Floor Updates

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mar 05 2012 2:00 PM

The Senate Convened.

Reid, McConnell

Opening Remarks

Mar 05 2012 2:16 PM

Senator Reid: (2:02 PM)
  • Today --
    • The Senate will proceed to a period of Morning Business, with Senators permitted to speak up to 10 minutes each.
    • Pending is S. 1813, the Highway bill.
    • All first-degree amendments must be filed at the desk by 4:00 PM today and all second-degree amendments must be filed at the desk by 11:30 AM Tuesday. The amendment tree has been filled.
    • There will be no ROLL CALL VOTES during today's session of the Senate.
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "Congress is once again considering transportation legislation, investing in this country's crumbling bridges, roads. We know that investing in America's highways and railways will create and sustain jobs. We have no doubt that building a world-class transportation system will help us rebuild our world-class economy. That's why the senior senator from Oklahoma, Senator Inhofe, one of the most liberal members of the senate, Senator Boxer, have joined hands to advance this bipartisan transportation bill before this body. The bill is comprised of four measures reported out of the EPW and the Banking and Finance committees, all with bipartisan support. Both sides have agreed to package a package of 37 amendments. It is now part of the measure before the senate. This is the legislation that's here in the senate now. If the finalized and we passed the bill before us, it would be a huge step forward. Passing what we have now and vote on it and call it a good day for America. In today's political climate, bipartisan support isn't enough to keep good legislation alive. In today's political climate, 85 votes begin debate on a measure isn't a guarantee the measure will become law. The transportation legislation under consideration is truly bipartisan. It will create or sustain 3 million badly needed construction jobs. Yet Republican leaders have wasted almost a month on the Senate's time obstructing this valuable measure for political reasons, obviously. Unfortunately, Democrats cannot keep construction crews working to repair 70,000 collapsing bridges across the country without Republican cooperation. Without Republican cooperation, we cannot expand the nation's mass transit system to accommodate the thousands tens of thousands of new riders and without their cooperation, we cannot create and save 3 million jobs repairing crumbling pavement and building safer sidewalks. It will take a bipartisan effort to advance this bipartisan legislation."

Senator McConnell: (2:09 PM)
  • Spoke on the tornado storms in Kentucky.


Morning Business

Mar 05 2012 3:04 PM

Senator McCain: (2:28 PM)
  • Spoke on the crisis in Syria.
    • SUMMARY "Assad's regime is facing a punishing array of economic sanctions by the United States, the European Union, the Arab league and others. Measures that have targeted the assets of Assad and his henchmen, cut off the central bank and other financial institutions, grounded serious cargo flights and restricted the regime's ability to sell oil. This has been an impressive international effort, and the administration deserves a lot of credit for helping to orchestrate it. The problem is the bloodletting continues. Despite years of diplomacy backed by sanctions, Assad and his top lieutenants show no signs of giving up to take the path into foreign exile. To the contrary, they appear to be accelerating their fight to the finish, and they're doing so with the shameless support of foreign governments, especially in Russia, China and Iran. A steady supply of weapons, ammunition and other assistance is flowing to Assad from Moscow and Tehran, and as the Washington Post reported yesterday, Iranian military and intelligence operatives are likely active in Syria, helping to direct and sharpen the regime's brutality. The Security Council is totally shut down as an avenue for increased pressure, and the recently convened friends of Syria contact group, while a good step in principle, produced mostly rhetoric but precious little action when it met last month in Tunisia. Unfortunately, with each passing day, the international response to Assad's atrocities is being overtaken by events on the ground in Syria ... The real question for U.S. policy is whether we will participate in this next phase of the conflict in Syria and thereby increase our ability to shape an outcome that is beneficial to the Syrian people and to us. I believe we must. The President has characterized the prevention of mass atrocities as "a core national security interest." He has made it the objective of the United States that the killing in Syria must stop, that Assad must go. He has committed the prestige and credibility of our nation to that goal, and it is the right goal. However, it is not clear that the present policy can succeed. If Assad manages to cling to power or even if he manages to sustain his slaughter for months to come, with all the human and geopolitical costs that entails, it would be a strategic and moral defeat for the United States. We cannot, we must not allow this to happen. For this reason, the time has come for a new policy. As we continue to isolate Assad dip diplomatically and economically, we should work with our closest friends and allies to support opposition groups inside Syria, both political and military, to help them organize themselves into a more cohesive and effective force that can put an end to the bloodshed and force Assad and his loyalists to leave power. Rather than closing off the prospects for some kind of negotiated transition that is acceptable to the Syrian opposition, foreign military intervention is now the necessary factor to reinforce this opposition. Assad needs to know that he will not win Time is running out. Assad's forces are on the march. Providing military assistance to the free Syrian army and other opposition groups is necessary, but at this late hour, that alone will not be sufficient to stop the slaughter and save innocent lives. The only realistic way to do so is with foreign air power. Therefore, at the request of the Syrian national council, the free Syrian army and local coordinating committees inside the country, the United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centers in Syria, especially in the north through air strikes on Assad's forces. To be clear, this will require the United States to suppress enemy air defenses in at least part of the country. The ultimate goal of air strikes should be to establish and defend safe havens in Syria, especially in the north, in which opposition forces can organize and plan their political and military activities against Assad."


Morning Business

Mar 05 2012 4:54 PM

Senator Durbin: (4:23 PM)
  • Spoke on the tornado storms in Illinois.
  • Spoke on climate change.
    • SUMMARY "I know it's not considered politically correct now to talk about the state of climate in America, but I'm going to, because you see as stand here today, we have had 274 tornadoes already recorded in America this year. 274. At this time last year, 50 and this tornado that hit my home state and I might say the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, last year - were extraordinary events. The weather patterns are changing. The weather events are more frequent and more severe. That is a fact. Are we ready? Are we prepared for it? Are we doing everything we can? And the simple and honest answer is "no." First, we need to acknowledge the obvious, and I know I'm walking on dangerous ground here, but the climate is changing. To go from a situation last year where a year ago we had the worst-recorded blizzard in the history of Chicago, followed four months later by the most rainfall ever recorded in one hour, to this situation with 274 tornadoes so far this year and literally scores of people killed - six in Harrisburg, many in Kentucky and Tennessee and other places - it is an indication that weather is changing, the severity is change, and we need to be honest about t we need to get beyond the political argument into the world of reality. There are things that we are doing, I sincerely believe, that are affecting the world that we live in, affecting the melting of the glaciers, affecting the weather patterns all around. As long as we continue to take the politically convenient rust ignoring that, then feature generations are point a finger of blame at us for failing to acknowledge the obvious when we might have had a chance to make a difference in future lives. That's a fact. Secondly, I held a hearing, and I brought in not government experts, but experts from the private sector. You know who knows more about weather events and damage than anyone in America? The insurance industry and I brought them in, property and casualty insurance companies, and asked them the same question. Is weather changing? They said, it's obvious. Why do you think certain businesses are taking their business out of certain areas in America. We're trying to cover ourselves. We're profit-making people and if we can't see a way to set up a reserve for potential weather disasters, we start backing off of coverage. It's been done. Major insurance companies have walked away from places like Florida because of hurricanes and because of violent storms. Then I asked them a question about whether or not the United States government was adequately prepared to shoulder the burden that comes with these disasters and the burden does come, particularly those uninsured, we end up as a government helping them. I don't begrudge people that."
  • Spoke on energy and gas prices.
    • SUMMARY "There are those who think they've got a good, quick, easy answer and can't understand why the rest of the world isn't cheering them on. They want to drill their way out of this situation. They believe that if we find enough oil in America, gasoline prices will come down and we're going to find ourselves oil-independent. By last measure, the United States has about 3% of the world's reserve of petroleum. We consume each year 25%. Drilling our way out of this is physically impossible. Yet that doesn't mean we shouldn't look for new, environmentally responsible and safe sources for oil. Here's the record. Domestic oil production in America is at the highest level in eight years. You'd never believe it hearing speeches from other side of the aisle. In 2011U.S. crude oil production reached it's highest level since 2003 and we're now drilling more than ever before. The number of oil-drilling rigs sat a record high quadrupled during the last years of the Obama administration. The U.S. now has more rigs at work than the rest of the world combined. Let me repeat that. Between oil and gas drilling rigs, the United States now has more rigs at work than the rest of the world combined. Those who are saying there is lack of effort don't note obvious we keep adding more. The administration announced new offshore oil and gas development program. open up more than 75% of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Last year Americans relied less on foreign oil than any time in the past 16 years. Even the American Petroleum Institute agrees that American producers and refiners are producing more oil and reducing our reliance on imports. The American Petroleum Institute has said that without these two factors, today's prices might be even higher. We simply cannot drill our way to lower gasoline prices. The President has proposed an approach to this that is balanced and it's an approach with a vision. It gets beyond a press release of the moment or presidential campaign rhetoric. The President recently announced new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light-duty trucks that will serve Americans $1.7 trillion and reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels a day by 2025 The administration has also finalized the first-ever national fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks, vans, and buses. That'll reduce oil consumption by over 500 million barrels. The Department of Energy will make $30 million available for new research competition to find ways to harness our abundant supplies of natural gas for vehicles, too. There is no magic bullet that can bring Americans lower gas prices. Not drill baby drill and not the Keystone XL pipeline in and of itself.

Mar 05 2012 5:38 PM

Senator Durbin: (5:30 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Tomorrow --
    • The Senate will convene at 10:00 AM and proceed to a period of Morning Business for 1 hour, with Senators permitted to speak up to 10 minutes each. The time will be equally divided with the Majority controlling the first 30 minutes and the Republicans controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • Thereafter, the Senate will resume consideration of S. 1813, the Highway bill, with the time until 12:00 PM equally divided. The final 10 minutes of debate will be controlled between the two Leaders, with the final 5 minutes under the control of the Majority Leader.
    • All second-degree amendments must be filed at the desk by 11:30 AM. The amendment tree has been filled.
    • At 12:00 PM, the Senate will proceed to a ROLL CALL VOTE on the Motion to Invoke Cloture on Reid substitute amendment #1761 (EPW, Banking, Finance, and Commerce titles and 37 amendments cleared by the bill managers) to S. 1813, the Highway bill.
    • At 12:30 PM, the Senate will recess until 2:15 PM for the weekly caucus luncheons.
    • At 2:15 PM, there will be two minutes of debate, equally divided, prior to 2 ROLL CALL VOTES on: (1) Executive Calendar #439, Mary Elizabeth Phillips, of Missouri, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Missouri, and (2) Executive Calendar #440, Thomas Owen Rice, of Washington, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Washington.
The Senate stands adjourned until 10:00 AM Tuesday, March 6th.