Senate Calendar

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bennet (The Senate Adjourned)

Flood Insurance bill (S. 1940)

Jun 12 2012

Senator Bennet: (7:08 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "I'm pleased, as a member of the Agriculture Committee, to say that the farm bill reauthorizes stewardship contracting which allows our federal land management agencies to implement high-priority forest management and restoration projects ... This is a critical tool for initiatives that restore and maintain healthy forest ecosystems, provide local employment. Another truly western aspect of this bill I'd like to focus on tonight is conservation. Specifically, the stewardship of our western landscape. In my travels around Colorado, I've been heartened to see over and over again farmers and ranchers arm in arm with conservation groups and with sportsmen, all in the name of proper stewardship of the land, of protecting our open spaces. We all share the recognition that keeping these landscapes in their historical undeveloped state is an economic driver, as family farms, as working cattle ranches, for tourism, for wildlife habitat, and to preserve our rural way of life and our rural economies. Every citizen knows that the American west is a destination for those seeking wide-open spaces, a home on the range, as once was a way of life that's focused on working the land, and the wise stewardship of our natural resources. We also know that we've grown as a country, that there have been increasing development pressure on this way of life and on the landscape that pressure is exactly why the Farm bill's conservation title is so vital to people in the west conservation is an integral part of what we're all about in the west. It helps define who we are. Sometimes people only focus on conserving public land in its undeveloped state, and that's an important endeavor in Colorado and across the west, but private lands conservation, the type aided by the Farm bill, is critical for so many reasons. To protect the agricultural heritage of the land and for wildlife habitat, elk, bighorn sheet, pheasant, Colorado cutthroat trout, the list goes on and on. So many of the prized species that are important to our nation's sportsmen and nature lovers. Finding open landscapes and the species that inhabit them are a fundamental part of what it is to be in the west. We need to preserve these open spaces, and that's what this title does. I strongly support this new conservation title as reported out of the committee in a bipartisan vote."
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Tomorrow --
    • The Senate will convene at 9:30 AM and Majority Leader Reid will be recognized. The first hour will be equally divided, with the Republicans controlling the first 30 minutes and the Majority controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • At a time TBD, it is expected the Senate will conduct 2 ROLL CALL VOTES on:
      1. Reid 2nd-degree amendment #2393 (text of Shaheen amendment #2160 re: phase-out of sugar program); and
      2. Reid amendment #2392 (text of Paul amendment #2182 re: SNAP).
    • Pending is S. 3240, the Farm bill. The following amendments are pending to the bill:
      1. Reid (for Stabenow/Roberts) amendment #2389 (managers amendment);
      2. Reid 2nd-degree amendment #2390 (date change) to Reid (for Stabenow/Roberts) amendment #2389;
      3. Reid Motion to Recommit and report back with Reid amendment #2391 (instructions);
      4. Reid amendment #2392 to Reid amendment #2391 (text of Paul amendment #2182 re: SNAP); and
      5. Reid 2nd-degree amendment #2393 (text of Shaheen amendment #2160 re: phase-out of sugar program).
The Senate stands adjourned until 9:30 AM Wednesday, June 13th.

Grassley, Shaheen, Stabenow

Flood Insurance bill (S. 1940)

Jun 12 2012

Senator Grassley: (5:47 PM)
  • Spoke on the Hurwitz nomination.
    • SUMMARY "I was shocked and disappointed to learn earlier this afternoon that the Majority Leader came to the floor to yield back all time and to move immediately to a voice vote on the nomination of Andrew David Hurwitz to be U.S. Circuit Judge, Ninth circuit. I find this to be quite irregular and outside the recent precedents of this senate. Typically members are informed of such actions in advance. I was not so informed, and I'm Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee. I certainly did not intend to yield my time, and in fact I intended on speaking further on the nominee, particularly to make clear some corrections that I think needed to be made after I debated this yesterday. Regardless of yielding time or further debate, I expected a roll call on this nominee. This has been Senate precedent recently. Before today, a cloture vote was invoked on 22 different judicial nominees. Only one of those 22 was confirmed without a roll call vote ... Furthermore, it has been our general understanding around here for some time that circuit votes would be by roll call vote, so I'm extremely disappointed that there has been a breach of comity around here. Yesterday I outlined my primary concern regarding the nomination of Andrew David Hurwitz to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit. I continue to oppose the nomination and will vote "no" on his confirmation It seems to me that all the business of the Senate is based upon trust between one senator and another. When the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee isn't notified of this action or any other senator notified of this action, it seems to me that that trust has been violated. And I won't be satisfied that that trust has been restored unless there's some action taken to have a roll call vote on this nomination."

Senator Shaheen: (6:15 PM)
  • Spoke on Shaheen amendment #2160 (re: phase-out of sugar program) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "I've introduced several amendments but the one we're going to be voting on tomorrow is one that would repeal the subsidy so that prices are determined by the market instead of government controls. For the past year and a half, I've been working with our colleague, Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, on bipartisan legislation, the Sugar Act, which would phase out the sugar program over several years and eliminate government control of sugar prices ... The sugar subsidy program is able to keep these prices so high because it distorts the market. In addition to the minimum prices guaranteed by the government, the federal government drastically restricts the supply of sugar in the United States, with only about 15% or so of sugar sold coming from abroad, thanks to those import restrictions. The government controls how much each individual sugar processor can sell and that further restricts the supply on the market. And again, the result of these government controls are to keep the artificially high prices for sugar ... These high sugar prices hurt job creation. According to the Department of Commerce, for everyone job protected in the sugar industry through this program, we're sacrificing three jobs in American manufacturing. A recent study by an agricultural research firm called Promar suggests that the program, the sugar subsidy, that is, costs 20,000 American jobs each year. In addition, a recent analysis that I referred to earlier found that the program also costs consumers $3.5 billion every year in the form of artificially high sugar prices."

Senator Stabenow: (6:36 PM)
  • Spoke on Shaheen amendment #2160 (phase-out of sugar program) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "Sugar's not like other commodities, both sugar cane and sugar beets must be processed soon after harvest which is a key factor for them. Using costly processing machinery. Farmers need to scale back production because of a sudden drop in price, the processing plant shuts down, and may never reopen. Because this processing is so capital-intensive, it's imperative we give producers a stable marketplace so they don't experience a constant boom and bust, which is what we would see without the stability of the program that we have today. The current U.S. sugar policy has been run at zero cost to taxpayers for the last ten years. Let me just say that again. Zero. Zero, zero, zero cost to the American taxpayer for the last ten years. This policy helps defend 142,000 American jobs, and $20 billion in economic activity every year. Zero cost, 142,000 jobs, $20 billion in economic activity every year."
  • Spoke on Paul amendment #2182 (SNAP) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "We also know as this has been slow to turn around for many, many families that we have Americans who have needed some temporary help. And that's what the SNAP program, the supplemental nutritional assistance program, is all about. The amendment tomorrow that we will be voting on would turn this program into an entire block grant making it much less effective and responding to needs, frankly block granting and then cutting over half of the current levels of support in funding needed to maintain help for those who are currently receiving SNAP benefits. Reductions at that level could exceed the total amount of help of supplemental nutrition help projected to go to families in 29 of our smallest states and territories over the next ten years. It's extremely dramatic and makes absolutely no sense, and I hope that we will join together in rejecting this approach. One of the strongest features of the supplemental nutrition assistance program is that in fact it can respond quickly when we have a recession or economic conditions that warrant it, when we have a nationwide recession, when we have a plant closure in a community, and we've seen way too many of those, although, we're now celebrating the fact that we have plants opening and retooling and expanding, but we've gone through some very, very tough times with plant closures where families have needed some temporary help. The important thing about the supplemental nutrition program is that it's timely, it's targeted, around it's temporary. And approximately half of all those now, the families who have needed help are there, getting help ... that families who are receiving supplemental nutritional assistance are much more likely to be working families. This is important."

Reid (UC), Paul, Stabenow, Roberts

Farm bill (S. 3240)/Flood Insurance bill (S. 1940)

Jun 12 2012

Senator Reid: (5:28 PM)
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • A Stabenow-Roberts perfecting amendment be Agreed to, the bill as amended be considered original text for the purpose of further amendments, that the following Lee Motion to Recommit and four amendments to be first amendments and the Motion to Recommit in order to the bill with no other first-degree amendments or Motions to Recommit in order until these amendments are disposed of:
      1. Paul amendment #2182;
      2. Shaheen amendment #2160;
      3. Coburn amendment #2353;
      4. Cantwell amendment #2370; and
      5. Lee Motion to Recommit.
    • That there be 60 minutes of debate divided equally between the two leaders or their designees on each of these amendments and the Lee motion. Upon the use or yielding back of that time, the Senate proceed to votes in relation to the amendments and motion in the order listed, that there be no amendments or motions in order to the amendments or the Lee motion prior to the votes other than a Motion to Waive, Points of Order and Motions to Table. Upon disposition of these amendments and the Lee motion, Majority Leader Reid will be recognized (Paul objected).

Senator Paul: (5:29 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I'm concerned about Dr. Shakil Afridi, a doctor in Pakistan who helped us and led to the capture of bin Laden ... He's been put in prison in Pakistan for 33 years. I don't think we should continue to send taxpayer money in the form of foreign aid to Pakistan when they're holding in ... Who simply helped us to get bin Laden. This issue is of the utmost urgency. His case will be heard for an appeal but it's a political case and can be influenced by U.S. action. I think the U.S. taxpayers should not send money to Pakistan when Pakistan is holding this innocent man who helped us get one of the world's most dangerous men, a mass murderer who killed 3,000 Americans, we captured him with help with help of Dr. Shakil Afridi and dr. Afridi deserves our help now. I have an amendment that's very important. It's not germane but that doesn't mean it's not important. It's very important that we send Pakistan a signal we will not continue to send them a welfare check when they're holding in prison a political prisoner who helped us get bin Laden. This amendment is of the utmost urgency. Would only require 15 minutes of the Senate's time. I'm not asking for all day. I'm asking for 15 minutes to vote on ending aid to Pakistan until they release Dr. Afridi. I don't think this is too much to ask. The Senate has historically been a body that allowed debate, that allowed amendments per intent or not pertinent. This one is very important."

Senator Reid: (5:31 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I appreciate the good intentions of my friend from Kentucky because they are good intentions. But we are on a bill now that just simply does not allow something like that to come forward. I would like to work with him in the future and I'm sure a number of other senators would to focus on our relations with Pakistan. It's not only a problem that he outlined but there are other things. The ability of our vehicles to drive to Afghanistan, and lots of other things. And it's an issue that the foreign relations committee has held hearings on, it's something that we really need to focus on I would say to my friend that he doesn't stand alone in his concern, but there has to be a time and place for everything and hopefully we can have a full debate on our relations with Pakistan in the near future."
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • The amendment tree has been filled re: S. 3240, the Farm bill.
    • The Senate is on the Motion to Proceed to S. 1940, the Flood Insurance bill.
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "I wish we could proceed in another way to have amendments heard and voted on, but we, even though this is somewhat awkward, we're going to move forward with this bill. We're going to bring up some amendments, they're big amendments, they're crucial to senators being able to issue their opinion on this legislation. One deals with sugar, one with food stamps, very both controversial and very important and we're going to have those and hopefully have a good debate on those matters. We can move forward on this bill in other ways. I have not given up hope and I know that Senator Stabenow and Senator Roberts have not given up hope to have a universal agreement so we can really legislate on this bill. As I've indicated, we don't do this very often in this manner, but it's important because we have an issue here that needs to move forward. A lot of times when the tree is filled we walk away from it. We're not going to walk away from this. This bill is far too important, it affects the lives of millions of people, about 16 million in America. And there are reforms made in this bill, I remember when I came from the House of Representatives 26 years ago, we wanted to make the reforms that are in this bill. So they've done remarkably good work."

Senator Stabenow: (5:38 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "As we are moving forward on both of these amendments tomorrow, we will also be working, our staffs and ourselves, to come together on a larger package, a universe of amendments to offer to the body of the senate to be able to move forward so we can come up with a fine night - finite number of amendments that will allow us to complete the bill. There are many amendments that have been offered and we are going to spend our time going through those just as we did in committee where we worked across the aisle. We had a hundred amendments and whittled that down to a point where we could come forward with agreed-upon amendments. We'll do the same thing, put together a universe of amendments to move forward on the bill. But while we are doing that, we will have an opportunity, we invite members who care particularly about either of the issues that will be voted on tomorrow when the leader will move forward with a motion to table on those, but we want everyone to have an opportunity to come to the floor and be able to be heard on both of those issues. So we are moving forward. We would have liked to have done it with a larger group of amendments that we could have started with while we continue through, our goal is to allow as much opportunity for discussion and debate as possible."

Senator Roberts: (5:45 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "This isn't exactly the trail that I had hoped that we would take to get to conclusion, a successful conclusion to a Farm bill that we need so vitally in farm country, and for all the reasons that the distinguished chairwoman has outlined. I need not go over all of those reasons. I would mention that we have a September 30 deadline in which the current Farm bill expires. The alternative to that is to go back to the current Farm bill, which we know is outdated and that has a payment system that is also outdated. The other alternative, of course, if you do not extend the Farm bill, you go to the 1949 Act which is just not sustainable. It's not an alternative. So I had hoped that we could start considering. We had three Republican amendments, two Democrat, and also the perfecting amendment. But that's not the trail we're going to go down. Basically I think about the only thing I could add is that we're not giving up. We can't. We will keep working as hard as we can to accommodate all members. I know there's a lot of talk on both sides of the aisle about a global agreement. That seems to be a little bit of an exaggeration, more especially for this body. But at any rate, an agreement that would encompass every member's concern, at least, and we will go back to what the senate used to be and have everybody offer an amendment and debate those amendments and then have a vote and have a conclusion and work through it. That's exactly what we did when we marked up the bill with over 100 amendments and did it in four and a half hours which was a record. That's not what we're going to do as of today or as of tomorrow."

Jun 12 2012

Senator Brown-MA: (4:09 PM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act.
    • SUMMARY "The Senate bill includes many improvements that have been developed over time with various nonprofits and law enforcement agencies and individuals that deal with these challenges each and every day. I'm very proud to be a cosponsor of what is clearly a good, thoughtful bill. Unfortunately, following the bipartisan senate action, the House passed a dramatically scaled-back version of the VAWA legislation that did not include core provisions that would improve the law. Rather than work through some of these proficiency the house was just content to pass a bill that did not address the number of growing problems facing individuals today. That's not how we legislate. That's not how we should be legislating. We need to pass a bipartisan, bicameral bill that the president will sign. Because the House took up a bill that did not go far enough, the House bill passed largely on party lines, as compared to the bipartisan Senate bill that we passed just a short time ago. Now once again the House and Senate are at an impasse. As someone who has personally experienced domestic violence up close and seen its effect on not only families but my family, this is completely unacceptable. The vast majority of the bill is broadly supported by both sides of the aisle. It's beyond frustrating that the House has become distracted by tiny percentage of the bill that has caused gridlock. Even works it seems some are willing to allow procedural technicalities to block its way forward. I have to tell you, it just makes no sense to me. At a time when people's lives are potentially at stake. This bill should be done already. Women in Massachusetts and throughout the country, survivors of violence, deserve better and we should provide that leadership immediately. Today I'm calling on the House and Senate leadership and committees of jurisdiction to listen to the calls from millions of Americans and come together and pass a bill that addresses critical needs of our communities and citizens of those communities. All sides need to come together and work through the small amount of differences they have."

Senator Blunt: (4:29 PM)
  • Spoke on the economy.
    • SUMMARY "Like so many others, I disagree with the president's sense that the private sector is fine because the private sector's not fine and the economy's not fine. It's not. Private sector job creation as I've said on the floor many times in the last two years, should be the number-one priority domestically of the government today. What can we do to create more private-sector jobs? Two years ago, the administration, the White House kicked off the recovery summer. They said that the success of the $831 billion stimulus plan had done its job. Secretary Geithner penned an op-ed in the New York Times saying welcome to the recovery. Still we see employment higher than it should be, 8.2%. If we were looking at the same work force that we had 30 years ago and we know that the population has gotten bigger, so logically the work force got bigger, too. If we were looking at a work force that was reflective of the work force in January of 2009, unemployment would be 11.1% today. It's 8.2% because we're considering a work force that is smaller, the that people that are actively out there considering themselves either in the work force or wanting to be in the work force, lower than any time in the last 30 years. Certainly the recovery summer didn't work. The rhetoric was high, but the economy didn't grow as we would have hoped it would. The creation of jobs didn't occur. GDP, the gross domestic product, grew at 1.7% in 2011, and still below 2%, 1.9% in 2012. Only 77,000 jobs were created in April, and only 69,000 jobs were created in May. And we're just not doing the job here. The stimulus didn't work, and part of the stimulus was to try to help states offset the shortages they had, but to some extent all that did was postpone for another year or maybe even two years states having to make decisions that only states should make. You know, the federal government has enough things to run without trying to run everything. The federal government shouldn't be responsible for the things that states are responsible for, and we should do the things we do at the federal level the best they can possibly be done. Starting with defending the country. We're looking at some reduction in defense spending that if it happens, will not only negatively impact our ability to defend the country, but if we don't do those reductions exactly right, it will also have real impact on the economy. The stimulus didn't create the jobs, the labor force participation rate's at a 30-year low, middle-class incomes have dropped $4,350 in the last four years and the private sector is not doing well, nor is the economy doing well. The number of long-term unemployed has doubled to five and a half million since the president took office. Housing prices continue to decline. Many of the economic forecasters, including the Congressional Budget Office, project that economic growth downgrades and skepticism toward the recovery will continue."

Senator Inhofe: (4:39 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "I've got three amendments, the amendment that I'm proposing today will provide significant regulatory relief for farmers struggling in a tough economy. There's virtually no history of oil spills from agricultural operations in farms simply do not pose the risk of spills that other sectors do. Starting next year, farmers who have oil and gas tanks - that's all of them. They all have oil and gas tanks on their farms. They're located in different areas, if they have a certain aggregate amount they'll be required to hire a certified professional engineer to design a spill prevention control and countermeasure plan like major oil refineries. They may be required to purchase capital commitment to comply with the rule including dual containment tanks that will necessarily raise the cost. My amendment would exempt the farmers from these regulations for above-ground oil storage tanks that have an aggregate storage capacity of less than 12,000 gallons ... I have a second amendment having to do with storm water. One of the biggest threats is the over-burdensome and costly regulation but one of the best ways to stop these rules is ensure when an agency states that they will collect the best available information before imposing a new regulation, that they do that. This amendment will ensure the EPA keeps its word and fully evaluates a current storm water regulatory situation. What practices works and what don't work, what the costs are and what the benefits are, and before barreling ahead with new uncertainty regulations. EPA's current storm water regulations they committed to complete an evaluation of the current rule. This amendment simply stops the EPA from issuing any new regulations until they comply with the rule. In other words, they've said they would do this. This stops them from invoking a regulation and completing it until they've completed what they have already agreed to. Rest assured that this is nothing new to the EPA. in fact, in the EPA guidance that accompanied the current regulations they recommended the same thing. And that until the evaluation of the current program is completed, new requirements be imposed. Especially for small communities. So as you can see all this really does is force the EPA to do what they've already agreed that they would do and that should be a very easy one to pass."
Senator Blumenthal: (4:45 PM)
  • Spoke on Blumenthal amendment #2311 (prohibit attendance of animal fighting venture) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "This legislation would prohibit knowingly attending an animal fight by setting penalties that include a fine or imprisonment of up to one year or both. It would also extend stricter penalties for any individual who knowingly brings a child to an animal fight, and the penalty for engaging in that activity would be a fine and prison sentence of up to three years or both. So the loopholes here are that spectators are not covered and bringing children to these events is not covered. And that's why this legislation is absolutely essential. Why spectators? Well, spectators are commonly participants. In fact, the sport wouldn't exist without spectators. They are the ones who gamble, who engage in other criminal activity, who come there simply to engage in that activity. And they are there not only to watch, but to bring their own animals to fight or gamble illegally or for drug dealing illegally or gang activity illegally. Spectators are the source of financing. They make it profitable. They must be subject to federal law and federal prohibitions in the same way as anyone who actually engages in already prohibited activity. This type of criminal element - gathering at dogfights or cock fights - ought to be subject to the same kinds of prohibition. Why children? Well, without stating the obvious, coming to a cockfight or a dogfight, a blood sport leads to other kinds of violence. I don't need to cite the scientific evidence for anyone who is a parent and a member of this body. Right now there's no law that applies to bringing children to such an event, and we need to close that loophole. Again, if I had photographs here, one would be of a small girl crying, literally crying at the sight of one of these animals mangled and cruelly torn apart before death. It would provide proof that a person is such aware of an animal fight. It would not intrude on states' rights. 49 states already have similar laws. We need a federal law because many of these activities are in interstate commerce and the power of the federal government as an enforcer is I irreplaceable and the federal government ought to be on record against the crimes involved committed by spectators and against bringing children to this kind of event. When animal fighting involves players from a number of different states, a county sheriff or a local law enforcer simply lacks the power to deal with it and to root out the entire operation. Not just to make arrests at the site, but to root out the whole operation so that the penalties are more comprehensive and the organized criminal activity is ended. These crimes are a federal matter, and the federal response ought to be overwhelming."
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • The Senate will resume consideration of S. 3240, the Farm bill, with the time until 5:30 PM for debate only. At 5:30 PM, Majority Leader Reid will be recognized.

Cornyn, Klobuchar, Nelson-FL

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 12 2012

Senator Cornyn: (3:24 PM)
  • Spoke on Attorney General Eric Holder.
    • SUMMARY "This morning during a hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the attorney general appeared, and in the exchange I had with him, it culminated with my call upon him to resign his position as attorney general. That's a very serious matter. And I want to take a few minutes to explain why after long deliberation I have come to this conclusion. I do believe it's the right decision and it's long overdue. I served as an attorney general of my state, an elected attorney general, not an appointed attorney general, but I believe strongly that the American people deserve a chief law enforcement officer who will be independent of political influence, who will be accountable to the law and who will be transparent, particularly in his dealings with the congress. Unfortunately, Attorney General Holder has failed on all of these counts. At his confirmation hearing in 2009, in front of the Judiciary Committee, Eric Holder said that his Department of Justice would serve justice and not the fleeting interests of any political party, and that's a quotation. He also said he would seek to achieve a full partnership with this committee and with congress as a whole. That's also a quotation. I wish he had kept his word. Regrettably, he has not. In the past few weeks, I have joined my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in our shock at news articles that have disclosed some of the most sensitive classified programs of our national security apparatus. These were reportedly covert operations aimed at thwarting terrorist attacks, as well as defeating Iran's nuclear aspirations. The leaks, according to the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Feinstein, I believe I'm paraphrasing here, but I believe she says these are some of the worst that she has seen in her tenure on the Intelligence Committee. Others have suggested that these are some of the most damaging potential leaks in our history, certainly recent history. According to the very stories that reported these programs, the sources some from the highest reaches of the executive branch of our government, namely the White House. As Democrats and Republicans have both made clear, the unauthorized release of classified information is a crime. It's a crime because it threatens our national security and puts the lives of those who are sworn to defend our nation in jeopardy. As many have hastened to point out, it also jeopardizes the cooperation of our allies, and who would be motivated to be a source of classified highly sensitive information that would be provided to our intelligence community if they knew that they were likely to be outed on the front page of the Washington Post or the New York Times? The news articles containing the leaked information paint the president in a flattering light. And the concern is that they appear just as his re-election campaign is getting into full swing. Let me be clear. These facts raise legitimate concerns about the motives behind what everyone agrees is criminal conduct, and that's why it's so important to have an investigation of these leaks that is independent, nonpartisan and thorough. Unfortunately, Attorney General Holder has demonstrated at least to me that he is incapable of delivering that kind of investigation."

Senator Klobuchar: (3:50 PM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "I rise today to stress the critical infrastructure needs across our nation and to urge the House of Representatives to act quickly and to pass a meaningful transportation bill. On March 14 the Senate passed the moving ahead for progress in the 21st Century Act by a strong bipartisan vote of 74-22. Later that month I came to the floor of the senate to highlight passage, the importance of the passage of our Surface Transportation bill. Since then the American people have been waiting for the United States House of Representatives to act on their version of a Transportation bill. Now three months to the week after the Senate passed our Transportation bill on a 74-22 bipartisan vote, with the nation continuing to wait for action and the June 30th deadline to renew or extend the transportation program coming closer and closer, the United States House of Representatives leaders have announced not a short-term extension, but they have announced their interest in a longer-term extension to the end of 2012. I suppose the good news is that that means that we have some interest in moving forward with the transportation, but that is not good enough for the people of this country It is not good enough to hear the House of Representatives talk about a simple extension when we have a strong bipartisan, bipartisan Transportation bill that came out of the United States Senate. We also need to be aware of the costs incurred by each additional day of delay. The longer it takes for the congress to pass a Transportation bill, the longer it takes projects to be completed, the more expensive they become to taxpayers."

Senator Nelson-FL: (4:00 PM)
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • The Senate will resume consideration of S. 3240, the Farm bill, with the time until 5:00 PM for debate only. At 5:00 PM, Majority Leader Reid will be recognized.
  • Spoke on the Florida-DOJ lawsuit.
    • SUMMARY "As I was heading to the capitol today, I couldn't help but think about the jolting news from my state that the U.S. Department of Justice will have to sue my state of Florida over its purge of the voting rolls. Well, I can tell you that being a native Floridian whose family came to Florida 183 years ago and having the great privilege of serving the people of my state for a number of years, it's simply hard for me to conceive that the state of Florida is trying to deliberately make it more difficult for lawful citizens to vote, but the governor did sign a new law that the legislature passed over a year ago to reduce early voting days, to make it more difficult to vote if you move to another county, to blunt registration drives, and to eliminate Sundays in the Sunday before the Tuesday election in early voting. And then Governor scot launched his massive purge of the voting rolls, hunting for suspected noncitizens, and in so doing he's now defying federal authorities who point to federal law, who say you cannot conduct a purge of the voter rolls so close to an election. We're two months away from a primary election in the middle of august. We're a little over four months away to the general election. And yet the governor and his administration end up doing this. Well, what they ought to do is ensure the credibility of our voter rolls, not suppress citizens from voting under the fiction of some perceived fraud. But, above all else, the state of Florida must ensure that every lawful citizen who has the right to vote, who can do so without hindrance and impediment. It was quite a while ago, but something that Dr. King once said about voting rights seems very appropriate again. Dr. King said the denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic traditions. It is democracy turned upside down. I hope the governor of Florida will heed those words."

Durbin, Coburn, Alexander, Pryor

Farm bill (S. 3240)

Jun 12 2012

Senator Durbin: (2:42 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "Our amendment would reduce the level of premium support for crop insurance policies by 15 percentage points for farmers with an adjusted gross income over $750,000 a year. According to a recent GAO. report, the federal government pace on average 62% of crop insurance premiums for farmers. Let me put that in perspective. These farmers are buying insurance so that they can protect themselves against the risk of low prices or bad weather. And the premiums that are charged to them are collected to pay to those farmers who collect at the end of the day. 62% of the value of the premiums for the crop insurance are paid by the taxpayers. In other words, a 62% subsidy, federal subsidy on these premium support payments for crop insurance across America. The amendment which I offer with Senator Coburn would change that. The reason came out very clearly in the GAO report on crop insurance. Last year the federal government, the taxpayers, spent $7.4 billion to cover that 62% of crop insurance premiums. $7.4 billion in subsidies for crop insurance for farmers. And the amount spent by taxpayers each year has been growing dramatically to cover roughly the same amount of acres the federal government paid nearly $2 billion more in 2011 than in 2009, because the value of the crops, the price for the crops had gone up during that period of time. Further, and this is a point we'd like to make and hope our colleagues would note, 4% of the most profitable farmers in America are farming entities accounted for nearly one-third of all the premium support provided by the federal government The premium subsidies for 3.9% of farmers across America ... All the federal premium support subsidy. These are pretty expensive farmers when it comes to the federal subsidy. Facing stark realities, we can't justify continuing to provide this level of premium support to the wealthiest farmers. Net farm income, as I mentioned earlier, has gone up dramatically. In 2011, reaching a record high of $98.1 billion. The USDA forecasts that income will continue to grow at a slightly higher rate than costs over the life of this farm bill which is before us. The net income, much like government payments, Ag payments, are concentrated in our largest farms. Farm size has a direct impact on the profit margin of the farm. We have many large farms in Illinois, certainly across the country. But we have many smaller farmers, too. What's the difference? On a smaller farm, with lower income, there's less return, less profit, higher risk. According to the USDA, farms with sales ranging from $100,000 to $175,000 have an average profit margin of 1.2%. In a bad year they're wiped take a look at the larger farms. With more than $1 million in sales each year, their average profit margin is 28.6%. There is money to be paid. That's the basis for Senator Coburn and my drawing the line in saying there will be a reduction in the federal subsidy for crop insurance premiums for the most profitable farms ... Our amendment is simple and straightforward. If you have an adjusted gross income on your farm at or above $750,000, your premium support will be reduced by 15 percentage points. A provision in the underlying bill increased premium support for beginning farmers - we're taking care of the new farmers and those are smaller farms - and it sets a precedent. Our amendment takes the same technical approach already accepted in the underlying bill. It's already applied to title 1 programs. Our amendment is commonsense reform that limits the future crop programs."

Senator Coburn: (2:51 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "The Senator from Illinois and I have proposed is a commonsense earnings limit that is associated with every other program in title 1 that would say, we're going to help you, but we're just not going to help you as much because you, therefore, and by your own success have the means to help yourself. It is ads 94.6 billion. And what Senator Durbin and I are proposing is $1.2 billion A lot of people don't realize the advances that our farmers and the industries that supply them have made. As Senator Durbin pointed out, farm income has been up the last five years and is projected to continue to increase. Input costs for fertilizer are going down. Input costs for seed and other chemicals are going up. We want a viable farm program but what we don't want is we don't want the next generation paying for additional wealth for those that in fact can afford to insure themselves. This is a very modest proposal. I mean, we could have had an amendment that said, if you make over $750,000, we shouldn't be subsidizing any of your crop insurance. We would still have a crop insurance program for this very well-off 4% had we done that. What we said is now is the time to start looking at that. We'll look at it again with the next Farm bill but certainly those that are so well-positioned to maximize profits off of agriculture don't need a 62% subsidy to their crop insurance. And so this is a controversial amendment, we understand that. We know a lot of people are going to disagree with us. But the point is, at how much income should you be able to make - should the average hardworking American still be paying taxes to supplement your income?"

Senator Alexander: (2:56 PM)
  • Spoke on the Clean Air Rule.
    • SUMMARY "This new rule requires removing 90% of this mercury. The rule also controls 186 other hazardous pollutants, including arsenic, acid gases, and toxic metals. Utilities have known that this was coming since 1990, because these 187 pollutants, including mercury are specifically identified in the 1990 amendments to the clean air act as amendments that need to be controlled by utilities. And now the federal courts have added their weight and ordered the environmental protection administration to control these pollutants. An added benefit of the rule is that the equipment installed to control these hazardous pollutants will also capture fine particles, a major source of respiratory diseases that is primarily regulated under another part of the Clean Air Act. This new equipment will add a few dollars a month to residential electric bills. The EPA estimates a 3% increase nationwide. But because the Tennessee Valley Authority has already committed to install these pollution controls, the customers of TVA will pay this rate increase anyway, with the rule or without the rule. To reduce the costs, the senator from Arkansas, Senator Pryor, and I will introduce legislation to allow utilities six years to comply with the rules, which is a time line that many utilities have requested Ever since I've been in the United States Senate. I've introduced legislation to clean up the air in Tennessee. Why have I done that? Because we don't want the great smoggy mountains, we want the great smoky mountains. We don't want to perpetually have three of the top five asthma cities in the countries. We don't want to have health advisories on our streams so we can't each fish So what this rule is about is requiring our neighbors in the rest of the country to do the same thing we're already doing. And if they don't do it, we have no chance in the world ever to have clean air in Tennessee. And if we don't, we'll have worse health and we'll have fewer jobs. Now, as far as the six years goes, the law gives states the right to add a fourth year to the three years utilities have to comply with the law. The federal law today gives the president of the United States the right to add two more years to that. That's six. So in the law today, the president and the states could make sure that utilities have six years to comply with this rule. I believe that makes sense."

Senator Pryor: (3:09 PM)
  • Spoke on the Clean Air Rule.
    • SUMMARY "It's really a three-step plan. First, vote "no" on Senator Inhofe's Resolution that we understand will come up sometime in the next several days. Second is consider voting for the legislation that we are proposing and that we'd like to move to the Senate floor within a reasonable amount of time that would basically say that all the utility companies get six years to comply with these new rules. Again, these new rules that have been 20 years in the making and that are now on the books and have been on the books since February. And also the third step is, we are proposing a letter to the president of the United States to urge him in the interim, to urge him to give the additional two years which he has the authority to do under the law. He can do two years with an executive order. And let me just walk through those very quickly. Some of the reasons why I'm going to vote "no" on Senator Inhofe's Resolution of Disapproval is because although I feel that the EPA is wrong in their timetable - I think that three years is too short; I don't think that's enough time. As Senator Alexander said a few moments ago, you can do the math that's in the statute and in the regulations and it probably adds up to six years. Let's go ahead and just be upfront and give them the six years and just say, you know, six years will do it. That creates certainty. That means people can plan. That means that people can schedule equipment and skilled laborers that come from the U.S., not outsourced from overseas but folks here that come from the U.S. and the equipment, most of it will be made in the U.S. and that gives our utility companies time to do all this. I think the EPA's wrong in the sense that they're trying to force this over a three-year period. I think four is the minimum and really six is what you really need, and I think that just makes the most sense under the circumstances."

Senator Alexander: (3:18 PM)
  • Spoke on the Clean Air Rule.
    • SUMMARY "The United States produces 25% of all the wealth in the world every year. In order to do that, we use about 25% of all the electricity in the world. We need low-cost, reliable, large amounts of clean electricity, and we need for coal to have a secure part of the future of our clean energy mix. I have said for years, all we have to do about sulfur, nitrogen, mercury and the hazardous pollutants. We have the pollution control equipment to capture all of those. We can make the coal clean, except for carbon - let's put that over on the side for a minute. We can make the coal clean and we should do it. We should have done it in a law over the last few years. We have had 17 senators equally divided on both sides trying to pass a law, we couldn't get it done, so we have really defaulted to the EPA so they have had to do the rule, but the congress told EPA to write this rule in 1990. It listed the pollutants that have to be controlled, and a court then, after president bush in 2005 tried to write a rule, the court threw it out and in 2008 said to the EPA you have to do it. So we have told them to do it, the courts have told them to do it and now they have done it, according to the law. If you don't like the rule, you have to change the law, which we're not doing here today. So the constructive thing we can do, let the rule go forward. Let's have clean coal a part of our clean air mix, and then let's allow utilities what they have asked for, most of them, six years, six years to implement the rule. And hopefully our legislation will pass. Hopefully just the mere introduction of it, particularly by those of us who support the rule will persuade President Obama that it would be a reasonable executive order for him to make, to assure people across the country that we'll have no interruption in the reliability of our electricity, we'll have no great increase in cost in most parts of the country, and then I agree with the senator from Arkansas, coal needs to be a very important part of our future. This will make it in our region an important part."

DeMint, Coats, Reid (UC)

Executive Session

Jun 12 2012

Senator DeMint: (2:15 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "The Farm bill supporters are telling us that this bill saves money. But, unfortunately, we're using the same smoke and mirrors accounting that is often used in Washington. A lot of gimmicks that make it appear less expensive is really an affront to the American people, who are demanding less spending and debt. There's absolutely no connection between what some of my colleagues are telling their constituents back home and what they're doing here in Washington as far as cutting spending. They talk about cutting spending, but now they want to pass this farm bill. The farm bill we're debating today will cost - or is projected to cost by the Congressional Budget Office about a trillion dollars over the next ten years. The last Farm bill cost $600 billion. This is a 60% increase. And if we are just to look at these numbers, you can understand the rest of the debate. And the Congressional Research Service has confirmed these numbers. That in 2008 we passed a Farm bill that was projected to spend over ten years $604 billion. The bill we are considering today is projected to spend nearly a trillion, $969 billion. Yet the folks who are speaking here about the Farm bill are telling us this saves some $20 billion. Only in Washington could they look at you in a straight face and say this saves money. Let's talk about how they actually get that figure. Okay, 2008, about $600 billion. This Farm bill, about a trillion dollars. What happened in the meantime was mostly the president's stimulus package which spent about a trillion dollars had a lot of money in it for food stamps. It was a short-term, temporary stimulus, supposedly with a lot of new money for food stamps. Between 2008 and now we've increased food stamp spending about 400%. 400%. I think that number actually goes back to 2000. But during periods of good economy, low employment, we increased food stamps and we've continued to increase that dramatically over the last few years. So most of this increase was supposed to be a temporary increase in food stamps. So we're actually locking that spending in permanently with this new farm bill, but since it's slightly lower than this temporary increase, the folks speaking to you here today are saying this is big savings, America. We're saving money on the Farm bill. It's actually a 60% increase in the last Farm bill. There is only one question here: does this bill really save money? And the answer is absolutely not. Instead of doing the reforms that we need in the food stamp program, which frankly is about 75% or more of this bill, we're passing a Farm bill that locks in what is supposed to be a temporary spending level for food stamps over the next five years. What's really in this Farm bill? A lot of it is food stamps, there's some foreign aid, some things for climate change, housing and foreclosures, broadband internet. It's really a catch-all for a lot of things but in order for us to get what we need to do for the farm industry in America, we have to agree to this huge additional increase in these other programs."

Senator Coats: (2:25 PM)
  • Spoke on the recent intelligence leaks.
    • SUMMARY "A few weeks ago, the world learned that U.S. intelligence agents and partners disrupted an Al-Qaeda plot to blow up a civilian aircraft. We are all very familiar with the success of this effort, and we do applaud those involved in preventing a truly horrific terrorist attack. However, my concern today and since that time has been that the public has become too familiar with this successful operation. Specifically, due to an intelligence leak which all the world knows about, the world learned of highly sensitive information, sources and methods that enabled the united states and its allies to prevent Al-Qaeda from striking again. This irresponsible leak jeopardizes future operations and future cooperation with valuable sources and intelligence partners overseas. The release of this information, intentional or not, puts American lives as risk as well as the lives of those who helped us in this operation. Now, unfortunately, this is not the only recent leak to occur. As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I am deeply concerned about a troubling rash of leaks exposing classified intelligence information that has come out in the last several weeks. This paints a disturbing picture of this administration's judgment when it comes to national security. There's the questionable Obama administration collaboration with Hollywood whereby the administration decided to give unprecedented access to filmmakers producing a movie on the bin laden raid, including the confidential identity of one of our nation's most elite warriors. Discussions with reporters in the aftermath of the raid may also have revealed the involvement of the Pakistani doctor who was sentenced to 33 years in prison for treason after playing a critical role in the hunt for bin Laden. The pages of our newspapers virtually every day have highly classified information publicized pertaining to intelligence operations in Yemen and Iran. Currently the two most concerning foreign policy challenges that this nation faces. And this is in addition to the frequency with which top administration officials now openly discuss the once highly classified execution of drone strikes in Yemen and other places. All too frequently as we read these publications, highly placed administration officials are the source of confirmation of previously classified information. Now, sadly, these incidents are not the first time this nation's secrets have spilled into the streets or into bookstores. The problem stems in part from the media's insatiable desire for information that makes intelligence operations look a lot like something out of a Hollywood script. This media hunger is fed by inexcusable contributions from current and former government officials."

Senator Reid: (2:38 PM)
  • Confirmed by Voice Vote: Executive Calendar #607, Andrew David Hurwitz, of Arizona, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • The Motion to Proceed to S. 3240, the Farm bill, is Agreed to and the Senate will begin consideration of the bill, with the time until 4:00 PM for debate only.

Jun 12 2012

Senator Inhofe: (12:00 PM)
  • Spoke on the Obama-EPA War on Coal.
    • SUMMARY "The momentum to stop President Obama's war on coal is now so great that some of my colleagues, Senators Alexander and Pryor, are going to introduce a countermeasure to my resolution, my resolution would put a stop to the second most expensive EPA regulation in history, a rule known as Utility MACT It's a cover vote, pure and simple. While my resolution requires the EPA to go back to the drawing board to craft a rule in which utilities can actually comply, the measure that Senators Alexander and Pryor are offering would keep Utility MACT in place but delay the rule for six years. This alternative is a clear admission that the Obama EPA policy is wrong but it doesn't fix the problem. It simply puts it off, puts off the day of execution for a matter of six years. Now, what's really going on here? Since my S. J . Res. 37 is what privileged motion . It requires 50 votes to pass. The Alexander cover bill will likely be introduced tomorrow and will likely never be voted on and require 60 votes to pass. The senators who want to kill coal by opposing S.J. Res 37 will put their names on the Alexander-Pryor bill as cosponsors to make it look like they're saving coal when in reality that bill, be the Alexander-Pryor bill kills coal in six years. ... My colleagues offered a number of counter-amendments so they could have a cover vote. They wanted to appear like they were reining in the out-of-control EPA and I think everybody knows what's going on with all those regulations. For their constituents back home all the while letting President Obama go through with his job-killing regulations. It's highly unlikely that Utility MACT alternative by Senators Alexander and Pryor will ever get a vote but that's not the point. The point is just to have something out there that senators in tough spot can claim to support. As I've said many times now, the vote on S. J. Res 37 would be the one and only opportunity to stop President Obama's war on coal. This is the only vote. There's no other vote out there. If we don't do this, and that rule goes through, Utility MACT, coal is dead. This is the only chance we have."
The Senate stands in recess until 2:15 PM for the weekly caucus lunches.

McCain, Graham, Wyden

Executive Session

Jun 12 2012

Colloquy: (Senators McCain, Graham)
  • Spoke on the recent intelligence leaks.

Senator McCain: (11:38 AM)
  • SUMMARY "The most important programs that we are engaged in, including the use of drones in our counterterrorism activities and, of course, the highly classified cyber attacks that have been made on the Iranians in order to prevent them from achieving their goal of building nuclear weapons. I can't think of any time that I have seen such breaches of ongoing national security programs as has been the case here. The damage to our national security has been articulated by many both in and outside of the administration, including the most damaging that we have seen, including our director of National Intelligence saying that it's the worst that he's seen in his 30 years of service in the area of intelligence. All of the ranking and chair members of the Intelligence Committees, the Armed Services Committee, Foreign Relations Committee, and Homeland Security Committees have all described in this most strongly terms what damage has been done by these "leaks." Among the sources that the authors of these publications list, the sources that they and I'm quoting from these publications "administration officials," "senior officials," "senior aides to the president," "members of the president's national security team who were in the white house situation room during key discussions," an official who "requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program." and I'm quoting all of these from the publications. "current American officials who would not allow their names to be used because the effort remains highly classified and parts of it continue to this day." Several sources who would be "fired" for what they divulge presumably because they divulged what was classified or otherwise very sensitive. One author notes "over the course of 2009, more and more people inside the Obama White House were being read into cyber programs previously only known by an extremely tight group of top intelligence, military, and White House officials, even those not directly involved. As reports from the latest iteration of the bug arrived" "the latest iteration of the bug arrived, meetings were held to assess what kind of damage got done and the room got more and more crowded. Some of the sources in these publications specifically refused to be identified because what they were talking about related to classified programs or ongoing programs. One of the authors specifically observes that some of his sources would be fired if their identities were revealed. And as always with this leaking which goes on in this town, although not at the level that I have ever seen, I think we need to ask ourselves first is, who benefits. Certainly not national security. Not our military and intelligence professionals or our partners abroad, who are more exposed as a result of these leaks. I think the answer to the question "who benefits?" you have to look at the totality of circumstances. In this case, the publications came out closely together in time, they involved the participation, according to those publication, the participation of administration officials, and the overall impression left by these publications is very favorable to the president of the United States. So here we are with a very serious breach of national security - in the view of some, the most serious in recent history - and it clearly cries out for the appointment of a special counsel."

Senator Graham: (11:46 AM)
  • SUMMARY "I think it would not only serve Mr. Holder well but it would also serve the country well. We're setting a precedent. If we do not appoint a special counsel and these two U.S. attorneys. I don't know them at all. I'm sure they are fine men. But the special counsel provisions that are available to the attorney general need to be embraced because it creates an impression and, quite frankly, a legal infrastructure to put the special counsel above common politics. And the precedent we're about to set in the United States Senate if we vote this resolution down is that in this case, we don't need to assure the public that you don't have to worry. The person involved is not going to be interfered with. That in this case, we don't need the special counsel, that there is no need for it. Well, to my colleagues on the other side, how many of you said we needed a special counsel, Peter Fitzgerald, who was not in the jurisdiction. Illinois wasn't the subject matter of the Valerie Plame leaks that happened here in Washington. When Peter Fitzgerald was chosen as special counsel, they said that was a good choice. Chosen under the special counsel provisions which are designed to avoid a conflict of interest. What is the problem here? For us to say that we don't need one here is a precedent that will haunt the country and this body and future White Houses in a way that I think is very disturbing, Senator McCain. Because if you needed one in Valerie Plame, and you needed one in Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist who infiltrated the highest level of the government, why wouldn't you need one here? Is this less serious? The allegations we're talking about here are breathtaking."

Senator McCain: (11:57 AM)
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • The Senate now proceed to the consideration of a Resolution regarding recent intelligence leaks which means the appointment of a special counsel, which is at the desk. The Resolution be Agreed to, the preamble be Agreed to and the Motion to Reconsider be laid upon the table (Wyden objected).

Senator Wyden: (11:57 AM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I have served on the Intelligence Committee for 11 years now, and I have seen during that time plenty of leaks, and I have tried with every bit of my energy to demonstrate how serious an issue this leaking matter is. In fact, I teamed up with Senator Bond, our colleagues Senator Bond, of course, and I sponsored legislation to double, double, the criminal penalty for those who leak, for those who expose covert agents. So I don't take a back seat, to anybody in terms of recognizing the seriousness of leaks and ensuring that they are dealt with in an extremely prompt and responsive fashion. What is at issue here is whether or not we're going to give an opportunity for U.S. attorneys, professionals in their fields, to handle this particular inquiry, and I see no evidence, that the way the U.S. attorneys are handling this investigation at this time is not with the highest standards of professionalism. Now, I disagreed with the attorney general on plenty of issues. My colleagues know that I have been particularly in disagreement with the attorney general on this issue of secret law. I think there are real questions about whether laws that are written here in the Congress are actually the laws that govern their interpretations. So I've disagreed with the attorney general on plenty of matters. I think I've demonstrated by writing that law with senator that I want to be as tough as possible on leakers. But, I would now have to object to the request from our colleague from Arizona simply because I believe it is premature and for that reason, I object to the request from the senator from Arizona."

Thune, McCain, Ayotte

Executive Session

Jun 12 2012

Colloquy: (Senators Thune, McCain, Ayotte)
  • Spoke on sequestration.

Senator Thune: (11:11 AM)
  • SUMMARY "Reductions amount to $984 billion to be distributed evenly over a nine-year period, or $109.3 billion per year. What we're talking about is $54.7 billion in reductions will be necessary in both the defense and non-defense categories despite the fact, despite the fact the defense funding constitutes just 20% of the budget. As my colleague, Senator McCain, and Ayotte are well aware, the sequester disproportionately affects defense spending putting our security at risk. It has been almost a full year since the act was passed and Congress needs an understanding from this administration as to the full effects of sequestration on national security funding. Senator McCain and I along with Senator Sessions, others, Senator Ayotte called on the administration to detail the impact of sequestration on defense accounts. This information is necessary for Congress to address the deep and unbalanced defense cuts that are expected under sequestration which are in addition, I might add, to the $487 billion in reductions that were carried out last august. Little information has been made available from the administration about the planned cuts to defense, should give all of us pause about our nation's security if sequestration proceeds without any modifications. In a letter to Senator McCain and Senator Graham this past November, Secretary Panetta said that over the long term sequestration means that we will have the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest fleet of ships since 1915 and the smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the air force. If sequestration were to go into effect, we risk turning back the clock on our military strength to where it was during the early 20th century, before World War II. That clearly cannot be allowed to happen if we hope to have a future in which we are secure and prosperous and at peace with the world."

Senator McCain: (11:14 AM)
  • SUMMARY "One of the problems we have is not only sequestration itself, as my colleague from South Dakota just mentioned, but the American people don't fully understand the impact not only from a national security standpoint, but from an economic standpoint. And I appreciate and admire our Secretary of Defense who continues to say that sequestration would have devastating to our national security, the effects would be draconian in nature, and he has described it in the most graphic and I think accurate terms. But we don't know exactly what those impacts would be, and, unfortunately, the Secretary of Defense and the Defense Department have not given us in information as to what those impacts would be. The American people need to know and they deserve to know what these impacts would be. That's why we put in a requirement that the secretary of defense send to the congress and the American people the exact effects of this sequestration, which he has refused to do so up till now. And since we have not taken the bill to the floor and it may not be signed until the end of this year, that's why I have an amendment pending on the Farm bill to seek that same reporting, because members of Congress, elected representatives, and the American people deserve to know the effects of sequestration. And, one, they need to know from the interests of our national security, but they also need to know, I would argue to my friend - they also need to know from the impact on an already-faltering economy."

Senator Ayotte: (11:18 AM)
  • SUMMARY "I call the sequestration the biggest national security threat that you've never heard of. And the American people need to know this threat to their national security, to the protection of our country, which is our fundamental responsibility under the constitution. So I fully support the amendment that Senator McCain has brought forward on the farm bill, that he championed along with Senator Levin on the defense authorization, because we can't afford to keep hiding the details of what will happen to our Department of Defense and our military if sequestration goes forward. And just to be clear, as Senator Thune has already identified, the Department of Defense is taking significant reductions in the proposed 2013 budget from the president. The Department will take approximately $487 billion in reductions over the next ten years. That already means a reduction of approximately 72,000 of our army, a reduction of 20,000 of our marine corps, but what we're here talking about today is an additional $500 billion to $600 billion in defense cuts coming in January of 2013. Here's what we do know. As Senator McCain and Senator Thune have already talked about our secretary of defense has warned that these cuts will be devastating, that they'll be catastrophic, that we would be shooting ourselves in the head if we did this for our national security, that we'd be undermining our national security This is also an issue about jobs because the estimates are in terms of the job impact in this country, a George Mason University study estimates that over a million jobs will be lost in this country over one year over the sequestration issue and that's just looking at research and development and procurement. Let's talk about some of the states that will be impacted because every one of my colleagues represent a state in this chamber that will be impacted by the jobs at issue. We look at where our economy is right now and yet we continue not to address this fundamental issue of sequestration when a million jobs are at stake. For Virginia, the estimate is 123,000 jobs. Florida, 39,000 jobs. Ohio, 18,000 jobs. North Carolina, 11,000 jobs. Connecticut, 34,000 jobs. Pennsylvania, 36,000. In my state small state of New Hampshire, it is projected that we lose 3,300 jobs, so that's a conservative estimate. So not only is this an issue of our national security, but we're talking about our defense industrial base and once we lose much of the talent in that industrial base, it doesn't necessarily come back. We have many small employers who will go bankrupt and won't be able to come back and once they're gone, we lose their expertise."

Senator Thune: (11:28 AM)
  • SUMMARY "You mentioned that you and I both serve on the Budget Committee. This perhaps could have been avoided had we passed a budget that dealt with entitlement reform. The reason that we have these huge cuts, these steep and unbalanced cuts is because we punted under the Budget Control Act and this triggered these cuts in spending, half of which come out of the defense budget. So proportionality here seems to be a real issue. Why would you gut the part of a budget that from which you get the resources to keep your country safe and secure. But frankly it comes back, in my view, to the fact that for three consecutive years the Budget Committee on which you and I both serve has failed to produce a budget, spelling out a more reasonable plan for deal with these challenges as hopped opposed to having this budget fall on our national security interests. And so I am a just curious as to your thoughts with regard to the reason why we are where we are today."

Senator Ayotte: (11:29 AM)
  • SUMMARY "I would say, you're absolutely right. It's outrageous that it's been over 1,100 days that we have not had a budget in the Senate and that our Budget Committee that we both serve on, we're anxious to resolve the big picture of fiscal issues facing our country. If we did that function of budgeting, we wouldn't be in that position where we've put our national security at risk because we're not taking on the big picture fiscal issue to reform, get our fiscal house in order in Washington, make sure we reform mandatory spending, so that those programs are sustainable and available for future generations, and here we are. I mean, it's real astounding to me not only do I serve on the National Armed Services Committee, but I'm the wife of a veteran, and it is astounding to me that we would put our national security at risk rather than putting together a budget that is responsible and proportional and that is one of the underlying reasons why we find ourselves in the position that we are right now. And I would ask my colleague from South Dakota, you know, the president has a responsibility as the commander in chief on this very important issue. That is such an important and weighty responsibility as president of the United States to be commander in chief. And where has the president been on these issues."

Senator Thune: (11:31 AM)
  • SUMMARY "This is obviously a national security impact first and foremost and I have always maintained, if you don't get national security right, the rest is conversation. If you can't defend and protect the country, the rest is all secondary. But there is a huge economic impact, as was pointed out not only by the study you mentioned but also by the Congressional Budget Office who recently in speaking about the fiscal cliff that hits us early - the first part of - January of next year, could cost us 1.3% in growth, which according to the president's own economic advisors, would be 1.3 million jobs. Now, if the national security issue does not get your attention, certainly you would think the economy and jobs issue would and yet we are hearing silence, crickets coming out of the white house. And so I would hope that he would weigh in to this debate. Certainly at least provide us an idea about how the administration intends to implement this and hopefully a plan about how to avert what would be a catastrophic impact on our national security interest, as has always been emphasized by his own defense secretary."

Udall-CO, Nelson-NE, Stabenow

Executive Session

Jun 12 2012

Senator Udall-CO: (10:41 AM)
  • Spoke on the wind production tax credit.
    • SUMMARY "I rise today to talk about a very important issue for the economies of both my state and the entire nation. That's the future of the wind power industry. And a future that is at risk I might add if Congress doesn't he extend the production tax credit for wind. Such inaction jeopardizes U.S. jobs and threatens what's a real bright spot for American manufacturing. Many of us know - I think all of my colleagues know - that we've seen the wind industry grow by leaps and bounds over the last few years. According to the Wind Energy Industry Association, the industry has attracted an average of over $15 billion annually from 2001 to 2011 and private investment in our wind sector in the United States. In 2009, that figure was $20 billion when 10,000 megawatts, the highest annual total today, of wind were installed. 75,000 hardworking Americans find good-paying jobs in the wind sector, and there are 6,000 of those jobs in Colorado ... Just over the last four years wind represented 35% of all new power capacity in our country. Second only to natural gas. And with technological advances, wind turbines are now generating 30% more electricity per turbine, which means you're producing more energy while driving down costs. And this also means that all Americans from the Great Plains to the eastern shores have access to more affordable, reliable and secure clean energy. That's a win-win ... The wind production tax credits, known as the PTC it's been a key factor in this growth. It's been central to this young industry and it is still a very young industry. It's success here in America by helping make wind energy - it's still being commercialized more economically. However, this critical tax credit expires at the end of this year. And unless we act now in this Congress to extend the wind production tax credit, we risk losing this industry as well as the jobs, investment, and the manufacturing base that it creates. - creates to our competitors in china, in Europe, and other countries. That's the last thing we needs and our economy needs. So I've come to the floor to urge us, urge Congress, to keep our country an open marketplace for innovative industries and new investments. The United States is on the cutting edge of renewable energy technologies and on a path to further secure energy independence. And we have to maintain that momentum by passing an extension of the wind production tax credit ... We need to be reminded that American jobs are at stake if we fail to act. Simply put, if we don't extend the PTC as soon as possible, the wind industry will shrink significantly in 2013. Estimates are that we could lose almost half of the wind-supported jobs down from 78,000 in 2012 to 41,000 in 2013. And if we fail to extend the tax credit, total wind investment is projected to drop by nearly two-thirds, from $15.5 billion in 2012 to $5.5 billion in 2013. That's simply unacceptable."

Senator Nelson-NE: (10:50 AM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "The bill reforms a program of federal subsidies that have gone to farmers regardless of whether farm prices are high or low. These subsidies are known as direct farm payments. They were established by the 1996 Farm bill as a way to transition producers away from the government-controlled system of agriculture to more market-based agriculture. These direct farm payments, which are outdated government subsidies, were supposed to be temporary. The 2012 Farm bill takes the necessary step to eliminate them and remove them from the future. When this change is enacted, farmers won't be paid for crops they aren't growing on land they aren't planting. Eliminating direct payments will save $15 billion over ten years, which will be used for deficit reduction. Producing in my state understand that given our nation's fiscal problems, we have to have shared sacrifice to get the debt and deficit under control. As we end these outdated subsidies, the Farm bill establishes that crop insurance will be the point of risk management by strengthening crop insurance and expanding access so farmers are not wiped out by a few days of weather or bad prices. Crop crop insurance is a shared, public-private partnership that maintains the safety net that we all need to sustain American agriculture. In my efforts to identify other areas where shared sacrifice for deficit reduction can be pursued, I am now proposing an amendment to eliminate another set of government subsidies which are unnecessary and should be eliminated. These subsidies go to just 2% of the nation's livestock producers. They receive substantial taxpayer-paid subsidies for grazing on public lands. In the interest of fairness to all livestock producers and the taxpayers, we need to reform federal grazing subsidies. My amendment would require that ranchers grazing fees based more closely on market value for their region when grazing on public lands. Today the 2% of livestock producers grazing on public lands pay far below market value that other producers are paying. Given our huge federal debt and deficit, we can no longer afford to heavily subsidize an elite group of ranchers to raise their cattle on public lands at the taxpayers' expense. These ranchers receive a special deal - federal welfare, so to speak. But they don't need it and most ranchers can get - can't get and taxpayers shouldn't be paying for."

Senator Stabenow: (10:59 AM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "This is a jobs bill. 16 million people work in this country. There's not too many bills that we have on the floor that have the number 16 million. 16 million people work in this country because in some way we are related to agriculture and food production. It may be processing, it may be production, it may be in the sales end, 16 million people work in this country because of agriculture in some way, and it's important we get this right. We also have our major trade surplus in this country coming from agriculture. So we're producing it here and then we are selling it overseas. And I certainly want to make sure we're focusing on exporting our products, not our jobs. And the shining star of that is in agriculture. What we have seen just in the last few years, a 270% increase in agricultural exports in trade. So this is a big deal for us, and it's part of why this is a jobs bill, and very important to us. We also know that we need to reform production, agricultural policies. So this bill is very much about cutting subsidies as well as creating jobs. What are we doing? Well, we have taken a different view in this Farm bill. Rather than focusing on protecting individual programs that have been there for a long time, we focused on principles. What is it that we need to do to have a strong economy to support our farmers, whether it's a weather disaster like we've had in Michigan or whether it's a disaster in the markets in prices, we don't want any farmer losing the farm because of a disaster beyond their control. And we all have a stake in that. There's nothing more risky in terms of a business than agriculture when you are at the whim of the weather and other market forces. And so we want to make sure that we're there. But we also know that for too long we've paid government money to folks that didn't need it for crops that didn't grow. We're not going to do that anymore. This is huge reform in public policy, where we are moving to risk-based management, we are focusing on those things that we need to do to cut the deficit and strengthen and consolidate and save dollars, but also provide risk management. So we are in fact in this bill reducing the deficit by $23 billion $23 billion cuts, we do that by repealing what's called direct payments that go to a farmer regardless of what's happening, whether it's good times or bad. In fact, we replace four different farm subsidies with a strengthening of crop insurance and additional risk-management efforts when there is a loss by the individual farmer, the county. We focus on loss. And as I indicated, we will support farmers for what they plant. We strengthen payment limits in terms of where we focus precious taxpayer dollars. And we also took a scalpel. We looked at every part of the USDA programs. We looked for duplication of what made sense, what was outdated, and we actually eliminated 100 different programs and authorizations within this policy, this farm bill policy."

McConnell, Reid

Opening Remarks

Jun 12 2012

  • Today --
    • The Senate will resume consideration of Executive Calendar #607, Andrew David Hurwitz, of Arizona, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit, post-cloture. The first hour will be equally divided, with the Majority controlling the first 30 minutes and the Republicans controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • At 12:30 PM, the Senate will recess until 2:15 PM for the weekly caucus lunches.
    • It is expected that the post-cloture time on the Hurwitz nomination will be yielded back today and the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on confirmation at a time TBD.
    • Following disposition of the Hurwitz nomination, the Motion to Proceed to S. 3240, the Farm bill, will be Agreed to and the Senate will begin consideration of the bill.

Senator McConnell: (10:05 PM)
  • Spoke on the economy.
    • SUMMARY "Last week the President said the private sector is doing fine. Well, the fact is the private sector isn't doing fine, and the President's comments made me wonder what private sector he may be talking about. Since he took office, we've had 40 straight months of unemployment over 8% and more than 23 million Americans are either unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for a job altogether. Last month's jobs report said the economy added only 69,000 jobs. Far, far below what forecasters had predicted. That's the Obama economy and it's not doing fine. And with a debt the size of our GDP, the President's recent push for even more government spending is equally out of touch. Taking more money out of the private sector, out of the hands of businesses and job creators or borrowing it to pay for yet another stimulus has consequences. We need to reduce the size and scope of government, not expand it. We need to put in place a pro-growth policy to allow the private sector to flourish. That's why republicans have been calling for years for comprehensive tax reform and for both parties to sit down and begin the process of reforming entitlements. That's how we'll get our fiscal house in order and help the economy grow as well. But without presidential leadership, it simply can't happen. Controlling only one chamber, Republicans in Congress can only do so much. The Republican-led House has passed budgets while for three and a half years the Democratic-led Senate has refused to do so. And they passed 28 job-related bills over in the House that our Democratic friends here in the Senate refuse to take up. For our part, Senate Republicans have continued to pursue a pro-jobs agenda, and I would encourage our democratic friends to join us before the administration's spending and debt spree forces us into the sort of economic spiral we currently see facing folks over across the Atlantic."
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "Here are just a few examples of this administration's policies that are suffocating the American agricultural industry and the Republican amendments we want the senate to take up. Last fall the Department of Labor attempted to regulate the relationship, believe it or not, shared between parents and their kids on family farms. The proposed rule would have prohibited those under age 16 from manual labor like stall cleaning, using a shovel, using a battery-operated screwdriver. Many people in my state consider this the type of manual labor that are widely referred to as Saturday morning choice. Senator Thune is offering an amendment that would require the Department of Labor to consult with congress before implementing such regulations. The EPA wants to lift the ban that prevents Washington DC bureaucrats from regulating non-navigable waters. The expanded federal jurisdiction would bring the EPA and their red tape and taxes into the backyards of millions, literally millions of Americans. The economic impact would be disastrous. Congress passed a navigable ban to protect families, small business and farmers from Washington bureaucrats trying to seize control of their water or their land. The U.S. Supreme Court twice affirmed the limits of federal authority under the Clean Water Act but apparently the EPA believes they are above the other two branches of government, and Senators Paul and Barrasso are offering two amendments that would stop the EPA in its tracks. The EPA is considering a regulation that would require farm and ranch families to take as yet undefined measures to lower the amount of dust that occurs naturally - I'm not kidding you. Lower the amount of dust that occurs naturally and is transmitted into the air due to agricultural production activities. It's hard to go through this and maintain your composure. Things such as combining, haying, moving cattle, tilling a field or even driving down a gravel road, failure to do so would result in a substantial fine. Senator Johanns is offering an amendment that would prevent the EPA from issuing any new rule that regulates agricultural dust. I kid you not, they want to regulate agricultural dust. Finally Senator Crapo and Senator Johanns are offering an amendment that would help farmers across the country manage their unique business risks associated with day-to-day operations. The amendment would prevent unnecessary capital from diverting away from job creation and invest in businesses that was never intended by the Dodd-Frank Act. This would protect farmers in businesses and ultimately help save American jobs. In these extremely difficult economic times, rural America is already struggling to get by, and they simply can't be bothered by an overreaching federal government that has literally no idea of the unintended consequences of its policies. These five commonsense republican amendments i have outlined, along with several others, put an end to numerous job-killing regulations, and each of these amendments deserves a vote."
  • Spoke on the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act.
    • SUMMARY "Every year since 2003 I have come to the floor of the United States Senate to introduce the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, and every year introduction of this bill has been accompanied by a somber message to the Senate that reform in Burma is nowhere in sight. That's what I said every year going back to 2003. This year I'm pleased to say though the bill's language is the same, the message is far different, as is the legal effect of the legislation. In a remarkable turn-about of events over the past 18 months, Burma has made dramatic changes for the better. In response to these developments, the administration recently decided it will ease many of the economic sanctions against Burma through exercise of its waiver authority. And as a result, this year's Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act would effectively renew only a handful of the sanctions against the regime and would preserve the administration's flexibility to use its waiver authority ... Why are we moving this sanctions bill again if Burma has made such dramatic, positive steps? Well, there are several reasons, and let me lay them out. First, the Burmese government still has not met all the necessary conditions to justify a complete repeal of all existing sanctions. Despite the unmistakable progress, now is not the time to encourage further government reform or to revisit sanctions if that became necessary. As Suu Kyi herself has cautioned, the situation in Burma is not - not - irreversible. Serious challenges need to be addressed. Violence in Kachin state remains a problem. Numerous prisoners remain behind bars. The constitution is still completely undemocratic, and the regime's relationship with North Korea, especially when it comes to arms sales remains an issue of grave concern. As I noted, reviewing the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act would leave intact the import ban against Burmese goods, thus maintaining leverage the executive branch can utilize to help prompt further reform. Reauthorizing this measure would permit the executive branch, in consultation with congress, to calibrate sanctions as necessary, thus preserving flexibility. Second, the renewal of this sanctions bill will not affect - will not affect the administration's current efforts to ease sanctions, as announced on May 17. Let me repeat that renewing the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act will leave undisturbed the process for suspending sanctions announced three weeks ago. In part, for this returning the State Department supports renewal of this measure. In fact, a vote for reauthorization of the Burmese freedom and Democracy Act should be seen as a vote in support of the administration's easing of sanctions and a vote to support reform efforts in Burma. As a practical matter, renewal of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act would entail, number one, extending for another year the ban against Burmese imports; number two, continuing authority for financial services sanctions, but leaving in place the authority the administration needs to proceed with the easing - the easing - of such restrictions; and leaving untouched the administration's ability to ease the investment ban, which is part of a separate bill. Finally, renewal of the Burmese freedom and Democracy Act has continued bipartisan support in congress and the support of Suu Kyi and the democratic opposition in Burma. There are unfortunately too few issues where the administration has sought to work with Congress in a bipartisan manager, mighty few in fact. But on the issue of sanctions reauthorization, the State Department and I are in full agreement."

Senator Reid: (10:24 AM)
  • Spoke on GOP obstructionism.
    • SUMMARY "Republicans have blocked bill after bill after bill. These job-creating bills have been introduced. Simply, every one of these with rare exception has been stopped on a procedural basis by the Republicans. Then the Republican leader cites non-relevant Republican amendments that they would like to offer on the farm bill as a way to create jobs. But it's precisely these non-relevant, non-germane amendments that keep the Senate from doing its work, its job-creating work, like the Farm bill. The Farm bill has 16 million people that work on farm programs. We haven't done one in five years. The Highway bill is something where we encouraged Republicans in the House to work with us on that. We live in a world that's imperfect. We live in a country that's imperfect. But let's give credit where credit is due. President Obama found this country in a deep hole when he was elected three and a half years ago. The administration had a he replaced lost more than 8 million jobs, about a million jobs a year in the prior administration. And President Obama has had 27 straight months of private job creation. So I think he deserves some credit for the work he's done in that regard. So I really strongly object to my Republican leader's remarks. It's just simply wrong, and if we had some cooperation from my friends on the other side of the aisle, as we say, we would have a lot more jobs created in this country. But my friend has said that his number-one issue is to defeat President Obama. And that's happened here. We simply haven't been able to legislate appropriately because of that mantra."
  • Spoke on cybersecurity.
    • SUMMARY "Some of the top nation's security officials, including General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; General David Petraeus, four-star general, now head of the CIA, one of the nation's greatest patriots, and Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense have said the most malicious cyber attacks and threats to our country not North Korea, not Afghanistan, not Pakistan, but cyber attacks. We've already seen some things that have been kind of quiet to some but not those in the security field. We've seen cyber attacks on our nuclear infrastructure, our Defense Department's most advanced weapons, and the stock exchange, NASDAQ, had an attack. And most major corporations have been attacked. They spent huge amounts of money just protecting their product and their operations from that collapse as a result of cyber attacks. Cyber attacks don't threaten only our national security, they threaten our economic security. These attacks cost our economy billions of dollars every year, millions of dollars every hour, and thousands of jobs. So we need to act quickly to pass legislation to make our nation safer and protect American jobs. The Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security and experts across the intelligence community have issued chilling warnings about the seriousness of this threat. I can't stress enough how concerned people who understand security feel about this. Just a few days ago Senator McConnell and I received a letter from a remarkable bipartisan group of former national security officials, Democrats and Republicans ... It presented a danger in stark terms, as stark as I can imagine. This is a public letter this is what this one letter says "we carry the burden of knowing that 9/11 might have been averted with intelligence that existed at the time. Listen to that. They're admitting that 9/11 could have been averted with the tools we had at hand. They go on to say we do not want to be in the same position again when cyber-9/11 hits. "It is not a question of whether this will happen. It is a question of when." National security experts agree we can't afford to waste any more time. The question is not whether to act but how quickly we can act. I put everyone on notice, we are going to move to this bill at the earliest possible date."

Jun 12 2012

The Senate Convened.

Jun 12 2012

The Senate is considering S. 3240, the farm bill.  The Senate is also considering the nomination of Andrew Hurwitz (AZ) to be United States circuit judge for the Ninth Circuit.  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.