Floor Updates

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17 2012 9:30 AM

The Senate Convened.

Reid

Opening Remarks

May 17 2012 9:46 AM

  • Today --
    • The Senate will begin consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 3187, the FDA User Fee bill. The first hour will be equally divided, with the Republicans controlling the first 30 minutes and the Majority controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • At 10:30 AM, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session for up to 90 minutes of debate equally divided, on:
      1. Executive Calendar #646, Jeremy C. Stein, of Massachusetts, to be a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; and
      2. Executive Calendar #647, Jerome H. Powell, of Maryland, to be a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
    • At 12:00 PM, the Senate will conduct 2 ROLL CALL VOTES on the nominations (60 votes required).
  • As a reminder, on Tuesday, May 8th, a Motion to Reconsider the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill, was entered.

Senator Reid: (9:35 AM)
  • Spoke on the FDA User Fee bill.
    • SUMMARY "When someone that we love gets sick, the only they think on your mind is how to help them get well, how to get them the care they need. But every miracle drug or innovative new device comes to market, there is a rigorous approval process to make sure that device or that medicine is going to be safe. To get lifesaving drugs and device to the patients who need them as quickly and efficiently as possible, congress must give the food and drug administration the tools it needs to review and approve these products. Today the Senate will begin consideration of legislation which gives FDA. The resources to ensure medical devices, drugs and treatments are safe and effective ... The Food and Drug Administration Safety Act has fees to ensure products are used quickly and thoroughly before they are improved. This legislation does more than maintain the status quo. It enacts crucial reforms that will prevent drug shortages and bring the lifesaving medicines to market more quickly. It will save high-tech jobs in the medical field, make new treatments available to patients quickly and preserve America's role as a global leader in the biomedical innovation. The legislation will expedite the processes of approving new drugs and the medical device including many designed for children while ensuring these products are safe for consumers. It will help spur innovations that bring the next groundbreaking cancer or Parkinson's drug to market. The bill will hold foreign manufacturers who sell drugs in the United States to the same high standards met by American companies. This is important because of all the misleading attempts by these manufacturers to sell stuff on the internet. It will help prevent drug shortages by opening up the lines of communication between manufacturers and the FDA I hope we don't have to file cloture on a motion to proceed to this lifesaving legislation. Let's get on this legislation. Let's not waste - if we have to vote on cloture on this thing Monday, then we can't get on this thing until Wednesday and start legislating. How foolish. We'll have amendments - and I've had a number of Republican senators come to me and say we want to be able to offer amendments, relative amendments. Good, let's do it. If someone has a problem with this bill, don't stop us from going to it. Offer an amendment. If it's a worthy cause, we'll vote with him or her and get rid of what's in that legislation but don't hold up the legislation."

Moran, Barrasso, McConnell

FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

May 17 2012 10:14 AM

Senator Moran: (9:43 AM)
  • Spoke on the Arms Trade Treaty.
    • SUMMARY "Less than two months from now, the UN Conference on Arms Trade Treaty will take place in New York, and that presumably will determine the language that's ultimately included, as the treaty will be finalized for its adoption. Given where the process stands today, I'm concerned that this treaty will infringe upon the second amendment rights of American gun owners. I'm also concerned it will be used by other countries who do not share our freedoms to wrongly place the burden of controlling international crime and terrorism on law-abiding American citizens. Currently, proposals being considered by the preparatory committee at the UN would adversely affect U.S. citizens. I have several concerns with these proposals. First, there's been regular calls for bans or restrictions on civilian ownership of guns Americans use to hunt, target shoot, and defend themselves. Secondly, by requiring firearms to be accounted for through their life span, the arms trade treaty could lead to a nationwide gun registration. This, despite evidence that the costly bureaucratic system has been a complete failure in stopping any crime or stopping criminals from getting access to guns anywhere it has been tried. Third, other proposals could require the marking or tracking of ammunition. To make certain that our country's sovereignty and the rights of all Americans are protected, as the administration negotiates the treaty I have sponsored, introduced, Senate bill 2205, the Second Amendment Sovereignty Act. This legislation is simple and straightforward. First it says that the administration cannot use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States to negotiate a treaty that in any way restricts the second amendment rights of American citizens. This is a commonsense requirement that even the administration maintains. In an august letter I received from the U.S. State Department, the State Department wrote, "the administration will not agree to a treaty that will infringe upon the constitutional rights of American citizens. We will not agree to treaty provisions that would alter or diminish existing rights of American citizens to manufacture, assemble, possession, or firearms, ammunition and related items." This bill will back up the administration's position and hold them to that pledge. Second, Senate bill S. 2205 specifically probabilities the administration from seeking to negotiate a treaty that regulates the domestic manufacture, purchase, or transfer of firearm ammunition. UN members, member states regularly argue that no treaty regulating the transfer of arms can be effective without controlling the transfers inside a country's own border. This, in my view, is totally unacceptable. Again, the administration indicates they agree saying that "it will oppose to address internal transfers." congress should hold them to that pledge. At stake is our country's autonomy and the rights of American citizens. More specifically, the legislation I've introduced seeks to ensure that U.S. citizens will not be restricted to restrictions on the use or possession of civilian firearms or ammunition. It prohibits the administration from negotiating a treaty that would result in domestic regulation of hunting rifles that are often mischaracterized as military weapons. Civilian firearms must be excluded from any arms trade treaty."

Senator Barrasso: (9:54 AM)
  • A Doctor's Second Opinion.
    • SUMMARY "In September of 2011, the Manhattan Institute issued a report showing the devastating impact of the president's device tax on industry. The Manhattan Institute's report shows that the medical device tax will eliminate at least 43,000 American jobs. This number represents more than one out of every ten jobs in the device manufacturing sector. It is not a record that the Democrats should be proud of, but it is clearly a record caused by the other side of the aisle, the Democrats, and specifically the President who signed this bill into law. Not only will this tax kill 43,000 jobs, workers are going to lose about $3.5 billion in wages. This is money that is, these workers could have spent in their local communities helping the economy of those communities and, therefore, the nation's economy. So what does all of this mean to U.S. device manufacturers? Well, these companies are more likely to close their plants in the United States. They will close plants here and do what others have done, replacing them with plants overseas. Foreign manufacturers will improve their competitiveness compared to American firms. This will severely threaten U.S. leadership in the device industry and in the world. Do we really, really want to see plants closing and high-tech medical device facilities in places like Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York and Wisconsin? Finally, the President's medical device tax is going to increase costs to American consumers. These are the American consumers who said what they wanted with the health care law is, the care they need, the doctor they want at a price they can afford. Yet this health care law is going to increase costs to American consumers. The Congressional Budget Office, they have warned that the health care law's tax imposed on medical device manufacturers and drug manufacturers and health insurance providers would be passed through to the consumers in the form of higher insurance premiums. Wasn't it the President, though, who promised that under his health care law, insurance premiums would lower by $2,500 a year? Is that a promise that the president has forgotten or democrats in congress have forgotten? The American people haven't forgotten, which is why the health care law is even more unpopular today than the day that it was signed into law. The administration's own Chief Actuary, Medical Actuary, Richard Foster, he came to the same conclusion. He said that he estimated that these taxes would be passed through to health care consumers in the form of higher drug prices, higher device prices and higher insurance premiums. If the administration wants to get serious - and I really wonder if this administration wants to get serious - if the administration wants to get serious about reducing regulatory burdens and about creating good jobs, then the President should start today by repealing his onerous medical device tax. Not only will this device tax suppress job creation and limit economic growth, it will also slow and perhaps even stop research and development into new lifesaving medical devices. We must take action to repeal this anticompetitive job-destroying device tax before it begins to take effect in 2013."

Senator McConnell: (10:07 AM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Resolutions.
    • SUMMARY "Yesterday in the Senate we got a vivid look at why the challenges we face in this country are so difficult to address. With the looming fiscal crisis some have called the most predictable in history, with the national debt at a level none of us ever even imagined, with millions unemployed and millions more underemployed, with the biggest tax hike in history looming at the end of the year, and with entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security drawing ever closer to insolvency, here's what Senate Democrats did yesterday: they ducked. They were presented with five different options for dealing with these problems, and they voted against every single one of them. Now, no one was particularly surprised to see Democrats reject the Republican proposals. We hoped that some of them would support them. But we weren't altogether surprised that they didn't. But every American should be surprised that Democrats didn't offer a single plan of their own. Not one. Not a single plan of their own. And that they didn't even support the plan offered by the President of their own party. But sadly, that's what passes for leadership in the Democrat-led Senate these days. Oppose everybody else, even including a President of your own party, and hope nobody notices you're not doing anything yourself. Most people would say it's the responsibility of the party in power to propose solutions, and they'd be right. The problems we face are simply too serious and too urgent to avoid any longer. And yet, Democrats continue to duck any responsibility for addressing them. We certainly saw that yesterday. I would imagine there are some democrats this morning who are having second thoughts about their party's performance yesterday. And if I'm right about that, I would invite them to stand up and to work with us. Put aside what's politically safe and do what's right. The problems we face are too great to put off for another day. It's time for all of us to come together, come together and to act."

Vitter, Corker, Alexander, Schumer

FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

May 17 2012 12:03 PM

Senator Vitter: (10:28 AM)
  • Spoke on the Stein and Powell nominations.
    • SUMMARY "The Fed in general is the primary regulator of the megabanks, and still I believe we do not have adequate focus and adequate regulation in that category. And I would only point to the recent disastrous announcement of JP Morgan Chase. Also, the Fed, with five affirmative votes, passes regulations under Dodd-Frank under its authority. That process is ongoing right now. Why these two nominations' significant in impacting the development of those Dodd-Frank regulations one way or the other? It's pretty simple. Those Dodd-Frank regulations coming out of the Fed need five affirmative votes. Right now there are five members of the board of governors. So they need to reach complete unanimity with regard to those regulations. When the negative impact, possible impact of those regulations is such a threat, I think that required unanimity is actually very healthy and a real protection. These two new members of the Fed changed the map, changed the requirement from needing five out of five to needing five out of seven. I think that will significantly push these regulations to the left, if you will, and require and, therefore, produce less consensus that those with economic viewpoints such as mine would like to see continue. And in the same vein, the Fed is certainly significant not only regulating the megabanks, but in instances like two years ago, bailing out the megabanks. And they have that authority and they have that role. Just as with Dodd-Frank regulations, that requires five affirmative votes of the Fed board. Again, right now before these two confirmations, that would mean five out of five. It would require unanimity. I think that's healthy actually with regard to such an extreme measure as huge taxpayer-funded bailouts as we've seen in the last three years. If these two new members of the board nominees are confirmed, that math again would change in the same way. The requirement would move from five out of five to five out of seven. It would shift the outcome to the left, if you will. It would make it much more likely that the Fed would act sooner to bail out megabanks with taxpayer funds. I have all of these concerns about these nominations, these two nominees are fine, decent men. They're smart. They're qualified in the professional sense. However, they clearly also support the current direction of Chairman Bernanke and the Fed. And for that reason, I cannot support the nominations, and I have real concerns."

Senator Corker: (10:55 AM)
  • Spoke on the Stein and Powell nominations.
    • SUMMARY "These two nominees are candidly do not represent the kind of more hawkish position that I would like to see the Federal Reserve take, where they're concerned about price stability over the long haul. At the same time, these gentlemen both are qualified. I don't think there's any question that someone would say that these two individuals are qualified. We do have fed presidents from around the country that typically, as far as monetary policy on the Federal Reserve Board, do act in more hawkish ways and probably more represent the way that I would view things, as they ought to be, and some of the accommodations that the Federal Reserve has continued to make. I hope we do not get in a situation where we end up having - you could actually call it QE4. Some people might call it QE3. I hope that does not happen and we will continue to press the Federal Reserve towards that end in any way that we can. I also know that there's going to be an election in November, and that whoever the next President is, obviously, as you would expect, I hope there is a change in occupancy at the White House this November, someone that will actually try to solve the problems that our nation has. But whoever the next President is, they will have the opportunity to appoint the next chairman of the Federal Reserve very soon and also the next vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve. So I guess what I would say in closing is I am going to support these nominees because they're qualified. I do hope that they will press the Chairman of the Federal Reserve to be more concerned about price stability, especially into the future but I do not want to vote no today because I think it sets a precedent of saying that look, these guys are qualified, I don't think there's any question about that and I want the next President which I hope, again, is someone different than we have today, I want them to have the opportunity themselves and I want my colleagues on the other side of the aisle that if they, in fact, if a change to occur, and if a President has the opportunity to appoint a new Federal Reserve Chairman and a new Vice Chairman, and he deems them qualified and this body deems them qualified, I hope we're going to have the opportunity to fill those positions."

Senator Alexander: (11:28 PM)
  • Spoke on the Stein and Powell nominations.
    • SUMMARY "I want to acknowledge the fact that Republican senators who feel strongly about this issue have always taken a step period and forgone in the words of our web site, some of their rights so we could move to a vote up or down, at 60 votes on each of the two nominees Sometimes in the Senate, even though we all have many rights, we have to forgo some of those rights in order to make the place work. That's been happening more lately. Republican senators in the minority have been forgoing occasionally some of our rights to slow down a bill coming to the floor or to insist on an amendment that's not relevant. The Majority leader has on some occasions forgone his right to block our amendments. We'd like for him to do that more often, that is, forgo that right. But it's been happening more lately ... Let's be honest about the fact. This is a more partisan country than it was even ten years ago and that partisanship is reflected in the United States Senate. There is by any definition a narrower range of views on the Republican side of the aisle and a narrower range of views on the Democratic side of the aisle. But we still have our job to do. Our job is not just to stand up and express our views. If our job was to only stand up and express our views, each one of us would always be right and we wouldn't get anything done. The second part of the job is to take our views, put them together and see if we can get a result. Some people say, well, you're interested in bipartisanship. I'm not so interested in bipartisanship. That interests me very little to tell you the truth. I'm interested in results and I learned at the Maryville City schools how to count and you I can count to 60 and it takes 60 votes to get anything done in this Senate, it's going to have to take some on that side and some on this side to get to 60 and I know the American people are expecting results. Results on the debt, results on tax reform, results on fixing no child left behind, results on finding a place to put used nuclear fuel, and I want to be a part of getting those results. We have too many problems to solve for us to think we've finished our job simply by announcing our positions, stating our principles, and sitting down. We need to take those principles and put them together and see whether they can mesh and get a result .. I'm here today to not only to say that I admire the nominees, I know one of them well, Jay Powell, who served under Secretary of the Treasury for the first President Bush in an administration which I served. He has a fine reputation, should be a fine member. But I want to acknowledge the fact that the President chose to break the stalemate by nominating Mr. Powell, a Republican, as well as a Democrat, and I want to acknowledge the fact that several of my Republican colleagues who have deep concerns about the actions of the Federal Reserve Board during this economic crisis over the last few years have forgone some of their rights to allow us to have an up-and-down vote at noon. That should give us a little bit of confidence to the American people that we in the Senate are perfectly able to assert our principles, to stand on our principles, not to give up on our principles, but then after we've made our speeches to sit down and come to a result that may not be perfect. It may not be ideal to each of our principles, but will be good for our country."

Senator Schumer: (11:56 AM)
  • Spoke on the Stein and Powell nominations.

May 17 2012 12:28 PM

Confirmed, 70-24:
Executive Calendar #646, Jeremy C. Stein, of Massachusetts, to be a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (60 votes required).
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

May 17 2012 12:48 PM

Confirmed, 74-21:
Executive Calendar #647, Jerome H. Powell, of Maryland, to be a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (60 votes required).
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Reid, Kyl, Blunt, McConnell, Menendez, Lieberman, Graham

FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

May 17 2012 1:26 PM

Senator Reid: (12:47 PM)
  • Cloture was filed on:
    1. Executive Calendar #552, Paul J. Watford, of California, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit; and
    2. Motion to Proceed to S. 3187, the FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill.
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • The Foreign Relations Committee be discharged from further consideration of H.R. 1905, the Iran Threat Reduction Act, the Senate proceed to its consideration, that the Reid-Johnson-Shelby substitute amendment which is at the desk, the text of Calendar #320, the Iran Sanctions bill, as recorded by the Banking Committee, be considered; that a Reid-Johnson-Shelby amendment which is at the desk be agreed to, the substitute amendment be agreed to, the bill as amend be read a third time and passed, the motion to reconsider be laid on the table, there be no intervening action or debate, any statements relating to this matter be placed in the record at the appropriate place as if read (Kyl objected).

Senator Kyl: (12:52 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I would just note that this is a matter - I appreciate the Majority leader's desire to bring this to conclusion. Unfortunately, the language that has just been presented to our side has not been widely shared. I haven't actually read it yet. It was brat over at 10:38 this morning. It was described to me. It would be weaker than President Obama's policy. Given fact that this is a matter on which Democrats and Republicans and the administration and the Senate have been in pretty close accord in dealing with the country of Iran and its nuclear ambitions, I would hope that we could you are that the language is agreed to by all. There seems to be an important piece missing and we certainly need the time to talk to folks to see why that's so, whether it could be put back in or if it can't, then to be able to discuss it. Because we certainly don't want something that's weaker than the administration's current policy. So I would hope that we could just have some time over the weekend and perhaps on Monday when enough of the members can be apprised what has actually been proposed here and see if our colleagues on the other side would be willing to make the accommodation that we may need to have made here."

Senator Blunt: (12:53 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I appreciate the leader's desire to get this done. I'd like to get it done, too. In fact the original Iran sanctions language was drafted in my office when I was in the other body. It is an issue I've been involved in a long time. This morning I've had a chance to look at it only within the last half-hour. I suppose I could have been here at 10:38 but even 10:38 for an issue like this - and my view also is that it doesn't - its not as strong as the president's policy. It's not as strong as any other resolution on this topic we've ever passed and the question that would be asked, why not? I'd like to think that's an oversight in drafting, that we can draft this out over the weekend and make this reflective of our national policy and the President's policy, but I'd be very concerned about moving to this language today and would hope that we could work with the leader to have language that we could bring up as early as Monday to pass and send the message to the world that the United States Senate supports the stated policy of our government in this critical issue. Nobody wants Iran to be able to move forward and attain nuclear capacity, and I'd be very concerned about moving forward on this language as it currently appears to me to be stated."

Senator Reid: (12:55 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "This is such an interesting conversation on the floor. I didn't have the papers. I don't blame nigh friend infrastructure Arizona for not having the I don't blame nigh friend from Missouri for only having a half-hour to look at this. This thing was given to the Republican leader yesterday in midday. All right? Now, the language they're objecting to was in the base bill. So unless they didn't read the base bill, we have a problem here. Now, they said they want to get it done. A strange way of showing they want to get it done. This has been a classic example of rope-a-dope. I try to be a patient man, and I have been very patient with my staff working with Senator Kirk's staff, the minority leader's staff. I try to be as patient as I can here. We have tried to get this done. Every day, oh, its just - oh, we need a little bit more. We have this agreement that was agreed to by all the parties. But of course now there's no agreement. I'm deeply disappointed my republican colleagues are preventing the senate from passing additional critical sanctions against Iran. If they want to embarrass the president, this is a strange way to do it. Two months ago I came to the Senate floor and said we needed to pass these sanctions immediately. The fastest way was to pass a bill sponsored by Senator Johnson and Shelby which passed out of the committee unanimously. Republicans then said no, as they're saying today. Republicans said they wanted ideas from Senator Kirk and Senator Paul and wished to move forward with a resolution on containment. We heard their objections and we have tried mightily to address them. With the goal of getting this bill passed and protecting all national security and that have our ally Israel, this deal includes a bipartisan managers' package sponsored by Senators Shelby and Johnson along with Senators Menendez, Kirk, Paul, and Johnson."

Senator McConnell: (1:00 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "My staff tells me we didn't receive the draft amendment until late last night, and this morning we were told it was final. Got the draft late last night. This morning we were told it was final. We have debates around here about a lot of things, but one of the things that we have typically not been unable to reach an agreement on is the Iran issue. I don't know what the problem is here. A little communication ought to be able to bring us together behind something we can speak to unanimously with the goal that we all have, I think in, this body, which is virtually everyone, which is to do everything we can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed country. There is no reason in the world why we can't resolve whatever differences we have and move forward. We certainly don't want to take a step backward, and there are members on my side of the aisle who are concerned that the way the measure is currently crafted could actually be a step in the wrong direction. It could have been a drafting error. But what is wrong with sitting down on a bipartisan basis, looking at the language, making sure we get it right and achieve the goal that I think virtually everyone in the room would like to achieve. Not think I think to get angry about. A proper response would be to work out our differences and to go forward. Timeliness is an issue. We need to do this quickly. I think we all agree to that on both sides of the aisle. So I would just say to my friend, I don't think there is anything to be outraged about. Why don't we get to work, work out the differences and pass the resolution."

Senator Reid: (1:02 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "My mind indicates that why is there any problem? We agree. Just like student loans we agree, except they won't let us get on the bill to legislate that bill. They think this Iran thing is a great bill to do but we can't do it. They say they need more communication. How about two months? How much more do you need? I'm not going to get into getting Tom Hawkins in trouble who works for Senator McConnell. But he was given it in the afternoon. Maybe he was busy. That doesn't matter. The point is we have tried to get something done and we can't get it done. I think it is too bad. I'm not outraged. I'm upset because I feel I've been used as a tool to try to adversely affect the President in some way. So I'm going to continue to keep an open mind on this, but I have to say that I'm terribly disappointed that it looks like we're going to arrive at may 23, and the Iranians - they have people around watching this, they're in town, they're laughing at us. Laughing at us. We can't even come up with a simple resolution. There's no force of law that really - maybe I shouldn't say that. It does have some. They're laughing at us. Here's the United States Senate quibbling over a sentence, a sentence that's been in this resolution since it was drafted."

Senator McConnell: (1:03 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "Most people in America work five days a week. This is 1:00 on a Thursday. 1:00 on a Thursday. What is the problem here? We have a broad bipartisan agreement, I think, about the approach we ought to take with regard to the Iran sanctions issue. The leaders on my side of the aisle are all standing here on the floor anxious to be involved in working out the language, and I would say to my friend, he said there's a sentence. Well a sentence can sometimes change the entire meaning of something. How this is crafted is not irrelevant. Rather than us standing out here on the floor pointing fingers at each oh it's only 1:00 on Thursday afternoon, why don't we sit down and work out the differences, pass something we can mutually agree to and try to make a difference for our country."

Senator Reid: (1:04 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "No matter how many times you say it the language we're told they're complaining about was in the initial bill. I appreciate my friend saying what is it? Most people work five days a week. I work more than five days a week. And I have been working the last two months trying to get this done, and every time we try to do it, the last few weeks it's Senator Kirk. Senator Kirk is ill, I know that, and so I gave him every benefit of the doubt. If his staff is working with him, let's try to do with Senator Kirk. Thinks it's a good idea. If we can bring it, we'll do t. Mr. President, we have been trying to get this done for a long time. It's not today at 1:00. I've wanted to move forward on this for a long time. But let's give it another day. Another day or so will take care of this. That isn't how it's worked."

Senator Menendez: (1:05 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I want to applaud you for asking to bring the legislation that passed unanimously out of the Banking Committee to the floor, because there's no one in this chamber who has been stronger on pursuing sanctions on Iran and trying to deter Iran from achieving nuclear weapons. And I support - I'm on Senator Lieberman's resolution. But time is of the essence. We must send to the Iranians a clear message that you cannot just forestall negotiations and have negotiations thinking that you are buying time. We must show them that not withstanding their intentions to buy time, there are consequences. The consequences of those sanctions on the central bank of Iran that are already moving forward and that the administration is fully seeking to enforce and the continued perfecting sanctions that the banking committee sent out unanimously that is incredibly important to send the Iranians a message. I look at what the legislation will do in part, it in essence closes loopholes that the Iranians have figured out. So it creates sanctions on the national Iranian oil company, on the national Iranian tanker company, making them agents of the Iranian revolutionary guard, and then imposes sanctions on financial institutions that would facilitate transactions with the entity. This is incredibly important. The Iranians are using this as a way to get around. It has sanctions on satellite companies that impose human rights sanctions on those companies that provide satellite services to the iranian regime but fail to prevent jamming by iron of transmissions by others of the same satellite service company. It has sanctions on financial messaging services. And even though swift, the largest of them, already pulled the plug on the Iranians, we don't want any other messaging service to fill in the void of what swift created. We want to make sure that noose is as tight as possible."

Senator Lieberman: (1:13 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "This is a classic moment, unfortunately, too typical where we all agree on the goal here. We want to pass another tier of sanctions against the Iranians to deter them from developing nuclear weapons. Our goal has been to get this done before the p-5 plus one, five permanent members of the security council, united nations, plus Germany meets again with Iran in Baghdad this time, which is next Tuesday. I understand the frustration of the majority leader. First, no one has been more consistent and steadfast and, I think, sincere in their effort than the majority leader to have this body make very clear to everyone in the world, particularly the Iranians, that we're not going to accept them becoming a nuclear power. And we're prepared to use economic sanctions and if necessary, certainly now the incredible threat of force. I also know the Majority leader has been pushed and pulled back and forth over the last several weeks to get to a point where we can get this done before May 23. So I understand his frustration at this moment. And I hear my Republican colleagues. I look at the language that they're concerned about. They're concerned that in listing the economic sanctions as one way that can be used to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons and not listening to the credible threat - the option of military force, as President Obama and others have said that somehow we're sending a message of weakness. Frankly, my original hope was that - the important thing is to get this passed before next Tuesday when all the parties come to Baghdad. Difference here is not small. It is nonexistent even. We all agree we ought to try the captions, we ought to make them sufficient. They ought not to be watered down and we all agree that we have to have the credible threat of force being used against the Iranian nuclear program if there's any real hope of the sanctions working. So I hope - I know the Majority leader has to leave the floor - but ideally, I wish we could agree on that sentence and get it done today and get it passed by consent. If we can't, I hope we can do it by Monday so we do send a message of unity, but the words, the procedures, the mood is standing in the waif us sending a unified message from the United States Senate to the rest of the world, and particularly to the Islamic Republic of Iran in Tehran, that we mean business. Right now we're not speaking with one voice. So i appeal to my colleagues, let's step back, take a breath. Can we do it this afternoon? I hope so. If we can't, let's get it done over the weekend and adopt it by Monday."

Senator Graham: (1:16 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "Why would Senator Graham be on the floor concerned about what we say, if I genuinely did not believe we're making a mistake? I don't want to embarrass the President. Mr. President, keep it up. I hope sanctions work. If you need to use military force to protect this nation, if sanctions fail, I will be your strongest advocate. But a couple of things have been said that need to be corrected managers' amendment is not what woos in the base bill or we wouldn't need a managers' amendment. Section 102 in the base bill is like three paragraphs. Section 102 here is like 10 pages. The bottom line for me is that this section was added in the managers' amendment that didn't exist in the base bill. Nothing in this act or the amendments made by this act shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization of the use of force against Iran or Syria. That wasn't in the base bill. Where the hell did that come from? This is not a declaration of war. But when you put this sentence in there and the new amendment doesn't say one thing about the use of force to control the Iranian behavior, the President's own words are all options on the table, the reason I'm exercised is that we're now producing a product that backs away from where the President has been regarding all options on the table and we end the new managers' package with a statement nothing here authorizes the use of force against Iran and Syria. It's all about sanctions in the bill and the only time we mention force is to say we won't do it or we won't authorize it. All I'm asking is what Senator Lieberman said. These sanctions are great. I hope they will change Iranian behavior. Think haven't yet, and I don't think they ever l but I'm willing to go down this road. All I'm asking is that when you include in the legislation ideas or concepts that will change Iranian behavior, that we put on the table all options are on the table in the bill because this will be the first piece of legislation where that is ominously omitted and to end the whole concept of what we're trying to do with a declarative statement, "this is not a declaration of war or the use of force against Iran or Syria" would make the Iranians believe that we're all about sanctions and that is it. I'm all for sanctions, but if you're listening in Tehran, I want more on the table to make you change your behavior."

Corker, Lieberman, Graham, McCain, Menendez

FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

May 17 2012 1:50 PM

Senator Corker: (1:21 PM)
  • Spoke on Iran.
    • SUMMARY "There is clause six in here that says "strongly supports united states policy to prevent the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capable." There are some wise people over at the State Department that could use that statement as a declaration of war. And I think they acknowledge that. I don't think the you are authorize of this resolution - I don't think the authors of this resolution want that to be so I would like to clarify that in the resolution - not in the sanctions bill - none of the language included in senate resolution 308 may be interpreted as congress article support for military operations in. Hope that should the administration decide-to-kinetic activities are the only avenue available - we all hope that doesn't happen but believe it can - that activities are the only avenue available to achieve our policy believes, they will come to congress for authorization. This is not intended as an authorization of war. I think these two cosponsors of the resolution agree and if the President want to go to war with Iran, it is his responsibility to come to congress. Is that the agreement, gentlemen?"

Senator Lieberman: (1:24 PM)
  • Spoke on Iran.
    • SUMMARY "I am glad that he raised the question because I know there is at least one other member of the Senate had a has similar concerns. The interpretation of my friend from Tennessee of our intention in this resolution is exactly right, which is that there is nothing in this resolution that is intended to authorization of the use of military force in Iran by the President or government military of the United States of America. This resolution's main focus is to essentially back up with a congressional statement the position that President Obama has articulated that no matter what happens containment of a nuclear Iran is not an acceptable policy from the point of view of the security of the United States. That our policy is to prevent the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. And that's exactly why clause six was put in there to say that we do not accept containment, that our policy is prevention of Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. But I want to be really clear that there's nothing in that language that senator graham or I and Senator Casey see as the authorization of the use of military force. If at any point circumstances in Iran require the judgment of the commander of the military action, I suspect particularly it lasts a period of time, that it would bring it within the purview of the war powers understanding, that the president would come to congress seeking authorization for the use of military force. This resolution supports the negotiations going on now between the P5-plus one Iran. It expresses our hope that succeed. It is very significant in that it essentially says that we ought not to dial down the economic sanctions against Iran just because they have come to the tabled and make accepted one part of what we want them to do. They have got to show that they made a commitment for a verifiable end of their nuclear weapons program before we lift the economic sanctions. That's the real goal. If they don't, they are going to face our policy of prevention, not containment. But this is not the authorization of the use of military force. I thank my friend from Tennessee for raising the question, giving us the opportunity to respond. And I hope it reassures anyone else in the senate who may have had that same concern."

Senator Graham: (1:27 PM)
  • Spoke on Iran.
    • SUMMARY "Mr. President, to Senator Corker, very good question. I will answer you directly, just like Senator Lieberman. The resolution is not designed to authorize the use of force where anybody in the state department or administration could say, we've got the green light to go into Iran from Congress. That's not what we're intending to echo a policy statement made by President Obama that the policy of the United States will be, if you're listening in Tehran, not to contain you, if you obtain nuclear capability. And I want to lodge an objection to my own resolution by my colleague, Rand Paul, who could not be here, so I'm going to object on his behalf. He wants to strike two provisions of the resolution. I don't think we can get there from here. But to Senator Corker, if you wanted to add a line into this resolution, this is not authorization to use force, I would gladly do that so that nobody could mistake it. But here's what Senator Paul suggested to me. What if they get - you know, we don't want to contain them. But what if we wake up one day and they explode a bomb out in the desert and they've already got it, what would we do then? Does that mean we have to go after their nuclear program or would we try to contain them? It means from my point of view, we should try to go after them. If the Iranians think they can get a nuclear weapon, then we're going to contain them, it doesn't work that way. They need to know that their regime's survival is at stake if they go down this road. If by some accident of our intelligence being wrong, if that could be even conceivable, we're not going to allow nuclear-capable Iran, period. Bu but to this resolution, it's an authorization of force. Senator Menendez, this last statement which wasn't in the base bill, I don't object to that. This is not a declaration of war, I don't know why somebody added Syria. We're not talking about Syria. People want to limit the United States' ability to defend itself re on the table for months if not years."

Senator McCain: (1:36 PM)
  • Spoke on Iran.
    • SUMMARY "This is not any change in American policy towards Iran, both Republican and Democrat. And that is that there is an existential threat to the state of Israel and other countries in the region, other Arab countries in the region that would be posed if the Iranians continued on their development of nuclear weapons. So this resolution is important statement on the part of the United States Senate and Congress, but to somehow say that this is a major change in policy of any kind, obviously, flies in the face of a record of this president and previous presidents as regards to this issue."

Senator Graham: (1:37 PM)
  • Spoke on Iran.
    • SUMMARY "I think the President would be wise to include the Congress. I'm a conservative, if he thinks - who thinks the War Powers Act is unconstitutional. I find it outside awed our party has railed against the War Powers Act until President Obama's in office. All of a sudden we're great champions. War Powers Act. But what I would say is it would be wise for the president to consult with the congress and for us to be united, and if you do believe in the war powers act, he has to come back in a period of time to get approval to continue, whatever the president needs to defend us against a nuclear-capable Iran, I think is best made by the commander in chief consulting with the Congress but you can't have 535 commander in chiefs. And just back to the - to the sanctions bill. The problem I have is that it's silent on a concept that we all agree on, and I don't want to create a document Tuesday before the negotiations Tuesday that doesn't include something beyond sanctions to change the Iranian behavior that we all want to avoid. And this says - it is the sense of the congress that the goal of compelling Iran to abandon the efforts to gain nuclear weapons capability, it goes through ten pages talking about sanctions and not once does it mention the possibility of military force, and that's what I want to add, that concept."

Senator Menendez: (1:39 PM)
  • Spoke on Iran.
    • SUMMARY "Economic sanctions that have proven in their first iteration to begin to have real consequences to the Iranians, devalued the by over 50%, creating challenges in their economy, closing the financial institutions they can deal with in the world, looking at their oil, having major discounts on their oil, finding it increasingly difficult to sell, and we have the opportunity to perfect that, to make it even more stronger, even more viable before they head into negotiations and think they can buy time. Now, it was silent when it came out of the banking committee, and yes, in the manager's amendment there is that provision because, in fact, in order to deal with one of the objections of our colleague on the other side of the aisle, Senator Paul, provisions saying that this was not a direct military authorization was included so that we could ultimately find the opportunity to pass it on the floor with unanimous consent, the same unanimous we had, the same as on the bank of Iran. That unanimity sends a powerful message to the Iranians. So it was in the process of accommodating that Senator Reid talked about over the last two months to try to get us to pint that we could pass legislation that in the process of accommodating that that language comes forward. The concern is ultimately taken care of by Senator Lieberman and senator Graham's resolution. That in fact the President has said as the commander in chief of the country that a nuclear-armed Iran is not an option, that containment of a nuclear powered Iran is not an option. This President has put all of the military assets that are necessary, that did not exist before in the Persian Gulf to both respond to any incident or to initiate any action that he thinks may be necessary, and so therefore those actions more than any words have made it very clear to the Iranians that that is a real possibility if the national interests and security of the united states is ultimately challenged. So I really think that insisting in the sanctions part of the legislation that this has the full force and effect of law and real consequences to the Iranians in their economy, which is the most significant way that we undermine their march towards nuclear weapons, is important to move. While you move independently the legislation that Senator Lieberman and senator graham have talked about, which is making the intentions or amplifying the intentions of the president crystal clear. But you should not should hostage the sanctions legislation in order to accomplish a goal that should be taken care of by the Lieberman-Graham resolution. And you shouldn't hold it hostage when in fact you have a powerful tool to exercise before the next round of negotiations. The Iranians must know that we are one of purpose and that oneness comes by passing the sanctions unanimously through this chamber, and achieving ultimately their effects. So that's the only point of disagreement with us. "

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

FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

May 17 2012 2:49 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."

Harkin, Inhofe, Franken, Whitehouse

FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

May 17 2012 4:23 PM

Senator Harkin: (3:03 PM)
  • Spoke on the FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "Here is some of the major provisions of the FDA Safety and Innovation Act which will be on the floor next week. It authorizes key user fee agreements to ensure timely approval of medical products. We streamline the device approval process while enhancing patient protections. We modernize FDA's global drug supply chain authority. We spur innovation and incentives for drug development for life-threatening conditions. The bill reauthorizes and improves incentives for pediatric trials. It helps prevent and mitigate drug shortages, drug shortages. And it increases FDA's accountable and very importantly, it's transparency. So, with this bipartisan bill I think that we have a bill, I hope, that we can all support and that we can move it forward expeditiously. Neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted. On every issue we sought consensus. And where we could not achieve consensus we did not allow our differences to deflect us from the critically important goal of producing a bill that everyone could support. As a result, this is a truly bipartisan bill Let me mention that the Congressional Budget Office scored the bill as fully paid for, estimates that the legislation would reduce the deficit by $363 million over the next ten years. So, again, not only are we enhancing patients' rights and protections, we're ensuring a better integrity for the drug supply chain. As we know, more than 80% of the products that go into our drugs manufactured in this country come from abroad. There have been many stories written, many television investigative stories included, on problems in that drug supply chain. Well, this bill enhances our ability to ensure the integrity of that drug supply chain from where they get the raw materials to where they put it together in this country. And so this bill, as I said, not only does it do good for our patients, we enhance FDA's authority to streamline and make sure that we bring drugs to market in more rapid order. And we save $363 million over ten years doing it."

Senator Inhofe: (3:30 PM)
  • Spoke on the "greeningâ€? of the military.
    • SUMMARY "After seeing how severe these cuts at DoD will be, how could anyone justify this so-called greening of the military? Consider, for example, the Navy's plan to sail its green fleet strike group powered by alternative fuels by 2016, the success of this green fleet is predicated upon biofuel. Much of it is algae-based, becoming practical and affordable. They're assuming that is going to happen, which I don't believe it will happen. In 2009 the Department of Navy paid $424 a gallon for 20,000 gallons of biodiesel made from algae, which would set a record for all-time cost of fuel. We're talking about that's per gallon. That was on the market for $4 a gallon. And it's $424 a gallon. In December 2011, the Navy purchased 45,000 gallons of biofuel at $12 million. That works out about $26 a gallon. This purchase is part of a larger deal in which the Navy has pledged taxpayer funds of $170 million as their share of a $510 million effort to construct or retrofit biofuel refineries in order to create a viable market. This biofuel will be mixed with conventional fuels by a 50-50 ratio to yield a blend that will cost roughly $15 a gallon. Roughly four times what we should have to be spending. Keep in mind this is the same time we're rejecting systems that were on the, in our plans and have been for a long period of time. As if the services are not already stressed by a serious budget cuts, the Secretary of Navy also directed the Navy and Marine Corps to produce or consume one gigawatt of new renewable energy to power naval installations across the country. Not everyone agrees that energy efficiency in the military is a worthy goal. In fact, I have been a strong supporter of the DoD's alternative energy solutions that are affordable and that make sense, including the initiatives of non-algae biofuels and natural gas. In fact, in my state of Oklahoma, we are working through the major universities and others to take that leadership role. Forcing our military to take money away from core programs in order to invest in unproven technologies as part of a failed cap-and-trade agenda is not really wrong. It's reckless. I'm not alone in saying this. My good friend Senator McCain agrees with me on this point. Last month Senator McCain criticized earmarks for alternative-energy research in the Defense Appropriations bill which cost the taxpayers $120 million. Senator McCain said "we're talking about cutting the Army by 100,000 people, the Marines by 80,000 people. And yet, we now have our Armed Services in the business of advanced alternative energy research. The role of the Armed Forces in the United States is not to engage in energy research. The job of energy research should be that of the Department of Energy." that's where it belongs and I agree with Senator McCain's statement. The CRS report is significant largely due to my concern about green spending in the military. I asked the CRS to figure out how much money, how much taxpayer dollars are actually going to, are being used to advance the green agenda. The amount came out in 2008, $68.4 billion has been used to advance a green agenda. To name a few options, we could add, if we didn't do that, we could add $12.1 billion to maintain DoD procurement at fiscal levels of 2012 and allow our military to continue to modernize its fleet of ships, its aircraft, ground vehicles. We can avoid a delay in the Ohio class ballistic missile submarine replacement program, and it goes on and on ... Instead of funding these priorities, the Department of Defense has been forced to spend valuable resources on research related to climate change and renewable energy."

Senator Franken: (3:48 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "The Democratic proposal would close a loophole that allows some of the wealthiest Americans to avoid paying taxes that they should owe to the federal government. Our fix would only apply to Americans making over $250,000 a year and would not create any new taxes on individuals or businesses. It would just close a loophole that allows high-income people to get out of paying taxes that everyone else in America is already expected to pay. This is what it is. You see, some people making a lot of money talk to their accountants and tax lawyers who have figured out that the law was written in such a way that you could use an S-corporation to get around paying some of your payroll taxes. Payroll taxes are your Social Security taxes and your Medicare taxes. Now, S- corporations are basically a pass-thru. Whatever profits your company makes, you just at the end of the year pass it to you and claim it as income, and you pay regular income taxes on it. It's income. But although the law was never intended to allow this, this is the loophole: you can pay yourself an artificially low amount of money sometime earlier in the year and a salary - say, $40,000 - and thus you'll pay enough to qualify for social security later when you retire. And you'll only pay FICA on this amount. But then you take - at the end of the year you take the rest of the business's profits as income. Remember, this is considered income. Okay? But you don't pay FICA taxes on the amount. That's the loophole. You still pay income tax on it because it's income. But because of an accident in the way the law is written - this was not intended - you avoid paying FICA taxes on the part you didn't initially call salary. All of the money pocketed, both the so-called salary and the profit at the end of the year, again, it's income. It's not capital gains. So you should be paying, like everybody else, Medicare taxes on all of it and Social Security taxes on income up to $110,000. Like everyone else. There's simply no excuse - no reason - for not paying taxes, paying your FICA taxes for Social Security and the rest and all your income for Medicare, except for an anomaly that was accidentally written into the code. This is exactly the type of loophole we should be closing."

Senator Whitehouse: (4:02 PM)
  • Spoke on the "greeningâ€? of the military.
    • SUMMARY "I actually just held a hearing in the Environment and Public Works Committee on the subject of our Defense Department's investment and interest in alternative technologies. We had witnesses from all of the services, and the testimony was pretty clear and diametrically opposed to the point of view just expressed by the Senator from Oklahoma. I can certainly appreciate the enthusiasm of my friend from Oklahoma for fossil fuels, since fossil fuels are a big home state industry in Oklahoma. But the testimony at the hearing was that the military was pursuing alternate fuels for reasons of its own. For reasons that related to protecting the troops, to being more efficient, and to protecting the strategic posture of the United States around the world. Perhaps the most striking testimony that they gave was that over 3,000 American soldiers gave their lives between 2003 and 2007 protecting our fuel convoys in Iraq. When you get in theater and you have a heavily fossil fuel base military presence, the price you pay for that is paid in the blood of soldiers who die protecting the fuel convoys. 3,000 young men and women between 2003 and 2007. So to the extent that you can do things like a company in Rhode Island, the Cooley company, does, and invest in tents that have their own solar capture built right into the fabric so that the cooling within the tent in the blazing heat of the Middle East can be done without having to truck that fuel in, without having to cost those soldiers their lives. That's not something that's being imposed on the military. That's something they very much want to accomplish as part of their core mission. In Newport, Rhode Island, the Naval War College has a facility. They are building wind turbines there. They are building wind turbines there because they have calculated over time they will save money by putting up those wind turbines compared to buying electricity. It's not an imposition from outside, it's not some green agenda coming from Washington or anyplace else. It's the Newport Naval Station saying, oh, we save money for our budget by doing this, and when we save that money, we can put it into these other uses like fighter aircraft and tanks and bullets and bandages and boots. The third piece of testimony had to do with the strategic posture of the country, which is something that the military is concerned with in a very deep and profound way. And they made a couple of points. The first was that the less dependent that the United States is on the international oil market, the fewer vital interests we have to risk shedding our blood and spending our treasure to protect. So it's in our national strategic interest to get off our fossil fuel dependency and get into a broader portfolio. The dangers of climate change which we are immersed in if we look at the obvious evidence in front of our faces create profound risks for social and civil unrest and violence in other parts of the world as things change, as estuaries flood, as relatively dry areas turn to desert and can no longer sustain life. As the great glaciers in the high mountains dissipate and change the flow patterns of rivers on which economic life for individuals depends. All of those things create conflict and strife, and the American military is aware that where there is conflict and strife abroad, very often they are called in. And they feel a responsibility to try to avoid that."

Isakson, Reid (The Senate Stands Adjourned)

FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

May 17 2012 4:55 PM

Senator Isakson: (4:33 PM)
  • Spoke on the NLRB.
    • SUMMARY "I introduced legislation not too long ago Senate Resolution # 1843. It was a reaction to the NLRB's decision in the specialty health care where a group of nurses asked for permission to unionize and organize within that unit. NLRB granted that and that became the first micro-union that existed in the United States of America. Today it's my understanding that NLRB approved the following: the second-floor shoe department at Bergdorf Goodman in New York and the fifth floor, they granted them the right to organize. This is a gigantic leap that differs from 75 years of settled labor law. Micro-unions with any retail establishment, medical establishment or any other type of business prevents cross training, causes discord and is a way to upset an organization that otherwise is not upset. Labor law in this country has been settled for a long time. Last year 70% of all the union calls in the United States of America passed on their vote. There is not a problem with unions being able to organize but there is a huge problem if we continue to tear down the fire walls that had the playing field level. Recently the court twice has thrown out rulings on the National Labor Relations Board, one on ambush elections and on the posting rule where employers were asked to post pro-organization posters within their break room and their companies. Both time the courts said NLRB reached too far. It is my hope the same thing would happen here again, but in the meantime I want to encourage the Senate to allow us to bring Senate Resolution #1843 to the floor and make this debate. In the free enterprise system, in the tedious economy we have today in this country, the last thing we need is to begin changing labor law and pitting organized labor against management in an adversarial type of way. This example at Bergdorf Goodman is an example of the National Labor Relations Board doing in regulation what we ought to be doing in legislation on the floor of the senate. My biggest concern is it seems like the administration's leadership in every department determined if we can circumvent and through regulation do what we can't do on the floor, we'll forget about the house, forget about the senate. It will be the executive and judicial branch that run the United States of America. That's not good for our country and that's wrong."

Senator Reid: (4:41 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Monday, May 21 --
    • The Senate will convene at 2:00 PM and Majority Leader Reid will be recognized. It is anticipated that the Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 3187, the FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill.
    • At 4:30 PM, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session and begin up to 1 hour of debate, equally divided, on Executive Calendar #552, Paul J. Watford, of California, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.
    • At 5:30 PM, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on:
      • The Motion to Invoke Cloture on Executive Calendar #552, Paul J. Watford, of California, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit; and
    • If Cloture is Not Invoked, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on:
      • The Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 3187, the FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill.
  • As a reminder, on Tuesday, May 8th, a Motion to Reconsider the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill, was entered.
The Senate stands adjourned until 2:00 PM Monday, May 21st.