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tv   U.S. Senate Votes on Nominations  CSPAN  July 12, 2017 3:59pm-6:00pm EDT

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the way the internet operates. now, some people will say, including the internet company lobbyists and their c.e.o.'s will say, look, the companies aren't going to change the internet even if the law goes away. we were committing to voluntary net neutrality. that's what they say. but i want you to think about how likely it is that a publicly traded company won't at least explore the possibility of different business models. and here's the problem. there may be opportunities without net neutrality for them to make more money, right? so right now you get -- i have basic cable in my apartment, right. i don't have hbo. back in hawaii i have hbo and the whole deal. but in my apartment here, i have more basic cable. i pay for a certain number of channels, right? i don't get access to the entire tv universe. i pay for packages. there is no reason under the law should they repeal net
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neutrality that an i.s.p. couldn't give you the liberal package which you could pay $75 for or the conservative package which you could pay $75 for or the nbc-related families package which you could pay $120 for or maybe it's free because it's part of a vertical which is included in your inche -- your . the whole idea is there's nothing preventing them except the net neutrality laws from deciding where you get to visit and how fast the downloads come. this is especially important in the entertainment space when we are streaming tv, news, and even gaming online so that the relationship between the person who creates the content, right, and you is going to be intermediated by an i.s.p. and so if you've got a great app idea, right now you just have to
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have a great app idea. if you've got a great website, people can log on to your website and you're in business. but if you've got the next great website, if you've got ebay, craig's list or amazon, but it's post-net neutrality, you will need a bunch of lawyers and business sharks to try to negotiate with the i.s.p. to even get in the door. students could have less access to online resources, including online classes, realtors would be stopped from using online tools to sell their homes, patients might not be able to use the internet to communicate with their doctors or monitor their health, musicians, photographs -- photographers will use everybody to depend on. i was talking to someone in the
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tech community and they were saying, listen, this is a parade of horribles, none of this will come true. i said, why do you think that's true? why do you think this is just some scenario i'm describing? why wouldn't you, if you are an i.s.p., slice up the internet and sell it for more? if you're the one controlling the access to it and you're a publicly traded company, have you no duty to a free an open internet, you have a duty to maximize shareholder profits. if your board of director comes to you and says, you know what, this whole you pay a flat fee and get the whole internet, that's not the right business model. look at the areas where the i.s.p.'s are the only provider in many communities. the idea that a consumer has a choice in lots of rural communities, you have only one broadband provider in the first place. why wouldn't a broadband provider slice and dice up the
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internet and charge you allah cart. they -- a-la-cart. they are duty bound to maximize profits. today, july 12, is the day of action. today we stand up to the f.c.c. so that the internet remains free and open and, as we speak, thousands and thousands of people across the country, by the minute, are logging on to the f.c.c. website to express themselves. i have to say this has become a democratic issue, this has become a progressive issue, but it wasn't so long ago that people in the conservative movement were worried about media consolidation and the conservative movement was saying, hey, listen, i don't know who will own my media company, but i want to get my website and my couldn't tent at
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whatever -- content at whatever rate it comes down. lots of people use the internet and lots of people spend dozens of hours a week on the internet via their phone, television, via their broadband connection at home, and the innovation economy that underlies our economic growth is really in jeopardy. i know it's an arcane process, i know most people probably haven't heard about the f.c.c. and to talk about net neutrality, it's concerning that the free and open internet is really in danger, but we have this unique opportunity. because unlike what happened a few months ago with consumer privacy where very quickly this body reversed a rule that provides for privacy so that your broadband providers can't resell your personal browsing data to a third-party advertisers or my other company. that happened very quickly and without any public input.
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but here's the really good thing about the f.c.c. process -- the statute provides for public input. so we are in a public comment period and july 17 is the deadline. so there is an opportunity for people to let their voices be heard. the internet should be in the hands of people, not in the hands of companies. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. mr. markey: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i join with the senator from hawaii and the senator from washington state. i know the senator from oregon is going to be joining us very soon and taking this long, hot
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summer day in washington and turning up the heat on the trump administration and the big broadband companies. today the internet is having a protest. more than 80,000 websites are participating in today's national day of action on net neutrality to stand up for the fundamental right to a free and open internet. today's action involves some of the internet's biggest names, netflix, twitter, amazon, snap chat, mow -- mow glilla and so many others. it also includes many others. my own website and other democratic senators and house members have joined in today's
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protest and earlier today, right outside on the capitol lawn, i gathered, and many of my senate and house colleagues gathered, along with businesses and advocacies and consumer protection, and nonprofit, and political organizations to send a singular message -- we will defend net neutrality. net neutrality is the basic principle that says that all internet traffic is treated equal. it applies the principles of nondiscrimination to the online world, ensuring that internet insurance providers, at&t, charter, verizon, be and -- comcast, among others do not block, do not slow down, do not censor or prioritize internet
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traffic. yet today, the internet, this monumental diverse, dynamic democratic platform is under attack. president trump and his f.c.c. chairman, ajit varadaraj pai are threatening to disrupt this hallmark of american innovation and democracy by gutting net neutrality rules. they have put internet freedom on the chopping block. we are facing a historic fight. if trump's f.c.c. gets its way, a handful of big broadband companies will serve as gatekeepers to the internet. we cannot let this happen, and that's why millions of americans are standing up and making had sure that their voices are heard at the federal communications commission. they know that the internet, the world's greatest platform for
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commerce and communications is at stake. it's net neutrality that ensures that those with the best ideas, not merely the best access, can thrive in the 21st century economy, that a garage startup in moldon, massachusetts, can have the same online reach and scope as a major tech firm in silicon valley. it's net neutrality that has made the internet an innovation incubator and job generator for the entire nation, and it's net neutrality that has been the reason for -- consider today essentially every company is an internet company. in 2016 almost half of the venture capital funds invested in the united states went towards internet-specific and
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software companies. that's $25 billion worth of venture capital funding in our country, half of all venture capital went into that sector. this innovation sector that continues to transform not only our own economy, but the whole world's economy. and at the same time to meet america's insatiable demand for broadband internet, u.s. broadband industry companies invested more than $87 billion in capital expenditures in 2015. that's the highest rate of annual investment in the last ten years by the broadband companies. so we've hit a sweet spot. investment in broadband, job creation is high, venture capital and online startups is high. that's what we want.
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we want both the broadband companies and all these smaller companies whose names escape us because there are tens of thousands of them, have a chance to coexist and to have the innovation continue even as the large companies continue to invest in broadband expansion. it is the free and open internet that has allowed us to enter a new phase of the digital revolution, the internet of things here where our devices, our appliances and every day machines now connect with one another. the digital revolution is a global economic engine and net neutrality is its best fuel. taking these rules off the books makes no sense the. with these -- sense -- with these net neutrality in place there is no problem that needs fixing. it's working right now
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perfectly. in may, chairman ajit pae voted to begin a proceeding that would eliminate net neutrality protections, allowing a handful of broadband providers to control the internet. chairman pai's proposal would decimate the open internet order. the net neutrality rules that are protecting the free flow of ideas and commerce and communications in our country. now the big broadband barons and their republican allies say that we need a light touch regulatory framework. let's be honest. when the broadband behemoths say light touch, what they really mean is hands off. their ability to choose online winners and losers. but we're not fooled when at&t
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engages in alternative facts and says that they support net neutrality, and today's day of action, because they don't support title 2 and they don't support net neutrality and we must shine light on this kind of corporate deception. what the broadband providers really want is an unregulated, online echosystem where they can stifle the development of competing services who cannot afford an internet easy pass. now chairman pai says he likes net neutrality but simply wants to eliminate the very order that established today's net neutrality rules. that's like saying you want to have your cake and eat it too. it makes no sense. president trump and his republican allies are waging an all-out assault on every front that they can on our core
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democratic values, whether it's health care, immigration, climate change, or net neutrality, they want to end the vital protections that safeguard our families and to hand over power to corporations and special interests, but we know better. we need to make our voices heard, a political firestorm of opposition will protect our economy, protect our free speech, protect our democracy. we must protect net neutrality as a core principle in a modern 21st century america, in a modern america where the smallest company online can aspire to reach all 320 million americans in a nondiscriminatory way, where the smallest company can raise the smallest company in order to accomplish that goal, where the smallest company doesn't have to ask permission to innovate in our society, where the smallest company
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doesn't have to first raise the money to ensure access to this intercredible -- incredible entrepreneurial expression that has opinion the internet for the last generation. where free speech, the first amendment, this ability to be able to speak unfettered, uncontrolled by corporate america and whether or not you can afford to speak is something that continues to be protected in our country. that's what net neutrality is all about. the principles of nondiscriminal toar -- nondiscriminatory access is what gave us going going -- gave us google and amazon and youtube and etsy and wayfair and trip advisor and company after company who knew that they could access every single potential consumer in our country and
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could, as a result, raise the capital necessary to ensure that that engine of economic entrepreneurial innovation could be deployed from their minds and changing -- changing fundamentally the economy of our country and the economy of the world. in 2017 every company is an internet company. every company depends upon this free and open access to the internet. that's what we have been transformed into in just the last 20 years. i was the democratic coauthor of the telecommunications act of 1996. in 1996 not one home in america had broadband. can i say that again? just 20 years ago not one home in america had broad band, but we changed the rules to create
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this chaotic entrepreneurial world where all of a sudden all of these companies whose names are now common household names could be created transforming our economy. there is no problem. they're trying to fix a problem that does not exist. we need to give this next generation of entrepreneurs the same opportunity to innovate that this last generation had, not to get permission, not to ask pretty please if i can reach all 320 million americans. no, ladies and gentlemen. that is not what this revolution is about. that's not what young people all across this country with brilliant, new ideas to further transform our american economy on-line want to have as an obstacle. what will happen now is you'll have an idea, but if you can't raise the money to pay for this
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fast lane broadband access, then it's just going to throttle back your ability to be able to move in this agile way that the internet provides instead of ajillty it will be hostile -- agility it will be hostility that you will be feeling as a entrepreneur, feeling that you cannot take the risk. you're not sure you'll be able to reach your cution hers. you're not sure you're be able to pay the broadband companies rather than ensuring you can reach all of those potential consumers for your revolutionary idea. so this internet day of action which we're having today across the country, it's going to raise from five million to six million to seven million to ten million to 15 million to 20 million the number of americans who are going to be speaking to the federal communications commission, to the united states house and senate that something is fundamentally wrong with this f.c.c. and its potential change
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of the internet, open internet order. and if they do move, we're going to court. if they do move, we're going to be taking this all the way to the supreme court of the united states of america because that is how important this issue is. it goes right to the fundamental nature of what happened to our economy in the last 20 years, and that's all it took. we move from the black rotary dial phone to a world where everyone is holding a computer in their pockets. it happened just like that. it could have happened before that but it wasn't possible because the broadband companies didn't even exist. they were just telephone companies and cable companies that does not have a vision of the future. their vision of the future is a lot like their vision of the past before that law passed which is let's go back to total control by a small handful of companies in a communications cocktail rather than thinking in
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the future of hundreds of thousands of other companies that can be started up in dorm rooms and garages all across our nation. so this is a dangerous and harmful plan that the f.c.c. has on the books. today, today is a day of internet action. i'm just going -- it's just going to be increasing as each moment goes by between now and the day they make that decision at the f.c.c. mr. chairman, i yield back the balance of my time. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i want to build on the last point that my colleague, a great advocate and champion of net neutrality has made about the rule of law and about the need to go to court when there is utter disrespect and contempt for the rule of law which is reflected in the perspective
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chairman of the f.c.c.'s plan to undo that agency's net neutrality rules. it reflects an astonishing lack of respect and care for that agency's rules. in fact, the rules that apply to all agencies under the administrative procedure act. chairmanpai wants to overturn a rule that was established after a fact-finding and elaborate process of comment and response without going through the same process that is required under the procedural act, a fact-based bodocket that requires him to sw something has changed, not a
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little bit, something significant has changed in the market. since the open internet order was established in february 2015. the burden is on the f.c.c. to make that finding, and that finding is impossible which is why they are avoiding the attempt to do it. the fact is the open internet order was established based on ten years of evidence about how internet access service provides people with broadband. it has been upheld by the d.c. circuit court of appeals twice over the last year. the thicket of law that the chairman wants to simply leap
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over is not within his discretion to do. the most recent evidence shows that net neutrality has not inhibited network investment at all in contrast to chairman pai's claims, according to statements this year by the internet sf service provide -- internet service providers. at&t is expanding fiber deemployment and calling fiber a growth opportunity. comt.s.a. is saying that it doubles its net worth capacity every 18 to 24 months and verizon is announcing a new $1 billion investment in cable. that is why we are here to say we will not and we cannot allow chairman pai to succeed in this plan to gut net neutrality at the behest of big cable
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companies. i'm proud to speak today in support of the day of action to save net neutrality and against the f.c.c. proposal to undo the open internet order because it is really a consummate pro-consumer order. the open order serves consumers but also the best interest of competition and promoting innovation, new ideas and insights, an open platform that is necessary for innovation and insights that benefit consumers as well as the products and services that companies generally provide. the open internet order created three brightline rules. no blocking, no throttling, no
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pay prioritization. and these rules apply to both fixed and mobile broadband service, which protects consumers no matter how they access the internet, whether on a desk top or a mobile service. consumers deserve equal access, an open platform. no walls benefiting the companies that may want their gardens walled in. the walls are against consumer interests and breaking down those walls is what the open internet rule sought to do. and it has real first amendment significance. in one of the most recently proposed mega mergers, at&t and time warner, clearly content,
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access, and neutrality are at stake. this merger gives the combined company if the merger is approved both the incentive and the means to throttle first amendment expression. there have been reports that the white house will use this merger. in fact, we throttle first amendment rights of cnn which is owned by time warner, this would be a direct threat to all first amendment liberties. using antitrust policy and power to diminish or demean the rights of free expression would be a grave disservice to this country as well as the rule of law. and that is why i have written to the nominee for the department of justice antitrust division chief, the assistant
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attorney general for antitrust, and ask for a meeting so he can assure us that in fact antitrust policy will be independently enforced, that these reports do not reflect his view or the administration policy, and i want him to assure us that this merger will in no way to influence or impede any media outlet. but access and an open internet are a principle that goes beyond enforcement of antitrust law. it is a principle enforced by the f.c.c. for the public good, and that is why this day of action to save net neutrality is so critically important because
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the grassroots movement here is what will save the day. the grassroots and consumer-driven impetus to make sure that the internet remains a free and open platform for consumers and innovators, not a wall garden for wealthy companies is what we seek today. that is why i'm proud to stand with other colleagues who have spoken and to continue this battle and to say to all of our colleagues we will go to court because the rule of law and the administrative procedure act are not technical, abstruse, arcane, unimportant rules. they are at the core of fairness
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and administrative regularity, not just regulation, the rule of law. thank you, mr. president. and i yield the floor to my colleague from oregon. mr. wyden: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: before he leaves the floor let me just commend my friend from connecticut on a very thoughtful statement he has worked on these issues for many years since his days as attorney general in connecticut. he is in my view the senate's best lawyer. so it's great to have a chance to team up with him and our colleagues. mr. president, i think that this issue can really be summed up in a sentence. and that is without net neutrality you do not have a free and open internet. because the essence of the
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internet -- and i'll explain what we have today -- would simply not be the same. today -- and this is what net neutrality is all about in a sentence. after you pay your internet access fee, you get to go where you want, when you want, and how you want and everybody is treated the same. from the most affluence person -- from the most affluent person in america to those who are work on an economic tightrope every single day, they all can use the internet to get access to those fundamental opportunities that are so essential to increasing the quality of life for our people. this, for example, is how a
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young person will have a chance to learn. if they are in a small rural community in colorado or oregon ar elsewhere, this is how they get access to the kind of information that affluent kids who might live in beverly hills or palm beach or any one of a number of communities where there are affluent people, it is what puts that youngster on the same plain as the affluent person. this is how, for example, those who are searching for jobs can go to the net and quickly get access to information where they'll have a chance to get ahead. and the internet and a free and open internet is particularly important to our start-ups, the innovators, the small businesses that we're all counting on to
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have a chance to grow big. and when you talk to a lot of -- particularly the small tech start-ups, they'll say, our goal is to be google or facebook. innovation is what makes 2 possible to have those -- innovation is what takes it possible to have those kind of dreams. if you're starting small business, with real net neutrality as i've described it you have the same chance to succeed as everybody else in america. now, the challenge here is very powerful interests. the cable companies, elogy, want to change that -- the cable companies, he ca -- the cable companies, for example, want to change that. they'd like to set up what they call priority lanes, special lanes, toll lanes where if you pay more, you can get access to more, you can get access to more
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content, you can get access to data and information more quickly. and, mr. president, what this really does is it means that those other people i was talking about -- that start-up trying to come out of the gate and be a success in the marketplace and students and people who need information about health care and jobs and the like, they're not treated the same way as the people with the deep pockets. and all of a sudden their access to data and information is going to be different. it might be smaller. -- it might be slower. they might not get it at aumf the big powerful interests aren't going to tell anybody in america that they're against net neutrality. they will not be holding rallies saying we've gotten together to oppose net neutrality.
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thet won't be showing up in denver or minneapolis or portland or anywhere else and say, we're against net neutrality. the reason they can't is because the public over-wellcomeingly -- over-wellcomeingly -- overwhelmingly supports knelt neutrality as i've described it u they're going to say things like they're for net neutrality, but they just don't want all this government is aquotiented with what we have. they'll be for voluntary net neutrality. i know the president of the senate has young children as well. i can tell you, we're about as likely to make voluntary net neutrality work as we are to get william peter wyden, my 9-year-old son, to voluntarily agree to limit himself to one
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dessert with him deciding whether he has met his limit. not going to happen. voluntary net neutrality is not different than what we've had in a lost instances before we had real net neutrality. the big cable companies and others were always looking for dodges and loopholes and they found ways to tack on fees and the like because that has always been their end game and, biomarkers it's a lawyer's full employment program because they have the capacity to litigate this. so this idea that people are going to hear a lot about in the next few weeks, that they're really for net neutrality but will just make it voluntary, i want people to understand that the history of those kinds of approaches is not exactly sterling, and i think it's about
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as likely to be successful as limiting my kids to voluntarily holding back on dessert. now, mr. president, i also want to make clear what our challenge is going to be about, because the federal communications commission, senator blumenthal talked about it and others, is going to be making decisions on this before too long. we know where the votes are. this is going to be a long battle, but one of the reasons i wanted to come to the floor today is to say, this is another one of these issues that's going to show that political change doesn't start in washington, d.c., and then trickle down to people. it'll be bottom up as more and more americans find out what's at stake here. a few years back, i would say to
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the president of the senate -- and i see my colleague from the finance committee here as well -- my colleagues will remember the pipa and sopa bills. these were the bills, pipa and sopa, that were anti-internet bills. and like so much, people can have a difference of opinion, and they said, the sponsors, we've got to fight piracy. got to might piracy, people ripping everybody off online. and to fight piracy, we'll use these two bills to kind of change the architecture of the internet, particularly the domain name system, which is basically the phonebook of the internet. and i looked at it and i said, we're all against piracy. we're against people selling fake viagra or whatever it is online. but why would we want to wreck the -- but why would we want to
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wreck the architecture of the internet in order to deal with it? there are other sorts of remedies. so i put in a bill with a conservative republican in the other body to come up with an alternative approach. and i put a hold on pipa and sopa. here in the senate at that time, 44 senators were cosponsors of that bill. that's an army out of 100, 44 senators. and everybody said, you know, ron is putting a hold on it and, well, he's a nice guy and, you know, he's from oregon. and everybody smiled. and i said, okay, i understand that you think that this is going to be a slamdunk. but i think i'll tell you that you should know that there are more americans who spend more
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time online in a week than they do thinking about their united states senator in two years. and they aren't going to be happy with a whole bunch of powerful interests messing with the internet, just as we're doing with this situation where people want to unravel real net neutrality. so a vote was scheduled on whether to oppose my hold -- in effect, lift my hold on this flawed bill. and four days before the vote, more than 10 million americans called and texted and tweeted and logged in to say, do not vote -- to their senator, do not vote to lift ron wyden's hold.
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and about 36 hours after americans are weighed in, the senate leadership called me, not very happy, and said, you huang; not going -- you won; not going to have a vote. your hold has prevailed i bring this up only by way of saying, mr. president, it's going to take that same kind of grassroots uprising for americans who want to keep real net neutrality, which is what you have after you pay your internet access fee and you get to go where you want, when you want, how you want, and everybody is treated equally in those efforts. for all of us who want to keep that, we need to understand that we are in for a long battle. we know where the votes are at the federal communications commission, but that is just the beginning. that's just the beginning.
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and so now is the time to make your voice heard, go to so your voices can be heard. make sure that donal donald trus f.c.c. commissioner knows your view, that the internet is better and stronger with real net neutrality protections. americans have only until july 17 to do this. and i've already been speaking out in other kinds of sessions, mr. president, so i think i'll leave it at that. but i want to close by saying again, without real strong net neutrality, which is what we have today, we will not have a free and open internet for all
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americans to enjoy. so i come to the floor to say, this is going to be a long battle. nobody thought we had a prayer to win the fight to protect the internet that was pipa and sopa. and i'm sure a lot of people are saying, this is another one where the powerful interests are going to win. and i say to the senate again, not so fast. you're going to see the power of americans speaking out. and i urge all the people of this country who are following what goes on in the senate today and in the days ahead to be part of this effort, because i think if they do, if we show that political change isn't top down but bottom up, it's going to be a long battle, but we will win and our country will keep a be
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bedrock principle of the free and open internet, which is real net neutrality. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: mr. president, as we continue to discuss the better care act, which is an alternative bill that we will propose next week and vote on that takes the disaster known as obamacare, which for millions of americans has led to sky-high premiums and unaffordable deductibles, if they can even find an insurance company that'll sell them an insurance product, we will propose a better care act, as we call it -- not a perfect care act but a
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better care act. it would be even better if our democratic colleagues would join us and work with us in this effort, but as we've come to find out, they are unwilling to acknowledge the failures of obamacare, and so we're forced to do this without their assistance. it would be better if it were bipartisan, if they would work with us, but they have made it very clear that they are not interested in changing the broken structure of obamacare. and what i predict is that what they would offer is an insurance company bailout, throwing perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars at insurance companies in order to sustain a broken obamacare that will never work, no hat how much money you throw at -- no matter how much money you throw at it. so people will continue to suffer from the failures of obamacare unless we will have the courage to step forward and say we are going to do the very best we can with the huff hand
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-- with the tough hand we've been dealt to help save the american people who are being hurt right now. and basically there are four principles involved. one is we want to stabilize the individual insurance market, which is the one that insurance companies are fleeing now. because they are bleeding red ink. they can't make any money and they're tired of losing money, they they basically pick up their -- pull their roots up and leave town. and leaving customers in the l. rch. -- lurch. second, we want to make sure we actually lower premiums. under the original discussion draft bill that we introduced about a week or so og, the congressional budget office said you will see premiums go down as much as 30% over time. now, i wish i could say we were going to be able to have an immediate effect on those premiums, but the truth is this is much better than our friends across the aisle have offered us with the offer to basically
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sustain a broken obamacare system. the third thing we want to do is protect people who might have their health insurance hurt or impeded by preexisting conditions. we want to maintain the current law so people are protected when they leave their work or when they change jobs. and the fourth is we want to put medicaid on a sustainable path. medicaid is one of the three major entitlement programs, and now we spend roughly $400 billion on medicaid in this country. our friends across the aisle don't want to do anything that would keep that from growing higher and higher and higher to the point where basically the system collapses. we believe that's not the responsible choice, so what we have proposed is to spend $71 billion more on medicaid over the budget window, and to work to transition those states that have expanded medicaid and
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offer their people a better option in the private insurance area. but i just want to mention, you know, i have shared a number of examples about a small business owner in texas who was forced to fire their employees so they could afford to keep the doors open and provide health insurance to the remaining people. now, you have to ask what in the world could lead us to a system which would discourage people from hiring more folks and to basically put them in a position where they had to fire them in order to make ends meet, but that's what the employer mandate did under obamacare. if you have more than 50 employees, you're subject to the employer mandate, you get punished unless you make sure that your employees are covered with insurance. and many times it's unaffordable. so it's it the perverse impact
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of small businesses saying, well, we can't afford to grow the number of people who are working at our business or we're going to need to shrink it in order to avoid that penalty. so stories like this remind me of just how important our efforts are to repeal and replace obamacare. the status quo is not working. in fact, every year obamacare gets worse for the millions of the people in the individual market in particular. but it's important that obamacare's not just about insurance. obamacare is about penalties that are being imposed on businesses that hurt their ability to grow and create jobs. that's one reason, i believe, that since the great recession of 2008, where ordinarily you would see a sharp bounce up in the economy, that the economy has been largely flat and that it has not been growing. in part, because of the penalties and the mandates and the regulations associated with obamacare. well, not only has obamacare
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made health insurance more expensive while taking away choices, it's also compounded fundamental problems with important safety net programs like medicaid. i want to share a story from an emergency room employee in lake granbury, texas, who wrote me about the alarming trend she has noticed in the hospital where she works. she said because fewer and fewer positions will see a medicaid patient, she has seen an influx of these medicaid patients who ostensibly have coverage coming to the emergency room for their primary care. as she points out, this is not a good situation for patients and hospitals. in my state, according to the latest survey of the texas medical association that i've seen, only 31% of doctors in texas will see a new medicaid patient. now, that may sound crazy, but let me explain why. because medicaid basically pays a physician about half of what
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private insurance pays when it comes to see a patient, many of them simply say, well, i can't afford to see a lot of medicaid patients. i need to balance that or at least make sure i see a lot of private insurance patients to make sure i keep the doors open and meet my obligations. but what happens when fewer and fewer doctors actually see medicaid patients is that people end up showing up in the emergency room for their primary care because they can't find a doctor to see them, and the truth is the medical outcomes based on many studies that have been done in recent years are that medicaid coverage in those instances can be no worse and no better than having -- not having insurance at all. obamacare was put in place ostensibly to avoid reliance on emergency rooms for access to care, but as we all know, obamacare hasn't lived up to many of its promises, and unfortunately making stories
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like this one commonplace. i mentioned this earlier, but just to see the trim line. in 2000, 67% of texas physicians accepted new medicaid patients. today that number is 34%. i think i may have said 31%. it's actually 34%. due to lower rates of provider reimbursement, leaving patients in places like lake granbury in the lurch and causing them to have to return to the emergency room for their primary care as a last resort. well, every two years, texas doctors fight with the texas legislature to raise payments for the medicaid system, but the reality is there is not enough money to go around, even though it's the number one or number two budget item in the texas legislature's budget every year, and it's growing so fast, it's crowding out everything from higher education to law enforcement and other priorities. across the country, medicaid spending has ballooned out of control. in texas, 25% of the state's
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budget, as i indicated, is dedicated to this program. 25% of its overall budget. usually number one or number two. so we have to be honest with ourselves and the people we represent that this situation is not sustainable. and we owe it to the millions of people to make sure that medicaid, the people who really need it, the fragile elderly, disabled adults and children, that it's there for them. not only now but in the future. that's why we have been discussing ways we might strengthen the sustainability of medicaid and ensure that families who actually need it can rely on it and they don't have the rug pulled out from under them. but this requires doing some hard work of reforming the way that states handle medicaid funding. for example, medicaid as it is currently applied, states are only allowed to review their list of medicaid recipients once a year, but a lot can happen in
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the period of a year. somebody can get a job. they may be no longer eligible based on the income qualifications for medicaid. but if you can only check once a year that people remain on the rolls even though they no longer qualify. so regardless of whether somebody gets a job or moves or passes away or no longer needs medicaid, they are still in the system and there is nothing the states can do about it, but we'd like to change that. and while it sounds like a simple matter when the average medicaid patient costs the state more than $9,000 each and as high as almost $12,000 for elderly individuals, it adds up. now, one of the things we saw that obamacare did in the states that expanded medicaid coverage is that those states decided to cover single adults who are capable of working. well, what this bill would also
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do would be to allow the states to experiment with a work requirement as part of the eligibility for medicaid. we're not mandating it so that you have to do it, but if the state chooses to do it, then they could do so. so we need to give the states the flexibility they need so they can use the medicaid funding that they have more efficiently and so more people can get access to quality care. i want to be clear. 4.7 million texans rely on medicaid. of course, those roles tend to churn based on people's employment and their family's circumstance, but it's not going anywhere. we want to make sure we preserve medicaid for the people who actually need it the most. we're working to make it stronger, more efficient, and, yes, more sustainable. you know, i guess some people live in a fantasy world where they think we can continue to spend money we don't have and there will never be any
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consequences associated with it. well, the fastest items of spending on the federal budget are entitlement programs, including medicaid. right now we're at about $20 trillion. we've done a pretty good job. i know we don't get much credit for it. pretty good job of controlling discretionary spending, which is the 30% of federal spending we actually appropriate, but the 70% of mandatory spending including medicaid have been going up on average about 5.5% a year. well, that can't happen in perpetuity. right now we know we have $20 trillion roughly in debt. $20 trillion. it's frankly immoral for those of us who are adults today to spend money borrowed from our next generation and beyond because somebody ultimately is going to have to pay it back, and it's going to have real-world consequences. we know since the great recession, the federal reserve has kept interest rates very low
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through their monetary policy. but we know as well that as the economy tends to get a little bit better and unemployment comes down, they're going to be inching those interest rates up little by little. which means we're going to end up paying the people that own our debt, our bondholders more and more money strictly for the purpose of giving them a return on their investment for the debt that they buy. so this is an opportunity for us not only to put medicaid on a sustainable path, to do the responsible thing, to give the states ultimate flexibility in terms of how they handle it, it's also a matter of keeping faith with the next generation and beyond when it comes to this unsustainable debt burden. now, i hear people talk about slashing medicaid despite the fact that the congressional budget office estimates that medicaid spending will grow by
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$71 billion over the next ten years. only in washington, d.c., is that considered a cut where spending next year exceeds what it is this year and the next year and so on, it goes up $71 billion. you will hear people come to the senate floor and say that that's a cut, we're slashing medicaid. it's nothing of the kind. well, to me, the choice is clear. do we want to continue with the failures of obamacare or do we want to do our very best to try to provide better choices and better options? do we want to continue to allow the status quo which is hurting families, putting a strain on doctors and our emergency rooms and hospitals like i mentioned in lake granbury, or do we want to actually address the fundamental flaws of our health care system? i wish we could do something perfect, but certainly with the constraints imposed by the fact our democratic friends are not willing to lift a finger to help
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and given the fact that we have to do this using the budget process, those are some pretty serious constraints. we basically have to do this with one arm tied behind our back. but we're going to do the best we can because we owe it to the people we represent. i'd encourage our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to try to take a fresh look at this and figure out how can we be part of the solution, not just to compound the problem. there's one thing that i haven't mentioned that i'm particularly excited about in the better care act, and that is for states like texas that did not expand medicaid to cover able-bodied adults in the 100% to 138% of federal poverty level. what we have done in the better care act is provide them access to private health insurance and coverage for the first time. it's about 600,000 texans, low-income texans who for the
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first time under the provisions of this bill will have access to a tax credit and states using the innovation and stability fund and something called the section 1332 waivers will be able to design programs which will make health care more affordable in the private insurance market. and one reason people prefer the private insurance market to medicaid is for the reason i mentioned earlier, that medicaid reimburses health care providers about 50 cents on the dollar compared to private health insurance. so this actually will provide them more access to more choices than they have now, certainly for that cohort of people between 100% of federal poverty and 138% in those states that didn't expand. so i'm excited about what we are trying to do here and its potential. again, to stabilize the markets which are in meltdown mode right
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now, and we all know are unsustainable. our friends across the aisle say, well, we'll talk to you if you take all the reforms off the table, which translates to me, and we'll talk to you about bailing out a bunch of insurance companies but doing nothing to solve the basic underlying pathology in the system. we're going to do that in our bill, the better care act. secondly, we want to make sure we do everything in our power to bring down premiums. i know the presiding officer cares passionately about this. this may well be the litmus test for our success. the c.b.o. said under the draft discussion -- discussion draft we released earlier in the third year you can see premiums as much as 30% lower. but we'd like to see even more choices and premiums lower than that and more affordable. the third thing our better care act will do, it will protect people against preexisting conditions. right now people sometimes refuse to or are afraid to leave
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their job in search of another job because if they have a preexisting condition, they can't get coverage with the new insurance company for a period of time. that's called the preexisting conditions exclusion. we'd like to protect people against that eventuality so that people don't have to be worried about changing jobs or losing their job and losing their coverage. and fourth, as i've taken a few minutes to talk about here today, we want to put medicaid, one of the most important safety net programs in the federal government, on a sustainable path, one that's fair to the states that both expanded medicaid under the affordable care act, and those that did not. and i think any fair-minded person looking at what we have proposed here would agree with me. it's not perfect, but it certainly fits the name we've ascribed to it. it is a better alternative than people have under the status quo. so i would urge all of our
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colleagues to work with us in good faith to try to improve it. and here's the best news of all perhaps to those who would have other ideas. we do have an opportunity to have an open amendment process. sometimes that doesn't happen around here, and people say here it is, take it or leave it. you can't change it. all you can do is vote for it or vote against it. that's not what we're going to do. we're going to have an open amendment process, so as long as senators have the energy to stay on their feet and offer amendments, they can get votes on those amendments. i can't think of a better way to reflect the will of the senate and to come out with the very best product we can under the circumstances. so we're on a trajectory next week to begin this process and probably some very late nights and early mornings come thursday and friday. with that, mr. president, i
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yield the floor, and 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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the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. reed: mr. president, i ask to call off the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reed: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i'd like to take a moment today to talk about the ongoing efforts by the senate republicans to take away health insurance from millions of americans by repealing the affordable care act. i was on the floor a couple of weeks ago reading letters from my constituents about how they have benefited from the a.c.a. and what trumpcare would mean for them based on what we have seen of their bill so far. since then my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have continued to forge ahead to repeal the a.c.a. in spite of
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overwhelming opposition. indeed, nearly every major health care organization representing patients, nurses, doctors and hospitals, among others are posed to this misguided effort. that is on top of the millions of efforts for those who know how devastating trumpcare would be for them and their families. senate republicans are work on tweaks to vote on this will. the so-called fixes are -- trumpcare is fatally flawed. my constituents know better and have continued to write and call, even stopping me in stores an -- and on the streets to express their opposition and fear to all versions of the trumpcare bim. i -- trumpcare bill. republicans are looking for a way where insurance companies could deny coverage or charge exorbitant amounts, the
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affordable care act ended this practice once and for all, we hope. i can't imagine why my colleagues would want to bring back those discriminatory policies. however, the amendments that several senators have proposed would do that. they would allow insurance companies to sell plans on the marketplace with no protections for those with are preexisting conditions so the very people who need health insurance the most will be priced out entirely. last week i heard from anne in rhode island about this issue. anne said, i'm the parent of a childhood cancer survivor. the last 11 months have been fighting along side my 9-year-old julia. she loves unicorns, beaches and walks. i am writing to ask for your support to ensure all children
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fighting cancer have access to affordable, quality health care. if enacted into law, the current proposal for the health care bill will have devastating impacts on the hundreds of thousands affected by childhood cancer. without quality health insurance and access to treatment, my child would not have survived. anne went on to explain that republican etch forts to undermined preexisting conditions protections would be devastating for childhood cancer survivors. even parents who get insurance through their employer would be at risk. anne pointed out that half of families with children with cancer will experience gaps in coverage because one or both parents have to stop working to care for the child. trumpcare erodes other critical consumer protections like allowing annual and lifetime limits on care. additionally, childhood cancer
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patients must be assured of access to essential health benefits without the threat of lifetime or annual caps that would price patients out of lifesaving treatments. two-thirds of childhood cancer survivors will develop serious health conditions from the toxicity of the treatment. we nud not -- should not have to worry about annual or lifetime caps on coverage. i agree with anne. what good is health care when it expires when you need it the most. why would sell -- why sell health insurance for $1,000 that doesn't cover anything when you need it. i continue to urge my republican colleagues to reverse course. i would like to talk about what this bill would do for those suffering from opioid addiction, a public health crisis that has taken a tremendous toll on our
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country and particularly in my home state of rhode island. i, along with many of my democratic colleagues, have been talking about how the senate trumpcare bill would pull the rug out from many of those suffering from substance abuse disorders by decimating medicaid, which is how many people suffering from the opioid crisis access treatment. news reports suggest that republicans are considering adding a fund for opioid addiction treatment as another so-called fix to the trumpcare bill. while we absolutely need more federal funding to expand access to drug treatment, in fact i have been urging republican leaders to do just that for years, what they are proposing cannot make up for the bill's nearly $800 billion in cuts to medicaid with a $45 billion opioid fund. the math simply doesn't work. second, short-term drug treatment programs do not provide a full spectrum of
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health care coverage over the long term, like medicaid or other health insurance coverage. the medicaid expansion under the a.c.a. has provided the security of reliable health care coverage and long-term stability to help people with chronic conditions such as substance abuse disorders, seeking treatment and turning their lives around. trumpcare takes that away. in addition, people with opioid addiction suffer from other mental health conditions at twice the rate of the general population and higher rates of physical health conditions as well, which would still go unaddressed in this so-called fix. we will be setting people up for failure if we provide immediate drug treatment services but cut access to the other mental and physical health care services they need. an opioid fund alone will not solve the crisis and would be a drop in the bucket as to how
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this bill would worsen the crisis. the senate trumpcare bill fundamentally changes the structure of the medicaid program, making massive cuts representing a 35% cut over the next two decades. simply put, this will end medicaid programs as we know it which will hurt not only those suffering from the opioid crisis, but also seniors, children, and people with disabilities. we may see republicans try to spread out this harm over more years to hide the damage, but do not be fooled. whether they make massive cuts to medicaid in 2021, 2022 or 2026, it will be devastating. this bill is a massive tax break for the wealthiest americans at the expense of everyone else. no amendment or tweak to the bill will change that. sharon from wakefield, rhode
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island, wrote to me a couple of day ago and summed it up very well. she said, i do not support the so-called american health care act because it is not a health care plan, it is a tax cut for the rich. i am 67 years -- 67 years old. since the g.o.p. wants to end medicaid, i want you to vote no on the bill. republicans need to come to the table and work with democrats. let's have productive conversations about how we can improve access to care and bring down costs. let's harness this increase in access to drug treatment. coupled with the trumpcare bill, those efforts will not mitigate the damage that this bill will inflict on my constituents and those across the country. i hope those on the other side of the aisle who expressed misgivings will oppose trumpcare in all of its forms so we can work together on a bipartisan
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solution and attempt to do something positive for our constituents. with that, mr. president, i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the
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senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: may i ask unanimous consent that any pending quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: thank you, mr. president. i ask unanimous consent to speak for up to ten minutes as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: thank you, mr. president. there was an interesting press conference earlier today in which i joined with senator heitkamp, senator capito, and senator barrasso on a common piece of legislation that will help address climate change. that does not happen often. so it was a good sign. this is not a comprehensive solution. it may not even make much of a measurable difference.
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but it will make some difference. it will help drive america's technological edge, and it will help as it gets implemented reduce our carbon emissions. it was very good to be working with those senators. the fundamental problem that we face with carbon capture and utilization and the reason why so little of it now happens is economics. there's a flaw in the market economics related to carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration. here's the flaw. there's no business proposition for stripping out the carbon dioxide. and in a market economy, if no
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one will pay for something, you don't get very much of it. so lindsey graham and i had to fly up to scach wan to see a dam at a coal-powered electric generating facility where they're removing the carbon dioxide by running the exhaust from the plant through essentially a cloud of aminos, and they are able to sequester closing on 80% of the carbon, and they use it to pump out and into nearby oil fields to pressurize the oil to facilitate extraction. up at the boundary dam, they proved that the technology works and where they are with a little
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financing help from the province, the economics works also. unfortunately not every coal-burning plant is on an oil field where the carbon dioxide can be used for extraction. other than that facility in saskatchewan, there is not a lot going on in this continent. there's one in texas that is going on but the bill that the four of us got together on which would be to create a tax credit paid for each ton of carbon that is captured and utilized or sequestered could really make a
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difference. and knowing that those credits are out there is the kind of reliance that industry needs in order to invest in the technologies to make this happen. of course a real market for carbon reduction technologies ultimately requires putting a price on carbon emissions. we can fiddle around with payments for reduced carbon, but ultimately a price on carbon is the sensible economic solution, and i think that's pretty much universally agreed by economists. everybody agrees that carbon dioxide emissions are not a good thing. everybody also agrees carbon dioxide emixes are free to e--
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emissions are free to emitters now so we get a lot of them. a harmful thing that is free to the emitter is called in economic terms an externality. it is an externality because the cost of the harm is external to the price of the product. a basic tenet of market economics is that the cost of a harm should be built into the price of the product that causes the harm. it's basically an economic version of being polite. if you throw your trash over into your neighbor's yard instead of paying for your trash collection, well, your neighbor has to clean up your mess and
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you're being really rude, a bad neighbor. in essence that's what the fossil fuel industry has been doing with their carbon dioxide emissions for years, not paying to clean them up, dumping them all into our common atmosphere and our common oceans, making their neighbors pay because they don't want to pay for their own waste. like that bad neighbor, they've come up with various excuses. oh, it would be too expensive for us to pay for our trash collection or trash is actually good for your yard, kind of compost it. you'll love it. it's better for you to clean it up. and then there's my personally favorite, if you make us take care of our own waste, we'll
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beat you up, politically at least which is why the fossil fuel industry spends so much money on politics. just to be able to make that threat credible. and around here, boy, is it credible. it explains virtually fully our failure as an institution to address this patent, obvious problem that our own home state universities are telling us is real. from utah to rhode island, the universities that we support and root for know and teach climate science. anyway, i have a carbon price bill that would cause a
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technological boom in carbon capture and carbon utilization because at last there would be a reason to pay for it, and the free market could get to work. americ -- american ingenuity could get to work. with that market signal and with funding from revenues that the fee would generate, we could actually extend the life of existing coal plants being shuttered by competition from natural gas by stripping their carbon dioxide emissions so that they actually didn't do the damage that they're doing now. they stopped throwing their trash into their neighbor's yard. they paid for trash collection.
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the technology needs to be there, and the economics needs to be there, and then it can be done. we really ought to pass the carbon fee bill. i woulded a that the -- i would add that the carbon fee bill also creates a lot of revenue. we, i think, have agreed that that revenue ought not go to fund the government, not to make big government. but there are other things we can do with it that would be very helpful. one would be to make coal country whole for the economic losses coal country has sustained. remember huey long's old slogan "every man akin." we could make every miner a king. with a solid pension, retire anytime, full health benefits for life for the family, a cash
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account based on years worked, a voucher for a new vehicle, a college plan for their kids. it all becomes doable if we pass a carbon fee and use the revenues to help coal country. otherwise nothing will change. coal country will just keep suffering as natural gas keeps driving coal out of the energy market. and there is no mechanism now to remedy that inevitability. people just will suffer, and there's a remedy right there, a carbon fee that can help fund and encourage the development of the technologies so that we can strip the carbon dioxide out of the emitting power plants and so
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that we can go into these coal countries where pensions and benefits have been stripped by bankruptcy, by the collapse of this industry, and make those folks whole again, give them their dignity. let them retire now. i.t. not their fault that the -- it's not their fault that the coal industry has collapsed. they worked hard. they did dangerous work. they went down in the mines. they worked big equipment. it is a dangerous occupation to be a coal miner, and it is entitled to respect. retire anytime, full health benefits for you and the family, a cash account to help, new vehicle voucher, college plan for the kids to make sure they're well-coated. you could do a lot of that stuff. you could do all of that stuff. you could help those people. pass a carbon fee and make every coal miner a king.
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in the meantime, i'm willing to find funding to flip the social cost of carbon the way we did in our bill announced today and create a positive fee, a tax credit for carbon capture and carbon utilization. and i'm willing to work with republican colleagues and find a way to pay our nuclear fleet for the carbon-free nature of nuclear power. it is crazy to be closing safely operating nuclear power facilities just because they get zero economic value for the carbon-free nature of their power. the carbon-free nature of their power has value. the carbon-free nature of power has significant value. that is why we are offering in
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our legislation a tax credit of $30 to $50 per avoided ton of carbon dioxide emissions. that is implies that an avoided ton of carbon dioxide emissions is worth $30 to $50. so nuclear power avoids that, i'm willing to work with my republican colleagues to figure out a way so that our nuclear fleet can enjoy the actual economic advantage -- the actual economic advantage of the carbon-free power they produce. we close a nuclear plant so we can open a until gas plant -- a natural gas plant which pollutes more than a nuclear gas plant because the economics are so fouled up that the nuclear plant gets no value for carbon-free power and the natural gas plant pays no cost for the harm of its carbon emissions.
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it is economic madness. we know that carbon-free nature has value. we know that carbon-free nature of nuclear power has value. we just won't pay for it. and plants close due to that market failure and jobs are lost and power is lost and new investments have to be stood up in polluting plants to make the difference. it is crazy. in closing, the heitkam heitkamp-whitehouse-parabow bill, the future bill to provide a bill for carbon capture and sequestration in power plants, in factories, in a variety of applications, it's small. it's in some respects a gesture.
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but everything begins with small steps and small gestures. so i'm proud to be a part of it, but i want to remind my colleagues that there are also big win-win ways that we can solve the larger problem. and i look forward to working together to accomplish just that. i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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