Floor Updates

Monday, May 7, 2012

May 07 2012 2:00 PM

The Senate Convened.


Opening Remarks

May 07 2012 2:16 PM

  • Today --
    • The Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill, with the time until 4:30 PM equally divided.
    • At 4:30 PM, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session for up to 1 hour of debate, equally divided, on:
      1. Executive Calendar #508, Jacqueline H. Nguyen, of California, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit;
      2. Executive Calendar #568, Kristine Gerhard Baker, of Arkansas, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas; and
      3. Executive Calendar #569 John Z. Lee, of Illinois, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois.
    • At 5:30 PM, the Senate will conduct up to 3 ROLL CALL VOTES on the nominations.
  • Tuesday, May 8th --
    • At 12:00 PM, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill.

Senator Reid: (2:02 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "Senate Democrats have introduced a proposal to freeze student loan interest rates at current rates for a year without adding a single pen economy to the deficit. Democrats will vote on that proposal before noon. We hope the Republicans will joins. Republicans claim they share Democrats' goal of protecting these 7 million students I talked about from these interest rate increases. We'll see. They insist we should paid for this proposal with unreasonable cuts to preventive health services for millions of Americans. This is a program that is so vitally important to the health care delivery system in this country. Senators Mikulski and Senator Harkin and others have worked had to maintain this program it is so essential. Republicans know the proposal would never pass the senate - never - and President Obama has said he would veto more cuts to crucial preventive health care. But there's already a compromise that's on table. Our legislation closes a loophole that allows the rich to avoid paying taxes. Our proposal is not a new tax. It would simply stop wealthy Americans from dodging the taxes they're required to pay. If Senate Republicans are truly serious about protecting 7 million students, then work with us to pass this reasonable proposal."

Harkin, Alexander, Kyl

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 07 2012 3:21 PM

Senator Harkin: (2:09 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "With the bill before us, we're considering a pragmatic and fiscally responsible solution to this problem that will keep interest rates low for more than 7.4 million students. The bill is fully paid for, and we offset the cost by raising revenues in a way that will provide a solution to a long-standing problem in the tax code that has been subject to widespread abuse. Let me just define how this measure is paid for. For many years we have seen avoidance of properly owed Social Security and Medicare taxes by some subchapter "S" stockholders who declared a portion of their income is effectively profit and, therefore, not subject to Social Security or Medicare taxes. This is not supposed to be a choice that is made at the whim of the taxpayer. It should be based on objective facts. The offset in this legislation does just that. It creates a bright-line test for a small share of subchapter "S" shareholders, basically those engaged in professions such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, consultants and lobbyists whose financial gains they have come from the work that they do. It's narrowly tailored to cover only those subchapter "S" organizations in which there are three or fewer stockholders and only for those earning $250,000 on joint filings. With this bright-line test, the Medicare and Social Security trust fund will receive the funds that are properly owed to them which they're not receiving today because they're counted not as an income but as profits. Now my friends on the other side of the aisle have proposed a different offset to pay for keeping the interest rate at 3.4%. The bill that passed the House of Representatives and the legislation proposed by Senator Alexander of Tennessee would offset the cost of this bill by eliminating the prevention and public health fund, which was created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In short, rather than put an end to an abuse of the tax code, my friends on the other side of the aisle are proposing that we eliminate the sole dedicated source of federal funding for investments, critical investments, in preventing disease, keeping women and children and elderly families healthy. They want to eliminate the prevention and public health fund. Many of my Republican colleagues have acknowledged the critical importance of investing in prevention and wellness, which makes the use of this offset - that is eliminating it - all the more troubling. Preventing disease, expanding access to screenings, encouraging people to stop using tobacco, these used to be bipartisan goals strongly supported by a vast majority of Republicans and Democrats alike. So in the Affordable Care Act, we created the prevention fund with the expressed goal of ramping up our investments in these prevention and wellness initiatives, again, with Republican support."

Senator Alexander: (2:42 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "The specific issue at flair play here, the one we're likely to vote on tomorrow, has to do with one type of those student loans. And let's try to put that into perspective. If either version, the Democrats have a version and Republicans have a version, I'm offering a version which would pay for it by giving back the students the money that the government's overcharging them. The Democrats have one that would raise taxes on people who create jobs, but whichever one were to pass, if one were, here's what it would do. It would save students on new loans about $7 a month on interest payments over the next ten years. That an add up $80 a year or $800 in ten years. $7 a month in interest payments on the average loan, and that's for 40% of the loans. And that's for new loans. So if you've got a student loan and it's a 3.4%, that's not going to change. 40% of people do have student loans today at about 3.4%, everybody else is at 6.8% which is a good deal lower than you could get a private loan, one where you go into a bank and say I'd like to borrow sown some money, maybe you can he you can get it but they'll charge you more because be you might not be able to pay it back as well as somebody else. We've agreed on in, at least on the policy. The President has agreed on it, Governor Romney has agreed on it I'm glad the President has been going to college campuses. I'm glad he's raised the issue of student loans and college tuition. Because as a former Governor of Tennessee who cares deeply about education, as someone who was also United States Education Secretary about 20 years ago, I've been trying for 20 or 25 years to get Washington to pay attention to the idea that it is ruining our public colleges and universities with these Medicaid mandates that soak up the dollars that ought to go for public colleges and universities. Three-quarters of our students go to public universities, like the university of Tennessee or Iowa State or California or the communities colleges which are really our secret weapon. And even with the rising tuition, those costs are - are at least reasonable now. Tuition at community college in Tennessee is about $3,000. Nationally, the average tuition to four-year public universities is about $8,200. It's not easy to find the money for that. But it's still within range. But what has happened in the last 25 years? I can tell you what's happened in my state. I visited with the retiring President of Tennessee Tech University, a fine engineering school. He said two things. One is over the last three years state funding for his university and for most in Tennessee has gone down by 30%. Now, that's not a 30% reduction in the rate of growth. That's a flat-out cut. A flat-out cut. And why has that been happening? Our Governor, the current one, and four former one, a Democrat, both have said what I know and every governor knows, when you make up your state budget, and you get down toward tend of it you make a choice between Medicaid and higher education and because Medicaid is run from Washington with specific mandates, the states end up being having a strangle hold on them. In effect if they participate in the program to be forced to make decisions about eligibility and how much they spend and there goes the money. And there it doesn't go to the public colleges and universities, and less money, higher tuition, higher loans."

Senator Kyl: 3:05 PM
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "Most of us agree that Congress should extend the lower interest rate on certain Stafford loans. Unless we do, interest rates will double to 6.8% this July. And there are competing proposals to accomplish this extension, as Senator Alexander pointed out. Unfortunately, the Majority Leader's proposal is going to make this underlying jobs problem worse by burdening job-creating businesses with new taxes and compliance costs. Now, let me illustrate how this occurs. In order to pay for the $6 billion cost of extending the 3.4% interest rates for one year , the Reid bill attempts to do what nearly every bill proposed by Senate Democrats this session has done, it permanently raises taxes on job creators in order to pay for temporary spending. And, worse, the Majority's attempting to divert dollars that are supposed to go to Medicare or Social Security in order to fund completely unrelated spending. In this case, the legislation singles out certain professional service businesses for a punitive tax hike, including those in the fields of health, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, and athletics. Ironically, these are some of the fields where there's actually demand for new employees The tax hike would hit business owners who perform services for their businesses and make $200,000 or, if they're married, $250,000. If the IRS determines that 75% or more of the business's gross income is, what this bill describes, is attributable to the services of three or fewer owners, then this bill would make the owners pay payroll taxes on 100% of their share of the business profits, even if some of that profit had nothing to do with the owner's work. In addition, if a family members also owned a piece of the business, then the working owner will owe additional payroll taxes on the family member's share of the business, even if that family member pays - or provides no services. Obviously there are several problems with this approach. Let's start with the most obvious. It takes more money from the private sector and gives it to the government at the very time when we want the private sector to have enough to create new jobs. Second, it rewrites the laws of income from labor and income from capital investment and this should not be done lightly, especially since confiscating more from small businesses means that they will be less able to expand and create more jobs."

Enzi, Harkin, Nelson-FL

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 07 2012 4:34 PM

Senator Enzi: (3:19 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "The Majority would have Americans believe that the bill simply closes a loophole used by wealthy people that organizes an "S" corporation in order to avoid payroll taxes. Well, let me tell you about taxes. If you're in one of those small business "S" corporations, you pay your taxes. You pay it on the year that the company earns it, not the year that the dividends are distributed. The year that the company earns it, you pay all of the taxes that are due on that piece of money. Even though you have to leave it in your business so you can keep reinventing their business, so you can stay in business, so you can maintain the jobs that you already have and hopefully add a few. That's what an "S" corporation does. Says we're going to give you this big break. We're going to let you pay your taxes up front even though you can't take your money out. Payroll taxes is the money that all of us put in as an investment for our Social Security and Medicare. That's what payroll taxes are. That's what we're talking about now charging on this money that up front has had all the income taxes paid on it and, incidentally, have also had payroll taxes paid on it. The IRS is already given the authority to check and see if people are taking out a minimum distribution. There's an amount that you have to take out of your business and you have to claim it for salary. You can't just hide it, like you were rich or something. Doesn't work that way. The IRS has rules. The IRS can claim those payroll taxes. But what we're talking about now is taking those payroll taxes, payroll taxes, remember, are Social Security and Medicare payments. They're investments in your Social Security and your Medicare. We're talking about taking those and subsidizing that you are student loans. Medicare is in trouble and once again we're talking about stealing from Medicare. We did that in the health care bill. We took half a trillion dollars out of Medicare and we put it into new programs. We didn't put it into a doc fix. We're not taking paying the doc fix We didn't take the money from Medicare that might have been used and used it in Medicare to keep the Medicare system growing. No, we put it into new programs so we could say that this health care plan was paid for. That's what the payroll taxes are. Now we're saying we're going to use those payroll taxes and going to use it to subsidize the student loans. When does Medicare ever get the known pay for Medicare? Oh, that's right. We have a new board now, an unelected board, and this unelected board will tell us each and every year where we have to cut in Medicare in order to pay for Medicare even though we stripped all this other money out that could have paid for Medicare. What a deal. Well, here we go again. This tax would end the payroll taxes and by shifting them into the student loans. When we're talking about we do all kind of crazy things around here. We shouldn't be doing them. In reality, this is an irresponsible tax increase on small businesses at a time when we need small businesses creating jobs so college students have employment opportunities when they graduate."

Senator Harkin: (3:37 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "We have before us, as I understand, two choices before us. The Republican choice is the one passed by the House of Representatives a couple of weeks ago which would eliminate the prevention and public health fund and put that money in to keep the interest rate down at 3.4% rather than letting it go up to 6.8%. So they would eliminate the prevention and public health fund, about which I spoke at length a little while ago. Our bill would close a loophole in the tax code that allows certain subchapter "S" corporations to avoid paying their FICA taxes, their Medicare and Social Security taxes because of the way they're arranged. I'm going to get into that in a minute and try to explain exactly how that's set up. We're not going after small businesses at all. We're simply providing, I think, more of a bright line on what are legitimate dividends from a corporation which don't have to pay FICA taxes and what are really salaries, wages, salaries that you do have to pay FICA taxes on. Right now in certain subchapter "S" corporations, it's kind of cloudy. It's kind of cloudy. And so someone said on the other side, they said we've seen this big increase in subchapter "S" corporations. Of course. People who have had partnerships before or sole proprietorships and stuff all of a sudden are rushing to establish subchapter "S" corporations with very few stockholders to get away from paying their legitimate taxes on Social Security and Medicare. And so, our bill would close that loophole. So we have these two choices, I think, in front of us right now. Which do you want? I mean, if those were the only two, do you want to eliminate the prevention and public health fund? Or do you want to put a bright line on subchapter "S" corporations and say if you cross that line, you've got to pay your Social Security and Medicare taxes? Maybe we can have that vote. Maybe we can actually have that vote here. I'd like to see if my Republican friends really want to eliminate the prevention and public health fund."

Senator Enzi: (4:05 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "They say this closes a loophole. Because if there are three shareholders or less - I already heard people, I could hear their minds saying okay, if I want to cheat on that and you've taught me how I can, I'll add a fourth person. Now your bill doesn't cover it. So it's not written properly. You're not going to stop them by doing what you've got written in the bill. So it's not going to generate any revenue and if it doesn't generate revenue, it's not going to pay for the cost of keeping the health care down. Besides that, the IRS has guidelines that say how much you should be taking out of your business. As wages. And you have to pay a payroll tax on that, or you will be taken to tax court and that's what that one case is that the Senator from Iowa referred to, it was a case of an accountant who got caught and taken to tax court and told he can't cheat on his taxes. We ought to have more enforcement like that. And it should be pretty easy for the IRS to check and see if there are some s corporations out there that hasn't paying any wages, any wages, that should be a little computer check, since so much of it - actually every return gets turned into a digital return now. Some of them you can help the IRS by sending your form in digitally to begin with which saves a lot of input by somebody's part. But they could check in a moment - a matter of seconds s corporations that have no wages. And if they have no wages, perhaps they ought to have a much lower limit than what the other side is suggesting. If we're going to do tax reform, we ought to do tax reform. To do it this way is the wrong way. Now, I also heard the comment that this money is not being taken from Medicare and Social Security. Well, the way that we do federal accounting - and we should be ashamed of the way we do federal accounting - that can be a true statement. But in fact it is not true. Here's how we do it. Here's how we cook the books as the federal government. We will collect this tax that should go to Medicare and Social Security. And we will put bonds in a drawer and we will spend the money on the reduction in interest rates for the students. That is spending it twice because we're still showing it as owing it to the Social Security and the Medicare folks. But we do this all the time. Do you know how much money there actually is in the drawer called Social Security? Nothing."

Senator Harkin: (4:13 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I'd like to see how my friends on the other side of the aisle want to vote on whether or not they want to kill the prevention and public health fund. So I'd also say that on this subchapter S corporation thing that the IRS right now audits about .5% of the returns from subchapter S corporations, .5%. So you got to think what are the odds they're ever going to catch me? If they do, I pay a fine. That's it. Now, the IRS just don't have the personnel to do that. So what we're doing here, I want to say again, just to make it very clear, that because of the sort of fog that surrounds S chapter corporations right now, because of that fog, the IRS simply can't audit them all, they don't have the personnel to do that, and there's a lot of questions about whether or not something is income or dividends. But let me repeat again what our bill does. We create a bright line test, bright line, it affects only a narrow class of subchapter s corporations, it affects professional only, professional subchapter S corporations, those engaged in professions such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, lobbyists, where the campaign is due to the professional work. This provision does not include subchapter S gains from unrelated retail, wholesale, or manufacturing activities. The provision only covers subchapter s corporations where there are three or fewer stockholders. It only covers those earning more than $250,000 a year as a joint filer. And it only covers the portion of the gains that come from professional services. So if a subchapter S company has income partially from professional activities such as lobbying, and partially from other activities such as real estate investments, the investment income does not fall under the rule. The Joint Committee on Taxation and the Treasury Inspector General for tax administration have both issued reports that shows that underreporting of earned income subject to FICA taxes is a significant issue. Using IRS data, the Government Accountability Office in 2009 calculated that in 2003 and 2004 tax years, the net shareholder compensation underreporting amounted to nearly $23 billion. Since then, the number of subchapter S corporations have been increasing rapidly. Increasing rapidly. And I would suggest that's why I've heard time and time again from the other side about the fact that the President took $5 billion out of this and the fact that I said earlier that, yes, and that was the limit. That was all. And he didn't want any more taken out of it. Well, then someone said, well, but he's got $4.5 billion in his budget to take out of it. Well, what happened is the President did put $4.5 billion in his budget to take out of the prevention and public health fund. Which, by the way, I oppose. That comes as no surprise to anyone. Then when the House and Senate earlier this year were engaged in negotiations on extending the unemployment compensation and also the payroll tax deduction, when we were engaged in that, they put that on the table. The President stuck with his $4.5 billion. The Congress added another $500 million and they come up with the $5 billion cut to the prevention and public health fund. So the President said, well, okay, that was in our budget. If you want to use it for that, use it for that, but no more. As I said, we have a statement of administration policy that says that if this is in the bill, the President - if the elimination or any cuts to the prevention and public health fund are in here, he will veto the bill. And I just wanted to make clear that that $5 billion and the $4.5 billion are one in the same. They're not $9.5 billion that he wanted to take out of the prevention and public health fund. I wanted to make that clear."

Senator Nelson-FL: (4:22 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "It is a matter of policy that we should lower interest rates for students who want to get their education. And here we are. And what this boils down to is, how are we going to pay for it? It costs $6 billion for one year. Now, the House of Representatives has taken a position - and that's been discussed here - their position is to take it out of the health care bill. Well, when you take it out of the health care, you're taking it out of diabetes screening, heart disease screening, cancer screening for breath and cervical cancer. Do we want to do that? I don't think so. Do we want to take it out of anti-tobacco programs to try to keep kids from getting hooked on tobacco? I don't think so. Do we want to take it out of childhood immunizations, where the spending of $1 on childhood immunizations by the federal government saves the government $16 in the long run? That's a ratio of 1:16 because of children not getting the diseases that they were immunized for. Do we want to take it out of that? I don't think so. So what have we come up here with in the senate? We came up with a narrow part of the tax-paying public, subchapter-S corporation individuals that pay individual tax, not corporate tax, and only those in a joint return above $250,000 gross income and they would do what? They would pay the payroll tax, Medicare and Social Security, that they do not pay under the existing law now because they're treated as if they were a corporation instead of a partner which, in effect, they are save for the tax laws All right, if this vote does not get 60 votes today in order to break the filibuster, or even if it does, we have to reconcile the pay-for for the $6 million that this student loan interest bill will cost. And it is my hope that common sense, that bipartisanship, that ideological rigidity will rule the day and that we will simply ask what's best for our people and for our country."

May 07 2012 5:30 PM

Senator Leahy: (4:31 PM)
  • Spoke on judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "For the last four months, the Senate has been forced to slowly work its way through the backlog created by Republican objections issued last year to consensus nominees. The distinguished presiding officer knows the number of nominees that we have voted on unanimously usually in the Judiciary Committee and then they have to wait and wait and wait to get a vote. Now finally, with the consideration today of the long-delayed nomination of Judge Jacqueline Nguyen to fill a long-standing judicial emergency, a vacancy on the overburdened ninth circuit, the Senate will complete the confirmations that it could have, that should have taken place last year. In my 37 years here, it's been my experience with Republican and Democratic administrations, Republican or Democratic control of the Senate such nominees were always disposed of by the end of the year in which they'd gone through the committee. Now, actually five months into the year, today is the first time the national is considering judicial nominations reported by the Judiciary Committee this year, not that they were just reported, they've been on the calendar for months. The nominations considered today are but three of the 22 judicial nominees available for final Senate action. Most are by any measure consensus nominees who could and should be confirmed without further delay under either Republican or Democratic administrations. Actually, if they were confirmed, if I cannily confirmed, that would go a long way toward getting us on track to make real progress to reducing the judicial vacancies that have plagued the federal courts around this country."

Senator Boozman: (4:47 PM)
  • Spoke on the Baker nomination.

Senator Grassley: (4:59 PM)
  • Spoke on judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "Today the Senate is expected to confirm three additional judicial nominees. With the confirmation of Judge Nguyen to the ninth circuit, Ms. Baker to the eastern district of Arkansas, Mr. Lee to the northern district of Illinois, we will have confirmed 83 judicial nominees during this Congress. It's somewhat ironic that today, according to press accounts, the White House is holding a reform and strategy session with administration officials and 150 supporters from across the country concerned about the judicial vacancy rate. I wonder if at this strategy session the White House took a look in the mirror when addressing the vacancy rate. While we have a responsibility to advise and consent on those nominations, senators cannot fill vacancies unless people are nominated for those positions. I would note the President has failed to do this in 47 of the 76 remaining vacancies, including 21 of 35 seats designated as judicial emergencies. This was more than 60% of the current vacancies with no nominee. The White House and the Senate majority are fond of their claims that millions of Americans are living in districts with vacancies. Of course, what the other side fails to tell you is that 88 million Americans live in judicial districts where vacancies exist because the President has failed to nominate judges. Most of those seats have been vacant for more than a whole year. Once again, if the White House is serious about judicial vacancies, it holds the key to nominating and filling those vacancies. It has failed in too many instances to use that key. Furthermore, according to press accounts the White House accused Republicans of subjecting consensus nominees to unprecedented delays and filibusters. This is a statement without factual basis and ignores the record of judicial nominations. I note that after today's confirmation, there are 12 nominees on the executive counter that might fall into the category of consensus nominees. Seven nominees on the calendar had significant opposition in the committee and clearly are not consensus nominees the substantial majority of those 12 nominees were reported out of committee fewer than ten legislative days ago. Not only is there no filibuster against any of the consensus nominees, but I am not sure how there can be any accusation then of delay and particularly partisan delay."

Senator Durbin: (5:05 PM)
  • Spoke on judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "First, at this point in President George W. Bush's first term, the Democratic Senate had approved 30 more judges than have been approved under the current situation with this divided Senate. Secondly, it would take 60 nominations to be filled by the end of the year, judicial nominations, for President Obama to have received the same treatment as President George W. Bush in his first term. 60. We could get a lot of that done today. Right here are 22 nominations for the judiciary that have cleared the committee. If the Senator from Iowa would like to come to the floor and join me, we can make a joint unanimous consent request to bring all 22 up immediately. Every one of them, all of whom have cleared the committee. And those senators who want to vote against those nominees do so, vote no. But unfortunately as we can see from this calendar, the names of the nominees languish on this calendar for months. Literally for months. And many times pass with a voice vote or unanimous vote. It really does not speak well of this process that we have reached this point, this slowdown. What many Republicans are waiting for is the so-called Thurman rule. It's not a rule written in the book but it refers to Senator Strom Thurman of South Carolina who kind of announced at one point of his career we'll stop considering judges at a certain point in an election year. I have been in the Senate for so many years I have heard many different explanations about what the Thurman rule means. I'm not sure anyone knows. All we know is in a political campaign year, politics rules. In this situation, many Republicans are holding up perfectly fine nominees approved by Democrats and Republicans in committee for no other reason but the hope that they can win back the White House in November and fill the nominees with their favorites. I don't think that's fair to the nominees who have gone through the process, many of whom have cleared a bipartisan vote, and should be voted on in a timely fashion."
  • Spoke on the Lee and Tharp nominations.
    • SUMMARY "Mr. Lee and Mr. Tharp were both nominated on November 10, 2011, six months ago. They appeared together at a hearing before the Judiciary Committee in January. They were both reported out of committee in February in a bipartisan voice vote. Now, there was an agreement reached between Senator McConnell and Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, about the nominees that we brought for a vote. I was surprised when it was announced in March that the Lee and Tharp nominations, which had been together all through the process, were separated. The deal or arrangement called for John Lee to be scheduled for a confirmation vote by May 7, but at the insistence of the Republican leadership, Senator McConnell, the deal did not include all the nominees on the Senate calendar and it did not schedule a vote for Mr. Jay Tharp, Senator Kirk's nominee. I believe that they should be confirmed together, just as they were nominated together and went through the committee together. As soon as I heard about this so-called arrangement, I went to first Senator Kyl and then to Senator McConnell and said don't do this. Don't hold up Senator Kirk's nominee. He's in the hospital. Now he's home, thank goodness, recovering from a stroke. We did this together. We're working together. Don't separate these two fine men. There is no reason to do it. But I understand that this was the arrangement and they didn't want to change it, even to help Senator Kirk under these circumstances. They wanted to do only two nominees a week over a seven-week period of time, and the cutoff, the line they drew was unfortunately between Mr. Lee and Mr. Tharp. Well, I was going to make unanimous consent request today to include Mr. Tharp along with Mr. Lee on the vote that we're about to take. There is only one reason I'm not. We have received an ironclad assurance from the Senate Republican floor staff that Mr. Tharp is going to be called on a timely basis during this work period. I'm going to hold them to it. I don't want to embarrass anyone, but it bothers me that the nominee of Senator Kirk is being held up by the Republican side of the aisle when it should be voted on today. There is no reason why it should not be voted on today. We should vote for both of them, but because a word has been given to me by a staff member whom I respect very much, I won't make this unanimous consent request."

Senator Pryor: (5:16 PM)
  • Spoke on the Baker nomination.

Senator Feinstein: (5:19 PM)
  • Spoke on the Nguyen and Watford nominations.

Nguyen, Baker, Lee nominations

Executive Session

May 07 2012 6:25 PM

Confirmed, 91-3:
Executive Calendar #508, Jacqueline H. Nguyen, of California, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Confirmed by Voice Vote:
Executive Calendar #568, Kristine Gerhard Baker, of Arkansas, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas; and
Executive Calendar #569, John Z. Lee, of Illinois, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois.

Brown-OH (The Senate Stands Adjourned)

Student Loan bill (S. 2343)

May 07 2012 6:50 PM

Senator Brown-OH: (6:32 PM)
  • Spoke on Ohio voting laws.
    • SUMMARY "This new law repeals what was a bipartisan effort in 2006. 2006 in response to some election problems of 2004 and the presidential race where people stood in long, long lines to vote and there were other problems, 2006, the Republican House and the Republican Senate in Columbus and the Republican governor with support from Democrats, so it was clearly bipartisan, passed voter tax reforms set up early voting. One week where voting and voter registration and early voting overlapped so people could register and vote during that week in early October. Did other things that made voting a little bit more accessible, registration and voting more accessible. But the new law, in spite of the consensus in Ohio about voting, now there is an effort to undercut that consensus. First the law significantly reduces the early voting window. It takes away Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday voting before the election when over 100,000 people voted in Ohio that year. In 2008, it was made despite the fact this reduction in early voting made despite the fact that evidence overwhelmingly indicates that limiting early voting will actually cost taxpayers boards of elections money. Cutting Sunday voting was intended to suppress voting. On the Sunday before the election, Ohioans who work long hours during the week often go to the polls after church, fulfilling their civic and spiritual obligations on the same day. By ending early voting the lines outside polling stations on location day will only get longer, the costs will only increase. This increases frustration and limits voting. Another burden is that it bars poll workers from performing one of their basic functions, helping voters find their right precinct. This law no longer requires that poll workers assist a confused, elderly, disabled or young voter in getting their correct precinct. We've tried to save money, more people voted earlier, relieving pressure on election day, and they've combined voting precincts. You'll have fewer precincts in the same county and have to hire fewer poll workers. Sometimes they combine these precincts in these voting stations into one building so people might walk in to a polling station and go to the wrong table and under the law now the poll worker is not required to help that person and say no, you can't vote here but you can vote across in the room next door at this church or at this school. So someone will today might walk in and the poll worker will say you're not eligible to vote in this precinct and you'll walk home and not vote. This law discourages in many ways because these poll workers are people that live in the neighborhood, it discourages neighbors from helping neighbors. It's a solution in search of a problem. It is in fact a solution in search of a problem. There was consensus in Ohio that things needed to change after 2004. The laws enacted in 2006 led to shorter lines, more clarity and less frustration for voters. While none of the changes I mentioned today make it impossible to vote, they build burdens to voting, burdens that have no good reason. That will mean fewer minority voters, fewer young voters, fewer elderly voters, fewer disabled voters. That may be what some politicians in this town want but it's not what the people of Ohio want. Ohio deserves better when it comes to protecting our most fundamental constitutional rights."
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Tomorrow --
    • The Senate will convene at 10:00 AM and resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill. The time until 12:00 PM will be equally divided, with the Majority controlling the first 30 minutes and the Republicans controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • At 12:00 PM, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill.
    • Following the ROLL CALL VOTE, the Senate will recess until 2:15 PM for the weekly caucus lunches.
The Senate stands adjourned until 10:00 AM Tuesday, May 8th.