Senate Calendar

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mar 08 2012

Senator Reid: (5:47 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Monday, March 12th --
    • The Senate will convene at 2:00 PM Monday, March 12th and proceed to a period of Morning Business, with Senators permitted to speak up to 10 minutes each.
    • Pending is S. 1813, the Highway bill.
    • There will be NO ROLL CALL VOTES during Monday's session of the Senate.
  • The following 22 amendments are in order to S. 1813, the Highway bill (and will be voted on in the order listed):
    • McConnell side-by-side to Stabenow amendment #1812 (60 votes required);
    • Stabenow amendment #1812 (energy tax credits) (60 votes required);
    • DeMint amendment #1589 (repeal certain energy tax subsidies) (60 votes required);
    • Menendez/Burr amendment #1782 (energy tax credits) (60 votes required);
    • DeMint amendment #1756 (state authority);
    • Bingaman amendment #1759 (privatized highways);
    • Coats amendment #1517 (make percentage of gas taxes equal to percentage of apportioned funds);
    • Brown (OH) amendment #1819 (Buy America provisions);
    • Blunt amendment #1540 (off-system bridges);
    • Merkley amendment #1814 (farm vehicle exemptions);
    • Portman amendment #1736 (state transportation spending flexibility);
    • Klobuchar amendment #1617 (transportation of agricultural commodities and farm supplies);
    • Corker amendment #1785, as modified (adjust FY13 discretionary spending cap);
    • Shaheen amendment #1678 (increase funding for public transportation systems with less than 50 buses);
    • Portman amendment #1742 (non-highway uses in rest areas);
    • Corker amendment #1810 (limit expenditures to amount in Highway Trust Fund);
    • Carper amendment #1670 (removal of federal program limitations);
    • Hutchison amendment #1568 (prohibit new tolls);
    • McCain amendment #1669, as modified (noise abatement over Grand Canyon);
    • Alexander amendment #1779 (overflights of national parks);
    • Boxer amendment #1816 (sense of Senate re: expeditious environmental reviews); and
    • Paul amendment #1556 (emergency exemptions).
  • Tuesday, March 13th --
    • At a time to be determined on Tuesday, the Senate will proceed to a series of ROLL CALL VOTES on the remaining 22 amendments and passage of S. 1813, the Highway bill, as amended. A managers' package will also be in order, along with applicable budget points of order and applicable motions to waive.
The Senate stands adjourned until 2:00 PM Monday, March 12th.

Levin, McCain, Portman, Coats, Blunt

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Mar 08 2012

Senator Levin: (4:48 PM)
  • Spoke on Levin amendment #1818 (offshore tax havens).
    • SUMMARY "Under the Patriot Act Congress gave the treasury the power to take a range of measures against foreign financial institutions or jurisdictions that it finds to be of "primary money laundering concern." The Conrad amendment would allowed the treasury to impose the same types of measures on the same entities if treasury finds them to be impeding U.S. tax enforcement. This amendment that has been the subject of a bill for a number of years and it comes out of the hearings of the permanent subcommittee on investigations which I chair and those investigations show that each year the United States loses literally tens of billions of dollars in tax revenue from people using offshore tax havens to dodge their U.S. tax obligations including through hidden accounts at tax haven banks. We issued a lengthy bipartisan support in our subcommittee, we detailed case histories involving tax haven banks that helped thousands of U.S. clients dodge their U.S. taxes, banks that used a long list of secrecy tricks to make it nearly impossible for U.S. tax authorities to trace funds sent to them off shore."

Senator McCain: (4:50 PM)
  • Called up McCain amendment #1669, as modified (noise abatement over Grand Canyon).

Senator Portman: (4:51 PM)
  • Called up Portman amendment #1736 (state transportation spending flexibility).
  • Called up Portman amendment #1742 (non-highway uses in rest areas).
  • Spoke on Portman amendment #1736 (state transportation spending flexibility).
    • SUMMARY "The first gives the states freedom to keep their gas taxes. For decades Washington has taken its cut off the top and attached burdensome mandates to the funds before sending them back to the states and it hasn't worked. Since 2008 the highway trust fund has been bailed out three times from the general fund to the tune of about $35 billion and during that time the federal government has required that 10% of all surface transportation funds be spent on enhancements so-called which includes archaeological planning and research, transportation museums, scenic beautification along highways and so on. The government accounting office has found between four and 2008 at today time when our bridges and roads have been in disrepair and needed all the help they could get the trust fund spent $78 billion not related to the support of our nation's network of highways and bridges. With the economy struggling we need to provide states with the ability to move quickly and innovatively implement transportation priorities. Instead of a one-size-fits-all solution from Washington. Ohio's gas taxes shouldn't be wasted by costly federal mandates, regulations and bureaucracies that Ohio doesn't think are necessary. rather, states should have the freedom to use the revenue collected from highway users within their own state in the way they see fit to get more money into infrastructure. This amendment will give the states the freedom they need to do that while ensuring states maintain the current system in accordance with current standards. We need to let states get back on track."
  • Spoke on Portman amendment #1742 (non-highway uses in rest areas).
    • SUMMARY "The second amendment is a fiscally responsible amendment. It lifts an antiquated mandate that dates back to 1956 and would allow states the freedom to make their own decisions on how to manage their rest areas which the federal government forces states to pay to maintain and improve. The current approach has set up a patchwork of exemptions and special permits that allow some states to commercialize rest areas while prohibiting other states from doing the same. Under this states can commercialize the rest areas. At a time when America's core transportation infrastructure, our highway, roads and bridges need all the help they can get the Ohio Department of Transportation spends an estimated $50 million a year on rest area upkeep in Ohio alone. The high cost of improving these rest areas is hand cuffing the states to spend money on roads and bridges. This is a fiscally conservative pro-taxpayer amendment that would help states like Ohio recover losses, possibly break even or maybe even add revenue by allowing restaurants, convenience stores or other entities to lease spaces at rest areas."

Senator Coats: (4:57 PM)
  • Called up Alexander amendment #1779 (overflights of national parks); DeMint amendment #1589 (repeal certain energy tax subsidies); DeMint amendment #1756 (state authority); Coats amendment #1517 (make percentage of gas taxes equal to percentage of apportioned funds).
  • Spoke on Coats amendment #1517 (make percentage of gas taxes equal to percentage of apportioned funds).
    • SUMMARY "Most people are familiar with the fact when they pull up to the gas pump, they are not only paying for the cost of gas, they are paying the tax on the cost of that gas. The federal tax pumped into the tank is sent into Washington and put into a so-called federal gas tax fund trust. The word trust is really somewhat of a misnomer because like so many trusts we create, it doesn't live up to its name. Trust means that it's safeguarded, no one else can touch it, no one else can use it. The trust fund was designed to taxes from the sale of gasoline at the federal level and then under a provision return that tax back to the state. Bottom line is that the majority of our states in this country are not getting back what they put in and so this amendment is designed to correct that flaw or at least that current provision, in terms of the way that trust fund is operated my state, like many states across the nation, draws the short end of the stick in terms of getting our money back and it turns a trust fund into a earmarking process."

Senator Blunt: (5:04 PM)
  • Called up Blunt amendment #1540 (off-system bridges).
  • Spoke on Blunt amendment #1540 (off-system bridges).
    • SUMMARY "This amendment deals with the whole issue of off-system bridges. These are bridges that aren't part of the state system, aren't part of the federal system but normally are run by county governments. Our states, like most of the states near east of the Mississippi river, we have lots of counties. We have 115. They have large numbers of bridges and for a number of years now have benefited from 15% of the bridge funds that go to states. I think most of us would, if we meet with county commissioners or those responsible for county government about their highway concerns, this would be an issue that we've all heard talked about It doesn't change current law. In fact, it just goes forward with current law in this bill. This bill would eliminate the requirement of states to give 15% to counties if counties have a use for it and I think that would be a mistake."
  • Spoke on Blunt amendment #1743 (certification process for passenger rail carriers).
    • SUMMARY "My amendment would simply strike this section of the bill in response to this closed process. I hope that that's the final determination of this bill before it goes to the President's desk. Since the Congress abolished the interstate commerce commission in 1995 there's been no federal licensing system for entry or exit of new rail passenger operators. Only federal requirements to ensure safety. So that meant that anybody who wanted to get into this business could as long as they met the safety requirements. Currently state transportation agencies increasingly use competitive bidding to choose a contract rail operator who can provide the best value. As a result, we're starting to see an actual competitive and robust rail passenger market with more than seven companies, which includes Amtrak but isn't limited to Amtrak, competing for these contracts. Unfortunately, the language in the highway bill today requires passenger rail operators, both public agencies and private businesses, to deal with an expensive and time-consuming licensing process in front of political employees at the service transportation board. However, this new regulation will not apply to Amtrak, putting its competitors at a distinct disadvantage. The bill as it stands today would subject the passenger rail industry to an ever-changing political dynamic at the discretion of the surface transportation board, likely resulting in a government-sanctioned passenger rail monopoly. The board would also hold broad veto powers to prevent a track-owning railroad to make agreements with any preferred operator other than Amtrak. This bill would also require passenger rail operators to obtain a new license, a new board license every time a contract operator is replaced. This requirement appears to be aimed at preventing competitive selection of private-sector contract operators, discouraging the replacement of operators through competitive bidding."

Vote Results (Levin amendment #1818)

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Mar 08 2012

Agreed to by Voice Vote:
Levin amendment #1818 (offshore tax havens) to S. 1813, the Highway bill.

Vote Results (Motion to Waive)

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Mar 08 2012

Agreed to, 66-31:
The Motion to Waive the Budget Act (60 votes required) with respect to S. 1813, the Highway bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Vote Results (Hoeven amendment #1537)

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Mar 08 2012

Not Agreed to, 56-42:
Hoeven amendment #1537 (approve Keystone XL pipeline) (60 votes required) to S. 1813, the Highway bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Vote Results (Wyden amendment #1817 )

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Mar 08 2012

Not Agreed to, 34-64:
Wyden amendment #1817 (Keystone XL pipeline) (60 votes required) to S. 1813, the Highway bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Mar 08 2012

Agreed to, 76-22:
Nelson-FL amendment #1822 (RESTORE Act) (60 votes required) to S. 1813, the Highway bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Vote Results (Coburn amendment #1738)

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Mar 08 2012

Not Agreed to, 52-46:
Coburn amendment #1738 (duplicative/overlapping federal programs) (60 votes required) to S. 1813, the Highway bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Mar 08 2012

Not Agreed to, 52-46:
Collins amendment #1660 (Boiler MACT) (60 votes required) to S. 1813, the Highway bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Vote Results (Baucus amendment #1825)

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Mar 08 2012

Agreed to, 82-16:
Baucus amendment #1825 (rural schools) (60 votes required) to S. 1813, the Highway bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Vote Results (Vitter amendment #1535)

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Mar 08 2012

Not Agreed to, 46-52:
Vitter amendment #1535 (OCS oil and natural gas leasing) to S. 1813, the Highway bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Mar 08 2012

Senator Lautenberg: (1:27 PM)
  • Spoke in opposition to Collins amendment #1660 (Boiler MACT).
    • SUMMARY "The first seeks to delay and weaken new EPA standards that would reduce the pollution produced by industrial boilers. These boilers emit dozens of toxins, including lead, which reduces children's intelligence levels and dioxins, which can cause birth defects. Boilers also release mercury, which is brain poison for children Under the Republican amendment, polluters will have at least six additional years to continue releasing life-threatening toxins into our air. We've already waited far too long to see the health benefits these standards would achieve. back in 1990, both parties came together in congress and told the EPA to set new pollution standards by the year 2000. if we delay these standards another six years, our country will suffer as many as 28,000 premature deaths. we will also see 17,000 heart attacks and more than 180,000 asthma attacks. This amendment would also fundamentally weaken the clean air act. It forces the EPA to set the least burdensome standards for industry."
  • Spoke in opposition to Hoeven amendment #1537 (approve Keystone XL pipeline).
    • SUMMARY "I also want to express my strong opposition to Senator Hoeven's Keystone XL amendment which is nothing more than a rubber stamp for a project that poses serious risks to our environment and public safety. The Keystone XL pipeline will be one of the largest pipelines outside of Russia and China. It will be 1,700 miles long, cut each day - tar sand oil each day and make no mistake, the Keystone pipeline is not ready for approval."
  • Spoke in opposition to Vitter amendment #1535 (OCS oil and natural gas leasing).
    • SUMMARY "I want to express my strong opposition to a Vitter amendment to vastly expand offshore drilling in this country. I won't stand by while republicans put new New Jersey's coast in the hands of oil companies. Tourism and other coastal activities generate $50 million a year in New Jersey and support a half a million jobs. Just likes with the keystone pipeline, the oil industry is telling you don't worry about the risks posed by offshore drilling. They say, "Trust us, everything will be fine." but, we know how empty the oil industry's promises are."

Senator Roberts: (1:32 PM)
  • Called up Roberts amendment #1826.
  • Spoke on Roberts amendment #1826.
    • SUMMARY "I rise today to ask for support for my amendment to promote pro-growth energy and tax policy, especially consistency for the remainder of this year. My amendment addresses a significant tax policy concern. Within the tax code there is a long list of provisions simply known as tax extenders. Now, some might ask why I'm offering an amendment on tax extenders to a bill dealing with the federal highway program. Well, in a nutshell, here's why: these provisions are used by millions of families, individuals, and business taxpayers, but these provisions expired over two months ago, causing utter chaos in regards to - well, it caused the lawyer full employment act. The base of this amendment includes most but not all of the expired energy tax incentives addressed in the amendment offered by my friend on the other side of the aisle. It's your amendment. In my amendment, however, we increase these energy production incentives. With spiking gas prices hammering families and businesses, this is precisely, it seems to me, the time to have policy that will increase our supply of energy. To begin with, addressing the oil supply issues, my amendment would cut red tape and open up more federal land for oil and gas exploration and drilling. We are all painfully aware of the President's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline application. My amendment gives our Canadian neighbors the green light to send energy our way. Let me now briefly describe the amendment. This amendment extends popular and much-needed tax relief, ranging from tax deductions for families sending kids to college to the adoption tax credit. By supporting my amendment today, we can provide a much-needed tax relief certainty to millions of families and businesses for the remainder of this year."

Senator Landrieu: (1:38 PM)
  • Spoke in support of Nelson-FL amendment #1822 (RESTORE Act).
    • SUMMARY "All we're asking in the RESTORE Act for these states - is to fund - direct 80% of the penalty money that BP is going to pay. The taxpayers don't pay this. This doesn't come out of any program. It does not come out of any education program, any other program. It is going to be paid for by BP let's do justice to the gulf coast. America's energy coast and, might I say, the coast that produces the most vibrant fisheries, the coast that supports proudly ecotourism, the coast that revels in clean beaches and please give us the resources that we need to restore this great coast."

Senator Vitter: (1:45 PM)
  • Spoke in support of Nelson-FL amendment #1822 (RESTORE Act).
    • SUMMARY "This is completely deficit-neutral. We have an offset built into the bill such that this bill does not increase the deficit in any way, shape or form and let me point out, the money that we're using, as has been said, wouldn't exist but for the BP disaster. They're fines paid by BP and others. So that money didn't exist before the disaster, and yet still we offset that full amount with an offset. So, really, in essence, we're lowering the deficit compared to what it would have been but for the disaster and before that revenue created only by the disaster and in addition, built into the bill in this latest version is significant funding for the land and water conservation fund, which has significant bipartisan support in the Senate."

Senator Wyden: (1:47 PM)
  • Spoke in support of Wyden amendment #1817 (Keystone XL pipeline).
    • SUMMARY "The alternative ensures expedited approval of the pipeline once the current environmental requirements are met. The alternative, ensures that the thousands of jobs associated with building the pipeline go to the workers of the United States. The alternative says there is to be a ban on the export of all Canadian crude oil transported on the Keystone XL pipeline and, obviously, there may be some exceptions and we've worked out a process to waive that, but if this oil is really intended for Americans, then the export restrictions that we offer in this amendment ought to be very clear and that is, madam president, the heart of the concern reflected by the backers of this amendment."

Senator Chambliss: (1:53 PM)
  • Honored the Girl Scouts of the United States of America on their 100th Anniversary.

Senator Merkley: (1:56 PM)
  • Spoke in support of Baucus amendment #1825 (rural schools).
    • SUMMARY "I rise to address the Baucus amendment that maintains the core federal commitment to our timber counties through the secure rural schools and the payment in lieu of taxes programs. Let me give you a sense of what this is all about. This is equivalent to a farmer who is told by the federal government, we have a new set of rules and you can't grow crops on your farm any longer but we are going to substitute payments that you would otherwise re receive. Well, the farmer doesn't like it, he'd rather grow crops, but what can he do? Then along comes the government a few years later and says, you know what? You can't grow crops and you're not going to get compensated for our rules that tell you, you can't grow crops and, of course, that's outrageous. That's like a taking of pr property and yet that is exactly, exactly the situation that exists for our timber counties in terms of the lands effected by the secure rural schools program. The timber harvest cannot proceed in its original method and the compensation is not guaranteed to be in place. So we have to fix that. We have to make sure the federal government abides by the deals that it has struck. Now, this deal is essential to rural timber counties throughout our nation. It's essential to so many counties in Oregon."

Inouye, Boxer, Lugar

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Mar 08 2012

Senator Inouye: (1:04 PM)
  • Spoke in opposition to Corker amendment #1810 (limit expenditures to amount in Highway Trust Fund).
    • SUMMARY "The amendment from the junior senator from Tennessee would load a nondiscretionary budget act by $20 billion in order to offset transfers from the general fund necessary to replenish the highway trust fund. This amendment, is a clear violation of the Budget Control Act we agreed on less than a year ago. In simple terms, the amendment would impose a 4% cut to nondefense discretionary spending in order to pay for a shortfall in mandatory spending. I wish to remind my colleagues, that discretionary spending will rise at a rate that is less than the rate of inflation over the next decade, and that's according to the CBO mandatory spending, on the other hand, is slated to rise at three times the rate of inflation. Clearly, if there is a desire to offset one area of mandatory spending, the place to find such an offset should be on the very same mandatory side of the spending ledger."
  • Spoke in opposition to Coburn amendment #1738 (duplicative/overlapping federal programs).
    • SUMMARY "It violates the deficit reduction agreement reached last fall. Senator Coburn claims that the purpose of this amendment is to reduce duplicative programs, but in reality the amendment would require a $10 billion reduction in existing discretionary caps regardless of whether there are actually $10 billion in discretionary savings from consolidating duplicate programs that can be identified only by the OMB. Further, the $10 billion figure is completely arbitrary, and almost certainly will not be reached. In fact, there is no methodology or specificity that verifies that there are, in fact, $10 billion in discretionary savings to be found. The senator's amendment cites two reports on the government accountability office, the GAO, on how programs may be duplicative or somewhat duplicative could be streamlined or eliminated. What the senator fails to mention is that the GAO in its recent report notes that on 81 issues it raised last year, the Congress or the Executive branch have begun to respond to all but 17 of the issues raised. This amendment also ignores the fact that the majority of the items on which no action has been taken are unrelated to discretionary spending, but the Coburn revenues are mandatory spending."

Senator Boxer: (1:19 PM)
  • Unanimous Consent:
    • There be two minutes of debate, equally divided, prior to each ROLL CALL VOTE. After the first ROLL CALL VOTE, all remaining ROLL CALL VOTES will be ten minute votes.
    • Baucus amendment (rural schools) is listed as Baucus amendment #1825.
    • Further, if a budget point of order is raised against the underlying bill in a motion to waive the budget point of order is made, the Senate will proceed to a ROLL CALL VOTE on the motion to waive today, within the sequence of votes this afternoon at a time to be determined by the Majority leader after consultation with the Republican leader.
    • The time until 2:00 PM will be equally divided between the two leaders or their designees. The following senators on the majority side will be permitted to speak up to five minutes each and they would be in this order: Lautenberg, Landrieu, Wyden, Stabenow, and Merkley (without objection).

Senator Lugar: (1:20 PM)
  • Spoke on the tornado storms in Indiana.
  • Spoke in support of Hoeven amendment #1537 (approve Keystone XL pipeline).
    • SUMMARY "Today we have a dramatic opportunity to change that energy and national security equation by building the Keystone XL pipeline to bring oil from Canada, our good friend, to North Dakota and to Montana and then to the gulf refineries. and better yet, building Keystone XL, a private-sector project, will create thousands of American jobs now. Job creation is the number-one issue in our nation. The Keystone XL pipeline is the country's largest shovel-ready infrastructure project. President Obama had the opportunity to create thousands of new jobs right away plus bolster job prospects for thousands more throughout the manufacturing supply chain Allowing $7 billion of private economic activity should be a no brainer. even after reviewing Keystone for over 1,000 days, President Obama caved to pressure from extreme environmentalists by rejecting Keystone XL jobs and security. The president ignored analysis from his own department of energy that said oil supplies coming via Keystone XL would most likely lower gas prices. President Obama's rejection of Keystone XL implicitly says that the administration prefers to send billions of dollars to unfriendly regimes rather than expanding trade with Canada. It says that democratic leadership prefers going hat in hand seeking more oil from Saudi Arabia rather than taking control of our energy future. It is incomprehensible. No objective standards of U.S. national security interest could justify such a decision."

Wyden, Hoeven, Corker

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Mar 08 2012

Senator Wyden: (12:23 PM)
  • Spoke on Collins amendment #1660 (Boiler MACT).
    • SUMMARY "I joined in the legislation to give EPA 15 months to rewrite the rules so as to protect good-paying jobs and communities that are affected by the Boiler rules, while ensuring the health of our people and the protection of our environment. Now, that was 15 months ago. EPA got the time it said that it needed to rewrite the rules, and the new final rules will be out within 90 days and I'd just like to outline for the senate what the new rules will do. First, the new rules as proposed in the legislation change what constitutes solid waste so that boiler fuels, for example, that are wood waste can be used for fuels like biomass and wastes from steel mills as another example can be used as a fuel as they are today, rather than to be regulated out of existence as a fuel source. Second, as proposed in the legislation, the new rules will create an open to the public list of what can and cannot be burned in a boiler. This is going to provide important predictability and certainty to American industry, and it will provide new accountability to our communities. All across the United States, folks are going to be able to know as a result of these new rules what can and cannot be actually burned in a boiler. Third, again, just like the legislation, the rules address the fact that because EPA was unable to get the rules right at the outset, more time is needed for compliance. The question of compliance and the time that would be provided for industries to meet the standards. in the final rule, the compliance clock is reset with a rule providing additional time for industry to comply and this is just like what is in the original legislation. So industry will have four years to comply."

Senator Hoeven: (12:37 PM)
  • Called up Hoeven amendment #1537 (approve Keystone XL pipeline).
  • Spoke on Hoeven amendment #1537 (approve Keystone XL pipeline)
    • SUMMARY "This is an amendment that would provide for approval of the keystone pipeline project. Congress has under the commerce clause of the constitution express authority to regulate commerce with foreign countries. That provides the very clear constitutional authority for congress to approve the keystone pipeline project, and that is something that we absolutely need to do. Today there will be a very clear choice, there will be a very clear choice for the members of the Senate and make no mistake, I don't want to leave any doubt here. This is a clear choice. My amendment provides that the Keystone pipeline project will move forward, authorized by Congress. It is very clear that all of the protections, all the environmental protections are incorporated, as has been provided over three and a half years, three and a half years this project has been under review by the EPA, by the Department of State, by this administration. They have gone through not one but two environmental impact statement processes. They have met all of the environmental requirements. Our legislation incorporates all of that and in addition, provides whatever time is necessary for rerouting the pipeline through the state of Nebraska. Here is a schematic of the project and the one issue in terms of the routing was through the state of Nebraska. This legislation provides whatever time is necessary for the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to work with states, to work with EPA and reroute the pipeline through the state of Nebraska. So my point is we incorporate all necessary environmental safeguards into the project, but it authorizes that the project after three and a half years can go forward and so I'd like to talk for just a minute about why that's so important, because there is another amendment, an alternative that has been presented by Senator Wyden. That amendment - let me be clear, that amendment will block this project. That amendment will block this project. Let there be no confusion. The Hoeven-Lugar-Vitter amendment will advance the project. The amendment that is being put forward by my esteemed colleague, Senator Wyden, as a democratic alternative, that will block the project. This is a clear choice."

Senator Wyden: (12:54 PM)
  • Called up Wyden amendment #1817 (Keystone XL pipeline).

Senator Corker: (12:56 PM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "I was the mayor of a city and understand how important highway infrastructure and transit spending is to this country. So unbelievably, with a very - highly supportive bill, what this body is doing is already violating the spending levels that were deemed by virtue of the Budget Control Act passing and a budget resolution that came thereafter. So what I would say is this body already, seven months, seven months after this nation and actually the world watched as we wrestled with our debt ceiling, they watched us pass the Budget Control Act, they knew that it had a deeming that took place where a budget resolution was deemed, and we are already in violation of that. and all I'm doing is asking the members of this body, so many of us in a bipartisan way have raised up and said we have to do those things to get our budget and our spending under control, to control deficits in this country. so many of us took tremendous heat in voting for this debt ceiling that took place last - last august, and yet this body in passing a very popular bill that you would think would cause us to want to prioritize and say okay, we do need to spend money on highways and so therefore, let's spend less on something else. This is a very important piece of legislation The fact is, we are not paying for this piece of legislation in the appropriate way per the guidelines that we laid down as a part of the process that was put in place by the Budget Control Act and to me, that is absolutely irresponsible, especially when you look at the spending levels that are above that deemed budget resolution."
  • Raised a point of order under section 311(a)2(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 on the pending measure, S. 1813, the Highway bill, as amended. S. 1813, will exceed the aggregate level of budget authority and outlays for the fiscal year 2012 as set out in the most recent budget resolution deemed by the Budget Control Act of 2011. (Boxer waived the point of order).

Collins, Boxer, Coburn

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Mar 08 2012

Senator Collins: (11:45 AM)
  • Called up Collins amendment #1660 (Boiler MACT).
  • Spoke on Collins amendment #1660 (Boiler MACT).
    • SUMMARY "Last year I introduced the legislation very similar to this amendment to provide the EPA with the time that the agency itself says that it needed to rewrite the proposed Boiler MACT rules, to better serve the public interest and protect vulnerable manufacturing jobs. The legislation had the support of 41 of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and an identical bill, nearly identical bill, passed the House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support this fall. The EPA regulatory relief act is straightforward. It will help ensure that the final Boiler MACT regulations will be achievable and affordable, and that manufacturers will have adequate time to bring their facilities into compliance, thus preserving jobs. We hear over and over again that the top priority of the Senate should be to create an environment where jobs are created and preserved. Well, this amendment is all about saving jobs. Since the EPA proposed these new Boiler MACT regulations in April of 2010, there has been widespread bipartisan alarm over the cost of the implementation and potential job losses. It has been our shared goal to ensure that the final rules crafted by the EPA protect public health and the environment while preventing the loss of thousands of jobs that we can ill afford to lose. Enactment of this legislation is necessary to protect and to grow America's manufacturing work force. This is all about jobs."

Senator Boxer: (12:01 PM)
  • Spoke in opposition to Collins amendment #1660 (Boiler MACT).
    • SUMMARY "This amendment is described as being nothing but a delay when it actually changes the standards for the most poisonous pollution known to humankind. I would call it instead of the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, I would call it the Increase Poisonous Pollution in America Act ... If we vote for the Collins amendment and if it were to become the law, a, it doesn't belong on a transportation bill, we should be debating the clean air act for weeks on end if we're going to start repealing standards for these pollutants, so just on that issue alone, we should vote against it but if it were to pass, which I don't believe it will, 300,000 newborns each year may well have increased risk of learning disabilities from toxic mercury exposures in the womb. We know because of peer-reviewed science that if this were to pass and we would not have this rule go into effect, for every year it is delayed, we would see 8,100 premature deaths, 5,100 heart attacks per year, 52,000 cases of aggravated asthma 400,000 lost workdays per year. Scientifically peer reviewed if this is delayed for every year and it's been 20 years in the making. These pollutants, control of them. 400,000 lost workdays per year and here's another thing. We talk about the costs. Yes, it will cost $1.5 billion per year to clean up this poison. The annual benefits are $67 billion."

Senator Coburn: (12:12 AM)
  • Called up Coburn amendment #1738 (duplicative/overlapping federal programs) (60 votes required).
  • Spoke on Coburn amendment #1738 (duplicative/overlapping federal programs) (60 votes required).
    • SUMMARY "The GAO through two reports now, one released just this last month, the second in a series of three which will become annual, has told Congress where the problems are, and the problems are in continuing to do the same thing in multiple programs at multiple agencies and they have outlined billions, hundreds of billions - I can calculate at least $100 billion worth of duplication that is they have outlined and said we didn't do anything about it last year when they gave us the first. Now they are giving us another that has probably another $30 billion or $40 billion worth of savings for the American people because of duplications and so what this amendment does is very straightforward. It asks OMB to look at the GAO reports, give recommendations to us on what they would recommend that allows the executive branch to participate in this in terms of billion worth of savings this year on duplication."

Warner, Vitter, Boxer, Nelson-FL

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Mar 08 2012


Senator Warner
: (10:50 AM)
  • Spoke in opposition to Hoeven amendment #1537 (approve Keystone XL pipeline).
    • SUMMARY "I support the construction of the Keystone pipeline. I believe that we need to have an energy policy that has an all-of-the-above approach. I believe there are appropriate regulatory reviews that need to be made, and I frankly think that any construction of a Keystone pipeline should take into consideration the very serious environmental considerations that particularly affect the state of Nebraska, and there will need to be a route for this pipeline that would avoid that potential environmental damage. However, because of the way this process is being laid out, I will not be voting for the Keystone amendment today because, by making this a straight up-or-down issue without taking advantage of the opportunity to put together the beginnings of an energy package, we're missing out on a great opportunity. As I've mentioned, if we are truly serious about energy security and if we are truly serious about reducing our dependence on foreign oil, I believe we need an energy policy that has an all-of-the-above approach. Yes, that means more domestic oil and gas, but it means that when we have an opportunity of an issue, controversy like this regarding Keystone, that we could have taken this opportunity to include a rational approach, with appropriate environmental reviews to get to, I believe, a positive answer on Keystone but also link that with other energy policies that would make sense I think if we're going to get serious about reducing our dependence on foreign oil, if we're going to make sure that we give the American taxpayers a vision that in the future we're going to see the ability to reduce our dependence upon, again, foreign oil that ultimate - that results in higher gas prices, we actually could have put together around this Keystone proposal a true bipartisan, bipartisan consensus that would have included construction of Keystone with the appropriate environmental reviews, with the making sure that those key areas of Nebraska are protected, inclusion of the energy tax cuts and tax provisions that we do an on annual basis that would continue to allow wind and solar and other renewable energy construction and production to continue in this country, and a meaningful energy conservation bill - the Shaheen-Portman bill, a bipartisan bill."

Senator Vitter: (11:04 PM)
  • Called up Vitter amendment #1535 (OCS oil and natural gas leasing).
  • Spoke on Vitter amendment #1535 (OCS oil and natural gas leasing).
    • SUMMARY "It would allow us to go back to the previous lease plan for the outer continental shelf, replacing the current Obama administration lease plan which cuts that previous plan in half, moves us in the wrong direction in terms of producing our abundance of domestic energy, including oil and natural gas."

Senator Boxer: (11:14 AM)
  • Spoke in opposition to Vitter amendment #1535 (OCS oil and natural gas leasing).
    • SUMMARY "If you vote for Vitter, is maybe feel that you're doing something but you are destroying whole areas of our nation that are so dependent upon the beauty of our coastline. On top of it all, this amendment would waive environmental review of this the entire plan. No environmental review. So nobody in the country would know what lay ahead. Look, we don't need anymore giveaways to big oil. They are having raging profits. Even at the height of the recession, billions of dollars and here's the point: they're sitting on 50 million acres of onshore and offshore leases that they have yet to drill upon. Let me repeat that. Senator Vitter wants to open up huge swaths of the coastline to big oil companies who are making record profits. The price of gas is soaring and they're sitting on 50 million acres of land onshore and offshore leases that they have yet to drill upon. They've done nothing with more than 70% of the offshore acres, and nearly 60% of the onshore acres on which they currently hold leases. So when they had a chance to bid on more lease sales, they only bid on 5% to 6% of those offshore acres in 2009 and 2010, so they're not taking advantage of the leases they hold."

Senator Nelson-FL: (11:26 AM)
  • Spoke in opposition to Vitter amendment #1535 (OCS oil and natural gas leasing).
    • SUMMARY "I just want to underscore the Senator from California's statement with regard to the outer continental shelf and point out that the Vitter amendment would allow drilling in the one place On the outer continental shelf that is off-limits in law, and that is the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida and the reason that that was passed in a bipartisan way, with my colleague, Senator Mel Martinez, back in 2005, is several reasons. In the first place, there is no oil out there of any appreciable amount and the senator has already pointed out that there are 50 million acres under lease that are not drilled. Well, 30 million of those acres under lease that have not been drilled are in the Gulf of Mexico, where the oil is. In the central and western gulf, and there's very little oil and gas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Why? Because mother nature had those sediments coming for millions of years down the Mississippi River, and then the earth's crust compacted for millions of years and made that oil and the oil is where the sediments were. It's not out there and the oil companies know that, and that's why they have 37 million acres under lease and only 7 million in the Gulf of Mexico are drilled, are producing of the 37 million. Now, that ought to be prima facie evidence of why you don't need to go in the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida but there's more, didn't we have some lessons from the BP oil spill two years ago of what happens to tourism when oil comes up on the beach There's another reason and this is where people often are so surprised when I tell them, the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida is the largest testing and training area for the United States military in the world. This senator from Florida has two letters from two successive secretaries of state. By the way, both republican Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary Gates, that says you can't put oil drilling and oil-related activities in the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida in the test and training range, which in effect is the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida."
  • Spoke in support of Nelson-FL amendment #1822 (RESTORE Act).
    • SUMMARY "We are going to have an amendment that is bipartisan. it is an amendment that of its original bill filed, there are ten senators, three of them are democrat and seven of them are republican, and it's called the restore act, and what it does is when the fine is allocated on BP because of the five million barrels of oil that they were spilled, the fine allocated according to the water pollution act which says that a fine will be levied upon anyone that spills a barrel of oil in public waters, and of course because of the enormous amount of oil that were spilled, this is - could be a very substantial fine. Five million barrels of oil and once that fine is determined, then the question is how is it going to be allocated. Well, if - if nothing is done, it goes into the - only about a billion and a half would go into the oil spill liability trust fund, and the rest of it is undeclared. and so naturally, what the gulf coast senators wanted to do was to have some of that money to come back to restore the gulf, the critters, the water and the people who are the ones that suffered as a result of the BP oil spill. and so what we have worked out is a formula that 20% of whatever the fine is would go back to the oil liability trust fund. the remaining 80% would be allocated according to a formula advised by a national gulf restoration council appointed by the states and the federal government, and it would go to make the environment of the gulf whole, go to help with economic development along the gulf that had suffered, and very critically to this senator would go to help research the long-term health effects of the gulf because no telling with all that oil sloshing around out there."
  • Called up Nelson-FL amendment #1822 (RESTORE Act).

Isakson, Corker, Cornyn

Morning Business

Mar 08 2012

Senator Isakson: (10:19 AM)
  • Spoke on International Women's Day.

Senator Corker: (10:23 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "What's getting ready to happen in this bill is we're actually over the next two years going to create a $10 billion to $11 billion deficit because of the various gimmickry we use. We're found a way to get around that. We going to spend the money over a two-year period but is going to pay for it over a ten-year period. Two years' worth of spending, ten years' worth of revenues If we pass this highway bill as laid out, is we're going to violate that budget cap. Right now I just want everybody in this body know that I plan to offer a budget point of order. I would hope that at least all of those 64 Senators - 32 on each side - would join me in opposing breaking the Budget Control Act that we just put in place in an effort to demonstrate to people who buy our treasury bonds that we have the ability to deal with the fiscal issues that we have in our nation."

Senator Cornyn: (10:28 PM)
  • Spoke on energy and gas prices.
    • SUMMARY "Two weeks ago President Obama said that there's very little he could do about high gas prices in the short term. I tell you it's good he made those comments in Miami, Florida, and not midland, Texas, because Texans know that greater domestic energy production would help reduce oil prices and, therefore, reduce gasoline prices. Roughly 70% of the price of gasoline is the price of oil that is refined, that gasoline is refined from. Sometimes I feel like in Washington, DC we are operating in a parallel universe that has very little in common with the rest of the country and here it says if, not to mix my metaphors, but ships passing in the night, but the fact of the matter is the laws of supply and demand cannot be suspended by the united states congress or the President of the United States. President Obama used to agree with that. Last march, for example, he said producing more oil in America would help lower oil prices. Well, lip service will not produce lower oil prices, but, yes, producing more oil will, because the greater the supply, we know that the laws of economics say that demand being the same, greater supply will lower prices. The fact of the matter is there's greater demand all around the world, not just in the United States as economies are growing in China, in India and Brazil and places like that. To add insult to injury, this administration has adopted policies that directly conflict with the goal of lowering oil and gasoline prices. I don't know how to reach any other conclusion but to say it appears to me that the administration is intentionally enacting policies that will raise gasoline prices. I know they will deny that. They'll say it's just not true but I don't know any other explanation. Let me provide you the evidence that I think led me to that conclusion and perhaps you will agree. Today we learned that President Obama has been busy calling Senators on the other side of the aisle and asking them to vote against an amendment being offered by Senator Hoeven of North Dakota that would allow the Keystone XL pipeline project to move forward. The President on the phone calling Senators saying vote against the Keystone XL pipeline amendment offered by Senator Hoeven. The President has previously said there's not a single morning he wakes up when he does not think about creating jobs but apparently he woke up today thinking about how to lobby against jobs."

Murray, Cardin, Shaheen

Morning Business

Mar 08 2012

Senator Murray: (9:49 PM)
  • Spoke on International Women's Day.
    • SUMMARY SUMMARY "For many of those who watched the last few weeks play out, it may have seemed just like an isolated incident. It could have appeared to be a swift effort by Republicans that has been blocked for the time being, but that's not the case. Women's access to care has rarely been at greater risk. When the moment they came into power, the Republicans in the House of Representatives have been waging a war on women's health. If you don't believe me, just look at the very first bills they introduced when they arrived here. They campaigned across the country on a platform of jobs and the economy but the first three bills they introduced when they got here were direct attacks on women's health. The very first one H.R. 1 would have totally eliminated title 10 funding for family planning and teen pregnancy prevention, and it included an amendment that would have completely defunded Planned Parenthood and cut off support for the millions of women who count on it. Another one of their first bills would have permanently codified the Hyde amendment and the DC abortion ban, and finally, they introduced a bill that would have rolled back every single one of the gains we made for women in the health care reform bill. That Republican bill would have removed the caps on your out-of-pocket expenses that literally protect women from losing their homes or their life's savings if they get sick. It would have ended the ban on lifetime limits on coverage, so important to everyone. It would have allowed insurance companies to once again discriminate against women by charging them higher premiums than men, or even denying women care because of so-called preexisting conditions that they have, like pregnancy and if would have rolled back the guarantee that insurance companies cover contraceptives. Republicans have shown they will go to just about any length to limit access to women's care, even shutting down the federal government."
Senator Cardin: (9:56 PM)
  • Spoke on International Women's Day.
    • SUMMARY "We've seen on women's health care issues here in this body. Some are trying to turn back the progress we have made. I was listening to my colleague talk about the ultra sounds. Well, Virginia just enacted an ultra sound bill this week. We talk about big government, government mandating ultra sound for pregnant women. This is outrageous and something that on international women's day, it is right that we bring this to the attention of our colleagues. We've seen the same type of action taken against family planning, those who want to repeal Roe v. Wade. We need to stand with women's health care issues as we lead in the international community. Around the world, international women's day is a time to honor women for their accomplishments. I stand here with my colleagues to celebrate women who are making a difference, both here in America and around the world in countries where they lead in the fight for justice, equality, and fairness for all women. All of us, women and men alike, can help by supporting women's efforts to claim their legal rights to be free from violence, earn a decent income, get a decent education, grow food for their families, and make their voices heard in their communities and beyond. I believe in the power of women to change the world and to help them hasten that change, U.S. international assistance policies should address and remove barriers between women, women's rights, and economic empowerment. Empowering women is one of the most critical tools in our toolbox to fight poverty and injustice. Integrating the unique needs of women into our domestic and international policies is critical."
Senator Shaheen: (10:03 AM)
  • Spoke on International Women's Day.
    • SUMMARY "It is a day observed around the world and celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. It's a day which recognizes the obstacles that women still face in the struggle for equal rights and equal opportunities. One year ago today I along with a group of bipartisan senators introduced and passed a resolution in the Senate recognizing the significance of the 100th anniversary of international women's day. Today's the 101st anniversary and like the centennial milestone before it, it is a testament to the dedication and determination of women and men around the world to address gender and equality for the good of all people. There are more than 3.3 billion women in the world today and across the globe women are participating in the political, social, and economic life of their communities in an unprecedented fashion, playing a critical role in providing and caring for their families, contributing substantially to the growth of economies and advancing food security for their communities."

Reid, McConnell

Opening Remarks

Mar 08 2012

Senator Reid: (9:32 AM)

Today --
  • The Senate will proceed to a period of Morning Business for 1 hour, with Senators permitted to speak up to 10 minutes each. The time will be equally divided with the Majority controlling the first 30 minutes and the Republicans controlling the second 30 minutes.
  • Thereafter, the Senate will resume consideration of S. 1813, the Highway bill.
  • The following 30 amendments are in order to S. 1813, the Highway bill (and will be voted on in the order listed):
    • Vitter amendment #1535 (OCS oil and natural gas leasing) (60 votes required);
    • Baucus amendment (rural schools) (60 votes required);
    • Collins amendment #1660 (Boiler MACT) (60 votes required);
    • Coburn amendment #1738 (duplicative/overlapping federal programs) (60 votes required);
    • Nelson-FL amendment #1822 (RESTORE Act) (60 votes required);
    • Wyden amendment #1817 (Keystone XL pipeline) (60 votes required);
    • Hoeven amendment #1537 (approve Keystone XL pipeline) (60 votes required);
    • Levin amendment #1818 (offshore tax havens);
    • McConnell side-by-side to Stabenow amendment #1812 (60 votes required);
    • Stabenow amendment #1812 (energy tax credits) (60 votes required);
    • DeMint amendment #1589 (repeal certain energy tax subsidies) (60 votes required);
    • Menendez/Burr amendment #1782 (energy tax credits) (60 votes required);
    • DeMint amendment #1756 (state authority);
    • Bingaman amendment #1759 (privatized highways);
    • Coats amendment #1517 (make percentage of gas taxes equal to percentage of apportioned funds);
    • Brown (OH) amendment #1819 (Buy America provisions);
    • Blunt amendment #1540 (off-system bridges);
    • Merkley amendment #1653 (farm vehicle exemptions);
    • Portman amendment #1736 (state transportation spending flexibility);
    • Klobuchar amendment #1617 (transportation of agricultural commodities and farm supplies);
    • Corker amendment #1785, as modified (adjust FY13 discretionary spending cap);
    • Shaheen amendment #1678 (increase funding for public transportation systems with less than 50 buses);
    • Portman amendment #1742 (non-highway uses in rest areas);
    • Corker amendment #1810 (limit expenditures to amount in Highway Trust Fund);
    • Carper amendment #1670 (removal of federal program limitations);
    • Hutchison amendment #1568 (prohibit new tolls);
    • McCain amendment #1669, as modified (noise abatement over Grand Canyon);
    • Alexander amendment #1779 (overflights of national parks);
    • Boxer amendment #1816 (sense of Senate re: expeditious environmental reviews);
    • Paul amendment #1556 (emergency exemptions).
  • At 2:15 PM, the Majority Leader expects to begin a series of ROLL CALL VOTES on the 30 amendments in order to S. 1813, the Highway bill. A managers' package will also be in order, along with applicable budget points of order and applicable motions to waive.
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "I've said many times not everything we do this year should be a big fight. We should be able to move things forward without waiting for a month to get things done. This bill is truly indicative of how we have to get things done and why I appreciate the cooperation of Boxer and Inhofe. We have a dilapidated system of highways. We have 70,000, I'm not misspeaking. Not 7,000. 70,000 bridges in America that are in dire need of repair or replacement even. 20% of our roads are not up to safety standards. Thousands of pedestrians are killed because they rely on unsafe sidewalks or non-existing sidewalks. Every day millions of Americans, a disproportionate number who are low-income, minority, disabled or old, are forced to rely on overcrowded mass transit systems straining to meet the demands of growing ridership. America's crumbling infrastructure is a terrible drag on our economy."

Senator McConnell: (9:35 AM)
  • Spoke on the Keystone XL pipeline.
    • SUMMARY "I'm also happy to report there are a number of strong, very strong job-creating measures in the mix. One that stands out is Senator Hoeven's amendment on the Keystone XL pipeline, that massive private-sector project that will create 20,000 jobs almost immediately. Most Americans strongly support building the pipeline, and of course the significant number of construction jobs that would come along with it. It incomprehensible to me that the president of the United States, I read, is actually lobbying against Keystone pipeline amendment. There is a report this morning the President is personally making phone calls to Democratic senators he thinks might vote for the amendment, asking them not to. Frankly, it's hard to even comprehend how out of touch, how completely out of touch he is on this issue. Think about it, at a moment when millions are out of work, gas prices are literally skyrocketing and the Middle East is in turmoil, we've got a President who is up making phone calls trying to block a pipeline here at home. It's really almost unbelievable. What we're seeing in Congress this week is a study in contrast. On the one hand, you've got a republican-controlled house that is about to pass a bipartisan jobs bill that would help entrepreneurs and innovators by getting Washington out of the way and today we've got a Democratic-controlled Senate trying to line up votes against amendments that would create jobs, and a Democratic president lobbying against the biggest private-sector job-creation project in our country."
  • Spoke on the bipartisan JOBS bill.
    • SUMMARY "The bipartisan jobs bill the house will pass later today is supported by the President. It is ready to go, and I hope that once it gets over to the Senate we'll simply take it up and pass it. It's an example of a measure that is supported by Republicans and Democrats and the President that we believe will clear the house with a very large majority. I think the sooner we pass that here in the Senate and send it down to the president for signature, the better."

Mar 08 2012

The Senate Convened.

Mar 08 2012

The Senate is considering S. 1813, the highway 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.