Floor Updates

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mar 06 2012 10:00 AM

The Senate Convened.


Opening Remarks

Mar 06 2012 10:03 AM

Senator Reid: (10:02 AM)
  • Today --
    • The Senate will 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.

Murray, Durbin, Boxer

Morning Business

Mar 06 2012 10:38 AM

Senator Murray: (10:03 AM)
  • Spoke in support of the Rice nomination.
    • SUMMARY "Some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have slowed down and delayed this vote. Mr. Rice's nomination was actually reported out of the Judiciary committee in October of last year. Unanimously, with strong bipartisan support, almost four months ago but his nomination has sat on the executive calendar because some senate Republicans refuse to consent to debate and vote on nominations just like his. Now I haven't heard any objections from Republicans about Mr. Rice's qualifications, nor have I heard any Republican claim that they have been unfairly blocked from any process. This delay is the result of an unprecedented effort by senate Republicans to delay and block all of President Obama's judicial nominees. There are now 20 judicial nominations reported favorably by the judiciary committee that are still sitting and waiting on a final senate vote. 14 of those nominations have been pending since last year, and should have been confirmed before the end of last year. 18 of those nominations received strong bipartisan support from the judiciary committee, and they deserve to move through this process in a fair way and get a vote here on the floor of the Senate, especially when both sides have agreed they're going to pass."

Senator Durbin: (10:10 AM)
  • Spoke in support of transparency and accountability for the Supreme Court.
    • SUMMARY "I think it's time for the Supreme Court to provide more transparency and accountability in two specific areas. First, the Supreme Court should allow live television cameras to broadcast open-court sessions so the general public can see firsthand how the court operates and arrives at critical decisions that literally change our lives. Second, the Supreme Court should formally adopt the judicial code of conduct which currently applies to all other federal judges, but for some inexplicable reason does not apply to justices at the Supreme Court. The court should also make public the other ethics rules it follows. The Supreme Court decisions impact the lives of every American, but access to open sessions of the court is incredibly limited. As a result, the court's proceedings and the way it arrives at decisions are a mystery. Most Americans will never see the Supreme Court at work unless they're willing and able to travel to Washington, D.C., wait in line for hours or sometimes sleep outside overnight on the pavement in an effort to secure one of 250 seats in the Supreme Court courtroom. In a democratic society that values transparency and openness, there is no valid justification for such a powerful element of our government to operate largely outside the view of American people. I'm pleased to have partnered with Senator Chuck Grassley, my Republican colleague from Iowa, the Cameras in the Courtroom Act, S. 1995. He and I continue the work of our former colleague, senator specter, on this important issue. Our bill would require televising of all open sessions of the court unless a majority of the justices determine that doing so would violate due process rights of one or more of the parties before the court. We give to the court the last word on any given argument or case as to whether or not it will be public and televised."
  • Spoke on the tornado storms in Illinois.
  • Spoke on energy and gas prices.
    • SUMMARY "Keystone pipeline could serve a valuable purpose but to believe that this is going to somehow have an immediate impact or any major impact on gasoline prices is not realistic. Currently the pipelines from Canada that export these oil sands to the United States are operating at less than 50% of capacity, so there is plenty of room for more oil sands to come to the united states for refinement. In fact, one of the pipelines goes directly to my state. This refinery has capacity that could be used to process these Canadian oil sands right now. So to argue this keystone pipeline is somehow holding back the export of Canadian oil sands that might have an impact on the price of gasoline is just not correct. I also note there has been an increase in the refining of oil in this nation. It's two years after the BP spill and I think time for us to reflect on the fact that we never, ever want that to happen again. The devastation caused to so many lives, to so many businesses, and so much in terms of wildlife will not be calculated. Perhaps it never will be. But we know that we can't allow that to happen again. We shouldn't exalt speed over safety. We've got to make sure that as we move forward to develop our energy resources - both oil and gas - we do it in a sense it-- we do it in a sensible way. I hope we agree that that is the way do it as long as we do it with the administration policy."

Senator Boxer: (10:27 AM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "Is he aware that we are producing far more of this resource, oil, in this country than we have done since 2008; we have many more rigs out there? And is my colleague also aware that the oil companies are sitting on well over 50 million acres of leases that they're not drilling on when they could? And the last point, is my friend aware that we are exporting more than we ever had from America and that's also a very important point? Those who say "drill, baby, drill," that's not an answer if it's "export, baby, export." The fact is, we are drilling more and more is leaving America Is he aware of all these factors? And is he concerned about playing more politics with this because drill, baby, drill is not the answer. We only have 2% of the world's proven supply of oil."

Senator Durbin: (10:29 AM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I'd like consent of the chair to enter into the record the New York Times editorial of Monday March 5, 2012, entitled "Drill, Baby, Drill: Redux." I'd like read a portion. "Domestic crude oil production is actually up from 5.4 million barrels to 5.59 million now. Imports have dropped by who are than 10% in the same period despite a temporary slowdown in exploration in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil disaster. The number of rigs in American oilfields has quadrupled over three years. There have been new discoveries and the administration has promised to open up more offshore reserves. To say that Mr. Obama has denied industry access is nonsense. Equally nonsensical is the Republican claim that Mr. Obama has proposed the repeal of $4 billion in annual tax breaks for the oil and gas industry whose five biggest posted $137 billion in profits last year would drive prices upward. As is Newt Gingrich's claim that now taking shape in the EPA and fiercely opposed by refiners to lower sulfur content would add 25 cents to the cost of a gallon. Experts say it would add about a penny. Oil prices are set on the world market by forces largely beyond America's control. Chief among these is soaring demand in country's like China. Unrest in oil-producing countries is another factor. Gas could jump to $5 if the standoff with Iran disrupted world supply.â€? A country that consumes, as the senator noted, more than 20 percent of the world's oil supply but owns 2% of its reserves cannot drill its way out of high prices or dependence on exports from unstable countries. The only plausible strategy is to keep production up while cutting consumption and embarking on a serious program of alternative fuels."

Isakson, Boozman

Morning Business

Mar 06 2012 11:11 AM

Senator Isakson: (10:43 AM)
  • Spoke on energy and gas prices.
    • SUMMARY "I was listening to the distinguished majority leader speak before me. He made an interesting comment about the Keystone pipeline. He said even if we approve to build the pipeline but if we had approved it two years ago when it was operating, we'd have 70,000 barrels of petroleum more a day coming into the United States of America. So to say that just because it the wouldn't be ready today doesn't help gas prices, is not looking to keep your eye on the ball. In the absence of a comprehensive policy, in the absence of foresight, in the absence of putting all the general things on table that generate energy, we're putting off the day that the United States is energy-independent. What goes on in Iran, in Strait of Hormuz, in Venezuela affects the speculation on gasoline and petroleum which affects the prices of gasoline in the United States of America. Now, I'm not one of these burn gas right and left, drill as much as you can, fossil fuels are fine. I know we have problems with carbon. I drive a high vehicle, not because I'm trying to drive a point, but because I think it makes sense. Any time you can reduce carbon, that makes sense but can't eliminate it. We've got to put all sources of energy on the table and one of those is to continue to explore for gasoline and petroleum in the domestic United States of America, off the Gulf of Mexico, off of our coastline, in our national lands that we own where we know we have shale oil, where we also know we have oil gas. So we're expanding our supply and reducing or dependence on foreign exports. The Congress of the United States and the President of the United States need to have a comprehensive energy policy that embraces all forms of energy. To the credit of the President, he approved not too long ago the loan guarantees on reactors 3 and 4 at plant Vogel. The first energy reactors built in the United States since three mile island. Nuclear is a important carbon free generation of energy. Every time we can expand our energy capability, we are lessening our dependence on fossil fuel to be burned. The Marcella shale - we have gone from having a finite supply of energy gas to an infinite supply. Yet because there is some contest over whether hydraulic fracture is good or not good, we are not exploring natural gas like we should. We should be exploring it as much as possible because it is a cleaner-burning fuel than is petroleum, liquid petroleum, and gasoline. We ought to be doing renewable energy where ever it makes sense but we've seen renewable energy has its limit."

Senator Boozman: (10:58 AM)
  • Spoke on energy and gas prices.
    • SUMMARY "There is no denying that the rising fuel prices are hurting Americans and further complicating our efforts to revitalize the economy. There is also no denying that we are not moving fast enough to address these concerns. Americans want to know why, while their gas bills mount Washington does still not have an energy policy. It is past time that we move forward on one and that begins with increasing our energy production here at home. We have the largest recoverable resources of oil, gas and coal of any nation on the planet. America's recoverable resources are larger than the combined supply of Saudi Arabia, China, and Canada. Despite that, we depend on hostile regimes and nations who have agendas that are often at odds with our own for much of our oil. The current tension between Israel and Iran only serves to make matters worse. If Israel strikes Iran, there is a good chance that the Iranians attack Saudi Arabia's oil fields to retaliate against the west. It doesn't have to be this way. The Keystone XL pipeline, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, and drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico alone would produce three million barrels of oil per day. The lack of will in Washington to increase production here at home is unnecessary. It is a literal roadblock. It prevents our economy from picking up, increases the cost Americans pay for fuel, and it creates an enormous liability for our national and economic security. President Obama has said that increased domestic oil production is unnecessary as he contends it is at the highest it has been in eight years. However, you only get those numbers by relying heavily on production, on private lands in North Dakota, Texas, and Alaska. We are simply not using the resources that we have been blessed with on the public lands. We can make a major dent in the problem by simply opening the outer continental shelf and ANWR to drilling in an environmentally responsible way. The outer continental shelf alone is estimated to contain enough oil and natural gas to meet America's energy needs for the next 60 years. Energy exploration and production in ANWR would take place on just a small portion of the 1.5 million acres but will allow us to safely produce 900 barrels of oil per day for the next 30 days. I've been there, I've seen firsthand that this can be done in an environmentally safe way. The Keystone pipeline would transport 700,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to U.S. refineries in the gulf coast. It can be constructed and run in a safe manner. Tapping into the oil sands would help ease our dependence on hostile regimes for oil. as global demand for oil surges and the Canadians increase production, the addition of the Keystone pipeline would allow us to get reliable and secure oil from our largest trading partner and trusted ally. Unfortunately, President Obama punted on every opportunity we have given him to move keystone forward."

Boxer, Reid, McConnell

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Mar 06 2012 12:25 PM

Senator Boxer: (11:06 PM)
  • Spoke in support of Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "So bottom line here is, not only are we saving 1.48 million jobs but we had the potential of creating another 1 million jobs. So if we fail today to cut off debate and we don't have a path forward if abandon this 1.48 million jobs are at stake Construction workers have been hit very, very hard. The national unemployment rate is 8.3%. We're very hopeful it's on the down take but the construction industry rate is 17.7%. It could be even worse in some areas. It is an average. So we're talking about here about if we add to the unemployment in the construction industry, we're looking at a total crisis, a total disaster, because right now we have 1.48 million construction workers out of work, and if we fail to do this bill, we're adding another another .8 million. This could be a depression for the construction workers. It doesn't stop there. The industry is feeling it I don't know you're away of this, but there are over 11,000 transportation construction companies who would be adversely impacted by a shutdown on March 31."

Senator Reid: (12:08 PM)
  • Spoke in support of the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "The measure before the Senate today is a model of bipartisan legislation. It's four components parts reported out of four different committees with bipartisan support ... 85 Senators voted to begin debate on this legislation. as everyone will remember, we had to file a motion to cloture on this bill and the Senate agreed to move forward on this legislation. This will create or save three million middle-class jobs and over a thousand different organizations support this legislation. from the Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, AAA, it has the endorsement of one of the Senate's most conservative members and one of its most liberal members, the two main managers of this legislation. Democrats and Republicans have agreed additionally to 30 other germane, relevant amendments. So there should be nothing standing in the way of progress on this crucial legislation. Yet for weeks Republicans have refused to work with democrats to finalize a path forward It seems more likely that my Republican colleagues will continue to take orders from the tea party and filibuster this jobs measure. Republicans are quite plainly holding up the surface transportation bill when they vote against cloture."

Senator McConnell: (12:13 PM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "We've had a number of constructive conversations about voting on germane and non-germane amendments to this bill and I think we're very close to getting there. My concern is that if cloture is invoked right now we won't get an agreement and amendments that we are very close to agreeing to have considered on both sides, the amendments that are sought to be offered here are not just on the republican side but on the democratic side as well. That they will end up being shut out. if we were not so close I might have a different view but we're very close to getting an agreement and if we invoke cloture right now, that agreement will not come together. So I would encourage a no vote, not to stop the bill. this is a bill that's not going to be stopped, it has a broad bipartisan support, Senator Boxer and Senator Inhofe have worked very hard on this legislation, and we anticipate being able to wrap it up."
  • Unanimous Consent: Pending Reid amendment be withdrawn, it be in order to offer a new perfecting amendment cleared by both leaders which contains the three titles. Further, that following the non relevant amendments be in order to S. 1813, the Highway bill and subject to 60-vote affirmative threshold: Senator Collins, #1660, Boiler MACT, Senator Vitter #1530, OCS, Wyden side by side relevant to Hoeven #1537, related to the Keystone pipeline. Levin amendment on offshore tax havens. McConnell or designee relevant to the Levin amendment. A Cantwell amendment on energy tax extenders and McConnell or designee relevant to the Cantwell amendment. A Menendez amendment on natural gas and a Coburn amendment #1738, on duplication. I further ask consent that the following Highway-related amendments also be in order. DeMint #1756. Coats #1517. Blunt #1517. Paul #1556. Portman #1736. Portman #1742. Corker #1785. Corker on highway trust fund #1786. Hutchison #1568 and McCain #1669. Ten highway-related amendments to be offered by the majority leader or his designee. I further ask consent that following the disposition of the above-listed amendments and the managers' package of amendments to be cleared by both managers of the bill, the bill be read a third time and the senate proceed to vote on passage of the bill, as amended. Finally, I ask consent that following passage of S. 1813, the bill be held at the desk and when the Senate receives the companion measure from the house, the Senate proceeds to its immediate consideration, all after the enacting clause be stricken, the text of S. 1813, as passed, be inserted in lieu thereof, the bill then be read three times and passed, the Senate insist on its amendment, request a conference with the House, and the chair be authorized to appoint conferees on the part of the Senate, with a ratio agreed to with the concurrence of both leaders (Reid objected).

Mar 06 2012 12:54 PM

Not Agreed to, 52-44:
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.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Vote Results (Phillips nomination)

Executive Session (Phillips nomination)

Mar 06 2012 2:42 PM

Confirmed, 95-2:
Executive Calendar #439, Mary Elizabeth Phillips, of Missouri, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Missouri.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Vote Results (Rice nomination)

Executive Session (Rice nomination)

Mar 06 2012 3:05 PM

Confirmed, 93-4:
Executive Calendar #440, Thomas Owen Rice, of Washington, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Washington.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Lautenberg, Coats, Kerry

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Mar 06 2012 3:37 PM

Senator Lautenberg: (3:05 PM)
  • Paid tribute to Congressman Donald Payne, who passed away this morning after a battle with colon cancer.

Senator Coats: (3:11 PM)
  • Spoke on the tornado storms in Indiana.

Senator Kerry: (3:19 PM)
  • Spoke on Iran.
    • SUMMARY "I was troubled, deeply troubled, to read an op-ed in this morning's Washington Post by the likely Republican nominee for President, Mitt Romney. It was an attack on the administration's Iran policy, and it was as inaccurate as it was aggressive. every candidate for the oval office has the right to criticize the President, but particularly this week, while Prime Minister Netanyahu is in Washington meeting with the administration to determine the road forward that might determine the difference between a war or a diplomatic solution, particularly at that moment when so much is on the line, we all ought to remember that the nuclear issue with Iran is a deadly serious business and it ought to invite sobriety and serious conversations. I don't think we should allow Iran to become another party's applause line on the presidential stump. Talk has consequences, particularly when it's talk about war and talk of war only helps Iran at this moment - and others - by increasing the price of Iranian crude oil that pays for its nuclear program. To create false differences with the president just to score political points does nothing to move Iran off a dangerous nuclear course. Worse of all, Governor Romney's op-ed does not describe how a President Romney would do anything different than President Obama and this administration has already done. So if we're going to disagree, let's at least disagree responsibly and honestly We should be crystal clear. Yes, we have to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. That is not a question of containment and never has been. It is a question of prevention, outright denial of this ability and that is why President Obama again made that clear in his public comments yesterday, even as he builds pressure for a diplomatic solution. I think it is appropriate to have a president who first seeks a diplomatic solution. I am one of those here in the Senate, together with a few others of our generation who served in Vietnam the fact is that I think anybody who has served in a war first wants leaders who try to find if there is a way to make that war inevitable, if it has to happen, and at least turns over every stone possible to find out if diplomacy can find a solution to a problem."

Menendez, Durbin

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Mar 06 2012 6:59 PM

Senator Menendez: (4:39 PM)
  • Paid tribute to Congressman Donald Payne, who passed away this morning after a battle with colon cancer.

Senator Durbin: (6:55 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up --
    • Earlier today, a motion to reconsider the failed 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 was entered and Cloture on S. 1813, the Highway bill was vitiated.
  • 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 Republicans controlling the first 30 minutes and the Majority controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • Thereafter, the Senate will resume consideration of S. 1813, the Highway bill. The amendment tree has been filled.
    • At 5:00 PM, the Senate will recess until 6:00 PM to allow for a Senators only briefing.

The Senate stands adjourned until 10:00 AM Wednesday, March 7th.