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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  December 17, 2015 10:00am-12:01pm EST

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and expect to vote on it before the end of the week. we expect the senate to vote on it tomorrow. live coverage now of the u.s. senate as we go to the senate floor here on c-span2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal god, help us ever to see eternity beyond time. as our senators labor, may they do so with an eternal perspective.
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remind them that they are serving you as well as country, preparing themselves for the higher joy of service in the world to come. in this season of hope, remind us of your breakthrough into time to give us eternal life. help us to see and count life's blessings so that our lives may flow in ceaseless praise. lord, thank you for your promise to be with us always to the end of the world and beyond. we pray in your mighty name. amen.
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the president pro tempore: pleae join me in reciting the pledge f allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senate majority leader. mr. mcconnell: the american people have two principal
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concerns: our nation's security and the economy. the legislation we'll soon consider would help address both. it would enact permanent tax relief for american families and small businesses. that will lead to more jobs, more opportunity, and more economic growth here in america. another way this legislation will support jobs and grow the economy is by permanently eliminating a relic from the 1970's: the 40-year-old energy ban that has cost our economy jobs and it strengthens oil exporters like iran and russia. it's no secret that russia views its energy resources as a foreign policy tool. it's no secret that iran views its energy resources as a component of national power. nor is it a secret that president obama recently granted the iranian regime permission to export those resources. many think it's time the american people were treated at
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least as fairly as iran. the critical energy reform would help strengthen american jobs and america's safety, but it's only a small part of how the overall bill would support our national security. for instance, we know that preventing year crisis in military readiness will require significant investments over the medium-term and over the long-term. we know there is much to be done but we know this legislation represents a critical step forward. it would finally ensure the military has the funding it needs to train, equip, and face the terrorist threats we face. we know that preventing another crisis in military readiness will require significant investments over the near, medium, and over the long-term. for instance, our air campaign over syria and iraq has our navy, marine corps, and air force flying sorties there will
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further stress the readiness of the force. and those planes need to be maintained, repaired, and ultimately replaced. we know there is much to be done, but we also know that this legislation represents a critical step forward. it would finally ensure our military has more of the funding it needs to train, equip, and confront the threats we face from terrorist groups like isil and countries like iran. we know this legislation would honor our vents b veterans. we know it would enact critical reform to help address the crises we've seen at the v.a. we in this legislation would at a time of new, evolving terror threats bring badly needed reform to the visa waiver pravment wprogram. we know it would bolster the f.b.i.'s abilities. it would prevent the transfer of
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dangerous terrorist terrorists m guantanamo into our communities. we knoit's clear that countriese russia, china, and iran are determined to continue launching cyber attacks against us. we know that the administration already sum coupled to a devastating cyber attack just recently. it is time to protect the american people with some long overdue -- it's time to provide the american people with some long overdue protection. the legislation before us would go a long way towards strengthening our national security in a dangerous world. its prig provisions will help strengthen the first amendment, helping protect families from a health care law that attacks the middle class. this legislation would, in the wake of the obama administration's conservative speech suppression scandal, enact important reforms at the
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i.r.s. and force it to root out waste. these reforms would help prevent another lois lerner and it would help ensure i.r.s. employees who target americans for their political beliefs are actually fired. this legislation would strip out more pieces of a part sang law that hurts the middle class. one newspaper said the measure before us would take an ax to a key pillar of obamacare. it would prevent a taxpayer bailout of obamacare as well. the administration pushed hard to reverse that last provision but does not succeed. the legislation before us would root out waste, fraud, and abuse. it would consolidate or terminate dozens -- literally dozens of programs. it would make long overdue reforms to our tax code. it contains pro-life and second amendment protections as well. so here's the bottom line, in my view: this legislation is worth supporting. it doesn't mean this is the legislation i would have written
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on my own. it doesn't mean this is the legislation speaker ryan would have written on his own either. it's not perfect, and we certainly didn't get everything we wanted. but it makes strides in defending our nation at a time of global unrest. it advances conservative priorities in several areas and enacts significant reform in several areas, on everything from tax relief to energy policy to cybersecurity. i plan to vote for it. i hope colleagues will choose to do the same. before i leave the floor, i'd like to acknowledge the impressive work of the chairman of the finance committee, senator orrin hatch, on the tax side of this issue. permanent reform is never going to be easy to come by, but this thoughtful legislator, senator hatch, never gave up and he and his staff continue to work on this issue for a very, very long time. the result is a significant accomplishment for american
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families and the american economy, and i can't thank senator hatch enough. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. reid: before the republican leader leaves the floor, i want to say a few things. in the years i've served in public office, i really brush aside most press. i don't let it bother me. but once in a while something comes along that does, and there was an article in one of the hill newspapers this day that really troubled me. "bad blood: reid-mcconnell relationship hits new low." mr. president, i have a difficult job, and so does he. we both have done our respective jobs. we started out in leadership positions here doing different things. but when we first started working closely together, we were both whips. and no one knows our personal
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relationship except him and me. there are things he does that disappoint me. there are things i do that disappoints him. but we have -- our caucuses have different views on a lot of things. i just want the record to be spread that the reid-mcconnell relationship hasn't hit a new low. we have a personal relationship -- nobody knows how many times we visit with each other, on the telephone and personally. and i will always remember he and his wonderful wife, during my last few years, my wife was involved in a terrible automobile accident. the first person to step up and ask if there was anything they could do was mitch and his wife. shortly thereafter my wife got -- had a bruising battle with breast cancer.
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there's no one that can comfort a wife more than another wife. and so when i on january 1 of this year blinded myself in an exercise accident, mitch mcconnell was there. his wife was there. and so i want the record to reflect, people write all thighs thes-- people can write all thee things they want to write. but mitch mcconnell and i are end friend. people may think that's difficult with all the thongs we do here, opposing -- with all the things we do here, opposing each oamplet other. i want the record to reflect that i have admiration for mitch mcconnell and the work he has to do. do i always agree what he does? of course not. and i'm sure the same applies to his feelings about me. but no one can judge what our personal relationship is except mcconnell and reid. mr. mcconnell: would my friend
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yield for a comment? mr. reid: yes. mr. mcconnell: i'm always frustrated, as i think the democratic leader is, the tendency to personalize political differences. obviously we have differences on issues, but i want to second what my friend and democratic leader said. we -- there's nothing wrong with our personal relationship. whether it's watching baseball or a lot of other things we discuss, both personally on the on-- bothpersonally or otherwisr years. i share your frustration over an article like that because i think there is a ten deny city that you can't -- a tendency that you can't have political arguments without developing personal animosity. and i don't have any toward my friend. i know he doesn't have any toward me. and i really appreciate the opportunity that you've given
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for both of us to kind of clear the air here about the perceptions that could have been drawn by reading such an article. mr. reid: mr. president? 18,000 puerto ricans served in the armed forces in world war i. 65,000 in the second world war. 61,000 during the korean war. 48,000 in the vietnam war. since 1917, more than 200,000 american citizens from puerto rico have served in the united states armed forces, serving every conflict since world war i. one of the previous leaders of the senate asked me to go and represent the senate in a ceremony in puerto rico a number of years ago, and they were dedicating a monument. the monument of the fallen soldiers, puerto rico in conflicts involving the united
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states and other countries. i've never forgotten that. i have a warm spot in my heart for puerto rico. i have a wonderful, wonderful part of our -- they are a wonderful, wonderful part of our country much it is . it iit has a rainforest. i have been there. i really like puerto rico. but they a-- as they have helped us in these battles, puerto ricans who live in puerto rico need our help. right now the people of puerto rico are drowning in over $72 billion in debt. this is a sparsely populated territory. i think about 3.5 million people there. they have more debt per capita than any u.s. state. the territory is facing a severe economic and fiscal crisis that's become ago humanitarian crisis. leader pelosi and i fought to
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include meaningful provisions in the omnibus spending package to assist puerto rico including empowering puerto rico to readjust a significant portion of its debt. unfortunately, the republicans refused to work with us to address puerto rico's massive debt in a meaningful way. instead of seizing the last chance congress has this year to do the right thing for puerto ricans, they turned their back on 3.5 million citizens of the united states who are puerto ricans and live in puerto rico. to be clear, puerto rico doesn't need bailing out of its massive debt. they don't need that. they don't need a massive check from the taxpayers. this is about giving puerto rico and their leaders the same tools that every state has, the same tools that are currently available in every state. puerto rico's part of the united states and the people of puerto rico are looking to members of congress to step in as partners.
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that's our job. the territory is facing a massive $900 million payment on january 1 to its bondholders. puerto rico's governor said yesterday that the island will default in january or may. mr. president, we can't wait. next year, likely the first half of 2016, the same period in which puerto rico is expected to default on its debt congress will present a congressional gold medal in honor of the 65th infantry regiment which suffered such massive casualties over time. this regiment consisting mostly of puerto ricans in a distinguished it's for remarkable service during the korean war. it's shameful to think that congress can once recognize the extraordinary contribution of puerto ricans who made the ultimate sacrifice for tower --
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our country and then do nothing for puerto rico when they turn to us for help in time of crisis. inaction is not an option. puerto rico needs this to work and so does congress. as puerto rico's commission said, this is not just a puerto rican problem. this is an american problem requiring a solution. we can do something to help. we must do something to help. we can work together to pass legislation that allows puerto rico to get rid of a substantial portion of its debt without costing the american taxpayers a u.s. penny. these bonds are not bonds of the united states government. they are people who made investments and like every other investment stiemtion they -- sometimes they go bad. theirs went bad because of the crash we had here nine years ago on wall street. the obama administration and congressional democrats want to do something to help. we've asked republicans to join us this this effort but so far they've only stood in the way.
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all we want is simply say a territory of the united states -- and we'll limit it to puerto rico -- has the ability like every other state to file for bankruptcy protection. just last week the senior senator from new york asked for unanimous consent to adopt the puerto rico chapter 9 uniform bankruptcy act, a bill which would extend chapter 9 and allow it to restructure its municipal debt in the same way the states can. but instead of giving puerto rico the same rights as kentucky, nevada, utah, the chairman of the finance committee from utah blocked this critical legislation. i understand there are important issues that must be discussed such as the nature and scope of the authority, but to deny puerto rico any restructuring authority as republicans have done is negligent. i hope recent comments by republican leader, including speaker ryan, will translate into meaning action. senate democrats are ready to work across the aisle with a
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real solution for puerto rico with the understanding any voolings -- violation will be a federal process. to deny puerto rico restructuring authority is not just bad for puerto rico but bad for creditors as well. so i say to my republican colleagues let's work together to extend a helping hand to our fellow citizens of puerto rico. it should be on this bill that we're going to vote on tomorrow. giving the people of puerto rico the tools necessary to resolve this fiscal crisis is the right thing to do. it's the moral thing to do. mr. president, would you announce the business of the day? the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business until 6:00 p.m. with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. mr. durbin: mr. president, i'd like to make two or three
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complents and place -- comments and place them in the record with unanimous consent. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. durbin: it is amazing the people we get to meet in our lives as u.s. senators. there is a medical doctor in chicago whom i didn't know several years ago, but he and his wife have become dear friends in a short period of time. his name is dr. zahir salu. he asked for an appointment in my office in chicago a few years back and i agreed to it, and he came in to tell me a story and to show me some pictures. he is originally from syria, and he is the head of a syrian-american medical society in the chicago land area. because of the tragedy of the civil war in his home country of syria, he has felt a special obligation to help. what he has done on many occasions now was to get as
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close to the action as he could in syria to provide medical assistance to the victims. many times he risked his life to do it. and other doctors, some syrian american and some not, would join him in that effort. and he would bring me back photographs of what the casualties of war look like in syria. they were heartbreaking. pictures of children who had been maimed and seriously injured by the barrel bombs of president assad in syria. stories about parents killed in the bombings that continued day after weary day. and dr. salul would ask me what can you do, senator? can't you help us? can't you stop this? and of course that civil war in syria, which has gone on for four years, is almost
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intractable, almost impossible to define. there are so many forces fighting one another that at any given moment your ally today may be your enemy tomorrow. and i tried since meeting dr. salul to do some things to come out for safe zone, humanitarian zone in syria, where even medical treatment and food and safe shelter could be found for families that were facing these attacks. we've had some limited -- and i underline limited -- success in providing these safe zones. but it is a fact that the tragedy of syria continues even to this minute. if anything, today it is worse because of the bombing by the russians, which i'm told has gone into areas which previously had been protected because of the citizen and civilian populations. the result is obvious.
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millions, literally millions of people in syria over the last four years have fled. they're running for their lives, and they're running from war, and they're running from terrorism. dr. salul recently wrote an article about his trip to the united states. he arrived in 1989, and he tells the story of coming to chicago and feeling very much alone. he graduated from medical school in damascus. he had a chance to practice medicine in chicago, but he wasn't sure that he could ever really ever fit in. and he tells the story in 1989 of his first thanksgiving in chicago when a fellow doctor invited him to join her and her family for thanksgiving dinner. it was a gracious gesture, a gesture of hospitality. and dr. salul has not forgotten
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it to this day. this article which i'll place in the record after my comment goes into some detail. dr. salul really wrote this article not just to tell his story, but to tell two other stories, the story of immigration, which is literally the story of america; and the story of syrian refugees. his most recent trip to the region was to the island of lesthos which is part of greece. i went there a few weeks ago with several of my senate colleagues. thousands -- hundreds of thousands of refugees are flowing into lesthos from turkey. they have left syria and afghanistan and they are working their way into greece on their way, they hope, to refuge and shelter in europe. it is impossible to describe if you've not seen it yourself what
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is going on here. but imagine if for a moment that you were so frightened of the prospect of your child or your wife dying in war that you said tomorrow, pick up whatever you can carry, we're leaving. we cannot stay here. and if you look at these refugees as they travel -- mothers and fathers carrying babies with toddlers and small children walking alongside of them -- you realize how desperate they must be to leave everything behind and to head out on this journey of danger. one of the most dangerous parts of it is that trip across the agean sea between turkey and greece. they have to pay smugglers 1,000 euros which is over $1,000 and 500euros for each child. they put them in these plastic
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boats of some of them are given life jackets. the infants, too small for a life jacket, are literally given plastic water wings that we give to our infant children who play in the wading pools near our homes. that's all they have. they cram them into these boats. they strap on a motor, a chinese motor, put just enough gasoline in that engine that they think will make it across, but not more, and try to find someone in the boat who will steer it. and they point to their designation. and they leave. sometimes these boats have 50 or 60 people in them when they're only supposed to have 20 to travel safely. they are warned that as they come up to the shore in greece, of lesthos or other islands that they should immediately run into the rocks, scuttle the boat so
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that it sinks. otherwise they're told they'll be turned around and pushed back to turkey and they may not have enough gas to make it. and that's what happens. dr. salul tells the story of what happens as these boats are scuttled as they arrive in greece. he telings of the drownings -- he tells of the drownings of little children who don't make it off the boat on to dry land, but literally drown right there. we saw one of those photos just a few months ago of a tiny three-year-old boy who drowned just as he was about to make it into greece. dr. salul tells that story so that some of us, all of us, will understand the desperation of these refugees. it is now very popular among politicians to blame the syrian refugees for terrorism in america. we have not accepted that many refugees in our country. the numbers are about 2,000.
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and at this point not a single person among those refugees has been arrested and charged with terrorism. and yet you would think that these syrian refugees are the greatest threat there is to america. i put this item in the record here so that those who follow this debate and follow the proceedings on the floor can read firsthand and for themselves dr. salul's story and the story of these syrian refugees. mr. president, i have several colleagues on the floor who want to enter colloquy and i would yield the floor for that purpose and then wait to reclaim it. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. mr. sullivan: i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of h.r. 4188, the coast guard
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reauthorization which was received from the house. i ask further that the thune substitute amendment be agreed to, the bill as amended be read a third time rand passed, and that the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: is there objection? a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. coons: mr. president, i object. and if i might briefly explain -- the presiding officer: the objection is heard. mr. coons: excuse me? the presiding officer: the objection is heard. mr. coons: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. coons: let me briefly if i might explain the basis for my objection. i've had the opportunity to discuss this matter with my colleague from the state of alaska. the cruise industry foreign flags its vessel and pays no u.s. income tax and yet has asked for protections in this bill from remedies sought by sea men for failing to pay wage and overtime and for maintenance in remedies and care one of the
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oldest recognized remedies for sea care. these keep the u.s. vessels competitive. u.s. ensure workers on u.s. vessels and foreign flag vessels which l sail in and out of our ports carrying u.s. passengers have the same remedies. can u.s. jobs be protected? i've had the opportunity to discuss this issue with the senator from alaska, and it is my hope that we can work diligently together to address and clear issues of concern to myself and a number of others of my colleagues. but until we have that opportunity to review the text and to appropriately resolve concerns that arise under the jones act and for the long-standing workers compensation-type benefit i described called maintenance and cure, my objection will continue. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. sullivan: mr. president, i appreciate my colleague from delaware and his willing misto work on this important issue. you know, the coast guard
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reauthorization bill -- this passed out of the commerce committee unanimously back in april. and, you know, we talk a lot about national security here on the senate floor. very important. we talk about our men and women in uniform, how they're protecting us. but i've always liked to mention the men and women of the coast guard. you know, prior to 9/11, you could make a very strong argument that the coast guard was probably the only uniformed service whose members were risking their lives for americans day in, day out every single day. i think a lot of their heroism goes unnoticed. and, trust me, in alaska we see it daily. the coast guard admirably performs a variety of missions on a daily basis throughout our great nation with a team of less
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than 90,000 members comprised of active duty, reserve, civilian, and volunteer forces and an annual budget of less than $10 billion with, let's face it, a fleet of aging vessels and aircraft. the ranking member of the commerce committee, my colleague from florida, senator nelson, he and i talk a lot about -- a lot about how heroic these men and women are and how they deserve our attention, just like other members of the military. last year the coast guard executed more than 17,500 search-and-rescue missions. these are incredibly danger arks by the way, in rough waters off the coast of alaska, or florida, or delaware. saved over 3,400 lives. think about that. 3,400 lives -- one year. in addition, last year the coast guard law enforcement crews
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interdicted over 140 metric tons of narcotics, detained over 300 smugglers, and interdicted more than 3,500 migrants. what we're talking about here, mr. president, is legislation -- bipartisan -- that needs to be passed, that will do one very important thing for our country and the coast guard: it's going to improve the mission readiness and performance of the coast guard, and it demonstrates that the congress of the united states is paying attention to these brave young men and women. so i'm disappointed because we have worked hard to move this legislation since april, and we've worked hard. we've stripped out provisions that the other side has had problems with. section 605, gone now. which -- to move this forward. so we've been working hard. so i thought we were going to pass this this morning. there's a provision, the
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provision that my colleague from delaware was talking about is actually section 60 of the coast guard -- section 606 of the coast guard authorization act. it is simply looking to reduce lawsuits involving mariners. while i understand that some special interests, trial lawyers in particular, are not always interested in judicial consist tency or efficiencicy because it is not in the interest of their bovmenbottom line, i would likeo remind this body that the provision we're talking about passed overwhelmingly in the house of representatives in a bipartisan manner -- not once, not twice, but three times in the past two years. three times. so it's not a controversial provision, mr. president. what it is, section 606 -- here's what it's about. foreign shopping for foreign
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mariners. section 606 is not even about americans. it's about foreign shopping for foreign mariners in foreign waters on foreign-flagged ships. that's the issue that's holding up the reauthorization of the coast guard bill for our brave men and women. -- who serve in the coast guard. why that provision should be holding us up is beyond me. but i did have a good discussion with my colleague from delaware. we are more than willing to continue to work with our colleagues to reach consensus, but i certainly hope, mr. president, that we can get there today and not let one small provision that's very focused on one special interest group hold up a bipartisan bill that everybody on the commerce committee voted for that's going to do something really important: recognize the men and women in the coast guard who
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risk their lives, just like everybody else in the military, on a daily basis to protect americans. with that, i yield the floor. mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the assistant democratic leader. mr. durbin: mr. president, this week in washington, president barack obama's favorite pickup basketball pal from chicago is leaving town. he's headed back home to chicago. his name is arne duncan, and he's secretary of education. he was one of the first choices of this president to serve in his cabinet. and he was an obvious choice. arne duncan really has given his life to teaching and education. it starts with his parents. his father was a professor at the university of chicago and his mother ran a mentoring and tutoring system -- center in the hyde park area of chicago.
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arne, as a young boy in school, used to come out of class and go over to his mother's mentoring center to help other young kids learn to read and do their homework. so it was built into him, his dedication to teaching and to schools and improving the lives of students across america has been well-documented. as arne grew up, he grew tall. and as he grew tall, he played basketball, and he was very good at t he ended up going to harvard university, playing on their varsity basketball team, and then went on to play in the professional ranks in australia. it was there that he met his wife, and now they have two children together. she's waiting for him in chicago, and he's anxious, i'm sure, to return and live full-time in that city with his family. when he came back from his stint
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in basketball, he went back to mentoring kids in the hyde park section and other parts of chicago. he was chose the was chosen to y former mayor richard daily, and he was the right choice. he truly had the interest of those public school students at heart, and it showed. that's when i came to know him -- met him for the first time. he was an extraordinary and dedicated person trying to manage one of the most challenging school districts in america. two things come to mind immediately. they used to have weekends where people would volunteer to go work at the schools. my wife and i volunteered several weekends, and we would always run into arne, his wife, and family giving their saturdays, building playgrounds, painting the interiors of schools, doing the basic things,
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but doing things that many people in his lofty status of superintendent might not have considered. and i used to visit -- still do -- a lot of the chicago public schools, drawing my own impressions. i remember visiting a school once and coming out of it and saying to my staff, that school is out of control. it was so loud in the corridors -- not between classes but during classes -- i couldn't imagine students were learning, and it didn't appear there was any supervision. soy so i called arne and i had , you know, i have never called you about a school, but please take a look at this school. something is wrong there. it just doesn't feel right. he said, i'll do it. he called me back two weeks later, and he said, "you were right. that principal was an experiment to see if he could do it. he can't. we've replaced him."
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that's how arne reacted. it wasn't a matter of sending it to a committee and waiting for months and evaluating at the end of the school year. he made the decision. he was decisive because he knew he was in the best interest of the students. well, arne duncan inherited a department of education that was in controversy when president obama took the office. -- the office of presidency. there was a federal law, no child left behind, promulgated by a previous republican president, george w. bush, supported on a bipartisan basis by congress that was extremely controversial. teachers weren't happy with t many administrators weren't happy with it. governors were unhappy with it. too much testing, too many strict rules, too much pronouncement of failure when it wasn't really warranted. and that's what he inherited. over the years arne has made a
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significant impact when it comes to education in america. u.s. graduation rates are at an all-time high, but the biggest improvements are for the minorities and the poor. dropout rates under arne's leadership are at an all-time low. test scores are slightly up with some of the biggest gains in states that embrace the administration's approach to reform w. we had a stimulus passage which the president supported when he was first elected to try to hispanic our country out of a recession, and arne duncan spoke up to the president and said, we ought to include in there some provisions to help school districts, provisions for money if they will compete for t and so they instituted a program known as "race to the top" and they invited states, if they wished, to apply for these federal funds. over 20 states applied.
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they weren't required to. but the $10 billion tied to reform was held out. it included $4.35 billion, i should say, for "race to the top." $10 billion overall. it was held out to the states and within a year 40 states not only competed but changed their laws to improve their process -r prospects to win money from "race to the top." many states already embraced standards like common core. one of the states that was successful was tennessee, which is of course the home state of senator lamar alexander, the chairman of our committee in the senate that is drafting education legislation. and tennessee impressed arne duncan and the department of education and became one of the recipients, and tennessee made some honest declarations about the state of education in their
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state when they made this application. it was a state that took it seriously about making dramatic change and a relationship was struck between arne duncan and lamar alexander, and many other members of congress. and so time has passed and during the last several years there's been a change of thinking in congress, in the country, and in the department of education about the course to follow, and just a week or two ago in the white house president obama signed the new elementary and secondary education arctic which was promulgated on a bipartisan basis and had the active support of not only senator alexander but his democratic counterpart, senator patty murray, a democrat of the state of wawrchl washington. this bipartisan legislation, i think, received over 80 votes on the floor of the senate. arne duncan was there at the signing. he had worked with the
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leadership to arrive at this new stage in the evolution of the relationship of the federal government to the states and to local school districts. i could go through a long list of things that arne duncan worked on, including his concern about student debt, but i want to close by pointing to one that has a personal interest to me, and that is for-profit colleges and universities. i've given so many speeches on the floor about this descrirks th-- about this descrirks this . i have recounted the miserable statistics about this sector of the economy, with 10% of high school graduate students. they receive 20% of the federal aid to education. they account for more than 40% of all student loan defaults. and so i appealed to arne duncan and the department of education
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to do their best to make sure that the worst for-profit colleges and universities were held accountable. and arne duncan showed real leadership, and it wasn't easy. he ran into political resistance on capitol hill from both political party parties. and while i was probably pushing him harder than i should have, he stepped forward and started demanding accountability. one of the largest for-profit colleges and universities, corinthian, went out of business. they had been defrauding the federal government for years when it came to the results of job-seeking by their students. arne duncan really showed extraordinary public service and political leadership in tackling this controversial part of the educational establishment of america. it's no surprise for those of us who know arne duncan and what he's made of. back in the day, when his mother was running that mentoring
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center in hyde park, the local criminal gangs told her to close it down or they were going to fire bomb it. well, arne and his mom showed up at the center the next day. they weren't frightened and didn't run away. he's never run away from his commitment to young people or public service. i don't know what the next chapter of arne duncan's life will be, but this chapter, his service as secretary of education for the united states of america was extraordinary in his commitment to the teachers, administrators, parents and the taxpayers of america. i want to join with many in expressing my gratitude to arne duncan for his service to our nation. mr. president, i 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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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia. mr. manchin: i ask the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. manchin: mr. president, i rise today to applaud my colleagues for being in the christmas spirit. i've never seen so many gifts and presents given out in one bill. let's be clear -- we aren't voting on just a $1.1 trillion spending bill called the omnibus. we're not voting on just that bill.
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that bill by itself could have been acceptable because it helps veterans, middle-class families, our defense department, our border security and a host of other valuable federal programs. but we aren't voting on just the omnibus bill. we are forced to vote on both the omnibus and the tax extender package that adds an additional unpaid-for $680 billion of gifts for special interest groups. we're giving out $680 billion in irresponsible tax breaks, christmas gifts to every special interest and corporation that asked for one. we gave christmas presents to millionaire race car drivers and motorcycle riders, film and television theater producers, and even racehorse owners. now, don't get me wrong, mr. president. i like going to the movies and i like riding my motorcycle and even going horseback riding from time to time. but i don't think many middle-class americans would be happy to know we gave away billions of dollars in tax gifts to millionaires and billionaires at their expense.
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and they should be especially upset that we did it by mortgaging the futures of their children and grandchildren. i've always said we're writing checks that kids can't cash. i think a lot of americans would want to know how we got here. how do we get to the point that we force ourselves to vote on the trillion dollar spending bill that is 2,000 pages long at the end of the year just so we can all rush home for the holidays? how do we add $700 billion tax extender package that gives the wealthiest among us the gifts they want? the truth is if we -- that we stopped following regular order. a lot of us have only heard about the regular order. we have never actually governed by it. i only know about regular order because senator robert c. byrd told me how this package worked and how the place used to work before i joined the senate and before he passed away. we used to talk about how things would happen. he would be disappointed in us
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all on both sides, democrats and republicans, that we have run the body he loved so much the way we have. here's what regular order is supposed to look like, mr. president. after receiving the president's budget, which we do, starting our new congress, congress is supposed to respond with our view of what the budget should look like. then we work through 12 appropriation committees and their subcommittees to develop 12 separate appropriation bills. the entire body should then consider each individual bill and make sure they meet the demands of our constituents while staying within the means of our set budget. we need to do that 12 separate times so we can honestly tell the american public that we were responsible with their money, and we can even to them. instead we are jammed at the last minute with a $1.1 trillion spending bill that is over 2,000 pages long and considers the
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priorities of those 12 committees all at one time, without talking about, debating individually. not only that, as if that's not enough, mr. president, this year we have a special treat, a special treat of adding on a $700 billion gift tax christmas tree package. instead of actually doing the tax reform that all of us talk about but never actually get around to. at some point we're going to have to start setting our priorities based on our values, budgeting based on our priorities and being responsible stewards of the taxpayers' money. it will happen sooner or later. instead of working throughout the year in a bipartisan way, we continue to govern by crisis one after another. we kick the can down the road all year and then add in more than half a trillion dollars in gifts to our special interest friends. and both parties are to blame. this is not just a partisan issue. both parties are at fault. the christmas gift will add over
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$2 trillion to our debt over the next few decades. my grandfather, papa joe, always taught me to base our priorities on our values and then budget based on your priorities. well, we sure have shown the american people what our values are with this bill. we pay a lot of lip service on this floor, on cable news and on campaign trails, about our priorities, but when it comes down to it and time to govern based on the priorities, all we get is lip service. we had choices to make in this bill, mr. president. we could have helped middle-class families or could have given tax breaks to multinational companies, not only the major banks and parking their money abroad. we could choose to make colleagues debt free or we could have chose to help the film, television and theater producers to duck -- deduct the cost of their movies, shows and plays. we could choose to double our border security or we could
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allow racehorses to be depreciable. we could choose to give every american family $5,600 in tax relief or we could have chose to give favorable tax treatment to racing complexes. we could have chosen to keep the promise that president truman made to our patriotic coal miners back in 1946 and protected their pension and health care guarantees, or we could choose to give $680 billion in tax breaks to special interest groups, millionaires and billionaires. mr. president, we chose poorly. we truly chose poorly. democrats and republicans both say that we need to help our hardworking american families, but we have completely ignored the motors hardworking -- the most hardworking people out there that i know, our coal miners, and we should be ashamed of ourselves. now, i know that some of my colleagues don't like coal. they think they don't need it and want to get rid of it, but this isn't about coal. it isn't about coal. it's about the brave men and
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women who gave and who have gone into those mines every day for over a century to power our economy, produce the weapons to fight our wars and provide the energy that we all depend on today. it made us the greatest country on earth, a superpower. basically with this god-given resource that we had, these great men and women worked and worked hard very patrioticcally to make sure this country had the energy it needed to defend itself, to build the industrial might that it did, to be the superpower of the world. they were guaranteed, guaranteed, mr. president, affordable health care and dignity in retirement in return for their blood, sweat and tears that they shed for this country. that was a guarantee, a written guarantee in 1946. they were guaranteed the affordable health care and the retirement, and i want you to know that today by not being able to have that in this bill, as laden as it is with all these
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giveaways and freebies and picking who is getting what and all the millionaires and billionaires, we went back on our promise, mr. president. we decided to help race car owners, film producers, horse racing professionals, foreign entities and a host of other special interest groups, but we didn't help our own miners. we did not help our own people. today we said that despite finding a fiscally responsible way to meet these obligations, our priorities were not in valuing their service. mr. president, i cannot stand here and vote for a bill that tells middle-class americans, students and veterans, doctors and nurses, mothers and fathers and our seniors that these are our values. they simply are not who we are and what we're about. they are not the values that the good people of west virginia or wisconsin or all of the other 50 states that we have in this great union basically value, and they are not the values that the greatest generation and our miners fought for. mr. president, i encourage all my colleagues to vote no and
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show the american people once and for all that our values and what they should be and the priorities that they really are is about them and not about special interest people and special people that don't need the help. they have already done very well in life. i would hope we would all think twice before voting on this absolutely unresponsible, irresponsible piece of legislation that adds another $700 billion of debt. it's uncalled for. mr. president, with that, i notice 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. manchin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia. mr. manchin: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. manchin: mr. president, we're going to enter into a colloquy here, and i have -- i have two of my colleagues with me, and you'll notice that both of us, or three of us were former governors. my good friend, senator king, was the governor of maine. and my good friend, senator mark
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warner, was the governor of virginia. and i was preeivel -- previously the governor of west virginia, so we think a little differently about how the budgets should work. unfortunately we don't aim for bipartisan success like we had in 1997. in 1997, president clinton, a democrat, under his administration, at that time we even had governor kasich, who was then a congressman, republican working together to get a budget. and i might say it was the last time that a balanced budget was negotiated. the government suffered budget deficits every year from 1970 through 1997 when a balanced budget was finally negotiated. 1998, as i said, president clinton along with a republican-controlled congress -- republican-controlled congress, as we have today -- recorded a surplus of $69 billion. and continued to deliver
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surpluses in 1999, it was $126 billion. 2000, 236 billion. 2001, $128 billion. the c.b.o., congressional budget office, in 2001, stated in their budget outlike, the federal government over the next decade continues to be bright and will build over a period of historic surpluses. historic surpluses is what they predicted in 2001. however a year later the c.b.o. changed their tongue projecting long-term pressures on increased spending and decreasing revenues would set the country on a path toward deficits. the c.b.o. went so far as to warn president bush and congress taking action sooner rather than later to address long-term bnlary pressures can make a significant difference, in particular economic growth such as enacting tax and regulatory l policies that encourage work and saving and focusing more
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government spending on investment rather than current consumption can help by increasing the total number of resources available for all our uses. but, washington ignored the warnings and the budget deficits returned along with the bipartisan blame that plagues the nation's capital today. since 2002, the nation has routinely suffered from irresponsible budgets resulting in growing national debt. between 2008 and 2012, the deficits totaled $5.6 trillion and four of the five years they are the larger, relative to the size of the economy than they had been in any year since 1946. in 2014, our spending was $3.5 trillion and our revenues were only $3 trillion. a deficit of $485 billion. in 2015 c.b.o. projects our spending will be $3.67 trillion and our revenues will be only
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$3.2 trillion, a deficit of $426 billion. our deficits projected to dee crease slightly in 2016 with spending of $3.9 trillion and revenues at $3.5 trillion for a deficit of $14.4 billion. beginning in 2017 they begin to rise again, mr. president, with spending of over $4 trillion and revenues of $3.6 trillion, we're still at $416 billion and climbing. the three of us have a hard time understanding that. basically we all had what we had, balanced budget amendments in our constitution. every governor sits down at least once a week with their revenue, and the revenue people come in and all my tax people, every governor, and sits down and tells us where we are, tells us where we are on our projected revenues, if we can continue spending what we projected to spend or if we have to start cutting. as governor, you've got to make those decisions on a weekly basis. sometimes on a daily basis.
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but that was our responsibility. our current trajectory, we will be returning to trillion-dollar levels by 2025 with spending of $6 trillion in revenues of only $5 trillion. our federal debt now exceeds $18.7 trillion equivalent to roughly 100% of g.d.p. and c.b.o. projects budget deficits will rise steadily. by 2040, by 2040 our federal debt will reach a percentage of g.d.p. seen only one previous time in the history of this great country, and that was the final year of world war ii. if you would think back on world war ii, our parents and grandparents, they were wondering how we survived. we weren't worried about what we spent and what revenue we had. we did whatever it being too. this is all self-inflicted. this is truly self-inflicted. and it's not one party spending more than the other party or one
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party being more irresponsible. it's all of us not doing our job, just what we're doing today in voting on a combined omnibus with an extender bill wrapped into one and saying there's a lot of good and we need to do it. and if you don't do it, you're going to shut down the government. that's not the case. somebody sooner or later has to say enough is enough. how can you go home and explain this to the people? i can't. and leaving people h behind and not doing the job that we should be doing, that's why i'm so pleased to be here with my dear friend, senator angus king, from maine. the job that he did i think was exceptional. with that, i'd like to -- i'm sorry. mr. warner: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from virginia. mr. warner: i know my friend, the senator from west virginia, wanted to compliment the senator from maine. i'm sorry he didn't see me behind him. but i want to say as someone who, before both these great
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former governors came to this body, there are many times i would stand up and rail on these issues. and it's great to have other folks who have, in their careers, balanced budgets, made hard choices and welcome the opportunity to share a couple of my thoughts. let me start with actually -- and i won't repeat all the comments that senator manchin made. i concur with the vast majority of them. the data is overwhelming. i know the presiding officer has also taken on this issue. there are some good things, and let me start with some of the good. as someone who feared that at some point this tax extender package might exceed $800 billion or get close to $900 billion, it is an interesting place when folks are celebrating the fact that this is only $680 billion of unpaid for. and there are in manies ways the
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policy -- in many ways the policy choices that were made by both sides, there's a lot to commend. from the democratic side, making permanent the earned-income tax credit. actually frankly a policy that was initiated by a republican president that had been called the best antitax -- or antipoverty program around, the child tax credit a policy made by both sides, making that permanent and expanding it makes enormous amount of sense. i know as well from a business standpoint one of the challenges of -- that businesses face in an evermore competitive world is lack of predictability. certain areas like the r&d tax credit, it is appropriate and timely that we make those provisions permanent. i for one -- and i know there may be differences, i know particularly even on my side -- the bonus depreciation
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provisions are nice to have, but i'm not sure i know any business that makes that decision on capital investment based upon a bonus depreciation. the fact that it is winding down over five years, i think is a great step in the right direction. i have some concerns about some of the international tax provisions not because of the merits of them, but as someone who believes strongly to keep america competitive, we need an international tax reform. if we take things off the table now, the ability to bring those back to get the kind of tax reform that we need on the long haul makes those challenges more difficult. what i do want to raise -- and again building on senator manchin's comments and i want to be respectful of my colleague's time sol -- so i'll try to be brief. anybody who tries to say this is all the republicans ' fault or it's all the democrats' fault doesn't know their history. there are no clean hands. and as senator manchin
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mentioned, on the good news, we are actually at a relative low rate of annual deficits. the challenge is because of nonthoughtful behavior by those of us in this chamber and many that preceded us, now the aggregate debt that our nation faces is $18.5 trillion, and it will go up. i talked to a group of high school students this morning, and said the biggest challenge you're going to inherit is this massive amounts of debt that if we're not careful, within a few years the federal government of the united states will be a social insurance party and an army, and nothing else. yesterday, and senator king will speak to this, i know, the federal reserve, i think appropriately, started to inch up interest rates. with this aggregate debt that, by the way, we just added $680 billion more to this debt over the next ten years by these
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unpaid-for tax extenders. interest rates go up one percentage point, 100 basis points. that is more than $140 billion. we can have $140 billion to $150 billion to $180, let's take the conservative, $140 billion a year of additional spending off the top before we spend on any other priority. that's more than this government spends on the department of homeland security and on the department of education combined. so at some point we do have to say no masse. at some point my hope will be starting next year we will step back and look at this on a holistic way, even though there are good policies in this extender package. the overall aggregate is a challenge. two last points. one is we worked on a transportation bill in this body, and while i supported the policy goals when it was here
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and on a stand alone, i voted against it because the pay-fors were a hodgepodge and basically had nothing to do with transportation. it is remarkable to me as a business guy -- not as a senator but as a business guy, you look at your balance sheet on your revenue and spending side. you're spending the tax code or spending programmatic. when we spend on investments like transportation we have to pay for them. when we spend in the tax code suddenly there's a free pass that these items never have to be paid for. yet, going forward when we look at our budget next year, we will have less ability because the revenues have been decreased over a ten-year period of $680 billion. i know my colleagues will speak to these issues. i want to make a final point, and i'm not sure where my colleagues stand on this, but it is of grave concern to me. i supported thing affordable care act. i think there are good things. i think there are problems that
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need to be fixed. but one of the components of the affordable care act that i even, the greatest critics will point out is that it actually was paid for. and som and some of those pay-fors were painful. they were policy changes. one of them in particular, the so-called cadillac tax. that was the one point of agreement, whether you are an economist on the left or the right, that not only would it generate revenues for the so-called a.c.a., but it would also be one of the most powerful reform packages to overall hold the cost of health care costs down. well, you know, perhaps an election year rush and congress on both sides is taking its proverbial punt and rather than fixing the cadillac tax, we are delaying the implementation of both of these revenue sources. ail make a wager


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