Floor Updates

Sessions, Kerry, Leahy, Blumenthal, Cantwell

Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill (S. 1925)

Apr 19 2012

01:29 PM

Senator Sessions: (12:16 PM)
  • Spoke on Senator Conrad's "budget markup.â€?
    • SUMMARY "Now, the United States code requires that by April 1 the Budget Committee produce a budget, and by April 15 it is voted on the floor. The congressmen and senators who passed the Budget Act in 1974 that did that because we weren't having budgets moved promptly and on time, they laid out how it should be conducted, they didn't put down that you lose your pay if you don't produce a budget. They didn't put down you go to jail if you violate the statute. They just said that you should do it. So there is no penalty in the code. Senator Reid blocked the budget from coming to the floor three years ago. Then last year, despite the code requiring that we have a budget, Senator Reid and his democratic colleagues decided they didn't want to have a budget even in committee. They blocked it in committee. There was no budget in committee, as the law required, no budget brought to the floor except Senator McConnell forced a few votes but without the normal debate that you have on a budget process as it moves through the Senate. So I wondered what was going to happen this year. Well, what happened this year? Senator Conrad is not going to be running again, proud of his service on the Budget Committee, served on the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission, the gang of six he was involved in. He had some ideas. He wanted to do what the law said, I think. I think he was wanting to bring forth a budget. The last thing he did, he was going to comply with the law. At least that's what I thought. So he got started, we were prepared and on the eve of the hearing to mark up a budget, we were told, well, we were going to have not a normal markup but a markup in which we wouldn't vote. And you get to have opening statements, everybody could, and then you could - he would lay down the mark but nobody would vote for it or any other amendment or any other substitute mark. So I think that's a pretty sad thing . Senator Conrad said well, we may reconvene the committee after the election, but for sure we don't want to bring it up before the election. Now, I have got to tell you, in this town, the media, old hands around Washington, lobbyists, political gurus, they probably think that's clever. And they say it's clever sometimes on TV. Oh, Senator Reid didn't want to bring up a budget because his people would have to vote. That's good politics, they would say. Senator Reid said we're not going to bring up a budget last year because it would be foolish to bring up a budget, foolish for the United States of America to have a budget at a time when the debt is the greatest threat to our future of any other thing that's out there. It dwarfs any other danger our nation faces is our surging debt, and it's foolish to have a budget? No, he wasn't saying it's foolish to have a budget. He was foolish - he was basically saying for we Democrats to lay out a plan of how we're going to spend the nation's money because we're going to propose big tax increases in our plan if we put one out there, and they are not going to like it You can spin all this any way you want to but the Democratic majority in this Senate is incapable of uniting behind a plan that the American people would see as credible, that would change our dangerous debt path."

Senator Kerry: (12:41 PM)
  • Thanked Kathy Kerrigan for her service as Tax Counsel.
Senator Leahy: (12:49 PM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "The legislation I introduced with Senator Crapo is drawn for the needs of survivors of domestic and sexual violence. It's based on the recommendations we got from professionals who've worked so hard on this. It includes improvements suggested by law enforcement officers across the country. As we build on the progress we made in reducing domestic and sexual violence, we make vital improvements responding to remaining unmet needs to better serve the victims of violence. We incorporate the important work that Chairman Akaka and Senator Murkowski and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee have been doing to try to respond to the epidemic of domestic and sexual violence in the tribal communities. We increase the focus of effective response to sexual assault. Now, the incidence of domestic violence has fallen since VAWA was introduced by more than 50%. The progress has not yet translated to reducing sexual assault. The incidence of sexual assault remains high. While reporting rates and prosecution rates and conviction rates remain appallingly low. So we face that problem head-on. We ensure that funds are allocated to law enforcement and victims' service responses to sexual assault. It authorizes support for law enforcement sexual assault training and the reduction of the backlogs of untested rape kits We consolidate 13 programs into four to reduce duplication and bureaucratic barriers, cut the authorization level by more than $135 million a year, a decrease of 20% from the last reauthorization. We have significant accountability provisions, audit requirements, enforcement mechanism."

Senator Blumenthal: (1:01 PM)
  • Spoke on the Syrian governments crimes against humanity.
    • SUMMARY "In this body, we have not remained silent in the face of this humanitarian disaster. Approving on February 17, 2012, Senate Resolution 379 condemning violence by the government of Syria against the Syrian people. We have also passed Senate Resolution 391 which I cosponsored condemning violence by the government of Syria against journalists and expressing the sense of the senate on freedom of the press in Syria. Now the world should be inspired by the continuing courage and determination of Syrian protesters standing up and speaking up, despite the Syrian military gunning down and bombing down their homes, their businesses, their neighborhoods. I know our nation is at war and rightly weary of intervention abroad, but military intervention is not our only option, not the only means to summon support or step forward in solidarity with freedom fighters in Syria. Nor is military intervention alone sufficient to call for the world's conscience. Even without military action, we need not abdicate democratic rights and principles that underlie and underpin our own nation's constitutional ethos. One powerful and profound step that this body can take is to bear witness to the atrocities occurring in Syria. More than 9,000 people have died in Syria since these protesters began The Syrian thugs that detain and torture children must know that the United States bears witness to their crime. President Assad, we should say to him, the world is watching and witnessing as you use snipers to target civilians, indiscriminately shell homes and businesses, torture protesters who dare to speak of change. This resolution calls on President Obama to bear witness by using his existing authority. America can and must bear witness by taking and preserving evidence of actions and incidents in Syria that substitute crimes against humanitarian. America must bear witness by asking the president's newly created atrocities prevention board to consider crimes against humanitarian occurring in Syria. These atrocities epitomize the crimes that this prevention board must address. I commend President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton for their work at the United Nations and with our allies to assist the Syrian people, but we should make our own findings about what's occurred in Syria concerning crimes against humanitarian. We cannot avoid this obligation simply because the results may present difficult choices."

Senator Cantwell: (1:23 PM)
  • Marked the 51st Anniversary of the Seattle World's Fair.