Floor Updates

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21 2012 2:00 PM

The Senate Convened.

Reid

Opening Remarks

May 21 2012 2:19 PM

  • Today --
    • 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 2 ROLL CALL VOTES on:
      1. Executive Calendar #552, Paul J. Watford, of California, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit; and
      2. 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.

Senator Reid: (2:03 PM)
  • Spoke on GOP obstructionism.
    • SUMMARY "This week, the Senate must complete work on legislation that will enact crucial reforms that will prevent drug shortages and bring life-saving medicines to market more quickly. Senators Harkin and Enzi, a Democrat and Republican, work very hard to bring this legislation to the floor. I'm cautiously optimistic that spirit of bipartisanship will continue because democrats can't pass this legislation without the cooperation of our Republican colleagues. I certainly hope they will allow us to advance this bill this evening without additional delay caused by another filibuster. I would like senators from both parties to be free to offer relevant amendments to approve a worthy bill, but before we can get to work on this legislation, our Republican colleagues must stop their filibuster. Americans living with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses are watching closely to see whether the Senate is capable of quick action to ease these shortages of crucial medicines or whether we will once more be paralyzed by Republican obstructionism. Americans have seen that obstruction time and time again this congress. We are frustrated with the slow pace of the Senate's inaction to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, on Iran sanctions, on legislation to stop interest rates from doubling on federal student loans. Earlier this month, Republicans balked at an attempt to keep higher education affordable for seven million students, but Democrats haven't given up. I hope our Republican colleagues will come to their senses and allow us to prevent this crisis that affects seven million young men and women before it's too late. The Republican obstruction and fighting also stalled new sanctions on Iran. For two months the Democrats have worked to resolve Republican objections to this bipartisan measure which passed out of the banking committee unanimously. The stakes couldn't be higher. Sanctions are a key tool to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, threatening Israel and jeopardizing the United States national security. We cannot afford more delays to put stronger sanctions in place. I'm hoping my Republican colleagues will realize how important it is to advance these measures and prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Republicans have also needlessly blocked progress on reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. This helps law enforcement effectively combat and prosecute domestic crimes against women. Although both chambers have passed a version of this legislation, House Republicans have refused to go to conference with the Senate. Their excuse, the hype technical budget issue called a blue slip isn't much more than a fig leaf to blatant obstruction. The Republicans are looking for any chance to stall or kill this legislation, but the American women haven't been fooled. If Republicans really want to give police the tools they need to prosecute domestic abusers, they will drop this facade. If Republicans really care about protecting women and families, they will abandon this objection and join us in conference. There are differences between the House and Senate bills that could be worked out easily. American women and families are counting on action, but this Congress has been - it seems the Republicans are interested more in inaction than action. They are more interested in blocking worthy legislation for partisan gain than in working together."
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • Cloture was vitiated 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 confirmation on the nomination (without objection).

Mikulski, Enzi, Kyl, Landrieu

FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

May 21 2012 3:24 PM

Senator Mikulski: (2:28 PM)
  • Spoke on the FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "If we don't reauthorize many other bills, you know, they just keep on going. But with the PDUFA's and the other user fee legislation, they actually would be sunsetted if we do not pass them by October. Now, you might say, "well, we'll wait till October. You know, we'll deal with it with the cliff." Well, we can't do that because of the impact on both the people in the private sector and those in the public sector. Failure to reauthorize this in a timely manner would have catastrophic effects on FDA's ability to carry out its important role. If the user fee agreement expires, patients, public health and industry will suffer. This isn't Senator Barb speaking. This is what our leading business and public health advocates are telling us. If we don't reauthorize this legislation - the user - this legislation, the user fee is sunsetting. So that means, U.S. pharmaceutical industries, which supports 4 million jobs, would be adversely affected. They couldn't - there would be no FDA to really work with. In 2010, Maryland private life science companies supported over 25,000 jobs. These companies are true innovators. On the average, it takes a new medicine 10 to 15 years to develop. If we fail to reauthorize PDUFA, which ensures efficient, consistent and predictable regulatory environment, our private sector will lose out. We're going to lose out to Europe and we're going to lose out to China, some of which is stealing our patents as we speak. It's going to have a terrible consequence to patients. Tens of millions of Americans rely upon drugs and by biologics and medical devices. And we have we know we have legislation that works. We have a legislative framework that works. Now we need to get to work. If we don't pass this and reauthorize these major programs, what will happen is that we will need to send out riff notices. We won't do it. But dr. Mary Hamburg, the FDA CEO, the commissioner, will have to, starting in July and August, send out riff notices to 4,000 federal employees at FDA from the PhD. And the MD to the important lab techs and so on and others that keep FDA going. This is no fooling around, folks. This isn't, "let's wait for the cliff." We will come to the brink if we do not authorize this. And just think about the world of FDA if you think you're going to lose your job, that's what you're going to be preoccupied with. You're not going to be preoccupied moving the clinical - looking at these clinical trials and moving their advances forward. We've worked so hard on this legislation. The private sector has worked hard to find the sensible center."

Senator Enzi: (2:41 PM)
  • Spoke on the FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "This bill will reauthorize FDA's drug and medical device user fee programs, authorize new user fee programs for generic drugs and bio similar and make a small number of targeted bipartisan policy reforms at the same time. This legislation represents over a full year of work by the help committee. Fridays have been dedicated to coming up with solutions on this for over a year and it's paid off. It reflects the information we've learned from hundreds of meetings with patients, with advocates, with stakeholders, with outside experts and with the FDA more importantly, it reflects both the ideas and the feedback that we've gotten from every member of the HELP Committee and a lot of people outside of the HELP Committee. The HELP committee approved this bill by a voice vote on April 25 and reported the bill out of committee on May 7. The bill will make important changes to how FDA does business. Thanks to the efforts of Senators Burr and Coburn, the bill now includes new requirements that will make the FDA more accountable and transparent. A fundamental principle of effective management is that you have to be able to measure performance if you want to improve it. Senators Burr and Coburn's ideas will help provide those measurements, and as a result, Americans are going to get better access to safe, innovative medical devices and medicines. The bill will also modernize how FDA inspects foreign facilities to better account for the global nature of drug manufacturing. It will allow FDA to prioritize and target riskier overseas facilities which will help prevent the recurrence of the problems with drugs like Heperin. It will also improve how FDA regulates medical devices. For the past several years, FDA premarket review of medical devices has involve significant delay and unpredictability. This has threatened American manufacturing jobs which have started to migrate overseas because of the unfavorable regulatory environment here in the United States. It's also threatened patient access to new therapies. I believe this bill will reverse those trends."

Senator Kyl: (2:47 PM)
  • Spoke on the Obama economy.
    • SUMMARY "I'd like to talk about this afternoon is a bit about the President's economic record. I'm sure that Americans have noticed that the President barely mentioned this economic record when he's out on the campaign trail. And can I well understand why it's not a very impressive record. Especially if you are a taxpayer or a business owner. Our national debt creeps closer to $16 trillion each day. It's now more than $5 trillion more than it was when the President took office. It now adds to about $50,000 per person in the United States. And that is exclusive of interest payments. And by way of contrast, the median yearly household income - in other words, all the people of the house - is less than $50,000. It's $49,445. Unemployment recently dropped, but it did so for the simple reason that fewer people are searching for work and the President's signature legislative items - his stimulus bill, Obamacare, Dodd-Frank - have not only been unhelpful but have left a trail of crushing debt Kudlow notes "bizarrely, some 25 million people have vanished from the labor force, from unemployment, underemployment, or simply dropping out altogether. And half of U.S. households are now on some form of federal transfer payment assistance we're sapping the vitality of the economy." This is absolutely true. With half of the people in the country on some form of federal, with 25 million people having just vanished from the labor force, not even looking for work anymore, businesses sitting on the sidelines because they cannot calculate what kind of return on investment they could get because of the potential for this huge tax increase that's going to occur on January 1, it's no wonder that we can't move forward with an economic recovery. And so I would just say to President Obama that providing long-term tax rate certainty would go a long way toward establishing a sound economy in this country, on putting Americans back to work, and ironically on establishing a better record on which the president could run. A year and a half ago the president actually proposed, and Congress was, I think, very happy to go along with a continuation of the existing tax rates because, as he said at the time, not to do so would be very damaging to the economy. And I would just submit that it's equally damaging for that to happen at the end of this year. So I would ask the President, help give the American people and American businesses the certainty that they need to invest, to create the jobs, to advance our economic growth and create prosperity for our future."

Senator Landrieu: (3:02 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I wasn't here to hear all of my colleague's remarks, and I know that there's a lot of concern about the end of the year and what might happen to try to balance our budget and give a solid platform on which this economy could grow. One of the things that's holding us up is the Republicans' refusal to put any new revenues on the table. They have been adamant and wrong and hardheaded and stubborn, and they have been very obstructionist in this way by not being willing to put a penny of new revenue on the table. And as a result, we have come to a standstill, because the income coming in to the federal treasury to support this government is the lowest level since President Eisenhower was the president. So they can come to the floor all day long and criticize the President, criticize the Democrats, but Democrats just in the last two years have put over $2 trillion of cuts and reductions to some very important programs on the table. Some of us have even been willing to say yes, we know we have to reform Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, and been willing to speak those words, which are not easy. But yet, not one single Republican leader - not one - on either side of the house or the senate, not one has come to this floor in public, on this floor - I've heard them say it in private. I've been in meetings when they've said it. But not one has come to this floor to say "we're willing to put revenues on the table so that we can match some cuts and move this country forward." so I'm a little tired of hearing them beat up on either President Obama or the Democrats when they are more to blame for the situation that we're in. And the American people are getting tired of it too. Because they can understand that it really is not 100% President Obama's fault. In fact, when he took office, the titanic had already hit the iceberg because they had run right smack into it when the economic philosophies and policies that they had. The ship was already sinking. But all they want to do - and it's either Mitch McConnell or Jon Kyl one day or the senator from Arizona or the senator from Kentucky, they every day come to the floor and just talk about how it's the President's fault that there's no way forward, there's no sure path forward, when they are the ones that have put boulders in the way every day."
  • Spoke on a Small Business Resolution in honor of Small Business Week.

Wyden, Coats, Klobuchar, Harkin

FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

May 21 2012 4:36 PM

Senator Wyden: (3:25 PM)
  • Spoke on Cybersecurity legislation.
    • SUMMARY "The internet works not just because it is open to all but because it is founded on the principle of trust. Users trust that their browsers are visiting real web sites, not replicated ones. Internet commerce succeeds because people trust that their transactions are private and their financial information won't be shared with others. People trust the internet because they believe their service providers work for them, not for their advertisers, not for scammers and not for the government. Congress' effort to develop a comprehensive approach to Cybersecurity must not erode that trust. When Americans go online to consume digital services and goods, they must believe and know with some certainty that their privacy is adequately protected. The content that Americans consume must be at least as private as their library records, their video rentals and book purchases in the brick-and-mortar world. Our law enforcement and intelligence agencies should not be free to monitor and catalog the speech of Americans just because it's online. But the legislation passed by the other body, known as CISPA, would erode that trust. As an attempt to protect our networks from real cyber threats, CISPA is an example of what not to do. CISPA repeals important provisions of existing electronic surveillance law that have been on the books for years without instituting corresponding privacy, confidentiality and civil liberties safeguards. It creates uncertainty in place of trust. It erodes statutory and constitutional civil rights protections, and it creates a surveillance regime in place of a targeted, nimble Cybersecurity program that is needed to truly protect our nation. Now, unfortunately, S. 2105, the bill before the Senate, shares some of these defects. Currently, internet services and service providers have agreements with their customers that allow them to police and protect their networks and users rather than simply allowing these internet companies to share information on users who violate their contracts and pose a security threat, the House and Senate proposals regrettably authorize a broad-based information-sharing regime that can operate with impunity. This would allow the personal data of individual Americans to be shared across a multitude of bureaucratic military and law enforcement agencies, and this would take place regardless of the privacy agreements individual Americans have with their internet service providers. In fact, both the House and Senate bills subordinate all existing privacy rules and constitutional principles to the poorly defined interests of what's called Cybersecurity. These bills would allow law enforcement agencies to mine internet users' personal data for evidence of acts entirely unrelated to Cybersecurity. More than that, they would allow law enforcement to look for evidence of future crimes where law enforcement evaluates your internet activity for the potential that you might commit a crime. In establishing this massive new regime, these bills fail to create the necessary incentives for operators of critical networks to keep their networks secure."

Senator Coats: (3:37 PM)
  • Spoke on the FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "Included in the legislation that will be voted on is the five-year agreement known as the Medical Device User Fee Act that improves the regulatory path ... This is the medical device equivalent of the pharmaceutical user fee. The industry has worked with the FDA again in an agreement in which both sides contributes they will contribute user fees to go to the FDA that can be used to streamline, not compromising safety in anyway, but to streamline the regulatory process so the approvals can made. Why is this important? Well, not only getting these products into the markets so that they can be used to improve the health in a safe way of our American citizens but this is a dynamic export industry and America has been the leading of medical devices. I have heard from so many medical device manufacturers throughout Indiana that they're faced with a dilemma of having to potentially think about moving overseas simply because of the delays and the bureaucracy and the time lapse that exists for approval, where if they - they can manufacture these overseas and sell them overseas on a worldwide basis much more quickly. They don't want to do that. The United States is their home of origin. They want to produce here. But they have to compete with their competitors across the waters, and they are subjected to a lot less delay in implementing their approvals. And so to counter that, we simply want to use these medical device user fees in a way that will help the FDA review process and eliminate these unnecessary delays, and inconsistency of past practices. I do want to thank the FDA for paying significant attention to our device users by coming to Indiana, listening to them, a forum that I convened. There's been interaction back and forth, whether it's FDA traveling to Indiana or device manufacturers traveling here to Washington. And I'm pleased that within this bill is the result of all those negotiations and all those exchanges between the two. Let me just mention one last thing before closing here, and that is the medical device tax. That is not part of this bill, but it's part of the so-called Affordable Healthcare bill that was passed, a 2.3% tax to pay for some of that bill was imposed which will begin in 2013. That tax essentially was imposed on an industry that is paying its full share of taxes, contributing to the user fee, and yet was slapped on as a way I believe- to pay for the health care bill. That has enormous impact over a period of time on these device manufacturers. And jeopardizes manufacturers' ability to remain based here in the United States rather than looking overseas. There's a number of states in addition to Indiana, my colleague from Minnesota is waiting to speak, I don't know if it's on this, but her state also is a major manufacturer and innovator of medical devices but California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin will all suffer potential job losses if this medical device tax is imposed. We're not taking it up in this bill. It would obviously potentially derail the bill, the agreement has been made that it would be set aside. I know senator hatch is looking for - on our side is looking for an opportunity to bring that up at another vehicle, and I want to support that."

Senator Klobuchar: (3:49 PM)
  • Spoke on the FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "Across the country, hospitals, physicians, and pharmacists are confronting unprecedented shortage of these drugs. So those are the stories but here are the numbers. The number of drug shortages has more than tripled over the last six years, jumping from 61 drug products - remember, there's thousands and thousands of shortages but this is 61 different drug products in 2005 to more than 200 drug product shortages in 2011. A survey by the American Hospital Association found that virtually every hospital in the United States has experienced shortages of critical drugs in the past six months. More than 80% reported delays in patient treatment due to shortages. For some of these drugs, no substitute drugs are available. Or if they are, they're less effective and may involve greater risk of adverse side effects. The chance of medical errors also rises as providers are forced to use second or third-tier drugs that they're less familiar with using. A survey conducted by the American Hospital Association showed that nearly 100% of their hospitals experienced a shortage. 100%. Another survey conducted by premier health system showed that 89% of its hospitals and pharmacists experienced shortages that may have caused a medication safety issue or an error in patient care. It is clear that there are a large number of overlapping factors that have resulted in these unprecedented shortages. Experts cite a number of factors. Market consolidation, poor business incentives, manufacturing problems, production delays, unexpected increases in demand for the drug, inability to procure raw materials, and even the influence of a gray market. Literally, people are trying to make money off of this now. They hear there's a shortage, they buy up the supply and then sell it at a higher price. Financial decisions in the pharmaceutical industry are also a major factor. Many of these medications are in short supply because the companies have simply stopped production. They decided it didn't work for their profits to keep producing them. Mergers in the drug industry have fair narrowed the focus of product lines. As a result, some products are discontinued or production is moved to different sites, leading to delays. When drugs are made by only a few companies, a decision by any one drug company can have a large impact that. Would make sense. To help correct a poor market environment or to prevent gray market drugs from contaminating our medication supply chain, we must address the drug shortage problem at its root. Last year I introduced the Preserving Access to Lifesaving Medications Act with Senator Bob Casey. We also had the support of Senator Collins and others. This was a bipartisan bill that would require drug manufacturers to provide early notification to the FDA whenever there is a factor that may lead to a shortage ... In addition to the early notification requirement - again, the FDA is going to be able to look in our own country and if they can't find something in our own country, they can look at safe locations overseas. You simply can't keep these patients waiting for their treatment. So in addition to that, the bill directs the FDA to improve communications inside and outside its walls, requires more robust record keeping and reporting, and asks for studies on how pricing factors impact drug shortages. I believe that this bill represents a step forward in our ability to prevent these shortages."

Senator Harkin: (4:14 PM)
  • Spoke on the FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "This bill reauthorizes important FDA user fee agreements. It modernizes the FDA post medical product authority to help boost American innovation and ensure that patients have access to the therapies they need. The backbone is the agreement FDA negotiated with industry. We must remember a sizable part of FDA's budget comes from user fees the industry agrees to pay. It allows the FDA to hire the personnel, get the equipment they need, to more quickly review product applications. We need to reauthorize this bill to implement those agreements if we want to keep the FDA running at full steam, which is critical to preserving jobs at both the agency and in industry and to ensuring that FDA has the resources to get safe medical products to patients quickly. Now, again, these agreements affect all of us by helping to maintain and create jobs in our home states. For example, in my own state of Iowa, these agreements will support or bioscience sector which is growing, and it's increasing employment in our state. Implementation of these agreements will help foster job growth throughout our country. The bill before us authorize the prescription drug user fee agreement, which is known in the nomenclature as PDUFA. The medical device user fee agreement, known as MDUFA. And again, these will again continue and improve the agency's ability to speed market access to both drugs and medical devices while ensuring patient safety. And now we have a new part of the bill, the generic drug user fee agreement which is expected to slash review times to a third of its current level, from 30 months to 10 months which will improve the speed at which generic products are made available to patients. This will generate significant savings in our health care system. In the last decade alone, from 2001 to 2010, the use of generic drugs saved the U.S. health care system more than $931 billion. So this agreement will ensure that we continue to see those savings, that patients will have access to cheaper drugs when they need them. And it also means that obviously taxpayers will be saving money because many of these drugs come through both Medicaid and Medicare. And by having generic drugs available and more rapidly than they have been in the past means that taxpayers will also save significant amounts of money in the future. This bill also authorizes another new section, the biosimilars user fee agreement which will further spur innovation by shepherding the budding generic biologic industry as it matures. This secures the industry to do its job, to allow the medical products industry to survive very challenging economic times. But most importantly, to the patients who are the primary beneficiaries of this long-standing and valuable collaboration between FDA and industry If we don't, FDA will lose about 60% of its drug center budget and 20% of its device center budget. It will have to lay off nearly 2,000 employees which will grind the drug and device approval process to an unacceptably slow pace. Again, with devastating consequences for patients and for jobs and for industry and further innovations, both in drugs and devices. So we can't let that happen."

Senator Enzi: (4:28 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I thank the Chairman for his remarks and wish to be associated with them. This has been a very bipartisan process that has resulted in this bill coming to the floor, and I'm hoping that there will only be relevant amendments and that there will be few of those. Every amendment has a potential for disrupting the entire bill. This has been a very inclusive process that's led to this legislation. Over a year ago staff began to meet with stakeholders of the policy issues that are addressed in this S. 3187, and starting in the spring of 2011, a group of staff from Republican and Democratic offices on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee began a series of standing meetings. The group proceeded to meet every week for several months. They met with stakeholders and discussed policy solutions that each member thought would solve the problem. After much discussion of the benefits, costs and possible unintended consequences, members agreed to a list of policy concepts. It was not a consensus on a particular policy that it wasn't included. The Chairman mentioned the importance of consensus, and that's what we worked on in this ... This legislation is a model for how the process can and should work, no matter what the political environment. This went to committee, it was worked in committee, it's now at the floor, and I hope that my colleagues will join me in supporting this truly bipartisan provision that reduces the debt and ensures that the U.S. will maintain its leadership in the innovation of safe and effective biomedical products."

May 21 2012 5:33 PM

Senator Leahy: (4:31 PM)
  • Spoke on the Watford nomination.

Senator Coons: (4:58 PM)
  • Spoke on the FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "Most of us don't think about the FDA on a regular basis. In fact, we rarely think about where the medicines come from, the scientists who invented them, the investments required to develop them and the innovative, cutting edge treatments that are essential to keeping Americans healthy and safe or the regulators who make sure these pharmaceuticals, devices and treatments work as they're supposed to. But when the moment comes we face a health crisis and doctors prescribe a medications we want the pharmaceuticals available right away and to work as promised ... This reauthorization helps take care of innovation and safety so consumers and patients don't have to worry. It permanently authorizes programs that have helped make medicine safer for millions of children, upgrades the FDA's ... The current FDA authorization will expire in just a few short months and if we allow that to happen we put at risk access to new medications as well as America's ongoing global leadership in biomedical innovation. Failing to reauthorize would cost us thousands jobs and more pink slips is not what we need. If new user fee agreements are not authorized, the FDA must lay off nearly 2,000 employees. Because that doesn't happen overnight, layoff notices would start going out as early as July. We're moving forward with a timely reauthorization to save those jobs and ensure the FDAcontinues to make progress. This is an all too rare display of bipartisanship across both chambers. This legislation was unanimously approved by the House Committee and found strong bipartisan support in the HELP Committee here in the senate ably led by Chairman Harkin and Ranking member Enzi. There's a reason members of the House and Senate of both parties are in such strong support of this reauthorization. The American economy's always been driven by innovation and some of our most extraordinary innovations have come in the biomedical sector. In the years ahead, it's my faith, my hope that we will see more and more narrowly targeted drugs created specifically for certain kinds of patients or very specific diseases. And the life cycle of innovation - this is different than the last few decades when blockbuster medications were used and then developed a very wide scale across the country or world. But it is an equally feat of innovation that lies in the years ahead and one that's only possible because of amazing advances in technology, the mapping of the human genome and the disassociation across many labs and small start-up businesses of the machinery, the mechanics and the capabilities to innovate in the discovery and development of pharmaceuticals. We have to develop to continue to support and continue this sort of innovation in order to stay competitive."

Senator Feinstein: (5:06 PM)
  • Spoke on the Watford nomination.

Senator Grassley: (5:17 PM)
  • Spoke on the Watford nomination.
    • SUMMARY "I'm disappointed that the Majority leader has brought this nomination to the floor. The reason I say that is that there are at least ten nominations on the Executive Calendar that might fall into the category of consensus nominees. Six nominees on the calendar had significant opposition in the committee and clearly are not consensus nominees. Mr. Watford falls into this category of not being a consensus nominee. I will oppose Mr. Watford's nomination and ask my colleagues to oppose the nomination as well. My opposition to this nomination is based upon substantive concerns that I have regarding Mr. Watford's views on both immigration and the death penalty. Mr. Watford partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center in two cases to oppose Arizona's 2010 immigration bill. In the first case, friendly house, a class action lawsuit, Mr. Watford served as co-counsel for most of the plaintiffs, including the class action representative friendly house. The friendly house complaint attacked the Arizona law on a variety of grounds. He argued the law violates the supremacy clause, violates the equal protection clause by promoting racial profiling, that it violates the first amendment by killing the speech of non-English speakers, violates the fourth amendment, and it violates due process by inviting racial profiling and employing vague definitions of public offense and other statutory terms. In the second case, United States v. Arizona, Mr. Watford served as co-counsel on an amicus brief filed by friendly house plaintiffs. This brief covers most of the arguments raised in the friendly house complaint, but in addition, it asserts that Arizona "fails to account for the complexities and realities of federal immigration law." Because individuals lacking immigration registration documents are put at risk of constant and repeated criminal prosecution. I do not believe that an attorney should be held responsible for the legal positions he advocates on behalf of a client. Of course, there are some exceptions to that general rule. For instance, if the legal positions are far outside the mainstream of legal theory, are frivolous or indicate a level of incompetence. However in this case, Mr. Watford adopted those legal theories as his very own. On July 14, 2010, Mr. Watford gave a speech analyzing the constitutionality of the Arizona law. His speech concentrated on why Senate bill 1070 is unconstitutional, and he recapped many of the arguments he made in the friendly house case."

Senator Reid: (5:26 PM)
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 3187, the FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill, has been vitiated. At 2:15 PM tomorrow, the Motion to Proceed to S. 3187 will be Agreed to and the Senate will begin consideration of the bill. In addition, a Harkin-Enzi substitute amendment will be Agreed to (without objection).

May 21 2012 6:18 PM

Confirmed, 61-34:
Executive Calendar #552, Paul J. Watford, of California, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Reid, McCain, Graham, Johnson-SD, Menendez, Schumer, Brown-OH, Moran

FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

May 21 2012 6:52 PM

Senator Reid: (6:17 PM)
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • The Foreign Relations Committee be discharged from further consideration of H.R.1905, the Iran Threat Reduction Act, and the Senate proceed to its consideration. That the Johnson-Shelby substitute amendment which is at the desk, the Iran Sanctions and Human Rights Accountability Act as reported by the Banking Committee be considered the Johnson of South Dakota-Shelby amendment at the desk be Agreed to, the substitute amendment, as amended be Agreed to, the bill as amended be read a third time and the Senate proceed to a vote on passage of the bill as amended (without objection).
    • Agreed to by Voice Vote.

Senator McCain: (6:18 PM)
  • Spoke on Iran.
    • SUMMARY "I would like to thank both leaders for the hard work in getting this I believe one of the more important sense of the Senate resolutions achieved here as we know, it's very difficult. I think wording - words matter, and I think the fact that this amendment points out that - that this resolution points out that we need a comprehensive policy that includes economic sanctions, diplomacy and military planning capabilities and option that this objective is consistent with the one stated with President Barack Obama in the state of the union address where he said, "Let there be no doubt, America's determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal." I think this is an important resolution. I thank the Majority leader. I also point out that the final part of it says that, "Nothing in the act shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization of the use of force against Iran or Syria." First of all, it's not an authorization but second of all I wonder if we ought to include Canada, maybe Brazil and the couple other countries along with that since this resolution contemplates no way anything concerning Syria. But I guess we'd probably throw it in. I will not ask for unanimous consent to amend to add Canada, although the Canadians are very upset because they have no teams in the finals of the National Hockey League Stanley Cup championship series. So we'll guard against that in other ways."

Senator Graham: (6:20 PM)
  • Spoke on Iran.
    • SUMMARY "I thank the Majority leader, well done. I think we're going to be able to vote on a resolution that states the policy of our president very clearly. To Senator Menendez, great job on the sanctions. I hope you understand why I wanted to put in all options of the I hope sanctions will work but this is a clear statement by the United States Senate backing up our president that when it comes to Iran having a nuclear capability, there will be more than sanctions on the table. And the Iranians need to know that. I hope and pray we can end this peacefully for Israel's sake, for our sake, for the world's sake. But as we approach the beefing up the sanctions, and the Banking Committee, with Senator Menendez' leadership and Kirk and others, have done a great job, Shelby, if you're on the Banking Committee, you did a great job. I don't even know who's on it. The bottom line is I think the sanctions were really well drafted, will enhance the president's hand, so to speak. But we cannot leave this debate without making a very simple, unequivocal statement. The goal is to get it right. And if sanctions can lead to getting right, god bless. If the sanctions will not get us to where we want to go, everything's on the table, including the use of military force, because this country, Republican, Democrat, are not going to allow the Iranian regime to develop a nuclear capability that will put the world into darkness. So to everybody who negotiated this outcome, thank you very much."

Senator Reid: (6:23 PM)
  • Spoke on Iran.
    • SUMMARY "The most important thing for me is Iranians need to know that we mean business, particular willing with the next - technically with the next round of international negotiations taking place day after tomorrow. So I'm glad that we've resolved our differences and everyone realized how important it is to advance these measures and prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. They should be aware that there's still more that we did k do but I'm very happy that we were able to get this done."

Senator Johnson-SD: (6:25 PM)
  • Spoke on Iran.
    • SUMMARY "The bill the Senate adopted today passed the banking committee earlier this year by a unanimous bipartisan vote. Among its other provisions, this legislation will have important effects because it requires intensified targeting of Iran's revolutionary guard corps, sanctioning energy and uranium buying joint ventures with Iran and mandating sanctions for those who supply Iran with weapons and other technologies used to commit human rights abuses. Including those used to impose an electronic curtain of censorship on Iran's citizens. In addition, this legislation gives the president additional authority to sanction the Assad regime in Syria. Today, the Senate has shown that we can still act in a bipartisan way on important priorities. I want to thank every member for supporting passage of this bill today It is important that congress acts swiftly so that we can continue to put pressure on the Iranian regime to end its illicit and illegal nuclear activity. Again, I thank all my colleagues for their support of the Iran sanctions bill today."

Senator Menendez: (6:27 PM)
  • Spoke on Iran.
    • SUMMARY "First, let me thank the Majority leader for his doggedness in making sure that we could come to an agreement that sends a clear message to Iran before the P-5 plus one talks take place this week. His commitment made a difference. and let me thank the Chairman of the Banking Committee, Senator Johnson, who, in an agenda that is incredibly full with all the challenges that the Banking Committee is taking up, made sure that the whole effort on Iran sanctions had a priority in the Committee and worked to get the strong bipartisan unanimous vote that came out of the Committee that gives us the foundation to move forward today. So I want to thank both of them and I think, today the Senate sends a clear message to Iran as it prepares for the P-5 plus one talks in Baghdad and basically that message is provide a real and verifiable plan for completely dismantling your nuclear weapons program or Washington will further tighten the economic noose. The Obama administration is moving forward on full implement a of the Menendez-Kirk central bank sanctions and the U.S. Congress is ready with additional measures, such as sanctions on the national Iranian oil company and an Iranian energy joint venture that will further isolate the regime. I think Iran's Supreme Leader has a choice - either come to Baghdad with a real plan to terminate Iran's nuclear program or we'll make our own plan through sanctions and other necessary measures to ensure Iran fails to achieve its nuclear ambitions and lest anyone think that this is necessary, madam president, as negotiators head to Baghdad this week for the P-5 plus one talks, this bill is another tool that will demonstrate to Iran that the U.S. is not backing down and that buying time just thinking that you can go and talk without substantive, meaningful concessions here is just not going to work."

Senator Schumer: (6:34 PM)
  • Spoke on Iran.
    • SUMMARY "We've had a lot of divisions between democrats and republicans, but on the issue of making sure that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, we're united. The threat, the specter of an Iranian nuclear weapon can bring Democrats and Republicans together, will continue to, and I hope the Iranian government recognizes that. Because we are going to continue to tighten and tighten and tighten so that Iran realizes that just about all of the civilized world is against her obtaining a nuclear weapon. The Iranians can't talk about it why shouldn't they have it when everybody else has it when the kind of saber rattling and verbiage that comes out of that regime to what they might do to Israel or other countries shows that they're really not a mature enough nation to be possessing this god-awful power. And the point I want to make here tonight is this is another step forward. We are tightening further the sanctions. We will continue to tighten them so that the answer for Iran, if they persist with moving forward on producing a nuclear weapon, is economic chaos for the Iranian leadership and unfortunately for many of the Iranian people. Let Iran beware. This is just another step. We will not stop. We are united as two parties. We are united as a nation and we are united as a family of nations to make sure that we do everything we can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. That would represent a disaster to the nations of the world and one we cannot tolerate."

Senator Brown-OH: (6:36 PM)
  • Spoke on Iran.
    • SUMMARY "I want to reiterate and underscore the words of my colleague, the senior senator from New York, about how important the Iran, tightening Iran's sanctions are to Israel, to the United States of America, and to the stability, really the stability of the world. Allowing nuclear weapons in the hands of a country that's as unstable as Iran and hostile to so many of our values and our - I mean most people in the world, not just the United States. Not just Israel. Not just the Democratic world. How problematic this is for the entire world. That's why I'm pleased with the work that Chairman Johnson and Ranking member Shelby, Chairman Tim Johnson, Ranking member Shelby, Senator Menendez, Senator Graham and others, that this continues to send the important message to Iran that we will continue, we will increasingly tighten sanctions. Threatening to Iran the stability of its economy and helping Iran to understand that this will create difficulties for that regime and having any support of its people with economic consequences. It could happen as we tighten sanctions he. As Senator McCain said, we know we take nothing off the table. We want a diplomatic solution with these sanctions. We want Iran to recognize it's in their interest not to have nuclear weapons. That's the best thing for all of us. Again, taking nothing off the table. I thank my colleagues for their work on this."
  • Spoke on the elevated levels of lead.
    • SUMMARY "We in this country have a rich manufacturing heritage, none richer than Ohio. We're the third leading manufacturing state in the country, trailing only in production, trailing only states two and three times our size: Texas and California. We built an infrastructure in this country that defines the landscape in the modern world. In Ohio, plants and places like middle town and Youngstown, Ohioans made steel beams that built our skyscrapers, railroads and bridges. And at smelter sites, Ohio workers process metal to shore up the economic foundation of 20th century America. But it's revealed a disturbing series of recent reports in USA Today. Former lead smelter plants have left behind a terrible legacy. Elevated lead levels in the soil and in the air and surrounding playgrounds and schools, especially in poor areas of our cities, many of these potentially contaminated places are in under-resourced aging areas where homes are not necessarily in good shape, where neighborhoods are plagued with many other problems too A national newspaper report found lead levels and soil near this smelter plant in Cleveland exceed 3,400 parts per million. The of lead level is only 19 parts per million We know at that lead isn't broken down when it lingers in the ground t can earned our groundwater. Children can absorb it in the baseball die For too long regulators have overlooked toxic sites in our communities. That's why I'm urging the federal government to take action. I called on the Senate Environment Works Committee to hold a hearing on what we can do to address this. We need to prioritize testing near schools and playgrounds in those neighborhoods close to abandoned sites. I am asking the EPA to take immediate action to review sites that have not yet been tested After the results come in, we need to take action to clean up residual ... Last week the CBC lowered by half the recommended allowable limit for lead exposure to young children so we must ramp up our efforts to address the problem. This problem link in our soil. We need to address it now. Too many young lives are depending on our action. Too many children in too many urban school districts suffer from behavior problems, suffer from intelligence proficiency full, because they've had far too high content in their blood of lead levels in that - and that restricts learning, causes behavioral problems. It is a serious, serious public health problem. It's the paint on our - on the walls in these old homes and it is the lead, it is the lead and the paint on the walls, it is the lead in the soil in their homes and neighborhoods and playgrounds. It really does call for real action from state and federal governments and local communities."

Senator Moran: (6:42 PM)
  • Paid tribute to Bob Bethell, a 30-year member of the Kansas House of Representatives, who died in a car accident late last night.

May 21 2012 6:58 PM

Senator Brown-OH: (6:50 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Tomorrow --
    • The Senate will convene at 10:00 AM and Majority Leader Reid will be recognized. It is anticipated the Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 3187, the FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill. The first hour will be equally divided, with the Majority controlling the first 30 minutes and the Republicans controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • At 12:30 PM, the Senate will recess until 2:15 for the weekly caucus lunches.
    • At 2:15 PM, the Motion to Proceed to S. 3187, the FDA User Fee Reauthorization bill, will be Agreed to, the Harkin-Enzi substitute amendment will be Agreed to, and the Senate will begin consideration of the bill. Thereafter, Majority Leader Reid will be recognized.
  • 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 10:00 AM Tuesday, May 22nd.