tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN December 25, 2013 2:20pm-3:31pm EST
discussion. what happened in july? what was the cause of concern that first brought it to everyone's attention? >> the national labor relations board, there were nominees that the republicans did not want to put on. there was a historic meeting in the old chamber where it seemed like everything had gotten back together. they were going to get nominees that they wanted and a majority of the rules for the filibuster were going to stay the same. fast forward to november and things have gotten a lot different. the government shutdown. there are four key nominations in three weeks. filibuster. you have the agency that oversees fannie mae and freddie mac and three nominees for the d.c. circuit court of appeals. >> in terms of the july meeting
and the old senate chamber behind closed doors, what came out of there that was positive? a lot of positive feedback. the issue dies down a bit and i believe you wrote about some discussions going on between harry reid and john mccain that were trying to work something out? >> before harry reid decided to press the nuclear button, before that, he had a conversation with senator john mccain who had reprised the role he had already done in 2005 with the gang of 14. they talked about a similar deal. you will have your nominees for the d.c. circuit court if you keep the filibuster rules in place. senator reid said no and went on with it.
>> this applies to just the procedural votes that lead up to a final vote on the nomination. >> the vote before the vote. the changes that have been made, the nominees for all executive branch nominees and judicial branch nominees with the exception of the supreme court. it is a big change and allows the precedent in the future for legislation. >> this came to a head in november, so we will show viewers some of the debate that happened ahead of the nuclear option vote. >> the american people believe that congress is broken. they believe that the senate is broken. i believe the american people
are right. during this congress, the united states has wasted an impressive it did -- unprecedented amount of time with procedural hurdles. as a result, work in this country goes undone. congress should be passing legislation that strengthens our economy, protect american families, and we are burning wasted hours and wasted days between filibusters. instead of wasted days and wasted weeks, even one of the most basic duties. confirmation of presidential nominees has become completely unworkable. there has been unprecedented obstruction.
for the first time in history, republicans routinely use the filibuster to prevent president obama from appointing a consecutive team or confirming judges. it is a troubling trend that they are willing to block executive nominations even when they have no objection to the nominee. still, they block nominees to circumvent the legislative process. they block qualified nominations to force wholesale changes to laws. they restructure entire executive branch departments. they block nominees because they don't want president obama to appoint any judges. the need for change is very obvious. it is clearly visible, it is manifest that we have to do something to change things. in the history of our country,
230 plus years and more, there have been 168 filibusters. half of them have occurred during the obama administration. over 230 years. 50%. four and half years, 50%. is there anything fair about that? these nominees deserve at least an up or down vote. yes or no. the republican filibuster denies them a fair vote. it denies the president his team. gridlock has consequences and they are terrible. it is bad for president obama and bad for this body. it is bad for national security and bad for economic security. that is why it is time to get the senate working again.
not for a democratic majority or a future republican majority but for the good of the united states of america. it is time to change the senate before this institution becomes obsolete. at the beginning of this congress, the republican leader pledged that this congress should be more bipartisan than the last congress. we are told in scripture. let's take the old testament. promises, pledges, vow -- one must not break his word. republicans promised to work with the majority to process nominations in a timely manner by unanimous consent except in extraordinary circumstances. exactly three weeks later,
republicans mounted a first in history filibuster of a highly qualified nominee for secretary of defense. despite being a former republican senator, being a decorated war hero, chuck hagel's nomination was pending in the senate for a record 34 days. more than three times the previous average. remember, our country was at war. republicans have blocked executive nominees like secretary hagel not because they object to qualifications but because they seek to undermine the very government in which they were elected to serve here in take the nomination of richard cordray to read the -- lead the financial protection bureau. there was no doubt about his ability to do the job. but the consumer financial protection bureau, the brainchild of elizabeth warren
went for more than two years without a leader because republicans refused to accept the law of the land. they wanted to bring back a lot -- law that protects consumers from the greed of wall street. you don't have to like the laws of the land, but you do have to respect those laws and acknowledge them and abide by them. similar obstruction continued unabated for seven more months until democrats threatened to change senate rules to allow up or down votes on executive nominations. in july, after dozens of executive nominees, republicans promised they would end the unprecedented obstruction. one look at the executive calendar shows that nothing has changed since july. they have continued the record of obstruction like no agreement had ever been reached.
they continued obstruction as if no agreement had been reached. there are currently 75 executive branch nominations waiting to be confirmed by the senate and waiting an average of 140 days. one executive nominee to the agency that safeguards the water that my children and my grandchildren drink, the air they breathe, has waited almost 900 days for confirmation. we agreed in july that the senate should be confirming nominees to ensure the proper function of government. consistent and unprecedented obstruction has revised consent to deny obstruction. >> the american people have been witness to one of the most breathtaking indictments of big government liberalism and
memory. i'm not just talking about a website. i am talking about the way it obamacare, was forced onto the public by an administration and a democratic led congress that we know is willing to do and say anything to pass the law. the president and his democratic allies were so determined to force their vision of health care on the public that they assured them up and down that they wouldn't lose the plan that they have. that they would save money instead of losing it. and that they would be able to use the doctors and hospitals they were already using. of course, we know that that rhetoric just doesn't match. the stories on a daily basis range from heartbreaking to common. i saw a story about a guy getting a letter in the mail saying that his dog had
qualified for insurance under obamacare. i would probably be running for the exits if i had supported this law. i would be looking to change the subject. change the subject. just as senate democrats have been doing with their threat of going nuclear and changing the senate rules on nominations. if i was the senator from oregon, who has not enrolled a single person, i would probably want to talk about something else, too. here is the problem with this
latest distraction. it doesn't distract people of obamacare, it reminds them of obamacare. it reminds them of all the broken promises. it reminds them of the power grab. it reminds them how democrats set up one set of rules for themselves and another for everybody else. one set of rules for them and another for everybody else. actually, this is all basically the same debate. rather than distract people from obamacare, it only reinforces the narrative of a party that is willing to do and say just about anything to get its way. willing to do or say just about anything to get its way. that is what they are doing all over again. once again, senate democrats are threatening to break the rules of the senate in order to change the rules of the senate. and over what? over what?
over a cord that doesn't even have enough work to do? millions of americans are hurting because of a law that democrats forced on them. what do they do about it? they cook up a fake fight over judges. fake fight over judges. a fight over judges that aren't even needed. i wanted to be talking about something else, too. but it won't work. the parallels between this latest skirmish are just too obvious to ignore. think about it. the majority leader promised over and over again that he wouldn't break the rules of the senate.
this is not an ancient promise. july the 14th on "meet the press," he said we are not touching judges. this year. "we are not touching judges." then there are the double standards. when the democrats were in the minority and argued strenuously for the thing they now say we will have to do without. namely, the right to extended debate on lifetime appointments. they believe one set of rules should apply to them, and another set to everybody else. he may have just as well said if you like the rules of the senate, you can keep them.
huh? [laughter] if you like the rules of the senate, you can keep them? just the way so many of the democrats now believe that obamacare is good enough for their constituents, but when it comes to their political allies and staff, that is different. let's not forget about the raw power at play here. the similarities between the obamacare debate and the threat to go nuclear are inescapable. they muscle through obamacare on the party line vote and did not care about the views of the minority. and that is just about what they are going to do here. the american people decided to give the democrats -- not to
give the democrats the house or to restore the filibuster proof majority they had in 2009. democratic colleagues don't like that one bit. they just don't like it. the american people are getting in the way. so they are trying to change the rules of the game to get their way anyway. they said so themselves. earlier this year, the senior senator said they wanted to fill up the d.c. circuit one way or the other. fill up the d.c. circuit one way or the other. and the reason is clear. president obama's agenda runs through the d.c. circuit. he can't get what you want through congress because the american people in november 2010
said they had had enough and issued a national restraining order after watching two years of this administration unrestrained. now the agenda runs through the bureaucracy and the d.c. circuit. there is now a legislative check on the president. the administration doesn't much like checks and balances. they want to circumvent the people with an aggressive regulatory agenda. our colleagues want to facilitate that by filling up the court that will rule on this agenda. a court that doesn't even have enough work to do if it means changing the subject from obamacare for a few days. they think they can change the rules of the senate in a way that benefits only them. they want to do it so that the agenda gets enacted but a future republican president could get his or her picks confirmed using
the same precedent. they want to have it both ways. >> we didn't have a chance to debate the change in rules, so i will speak now on some things that should have been said before we voted, not that it would change the outcome, but we ought to know what we are doing before we vote rather than afterwards. i will spend a few minutes discussing what the majority leader called the nuclear option. unfortunately, this wasn't a new threat. every time the minority leader has chosen to exercise his rights under the senate rules, the majority has threatened to change the rules. this is the third time in just the last year that the majority
leader has said that if he didn't get his way, he would change the rules. ironically, that is as many judicial nominees as our side has stopped through filibuster. 3 or so. prior to the recent attempt to simultaneously add three judges to the d.c. circuit that aren't needed, republicans stopped a grand total of two judicial nominees. not 10, as they had by president bush's fifth term in office, not 34 as one of my colleagues tried to suggest earlier this week. no -- two have been stopped. if you include the nominees, we stopped a grand total of five.
again, not 10 as the democrats had done in 2005 or 34 as one of my colleagues tried to argue earlier this week. during the same time, we confirmed 209 lower court article three judges. a record of 209 judges approved and five that were not approved. this threat isn't based on any crisis. there is no crisis. today's "wall street journal" editorial entitled d.c. circuit breakers, the white house wants to pack a cord whose judges are underworked. it lays out a caseload pretty clearly and i ask this editorial be made part of the record. this is about a naked power grab and nothing more.
this is about the other side not getting everything they want when they want it. the other side claims that they were pushed to this point because our side objected to the plan to fill the d.c. circuit with judges. but this side plans to forget history. let's review how we got here. after the president nominated three nominees for the d.c. circuit that aren't needed, a blatant political power grab in its own right, what did the republicans do? we did something quite simple. we said we want to go by the rules the democrats set in 2006. we would hold those democrats to
the same standard they established in 2006 when they blocked a nominee of bush's. let's be clear of why the democrats are outraged. they are outraged because republicans had the temerity to hold the other political party to a standard that they established. but because we did, because we insisted we all play by the same rules, they came right back and said, then we will change the rules. the other side has said, we don't want to be held to the standards we established in 2006. and if you don't give us what we want, we are willing to forever change the senate. that is what happened today.
we hear a lot of ultimatums around here. but this is very different. this is not run-of-the-mill. it is very different. this threat is designed to hold the united states senate hostage. it is different because it is designed to hold hostage all of the senate's history and traditions. it is different because it relies on the goodwill of senators that don't want to see the senate as we know it destroyed or as the constitution writers intended. i will note that today's majority didn't always feel that way. the very way we have seen expressed today. my colleagues on the other side described their fight to preserve the filibuster with
great pride. in 2006, one of my colleagues said, "the nuclear option was the most important issue i have worked on in my public life. its rejection was my proudest moment as the minority leader. i am urged with a renewed appreciation for the majesty of senate rules. as a majority leader, i intend to run the senate with respect for the rules and for the minority rights the rules protect." another of my democrat colleagues had this to say. i will start the quote again. "today, republicans are threatening to take away one of the few remaining checks on the power of the executive branch by their use of what has become known as the nuclear option.
it is an assault on checks and balances and on the protection of minority rights." eliminating the filibuster by nuclear option would destroy the constitution's design of the senate as an effective check on the executive. you have had two quotes from democrats in 2005 and 2006, very strongly supporting the senate using the filibuster to protect minority rights. but then they went to the majority and the tradition of the senate doesn't mean much. i have another quote from 2005.
"i detest this mention of a nuclear option. the constitutional option. there is nothing constitutional about it. nothing." but that was way back then. today's majority was in the mine minority and there was a republican in the white house. today, the shoe is on the other foot. the other side is willing to forever change the senate because republicans have the audacity to hold the majority party of today to their own standard. why would the other side do this? there clearly is not a crisis on the circuit.
the judges say if we confirm any more judges, there would not be enough to go around. it's not as if all these nominees are mainstream and census picked. despite what the other side would have you believe. the professor has written this about motherhood. "productive rights, and including rights to contraceptive and abortion lay a central role in freeing women from conscription in the maternity." is that mainstream? she has also argue this about motherhood. "antiabortion laws not only enforce women's incubation of unwanted pregnancies, but also prescribed a vision of a woman's role as mother and caretaker at a way that is at odds with equal
protection." is that mainstream? what about our views on religious freedom? she argued that the evangelical lutheran church that challenged ministerial discrimination said it was a substantial threat to the american rule of law. after she says that, the supreme court rejected her view 9-0. the court held that it is "impermissible for the government to contradict a church's determination of who can act as its ministers." do my colleagues believe that mainstream america believes that churches should not be allowed to choose their own ministers? i could go on and on.
picture.u get the voting to change the senate rules is voting to remove one of the last meaningful checks on the president. any president. and voting to put these views on this important court. i ask again, why would the other side do this? it is nothing short of complete and total power grab. it is the kindest thing we have seen again and again throughout this administration and their allies. you can sum it up this way. do whatever it takes. >> to congratulate senator reid for leading the senate into the 21st century. step we've taken
today. thank you very much for your courageous action, making sure that the senate can now work and get our work done. i have waited 18 years for this moment. in 1995, when we were in the minority. i proposed changing the rules on filibuster. i have been proposing it ever since. what has really happened is that this war has escalated. i said at the time that it was like an arms race. that if we didn't do something about it, the senate would reach a point where we wouldn't be able to function. i thought my words were a little apocalyptic but it turns out they weren't at all. so this is a bright day for the
united states senate and for our country. to finally be able to move ahead. nominations so that any president can put together his executive branch. under our constitution. a president should have the people that he or she wants to form the executive branch. every senator here gets to take -- pick his or her own staff. we don't have to have the house vote on it or anybody else. member.every and judiciary. the judiciary, they can hire their clerks and staff without coming to us. now i think it is appropriate
that any president can form their executive branch with only 51 votes needed, not a super majority. it is a huge step in the right direction. and now we can confirm judges, again, with 51 votes and without this super majority. i listened to the republican leader during the run-up to these votes. he said that we will somehow break the rules. we did not break the rules. with the vote we had, the rules provide for a 51 vote, non- debatable motion to overturn the
ruling of the chair. we have done it many times in the past. we did not break the rules. we use the rules to make sure that the senate can function. and that we can get our nominees through. i like what the writer gail collins said in her column this morning in the new york times about these rule changes. she has had a lot of good things, but she talked about how we were calling it the nuclear option. she said it is called that because changing the rules here is worse than nuclear war. but it's not. it is time that we change these rules. and the republican leader said it was the democrats that
started this. it reminds me of a schoolyard fight between a couple of adolescents. and the teacher is trying to break it up. this kid said, he hit me first. who cares who started it? it is time to stop it. even if i accept the fact that democrats started it, maybe we did way back when. it has escalated and it turned from a punch here and there to almost extreme fighting. it got to the point where we can't function. just on nominations alone. we have had 168 nominations since 1949. that is when this filibuster stuff really started.
82 have been under this president. 82. if they want to say we started it, fine. but it has escalated and gone beyond all bounds. as i said in 1995, it turned into an arms race and it is time to stop it. that is what we did this morning. we took a step in the right direction. a congressional scholar wrote about the broken senate. how we couldn't function. you can go back beyond that in my first year here, senator eagleton, he said the senate is now in a state of incipient anarchy. i think we had something like 20 or 30 filibusters in the congress before that. this has been escalating over a long time and it is time to stop
it. that is what we did this morning. this is a big step in the right direction. and now we need to take it another step further and change filibuster on legislation. legislation.s to we just had a spectacle of a bill that i reported out of our committee unanimous. passed the floor of the house unanimously. comes to the senate and one senator held it up for 10 days. guess what? it finally passed by unanimous consent. should one senator be able to stop things around here like that? it is time to move ahead. get rid of the legislature at
the same time to protect the rights of the minority. offer amendments that are relevant and jermaine, debate them and have a vote on it. the minority should be able to offer debate and have a vote on relatives and jermaine amendments. i proposed 18 years ago, a formula that was first proposed by senator dole many years before that. that was, on a cloture vote, the first time had to be 60 votes. then you could wait three days to file a new petition with requisite signatures. you needed 57 votes.
if you didn't have 57 votes, you could wait three days and file a petition and it would require 54 votes. then you would wait three days and you would need 51. at some point, the majority could act. but the minority would have the right to slow things down. as the senator said in 1897, to give sober second thought to legislation in the senate. sober second thought. not to stop it or block it. maybe things shouldn't be rushed into. i understand that. maybe things ought to be amended. they should offer amendments relevant and germaine to the legislation. 51 should decide on how we
proceed. what we vote on. and the outcome of the vote. i hope that the vote today leads the senate to adopt an approach in january of 2015 when the new senate comes in. i won't be here for it, but i hope the senate will take that next step of cutting down on the blatant use of the filibuster on legislation. the action just taken here today, here is what i predict. i predict the sky will not fall and oceans will not dry out. a plague of locusts will not cover the earth and the vast majority of americans will go on with their lives as before. i do predict that our government will work better.
a president will be able to form an executive branch. our judiciary will function better. the u.s. senate will be able to move qualified nominees through the senate in a more responsible manner. >> as i mentioned earlier, this country did really well for 140 years. the first vote on speech of filibuster was 1919. the filibuster was put in place to get things done. but now it has been turned on its head. the four of us have really tried extremely hard. i have been criticized by a lot
of people for having gone through two congresses. and i wanted it to get along. as i try to explain on the floor today, they have simply not told the truth. look what has happened. the thing about this is they don't deny why they are doing it. we understand all the considerations. what could they do to slow down the country? what could they do more to stop legislation? we have all been in congress for a long time. senator murray has been in the senate a long time. there was a time when we used to
do that. but not anymore. and all of this talk coming from my republican friends, why don't you vote the way you do? they vote together on everything and it is only to discourage the president of the united states. >> if you're majority were to change the filibuster rules, you would do it for everything? >> let him do it. the country did pretty dam well for 140 years. i think we are beyond seeing who can out talk the other. let's just get some work done.
let him do whatever he wants to. >> will this come back to bite you? >> no, this is the way it has to be. the senate has changed. if we have a republican president and we think he shouldn't have the team that he wants, one thing people don't understand and i will try to explain this a little bit -- a simple majority is not going to be a piece of cake and every instance. there are a few situations where the democrats don't like the nominees. good, we can work on that. having served in the house, the different body, the majority vote is not so bad. >> we have had this threat for some time now. at the beginning of each of the
last two congresses, we had a discussion about rules changes. senator alexander was right in the middle of those and will give you an update on what happened back in january. the majority leader said that we set the rules for this congress. obviously, that was a commitment not cap. we thought he said if you like the senate rules, you can keep them. but in fact, we ended up having another discussion with another threat of the so-called nuclear option and you have seen what they have done today. we have confirmed 215 judges and defeated two. it was related to the size of the court and the size of the docket. we took the view that there was no rationale for extending or increasing the membership of the d.c. circuit.
the letters signed by schumer and kennedy and others saying there was no need for an additional judge. this was nothing more than a power grab in order to try to advance the regulatory agenda. they just broke the senate rules in order to exercise the power grab. >> we are back with alex rogers, congressional reporter for time magazine. we saw the 52-48 vote to change the filibuster rules for nominees. we heard from mitch mcconnell and harry reid. if you look back and the rate of approval in terms of nominees comparing to the george w bush administration, what does it
it look like? >> president obama's nominees have seen a wait time of around 140 days. under george w. bush, those same nominees saw a wait time about a quarter of that amount. for district nominees, they have waited around 100 days. three times the weight time of george w. bush's nominees. you have seen significantly longer wait time from court approval. the difference was the senate democrats had it different strategy mixing the process up. they would try to hurt the nominee's chances before they even got to committee. when harry reid went on to the floor in the midst of this nuclear debate, they talked about how half of the cloture motions have come under
president obama's term. which is a startling statistic. i think only for cloture motions were ever invoked the past 13 years. >> these nominees were on the floor and they had to bring this to a vote? >> right. they nominated what they thought would be the best candidate possible. >> those people passed the committee. >> they are approved in that process within they have to wait to get to the final confirmation vote between 140 days, and 100 days on average. >> we do this interview on friday, december 13. the fallout from the nuclear option vote is longer wait time.
republicans are insisting on the full number of hours of debate. as you look at it in the couple of ending weeks of december, what is ahead for nominees? >> i think a quarter of the senate is 70 or more and they have been sleeping on couches and watching action movies in between votes. the only thing republicans can do now is delayed for 30 hours for some of these votes. harry reid said we will vote in the middle of the night if we have to. looking in the next year, how that is going to affect the senate, there will be a relationship change. the other senators that call each other friend, it will be interesting to see if that relationship has changed.
>> alex rogers, also writes covering the hill. thank you for joining us for the year in review. >> before we wrap up our look at the nuclear option, we wanted to show you some video pulled by c- span viewers using the video library. different views from harry reid and mitch mcconnell. kerry reid was majority leader in 2008 and then you will hear from mitch mcconnell. then assistant authority leader in 2005. >> i have my own ideas about working with john mccain for many years. >> the nuclear option, describe the circumstances with the nuclear option just so our viewers can better understand what the nuclear option was and
what likelihood is there we will have to face those questions again? >> the republicans came up with a way to change our country forever. they made a decision if they didn't get every judge they wanted, they would make the senate like the house of representatives. a legislature were a simple majority could determine whatever happens. whatever they wanted, they get done. the rules allow that. the senate was set up to be different. that was the genius. that this legislature had two different duties. one was to pour the coffee. that is why you have the ability to filibuster and to terminate filibuster.
they wanted to get rid of that. >> is there any likelihood we will face circumstances like that? >> as long as i am the leader, the answer is no. we should forget that. it is a black chapter in the history of the senate. i really do believe it will ruin our country. i said during that debate that in all my years of government, it was the most important thing i ever worked on. >> i give you great credit for the way you handled it then with extraordinary repercussions. >> this is not the first time a minority has not upset a tradition or practice. the current majority intends to do what the majority has often done. use constitutional authority to reform senate procedures by a simple majority vote.
despite the incredulous protestation of our colleagues, the senate has repeatedly adjusted its rules as circumstances dictate. the first senate adopted rules by a majority vote. rules i might add which specifically provided a means to end debate by a simple majority vote. that was way back at the beginning of our country. the ability to move to the previous question and end debate. two decades later, and possibility of a filibuster arose. the failure to renew in 1806 on the grounds that the senate had hardly needed to use it in the first place. in 1917, the senate adopted its first restraint on filibuster.
first cloture rule. a means for stopping debate after a democrat from montana forced the senate to consider to simply change senate procedure. specifically in response to concerns that germany was to begin unrestricted submarine warfare against american shipping. president wilson sought to arm urchin ships so that they could defend themselves. however, a 11 senators that wanted to avoid american involvement filibuster the bill. in 1917, there was no cloture rule at all. the senate functioned entirely by unanimous consent.
so how did the senate overcome the determined opposition of 11 isolationist senators who refused to give consent to president wilson to arm ships? senator walsh made clear that the senate would exercise its constitutional authority to reform its practices by a majority vote. >> i think the majority leader deserves more respect. >> the senate is not in order and the senate will be in order. the senator from alabama is correct. the senator from kentucky is recognized. >> senator walsh made clear the senate would exercise its constitutional authority to reform its practices by a simple majority vote. a past senate could not take
away the right of the future senate by tying the hands of the new senate. he said a majority may adopt the rules in the first place. it is preposterous to assume they can deny the right to change them. what he may -- said made good sense. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] >> all this week in primetime, we are bringing you encore presentations of c-span's q&a. medea benjamin talks about her call to activism and her organization's, including antiwar efforts. watch the entire conversation tonight at 7:00 eastern here on c-span. after that, look at news and events surrounding this year's revelations about the nsa's surveillance and data collection programs in the privacy and security issues advocated.
we will bring you highlights from the debate in congress as we talk with mark rossetti. that is tonight at 8:00 eastern 9:00, a look at the life and legacy of bess truman. she was forced to take charge of her family as a teenager following the suicide of her father. despite her reputation as a silent partnership -- silent partner to president truman, henry named her the boss. take a look at the life of bess truman tonight at 9:00 on c- span. on the next "washington journal, we will talk all it takes ahead of the 2014 and 2016 elections and first, a look at the republican party with eric hamm, author of "the gop civil war." than the future of the democratic party with former founder and ceo of the democratic readership council al from.
>> we now have secular norm instead of theological norms that govern our acceptance or rejection of the ways in which a to or goddess can speak people and what impact that has. you have david crèche saying that he has a special insight thesehe bible and insights help other members of the community understand the bible, particularly the book of revelations better, and allows them to understand that they live in the end times. that by itself doesn't seem to be a problem. but when it leads to other those lawhat trigger enforcement concerns as well as the popular trust is concerned, then suddenly this idea of somebody listening to god and doing his followers
things that seem to be average to national norms, that is dangerous and that needs to be >>iced and controlled area peter guber chok argues that religious persecution in america has been prevalent since the mid-1800s, even committed by the very government that is supposed to protect us from persecution. on the night at 9:00 on "afterwards was put on c-span 2. obamast lady michelle kicked off the christmas season earlier this month by welcoming military veterans and their families to the white house for a preview of the white house christmas decorations. afterwards, the first lady and sunny, the not -- the younger of their two dogs, participated in a christmas cookie decorating event. >> good morning. my name is diane cole and i am thrilled and honored to be
standing here addressing some of our military personnel and their families. when i applied to volunteer at the white house to decorate for this holiday season, i never thought i would be standing here. and, yes, i am extremely nervous. is here withs, who me today, joined the u.s. army .n 2002 he was trained as a telecommunications specialist and assisted in allowing soldiers and multinational forces to communicate in the battlefield. he was assigned to the first infantry division and deployed in support of operation iraqi freedom in 2004. after this deployment, he was promoted to sergeant and took charge of his own team in 2006 for 16 months in baghdad. he was part of the surge in during that deployment, which allowed a further transition of u.s. to iraqi control. since leaving active duty, he has served two years in the army
reserves, has been attending college and works full-time in the financial are. as a mom, -- the financial sector. as a mom, i was proud and scared that i son chose to serve and defend his country. when president obama was elected in 2008, charles was so excited that a change was happening in our country. with no invitation, no hotel room, no actual plans, other than to be part of history, charles and his sister got on a plane. they were determined to be in d.c. for president obama's inauguration. van, bought air mattresses and blankets and made it their home for the next several days. they went from con to senators searching for someone touched -- they went from congressmen to senators searching for someone to give them an imitation to this auspicious occasion. they braved the cold as many people did to witness the swearing-in of our 44th president gar.
inspirationuch an to me. he was so determined and he would not let anything get in his way. all of our military men and women have that kind of determination and love for their country. their families are by their side supporting them, sacrificing much at times. also by their side are the first lady and dr. biden who is -- who's joining forces initiative has way or -- has raised awareness around the country around the service and the sacrifice of our servicemembers and their families. joining forces has also made meaningful changes by working with the private sector to secure jobs for veterans and military spouses, identifying educational opportunities for returning service members and raising the stakes for all communities all over the country to support military families. i am so proud that mrs. obama
has also put our military at the forefront of the holidays. highlighting those who served and their families through the decorations and inviting military families to be the first to see the decorations today. it is truly my honor to be standing here today with a woman who has stood so honorably alongside our military families. i would like to introduce the first lady of the united states, mrs. michelle obama. [applause] >> that was beautiful. well, hello, everyone. you guys look great. i'm talking about the front row. [laughter] you guys look ok, too. i am thrilled to welcome you all here to the white house. are you excited? why are you excited?
[laughter] because it's christmas? because you're going to get presents soon? because there may be treat somewhere? if you had to nodding. a guessxcited to have here today. i want to start by thanking diane and her amazing family for all that they have done for this country and for that eloquent introduction and for being one of the many fabulous volunteers who help make this white house so beautiful. in fact, diane told me that she got to work in this room so that we could personally thank her -- thesebeautiful beautiful decorations. diane, we are just so grateful to you. i want you all to know a little bit about diane. in addition to the long hours that she put in this week, on top of all of that, she has spent countless hours volunteering regularly in her
community. through her church, through the red cross, so volunteering is no stranger or diane is no stranger to volunteering. in fact, diane isn't alone in the contribution she is making. and fat, i believe she embodies the spirit that we see in military families, families like thisf yours all across country, particularly during the holiday season. nation.are serving our you all are volunteering in your communities every day. and you are also taking care of business at home with your own families. during this holiday season, as we gather with our loved ones, i would ask every american to remember what our military families and servicemembers often experience during this time of year. let us all remember the sacrifices they make to proudly serve all of us. for example, i am thinking today
about the thousands of men and women in uniform serving abroad to wake up in the middle of the night in some remote art of the world to -- remote part of the world to read a special holiday tradition to their children on skype or to be on the screen to experience that special moment of joy when their kids opened those presents from santa. and then there are military families who spend hours painstakingly filling holiday care packages for their loved ones in uniform. sending the miniature christmas cookies,king holiday creating special homemade cards, doing their best to help them experience the magic of a holidays wherever they may be. and let us remember that many military families are assigned to bases that are far from their extended families so they aren't always able to make it home to see grandma and grandpa. and they have to find new ways to make the season bright.
so they reach out and they banded together with other families and they create their own special military family celebrations and traditions. that is what i have learned military- learned families do. you all dig a little deeper. i say this time and time again. you just get creative and you find ways to make it work. and you do it with such strength and humor and grace. on top of all that, somehow, like diane, so many of you still manage to find time over the holidays and throughout the year to give back to your communities. once again, digging deep and going above and beyond. showsct, a recent survey that 81% of military family members reported volunteering in the past year and that is compared to just 27% of the general public.
so you guys really make us all look bad. [laughter] but in short, your sacrifice and your service to this country, your family's stories are such an important part of our great american story. stories that remind us of the true meaning of the holiday season. and that actually brings me to this year's official white house holiday theme, which is gather around stories of the season. this holiday season will be focusing on the stories behind classic american holiday traditions, traditions celebrated here in the white house and across the country. our goal is for every room and every tree to tell eight story about -- to tell a story about who they are and how we gather together to mark the holidays. and that starts, yeah, with all of you. literally. when visitors arrive, the very first thing they will see is the tree decorated to pay tribute to
our armed forces. graced with special gold star ornaments tells the story of some of our greatest heroes. those who gave their lives for starountry and any gold family who visits the white house can create their own ornament to honor their loved in addition, anyone who visits this white house this year gets it chance to fill out an operation on her card, pledging to serve their community and honor of our military families, service members or veterans, whoever you choose. just find a way to serve. we also have an entire room right next door, the blue room, one of my favorite rooms a month dedicated to the idea of gathering around our military. the tree in that room is decorated with holiday greeting cards drawn by military children from bases all across the country as a way to celebrate their parents service.
and they are beautiful. they are really sweet card. so that is how we will be honoring our veterans and servicemembers and their families this holiday season. and i would ask, during this time, that every american find a way to honor these great americans, not just during the holidays, but every day. every day. depth never forget the that we owe these men and women and their amazing families. house,the rest of the because there is more, we have a number of special touches that build on our gather around stories of the season theme. in the east garden room, you will see christmas trees made entirely of stacks of books. you may have seen those coming in. they are very cool. you will seehall, trees reflecting the idea of gathering around our heritage. they will be decorated with ornaments representing great american sites, like the american -- like the statue of
liberty and mount rushmore, people you might know today in history. these are just a few of this year's highlights. although people who visit the white house will see dozens of reaths and ornaments and a gingerbread house that weighs about 300 pounds -- it's pretty big. some of the best sites they will see is kids enjoying all this wonderful glory, some of the best times in this white house is watching the faces