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Floor Updates

Coats, Vitter, Alexander, Barrasso, Johanns

Jan 30 2013 11:57 AM

Morning Business

Senator Coats: (10:57 AM)
  • Spoke on the budget.
    • SUMMARY "If we're going to get our fiscal house in order, we need to do some fundamental things. One, we need to summon up the will to address this problem, this challenge, to define it as the number-one challenge facing the Congress and to have the political will to do something about it. And doing something about it means you start with having a budget. It has been 1,372 days since the United States Senate passed a budget. That's nearly four years. This is completely irresponsible. To deny the American people the transparency of how we are spending taxpayers' dollars and how we are addressing this fiscal situation that we're in that drives us into more debt and more deficit is totally irresponsible. And as I said, it starts with passing a budget. Every Hoosier family and every business in Indiana knows that you cannot be successful and financially sound without creating a budget on which to operate ... The reason why a budget is so important is that it forces to determine how we spend the revenue that we have in a sensible way without having to go and continue to borrow and drive ourselves more deeply into debt."

Senator Vitter: (11:15 AM)
  • Spoke on migratory birds.
    • SUMMARY "We're both very troubled by recent reports that the Department of Justice is targeting who to prosecute for the incidental killing of migratory birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. They're not targeting who to prosecute by looking at birds killed, they're targeting who to prosecute based on the type of business these various people are in - legal business - and in particular the type of legal energy these companies produce. What am I talking about? Well, on the one hand, oil and gas producers, traditional energy producers, are clearly being targeted. They are being targeted for prosecution, as I say, under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. They're being charged with incidental killing in a particular case that a court has dealt with, with the killing of four mallards, one northern pintail, one red-neck duck and in this case the federal judge involved correctly recognized that this prosecution was off base because it wasn't about trying to kill these birds. It wasn't about any willful racquet. It wasn't about any willful act. It was about killing these birds because they are doing things in the normal course of business. Nobody wants any of these birds to be killed. But that's not what criminal sanctions under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act are about. As the judge said, "Everyday actions would become unlawful and subject to sanctions with fines under these sorts of prosecutions. Everyday types of actions like driving a vehicle, or owning a cat could be subject to criminal prosecutions if this precedent were set.â€? So that's on the one hand the Department of Justice I think clearly targeting these companies who are oil and gas producers. On the other hand, they have a very different approach to other types of energy producers like wind producers. To our knowledge, there is not a single Department of Justice prosecution regarding the killing of birds because of windmills. That clearly happens. In fact, it happens a lot. I'm not saying these wind producers want that to, I'm not saying they're trying to kill birds. But it happens and it happens a lot, and to our knowledge the Department of Justice has never launched a similar prosecution against the wind farm."

Senator Alexander: (11:23 AM)
  • Spoke on migratory birds.
    • SUMMARY "As the senator said, rule of law is one of the fundamental principles of American characteristic. We expect laws to be enforced evenly, whether it's a little law or whether it's a big law. And obviously here the Department of Justice is enforcing a law against oil and gas companies but not against wind companies much it is the same law. It should be applied in the same way The senator has spoken very specifically and clearly about what's going on here. You've got the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, almost 100 years old. You can go to jail in you violate the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Then there is the Bald and Gold Eagle Treaty Act. That's our symbol. You can go to jail for that, two, imprisonment for a year for killing bald eagles and golden eagles. The letter that we will send to the attorney general is asking, if you are enforcing that law against one kind of energy company, why aren't you enforcing it against another kind of energy company? Or if you think you are not going to enforce the law - and this administration just decides that it won't enforce a law - then at least don't enforce the law in an even-handed way We need to have a rational policy for treating all energy companies the same."
  • Spoke on the NLRB.
    • SUMMARY "The two NLRB members whose recess appointments were unconstitutional should leave the court, because the decisions - leave the NLRB, because the decisions in which they participated - and there were 219 of them - cannot be valid if they're challenged, just as this one decision was vacated, cannot be challenged because since they weren't constitutionally there, the NLRB didn't have a quorum. Under the rule of this court, those decisions couldn't stand Now, several observers have said the court's decision is broad. In fact, it is a breathtaking decision. It is a bold decision. But by all standards, it seems to be the correct decision. Here's why I say that. If you take an American history book in one hand and the United States constitution in the other and you read them both at the same time, you see that the constitution, which was ratified a long time ago, before 1800, you see that the constitution has in it Article 2, Section 2, which says that the president may make nominations of a number of people But that those nominations require the advise and consent of the Senate. We've done some work here in the Senate over the last two years, and we've improved the nomination process. We have eliminated a number of the nominations that are subject to advice and consent. And we have made it easier for people to move through, and we have expedited a large number of those provisions. For example, 273 of the 1,100 nominations that require advise and consent can be sent right to the desk by the president. And if a single senator doesn't want it to go through the entire process after the committee gets all the relevant information, the majority leader can just move after ten days to confirm that person."

Senator Barrasso: (11:40 AM)
  • Spoke on the NLRB.
    • SUMMARY "What we have seen from this president of the United States just last January, a flagrant disregard for the constitution and the laws of this land by bypassing the Senate and appointing three members to the National Labor Relations Board claiming - claiming - the Senate was in recess even though the Senate was meeting regularly in pro forma session. So last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the district of Columbia ruled unanimously - unanimously - that those unilateral appointments were unconstitutional. And it's interesting because I saw the whip of the Democrat party on one of the television shows this weekend and said we need to make sure that people have plenty of time for hearings. They didn't have hearings. The Democrats are in control of the United States Senate. They could have called hearings but chose not to. The president let these vacancies sit for long periods of time, and only in the middle of December of 2011 did he even put names up and then summarily a few weeks later went and did a recess appointment. The Senate was really never consulted. The Senate didn't have an opportunity to advise and consent. And that's why I use the word flagrant in terms of the president's bypassing of the Senate in making these recess appointments."

Senator Johanns: (11:47 AM)
  • Spoke on the NLRB.
    • SUMMARY "You see, the DC Court of Appeals ruled that the president violated the constitution with his appointment of three members to the National Labor Relations Board. Well, I read the opinion. I saw no other solution than to ask these individuals to leave. Now, many of us have said, myself included, resign. But the truth of the matter is, it's not about resigning. They are not lawfully there and need to leave. Now, this request wasn't about a personal preference or an attitude about any one individual. It wasn't about their qualifications. It was about the oath of office we take, and that oath of office says we will uphold the constitution. The NLRB appointments were unconstitutional because the president only has the power to bypass our advice and consent role here in the United States Senate under the language of the constitution. The court unequivocally found that the appointments that were made last January while the Senate was not in recess and were, therefore, void. Therefore, the president could not lawfully use the recess appointments clause of the constitution to appoint these individuals. The ruling correctly concludes, "Allowing the president to define the scope of his own appointments power would eviscerate the constitution's separation of powers." The separation of powers is a critical safeguard to ensure that one branch of government does not overstep the other. The court goes on to say that allowing these nominations to stand "would wholly defeat the purpose of the framers in the careful separation of powers." Additionally, because these appointments were unconstitutional, the board lacked the quorum necessary to act over the past year. So if they are not lawfully there, if they are there violating the constitution, this calls into question over 200 rulings of the board since last January. I personally believe that there is no doubt if they are not lawfully there, if they are there violating the constitution, then all of their rulings, all of their regulations, all of their actions as a board are illegal and void."
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