Senate Calendar

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mar 12 2012

Senator Durbin: (6:10 PM)
  • Spoke on GOP obstructionism of judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY SUMMARY "Our nation faces a serious problem. One out of every ten federal judgeships is vacant, yet we continue to see, unfortunately and sadly, unprecedented obstruction from the other side of the aisle when it comes to these nominations. Right now executive calendar of the United States senate there are 22 judicial nominations pending. 12 of these 22 were successfully voted out of the Judiciary Committee last year. Two of them as far back as October. 17 of the nominees are currently on the calendar. They were voted out with strong bipartisan support. 13 of the nominees of the 22 that are being held have the approval of the republican senator from the state where the nomination is being made. Despite the fact that these nominations are not controversial, that they passed bipartisan through the Judiciary Committee and out of the committee, they still languish on the calendar because of Republican objections President Obama's district court nominees have waited an average of 93 days on the Senate executive calendar between a committee vote and a floor vote. 93 days. How about George W. Bush? How long did his nominees sit on the calendar before Democrats would let them have a vote? 24 days. 93 days under the Republicans. 24 days under the Democrats. President Obama's confirmed circuit court nominees have been forced to wait an average of 136 days for a floor vote. President Bush's circuit court nominees? 29 days. 136 days, way over four months, for the Obama nominees. less than a month for the Bush nominees. Overall at this point in their terms, President Obama has had 131 nominees confirmed at the federal, circuit and district court level compared to 172 for President Bush, 183 for President Clinton. It is so obvious the Republicans are stopping worthy bipartisan nominees for strictly political reasons. Current judicial vacancies at this point in President Obama's term are 83, nearly double the 46 vacancies in President Bush's term."
  • Spoke on the tornado storms in Illinois.

Senator Stabenow: (6:25 PM)
  • Spoke in support of Stabenow amendment #1812 (energy tax credits).
    • SUMMARY "My amendment #1812 that would stop a tax increase on American businesses that are creating clean energy jobs by extending the energy tax cuts. The energy tax credits that have been so important to stimulating the diversity of opportunity for us in terms of energy sources and things are beginning to move. It would be such an error to stop or slow this down at this point It extends this extremely successful advanced energy manufacturing tax credit that has been called 48-C ... My amendment extends the tax cut for companies that provide energy efficient appliances in lieu of tax credits, credits for those who install charging stations for electric vehicles, tax cuts for companies producing the next generation of bio-fuels and much, much more. It also extends the extremely important production tax cut. This tax cut for wind energy which supports businesses and utilities that produce electricity from wind."

Senator Reid: (7:01 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Tomorrow --
    • The Senate will convene at 10:00 AM and proceed to a period of Morning Business for 1 hour, with Senators permitted to speak up to 10 minutes each. The time will be equally divided with the Majority controlling the first 30 minutes and the Republicans controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • Thereafter, the Senate will resume consideration of S. 1813, the Highway bill. A managers' package will also be in order, along with applicable budget points of order and applicable motions to waive.
    • The following 22 amendments are in order:
      • Roberts amendment #1826, as modified (side-by-side to Stabenow amendment #1812, as modified) (60 votes required);
      • Stabenow amendment #1812, as modified (energy tax credits) (60 votes required);
      • DeMint amendment #1589 (repeal certain energy tax subsidies) (60 votes required);
      • Menendez/Burr amendment #1782 (Natural Gas Act) (60 votes required);
      • DeMint amendment #1756 (state authority);
      • Bingaman amendment #1759 (privatized highways);
      • Coats amendment #1517 (make percentage of gas taxes equal to percentage of apportioned funds);
      • Brown-OH amendment #1819 (Buy America provisions);
      • Blunt amendment #1540 (off-system bridges);
      • Merkley amendment #1814 (farm vehicle exemptions);
      • Portman amendment #1736 (state transportation spending flexibility);
      • Klobuchar amendment #1617 (transportation of agricultural commodities and farm supplies);
      • Corker amendment #1785, as modified (adjust FY13 discretionary spending cap);
      • Shaheen amendment #1678 (increase funding for public transportation systems with less than 50 buses);
      • Portman amendment #1742 (non-highway uses in rest areas);
      • Corker amendment #1810 (limit expenditures to amount in Highway Trust Fund);
      • Carper amendment #1670 (removal of federal program limitations);
      • Hutchison amendment #1568 (prohibit new tolls);
      • McCain amendment #1669, as modified (noise abatement over Grand Canyon);
      • Alexander amendment #1779 (overflights of national parks);
      • Boxer amendment #1816 (sense of Senate re: expeditious environmental reviews); and
      • Paul amendment #1556 (emergency exemptions).
    • At 12:00 PM, the Senate will proceed to 2 ROLL CALL VOTES on:
      • DeMint amendment #1756 (state authority); and
      • Bingaman amendment #1759 (privatized highways).
    • Following the ROLL CALL VOTE on the Bingaman amendment, the Senate will recess until 2:15 PM for the weekly caucus luncheons.
    • At 2:15 PM, the Senate will resume a series of ROLL CALL VOTES on the remaining amendments and final passage of the bill, as amended.
The Senate stands adjourned until 10:00 AM Tuesday, March 13th.

Kyl, Reid

Morning Business

Mar 12 2012

Senator Kyl: (5:02 PM)
  • Unanimous Consent: Not withstanding any other rule of the Senate, that immediately following the disposition of the pending Transportation bill, the Senate proceed to the consideration of H.R. 3606, a bill received from the House which would increase American job creation and economic growth by improving access to the public capital markets for emerging growth companies (JOBS Act). (Reid objected).
Senator Reid (5:03 PM):
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "Last week the House passed their jobs bill. The purpose of that bill was to loosen securities regulations for small businesses and it's what they call a JOBS Act. It's not going to create a lot of jobs, but it's important legislation. The House passed the bill 390-23 last Thursday. The White House issued a statement supporting the legislation. This piece of legislation clearly needs to be brought before the senate as soon as we can. We'll work to get a consent agreement that would provide for consideration of a handful of amendments to the legislation. I'd be more than happy to work with the Senate to get a short time agreement providing for its consideration. One of the issues I would alert my friend to is that we've been working diligently for a way to get the import-export bank reauthorized. It is so important that we do that. I met recently with the head of Boeing aircraft. It's so important for their business and many other businesses. It's really a job-creating measure. I'm not going to have that hold up this legislation, but at least I'm going to have a substitute that we can dispose of quickly if I can get my friends to agree to this, to have a vote on that. There are a few things that we need to do but I suggest to everyone here that I know how important this is to get finished. I don't need anyone to suggest that we're not going to do that. we are. I want to get it done this work period and in Senate time, that's pretty fast because we don't even have the bill yet from the House. That's why I object."
  • Filed Cloture on the following nominations:
    • Executive Calendar #408, Gina Marie Groh, of West Virginia, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of West Virginia;
    • Executive Calendar #441, David Nuffer, of Utah, to be United States District Judge for the District of Utah;
    • Executive Calendar #461, Michael Walter Fitzgerald, of California, to be United States District Judge for the Central District of California;
    • Executive Calendar #462, Ronnie Abrams, of New York, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York;
    • Executive Calendar #463, Rudolph Contreras, of Virginia, to be United States District Judge for the District of Columbia;
    • Executive Calendar #464, Miranda Du, of Nevada, to be United States District Judge for the District of Nevada;
    • Executive Calendar #497, Susie Morgan, of Louisiana, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana;
    • Executive Calendar #509, Gregg Jeffrey Costa, of Texas, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas;
    • Executive Calendar #510, David Campos Guaderrama, of Texas, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Texas;
    • Executive Calendar #528, Brian C. Wimes, of Missouri, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern and Western Districts of Missouri;
    • Executive Calendar #568, Kristine Gerhard Baker, of Arkansas, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas;
    • Executive Calendar #569, John Z. Lee, of Illinois, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois;
    • Executive Calendar #570, George Levi Russell, III, of Maryland, to be United States District Judge for the District of Maryland;
    • Executive Calendar #571, John J. Tharp, Jr., of Illinois, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois;
    • Executive Calendar #610, Jeffrey J. Helmick, of Ohio, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio;
    • Executive Calendar #612, Mary Geiger Lewis, of South Carolina, to be United States District Judge for the District of South Carolina; and
    • Executive Calendar #613, Timothy S. Hillman, of Massachusetts, to be United States District Judge for the District of Massachusetts.

Kyl

Morning Business

Mar 12 2012

Senator Kyl: (3:47 PM)
  • Spoke on the economy and jobs.
    • SUMMARY "I come to the floor today to respond to some arguments made in a recent opinion article by the Chairman and Ranking member of the Senate and House Budget Committees respectively. It's entitled "GOP Budget Attacks Misguided." The crux of the piece is that President Obama has made great progress in improving the economic outlook and it would improve even more if only Republicans would embrace his policies. The first set of claims I want to respond to relate to the strength of the economic recovery. The authors write "we have come a long way since the peak of the recession, thanks to actions taken by the Obama administration, and we have had 23 consecutive months of private sector job growth." Well, to start, I don't think that the 12.8 million unemployed Americans would agree that we have come a long way. Indeed, it's been two and a half years since the recession technically ended and we're still experiencing the weakest recovery since the great depression growth is anemic and there are 700,000 fewer employed Americans today than when President Obama took office. Although it's been three years since passage of the stimulus bill, unemployment has been above 8% for the last 35 months. Remember, this legislation was sold as a way to keep unemployment below 8%. These are some of the signs that actions taken by the administration are not working. You get Americans back to work or improve the economy. Now, regarding the claim that America has had 23 consecutive months of private sector job growth, the President has been citing this number on the campaign trail in saying that 3.7 million jobs were created during that time but the claim doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Those who cite it don't account for the role that new work force entrants play in employment streaks. Economists generally agree that for employment to hold even, about 150,000 jobs must be created each month to employ new entrants into the work force. These people include those who have recently concluded military service or family obligations and recent graduates. If you multiply 150,000 by 23 months, you get about 3.45 million jobs. That means that even by the administration's own figures, only about 250,000 new jobs have been created in roughly two years. Moreover, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the net positive increase in payrolls was above 150,000 during just nine of the 23 months to which the president referred. So yes, it would have been nice to have 23 consecutive months of private sector job growth, but that's not really what happened. Again, you need 150,000 just to stay even with the new people entering the work force, and in only nine of these 23 years did the economy produce that many jobs."

Sessions, Johnson-WI

Morning Business

Mar 12 2012

Colloquy: (Senators Sessions, Johnson-WI)
  • Spoke on Obamacare

Senator Sessions: (3:08 PM)
  • SUMMARY "It's not been that long since the President's health care proposal has been passed. If we recall, it was passed on Christmas eve, after a long battle. We were told, well, don't worry what's in it. We'll have to pass it first to find out what's in it."

Senator Johnson-WI: (3:11 PM)
  • SUMMARY "We simply can't afford not to have the American people, not to have members of congress understand the true cost of the health care law and I would just remind everybody that back in 1965 when they passed the Medicare bill, First of all, the entire bill was less than 300 pages. I mean, that was kind of interesting. The provision that applied to Medicare alone was about 124 pages. That compares of course to the 2,600 or 2,700-page bill, the patient protection and affordable care bill was. Now there's been over 10,000 pages regulation just trying to implement this thing. When they passed Medicare, they statement out 25 years. In 1990, Medicare would cost $12 billion. In fact, it cost $110 billion, more than nine times of original cost estimate. Senator Sessions, I'm new here but I have been watching this tong pretty closely. I don't believe Washington has gotten any better in projecting and estimating figures, particularly not on new entitlements that people want around here. They always tend to underestimate in order to be able to pass these things, particularly a bill like the health care law that was done in such a partisan fashion without any really support or any kind of input from our side. so the point of my questions to Secretary Sebelius last week was to just lay out the broken programs that have already occurred before we really even begin or have only begun to implement this law enforcement the first broken promise I asked her about was the very famous guarantee of President Obama that said if you pass this health care law, every single family will see their insurance premium, their annual insurance premium, go down by $2,500 by the end of his term by the way. The Kaiser family foundation has found out that health care premiums have gone up about $2,200 per year. That's a $4,700 difference in just the first three years of this administration, really only two years after it was originally passed."

Senator Johnson-WI: (3:15 PM)
  • SUMMARY "The administration also famously said that this thing - this health care law would not add one dime to the deficit. in fact, the original projections were that it would save $143 billion in the first ten years. Well, thankfully, the administration has recognized that the CLASS Act was, as, you know, Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad said, is a ponzi scheme. It simply was not financeable workable so they're not implementing it. Well, because they're not implementing it, they're not going to get $86 billion worth of rev so that's going to eat away at that $143 billion of deficit reduction. and then of course last - a couple weeks ago when President Obama presented his fiscal year 2013 budget, included in that budget was - was $111 billion request - or I guess cost estimate - on the mandatory spending of the health care exchanges. If you add the $111 billion to the $86 billion that gives you $197 billion of reduced deficit reduction, if that makes sense. So bottom line here is I think that's broken promise number two. I do not believe in the first ten years that this thing's actually going to reduce the deficit and Senator Sessions, it's far worse than that. These are the small numbers. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the revisions that are going to be occurring when we actually start finding out what the true cost of the health care law is."

Senator Sessions: (3:17 PM)
  • SUMMARY "Well, the promise was that - and it was repeated here, and the President went on national TV, I believe he said it at the state of the union, this bill will not add one dime to the deficit. If you drop out the $80 billion or so and he estimated that his plan, if passed, would actually create $143 billion in surplus, in extra revenue for the treasury. It wouldn't cost anything, it would create more money and so you lose $80 billion or so because the CLASS Act is proven to be the ponzi scheme Senator Conrad said it would be and we just saw a request in the President's budget for $111 billion more for the exchanges. Well, that already wipes out entirely, does it not, the promise that it wouldn't add to the deficit before the bills even implemented, really? The projections are that it would - it would cost money rather than make money for the treasury?"

Senator Johnson-WI: (3:18 PM)
  • SUMMARY "Exactly. That's broken promise number two and, of course, broken promise number three is also famously, this President said, "if you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away no matter what." Now, there's a couple pieces of evidence that prove that that also is a broken promise. First of all, the CBO, in its initial cost estimate of the health care law, estimated that a million people would lose their employer-sponsored care and be put in the exchanges. So right away - by the way, that's a gross underestimate and we'll talk about that a little bit later. But also, just the fact that the Department of HHS has granted 1,200 to 1,700 waivers from basically some of the requirements of the health care law also indicate that were it not for those waivers, basically employers are saying, listen, we need some relief here. Were it not for those waivers, you know, my concern would be, and I think this is probably pretty true, is that those employers would probably be forced to drop coverage and those waivers cover about 4 million American Let me describe a little bit why I believe the million-person estimate is so underestimated. there have been surveys of employers conducted now in the last year that prove or that indicate that employers, when they take a look at the whole cost equation of the health care law, 30% to 50% in one survey conducted by the McKinsey company, that 30% planned on dropping their health care coverage shortly after implementation. Well, Senator Sessions, if that were to happen, 130 million Americans get their care through an employer-sponsored plan. If 50% drop their plan, that could mean 90 million Americans could lose their employer-sponsored care and then get put in the exchanges and we're trying to work with the CBO to find out exactly what that would cost but in their initial estimate, they thought - they estimated it would be $7,000 average subsidy per person in the exchange. Now, if you deduct for the $2,000 penalty and the deduct deductibility, that cost could be $14,000 to the federal government. Instead of $95 billion a year, Senator Sessions, the health care law could cost us half a trillion if 50% of the employers drop their coverage and that's scary."

Senator Sessions: (3:21 PM)
  • SUMMARY "The administration estimate only 1 million would go into the exchanges and these are the areas where if you don't have employer-based health care, the government will subsidize your health care program for you and it costs the treasury money. This is how we get in financial trouble, when we make bad estimates."

Senator Johnson-WI: (3:33 PM)
  • SUMMARY "Look at the name of it: the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act. It's not going to protect patients. If we're going to lower the quality of care, if it's going to result in rationing, if it limits innovation, how does that protect patients? Affordable Care Act, you ticked off the three reasons it's not going to be affordable. It's going to drive up costs. It's a fiction."

Senator Sessions: (3:34 PM)
  • SUMMARY "To get the score that they got, that it would make a surplus of $140 billion but the money was Medicare money. They raised tax s from Medicare. They cut costs from Medicare. They created some money on Medicare but the money was borrowed by the U.S. treasury and spent on this new program. The money's owed to the Medicare trustees who are trustees by law. They are holding debt instruments from the United States but because it's an internal debt, it doesn't score. That may be complicated, but it's not. Trust me. They borrowed this money and sooner or later when Medicare is going into deep financial distress, is going to call their bonds from the treasury and the treasury is going to have to pay it. They're going to borrow the money on the open market so they can pay the Medicare trustees the money they borrowed from them. This is not a good way to do business."

Burr

Morning Business

Mar 12 2012

Senator Burr: (2:16 PM)
  • Spoke in support of Menendez/Burr amendment #1782 (Natural Gas Act).
    • SUMMARY "Some in Congress will tell you that shifting natural gas usage through federal legislation shouldn't be done. Let me be clear. I agree 100%. The federal government is not the one that should be legislating how markets go but when I consider the federal government, we're speaking for the American taxpayer, because usually they are the ones that are the backup funder of everything that we pass. This bill doesn't do it. This bill is a five-year bill and it sunsets. It goes away and it funds the roughly $3.4 billion with a user fee on the exact people that are benefited by it. Those natural gas users. You see, the American taxpayer has no skin in this game. They all say that the federal government, the American taxpayers, shouldn't fund any new tax credits or subsidies. I agree. These are the two criticisms that this bill has received. I agree with them totally. Read the bill. That's not what we do. We fund it from the people that benefit from the credits and from the subsidies We have got an opportunity right now without taxpayer funding to accelerate this move in 18-wheel vehicles, in fleet vehicles, in municipal trucks and automobiles. So I think that we can and I think that we should accelerate it. Again, natural gas is the only flexible mobile fuel we have. It's not like there are other options out there that we can accomplish this with. I believe that if credits or subsidies are paid for by the users, those that benefit, that this is a good thing and it is good policy. Think about it for a moment. If you took all of your 18-wheel vehicles in America and you put them on natural gas, you would reduce foreign oil by one-third. Do you want to know how to bring down the price of gasoline and diesel? There it is. Take one-third of the demand and shift it over to natural gas What's part of the natural gas bill, it creates a credit, a subsidy so that that infrastructure that's needed is out there and oh, by the way, we have still got the credit in place for individual consumers that want to have fueling stations. We're not re-creating the solar or wind subsidies or credits. We're not re-creating an ethanol subsidy for gasoline that Americans have just had a huge distaste for. We're taking not a technology of the future and investing in it, we're taking a technology that's here today and saying let's create the incentive for this to explode, for this to be a game changer in the global balance of trade If you accelerate the use of natural gas in trucks, fleets, municipalities, what you're going to have is you're going to have another explosion of natural gas finds. You're going to increase supply. If anything, you may see prices drop even further, but without the demand, I can assure you the future is very predictable. We have this fuel at home. It's on land. There is some offshore, but the majority of the finds are on land and more importantly, this has happened exactly where we need it. Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Dakota, Oklahoma and yes, probably North Carolina and Virginia. The fact is none of us know today because some areas geologically have never been explored for. What are the realities? Well, if we can out produce what we consume, one of two things will happen. One, we'll build an infrastructure to sell it all around the world, or two, we'll slow the exploration. In both cases, the price will go up. Isn't that why people are against this bill? Because they are scared the price is going to go up? In fact, this bill is the only thing that will keep natural gas prices at historically low costs. Anything less than this would cause devastation throughout the marketplace. Many say let the markets drive what happens. That's what I'm doing."

Reid

Opening Remarks

Mar 12 2012

Senator Reid: (2:02 PM)
  • Today --
    • The Senate will proceed to a period of Morning Business until 4:00 PM, with Senators permitted to speak up to 10 minutes each.
    • At 4:00 PM, the Senate will resume consideration of S. 1813, the Highway bill.
    • There will be NO ROLL CALL VOTES during today's session of the Senate.
  • The following 22 amendments are in order to S. 1813, the Highway bill (and will be voted on in the order listed):
    • Roberts amendment #1826 (side-by-side to Stabenow amendment #1812) (60 votes required);
    • Stabenow amendment #1812 (energy tax credits) (60 votes required);
    • DeMint amendment #1589 (repeal certain energy tax subsidies) (60 votes required);
    • Menendez/Burr amendment #1782 (Natural Gas Act) (60 votes required);
    • DeMint amendment #1756 (state authority);
    • Bingaman amendment #1759 (privatized highways);
    • Coats amendment #1517 (make percentage of gas taxes equal to percentage of apportioned funds);
    • Brown (OH) amendment #1819 (Buy America provisions);
    • Blunt amendment #1540 (off-system bridges);
    • Merkley amendment #1814 (farm vehicle exemptions);
    • Portman amendment #1736 (state transportation spending flexibility);
    • Klobuchar amendment #1617 (transportation of agricultural commodities and farm supplies);
    • Corker amendment #1785, as modified (adjust FY13 discretionary spending cap);
    • Shaheen amendment #1678 (increase funding for public transportation systems with less than 50 buses);
    • Portman amendment #1742 (non-highway uses in rest areas);
    • Corker amendment #1810 (limit expenditures to amount in Highway Trust Fund);
    • Carper amendment #1670 (removal of federal program limitations);
    • Hutchison amendment #1568 (prohibit new tolls);
    • McCain amendment #1669, as modified (noise abatement over Grand Canyon);
    • Alexander amendment #1779 (overflights of national parks);
    • Boxer amendment #1816 (sense of Senate re: expeditious environmental reviews); and
    • Paul amendment #1556 (emergency exemptions).
  • At a time to be determined on Tuesday, the Senate will proceed to a series of ROLL CALL VOTES on the remaining 22 amendments and passage of S. 1813, the Highway bill, as amended. A managers' package will also be in order, along with applicable budget points of order and applicable motions to waive.
  • Honored Chaplain Barry Black.
  • Spoke on GOP obstructionism of President Obama's judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "The Senate could act tomorrow to put highly-qualified judges on the federal bench, judges who are supported by both Democrats and Republicans. The Senate could act tomorrow to ease the backlog of cases, lighten the load of overworked judges and shorten the time it takes to see justice done in our great country. The Senate could act tomorrow to confirm 22 judges currently ready to serve but awaiting Senate action. These are 22 qualified consensus nominees, the overwhelming majority of them received unanimous support from the Judiciary committee. They have the support of Republican senators from their home states. 11 of these nominees would fill vacancies designated as judicial emergencies. We're filing, I will soon announce, cloture on all these to bring to stop the filibuster being conducted on these good men and women who want to serve. We're going to file on 17. 11 of these people that we're trying to get confirmed, are nominees from judicial emergency states, yet Republicans have refused to allow us to even vote - won't even allow us to vote - on these qualified judicial nominees. Republicans have prevented the senator from doing its constitutional duty and that's what it is. The House doesn't have to deal with this because our constitution says that that's our obligation, to confirm or reject the nominations the President sends to us. We should have up-or-down votes on these. The kind of qualified consensus nominees that in years past would have been confirmed in days or weeks now languish for months and months with no ac action. There are judges on this list go back to November of last year. Not because we couldn't have done it. These could be confirmed in a matter of minutes. The votes should be routine. They shouldn't be a fight that delays action on important jobs measures. Creating jobs is the Senate's number-one priority. Republican obstructionism is the only thing standing in the way of moving forward with additional work to get our economy back on track. Unfortunately, Republicans have forced our hand. What else can we do?"
  • Later today, Majority Leader Reid has indicated that he will file cloture on 17 judicial nominations.

Mar 12 2012

The Senate Convened.

Mar 12 2012

The Senate is considering S. 1813, the highway bill. Republican senators continue to focus on creating jobs, lowering the deficit, reducing gas prices, and replacing the Democrats' health care bill with reforms that will actually lower costs.