Floor Updates

Alexander, Coons, Durbin, Reed, Brown-OH, Klobuchar

FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

May 17 2012

02:49 PM

Senator Alexander: (1:46 PM)
  • Spoke on the SMART Jobs Act.
    • SUMMARY "Each year approximately 50,000 foreign students receive advanced degrees from universities in this country in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We call that in shorthand, stem degrees - science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Of those 50,000 students, at least 17,000 of them go home to other parts of the world. These are some of the brightest men and women in the world. They're attracted to the best universities in the world. I always say that our universities, our great research universities especially are our secret weapons for job growth. Since World War II many estimates by the National Academy of Sciences suggest that more than half of our new jobs have come from increases in technology. It is hard to think of any important new innovation in biology or in the sciences that's not had some sort of government-sponsored research over that time. So our research universities are job factories. And our advanced degree holders are the ones who come up with the great ideas I know that increasingly in the science, technology, engineering, and math programs in those universities, most of the students are from other countries. These students line up in India and compete hoping to get a chance to come to the United States. They have done the same in China. They do this everywhere in the world. About 17,000 of those 50,000 who come from the advanced degrees go home each year. Senator Coons and I yesterday introduced a piece of legislation that would help those 17,000 students and we hope more who may come to the United States, get their advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, and then stay here and create jobs in our country instead of going home and creating them in other countries. I'll have to admit there's a value to students who go home. It's probably our best foreign diplomacy to have someone come from another country, live here, learn our values, go home and then explain those at home. But we want the next Google to be created here, not in China. And we want the bright, brightest people in the world. We're going to attract them here, provide education for them; we want to give them every opportunity for them to come here. And today we make them go home. We make them go home because of our immigration policy. The legislation that Senator Coons and I introduced yesterday and it would, number one, create a new student visa for citizens of other nations who need, who want to come here to pursue a masters or a doctor's degree in science, technology, engineering, mathematics. Number two, once they get that degree, the new visa would allow them to remain here for 12 months looking for a job. And, three, once they're employed, the bill establishes a procedure to allow the students to change their immigration status and to receive a green card. And finally, these new green cards would not count toward any existing green card limit."

Senator Coons: (1:53 PM)
  • Spoke on the SMART Jobs Act.
    • SUMMARY "This bill, as Senator Alexander laid out, is relatively simple. It creates a new class of visas for foreign students to pursue stem masters and doctoral degree programs and allows us to continue a conversation about how do we recognize the long-standing central contribution to our which I, our culture and our country of immigrants. I believe there's other areas of immigration reform that have to be on the table that we have to move forward on. I am eager to move forward on family-focused reform and other areas as well where I'm a cosponsor of other immigration bills. But my hope is that this legislation will get the attention it deserves, will get the broad support from members of both sides of the aisle that it deserves and that it will form part of a compromise that will address the needs of all the stakeholders in immigration reform in a responsible and balanced manner. This legislation is not the end of the road but it is a critical step forward in making sure that we continue a bipartisan, thoughtful and constructive dialogue on how do we deal with an immigration system that's broken and that doesn't make America as competitive as it could be."

Senator Durbin: (2:03 PM)
  • Spoke on the Postal Service.
    • SUMMARY "Today the Postmaster General announced they would begin consolidating mail facilities ... Despite this there are a few bright spots in Illinois. The facilities in Springfield and Fox Valley which the Postmaster General originally slated for closure will remain open. Additionally I'm glad the Postmaster General has heeded our repeated calls to keep Illinois jobs in Illinois and other jobs in the states where the processing facilities currently exist. The Postmaster General's original plan would have potentially sent over 500 Illinois postal jobs to surrounding states, along with the mail they process so efficiently for so many years. Beyond the Postal employees, the Postal Service supports tens of thousands of private sector jobs in Illinois which is the center of the mailing industry. Today's announcements are difficult for those of my colleagues - my constituents who live in Quincy and Rockford, Carbondale and Bloomington. I have consistently insisted and the Postmaster General has assured me that we are going to avoid layoffs and that all of the employees in these facilities will have the opportunity to pursue another role within the Postal Service or to accept if they wish, early retirement incentives. I'm told none of these facilities will close before the end of the year. As I said, today's news is disappointing and difficult for many in my state including postal customers, employees, and small businesses. Still I think it's important to note how far we've come from the Postmaster General's original plan to where we are today. Originally they sought closure of 250 processing facilities nationwide Today's 140 and called for the closures of 340 rural Postal Service. The original plan targeted nine plants for closure. After countless hours of meetings and hard work and a great deal of floor debate, we've moved off that potentially destructive path."

Senator Reed: (2:11 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "In 45 days the interest rate on student loans will double in the United States. That young people and middle aged people who are struggling to educate themselves and reeducate themselves will be faced with a tremendous increase in the cost of college and postsecondary education. They'll go from 3.4% to 6.8%. This is particularly ironic when the Federal Reserve routinely lends to large banking institutions huge sums of money at less than 1%. So this is a huge, huge impact on middle-income Americans who are struggling with so many challenges, housing costs, employment problems, the whole plethora of issues that they face. It's estimated that seven million students including 43,000 in Rhode Island will suffer because of this doubling that will take place. Now, a lot of our colleagues have said, of course, we don't want to see this happen. But I thought it was terribly ironic yesterday they with very few exceptions voted consistently for budgets that would in, in fact, double the student interest rate. One of the budgets they voted for previously, the Ryan budget from the House would also eliminate the in-school interest subsidy for certain loans. So there's this between we're all for keeping interest rates for low for students, of course in our budget we double them. There's another problem here. It's been reported in so many different national and local newspapers, there's a huge problem with student debt. We've reached the $1 trillion mark in student debt. This could be the next big, huge bubble that we face financially. It certainly impairs the ability of young men and women when they graduate to take the job they want, buy the house they want because they're struggling with huge debt, and we're adding to that by doubling this interest rate. Now, this is a policy issue, but it's an intensely personal issue. I've received letters from thousands - well, many, many constituents about the potential impact."

Senator Brown-OH: (2:14 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "I'm just still amazed that the Senate just refuses time and again and the house refuses to do the right thing on this. This started back in 2007. It started with President Bush, with a Democratic House and Democratic Senate. The presiding officer was involved, Senator Reed, others. We passed it. We did a five-year freeze of interest rates and now the bipartisanship seems to have gone and repeatedly this body has either failed to step up or r actually voted "no" and voted wrong in some cases to move forward on this. And I have tens of thousands of people in my state, 380,000 Ohioans are now in the Stafford subsidized loan program. It will mean about a thousand dollars, as it will in Rhode Island, per student if we fail to act by July 1st, per year ... When we saddle these young people with loans, the average four-year graduate in Ohio who's has debt, has about $27,000 in debt. And you know what that means? If we pile more on somebody in Rhode Island or Vermont, it means they're less likely to buy a house, less likely to start a business, less likely to start a family. That's just morally wrong that we are standing in their way or making that harder. But think what it does to the economy, too. I want people like her to get an education without huge debt, to buy a home, to begin to provide and prosper and lift up the whole community. And as a productive worker and somebody who cares about the community. We have no business taking this away from people like her and adding to her debt, and that's why we've got to do this by July 1st."

Senator Reed: (2:18 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "Let there be no mistake, this is a program that benefits middle and lower middle-income Americans. 60% of the dependent students who qualifies for subsidized loans come from families with incomes of less than $60,000. This is not a perk for the super wealthy. 70% of the independent students - that's the term of art for those adults or older people who may have some previous training but they've got to go back to the community college to get a certificate, they're trying to transition from a job that was shipped overseas to one that they think they can get here - 70% of independent students, their incomes are less than $30,000 a year. So you're talking about people who cannot afford a doubling of interest rates. But there's another issue here, too. It's not just, as Senator Brown pointed out, to fulfill the legitimate, in fact, admirable personal ambitions of establishing yourself in the community, buying a home, raising a family. This is about our future, our productivity as a nation, our ability to compete in an incredibly difficult international global economy. We've looked at the - the statistics and universities like Georgetown, their center for education and work force had 60% of the jobs - said 60% of the jobs by 2018, a few years from now, will require some post-secondary education. 60%. But in 2010, only 38% roughly of working adults had a two-year or four-year degree. So we've got this gap. A 20% gap between the skills we need through post-secondary education and the skills we have. And we hear it, again, not just in analytical papers that are done by think tanks. We hear it every time we go back to either Ohio or Rhode Island because employers come up to us and say, I've got jobs to fill. I can't find people with the skills, the training that I need to give them the job."

Senator Brown-OH: (2:21 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "We want to help individual people with keeping these interest rates from doubling. But we know when we help lots of individual people, we help society as a whole. After World War II, millions - literally millions of young men and women returned from fighting for our country, came back to the United States. The government was farsighted enough in 1944, with President Roosevelt, to sign the GI bill, preparing for this huge wash of young men and women coming back from the war, what they were going to do. And we as a nation were smart enough back 60, 70 years ago - 65, 70 years ago to help millions of those young men and women one at a time, by helping them with their education. But you know what else it did? Those millions of students that benefited from the GI bill gave so much to society, the prosperity, perhaps our best times economically as a nation, 1940's, 1950's, 1960's, 1970's came out of the GI bill because when you give - when government helps in partnership to give opportunity to thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of people, it also helps the country as a whole. And that's really part of our philosophy of public service in many ways. So what these Stafford loans, these subsidized loans do, as do pall grants and, you know, we're seeing efforts to cut Pell grants by the House of Representatives, too, which is just the stupidest thing ever in my mine. I don't understand the way some of them think. But when we provide opportunities for Pell grants or Stafford loans, it's helping people it's helping individual people but it's also helping every community I just think it's one of those things, there's no real - it's just hard to understand why we wouldn't do this."

Senator Reed: (2:23 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "What we have proposed, not to attack another benefit we hope or smart, wise, cost-effective approach to health care that would benefit middle-income Americans, we're going after a tax dodge, plain and simple. A tax dodge that has been called by the Government Accountability Office something that has been used to avoid over $23 billion in wage and taxes on wages in 2003 and 2004. A huge gulf. In 2005, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration called this loophole a multibillion-dollar employment tax shelter. Let me tell you how it works. It's that you're an individual, a professional, a lawyer, accountant, consultant, a lobbyist and your skills are what you do as a lawyer, etc, the personal skills, but instead of being paid by your employer directly, you substitute a subchapter S-corporation so you are now an employee of the corporation. So you take as minimal salary, if you will, from the corporation. But then at the end of the year, the corporation gives you a surplus which is a dividends which is taxed much cheaper and so you avoid payroll taxes. It is legal but it's a tax dodge, it's a loophole. ... When we do it in conjunction with this student lending, we actually are able to help struggling families and close a loophole. Now, what some of our opponents have suggested, no, this is just another tax increase. We've been very, very careful. We restrict these to professional endeavors. We also restrict the impact to those making over $200,000 a year. So this is not targeted at the mom and pop stores. This is not targeted at the local laundry or the local dry goods store or the local hardware store who organizes subchapter S."

Senator Klobuchar: (2:37 PM)
  • Spoke on a National Guards and Reserves bill.
    • SUMMARY "Our bill does not reverse the new policy change with the department heads made after a careful review of the program. Our bill simply grandfathers troops deployed under the old policy so they receive the leave benefits they were promised ... First, it has bipartisan support in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives. In fact, it passed in the House on Tuesday night with the support of all representatives. Second, the cost of this bill is fully offset. No new spending is created in this bill. And finally, this bill is now supported by Secretary Panetta himself. It is supported by the Department of Defense after they realized what the effect of this policy would have if troops were not grandfathered in. This is a country that believes in patriotism and patriotism means dropping our arms on those who have served and sacrificed for our country. I think all of my colleagues here today agree that nobody needs and deserves our support more than the men and women who have offered their lives in defense of our nation. For ten years the men and women of our National Guard and Reserves have done their duty. Now I believe it's for us in Congress to do our own duty to make sure that our troops receive the benefits that are their due."