Floor Updates

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jan 31 2012 10:00 AM

The Senate Convened.

Reid, McConnell

Opening Remarks

Jan 31 2012 10:23 AM

Senator Reid: (10:02 AM)
  • Today --
    • The Senate will proceed to a period of Morning Business until 11:30 AM, with Senators permitted to speak up to 10 minutes each. The time will be equally divided with the Majority controlling the first half and the Republican's controlling the second half.
    • At 11:30 AM, the Motion to Proceed to S. 2038, the STOCK Act, will be Agreed to and the Senate will begin consideration of the bill.
    • At 12:30 PM, the Senate will recess until 2:15 PM for the weekly caucus luncheons.
  • Paid tribute to Alan Frumin, Parliamentarian of the United States Senate.

Senator McConnell: (10:07 AM)
  • Paid tribute to Alan Frumin, Parliamentarian of the United States Senate.
  • Spoke on President Obama's failed and destructive economic policies.
    • SUMMARY "Spoke on President Obama's failed and destructive economic policies. President Obama isn't interested in this bill SUMMARY (STOCK Act) because it would address the nation's most pressing challenges. Of course it won't. He's interested because it allows him to change the subject. The more folks are talking about Congress, the less they're talking about the president's own dismal economic record. For a president who presided over a 43% increase in the national debt in just three years and the stain of the first-ever downgrade of America's credit rating, I can certainly understand why he'd want to change the subject. I can see why he'd rather be talking about Congress or the Super Bowl or the weather or anything other than his own failed economic policies. But the problems we face are too grave and too urgent and every day the President spends time trying to change the topic instead of changing the direction of the economy is another day he's failing the American people who elected him. Now, the President can pretend he just showed up. He can try to convince people, as he tried to do this past weekend that the economy is moving in the right direction, but he's not fooling anybody. Americans know that we're living in an economy that's been weighted down and held back by legislation he passed with the help of a big Democratic majority in each house of Congress. Americans know that we're living in the Obama economy now. We are living in the Obama economy right now and they're tired of a president who spends his time blaming others for an economy that he put in place. They want the President to lead."

Jan 31 2012 11:37 AM

Senator Durbin: (10:14 AM)
  • Paid tribute to Alan Frumin, Parliamentarian of the United States Senate.
  • Spoke on the U.S. economy.
    • SUMMARY "We know that there is uncertainty about the future. People are still waiting for some certainty when it comes to the value of real estate, the future of jobs and business. I understand that. But things are moving in the right direction. Last week we learned our economy grew at a rate of 2.8% in the last three months of 2011, strongest quarter of the year and it shows the chances of double-dip recession are receding. In 2011 the employment rate from 9% to 8.5%. The private sector added more jobs in 2011 than in any year since 2005. The American manufacturing sector is growing for the first time since the late 1990's. The Republicans don't want to credit this president, but they should. Three million new private-sector jobs. The weakness in our unemployment figures reflects the loss of public-sector jobs. Federal, state, and local employment has gone down as the revenues of government decreased. But this recovery is still fragile and those who come to the floor - and many have - and argue for austerity and budget deficit concentration aren't wrong, but their timing is wrong. This is the moment when we need to strengthen this economy and move it forward. I was on the Simpson-Bowles commission. Understand their deficit reduction did not begin until the first of 2013. We wanted to create enough time in that commission for the economy to recover and to come out of this recession and those who argue that we should abandon that now would sink us even more deeply into a recession instead of on the road to recovery. We need to continue to act. We need to find things which will strengthen our economy: investment in education and training for our workers, investment in research whether at the national institutes of health or in other agencies of government, so that we can move forward with innovation to create jobs in areas like green and clean energy and, third, the development of our infrastructure. It is absolutely indefensible this Congress has been unable to pay a highway bill, an infrastructure bill to rebuild America. A trip I took to China last year was a stark reminder that this nation, China, is determined to lead the world in the 21st century. They're building in China an infrastructure to do it while we nurse one that has been falling apart for decades. Can't Republicans and Democrats agree even in a presidential election year that we need a solid infrastructure bill that will rebuild American good-paying jobs right here in America, at home? It is time for us to have a balanced plan and to work together to achieve it. The President isn't trying to avoid the topic. The President addressed it head on in his State of the Union address. Now it's up to Congress to follow."

Senator Kerry: (10:29 AM)
  • Paid respect to Kevin Hagan White, four-term Mayor of Boston, who passed away on Friday, January 27.

Senator Paul: (10:59 AM)
  • Spoke on the constitutionality of President Obama's recent "recessâ€? appointments.
    • SUMMARY "I rise today in defense of the Constitution. I rise today to condemn the President for making appointments that are unconstitutional and illegal. Recently the President appointed members to the National Labor Relations Board and to the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. He did so by saying we were in recess. Well, this is news to us because those of us in the senate maintain that we were never in recess. This is something where the President has purposed a power never previously taken by a President and has decided unilaterally he surprised - I am surprised that no member of the majority party has stood up to tell the President so. I'm not surprised that the President has engaged in unconstitutional behavior. His health care law is brazenly unconstitutional. His war with Libya was unconstitutional. He got no congressional authority. So for a man who once gave lip service to the Constitution, the President now has become a president who is prone to lawlessness and prone to unconstitutional behavior. Our founders clearly intended that the President have the ability and the power to appoint advisors, but they also separated that power and gave power to the Senate to advise and consent his high-ranking officers. The President has done something that breaks with historical precedent of the it goes against the notion of checks and balances. In fact, the notion that underlies the whole idea of recess appointment is mostly an historic relic. Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist 67 that the power was - this is also done in a time when Congress would go out of session for months at a time to return to their farms or return to their businesses. Now Congress meets nearly year-round. So in other words recess appointments should only happen rarely, in extreme occurrences, if at all. There also should be agreement that we are in recess and there is no agreement that we were in recess."

Senator Heller: (11:04 AM)
  • Spoke in favor of the STOCK Act.
    • SUMMARY "I am a cosponsor of the STOCK Act because I believe confidential information acquired as a result of holding public office should not be used for private gain. The STOCK Act would prohibit members or employees of congress and the executive branch employees from profiting from nonpublic information obtained because of their status and requires greater oversight of the growing political intelligence industry. Members and employees should also be required to report the purchases, sales, and exchange of any stock, bond, or co commodity transaction greater than $1,000 every 30 days. As a strong supporter of transparency in Congress and the Federal government, I believe the STOCK Act is an important step for Congress to take and start earning back the trust and faith of the American people. Restoring that confidence will surely be a long journey because public servants have in too many cases not taken their job seriously. But through legislation like the STOCK Act, we send an important messages to the citizens of this nation that we understand our position requires us to uphold the highest ethical and moral standards and we are willing to undergo the scrutiny required to regain that trust. Members of Congress should follow the same rules as every other American. No American can trade on insider information without the risk of prosecution, and congresses should be held to the same standard. Congress should be held to the same standard. Elected officials should take every precaution to ensure that they do not use public information for personal gain. I hope both chambers will take the time to thoughtfully consider this legislation, send it to the President for his signature. My hope is that the American people will view passage of this legislation as an earnest, bipartisan effort to change the way Washington does business."

Senator Lee: (11:12 AM)
  • Spoke on the state of the U.S. economy.
    • SUMMARY "I rise today to talk about the state of the nation's economy. Upon taking office, President Obama encountered one of the worst recessions in this country's history. He faced tremendous challenges under any standard. to be sure, it would have been difficult for any President to make the kinds of reforms that would have had an immediate effect on an economy this bad, but at the end of the day, we see that although he was handed something that we can fairly characterize as an economic emergency, he, through his actions and through his policies, turned that emergency into a national tragedy. In his first two years, instead of focusing on creating jobs and creating a set of circumstances in which the private sector would bring jobs to fruition, President Obama and his substantial majorities in both houses of Congress used their tremendous advantage to push for greater government control over Americans' health care choices, more burdensome and debilitating regulations on businesses, and a failed stimulus package that led to record-setting annual deficits. Just look at America before President Obama took office and compare it to our economic situation now. For example, unemployment is up 9% from when President Obama took office. The price of gasoline is up 83% compared to when he took office. Long-term unemployment is up 107%. The median valve a single-family home in America is down 14% and the U.S. national debt is up 43%. He's added over $4 trillion to our national debt. Then last year President Obama created a standoff with Republicans by refusing to accept a reasonable compromise on spending reforms as a condition for raising the nation's debt ceiling. He presided over the down grading of America's rating. He's taken every opportunity to block the development of America's job resources. Perhaps most troubling, this President intentionally divided the country by waging vicious warfare campaigns, separating average hardworking Americans by income and then pitting them against one another. The President's record on this score has been repugnant and damaging. Instead of working with Congress to address our genuine economic challenges, the President has responded by starting his reelection campaign early."

Senator Collins: (11:17 AM)
  • Spoke on legislation ensuring the health of American travelers is not placed at possible risk as our airport security technology evolves.
    • SUMMARY "Our bill has two major components. First, it would require the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, in consultation with the National Science Foundation, to commission an independent study on the possible health effects of the x-ray radiation emitted by some of the scanning machines we see and pass through at our airports. And second, it would give airline passengers, especially those passengers in sensitive groups, such as pregnant women, clear notice of their ability to choose another screening option in lieu of exposure to ionizing radiation."

Reid, Brown-OH, Collins, Toomey

STOCK Act (S. 2038)

Jan 31 2012 11:56 AM

Senator Reid: (11:31 AM)
  • Motion to Proceed to S. 2038, the STOCK Act, is Agreed to and the Senate will begin consideration of the bill.
  • Offered substitute amendment #1470 to S. 2038, the STOCK Act.
  • On behalf of Senator Lieberman, called up amendment #1482.

Senator Brown-OH: (11:33 AM)
  • Called up amendment #1478 (change reporting requirement to 10 days).
  • Called up amendment #1481 (stock ownership).

Senator Collins: (11:34 AM)
  • Propounded a UC that the Senate proceed with the offering of amendments in alternating form between the Democratic side and the Republican side (without objection).

Senator Toomey: (11:35 AM)
  • Called up amendment #1472 (Earmark Elimination Act).

Brown-OH, Brown-MA, Thune

STOCK Act (S. 2038)

Jan 31 2012 12:23 PM

Senator Brown-OH: (11:36 AM)
  • Spoke on Brown-OH amendment #1478 (change reporting requirement to 10 days) and Brown-OH amendment #1481 (stock ownership).
    • SUMMARY "My amendments would also extend generally applicable laws to members of Congress. One amendment would apply financial trade disclosure rules to members in the same way that they apply to others, such as corporate insiders, financial advisors, SEC employees. It would narrow the window from disclosure - of disclosure from 30 days down to ten days. It would make member disclosure more consistent with rules that require timely disclosure of transactions by corporate directors, officers and large shareholders. We should do the same more strictly than we have in the past to do the same as they did. let's hold ourselves to the same standard of openness and shine the light of transparency on our financial trades, if we make them. The second amendment, Mr. President, would extend to Senators the same conflict of interest rules that currently apply to committee staff and executive branch officials. This amendment which is number 1481 is co-authored by Senator Merkley of Oregon. Members of the Senate and staff would be prohibited from owning or short selling individual stock in companies affected by their official duties. We would still be permitted to invest in broad-based funds or place our assets in blind trusts as permitted by the select armed services committee, the SAS rule and federal obligations. When asked about the fact that the SAS conflict of interest rules apply to staff and DoD appointees, President George w. Bush's Deputy Secretary of Defense Jordan England said I think Congress should live by the rules they impose on other people. It's pretty simple, Mr. President. We vote on a whole range of very important issues in this country. We should not only not benefit from our votes in investments that we might have, but it's important that the perception be that when we make decision we make them for the good of the country, not for our own financial interests. That's something the public finds pretty distasteful. These two amendments together will help fix that."

Senator Brown-MA: (11:51 AM)
  • Spoke in favor of the STOCK Act.
    • SUMMARY "Now that we're starting to get the intake of amendments I want to reiterate what we talked about yesterday about having relate vanity amendments filed. This is a very specific issue that we're addressing which is to deal with perceived insider trading and/or members of Congress having an unfair advantage in having obviously nonpublic information, confidential information that would ultimately be used for financial gain. As we're reviewing some of the amendments come in or reviewing the discussions of others that may be forthcoming, I want to remind the members that this is something that forces outside this building may not want to have happen. I feel very strongly there's something we need to do and use to re-establish the trust with the American citizens and members of Congress. That being said, as members are listening or their staffs proposing amendments that are forthcoming, I would hope that they would be relevant and relevant to the issue at hand and not get sidetracked into a discussion that will take us away from what we're trying to do here today."

Senator Thune: (11:52 AM)
  • Called up amendment #1477 (small business capital).
  • Spoke on Thune amendment #1477 (small business capital).
    • SUMMARY "This amendment would make it easier for small businesses to better access capital in order to create jobs. On November 3, 2011 the House of Representatives passed a companion measure introduced by Representative Kevin McCarthy on a near unanimous vote of 413-11. 175 democrats in the House supported this legislation. We have an opportunity here, Mr. President, to show the American people that we are serious about creating jobs and to pass this amendment here in the United States senate. This bill would remove a regulatory roadblock, I should say this amendment would remove a regulatory roadblock to make it easier for small businesses to access needed capital to expand and create jobs. Current SEC registration exemption rules severely hamper the ability of small businesses to raise capital by allowing them to raise capital only from investors with whom they have a pre-existing relationship. By modernizing this rule, small businesses and startups would be more easily to raise capital from accredited investors nationwide."

Jan 31 2012 12:41 PM

Senator McCain: (11:59 AM)
  • Called up McCain amendment #1471 (no bonuses for Fannie/Freddie senior executives).
  • Spoke on McCain amendment #1471 (no bonuses for Fannie/Freddie senior executives).
    • SUMMARY "This bipartisan amendment is simple. It would prohibit bonuses for senior executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Since they're placed in conservatorship in 2008 these government-sponsored entities have soaked the American taxpayer fear nearly $170 billion in bailouts. An additional $6 billion and Fannie Mae requested an additional $7.8 billion. That's $13.8 billion more coming out of the pockets of hard-working Americans, many of which are underwater on their mortgages So it seems to me that the first thing we ought to do as we - as I and others have recommended is get these GSE's on the track to going out of business as quickly as possible. Their track record is outrageous. The second thing, let's not give millions of dollars in bonuses to people that are betting against the homeowners of America."

Senator Leahy: (12:19 PM)
  • Called up Leahy/Cornyn amendment #1483.
  • Spoke on Leahy/Cornyn amendment #1483.
    • SUMMARY "The public corruption erodes the trust the American people have in those who are given the privilege - and it is a privilege - of public service. Too often loopholes in existing laws have meant the corrupt conduct can go unchecked and the stain of corruption spread to all of the government that victimizes every American by chipping away at the foundation of our democracy. The amendment, I believe, will help to restore confidence in government by rooting out criminal corruption. It includes a fixed - a fix to reverse a major step backward in the fight against crime and corruption. In skilling versus the United States, the Supreme Court sided with a former executive from Enron. It greatly narrowed the honor services fraud statute. A law that has actually been used for a decade in both Republican and Democratic Administrations as a crucial weapon to combat public corruption and south dealing. Unfortunately, whether intended or not, the court's decision lays corrupt conduct unchecked. Most notably the court's decision would leave open the opportunity for state and federal public officials to secretly act in their own financial self-interests rather than in the interests of the public. The amendment that Senator Cornyn and I have put together would close this gaping hole on our anticorruption laws. It includes several other provisions designed to tighten existing laws. It fixes a gratuity statute. To make clear that while the vast majority of public officials are honest, those who are not cannot be bought. it reaffirms the public officials may not accept anything worth more than $1,000, other than what is permitted by existing rules and regulations, given their official positions. It also appropriately clarifies the definition of what it means for a public official to form an official act under the bribery statute. It will increase sentences for serious corruption offenses. It will provide investigators and prosecutors more time to pursue these challenging and complex cases. It will amendment several key statutes to clarify the application of corruption cases to prevent corrupt public officials and their accomplices from evading prosecution based on legal ambiguities. If we're serious about addressing the kinds of egregious misconduct that we have seen in some of these high-profile corruption cases, then let's enact meaningful legislation. Let's give investigators and prosecutors the tools they need to enforce laws. It's one thing to have the law on the books. It's another thing to have the tools to enforce it. So I hope that this will be - this bipartisan amendment will be adopted."
The Senate stands in recess until 2:15 PM.

Jan 31 2012 3:20 PM

Senator Lieberman: (2:14 PM)
  • Spoke in favor of the STOCK Act.
    • SUMMARY "This underlying bill, as we said yesterday, responds to the concern about whether members of Congress and our staffs are covered by insider trading laws, that is, laws that prohibit a person from using nonpublic information for private profit. I feel most of us here feel we have always been covered by insider trading. There was some question raised about that at the end of last year. In fact, our committee held a hearing on two bills offered, one by Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York, the other by Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts on this question, and we had some broadly respected, credible experts on securities law that said, in fact, there might be a question about members of congress - whether members of congress and our staffs were covered by Securities and Exchange Commission law and regulation on insider trading for a reason that would only make sense to lawyers, and therefore it may not be sensible, but I will mention it anyway, which is that the law relating to insider trading is actually the result not of a specific statute prohibiting insider trading. It's the of
      regulations and enforcement actions by the SEC pursuant to antifraud provisions of the of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1984. In those regulations that have become the law of insider trading, a necessary element for prosecution for violating insider trading laws is the breach of a duty of trust of a fiduciary duty and the law professors told us at our hearing at the end of last year that, in fact, one might raise the question of whether members of congress had a duty of trust as defined in insider trading cases, which is more typically the duty of trust that a corporate executive, for instance, has to stockholders. now, I presume that most members of congress would say of course we have a duty of trust. We have a very high duty of trust to our country, to our constituents, but it is apparently in the contemplation of securities law perhaps not covered by the existing definitions, and so this bill makes clear that members of congress and our staffs are covered by insider trading laws."

Senator Collins: (2:21 PM)
  • Addressed concerns from colleagues regarding the STOCK Act.
    • SUMMARY "One of my colleagues, for example, has asked whether if a change in a member's or staff's allocation in the thrift savings program would be required to be reported under this bill. It would not. It is not required to be reported under the annual financial disclosure, and it is not required under this bill. A second of our colleagues has brought up a question of how would mutual funds be treated. Again, Mr. President, I would say that the treatment is not changed by this bill other than the time period. Under this bill as under the annual financial disclosure forms, qualified investment funds, those are the widely available mutual funds that are exempt from trades being disclosed, would be exempt under this bill as well. Now, as with our annual financial disclosures, you still list the fund and the amount of assets in categories for those funds, but you indicate that they are a qualified, exempt fund, and there is no requirement for trying to figure out what the trades are within that fund. I mentioned these two examples, Mr. President, because I feared there is some misinformation about the bill that is circulating. Now, there is a legitimate dispute over whether 30 days is too short a time, whether the 90-day period in the original bill is better, which is my own preference, but the fact is that the information that is being reported is not being changed. The issue is how often it is - it is reported. So the inquiries from my colleagues about the implications for the thrift savings plan allocations and for qualified exempt investment funds, widely held mutual funds, remains the same. They are reported the category of the investment, the amount is reported, but the individual trades within the fund are not reported."

Senator Lieberman: (2:25 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "First let me thank Senator Collins for making these points because there is concern about this particular part of the bill and there is a lot of misinformation around. I totally agree with your interpretation, which is that the reporting on the 30-day basis in the bill will not change what is reported and therefore transactions within thrift savings plan accounts and in qualified mutual funds will not have to be reported. Thank you for clarifying that."

Senator Coburn: (2:26 PM)
  • Spoke in opposition to the STOCK Act.
    • SUMMARY "As my colleagues are no doubt aware, I stand in opposition to this bill, not because I think we should have insider trading. As a physician, I am trained to fix the real problem and you're treating the symptoms. You know, several months ago, CBS did a series and showed some questionable but not necessarily insider trading stock trades which brought about, given our low level of confidence by the American public in this institution, has raised the question well, what about insider trading? You know, I honestly believe everyone in our body is never going to use insider trading to advantage themselves over the best interests of the country, but the real problem is the confidence in the Congress to do what is in the best long-term interest of the country, and the reason that the confidence isn't there doesn't have anything to do with insider trading, as we would normally think about it. It has to do with insider trading that we don't normally think about it, on how we sell a vote to get something else out of the next vote, how we trade a position, how we saw positions were bought on the health care bill, whether it be the cornhusker kickback or the Florida aid or whatever it was. The fact is the American people saw behavior of members of congress doing things that were politically expedient rather than what is in the long, best term interests of our country. That is what we ought to be addressing. How do we do that? The way we address that is bring to the floor bills that actually address the problems our country is having today. You know, every second of every day this year, our government will borrow $121,000. We'll spend $121,000, not borrow. We'll borrow $52,000 a second, every day. We're not addressing any of that in the Senate. We haven't all last year, we aren't this year. The real problem in front of our country is America doesn't see a Congress that's willing to address the real issues and make the hard choices. Hard choices are coming. We will make those choices ultimately. some of us won't be here, but the longer we delay in making those very difficult choices, like saving Medicare, like saving Social Security, like reforming the tax code to create, stimulate economic activity and create job opportunities for Americans, that's what they want us doing."
  • Called up Coburn amendment #1473 (prevent duplicative and overlapping government programs).
  • Spoke on Coburn amendment #1473 (prevent duplicative and overlapping government programs).
    • SUMMARY "This is a bipartisan amendment, Senator McCain, McCaskill and Senator Paul and myself. Multiple times we've asked for this but haven't gotten it. What this amendment says is every bill that comes before congress and to be considered by the Senate, we should determine whether it's duplicating something that's already happening in the federal government. It's common sense and all we're saying is an analysis by the CRS., congressional research service, to determine if the bill creates a new federal program, office, or initiative that would duplicate or overlap any existing federal program, any existing federal office or initiative with a similar mission, similar purpose, similar goal or activities along with a listing of all the overlapping or duplicative federal programs or offices or initiatives."
  • Called up Coburn amendment #1474 (bills posted online 72 hours prior to House/Senate votes).
  • Spoke on Coburn amendment #1474 (bills posted online 72 hours prior to House/Senate votes).
    • SUMMARY "This is another good-government amendment. What this says, and if we want to restore confidence, this is something we should do. It says before we vote on a bill, we're going to have at least 72 hours to read it. It's going to be available on line with a CBO score so when we cast a vote we actually know what we're casting a vote on, and we actually know how much it costs. It just says it has to be online for 72 hours, in other words, we get the privilege of reading the bills we're voting on and we also get the privilege of knowing the financial cost of the bills or at least an estimate of the financial cost that they will entail. This transparency is designed to make the Senate better. You want a bill - to build confidence with the American public? Then the way you build confidence is assure them that you knew exactly what you were doing when you cast a vote. Not guessing at what the consequences and the details of that legislation are."
  • Called up Coburn amendment #1476 (substitute amendment to Reid substitute amendment #1470).
  • Spoke on Coburn amendment #1476 (substitute amendment to Reid substitute amendment #1470).
    • SUMMARY "This amendment would provide a complete substitute for the STOCK Act. What it does, it requires members and staff to certify that they have not used inside information for private financial profit. In other words, they're going to make an affirmative statement under the law that they have not violated section 10-b of the Securities and Exchange Act. All members would be required to sign the following statement on annual financial disclosure forms. I hereby certify the financial transactions reflected in this disclosure form were not made on the basis of material nonpublic information. The STOCK Act does not create new restrictions for congress against insider trading. We all know that. Those restrictions are there. There's new restrictions. We don't change the restrictions at all. The SEC has stated that the members of Congress and staff are already subject to insider trading laws. They just need some clarity with that. They also would like to have timeliness with that. In fact, all Americans are subject to these laws including the senate, found primarily in section 10-b. This provision restricts anyone who trades stocks from using material nonpublic information to profit financially and Congress is no different than anybody else. The STOCK act was carefully written to apply simply reaffirm that Congress is not exempted. From these laws and I believe the Chairman stated that just a moment ago which we would include in this. As such, the bill brings new reforms to the table, nor does it create any real expectation that behavior will change. it just requires a paperwork filing."

Senator Lieberman: (2:25 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I'd like to take some time in that context to take a look at amendments 1473 and 1474 that the Senator from Oklahoma has introduced. The first to prevent the creation of duplicative and overlapping federal programs, and the second is this requirement that all legislation be placed on-line for 72 hours before voted on in the house and senate. Both of these on first response have some merit, in my opinion. Certainly the first one does have a lot of merit. I'm concerned. I know all - all of us, senator Collins, Senator Brown, Senator Gillibrand, have worked to bring the main parts of the bill out, are concerned that we do not go too far afield in amendments to the bill for fear that it will weight it down and will ultimately get stopped, at worst, that the majority leader will take the bill down from the floor because we're not coming to a point of completing our business because amendments keep coming in that are not relevant. But these are two serious amendments and i want to look at them and take a little time to respond. The third, amendment 1476, I guess is a good news/bad news reaction that I have. The good news is, this really is directly relevant to the substance of the bill. The bad news, if you will, is that I'm opposed to it because it really does - it's a totally different approach to what we're trying to do in the bill. I don't think it accomplishes what - what the intention of most members is on this bill because it would really replace the entire stock act with the requirement that members or anyone in the government who has to fill out a financial disclosure form certify that they, we, haven't traded on inside information. I don't think as a result that the amendment does anything to clarify the current ambiguity in the law. That is, the question we heard raised before our committee by these experts on securities law about whether members of congress are really covered. and if we don't clarify that - that we have a duty of trust to bring our behavior totally within existing securities law on - against insider trading, then I don't think the legislation will get us to where we need to go and we're still left with the kind of ambiguity that creates the kind of mistrust that I know none of us want to have. we've spoken at lank - at length on this question to the Securities and Exchange Commission staff and I must say that they share the concerns that I've just expressed and believe that if the legislation doesn't explicitly state that a duty of trust exists and is held by members of Congress, then the legislation will not do what is needed to get at the problem, which is whether an insider trading case brought before a court could be objected to by a member of congress who is the target of that suit."

Senator Coburn: (2:54 PM)
  • Propounded a UC that Coburn amendment #1476 be modified with a change to the instruction line (without objection).

Senator Brown-MA: (3:06 PM)
  • Spoke in favor of the STOCK Act.
    • SUMMARY "I originally asked for a 90-day reporting and it was changed out of committee to the 30-day period and obviously I'm happy to work with the Senator from Oklahoma and the Chairman and the Ranking member to determine if in fact there is some guidance necessary to ethics and, sure, we're happy to do it. This needs to not only be done in the proper manner but obviously implemented in a way that everybody can comply and not be caught, you know, short in that type of situation. So I'm looking forward in speaking to the Chairman that we will certainly take those valid points into consideration, any guidance we need to put in for the record, or letters of guidance to the ethics as to what our legislative intent it and I'm happy to do that and i look forward to continuing that dialogue."

Sanders, Paul, DeMint

STOCK Act (S. 2038)

Jan 31 2012 3:40 PM

Senator Sanders: (3:10 PM)
  • Spoke on Postal Service Reform.
    • SUMMARY "I wanted to say a word about an issue that I think has not gotten the kind of attention that it deserves here in Washington or even among the general public, and that is the situation regarding our postal service. Right now, for a number of reasons, the postal service is facing financial difficulties. Number one, it is no secret to any American that first-class mail is - has declined significantly because the American people are using e-mail and not first-class mail, and that decline in first-class mail has significantly impacted the revenue for the post office. Second of all, not widely known is the fact that the postal service every single year now because of legislation passed in 2006 is forced to come up with $5.5 billion every single year for future health retiree benefits. To the best of my knowledge and to the best of the knowledge of anybody who I have talked to, there is no agency of government forced to come up with anything near this kind of onerous requirement, nor is any corporation in the private sector doing that as well. So the issue that we face, Mr. President, is whether or not we are going to save the United States Postal Service, whether or not we're going to bring about reforms which make the Postal. Service strong and relevant to the 21st century and the digital age, or whether we do as the postmaster general has proposed: cut 40% of the workforce, shut down 3,700 post offices, most of them rural, end Saturday service, and lay off or cut back on the workforce of the Postal Service by 40%, over 200,000 American workers, many of them, by the way, veterans, who are now serving and working in the post office."

Senator Paul: (3:22 PM)
  • Called up Paul amendment #1484.
  • Called up Paul amendment #1485.
  • Called up Paul amendment #1487.
  • Spoke on Paul amendment #1484, #1485, and #1487.
    • SUMMARY "These amendments are recognizing what the authors of these bills have been discussing, that people should not profit off of their involvement in government. They shouldn't profit off of special relationships. They shouldn't profit off of special knowledge they gain in the function of serving the people. Currently there are some large donors that have been giving to this administration who have profited enormously and disproportionately. This will allow this bill to apply to the administration, and I don't believe people who are multimillionaires and billionaires should use the apparatus of government as was used in the loans that were given to Solyndra by someone who is profiting off of their relationship and ties to the President, profiting off of people who used to work for these companies now, who are now employed in the administration and using these connections to get taxpayer money to go to private individuals. This is wrong and this should stop. I think this bill is a great vehicle for discussing how people in government are abusing their roles in government to make more money at the expense of the taxpayer and I think it should end."

Senator DeMint: (3:23 PM)
  • Called up DeMint amendment #1488 (sense of Senate re: term limits).
  • Spoke on DeMint amendment #1488 (sense of Senate re: term limits).
    • SUMMARY SUMMARY "I think all of us know that in just about all areas of life power corrupts. And despite the good people here in the congress, the good intentions here, we found that the longer folks stay here in Washington, the more likely that their associations with interest groups and other temptations often cause bad behavior. What we're working on here with this STOCK Act is just treating the symptoms again, when what we need to do is work on root causes. If we bring a professional class of politicians to Washington - and we know incumbents always have the advantage in reelection. Elections are not the only way to limit terms. If we want good government, if we want representation of the people, then we need to have folks represented in the House and the Senate that are from the people and not from an elite class of politicians here in Washington. That's why for years many of us on both sides of the aisle have worked on this idea of term limits. My amendment is not a law. It does not set any specific term limits for the House or the Senate. It's a Sense of the Senate that says we should pass a constitutional amendment that allows the states to ratify some limit in the terms of office. We know that this would likely attract people who want to make representation a calling and not a career. And so, I would hope that as we look at this total bill, and certainly we don't want insider trading, congressmen and senators benefitting from their service in any personal way. But if we want to get at the root cause of any of the problems here, many of the problems between parties across the aisle, many of the false differences, we just need to limit the terms of people who come to Washington, bring in some fresh horses from all around the country, and I think we'll get better government, certainly less corruption."

Begich, Klobuchar, Toomey

STOCK Act (S. 2038)

Jan 31 2012 4:32 PM

Senator Begich: (3:27 PM)
  • Spoke in favor of the STOCK Act.
    • SUMMARY "We have a responsibility to do our jobs in an honest, open and transparent manner, and to demonstrate that we are here every day fighting for our residents, in my case, the residents of Alaska. All you need to do is look at congress' approval rating to figure out Americans don't think we have lived up to our end of the deal. This bill is an important step in the right direction to regaining public trust. However, just reminding our colleagues of laws that should have already known about is not enough. Transparency is a key element of moving forward and like I said, it's just common sense. That is why Senator Tester and I introduced a transparency amendment during the markup process as we sat in the committee listening to the testimony, the debate, we thought it was necessary to take even an additional step. Now, I'm pleased to say it was adopted and incorporate this bill by the full committee. The provision is simple. It requires that the annual financial disclosure form, the ones that I put on my web site filed by members of Congress and their staffs be posted online and accessible to the American public. When you think about what - where we are in this world, the 21st century with all this electronics and telecommunications, how we're not doing that today, you know, I went on the Alaska public options commission web site, which is the equivalent of what we're talking about today, and if you want to file yours in Alaska, your disclosure form as an Alaska state legislator or in my case as a former mayor when I was there, it's now all electronic. That's how it's filed. The current system that we have here is outdated, it's not transparent, it's not easily accessible to our folks back home. Under this new provision, members, candidates, staffs must file their financial disclosure forms electronically. They will use a new system created and maintained by the Secretary of the Senate, the Sergeant at Arms and the Clerk of the House of Representatives. The American public will be able to search, sort and download data contained in the financial disclosure forms. This information will be maintained online for six years after - during their time in service and after the member leaves office, six years after they leave."

Senator Klobuchar: (3:39 PM)
  • Spoke in favor of the STOCK Act.
    • SUMMARY "At a time when Americans are crying out for leaders who are willing to put public interest before political gain, the STOCK Act presents a rare opportunity for both parties to come together and pass a bill that not only makes for good policy but that is very simply the right thing to do. Over the last three years, we've worked to restore accountability and integrity to the major institutions in this country. We've worked to rein in recklessness on Wall Street. We've enforced greater accountability in federal budgets. And in 2007, we passed historic reforms to strengthen congressional ethics laws. But I'm standing here today because we can and must do more. Those of us who have the privilege of writing the rules have a responsibility to play by the rules, to not just talk the talk but to walk the walk. And the STOCK Act is about making sure that we're doing just that. This commonsense bill will strengthen our democracy by ensuring that no federal employee or member of Congress can profit from nonpublic information they've obtained through their position. First and foremost, the legislation clarifies and strengthens laws for regulating insider trading by members of Congress and their staff. It redefines the practice to clearly state that it is illegal to purchase assets based on knowledge gained through congressional work or service, ensuring members of congress are held to the same standards as the people that we represent. That seems only fair. now, some people have argued that there are already laws on the books for this, but the fact of the matter is that insider trading by members of congress and their staff is currently not prohibited by the securities exchange act or congressional rules. Furthermore, the status of trading on congressional information has never been explicitly outlawed. The resulting ambiguity has made it incredibly difficult to enforce these rules, which is almost certainly part of the reason not a single violation has ever been prosecuted. The STOCK Act would clear up the ambiguity and make these laws crystal clear."

Senator Toomey: (4:07 PM)
  • Spoke on the Toomey/McCaskill amendment #1472 (Earmark Elimination Act).
    • SUMMARY "Our amendment goes to a particular aspect of the integrity of this body and my concern is in the absence of our amendment, many of our colleagues will likely resume a very wasteful, nontransparent process which is prone to corruption itself and abuse and that's the process of earmarking. And so I want to speak a little bit about earmarks and what they are and why I think we ought to have a permanent legislative ban on the process. And let me be clear about the process. Earmarks exist precisely in order to circumvent any real scrutiny, transparency, or any process by which this body, our other body or the American people can evaluate the merits of a given project. There's no authorization to earmarks. There's no proper scrutiny. There's no competitive bidding among competing demands for resources. I think the process itself is indefensible and, in part, because the process is so badly flawed, we shouldn't be surprised that it leads to extraordinary waste. And we've seen it. Some of the earmarks have become famous because they're so wasteful and inappropriate Over the course of the last 15 years, the total value of taxpayer dollars spent this way has tripled and in the last congress, it reached $37 billion. You know, one of the other things that I think is particularly pernicious about earmarks is that over time, they became a currency that's used to buy votes because there's this unwritten law that if you ask for an earmark in a spending bill and you get it, you're obligated to vote for that bill, regardless of how bloated, inappropriate, wasteful or otherwise nonsensical that bill might be. That's a really terrible process. And, finally, the fact is, it's an opportunity for corruption. I'm not suggesting that there's corruption involved in most earmarks. I'm sure there's not. But we do know some examples of some of our colleagues who, in fact, did use earmarks quite inappropriately to enrich themselves. I know of one who's in jail right now because of that. And while that is certainly the very unusual exception, the fact is, a process like that is badly flawed and should be remedied. Now, as we all know, there is a current temporary moratorium in place on earmarks that has been adopted by both bodies and both parties, but that temporary moratorium expires this year. And so what our amendment does is it creates a permanent legislative ban on earmarks and it does that by creating a point of order. any Senator can come down to the senate floor and strike an earmark if one is inserted in a spending bill and it would take a two-thirds vote of the senate to override the effort to strike the earmark. It's important to note that this amendment does not strike the entire bill. It wouldn't invalidate the bill or otherwise disrupt the bill. It would surgically remove the earmark that would be offending this point of order."

McCaskill, Paul

STOCK Act (S. 2038)

Jan 31 2012 5:23 PM

Senator McCaskill: (4:13 PM)
  • Spoke on the Toomey/McCaskill amendment #1472 (Earmark Elimination Act)
    • SUMMARY "I want to thank Senator Toomey for joining with me, and he has been a great leader on this since he's arrived in the Senate in terms of fight against earmarks. I want to thank him for that. I also want to welcome him to our band of warriors in terms of fighting the earmark culture in Washington. It has been a fairly small number of senators since I arrived here in January of 2007. And I'll be honest, I had --the senator has spent some time in the House so he was more familiar with the process of earmarking than I was when I came to the Senate. I didn't really understand how it worked. I didn't really get it. And I don't think until you've gotten here and watched it from the inside that you truly appreciate how flawed this is in terms of a way of distributing public money. It really is going in the back room and sprinkling fairy dust. It really is a process that has more to do with who you are and who you know than merit. Now, have there been lots of projects that have been funded that have - I've supported? Of course. And did I make a decision, a difficult one, to not cherry-pick certain earmarks during my career to go after with amendments on the floor? Instead, I have tried from the day I got here and realized the process to reform the process, not just to say, oh, let's find this one earmark in this bill and gin up an amendment on it. But, rather, let's try to stop the process in its entirety, because it makes no sense, and that's what this amendment does. It actually will stop the process in its entirety. Now, why do we need it if we've a moratorium now? I mean, frankly, when I first saying I wanted to do with all earmarking, I was laughed at by members of this body directly and indirectly, and sometimes I felt like people were patting me on the head and saying, now go away. You have no chance to do this. I'm proud of the fact that we've got an moratorium now. But the truth is - that we've gotten a moratorium now. But the truth is, there are a lot of members of this body that want to go back to the old ways and I think it is very important that we do a permanent ban and I certainly thank the senator for helping with this and I think the amendment that we're working on together will make sure we don't have what happened in the House this year ... I want to touch on a point that is more than to underscore. I think you and I would agree without hesitation that there are any number of earmark projects that probably had very good merit. This is not to suggest that every earmark that's ever occurred had no merit. That's not what this is about. What we're criticizing here and what we're trying to change is a very, very badly flawed process that permits a great deal of projects that do have no merit to get funded that wouldn't otherwise be funded. Those that have merit - and goodness knows there are all kinds of projects - especially transportation projects - that ought to be funded but they ought to be funded in a transparent and honest way, subject to evaluation by an authorizing committee, subject to subject to competition so that those projects with the greatest merit and need would be funded first. We're trying to get away from this process where a an individual member of either this body or the other body, you know, in the dark of night can drop in some specific provision because he or she wanted it without it being subject to the proper scrutiny and evaluation that the taxpayer deserves."

Senator Paul: (5:10 PM)
  • Called up Paul amendment #1490 (service in Congress does not count toward retirement benefits if a former Member becomes a lobbyist or engages in lobbying activities).
  • Spoke on Paul amendment #1490 (service in Congress does not count toward retirement benefits if a former Member becomes a lobbyist or engages in lobbying activities).
    • SUMMARY "This amendment will address some of the situations that are concerning the American people. I think the ability to serve in the senate is a great honor. The ability to serve in the House of Representatives is a great honor. But I am somewhat sickened and somewhat saddened by people who use their office, who leave office and become lobbyists, who leave office and call themselves historians and leave office and peddle the friendships they have found here and the relationships to make money. I think it's hard to prevent people from being lobbyists but I think if people choose to leave the senate and leave the House of Representatives and become lobbyists, they should give up something. These people are making millions of dollars, lobbying Congress. I think maybe they should give up their pension. Maybe they should give up the health benefits subsidized by the taxpayer. If you're going to use your position as an ex-senator or ex-congressman to enrich yourself, maybe you should have to give up some of those perks you accumulated while in office. This amendment would say if you become a lobbyist, you have to give up your pension and you have to give up your health benefits and you need to pay for them yourselves. I think this is the least we can ask, and I think we've got a great deal of coverage now talking about people who are either lobbyists or not, whether they're historians. The bottom line is we have a lot of people peddling their influence for monetary gain and tot the taxpayers should be subsidizing that."

Collins, Lieberman, Durbin

STOCK Act (S. 2038)

Jan 31 2012 6:08 PM

Senator Collins: (5:24 PM)
  • Spoke in opposition to Paul amendment #1490 (service in Congress does not count toward retirement benefits if a former Member becomes a lobbyist or engages in lobbying activities).
    • SUMMARY "This is an amendment that would require former members of congress to forfeit their federal retirement benefits if they work as a lobbyist or engage in any lobbying activities, regardless, I might say, of whether they served 40 years in this body and I would also note that the language in this amendment is extraordinarily broad. For example, the definition of includes salaries, any payments for services not otherwise identified as salary, such as consulting fees, honoraria, and paid authorship. Think about that, madam President. As I read the language, the former member of Congress who writes a book would be in danger of forfeiting his or her pension. In other words, this is going to apply to authors. It mentions honoraria, so if a former member of Congress gives a speech and receives a thousand dollars for giving that speech, that former member is going to forfeit his or her pension? Earned pension? I don't even know that this would pass constitutional muster. But there's certainly a fairness issue, it seems to me."
  • Paid tribute to Alan Frumin, Parliamentarian of the United States Senate.

Senator Lieberman: (5:35 PM)
  • Paid tribute to Alan Frumin, Parliamentarian of the United States Senate.

Senator Durbin: (5:43 PM)
  • Spoke in opposition to Paul amendment #1490 (service in Congress does not count toward retirement benefits if a former Member becomes a lobbyist or engages in lobbying activities).
    • SUMMARY "It's an amendment which talks about members of Congress forfeiting their federal retirement benefits and the conditions under which they would forfeit their federal retirement benefits. Understand that these are members of Congress who have completed enough service in the congress to qualify for a pension. It's my understanding that is about six years. At a minimum of six years of service members of Congress receive some pension benefits. Certainly those benefits increase the longer they've served. This bill would disqualify them from pensions that they have been credited and earned as members of Congress under three first, should they decide after they have served in congress to serve as a registered lobbyist, that in and of itself is breathtaking, to think that if a person should decide after service in Congress to become a registered lobbyist with or without compensation, I might add, for perhaps a nonprofit organization, they would forfeit their federal pension. That in and of itself is inexplicable. It gets worse. This goes not to on to say a member of Congress retired forgets his pension if he accepts any kind of remuneration which could be a salary, a consulting fee, even an honorarium for giving a speech from any company or other private entity that employs a register lobbyist. Think about that for a second The third provision says a retired member of Congress would forfeit their pension if they accept that remuneration from any company or private entity that does business with the federal government. Is using the mail service doing business with the federal government? Would most businesses in America therefore be doing business with the federal government because they use the mail service? And if so, if I take compensation from that company, I forfeited my federal pension? What is the purpose of this? Other than to just basically harass members of Congress in their retirement? There are certainly situations where a person could forfeit their pension. Based on misconduct, for example, or convictions for crime. That's understandable. But this has gone way too far. I hope that members of the senate will read this amendment. It's very brief, two pages long and in reading it realize that this is something that should not be offered and if offered, should be defeated. It does nothing to make this a better place to serve, it raises serious questions about the rights of individuals who have served their nation in Congress, and what they're going to do after they leave the service of the United States. I urge my colleagues to defeat the amendment."

Stabenow, Reid, Lieberman

STOCK Act (S. 2038)

Jan 31 2012 6:57 PM

Senator Stabenow: (6:23 PM)
  • Spoke in favor of the STOCK Act.
    • SUMMARY "There should not be any question that members of Congress should be held accountable to the same laws that every other American are held to, and that's why in November, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Tester and I introduced the STOCK Act to prohibit members of Congress from engaging in insider trading. This bill is common sense. The American people deserve to know that their representatives in Congress are doing what's right for the country, not trying to strike it rich by trading on insider information. My constituents are certainly wondering why this isn't law already, and that's a good question. It certainly is a question I asked myself last year when there were news reports raising this issue and I was very pleased to join immediately with my colleagues to put forward this legislation to make it absolutely clear that insider trading by members of congress is a violation of the law."

Senator Reid: (6:31 PM)
  • Spoke on the status of the STOCK Act.
    • SUMMARY "We started this morning about 11:00. We had to invoke cloture on this bill, which was supposedly a bill that everyone wanted. It is too bad we had to invoke cloture on it, but we d we've been working all day to set up roll call votes. All day. We naught we had one few minutes ago, but a few Senators came over and said, there will not be a vote on that unless there are votes on mine, even though their amendments are not relevant or germane to the subject matter here. I appreciate Senator Lieberman, Susan Collins, they're fine legislators. They understand what this body is all about and how important this legislation is and how important they are as managers of this bill. So they're negotiating on several the amendments. But at some point, Mr. President, this becomes ridiculous. To have Senators come over here and say they're not going to allow a vote on an amendment unless they're guaranteed votes on nongermane, nonrelevant amendments and then people criticize me for not having an open amendment process? It becomes a circus. This isn't the United States Senate. That we've had or should have. At some point we need cooperation of members on both sides of the aisle to set votes and dispose of these amendments and move on to passage of the bill. I don't want to have to file cloture on this bill. If we - I just want to alerted. If we continue the way we're going, where people are saying, you can't have a vote on any amendment unless I'm guaranteed a vote on my nongermane, nonrelevant amendment, what am i supposed to do-- to protect this body? So, I would hope that tonight will bring some common sense to some senators. It's really - I won't say "embarrassing," but it is a little bit to have these two fine bipartisan - they've worked together for years on a bipartisan basis on some of the most sensitive issues this country has, protecting the homeland. We couldn't have two better people work on a bill that would create some bipartisanship. But this is unfortunate and unfair and not right, and I, as the leader, am not going to let this continue forever."

Senator Lieberman: (6:34 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I want to thank the Leader for his statement, thank him for his patience I tell you, to have gone through - I know people are critical of the way Senator Reid has been forced to operate here to try get anything done. But if you go through a day like we've gone through, you understand why he's had no choice. Senator Paul, the Senator from Kentucky, introduced an amendment. We had a very thoughtful negotiation with him about modifying the amendment. We came to a meeting of the minds and ready to go and then another member says, I won't consent to you voting on Senator Paul's modified amendment unless you promise me a vote. As Senator Reid well knows, in the early years I was here, this kind of behavior has sometimes happened just before the final vote on a bill or perhaps before a recess was about to be ... But to conduct one's self in this way before - at the very beginning of a debate on a bill about which there's bipartisan support - yesterday it was clear on the cloture motion, only two Senators voted against it - it is a real good government bill and to hold it up in this way is frustrating, and I quote the Majority Leader who is a straight talker, it is ridiculous. So at the end of a long day, we've got nothing to show for our labor. You know, I apologize to the members of the Senate, but it requires some reasonableness from our colleagues to proceed."

Jan 31 2012 7:08 PM

Senator Udall-CO: (6:57 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up â€"
  • Tomorrow --
    • The Senate will convene at 9:30 AM and proceed to a period of Morning Business for 1 hour, with Senators permitted to speak up to 10 minutes each. The time will be equally divided with the Republicans controlling the first half and the Majority controlling the second half.
    • Following Morning Business, the Senate will resume consideration of S. 2038, the STOCK Act.
The Senate stands adjourned until 9:30 AM, tomorrow.