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tv   U.S. Senate Meets for Legislative Business  CSPAN  March 29, 2017 11:59am-2:00pm EDT

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a faithful friend to america for years, but now for the first time in recent history, jordan faces a hostile, aggressive power on its borders -- isis. it's also under an immense strain as it deals with hundreds of thousands of syrian refugees living in its territory. today, jordan spends up to 25% of its budget on helping refugees. we need to continue helping this bulwark of stability stand against the forces of islamic extremism by sharing intelligence, helping train police and counterterrorism forces and partnering in the fight against isis. and finally, there's israel, who it's no secret the regime in tehran has vowed to destroy. while we were overseas, israeli warplanes struck deep into the heart of syrian territory. they were targeting a convoy of advance missiles bound for hezbollah. in a serious escalation, syria fired missiles not only at the
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israeli aircraft but at israeli territory, one of which was intercepted by the aero-2 missile defense system. this incident goes to show just how important our aid is to protecting israel's security and how important israel is to confronting iranian-sponsored aggression. we must continue to support israel and its development of advanced missile defense systems. so i'm happy to report that all three of our allies continue to seek ever-closer friendship with the united states. they're optimistic about our ability to work together, particularly under the new administration. and they sincerely appreciate everything our country has done for them. i saw for myself a reminder of this country's sacrifice at the u.s. embassy in beirut. there you will find a memorial dedicated to the 241 americans who died in the terrorist bombing of our marine barracks in 1983. that atrocity was committed by
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hezbollah. if anyone needed a reminder why we fight alongside our allies against the iran-hezbollah-syria access in the contest for supremacy in the middle east, and if our trip taught us anything, it was that our allies won't give up the fight, but it will take american leadership to stop iran's campaign of imperial aggression. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. gardner: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. gardner: thank you, mr. president. i rise today to talk about the continuing challenge that our agricultural communities face across this country. just a couple of weeksing a i came to the floor -- just a couple of weeks ago, i came to the floor. i cited an article with the title "the next american farm bust is upon us." living in a purely 100%
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agricultural community, i understand when there is a downturn in the ag community it doesn't affect communities later that month, it affects them that very same day. that's not just somebody -- that's not just somebody going in to buy a bag of feed, that's somebody that is not going to be able to buy that pair of bluejeans or that pair of equipment needed to help fix the fence. it means that communities in colorado like dove creek are going to suffer enormously. that's why we continue the conversation in the united states senate about what's happening in agriculture across this country. now, i recognize that many people when they think of colorado they probably don't think of farms and ranches on the flatlands prairies. they probably think of kansas for that instead of colorado. colorado is more than just snow-capped peaks. according to the 2016 national
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agricultural statistic survey, colorado ranks in the top ten in production for the following commodities: barley, beans, sweet corn, alfalfa, millett, sorghum, cantaloupe, onions, cattle, lamb, and wool. the top-ten producers in those commodities. a remarkable list. it shows the diversetory in colorado -- it shows the diversity in colorado. one of the goals i have had in the senate is to make sure we have the right policies to support our farmers and ranchers throughout colorado who are producing everything from barley to potatoes. i want to make sure weed a even more crops to this -- i want to make sure we add even more crops to this list to strengthen the agricultural industry in colorado. as i mentioned a few weeks ago coming to the floor talk about that crisis, "the wall street journal" article highlighted a story from a farmer in kansas. i recently talked to a farmer in eastern colorado who was getting
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paid $3.21 for a bushel of corn, yet the amount of money that it took too make that corn bushel to may the bills was $30.92. -- $3.92. that is not the right side of an equation to be on if you are in business and particularly if you are hoping to pass that business on to future generations. and so i think it is important that the senate talk about commodity prices that we talk about the impact that increased federal regulations have had making it more difficult for that farmer to drive, that's driven up the cost to do business, driven up the cost that you need to be paid per bushel of corn to help make ends meet. talk about barriers to exports and limited financing options, those are four things we have to lay out. we have to make sure that we're decreasing the amount of federal regulation. we have to mike sure that we remove -- make sure we remove barriers to agricultural export.
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and we have to make sure that we are removing any obstacles to the financing that a farmer or rancher may have, particularly if the economy continues to deteriorate in our countryside, and to make sure that we have certainty in ag policy, certainty in regulations. let's make sure that we provide the seniority to our ag communities that they deserve and demand. according to the colorado business economic outlook -- this is an incredible statistic -- net farm incomes are projected to be down almost 80% since the records set in 2007. an 80% drop in just a few years is devastating for rural communities. i believe the exact numbers in colorado are something like going from $1.8 billion in farm income to a little over $300 million in farm income just over a matter of a few years. and so while we have done a good job of addressing regulatory
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concerns, we have to make sure we are doing a good job of addressing trade opportunities in this country as well. corn and wheat prices are hitting ten-year lows. the price is so low that it costs farmers more to produce the crop than it is worth on the market. and you don't have to be an economist to figure out that that's not going to let you stay in business before much -- for much longer. simply put, we have a lot of people worried in agriculture across this country and for our rural communities dependent on them. for our presiding officer, it is important that whether you live in the eastern plains of colorado or the great state of iowa, the fact is we have to provide that leadership on a global stage to make sure that our ag communities survive and thrive. earlier this year, i sent a letter to the colorado farm bureau soliciting feedback on what the congress and the federal government can do to support colorado agriculture. and in their response, i received a number of
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recommendations from the colorado farm bureau and a number of organizations that they reached out to respond to my request and my question. on the list, of course, was regulatory reform. one of the key -- the four pill has that we have to address in order to have -- the four pillars that we have to address: regulatory reform. their concern is that overregulation creates uncertainty. waters of the united states and the b.l.m. 2 rule. the waters of the united states regulation threatens toed a regulatory compliance to thousands of stream miles and thousands of acres of agricultural land. it basically would have said, hey you, the federal government, you're in charge of every molecule of water. that's not good for agriculture. thankfully the administration has said, no, we're going to stop that. we're going to repeal it. courts across this country had actually put in stays -- the
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presiding officer was a leader when it came to stopping the waters of the united states regulation and luckily we have seen that regulation being stopped in its tracks. in colorado two-thirds of waterways -- two-thirds of waterways in colorado were identified as what's known as intermittent flow. that means they don't have water in them year-round. part of the year they're dry. yet they would have been subject to a regulation known as the waters of the united states even though they didn't have water in them. that's the absurdity of the federal government. and so i'm glad that we're able to start rolling back these regulations. at the same time, the bureau of land management had started a process known as its blm .2 rule-making process that rule that they thought would deal with complex permitting issue and land use decisions. unfortunately, what this rule would have done instead is it would have taken away access to thousands of acres of federal land that was used for grazing. and even more disturbing, it would have given somebody in downtown new york city just as much say over the land in
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moffitt county, colorado, as a moffitt county commissioner, somebody who lives there amongst various agencies in the federal government that oversee thousands of acres of public lands. that, too, was overturned by the united states senate. in fact, if you look at the total number of regulations that the administration and that the united states congress has been able to overturn, we're approaching $60 billion worth of regulatory relief that we have been able to give to the american people. $60 billion worth of regulations have been taken off the backs of hardworking americans, allowing them to do their jobs easier, allowing them to make ends meet easier. the and so i'm very glad that we saw blm.2 rule repealed, giving our people in colorado a better chance to have a say as to what naps their front yard and backyard. the waters of the united states has to continue to be something
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that we stop as we move forward. there are positive steps that we give our producers -- there are other positive steps that we should take to give our producers additional regulatory certainty. i know there's more that we can do and i hope to hear from our nation's farmers and ranchers. our farmers and ranchers in colorado on how congress and the federal government can help. and so i use this opportunity to make an appeal to people across the country, to hear from farmers and ranchers whether in the eastern plains of colorado or the western slope of colorado or the great state of iowa or kansas, and anywhere in between and out the state of colorado, to hear from them things we can be doing -- trade policy, regulatory policy, financial services opportunities, making sure we have farm bill programs that are working, to hear about these ideas. and i hope that we'll hear back in my office about thoughts moving forward on these important issues so we can have an agricultural community that thrives, so we can make sure
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when we talk about bringing generations of farmers and ranchers back to the farm and the ranch, we'll get their ideas on how best to do that. and so this week i'll be sending letters to the colorado agricultural council, which is made up of organizations across the agricultural spectrum in colorado as well as don brown, the commissioner of the colorado department of agriculture, on what else congress and the federal government can do help support this industry. julie mccaleb, the chair, saying, hey, whether it's legislation or regulations, it is important that the administration and congress understand the impact their policies have have on agriculture. i look forward to hearing from you, your member organizations, and farmers and ranchers throughout the state on how we can work together to ensure colorado agriculture continues to be effectively represented in washington. we'll be sending this letter and of course to commissioner don brown. commissioner brown is from my home,000. he is a corn farmer -- commissioner brown is from my hometown. he is a corn farmer.
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he understands what goes into making ends meet in agriculture. and we understands the suffering we're seeing right now. some may be at wit's end. we'll be sending these letters o i encourage farmers, ranchers, leaders in counties to contact my office and give us their ideas on how we can turn this could-be-coming crisis around so we can actually start improving and growing agriculture again and make sure that we lead colorado's diverse agricultural economy into a better state than it is today, a better place than it is today in terms of the economy. and here in the senate, i believe that that same bipartisan support exists for all of us to be reaching out to our communities, to making sure we hear from the heartland of america what we can do to help struggling farmers and ranchers. madam president, i thank you for your leadership in agriculture and i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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a senator: madam president had, i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: i ask that dara green be given -- my intern be given the privileges of the floor for the balance of the day. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: thank you, madam
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president. here in america, we hope that families will have the opportunity to build successful lives and preparation for a beautiful retirement. mr. merkley: and that involves many different factors. that involves the solvency of social security. that involves the foundation of a good living wage job. it involves certainly the question of whether through your life you're able to save for retirement. now, this has become more and more important over time because fewer and fewer jobs have a retirement pension plan. without that, it's really incumbent on the individual to be able to succeed to put money aside. and we know how difficult that is for an ordinary working family to have the extra funds to be able to put into a
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retirement account. and certainly we want to make that as simple and easy as possible. but what we know is that the simplest strategy which is to be able to save through your work, to be able to have funds automatically deducted from your paycheck so you never actually get it in your hands, the simplest strategy is often unavailable. according to one 2013 study, 40% of small business owners themselves had no retirement savings. 75% had no plan to fund their own retirement. and of those who are working for employers who hire and have a hundred or fewer employees, 60 -- more than 60%, 62% of the workers do not have access to a work-based retirement plan. and you can imagine the difference between going to work
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at a job where the employer says hey, we have a retirement plan. you just need to sign this document and you'll be part of it and please sign up. after a few months if you feel you can't afford to keep sending those -- setting those funds aside, can you change what you're doing. you have the flexibility and you get to choose between options for dipt types of investments but -- different types of investments but it's all right there. it's easily accessible. all you have to do is just do it. the difference between that and a situation where there's nothing in the workplace, no benefit in the workplace, no retirement structure, and in that situation it's -- it becomes a much more complicated undertaking. well, 55 million americans, nearly half of private sector workers, work for employers who do not offer any form of workplace retirement saving or pension plan.
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roughly 45% of working-age household, half of which are headed of someone between 45 and 65 years old lack any type of retirement account asset. so if there is no structure to make it simple to plan for retirement, it's more likely one goes into those golden years without any form of gold. that is, without the resources in the bank to back up social security. we know that more than half of folks who are on social security depend on it for more than 90% of their income. or more simply stated, for more than half of americans in retirement, social security is essentially their only source of support. and it is often not enough to maintain even the minimal essentials of life.
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well, why is it that so many businesses don't set up a workplace plan? and what is really boils down to is the complexity for the employer. a lot of small businesses don't have a human resources person. they don't have an extra individual who can proceed to do the administrative work to set it up. and maybe the plan requires a match and the employer isn't sure they'll be able to afford a match. there's all sorts of reasons that this is complicated, difficult either financially or in terms of administrative overhead for a small business. so they don't set up the plan. well, we know that if they had a plan, employers would participate. we know that because companies that have plans the employers participate. in addition, the general accounting office did a study in 2015 that found the overwhelming majority of workers would
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participate in a employer-sponsored retirement plan if they had the opportunity to do so. so this brings us to the fact that many states are saying let's make it easier for employees. there are 30 states that are looking at the possibility of the state setting up a retirement plan that wouldn't be attached to a single employer, that an individual could carry with them. for example, imagine that your teenager has their first job at serving yogurt, one of the jobs that my daughter had, or a life saver at a -- lifeguard at a local swimming pool or serving coffee, simple jobs, those first jobs, service jobs. what would happen if automatically if that first job 3% of their income was placed automatically into a retirement account? a retirement account that they could control the options of, a retirement account that they
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could increase the amount of their income to go into if they wanted, or a retirement account that they could also opt out of if they chose to do so? but if they were automatically enrolled, we know the vast majority of vifds stay in -- individuals stay in that. if you go then automatically from job to job to job and in our economy that's the way it works -- people don't sign up with one company and serve there for 30, 40 years, but if you went from job to job and in every job 3% was being automatically deducted, then when you actually went into retirement, you'd have a sizable nest egg to comp -- complement social security. that's what our states are looking at. that's what they're pursuing. more than half the country are considering legislation to create retirement savings, opportunity for small business employees who do not have a work-based plan. seven states including my home state of oregon are already working at implementing these
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plans. on july 1 of this year, oregon is going to launch its plan with a voluntary pilot group. then it's going to expand to employers with ten or more workers in 2018. and finally to all employers in the state in 2019. under this plan employees who do not have an employer-provided savings account will be allowed to save part of their paycheck in their own personally managed account. and it will be automatically deducted unless the employee decides to opt out. once it stands to all employers, 800,000 oregon workers are expected to have access to a state-sponsored retirement savings program. again, this will be an automatic in, opt out strategy to make it really, really simple. in oregon 95% of our businesses are made up of small businesses.
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more than half of our workers are employed by those small businesses. so this is a pretty good arrangement to facilitate this opportunity. now, here's something that we may not immediately think about, and that's when an employee saves for their retirement and is, therefore, financially better off in retirement, it reduces the cost of government programs. within the first decade after these plans are established, total state spending on medicaid could drop by $5 billion. and just in utah a recent study found the state would save $3.7 billion for five essential government support programs, so not just medicaid, over the course of 15 years. when i first read about medicaid dropping, costs dropping because of a retirement plan, i said how does that work? it turns out to be very simple. if you have saved money and are financially better off, you are
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not in a position that you wouldn't be in the medicaid program and reducing the number of people who are in it. this study found that over ten years, the states that are already working to implement plans, that california would save more than half a billion dollars and maryland would save more than a hundred million and connecticut and oregon more than 50 -- about 60 million a piece and illinois, a quarter billion dollars. so that's just an interesting piece that we should be recognizing, that when families do better not only do they do better, but they lower the cost of the government programs which i think many folks here on both sides of the aisle would say would be a terrific thing. and then there is this principle of experimentation at the state level. why would we here in this chamber having failed to provide an automatic in-opt out
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opportunity as you move around the country, having failed to do a federal version of this, why would we stop our municipalities and our states from experimenting to see if this is something that will make the success -- will increase the success of our families? why would we stop a state from experimenting? now, i hear all the time in here about states' rights. i hear all the time about how states are the place for experimentation to see what works and what doesn't work, innovation, give them the opportunity to try things. well, this congressional review act proposal says the opposite. it says let's stomp out experiments by our municipalities. let's devastate and decree that you cannot experiment and innovate at the state level on a
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very significant challenge facing america. so whether you want families to succeed or whether you simply believe in the power of local innovation and opportunity, you should be against this proposal. what this proposal is about is this. there is a twist in the national retirement law known as arisa, that an employer might possibly have liability related to an employee signing up for a state-sponsored or municipal-sponsored account. well, that pretty much puts a wet blanket over employers signing up under these state plans are under these local plans because the thought that you might have liability for something you have no control over doesn't sound like a good place to be. and so to correct or clarify
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this, a regulation was issued that should be obvious why it's right which is the employer will not have liability over provisions of a state or knew miss pal-sponsored -- municipal-sponsored retirement account. they didn't set it up. the employer didn't advocate it. the employer is not choosing where the investments go within this. they're not deciding which companies' retirement plans get to participate as options or whether there are even company retirement plans. employers are not doing any of that. the employer is simply the host. and the whole point of the plan is to make it very easy for the employer because that's been the burden in the past of an employer-by-employer plan. in this case it's just automatically set up. in states like oregon it's setting up a pilot pro ject for employers -- project for employers who are willing to experiment and they can learn from it.
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then they can desire a better plan for larger businesses, those who have more than ten employees. and then they can make it after working the kings out of it work -- kinks out of it work for the very small employers. and if along the way me run into an obstacle, they can pause and work on that. this is absolutely the best in policy strategy in america. give municipalities, give states the opportunity to experiment, and on an issue that can help families thrive, help our young ones thrive. i know that my son and my daughter are going to be better prepared for retirement, better financial position if in every job they pursue in oregon they're automatically saving 3% of their income or more if they choose to or less if they opt out. but certainly the vast majority of workers once in a plan, they stay in a plan. it's kind of how it is with
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deductions on your federal and state taxes. when it comes out of your payroll, you don't get used to it. you adjust to it and say hey, that works. so, to my colleagues, please oppose this -- this review act proposition which will squash innovation by municipalities and its companion will squash programs by states, programs that are very valuable both for us to understand possible important policies to help set a platform for the success of our families and is very important to the families themselves. please vote no. thank you, madam president. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: madam president?
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the presiding officer: the senator from idaho. mr. crapo: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. crapo: madam president, i rise today to speak about the president's nomination of judge neil gorsuch to serve as associate justice of the united states supreme court. whenever great issues like the future of our nation's highest court come before the senate, it's easy to get lost in the noise and the hyperbole. listening to the commentary about judge gorsuch, i have found it instructive to ask whether critics had actually met him and listened to his philosophy of jurisprudence. i have met him. and it's easy to guess that those who oppose him likely have not spoken with him, watched the hearings or read any of the glowing testimonials from across the political spectrum. the invective thrown at judge gorsuch seems really to be about something else entirely, about anger at the president,
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disappointment with the election outcome or concern about holding certain hotly debated topics of the day. it appears that critics could substitute almost any name for judge gorsuch in their statements and give it with the same passion and the same concern. that's too bad because judge gorsuch has been consistently regarded by his peers as pragmatic and among the most gifted legal minds on the federal bench. the man is intelligent, courteous and modest. he seeks readily the views of those around him. his approach will be a constructive addition to the united states supreme court and a benefit to our nation. his judicial record as a federal judge flows exactly from what he says, and his message and focus is abundantly clear. judicial modesty and fidelity to the law. when our representative government was established in
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the united states, a heated debate emerged about the purpose and powers of our new federal institutions. the founders of our country understood that a system in which law making was detached from accountability is the quickest path to despotism. a co-equal judiciary could help temper tyranny and balance the powers of an executive and a legislature stepping over their constitutional powers. the phrases checks and balances -- the phrase is checks and balances, not usurpation. alexander hamilton, who has received much recent renewed attention, wrote at length about the newly imagined judicial branch of our government. in federalist 78, hamilton wrote the judicial branch may truly be said to have neither force nor will but merely judgment and must ultimately depend on the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its
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judgments. to the founders, the division of responsibilities between the three branches of government was clear. congress would make the laws. the executive would implement them. the judiciary would review the laws for their legality and consistency with the constitution. further, the independence of the judiciary would be enhanced through their definitive -- distinctive selection process so they could do their jobs without swings in popular opinion. put succinctly by chief justice roberts during his confirmation hearings, a judge's proper role is to call the balls and the strikes. in his testimony to the late-justice antonin scalia, justice roberts emphasized the importance of an independent judiciary. "judges should strive to apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to the text, the structure, and the history, not
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decide cases on their own moral convictions." judges take an oath to uphold the constitution, not merely consider it. it is their duty to follow the law. jurisprudence is not supposed to be the popular arts. judges are not vessels for moral causes. judge gorsuch repeats justice scalia's words, "if you're going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you're not always going to like the conclusions you reach. if you like them all the time, you're probably doing something wrong." further, judge gorsuch states that rulings made in an attempt to optimize social utility introduce a question of moral relativism. in criminal cases, for example, we often hear arguments from the government that its view would promote public security or
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finality. meanwhile, the defense often tells us that its view would promote personal liberty or procedural fairness. how is a judge supposed to weigh or rank these very different social goods? the answer lies in the common point of reference for all judges, be they conservatives or progressives: the written law. reading the law is difficult enough without introducing the element of uncertainty. court shopping for a judge who will interpret the law the way a litigant believes it should read can be destructive to public confidence in the legal system. in our democracy, the public expresses its will at the ballot box and empowers its duly elected officials with the duty to advance that will. changes in public attitudes can come quickly, and that can be reflected in the results of elections. congress is the body most
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closely connected to the american public because it's accountability is directly to the people. some observers want judges to be legislators, discarding the black robes for populist impulses. but our system of checks and balances is predicated on the fact that change comes deliberately and incrementally, notwithstanding the wild swings in public mood. the pace of change can understandably frustrate. however, congressional action is the spirit of the american electorate. exercised with its unique combination of majority rule, minority rights, and compromise. the imperfect caldron of the legislative process is how change happens: carefully, purposefully, and properly. unfortunately, impatience can drive people to try to circuit
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vent the constitutional power -- circumvent the constitutional power of congress. racing to the white house bypassing the will of people expressed through congress is destabilizing to representative government. without a direct say in how policy is decided and without the ability to hold people accountable, judges who reimagine the law undermine a fundamental cornerstone of representative democracy. judges have a great responsibility to carefully exercise their judicial authority within the limits of the law. judges who exercise independence from april coarse of our -- anchors of our law are dangerous to our liberties. judge gorsuch demonstrates that he clearly understands this concept when he writes, "legislators may appeal to their own moral convictions and to claims to reshape the law as they think it should be in the future, but judges should do
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none of these things in a democratic society." some jurists treat the constitution like a speed bump, as they hurtle down the road reinventing the law. substituting ideology for the written law in jurisprudence is the equivalent of changing the law from what it says to what some wish it would say. neil gorsuch identified this very problem when he wrote in 2005 that the courtroom, as the place to debate social policy, is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary. in the legislative arena, especially when the country is closely divided, compromises tend to be the rule of the day. but when judges rule this or that policy unconstitutional, there is little room for compromise. one side wins and the other must lose. as a society, we lose the benefit of the give-and-take of the political process and the
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flexibility of social experimentation that only the elected branches can provide. these words reflect a clear understanding of the importance of the separation of powers. the federal judiciary should not be a replacement for doing the hard work of persuading the public and enacting policy with accountability to the electorate. americans learn civics early in their upbringing, but the constitution guarantees certain civil liberties and retains the powers of the central governme government, restrains the powers of the central government. our court system has the responsibility to preserve our constitutional rights, ensure a limited government, and provide speedy and fair justice when needed. the judiciary holds the sole constitutional power to interpret laws properly enacted by congress.
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this authority is expressly zipping from the power -- distinct from the power bestowed. this separation of powers plays an important role in the system of checks and balances envisioned by the founders. public confidence in our legal system is undermined when judges seek to reimagine federal law beyond its clear meaning. judges who substitute their personal views for the law can shake the public's faith in our legal system as an impartial protector of our rights and an upholder of our justice. judges must follow our constitution in their decision making and resist this temptation to make policy. moreover, without the public sanction of the ballot box, the policymakers particularly controversial ones, naturally divide people. if the judiciary cannot be seen as a neutral arbiter of facts and law, even more people will
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see individual judges as one of mine or one of yours. the erosion of the humble judiciary began when the senate confirmation processes changed. in recent past, district and circuit court nominees used to be confirmed noncontroversially. now instead of looking at the qualifications of a judicial nominee, partisans hope to prebake court decisions through the use of litmus tests or demands on nominees to determine in advance what their rulings will be on cases before the matter is even argued to the court. perhaps this is the logical extension of the overreliance on some to secure social gains they cannot achieve through the democratic process. change is hard and patience is exceedingly rare, but the strongest building blocks to legitimacy are achieved through consensus and the give-and-take of politics.
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writing even before he was overwhelming a approved by this body in for his current seat on the 10th circuit, judge gorsuch wrote, "in courts, ideas are tested only in the abstract world of legal briefs and lawyers' arguments. as a society, we lose the benefit of the give-and-take of the political process and the flexibility of social experimentation that only the elected branches can provide. at the same time, the politicization of the judiciary undermines the only real asset it has: its independence. judges come to be seen as politicians and and their confirms become just another avenue of political warfare. respect for judges and the legitimacy of the judicial branch diminishes.
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examines themlyified by a recent historic shift in the senate's confirmation process. where trial court and appeals court nominees were routinely confirmed on a voice vote based on their credentials and ability to serve, they are now routinely subjected to ideal logical litmus tests, first of all, and vicious interest group attacks. it is a warning sign that our judiciary is losing its legitimacy when trial and circuit court judges are viewed and treated as little more than politicians with robes. this development puts a severe strain on our republic. rulings that are given with a one-vote margin further empower litigants to contest decisions hoping for a more favorable outcome later or in a different court. setting precedent, though, becomes so much more difficult
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for the public when a raiser-thin decision is accompanied by a dramatic reinterpretation of the law. one of the hallmarks of the roberts court is to establish precedent not by finding the narrowest reading that can achieve a bare majority but its endeavor to ground seminal decisions in large majorities. public finance i is ever greater when we do not see narrow decisions. the judiciary committee just concluded a four-day review of the nomination of judge gorsuch. in addition to hearing from judge gorsuch for over 20 hours, the committee received formal testimony from almost 30 outside witnesses. thousands upon thousands of words were exchanged over the course of the hearing, all in front of the american public. what the people saw is a
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thoughtful, humble, and brilliant legal mind in the service of the people. in response to a question of mine on tuesday, judge gorsuch said the following: i come here with no agenda but one, no promises but one: to be as good and faithful a judge as i know how to be. that is it. and i cannot promise or agree or pledge anything more than that to this congress. that statement and the hearing as a whole confirmed judge gorsuch to be a man of great integrity, a mainstream exemplary student of the law whose record shows that he is a part of the unanimous decisions. on the tenth circuit, of all the decisions that he has participated in in the last ten years, 90% of the time he was
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part of a unanimous court. and 99% of the time he was in the majority. for days my colleagues from the other side of the aisle raised the possibility that he might have secret intentions or to try to subvert the law or shred the constitution from the bench. they parsed single words for hidden meanings, imagined devious strategies from concurring opinions and searched for cloaked messages in his published writings. judge gorsuch has over ten years, as i said, as a jurist with 2,700 opinions to review. yet most of the debate was centered on just four or five cases. some senators were just absolutely convinced that they would find some problem. they did not. let's talk about what judge gorsuch testified to under oath.
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despite repeated efforts to get him to make commitments about how he would rule or how he would reshape social policy, on his first day he gave no fewer than eight assurances that he follows the law as a judge. by my count, on the second day he gave at least 36 assurances that he looks to the law for his rulings. and on the third day, it was 29 more times that he was asked and again repeated that he would look to the law for his rulings. that's right. he said at least 73 times that he is committed to the law when he hears a case as a sitting federal judge. still several of my colleagues worried that he had a secret agenda to overturn long-standing legal precedents. just in case there are some confused, judge gorsuch mentioned no fewer than 97 times in these three days that he follows precedent as a judge, as
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he is bound to do. more than 160 times judge gorsuch reminded the senate and the american public what a proper jurist does: follow the law and the precedent. we even talked about the book he coauthored entitled "the law of judicial precedent." 942 pages of dedication to following precedent. maybe the title of the book was confusing to some. during his oral testimony, he dedicated to ruling as the law requires, reading the language of the statute as a reasonable person would understand it, and respecting precedent. and just to put all such questions to rest, he assured everyone that he is without secret agenda. none. in reviewing his record, it is clear that those who come before judge gorsuch receive equal treatment under the law.
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he said, when i sit on the bench and someone comes to argue before me, i treat each one of them equally. they do not come as rich or poor, big guy or little guy. they come as a person, and i put my ego aside when i put on that robe, and i open my mind, and i open my heart, and i listen. in judge gorsuch, we have a nominee who lives the american ideal of a modest jurist. he understands that his responsibility is not to subvert power of others but help deliver justice. those who encounter him as a legal advocate, adversary in court or presiding judge all praise his fundamental fairness. his respect for the constitution is not in question. his experience, wisdom and judgment are not in question. his capability to serve is not
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in question. commentators from both the left and the right overwhelmingly respect his legal mind and vouch for his commitment to fair jurisprudence. given judge gorsuch's judicial philosophy and his record as a judge, he would be a welcome addition to the supreme court seeking cohesive decisions. his record on the tenth circuit is strong. five of six of his decisions that did go to the supreme court for review have been affirmed by the supreme court. including one which he wrote and four out of five on which he joined the decision. not many judges have the experience, temperament and stellar record to match judge gorsuch. fewer still can garner overwhelming endorsement from colleagues, peers and observers from across the political spectrum. madam president, some may try to distract from the central point that judge gorsuch is
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extraordinarily qualified and suited to serve as an associate justice. others would like to discuss other issues or make this nomination a proxy fight about tangential matters. but my colleagues and i will not vote -- excuse me. my colleagues and i will vote on his nomination, not these other issues or distractions. and i encourage all of us to remember that. the senate should be proud to adjudge neil gorsuch to the -- to add judge neil gorsuch to the supreme court. thank you, madam president. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: madam president, i want to thank my colleague for his good comments regarding neil gorsuch. i rise today to strongly support neil gorsuch for the united states supreme court. first, there's no question that judge gorsuch is qualified for this job. he served as a law clerk for two
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supreme court justices, byron white, anthony kennedy. had a distinguished career in the public sector. finally, he worked in the office of the attorney general, worked in the justice department; had a great reputation there as well. of course in 2006, not that long ago, he came here to the floor of the united states to be confirmed to the tenth circuit. and guess what? he was unanimously confirmed by this body. in fact, at the time senator hillary clinton voted to confirm him. senator joe biden voted to confirm him. senator barack obama voted to confirm him. and, by the way, so did a number of democrats who are currently serving in the united states senate. not a single senator objected. why? because the guy is so well qualified. since then, in his ten tenure on the circuit court his record shows he is fair and a consensus builder. it ratifies what the senate has done, shows he is the kind of
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person who represented us well on the court. listen to his numbers. 99 of the cases he decided were unanimous decisions with other judges on the panel. typically these are judges appointed by presidents who are republicans and democrat. finally he's been in dissent less than 2% of the time. this is a guy who 97% unanimous, 2% of the time there is dissent. of the 180 opinions he's written as a judge -- 180 opinions, only one has been appealed to the united states supreme court from the circuit court. by the way, that one was affirmed. so this is a guy who clearly knows how to build a consensus, bring people together, and that's needed right now. it's needed in this body. it's needed in our country as a whole. and it's certainly needed in the judiciary. by the way, it doesn't surprise me he's a consensus builder. he was a law clerk for justice byron white and justice anthony kennedy. they're both known famously as being consensus builders and being able to bril together
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disparate decisions to try to find a decision at the supreme court level. he's seen it up close and personal. he knows how to do it. mr. president, i would say in terms of this debate we're having, it's not just about neil gorsuch and it's not just about another seat as important as it is on the united states supreme court. it's also an opportunity by voting for neil gorsuch to ensure that we have reestablished the proper role of this body, of the legislative branch and be judicial branch of our system of government. judge gorsuch understands that his job as a judge is not to impose his views on people, but rather to apply the law as written. apply the law as written. that's kind of a basic part of our constitution. he put it well in his testimony before the senate judiciary committee. he said a judge who likes every outcome he reaches is likely a very bad judge. what did he mean by that? i think what he meant is he doesn't believe in substituting his personal views for what he's supposed to do as a judge. so you may not like the
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decision, but you're constrained by the constitution, by the laws. and that's what judges should do. he went on to say it's not about politics, the job of a judge. he said, quote, if judges were secret legislators declaring not what the law is but what it should be, the very idea of government by the people and for the people would be at risk. i think he's right about that. it's not about what he wants. it's what the constitution and the laws say. judges should not legislate from the bench. that's not their job. judge gorsuch and i met recently and he's met, i think, about 80 of my 100 colleagues here on the floor of the senate and he's talked to them about his views privately. i was very impressed with him. i was impressed with him as a person, his background, his family. i was impressed with him about his approach where he said he's not going to substitute his own personal views. he said to me what he said in public, he's going to quote the law as written even if his personal beliefs led hit to vote
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against that law if he had been in my position as a legislator. don't take my word for it, judge gorsuch earned the respect of lawyers and judges across the spectrum. froa fers laurence tribe -- professor laurence tribe of harvard law school who was advisor to president obama said judge gorsuch is, quote, a brilliant, terrific guy who would do the court's work with distinction. end quote. neal katyal, who was president obama's acting solicitor general, a guy who knows about arguing before the supreme court, he said that judge gorsuch's record, quote, should give the american people confidence that he will not compromise principle to favor the president who appointed him. he's a fair and decent man. again, this is the acting solicitor general for president obama. yet this debate is about something bigger than that even. it's about neil gorsuch. it's about his character, his experience and his judgments,
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but it's also about something i think even more important than this division of powers in our constitution. it's about the rule of law itself. what does it mean? and why does that matter? it matters because laws are an expression of the will of the people. the constitution itself starts off with the idea of course that we the people -- we the people -- established this constitution. not we the congress or we the government. we, the people, govern ourselves. and the government is the servant of the people under our constitution, not the other way around. when judges try to change the law rather than apply the law, they make themselves into an unelected legislative body. that's not just arrogant, by the way. i think that's unfair not because it steals the legitimate authority from us, the elected representatives in congress, but because it steals that authority and silences the voices of the people who elected us. and ultimately that's what this is all about. in this republic, congress writes the laws, the president ensures the laws are faithfully
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executed and the courts apply the laws in our constitution, the specific cases that come before them. that's how it should work. i think it's more important now than ever to have a supreme court that understands this role and resists the urge to act as the super legislature. in recent decades the court has been increasedly asked to decide a lot of important matters. health care, the affordable care act, immigration, energy, environmental policy, social policy, first amendment rights to free speech, freedom of religion, second amendment rights, a hundred other issues. the court affects all of our lives in ways that are fundamental and rulings by the court cannot be appealed to a higher court. all you can do is change the law. and on constitutional provisions, you can't even do that. at the same time as the scope of this judicial power has expanded and as the significance of the supreme court rulings increased there are judges that have rewritten statutes that don't suit them. they have taken the laws and
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said we're going to rewrite this in a way we think works better. one example i'll give you is a couple of years ago the supreme court ruled, for example, that the words, and i quote, established by a state, established by a state -- this was in the affordable care act -- could also mean not established by a state. literally the court said that. and that legislature could also mean, and legislation a popular referendum. so they took the very words of a statute and said we don't like the way that's written. we're going to change these words and adjudicate this matter based on our understanding of these words, which is based on our personal opinion. i don't think these rulings made sense logically. but more importantly, they changed the law as written by the people and the people's representatives. so the stakes are high here. we've got to get this right. there are people who make the argument that the constitution is such a living document, as meaning evolves, popular
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opinion evolves we should make judges into pollsters or super legislators. i don't think that makes sense. but more importantly, i don't think it's fair. it's one reason why so many people felt like their voices aren't being heard, i believe, when the courts do that. again, neil gorsuch gets it. as he said in testimony recently, his philosophy is, and i quote, to strive to understand what the words on the page mean and to apply what the people's representatives, the lawmakers, have done. end quote. this should be what we all want in a supreme court justice, someone who will fairly and impartially apply the law and protect the rights we have guaranteed by our constitution. to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, i would make a plea today. i would say that in this regard i would think judge gorsuch is exactly the kind of justice that you would like. someone who's actually going to apply the laws that you write, that we write, and not impose his personal views. the american bar association, not known as a conservative body, has unanimously declared judge gorsuch well qualified for
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this job. that's their highest rating, well qualified. that's what they have given him. the a.b.a. noted that, quote, based on the writings, interviews and analyses we scrutinize to reach our rating we believe judge gorsuch bleefs strongly in the independence of the judicial branch of government and believe he will be a strong and respectful voice in protecting it, meaning the independence of the judicial branch. that is pretty strong from the american bar association. by the way, in spite of these accolades he's gotten and his respect for the lawmaking that so many of us do here in this body, some of my colleagues on the other side may decide to vote against judge gorsuch. they certainly have the right to do that. of course they do. but let's at least give him a vote. let's give him an up-or-down vote. he deserves that. if a nominee this qualified can't get an up-or-down vote on the senate floor it is not clear to me who could. some have argued the standard for a supreme court justice should be 60 votes in the senate, not an up-or-down
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vote, not 51 votes. "the washington post" looked at that recently and "the washington post" gave that notion that it should be 60 votes three pinocchios. that means, you know, the guy whose nose gets longer when he's not telling the truth. here's what the "washington post" said, quote, there is no traditional 60-vote standard or rule for supreme court nominations, no matter how much or how often democrats claim otherwise. end quote. that's "the washington post." in fact, as you know probably, two sitting justices on the supreme court right now were actually confirmed by this body with less than 60 votes. justice thomas, very controversial nomination at the time, was confirmed 52-48, hardly a tradition of requiring 60 votes. justice alito was confirmed 58-42 only ten years ago. in fact, as we've heard on this floor, there has never been a successful partisan filibuster of a supreme court justice in the history of this body. so that's hardly the standard.
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so look, i urge my colleagues to give judge gorsuch a chance. give him a vote. and i hope the result will be confirmation of this smart, mainstream, decent man who is so well qualified for the supreme court and who has made it clear, again, he's not going to impose his personal beliefs on the rest of us, but instead he's going to apply the law as written and he's going to adhere to the united states constitution. that's the kind of judge i believe deserves the support of all of us. thank you, mr. president. i yield my time. the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. bennet: thank you, mr. president. i ask, through the chair, whether -- i guess i will proceed. i thought i was next in the speaking order. that's okay with the senator from nevada? thank you. even with the dysfunction in congress, somehow the american people continue to expect that
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washington will enact policies that bear at least some relationship to the challenges they face. unfortunately, the administration's new executive order on energy fails even that low bar. this order will not expand energy production, it will not make us more energy independent, it will not create more american jobs, and it will also not protect us from the ravages of climate change. that last point is somewhat last surprising than the first because unlike millions of americans and # 9% -- 99% of scientists, this administration does not believe climate change is real or that humankind is contributing to it. to understand where this executive order comes from, i think it's important to see where we were before this administration took office and put -- and put simply, the united states was already on track to achieve energy
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independence. our country is producing a tremendous amount of low-cost energy. since 2008, solar energy has grown 50 fold, oil production in the united states of america is up 75%. in fact, five years ago we began producing more oil than we import. you can see on this slide, mr. president, that over the period of time that the obama administration was in office, oil production rose like this and that im -- net imports have gone like this. that's an important act considering our geopolitical situation with the world. we are also producing, mr. president, so much natural gas that facilities that were built originally to import gas are now being reengineered to export gas from the united states. and i, along with other people in this chamber, have worked hard to try to make sure that
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those facilities are expedited so we can get the benefit of that exported natural gas. so even before president trump rode to the rescue with his executive order, "the wall street journal" told us that exports of natural gas could more than double over the next five years just based on what we're doing already. we're also using energy far more efficiently in our homes, our appliances, our automobiles, which is why the administration's action to reverse higher fuel standards last week -- well, mr. president, i just say talk about a solution in search of problem, that's one. there's not a person in colorado who said to me, michael, you know what we ought to do? we ought to reduce the fuel efficiency standards on automobiles. we ought to create a regulatory environment where the united states can't sell competitive
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automobiles in the world. nobody has said that because not only are they concerned about climate, they are concerned that we lead the world when it comes to innovation, and that order, just like a budget that cuts the epa by 30%, that targets the climate scientists at the epa, that targets the satellite that's are above our head so that we can't see what's happening on our planet -- this is all so that we can perpetuate a usual view that climate change doesn't exist, and it is the same thing with his executive order. all of the trends that are in place right now, right before this administration took office, have combined to reduce our reliance on foreign energy in recent years even as our economy has grown, an average of prices at the pump, because of abundance of supply, remain under $2.30. we are a few years away from
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exporting as much oil and gas and we import. that is important for our country. colorado has been a huge part of america's growing energy independence, and by extension, our national security. that's because in many ways colorado led the way in developing a commonsense approach to expanding energy production while ensuring clean air and a healthy planet. we brought environmentalists together with the oil and gas industry to develop one of the first state limits on methane production. we led the first renewable energy standard in the nation which became a model for the country. we established our own limits on carbon pollution at the state level, and in this process we created 13,000 renewable energy jobs with wind jobs expected to grow in 20 -- 2020. this is not some socialist
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experiment, mr. president. these are manufacturing jobs in the united states of america in colorado that would not be there if it hadn't been for the policy decisions that were made in this body and in other parts of washington, dc and the supply change that goes along with those manufactured turbines is critically important to our economy. at the same time we were doing all of that, we preserved 60,000 oil and gas jobs even as drilling has slowed because, again, of abundance of jobs. and to say nothing that colorado has created because it's a place people would like to live. they want to come there, like they want to go to nevada. there's a high quality of life. there's a lot of sunshine in both places. i'm pleased to have worked with the senator from nevada to make sure that we extended the production tax credit with
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respect to solar but put language in there together, republicans and democrats together, to ensure that the credits would kick in at the beginning of construction not at the end and that made a difference. long ago in the state of colorado and many other states have broken past the choice between our economy and the environment. that is the course we have chartered in colorado. if the presses president -- if the president were serious, he would support that approach. instead he is trying to undermined it with this order. by undoing national standards for carbon pollution, it threatens to undercut the thriving clean energy industry. that is an industry that supports over $38 billion in investment. the order recklessly endangers $
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646 billion outdoor recreation industry, not to mention the health of our national forest, which lines some of the banks of the most vital watersheds in america. as the president threatens our economy with this -- the environment with this executive order, he stood before a group of coal miners and promised to, quote, cancel job-killing regulations and, quote, put our miners back to work. just two weeks ago i was on the western slope of colorado, mr. president, a region with a number of mining communities. these communities, some of whom have invented -- helped invent hydraulic frawcturing and -- infrastructuring and directal drilling know their challenges have far more to do with low prices and competition from natural gas than the epa.
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they know that their way of life and the -- the way of life of communities like theirs all across the united states requires real solutions to help them grow and diversify their economies. these communities get it. they understand it, but the president clearly does not. just yesterday "the wall street journal" ran this are article entitled, "despite trump move on climate change, utility shift from coal is set to continue." . according to the article, power from coal plants fell while power from natural gas rose 35%. nationwide major utilities are shedding coal and increasing natural gas and renewables. that is the reality of our energy market and of the global economy. but this administration, when it comes to energy and when it comes to climate, is not operating in reality. it's operating amongst political
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slogans. it's operating in a theater of the absurd where policies have no relationship to product. facts don't matter and false promises to struggling americans are another political tactic to win a cable news site. the american people deserve so much better than that. colorado deserves so much better than that, and that's why, mr. president, today i am introducing a bill, alongside more than 30 senators, to rescind this order, to protect american jobs, and preserve our path toward energy independence. the stakes could not be higher for our kids, our planet, and our economy. we cannot let this stand. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from nevada. mr. heller: i have 15 requests for committees to meet during
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today's session of the senate. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. heller: mr. president, i appreciate the comments my colleague made from colorado on energy. i have an energy speech here also. we have the same goals. we may be coming from different perspectives, but both myself and the senator from colorado are trying to achieve the same thing so i appreciate all of his hard work. he and i have worked together well over the years with the investment tax credits to make alternative energy viable products and industries in both of our states and across this country. so i appreciate his hard work. mr. president, i come do the floor of the united states senate today to discuss an issue that is extremely important it the state of nevada and that's yucca mountain. for over 30 years, those two words, yucca mountain, have insighted -- incited anger and frustration for people in my state.
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it represents a decade long fight by some in washington to wrong nevada. in 1982 congress charged the department of energy with finding a long-term storage site for the disposable of -- disposal of spent material and this was one of the sites to investigate. unfortunately, in 1987 the act was amended to concentrate only on one place -- yucca mountain. nevada, a state without any nuclear powerplants, was compelled to bear the burden of long-term storage of all of the nation's nuclear waste. this decision was made on bad politics, not sound science. the debate to the solution to this problem has been one side and the study for solutions has been curtailed. instead of looking at the
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objections to the repository, they have spent decades of time and wasted billions of dollars to design and permit yucca mountain. now, i have spent the past decade here in congress successfully fighting off efforts to force this project on nevada and i will continue this fight as long as i serve my state. i want it be clear, nuclear power is an important part of our nation's energy portfolio. i'm one of the most outspoken republicans in congress advocating for policies that make our nation's energy cleaner and more affordable. nuclear energy, which represents about 20% of our nation's power production, plays an important role in providing carbon emissions free baseload energy in many states. nevada, again, a state without a nuclear power plant, should not have to shoulder the entire nation's waste burden.
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we have pursued other strategies to meet nevada's electricity needs. more than two-thirds of nevada's electricity is produced by natural gas-powered plants. i was at the napa solar project, the first ever power plant to be built on tribal land. this project will produce 250 megawatts of clean energy capable of generating enough energy to power an estimated -- 111,000 homes. last march i joined with the italian prime minister in celebrating the world's first combined solar geothermal plant in nevada. this facility provided 26 megawatts of solar thermal to nevada customers.
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and nearly half of the geothermal plants producing baseload clean energy in this country are located in nevada alone. so overall, more than 2,000 megawatts of utility scaled renewable energy in nevada, enough to power nearly one million homes, has been built to meet nevada's needs. that is includes geothermal plants, 12 solar projects, 6 hydro facilities, 4 methane l projects and one large wind farm and one energy recovery l station. just some of the examples we're doing here in nevada and yet they continue to try to ram yucca mountain down our throats as if we're not doing enough. as we examine viable solutions to the waste problem, it is important to note that there are some promising technological developments that could fundamentally change the nation's waste storage needs. there are new reactor
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technologies that could repurchase -- repurpose previously generated spent fuel, produce carbon-free electricity with little or no waste. international research and development on innovative storage solutions and recycling processes could also be part of that solution. given the yucca centric strategies' previous failures it would be logical for the government to try something new. some of these strategies that show process. but, no, not here in washington. washington is at it again. apparently nearly 30 years of wasted time and billions of squandered taxpayer dollars simply isn't enough. the department of energy submitted what they call a skinny budget including $120 million to restart licensing activities for the yucca mountain waste repository. $120 million, a lot of money it
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itself is a fraction of the true cost. nevada made it clear it will contest each and every one of the 200-plus elements of any licensed application. state and federal officials have estimated that the licensing process for yucca mountain would take four to five years and cosf $1.6 billion. so one $1.6 million, i ask my colleagues in these difficult times is it financially prudent to invest over $1.6 billion in any program that has not yielded results in over 30 years? in case there's any confusion, i want to make sure that everybody understands nevada's position hasn't changed and it isn't going to change on this issue. our governor, brian sandoval, continues to strongly oppose the project. he shares my same sentimentses,
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when he said, quote, any attempt to resurrect this ill-conceived project will be met with relentless opposition and maximum resources." close quote. every serious presumed candidate for governor in 2018, both republicans and democrats, strongly oppose yucca mountain. nevada's attorney general adam laxalt requested $7.2 million of state resources over the next two years to represent the state's interest in the licensing process over yucca mountain which he called, and i quote, a poster child of federal overreach. and soon our legislature will reaffirm the state's opposition to this project with the passage of joint resolution 10. to sum it up, it will cost at least $1.6 billion to get through the application process. think about that.
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$1.6 billion just to get through the process, to get the applications ready, let alone to get the storage facility actually operational. and make no mistake about it, i will continue to lead the nevada congressional delegation's effort to stymie any misguided effort to spend one more federal dollar on the yucca mountain repository. it is fiscally irresponsible and simply won't solve this important public policy issue facing our nation. mr. president, i implore my colleagues to work with me to solve our nation's spent nuclear fuel and defense high-level waste storage problem that we have in a pragmatic way. there's an old adage and we've old heard it, that the definition of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is called insanity. efforts by the executive branch and some members of congress to direct billions more towards a repository that will never be
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built is just that: insanity. our nation cannot fully move forward with viable solutions until congress moves past yucca mountain. last year the department of energy began a consent-based siting initiative to find alternative storage and disposal facilities, identified communities ruling to be hosts for long-term repositories rather than forcing it upon states that have outright opposed such sites for decades is the only sustainable path forward. i wholeheartedly support these efforts. i introduced bipartisan legislation earlier this year, the nuclear waste informed consent act to codify it into law. this strategy was wisely recommended by the blue ribbon commission on america's nuclear future, a 15-member bipartisan group tasked by the federal government to develop feasible solutions to nuclear waste disposal. this type of open process
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ensures all americans to have a meaningful voice in the process if their community is being considered for a future nuclear waste repository. i'm confident that the government can find safe sites through careful considerations of all alternatives based on credible scientific information and not by politicians here in washington, d.c. so let's stop the insanity. the administration and congressional yucca advocates should focus their efforts on practical solutions and not more of the same. so, first, let's add -- advance technologies that repurpose and reduce spent fuel. second, let's invest in research and development of recycling and alternative storage methods. and finally, third, let's identify safe and viable alternatives for the storage of nuclear waste that remains in areas that are willing to house it. these are worthwhile initiatives , and to use a
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football analogy, is to move that ball down the field. for far too long our nation has been going three and out because washington keeps trying to run the same steal game plan. i'm working diligently on feasible solutions to this important problem, and i urge my colleagues here today on the floor of the united states senate to join me in that fight. and i stand here ready to work for what is best for my state and what's best for our nation. and thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i am deeply frustrated that republicans in one of their first actions following their and president trump's disastrous attempt to repeal the affordable care act have decided to bring to the floor yet another c.r.a. that would hurt workers, hurt the middle class and hurt our economy. last week millions of families sent a very clear message to
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president trump and republicans enough with the attempts to turn back the clock on progress for working families. but clearly, mr. president, president trump and republicans are not getting the message, because today in what can only be described as a truly shameless give-away to wall street, republicans are poised to roll back a rule that would simply allow cities to help small businesses provide their workers access to easy, affordable, and high-quality retirement savings programs. mr. president, before i continue, i want to reiterate what is at stake if republicans roll back this rule. if republicans pass this antiworker resolution that's on the floor today, over two million workers in philadelphia, in new york city, and in seattle in my home state of washington, will lose
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the opportunity to access a retirement savings program. now i expect my republican colleagues will make several claims why they're pushing to repeal this rule, but i want to be very clear. this is a deliberate attempt by republicans to deny millions of workers the opportunity to save for retirement. just to ensure that wall street remains in charge of our retirement system and can continue to write their own rules. the two million workers at risk today in these three cities are part of the nearly 55 million workers across the country which includes two million workers in my home state of washington who do not have access -- who do not have access to a workplace retirement plan through their employer. that's about one-third of all the workers in our country. these are workers, and they are particularly low-income and young workers who are putting in
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long hours, meeting all their responsibilities, but lack access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. mr. president, because congress has been unable to come together to address our retirement savings crisis, cities and states have now stepped up to help more workers save for their own retirement. now these programs vary, but they all generally include several things. and, first of all, they allow employers to automatically enroll workers while giving workers the opportunity to opt out. several studies have made clear that when workers are automatically enrolled, they are more likely to save simply because it's easier. to save -- we all want that, and that's a fact. and secondly, these programs only apply to businesses that do not currently offer retirement plans, and they in no way limit an employer's ability to seek out and offer their own employer-sponsored plan.
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and lastly, these programs are worker and business-friendly. there's little paperwork required for workers to participate in the programs, and there are no added burdens to the small businesses. in fact, in these programs, employers are strictly required only to serve in an administrative capacity. so last year, mr. president, democrats works with the previous administration pushed for guidance to provide certainty to cities and states that have launched their own retirement programs. and this guidance simply clarifies an existing safe harbor allowing employers to establish payroll deduction ira's which give states clarity that these programs will not be preempted by federal retirement law, while still retaining the protections under the internal revenue code. these retirement programs are
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safe, they are secure. this guidance merely provides flexibility to cities and states to move forward with these programs. and again, this guidance provides clarity for small businesses who facilitate these programs for their employees that they may only act in an administrative capacity in operating these plans. mr. president, i think we all know what this repeal is truly about. president trump is committed to doing everything he can to put the interest of wall street first. and unfortunately with this action, republicans in congress are helping him do that. it doesn't seem to matter if republicans need to vote against policies they're on record previously supporting. like these retirement programs. and apparently it doesn't matter if they need to vote to undermine our states rights as well, as this resolution will do. and it's becoming increasingly clear maybe without a
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legislative agenda of their own republicans are working to undo everything put forward by the obama administration. mr. president, that's not working. it's not leadership. it's not the kind of leadership our families deserve. and after last week i had hoped that president trump and qindz qindz -- republicans would drop their extreme antiworker agenda. families are sending letters and phone calls and online in their communities and they expect their representatives to be committed to working for them, and they are paying close attention more than ever before, and they're prepared to hold members accountable. mr. president, this c.r.a. is a critical vote. families are watching. if you stand with working families, vote against this resolution. if you say you believe in states' rights, vote against this resolution. and if you want to meaningfully address our retirement crisis, vote against this resolution. i'm here today to urge all of
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our colleagues to reject this harmful repeal and stand with our working families. that's what's at stake. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. merkley: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: mr. president, the most important words in our constitution are the first three words. our founders made sure that when the constitution was written, those were displayed. we the people, in super-sized font. so generations later we would not forget what our constitution is all about. our constitution wasn't crafted to create a government that would make decisions by and for the powerful. it wasn't crafted to prepare a government that would make decisions by and for the privileged. that was the power of the we, the people vision. as president lincoln so
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eloquently stated, a government of, by, and for the people. well, that's the vision that we have the responsibility of maintaining. and it's a vision that is facing a dramatic test in this coming week. a test that affects the integrity of this body, a test that affects the integrity of the supreme court. because back in january of last year a supreme court seat came open, a supreme court for which the president had a responsibility to nominate a replacement, a new justice to serve on the court. and we here in the senate had a responsibility, a responsibility to exercise advice and consent
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and that meant that we would vet the nominee, that we would research, we would have a committee hearing, we would have a committee vote, and if forwarded to the floor, we would have a floor debate. but for the very first time in the history of the united states of america the majority party decided that it would not exercise its constitutional responsibility, that it instead would steal this seat from the the -- president obama's administration, wrap it up in a time capsule, sent it to the future in hopes of packing the court with a different president, a more conservative
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president fill the vacancy. i am going through the 16 cases in our history where there has been a vacancy during an election year and in 15 cases the senate acted, but last year this chamber refused to act for the first time trying to exercise a court-packing scheme, and that diabolical act will have a final chapter next week. i think it's important that members of the senate understand the history of the united states of america and the setting in which this debate is going to occur. if you read the constitution from start to finish, nowhere does it say that the senate has
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the option of refusing consider a supreme court nominee in the final year of a presidency. this strategy was announced within hours of judge scalia dying. and why would the majority choose to reject their responsibility under their oaltsdz of office? -- oath of office? why would they choose to do that? certainly it wasn't because merrick garland wasn't qualified. he hadn't been nominated yet. certainly because there wasn't a precedent because there was no precedent in u.s. history for stealing a supreme court seat. but here's what transpired. the majority said this might be a nominee who will fight for the
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we the people vision of our constitution and we don't want that because we're committed to a different vision -- a vision of a government by and for the most powerful people in the united states of america and we want to make sure that court has a 5-4 majority to keep turning the constitution on its head, destroying the vision that this constitution, our constitution, was designed for. well, the president proceeded to do his responsibility despite the fact that the majority said we are not going to consider your nomination because we are not going to honor our responsibilities under the constitution. despite that the president said he would honor his responsibility and he nominated merrick garland on march 16 and the story here in the chamber was that if he was here on this floor he would have plenty of votes -- far more than 60 votes to be confirmed.
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that kind of hardened the opposition because there were more than 60 senators who were going to say, yes, let's embrace this mainstream judge who wants to fight our we the people constitution, but the leadership said no. what have we seen unfold in the last few years of dark money ruling american campaigns? in 2014 we saw the koch brothers decide that they wanted to control this chamber, and so they said we are going to spend vast sums to elect a majority that will respond to our per -- perspective for millionaires. so they spent huge sums of money in arkansas, louisiana, north carolina, and iowa, and colorado, and alaska, and in my
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home state of oregon, and they won most those seats. suddenly there was the majority they had hoped for. then they sent a warning message to the republican leadership in the form of this -- in january 2015, the koch brothers said, pay attention because we plan to spend nearly $1 billion in the next election, two years from now. if you cross us, you might know the consequences because we can spend money in primaries as well as in general elections. well, that's the background on how the senate majority decided to steal this seat for the first time in u.s. history. just to make sure we're checking all of our facts on this, let's take a look at those various vacancies. as i mentioned, there have been 16 in our history.
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now, in one group of nominations, those vacancies occurred after the election. so there was very little time for the senate to act. nominee john jay, president john adams, nominated on december 18. at that point in time the new president took office in march so this wasn't very much time but nonetheless the senate acted and confirmed -- confirmed the nominee in kind of an interesting twist of fate the nominee turned down the post. or when ward hunt was nominated by ulysses grant in december of 12872, -- 1872, again, a few months before the president
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would come in, but the senate acted. or let's take a look at william woods, the nominee from president hayes, also nominated in december of that year, just months before the gnaw president would -- before the new president would come in, but nevertheless the senate acted. they confirmed the nominee in that short period of time. they deentd, vetted -- debated, vetted, and acted and performed their responsibility under the constitution. there is another instance where the vacancy occurred before the election but the nominee was nominated after the election. there are four in that group. we have president john quincy adam, he nominated john critteden. the date he nominated him was in december of 1828, again, a few
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months before the new president would take office. and in that case it was proceeded to be acted on by the senate. the senate chose to postpone the action, but they acted. they took a vote. they decided. jeremiah black, the nominee in february 1861, trfs there was -- there was a motion to proceed. they rejected. we have a nominee in 1864 by aibham lincoln and that nominee was confirmed. and finally under dwight eisenhower that nomination was confirmed as well. in those cases even though the nomination occurred after the election and there was little time, the senate acted. there's a set of nine more nominations that occurred in
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election year, and these are cases where both the nomination -- the vacancy occurred before the election and the nomination occurred before the election. nominee william johnson under thomas jefferson. final result, senate acted, they confirmed. edward king, under president john tyler. the senate acted and they rejected that nomination, but they acted. they tabled it. edward bradford under millard fillmore proceeded to reject the nomination but the senate acted. melville fuller, nominee under grover cleveland, confirmed. realize this was in may of that year. george shiras under benjamin
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harrison, confirmed. that happened in july that the nomination occurred. brandeis under woodrow wilson. nominated in january, confirmed. and john clark, also under woodrow wilson, nominated in july, confirmed. all of these were before the election in a parallel case to the situation with justice justice scalia passing away in an election year. cadoza nom named by hoover, confirmed. i mentioned 15 cases in our history in election year, and in each and every case the senate acted. each and every case except for the tragedy, the desecration of
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the senate process that occurred last year. merrick garland, nominated by barack obama in february, no action. first no action in u.s. history. first stolen seat in u.s. history. let's understand that this is politics out of control when senators would ignore their oath of office, would proceed to engage in a court-packing scheme and steal a supreme court seat. this is politics completely unhinged. this is driven by the dark money of the koch brothers. this is the powerful behind-the-scenes put up master -- puppet master telling the senate what to do. they can't afford to have a
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justice that hasn't been properly vetted on think tanks on how they will vote on citizens united possibly get on the supreme court. no one knew how merrick garland would vote on citizens united. on the democratic side we were worried that he might sustain it. on the republican side they worried that he might strike it down and be a we the people justice. but instead of engaging in responsible senate action required by our oath of office, for the first time in u.s. history, the majority, driven by a powerful special interest, the koch brothers, decided to steal the seat. that's the setting in which next week's debate will occur over merrick garland. we've heard some very self-righteous words coming from the majority side saying -- look
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how qualified he is. how could you possibly say there is anything wrong with this nomination. i ask my fellow colleagues to realize the reality of what they are engaged in. that they have a responsibility and that every senate majority in u.s. history exercised that responsibility until last year, and it corresponds to this enormous growth of dark, secret money under citizens united entering our campaigns. it corresponds to the threat that the koch brothers made in january of 2015 that they were going to spend nearly $1 billion in the 2016 election. one of our republican colleagues said he thought the senate should do their job. he thought we should hold a debate. we should hold a vote. there was a tremendous presse


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