Senate Calendar

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Jun 05 2012

Senator Durbin: (5:39 PM)
  • Spoke on the DREAM Act.
    • SUMMARY "The bill basically laid out some conditions. First, that you came to the United States as a child. Second, you completed high school. Third, you have no significant problems of moral character or criminal record to speak of. And that beyond that, you had to do one of two things. Finish at least two years of college or enlist in the American military. Well, when I introduced this bill it was bipartisan. In fact, as many as 13 Republican senators would vote with me but we never quite got to that magic number of 60 votes in the Senate. We would get a majority but ever quite get 60 votes. And then over the years this political issue started changing. And, unfortunately, we started losing support on the republican side of the aisle. Even those who were the original cosponsors of the bill started voting against it. They heard the talk about amnesty and all the criticism and they were swept into the belief that this should not pass. But the bill is still very much alive, and it is the most important thing that I have pending in the Senate, has been for a long time. And what it does, of course, is offer this opportunity. I want to salute Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. He's a new Republican congressman, conservative, who took a look at this issue and said this isn't an immigration issue. This is a humanitarian issue. We should offer these young people a chance, a chance to earn their way into legal status. He's right. And he remembered that when 600,000 Cubans left to come to America to escape Castro's regime, it wasn't the immigration system that welcomed them, it was the humanitarian effort by the United States to allow them to find a home. And what a difference they've made. A positive difference in this country. Not just in Florida but all over the country. Look at Marco Rubio, who represents Florida in the United States senate. It was his father or grandfather who made it here because of that humanitarian gesture. He and I and many others are working now to try to find bipartisan way to put this together again."
  • Spoke on his trip to Ukraine, Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia.
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Tomorrow --
    • The Senate will convene at 9:30 AM and Majority Leader Reid will be recognized. It is anticipated the Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 3240, the Farm bill. The first hour will be equally divided, with the Republicans controlling the first 30 minutes and the Majority controlling the second 30 minutes.
  • On Tuesday, a Motion to Reconsider the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 3220, the Paycheck Fairness bill, was entered
  • On Tuesday, cloture was filed on the Motion to Proceed to S. 3240, the Farm bill.
  • Under the rule, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 3240, the Farm bill, on Thursday, June 7th.
The Senate stands adjourned until 9:30 AM Wednesday, June 6th.

McCain, Chambliss, Wyden

Farm bill (S. 3220)

Jun 05 2012

Senator McCain: (4:53 PM)
  • Spoke on the recent intelligence leaks.
    • SUMMARY "Over the past few months, there's been a disturbing stream of articles in the media. In common among them is that they cite leaked classified or highly sensitive information in what appears to be a broader administration effort to paint a portrait of the President of the United States as a strong leader on national security issues. Information for which there is no legitimate reason whatsoever to believe should be in the public domain. Indeed, the release of this information in these articles harms our national security and puts in danger the lives of the men and women who are sworn to protect it. What price is paid by the administration to proliferate such a highly presidential persona, highly valued in an election year? Access to senior administration officials who appear to have served as "anonymous sourcesâ€? divulging extremely sensitive military and intelligence information and operations. The leaks that these articles were based on, our enemies now know much more than they did before the day they came out about important aspects of our nation's unconventional offensive capabilities and how we use them. Such disclosures can only undermine similar ongoing or future operations and in this sense this compromises our national security. For this reason, regardless of how politically useful these leaks may have been to the president, they have to stop. These leaks have to stop. The fact that this administration would aggressively pursue leaks perpetrated by a 22-year-old army private in the wikileaks matter, former CIA employees in other leaks cases, but apparently sanction leaks made by senior administration officials for political purposes is simply unacceptable. It also calls for the need for a special counsel to investigate what happened. I'm also pleased to report that Chairman Carl Levin has agreed, at my request, to hold a hearing on these leaks in the Senate Armed Services Committee. In the latest of the recently published articles published on June 1, 2012, just a few days ago, the New York Times documented in rich detail the President's secret decision to accelerate cyber attacks on Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities with a computer virus that came to be known as Stuxnet. The author of the article clearly states that former and current American officials spoke to him but refused to do so on the record because the program is both highly classified and parts of it are ongoing. I repeat, administration officials discussed a most highly classified operation that is both highly classified and still ongoing, an operation that was clearly one of the most tightly held national security secrets in our history, unless now and might point tout my colleagues, that this is all about the Iranian effort to acquire nuclear weapons. One of the most difficult national security challenges that this nation faces. Other recent articles divulge critical and classified information regarding U.S. plans to expand the secret drone campaign against terrorists in Yemen and the horn of Africa. One of these pieces was sorry excuse for journalism that the New York Times published on May 29, 2012, which Charles Krauthammer rightly observes should have been entitled "Barack Obama Drone Warrior." Finally, there was a recent article about the so-called kill list, the highly classified or sensitive list of counterterrorism targets against whom the president has authorized lethal action. In other words, to kill. It was even reported in that article, May 29, 2012, in the New York Times that David Axelrod, the President's chief political advisor, who's running his reelection campaign as we speak, began attending the meetings in which this list was discussed. I repeat, the President's campaign manager was present and attending the meetings where lists of possible people to be eliminated through drone strikes was discussed and decisions were made. The only conceivable motive for such damaging and compromising leaks of classified information is that it makes the President look good."

Senator Chambliss: (5:09 PM)
  • Spoke on the recent intelligence leaks.
    • SUMMARY "I can say without a doubt that these ongoing leaks of classified information are extraordinarily harmful to our intelligence operations. Every day we ask our intelligence officers and agents to be out there on the front lines, putting their lines in harm's way, gathering information, meeting sources and using a variety of highly sensitive collection techniques. Depending on where these officers are around the world, the operating environment can be both dangerous and downright hostile. This means that they have to be as much or more on guard to ensure that operations don't get blown and their own lives and the lives of our sources are not jeopardized. But each time classified information shows up in the media, the intelligence community's ability to do these dangerous assignments becomes that much more difficult. Not only do these leaks tell our enemies how we do our jobs and, therefore, how we can block or impede how they can block or impede our efforts, but with each leak, our friends and allies are left to wonder how much they can really trust us with their own secrets. Now, these are not hypothetical concerns. Senator McCain alluded to a couple of anecdotes and also a few weeks ago, in the middle of an ongoing operation, we all, friends and enemies alike, learned that details of efforts to disrupt an al-Qaeda bomb plot to a civilian aircraft. Up to that point, most members of congress knew nothing about this operation. That's how sensitive we were told it was. Unfortunately, rather than quietly recognize our and, frankly, our partners' success and moving on with the business of protecting the American people, some in the administration apparently decided that scoring political points in an election year outweighed protecting our intelligence operations as well as our liaison relationship with our intelligence partners around the world. Whether we could have learned more from an operation that was cut short by this leak will now never be known, but we've been warned by some of our allies that they will think twice before they share highly classified information with us. Unfortunately, the leak of the airline plot was no isolated incident. From kill lists and bin laden movies to cyber warfare, it appears that nothing is off-limits, nothing is too secret, no operation is too sensitive, and no source is too valuable to be used as a prop in this election-year posturing This administration reminds us repeatedly that they are prosecuting more people for leaking classified information than ever before and I support that effort. But just as we hold ordinary government employees accountable for violating their oaths to protect our nation's secrets, we must also hold the most senior administration officials accountable Today I join with my good friend, Senator McCain from Arizona, in calling for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate this pattern of recent leaks. Leaks should never be tolerated, but leaking for political advantage is especially troubling. There must be swift and clear accountability for those responsible for playing this dangerous game with our national security."

Senator Chambliss: (5:13 PM)
  • Spoke on the recent intelligence leaks.
    • SUMMARY "Have you ever seen anything as egregious as the purported leaks that are coming from this administration on this highly classified and sensitive number of programs that we've seen in the last few days and few weeks?"

Senator McCain: (5:14 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "The leaks are part of the way that the environment exists here in our nation's capital. And leaks will always be part of the relationship between the media and both elected and appointed officials. And I understand that and I my colleague would agree there have been times when abuses would have been uncovered and exposed because of leaks so that this information was made public, and we have always applauded that. There has also been continuously a problem of over-classification of information so that government officials don't have to be the Republican or Democrat administrations don't then have to discuss what's going on publicly. But I have to tell my friend I don't know a greater challenge that the United States faces in the short term than this entire issue of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. The President of the United States said it would be "unacceptable. We all know that the Israelis are going through an agonizing decision-making process as to whether they need to attack Iran before they reach "breakoutâ€? which means they have enough parts and equipment to assemble a nuclear weapon in a short period of time. And here we are exposing something that, frankly, I was never told about, I was never informed of, and it's ongoing, at least according to immediate reports. So are the Iranians going to learn from this? I would ask my colleague, aren't the Iranians going to become more and more aware? Drone strikes are now one of the leading methods of going after Al-Qaeda and those radical terrorists who are intent on destroying America. So now Al-Qaeda and our enemies both real and others who plan to be are very aware of the entire decision-making process in the white house. And I guess the most disturbing thing -and I would ask my friend. It's one thing to have a private wikileaks who had access to low-level members of certain agencies. One in the CIA that I know was prosecuted. But this is according to the articles that are written the highest level in the White House are confirming this classified information and maybe even volunteering it, for all we know, but there obviously has been a very serious breach of perhaps the two most important challenges that we face, the Iranian nuclear process and, of course, the continued presence and efforts of Al-Qaeda to attack America. I wonder if my friend from Georgia would agree that this is two of the most challenging national security issues that America faces?"

Senator Chambliss: (5:18 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I think my friend from Arizona is exactly right. I mean, there have been rumors of the drone program for actually for a couple of years now, dating back almost into some period back into the bush administration, and as members of the intelligence committee, we were always told and rightfully so that this is a covert program and you simply can't discuss it, so we never have. And now you pick up the newspaper and over the last several weeks you have seen the President of the United States discussing the drone program, you have seen the Attorney General of the United States discussing the drone program, you have seen the National Security Advisor discussing the drone program. And yet, technically, we as members of Congress, particularly members of the Intelligence Committee, can't talk about this because they are covert programs. So there is simply no question but what our enemy is better prepared today because of these various leaks and public disclosures. Let me move to the other issue you talk about, though, the issue of the nuclear weaponization of Iran. There is no more important national security issue in the world today. I mean, it's a daily discussion at the United Nations. It's a daily discussion at the pentagon. It's a daily discussion in Israel and virtually every part of the middle east that we can't allow for the country of Iran to become nuclear weaponnized. Here all of a sudden we see public disclosure, whether all of it is true or not, in a newspaper article on the front page of an American newspaper detailing a purported program of attack against that Iranian program. Now, what do our friends in the international community think, what did our friends in Israel think? How much cooperation are they going to now give us from the standpoint of disclosing information to the United States intelligence community on any program if they can expect that if this is, in fact, true that what they tell us is going to be on the front page of the New York Times and not only that, but it's not coming from some private who went on the internet and found a bunch of classified documents. It's coming from statements made supposedly by high-level administration officials. This is not a quandary. It puts us in a position of having to defend ourselves with our allies over certain statements that purportedly are made by high senior administration officials, and I simply can never remember a scenario of information being leaked where we had the level of administration officials that now supposedly had made these comments, and they are quoted by name in some instances."

Senator McCain: (5:21 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I would finally add, a really disturbing aspect of this is that one could draw the conclusion from reading these articles that it is an attempt to further the President's political ambitions for the sake of his re-election at the expense of our national security. That's what's disturbing about this entire situation."

Senator Wyden: (5:22 PM)
  • Spoke on wildfire legislation.
    • SUMMARY "The Congress has an opportunity to expedite what could be the beginning of a solution. The Forest Service now is ready to begin wording contracts for the next generation of air tankers, consistent with their large air tanker modernization strategy. On May 25, as is required by law, under 41 USC 3903-d, the Forest Service has given the Congress a 30-day notification of its intent to award four multiyear contracts which contain cancellation ceilings in excess of $10 million and require congressional notification. These four contracts would in effect begin to fill the federal government's need for large air tankers to fight wildfires. Now the 30-day waiting period is simply delaying urgently needed action. Without congressional action, these contracts will not be awarded until June 25. My view is with hundreds of thousands of acres burning and a severely depleted capacity for sending air tankers to battle these fires, I see nothing that can be served by the Congress sitting on its hands and waiting for those 30 days to expire. The Forest Service requested that Congress waive the requirement to wait the full 30 days to award these important contracts. The sooner the Forest Service can award these contracts, the sooner the companies that receive the awards can begin to deliver those next generation air tankers and get them out fighting the fires. Now, I want to be clear that I do not know the details of these contracts and have no idea as to which companies that submit bids are going to be the successful recipients, but I do know that the Forest Service has complied with its obligation to notify the Congress. Congress has been notified with the required information, and I just fail to understand how the country is going to benefit by simply letting time pass."

Stabenow, Roberts, Manchin

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 05 2012

Senator Stabenow: (3:01 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "The Agriculture Committee passed a bipartisan bill that strengthens the economy and cuts the federal deficit. Now, in this $23 billion is roughly 2% of what the Budget Control Act put in place in terms of sequestration next January of the $1.2 trillion, and we are roughly 2% of federal outlays. And those efforts, agriculture production, conservation, nutrition through the USDA. USDA is roughly 2% of federal outlays. We are taking responsibility for 2% of the cuts, and this is more than actually required in the Budget Control Act, and it's double what was recommended in Bowles-Simpson and the gang of six. So agriculture is really doing its fair share, and we're doing it in a responsible way that focuses on reform and strengthening those efforts to make sure we have a strong agriculture economy, strong conservation practices, and support for jobs through energy, jobs, and other important nutrition efforts. We end direct payments. That means no more paying farmers for crops they don't grow, no more paying farmers when they're already doing very well. The biggest savings in the bill, in fact, comes from eliminating direct payments and consolidating three other commodity subsidy programs. America's farmers know that in order to lower the deficit we all need to do our fair share. Agriculture has stepped up and is willing to do that. We also make sure that millionaires can no longer get payments from commodity programs. We tighten payment limits to half of what farmers currently are able to receive. We close what is known as the manager's loophole that lets people get farm payments when they farming. Instead, we support a strong safety net based on crop insurance. Based on risk. If have you a risk, if have you a loss, then it's critically important that we stand with American agriculture. We have the safest food supply, the most affordable food supply in the world, and it's critically important that we have tools available, risk management tools available for our nation's farmers. We heard over and over again when Senator Roberts was in Michigan and I'm grateful he joined me, I was pleased to join him in Kansas, we heard the same thing as well as here in our hearings in DC and around the country, that crop insurance was the most important tool for our producers ... We've put in place a strengthened program so that more specialty crops, more fruits and vegetable growers can get access to crop insurance, that we have new capacity to support expanded risk tools. And we supplement that with a market oriented risk-based approach that supports farmers in the bad times. Not a government check in the good times, but in the bad times, we need to make sure that our farmers can survive and can thrive. This bill does not set a price, a government price. It focuses on the market, what's happening in the marketplace, the farmer choosing what to plant from the market but we make sure that no farmer goes off the cliff when a price drops immediately. And that crop insurance is there for them as well."

Senator Roberts: (3:17 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "It is a true reform bill. It also reduces and streamlines the department of agriculture programs. Long overdue. We cut $23 billion in mandatory spending, and it was voluntarily, without any direction from the Budget Committee or anybody else. And it's real money. It's mandatory money. The Super Committee tried to work out a deal, and they weren't so super. They tried hard. I'm not trying to criticize. A tough deal. We're the only authorizing committee that I know of in the senate that has come forth and said here real deficit reduction in mandatory spending, over $23 billion. It's rather remarkable that people who tend to be critical of agriculture would all of a sudden discover that it is the Ag Committee, in a bipartisan effort, has cut real money, real mandatory money. How many times have you heard folks back home say why don't you work together? Why can't we all get along? Why can't you reach across the aisle and accomplish something? We did that in the agriculture committee and achieved this true spending reduction. We eliminated four of the commodity programs. We eliminated four programs, made it much simpler. We've eliminated $6 billion in conservation spending while streamlining 23 programs into 13 to eliminate duplication. When have you heard that? When are you going to start to streamline and reduce and duplicate? We've done that. We've cut $4 billion in nutrition programs. A painful cut for some; I understand that. But it's not going to affect anybody's payments so much as it is the $4 billion --that's 82%, by the way, of the Ag budget is in nutrition. We've eliminated a grand total of more than 100 programs. Get this: we have eliminated a grand total of more than 100 programs. I don't know of any other committee that's done this. And authorizations totaling nearly $2 billion in reduced authorizations alone. Not only mandatory spending but also $2 billion in authorizations. It is, as I have said, a reform bill. We need to get this thing passed."

Senator Manchin: (3:23 PM)
  • Spoke on West Virginia's Free Honor Flight, a free trip for the service members to see the monuments built for their honor and sacrifice.

Reid, Mikulski, Boxer

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 05 2012

Senator Reid: (2:53 PM)
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • A Motion to Reconsider the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 3220, the Paycheck Fairness bill, was entered.
    • Filed Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 3240, the Farm bill.
  • Under the rule, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 3240, the Farm bill, on Thursday, June 7th.

Senator Mikulski: (2:55 PM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "I just want you to know that although we lost the vote today, we're not going to give up on this vote. It is a very sad day here in the United States Senate, but it's a sadder day every day when paycheck day comes and women continue to make less than men. We are sorry that this vote occurred distinctly on party lines. Under your effort to reconsider, we hope to bring this bill up again. We hope to forge a bipartisan vote. But I just want to say this. You know, we're coming up on the 49th anniversary of equal pay for equal work. We're not going to let this bill day in parliament entanglements. The majority should rule in the United States Senate. And I just want to say this in the words of Abigail Adams. While John Adams and all the guys were sitting around Philadelphia writing the constitution, she wrote him a letter and said don't forget the ladies. And they did it for 150 years. And then they forget, too, to get rid of the loopholes in the equal pay act now. Well, Abigail said if you forget us, we'll our own revolution, and we're going to our revolution. I say to the women out there in America, let's keep this fight going, put on your lipstick, square your shoulders, suit up, and let's fight for this new American Revolution where women are paid for equal pay for equal work, and let's end wage discrimination in this century once and for all."

Senator Reid: (2:57 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "I feel confident and maybe that's the wrong thing to do in the temperament of the Senate today, but I feel confident that we're going to be able to complete this bill. It's an important bill for America, and it would be a good thing for this Congress to do this Farm bill. The two managers of this bill, Senator Stabenow of Michigan, Senator Roberts of Kansas, have done a remarkably good job. This bill creates jobs and reduces subsidies by a significant amount. Where else would you find a bill that reduces the debt of this country by $24 billion? This is a fine piece of legislation, and I hope that we can work something out that we don't have to have a vote on this matter on Thursday, that we can start legislating. We have had good fortune shine upon us the last couple of big bills we brought through here. We had the managers work with floor staff to work on the relevant amendments and then have a way of finishing the bill. I hope we do that. I repeat, I have confidence in Senator Stabenow and Senator Roberts. They are very, very good legislators and we need to proceed on this bill. This bill is not a Democratic bill or Republican bill. It's a bill for America."

Senator Boxer: (2:49 PM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "It's important for people to understand what just occurred. We had a straight party-line vote on an issue that impacts every single woman in this country. And I just think when people say if there's a difference between the parties and, you know, I like working with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. I have good relationships with them. But for goodness sakes, how can you have a party to a person here that votes against equal pay for equal work."

Jun 05 2012

Not Agreed to, 52-47:
Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 3220, the Paycheck Fairness bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Jun 05 2012

Senator Coons: (11:21 AM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "The principle for equal pay, equal work is a simple and power economic principle. In 2012 no one should earn less for doing the same job just because of their gender. This legislation is an important step forward. It would plug holes and make critical changes in the law that would ensure the promise of equal pay that was first enshrined in our law decades ago. This legislation would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the equal pay act and barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages to colleagues. Knowledge is power, and women who don't know their male coworkers are earning more for doing the same job can't speak up and demand to be treated fairly ... I know that my daughter Maggie, like other women and girls all across our country, will earn less than her brothers even if she chooses the exact same career track. And, that's just not fair. That is unacceptable. That violates our bedrock belief as a country in equality and opportunity. An American dream that if you work hard nothing will stand in the way of your success. I am hopeful that by the time my daughter Maggie enters the workforce, we will have reduced or ended the gender pay gap in this country. I believe by then our nation's economy will be back to full strength. But the fact is thousands of families across my home state of Delaware, your state of West Virginia, my neighboring state of Maryland can't afford to wait for things to get better in the economy and in our legal system. They're struggling right now to pay their bills every month, and unfair pay discrimination adds to their burden. Women in Delaware on average earn 81 cents for every dollar paid to men. Over their lifetime it means they'll earn nearly half a million dollars, $466,000 less than their male counterparts. Women make up just less than half of Delaware's workforce. When women are paid less than men for doing exactly the same job, it hurts whole families."

Senator Hagan: (11:28 AM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "We need paycheck fairness to prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who discuss salary information with their coworkers. We need paycheck fairness to strengthen the legal remedies available for women to ensure that they can be compensated for pay discrimination. And we need paycheck fairness to provide businesses, especially small ones, assistance with equal pay practices. On the eve of the anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, we need to close the loopholes that allow pay discrimination to happen. The Paycheck Fairness Act would do just that by helping women successfully fight for equal pay. Equal pay for equal work is just basic common sense. I hope that this body can come together to address this disparity that exists in North Carolina and around our country."

Senator Mikulski: (11:34 AM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "I have heard some of the most outrageous things on cable TV about why we shouldn't pass this bill. One was accusing us that this will undermine small business, and what I would like to be able to say is that small business has protections under the Equal Pay Act. Under the existing law, which this would not change, the Equal Pay Act already exempts small business that makes less than $500,000 in annual revenue per year. So it keeps the Equal Pay Act exemption intact. We also have the support of the women's business Chamber of Commerce. This is the Chamber of Commerce created of small business owners, and they support this bill. So we don't believe that that's a valid argument. Now, there's this other argument going around that for some reason that if we pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, that somehow or another we are going to lower the wages of what men make. That is absolutely one of the most ridiculous rhetorical twist-and-turn arguments. It is not factual, and it's not legal. It is illegal now to remedy wage discrimination by reducing wages of other employees. I'll quote. "It is illegal" under the other labor protection laws and I don't mean labor like in union, I mean labor like in workers. "It is illegal to remedy wage discrimination by reducing wages of other employees." Now, the Paycheck Fairness Act doesn't alter any other affirmative defense available to employers. Employers may still pay different wages to male or female employees, if it's based on seniority or quantity of production, you know, like if you make more hub caps if you are a guy on an assembly line than women, fine. But we find that's no longer true in the information age economy. Equal pay, I just want to say, is not only a woman's issue, it is a family issue. And for men in the workplace, sometimes for women, we find out that we're discriminated against by great guys at the water cooler who tell us where it is. Now, what we need to know or what the people need to know is that right now it is illegal to fire someone if they make an inquiry about how much they're making and how much their male counterpart make. It is illegal or they can be subject to all kind of harassment or humiliation. You ought to hear some of the horror stories we hear from women just because they wanted to know, George, how much you're making. So we thank the good men who have supported us. They have often been office whistle-blowers where they've told us how much they were working. So we worked as hard to get the education to do the job, we worked as hard on the job, but we continue to have to work hard to get equal pay for equal work. So I want to make clear once again that this legislation will not result in a pay cut for men."

Senator Stabenow: (11:40 AM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "Our country has been a destination for those who seek equal treatment. Across the world, America is known as the land of opportunity. I'm very proud that we have that label. Our hard work and ingenuity built the country brick by brick, city by city, and my home state of Michigan was right in the middle of it building the tools, the vehicles that built our country and that frankly built the middle class of our country. Those looking for new opportunity, those with entrepreneurial spirit have always been have always been welcome in America. We tell the world that everyone has equal opportunity, if you put in just as much work as your neighbor, you'll earn a decent living and be able to provide for your family. But that's only half-true. Everyone can work hard and be successful but for some reason it is acceptable that women do not need to be paid as much as men for the exact same work. That's unacceptable. Nationally, women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the exact same job. And in Michigan, the numbers are even worse. Women make 74 cents on every dollar for the exact same job There are so many families in Michigan struggling right now. Things shouldn't be harder on them just because their primary breadwinners are women. It's just not right. Middle-class families need the economic security. That's why we need the paycheck fairness act. We've made strides moving forward, but right now this isn't complicated, it's not rocket science. It's very simple. Equal pay for equal work. We talk the talk all the time. It's time to walk the walk and to pass this bill."

Senator Durbin: (11:48 AM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "According to the Joint Economic Committee, women in my state of Illinois on average person 78 cents for every dollar paid to a man. What does that add to over a lifetime? Over $480,000 in wages that are denied to women for doing exactly the same work as a man. Money that can be used to pay the mortgage, to buy the groceries, to put kids through school and maybe even fill the gas tank, denied to women day after day, week after week, month after month because of basic discrimination in the workplace. We can't ignore this gender wage gap. It's just too large and, unfortunately, shrinking too slowly. The Paycheck Fairness Act, we'll have a chance to vote on, would narrow that pay gap by clarifying that gender difference, the difference between a man or a woman, is not an adequate reason to differentiate pay. It also guarantees that women facing discrimination have access to the same remedies under the law as men. And under the law, as are afforded to racial and ethnic groups facing discrimination. But I'm afraid to say and I hope I'm wrong that this afternoon about 2:30, when the roll call is taken, it will be a partisan roll call. There will be Democrats in favor of ending this discrimination and virtually all Republicans. And I hope that I'm wrong about this, are going to vote against it. Instead, the Republicans want to bring a different bill to the floor. I'm not going to dwell on it other than to say that I like Senator Rubio, he's a friend of mine from Florida, but his bill is a very bad idea. It is called the RAISE Act and just simply stated, it innocently says an employer who is party to a collective bargaining agreement with a union would be allowed to give a unilateral pay raise to selected employees of that employer's choice. Well, who's against a pay raise? Until you take a closer look at it and what it allows the managers and employers to do is to pick and choose among employees for these pay raises and, sadly, without any basis other than their personal decision. I'm afraid I know where that leads. It leads, unfortunately, to the same kind of wage discrimination we see today between men and women. May lead to nepotism. It may lead to kind of favorable treatment for some employees for reasons that might have nothing to do with the workplace. This sounds so innocent but it's not. Under current law, unions and employers can agree to link pay increases and bonuses to performance and that's the way it should be. In fact, many collective bargaining agreements already provide for merit-based pay increases. The Rubio approach is not good news for workers across America. It is no help when it comes to women across America facing wage discrimination."

Senator Landrieu: (12:08 PM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "The problem is that when you look at the wage gap, unfortunately it still persists, and with women now in many instances being the major breadwinners and their families, this is really a family issue. It's paying some families much less than others based on the fact that there is a woman as the breadwinner instead of the man. And that is hurting families throughout America, and it is not fair and it should not be tolerated ... Wage discrimination is against the law. It has been for 50 years, but the consequences and the actions that individuals can take if they feel like they are being discriminated against are ineffective and not where they need to be, so this law updates the equal pay act that was passed in 1963 to basically put the final nail in the coffin of wage discrimination. Now, in 1967, women only earned 58 cents to every dollar that a man earned in an equal and an act position. That was grossly unfair, but it is still unfair today that women in the same job are still making only 77 cents for every dollar. It is not right and it must be corrected. We can correct it by passing this law which gives people who believe that they are being discriminated against better access to the court. And might I say, it also gives businesses that are potentially the ones being sued, even small companies or large companies, gives them more protections in this bill than other businesses have in similar discrimination cases. In other words, affirmative lust lawsuits will not be allowed, and if your case is not strong, there is a screen that is tighter in this bill than in other pieces of legislation. So I realize there is some opposition from the business community that contends that this bill will simply usher in more controversy or more courtroom time. But the fact of the matter is that is exactly the way our system is created. Congress passes laws and enforces equal pay for equal work. If people feel like they are not being treated fairly under the law, they are supposed to try to modify that behavior out of court, and if they can't, then we ask them, we, in fact, want them to go to court to try to get it settled. That is the American system. Now, we don't want people to overuse courts or to abuse courts, but we most certainly want people that feel like they are not being treated fairly under the law to have access to a court system."

Senator Blumenthal: (12:18 PM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "The question before this body is, are women worth less than men? And the answer today and every day should be "No." They are worth every bit as much as men when they work as hard and well, and they should be entitled to equal pay for equal work. And yet in too many jobs in Connecticut and around the country, women continue to earn substantially less than men. In Connecticut, the number is 78 cents on the dollar, and that fact is unacceptable. This issue goes beyond the women who are affected individually. It is about their families. Because, on average, mothers in Connecticut contribute 40% of their family's earnings. Closing the pay gap for women would strengthen the finances of families around Connecticut and across the country. This issue is about more than just women and families. It is about children. The burden of wage discrimination weighs heavily on the 549,000 Connecticut children in households dependent on the money earned by their moms. The victims of this gender pay gap are the children of families whose mothers are discriminated against. And this issue is about the economy. Those women who are denied equal pay have less to spend. This issue means 109 more weeks of food for the average Connecticut family, seven more months of mortgage payments, 3,000 additional gallons of gasoline bought by families that are victims of this discrimination."

Senator Harkin: (12:22 PM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "Women's lower wages add up tremendously over a career. Over the course of a 40-year career, women on average earn nearly $400,000 less than men. And women are with a college degree or more face a career wage gap of more than $700,000 over a lifetime of work when compared with men with the same education. The consequences of the gender pay gap are impacting not just women but families as well. In today's economy, women represent half of all workers and earn an increasing share of family income. Two-thirds of mothers are major contributors to family income. In today's economy, when a mother earns less than her male colleagues, it is her family, her family, that often must sacrifice even the basic necessities, such as purchasing needed pharmaceuticals, putting healthy food on the table. In many cases women have to work more hours attorney the same paycheck as men, reducing time spent this their families. While many factors influence a workers' earnings including occupation and education, work experience, there is overwhelming evidence that actual gender discrimination accounts for much of the disparity between men and women's pay. But unfortunately our laws have not done enough to prevent this discrimination. So while I am pleased that the first piece of legislation President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, again, that was only a first step. We need to do much more. Too many women are still not getting paid equally for doing the exact same job as men. Now, this is illegal, but it happens every day. There are just too many loopholes in our existing laws and too many barriers to effective enforcement. That's why we need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act Republicans, the minority party, are preventing this United States Senate from even considering the issue of unequal wages and gender discrimination. Let me repeat, Republicans are not just preventing this important legislation from receiving an up-or-down vote, they are preventing the United States Senate - supposedly the world's greatest deliberative body - from even debating and considering the bill. Millions of women and their families are concerned about the fact that they get paid less than their male colleagues. Nevertheless, Republicans will not even allow a debate on the issue in this body, debate and amendment on the bill. As an aside, I might say, another reason of why we need filibuster reform. This country cannot go on like this. This country cannot go on with gridlock, as we have had it in the United States Senate. We need to reform and do away with the filibuster as it now being used. We need to do away with it when the Senate reconvenes after the election next January. Strengthening our existing laws by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act is the next step towards wage equality."
The Senate stands in recess until 2:15 PM for the weekly caucus lunches.

Boozman, Heller, Moran

Paycheck Fairness bill (S. 3220)

Jun 05 2012

Senator Boozman: (10:49 AM)
  • Spoke on the Obama economy.
    • SUMMARY "When the President pushed through his massive stimulus package in 2009, he claimed unemployment would be below 6% today, with a national employment rate of 8.2%, we're not even close to 6%, much less below it. And to make matters worse, we're moving further away from the mark. This is the 40th straight month where the unemployment rate has remained above 8%. 12.7 million Americans are unemployed. Millions more are underemployed. The economic picture is especially troubling for young Americans looking to enter the workforce. America has the lowest employment to population ratio for young adults since 1948. Millions of Americans who are looking for work can't find it. This is unprecedented. It's unacceptable. And it's unsustainable. The President met the report with a call for another round of stimulus spending. Look, we've tried that. It didn't work. More of the same will not work either. More government spending will not solve this problem, and paying for that spending by raising taxes on small business, the people that we're counting on to turn our economy around is counterintuitive. When the people you're counting on to spur the economy tell you that the country is going in the wrong direction, then we should listen. In almost every poll, small business owners have responded that the uncertainty coming out of Washington is what is preventing them from hiring. Quite simply, they fear what the next wave of regulations is going to be and the proposed taxes, what that will do to their ability to grow their business. Small business owners are afraid to invest any capital because they don't know what their taxes will be, afraid to hire another employee because they are nervous about what that does to their health care cost. And afraid to expand until they know how big their energy bill is going to be. Washington has to change course. My colleagues and I have a better path to a healthy economy that restores economic security and opportunity. Our market-based reforms are focused on creating a healthier environment for businesses to hire and to expand. We want to cut through regulations instead of adding more. We want to fix the tax code to incentivize hiring instead of passing the tab for more wasteful spending on to small business. We want to reduce their costs by encouraging producing domestic sources of energy instead of driving costs up by continuing our reliance on other countries for our needs. Three years of trying to tax and spend our way out of this problem has not worked. The American people are rightfully frustrated. All we are saying is we tried the President's way, and it hasn't worked. Let's try our market-based approach."

Senator Heller: (10:54 AM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "The question is: will the Paycheck Fairness Act actually address workplace inequality? And the simple answer is no. Unfortunately, the only winners under this legislation would be trial lawyers, giving them a windfall, exposing employers to unemployed punitive damages. This legislation opens the door to frivolous lawsuits which already cost our economy billions of dollars every year. Legitimate cases that could be addressed under the current system would be lost in a flood of lawsuits initiate bid lawyers hoping to win a few large judgments. These lawsuits, if successful, could transfer billions of dollars from employers to trial lawyers. In an economy already marked by uncertainty, this legislation would surely mean lost jobs, limitations on benefits, and pay cuts. These changes would mean much harder times ahead for Nevada's unemployed and underemployed so many of whom are women. Instead of holding votes designed for press releases, let's resolve our nation's problems. Congress can strengthen the Equal Pay Act without handing trial lawyers a blank check. The Wall Street Journal today referred to this legislation as a trial lawyer doosey just in time for the 2012 election, and goes on to say the bill ought to be called the Trial Lawyers Paycheck Act, since it's a recipe for class action boons. The law automatically lists women as plaintiffs in class actions when lawyers sue employers, thereby requiring female employees to opt out of litigation with which they don't agree. Businesses would be treated as guilty until they're shown to be innocent. You cannot be pro-jobs and anti-business. This is just another example of Democrats' war on free enterprise while Americans suffer with joblessness and underemployment. In fact, under this President there are 766,000 more women unemployed today than when he took office. I truly wish today's discussion was about leveling the playing field, ensuring pay equality and improving the economy. But years' old legislation mired in politics won't get us any closer to either ending gender discrimination in the workplace or ensuring that all women who want to have a job. This proposal couldn't pass when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress, yet here we are today voting on the same measure again and again, and those who are actually victims of workplace discrimination are only getting lip service from Washington. Like many of my colleagues, I worry about this proposal that will only increase litigation and do little to actually address the problems of pay inequality. Advancements in pay parity have been made, but more needs to be done."

Senator Moran: (11:02 AM)
  • Spoke on National Cancer Research Month.

Mikulski, Murray, Shaheen, Boxer

Paycheck Fairness bill (S. 3220)

Jun 05 2012

Senator Mikulski: (10:19 AM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "What does it do? Number one, no longer will employers be able to retaliate against workers for sharing information about wages. Remember what I said earlier. If you ask someone what you get paid, you can get fired. For years, Lilly Ledbetter and those she represents were humiliated and harassed for just asking questions. No longer will women be able to seek only back pay when they are discriminated against. They will also be able to seek punitive damages. No longer will employers be able to use almost any reason to justify paying a woman less. The guys do harder jobs. The guys do dangerous jobs. Oh, they have a better education. We're talking about equal pay for equal work that requires the same education. No longer will women be on their own because we're going to be able to include various education and training. As I said, in 1963 we made 59 cents. Women now make 77 cents. That's not progress. The consequences to this are severe. What does this mean? Well, let's take the college graduate, the woman who's had the benefit and privilege of an education. It starts the minute she tosses her hat in the air, when she goes for that job, say in information technology or even in some of the innovation economy fields. She will be making less. At the rate they're going, by the time she retires, there will be a $435,000 income pay gap. Now, this is serious because it not only affects your income as you go through your life, but it affects your social security. It affects your pension. It affects absolutely, absolutely everything. The negative impact multiplies. It's like compound interest in reverse. It's compound disinterest. It's compounded unfairness. So these are real grievances. That's why the paycheck fairness would be able to do this."

Senator Murray: (10:29 AM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "Women in Washington still earn 70 cents on the dollar, a pay gap that averages 11,834 in lost earnings each year. That is 179 tanks of gasoline. To most women cross America that is not a manufactured issue. It is very real. And, this comes at a time when more and more families rely on women's wages to put food on the table or stay in their homes or build a nest egg for their retirement or pay for their children's education. The importance of women in the workplace has never been as critical as today and this has become even more evident in this tough economy. The fact is that women are now participating in the work force at higher rates than ever before in history, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So it would seem most appropriate for this Senate to move our country once again towards eliminating pay discrimination and unfairness in the workplace. The Paycheck Fairness Act that we are going to have a vote on today tackles pay discrimination head on, and it shouldn't be a partisan issue or only a women's issue. It's good for women, it's good for families, and it levels the playing field for businesses in America who are doing the right thing and paying their workers fairly. The Paycheck Fairness Act is good for business, too. It recognizes employers for excellence in their pay practices and it strengthens the federal outreach and assistance to all businesses to help them improve equal pay practices. It is time to address this issue and finally close the wage gap for our working women and their families."

Senator Shaheen: (10:36 AM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "Workers should have equal access to every opportunity that will help them put food on the table, extend their children to school, and save for retirement. Unfortunately, here we are in 2012 and still millions of American women lose nearly a quarter of their potential earnings to pay discrimination. Almost 50 years after the landmark Equal Pay Act banned wage discrimination based on gender, women in our country continue to be paid just over 3/4 of what their male counterparts receive for performing the exact same work. Every day that this wage gap exists is a further injustice to current workers like my daughters, and to future members of the work force like my granddaughters and so many other granddaughters of members of this body. Pay discrimination doesn't just hurt employees. It endangers the families that depend on these women. One in three working moms is her family's only source of income. With the money that mother loses to pay discrimination every year, she could be paying housing and utility costs on her home, or she could be feeding her family with money to spare The Paycheck Fairness Act would make commonsense updates to this law by requiring pay differences to be based on legitimate business reasons. It would also protect women whose employers tried to shirk their responsibilities by prohibiting employees from discussing their salaries. And finally, this important legislation would create a program to strengthen women and girls' negotiation skills so they can seek the pay they deserve directly. It is long past time for us to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act."

Senator Boxer: (10:41 AM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "We're going to make sure that women have justice in the workplace, that women have rights and why is this important to families? Not just to women, but to families. It is because over a lifetime of discrimination that so many women face, it's not like here where you're a senator, you're a senator, you're a senator, women, man, out there, it's different. And when you're discriminated against over a lifetime and are only getting 77 cents and some, by the way, only making 56 cents or 62 cents on the dollar, the average wage loss over a working time is over $400,000. If you take a look at what our families could do with $400,000, educate a child, make sure that people get the best of medical care, make sure the family has enough so they can all take a break together and have a decent vacation or buy a better car. This is an issue that not only involves women, but our families and our economy. Because guess what? If that $400,000 during a lifetime was with the family rather than the corporate CEO who's making millions, you would see the economy stimulated because middle-class families spend those dollars. They don't hoard those dollars ... How the Republican side of the aisle could filibuster this bill is beyond my imagination. I don't know what they're thinking. They'll give an excuse. They'll come up with some excuse. They'll say it will hurt jobs. It will hurt this and that. It's all made up. It's all made up. In this great nation, when we move toward equality, we all prosper together."

Reid, McConnell

Opening Remarks

Jun 05 2012

  • Today --
    • The Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 3220, the Paycheck Fairness bill. The time until 12:30 PM will be equally divided, with the Majority controlling the first 30 minutes and the Republicans controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • At 12:30 PM, the Senate will recess until 2:15 PM for the weekly caucus lunches.
    • At 2:30 PM, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 3220, the Paycheck Fairness bill.

Senator Reid: (10:02 AM)
  • Spoke on the Paycheck Fairness bill.
    • SUMMARY "Most Americans believe they get an education, they work hard and play by the rules, they'll have a fair shot at success. But for millions of American women, no amount of talent or dedication will bring pay equality with male coworkers. In the minds of many employers they simply aren't equal. Women take home 77 cents for every dollar their male colleagues earn nor doing exactly is same work. That holds true regardless whether a woman has a college degree, how many hours she spends at the office each week or on some manufacturing floor. Regardless of what job she holds, 77 cents applies. But, listen to this, if she is an African-American woman, or a Hispanic woman, the disparity is even starker. African-American women make 62 cents on the dollar and Hispanic women 54 cents on the dollar compared to white men working the same hours and doing the same jobs. Not different jobs. The exact same jobs. If you're Hispanic and you're a woman, you get about half as much as the man doing the same job. If you're African-American, you get about 60 cents compared to every dollar that that man makes. And while landmark pieces of legislation like the Equal Pay Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act haven't closed the gap, that is obvious by the numbers I announced So Congress must do more. This act would give workers stronger tools to combat wage discrimination. Now, one of the tools of retaliation that employers have is they fire workers if they discuss how much they make with another worker. Our legislation would bar retaliation against workers for discussing salary information ... Our legislation would bar retaliation against workers for discussing salary information. And it would help secure adequate compensation for victims of gender-based pay discrimination For many families in Nevada and across the country a woman, a woman is the only income generator in that family. For many more women, that person is the primary breadwinner. Yet Republicans have vowed to block this legislation. All the news today. Every headline news talks about this bill coming up today. And the Republicans saying they're going to vote against it because it creates too much bookwork. They vow to block legislation that would even the playing field and help women provide for their families even theory Americans overwhelmingly support this legislation ... We know where Democrats stand, everyone knows. We stand firmly on the side of equality for every working woman. Democrats stand with middle-class women working to keep their families afloat, stand with young women pursuing a college education hoping to get a good-paying job when they graduate, stand with little girls whose mothers have taught them there is no limit to their dreams and this evening Americans will see where Republicans stand on this issue. It's unfortunate that once again they're obstruction over equality."

Senator McConnell: (10:10 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "We have recommended to the President four offsets that he himself has proposed in the past to achieve what we all want to achieve which is a one-year extension of the current student loan interest rates. We sent this letter to the President five days ago. Yet we now learn in spite of the fact they have a proposal recommending that we on a bipartisan basis accept offsets that they have previously recommended, we now learn the Vice President plans to have a group of college Presidents over to the White House today to "reassert the call for Congress to stop the student loans from doubling." Congress is acting. We've given the administration four offsets they previously have proposed, we're waiting for a response, so we can solve this problem. Why doesn't the Vice President simply pick up the phone and choose one of the proposals we played out in our letter and then announce that the meeting that the problem's been resolved that way, he'll give these folks some good news to bring back to their campuses instead of just asking them to be props, props in this elaborate farce the white house political team cooked up on this issue. An elaborate farce. This can be solved very easily with offsets that the administration itself has recommended. So the only people dragging their feet on this issue are over at the White House itself. Republicans in Congress have been crystal clear for weeks, we're ready to resolve the issue, to give students the certainty they need about their loan payments. The President may find it politically useful to keep these young people off balance, but we don't think they should have to wait another day on this. And it's inexcusable for the President to allow this impasse to persist. That's why we bent over backwards to find a solution and it's disingenuous for the President to claim otherwise. Which brings me to a larger point. We all realize the President is concerned about his reelection, I understand his placing a higher priority on fundraising and making Republicans looking bad. I get his rationale for running a negative campaign. If I were him, I wouldn't want to brag about my record, either. I get it. But I would remind him he is still President, even though the campaign is going on, Americans are looking for leadership and that the economic problems we face will only get worse if he avoids them for six more months. So whether it's the student loan issue or the prospect of a massive tax hike at the end of the year, Republicans are ready to work with the President to provide the kind of certainty that the American people need right now. But it's a two-way street. And we'll never solve these problems if the President continues to mislead the American people about what Republicans in congress are willing and eager to do to help."
  • Spoke on the Obama-EPA War on Coal.
    • SUMMARY "My constituents are under siege from the Obama administration's regulatory agenda and the EPA is the worst offender, the very worst. Perhaps the clearest example of this administration's regulatory assault is its war on coal. Since being sworn in, President Obama's EPA has set out to circumvent the will of Congress and the American people by turning the already cumbersome mine permitting process into a backdoor means of shutting down coal mines. 18,000 Kentuckians work in coal mining, and nearly 200,000 more, including farmers, realtors, and transportation workers rely on the coal industry for their jobs. Coal brings in more than $3.5 billion from out of state and pays more than $1 billion in direct wages every year. Attacking an industry so important to Kentucky will only succeed in putting people out of work, impeding future job growth and increasing energy prices. A former senior EPA official under the Obama administration summed up the logic of the agency by saying it wants to "crucify them." Let me say that again. This was a regulator with respect to those working in the coal business saying it wants to "crucify them.â€? It is no wonder the administration has failed to answer the American people's call for greater domestic energy production. The real-world impact of their fantasy-world energy policy is that people are losing their jobs and energy prices will rise even further. It is high time the Obama administration stopped treating the Kentucky coal industry as the problem and start recognizing that it has been and will continue to be part of the solution."

Jun 05 2012

The Senate Convened.

Jun 05 2012

The Senate is considering the motion to proceed to S. 3220, the Paycheck Fairness Act.  Republican senators continue to focus on creating jobs, lowering the deficit, reducing gas prices, and replacing the Democrats' health care bill with reforms that will actually lower costs.