Floor Updates

Grassley, Landrieu, Moran, Whitehouse, Casey

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 16 2012

06:53 PM

Senator Grassley: (5:43 PM)
  • Spoke on the National Foster Care Resolution.

Senator Landrieu: (5:51 PM)
  • Spoke on the National Foster Care Resolution.

Senator Moran: (6:01 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "Today we considered five separate budget proposals for the federal government. At first glance that would appear to be the fiscally responsible thing to do. The families back home in Kansas and small businesses, owners that I talk to, they do that every year. They operate with a budget and we know the federal government needs to do so as well. However, this chamber, the Senate has not done so in 1,113 days, more than three years. In my first speech on the Senate floor as a new member of the United States Senate, a little more than a year ago, I indicated to my Senate colleagues that my greatest concern for our country is our nation's out-of-control spending. I'm here today because I still have that concern. We spend too much money and we no longer can delay the difficult decisions necessary to correct that problem. Our national debt stands at more than $15 trillion. This enormous amount of debt is slowing our economic recovery and threatening the prosperity of our future generations who will have to pay for our fiscal irresponsibility. Writing and passing a budget is one of the most basic responsibilities of Congress. It's required by law. The budget sets forth priorities and guidelines for the fiscal year and begins the process of determining how much money should be spent and which programs should be cut back, he eliminated or even further supported. Without a budget, the annual appropriations process and I am a member of the Appropriations Committee and I want it to work but in many ways that appropriations process continues to be on hold. This is not the way to run our country. To put our country back on its path to fiscal responsibility, we must set a budget. We set budget limits and then we have to stick to them. Any serious conversation about budget and federal spending must include a candid assessment of our nation's entitlement programs. Those programs include Social Security and Medicare. Mandatory spending makes up 56% of the federal budget. If we had one. This percentage would only increase in years ahead, as more Americans retire and fewer workers are there to replace them. Without addressing our long-term commitments, our attempts to significantly change our country's fiscal outlook will be limited of the five budgets we considered earlier today, four of them - all but President Obama's budget - contained serious proposals to reform these entitlements. I can critique every one of the four budgets that move in the right direction of balancing the budget. There are things I would do differently, but I commend my colleagues for offering serious solutions to serious problems. It's bothered me greatly that, when members of the House or members of the Senate offer a serious budget, they're immediately attacked from a political point of view, as if we can continue to ignore the problems that we face and simply make sound bites out of proposals that members of the Senate and the House care very seriously about. We've got to work together to put forward commonsense solutions that will preserve these programs for future generations."

Senator Whitehouse: (6:08 PM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "Unfortunately, the House was not able to pass a Highway bill of any kind, which is unfortunate because it's not the most complicated task. It's something we've been doing for decades around here, but they couldn't get that done. So what they have done is now gone to conference on the Senate bill without a bill of their own, and it appears to be causing delay. So I'm here to urge that we all encourage the house members of the Highway Conference Committee to expedite their work as much as they can. There is a two-week period that the House is taking off, apparently. And if it is delayed by two weeks so members can go home, I don't think that's a profitable use of our time. There is a great deal of loose talk around here about jobs. We've even had bills that didn't relate to bills called jobs bills because of gimmickry in the titling. But this is a real jobs bill. It is 9,000 jobs for Rhode Island, as calculated in years of work, job years. And we're just wasting that if we don't get this done on time. So if people really want to do something about jobs, they can get the Highway bill moved along rapidly so that the work can be done in this summer work session."

Senator Casey: (6:23 PM)
  • Spoke on Afghanistan.
    • SUMMARY "I have sought to examine U.S. goals and progress in this war within three broad areas. First, the formation of representative political institutions. Second, the overall security environment. And third, the development of key sectors in afghan society, including education, health, the economy and the well-being of women and girls. In examining these factors, it's clear to me that a responsible drawdown of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan must be concurrent with not only progress on security and an increase in well-trained afghan national security forces but with a strong commitment to a transparent political process in Afghanistan. We should work to ensure that there will not be a crumbling of institutions similar to that scene prior to Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990's. In fact, without representative political institutions, I am concerned that the training of the Afghan national security forces could in fact be counterproductive and that we would end up developing a force that answers to a dysfunctional political system. Politics and governing institutions matter a great deal and there are tangible steps the United States can take to support Afghanistan's political development in the short term. Let me be clear. We should be under no illusions that Afghanistan's political system will nor necessarily should reflect our western model developed over centuries. But there are universal principles that should apply in Afghanistan, including the inclusion of all key political groups and transparency in elections and governance. In fact, the adoption of these universal principles is perhaps the only antidote to continued decades of conflict First, in the 2014 transition to Afghan leadership will require the active participation of the constellation of ethnic groups in Afghanistan. They will need to have some confidence in the political process or Afghanistan could very easily again descend into civil conflict similar to that scene in the aftermath of the soviet withdrawal in the 1990's. The opposition represented in what was formerly known as the northern alliance will likely be among the most skeptical. The United States can play an important role in bringing the interested parties together for dialogue to identify areas of concern and a path forward looking towards 2014 and beyond. Second, presidential elections are scheduled to take place in 2014. According to the constitution, President Karzai is limited to two terms and should step down. President Karzai has seen his country through a very difficult and historic time. Afghanistan's elections, the foundational act in a democratic system, have historically not met international standards and have established the basis for an unresponsive government and unresponsive government officials and unfortunately widespread corruption. A peaceful transition of power in Afghanistan is not only good for the country and good for its democratic institutions, it is vital to our own transition out of Afghanistan. Third, Afghanistan's independent electoral commission needs to become a truly independent body. Currently, the president selects the commissioners, creating the suspicion that the body is biased. In accordance with consensus of the Afghan people, not just the president. A statutory check on executive authority is needed to ensure the impartiality of the body in the years to come and enhance public confidence in the electoral system overall. Fourth, President Karzai has issued a presidential decree which allowed him to nominate the five national and 133 provincial commissioners of the electoral complaints commission. This body also needs to be independent from the executive branch to remove any perception of bias. During the last election there was a lack of transparency in the handling of these electoral complaints. Afghan authorities need to take steps now to ensure that the national and provincial commissioners are fair and transparent in their work. As it stands now, the political opposition does not trust the electoral complaints commission to equitably deal with inevitable disputes that emerge from the process. Now, throughout this process the United States should emphasize the importance, I should say, of international standards in the conduct of elections. And stand ready to support a process that is based on those universally accepted principles."