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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  December 17, 2015 12:00pm-2:01pm EST

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i think there are problems that 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 with any
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senator in this body, while the promise is this delay is only for two years, that two years from now there will be another reason to delay additionally. in doing so, what we do is undermine the financial legs as well as some of the policy legs, especially in a state like mine. we provide fodder to those who want to delay the expansion of medicaid because they're afraid the federal government won't honor its commitments. by delaying the implementation, i think we strengthen their argument. i thank both of my colleagues. they are both dear friends. the senator from west virginia and maine, we sometimes have been lonely voices in our caucuses on these issues. the with that, i want to turn this over to my friend, the senator from maine, who, like the senator from west virginia, has balanced budgets, has made tough choices, to speak on the issues of the tax extenders and the omnibus. senator king.
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mr. king: madam president, i believe the senator from wisconsin wants to make a comment before i -- >> the presiding officer: the snrr wisconsin. mr. johnson: thank you, madam president. just a quick comment -- mr. mccain: what's going on here? the presiding officer: there was consent made for a colloquy. mr. johnson: the senator from west virginia talked about that we're mortgaging our children's future. that's just the truth. i wanted to commend the senators for highlighting this mortgaging of our children's future and the facts. i know a couple of the senators supported my amendment to the budget process laying out the information. the only thing i want to chime in is really lay out the truth of how severe this mortgaging of our children's future is. one of the things i did in the budget process was lay out a 30-year deficit projection by
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c.b.o., putting it in dollar format. the fact of the matter is, according to c.b.o., over the next 30 years the projected deficit is $103 trillion. over $10 trillion over the next decade, $28 trillion the second decade and $65 trillion the third. so we've got that to lay it out over 30 years. we also in the budget process asked c.b.o. to put i in this ia one with-page income statement to lay out where the $1.3 trillion comes from. the first two lines are social security and medicaid. over the next 30 years there will be $14 trillion more in benefits paid out that is brought in the payroll tax in social security. it's $34 trillion deficit in medicare. the remainder of that $103 trillion deficit is interest on the debt. and so again i want to commend our democratic colleagues here that are so concerned about the
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mortgaging of our children's future, the added deficit in the tax extender package. what we've been trying do is find the areas of agreement that unify t l thi us. i appreciate the senator yielding time. mr. king: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from maine. mr. king: i rise to join my colleagues, including the senator from wisconsin, to discuss what we're going to be voting on tomorrow. first i should say, i have no major problem with the budget deal, with the omnibus. the process isn't exactly what it should have been. we didn't consider our 12 appropriations bills on the floor. however, the appropriations process did go through the committee process, and it was a result of bicameral and bipartisan negotiations. my problem is with the tax extenders part of this package. first, it's a double standard. for all of this year -- and we struggled in the armed services
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committee and through the appropriations process -- everything that had to be increased in spending for whatever purpose had to be paid for. that was the standard. everything has to be paid for. we have to find offsets. and then all of a sudden we're considering a $680 billion hole in the deficit that doesn't have to be paid for. it's like we're all concerned about the debt except when we aren't. and frankly, as someone who is he a been here a fairly short time, i find it kind of puzzling. the rule ought to apply both ways because tax expenditures -- and that's what they are. and democratic and republican economists concede that the deductions, loopholes, and changes in the tax code are called "tax expenditures." that's what they are, because otherwise they would be revenues to the government. these are real dollars, and this is what has happened. since the tax reform act of 1986, when tax expenditures represented about 5% of g.d.p.,
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here we are today and in the package we're talking about we're going up into this area. this is almost 8% of g.d.p. this is a huge outlay that's like a new mandatory spending. it hap happens automatically, doesn't have to be reviewed every year. there's no assessment of whether these expenditures are effective or not. and some of them obviously are. i have no problem with many of the -- many of the items that are in here, mortgage interest deduction, health care interest deduction. but some of them deserve consideration along -- just as our budget deserves consideration. this is automatic pilot. as i say, this is a kind of new mandatory spending. the other piece is that we're deepening the debt hole. i mean, this is percent of g.d.p. of spending, and theres are -- and these are revenues. this is the deficit.
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this is the debt. and that's what's killing us in the long run. there's a tremendous interest rate risk here, as the senator from virginia pointed out, where we are now at historically low interest levels. in living memory, i don't know a time of when interest rates have been as low as they are. for every point that interest rates go up with an $18 trillion debt, the cost to the treasury is $180 billion. the math isn't that complicated. $180 billion. if interest rates go up to 5%, just interest payments on this $18 interest debt will be $900 billion a year. 90% of our current total discretionary budget would go to interest payments. it would swamp the defense budget. it would swamp the discretionary budget, and yet we're sort of tip-toeing along the edge of this precipice. and if interest rates go up with
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an $18 trillion debt, we're in real financial trouble. the second problem with this huge debt is, it gives us no room for slack. it gives us no room for an emergency, for a recession, for hostilities, for a major terrorist attack and it's effect on our economy. we have no cushion because we've used the cushion up. and we continue to use it up even when the economy -- when the economy improves. this money, this $18 trillion, someday is going to have to be paid back. and then finally, these aren't really tax cuts. tax cuts are when you lower taxes and lower expenditures -- or raise other taxes -- so it's revenue-neutral. if you cut taxes in a time of deficit, which means you have to simply borrow the difference of what the revenues would be been, that's not a tax cut. that's a tax shift.
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we're suml simply shifting the s from ourselves to our chin. this bill should be called the tax your grandchildren act, because we're cutting our own taxes but we're borrowing the money that otherwise would be collected and the kids are going to have to pay it back at some point with interest. madam president, that's unethical. that just isn't right. if 5-year-olds knew what was going on and could vote, we'd be dead ducks because that's whose bearing the burden of these policies. what do we have to do to solve this? in some ways it's simple. in other ways it's hard. conceptually it's simple. we have to bring expenditures and revenues into balance. that means looking at the whole course of federal revenues and also federal investments, and we also have to make investments to make our economy grow. the best solution to this deficit problem is a growing economy.
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but ultimately for me, madam president, this is an issue of ethical stewardship. tom brokaw wrote the famous book "the greatest generation." they fought world war ii, sacrificed, built the interstate highway system, built the economy we're running on today -- the great generation. i shudder to think what would be the case if tom brokaw wrote a book about our generation that is borrowing, that's not keeping our infrastructure up, that's not adequately providing for the common defense, and that is not -- is shifting the costs from to us our children. that's not stewardship, madam president; that's inte intergenerational theft. that's what we're engaged in here. we're going to have one vote tomorrow. i intend to vote for the bill because i believe in the budget section but i'm very uncomfortable with the tax
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extender problem. i i have a fundamental problem that they're not paid for. i don't think it's honest for us to go home and say, we cut your taxes when our grandchildren are going have to pay those bills with interest. that's the point that i think needs to be made about this, not that we're going to be able to stop this train that's going to be coming through here in the next 24 hours, but that we really need to talk next year about serious tax reform, about trying to balance revenues and expenditures, and put this country on a financial path, on a fiscal path that is sustainable and responsible. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. mr. manchin: madam president, i want to ask my colleague and dear friend from virginia, senator warner, he has worked basically -- extensively on trying to reform our tax code. we had something called the simpson-bowles, which i think
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you took the lead on that, was very much instrumental. what does this do, as your opportunity to have major tax reform, this country now -- these extenders go in permanently fixing. what does to do to give you the chance to permanently fix our tax code? mr. warner: it increases our revenue line going forward. it does take some of the things in international tax reform off the table. there are arguments that says some of these things being made permanent may make it easier to the challenges. give you an example. r&d tax credit isin is somethint most of us support. here is the kind of only only-in-washington math that takes place. we're making permanent r&d tax credit, not paying for t yet if next year we decided to cut back on the r&d tax credit, that would be viewed as additional revenue to the bottom line, even
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though the cost of it has never been built in. again, people this athat maybe are watching uses don't understand that accounting. if you're questioning that, welcome to washington, d.c., federal budget accounting and budget lines. i think this will make it more challenging. there are, though, some benefits, as i've said earlier. predictability to our business community. i would echo what the senator from maine has said. at the end of the day we are simply transferring the obligations from our responsibility to our kids and grandkids. and that long term is not going to give them the same kind of country that we all inherited. i know there are others waits. mr. manchin: as we finish up, the house is going to vote twice. they're going to vote on the extenders and on this i will about. for the second time we're going to roll them into one. we won't have the opportunity to vote twice. so the omnibus bill is something that i could have supported. the extender bill is absolutely something that i cannot for the
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future of our country and our chin. it is a shame that we don't have a separate vote. with that, i want to thank the senator from maine and the senator from virginia for this colloquy. with that, we yield the floor. mr. mccain: madam president? officerrethe presiding officer:r the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i ask unanimous consent to address the senate as if in morning business and take as much time as i may consume. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: 70 years ago a group of american leaders forged the rules-based international order out of the ashes of world war ii. those that were there recall that they were -- quote -- "present at the creation." we may well look back at 2015 and realize we were present at the unraveling -- we were present at the unraveling. at the beginning of this year, president obama was still committed to degradingrading and ultimately destroying isil. he had warned "if left unchecked, isil could pose a
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growing theft to the middle east, including to the united states, and in 2015, that's exactly what happened in paris and san bernardino, and it will not be the last. i promise my colleagues, under this administration, that will -- with the present policy and lack of strategy, there will be other attacks on the united states of america, and i regret deeply -- deeply regret having to say that. but i owe my constituents and americans that i know and respect to tell them the trunnel. -- the truth. more than one year into the campaign against isil, it is impossible to assert that isil is losing and that we are winning. if you are not winning in this kind of warfare, you are losing. stalemate is not success. we asked the witnesses before the senate armed services committee is isis contained. it is not. isis is not contained, contrary
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to the statements bizarrely made by the president of the united states literally hours before the attack on san bernadino. this year our senate armed services committee held several hearings specifically focused on the threat of isil, including three with secretary of defense ash carter. we heard about nine lines of effort. we heard about three r's. we never heard a plausible theory of success nor a strategy to achieve success. what do i mean by that? there is no time that mosul, the second largest city in iraq, will be taken. there is no strategy to take raca. raca, the base of the caliphate, the place where we have news reports that they are developing chemical weapons in raca. this is the first time a terrorist organization has had a
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base, a caliphate from which to operate out on. and what has happened? they are expanding globally. by the way, they've lost some territory on the margin. hopefully one of these days ramadi will fall to our forces, even though there has only been a few hundred isil there for the last few weeks. but the fact is that isil has expanded its control in syria, it continues to dominate sunni arab areas in both iraq and syria, it maintains control of key cities like mosul, fallujah and ramadi and efforts to retake these territories have stalled to at least some degree. meanwhile, isil is expanding globally. on tuesday, general john campbell, commander of u.s. and nato forces in afghanistan, told the associated press that isil is seeking to establish a regional base in eastern
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afghanistan as it attracts more followers and foreign fighters. madam president, i ask unanimous consent the a.p. interview u.s. general says afghan is isil loyalist growing. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: be put in the record. supporters of the islamic state group in afghanistan are attempting to establish an eastern base in the city of jalalabad, general john campbell said. in libya, libya, "the wall street journal" reports that isil is expanded in libya and established a new base close to europe where it can generate oil revenues and plot terror attacks. madam president, i ask unanimous consent the "wall street journal" islamic state tightens grip on libyans stronghold of cert, the hometown, by the way, of moammar qadhafi.
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step up pressures and the -- established a new base close to europe where it can generate oil revenue and plot terror attacks. libya is an oil-rich country, a very oil-rich country. you let isil get control -- isis get control of libya, my friends, and they will have unlimited sources of revenue. it says that according to "the wall street journal," its presence there has grown over the past year from 200 eager fighters to approximately 5,000 strong contingent which includes administrators and financiers, according to estimates by libyan intelligence officials, residents and activists in the area. and by the way, i want to -- during these debates, i will comment a little bit on it. those who are against any intervention cite libya as the case for not going in. facts are stubborn things. the fact is that moammar qadhafi was at the gates, benghazi was
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going to slaughter thousands of people, we brought about his downfall and walked away. if we had walked away from japan and germany after world war ii, it would have collapsed. if we had walked away from korea where we still have 38,000 troops, it would have collapsed. if we had walked away from bosnia, it would have collapsed. i'm telling you, my colleagues, we walked away. this president and this administration did not do the things necessary after the fall of qadhafi to build a democracy, and the people of libya wanted it, and i can tell you that for sure because i was there. one of the great tragedies of the 21st century is our failure to act in a way to help the libyan people transition from all those years of a brutal leader. by the way, who also was responsible for the deaths of americans in a bar in berlin, responsible for the shootdown of an airliner, and yet we should have left him in power. sure we should have.
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so isil is operating in lebanon, yemen and egypt and other radical islamic groups like boko haram in algeria have pledged allegiance to isil. this appearance of success only enhances isil's ability to radicalize, recruit and grow. there have been some progress. i recently saw on a visit to iraq a recent operation to retake sinjar was important. iraqi forces as i mentioned have closed in on ramadi for weeks. they haven't finished the job. our counterterrorism operations are taking a lot of isil fighters off the battlefield in iraq and syria. all of this represents tactical progress, and it's a testament to our civilian and military leaders who are outstanding as well as thousands of u.s. troops helping to take the fight to isil every day. and i would like to point out that significant challenges
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remain. as a direct result of president obama's decision to withdraw all u.s. forces from iraq and squander hard-won american influence, the iraqi government is weak and beholden to iran. i tell my colleagues have no doubt what the dominant influence in iran -- in iraq is today, and it is the iranians. there was no more vivid example of this than when it was reported that iraqi prime minister al-abadi turned down secretary of defense ash carter's offer of new military assistance, including the use of apache helicopters and special operation forces to help recapture ramadi. i met with prime minister abadi in iraq. he's a good man. he knows that he needs this help. but because of the dominating influence of iran and shia militias in iraq, he turned it down anyway. general mcfarland, one of the
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greatest generals that i have met -- he is up there in the category of david petraeus -- is leading the fight against isil, and he reacted by saying very interesting comment. he said this is a very complex environment. it is kind of hard to inflict support on somebody. it's kind of hard to inflict support on somebody. what general mcfarland is saying is that because of the iranian dominant influence, because of that, the iranians -- the iraqis, a body, are reluctant to accept the help they node to retake the second largest city in iraq. the second largest city, mosul, in iraq is under isis control, and he knows full well that apache helicopters and special operations forces could have them do that. but who's telling him not to? the iranians. when i was there and met with --
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we met with the prime minister of iraq, mr. abadi, he said to us, he said if you americans come and you lose one pilot or one plane, you will leave. that was the prime minister of iraq's opinion and one of the reasons, along with the iranian influence, is because there is no trust to the united states or confidence of the united states in iraq or in the region. it comes as no surprise that the training of iraqi security forces have been slow. the building of support for the sunni tribal force is even slower. isil captured mosul in june of 2014, at the end of 2015 isil still controls the second largest city in iraq. what do you think the families, the families of those brave americans who were sacrificed, those individuals still are over at walter reed. after the sacrifices they made
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and the victory that they won, now, of course, we see all of that gone, a glimmering thanks to the president of the united states withdrawing all of our troops, a mistaken belief that if you pull out of wars, that wars end. they don't end. they don't end. it's hard. it's hard to talk to the gold star mothers. meanwhile, the financial times reports that isil is still making $1.5 million a day in oil sales. worse, reuters report that isil has made more than $500 million trading oil with significant volumes sold to -- guess who? guess who isil is selling oil to. the government of syrian president bashar al-assad. so it's hard to make some of this stuff up and it gets a
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little complicated. so we are now making nice -- and i'll talk a little bit more about it later -- to bashar al-assad and their stewards, the russians and the iranians. meanwhile, bashar al-assad is buying oil from -- most of it, at least $1.5 million a day from isil. even as an oval office speech and a pentagon photo-op failed to reassure the american people, this administration has doubled down on its indecisive approach to isil, using limited means and indirect ways to achieve aspirational ends on a nonexistent timeline. the administration now admits we are at war with isil. wonderful. but proceeds at every turn to minimize any american role in fighting and winning that war. america has never waged anything we called a war and then so profoundly limited our role in the hope that some other force
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will emerge to win it for us. the administration says we cannot -- quote -- americanize the conflict. and i also, by the way, want to point out the president has this unique and really dishonest approach to those of us who have for a long time said that we have to have more involvement and predicted what would happen. unfortunately, we have been wrong, by saying yes, the popoffs, as he called us, in his speech from the philippines, the popoffs want to send hundreds of thousands of troops. you know, that is a total falsehood. and i will repeat again. what we have been asking for for years, and that is another 5,000 or so americans on the ground in syria -- i mean in iraq, and a multinational force led by the sunni arab countries with european participation. i would hope that people like the french would join in. about 10,000 of 100,000 person
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force to go to raca and take them out. as long as raca exists, they will be able to export this -- this evil throughout the world, including to the united states of america. there is no plan by this administration to retake raca. there is no strategy. and that is indeed shameful. the war against isil was americanized when isil-inspired terrorists murdered 14 americans on our own soil in san bernadino. this attack should be a wake-up call. we need a strategy, as i mentioned. in syria, there is no plausible strategy to achieve this goal on anywhere near an acceptable timeline. we were briefed that it could be a year before they retake mosul. there is no time limit on how -- when they could even approach regaining raca. the syrian kurds, there's no
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ground force that is both reconciling and able to retake raca, nor is there a realistic prospect of one emerging any time soon. the syrian kurds could take raca but won't and the syrian sunni arabs want to but can't, partly due to our failure to support them. meanwhile, the administration has continued its inaction, an indifference that has allowed bashar al-assad to slaughter a quarter of a million people. have no doubt who's responsible for these millions of refugees. his name is bashar al-assad, the godfather of isis. he's the one that's barrel bombed thousands and thousands of his people. bashar al-assad's the one that used poison gas and crossed the red line, we might recall. it's bashar assad that continues this brutality, this butchery of his own people. and i'll get to what secretary kerry has had to say in a minute. the continue -- the administration continues its
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policy of inaction and indifference. it has allowed punitive punitive to intervene militarily -- vladimir putin to intervene militarily and protect his regime. the last time russians had influence in the region was when anwar sadat threw him out in 1973. now they're back. now they are major players in the middle east. this is the headline from the associates press yesterday. "russian airstrikes restore syrian military balance of power." the airstrikes of the russians have taken out significant capabilities of the moderate resistance. not isis, but the moderates that we had trained and equipped, and we refused to protect. weeks of russian airstrikes -- "russian airstrikes to restore syrian military balance of power. weeks of russian airstrikes in earia appear to have restored enough momentum to the
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government side to convince president bashar assad's foes and the world community that even if he doesn't win the war, he cannot be quickly removed by force. that realization combined were the growing sense that the world's number-one priority is the destruction of the islamic state group has led many to acknowledge that however unpalatable his conduct to the war, assad will have to be tolerated for at least sometime further." let's get this straight. assad will be tolerated to continue to barrel bomb and slaughter innocent people. "however unpalatable his conduct of the war, this kind of orwellian understatement not only underscores the truth but cripless the conscience." my friends, it cripless the conscience. "bashar assa assad's barrel bomg war not only killed a quarter of a million people, it's what gave rise to isil to start with. and i.t. wha it's what fuels th.
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secretary kerry seems not understand a this fact. while in moscow accepting for "common ground" with russia and syria and ukraine, secretary kerry said, and i am eight no making this up now, i' i am telg my colleagues, i am not making this up. "russia has been a significant contributor to the progress." the worlwas russia making frog t bombed u.s.-backed syrian forces fighting the assad regime in or was that when it took a brief pause to drop bombs in eastern syria killing untold numbers of civilians? is that the russians' significant contributions? secretary kerry then said, "the united states and our partners are not seeking so-called regime
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change. the focus now is "not on our differences about what can or cannot be done immediately about assad. " ie, dear mr. is asad, here is a blank check. here is your card. do whatever you want to. do whatever you want to. continue your barrel bombing. continue your torture. continue the war crimes that you have committed. you have only killed 250,000 of your own people. drive some more into exile and murder more. at the beginning of this year this administration still believed that assad must go, but now as one official said, "the meaning of assad has to go has evolved." i repeat, an administration official said, "the meaning of assad has to go has evolved." this kind of orwellian doublespeak has become all too common in this administration
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and exactly why our allies and partners around the world are losing confidence in american leadership and a very significant event happened the date before yesterday, my friends, that will really be the best indicator of what i am saying. 34 muslim nations formed an alliance to fight terrorism -- isil -- and the united states of america didn't even know about it? they didn't even tell the united states of america that they were forming their own organization with other own strategy, their own tactics to fight against isis? my friends, that is an incredible statement about the total loss of american influence, prestige in the region. i have had more than one leader in the middle east tell me -- and i quote -- "sometimes we think that it's better to be america's enemy than it's friend." unquote.
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so why is the meaning of "assad has to go" evolved? because this administration was overpowered, outplayed and outmatched. this administration scold themselves with the mantra of "there is no military solution" rather than facing the reality that there is a clear military dimension to a political solution in syria. that's what russia and iran have demonstrated. they have changed the military facts on the ground and created the terms for a political settlement much more favorable to their interests, and i believe as a result the conflict will grind on, isis will grow stronger, and the refugees will keep coming. despite, unfortunately, america's troubles in 2015 will not contain iraq and syria, despite conditions on the ground, president obama elected to withdraw half of the u.s. forces from afghanistan by the
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end of next year. did you know the president of the united states, even when he announces a buildup, announces a withdrawal. so he sends the message to any potential enemy that we're going to build up now but don't worry, we're going to pull out. we will withdraw. so what happens? here we are -- the pentagon says, "violence is on the rise in afghanistan. violence in afghanistan is on the rise according to a new pentagon report to congress. the taliban was emboldened by the reduced u.s. military role and can be expected to build momentum from their 2015 attack strategy." it is inevitable, i say to my
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colleagues -- there will be greater violence in afghanistan, there will be an increase in taliban activity, and i'm sorry to say that isis, who is already establishing a foothold there, will increase their presence of meanwhile, the iranians in their attempts at hegemony, will provide weapons to the taliban. so at the beginning of the year, i will save the rest of my comments about what's going on with the iran nuclear deal, about what the iranians have already violated at the beginning of the year, the united states -- what continues -- the occupation of ukraine, our much-respected leader in europe general breedlove, has said that he expects increased military activities by vladimir putin in eastern ukraine. he still has the ambition of establishing a land bridge all the way across eastern ukraine
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to crimea so he doesn't have to continue to supply by air and sea, and we seem to have forgotten over 8,000 people have died since the russian invasions, including 298 innocent people aboard malaysian airlines flight 17, murdered by vladimir putin's loyal supporters with weapons that were sent to ukraine by putin, not to mention the murder of boris nemtsov, one of the great leaders of the opposition in the shadow of the kremlin, and the de-stablthedestabilization cont. even in countries as far away as sweden. i won't go into that because the defense authorization bill calls correspondenfor the provision o. one of the shameful chapters is our failure to provide defensive weapons to ukraine. there are russian-snrie+sphraoed
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tanks in even ukraine. they've slaughtered many ukrainians and we refuse to give the javelin, the most effective antitank weapon that we could possibly have, to the ukrainians. i mean, it's beyond shameful. so i won't talk about china, which is reclaiming 400 acres earlier and now has reclaimed more than 300 acres in the south china sea and our one foray into the 12-mile limit, the secretary of defense failed to acknowledge before the senate armed services committee. so, my colleagues, we depart on this holiday season -- hopefully sooner rather than later -- with the world in turmoil, with the world that because of a failure of american leadership now poses direct threats, as we just found in san bernardino, to the united
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states of america. we saw too many dark days in 2015. it didn't have to be this way. and it's still within our power to choose better courses. we must never be disheartened or resigned to a world where suffering and evil are always on the assent. on the contrary, it is in our character as americans to face adversity with hope and optimism. we must see plainly and fully the threats to our values in order to defeat them. and as churchill said, "we recover our moral health and martial vigor and rise again to take our stand for freedom." i have no doubt america can succeed and will succeed. madam president, i yield the floor. and i ask these articles be included in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. the senator from vermont.
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mr. leahy: madam president, today is a unique day. one -- in two regards. one, a sad day, because it was just a few years ago today that our friend senator dan inouye died, one of of my closest friends, and a former president pro tempore, a senior member of this body. but it is also a good day that a year ago we saw the release of alan gross from a cuban prison where he spent five years. during that time he lost more than 150 pounds, he lost five teeth, his mother died, his mother-in-law died, a brother-in-law died, and he missed his daughter's wedding, all the time being held in this small prison. -- in cuba. i worked for years to help obtain alan gross' release and the return of the remaining members of the so-called cuban
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five, which are more than 15 years in u.s. prisons. scott gilbert, alan gross' lawyer, did an outstanding job. he traveled countless times to cuba to advocate on alan's behalf and u.s. officials. my foreign policy staff tim reeseer went you o down severals to boost alan gross' morale, visiting him in prison and bringing him messages. but my larger purpose, along with senator flake, was to finally put the cold war behind us to start looking forward to a new era. like senator flake and many others, i was convinced that such a step would be widely embraced by the u.s. business community, by religious groups, by academia, by the scientific community, the media, and americans across the political spectrum. i also knew it would be welcomed
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around the world, including in countries where people believe in democracy and human rights as strongly as we do, that we would open ourselves to cuba. i remember when we finally did, the ambassador from a south american country told marcel and myself, we've always respected america. your relationship with cuba was like a stone in our shoe. now the stone has been removed from our shoes. because they know that alan gross' release ushered in a new day in u.s.-cuba relations. i'll never forget on august 14 standing there when our flag was raised at the u.s. embassy in half have a ihavana and i heardl
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anthem played and i heard people standing just outside the gates of our embassy cheering when the american flag went up. it was a deeply moving experience to be there on a sweltering hot day. we heard both national anthems played. but the cheers, i remember the most. we left 54 years of a failed punitive policy that achieved none of its objectives. president obama and president rulraoul castro declared it was time to chart a new path. the reaction of the people have been over yes yes, overwhelming. even some of the most vocal critics of the castro government have welcomed this new opening. that's why i want to talk about alan gross. he had every reason to be a bitter defender of sanctions, but instead he strongly
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supported the new policy of engagement. he has never expressed anything but warmth and admiration for the cuban people. you contrast that with a small handful of members of congress who continue to defend a discredited policy of isolationism that's been repudiated by large majorities of their own constituents, denounced by every other government in the hemisphere, and even they acknowledge it has not been successful. but their answer is to keep in place, even opposing efforts by the state department to improve security and staffing at the u.s. embassy in havana to which the cuban government has agreed. i'd ask them to look at this picture i took of alan gross and his wife. i took this within minutes of the time he was told that he's going to be released, and senator flake and i --
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congressman were there to pick hip up. this is not the face of a bitter man. this is the face of a man, when i took this picture i thought this is the face of a man who knows that we can have a new and different day. and i'm not so naive to think that reestablishing diplomatic relations to cuba is going to transform cuba into a democracy. cuba's leaders are a believer of a system that has enabled them to hold on to power of more than half a is en industry. their economic -- half a is en industry. their economic policies have been a disaster. and while the cuban government blames its economic problems on the u.s. embargo, no one
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seriously believes that, although it is undeniable the embargo exacerbated the hardships it is not the sole reason. it is undeniable that support for the embargo in the united states in the business rights community has evaporated. i wonder how many members of congress in the past five years, the government of cuba are blaming us for the embargo, has imported more than $1 billion in u.s. agriculture and medical products, american exports being american jobs? it would be a lot more exports if we didn't -- if we got rid of the embargo. right now it's punishing american workers as well as cubans. and why are we also punishing half a million cuban entrepreneurs who are already working in the private sector and are no longer dependent on the government? why not support the sector in cuba as we do everywhere else in the world? why not open the united states
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to the emerging cuban market? i think it's past time to replace vindictiveness and personal family grievances with what is best for the american people. i condemn the cuban government's arrest and imprisonment of individuals who have done nothing more than peacefully protest against the government's repressive policy. at least two of them were released as part of our agreement a year ago. 11 others were released at earlier times, and still can't travel freely. the cuban leaders, and i believe they know this, they can't stop the tide of history any more than any of us can. the majority of cubans were not even born at the time of their 1959 revolutions. they have very different priorities and aspirations than those who lived through about
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batiste's regime. cubans enjoy more engagement of the world and more economic opportunities and the obama administration has takessen historic -- taken historic steps to i implement the new policies. after so many decades when u.s.-cuban relations were frozen, the progress in the last year has been breath taking. talks are underway between both governments on a wide range of issues, including one wrapping up last night, resuming direct mail and air service, also law enforcement cooperation and property claims. senator flake, he and i have introduced legislation cosponsored by 45 other democrats and republicans to end restrictions on travel by americans to cuba. those restrictions don't exist for travel to any other country, including north korea and iran. and if our bill were called up for a vote and if we listened to
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the american people it would pass easily. this year the senate appropriations committee passed with bipartisan majorities a similar travel amendment by senator moran and myself and two other amendments to facilitate u.s. agriculture exports and shipping to and from cuba. in contrast, the house of representatives adopted half a dozen provisions offered by just one member that would turn back the clock. i have no doubt the path begun by president obama and president raul castro is the right one for the people of both countries and the dwindling few continue to try to stand in its way. they'll bolt the united states and cuba. history is not on their side. rather than continue to cling to a policy that is misguided from its inception that did nothing to help the cuban people, they should respect the will of the constituents on whose behalf
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they erroneously claim to speak. mr. president -- madam president, i apologize. madam president, it was only 12 months ago senator flake and i walked up the gang plank on to the president's plane with alan and judy gross. a son-in-law, lawrence jackson was one of the president's photographers there. look at how much has been accomplished in those 12 months for the benefit of the people of cuba and the united states, but for the united states' reputation influence in the hemisphere has done more than that in the past half century. i ask unanimous consent that a chronology of those accomplishments prepared by the coalition to engage cuba be
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printed in the record at the end of my remarks, madam president. i hope that before another year passes the congress will final realize it too has a responsibility to respect the will of the people in the embargo -- end the embargo. stop interfering with the right of americans. and exposing the cuban people to our ideas, our people, our principles and our products is the best idea for the future. and i hope on one of those trips i'll be able to join alan and judy gross as we go back down to visit cuba. i see my dear friend, the senator from arizona on the floor, and i yield the floor. mr. flake: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. flake: i want to first pay tribute to senator leahy for the long path getting here with cuba and for all the work that he has done and for his capable staff, including tim reecer and people
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on my staff, chandra morris and others who have worked on this issue for so long. i appreciated working with senator leahy on this issue. it was one year ago today, as senator leahy mentioned, that we received a call just a few days prior asking if we would participate in a quick mission down to cuba. we had to keep quiet about it for a few days, which was a bit difficult. one year ago today we got on the president's plane, as senator leahy mentioned, and went down and picked up alan gross. it was wonderful to have alan's wife judy on the plane with us. what a joyous occasion that was to see that reunion there in cuba. and then to climb on the plane, and i'll never forget as we climbed away from cuba and about 20 minutes into the flight, the pilot came on and said we've now entered u.s. airspace.
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alan gross stood up, threw his arms in the air, and then breathed deeply and said "i finally know i'm free." and then we watched on the news on the plane as the announcement came that we would be changing our policy, that we would be seeking full diplomatic relations, and that many of the policies of the past would go away. it's been a wonderful year to see some of that happen. one of my best moments, favorite moments in congress was going down with senator leahy again and watching the american flag being raised over the u.s. embassy in havana after 54 long years, to have those marines there, the same three marines who lowered the flag in 1961, who returned to cuba to help raise the flag back up. what a wonderful symbol, what a wonderful thing about a new policy, a new way forward with
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cuba. it's significant to note, senator leahy mentioned that alan gross, after spending five years in prison in cuba, came out of prison without bitterness and has promoted from that time forward meeting with colleagues of ours, telling anybody who will listen that this way forward is the right way forward on cuba, and we should change our policy, and we ought to have closer cooperation, diplomatic relations, that the problems that cuba has are the problems of the cuban government, not the cuban people. so i want to pay tribute to alan gross for that. he continues to work for this day for better relations between cuba and the u.s., and that's a significant thing. when senator tom udall and i visited alan gross in prison in february -- i'm sorry, in november of last year, just one month prior to his release, he was in a bad way. he had lost a lot of weight. he lost some of his teeth. it was a tough time to be in
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prison. and he missed so many events at home with his family, being there for five years. i can't imagine coming out of that experience and feeling still the compassion that he has for the cuban people. just last night it was announced that the u.s. and cuba have agreed to enter into a bilateral agreement on flights to allow american airlines from america, u.s. carriers to fly to cuba. and instead of just charter flights, we'll now have directly scheduled flights. that will allow americans to travel to cuba easier and more inexpensively. i would encourage all americans to, who can find themselves in one of the 12 categories for travel to do so. there are a group of cubans who came to the united states a while ago, and they were asked what can america do for you.
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these were cuban entrepreneurs who are looking to change the system in cuba. they said visit cuba. come see us. come to our private restaurants. stay in our homes. spend money in cuba that we have access to. i should note that those who oppose a new policy, the new policy that we have with cuba often say that if you travel to cuba, every dime that you spend goes right to the cuban government. well, that's just not the case. in cuba right now, you can stay at a bed and breakfast -- in fact airbnb has 2,500s listings in cuba. you can stay at an airbnb and the bulk of that money, goes to the cubans who are hosting it, not the government. you can eat in a private restaurant where those who prepare the meals serve the meals, cook the meals, we'll see the bulk of that money to them. in fact, about 20% of the cuban
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workforce is now outside of the cuban government. so when americans travel to cuba, cubans benefit. so i would encourage my colleagues and others to take the opportunity, go down to cuba, travel. the policy that we had for 54 years in cuba failed to produce the results that we want to see. we want to see a democratic cuba that respects human rights. cuban government still has a long way to go. i truly believe that the best way forward, the best way to make progress on those areas that we still need to make progress on is with full diplomatic relations. hopefully we can soon have an ambassador in cuba who is the ambassador. our diplomatic team led by jeff delaurentiss does a great job in cuba but we ought to have a cuban ambassador there. americans traveling in cuba
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doing business in cuba ought to have the same protections they have anywhere else in the world. we need good representation, full representation in countries that aren't friendly to us more than we need it in countries that are friendly to us. so i would encourage the obama administration to move forward on those and other areas as well. there are still some measures the obama administration can take that will improve the lives of cubans and make it more likely that we can make progress in these other areas. and having said that, let me just say you often don't hear it from this side of the aisle, but i want to praise and applaud this president -- president obama -- for taking the measures that he has taken on cuba. it took guts to do so. and there is still opposition to the positions that he's taken. but he's taken a position that helps the cuban people. it helps americans. it's good for our national interest. it's good for our security interest. and with that, i want to thank again the senator from vermont
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for the work that he's done on this issue, and it's been a pleasure working with him. and it's been a great year this past year in terms of u.s.-cuba relations. and here's to an even better year ahead. with that, madam president, i yield back. qul icle madams. collins: madam? the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: madam president, tomorrow the senate will vote on the protecting americans from tax hikes act of 2015 which will provide needed tax certainty and predictability for our nation's small businesses, enabling them to create more jobs and boost our economy. several months ago on april 30, i was joined by my friend and colleague from pennsylvania, senator casey, in introducing the small business tax certainty
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and growth act of 2015. our bill aimed to help small businesses invest, grow, and create jobs by providing needed tax relief and certainty. senator casey has been a true partner in advancing this bill, and we are so pleased that the protecting americans from tax hikes act takes three key provisions from our bipartisan bill. madam president, i see that the majority leader and the democratic leader are on the senate floor, and i believe that it would be appropriate for me to yield to them. mr. mcconnell: madam president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: thank the senator from mecht. -- from maine. i ask unanimous consent that when the senate receives a
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message from the house to accompany h.r. 2029, the majority leader be recognized to make a motion to concur in the house amendments. further that if a cloture motion is filed on that motion, that notwithstanding rule 22, the senate immediately vote on the motion to invoke cloture, that if cloture is invoked, all postcloture time be yielded back, the majority leader or his designee be recognized to make a motion to table the first house amendment, that following disposition of that motion and if a budget point of order is raised, the majority leader or his designee be recognized to waive the point of order, and that following disposition of that motion, the senate then vote on a motion to concur in the house amendments with no further motions or amendments in order, unless the motion to table is successful or the budget point of order is sustained and with two minutes of debate equally divided in the usual form prior to each vote. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. reid: no objection.
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the presiding officer: no objection, so ordered. the senator from maine. ms. collins: madam president, first let me request that -- unanimous consent that my remarks appear in the record as if they were not interrupted for this important exchange between our two leaders. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. collins: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, the tax bill that we will consider tomorrow takes three key provisions from the bill that senator casey and i introduced back in april. these provisions includer provie provisions include, first, the permanent extension of section 179 expensing indexed for inflation, which will allow small businesses to write off up to $500,000 of the cost of
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certain equipment. mr. president, i would note that this provision is so important to our smaller businesses that it is the number-one tax priority of our nation's largest small business advocacy group, the national federation of independent business. second, the bill includes the permanent extension of the 15-year deduction period for restaurants and retailers to improve their space to buy new equipment. this is so important because otherwise the tax code reverts to a 39-year depreciation schedule. that is totally unrealistic. no restaurant could wait 39 years before investing in new
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carpet and new equipment and new -- and other kinds of renovati renovations and expect that customers will still come flocking to their doors. the third provision from our bill would be an extension of the so-called bonus depreciation to allow companies to deduct more rapidly the cost of certain equipment and software. these three provisions will give our small businesses the predictability that they require to pla plan for capital investm, that are vital for job creation and expansion. i know i don't have to tell you that small businesses create the majority of new jobs in this country. according to the bureau of labor statistics, small businesses generated 63% of net new jobs
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that were created between 1993 and 2013. even the smallest firms have a notable effect on our economy. the small business administration data indicate that businesses with fewer than 20 employees accounted for 18% of all private-sector jobs in 2013. recent studies by the national federation of independent business indicate that taxes are the number-one concern of small business owners and that the constant change in our tax code is among their chief concerns. i know this to be true from the many conversations that i have had with small businessmen and women throughout the state of maine. it is so frustrating to them because they don't know what the
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tax code is going to be from year to year, making it nearly impossible to plan. and this has the effect of freezing their investment decisions, and that in turn affects their ability to hire more workers. the long-term solutions provided in this bill will provide the certainty that small businesses need to create and implement long-term capital investment plans that are vital to dproaj and job creation -- to growth and job creation. for example, section 179 of the tax code allows small businesses to deduct the cost of acquired assets more rapidly. the amount of the maximum allowable deduction, however, has changed three times in the past eight years and has often been addressed as a year-end
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extender , making the tax benefit unpredictable from year to year and, therefore, making it difficult for a business. earlier this year, i spoke to patrick schroeder from arundel machine. that is a precision machining business in southern maine. he told me that the uncertainty surrounding section 179 and whether or not it was even going to be there has hindered his ability to make business decisions. the high-tech equipment that he needs requires months of lead time. for a small business like patrick's, it's very risky to increase spending, to expand and create new jobs when the deductibility of those investments remains unknown
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until the very end of the year. for business planning, business information that is vital to have at the beginning of the year, not at the end. in uncertainty has a direct impact on hiring decisions. let me give you another example of what the small business expensing provisions can mean. maine has become well-known for its high-quality craft beers. dan cleband founded the maine beer company with his brother in 2009. in six short years, his business has added more than 20 good-paying jobs with generous health and retirement benefits, and they want to add even more. dan noted that his company's business decisions have been directly affected by the availability of section 179
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expensing. this provision fueled their expansion by allowing them to re-invest their capital into new equipment to produce more great beer and hire more great maine workers. in the last three years, they have taken the maximum deduction allowed under section 179 to acquire the equipment needed to expand their business. this year they hope to use the provision to finance the cost of a solar project that will offset nearly 50% of their energy consumption. now, if their business had been forced to spread these deductions over many years, their owners suml simply would t have been able to create the jobs as they have done. this economic benefit is multiplied when you consider the effect of this investment by
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maine beer companies and maine's other small brewers and other kinds of small businesses on equipment manufacturers, on the transparency companies needed to -- on the transportation companies needed to haul that new equipment, and in the case of craft beers, on the suppliers, the supply chain, including farmers who are providing the materials needed to brew these outstanding beers. in february, nfib released new research that backs up this claim with hard numbers. nfib found that simply extending section 179 permanently at the 2014 level could increase employment by as many as 197,000 jobs during the ten-year window following implementation. u.s. real output could also
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increase by as much as $18.6 billion over the same period. i mention those numbers because it shows how powerful this provision of our tax code can be when it's made permanent, when the uncertainty about whether or not it's going to be available, and at what level it goes away. in light of the positive effects these provisions would have on small businesses, on jobs, and on our economy, i urge my colleagues to support the tax relief package, and i'm pleased to yield to my cosponsor and colleague, senator casey. mr. casey: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. casey: mr. president, thank you. i want to commend and salute the work done by senator collins, and we're -- i'm grateful to have this opportunity to reiterate some of the great features of this legislation as it relates to these tax
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provisions. if i had to summarize it in a couple of words, it would probably be the following: certainty for small businesses. maybe just those four words. and i can -- senator collins, when you talk about reaching across the aisle, we're -- i'm one desk in from the aisle. you're on the end of the aisle. it's almost literally reaching. it is that close. but i'm grateful for your work on this, over several years now. with all of the difficulties here in washington where folks often don't come together, on these and other issues, we can show that we can work together, we can make progress giving certainty to those small businesses. we have something on the order of 2.5 million people working in small businesses in our state. this is the core of our economy
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across the commonwealth of pennsylvania and across the country. and i would reiterate or maybe even incorporate by reference senator collins' review of the provisions. just maybe one highlight on two of them. the 15-year depreciation schedule for restaurants and other leaseholds and other businesses. if you have a restaurant and you can get the benefit of depreciation, figuratively speak, a slice or a piece of depreciation year after year, it is a lot better if you can get the benefit of those slices or pieces over 15 years -- one per year or one benefit of depreciation -- rather thanking are to wait 39 years for little tiny pieces over those 39 years. that's a simplistic way of explaining it. but it is a vital injection of support for small businesses. i think on 179 when senator collins said it knacks a lot of
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sense -- said it makes a lot of sense because a lot of businesses would see, in this particular year, the maximum allowable deduction is at a certain number, a couple hundred thousand dollars. the next year it would change. have the serchts of knowin -- he certainty of knowing what that benefit will be over time is of enormous sismtion th significan. the same is true of the benefits that come from bonus depreciation. i'll ask unanimous consent, mr. president, to submit my entire statement into the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. casey: and with that, just to commend and salute the work that senator collins did, and we're glad that there's some certainty as a result of these business tax provisions. thank you, and i yield the floor. mr. grassley: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: at 1:30 a.m. wednesday morning, an omnibus appropriations bill was filed to
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keep government operating for the remainder of this fiscal year. this bill which will be voted on by the house on friday includes a straight and clean extension of a program called the eb-5 immigration waiver investor program. this program has been plagued with fraud and abuse. but more importantly, it poses significant national security risk. allegations suggesting the eb-5 program may be facilitating terrorist travel, economic espionage, money laundering and investment, fraud are too serious of warnings against this bill to ignore. yet, they're being ignored. the omnibus bill then fails to
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include much-needed reforms. the spending bill being considered by the house and senate then is a major disappointment. i'm frustrated that despite the alarm bells and whistle-blower warnings, warning us in congress about the eb-5 program, republican and democrat leadership in the house and senate decided to simply extend the program without any changes. this was a missed opportunity to protect america. what makes this especially frustrating is that the chairs and ranking members of the house and senate judiciary committees, both republican and democrat, agreed on a bill. we had consensus. i appreciate the support of senator leahy, the ranking
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member of the committee. i also commend chairman goodlatte, ranking member conyers, congressman issa and lougher. in a bipartisan way we worked this bill out. we agreed on every aspect, maybe naively, but believing in our hearts that we were doing the right thing. we found common ground on national security reforms. we made sure that rural and distressed urban areas benefited from the program as it was intended when it was first written. we instituted compliance measures, background checks, transparency provisions, all of those things meant to protect our national security and to weed out waste, fraud and abuse.
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through months of hard work, we put together a great deal. but despite this broad bipartisan support and the work of committees of jurisdiction, not a single one of our recommendations will be implemented. instead of reforming the program, some members of leadership have chosen status quo. this failure to heed calls for reform proves that some would rather side with special interest groups, land developers and those with deep pockets. now it's widely acknowledged that the eb-5 program is riddled with flaws and corruption. maybe it is only here on capitol hill, an island surrounded by reality, that we can choose to
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plug our ears and then refuse to listen to commonly accepted facts. the government accountability office, our free media, industry experts, members of congress, and even federal agency officials have concurred that this program is a serious problem with serious vulnerabilities. why did congressional leaders ignore the chairman and ranking members of both the house and senate committees who were spear heading eb-5 reform? why at the same time, and maybe more importantly, because they aren't colleagues did they ignore the government accountability office or ignore the f.b.i., or ignore the
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secretary of homeland security? so i hope you'll allow me to remind my colleagues why the eb-5 regional center is in need of reform. for several years i kept close tabs on this program, thanks in part to the report of wrongdoing s brought forth by whistle-blowers. the fact is that other federal agencies, including the f.b.i., have raised national security concerns. whistle-blowers say that requests from politically influential people were being expediteed. last june congress heard from a whistle-blower who was harassed for speaking out about the problems with this program and
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actually against the program. this whistle-blower said in a senate committee hearing -- but before i start my quote, the reference of the countries of china, russia, pakistan and malaysia are countries not known to be friends of the united states. quote from this whistle-blower, "eb-5 applicants from china, russia, pakistan and malaysia have been approved in as little as 16 days and in less than a month in most. the files lack the basic and necessary law enforcement inquiries. i could not identify how a uscis customs immigration service -- was holding each regional center
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accountable. i was also unable to verify how an applicant was tracked once he or she entered the country. in addition, a complete detailed account of the funds that webt into the eb-5 project was never completed or produced after several requests. during the course of my investigation it became very clear that the eb-5 program has serious security challenges." end of quote of a whistle-blower coming to us last june. there are also classified reports that detail these problems much as the whistle-blower said. our committee has received numerous briefings and classified documents to show the
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same side of the story. our own executive branch agencies have communicated to us their concerns with the programs. just listen to these people that are concerned about it. officials within the security and exchange commission, the f.b.i., the immigration and customs enforcement expressed concerns about the program and how it is prone to fraud. we ought to be concerned about waste, fraud, and mismanagement. we ought to be concerned about national security. but the way this bill is ending up with just a 10-month extension, nobody's taking that into consideration. i want to quote from an internal national security report stating -- quote -- "as in any instance
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where a significant development funds are raise -- investment funds are raised, the regional center model is vulnerable to abuse. the capital raising activities in here in the regional center model raises concern about investor fraud and other conduct that may violate u.s. security laws. third-party promoters engaged by regional centers to recruit potential investors overseas fall outside of the u.s. citizenship and immigration services regulatory authority and may make false claims or promises about investment opportunities. unregistered broker dealers may operate outside of the u.s. citizenship and immigration services statutory oversight to
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match perspective investors with project developers. moreover, the statute regulations do not expressly prohibit persons with criminal records from owning, managing or recruiting for regional centers." end of quote. now just think of that. statutes and regulations do not expressly prohibit persons with criminal records from owning, managing and recruiting for regional centers. don't you think that that's a threat that we ought to be considering? now, how many more intelligence reports are needed for my colleagues to understand this problem? how many more headlines are needed before we have the will to deal with this problem?
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and how many more whistle-blowers are going to be demoted for telling us about these problems or merely committing the one crime that whistle-blowers commit, telling the truth? the secretary of homeland security sent a letter to the judiciary committee and requested more authority to deny, terminate or revoke a regional center's designation. they want more authority to root out the bad apples. they have been requesting this since 2012. now considering that the secretary of homeland security would say that, and he's got to carry out this legislation and he can't prevent some of the -- some of the bad things that are happening from happening under existing law ought to be enough to guarantee that congress would
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pay heed to these problems and do something about it. and as i have indicated to you, our bill would have done just that. but the fact that our bipartisan bill was dismissed by congressional leadership means that bad actors and bad regional centers will continue to operate. the eb-5 program also encourages a whole host of financial fraud and corruption. the program's abundant loopholes and lack of regulation have created a virtual playing field for unethical gamesmanship and con artists. "fortune" magazine reported that one man cheated potential immigrants out of $147 million for a make-believe project he
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never intended to finish. the article explains how the trickster claimed the project would create over 8,000 jobs. in reality, some 290 foreigners were tricked out of their cash. this is not the only example of how regional centers can be you'd defraud people out of millions of dollars for nonexistent projects. another government agency we ought to pay some attention to: the securities and exchange commission encountered another fake project in which two men in kansas purported to build an ethanol plant in that state. the commission stated in litigation released that -- quote -- "the plant was never built and the promised jobs never created. yet the two men continued to misrepresent to investors that the project was ongoing. " end of quote.
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that same report goes on to say that millions of dollars of investor money was used for other purposes. can you believe this? even going to another completely unrelated project in the philippines. just last month the national law review reported another case in which the securities and exchange commission filed suit against the owner of a regional center who allegedly stole $3.5 million of eb-5 funds. the owner reported that all of the funds would be held in escrow until the approval of their green cards. instead, the article reports, that the owner of the regional center blew the money on two different personal homes, a luxury mercedes, a b.m.w. and a
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private yacht. all the while, clueless investors were exploited by loopholes in the eb-5 program. for example, the article states that both the investors and the owners of the regional center were represented by the same attorney. even checks and balances within the legal system -- or, the law profession don't seem to apply here. but for many potential e.b. immigrants, a safe investment is not the main concern because, you know, it's simple. you can buy your way into the united states, paying $500,000 is simply the price of an admission that they're able and willing to pay. for these wealthy elites, a profitable investment is just
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icing on the cake of buying green cards. i hope some of my colleagues will talk to senator feinstein why she thinks this program should be just wiped out. even considering our reforms, she still takes that view. she feels i.t. jus it's just plg to sell access to the united states through buying a green card. a lot of the debate in the past two months has been on targeted employment reforms. the targeted employment areas created by congress to steer foreign investment to rural and distressed areas have been greatly abused. the designations have been gerrymandered -- gerrymandered just like congressional districts -- to include the most lavish developments in the
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richest neighborhoods where this bill -- this law of 20 years was never expected to be used. because these are not distressed areas, as were anticipated by the original law. hudson yards project has generated millions of dollars for a luxury apartment complex in midtown manhattan, and manhattan was in here complaining about needing investment when every day you read in the newspaper that chinese entrepreneurs are investing in new york all the time. not far away, another flagrant example of gerrymandering is the battery maritime building right next to wall street in lower manhattan. "the new york times" described it by saying it -- quote -- "snakes up through the lower
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east side, skirting the wealthiest enclaves of battery park city and tribeca and then jumps across the east river to annex the fai farragut houses in brooklyn." that's the gerrymandering that goes on here to get a project in a very wealthy part of new york to qualify. so i have to ask my fellow senators, how many more media reports will it take to understand the extent of eb-5 gerrymandering? have the senators ever read those reports in "the wall street journal"? i can say for certainty that the status quo will not benefit middle america. it benefits new york city and other affluent areas at the expense of areas in iowa, kentucky, wisconsin, and
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vermont. or another way to put it, it is not going to benefit those that was the original intent of the legislation passed two decades ago, that it was supposed to deal with rural areas and with high-unemployment areas. some may say that there wasn't enough debate or public input on eb-5 reforms. well, i'd like to walk through just how much debate we've had on this issue, besides what's very obvious from the newspaper reports or from what whistle-blowers say or what the f.b.i. says or what the securities and exchange commission says or even the secretary of homeland security says. now, the history of our leading up to this legislation, the judiciary committee held a hearing on the program in late-2011. in every hearing since -- in every hearing since in which
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secretary johnson has testified, the issue of eb-5 has come up. the homeland security and governmental affairs committee, as well as house committees, have had hearings on this program. in 2013, the situation was so bad -- no, i want to start over again. in 2013 the senate debated an immigration bill that was over 1,000 pages long. in a few short months, we voted that bill out of this body. now, parts of the bill that we were working on to be included in this omnibus appropriations bill included eb-5 reforms that we talked about in that immigration bill of two years ago. then in 2014, the house judiciary committee voted out a bill that included some changes in the program. the bill would have raised the investment level to $1.6
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million. this year in june, senator leahy and i introduced s. 1501. we called it the american jobs creation investment promotion reform act. it was a tough, serious bill to overhaul the program. and since june we have listened to other members of the congress. we have heard input from their constituents and regional centers in their states. we listened to shareholders, we met with lawyers, lobbyists, regional center operators, we listened to groups that represented trade and labor union groups, we met with the agency at the department of homeland security that runs the program, we worked with them and the security and s.e.c. on language. we consulted other congressional
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committees. we took this input from a wide range of sources and made changes to our bill. on november 7, we circulated a new draft with chairman goodlatte, chairman of the senate ranking -- or senate judiciary committee. ranking member conyers joined our conversation as well. ranking member conyers has had invaluable input into this bill. i want to emphasize, that's what the leadership of this body is always talking about, doing things in a bipartisan way. so again, we had a bipartisan, bicameral agreement with four leaders of the committee of jurisdictions. the leaderships of both bodies said that committees would do
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their job and be relevant to the legislative process again, except for hb-5 program, evidently. and we weren't the only ones that wanted action. we had colleagues like chairman corker and chairman johnson on november the 6th joining me in sending a letter to leaders mcconnell and reid urging them to include critical provisions that would better guard against fraud and abuse and give the department, the department of homeland security, the ability to terminate centers that the secretary johnson didn't feel he had the authority to terminate and where there was obvious
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fraud should have been terminated. now, as i just said about senator feinstein -- i referred to her position on this issue -- she preferred to see the program end. in early november she wrote, "we have seen in recent years that the program is particularly vulnerable to security fraud. according to legal complaints, applicants for some projects were swindled out of their investment and jobs were never created. when the program comes up for renewal in december, congress should allow the program to di die." end of quote. now, she's th a respected membef this body, very involved in national secured and intelligence issues, and when she sees something wrong with a program like this, we ought to
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give it the proper attention. now, two weeks ago the judiciary staff was asked, after all these changes were made in the bill, to come in and talk to democrat and republican leadership. staff was asked to hear out the u.s. chamber of commerce, the real estate round table, and other industry representatives. i don't think there's anything wrong with listening to anybody's view about any legislation we have, whether it is an individual or an organization representing individuals. but to have them right there in the room writing legislation, i think, goes a little bit too far. on that first day in december, the negotiations, there was a lot of discussion about how new york wouldn't be able to compete
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with rural america if our reforms were enacted. they thought the bill was unfair to urban areas, and they wanted every project in the country to qualify for the special targeted employment area designation. the solution was to provide a set-aside of visas at the higher levels to ensure they could use the program. so it was apparent an agreement was in the works. but you find out later, there's not really an agreement in the works, when you've got these greedy people coming to talk to you, there's no end to what they're going to ask for. so when the group returned the next day for discussion, the u.s. chamber of commerce and the real estate round table, along with a small group of developers represented by law firms in town came with yet another new list of demands. they had half a dozen major
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issues, not to mention what they called so-called technical changes. after nearly 12 hours in the room with eb-5 protectionists, judiciary committee staff conceded and tried to find common ground, because we wanted to take at least -- at least take care of these national security issues and get some of the fraud out of the program. they left -- this group i'm talking about left with an agreement in concept, but, again, you think you're satisfied, you got something to go, then all of a sudden you find out the next day when staff was called in to finalize the language, the industry said they wanted more. this is a very common theme. the industry wanted more, and they wanted more, and they wanted more.
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it made one really wonder if they actually wanted a bill with reforms. now we find out the way this thing was handled in the end, they didn't want any bill. this was an effort to hoodwink people into what we thought was good-faith negotiations that turn out that it wasn't good-faith. then after all the concessions made to the industries, some members in the senate came to us and wanted to make even more concessions. despite all these challenges, the four corners of the judiciary committee compromised more. we gave in on many areas for the sake of national security and hopefully taking fraud out. we tried to strike an agreement, as much as it made the bill
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weaker, because the security reforms are also desperately needed. but after all that, our house and senate leadership failed us. they extended the program without any changes whatsoever for ten months in the appropriations bill that we will vote on tomorrow. no reforms, no plugs for national security, no safeguards against fraud and abuse. it will go on for at least another ten months. the bill we presented to the republican democratic leadership took into consideration edits from the industry, from immigration attorneys and several congressional offices. so i'm very disappointed that the leadership simply extended a very flawed program.
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but i also know that the product that we had provided them on monday night did not accomplish very much that we were hoping to accomplish and was a very flawed compromise bill. it was really watered down too much. it was a give-away to new york city, texas, and rich developers who simply wanted to protect their projects. it was a give-away to affluent urban areas and a failure to rural america or areas with high unemployment as was originally intended two decades ago when this bill was put in. now we have the benefit this morning of some enlightenment on how all this happened. i have here an abc news report that more than $30 million was spent this year alone in a
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lobbying effort against the reforms. $30 million. so i'd like unanimous consent, mr. president, to insert the abc article titled "lobbyists declare victory after visa reforms measures dies quietly." the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: and i would call my colleagues' attention to it, that it tells the threel senators or so -- the three senators or so that were in the leadership of this effort to scuttle this whole thing. so this is how work of several years on reforming eb-5, taking out fraud and things -- and the threat to our national security evolved. so this is how work of several years ended.
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reform blocked by selfish interests. now, i happen to be an optimist around here, and i believe eventually right wins out. it's time for things to change. i was for reform. i wanted to make it better. but now i'm not so sure reforms are possible. it may be time to do away with the eb-5 completely. maybe we should spend our time, resources and efforts on other programs that benefit the american people. maybe it's time that this program goes away. the next ten months will be spent exposing the realities and the vulnerabilities of this program. as chairman of the judiciary committee, i will exercise oversight of this program even more than i have.
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i will ask tough questions and make more recommendations. my quest to either have eb-5 reform or end the program has just begun. this is not the end. this is just the beginning. i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. and if i have any time left, i would reserve my time. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:


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