, they won't fill the position responsible for administering the law. then comes an eminently qualified woman to run the agency in the words, to paraphrase the words of senator cornyn of texas, and they object to her. they refuse to stand by her nomination. if you think that this is hard to understand or follow, imagine what we've seen over the last two years.
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it's been about 540 days since the united states senate on the floor here passed comprehensive immigration reform bill with 68 votes, 14 republicans, and the democrats, passed a comprehensive immigration reform that had strongest border protection in the history of the united states. it would have virtually created a seamless fence literally and figuratively on our border between the united states and mexico from san diego to galveston. it would have put more technology and more people on the border. the people on the border under this bill would go for us to stop illegal immigration could literally stand and a half a mile away seeing a person standing there for the 2,000-mile border 24/7. that's how many people were in this bill. we passed it with 68 votes. it was lauded by conservatives
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and liberals, chamber of commerce, afl-cio, faith groups, justice groups, they all said this is a good bill. passed the senate, went to the house of representatives where it was never, ever called in over 500 days. speaker boehner refused to call it on the floor. why? because he knows it would have passed. he knows it would have passed. that's why he wouldn't call it. it was because of the failure of the republican phillip the house to even call this bill that the president issued his executive order. we had a hearing madam chair, you chaired it, it was just last week, and it was a subcommittee of senate judiciary and we discussed the president's executive order on immigration. there were two witnesses who opposed the president's order, two professors, i think it was professor east manned professor
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ting -- i'll correct the record if i'm mistaken. they opposed the president's executive order. i asked them just a simple question. this is a world of choices and we have three choices. and i would like to ask each of you which one you would choose. the first choice is to continue this broken immigration system in america and do nothing. which is the position taken by the house republicans. they have done nothing for a year and a half. so that's the first choice. leave it as is, a broken system that we know has 11 million undocumented people in the united states with no registration, no guarantee they're paying taxes, no criminal background checks. that's choice number one. choice number two, deport 11 million people in the united states of america who are here undocumented. deport them. that was mitt romney's choice when he was running for president. that's choice number two. choice number three is what the president has proposed that anyone who has been here for at
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least five years, for at least five years must come forward, register with the government, submit themselves to a criminal background check, pay their fair share of taxes for a temporary work permit which must be regularly renewed so we can check again if they've done anything wrong, if there's a criminal record, they're gone, if no criminal record they can stay and work on a temporary basis. i said those are the three choices. the broken system, mass deportation, or the president's approach, take your pick. they didn't want to make the choice. of course not. those are terrible choices if you oppose the president's position. i think the president's done what's reasonable, what 11 other presidents have done, executive orders on immigration. i want strict border enforcement. i voted for it here on the floor of the senate. the strongest in our history. but i can't understand a republican position which opposes funding board enforcement on a regular basis which opposes filling the
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position that administers border enforcement and then has no alternative to offer. that's what we have before us. and so, madam president, i'm going to yield the floor -- to yield the floor and add in closing come up for a vote at 5:30 if i'm not mistaken will be the nomination of dr. vivek murthy to be surgeon general of the united states of america. i gave a speech earlier today. eminently qualified, a man with an extraordinary background, magna cum laude from harvard, has worked on a combined degree of a medical degree and a business degree, he has taught at harvard, he has published in the journals, has the support of over a hundred professional medical organizations that believe he would be an extraordinary surgeon general, and i ask you, at a time when we are facing the greatest
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public health crisis in current memory with the ebola epidemic, how in the world can we leave this post vacant? i urge my colleagues to support his nomination and i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. vitter: thank you, madam president. i rise to strongly oppose this nomination of sarah saldana to head i.c.e. for a very simple reason. because in this position, if confirmed, ms. saldana, as the new head of i.c.e., would be a key player in the administration to help president obama further a very bad policy that is very, very unconstitutional and completely beyond the president's proper constitutional authority. so it all comes down, in my opinion, madam president, to this very important issue of his executive amnesty, his recent decision, without authority, in my opinion to move forward on
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his own, without legislative approval, without congressional action, to grant about 5 million illegal aliens in this country an executive amnesty. madam president, i think that decision is a horrible one, a dangerous one for two reasons. first of all, madam president, i think the policy is wrong and is guaranteed, ensured, alas even designed to produce even more border crossings, to increase the problem, not to solve it. you know, madam president, some things are pretty simple, and one simple rule with regard to law enforcement is that when you reward certain behavior, you're going to get more of it, not less of it. through his executive amnesty, president obama is clearly rewarding that behavior, rewarding illegal crossings.
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and, surely, like in every instance in our past when that's happened, including in 1986 amnesty that at least was passed through congress, that is going to produce more of that behavior, more of the illegal crossings, more of the problem, not less of it. so i think it's horrible policy from that point of view. but, madam president, the second reason i'm very concerned about this recent executive action is even more fundamental, and that is because i think this is clearly beyond the president's proper legal constitutional authority. i think his action is clearly unconstitutional beyond that authority, and, therefore, a very serious matter for the country and the congress to focus on. madam president, i'd be the first to admit that every president has significant executive power, and every
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president has the power to provide details when statutes are silent about them, to figure out necessary details in implementing, in executing statutes. that's his job as the executive, to execute. but, madam president, that's fundamentally different from taking action that is completely contrary to statute. and, of course, that's what the president is doing in this case, granting amnesty to about 5 million illegal aliens when the law -- when the statute -- proper passed through congress says these folks came into our country illegally, they're here illegally, and allowing them to stay here and work is contrary to law. so, again, madam president, it would be one thing if the president had to figure out details consistent with that statute, but instead he's taking action directly contrary to
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those statutes, to that directive. and it's not simply prosecutorial discretion. it's not simply saying, well, because of particular circumstances, we're not going to prosecute that case or this case or that case over here. he's making a broad policy, affecting about 5 million cases, and he's gone way beyond saying, we won't prosecute these cases; he's having his bureaucracy, his administration actually issue work permits, giving folks who cannot work legally in this country work permits, telling employers, hire them, they have this new work permit, giving them social security numbers, giving them other affirmative identification. again, that's not figuring out the details about how to execute law. that's not figuring out unspoken
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details about how to further law. that's acting directly contrary to our law, to our statutes on this very topic. and, clearly, anyone in the position of heading i.c.e., including this nominee, miss sarah saldana, if she's confirmed, would be furthering -- clearly and directly furthering that bad policy and illegal and unconstitutional action. now, to the point of this being unconstitutional, madam president, don't take my word for it. there are a lot of authorities on the subject, a lot of legal authorities, a lot of professors and academic experts. but the supreme court directly has recognized that on the policy of immigration in particular, congress absolutely has that clear authority to act in that area under the constitution.
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in fact, in previous opinions, the supreme court has written that -- quote -- "over no conceivable subject is the power of congress more complete" -- close quote -- than on immigration. another interesting expert and source on this topic is president obama himself, madam president. because prior to taking this enormous action in the years prior, president obama said very directly to his supporters urging him in this direction, i don't have the authority to do it. he repeatedly acknowledged that. he said -- quote -- "this notion that somehow i can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true." close quote. and he also stated -- quote -- "for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president."
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close quote. well, madam president, president obama was right back then. the problem is, his recent actions, his executive amnesty constitute a complete object sit of that, do what he said he didn't have the authority do. the why is this pertinent? because sarah saldana, if confirmed to head i.c.e., will be a key player, a key participant in the administration, furthering this policy that's a bad policy, that's a counterproductive policy, that will make the problem worse and not better. but, even more seriously, madam president, furthering this action, which is illegal, unconstitutional, well beyond the president's constitutional authority. and so, madam president, this is serious stuff. this is serious constitutional
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business. and i urge my colleagues to look hard at these matters. and after they do i urge my colleagues, democrats and republicans, to vote "no" on this confirmation. again, the whole issue is serious. illegal immigration is a vexing problem. yes, we need to act. it's a complete straw man for the distinguished leader on the democratic side to say, republicans in the house or anything else just don't want to act. oosact of course we need to afnlg act. of course we've proposed actions. the question is, what actions in what order in what time? and this action is wrong on so many grounds. it's wrong on policy because it's going to make the problem worse. it's rewarding illegal crossings, so we'll get more of them. it's wrong, even more seriously, on constitutional grounds.
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it's going well beyond president obama's legal and constitutional authority. and, madam president, based on those serious, serious concerns, i urge my colleagues to vote "no" on this confirmation. thank you, madam president. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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markaz e taiba madam president, i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the -- mr. markey: madam president, i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. markey: and i seek recognition to speak on this nomination. the presiding officer: the senator recognized. mr. markey: thank you. and i rise just to speak briefly, to say that dr. murthy is about as well-qualified to be surgeon general as anyone as
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ever been. he brings a unique set of skills, background, perspective that is going to serve our nation very well. and it is my hope that the senate will take this great opportunity to ensure that he is given the position to serve our country with his incredible background in a way that i know all americans are ultimately going to come to be very proud of. and so i just want everyone to know that up in massachusetts we're very proud of him. we can tell you that he has developed a skill set which is much-needed for the 21st century, much-needed in an era where diseases cross international boundaries, where there is re-combinant d.n.a. of
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disease that increasingly, because of the global nature of the world that we live in, is coming back here to the united states, and it gives us an opportunity to put a real leader in this position and a leader that then can give leadership not only to our own country but to the rest of the world as well. so i urge the positive -- affirmative vote for dr. murthy to become our new surgeon general. and i yield back the balance of tie time. -- the balance of my time. madam president, i doubt the presence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from washington. ms. cantwell: i ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. cantwell: mr. president, i know that so many of our colleagues were all looking forward to wrapping up this year's business and hopefully getting home soon for the holidays and i wanted to take a few discipline in its to talk about a couple of issues. one of them to give some remarks about my colleague, the senator from louisiana, on her retirement and to mention a few things that have been going on in small business -- in the small business committee which will be wrapping up business. and i -- those two are kind of synonymous, in my mind, because my colleague, senator landrieu, has been for the better part of the last couple of years the chair of that committee and did some incredible work.
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and as legislation is moving through the final days here, we've been very successful at getting some important legislation passed for small business. one, the fact that we were able to be part of the defense authorization bill sole source contracting for women entrepreneurs so they can more easily get contracting with the federal government. that's going to help us have their great products and services more easily contracted and get access to those contracts. there's also money for micro lending programs. my colleague from michigan, senator levin, had pioneered an idea that was so important to women entrepreneurs the fact that the kind of lending that they would like to see from the small business administration was micro lending and to women who want to get access to micro loans but they also want an intermediate loan level of $200,000 and less and that helped them target some of the business interests they had
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because we definitely need more women entrepreneurs in our country. and the third thing is the step program, which is a small business export assistance program that works with states, the federal government, the small business administration, works with states to help them target businesses within their states that can use export assistance to become exporters. and this is such an important issue for our country because we, with a growing middle class around the globe, have great opportunity to sell new products and service says around ths aro. but many of our small businesses are challenged by the risk of making those kinds of attempts to sell in those markets and so this export assistance program, which had been a pilot, is now going to be a funded permanent program and so we're very excited about that and excited that it's moving through. but i also didn't get a chance last week to speak about my colleague, senator landrieu, on the floor and i wanted to take
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just a few minutes to remind my colleagues, as somebody who has served with her on the energy committee and served with her in small business, i've been so impressed with the accomplishments that she's achieved in her career here in the united states senate but so much of the time that she was talking the other day, rightfully so, shared a lot of moments of her career and a lot of personal moments but i just wanted to remind my colleagues of some of the very big challenges that she faced as a senator and how impressed i am with what she was able to actually overcome. many people know that obviously being hit by katrina was one of the biggest economic challenges not just to louisiana but to our country and the her impassioned leadership and calls to hasten the efforts to make sure that we were doing everything we can for those individuals to receive medical aid and shelter and help
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find loved one was nonstop for many days. and she successfully, as she said on the floor, urged full repair of the levee system in southeast louisiana and continues that work and succeeded in passing legislation that directed the army corps of engineers to analyze and design and strengthen the storm mitigation systems against category 5 hurricanes. now, if any of my colleagues here in the united states senate have ever worked with the army corps of engineers p, say no more. you know how challenging -- corps of engineers, say no more. you know how challenging it is. we don't control them. they base all their work on science. they have a budget. it's never enough money. and it can seem like you're fighting them forever and ever to get something you think as essential as protecting the people in your state to move forward. so she did all of that in moving the focus to making sure that
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category 5 hurricanes that we were establishing a defense against that. i also want you to know that if you ever had a flood or a storm in your state post-katrina, the first person you were going to hear from was mary landrieu. she didn't stop her efforts at louisiana. she wanted to take everything she learned from that emergency and call you up and tell you, these are the things you need to do immediately, this is how you should get prepared. and i know that she did that for many of my colleagues and we saw appreciated it. another catastrophe happened, the deepwater horizon oil spill. and as a member of the commerce committee, i can tell you i talked to her many times about these issues as it related to the clean water act and what was eventually passed, the restore act, which was a bipartisan effort. but basically it made sure that 80% of the clean water act fines from b.p.a. went directly into the gulf states, making this the
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biggest individual investment in environmental conservation and restoration in our country's history. and so that was no easy task and there were a lot of people at the time who wanted to focus on much different aspects of that disaster and so many things have happened since then. but i can remember clearly the catastrophe and what it meant for the fishing community, the individuals, those states' economies, all of the questions. and a lot of people looking backwards about what happened. but the senator from louisiana was looking forward to make sure that those funds were invested right there in the gulf. and that was a big challenge that she was successful in meeting. and obviously she used her voice for many things related to louisiana but i want to emphasize to my colleagues how much she also used her voice for many other people who didn't
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seem to be here in the halls of washington and made sure that those issues were top of the agenda. we have the 2009 economic crisis in our country and many people remember because it had such a huge economic impact to individual families. well, the senator from louisiana made sure that she was standing up for small businesses during that time period, because the small businesses, basically there were millions of americans who lost their job during that time period. and as everybody was here talking about what to do to help these big banks -- and we all know that they got a bailout -- many small businesses across the country actually had performing lines of credit cut out right from under them and so they were -- they didn't have anybody knocking on the door to make sure that things helped them. but the senator from louisiana
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got very vocal here about the prioritization of making sure that we did something about conventional lending and tried to tackle this issue. from 2007-2009, the number of s.b.a. borrowers dropped by more than half and the amount of loans dropped by more than one-third. and many of these small businesses were paying the price. so senator landrieu got busy fighting for what was the small business jobs act. and if you remember that debate, there were many times that some people on the other side of the aisle didn't want to support that legislation or even moments when treasury didn't know that they wanted to support that legislation and the she was successful in the end of getting that legislation passed 61-38. and the small business job act leveraged more than $42 billion in loans to more than 90,000 businesses throughout the s.b.a.
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and provided, along with other measures, the small business job act helped target about $12 billion in tax cuts for small business. so while the big banks had an immediate relief, they had someone down in d.c. here fighting for small businesses and that was senator landrieu. and that legislation also saw small business lending fund increase so that there was more capital on main street for small business. as a result of the jobs act, 2011 and 2012 were the two biggest years on record for th the-1 and 504 program, which are kind of the premier programs for the small business administration, and that went a long way to helping small businesses trying to recover. and also the small business credit initiative helped small businesses get access to capital. so all of these things were what my colleague from louisiana
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fought for to help small businesses and i think it's a perfect example, along with those other things about how she used her voice to try to bring clarity to the challenges we were facing and stand up for those who weren't being heard. she also, though, lent her voice to another group that is often -- we all -- we don't necessarily understand all the issues. i kind of think that she took over for senator byrd, who was a great advocate on behalf of animals and talked a lot about his dog and many of the stories that he shared, you know, warmed everybody's heart. well, senator landrieu last year was the humane society's legislator of the year for her consistent work to prevent the cruel practices of horse slaughter, to protect wild
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animals and strengthen provisions against animal fighting. so she clearly deserved that title and we certainly appreciate her efforts there. and she was also a voice for the district of columbia. you have to ask yourself, you know, people get committee assignments. yes, she had that committee assignment. but the thing about senator landrieu is once she took an assignment, she was tough on making sure that those issues were addressed. and she did that for the district of columbia. so i just want to add my sincere thanks to the senator from louisiana for all of her work in public service here in the united states senate. she's going to be missed. i know that she and i share a passion of the land and water conservation fund, an issue that is near and dear to my heart and something that she has tried in her time here in the united states senate to get fully funded, and we're going to
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continue that work on her behalf in the energy committee. so again, i thank my colleague and a dear friend for just an incredible passion and fighting for those whose voices were always heard. there's no mistake, her voice was heard here in the united states senate. i thank the president. i yield the floor. mr. blumenthal: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i am very pleased to be here today to speak on behalf of president obama's eminently qualified nominee to be surgeon, dr. murthy. and i request that i be permitted to yield to my colleague from connecticut, senator murphy, at the end of my remarks. the presiding officer: without
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objection. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. the surgeon general of the united states is a position of trust in this country who has a long and eminent record of informing the nation and fighting on behalf of the public health of americans. he has addressed some of the nation's most pressing public health problems over the times that there have been a variety of people in that position of public trust, to address some of the most pressing public health problems in this nation. those challenges have included nicotine addiction, menaces of big tobacco, aids and other emerging diseases, nutrition and food labeling. these challenges require someone of courage and expertise, indeed
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eminence as a public health warrior. in just a few months the nation has faced a public health crisis that caused many to question who would be that warrior, that fighter, that eminent and expert physician and who would defend this nation at a time of public health crisis? and many decried president obama's appointment of an ebola czar to fill that position when no one who could step forward as surgeon general. and the reason is there was no surgeon general. we lacked someone who could fulfill that role because of a misplaced and misguided opposition. that position has been vacant far too long.
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hopefully today we will confirm dr. murthy and allow him to get on the job and get to work on this and other pressing problems facing our country. ebola cases continue to present a dire threat to our nation because in parts of africa they are still spreading. and back home just last week the centers for disease control announced that there are serious doubts about whether the nation's supply of flu vaccine will be effective against the strain of flu that's circulating this winter. we need a surgeon general to handle that potential public health crisis as well. we are not out of the woods, to quote what dr. free den told me in a conversation just last week on ebola. we are about to go into the woods in the flu season and the surgeon general as a leader is
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needed right now. the public health service commission corpsened the leadership of the attorney general was deployed to field hospitals and emergency clinics in the wake of hurricane katrina, the deepwater horizon oil spill and the 2010 earthquake in haiti. they are fighters and warriors for public health as well. now, dr. murthy's credentials are without question. they are impeccable, unquestionable and indisputable. he's a graduate of harvard college and the yale school of medicine. he completed his residency at the brigham women's hospital in boston. he's one of our country's most respected medical professionals and ep now works and teaches as a matter of fact at the brigham women's hospital. he's also earned an m.b.a. also from yale and he's been a leader
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of business and nonprofit organizations that work on many aspects of medical practice, biotechnology and domestic and international public health issues. if the question were only about his qualifications he'd be in that position right now confirmed by the united states senate. but unfortunately, he's been blocked. the only point raised against him unconscionably and unnecessarily is a political smoke screen, essentially going to comments he's made about guns, violence as a public health issue. the simple fact is gun violence impacts far too many people. it destroys far too many lives. it is the second leading cause of death in this country after car crashes. gun violence kills twice as many
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children as cancer, five times as many children as heart disease, 15 times as many children as a lot of other kinds of public health crises. between 2000 and 2010 more than 335,000 people died as a result of gun violence. pointing out these facts and asking whether there are strategies we could apply to bring that number down is exactly what a person tasked to keep americans healthy ought to be doing. but he has said that he is going to focus on issues that concern american public health and will be a fighter for american
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children, for americans against heart disease and cancer and other kinds of issues that affect public health, especially of children. and that is to be valued. that smoke screen about gun violence should not have blocked him and should not impede this body voting for him today, approving him as surgeon general because of his qualifications and because he will contribute enormously to make americans healthier and safer in this country. so, i am enthusiastically and proudly a supporter of him, and i ask my colleagues to approve him as surgeon general of the united states to make america safer and healthier and to reject the slick smoke screen that has tried to stop him. i yield to my colleague from
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connecticut. the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. murphy: thank you very much. senator blumenthal, thank you for your advocacy on this issue. i know we're approaching a vote but i'll be brief in my comments. he is absolutely right, there is no question about the qualifications of dr. vivek murthy to do his job. in addition to his professional background, in addition to his teaching responsibilities, he also has a really impressive history of commitment to international public health, building two international organizations, one that empowers hundreds of youth in the united states and india to educate over 45,000 students on h.i.v. prevention. and then another one which works in rural health partnerships in india training young women to be health educators and counselors for thousands of patients. that's a pretty impressive
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record. when you combine it with what senator blumenthal already laid out for a still fairly young physician, someone who is going to bring an enormous amount of energy to this job in a moment when we need it. ebola is at the top of the list as to the reasons why we need a surgeon general right now. but we are at a remarkable period of contraction when it comes to health care spending increases. health care costs grew by 3.6% in 2013, which is the slowest rate on record since the government started keeping track in 1960. and frankly, a sound, good, sensible public health policy has toolt do with our -- a lot to do with our ability to continue curtailing the rate of spending care increases. why? because obesity rates in this country, even if they were just trimmed by 5%, could save $160 billion over the next ten years. smoking, which will hopefully be a centerpiece of the surgeon general's advocacy plan, contributes about $133 billion
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in direct costs to spending. and so if you want to do something about the size of the health care budget in this country, which is something the republicans and democrats believe in, then we need a surgeon general because that's the person that is leading our public health conversation all across the country. eminently qualified, desperately needed, i'm glad we're having a vote here today. let me say just a few words about this controversy that has surrounded his choice. the criticism effectively amounts to comments that dr. murthy made saying two things generally. one that he thinks that gun violence is a problem. and two, that he generally agrees with where the president stands on this issue. let's take the second first. it's not surprising that the president is choosing people to be part of his administration who agree with him. on a variety of issues. but as many of my colleagues on
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both sides of the aisle have said, the surgeon general doesn't set gun violence policy in this country. and so there shouldn't be a question as to whether he can separate his views on guns from his job just as there's not a question as to whether secretary castro or secretary burwell can do the same. but it's also not surprising that he has those views because the president is entitled to pick people for important positions that generally think the same way that he does on issues that are relevant to the job that they are taking, but also on issues that aren't in that particular appointee's responsibilities. but then let's take the first criticism, that he has made these statements talking about guns being a public health problem, gun violence being an issue that we should confront. if a nominee for federal ofs is unqualified simply because they have pointed out that gun violence is an issue that we
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should work on, then this debate is so far removed from what is happening on the ground floor of this country as to possibly be i are i retrievable -- as to possibly be irretrievable for the purposes of this debate. that is what dr. murthy has essentially said. that gun violence is a problem that we should be working on. and if we can't even get to the point where we all agree on that general notion, aside from whether you agree with what he thinks we should do about it or what somebody else thinks dweeshed about -- we should do about it, maybe this is more hopeless than i thought. i'm glad we're going to vote on dr. murthy today. qualified to do this job, admiral background in public policy. we need a surgeon general right now, whether it's to confront ebola or help us continue on a path towards controlling health care costs. and separate and aside from this
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nomination, let's agree to agree that dr. murthy is right that gun violence is a problem that this country should be addressing, no matter what your view on how we get there. that's something that we should all be able to unite around. i yield the floor. and would note the 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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mr. sanders: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: i ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered.
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without objection, all time is yielded back. the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion. we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate, hereby move to bring to a close the debate on the nomination of vivek murthy of massachusetts to be medical director in the regular core of the public health service and to be surgeon general of the public health service, signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: the question is, is it the sense of the senate that debate on the nomination of vivek murthy of massachusetts to be medical director in the regular corps of the public health service and surgeon general of the public health service shall be brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll.
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the presiding officer: is there anyone wishing to vote or change to change their vote? if not, the yeas are 51 and the nays are 43, and the motion is agreed to. mr. reid: mr. president,? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: we have three more votes tonight. i would ask consent they be 10 minutes in duration.
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the presiding officer: without objection is there objection? without objection, so ordered. under the previous order, all postcloture time is expired and the question occurs on the murthy nomination. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the yeas and nays are ordered. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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