Senate Calendar

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Jun 07 2012

Senator Reid: (5:12 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Monday, June 11th --
    • The Senate will convene at 2:00 PM and resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 3240, the Farm bill, post-cloture.
    • At 4:30 PM, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session for up to 1 hour of debate, equally divided, on Executive Calendar #607, Andrew David Hurwitz, of Arizona, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.
    • At 5:30 PM, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the Motion to Invoke Cloture on Executive Calendar #607, Andrew David Hurwitz, of Arizona, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.
    • If Cloture is Not Invoked, the Motion to Proceed to S. 3240, the Farm bill, will be Agreed to.
  • 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 2:00 PM Monday, June 11th.

Sessions, Brown-OH

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 07 2012

Senator Sessions: (3:54 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "What might surprise many people to learn is that the overwhelming majority of funds in the Farm bill are not spent on anything to do with farmers or even agriculture production. For instance, crop insurance amounts to just 8% of what we'd be spending. Horticulture is less than 1%. But a full 80% of the Farm bill spending goes to the federal food stamp program. Yet 83% of the small savings that are found in this proposal come from that, $23 billion in cuts, none of which occur next year out of almost $1 trillion in spending over ten years are taken over almost $1 trillion are taken from the farm provisions. So about $23 billion in cuts, most of that are taken from the farm provisions, the 20% that goes to that. Food stamp spending is virtually untouched. I believe they proposed $4 billion in savings in the 80%, in the food stamp program, and $17 billion out of the 20%. So overall, the legislation will spend $82 billion on food stamps next year, $82 billion, and an estimated $770 billion over the next ten years Food stamp spending has more than quadrupled, four times, fourfold since the year 2001. It has increased 100% since President Obama took office, doubled in just that amount of time. There are a number of reasons for this arresting trend. While a poor economy has undeniably increased the number of people who qualify for food stamps, this alone does not explain the extraordinary growth in the program. For instance, between 2001 and 2006, food stamp spending doubled by the unemployment rate remained around 5%. So from 2001 to 2006, we had a doubling of food stamps while unemployment was the same. When the food stamp program was first expanded nationwide, about one in 50 Americans received food stamp benefits. Today, nearly one in seven receive food stamp benefits Three factors help explain this increase. First, is that eligibility standards have been significantly loosened over time with dramatic drop in eligibility standards in the last few years. Second, it has been the explicit policy, goal of the federal bureaucracies to increase the number of people on food stamps. Bonus pay is even offered to states who sign more people up. States administer this program. And third, the way the system is arranged with states administering their program but the federal government providing all the money, all of it, states don't match food stamps. States have an incentive, don't you see, to see their food stamp budget grow, not shrink because it's more federal money coming into the state for which they pay no part of. So that means overlooking, I'm afraid, I hate to say, dramatic amounts of fraud and abuse because the enforcement and supervision is given over to the states. So I filed a modest package of food stamp reforms to the Farm bill which will achieve several important goals. Save taxpayer dollars, which is a good thing ... in how the program is administered. Confront widespread waste. Direct food stamps to those who truly need them and help more Americans achieve financial independence."

Senator Brown-OH: (4:32 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "If we're not able to freeze interest rates on Stafford loans for at least another year, these students will be faced with another thousand dollars in addition to what they're already facing. And it's really become a moral issue. When we turn over to our society, to these young people, they come out of school, if they face this kind of debt, $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 a year, means they're less likely to buy a house, means they're less likely to start a business, it patrol means they're less likely to start a family. And do we want to do that to a generation of smart, young, enthusiastic, talented people instead of giving them a bet launch for their lives in their 20's and 30's. And that's why it's essential we do this We passed this freeze. President Bush signed legislation to freeze these student loan interest rates for Stafford subsidized student loans at 3.4%. But if we don't act - it was a five-year freeze. If we don't act by July 1, 2012, five years after we passed it, it's going to mean these loans are going to double. And, again, it's a thousand dollars more per student ... It's incumbent upon us, it's a moral question not to load up more debt on these young people so they can really develop their talents in a way that not only will help them individually, not only will help their families but will help our society prosper."

Hatch, Coons, Grassley

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 07 2012

Senator Hatch: (2:36 PM)
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "The House of Representatives will vote on the Health Care Reduction Act of 2012. I want to say a few words about that bill which repeals two of the more counterproductive of many components of the president's health care law. Specifically it repeals the restrictions on the use of FSA's and FHS's as well as the medical device tax. ... I have introduced legislation that specifically repeals the medical device tax and my bill, the Family and Retirement Health Investment Act, includes the repeal of the limitations on the purchase of over-the-counter medication ... Neither of these provisions serve any health policy purposes. They exist for one reason, to bankroll the $2.6 trillion in new spending that is the real soul of Obamacare. There is no good that can come of Obamacare. The bad and ugly are plenty, however. The restriction on the purchase of over-the-counter medications, what some have called a medicine capital net tax inconveniences families and increases burden on primary care providers, reduces patient choice and increase health care utilization and spending. So much for bending the cost curve down. And the medical device tax in addition to harming patients is a job killer at a time when our nation and our country needs all the good jobs it can get. Together, they are also clear violations of the President's pledge not to raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year. With respect to the restrictions on the purchase of over-the-counter medications, Obamacare now requires the holders of health savings accounts and flexible spending arrangements to obtain a physician's prescription before using those accounts to purchase over-the-counter medicine. In some respects, this policy more than any other represents the incredible arrogance and wrong-headedness of the President's signature domestic achievement. When President Obama and his allies touted the virtues of this law, they mentioned the increased access and lower cost. Yet to pay for the law's coverage expansions they included this medicine cabinet tax which will do nothing but burden medical providers, undermine access to health care, and increase costs for patients and businesses."

Senator Coons: (2:51 PM)
  • Spoke on the MLP Parity Act.
    • SUMMARY "I am so glad I've been able to work with my colleague and friend, Senator Moran of Kansas, to today introduce bipartisan legislation that will level the playing field and bring parity to one piece of federal tax policy relating to energy. Investors in oil, natural gas, coal and pipelines have for nearly 30 years been able to form publicly traded entities called master limited partnerships or MLP's. These partnerships include a pass-through tax structure that avoid double taxation and leaves more cash available to distribute to investors. They have for investors the liquidity and the return that's commonly associated with equity and the tax advantage that's associated with partnerships. And they have been able to aggregate and deploy a significant amount of private capital in the traditional fossil fuel marketplace, roughly $350 billion today across 100 MLP's. They have access to private capital at a lower cost, something that capital-intensive alternative energy products in the United States badly need now more than ever. As a result, MLP's should be a great source for raising private capital for clean energy projects as well as they have been for fossil fuel projects. The only problem is, under current law only fossil fuel-based energy projects can attract this type of energy, investment can take of these so-called MLP's. We are currently in our tax policy working against our broadly stated commitment as a country to an all of the above energy policy which explicitly excludes clean energy projects from forming MLP's. This inequity is starving a portion of the very sector it needs to build and grow and compete. So, Senator Moran and I along with other colleagues decided to fix it it was time to level the playing field When it comes to evening things out we have two choices. We can either lower everything to a common level by eliminating MLP's, by saying this tax advantage shouldn't be given to its traditional beneficiaries in gas and oil and coal or we can raise the level of opportunity and attract greater investment by broadening the fields that can take advantage of MLP's to include wind and solar, biomass, geothermal, cellulosic, biodiesel, in my view, the better strategy, the better approach is the bipartisan one that takes our colleagues at their word and says that we intend to stop picking winners and losers and instead really embrace an all-of-the-above energy strategy. Senator Moran and I have chosen this option and believe that rather than eliminating MLP's, bringing together and making everything renewable on the same level playing field as fossil fuels has a better future for the American economy. This is a relatively straightforward proposal. Our bill will bring new fairness to the tax code in this specific area. It recognizes revenue from projects that sell electricity or fuels produced from clean energy sources as qualifying MLP's. This change will encourage investment in domestic energy resources and could bring substantial new private capital off the sidelines to finance renewable projects ranging from wind and solar to geothermal and cellulosic ethanol just at a time when we so badly need them. Harnessing the power of the private market is essential if alternative energy projects are to grow and create jobs all across America."

Senator Grassley: (3:07 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "There's a lot of things in this Farm bill that we have before us that bring reform and some programs not reauthorized that prove what I just said, that just because we've had some for 60 years doesn't mean you have to have it for the next five years of this form program. Just as there are shifts in the market, sometimes public sentiment towards certain farm programs also shift. Take direct payments, for instance. There was a time and place for direct payments to help farmers through some lean years, but now times are okay in the agriculture industry and the American people have rightly decided it's time for farm payments to end. Also with a trillion and a half deficit every year, it's also a reality that those payments can't continue from a budget point of view. So the Senate Committee has responded and we have proposed eliminating the direct payment program, and many farmers agree direct payments should go away as well. There are other reforms the American taxpayers want to see. There is no reason the federal government should be subsidizing big farmers to get even bigger ... Many farmers understand that in order for us to have a farm program that is defensible and justifiable, it needs to be a program designed to help these small- and medium-sized farmers who actually need the assistance getting through rough patches out of their control. So what I've been trying to do for years finally got put in this Farm bill to put a hard cap on the amount of money that one farming operation can get so hopefully we cut down that 10% that gets 70% so it's more proportional to the benefit of small- and medium-sized farmers. And that's in this bill at $50,000 per individual and $100,000 per married couple for the payments under the agricultural risk coverage program that's in this bill ... The bill contains crucial reforms to the "actively engaged" requirements. These reforms will ensure farm payments go to actual farmers. The American people are not going to stand idly by any more and watch farm payments head out the door to people who don't farm. In other words, if you aren't out there working the land, you're on Wall Street or something and you've got farmland in the Midwest, you shouldn't be collecting these farm payments. There have been some people complaining about this payment limit reforms that I've talked about. They complain it will detrimentally change the way some farm operations do things. Well, if they mean it won't allow non-farmers to skirt around payment eligibilities and line their pockets with taxpayers' money meant for actual farmers, then the answer's yes, that's what those reforms will do."

Thune, Barrasso, Shaheen, Hoeven

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 07 2012

Senator Thune: (1:53 PM)
  • Spoke on Democrats' obstructionism.
    • SUMMARY "I think it is important to point out that now for the past six years the Democrats have been the majority party here in the United States Senate. In fact, for two of those years they had a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the United States. Filibuster-proof, literally could do anything they wanted to in the United States Senate. They had a majority in the House of Representatives, and of course they got the presidency. And if you look at the volume of legislation that was produced at the time, most of the things that were accomplished with the 60-vote filibuster-proof majority were things that the American people disagreed with as I think what you find now with public polls. The individual mandate that was included in the legislation and generally with many of the provisions in the bill. My point is for a period of time the Democrats literally had the run of the tables here in Washington, DC, as we in it. A filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority in the Senate, a majority in the House of Representatives and the presidency. Yet they come down and decry republicans as being responsible for all the things that have or haven't happened here in the United States Senate. And one of the things that they point out is that there is this attempt by Republicans to continue to filibuster legislation, and I would argue, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, everybody knows in the Senate that the Majority Leader is the person who is first to be recognized on the Senate floor, which allows him to use that power to offer a series of Democrat amendments to pending legislation in a way that prevents Republicans from offering that I remember own ideas. It's called filling the tree, sort of a term of art that's used around here in the Senate. But filling the tree is essentially what the Democratic majority has the opportunity to do because he has the power of recognition and he can fill the amendment tree and prevent Republican amendments from being offered and voted on. Interesting enough, Majority Leader Reid once said that this practice "runs against the basic nature of the Senate." Majority Leader Reid once insisted that filling the amendment tree, "runs against the basic nature of the Senate." But by the way that the Senate operates today, it is clear that he has abandoned that assessment. According to the Congressional Research Service, the CRS, Majority Leader Reid has employed this tactic a record of 59 times. He's used it to block minority input into legislation 50% more often than the past six Majority Leaders combined. I think that's worth repeating. This Majority Leader has used the filling of the tree procedure 50% more often than the past six Majority Leaders combined. So, the only option the minority is left with under that scenario is to basically try and get votes on amendments and to work with the majority, in which case the majority says, no, we aren't going to give you amendments. We've filled the tree. So they invoke cloture. We end up having a vote on cloture. What we've seen repeatedly is the Senate break down in a state of dysfunction simply because the majority doesn't want to make tough votes on amendments."

Senator Barrasso: (2:01 PM)
  • Spoke on Democrats' obstructionism.
    • SUMMARY "I'd just like to commented on that because it doesn't matter how long you're here, all you needed to do was pick up the newspaper, pick up the National Journal and I agree with my colleague from South Dakota. At the beginning of this year, the National Journal big article, picture of the Majority Leader and the headline is, "Reid's New Electoral Strategy." Forget passing bills is the sub-headline. "Forget passing bills, the Democrats just want to play the blame game in 2012" and that's exactly what we saw this morning on the floor of the United States Senate. And this isn't some piece of fiction. This is something that actually the Majority Leader told the 40 Democrats from the House about his goal, his intentions for the 2012 year here in Congress. Goes on to say, "working with the white House, Senate Democrats are plotting a 2012 floor agenda driven by Obama's reelection campaign." It goes on, "Senate floor action will be planned less to make law." We have 8.2% unemployment, 8.2% unemployment, and this party admits, the leader admits in this piece, the Senate actual will be planned less to make law than to buttress Obama's charge that republicans are obstructing measures. That's what their goal is? That's a year's plan as outlined to democrats in the House from the Majority Leader. It goes on to say, "Democrats will push legislation that polls well and dovetails with Obama's campaign." Well, with 8.2% unemployment, that's not polling so well. And with today the New York Times reporting that over two-thirds of Americans want to find that the health care law is unconstitutional, New York Times, two-thirds of the Americans, unconstitutional health care law, that's what the people are saying. Nothing that this President and this administration and the Democrats are doing is polling very well. You know, we ought to look back at the history of this great institution. This Senate is a unique legislative institution. It is designed to guarantee the minority party, no matter who the majority is, designed to - to guarantee the minority party and, therefore, a large block of Americans that it represents, that that party has a voice. Traditionally this body functions well with majority party works to find consensus with the minority party on the process and the substance of legislation. Consultation, compromise, with both parties work together. Historically that's been the rule, not the exception, as we've seen in recent years. So I sit here and look at the empty seat a couple of rows ahead of me and off to the other side of the aisle where Robert Byrd sat. Senator Byrd understood the importance of allowing for a full debate and amendment process in order to preserve the Senate as a unique institution in our democracy. He said, "the one place in the whole government," he said, "where the minority is guaranteed a public airing of its views." The Senate, he taught "was a forum guaranteed to be open for debate and for minorities." He went on to say, "as long as the Senate retains the power to debate and unlimited debate, the liberties of the people will remain secure." I would say allowing the minority to debate and amend legislation has given way to what we see now is Democrats' election-year political strategy of blaming republicans as obstructionists."

Senator Shaheen: (2:07 PM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "I'm not here to play the blame game. I am here to talk about a place where we in the Senate have found real bipartisan consensus and it's an issue that is critical I think to us in the state of new Hampshire and to all of the senators here. Because in 23 days, our country's surface transportation programs are going to shut down unless congress can come to an agreement on critical legislation. Nearly three months ago, 74 senators voted to pass a measure that would reauthorize these programs through the end of fiscal year 2013, providing much-needed certainty to our states and to private industry. And here in this chamber, senators from vastly different ideologies were able to lay aside those differences and to come up with bipartisan ways to pay for this bill, to streamline federal programs and to make our transportation investments more efficient. So that we spend less on overhead, more on roads and bridges and transportation projects. Now, this process wasn't easy, as everyone remembers. It required compromise from both sides to ensure that we could put together legislation that would bring America's transportation policies into the 21st century. But if Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma, the Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Barbara Boxer, the Chair of that committee, can come together and figure out how to put together a Transportation bill, there is no reason why our adjoining body over in the House can't do the same thing. And I have been very disturbed by recent news that the House is less interested in finishing this bill than in approving a host of unrelated policies. Now, there's a time and a place for to us consider whether some of the amendments that have been proposed on the Transportation bill in the House, like whether coal ash should be regulated as a hazardous material or not, but the Transportation bill is not one of those places. We need to focus on policies that will encourage the types of investment in our highways, in our railroads, in our bridges that put Americans back to work and spur economic growth."

Senator Hoeven: (2:14 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "CBO uses a ten-year scoring period, and on that basis, this entire pie, the entire farm program scored over a ten-year period is $960 billion, $960 billion. Of that, almost $800 billion is nutrition programs, okay? Almost 80% goes to nutrition. What did I mean by that? I mean primarily snap, supplemental assistance food payments or food stamps or things like the school lunch programs. So things like nutrition programs comprise 80% of the total cost in the Farm bill. Only about 20% actually goes for farming and ranching for farm programs and for conservation. All right? So that's only about in the scoring $200 billion. But we know that the bill is not a ten-year bill, it's a five-year bill, isn't it? It's a five-year bill. So the actual cost is $480 billion, half that, half of the score, $480 billion. That means approximately $400 billion goes for nutrition programs, food stamps, school lunches and so forth, $400 billion, and less than, less than $100 billion goes for farm programs and conservation programs, so we're talking about an annual cost of this farm program, a program that supports farmers and ranchers and feed this country in much of the world total is about $20 billion, actually less than $20 billion ... This bill saves more than $23 billion. $23.6 billion is the savings generated by this farm bill. $15 billion comes from farm programs themselves, $15 billion. $6 billion from conservation programs. Only about $4 billion comes out of nutrition programs. So 80% of the bill, 80% of the cost in the bill is nutrition programs, which is $400 billion. Only $4 billion comes out of the nutrition programs. Close to $20 billion comes out of the Ag portion of the bill. So we're talking about if you look at going back to my prior chart for just a minute, if you go back to just the crop insurance provisions and the commodity, which really comprise the farm support network, that's about $150 billion in the CBO score. And remember, I said that $15 billion comes out of that $150 billion. My point being 10% reduction. So farmers and ranchers are stepping up in this Farm bill and saying okay, we're going to help meet the deficit and the debt challenge. They are in essence taking 10% less. Now, think about that if throughout all aspects of the federal budget everybody stepped up the way our farmers and ranchers are stepping up and this legislation says okay, here is 10%, 10% reduction that we're going to take to help get our budget balanced, to help get our deficit under control, to help get this debt under control. So my point is very clearly in this legislation, we have real savings and that real savings is being provided by our farmers and ranchers."

Whitehouse, Coats, Chambliss

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 07 2012

Senator Whitehouse: (1:17 PM)
  • Commemorated the Gaspee Affair.

Senator Coats: (1:30 PM)
  • Spoke on EPA regulations.
    • SUMMARY "I'm hearing this repetitive response. And that is that Washington is trying to impose too much on them, and it leaves too much uncertainty about their ability to deal with the future and make decisions about hiring. One of the latest things to come across, that we've been hearing about is the fact that the EPA is imposing significant new regulations relative to the Clean Air Act on emissions that affect Indiana utility rates in a very significant way, and that's one more thing that our business people mentioned, and that is we don't know what our utility rates are going to be in the future and the cost of that because of these new regs coming out. And utilities are basically telling us we're going to have to be paying more in the future because of these regulations. I stand here as someone who has voted for the Clean Air Act, supports the Clean Air Act. We all are for clean air. Those of us who are trying to propose reasonable ways of achieving that so that without negatively impacting our ability to hire people and the ability of consumers to pay their utility bills and the ability of corporations and businesses to have reasonable rates so that they can compete worldwide, producing the products that are made, they're not asking for a return to dirty skies. They're not asking for a return to dirty water. They're citizens of the United States. They breathe the same air as we all breathe. What they are saying, however, is can we have a solution to the problem that is handled in a responsible, reasonable way, and affordable, that gives us time to implement these. Recently there's been a lot of talk about two items that the EPA has been imposing on the power industry. After visiting with Indiana utilities, it's clear that the EPA time line will result in more job loss and skyrocketing rates. And so again, while we all want to support cleaning toxins out of the air, doing so in a way that also keeps our people at work and keeps our utility rates at a reasonable level is not being considered under this I joined with the Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, to bring forward legislation that meets the standards and meets the goals but does so in a way that gives those power-producing utilities the opportunity in time and cost opportunity to be able to accomplish that. All we've done really is just extend in the case of one of the regulations two years, in the case of another three years. To give those utilities time to comply. Because the immediate compliance requirements of the EPA on these utilities means they're going to have to shut down the plants. Some of those are in retrofit as we speak, and that retrofit will not, however, meet the EPA deadline. And, therefore, they're asking for the right to get a waiver for an extension. And that is what Manchin-Coats, Coats-Manchin does. It provides a reasonable way of achieving the goals of clean air, and yet doing so in a way that it doesn't have a devastating impact on our states as these regulations would do."

Senator Chambliss: (1:40 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "I am disappointed that at this time I am not able to support this bill because of its current form ... As of today the bill is filled with inequities and is unbalanced. Contrary to statements made on this floor in the last several days, the bill under consideration seeks to place a one-size-fits-all policy on every region of the country. It works for some regions but it does not work for other regions, because distribution of benefits is skewed to one particular region, it fails a basic test of fairness that we all seek in legislation that moves through this chamber. I believe the Farm bill needs to provide an effective safety net for farmers, ranchers in rural communities in times of deep and sustained price decline. It should also responsibly provide nutrition assistance to those in need in all parts of the country, urban and rural alike. The Farm bill initially and remains focused on farmers and ranchers, helping them manage a combination of challenges much out of their own individual control, such as unpredictable weather, variable input costs and market volatility. All combined determine profit or loss on any given farm in any given year. The 2008 Farm bill continues today to provide a strong safety net for producers and any follow-on legislation must adhere and honor the same commitment that we made to our farmers and ranchers across America four years ago. At the same time I believe the agriculture sector can contribute to deficit reduction, and the bill before us provides savings and mandatory spending programs. The key, though, is to do this in an equitable and fair manner throughout all titles and areas of the bill ... It is very important that we recognize the unique differences between commodities as well as different parts of the country. As agriculture markets become more complex, we must be mindful that a one-size-fits-all program no longer works for U.S. agriculture. Regions are much more diverse than they ever were, and we need to recognize this diversity by providing producers with different options that best match their cropping and growing decisions. My greatest concern with this bill is that the commodity title redistributes resources from one region to another not based on market forces or cropping decisions, but based on how the underlying program, the agriculture risk coverage program, was designed. After deducting a share for deficit reduction, certain commodities received more resources than others, and crops such as peanuts and rice are left without any safety net whatsoever."

Wyden, Moran, McCain, Lieberman

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 07 2012

Senator Wyden: (12:22 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "The farm-to-school amendment that I'll offer would not spend additional taxpayer money but would make it easier for schools to purchase locally for the breakfast, lunches, and snacks that they serve children. my second amendment, to allow states a across this country to get a waiver under the SNAP program, under the food stamp program, so they can consult with the farmers, their retailers, their health specialists, those who are on the program who use it, and try to come up with a way to get more good health and nutrition out of the $70 billion that's spent on the program. They ought to have an opportunity to do that so that the snap program can be a launch pad for healthier eating rather than just a conveyor belt for calories. With a waiver, states with innovation and effective ideas could improve nutritional outcomes and put their good ideas into action. Third, I intend to offer that amendment, again, that does not spend additional taxpayer money to promote gleaning through the microloan program. and finally, based on the recommendations of the institute of medicine, I will offer an amendment again one that does not cost money to make it possible to advance some of the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine to look at the relationship between agriculture possible, the diet of the average American, and how we can reduce ... so the last amendment would allow us to advantages the Institute of Medicine. They have made a number of thoughtful proposals that I think are going to give us a chance of promote our national security and reduce obesity and we certainly should pursue them through this Farm bill."

Senator Moran: (12:44 PM)
  • Honored Kale Miller, Brian Nickles, Spencer Ducken, Alexander Bennett, who laid down their lives for our country.

Senator McCain: (12:49 PM)
  • Spoke on Syria.
    • SUMMARY "It should come as no surprise to any of our colleagues, and it certainly comes as no surprise to me, that the civil war raging in Syria has only deteriorated further over the past two weeks. On Saturday, May 26, we read the horrific news of a massacre that Bashar al-Assad's forces committed in the Syrian town of Jula. At least 108 civilians, the majority of them women and children, are now believed to have been killed, some from repeated shelling by Assad's tanks and artillery, but most slaughtered in their homes and executed in the streets. Survivors describe a scene so gruesome that even after 16 months of bloodshed and more than 10,000 dead, it still manages to shock the conscience. There are now reports of another massacre by Assad's forces with as many as 78 Syrians dead and that Syrian authorities are blocking access to the scene for the UN monitors on the ground. These massacres of civilians are sickening and evil, but it's only the latest and most appalling evidence there's no limit to the savagery of Assad and his forces. They will do anything, kill anyone, and stop at nothing to hold on to power. And what has been the response of the United States and the rest of the civilized world to this most recent mass atrocity in Syria? More empty words of scorn and condemnation, more hollow pledges that the killing must stop, more strained expressions of amazement at what has become so tragically commonplace I pray that President Obama will finally realize what President Clinton came to understand during the Balkan wars. President Clinton, who took military action to stop ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and did so in Kosovo without the UN Security Council mandate, ultimately understood that when regimes are willing to commit any atrocity to stay in power, diplomacy cannot succeed until the military balance of power changes on the ground. As long as Assad and his foreign supporters think they can win militarily - which they do - they will continue fighting and more Syrians will die. In short, military intervention of some kind is a prerequisite to the political resolution of the conflict that we all want to achieve. The question I would pose to my colleague from Connecticut and to the administration is how many more have to die? How many more have to die? How many more young women have to be raped? How many young Syrians are going to be tortured and killed? How many more? How many more? Before we will act? How many more? And I would like to also ask, when will the President of the United States speak up in favor of these people who are fighting and dying for freedom?"

Senator Lieberman: (12:57 PM)
  • Spoke on Syria.
    • SUMMARY "It's an outcry because essentially now for more than a year, the rest of the world, including the United States, has offered these victims of the brutal violence of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus, essentially words, words of condemnation, words of sympathy. But those words or the few cell phones we've given them, those Syrian freedom fighters, don't stand up against Assad's tanks, his guns, the brutality of his forces. And so I'd say the answer to the question that my friend from Arizona posed, how many more people have to be killed? Obviously, too many people have already been killed. It's time for the U.S. to show some leadership. Senator McCain and I are not calling for American troops on the ground in Syria. And we're not calling for the United States alone to take action here. There is a coalition of the willing. If we continue to say that we're not going to take action to help the victims of Assad's brutality until and unless we get authorization from the UN Security Council, there's never going to be any hope go to these victims in Syria because the Russians and probably the Chinese will veto any UN Resolution. Every time we say we have to go to the UN, we raise the power of Russia to protect its ally in Damascus. But there's a coalition of the willing ready throughout the world, and I think some in Europe and elsewhere, which will not act until the United States shows some leadership here."

Senator McCain: (1:05 PM)
  • Spoke on Syria.
    • SUMMARY "I also want to point out that traveling in the region and meeting with the leaders in these various countries, it cries out for American leadership. I think my colleague would agree, in a coordinated partnership with these countries, but they cry out for American leadership. And meanwhile, the President of the United States, as this slaughter goes on, is silent and his spokesman, his spokesman says they don't want to militarize the conflict. How in the world could you make a statement like that when 10,000 people have already been slaughtered? That to me is so bizarre, I'm not sure I have ever seen anything quite like it. You know, there is always the comparison, I say to my friend from Connecticut, about Libya. You know, there is an aspect of this issue, Libya was not in America's security interests. Libya was clearly a situation where we got rid of one of the most brutal barriers who was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am 103 and the deaths of Americans, but if Syria goes on the path to democracy, it's the greatest blow to Iran in 25 years. Hezbollah is broken off. They lose their last client state, Russia loses their last client state. Iran loses the most important ally they have in the region. And finally, I would say to my friend, we keep hearing over and over again that extremists will come in. Al-Qaeda will come in. You know, we heard that in Tunisia, we heard that in Libya, we are hearing that in Egypt and we're hearing that again neglecting the fact that al-Qaeda and extremists are the antithesis of who these people are. Now, they have been repressed with brutality whereas al-Qaeda as we know believes in acts of terror. And I agree with my colleague, if we provided a sanctuary for these people in order to organize, to care for the wounded, to have a shadow government set up as we saw in Libya, then I think it's pretty obvious that it would be a huge step forward. But again, my friend from Connecticut has often said so eloquently we hold these truths to be self-evident that all of us are endowed, all endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. People of Syria that are suffering under this brutal dictatorship and being slaughtered as we speak I believe have those inalienable rights, and the role of the United States has not been to go everywhere and fight every war, but it has been the role of the United States of America when it can to go to the assistance of people who are suffering under dictatorships such as this, one of the most brutal in history. And for us to now consign to the good graces of Russia and whether they will veto a UN Security Council Resolution, resolution as to whether we will act or not on behalf of these people is a great avocation of American authority and responsibility."

Senator Lieberman: (1:10 PM)
  • Spoke on Syria.
    • SUMMARY "Some people say we shouldn't get involved in Syria because we don't know who the opposition is and therefore we should be cautious before helping them. We have had the opportunity to meet the opposition and their leadership, both the political opposition and the military opposition, and I would tell you to the best of my judgment, I believe it's our judgment, these aren't extremists. These are Syrian patriots. As Senator McCain said, this whole movement started peacefully. They went out into the squares in big cities in Syria. They were asking for more freedom. They weren't actually at the beginning asking for an overthrow of the Assad's government, but what was Assad's response? He turned his guns on them and started to kill them wantonly. When they decided there was no peaceful course because he rejected every compromise alternative that intermediaries put in, they took up arms such as they could find. The danger here is not that the people who are the leaders of the opposition are extremists or terrorists. The danger is that the extremists and terrorists will take over this movement if we and the rest of the civilized world don't get involved. And the Syrian opposition will be sorely tempted to take their support because they have no alternative. We simply can't let that happen. I know that there is a lot going on in our country. I know people are worried about the economy, as we are, of course, but America's strength and credibility in the world has actually always been not only what we're about by our founding documents and our history but what maintains our credibility and strength in the world which is a foundation of our economic strength. And the longer we give words but no action in response to the murder and rape of victims in Syria, the lower our credibility is, and we can't afford that. And Senator McCain said, I just want to emphasize it, the main reason to get involved here is humanitarian. It's what America is about. It's about the protection of life and liberty. But it happens to be that this makes a lot of strategic sense, too, because the number-one enemy we have in the world today is Iran, and if Assad goes down, Iran will suffer a grievous blow. Some people say and some still say it, including high officials of our government, that it's not a question of whether Bashar al-Assad will fall but when. I don't agree. Having been over there talking to the opposition, talking about what's happening, this is a profoundly unfair fight. Assad has most of the guns and systems and the freedom fighters have very little. He will keep doing this as long as he has to, and this battle will go on, this war will go on a long time with thousands and thousands and thousands of more innocent people killed as they were earlier today. So the facts cry out at us to take action. I hope and pray that we will."

Reid, Durbin, Schumer, Murray

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 07 2012

Senator Reid: (11:43 PM)
  • Spoke on GOP obstructionism.
    • SUMMARY "The last Congress was the most productive in the history of the country. Some say not the most productive. Certainly, no one disagrees the most productive since Franklin Roosevelt was President during his first term. With this new majority of the House, this Congress has been altogether different, and that is an understatement. Consistently, this Congress has taken weeks or months to pass even simple, commonsense legislation, proposals that would previously have passed in minutes. The Senate has wasted literally months considering bipartisan bills only to have those bills smothered to death under piles of non-relevant Republican amendments. And congressional Republicans have held even the most important jobs measures hostage to extract votes on unrelated ideological amendments, despite the Minority Leader's own call to "stop all the showboats." Those were his words. Democrats and the American people have endured this blatant obstruction all year. In fact, for 18 months. What is this we're talking about obstruction. If you look in the dictionary, it says it all. I did that this morning. The dictionary says that obstruction is a condition of being clogged or blocked. Now, doesn't that define what's happened here in this wonderful body we call the United States Senate? Republicans have clogged or blocked everything we have tried to do, even things they have agreed on. And yesterday, we read that we'll have to endure every day for the rest of the year, every day for the rest of this Congress and this came from congressman cantor, the number two person in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives. House Republican leaders admit they have given up on actually.. track and continue 27 months of private sector job growth, they say they're done legislating for the year. In spite of the fact that the President is working to create 4.3 million private-sector jobs. But listen to this report from the political publication POLITICO yesterday, "Serious legislation is all but done until after the election. The rest of this year, Cantor said, will be likely about sending signals." Let's try that again because it is truly hard to comprehend that somebody who is supposedly running the other body would say such a thing, but he did. "Serious legislation is all but done until after the election much. The rest of this year, cantor said, will likely be about sending signals." So, rather than work with democrats to strengthen our economy and create jobs, congressional Republicans will put on a show designed to demonstrate extreme, ideological direction in which they would lead this country. The Majority Leader Cantor's statement is frightening. He said out-loud what every Republican on Capitol Hill has been thinking all along, they care more about winning elections than creating jobs."

Senator Durbin: (11:54 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "The fact is, as of today, maybe tomorrow, the House is gone for a week. So in this critical period of time when we're up against a July 1 deadline, when millions of American jobs are on the line, the House is leaving. And Eric Cantor said, it doesn't make any difference if we stay because we're not going to do anything significant. We're just going to politic and posture. How do you explain this to the families across America, workers who need a job at a time when the economy is tough, people living paycheck to paycheck, now have to I guess, accept this furlough that the Majority leader has announced for the rest of the year. There's important work to be done here Majority leader Cantor has announced that school's out for the House Republicans, they're finished for the year. But America isn't finished. Our agenda is still there. I want to commend the Senate Republicans who have joined us in passing this Transportation bill and I want to say to Speaker Boehner, when you return from the next recess next week, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Put 2.8 million Americans to work with this bipartisan transportation bill, have the courage to bring it for a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives so we can put America to work and make certain they know that we take our jobs seriously."

Senator Schumer: (12:03 PM)
  • Spoke on GOP obstructionism.
    • SUMMARY "Many of us have been frustrated lately by the glacial pace of activity in the House of Representatives. The Senate is supposed to be the cooling saucer, but these days, the House is where jobs bills and other important measures go to die. They are dragging out negotiations on a Highway bill that would put millions to work. They refuse to even allow a conference on a bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization, even though the senate passed a bill with 68 votes. They refused to authorize a bill that cracks down on china's unfair currency practices, something their own party's nominee for President claims to support. Why the stalling? Well, we got our answer in the pages of POLITICO two days ago. Eric Cantor, who controls the floor schedule in the House, has decided to forego legislating in favor of politicking full time. Despite all the major challenges that this congress faces, despite the crisis of confidence that may hit our markets in the fall due to uncertainty over the looming fiscal cliff, Eric Cantor has declared a moratorium on any serious legislating until after the fall elections. The House of Representatives is like a computer that has been turned on sleep mode and it doesn't plan to be rebooted until after November. This is a breathtaking admission by the number 2Republican in the House. I wouldn't be surprised if Leader Cantor wishes he could take his statement back. It contradicts the rhetoric from many on his own side. Just last month in a speech at the Peterson Institute, the Speaker of the House made a great show of calling on the administration and Congress to tackle tax cuts and the debt ceiling now, before the el election. Here's what Speaker Boehner said. "It's about time we roll up our sleeves and get to work." Unfortunately, Leader Cantor's comments seem to reflect House Republicans' true intentions more so than Speaker Boehner's quote. And that's a terrible shame. Leader Cantor and the House Republicans are shrinking from a potentially historic moment. I have a message for Leader Cantor, you may have abandoned any intention to legislate this year but we will not bow to election-year politics here in the Senate. The nation needs us and we have too much to do."

Senator Murray: (12:12 PM)
  • Spoke on GOP obstructionism.
    • SUMMARY "If Republicans can set aside politics and stand up to their tea party base, we can protect victims of domestic violence. We can pass a Transportation bill. We can stop those tuition hikes. We can pass our Appropriations bills. In fact, we can even come together on the big issue that House Republicans have indicated they believe can only be resolved after an election. If Republicans are ready to admit that it will take a balanced and bipartisan deal to avoid that fiscal cliff, we could make a deal tomorrow. But on this issue, Republicans haven't just refused to meet us in the middle. They won't even come out of their corner. We all know a bipartisan deal is going to be required Unfortunately, Republicans are singularly focused on protecting the wealthiest Americans from paying a penny more in taxes. Democrats are ready, we are willing to compromise, we know it's difficult, but we have to have a partner to do that. Republicans need to understand that the fiscal cliff is not simply going to disappear if they close their eyes and wish hard enough. We have to act. And Republicans shouldn't let politics stop them from working now on a balanced and bipartisan deal. Middle-class families today expect and deserve. Statements like the one made by the House Majority Leader only reaffirm what American families fear the most, that at a time when they deserve a government at their back, they are being abandoned. In the Senate, we have shown here that we can come together around bipartisan solutions but we cannot do it alone. House Republicans need to send the American people a clear message they are willing to be a partner in compromise. It's time for them to take up our bipartisan legislation to protect women and put workers back on the job. It's time to work with us in the appropriations process and to help our nation's students. It's time to realize that a solution to the impending fiscal cliff will require a balance. It is certainly not time to give up."

Jun 07 2012

Senator Grassley: (10:58 AM)
  • Spoke on the upcoming Supreme Court decision on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "Political leaders from the Democratic side of the aisle are now preemptively charging the Supreme Court with judicial activism if that court would strike down President Obama's health care law as unconstitutional. I cannot remember when such a significant threat to judicial independence was made by attempting to effect the outcome of a pending case. It's an outrageous attack on the separation of power. The Democrat claim is that unless the court rules in accordance with the policy preferences of a particular speaker, the court's decision would be illegitimate. This is dangerous and this is wrong. President Obama wrongly argued that it would be unprecedented for the Supreme Court to strike down a law that a large congressional majority passed and he was wrong about the Supreme Court's history in striking down laws that they consider unconstitutional. The President of the United States knows better because he's former constitutional law lecturer. He should know that the Supreme Court has done just that on many occasions over more than two centuries. And it's just not the case, as democrats claim, that the supreme court can strike down Obamacare only by failing to follow established commerce clause jurisprudence. When the Judiciary Committee held a hearing last year on the constitutionality of the law, I asked whether the Supreme Court would need to overturn any of its precedents to strike down the individual mandate part of health care reform. None of the witnesses and most of those witnesses were selected by the majority Democrats could identify a single precedent that would have to be struck down. No matter how many times liberals repeat the statement, it is just not so. The Supreme Court would not be an activist court if it struck down health care reform. What is unprecedented is health care reform's infringement on personal liberty. The constitution establishes a very limited federal government. When the Supreme Court asked him the obvious question of what limit the federal power would exist if the individual mandate were upheld, the Solicitor General, arguing for the government and in support of the constitutionality, could not and did not provide an answer. So the Obama administration believes the federal government can force Americans to purchase broccoli or gym memberships and don't believe anyone who says otherwise once we start down that road of unprecedented power of the federal government under the commerce clause. Critics contend that the whole body of law allowing federal regulation of the economy would be threatened if the Supreme Court struck down the health care reform bill. They even say that such a ruling would harm the legitimacy of the Supreme Court. That is just plain nonsense."

Senator Lee: (11:07 AM)
  • Spoke on the upcoming Supreme Court decision on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "Many commentators, myself included, have predicted that the Supreme Court may well choose to invalidate the mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Apparently anticipating this possible outcome, some of my colleagues, as well as President Obama, have made statements that it would somehow be improper for the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act. They have asserted that striking down an act of Congress like this one would somehow amount to judicial activism and that that would be otherwise be wildly inappropriate. They've criticized some of the questions asked by individual justices and have even gone so far as to suggest that those justices who might vote to invalidate the Affordable Care Act would do so for reasons representing bias or partisan political motivations ... In response to these false and frankly reckless statements, I would like to make three points. First, attempts to manipulate or to bully the Supreme Court, especially during deliberations in a particular proceeding, are irresponsible and they tend to threaten the very fabric of our constitutional republic. Each justice has sworn an oath to support, defend, and bear true faith and allegiance to the constitution and to discharge his or her duties faithfully and impartially. From time to time politicians and others may disagree with the court as to important constitutional issues, or even on the merits of a particular case. I certainly feel that way myself from time to time. But it is simply inappropriate for elected representatives, who themselves have sworn an oath to the constitution, in the spirit of partisanship to question the honesty and impartiality of our nation's highest court in what could be perceived as part of an effort on part of those elected politicians to influence a case pending before the Supreme Court. Second, criticisms of the well-established principle of judicial review grossly misrepresent how our constitutional republic functions. President Obama and some members of this body have suggested that the judiciary, which they sometimes denigrate as a group of unelected people, should simply defer to Congress. But of course each branch of government, including the judiciary, has an essential duty under the constitution to police its own actions, to make sure that its own actions comply with the text, the spirit, and the letter of the constitution. Congress and the executive branch should police themselves to make sure that they don't transgress those limits. But when the political branches happen to overstep their own boundaries, their own legitimate limits, as I believe happened with the individual mandate, the Supreme Court can and indeed must enforce the constitution. In the recent appearance before the Judiciary Committee, Justice Breyer explained, we are the boundary patrol Third and finally, it simply is not the case that a court can properly be described as activist just because it enforces the constitution's structural limits on federal power. In this context, it's not altogether helpful to focus the discussion of whether the court acts improperly on the contours of the word "activist" or "activism." We have to remember that for the supreme court, not acting to invalidate an unconstitutional law is every bit as bad, is every bit as repugnant to the rule of law and to the constitution as it is for the court to act to invalidate a law that is entirely justified on a constitutional basis. Both are the product of a betrayal of the Supreme Court's duty to decide cases according to the laws and to the constitution of the United States of America. When the supreme court acts to enforce the constitution's limits on federal power, as I expect it may do in the affordable care act case, it So pursuant to specific textual provisions of the constitution. Enforcing the law in this undeniably manner preserves the liberties of the among those liberties are those protected by perhaps the most important fundamental component to the constitution: this notion that we are all protected when the power of congress and the power of the federal government as a whole is restricted."

Senator Kyl: (11:16 AM)
  • Spoke on the upcoming Supreme Court decision on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "A lot of our Democratic colleagues have made clear their view that if the ruling doesn't go the way they want it to, it's not because they've passed an unconstitutional law but, rather, in their view, because it's some kind of a partisan activity by judicial activists and a lot of attention has been specifically focused on Chief Justice Roberts. Well, this should not stand. The President himself actually started this I think when he said "I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically-elected Congress." Well, never mind that it wasn't passed by a strong majority and by the way, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee said something similar very recently, basically issuing a warning to Chief Justice Roberts on the floor of the Senate, stating that a 5-4 decision to overturn the law would be controversial. He said, "I trust that he will be a Chief Justice for all of us and that he has a strong institutional sense of the proper role of the judicial bench." In other words, the intimation here is that if the decision doesn't go their way, the court's reputation, and specifically the reputation of Chief Justice Roberts, are on the line. Well, the Wall Street Journal wrote about this and others have, talking about the threats by the President and certain other members of his party with warnings and I'm quoting again as they wrote it "Mr. Roberts has a choice. Either uphold Obamacare or be portrayed a radical who wants to repeal the new deal and a century of precedent." So let's clear up a few things. First of all, as I said, the law was not passed by a strong majority in Congress. It was passed exclusively by Democrats. Not a single Republican supported it. It was the first time in history that a major domestic legislation was passed by one party. That's really not the key point in terms of the constitutionality of the law, however. The key point is that the court's job is, as Chief Justice Roberts said at his confirmation hearing, to work as an umpire, calling the balls and strikes as the court sees them. Non-legal arguments, like the court's decisions, have to be popular or unanimous, those are just unserious and, frankly, political rhetoric."

Senator Cornyn: (11:21 AM)
  • Spoke on the upcoming Supreme Court decision on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "So if it's Congress's responsibility to write the policies and to write legislation, how is it different from the judiciary? Well, sometimes the judiciary interprets that legislation, trying to figure out what Congress intended, but in the area of constitutional review, more fundamentally, they want to make sure that congress has stayed within the limits imposed upon it by the American people when they ratified the United States constitution. And, of course, that is the big decision in the health care case. It's almost unprecedented. You probably have to go back to the 19th century to find where the Supreme Court gave so much time for advocates to argue a Supreme Court case. Ordinarily it's very strict time limits, but here, the court set three days worth of arguments down because of the importance of the case and importance of the issues that the court will be called upon to decide. And my colleagues have already talked about the fact that the individual mandate has been the focus of so much attention. It's not the only issue. There is another very important issue in terms of whether the Congress and the federal government can commandeer state resources through a huge expansion in Medicaid which is then forced down on the states that they then have to accommodate within their state balanced budget requirements. But the individual mandate certainly we saw how the Solicitor General of the United States stumbled, not because his inarticulate or incapable, he is very articulate, he's a very capable lawyer but he simply didn't have a good argument to make when he was asked, what is the principal limitation on the federal government's authority under the commerce clause if the federal government can do this? Stated another way, what is it that the congress can't do, the federal government can't do if the federal government can force you to buy a government-approved product and then to fine you if you don't do that, which is the individual mandate argument? So I don't think it's a controversial topic and I'm kind of surprised that we even find ourselves here responding to the President's remarks and the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee's remarks questioning the very authority that's existed since at least 1803 in Marbury v. Madison, the doctrine of judicial review and the role of the judiciary to say what the fundamental law of the land allows and does not allow in terms of federal power. But there's another argument being made and that is that if the Supreme Court comes down and disagrees with Congress on the health care law that somehow its legitimacy will be jeopardized. Now, I don't think public opinion polls have or should have anything to do with the way that the Supreme Court decides an issue because their focus should be on the constitution and not on the policy arguments. In other words, they shouldn't interfere with our role to make policy because, of course, then we are held accountable to the voters while they are given life tenure and they're given the protection of no reduction in their salary during their service on the bench exactly for the reason that they need to be protected from public opinion because their role is to focus on the constitution."

Senator Durbin: (11:26 AM)
  • Spoke on the upcoming Supreme Court decision on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "Absent health care reform, absent a change in the growing increase in the cost of medical care, not only families but businesses and governments will find it impossible to adequately fund the health care that Americans need. If we don't come together, as we tried with our health care reform bill, and dedicate ourselves to reducing the increase in the growth of the cost of medical care and do it with an assurance of quality being protected, then net result of all of this I'm afraid is going to end up with America with medical bills it can't pay. We find, as we look at government programs - Medicare, Medicaid, veterans' programs, for example - that if we don't change the projected rate of growth of costs in these programs, in just a short period of time, the federal budget of America will be consumed by health care costs and interest on the national debt, to the exclusion of everything else. I just heard my friend, the senator from Texas, speak against individual mandates. Well, the word "mandate" I'm sure rubs many people the wrong way, but let's take a look at what that individual mandate is. From my point of view, it's a question of individual responsibility, whether or not individuals in this country have a responsibility to have health insurance. Some argue, of course not, they don't. And yet the reality is that if we don't have some sort of individual responsibility, the people without health insurance will get sick, present themselves at the hospital, be taken care of and their expenses will be shifted to all the rest of us, to everyone else. So to argue that people have no responsibility to have health insurance is an argument against individual responsibility and an argument that others should have to pay for the medical bills of those who have no insurance. That, to me, is unfair as well. We had within the Healthcare Reform Act protection against expensive premiums. We limited the amount that an individual would have to pay for health insurance to 8% of their income. We provided special help for those in lower income categories. And I think that in and of itself is an effort to strike the right balance."

Senator Sessions: (11:29 AM)
  • Spoke on the upcoming Supreme Court decision on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "The point today is should the Supreme Court of the United States decide this question as a matter of law and principle or should they divine what they think the people want, although the American people show they consistently opposed this legislation, they never supported it, ever. But it was rammed through anyway so they want to say well, this is important, we think it's unfair, even though the polling data show and the Supreme Court should have ratified, and they shouldn't worry about a little thing like the constitution, a limited power. So that's what I want to be talking about today. I want to affirm the duty of the Supreme Court of the United States, and that duty is to fairly and objectively interpret the constitution and to render justice not based on polling data and not based on congressional desires. So the American people polling data shows do think it's an impermissible, unconstitutional regulation, so it's difficult for me to say this was such a matter that the Supreme Court has got to acknowledge a minority view and approve it even if the constitution doesn't agree. I don't think that's an argument that can be sustained in my view. So there has been since the oral arguments in the case, I sense and a lot of my colleagues share this view that the President himself, Democrat colleagues in the House and the Senate, their friends in the media and liberal government pro-health care advocates have stepped up undignified, not justified attacks on the court, which it seems to me to be an effort pretty transparent to try to influence the outcome of that independent branch of government. And it also seems to me an attempt since I have been a student of this for some time now to lay the groundwork to declare that the Supreme Court is somehow illegitimate if they don't render a verdict like my colleagues think should be rendered. I would just say parenthetically that whereas two years ago when this bill passed 60-40, took 60 votes to pass it, it doesn't pass today. It wouldn't be close to having 60 votes today because the American people spoke in 2007 and sent home a lot of people who voted for this bill when they didn't want them voting for it. That was a big deal in the election, frankly, if you want to talk about that."

Jun 07 2012

Agreed to, 90-8:
Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 3240, the Farm bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Jun 07 2012

Senator McConnell: (9:46 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "It's been a week now since the Republican leadership in the Senate and the House set several good-faith bipartisan proposals to the White House in an effort to resolve the student loan issue. And what has the White House done? Absolutely nothing. The President has not yet responded. One can only surmise that he is delaying a solution so that he can fit in a few more campaign rallies with college students while pretending someone other than himself is actually delaying action. Today the President is taking time out of his busy fund-raising schedule to hold an event at UNLV where once again he'll use students as props in yet another speech calling on Congress to act. What the President won't tell these students that the House has already acted and that Republicans in both chambers are ready to work on solutions as soon as the President can take the time. All the President has to do is to pick up his mail, choose one of the bipartisan proposals we laid out in a letter to him last week, proposals he's already shown that he supports. These are payfors that he has recommended, and then announce to the students that the problem has been solved. Unfortunately, the President is more interested apparently in campaigning with the students at UNLV than actually working with Congress to find a solution. I would suggest you open your mail. Just open the mail. You'll find a letter there from the Speaker and from the Majority Leader in the House and from Senator Kyl and myself laying out a way to pay for the extension of the current tax rates for student loans for another year that you yourself have previously recommended. The only people dragging their feet on the issue are over at the White House itself. Dragging their feet in yet another college visit. Republicans here in Congress have been crystal clear on this issue for weeks. We're ready to resolve the issue. It's time the President showed some leadership and worked with Congress to provide the certainty young people and their parents need. I encourage the President, if he really wants to do something to help students, join us. Join us in working to find a solution. This is really pretty easy. We all agree that we ought to extend the current student loan rates for a year. We've recommended to you the way to pay for it that you've already adopted. This isn't hard. Every day he's silent on solutions is another day closer to the rapidly approaching deadline here at the end of the month."
  • Spoke on the Bush tax cuts.
    • SUMMARY "I stood with the Speaker of the House yesterday and his conference leadership and called for at least a one-year extension of current tax rates to provide certainty to families and job creators around the country that their taxes will not be going up on January 1. In the Obama economy, we are facing a looming fiscal crisis that some have called the most predictable in history. Millions are unemployed and millions more are underemployed and the country is facing the largest tax hike in history at the end of this year. This tax hike the President wants would hit hundreds of thousands of small businesses. To put that in perspective, this tax hike would hit job creators that employ up to 25% of our workforce and we cannot allow that to happen. The economy is far too fragile right now. Former President Bill Clinton said we're in an economic recession, and earlier this week before the Obama campaign got to him, he was for temporarily extend current tax rates. Yesterday the Democratic Senate Budget Committee Chairman came out and said he was for temporarily extending current tax rates. And I would remind everyone it was the President himself in December of 2010 who said you don't raise taxes in a down economy. Well, the economy is slower now than it was when he last agreed with us to extend current tax law back in December of 2010. In fact, the rate of growth in our economy is slower now than it was in December 2010 when the President agreed with us that at that point we ought to do a two-year extension of the current tax rates. Slower growth now than then. The same arguments apply now. This is the time to prevent this uncertainty and the largest tax increase in American history, right in the middle of a very, very fragile economy. It really doesn't make any sense to do otherwise. Let's extend all of the current tax relief right now before the election. Let's show the American people we are actually listening to them. Let's send a message that in these challenging economic times taxes won't be going up for anyone at the end of this year. And let's not stop there. Let's tackle fundamental pro-growth tax reform. This is something upon which there is bipartisan agreement."

Senator Stabenow: (9:52 AM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "If we fail to pass a new Farm bill before the current one expires in September, it would cause widespread uncertainty and result in job losses in a very important part of our economy that is critical to keeping our recovery going. Agriculture is one of the only parts of the economy, if not the only part, that has a trade surplus. $42.5 billion in 2011, the highest annual surplus on record. And we know that for every $1 billion in exports, 8,400 people are working. So this is a jobs bill. Thanks to the Farm bill, American families tonight will sit down around the kitchen table and enjoy the bounty of the world's safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply. And I think it's too easy for all of us to take that for granted. The men and women who work hard from sunrise to sunset every day to put that food on our tables deserve the economic certainty that this bill provides. The Farm bill before us today makes major reforms. We are cutting subsidies. We are ending direct payments. We cut the deficit by over $23 billion. As my friend and Ranking member has said, this is voluntary. This is a real cut, as my Budget Chairman would say. And it is more than double what was recommended in the Simpson-Bowles Commission. So this is serious. This is real. And we in agriculture, the first authorizing committee to recommend real deficit-reduction cuts, we are serious about making sure we are doing our part and that the families and ranchers and people involved in agriculture are doing their part as well. And they're willing to do that. But we have to have economic certainty because we are talking about creating jobs all across America. In rural areas and urban areas. This Farm bill gives farmers new export opportunities so they can create jobs. This Farm bill helps family farmers sell locally. We are tripling support for farm markets which are growing and new hubs which connect farms to schools. The Farm bill provides training, mentoring and access to capital for new and beginning farmers to get their operations off the ground. This really is about the future of agriculture in our country We are also for the first time offering support, new support and opportunities for our veterans who are coming home. The majority of those who have served us in such a brave, honorable way in Iraq and Afghanistan come from small towns all across America. And they are now coming home. And many of them want the opportunity to stay at home, to be able to go into farming, to be able to have their roots back in their communities. And we are setting up new support in this Farm bill to support our veterans coming home. The Farm bill supports America's growing bio-manufacturing businesses, where businesses use agricultural products instead of petroleum to manufacture products for customers ... This bill moves beyond the corn-based ethanol into the next generation of biofuels that use agricultural waste products and nonfood crops for energy. This bill provides a new innovative way to support agricultural research. The men and women who every day fight back against pests and diseases that threaten our food supply with a new public-private research foundation to stretch every dollar and get the most results. We extend rural development with a new priority for those proposing to maximize federal, state, and local and private investments so that small-town mayors like those who came before our committee across the country can actually understand and use the programs. We're simplifying it. We are going from 11 different definitions of rural down to one so it's simple and clear. And small-town mayors and local officials have better tools to be able to use to support their communities."

Senator Conrad: (10:01 AM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "Critics of farm policy also imply the Farm bill is busting the budget. That is simply false. Farm bill spending is only a tiny sliver of the overall federal budget. Total outlays for the new Farm bill are about 2% of total federal spending. And of the Farm bill spending, only about 14%, 14%, goes to commodity and crop insurance programs. The vast majority of the spending in this bill goes for nutrition. 79% of the spending in this bill goes for nutrition programs. Only 14% goes for what could traditionally be considered farm programs. The farm provisions constitute less than one third of 1% of total federal spending. That is a bargain for American consumers and taxpayers. The truth is our producers face stiff international competition. In 2010, our major competitors, the Europeans, outspent us almost 4-1 in providing support for their farmers and ranchers. And the EU is not the only culprit. Brazil, Argentina, China and others are gaining unfair market advantages through hidden subsidies such as currency manipulation, and input subsidies that the WTO is incapable of mitigating. Not only do farmers and ranchers deal with unfair global competition they have to face natural disasters and unpredictable price fluctuations. The Senate Agriculture Committee working together in a bipartisan way will contribute over $23 billion to deficit reduction. That is twice as much as the Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission recommended. Twice the savings. The Simpson-Bowls Commission recommended. In so doing this committee has provided more than its fair share of fixing this country's deficit and debt problems. If the rest of the committees of Congress did what this committee has done on the leadership of Senator Stabenow, there would be no deficit and debt problem. That's a fact. Now, this is also a reform bill. This is the strongest reform bill that has gone through a committee of Congress in the history of farm legislation. And the Chairman and Ranking member can be incredibly proud of the leadership they've provided. This legislation streamlines conservation programs, reduces the number of programs, and makes them simpler to understand and administer. It reauthorizes important nutrition programs for five years, helping millions of Americans."

Senator Roberts: (10:10 AM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "This is a reform bill at a time in which reforms are demanded. It saves $23.6 billion in mandatory spending, they are cuts, real deficit savings. It accomplishes this by reforming, reducing, and streamlining programs. We eliminate four commodity programs. These programs are very difficult to go through at the FSA office, the Farm Service Agency that we have, and so when farmers come in to try to wade through the four commodity programs they've always been terribly difficult and complex. We've streamlined the 23 conservation programs into 13 and eliminate duplication, we tighten a major loophole in nutrition programs, we cut 16 rural development authorizations, we cut over 60 authorizations in the research title and streamline programs. In whole, we cut and streamline over 100 programs. Now, show me another committee that has done that on a voluntary basis. There isn't any. In the House or the Senate. We've had speech after speech after speech after speech, heartfelt speeches. Why can't you work together back there in Washington and do what's right for the American people and quit spending money we don't have? We had a Supercommittee that worked on this for a considerable amount of time. I don't question anybody's intent that had that tough job. At that time we offered to the Supercommittee a package that could have been done at that particular time. But we did it. And we meaning the Chairwoman, myself, and members of the committee, and staff as well, who worked extremely hard. So there hasn't been anybody else that has come forward and said here is real deficit reduction. That's why we should support the motion to proceed. We have made the tough decisions because that's what you do in rural America whether it's Michigan, Kansas, or in the Dakotas or in Nebraska. Because that is what you do when budgets are tight and you need to get things done."

Senator Nelson-NE: (10:17 AM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "We're moving in the right direction now with farm policy, moving away from protectionism, moving away from outmoded programs to something that certainly is in today's world important. That is, a safety net, a safety net that involves risk management opposed to direct farm payments. This is particularly important to the state of Nebraska and all of our producers. We're number one in production of many commodities from red meat to great northern beans. Second in the nation in production of ethanol, something more than two billion gallons of this homegrown fuel into our energy supply every year. Our productive farmers and ranchers in Nebraska make us fifth in the nation in agriculture receipts while nearly one-third of all Nebraska jobs are related to agriculture, it's our number-one industry. Giving that importance to my state, I really appreciate the work that's been done and the strong bipartisan support of 16-5 out of the committee to the floor, to put the bill out of the committee to the floor. And truly it is about reform. It creates a market-oriented safety net. It eliminates direct farm subsidy payments. It streamlines and simplifies and consolidates programs and at the same time creating jobs for our, helping our economy grow. I'd like to emphasize one point again. This major reform moves us away from government controls on production and moves us toward the private market to help sustain American agriculture. Going in the right direction. It does all that while also making, as has been noted, a substantial contribution, more than $23 billion, to deficit reduction. That sets the example of how Washington can begin to get our fiscal house in order. Our bipartisan work in the Ag bill is important. It demonstrates that we can work together, and particularly when it comes to deficit reduction and finding new ways to do things in a different way. Turning to the reforms, by ending duplication and consolidating programs, the bill eliminates more than 100 programs or authorizations. It contains strong payment limitation language. Funding programs for those who don't need them is nothing short of agricultural welfare. Producers in my state understand we can't keep funding programs for those who don't need them, nor should we. They understand we should keep funding programs for those who are in need. We need to prioritize better. The bill ends those outdated subsidies and ensuring farmers won't be paid for crops they aren't growing on land they aren't planting and ends direct farm payments saving taxpayers $16 billion on that program alone. That is a lot of money even in Washington terms. As we end those subsidies, the Farm bill establishes that crop insurance will be the focal point of risk management, as it should. By strengthening crop insurance and expanding access so farmers are not wiped out by a few days of bad weather. This allows farmers and ranchers on their own to select the best risk management for their production needs rather than having to rely on the sometimes goodwill of the government to bail them out in periods of volatility. And at the same time one of the greatest challenges farmers face is the risk that prices won't decline or collapse over the next several years. When things are good people never expect them to go bad. When they're bad they never assure they will go good. This leaves farmers exposed to high costs and low prices, and that can put them out of business. So in the Ag committee we worked to address this risk by creating the Ag risk program, it seeks to strike a better balance with this market-or oriented approach. We want farmers to stay if farming but we don't want them to farm federal programs."

Reid

Opening Remarks

Jun 07 2012

  • Today --
    • 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.

Senator Reid: (9:33 AM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "It saves the country $23 billion. It gets rid of a lot of wasted subsidies, it's a fine piece of legislation. Now, we hear hue and cry constantly from our Republican friends, let's do something about the debt. This bill does it. $23 billion. So I hope, we're going to have a cloture vote, on the ability for us to proceed to the bill. The ability for to us start legislating."
  • Spoke on filibuster reform.
    • SUMMARY "Now, I don't need to give a lecture to the Presiding Officer about how vexatious this is that we have to do this every time. As the Presiding Officer wanted to do something to change this process at the beginning of this Congress. I'll just bet you if we maintain our majority and I feel quite confident that we can do that and the President's re-elected, there is going to be some changes. We can no longer go through this every did bill. Filibusters on bills that they agree with, it's just to waste time to prevent us from getting things done."

Jun 07 2012

The Senate Convened.

Jun 07 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.