Whitehouse, Wyden, Grassley, Vitter, Heller

Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill (S. 1925)

Senator Whitehouse: (9:57 AM)
  • Spoke on Cybersecurity legislation.
    • SUMMARY "I'm here this morning to express four points that I believe we must keep in mind as we take up Cybersecurity legislation. The first is that Cybersecurity legislation should improve the public's limited awareness of current Cybersecurity threats and the harm that those threats present to our national security, economy, and privacy. The public for years has been kept in the dark and that is wrong. The corporate sector systemically underreports cyber attacks for fear of scaring customers, for fear of encouraging competitors or for triggering regulatory review. I was pleased that the Securities and Exchange Commission after prompting by Senator Rockefeller and myself and others issued guidance for when registered companies must disclose breach information. The government itself systemically underreports cyber attacks because it over-classes information about cyber attacks on government systems The legislation we pass must reveal the threat of the cyber threat to the American public. The act includes provisions from the Cybersecurity Public Awareness Act, Senate S. 813 which I introduced with Senator Kyl. These provisions will at least begin to improve the public's awareness of the current cyber threat environment we face. Second, we must recognize that inadequate awareness and inadequate protection against cyber risks is endemic among our largest corporations The third point I want to make this morning and perhaps the most important, is that this legislation on Cybersecurity will have failed if it does not ensure that our American critical infrastructure has adequate Cybersecurity. There must be a process for identifying critical infrastructure, establishing appropriate security standards, and ensuring that critical information companies meet the standard. If an attack comes, we must be sure that America's most capable defenses and countermeasures are prepositioned to defend critical American infrastructure. We simply cannot wait until an attack is underway on basic needs and services we depend on like our electric grid, our communications networks, and the servers that process our financial transactions ... The last point I want to make today is that Congress in this bill should consider the appropriate structure and resources for the Cybersecurity and cyber crime mission of the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and law enforcement components of the Department of Homeland Security. We do not do enough to investigate, prosecute, and take other appropriate legal action against cyber crime, cyber espionage and other cyber threats."

Senator Wyden: (10:14 AM)
  • Spoke on the Wyden-Feinstein amendment (closure of postal facilities moratorium) to the Postal Reform bill.
    • SUMMARY "This amendment protects those millions of Americans from any kind of postal delay that could disrupt their ability to ensure that their vote is counted. Now, my home state of Oregon has a system in which all ballots are cast by mail. In Oregon, if the ballots are not delivered by mail to the county election offices by the deadline on election night, they are not counted. So it's essential to the conduct of fair elections in my home state that delivery of ballots cast by mail not be delayed. To prevent the potential threat to our elections from delayed mail delivery, the Wyden-Feinstein amendment would place a moratorium on the closure of postal facilities until November 13, 2012, in states that vote by mail or allow any voter to vote no excuse absentee. It would also require the Postal Service to notify election officials of closings and consolidations and require that the Postal Service study the effect of closing or consolidating a mail processing facility on the ability of the affected community to vote by mail. Now, my home state, consistently has high voter turnout. Vote by mail has been successful and it is popular. In our state, more than 85% of registered voters participated in the 2008 elections. But this kind of approach to voting, is popular not just in my home state of Oregon. In the 2008 election, 89% of ballots in Washington state were cast by mail, as well as 64% of those in Colorado, over 50% in Arizona, and it was nearly that high a percentage in California. In my home state, the Postal Service is a place where people send and receive packages, mail-order prescriptions, and it's a place that also community residents come together. And so it seems to me that if we're going to close and consolidate, you know, postal facilities, not only will it harm the delivery of ballots and campaign-related mail to voters in return of the ballots to election officials, but it also will stop much of what is vital to rural America and that's the opportunity to come and gather in one place."

Senator Grassley: (10:25 AM)
  • Spoke on energy and gas prices.
    • SUMMARY "I'm here today to point out that ten years ago this very day, this Senate decided not to drill for more oil in the United States where we know oil exists because the argument at that time was used that why drill because it's going to take many, many years to get it on-line. The Senate bought the argument that we shouldn't drill because it's going to take too long. Today, we think about more opportunities to drill in the United States for oil. I want to point out that the very same arguments that were used ten years ago are being used today, because if we drill today, we might not get some of that oil on-line for several years down the road. Well, we want to be thinking about the future, as we should have thought about the future in 2002, ten years ago, when we decided not to drill. Around the country, American consumers are paying near-record prices for gasoline at the pump Since January 2009, the regular price for a gallon of gasoline has nearly doubled. In 2011, consumers spent a greater percentage of their household income on gasoline than any year since 1981, when we thought 90 cents for a gallon of gas was a lot of money. Affordable energy is a major economic issue. Paying nearly $4 for gas acts like a hidden tax and results in people having less money to spend on other things. Rising energy prices also increase the cost of doing business for job creators and taking away dollars that otherwise could go to hiring without workers. We should be doing everything possible to prevent these high energy prices today or tomorrow. The Senate had an opportunity, as I said, ten years ago today to take action to increase our domestic oil supply. Unfortunately, the Senate missed that opportunity, missed an opportunity for lower prices today and importing something less than the $830 million we spend every day, even today, to import oil. With immediate to keep that money to this country - we need to keep that money to this country."

Senator Vitter: (10:36 AM)
  • Spoke on the Two-Year Anniversary of the Deep Water Horizon explosion and offered a moment of silence for the 11 men who were killed in the explosion.
  • Spoke on status of the Gulf of Mexico recovery.
    • SUMMARY "First is the NERDA process under federal law, the natural resources damage assessment. That is the process under federal law by which all stakeholders help assess the damage to the environment so that the folks guilty of this horrendous incident pay for those damages, pay the state, pay the federal government, pay others who will work to restore the environment. That NRDA process is ongoing. It's a multi-year process. But there is some positive result from that process already. Step one of the process was a settlement with BP for an upfront payment of about a billion dollars The second important work that's ongoing that involves all of us here in the Senate directly is the need to pass the RESTORE Act through the Highway Reauthorization bill, the Transportation Reauthorization bill. The restore act language would dedicate 80% of the clean water act funds related to this disaster to gulf coast restoration. I thank all my colleagues again for an enormously positive, really overwhelmingly positive bipartisan vote to attach that restore act language to the Senate Highway bill. And I urge my House colleagues, including House conservatives, to pass a house version of the Highway bill today. That's important for our country, for highway infrastructure, and it's important because it's a vehicle for this RESTORE Act. Now, a third and final category, that I wanted to touch on that isn't as positive, quite frankly, as the environmental rebound, is the impact of all of this and the related moratorium on drilling to our economy on the gulf coast and energy production. Immediately after the disaster, very soon thereafter, President Obama announced a complete moratorium on activity in the gulf, on new drilling. And that moratorium lasted several, several months. I think that was a bad mistake, an overreaction to the disaster. And I think that's been borne out in several ways, including that the panel of experts that the President got together, their report, we now know, was totally doctored and edited at the White House to make it seem like those true experts supported a full moratorium when we know directly from them that they did not. Well, this moratorium went in hurt to a lot of Gulf Coast residents and workers that was unnecessary. Now, of course, we needed to pause and get new procedures and some new safety regulations in place. Of course we needed to learn the lessons of the disaster, incorporate those into practices. But we didn't need an all-out moratorium for months and we don't need a continuing slowdown that continues to this day."

Senator Heller: (10:50 AM)
  • Spoke on the Nevada economy.
    • SUMMARY "I come to the floor today to highlight an issue i fight for everyday and that's jobs in Nevada. In Nevada, having a strong tourism industry means more jobs in the state. Las Vegas, Henderson, Lake Tahoe and Reno have long been favored destinations for millions of visitors, both domestically and more increasing internationally. The entire southern Nevada economy is heavily dependent on hotel, gaming, and convention industry examine employs over one-quarter of the region's labor force. Plain and simple, tourism is the lifeblood for business and job creation in Nevada. Like many taxpayers, I was shocked and disappointed to read the GSA's Inspector General's report that found inappropriate spending at the 2010 western regional conference that was held in Nevada. This conference was excessive, wasteful and it completely ignored federal procurement laws and internal GSA policy on conference spending. I believe it's appropriate for congress to exercise its oversight authority on GSA to look into the agency's practices and provide corrective oversight to ensure the taxpayers' dollars are spent wisely by this administration. However, I want to be clear. This is not an issue about location. This is the result of poor decision making and leadership by the GSA Las Vegas is one of the greatest locations in the world for a conference, a meeting or vacation, with over 148,000 hotel rooms and 10.5 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space citywide, it is ideally suited to host companies and organizations, both large and small. In fact, this past January, Las Vegas hosted the Consumer Electronics Show, which had more people attend than the Iowa caucuses. I fully agree that it was inappropriate for the GSA to waste taxpayer dollars, but it is not inappropriate to come to Las Vegas for conventions and meetings. The actions of GSA should not reflect negatively on Las Vegas, and I'm asking all of my colleagues to be mindful of that as they conduct their investigations. The viability of the economy in Nevada is dependent upon the volume of visitors to our state."