Senate Calendar

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jun 06 2012

Senator Hatch: (5:48 PM)
  • Spoke on the Wisconsin recall election.
    • SUMMARY "Yesterday's election was very important. It was important because of the example it provides to the nation and the world of how a democracy should work with citizens who disagree vehemently about policy nonetheless coming together to accept the results of an open and fair election. And it was important because of the message that it sends with respect to public employee unions. Last night's results serve as yet another reminder that the American people want serious answers to our nation's fiscal problems and they are tired of having labor unions dictate the terms of our economic recovery. Scott Walker never hid his agenda. He ran for office on a platform of reducing state spending, and Governor Walker immediately began addressing the state's problems after taking office. So what egregious acts did Governor Walker commit during his first months in office to trigger this recall? Well, first of all, his Budget Repair bill actually required Wisconsin state employees to contribute more to their pensions. Prior to passage of the walker budget, many state employees did not contribute to their retirement benefits. You heard that right. Facing a massive state deficit, Governor Walker determined that Wisconsin taxpayers should no longer foot the entire bill for the generous pensions of public employees. In other words, he asked state public employees to do what private sector employees have done for a generation - contribute to their own retirement plans. Next, he required that state employees pay a larger share of their health care premiums. The new law requires state employees to pay 12.6% of their health care premiums. By contrast, federal employees pay at least 25% of their health care premiums. To put these reforms in terms that his liberal detractors might appreciate, the Governor was just asking for a little shared sacrifice. Instead of pitching in, however, the state's public employees pitched a fit. Then most significantly Governor Walker reformed the collective bargaining system for state employees. Above all else, it was this decision that triggered the meltdown in Wisconsin last year that ultimately led to the recall. Facing the possibility that a state might successfully limit union influence and excesses, national labor groups turned Wisconsin into the front lines of labor agitation ... I am not opposed to unionization if that is what employees truly want. I simply believe that workers should be free to choose whether or not to unionize in an environment that is free of coercion or intimidation, and once unions are formed, I do not believe they should enjoy disproportionate bargaining power in their negotiations with management."

Senator Whitehouse: (6:06 PM)
  • Spoke on climate change.
    • SUMMARY "This is our first week back in session in the Senate since our break last, and during that time, we have had a first and that is reports from the atmospheric measuring stations that the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere broke 400 parts per million. The Christian Science Monitor has reported on this, stating, "monitoring stations across the arctic this spring are measuring more than 400 parts per million of the heat-trapping gas, carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. The number isn't quite a surprise because it's been rising at an accelerating pace. Years ago it passed the 350 parts per million mark that many scientists say is the highest safe level for carbon dioxide. It now stands globally at 395." The story continues, "it has been at least 800,000 years, probably more, since earth saw carbon dioxide in the 400's, according to the climate scientists involved." They point out that the Arctic is the leading indicator in global warming, both in carbon dioxide in the air and in its effects. And Peter Tans, a senior NOAA scientist, says "this is the first time the entire Arctic is that high." He call the 400 number depressing. The Christian Science Monitor" also reported that global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels hit a record high of 34.8, nearly 35 billion tons released in 2011. Another report from the Sustainable Business News is that readings are coming in at 400 parts per million and higher all over the arctic. They've been recorded in Alaska, Greenland, Norway, Iceland and even Mongolia. 400 parts per million is beyond what scientists consider safe in terms of human society." It goes on, "in reporting of a 2009 paper in the journal, Science, researchers concluded, the only time in the last 20 million years that we find evidence for carbon dioxide levels similar to the then-modern level of 387 parts per million was 15 to 20 million years ago when the planet was dramatically different."

Senator Sessions: (6:24 PM)
  • Spoke on the CBO long-term budget outlook report.
    • SUMMARY "They lay out over 25 years what we could expect to see if current policy is extended. And these are some of the things that they find in this report that are certainly disturbing to us. Actually, they're more than disturbing. They're unacceptable. They are absolute proof that we are on an unsustainable debt course and this means we've got to get off of it or bad things will happen. And the numbers I give you from this report, as Federal Reserve Chairman Mr. Bernanke indicated, would not happen, wouldn't occur because we'll have a crisis before that. If we continue on this path. So this is what they found. On 25 years under the current policy, annual deficits would reach $5 trillion a year. Or 17% of GDP, and would rise steadily thereafter. In other words we'd have in one year a $5 trillion deficit. This year we expect to spend $3.7 trillion total, including defense and Social Security and Medicare. They go on to make this finding: federal debt would reach approximately 200% of GDP that is, the debt would be twice as large as the entire American economy. Japan has that high a debt. It's the highest in the world. It's financed because of Japanese unusual saving policies but we're not financing our debt that way. In fact, 60%-70% of our debt right now is being financed by the Federal Reserve, by buying Treasuries. By the Federal Reserve. That's a very dangerous thing because it's in effect printing money. So this is an unsustainable path. They go on to say, annual federal spending would rise to $10 trillion a year or 36% of GDP so 36% of the entire economy would be consumed by federal government spending. We're now 18%, 20%, in that range. This is an historic alteration of the fundamental concept of our government being a government of limited ... That's a stunning number. They go to say this, yearly interest, what we would pay yearly, would reach $2.7 trillion. That's certainly a large number. As I said, this year our numbers are, we spend $3.7 trillion. Federal debt according to the report will be double the size of the entire U.S. economy in 2037, 25 years from now. CBO agrees that higher levels of federal government debt will burden American families and destroy economic growth Under current policy, annual federal spending will exceed $10 trillion or 36% of GDP by 2037. It would exceed $10 trillion a year by 2037. You know, 25 years used to seem like a long time to me, but as I have gotten older, 25 years is a shorter period of time. By 2035, the report indicates mandatory health spending, social security spending and interest costs, Medicare and Medicaid, mandatory health spending, Social Security and interest costs will consume 100% of the revenues this government is expected to receive. Defense Department, zero, the Education Department, zero, Federal Highway fund, zero. All of it would just be in those programs. That reveals to us the necessity of looking at those programs, to think that we can deal with the surging deficits without confronting the fact that the largest, most sustained growth areas are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the debt."

Senator Whitehouse:
  • 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, with the time until 10:30 AM equally divided.
    • At 10:30 AM, 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.
    • Thereafter, the next hour will be equally divided, with the Republicans controlling the first 30 minutes and the Majority controlling the second 30 minutes.
  • On Tuesday, June 5th, a Motion to Reconsider the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 3220, the Paycheck Fairness bill, was entered.
The Senate stands adjourned until 9:30 AM Thursday, June 7th.

Jun 06 2012

Confirmed, 62-36:
Executive Calendar #610, Jeffrey J. Helmick, of Ohio, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Brown-OH, Grassley, Leahy

Executive Session

Jun 06 2012

Senator Brown-OH: (4:05 PM)
  • Spoke on the Helmick nomination.
  • Paid tribute to Private First Class Frank Harget, World War II veteran.

Senator Grassley: (4:39 PM)
  • Spoke on judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "We continue to confirm the President's nominees at a very brisk pace just two days ago we confirmed the 147th judicial nominee of this President to district and circuit courts. Let me put that in perspective for my colleagues. We also have confirmed two Supreme Court nominees during President Obama's term. The last time the Senate confirmed two Supreme Court nominees was during President Bush's second term. During President Bush's entire second term, the Senate confirmed a total of only 120 district and circuit court nominees. We have already confirmed 27 more nominees for President Obama than we did for President Bush in a similar period of time. And this is in a Presidential election year. Typically a time when judicial confirmations are limited to consensus nominees. Yet here we are here considering a controversial nomination ... The advice and consent function of the senate is a critical step in the appointment of federal judges ... The Senate has the role of judges that are unfit characteristics or political favors of any President and of those who are not qualified to serve as federal judges. What did our current President, then-Senator Obama, say about this duty? He stated, "There are some who believe that the President, having won the election, should have the complete authority appoint his nominee and the Senate should only examine whether or not the justice is intellectually capable and an all-around nice gay, that once you get beyond intellect and personal characteristic, there should be no further question whether the judge should be confirmed." I disagree with this view, then-Senator Obama said. I believe firmly that the constitution calls for the Senate to advise and consent. I believe that it calls for meaningful advice and consent, that includes an examination of the judge's philosophy, ideology, and record. Our inquiry of the qualifications of nominees must be more than intelligence, a present personality who are a prestigious clerkship. At the beginning of this Congress, I articulated my standards for judicial nominees. I want to ensure that the men and women who are appointed to a lifetime position in the federal judiciary are qualified to serve. Factors I consider important include intellectual ability, respect for the constitution, fidelity to the law, personal integrity, appropriate judicial temperament, and professional competence. In applying these standard, I have demonstrated good faith in ensuring fair consideration of judicial nominees. I have worked with the majority to confirm consensus nominees. However, as I have stated more than once, the Senate must not place quantity confirmed over quality confirmed. These lifetime appointments are too important to the federal judiciary and the American people to simply rubber stamp them. This is not a pro forma process that we are engaged in."
  • Spoke on the Helmick nomination.

Senator Leahy: (4:58 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "It does include a major dairy reform proposal. I know that both our producers and consumers will be helped to move away from the dangerous roller coaster of prices. It out dated price supports. It has a new risk-management plan that protects farm income from margins shrinking dangerously and does it at a lower cost than the program it replaces. Dairy is Vermont's single-most important agriculture community. If the senator has a concern about the dairy reforms in this bill, I would be glad to discuss them with him. There's been a lot of misinformation about the provisions, and I welcome an opportunity to eliminate any confusion. So let us work together on this. We can come together in a bipartisan way, just as we did on the Senate Agriculture Committee. The Farm bill represents an investment in American agriculture that will benefit our producers, our rural communities, our main street businesses, taxpayers, and consumers, and the neediest among us. And it deserves our attention."
  • Spoke on the Helmick nomination.

Senator Brown-OH: (5:08 PM)
  • Spoke on the Helmick nomination.

Moran, Warner, Coons, Blunt

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 06 2012

Colloquy: (Senators Moran, Warner, Coons, Blunt)
  • Spoke on the Startup Act.

Senator Moran: (3:40 PM)
  • SUMMARY "At a time in our nation in which our fiscal condition of the federal government is so serious, so much out of balance, we are spending so many more dollars than we take in, the deficit is holding back the growth of our country these facts are important because at this point in time because of our country's fiscal condition, we have an inability to grow the economy and we have seen little evidence that the administration and congress are willing to address our fiscal issues. I raise these facts because we have to act now in order to create jobs in this country, and the way to do that is to create an entrepreneurial and innovation environment in which people, Americans who have ideas want to take a product to market. In the process of pursuing their success, they put other Americans to work. We need to create the environment in which that can happen, and in the process of creating the benefits of new jobs in America, we will have a better fiscal condition than the one we find ourselves in today and prolong and avoid the chances that the United States become another Greece or other southern European country This legislation has a number of components related to the tax code, related to the regulatory environment, related to the global battle for talent, related to the ability for us to take the money that we spend, the taxpayer dollars that universities in conducting research and to encourage that that money be spent in a way for research that is able to be used in bringing new products to market, in commercialization and to create an environment in which states across the country can demonstrate their ... and find the place to build their companies."

Senator Warner: (3:46 PM)
  • SUMMARY "The facts show 80% of all in new jobs created in the last 20 years come from start-up businesses ... There are certain things that every start-up business needs. They need access to capital, access to talent, they need access to new ideas, they need to make sure we've got a stable regulatory environment that's not overly burdensome and in each way we move the ball in this legislation, both that we've passed and that we're working on right now ... This legislation, Startup 2.0, we take on a series of other issues. One of the issues is the question of talent. Every country in the world competes for talent. We attract some of the best talent in the world to come to the world-class universities we have. Oftentimes we then train them in science, technology, engineering and math with graduate degrees. I wish we could fill all those slots in American universities with native-born Americans. But we don't have enough and cons subsequently we train the best and brightest in the world and then send them home to start their businesses. I can tell you in Virginia where we are proud to have a vibrant high-tech community, a entrepreneurial community, literally a third of our high-tech firms in northern Virginia, one of our founders are first generation Americans. If we had the same policies 20 years ago we wouldn't have had that growth we had in the 1990's from technology."

Senator Coons: (3:49 PM)
  • SUMMARY "Last November Senator Rubio of Florida and I came together to put a package called the agree act before this Senate. We were pleased a number of the provision in that first agree act have subsequently become law. One to ease the path for IPO's, initial public offerings for high potential, high growth companies, another through executive order to strengthen intellectual property protection. And we're hopeful the Senate will consider another provision that dealt with bonus depreciation which is another way to help make investments in equipment for small businesses. And on top of that, Senators Rubio and I have now teamed up with Senator Moran and Senator Warner take some of the remaining provisions of the agree act and add them in with your Startup Act and now make an improved and broader Startup 2.0. The pieces that we brought to the party we're eliminating the per country caps for visas and making permanent the exemption of certain capital gains so investors can provide financial stability to qualified start-ups. There's a lot of good ideas in this bill. A lot of different ways it tackles the issues that my colleagues have already spoken to. Immigration, retaining high promise entrepreneurial folks who have come and learned in the United States. Moving the inventions and innovations on college campuses to the marketplace, more predictably, more swiftly, providing tax incentives for start-up businesses and putting things in the tax code that strengthen our welcoming environment for entrepreneurship. And regulatory relief. Senator Moran took the lead in making possible a provision in this bill that provides some regulatory relief for start-up businesses. In all, these provisions I think make for a terrific package. Thus the moniker 2.0."

Senator Blunt: (3:53 PM)
  • SUMMARY "I believe this bill, one of the reasons I decided to cosponsor the Startup Act 2.0, the second version of the Startup Act is I think it does some of the things we begin to need to do. 75% of all U.S. engineering and technology firms in the last decade, the decade that we have really good numbers on, the one that ended a few years that ended really in the numbers I have are 1995 to 2005, 75% of the engineering and technology start-ups were started by people who were born in another country. And this bill just simply creates a visa program that allows entrepreneurs who have good ideas and frankly have some money to go along with those good ideas to come to the United States of America and start those jobs, to take advantage of our great work force, to take advantage of the position that we have to be able to send products all over the world, and to do that here. This act also requires that we have a true cost benefit annual sis of rules and regulations. The federal government last year, of the 66 rules that cost more than $100 million, only 18 of them had what you could really describe as a cost-benefit analysis. And there are lots of things that would be fine to do but if the cost to the economy, if the cost to jobs, the cost to families is greater than the benefit, we shouldn't do them. So this bill says that, says let's go ahead, let's not let the cost of something overwhelm the benefit to the economy or become the negative impact on the economy. Long-term investment in this act was with start-ups would have some exemption from the capital gains so you're risking a lot of money with a start-up and this is saying okay, we want to raise the reward quotient of that risk so we encourage people to take the risk. If you're doing a start-up, the odds are pretty high that money may not ever come back. And so whatever you can do to encourage that that money be put on the table, that those jobs be created, in 2009, 651 start-ups were started with university research as a component. This just further opens the doors of grant dollars that are already available, of federal research and development funds, to be even more open to a university partner as part of that private sector effort."

Senator Moran: (3:58 PM)
  • SUMMARY "In the short time that those of us on the floor today have been in the United States Senate, about 14 months, seven countries have adopted new laws to attract entrepreneurs. We have not. Listen to this fact: a recent report from the World Bank shows America has slipped in the rankings in terms of start-up friendliness from first to 13th. This is about whether it's provisions in here about visas for those who are foreign born, this is very much about American jobs. This is about the opportunity for someone to start a company here and hire Americans and if you happen to be someone who is foreign born but highly educated in science, technology and engineering and entrepreneurial with money who wants to invest in the U.S. economy and agree to put people to work, we're saying our doors of the United States of America are open for business for purposes of hiring United States citizens. It is an important component and we do not want to lose this battle, as we see, these are ads from U.S. publications in which entrepreneurs are being lured to places outside the united states to start their companies... In my view, I would guess 80% of our colleagues here in the United States Senate at least would be supportive of the provisions in this legislation. And I think the senators on the floor this afternoon and others are out to prove that when there is broad support for commonsense ideas, we still are in a legislative body that can accomplish things and that as the Senator from Virginia is fond of saying, we didn't get the memo that says we don't work during an election year. The American people expect us to make the necessary accomplishments to grow the economy to, put Americans to work and to get our fiscal house in order."

Alexander, Paul, Durbin

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 06 2012

Senator Alexander: (2:54 PM)
  • Spoke on U.S. innovation.
    • SUMMARY "Mr. Freedman's column says that we should try to remember the things that made us great and preserve as much of those as we can. He said we need a plan. Then he suggested what he called a magic combination. Number one, immigration of high-IQ risk takers as he called it. Number two, government-funded research. Number three, cutting-edge higher education. That was the plan. That was the magic combination ... First, the idea as he called it of immigration of high-IQ risk takers, we call this pin the green card on the stem graduate. This idea is supported by, I would judge, most members of the United States Senate. Each year 50,000 of the brightest students in the world are attracted to our great universities, and then each year we send 17,000 of those graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics back home. We make them go home so they can create jobs in the countries where they came from rather than in the United States. A number of us have introduced legislation to change that. It came from a recommendation for legislation called America Competes, which passed first in 2007 ... And we've done two-thirds of them. Part of the unfinished agenda is the idea in America competes of pinning a green card on the science, technology, engineering and management graduate ... The second idea, advance research. It's hard to think of a major innovation in the biology or sciences that doesn't have some aspect, hasn't had some support from government-sport research since World War II. And the American Academy of Sciences tells us that maybe half our growth, half our wealth since World War II has come from this technological advance ... What do we do about that all I would need is to double clean energy research, a kind of Manhattan project, and pay for it by reducing the perm subsidies for other energy programs, whether big oil or big wind. Finally, the third idea of Mr. Friedman is one I've talked about for years, and that has to do with the effect of Medicaid mandates on public higher education. He puts it this way. That the state governments, Medicaid, incarcerate and educate. The courts tell the states you have to spend this much on prisons. If we in the federal government tell the states you have to spend on Medicaid, there's nothing left for education and the various orders to states today are ruining public higher education, driving up tuition, driving up loans, and hurting what I believe is America's secret weapon in our technological future. What to do about that? End the Medicaid mandates. Let the governors and the legislatures decide thousand spend their money, and I guarantee you if they do, they'll come closer to the way it was when I was Governor of Tennessee and we paid 70% of the cost of a student's education instead of the way it is today, which is just the reverse, the state pays 30% and the student pays 70%.the students are protesting at university of California because the state has cut $1 billion from the greatest public university in the world the University of California, over the last three or four years. Probably have no idea the main reason for that are Medicaid mandates from Washington that soak up the money that otherwise would go to keep tuitions low and quality high at the University of California."

Senator Paul: (3:05 PM)
  • Spoke on ending aid to Pakistan.
    • SUMMARY "What I find particularly trouble something that the U.S. continues to fund, we continue to give money to Pakistan, over $1 billion of U.S. taxpayer money is sent to Pakistan. It troubles me that we're sending $1 billion to a country that imprisons the gentleman, the physician, who was brave enough to help us get bin laden. It makes no sense. Now recently in a committee, the committee proposed reducing our foreign aid, $1 billion by $33 million. That's 3%. I think they'll laugh ought and keep doing what they're doing. They only understand negotiation from strength. So what I'm proposing and insist upon in the next few days is a vote ending aid to Pakistan unless they free Dr. Afridi. I think that is the very least they can do. I'm also asking the U.S. government to grant him emergency citizenship and help his family get over here and to provide them safe passage. I think it's the least we can do. But we shouldn't reward bad behavior. That's what we've done for so many years with foreign aid. It's one thing to talk about aiding and assist your allies but to aid people who persecute their own people, people who continue with human rights abuses ... You know there is a woman named Asia Bibi, accused of saying something about the prophet. She didn't do it. It is gossip. She set to be executed in Pakistan, I think the Americans should be outraged that $1 billion of your taxpayer dollars is being sent to Pakistan to a country that is imprisoning the guy who helped us get bin laden, who is imprisoning a Christian for saying that she said some sort of religious blasphemy, which is basically gossip, the accusation. I think we should be insulted. I don't think it works You can't buy better behavior. Don't reward autocrats. Don't reward folks who torture their people. And for goodness sakes, let's don't send $1 billion to Pakistan who is imprisoning a hero, who helped us get bin laden. My amendment will call for an immediate halt to all aid to Pakistan now. I'm asking President Obama not to send one penny to Pakistan until Dr. Afridi is free. I'm asking for no more money to go in the future until Dr. Afridi is free."

Senator Durbin: (3:30 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "In bringing this bill to the floor and the broader agricultural community deserve credit for stepping up to find savings in this farm bill to cut subsidies and to make sure that those savings are dedicated toward good programs and deficit reduction. They make real reforms in agriculture programs. The bill on the floor is a huge step forward in putting our agriculture policy on the right track in light of the fiscal challenges we face. It reforms several titles to help managers reduce their risk, make key investments in energy and research, ensure programs are in place to help rural communities grow and assist those who need to put food on the table. It does all this, and to the credit of the agriculture committee, it still manages to save $23 billion over the next ten years against what we have projected spending before this bill was introduced. Gone are the outdated direct payments that went to farmers even when they were having record positive income years. To replace direct payments, the Ag committee has proposed a new Ag risk coverage program known as ARC. ARC is a market-oriented program to build on the principles of the acre program that I authored in the last Farm bill and expanded on in the aggregate risk and Revenue Management Act ... The biggest change introduced by the ARC program is that to get a payment, you have to have an actual loss. That may sound odd to people who are observing this from the outside, but this is a fundamental shift in Ag policy, and I think a very wise one. ARC does not guarantee a profit and it doesn't make the farmer completely whole, but it smooths out the downturns and provides the producer time to shift to a new market condition. Crop insurance protects farmers with any given year. The ARC program is designed to help manage risks when there are repeated years of low prices or low yields. In other words, it makes the payments when they are needed. Even better, the shift to ARC saves the federal government about $15 billion, and I congratulate Senator Stabenow for this extraordinary savings as well as many other changes within the bill. Other portions of the bill make long-term investments that will help strengthen agriculture. The bill increases mandatory spending, reauthorizes and expands several programs in Ag research. It is a small part of the Ag bill but a critically important part of expanding agriculture in America. This bill creates the new foundation for food and agriculture research which leverages public dollars to generate private investment. These investments are going to be important to Illinois producers at major research institutions like the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University and the Peoria Agriculture lab, as well as several other universities across our state. The energy title includes mandatory funding for programs to expand bio-based manufacturing, advanced biofuel and renewable energy. These programs are going to help companies in my state like Archer Daniels midland and Patriot Renewable Fuels. They are going to be able to process and manufacture products in rural America. There are many examples in Illinois of new markets being developed and new jobs being created in rural areas because of the growth of bio-based industry. The bill reforms the conservation title to streamline programs, finds additional savings by limiting the number of acres that can participate in the CRP or the conservation reserve program. I have some concerns with these cuts and believe our most environmentally sensitive lands need to stay out of production, but I understand that the committee had a tough assignment to balance our policies with the need to reduce the deficit. This also holds true when it comes to nutrition."

Baucus, Kyl, Klobuchar

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 06 2012

Senator Baucus: (1:34 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "This legislation achieves what many thought impossible. It creates a market-oriented safety net that works for American farmers, strengthens crop insurance and streamlines conservation programs while still contributing $23.6 billion to deficit reduction. That's right, this reduces the deficit by about $23.6 billion. That's over ten years. Direct payments have their place in farm program history. But in light of necessary spending reductions, it is clear we cannot continue the status quo. So the Senate Agriculture Committee worked closely with farmers and ranchers across the country to create a program for a real safety net, one that only pays farmers who actually experience a loss. Farming is an extremely capital-intensive industry and our farmers often work with paper-thin profit margins. Even the best farmer is left at the mercy of chance. Historic droughts, catastrophic floods price collapses and much more. This new revenue program will make sure there is stability and predictability for farmers from year to year. Our comprehensive farm policy contributes to overall security in American agriculture, and that's why we spend less on food than any other country in the world. Americans spend less than 7% of their disposable income to feed their families ... The shallow lost revenue program combined with the products we have fine-tuned over the decades creates a fiscally sound safety net. This is the fruit of our labor and we must keep this intact. And we improve much more than the commodity title. We save $6 billion in the conservation title without compromising the policy. We do this by consolidating 23 existing programs. We consolidate them all together creating a network of conservation programs. I made sure that we protected the working lands programs which contribute to substantial conservation improvements but still allow for productive use of the land. The livestock, I made sure we extended and made permanent the livestock disaster programs we worked hard to include in the last farm bill ... Since created in 2008, the three livestock programs have helped over 100,000 ranchers across the country. Right now we are experiencing historic droughts in regions of the U.S. that also produce much of our beef. The livestock disaster programs will help those ranchers stay in business until the rain starts falling again. In the forestry title, we permanently authorize stewardship contracting. This is very important. This will help the timber industry harvest more trees. This authority is critical for reducing wildfire risk and maintaining resilient landscapes in communities of our country Not only did the committee accept my amendment to expand access to conservation programs to veterans, but also will direct USDA to set up a military liaison position. These strides to extend assistance to veteran farmers and ranchers are vital toward turning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who hope to return to rural America and work in agriculture. 35% of those who serve in the military come from rural communities. The Farm bill provision makes it clear that both efficient authorities and adequate resources are crucial for this effort, and I'm committed to enacting legislation that enables the decisive and responsible action as urgently needed. There is a lot of talk on Capitol Hill about creating jobs and cutting debt. The farm bill is our jobs bill."

Senator Kyl: (1:58 PM)
  • Spoke on the impending fiscal cliff.
    • SUMMARY "There are two recent reports which I think suggest some very dire news for this country, unless we're here in the Congress to take some action. The first was a couple of weeks ago, and it dealt with the so-called fiscal cliff, the problem that will occur with the combination of two things automatically happening, unless Congress and the President act. The first is the automatic across-the-board cuts or sequestration that will affect both defense and non-defense spending ... That's the first problem. And what the Congressional Budget Office said was that the combination of the sequestration with the second item, which is the automatic tax increase, which is a $4.5 trillion tax increase that begins on January 1, the combination of those two things will put this country back into recession, that the growth rate next year CBO projected to be only about .5%, and that of course is devastating for not just the economy but for job creation, for businesses, for families, and the like. The second recent report of the CBO just came out, and it is a report that talks about the surging debt of the United States government and talks about the probability of sudden fiscal crises. So we have a combination here of the potential for going back into recession, combined with the probability of sudden fiscal crises because of the amount of debt that the federal government is taking on. Now, because of the second report that just came out, let me refer to some things that have been said about that, primarily in the Wall Street Journal in a piece on June 5 called Obama's Debt Boom and I'll just quote a few lines from this editorial in Wall Street Journal. It says that the CBO's long-term budget outlook notes that federal debt held by the public and that's the part we have to pay back will surge to 70% of the economy by the end of this year, which is the highest in the history of the country, except during World War II ... Under the present trend, the debt will hit 90% of GDP by 2022 and then balloons to 109% by 2026. Now, what does this mean in practical terms? Well, here's a quotation from the Wall Street Journal about the CBO projections. We have never been deficit goals preferring to focus on the more important policy priorities of economic growth and spending restraint, but the Obama era is taking America to a place it has never been. Inside of a decade, the country will have a debt-to-GDP ratio well to the 90% to 100% danger zone where economists say the economy begins to slow and risks mount." and CBO notes that this level of debt "increases the probability of a sudden fiscal crisis during which investors would lose confidence in the government's ability to manage its budget and the government would thereby lose its ability to borrow at affordable rates." . So I suggest what we ought to be doing is tackling these two issues now, not wait until after the election This is a fiscal cliff. You cannot allow the sequestration to occur and you cannot allow these big tax increases to occur without understanding the damage that that's going to do to the economy. It's going to cut us back in a recession, they said. That's before the report that they just released on the increasing debt burden of this country. So I just urge my colleagues, the evidence is here, and leaders like former President Clinton, economist Larry Summers and of course many other economists have said the best thing to do is to keep the tax rates where they are, don't raise them, resolve this sequestration issue so that we don't have that hanging over our heads, and then look for other ways to boost job growth and economic productivity. That's the way to get out of the recession. That's the way to help families. And ironically, at the end of the day, a growing economy producing more wealth produces more tax revenues for the federal government, and that helps us deal with the big debt that we've accumulated."

Senator Klobuchar: (1:42 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "How have we done this to get the $23 billion in cuts? I think the first thing that is important for people to understand who are not from rural areas, who are from metro areas - my state has both - or from states that are more urban-focused, only 14% of the Farm bill is farm progress. Could have had a different name but a lot of people call it the Farm bill. It's 14%. The rest is conservation, school lunches, you name it. While only 14% of the Farm bill is farm programs, nearly two-thirds of the cuts over last year are on that 14%. Nearly two-thirds of the $23 billion in cuts, about $16 billion, is cut from the farm programs which are only 14% of the Farm bill. You know, I heard from many producers in Minnesota as we dealt with how are we going to get rid of direct payments I've long advocated, we had huge floor fights last time on reform to the farm payment system. I thought we needed to make some changes there and get that number down in terms of the money that can be spent in the income. But now we have actually eliminated direct payments, and so that is why the crop insurance part of this bill becomes even more important. The bill also continues the sugar program which is important to our country. Tens of thousands of jobs across the country, tens of thousands of jobs in the red river valley in Minnesota and North Dakota, and also helps to ensure that we have a strong domestic sugar industry in our country. The bill also simplifies the commodity programs by eliminating a number of programs and replacing them with the agriculture risk coverage program, which complements crop insurance by providing protection against multiyear project declines. The bill helps our agriculture producers keep our soil healthy and our water clean. Our state is number five in the conservation reserve program and number three in the environmental quality incentives program, and number one in the conservation steward program. Specifically, I've worked to ensure that local communities also have the tools they need to address conservation challenges like flooding. Conservation groups from ducks unlimited to pheasants forever know how important the Farm bill is, and that is why over 640 conservation groups are supporting the committee's work on the Farm bill. The committee-passed Farm bill also preserves the essential nutrition programs that millions of families and children rely on every day. Importantly, this bill avoids the radical cuts to nutrition programs and school lunches that would have been proposed in other budgets."

Stabenow, Roberts, Gillibrand

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 06 2012

Senator Stabenow: (12:01 PM)

  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "The Farm bill is a jobs bill. 16 million jobs. 16 million jobs in this country rely on the continued strength of American agriculture ... We know that for every $1 billion in agricultural exports that we are creating 8,400 American jobs. 8,400 American jobs for every $1 billion in exports. And so the investments we make in market development, in access for our agricultural products overseas will continue to create jobs here at home ... We are refocusing, we are cutting the things that aren't important and refocusing on the things that are and the things that create jobs. The agricultural reform food and jobs act is about cutting subsidies and creating jobs in America. The reforms in this bill start on page 1 with the repeal of direct payments. Countercyclical payments and the average crop revenue election, which has been called the acre program. We're creating a new approach, a new program that only helps farmers when there is a loss and only for crops that they have actually planted. We're strengthening payment limits. We are ending more than 100 programs and authorizations that are no longer needed. And we're doing all of this in order to be able to cut the deficit by $23 billion. The most fundamental reform in the Agricultural Reform, Food and Jobs Act, is the shift away from direct payments and towards risk management for farmers. Throughout this process, we've been focused on principles, not programs, and the number-one principle is risk management. So we are repealing direct payments. We know that farmers face unique risks unlike those in other businesses, and let me stress that again. I don't know of any business that has the same kind of risks in market volatility, in weather volatility than our farmers and ranchers do and we are very fortunate that we have people that still want to stay in that people given all the risks. Weather and market conditions outside of producers' control can have devastating effects and we know that, but current system focused around direct and countercyclical payments doesn't focus on actual risks and is longer defensible or sustainable. In this current fiscal and political environment, these programs actually jeopardize our ability to have a real safety net for farmers and the jobs that depend on them. That's why we are eliminating those programs and instead strengthening crop insurance as the centerpiece of risk management in the Farm bill. This is the number-one issue that we heard from every farmer that's testified before the committee ... The basic foundation of support for producers today is crop insurance. We're expanding crop insurance in the bill to include specialty crops and others as well because we know that while crop insurance is the foundation, it doesn't work the same, it's not available for every commodity and that's a commitment that we've made to expand crop insurance. Including specialty crops, which are essentially the kinds of crops that you'll find in the produce aisle of your supermarket or at the local farmers market, fruits, vegetables, nuts and other products. This is an extremely diverse group of crops and the bill recognizes the unique crop insurance needs of specialty crop growers. We are also taking strides to help young and beginning farmers get started and succeed in farming. We've made revisions to crop insurance to better help those new farmers by reducing their crop insurance premiums and providing additional support when disasters strike. To supplement crop insurance, this bill creates a single simple market oriented and risk-based program we're called Arc, agricultural risk coverage. Arc represents significant and historic reform in agricultural policy. For years Congress has struggled to balance the needs of different commodities, different programs and this is solved with the new arc program which uses the market as a guide and treats every commodity the same."

Senator Roberts: (12:37 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "The Senate Agriculture Committee voluntarily wrote and reported a bill that provides $23.6 billion in deficit reduction. It is a bill that represents real reform. We are the first authorizing committee to produce that kind of mandatory budget savings, and it was voluntary. We all remember the Superommittee that tried very, very hard to achieve deficit reduction. The Supercommittee was not really that super, not because of the people involved but because of the circumstances. Circumstances well, we're a Supercommittee. I don't know of any people on the House side but in the Senate we are the only folks who have come up with real budget savings. And it also represents, as I've indicated and as the chairwoman has indicated, real reform. Listen to this. We've eliminated four commodity programs, four commodity programs that caused farmers untold hours of preparation and to go down to the farm service agency and to talk to the folks down there who are hard-pressed anyway, which program do I sign up for, how can I plan down the road - all of these programs - and roll them into one while savings approximately $15 billion from the farm safety net programs. That's truly remarkable. 23 conservation programs are streamlined into 13, while saving nearly $6.4 billion. Approximately $4 billion is saved in the nutrition title while at the same time expanding our efforts to root out fraud and abuse. 16 program authorizations are eliminated in the rural development title, eliminating over $1 billion of authorized spending over ten years, on top of the mandatory. Two programs are combined and another two eliminated in specialty crops. Over $200 million less in mandatory money is provided in the energy title compared to the 2008 farm bill. Five programs are eliminated in the forestry title reducing authorizations by at least $20 million. And over 60 authorizations are eliminated from the research title reducing authorizations by at least $770 million over five years. Again, that is $23.6 billion in tough, mandatory savings. At least $1.8 billion in reduced discretionary authorizations and at least 100 programs or authorizations that have been eliminated. This is a reform bill. No other committee in the House or Senate has voluntarily undertaken programmatic and funding reforms at this level in this budget climate, no other committee At the same time, it is a bill that strengthens and preserves our farm risk management and research, conservation, and rural development programs. We have strengthened and preserved the crop insurance program, as pointed out by the distinguished Chairwoman. The number-one priority of virtually every producer that testified before our committee. Why? Because their banker, their lender say, you got to have crop insurance, and you to strengthen it and improve it. In the past we have been using crop insurance as a bank. No, we're not going to do that anymore, given the circumstances that our farmers face, even today in Kansas as we go throughout another dry spell and also in Texas, Oklahoma, and the high plains. We've streamlined our commodity program while reducing the complexity."

Senator Gillibrand: (1:05 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "New York is not home to the mega-corporate farms. We're home to small dairy farms, specialty crops, orchards and vineyards. And as we have been shaping and debating this Farm bill, those are the farms, the small businesses that I have been fighting for. Now, I am very grateful that this bill will help our specialty crop growers by providing them with a dedicated funding stream as well as a better way to protect against disasters, and I'm also very proud of the good work with broadband investments to make sure that our rural communities have access to the internet. We also worked hard on trying to guarantee more transparency and accountability on how we price milk in this country. But we cannot forget that this bill is much more than a number of esoteric figures. What a Farm bill is about, it's about how we protect and create a growing economy for small businesses, agricultural businesses, the middle class and those families that are desperately trying to get there. The Farm bill is about the health of the agricultural industry, it's about the health of our families, with nutritious food that's actually within reach of the children who need it. So as a mother, I am very concerned that this current farm bill cuts $4.5 billion from the supplemental nutrition assistance program. It's the snap program, food stamps, as we know it. Over the next ten years. Now, I'm incredibly disappointed and even troubled that my Republican colleagues are seeking to cut food stamps even more from those cuts. Now, under this bill, families in New York who are already struggling will lose $90 a month of food that goes onto their tables. Now, think of a month long of food for a family. It's basically the last week, the last week a family will not have enough food to feed their children. Now, $90 a month may not seem like a lot of money to some people, but I can tell you if you are a parent who is trying to protect your children and feed them good, wholesome, nutritious foods, it means everything in the world We have 20 million people in our great state. So with these cuts, it's going to affect 300,000 families. Imagine 300,000 families in your state or any state going hungry at night. These kind of cuts, they hurt children, they hurt families, they hurt seniors that are homebound, seniors that don't know where their next meal is going to come from. We are asking these families, these 300,000 families to take a disproportionate amount of the burden. They were not the cause of the financial collapse. They were not the cause of this terrible economy, but we are asking them to bear the burden. Now, we know food stamps are actually a very effective investment. For every dollar you put into the food stamp program, you get $1.71 of spending back into the economy."
  • Spoke on Gillibrand amendment #2156 to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "Today I'm introducing an amendment to restore the $4.5 billion in cuts because it's the right thing to do. It's the right thing to do for our families, our seniors, our kids. It's the right thing to do for our economy. It invests $500 million over ten years in fresh fruits and fresh vegetables, a snap program which connects our kids to our farmers. It gives the authority to the Secretary of Agriculture to make additional purchases as part of the emergency food assistance program. It's useful when we have all-time high rates of hunger and unemployment that put unbelievable demands onto these emergency feeding organizations, and to pay for these investments in our children's health and health of the economy, my amendment makes a very modest reduction in government subsidies to some of the most highly profitable companies. My amendment lowers the subsidies to companies from billions per year to hundreds of millions per year. Anyone who argues that these companies will struggle from this shift needs to meet a family who is dependent on food stamps to feed their children. As I said earlier, this Farm bill, like all legislation, it's about our priorities. It's a reflection of our values. So I'm asking my colleagues let's agree that children deserve healthy meals so they can live healthy lives, so they can learn, so they can grow, so they can reach their god-given potential. Let's agree that it's a worthwhile investment in our future to make sure that children do not go hungry in this country."

Jun 06 2012

Senator Whitehouse: (10:45 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "We have a 75-22 Senate bill that has the support of the Chamber of the Commerce, the Association of Manufacturers and the Pavers, the support of the labor unions, the environmental community. There is really nothing to criticize about it either substantively or in terms of the process by which it was adopted. And yet our colleagues on the House side won't accept the bipartisan Senate bill. They have got it bottled up in this conference. And the reason that I'm on the floor today is that we're being told now that the House is going to ask for another extension past the end of June to continue to dawdle and stall the bipartisan Highway bill. Now, what's the effect of that? What is the effect of dawdling and stalling the bipartisan Senate Highway bill? The effect is loss of jobs In winter it is really hard to build and repair highways and bridges. There is a summer construction season. And as we dawdle and as we delay, and as the House jams up the bipartisan Senate Highways bill, that summer season gets away. We are now at the point where my Director of Transportation in Rhode Island, Mike Lewis, says he had 97 jobs on his roster to be done in this summer construction season. And if we can't get this done earlier than when we anticipate doing it now at the end of June, 40 of those projects drop off the roster. 40 projects. And all the jobs associated with them are lost. Rhode Island is a small state. Those numbers are going to echo eastward and northward across the country in job loss this summer because of delay by the house of a bipartisan Senate Highways bill. This is real jobs There is no excuse for not passing the bipartisan Senate Highway bill that is widely supported and that will create or defend nearly three million jobs in this country. 2.9 million, to use the exact number that has been identified with this bill. So, I think it's really important that we stick to our guns on this one."

Senator Hatch: (10:54 AM)
  • Spoke on the impending fiscal cliff.
    • SUMMARY "The bad news does keep coming. Europe is in dire straits and now Spain threatening the fewer of the continent's economic union. There is real concern this debt-fueled contagion in Europe will undermine our economy as well. And our economy cannot take too many more hits. The unemployment rate went back up to 8.2% last month, only 69,000 new net payroll jobs were created. That is barely keeping up with population growth, and it's hardly the type of robust job growth that will be the foundation of a lasting and meaningful economic recovery. We should have seen this coming. The minutes of the Federal Reserve's most recent policy making meeting makes numerous mention of uncertainty surrounding fiscal policy and that those uncertainties are a risk to the economic outlook. Fed policy-makers noted that "they generally saw the U.S. fiscal situation also as a risk to the economic outlook. If agreement is not reached on a plan for the federal budget, a sharp fiscal tightening could occur at the start of 2013." That's the Fed policy-makers. They concluded that "uncertainty about the trajectory of future fiscal policy could lead businesses to defer hiring and investment and uncertainty about the fiscal environment could hold back both household spending on durable goods and business capital expenditures.â€? Yesterday the Congressional Budget Office reminded us yet again what the consequences will be to our economy if we fail to get our debt under control. According to one of their analysis, analyses, absent serious reform of entitlement spending programs "Federal debt would grow rapidly from its already high level exceeding 90% of GDP in 2022, after that debt as a share of GDP would exceed its historical peak of 109% by 2026 and it would approach 200% in 2037. And that's an optimistic view. The impact of this multiplying debt will be a gross national product that is reduced by 4.5% in 2027 and 13.5% in 2037. In other words, unless President Obama and his allies in the Senate get to work, Americans face a future of fewer jobs, flat or shrinking incomes and loss of opportunity. And the sad truth is ... the President's allies have not gotten to work This fiscal cliff is unquestionably contributing to our fiscal crisis and slowing the economy by creating enormous uncertainty for taxpayers and businesses. Absent action to extend this tax relief, Americans will be hit with a $310 billion tax increase next year. Next year alone. 26 million middle-income families will owe $92 billion in alternative minimum tax when filing their returns one year from now. A family of four earning $50,000 will get hit with a $2,183 tax hike. A small business owner will face a top marginal tax rate hike of 17%. That's catastrophic ... There should be no higher priority for the President and the Congress than addressing these tax increases. Yesterday President Clinton seemed to agree, arguing that we should act now, not after the elections, to avoid the fiscal cliff. At a minimum, he concluded that a temporary extension of current tax relief was in order. To quote former President Clinton, "They will probably have to put everything off until early next year. That's probably the best thing to do right now." President Clinton further argued, "What I think we need to do is to find some way to avoid the fiscal cliff. To avoid doing anything that would contract the economy now and then deal with what's necessary in the long-term debt-reduction plan as soon as they can, which presumably will be after the election.""

Senator Portman: (11:16 AM)
  • Spoke on the World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2012.
    • SUMMARY "This bill will lead to the placement of a plaque or an inscription at the national World War II memorial here in Washington, DC with a prayer that Franklin Roosevelt shared with the nation by radio address 68 years ago today. The occasion was D-Day, June 6, 1944. On that day, D-Day, American troops, joined by allied forces, carried out an amphibious and airborne landing on five beaches along a 15-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France's Normandy region. Some have termed those Normandy landings the beginning of the end of the war in Europe. And I think history records that that's probably true. And that's because courageous Americans and others were willing to risk it all. Risk their lives on the coast of France that day. Thousands made the ultimate sacrifice that day. With the invasion underway, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked our nation to come together in prayer for the men who were engaged in this dangerous but very important battle. His powerful and ecumenical prayer drawing on our nation's rich Judeo-Christian heritage and values brought strength and inspiration to many during what was a very challenging time for our country. Today I have the honor, with Senator Lieberman, again to introduce this legislation to commemorate that prayer and that day. His words, of course, also brought comfort later to the many grieving families and friends of the brave men who were killed in action. Those words of Franklin Roosevelt are etched in our history and in our minds and we hope soon in stone. Our bill ensures that the prayer becomes a permanent reminder of the sacrifices of those who fought in World War II, and with the power of prayer through difficult time. We've worked closely with the national park service to ensure that the plaque or inscription does not disrupt the World War II memorial or bypass what's called the commemorative works act process which governs monuments here in Washington, DC, the placement and design of the plaque will be subject to a commemorative works approval and review process which makes it consistent with legislation passed by previous congresses. So it's adding some historical context to this beautiful memorial, adding a layer of commemoration, not taking anything away from the memorial that's already in place."

Senator Lieberman: (11:19 AM)
  • Spoke on the World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2012
    • SUMMARY "It's very important to remember in doing so that on D-Day, 68 years ago today, turned out to be a pivotal moment in the war in Europe. FDR chose not to give a speech announcing the landing at Normandy but to offer a national prayer. And I think in doing so, he we went to a very proud not only tradition in America but one of our great assets, that we've had the ability to bring faith and god in a very inclusive and nondiscriminatory way into our public life, to the great benefit of our nation. As he delivered these words of prayer in a historic radio broadcast, which is, of course, the way it was done in those days, the success of the bold and dangerous D-day plan was far from assured. But with the eloquent faithfulness of his words and with his steady Presidential leadership, the brave American men and women in uniform landed at Normandy I think strengthened by the conviction of our national values, the virtue and righteousness of their cause, and, of course, with confidence that they would benefit from the guiding grace of god I think adding FDR's prayer to the grandness of the World War II memorial will even elevate it and it will rightly remind all who visit it of the essential role that faith in god played at that pivotal moment of world history and also remind us that faith in god has played a pivotal role in American history every day since the declaration of independence, July 4, 1776, when our founders declared that they were forming our new government to secure the rights to life, liberty and happiness that each of us received as an endowment from our creator. All this is expressed in the wonderful idea that Senator Portman has had and would be accomplished by this project."
Senator Portman and Senator Lieberman: (11:23 AM)
  • Recited President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's D-Day prayer.

Thune, Barrasso, Durbin

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 06 2012

Senator Thune: (9:45 AM)
  • Spoke on the Sequestration Transparency Act.
    • SUMMARY "Congress needs a precise understanding from this administration as to the full effects of sequestration on all accounts across the federal government including national security funding. That's why I've introduced a bill along with Budget Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions that would require the administration to bring some much-needed transparency to the scheduled across-the-board spending cuts. Our legislation Senate bill 3228, the Sequestration Transparency Act would require the administration to submit to congress a detailed preview of the sequestration required by the Congressional Budget Office. It would require the President to submit a report to congress by July 9 of 2012 that includes an estimate of the sequestration percentages and amounts necessary to achieve the required reduction for each spending category on an account level. The administration's report would also be required to include any other data and explanations that enhance the public's understanding of the sequester and actions to be taken under it. This report will assist Congress in its year-end legislative business including fiscal year 2013 appropriations and addressing the deep and unbalanced defense budget cuts that are expected under sequestration which are in addition to the reductions carried out last August. Of course we would not be in this situation had the national passed a serious budget over the last three years that addressed tax and entitlement reform. The Senate's failure to produce a budget year after year has left us with a Budget Control Act. Now the Budget Control Act is the law of the land. While I am certainly disappointed that the President and the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction failed to reach an agreement to bring down our deficits in the long term, the cuts to national defense that are scheduled to go into effect are particularly troubling. The President's own Defense Secretary warned that the sequester "would hollow out the force and inflict serious damage to our national defense." That's from the President's own Defense Secretary. Yet after repeated requests from the House and the Senate, the administration refused to provide even the most basic details about the cuts required by the sequester. There's a great deal of uncertainty regarding sequestration and the tax cuts that would occur. At a time when our economy grows at a sluggish pace, the last thing we need coming out of Washington is more uncertainty. Job creators are concerned about the pending fiscal cliff. If Congress does not act before the election to deal with these issues, the economy will suffer from this uncertainty in the coming months."

Senator Barrasso: (10:06 AM)
  • A Doctor's Second Opinion.
    • SUMMARY "Take a look at this, these unintended consequences that have come out of this health care law, but I will tell you on Monday national news reports showed that the coverage requirements and in the President's health care law, the mandated requirements in the health care law, of a certain level of government-approved coverage, well, it's causing colleges all across the country to drop insurance coverage for their students. And I'd like to explain, exactly how this works. As members of this body who voted for this on the other side of the aisle, members of this body recall, the health care law eliminates annual and lifetime benefits for insurance plans. Many colleges offer their students an opportunity for a limited benefit policy to give students access to affordable health insurance coverage that actually is something that a college student might need, might benefit from, may help with. You know, these are the same benefit plans that have been popular with many unions across the country. They were so popular that the administration issued over 1,700 waivers which impacted over four million Americans, these Washington waivers ensured people who got their insurance through certain corporations and unions wouldn't lose the coverage they had, in the lead-up to the full implementation to the health care law. After half of these waivers were granted to individuals who received their insurance through their union so these individuals wouldn't lose their coverage during the time when the unions were saying this health care law is too expensive for us. We don't want to live under these mandates. We can't afford it. Well, the colleges are finding the same situation but unlike the unions, the colleges aren't eligible to apply for these special administration waivers from the health care law. So students across the country are suffering the consequences. This year because of the president's health care law, these students are not going to be able to purchase or afford coverage through their schools. Schools are faced with two options: one is raise premiums dramatically, drastically or just don't offer the health insurance programs that students like, their parents like, the universities like to provide, too bad, the President of the United States and the Democrats who voted for this health care law essentially have said."

Senator Durbin: (10:27 AM)
  • Spoke on student loan debt.
    • SUMMARY "Just in October of a year ago, student loan debt in America surpassed credit card debt. It is now $1 trillion. More students are going more deeply into debt, many of them into debt they can never repay. Student loan debt is different than other debt. It is different because you cannot discharge it in bankruptcy, which means it is a debt you will carry for a lifetime. Imagine that you're 19, 20 years old, that you've been told as long as you've been on this earth that education is the key to the future, and you're sitting across the table from a financial counselor who says you've just been accepted at this college. All you need to do is sign up right here for a loan. What's the natural instinct? Of course it's to sign on the dotted line. I'm doing what I was told to do. I'm going to the best school I can get into. I'm going to borrow the money and make it happen and my life will be successful and I'll pay the money back. The formula is right but there are problems. If you drop out of school, you end up with no diploma. Just debt. If you go to a bad school, you end up with a worthless diploma and debt. If you end up, unfortunately, in some aspects of life, occupations or professions, it may take you decades to pay off a debt. The average student loan debt is about $25,000 once someone has completed four years of education Last week the Federal Reserve Bank of New York quarterly report on household debt found that student loan debt hit $904 billion in the first quarter of 2012 up two from $241 billion just ten years ago. That's a 275% increase. Since the same period in 2003. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which mean people on the other side of the aisle would like to put out of business, the only leading consumer protection bureau in the federal government, estimates that outstanding student loan debt may be even higher, up to a trillion dollars. Students continue to pile on the debt even as America, most Americans cut back on other forms of credit such as mortgage and credit cards. According to a senior economist at the New York Federal Reserve Bank, it remains the only form of consumer debt to substantially increase since the peak of household debt in 2008. The hole just gets deeper for the students and the families borrowing money for higher education. Students are graduating with massive debt and having a very difficult time paying it back. Delinquency rates for student loans are higher than for mortgages or automobile loans Private student loans don't come with the same consumer protections and payment plans that federal loans offer. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, Chairman of the Education Committee, introduced a bill with me to help families understand the difference between the federal student loans and private student loans. We call it the Know Before You Owe Private Student Loan Act. It would require private student loan lenders to confirm that the potential borrower's enrollment status and cost of attendance. The bill would require the institutions to counsel students about the difference between federal and private student loans."

Reid, McConnell

Opening Remarks

Jun 06 2012

  • Today --
    • 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.
    • At 4:00 PM, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session for up to 90 minutes of debate, equally, divided, on Executive Calendar #610, Jeffrey J. Helmick, of Ohio, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio.
    • Circa 5:30 PM, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the nomination.
  • 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.
  • Unless an agreement is reached, 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 Reid: (9:34 AM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "This measure will create jobs and cut subsidies, it includes important reforms of farm and food stamp programs more accountable and more defensible. With more farmers seeking new global markets for their products than ever before this bill supports rural farm jobs as well as urban manufacturing jobs. It will help new farmers especially those who served the armed forces, access to capital they need and training to builds successful businesses. The legislation helps local farmers sell their products where they grow them, connecting farms, schools, and communities. And it saves $23 billion which we use to reduce this deficit that we have. I know there are a number of Democrats and Republican senators who wish to offer amendments to this legislation. I have confidence in the leadership of Senator Stabenow and Roberts and look forward to working quickly and cooperatively to pass the bill that creates jobs, cuts subsidies and helps the deficit while protecting American farmers."

Senator McConnell: (9:37 AM)
  • Spoke on the Honor Flight program.
  • Spoke on a Resolution congratulating the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on defending and advancing free market principles for the past hundred years.

Jun 06 2012

The Senate Convened.

Jun 06 2012

The Senate is considering S. 3240, the farm bill.  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.