Floor Updates

Lieberman, Murray, Brown-OH, Whitehouse

Motion to Concur in the House amendment to the FDA Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

Jun 25 2012

07:07 PM

Senator Lieberman: (6:15 PM)
  • Spoke on the Murphy nomination.
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • At a time to be determined, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session and begin up to 2 hours of debate, equally divided, on Executive Calendar #231, Donna Mary Murphy, of the District of Columbia, to be an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Upon the use or yielding back of time, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the nomination (McConnell objected).

Senator Murray: (6:18 PM)
  • Spoke on the Mental Health Access Act of 2012.
    • SUMMARY "It is a bill that seeks to make improvements to make sure that those who have served have access to consistent quality behavioral health care. It is a bill that strengthens oversight of military mental health care and improves the integrated disability evaluation system that we rely on. Now, madam president, ask anyone who understands these issues - as anyone who understands these issues knows well, this is not an easy task. The mental health care, suicide prevention and counseling programs we provide our service members are spread throughout the entire Department of Defense and the VA. Too often they are entangled in a web of bureaucracy, and, frankly, too often this makes them difficult to address in legislation. So what I did in crafting this bill is I identified critical changes that need to be made at both the Department of Defense and the VA, and I set up a checklist of legislative changes needed to do just that. Some provisions in this bill are likely to be addressed in my Veterans' Committee. Others will need to be addressed through defense bills and work with the chairs of those committees. But all of these provisions are critical, and today I want to share with you some of the most important ones. High atop the list of changes this bill makes is addressing military suicides, which we all know is an epidemic that now outpaces combat deaths in this country. My bill will require the Pentagon to create comprehensive standardized suicide prevention programs. It would also require the department to better oversee men tall health service for service members. Secondly, my men will expand eligibility for a variety of VA. Mental health services to our family members so we can help families and spouses to cope with the stress of deployment and help strengthen the support network that is critical to service members who are returning from deployment. Third, my bill will improve training and education for our health care providers. You know, oftentimes our service members seek out help from chaplains or medics or others who may be unprepared to offer counseling. This bill will help them prepare through their continuing education programs. Fourth, my bill will create more peer-to-peer counseling opportunity. It would do this by requiring the VA to offer peer support services at all medical centers and by supporting opportunities to train vets to provide peer services. And finally, this bill will require VA to establish accurate and reliable measures for mental health services. This will help ensure that the VA understands the problems they face so that veterans can get into the care we know that they can provide."

Senator Brown-OH: (6:33 PM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "The Senate passed this job-creating economic development bill more than 100 days ago, but this historically bipartisan Highway bill remains stalled. We know investments in infrastructure mean jobs directly. We know investments in infrastructure mean economic development in the future ... We know that infrastructure investments are forward looking with payoffs that last for decades, yet also benefit our nation, our small businesses, our workers both today and for generations to come. So it's unacceptable that a time with still too-high unemployment, even though the unemployment rate in my state has dropped between 2% and 3% in the last four years, in the last three years, it's still too high. Washington politicians for whatever reason continue to block progress on this bill. No one in this Congress should be proud of the condition of our roads or the safety of our bridges. No one in this Congress should be proud of the fact that the world's newest airports and most modern train stations are not in the United States of America as they were in the 1950's and 1960's and 1970's and 1980's. They are being built overseas. No one in this Congress should be proud of creating new hurdles to progress, obstruction when the need is so great for us to create new jobs. Historically, infrastructure has been a bipartisan issue. There has been no such thing as a Democratic or Republican bridge. The most recent extension is slated to expire Saturday at midnight. We can't afford to keep passing short-term extensions. We need to think about consequences for businesses that plan for the long term because congress keeps passing inch by inch, month by month extensions. Businesses can't plan, workers can't plan, state Department of Transportation departments can't plan. It hurts the contractor who is unsure whether she will have the funds to buy a new bulldozer. It hurts the crane operator who is unsure of where his next job will be. It hurts the small business owner who sells aggregate to the construction industry. We can't afford to keep passing the buck. These short-term extensions disrupt the ability of businesses to plan for the future."

Senator Whitehouse: (6:43 PM)
  • Spoke on the Supreme Court's ruling on Citizens United/Montana.
    • SUMMARY "Here the right they turned inside out is the right of free speech. And the power structure served is the vast and unprecedented corporate power structure that exists today. So under Citizens United, under this inside-out right that they've created, you now enjoy the free speech right to hear as much corporate speech as they want to bombard you with. If you're a regular human, you're on your own. If you're a CEO, you can access your corporate treasury to drown out the voices of all of your workers. If you're a massive multinational corporation or if you're a billionaire or multibillionaire, you now have a right to come nature the paid media airwaves, and we have the free speech right to have to listen to all of that. At least if you're a billionaire, you are still a human being. If you are a corporation and I don't say this judgmentally, this is a legal fact - if you are a corporation, you have no soul. You have no conscience. You have no altruism. You have none of the characteristics that are special to humankind. You are a legal fiction. You are a financial mechanism created for the massing and the efficient use of capital. Now, in the economic sphere, the value of that corporate structure is immense. There is no doubt about it. It has provided great value to our society. But in the political sphere, it is dangerous. But for these five justices who constantly support corporate interests, to protect the power that comes from being able to provide or promise or threaten massive, anonymous expenditures on political attack ads, well, that's just how you see the world. One day, the Citizens United decision will lie next to Lochner on the junk pile of judicial error and prejudice. There is too much wrong with it for it ultimately to survive. But sadly, today is not that day. And the five conservative justices have chosen instead of correcting their error to double down on it."