Senate Calendar

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May 10 2012

Senator Whitehouse: (6:06 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Monday, May 14th --
    • The Senate will convene at 2:00 PM and Majority Leader Reid will be recognized. It is anticipated that the Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to H.R. 2072, the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill.
    • At 4:30 PM, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session for up to 1 hour of debate, equally divided, on:
      1. Executive Calendar #570, George Levi Russell, III, of Maryland, to be United States District Judge for the District of Maryland; and
      2. Executive Calendar #571, John J. Tharp, Jr., of Illinois, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois.
    • At 5:30 PM, the Senate will conduct 3 ROLL CALL VOTES on:
      1. Executive Calendar #570, George Levi Russell, III, of Maryland, to be United States District Judge for the District of Maryland;
      2. Executive Calendar #571, John J. Tharp, Jr., of Illinois, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois; and
      3. The Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to H.R. 2072, the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill.
    • On Tuesday, May 8th, a Motion to Reconsider the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill, was entered.
The Senate stands adjourned until 2:00 PM Monday, May 14th.

Cantwell, Harkin, Whitehouse

Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill (H.R. 2072)

May 10 2012

Senator Cantwell: (5:13 PM)
  • Spoke on the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "The export-import bank is a way to fund manufacturers in the United States so that their products can be sold around the globe. It's kind of like a small business administration finance program for exports. We know the President has said we need to increase exports, and this is a program that has been in place for decades. Never controversial at this degree and now all of a sudden here we are weeks before the authorization expires, sitting here arguing over whether we can move forward on this bill. I have great respect for the United States Senate, but there are sometimes when the United States Senate doesn't get to work out a deal and we are presented with something that has been worked out by the House of Representatives. Now, we can go back to what the Majority Leader said, how we got in this spot, and that is objecting to every motion to proceed, objecting to every motion to proceed, objecting to every motion to proceed. Pretty soon, all the work stacks up. We try to move legislation and every motion is objected to. So the consequence is we run out of time and run out of a way to get to a compromise. In this case, guess what's happened, the House came up with the compromise. The House, even to the degree that some of the amendments that my colleagues wanted to offer got implemented into the House compromise bill that now passed the House of Representatives, whatever, 300-plus votes to 93. So my colleagues basically by continuing to just try to derail the normal process here, we have had to take now a House I think encompasses many of the things that people wanted to see either in reforms or ways to make the bank more transparent, or ways to make sure that we are focusing on things that are going to help U.S. manufacturers win the day in a very, very competitive market."

Senator Harkin: (5:28 PM)
  • Congratulated the World War II members of the Civil Air Patrol for receiving the Congressional Gold Medal.

Senator Whitehouse: (5:56 PM)
  • Spoke on climate change.
    • SUMMARY "I wanted to speak for a moment about the ongoing and deliberately overlooked problem of carbon pollution and what it is doing to our planet. And in the context of these remarks, I want to first ask unanimous consent to put into the record an article entitled "Game Over for the Climate," written by Jim Hanson and published in yesterday's New York Times ... What this article says, it begins with two simple sentences: "Global warming isn't a prediction. It is happening." He talks about the dangers of the Canada tar sands and what that means for us if we go ahead with that project. His conclusion is this: "if Canada proceeds and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate. Canada's tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. More CO2 in those tar sands than emitted by global oil use in our entire history." He looks at the recent extreme weather that people not only across the country but across the world have been noticing and concludes, "We can say with high confidence that the recent heat waves in Texas and Russia and the one in Europe in 2003 which killed tens of thousands were not natural events. They were caused by human-induced climate change." So the risk that we face is a real one, and we're actually beginning to see it happen in present time. The tar sands that he talks about, he says "Contain enough carbon, 240 tons to add 120 parts per million to our atmosphere." As I said before on the senate floor, we've lived for 8,000 centuries within a range between 170 and 300 parts per million of carbon in our atmosphere. That's the bandwidth in which the human species has lived on this planet. And we have gone rocketing out of that bandwidth in recent years. We're now at 390 parts per million out of a bandwidth for 800,000 years between 170 and 300 parts per million. The tar sands would add 120 parts per million to that. That would take us to 510, if my math is right."

Reid, Kyl

Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill (H.R. 2072)

May 10 2012

Senator Reid: (5:03 PM)
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • The Motion to Proceed to H.R. 2072, the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill be adopted, there be no amendments, motions or points of order to the bill other than budget points of order and applicable motions to waive. That there be an hour of debate equally divided between the two leaders or their designees prior to a vote on passage of the bill (Kyl objected).

Senator Kyl: (5:03 PM)
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • I ask consent that the request be modified to allow the following amendments:
      1. Corker amendment # 2102 (financing for transaction subsidized by export credit agencies);
      2. Vitter amendment #2103 (prohibitions on funds used for energy development outside of the U.S.);
      3. Toomey amendment #2104 ($40 billion increase contingency);
      4. Lee amendment #2100 (phase-out); and
      5. Paul amendment #21010 (limitation on Ex-Im support).
    • I further ask consent that following the disposition of the listed amendments, the bill be read three times and the Senate proceed to vote on the passage of the bill with a 60-vote threshold (Reid objected).

Senator Reid: (5:06 PM)
  • Spoke on the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "Yesterday, the House sent the Senate a bipartisan authorization for the export-import bank. The bill the house passed reflects a negotiated agreement between - that was struck between democrat and republican leaders. They worked hard to come up with an agreement. As one would expect with an agreement of that nature, the House passed it with a very strong vote. The vote was 330-93. Every single Democrat voted for the measure. Only the far right tea party leaning of the House Republican caucus voted against the bill, 93 of them. So it was 330-93. The House considered no amendments. The House passed the bill on the suspension calendar. For those of us that served in the house, that's a bill that comes up and there is almost no debate and it takes a two-thirds vote to pass it. They do it for noncontroversial items. This measure at this time is noncontroversial. It should never have been controversial. We brought it up here two months ago and we were stunned when the republicans wouldn't let us move forward on it. So the House did the right thing yesterday. This sort of bill that the Senate should now simply pass without amendment. It is so unusual here. I don't --I have been here in Congress 30 years, but this is a new one. Even bills that they agree on they want to mess around with. In years past, this would have gone through here just like this. Forget about what took place two months ago, but now the House passed something 330-93, and we're here playing around with it? It should be done. We should have passed it yesterday. This thing is going to expire. So it's hard to comprehend what the new mantra of the Republicans in the Senate, what it is. I don't get it. As I indicated in earlier days, the Senate would have passed this bill by unanimous consent, as we have done before, this same legislation. But these days, the far right, the tea party wing of the Senate Republican caucus, I used to just talk about the house wing of the tea party, but it's over here now - who think that everything has to be a fight, everything. So we're going to have to have a vote on this rather than do it by unanimous consent."

Whitehouse, Sessions, Shaheen

Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill (H.R. 2072)

May 10 2012

Senator Whitehouse: (3:00 PM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "It's 2.9 million jobs that are associated with this bill. I should be specific and say 2.9 million job years, since those jobs do not extend for eternity. But it's the most important piece of jobs legislation we could consider ... These are real jobs, they are immediate jobs, they are jobs that everybody understands, building our roads, highways and bridges. These local construction jobs are not only important in and of themselves but they also help maintain the transportation infrastructure that lowers the cost of goods and helps our economy across the board ... So it's imperative not only that the conference get this bill done but that they get it done as soon as possible. Why do I say that? Well, there was a deadline of March 31 to get a new bill done, and the House of Representatives unfortunately did not pass a Highway bill by the March 31 deadline, so on the eve of the expiration of that deadline, they passed an extension and we are operating under that and a subsequent extension right now. The effect of that is not good for jobs. State Departments of Transportation and the private sector companies that provide the services that rebuild our roads and highways can't make long-range plans when funding is based on short-term extensions. Particularly in this economy, our states, our counties and the companies that do this business simply can't afford to extend themselves on contracts and on work where they don't know that the highway funding is going to be there to backstop them when it comes time to make the payments. So in many instances for many projects, a short-term extension actually requires the underlying construction project to be dropped."

Senator Sessions: (3:40 PM)
  • Spoke on immigration security.
    • SUMMARY "I'm here today to speak, I believe, for the great majority of Americans who believe that the time is long overdue for the federal government to fulfill its commitment, its responsibility to end the lawlessness at our borders. Only once we do that can we put this matter, the deep frustrations that are occurring behind us, move our country forward in a positive and united way. Immigration security is especially important in these economic times. Illegal labor does in fact depress wages, makes it more difficult for out-of-work Americans to find good-paying jobs. Immigration security also is vital to stopping cartels who are creating violence around our borders and in our cities. The federal government has a duty to protect those living in communities which suffer every day from preventable drug and gang violence, and there's nothing compassionate about looking the other way when we can take concrete actions to make our schools and communities safer in every part of the country. There's nothing compassionate about a policy which makes it harder to protect immigrants who are in our country and Americans in our country from gang violence that's often starting at our border today. Unfortunately, instead of compelling sanctuary jurisdictions like the city of Chicago to cooperate with federal law enforcement officers, the administration has instead gone after those states who are trying to assist the federal government to reduce the lawlessness in our country. Under new guidelines, the Department of Homeland Security doesn't consider someone a priority that - individuals' deportation proceedings are closed and they're allowed to remain in the country. So far the administration has granted this form of backdoor amnesty to almost 17,000 aliens illegally in the country. Some of which are convicted of crimes. The administration has also been resistant to the popular e-verify program, never once including it in any of its jobs or economic plans. ICE has ended workforce operations meaning that employers can continue to hire illegal workers rather than out-of-work Americans. A determined President could take meaningful steps to stem the tide of illegality. And I have been encouraged by Governor Romney's commitments on this issue. This is something I've worked at for sometime, and I am absolutely convinced that with smart, effective leadership and a commitment on behalf of this country to end the lawlessness, it can be done, done quicker, and with less difficulty than most people realize."

Senator Shaheen: (4:22 PM)
  • Spoke on the National Travel and Tourism Week.
    • SUMMARY "With summer approaching, the travel season will soon be in full swing, and this week when celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week. It's a time to call attention to the importance that travel and tourism plays in our national economy and in the creation of jobs, and I know the President understands this issue very clearly because his state of Alaska, like the state of New Hampshire, has travel and tourism is a very important industry. And the fact is that the travel and tourism industry is one of top ten industries in 48 states and it supports over 14 million American jobs. In New Hampshire, travel and tourism is our second largest industry and it supports over 60,000 jobs in New Hampshire. The Travel Promotion Act, which Congress passed in 2008 and which I was very proud to be one of the cosponsors, will help the United States compete for foreign travelers. This year we will begin to see the impact of this landmark legislation. For most of our history, the United States has been one of a very few developed countries that did not advertise overseas. The Travel Promotion Act changes all of that. Because it created what is called Brand USA it's a low-cost, public-private partnership, and Brand USA has just started rolling out an advertising campaign for America. Brand USA is going to leverage millions of dollars in contributions to the private sector to help encourage more foreign travelers to bring their dollars to the United States. And this is important because what we've learned in New Hampshire is that overseas visitors tend to stay longer when they get to America, and they tend to spend more money. So this advertising is going to be the first time that we're going to be advertising overseas to attract visitors to come to the United States. But there's even more that we can and should do working together to support the travel sector. Travel and tourism rely on a good infrastructure, on keeping our highways, our bridges, our airports running. That's essential for the travel industry to grow. That's why it was so important that this year after many years of trying we finally reauthorized the FAA and with that legislation are putting in place a new next-gen system of air traffic control that's going to allow our airplanes to get from point to point faster and more efficiently. And that's why it's so critical that we pass the highway bill that is pending in Congress."

Kyl, Paul, Hatch, Barrasso

Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill (H.R. 2072)

May 10 2012

Senator Kyl: (2:01 PM)
  • Spoke on free enterprise.
    • SUMMARY "Today I want to look at another way free enterprise lifts up the poor by promoting the moral principles that make people more charitable and more socially responsible. This perspective sharply contrasts with President Obama's campaign narrative about social responsibility. He and many of his supporters paint free enterprise as a system that inherently clashes with social responsibility. In his telling, free enterprise is a system that mainly promotes Gordon Gecko style greed, a system that must be reformed through higher taxes and larger government. Most of the policies he has supported during the last three years demonstrate this perspective. The size and scope of the federal government has increased dramatically during his presidency. As he campaigns to get re-elected, his main theme is that the only way some Americans can do better is if the government makes others worse off. There is an important counterargument to this negative narrative. In a new book called "The Road to Freedom," American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks provides a comprehensive explanation of the morality of free enterprise and how it makes everyone better off by creating a more positive society. As brooks writes, the principles that underpin free enterprise are moral principles such as honesty, industriousness, thrift and opportunity. Those principles make people more virtuous, not less. Participants in free enterprise, for example, must be able to trust those with whom they do business, that they will honor their contracts by promoting greater us it and integrity, free markets promote the social and psychological linchpin of democratic prosperity. Brooks elaborates, and I quote "the free enterprise system requires a culture of optimism and trust to function correctly. A positive sum, win-win mentality, and a desire for everyone to be better off, everyone to be better off. For many people, it produces more prosperity than they need to meet their daily requirements, a surplus that they will choose to direct to charitable purposes." The prosperity and positive outlook that stem from free enterprise encourages people to help the neediest and most vulnerable members of society. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the United States is a more charitable country than those with bigger welfare states. Those who believe in and have benefited from the free enterprise system believe that everyone should have the opportunity to prosper, and they're willing to help take responsibility for lifting others up. Charitable giving appears to be part of most Americans' DNA, Arthur brooks writes. Americans are remarkably generous, not only toward our fellow citizens but those suffering abroad as well. On a per-capita basis, we give three and a half times as much to causes and charities as the French. Seven times as much as the Germans, and 14 times as much as Italians. These findings correlate to volunteering as well. 70% to 80% of Americans donate money to charity each year. These donations add up to about $300 billion annually. The money goes to religious causes and also to secular activities such as education, health care and social welfare. Americans also donate large amounts of their time to help the less fortunate among us. Indeed, there is a strong correlation between beliefs about the size of government and attitudes toward giving. As Brooks shows, those who believe in limited government give more to charity than those who hold more statist views. That makes sense. After all, a statist might argue that paying high levels of taxation is the equivalent of giving a lot to charity, since the government spends a large portion of its total revenue on social programs. By contrast, free marketers would argue that government spending tends to crowd out private charity in ways that are both socially and fiscally harmful. Americans take well-justified pride in their charitable giving, both in aggregate and relative terms, we are the most generous society the world has ever known."

Senator Paul: (2:37 PM)
  • Spoke on the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "The ordinary middle-class family is struggling to get a home loan. Tens of thousands of homeowners have lost their homes or are struggle to make payments on their home loans. Meanwhile, Congress steadily dishes out billions of dollars in taxpayer-subsidized loans to large, profitable companies. 80% of these loans, these export-import loans, are given to companies that are in the fortune 500. So we're giving taxpayer loans to very profitable companies. I'm a great believer in capitalism, in the jobs that corporations create. I defend profit and the benefit that accrues from leaving that profit large any in the private sector. I'm not one who clamors for punitive taxes, I'm not someone who thinks we need to punish corporations, but at the same time don't to mean that I believe we should be subsidizing profitable corporations. I don't think taxpayer-subsidized loans should go to profitable companies. Now, President Obama has been passing out loans to his campaign donors. He's been using a campaign trough that he has set up over at the department of energy. Very wealthy multimillionaires and billionaires are getting loans through the department of energy - Solyndra, Bright Source, people heavily involved in the President's campaign have been getting subsidized loans. Republicans have been rightly criticizing the President for these loans, for these department of energy loans. To Solyndra, Bright Source and others. Republicans have been correct in criticizing the President for trying to pick the winners and losers in the energy production. Yet now a majority of the Republicans are poised to vote for their own set of taxpayer-subsidized loans through the export-import bank. In fact, they want to increase the export-import loans nearly 50% and pick the winners and losers The horse traders may disdain consistency, but the American people value principled and consistent opposition to deficit financing. The American people know hypocrisy when they see it. The American people know corporate welfare when they see it. The export-import bank in fact provided an $ 18 million to a steel mill in China. Our steel industry has been in decline for decades, and I would loan $18 million to our competitors? Who in their right mind would subsidize our Chinese competitors with loans? It makes no sense. Do you think of anything more insulting than loaning money to our competitors? Well, come to think of it, I might. We actually give foreign aid to China. We actually send China economic development assistance. Is it any wonder that congress has an 11% approval rating? Many Americans are trying to hang on to their homes, struggling to make their payments on their own home mortgage, while very profitable big business is being given subsidized loans by the government. Is it makes no sense."

Senator Hatch: (2:45 PM)
  • Spoke on the WEST Act.
    • SUMMARY "The bill has three main objectives: First, we are going to put America back to work by producing more American energy. Our bill ends the Obama administration's de facto moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in a safe, responsible and transparent manner. We set firm guidelines for considering permits to drill, and we require the administration to move forward promptly to conduct offshore lease sales that have been delayed or canceled in the gulf and outer continental shelf. The West Act sets a production goal of three million barrels of oil per day by 2027, reducing foreign imports by nearly one-third. And at a time when every job counts, our bill would produce thousands of high-paying jobs. Second, our bill will help bring down energy prices, making it easier for Americans to drive their cars and heat their homes. We could produce over one million barrels of oil a day with our bill's elimination of confusion and uncertainty surrounding the EPA's decision-making process for clean air permits. The bill prohibits the EPA administrator from promulgating any regulation that takes into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas in order to address climate change using the clean air act. And, third, our bill will protect agriculture by reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens. It amends the federal insecticide, fungicide and rodenticide act. This provision of the bill will also ensure that diseases like the West Nile virus can be managed through mosquito abatement. It is very important for communities in Utah to be able to address these issues without constantly seeking approval from federal overlords. The bill also stops the EPA from imposing more stringent dust standards each year, for one year. Additionally, it would afford states and localities the flexibility to address any rural dust issues before the federal government would have the authority to do so."

Senator Barrasso: (2:56 PM)
  • Spoke on the WEST Act.
    • SUMMARY "Western Republicans last year laid out a clear path to energy security and job creation for the western United States and for the country. It is called the jobs frontier report, breaking down Washington's barriers to America's red, white, and blue jobs. President Obama should listen to and embrace the findings in this report. The House of Representatives has cast key pieces of legislation over the past year from this jobs frontier report. These are pieces of legislation that will begin to generate quality jobs and increase U.S. energy production. These bills tackle key critical issues such as encouraging energy exploration and production, removing unnecessary EPA regulations. This legislation would create thousands of, thousands, thousands of jobs for Americans. The WEST Act contains language from eight of these bills already passed by the house that were part of the jobs frontier original report. This legislation accomplishes many of the goals in the jobs frontier report. It does it by increasing affordable American energy, by promoting agriculture and ranching and by overturning Washington's regulatory overreach. The bottom line is that this act is ready to create jobs now. Today. And to set the nation on the path to becoming more energy secure."

Bennet, Warner

Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill (H.R. 2072)

May 10 2012

Senator Bennet: (12:11 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "During the worst recession since the Great Depression, which we are now fortunately coming out of, the highest the unemployment rate ever got, even at the depths of that recession, for someone for people with a college degree was 4.5%. We saw unemployment rates of 18%, 20% for certain groups of people, 4.5% if you're a college graduate. It seems to me that in view of that, in light of that - first of all, that is an incredible stress test of the value of a college degree in this 21st century that we're living in. We ought to be making it easier, not harder for students to go to college. However, as you know, interest rates on federal student loans are scheduled to double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1 unless Congress can get out of its own way and do the right thing. And for the life of me, I don't know why we can't come to an agreement on this. This isn't a Democratic or a Republican issue. The cost of college has increased 550% since 1985. Two-thirds of students in this country rely on loans to afford college. In the past decade, average student loan debt has increased by more than 25%. This, by the way, is not a function of people not doing the right thing. It's a function of the fact that median family income has continued to decline in this country for the first time in this country's history while the cost of college has escalated like crazy. And if this increase goes through, it would add thousands of dollars of debt to the more than 166,000 Coloradans who currently receive federal student loans. Increasing loans for students already struggling to repay their loans harms both individual students and our fragile economy."
  • Spoke on the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "We face a profound structural issue in the economy today in this country. As I said here on the floor before, our gross domestic product is now higher than it was when we went into this recession. And productivity has been going off like a skyrocket since the early 1990's. As we've responded to competition from China and India, the use of technology to make businesses more efficient, and the recession itself, which drove productivity through the roof because firms had to figure out how to get through these difficult times with fewer people. But median family income has fallen and we have 23 million or 24 million people in this economy who are either unemployed or underemployed. Wage growth and job growth for the first time in history has decoupled from GDP growth and that happened during our last recovery. Under the previous administration. I make that not as a partisan observation, just the time it happened. We saw economic growth but we didn't see beige growth, and - wage growth and we didn't see job growth and now I fear we're seeing the same sort of trend in our economy today. There are only two solutions to that or at least two important solutions to that. One is what I mentioned earlier which is education is vitally important because if you're educated, you're more likely to be able to get a job in this 21st century economy. Remember, the worse the unemployment rate got with college degree was 4.5%. But the other part of that equation is innovation. It's businesses started next week and the week after that will that will create jobs here and lift wages. It's one of the reasons I've been so glad to work with the presiding officer as we think about new ways of approaching regulations at the FDA to ask the question are we driving bioscience here in the united states or driving venture capital offshore to look for other opportunities. We should be up day and night thinking about this in the United States Senate because that is how we are going to bring an alignment back between the economic growth, the economists tell us we're having and the job growth and wage growth the people at home want to see. You know, there is a lot of talk in this chamber about winners and losers and how the government shouldn't pick winners and losers. You hear that a lot here. As if the current tax code isn't full of choices that have already been made about winners and losers. And a lot of those choices that have been made have been made about incumbents for the benefit of evident incumbents, not here, but incumbent enterprises, but it's the innovators that we're leaving behind. And as we think about comprehensive tax reform which I hope we get to sooner rather than later, I think on every one of these questions we should be asking ourselves is this credit or is this incentive or is this inducement more or less likely to drive job growth in the United States. To drive incomes up in the United States, to drive exports from the United States. And if the answer to that is no, we should stop doing it. This has to be more thoughtful than a fight between 2010 one narrow interest and another narrow interest. And the American people I think are demanding that and we should respond. But in the short term the work in front of us now is to get this Export-Import bank bill to the floor, get it voted on and to pass it as they did in the House of Representatives yesterday."

Senator Warner: (1:02 PM)
  • Spoke on the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "We have a lot of debate on this floor about how we can grow our economy and grow jobs. One of the areas where there is agreement is that if America is going to be truly competitive in the 21st century, we've got to grow our export market. Many companies were blessed with the world's largest, most vibrant, domestic market. But that market is maturing. And on a going-forward basis, literally 95% of all the world's customer base lies outside the boundaries of the united states. So while many of my colleagues may disagree with many of the President's goals, I think we would all agree that doubling of exports in a five-year time frame the President laid out at the time of his administration is an area where there is great agreement. And if we're going to do that we have to use all the tools that we have available. Because, unfortunately, right now American exports as a percentage of GDP rank behind Germany, Canada, China, Italy, France, the UK, India, Brazil - we are way, way down in the middle of the pack. As Chair of the Banking Committee's International Financing Committee, I've spent a lot of time and effort in trying to get into the details and seeing how we can make the export-import bank one of the tools we have to help American businesses grow their exports, grow that percentage of GDP that depends upon trade, grow that ability to reach that 95% of the customer base around the world, and to make sure that this tool that has been a successful tool for close to 40 years gets reauthorized but loss is reauthorized in a way that brings more transparency and more accountability to this institution. The bill that we have before us hopefully later today does that, because if we fail to act, the authorization for the Export-Import bank expires at the end of this month and this tool that is so important to growing exports, growing jobs candidly will be lost. The bill that we'll take up hopefully later today or shortly reauthorizes the Export-Import bank for three years. While I would have preferred a longer extension and a higher limit, higher absolute total loan limit, I'm glad that the bill that we will deal with increases the bank's lending limit from $100 billion to $140 billion."

Blumenthal, Reed, Brown-OH

Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill (H.R. 2072)

May 10 2012

Senator Blumenthal: (11:30 AM)
  • Spoke on the Password Protection Act of 2012.
    • SUMMARY "The Password Protection Act... prohibits employers from forcing prospective or current employees to hand over personal private financial information that has no place in the hiring process. The bill prohibits an employer from compelling or coercing an employee or prospective employee to provide access as a condition of employment. This means that an employer cannot compel a prospective or current employee to provide his Gmail password. An employer cannot force an employee or prospective employee to log onto a password protected account so that the employer may browse at the account's content. The Password Protection Act also very, very importantly prohibits retaliation, which is a danger with current employees. That retaliation could take all kinds of forms, but the demand for log-in information, user names or passwords certainly creates a kind of presumption that the refusal to do so prompts action that can be regarded as a retaliation, and an employer who violates these duties, legally required duties is subject to a penalty of $10,000 per violation. So this act will protect employees from unreasonable invasions of their privacy, unreasonable invasions that have no commonsense basis, and it prevents unintended consequences. It doesn't prohibit social networking within the office on a voluntary basis. It does not bar employers from conducting valid investigations of misconduct. It does not prevent an employer from controlling the company's own system, its own Facebook account, for example, and it provides that states may exempt certain categories of employees such as individuals who deal with children who are under 13 years of age or federal employees who may have access to classified or secure national security information. And it also provides for reasonable exemptions that state law may make for state employees who are involved, for example, in law enforcement or correction. Like many in this body, I have heard from countless Connecticut citizens who are not only offended but outraged by these practices reported in the press. Fortunately, many employers have shown they get it, they understand this deeply held value, and they have rejected these possible practices. And many who might have been contemplating engaging in them have likewise retreated and reversed their decisions. And so merely shining a light, showing a spotlight and raising the issue has brought many employers to understand the commonsense force of objections to these practices."

Senator Reed: (11:42 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "This is a fully paid for one-year extension of the current rate, to extend it for years so we can look for more permanent fix. And my colleagues on the other side of the aisle insist that they agree that we have to do this. Yet they continue to filibuster this legislation. They continue to prevent us from bringing it to a vote. It's clear that they have an alternative view in terms of how we pay for it. Let's put that to a vote. But let's not stop it dead in its tracks a policy that both sides claim has to be fixed, that we have to avoid the doubling of this interest rate. Now, what we have done is proposed to fix this problem and pay for it in a fiscally responsible manner by closing a glaring, egregious loophole in the tax code that enables certain wealthy individuals to shirk their responsibilities to pay payroll taxes. This predominantly benefits professional service providers like accountants, lobbyists and lawyers who derive all of their income from their professional labor. But because they choose to mischaracterize their income as a distribution from a subchapter s corporation instead of wages, they avoid paying payroll taxes. In 2005, the Treasury Inspector General for Taxed Administration called for action on this loophole which was described as in his words a multibillion-dollar tax shelter. The report also described a disturbing trend of businesses changing their status to the subchapter s corporation for the purpose of avoiding payroll taxes, not for the purposes of expanding employment, not for the purposes of new and more efficient way to use capital, but essentially a tax dodge to avoid payroll taxes. The Inspector General reported " A search of the internet yields multiple sites that offer advice and encouragement to sole proprietors to convince them to become s corporations. They are advised they can save thousands of dollars a year in employment taxes by incorporate operating. It is possible to gauge the size of the savings using computer generated amounts based on the users' entries for anticipated profits and chosen salary levels. Not surprisingly the lower the salary chosen, the higher the savings become, reaching maximum savings at a salary level of zero." Essentially what is being done in these professional corporations, these professional partnerships, associations, is that they glommed into a very, very clever tax shelter. You incorporate as subchapter S, have your employer pay the corporation, that corporation pays you a modest minimal salary, and the rest are dividends taxed at a different rate and not subject to the payroll tax. We're trying to close the tax loophole."

Senator Brown-OH: (12:01 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "I want to join Senator Reed of Rhode Island who just spoke very persuasively about - certainly about the need to freeze interest rates for Stafford loans, for college students in America, and also spoke, I thought very convincingly, about closing a tax loophole that - that has clearly been used to avoid - legally, but to avoid taxes by lobbyists, consulting groups, some lawyers, all of whom are making - using this tax loophole for - to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in many cases. The case of former Senator John Edwards and his law firm, not like most law firms but in his law firm and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, one a Democrat, one a Republican, has shown the size of this loophole and how it can turn into tens of thousands of dollars. Again, legally. I'm not accusing either of these gentlemen of illegal activity. Only taking advantage of a loophole that we should close. But I come to the floor today more to make the case of how important these Stafford loans, these subsidized Stafford loans are for college students. My state of Ohio, similar to the presiding officer's state of North Carolina, we have lots and lots of - hundreds of thousands of students that use these Stafford subsidized loans. In Ohio, some 380,000. In North Carolina, I assume it's a number not too far off of that, students that have seen - have enjoyed, if that's the right word, 3.4% interest rates on their loans rather than something higher. And what's discouraging is that this is a this was a bipartisan effort. In 2007, the year I came to the Senate, President Bush and Democrats, the Majority in both Houses joining with many of our Republican colleagues in this body and the House of Representatives locked in the student loan subsidized Stafford loan rate of 3.4% for five years from 2007 until this July. That expires in July. It was bipartisan then, it should be bipartisan now, but a couple of days ago the Republicans filibustered. I'm hopeful today that - or whenever this next vote is taken that they won't."

Thune, Boozman, Johnson-SD, Leahy

Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill (H.R. 2072)

May 10 2012

Senator Thune: (10:15 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "As I've listened to many of my Democratic colleagues discuss the extension of the special interest rate for the subsidized Stafford loans, I continue to hear false statements that would lead you to believe that Republicans don't support extending this interest rate for students. That's simply not true. My state of South Dakota, nearly 30,000 students received subsidized Stafford loans during the 2010-2011 school year. While I support alleviating financial pressure on students, I did not support the partisan legislation that was brought forward by Majority Leader Reid that would extend subsidized Stafford loans while raising taxes on some employers. Not because the goal of the legislation is misguided but the way the Majority Leader proposed to pay for the legislation is misguided. Majority Leader Reid's legislation, like its Republican counterpart, would extend the special rate of 3.4% for subsidized Stafford loans that existed for the 2011 and 2012 school year to the 2012 and 2013 school year. I agree with the extension of this special rate and would simply ask the Majority Leader to allow a vote on the Republican alternative, which I might add passed the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote on April 27. I voted against moving to the Majority Leader's bill because I disagree with the way that my Democratic colleagues have proposed to pay for the temporary one - year extension on two grounds. First, I fundamentally disagree with the idea of a permanent tax increase on certain job creators to pay for a temporary one-year extension. We're talking about permanent tax changes to pay for temporary spending. That is bad policy. I furthermore believe that any discussion about raising taxes should be addressed in a comprehensive tax reform discussion, not in a student loan bill. Second, I disagree with diverting the payroll tax revenue away from the Medicare and Social Security trust funds where it would ordinarily be directed. We saw this done during the health care bill a couple of years ago, where Medicare reductions and revenue increases that were supposed to go to extend the life span of Medicare were in fact used to pay for new spending. We cannot continue to try and fool the American people that we're somehow extending the life span of Medicare when we are spending that money on new programs. We're essentially double counting revenue and spending the same money twice. You cannot do that. You cannot do that anywhere else in the country, in this economy and yet here in Washington DC. That's become the practice. What this would do is take tax changes, take changes in the tax code that would ordinarily go into the payroll tax fund or Medicare trust fund, and now that's going to be used to pay for something else. This is a practice we cannot continue, we cannot sustain. We all know that our trust funds are headed toward bankruptcy, and continuing to raid them and use them for other purposes is simply a recipe for disaster."
  • Spoke on the Obama economy.
    • SUMMARY "On Tuesday the President was touting his to-do list for Congress. It's particularly interesting since the President had three and a half years to put policies in place that would strengthen the economy. So here's what our graduates are getting. Here's what that Obama economy has brought about. Long-term unemployment, up 89%. The number of Americans who are on food stamps is up 45%. Gas prices have doubled. College tuition is up 25%. Worker health insurance costs are up 23%. And the federal debt that we're passing on to future generations is up 47%. The only thing that's gone down on his watch are home values. They're down 14%. Our country and our college graduates have had enough of the Obama economy. Instead of the to-do list that the President has put forward, we have a to-stop list for you. Stop job-killing regulations that are hurting our small businesses' ability to create jobs. Stop trying to raise taxes on job creators and small businesses who are the people that are going to hire our college graduates. Stop blocking the Keystone XL pipeline which will help wean our country from the dependence we have on foreign sources of energy. And stop the divisive use of class warfare that does nothing but divide Americans. It's time for the President and Congress to come to the realization that we have got to shift our focus away from election-year standoffs and come together to focus on changing the course of our lagging economy so that we can once again put our young people back to work. That, is the real objective which should be our focus here. These other issues which are a lot of campaign gimmicks, a lot of opportunities to politicize this issue or that issue are really counterproductive in the long run and the floor of the united states senate is being used to make campaign points rather than address fundamental issues that are affecting Americans and our economy. And I would hope that we can come together to work in a constructive way on policies that will get Americans back to work. And that means doing something about these regulations which are crushing the ability of our small businesses to create jobs."

Senator Boozman: (10:29 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "Earlier this week the Senate Majority brought forth its bill to extend the lower interest rate on federal subsidized Stafford loans. I am confident we will find a way to accomplish it before the deadline. But the reason the Majority proposal failed is because it is the wrong approach. Their proposal funded it by raising taxes on our small businesses. This idea of taxing or spending our way out of the fiscal mess is why the economy is not rebounding. Continuing down in path will only make it harder for graduates to enter the workforce. So let's do it what we all agree needs to be done and extend the low-rate loans. But let's be smart about how it's paid for. The proposal supported on this side of the aisle is identical to the version that has passed the House in a bipartisan manner. It freeze the rate for a year by using money from an unused Obamacare account to pay for it. This money is just sitting there obligated for a program that does not operate. The President already proposed cutting it in his own budget. It is likely this money will never be spent, so let's use it for a reason we all support: protecting student loans. Student loans are supposed to increase access to college by helping millions of Americans earn a college degree. The student loan program should be a gateway to the workforce, not a barrier. Any extension of the low-rate loans paid for by tax increases is simply this, a barrier, because tax increases stifle job creation. Let's fix the problem without making our economic situation worse and get America working again."

Senator Johnson-SD: (10:42 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "I believe this is a jobs legislation that will help provide U.S. Exporters and workers with an important tool to compete in the global marketplace. The Export-Import bank is the official export credit agency of the U.S., and it assists in financing the exporting of U.S. Goods and services to international markets. While allowing the financial the bank experienced a dramatic increase in its activities as many companies struggled to find financing in the private market. Last year the bank committed almost $33 billion in support of U.S. Exports, a new record. The bank has been self-funded since 2008, returning nearly $2 billion to the treasury. In fiscal year 2011 alone, the bank generated $400 million to offset federal spending n. And bring down the budget deficit. When other countries are helping their companies with export financing, we cannot afford to unilaterally disarm in the face of this global competition. The Export-Import bank's charter directs it to use exports to support American jobs. And last year the Export-Import bank supported almost 290,000 American jobs. These are jobs in cities and towns across the nation at large companies as well as small businesses. In fact, last year the Export-Import bank financed more than $6 billion in exports by small businesses. In my home state of South Dakota, Ex-Im has worked with large and small businesses to help export goods all over the world. Last September there was unanimous bipartisan support a four-year reauthorization bill out of the Banking committee. Unfortunately, that measure was blocked on the Senate floor in March. Legislation before us today reflects a bipartisan compromise developed in the house. While in bill is not perfect, I believe it is important to pass this legislation and ensure that the Export-Import bank is able to continue providing financing assistance to American exporters and workers. This is a jobs bill. Earlier this week the House passed this bill by an overwhelming majority, 330-93. This bill extends the authorization of the bank until 2014. Like the Senate bill, this legislation will increase the bank's lending authority to $140 billion. This is a significant improvement over earlier drafts in the House to only increase the cap to $113 billion."

Senator Leahy: (10:56 AM)
  • Paid tribute to Mary Leahy, Director of the Central Vermont Adult Basic Education.

Cantwell, Udall-CO, Udall-NM

Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill (H.R. 2072)

May 10 2012

Senator Cantwell: (9:45 AM)
  • Spoke on the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "I rise to speak on the motion to proceed to the passage of the Export-Import bank legislation that has come over from the House and passed the House with a vote of 330-93, so a pretty resounding vote in favor of moving forward on the Ex-Im bank, the Export-Import bank, that is a major tool to financing manufacturing in the united states when they have products to be sold around the globe. We hear the president talk all the time about the fact that we need to increase our exports. Well, this is a very important tool that has existed for decades in helping businesses across our country produce product and get sales into overseas markets. So the fact that this legislation passed the House, again, with an overwhelming positive vote - and I should point out to my colleagues here in the Senate, without amendment. It was not amended on the floor. That is, that my colleagues on the House side, both Republicans and Democrat, worked out such a positive proposal that it went to the House floor without amendment. So now we have the chance to bring it up here and pass this legislation, and I would just urge my colleagues to do so very quickly because this legislation and this authorization for the Export-Import bank is expiring at the end of this month. So, yes, here we are again at the 11th hour instead of giving predictability and certainty to a very important program, we're down to the last minutes about whether it's going to continue to operate in the normal ways that it does. So I'm here to ask my colleagues to, on the Republican side of the aisle to move forward. Do like your House colleagues did, agree to the legislation and let's get it out of here so that people know across America that this program will continue."

Senator Udall-CO: (9:51 AM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "In my home state of Colorado, students and recent college graduates are literally struggling with a mountain of loan debt. As a mountain climber myself, I understand that mountains can be overcome, but in an economy like this one where recent college graduates are struggling to find work, we need to do everything we possibly can to make college more affordable. That is where we the congress comes in. The interest rate on the federally subsidized Stafford loans are set to double on July 1 barring congressional action. We just don't have much time to play political games here before the mountain of debt facing our students begins to grow even higher. Student loans play a crucial role in making higher education possible for millions of Americans, and for many Americans higher education is the gateway to their future careers and a better-paying job. That's a good they think for our families and a good thing for our economy. Again, referencing the Republican leader's concerns about a pro-growth agenda. More specifically, let me talk about what the federally subsidized Stafford loans do. They're designed for Americans from low- to middle-income families so they too can afford to go to college. At times when students are facing escalating tuition costs and an uncertain job market after graduation, it would be irresponsible for us not to act as soon as possible. But I have to report to you and our colleagues that we're being blocked from doing just that. There's a commonsense proposal before us that would prevent student loan interest rates from doubling but it's being filibustered. All these students want, all the young people we all know is an opportunity to better themselves and contribute to our nation's economic growth. We have a chance to offer them that opportunity, but we've got to end the political games here and get to work. We can't let partisanship stand in the way of a college education for young Americans."

Senator Udall-NM: (10:03 AM)
  • Paid tribute to Senator Lugar.

Reid, McConnell

Opening Remarks

May 10 2012

  • Today --
    • The Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to H.R. 2072, the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill. The first hour will be equally divided, with the Majority controlling the first 30 minutes and the Republicans controlling the second 30 minutes.
  • On Tuesday, a Motion to Reconsider the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2343, the Student Loan bill, was entered.

Senator Reid: (9:32 AM)
  • Spoke on the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "On a strong bipartisan vote yesterday, the House passed a piece of commonsense job-creating legislation, the reauthorization of the Export-Import bank. For many, many years, this legislation has helped American companies grow and sell their products overseas, creating tens of thousands of jobs, and for years the bank has enjoyed broad bipartisan support. It passed by unanimous consent on one occasion and by voice vote on another occasion. It is a perfect example of the kind of smart investments congress should be making to spur job growth. So I hope the Senate will be able to quickly approve the House-passed measure today and do it by unanimous consent. I'm optimistic that the 330-93 vote in the House yesterday will be enough to convince Senate Republicans they shouldn't hold up this legislation any longer. 330-93. The process of reauthorizing the Export-Import bank has taken too long. I hope we don't have to file cloture on this matter, but I will, if we must. Let me remind you, the Senate considered reauthorizing this important legislation in march, two months ago. Senate Republicans had an opportunity to support the measure then. Instead, all but three opposed it, and the measure failed. The American exporters have already waited in limbo for two months to see whether Republicans would come around to backing this business friendly, job-creating issues. Businesses shouldn't have to wait longer. We can't afford more of the partisan obstruction we saw on this commonsense legislation last march."
  • Paid tribute to Senator Lugar.

Senator McConnell: (9:39 AM)
  • Spoke on the Democrat's agenda.
    • SUMMARY "With regard to what's been going on here in the Senate, the problem clearly is the Majority, which seems not to be interested in accomplishing anything but, rather, turning the Senate floor into an opportunity for showboats for the President and his campaign. Earlier this week, the President had a post-it note for Congress. He said he did not want to overload Congress. Unfortunately besides the weekly political showboats to which I just referred to coincide with the President's campaign schedule, the work that needs to be done isn't. No budget, nothing to prevent the largest tax hike in history, and House-passed bills sitting in the hopper. And while the President is trying to manufacture arguments that he can run on, House Republicans have spent the last year and a half voting on and passing energy and jobs bills. In fact, more than two dozen job proposals are currently collecting dust on the Majority Leader's desk. One after know, the House has passed a budget, small business tax bill, bills to expand domestic energy production, and bills to reduce burdensome job-killing regulations. And despite some saying nothing can get done in an election year, they're not done yet over in the House. I commend my House colleagues for their leadership, energy, and good work. So I have a suggestion. Instead of focusing on his political post-it note checklist, the President and Senate Democrats should show some leadership and work with Republicans to move on critical pro-growth bills. These proposals will help provide certainty and provide a much-needed boost to our economy. It would allow businesses to plan for the future and to begin to hire again. Common ground can be achieved on these jobs bills and Republicans stand ready to work with Democrats to get them passed. With nearly 13 million Americans unemployed and millions more underemployed or giving up looking for work altogether, inaction and political games are really just not acceptable. Action is required by this President and this Congress now. Not after the election or by some future Congress or administration. The country's problems are far too pressing. The American people expect us to work together for the good of our country."

May 10 2012

The Senate Convened.

May 10 2012

The Senate is considering H.R. 2072, the Export-Import Bank reauthorization 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.