Senate Calendar

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jun 13 2012

Senator Brown-OH: (7:02 PM)
  • 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 Majority controlling the first 30 minutes and the Republicans controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • 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 #2406 (text of Coburn amendment #2353 re: working lands conservation programs) to Reid amendment #2391; and
      5. Reid 2nd-degree amendment #2407 (text of DeMint amendment #2285 re: discretionary spending) to Reid amendment #2406.
The Senate stands adjourned until 9:30 AM Thursday June 14th.

Durbin, Lautenberg, Brown-OH

Flood Insurance bill (S. 1940)

Jun 13 2012

Senator Durbin: (5:54 PM)
  • Spoke on the DREAM Act.
    • SUMMARY "11 years ago I introduced the DREAM Act, 11 years. The DREAM Act is a bill that would give a select group of immigrant student whose grew up in America the chance to earn their way to legal status if they do one of two things: serve in America's military or at least complete two years of college in good standing. These young people were brought to the United States as children ... The fundamental premise of the DREAM Act is that we shouldn't punish kids for any wrongdoing by the parents. That isn't the American way. As Senator Rubio has said, just because the parents got it wrong, we shouldn't hold it against the kids. As Justice Brennan said, legislation directing the onus of a parent's misconduct does not comport with fundamental perceptions of justice. The DREAM Act isn't just the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do for America. The DREAM Act would help our economy by giving that's talented immigrants a chance to become part of it The DREAM Act would strengthen America's national security by giving thousands of highly qualified, well-educated young people chance to serve in America's armed forces. It is one of the greatest levelers in America. When we decided to integrate the armed forces under President Truman we really set the stage for the civil rights revolution in this country. When men and women in the military were recognized for their inherent worth and commitment to this nation rather than the color of their skin, it set a standard that now guides our nation."

Senator Lautenberg: (6:42 PM)
  • Spoke on Lautenberg amendment (obesity/sugar study) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "The federal government can and should determine whether sugary drinks suspected are causing obesity and accelerating the damage that goes with it. Americans are drinking more high-sugar drinks than ever before. Children and adults drink twice the amount of sugary soda than they did just three decades ago. These drinks are cheap and available everywhere, in convenience stores, movie theaters or vending machines and we've seen children and teenagers holding giant cups of soda or other sugary drinks. Some of these sizes are so big they look like a barrel. Mr. President, when a child drinks 32-ounces, takes a 32-ounce cup of soda, it's the equivalent of ingesting 41 sugar cubes. Now, can you imagine anyone permitting their children to devour 41 sugar cubes? Who in this body would give their child or grandchild 41 sugar cubes to eat? The city of New York is taking a bold course of action and other communities have done their own studies and have decided to act. And here in Congress we need to step up and do our part. We need to know what role sugary drinks are playing in the childhood obesity epidemic in America. Now, my amendment would initiate a study on the impact of these drinks on obesity and human health in the United States. It would require an examination of public health proposals regarding the cost and the size of these drinks."

Senator Brown-OH: (6:53 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "The Farm bill represents the most significant reform in U.S. Agriculture in decades ... There is a reason why county leaders are paying attention, the bill benefits all Americans. One in seven jobs in Ohio is related to food and agriculture industry. To get the economy back on track, the Farm bill must remain a priority in Congress. The Agriculture Committee's worked to craft a Farm bill that is informed looking and realistic. The centerpiece of the bill's deficit reduction efforts is based on a bill I authored ... Our aggregate risk and revenue management program proposes streamlining and making more market oriented the farm safety net. The of direct payments of billions of dollars that editorial writers and constituents complain about that went largely to large corporate farmers, the era of direct payments annually regardless of need upped this bill is over. Instead the new Ag risk program will work hand in hand with crop insurance to provide farmers the tools needed to manage risk making payments only when farmers need them most. The program relies on current data instead of arbitrary numbers in statute. It's more responsive to farmers' needs and more responsible to taxpayers. The bill reforms a number of long-standing unjustifiable practices. For the first time this Farm bill ends payments to landowners who have nothing to do with farm management. It ends payments to millionaires. It puts a firm cap on how much support any farmer, any farmer can receive from the direct farm support programs every year. Commonsense reforms that ensure the taxpayer dollars go only where they're needed. Is there more to be done to make sure taxpayers get the most efficient, effective and affordable farm policy possible? Of course there is. In the coming years we'll continue to improve our farm and food policy but this is a good start. It's good for farmers, good for taxpayers, continues to move our nation's food and Ag policy in a positive direction. The farm bill is a jobs and innovation bill. Every $1 billion in exports supports 8,400 American jobs that cannot be shipped overseas according to the USDA. In 2011 the U..S enjoined a Ag surplus of $42 billion, $42 billion we sold more than we brought both from abroad in farm products, the highest on record. Contrast that with the billions and billions, tens of billions, hundreds of billions of dollars in trade deficit we have in manufacturing and other parts of our economy. There's so much room for growth not only overseas but also at home."

Stabenow, Brown-MA

Flood Insurance bill (S. 1940)

Jun 13 2012

Senator Stabenow: (4:38 PM)
  • Spoke on Coburn amendment #2353 (working lands conservation programs) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "I want to take specifically a moment, though, to speak and urge my colleagues to vote "yes" on a motion to table a Coburn amendment 2353 that would repeal two of the most successful conservation programs in the history of our country, the environmental quality incentives program which we all call EQIP, and the conservation stewardship program. EQIP is on the front lines of production agriculture, helping farmers comply with regulatory pressures, and it's been very effective. It's the corner stone of our company's commitment to voluntary incentive-based conservation. Voluntary, working with farmers, working with ranchers in a voluntary way, to partner with them to be able to provide ways to tackle environmental issues that we all care about. And I might just underscore the fact that what we call the Farm bill is actually the largest investment we as a country make in conservation of land, air, water on working lands. Lands that are owned by the private sector, partnering, because we all have a stake in runoff and clean water issues and erosion issues and all of the other things that relate to protecting our wildlife, our wetlands for not only habitats, but also for our hunters and fishermen and all of the other issues around which we celebrate what we've been able to do around conservation in this country. But EQIP really is a cornerstone of our commitment to a voluntary incentive-based conservation program, and it provides a cost share to farmers to implement practices that have been absolutely proven to work to benefit our country's soil, air, and water resources. This last year the environmental quality incentive program entered into 38,000 contracts with farmers and ranchers all across America, covering 13 million acres of land ... This is one of two critical conservation programs that would be repealed by this amendment. The other one is the conservation stewardship program, and this encourages higher levels of conservation across agricultural CSP undertakes additional conservation activities, improving, maintaining their current activities, and they focus on seven resource concerns as well as energy: soil quality, soil erosion, water quality, water quantity, air quality, plant resources and animal resources. All things important not only for our farmers and ranchers, but to all of us. Every community, every state, all of us in the country. This program is extremely popular, has been very successful. This year producers enrolled 12 million acres in the program, and this brings the total to 49 million acres across the country that now have conservation practices as a result of the CSP it provides conservation benefits to more acres than any other conservation program in the country."

Senator Brown-MA: (5:38 PM)
  • Spoke on Shaheen amendment (sexual assault in the military) to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2013.
    • SUMMARY "As we all know, our troops need the tools and resources to complete their mission. It's imperative that it gets brought up right away. As a member of the committee, I join with members of both sides of the aisle in supporting this amendment which would ensure that women who serve in our armed forces and their families are provided access to abortion services in cases of rape or incest. Sadly, sexual assault of women service members has been recently exposed as far more prevalent than anyone previously thought ... Pentagon believes such crimes are vastly underreported. And there's evidence that there are as many as 19,000 assaults committed every year. That's approximately 50 each day. Furthermore, women are serving in harm's way. We know that. And they're often in dangerous locations without access to safe, nonmilitary health services and given their courageous service they deserve our care and protection. Put quite simply. The language of the amendment is consistent with the long-standing Hyde amendment which prevents federal funding for abortions except for the victims of rape and incest or when the life of the mother is at stake. It's a simple issue. Those who are serving in harm's way who are victims of such horrific crimes should be afforded the same rights as citizens they protect and who rely on federal funding for their health care."

Bennet, Lieberman, Wyden

Flood Insurance bill (S. 1940)

Jun 13 2012

Senator Bennet: (3:24 PM)
  • Spoke on the Wind Production Tax Credit.
    • SUMMARY "We face very significant structural issues in this economy that we have, but our gross domestic product, our economic output, is actually higher today than it was when we went into the worse recession since the great depression. Our productivity is off the charts because of our response to China and India and other places, because of our use of technology and because of the recession itself, which drove productivity straight up as firms tried to figure out how to get through these tough times with fewer people. We've got 23 million or 24 million people who are unemployed or underemployed even though we're generating this economic output. I think there are two fundamental answers to this. The first is education. The other is innovation. Jobs are going to be created tomorrow and next week and the week after that that have rising wages, not lowering ones, not falling ones. And this economic recovery, like the last economic recovery, those two together are the first recoveries we have had as a nation in our history where economic growth decoupled from job growth and wage growth. And I don't know about you but that is what I hear about most in my town hall meetings at home. The Wind Production Tax Credit. it seems to me, cuts right to the core of whether and how we want to compete in this global and changing economy ... As representative Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, has said recently in an op-ed he published, the production tax credit has driven as much as $20 billion in private investment. This is not some Bolshevik scheme. That's $20 billion in private investment supporting jobs here in the United States. Manufacturing jobs here in the United States. Wind power accounts for more than a third of all new U.S. electric generation in recent years. In Colorado alone, it's created 6,000 jobs. It's moved our state toward a more diversified and cleaner energy portfolio. But because they can't get any certainty out of Washington, like everybody else, developers and manufacturers are already starting layoffs. They're laying off employees today in anticipation of the credit expiring at the end of the year."
  • Spoke on Coburn amendment #2353 (working lands conservation programs) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "I'd urge my colleagues to oppose the amendment by supporting the motion to table. This amendment will repeal the popular environmental quality incentives program, equip, and the conservation stewardship program, CSP, both are critical programs authorized under the conservation title of the farm bill. In Colorado, I have heard time and time again from our farmers and our ranchers how critical these programs are to holding on to their family farms. Equip, for example, is on the front line of agricultural production. It helps farmers ensure that their operations contribute to clean water and clean air in our rural communities. The proactively and successfully addresses new and emerging resource issues to avert the need for regulation. To put our farmers and ranchers in a place where they have less regulation, not more, because of the work they're doing on the ground to conserve their land."

Senator Lieberman: (3:37 PM)
  • Spoke on the Senate Cybersecurity Act of 2012.
    • SUMMARY "I believe that the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Act of 2012, S. 2105 ...takes the additional necessary steps and, therefore, to secure our cyber systems - and therefore is preferable. And it is preferable in large part because it addresses the need to secure our nation's critical cyber infrastructure. That is the computers that control the systems that if commandeered, attacked or intruded upon could allow an attacker to open and close key ... Water and sewer systems and electric plants and banks and along transportation nodes without detection by their operators. We need to pass this bill or something very much like it so we can go to conference with the House and iron out whatever differences we have this year, so we can get legislation to the president's desk, and he has endorsed, I'm grateful to say, S. 2105 and certainly endorsed the principles that are in it. We have to do that so we raise our defenses before we are victims of a Cyber 9/11. The time remaining to do so in this session is obviously growing shorter. We know that the lame-duck session will be almost exclusively taken up with difficult questions about the budget debt, sequester, the expiration of the so-called Bush tax cuts, and much more. So we've got to act."

Senator Wyden: (4:03 PM)
  • Spoke on Wyden amendments to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "The first amendment that I will be offering on the farm bill, addresses the farm to school program. Schools all across the country purchase the produce, pares, cherries, tomatoes, lettuce they serve to school kids from department of agriculture warehouses. In some cases, these warehouses may be hundreds and hundreds of miles away. There are schools, however, who wish to source their fruits and vegetables locally, and there are producers who wish to sell their goods to local schools. Now, you don't have to be a fancy economic thinker, but that really sounds like a market to me. And the Congress ought to enable this market, not make it more difficult for this market to function ... So my farm to school amendment would allow for at least five farm to school projects across the country, representing regions from all over the country where states like mine that were innovative, with proven, established farm to school programs in place would actually be able to tap their full potential, their full potential to source healthy quality produce to nearby schools that prefer to buy their food locally rather than from one of these far away federal warehouses. Now, under this kind of approach with this crucial kind of program, the schools are going to win, our farmers are going to win, and our kids are going to be able to enjoy delicious local produce every day, every day under this particular amendment. The second amendment that I plan to offer also encourages healthier eating, and this one deals with the snap program, the program that was formerly known as food stamps. As the president of the Senate knows, this program represents a substantial amount of the funding for the farm bill. It's an over $70 billion federal program ... I am not in favor of cutting these benefits. Quite the contrary. I think Senator Gillibrand has an excellent amendment to ensure that that doesn't take place. I hope that she will win support here in the Senate for it. We shouldn't have in a country as rich and strong as ours as many Americans going to bet at night hungry and trying to dig themselves out of the Great Recession at the same time. So I am not in favor of cutting SNAP benefits, but I am in favor of incentivizing this program to make it possible for those of modest incomes to get healthier, more nutritious foods, especially in light of the growing obesity epidemic that our country faces ... So the amendment makes clear that you couldn't get a waiver to reduce eligibility or reduce the amount of benefits that someone on the snap program receives, but you could, for example, try various approaches to promote nutritional eating. The state could encourage SNAP recipients to purchase more fruits and vegetables by partnering with grocery stores or other food sellers to provide coupes enabling SNAP recipients to purchase extra or discounted fruits and vegetables The third amendment that I'm going to offer that addresses the issue of industrial hemp farming. It is cosponsors by Senator Rand Paul, it is identical to legislation in other body with 33 bipartisan cosponsors. This is in my view a textbook example of a regulation that flunks the commonsense test. There is government regulation on the books today that prevents America's farmers from growing industrial hemp, and what's worse is this regulation is hurting job creation in rural America and increasing our trade deficit. When my colleagues get I think more information about this outlandish, outrageous restriction on free enterprise, I think most of my colleagues are going to say that the restriction on industrial hemp is really a poster child for dumb regulation. The only thing standing in the way of taking advantage of this very profitable crop is a lingering misunderstanding about its use. And the amendment that I have filed on this issue will end a ridiculous regulation once and for all."

Baucus, Moran, Sessions

Flood Insurance bill (S. 1940)

Jun 13 2012

Senator Baucus: (2:22 PM)
  • Spoke on sugar amendments to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "I rise in strong opposition to multiple amendments to the farm bill that would undermine support for the American sugar producers and the American jobs they create. These amendments would pull the rug out from underneath sugar beet producers in my home state of Montana. It would leave farmers and other sugar industry workers from Montana and across the country vulnerable to job loss. In these tough economic times, this is a step backwards in job creation. That's a step we can't afford to take. Montana is the fifth-largest sugar beet producing state in the nation. In 2010, our cash receipts totaled more than $66 million, and those dollars mean good-paying American jobs. That's why the Farm bill continues vital support that helps American sugar producers sustain more than 140,000 jobs and nearly $20 billion in economic activity every year. Our sugar policy is a proven investment in American jobs at no cost to the taxpayer. That's right. Let me repeat that. The United States sugar policy doesn't cost American taxpayers a single cent. So why in the world would we want to get rid of this job creator at a time when jobs should be our number-one priority? The policy does not restrict access to low sugar prices for manufacturers, but it allows sugar producers from Montana and the rest of the United States to compete in the world market, with access to less quality sugar, cheaper labor and fewer regulations. Other countries very, very strongly protect their sugar industry. Now, some will argue that our sugar program, while not costing the American taxpayer directly, costs them indirectly at the grocery store. Let me be very clear. For every $1 candy bar bought at a grocery store, only 2 cents of that total cost is sugar. For every $1, only 2 cents of that cost of that candy bar is sugar. With no cost to the American people and proven benefits extending from rural farmers to the entire economy, this policy works I won't let us get rid of policies that support proven job creators at a time we need jobs more than ever."

Senator Moran: (2:47 PM)
  • Spoke on Moran amendment #2403 (food assistance) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY SUMMARY "I'm thankful for the generosity of Americans, both as charitable organizations and as taxpayers, who provide emergency food assistance to these people, and we never want to have the kind of suffering that we see there and other places around the world. But I'm concerned about the allocation that's included in this bill, and I have introduced this amendment to ensure that at least 20% of the Food for Peace, the Title 2 funds, are available each year for prevention-based programs that reduce hunger in poor crisis-prone communities. If we can prevent the need for emergency food assistance and help more people gain the skills needed for their lifetime, then we should do that, and that's what this amendment is intended to do. The legislation we're considering significantly reduces the minimum amount of funding for developmental programs that equip vulnerable people around the world to feed themselves. This Farm bill that we're debating reduces by nearly 40% the amount of funds that would be used for the important work of developmental aid, and instead directs those dollars to emergency food aid. The amendment I'm offering would raise the minimum amount that would be spent on developmental programs by 5% so that we can prevent circumstances where people are starving and need that emergency aid."

Senator Sessions: (2:48 PM)
  • Spoke on Sessions amendments (food stamps) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "The amendments if have filed, and there are four, address some of the perverse incentives for states to increase food stamp registration rather than an incentive to increase the integrity of the program. For example, one of the things we need to do is to deal with the federal provision that provides bonuses to states who increase the number of people that are registered. States currently receive bonuses for increasing enrollment in the food stamp program. They don't get bonus eggs for efficiently managing the program, they don't get bonuses for finding people who are on the program and on the program illegitimately, who are selling them on the marketplace or otherwise abusing the program. They get bonuses for seeing how many people they can sign up. That's not a sound policy. The next amendment that if have is restoring the asset test for food stamps. You would think that that's pretty well accepted, that if you have a certain amount of assets, you shouldn't have the government to pay for your food. If you have value in assets. Through a system known as categorical eligibility, 43 states, 43 states have now provided benefits to individuals whose assets exceed the statutory limit for them. Only 11 states did that in 2007. Why? A couple reasons, it appears. One of them is if guess they helped get the incentive bonus for signing up more people. So if you change this asset test and get around the asset test and sign up more people, maybe you get a bonus. Number two, what incentive does a state have to reduce the amount of dollars from Washington, not a dime of it do they match, what incentive do they have to reduce the amount of money, free money in their mind, from Washington going to the state? Not much, really. So this amendment, if passed, according to the Congressional Budget Office would save $11 billion. And all it would do is to say that you have to comply with the requirements of the program before you get the food stamps. What the situation is that it's called categorical eligibility. If you qualify for any other program, the states have been given the power to say you qualify for food stamps, even though you don't need the formal qualifications, but if you qualify for these others under categorical eligibility, you're categorically entitled to food stamps. And so that's not a good policy. It's just not. It doesn't have the same standards and we should fix that. Another thing, there's what's been referred to as the LIHEAP loophole. This reform and the amendment that I want to offer and I have offered and I hope we'll get a vote on it, it requires households that received larger food stamp payments on the basis of home energy expense actually provide proof of that expense. This is a real problem. States have been part of this frankly. They've learned how to manipulate the low-income heating assistance program moneys, and it creates an opportunity to have more people qualify for food stamps. It's not good policy, it should not be continued. CBO says if that abuse were eliminated, it would save $9.5 billion over ten years. And then another amendment called the save amendment would simply require that the federal government use a program called save, similar to the e-verify program to ensure using the computer system that those adults using benefits, adults receiving benefits, are in fact, lawfully in the country. If you're not lawfully here you should not be getting welfare support from the United States government. How basic is that? You just should not. One of the most important things we can do to restore integrity in our immigration system is to quit providing economic benefits for people who violate the law. This is the first thing you do."

Tester, Udall-CO, Murkowski, Barrasso

Flood Insurance bill (S. 1940)

Jun 13 2012

Senator Tester: (1:06 PM)
  • Spoke on Tester amendments to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "I have offered amendments to address the issues that still face farmers and ranchers around the country. The first is my provision to ensure that farmers will be able to buy public varieties of seeds. My amendment will make sure that the department of agriculture follows through on the government's commitment to public seed varieties. It ensures that the USDA will devote the resources necessary to support a strong public breeding program and develop public plant and animal varieties. For too long the agriculture department has failed to promote public seed varieties. USDA must support diverse seed research so that farmers can adapt to various growing conditions. My amendment will not solve the problem. But it is a necessary first step to ensure that farmers have a choice of what kind of seeds to purchase. I have also introduced an amendment that takes a proactive approach to protect our country's livestock producers. Back in 2009, Senator Barrasso and I wrote a new law to help livestock providers get compensation for losses related to wolves. Any producer will tell you that they would rather prevent thank get compensated for a loss. But losses do happen. A number of states receive some assistance from that that's why I've introduced an amendment to help producers protect their livestock from the threat of predatory trepidation. It is a commonsense solution to support livestock producers who live near protected populations p predators. Speaking of commonsense amendments, I am also offering what some have called the biggest package of sportsman bills in a generation. My Sportsman Act combines over 20 different bills. It comes in response to the concerns that I have heard as Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus. What I hear most often from sportsmen is the importance of access to public land. This dedicates sportsmen's access to some of the best places to hunt and fish in this country. Some folks might ask, why is this important? Hunting and fish something a way of life in places like Montana. One in three Montanans hunt big game and over 50% fish. For us, it is not just recreation. It is a critical part of our economy. It drives and sustains jobs It reauthorizes several vital conservation programs and preserves our shooting heritage."
  • Honored WW II veterans.

Senator Udall-CO: (1:33 AM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "It is essential that we take steps to understand what can be done in the future to better prevent, prepare and respond to wildfires, and we must learn more about the conditions that make those fires catastrophic. Let me just start by talking about homeowners. Homeowners can create what we know in our states is called defensible space, depth space, and that involves clearing brush, moving woodpiles, looking at other actions that you can protect your structures through. And those actions have been proven to be the hallmark of what saves such properties in past fires, and these are important takeaways that we have learned in my state of Colorado in the wake of catastrophic fires, and they are the result of subsequent stories and studies that I have called for that informed the public about what they can do to protect their homes and property. The same studies have also taught us that federal forest management policies must prioritize tree removal around communities to protect homes, roads and infrastructure, something that I fought for to provide resources for over the last decade. And the added benefit to these efforts is they create local jobs and they support the critically important timber industry in our states. But that's not all,. We must also advance new policies that will actually help prepare our firefighters to combat these raging fires ... We need more flexibility to treat forests more comprehensively, and I believe as I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks that the forestry title of the farm bill is a good start. However, I believe it doesn't go far enough to authorize adequate resources to treat forests that have been affected by bark beetle infestations. The forest service bark beetle strategy calls for doubling the number of acres it has been able to treat in past years. In other words, the forest service is saying, look, we want to double what we have been doing. We believe we have the expertise to do that. What else do they need, though? They need money. In fiscal year 2011, the forest service allocated $110 million treating acres affected by bark beetles in the western united states. But if we're going to double that acreage, we're going to need more federal support."
  • Honored Stan Slaw.

Senator Murkowski: (1:56 PM)
  • Honored Sherry Slick.

Senator Barrasso: (2:06 PM)
  • A Docotor's 2nd Opinion.
    • SUMMARY "Earlier this week Senator Coburn and I joined the rest of the republican health care providers in Congress, in the House, in the Senate, and we released a doctor's note on Medicare. This new report details how the president's health care law specifically makes it harder for America's seniors - America's seniors - to get the care they need from a doctor that they choose at a lower price. I would like to walk through this report. There is a section called ten facts seniors need to know about Medicare's future. I'll just focus on five of those. Number one, to control Medicare spending, instead of trusting seniors, the president empowered 15 unelected bureaucrats. That's right, the president set up something called the independent payment advisory board, people who will be politically appointed. Not elected. Not elected by the voters. Unelected bureaucrats, and they will be the ones in charge of deciding and controlling Medicare spending. Here's another. Doctors overwhelmingly believe that the independent payment advisory board will hurt seniors' access to care. This is under the facts that seniors need to know about Medicare's future as a result of the president's health care law. In a recent survey, 80% of doctors - 80% of doctors - said that this independent payment advisory board, the one that the president likes and put in his health care law, it will cut reimbursement rates to doctors which will harm seniors' access to care. 80% of doctors are saying this. Now let's go to a third. Without congressional action, Medicare reimbursement rates will drop about 30% at the end of the year, which would harm seniors' access to care. That's the law as it stands now. If the law isn't changes, that cut will automatically go into place, and it's going to be that much harder for seniors to get doctors. Seniors are very concerned right now about being able to find a doctor. If their doctor retires, they have a hard time finding a new doctor. If that senior moves locations, they have a hard time finding a doctor in that location to take care of them. This has been an increasing problem made worse by the president's health care law The president also needs to know, because seniors know, that the president's health care law took $530 billion from Medicare, not to save Medicare, not to strengthen Medicare, but to spend on other programs not for seniors. The health care law cut more than half a trillion dollars from the Medicare program to fund new government programs. Seniors realize this, and it is time that the president of the United States understood the impact of the decisions that he made when he signed into law his health care law. And then many seniors on Medicare advantage will lose their plan. More than one in four seniors are currently on Medicare advantage. It is a choice they make. They know they're on Medicare advantage. Over 11 million seniors on Medicare Advantage. And yet the cuts put forth in the health care law make it that, according to the actuary of Medicare alone said that by 2017 when the Medicare Advantage cuts in the president's health care law are fully implemented, roughly half - half of the seniors who like the Medicare Advantage plan that they have will lose it. The president said, if you like what you have, you can keep it. But perhaps he should have realized that the law you signed caused him to break a number of the promises that he made to the American people, and that is another one of those broken promises."

Reid (UC), Coburn, Stabenow

Flood Insurance bill (S. 1930)

Jun 13 2012

Senator Reid: (12:57 PM)
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • The pending motion to recommit be withdrawn, amendment 2390 be withdrawn, that the Stabenow-Roberts amendment 2389 be Agreed to, the bill as amended be considered original text for the purpose of further amendment, that the following four amendments be the first amendments in order to the bill with no other first-degree amendments in order until these amendments are disposed of:
      1. Coburn amendment #2353;
      2. Hagan amendment #2366;
      3. DeMint amendment #2285; amd
      4. McCaskill amendment #2222.
    • On each of these amendments the time will be divided. Upon the use or yielding back of time on all four amendments, the Senate proceed to votes in relation to the amendments in the order listed, there be no amendments or motions in order to the amendments prior to the votes other than motions to waive points of order and motion to table. Upon disposition of these amendments, Majority Leader Reid wil be recognized (Coburn objected).

Senator Coburn: (12:58 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I wonder if I might ask the leader a question through the chair. It would seem to me the process that we're planning now is that the leader is deciding what amendments we will vote on and what we won't. I wonder if he would be open to the consideration of us setting up 40 amendments over the next four days and coming to agreement on this. What we're playing is a game of low-priority amendments and high-priority amendments in the name of saying we're doing something rather than having an open amendment process, which is the tradition of the Senate. My question to him, would he be amenable on having negotiation on a much larger number of amendments so we don't continue to get out of order. This is the first time I've seen this list and this is a very low-priority amendment for me."

Senator Reid: (12:59 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I wish my friend was nearly as exorcised over the year, 18 months, on getting on a bill. It takes us a week to get on a bill because we have to file motion to invoke cloture every time we proceed to a bill. We could save a lot of time if we could get on a bill and one reason there used to be so much, as he said, tradition, the tradition has been spilled into the spill ways, is that it was a rare occasion you had to do anything to invoke cloture on a motion to proceed. Now it's what we do every time because the Republicans demand that. In direct answer to your question, I have worked with Senator Roberts and Stabenow. We're trying to get some amendments up. They may be low-priority on his ... One, no one can consider those low-priority amendments. Dealing with food stamps and with sugar - these are always big deals on this farm bill. So I say to my friend, Senator Roberts, Senator Stabenow are trying to come up with a list. You're having some kind of a steering meeting or whatever it is now. Maybe you go visit with them and try to help us get a list. I'm not going to the talk out here about a number, but as we did on the highway bill, we a done it on the FDA bill, come up with some amendments. There's plenty of dead time around here. We don't have to spend a lot of time on the amendments themselves, once we agree to them, because people will talk about them forever. So the answer to your question, yes, I would be happy, if we could get - as we've been trying to get for a long time - agreed-upon group of amendments. I want to finish the Farm bill."

Senator Stabenow: (1:01 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "Thank you very much. Isn't it true, to emphasize what you've indicated, that while we're moving forward step by step and what we can do before we get a larger universal agreement, that you, as you have said, are open, you're working with us - Senator Roberts and I are working with members on both sides to get a larger list, a list in which we would begin to move through. Rather than just biding time on the floor while we're doing that, this gives an opportunity for members to debate on issues they care deeply about and to continue to move forward. But in fact, it is your desire in fact, correct, that you have asked that we do this and that we are in the process of putting together that larger universe of amendments?"

Senator Reid: (1:02 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "In response to my friend's question, the reason that we had these two votes this morning is while they're working on coming up with a finite list of amendments, why sit around here and twiddle our thumbs? At least through the process that we've gotten, get two major amendments out of the way. They're gone. And I would hope that it would lead to people allowing - I also have - if my friend continues his objection, I'm going to set up some more votes this way. I don't want - listen, this is not my preference of doing these bills. But I say to my friend, I would hope with the concern you have for the finances of this country and how you care about our country, care a little bit about these motions to proceed which are such a waste of our time."

Senator Coburn: (1:03 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "In response, I take the leader to his word, and I will go back to my caucus and explain that. I will object to this group of bill. But I would also note that we did put two amendments out of the way. The one amendment for sugar that had the chance to parks wasn't the one we chose. Never have we given up our rights to give the majority leader the right to decide what amendments will be voted on or offered for the last three days we could have had a great, open process of having the floor open for amendments and moved eight or ten amendments a day. I understand the conflict and the political ramifications of what he's trying to do. I will go and the seek the counsel and guidance of my caucus and return and give you a message. With that, I object."

Senator Reid: (1:05 PM)
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • The Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 1940, the Flood Insurance bill.
    • The following amendments are pending to S. 3240, the Farm 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 #2406 to Reid amendment #2391; and
      5. Reid 2nd-degree amendment #2407 to Reid amendment #2406.

Jun 13 2012

Agreed to, 65-33:
Motion to Table Reid amendment #2392 (text of Paul amendment #2182 re: SNAP) to S. 3240, the Farm bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Jun 13 2012

Agreed to, 50-46:
Motion to Table Reid 2nd-degree amendment #2393 (text of Shaheen amendment #2160 re: phase-out of sugar program) to S. 3240, the Farm bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Lautenberg, Klobuchar, Enzi, Crapo

Flood Insurance bill (S. 1940)

Jun 13 2012

Senator Lautenberg: (11:41 AM)
  • Spoke on Paul amendment #2182 (SNAP) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "I rise to speak against the Paul amendment, amendment 2182, which would cripple the food stamp program. I have to tell you that there's an aura of wonderment around here that says look, let's cut food stamps for hungry families and for little children ... The fundamental test for any family is to put food on table, to make sure that their children get the nutrition they need. When tough economic times hit, families can find themselves struggling to meet their most basic needs. The food stamp program was created so that even in the toughest of times children in this country do not go to bed hungry It's appalling that our Republican colleague from Kentucky has proposed an amendment to cut more than $300 billion from a program that's a life line for many families. These are heartless cuts, would punish families that need help the most. We're debating a bill that contains billions in support for big agricultural companies, but instead of targeting the subsidies they get from the federal government, from the taxpayers in the country, republicans say that we ought to cut programs for hungry children. I wonder if those who want to cut the food stamps program would participate in a real way and say to their little children, say to their family, look, just to show that we're serious, just to show that we really care, limit the amount of food that you're going to give your children, that the amount of food you're going to give the elders in your household. To say that they're serious about this. Hungry children didn't cause the recession or the deficit. And cutting food stamps will not solve our debt problem The Paul amendment would cut support for food stamps by almost 45% next year alone. And the consequences could be devastating. More than 46 million Americans The Republican approach would hurt those with the least to protect those with the most. That's not what this country's about. Too many of America's families are still struggling. Too many parents are still looking for work. Too many of our children are still hungry. The food banks across the country are getting ever more attention and visits. Republicans should offer them help. Show some heart. This isn't an accounting organization. We're not here to just balance the books. Yes, we've got to balance the books. That's what I come from business and I know what you got to do. But that means that we wouldn't be servicing the people in our society who need help. Republicans should offer them help. Instead, they offer them deeper poverty and greater hunger."

Senator Klobuchar: (11:49 AM)
  • Spoke on Shaheen amendment #2160 (phase-out of sugar program) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "Unfortunately, in eliminating the sugar program would actually hurt jobs in America This is a zero-cost program that supports 142,000 jobs and generates nearly $20 billion in economic activity. This is the kind of value we're looking for. I believe we need to be doing everything we can to maintain programs that are working for our farmers in an efficient way. Programs that are supporting jobs and putting dollars into our economy, especially those programs that do not cost money. Most of us here can appreciate the value of a strong farm safety net. During our discussions in the Agriculture Committee, I worked with Chairman Stabenow and other members of the committee to make sure that the bill provided for that safety net so that the livelihoods of our farmers can't be swept away in the blink of an eye by natural disasters and market failures. Because you know what? We as a country do not want to be dependent on foreign food like we're dependent on foreign oil. The sugar program has played its own key role in shielding farmers but a different and more predictable kind of risk that they face. I'm talking about the risk of competing against heavily subsidized sugar from foreign countries. Let's put it this way, if you don't like being dependent on that kind of foreign oil, you're not going to love being dependent on foreign sugar. Past U.S. trade agreements have already opened our domestic market up to foreign sugar. Over the last three years, the U.S. on average has been the world's largest sugar importer, supplying nearly a third of our total sugar needs. Since 1985, we have had 54 sugar factories close due to sustained low prices. Once these jobs are gone, they're gone forever. This is why we need to continue the sugar program in the 2012 farm bill, one that supports American sugar beet and sugar cane producers while ensuring an abundant supply of sugar for consumers and manufacturers. We must continue this program."

Senator Enzi: (11:53 AM)
  • Spoke on Shaheen amendment #2160 (phase-out of sugar program) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "You can always tell it's October back home when the large piles of sugar beets begin to appear outside the sugar plants. Workers race to produce raw sugar before the beets go bad. Any number of complications can spoil the crop and put the sugar refineries out of business. Such unique conditions produce risk that's not common with our agricultural commodities, because much of the year's sugar is produced in such a small window, a sugar program is needed to stabilize the price of sugar through the entire year. This policy benefits the very people that opponents of the sugar program wish to protect. With stability in the sugar markets, confectioners, food manufacturers and beverage makers have a steady supply of quality sugar without wild price swings. Not only are U.S. sugar prices stable under the program, but the United States offers sugar users some of the lowest prices in the developed world. I also wish to add that the U.S. sugar program works to ensure that other nations have access to sugar markets. Some claim that the U.S. sugar program is a protectionist policy. This couldn't be more false. 17 of the largest sugar exporting countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central America and South America have all expressed support for the U.S. sugar program. As a matter of fact, the United States is the second largest net importer of sugar behind only Russia. The program's operated to ensure we fulfill our trade obligations, especially within the WTO, and continues to provide a sugar market for developing nations wishing to export their product. Finally, the U.S. sugar program has been run for the past ten years at zero cost to the U.S. taxpayer, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts it will remain that way in its current form for at least ten more. As other colleagues have mentioned, this is all while the U.S. sugar industry has helped to generate nearly $20 billion in annual economic activity in our country."

Senator Crapo: (11:57 AM)
  • Spoke on Shaheen amendment #2160 (phase-out of sugar program) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "I rise today to support and underscore the points just made by Senator Enzi which support the U.S. sugar program, which he indicated has operated successfully at no cost to the American taxpayers, consumers or food manufacturers. As you know, the sugar beet industry is very important to my state, Idaho, bringing in approximately $1.1 billion in revenue every year. History has shown that grocers and food manufacturers do not pass their savings from lower ingredient prices along to consumers. For example, from the summer 2010 until now, producer prices for sugar have dropped nearly 20%. In fact, the U.S. sugar program remains crucial because other nations are implementing trade distorting subsidies for their otherwise uncompetitive sugar industries. This world sugar price, as is soften debated in these halls, suffers from government-backed dumping that protects sugar producers overseas to the detriment of American sugar producers. Hence, the need for the U.S. sugar program. Consumers in the rest of the world pay on average 14% more for sugar. In the developed world, 24% more than American consumers pay. In America, sugar is a readily available and affordable product. Critics of the U.S. sugar policy make the argument that the program causes disastrous shortages in U.S. sugar supply, which flies in the face of reality. U.S. farmers and producers have proven themselves time and again to be the most efficient in the world, but they cannot be left alone to face a trade market undermined by foreign government manipulation. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the latest numbers released by the U.S. department of agriculture underline that. The USDA now estimates that there's enough sugar surplus to give every man, woman and child in this country nearly 12 pounds of sugar on top of what they already consume. This is enough surplus sugar to fill the capitol dome 55 times. I strongly encourage my colleagues to oppose any attempts at repealing this program. At risk would be 142,000 American jobs generated by the United States sugar producing industry ... These jobs would be lost to subsidized foreign producers who are generally less efficient and less reliable and produce sugar far less safely and responsibly than American sugar producers. I support Idaho's sugar beet growers as well as the sugar growers throughout the country, and I'm committed to ensuring that they have access to the tools they need to produce affordable and abundant sugar supply."

Jun 13 2012

Senator Hatch: (10:49 AM)
  • Spoke on the Alternative Minimum Tax.
    • SUMMARY "31 million American families will be caught by the AMT or are already caught. Yet Congress has done nothing address the AMT the Alternative Minimum Tax is a stealth tax on 27 million families, approximately 31 million families paid the AMT last year and they may not be surprised if it hits them again this year. But for the other 27 million American families set to be ensnared by the AMT, this represents a significant and stealthy tax increase. The AMT burden is in fact far broader than just the 31 million American families in its sights. Nearly double that number, 60 million American families, must fill out the AMT work sheet to determine whether they owe an Alternative Minimum Tax. Now, while not as bad as paying the tax itself, the task of compliance is just another challenge for American The reason we are threatened by such large increase in year is that over the last 11 years Congress has passed legislation to temporarily increase the amount of income exempt from the AMT unlike many other provisions of the tax code, the AMT exemption amount is not automatically adjusted for inflation. These temporary exemption increases have prevented millions of middle-class American families from falling prey to the AMT until now. While I have always fought for those temporary exemptions, I believe the AMT ought to be permanently repealed. One reason to pursue permanent repeal is the uncertainty the AMT creates for taxpayers when Congress must revisit and adjust it every year. Unfortunately, a permanent fix does not appear to be forthcoming. Congress has yet to undertake any meaningful action on the AMT President Obama has proposed permanently patching or maybe even repealing yet when he gives with one hand he takes away with another. He has proposed to pay for an AMT fix with this so-called Buffett tax, nothing more than a new Alternative Minimum Tax. The solution to the Alternative Minimum Tax problem surely can't be an alternative or an Alternative Minimum Tax. Moreover, the revenue generated by the Buffett tax in spite of the suggestion by the president that this tax on the rich could pay for all things good, would not come close to providing the revenue necessary to address the AMT in a meaningful way. Despite assurances from the president and his allies that AMT relief is an important issue, nothing has actually been put forward as a solution for this year."
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "The Conference Committee is currently meeting to produce a Transportation bill. As I said ensuring that local communities have a strong voice in the transportation decision-making process is a priority of mine. There are many ways this can be achieved. But one particularly effective method is through the implementation of environmental streamlining. Negotiations have still ongoing, so I do not want to go into too much detail. Yet environmental streamlining is something that will benefit my own home state of Utah and every other state that is currently forced to comply with redundant and oppressive red tape when engaging in transportation projects with the federal government. The highway trust fund which funds many transportation programs currently has more money coming out of it than is going into it. And while there are many who want to deal with bloated and unfocused spending by raising taxes, I disagree. If revenues do not meet outlays, then we should not be punishing the American taxpayer. Rather, we should be reevaluating spending priorities. In addition to examining what congress spends money on, we need to ensure that money being spent is spent efficiently. Currently, governments at the federal, state, and local levels spend considerable resources complying with federal regulations designed to protect the environment. Given that many of these regulations have accumulated over time, I am confident that we can scrape many of these barnacles off the ship of state without harming the environment. Both the Senate and the House recognize the truth of what I am saying and both bills currently in conference reflect this sentiment. Both contain provisions designed to streamline or simplify environmental reviews with which transportation projects must comply."

Senator Conrad: (11:03 AM)
  • Spoke on Shaheen amendment #2160 (phase-out of sugar program) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "I come to the floor to discuss the amendment that is pending to kill the sugar program in the United States. My colleagues should know that the domestic sugar industry employs 140,000 people in this country. If there was ever a jobs-killer amendment, it is the amendment that is going to be offered to kill the U.S. sugar program. And in advancing that amendment, a series of claims have been made about the U.S. sugar program that I believe are just false. First of all, it is said that the sugar program has a high cost for taxpayers. That is false. It is said that it keeps sugar prices artificially high. That is false. It is said that the sugar program drives the confectionery out of the United States that. Is false. It is said that the sugar program impedes imports into the United States. That is false. And it is said that consumers will benefit from eliminating the sugar program. I believe that is false as well. Let's take each of these arguments in turn. First is that it has a high taxpayer cost. Well, here's the cost, according to the Congressional Budget Office, of the sugar program from 2013-2022. The cost is zero Those who say a high cost to taxpayer, just wrong. It's false. The second claim is that it keeps sugar prices artificially high. Well, false again. This chart shows the average retail sugar price in major countries around the world. Here's the United States way down here, 59 cents. The global average is 67 cents. The developed country average is 73 cents. We are below the global average. We are below the average of developed countries. So the claim that it keeps sugar prices high is false again. The third claim is that the sugar program drives the confectionery industry out of the United States. Wrong again. Here is what is happening to the U.S. chocolate and non-chocolate confectionery production in the United States since 2004. You see the trend line? It's up. More production, not less production. These are facts and facts are stubborn things. Let's go to the fourth claim, that this sugar program in the United States impedes imports. Boy, this is maybe the biggest whopper of all. Here are the facts. The United States in the in the period from 2008-2009 through 2010-2011, is the biggest importer of sugar in the world. So this program is impeding imports into the United States? Well, if it is, it isn't doing a very good job of it, because the United States is number one in imports of sugar in the world Finally on this notion that consumers are going to benefit by eliminating the sugar program, really? Really? Let's look at the facts. Here's the green line is the trend line on retail sugar prices. You see that trend line? That trend line since 2010 is going up. Here is what the wholesale price of sugar has been flat. You see the disconnection? Wholesale price is flat; retail price is up. The fact is that sugar is such a small part of the cost of finished products that it has almost no bearing whatsoever on retail prices of a candy bar, a box of cereal or any of the other things that sugar goes in. The record is so clear on the facts that I would urge my colleagues to oppose the amendment being offered to kill the U.S. sugar program, to kill 140,000 good jobs in this country, to kill $19 billion of economic activity in this country. It would be a profound mistake."

Senator Udall-CO: (11:12 AM)
  • Spoke on the Wind Production Tax Credit.
    • SUMMARY "Members of both parties have agreed that the PTC is vital for continued economic growth in our country. Put simply, the PTC means a good-paying American job. And the longer we wait, the more American jobs we can expect to be lost in the coming months and weeks ahead ... If we don't act, I fear dire consequences Expects the wind market in the U.S. to fall by 80% in the PTC isn't extended. 80%. That's a huge number. That's 80% fewer jobs, 80% fewer families pulling themselves out of this recession and 80% less investment than we have today. All because we're not acting, all because we're not taking the right steps forward. As I close, this isn't a partisan issue. Both Democrats and Republican senators and House members agree that we need to extend this commonsense tax credit."

Senator Gillibrand: (11:16 AM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "This bill has so much potential to create jobs, to help our farms thrive, to protect our farmers and small businesses from natural disasters, to feed our children, to feed our at-risk seniors, but if we are ever going to reach that potential, we can't afford to get bogged down in these dead-end fights that are meant only to score political points. And worse yet, there are draconian cuts being proposed by some that will take even more money away from those who are greatest in need, taking money away from the supplemental nutrition assistance program better known as food stamps, which literally will result in children going to bed hungry in this country. These amendments simply do not meet the fundamental founding principles of this nation or who we are as Americans. In this day and age, in this country, as rich as we are, to accept hungry children, hungry families, hungry seniors to me is unacceptable. This Farm bill started out with a $4.5 billion cut to food stamps over ten years. These cuts must be restored. And while I have fought against these cuts with 13 of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle, others are still actually advocating for additional much more extreme cuts. They could even cut the SNAP program by almost a half. If you have heard from families living off food stamps, as I have, you know that this is something that no one strives for. Most have never imagined that they would be on food stamps, that they would need that kind of support, but many have been dealt a very bad hand in this economy, and through no fault of their own, they are finding they are at need. Food stamps are often the last resort for those who are just trying to keep the lights on, put food on the table for their kids and be able to find their way back to that paycheck that they desperately want to be earning We know that food stamps are such a good investment into our economy. For every dollar that you put into food stamps, you get $1.71 back into the economy. Even one of the best economists, Mark Zandi, says the fastest way to infuse money into this economy is through food stamps. Now, these food stamps they pay salaries for grocery clerks, truckers who haul the food. The USDA estimates that 16 cents go right back to the farmer ... Our amendment will restore the SNAP funding back to the $4.5 billion that have been cut, and it will pay for the food that our kids so desperately need. Every child in America deserves to be fed. Every child in America deserves to reach their god-given potential. We need to restore these cuts to ensure that."

Senator Toomey: (11:23 AM)
  • Spoke on Shaheen amendment #2160 (phase-out of sugar program) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "In my view, one of the most egregiously flawed programs in the entire agricultural sector, maybe in government as a whole. It's the sugar program. This is a program which systematically forces American consumers to pay much more than the global price for sugar. It's a huge transfer of wealth from consumers, including the poorest American consumers to a handful of wealthy sugar producers. It is completely wrong. It is ill-conceived in the first place, and it is perpetuated in this bill, and I think that's just unconscionable. Some of the specific ways in which the existing program has the government completely manipulating the market for sugar include explicit limits on how much sugar can be produced domestically. There is the de facto government-imposed price floor on sugar, rather than allowing the price to reflect whatever supply and demand would lead to. It puts strict limits on how much sugar can be imported without forcing Americans to pay taxes on those imports in the form of duties. It mandates that the government purchase excess sugar and then sell it at a loss to ethanol producers. All of these are features of the existing sugar policy, and all of them are left completely unchanged by this bill. So it is screaming for some amendments to provide some commonsense reforms to this very badly flawed program. And by the way, let me be very clear. The net effect at the end of the day of all of these machinations in which the government manipulates the market for sugar is that U.S. consumers end up paying more, much more, often about double the going rate that everyone else in the world that doesn't manipulate their markets pays for sugar. Now, that should by the way, that should be reason enough to end this program entirely, in my view, but there are other reasons. For instance, the existing sugar policy - as I say, unchanged in this bill - absolutely is costing us jobs in the United States. It's not even disputable. It is on balance a job killer. It is costing us jobs today, specifically jobs in manufacturing, manufacturing of products that include sugar, of which there are many."

Senator Shaheen: (11:32 AM)
  • Spoke on Shaheen amendment #2160 (phase-out of sugar program) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "The underlying Farm bill that we're considering reforms almost every farm program that we have. Every farm group has had to sacrifice with this Farm bill so that we can reform these programs. Unfortunately, there is one glaring exception to these reforms, and that is the sugar program. We need to reform the sugar subsidy because it costs consumers and businesses $3.5 billion each year in the form of higher prices. That's almost double the world average, and we can see from this chart, this looks at sugar prices over the last 30 years since 1981. This is the world price for sugar, and this is the U.S. price. We can see demonstrated very graphically - no pun intended - that we are in America paying almost twice what the world price is for sugar. It also costs us about 20,000 jobs every year, and we're doing all this, we're affecting consumers, hundreds of thousands of jobs, to benefit fewer than 5,000 sugar growers, to benefit those 5,000, all of us are paying mor and we've been paying more as this chart clearly indicates, for the last 30 years. Now, how does the subsidy program work? Senator Toomey, I think did a great job of explaining it but it essentially minutes the market it. It manipulates the market. It restricts how much sugar comes into the United States from outside the country and sets a floor on sugar prices by providing a government guarantee to sugar growers on what they're going to get paid and it requires the government in some cases - I mean this is what's really outrageous. It requires the government to buy sugar off the market and then sell it to ethanol plants at a loss to taxpayers and the proponents of this program say it doesn't cost us any money? Well, what our amendment would do is phase out this outdated program over the course of a couple of years."

Jun 13 2012

Senator Hutchison: (9:57 AM)
  • Spoke on the Obama economy.
    • SUMMARY "I just can't let the record stand that President Obama took over in the worst circumstances of our time. Really? The debt of this country was around $10 trillion when President Obama took office. In just three and a half years, that debt has almost doubled. We're at $16 trillion and hitting the ceiling - in just three and a half years. We are in a debt crisis not from the previous administration. We are in a debt crisis because we are spending too much, we're borrowing too much, and the president keeps talking about more taxes. Just last Friday the president came out and said, the private sector is doing just fine. It's government that's in a crisis. Well, yeah, government is in a crisis. The private sector is not doing just fine, and the government crisis is not caused because we're losing government jobs. The government crisis is caused because we're spending too much, and we are going into debt that is unsustainable in this country. For the millions of Americans who are out of work in this country, the president's assessment of the private sector must be like salt poured in a wound. My goodness. We have seen job numbers - over 8% unemployment - since the president took office. And the last three months have been not so good. We're still over 8%, and we went up a little bit to 8.2% in May. So the 13 million Americans who are unemployed and the millions more who are underemployed or have left the labor force altogether because they just have lost hope, things are not fine and the private sector is not fine in this country. And the middle class is bearing the brunt. On top of the unemployment rate for those who are really in poverty conditions, the people who hold jobs are also losing ... that the median net worth of American families fell 39% between 2007 and 2010. We haven't seen these levels since 1992. During the same period income also dropped sharply. Average Household income fell 11%, to $78,500 down from $88,300. The hardest hit? Families in the rapidly diminishing middle class. While these statistics are troubling, there is a concern that cannot be measured in dollars and cents, and that is that families are losing faith in a secure future. There was a time when every generation had a better quality of life and expected a better quality of life for their children than their parents had. That is not the case today. In 2010, 35% of families said they did not have a good idea of what their income would be just for the next year. That was 31% in 2007, 35% now. So the numbers of families that are just losing the faith that their children are going to have a better life than they have had is diminishing. And how could they be confident? The job creators in the private sector are the ones under siege. I cannot believe the president of the United States is so off base as to say the private sector is doing fine."

Senator Isakson: (10:14 AM)
  • Spoke on the Obama economy.
    • SUMMARY "I come to the floor to provide some information to the president that maybe the private sector isn't doing that well and maybe there's something we could do about it, and this administration and this Senate, because right now we're doing nothing, and America is languishing because of a lot of problems. Some of them are our making. But the private sector by definition is everybody other thank the government sector, at least that's my definition ... In those businesses that I talked about, the cities and the people that I've talked to in Georgia, the people in the private sector are not doing well and they're not for a fear of overregulation and uncertainty. If we could do anything to empower our economy in the short run, we'd call timeout. We'd say maybe enough is enough. As told a member of the administration two weeks arc the administration I think wants to eliminate risk. Our job is not to eliminate risk, it is to rite mitigate risk. If you eliminate risk, you take the power of investment in the private sector, entrepreneurship, capital risk and it out. You can't eliminate risk but you can mitigate it. So let's get back to mitigating risk, make sure we have a safe workplace. Let's make sure we mitigate risk in banking but not so we choke out the small family banker. But let's make the son of a farmer can work on his father farm. Let's make sure that we're not making the private sector's plight worse than it is today. So my message is the private sector is not just fine. It may not be all of government's making, part of it is government's making. We're making it worse. We're trying run a country based on a three-leg stool on a two-legged stool of regulation and through judicial regulation. Cutting out the legislative branch. You know what happens to two-legged stools in they fall over. There is private sector that is hurting and a private sector we could help. Let's put our nose to the grindstone. Let's move forward in these months leading up to the election. Late change the paradigm. Let's empower the private sector not accept that it's doing just fine."

Senator Klobuchar: (10:22 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "We have to get this Transportation bill done. This is a bill that passed the United States Senate with 74 votes, so we are here today to say to our colleagues over in the House and ask our colleagues on the Republican side to ask the Republicans in the House to get this bill done. Cold-weather states like Minnesota and for that matter New York, we say we have two seasons: we have winter and we have construction season. This kind of delay can be crippling. We have a much smaller window of time to get these construction projects done. We have people waiting in traffic, so we ask the House, why are we making them wait? We look at the costs when we delay construction projects, the cost to taxpayers. Everyone knows if you wait too long to work on a project and you're doing something on your House and you wait years and years to get it done the cost goes up. So we ask our friends in the House, why are they allowing this to happen? Why are they making this delay? Look at contractors, construction workers, engineering firms, they need consistency. Why is the House making them wait? It makes reforms to our transportation policy, reduces the number of highway programs from over 100 to 30 so the Republicans in the House, House can they explain that they're making America wait to actually reform and make these programs let duplicative? It defines clear national goals for transportation policy. It streamlines environmental permitting. Why would you make America wait? Why? That's what we're asking the House of Representatives today."

Senator Shaheen: (10:25 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "In New Hampshire we understand what Senator Klobuchar was saying about the importance of getting this bill passed, so we can get our construction season under way, because we have a limited amount of time. But in only 17 days this nation's surface transportation programs are going to shut down unless congress acts to reauthorize them. In March, nearly three-quarters of this Senate voted to pass a bipartisan transportation bill that maintains current funding levels and avoid increase in both the deficit and gas taxes. This legislation is important as we look at roads and bridges and mass transit that are going to have support. It is important as we look at the jobs in the construction industry and manufacturing businesses that depend on our transportation system. In fact, the federal highway administration estimates that for every $1 billion in highway spending that we support, about 27,000 jobs. I was really pleased last week to see an overwhelming majority in the House reject cuts on spending. If that had passed 2,000 New Hampshire jobs would have been lost. That sends an important signal that a strong, bipartisan majority in both Houses of Congress should support funding for crucial investments in our transportation network. I call on the House to work with the Senate in a similar bipartisan manner, as we did in the Senate, to pass transportation policies that put Americans back to work and that generate economic growth. We've seen it in New Hampshire where we've got 29 construction projects that are going object on hold if we can't get transportation legislation passed here Sometime in 2013 - we're not exactly sure when. But that will mean funding to states will face drastic cuts without any reauthorization to shore up that revenue. And were the highway trust fund to run out of money, projects across this country would grind to a halt, it would decimate jobs in the construction industry. We can't afford that ands. Investing in transportation creates jobs and it creates the conditions for our small companies to succeed. It should not be an issue about politics or partisanship."

Senator Cardin: (10:29 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "We're all here because of the urgency of the conference report being presented to us, so that we have a multiyear reauthorization of the surface transportation promise prams of this country. Let me just point out - I know a lot of times our constituents are congress fused as to why - confused as to why legislation cannot move here. But, clearly, the holdup in passing the surface transportation reauthorization are the Republicans in the House of Representatives. They are blocking a bill that has broad support from the industries that are affected by it, from the public, and from both Democrats and Republicans it's not even bipartisan. It's consensus. We were able to get the right balance between public transportation, transit and highways and bridges. We had the proper balance between how the money is controlled at the state level and how it's controlled at the local level. We've worked out a reform of our transportation programs to do this in the most efficient way. It's being held up for one reason and one reason alone, and that is the politics of the House of Representatives Republicans. They believe they can score political points by blocking any legislation from moving. Let me just underscore the points that my colleagues have mentioned. This bill is all about jobs. It's all about rebuilding America and saving and preserving jobs."

Senator Begich: (10:32 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "We figure out how to build infrastructure for this country so our private sector can have the infrastructure to work from and play off of. But let's be very blunt about this. Let's be very honest about what's happening here. This bill passed, the Transportation Reauthorization bill, passed this body with 74 votes, a bipartisan effort, hard-fought, incredible debate, worked on many different issues. Now it sits in a Conference Committee with House members led by the Republican majority over there, not wanting to move forward ... Here we are with a small group within the Republican majority over there that is holding the Speaker hostage, literally. Because they have some views they want to cut the transportation by over a third, which would have devastated the infrastructure of this country. Let me tell you from my own experience as a former mayor I was in charge of the metropolitan planning organization for our community of anchorage which maintained about at that time 45%, 48% of the population of the state. We were in charge of managing the road money. Every time Congress delayed their action, were ineffective in getting their work done, as a mayor we had to put projects off, stall projects, hold projects, tell contractors they can't get working. It creates this uncertainty which at the end of the day does one thing. It costs more money and the people who pay are the taxpayers. So as they sit over there and I just saw one comment they want to do another extension. We have had nine extensions. For people who don't know what extensions are, this is where they say we'll do it for another week, another two weeks, another month. These extensions create again more uncertainty and more cost. Every time you hear the word extension from the other side, that just means you, property taxpayers of this country, you are paying more taxes. That's what that means, clear and simple. Extension means you pay more for a project that should have been on the board and moving forward. We have a bipartisan bill, 74 Democrats and Republicans in the Senate voted for it. It is now lingering in conference."

Senator Franken: (10:39 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "Unfortunately, our colleagues in the House were not able to pass a comprehensive reauthorization bill and were only able to join a Conference Committee after passing yet another short-term extension. I'll repeat myself, it's time for the Congress to do its job ... State Departments of Transportation have already canceled projects because the House has failed to act. We have already lost thousands and thousands of jobs because for whatever reason the house will not pass a bill that received unanimous bipartisan support in the Environment and Public Works Committee, and 74 votes in the Senate as a whole. And now Speaker Boehner has said the House may just pass another short-term extension. Now, all of these extensions have whittled away at the highway trust fund, whittled it down to a dangerously low balance of any further extension would put in danger of going bankrupt. This should not be controversial. This should not be partisan. Transportation and infrastructure have not been in the past. The Senate consensus bill simply maintains the current level of funding for our transportation system and streamlines many programs to make sure those investments are put to the best possible use. This is infrastructure that we need to stay competitive in our global economy."

Senator Whitehouse: (10:44 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "We are all here because we're very concerned about what's going on with the Highway bill. We had a March 31 deadline in order to get things done by the summer construction season that we've heard so much about. We made the deadline. Not only did we make the deadline, we made the deadline with a bipartisan bill, with one that was unanimous among both parties in the Environment and Public Works Committee, and we brought it to the floor and got it passed. 75 or more senators supporting it. The House did not do its job. It did not have a bill. It could not pass a Highway bill. For folks who have been around here longer than I have, the failure to pass a Highway bill is telling. This is not like getting an A on a chemistry test. This is like failing to shop for class. We probably should have forced the vote. We gave them an extension on the theory that on good faith they would come through. We knew the extension would cost jobs. It has cost jocks. Over out of 90 projects slated for this construction season in Rhode Island, about 40 are going to fall off because of the delay. That's real jobs in Rhode Island, a state that needs them. And that is true across the rest of the country. Where ever winter falls, this predicament exists. That's why so many of my colleagues were here. Now we're closing in on the extension we gave them. I'm here to urge that we give no further extensions. It's either govern or get out of the way to the House of Representatives. If you can't pass a highway bill of your own, let the Senate bill come up for a vote."

Reid, McConnell, Boxer

Opening Remarks

Jun 13 2012

  • Today --
    • The Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 1940, the Flood Insurance bill. 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, the Senate will conduct 2 ROLL CALL VOTES on:
      1. Motion to Table Reid 2nd-degree amendment #2393 (text of Shaheen amendment #2160 re: phase-out of sugar program); and
      2. Motion to Table 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).

Senator Reid: (9:32 AM)
  • Spoke on GOP obstructionism.
    • SUMMARY "Last week in a moment of candor, House Republicans led by Representative Cantor admitted they have given up legislating until after the election, although there is far more work to be done, they have said we're going to have a time-out. There is so much to be done, especially building on 27 straight months of private-sector job growth. Republicans in the House are lurching from one recess to the next recess. Long recess. They don't take short ones. They take long ones. Last week an unscripted moment was a window into today's Republican Party, a party that obviously cares more about winning elections than creating jobs. A couple of days ago we got another frank assessment of the Republican agenda. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said Monday that his father, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan would not fit in today's Republican Party. And he went on to elaborate about some of the issues that they are simply headed in the wrong direction. Governor Bush said today's GOP is defined by "an orthodoxy that doesn't allow for disagreement." end of quote. He's right. The Republican Party no longer has room for moderates or anyone unwilling to march in lock step with the radical tea party. That's apparent every day on Capitol Hill, more so in the House than in the Senate, but it's now infected the Senate. It was obvious from the first weeks this have congress that the house was taken over by extremists with no desire to work for the sake of the economy and no concept of the meaning of compromise. And legislation is the art of compromise. But over the last year and a half, it's become clear that Republicans in the Senate are enthralled to the tea party. We see the extremism in this chamber, I just mentioned that, where Republicans blocked or stalled most every job-creation measure we brought to the floor Today's radical Republicans have another agenda. Not hiring more cops. Not doing something to stop the teacher layoffs. But their goal is to drag down the economy because it's good for their politics. They believe the more horrible the economy is, the better off they're going to be in November. They love bad news. But we still have the fact that even though there were more than eight million jobs lost in the Bush administration, we've been fortunate to bring back 4.3 million of those jobs. But we could have done so much more with the jobs measures we brought before this body that were lost on procedural grounds over here Today's Republicans aren't interested in good policy, and obviously they aren't interested in creating jobs. They're too obsessed with defeating President Obama. That's their number-one goal. But don't take my word for it. The Minority Leader said so himself. This is what he said: the single-most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

Senator McConnell: (9:44 AM)
  • Spoke on the Obama economy.
    • SUMMARY "As a liberal columnist recently suggested in the Washington Post, "Let's turn Reagan's declaration on its head. Opposition to government isn't the solution." Opposition to government is and remains the problem, according to Dion. That's what the president seems to be doing, doubling down on the same solutions that are keeping the economy mired. They seem blind to any failure or excess and they make no distinction between the things the government has done well in the past and things it doesn't do well now. They have no limiting principle whatsoever. This their logic: you like the Hoover Dam, you should support bureaucrats making higher salaries and benefits and the taxpayers who are paying for them. If you like the intercontinental railroad, you should support a $1 trillion stimulus bill. If you like the GI bill, they believe you must also embrace a debt-to-GDP ratio that makes us look like Greece. These folks seem to have no limiting principle whatsoever what it comes to the growth of government. They've got blind faith in it. It's the only thing they ever seem to want. And they're completely out of touch. The president wants you to believe that the reason we're in this economic slump is because states and local governments have been laying off government workers. But what he doesn't tell you and what the American people won't hear him say is that for every government worker who has lost a job, 11 private-sector jobs have been lost. For every government worker who's lost a job, 11 private-sector jobs have been lost. And another thing you won't hear the president say is that the public-sector employment is just over 4%. While all other private-sector industries are at least twice that. So government employment isn't the problem; it's the private sector that is suffering and it is that sector where we need to focus our priorities. So the battle lines are clear. After three and a half years of failures, Democrats have one suggestion: more of the same. The President can repackage it however he wants tomorrow, but that's what it amounts to - more government, more debt, and fewer jobs. And that's not what Americans want. Now, Republicans have refused to go along with this and will continue to oppose it until the democrats recognize what most Americans already seem to know: government isn't the answer to what ails us. Government isn't the answer to what ails. It doesn't mean government doesn't do some things well. It means government has its limits. And we've reached them."

Senator Boxer: (9:51 AM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "You know, it just stuns me when the Republican Leader comes to the floor and has his blame Obama moment, you know, every day that he can. And I thought this one was really over the top. It's as if President Obama came in and suddenly things are not going well. Excuse me, I was here. I remember when we had surpluses under Bill Clinton and the Republicans turned it into deficits as far as the eye could see. I can't forecast that because I remember a time when there was discussion about whether we really were going to have U.S. treasuries anymore because we weren't going to have debt anymore when Bill Clinton was president, and the Democrats set us on that right course. We had a balance between investments in our people and fair taxes so that the top 1% paid a fair share, and everybody did well. 23 million new jobs were created with Bill Clinton. Then George W comes in, two wars go on the credit card, tax breaks to the wealthiest few, the millionaires and billionaires, on the credit card; and suddenly we have a crisis no regulation of these sophisticated securities ... No oversight. Derivatives, new kinds of securities taking a beautiful home ethic we had and gambling on it. And what happened? The worst crisis since the great depression. And who comes into office - President Obama takes the oath, and the unbelievable crisis that he inherited and the unbelievable debt that he inherited and the unbelievable budget deficit that he inherited was just unbelievable. An auto industry going to be gone. My friend, Senator McConnell, has a right to his opinion, and I respect it so much, except he avoids telling the facts about how we got where we are, and the American people do not suffer from amnesia. They understand this. They saw this president, this young president come in faced with jobs, bleeding 800,000 a month. And, yes, he turned it around This president took over in the worst of times since the Great Depression. There have been millions of jobs created, not enough, and I will say this: if this economy sputters, this economic recovery that we're in sputters and has a hard time because of the depth of the crisis originally, the fact that the housing crisis still continues, the fact that there's problems in the global marketplace in Europe and all of these factors, I want to say this: I want the person in the oval office to be a person who understands what's happening, and that's President Obama, who relates to working people, who relates to the middle class, who's not building an elevator for his nine cars in San Diego and that's how I feel. And every time there is an attack on this president, I'm going to come down here and tell the truth to the American people."

Jun 13 2012

The Senate Convened.

Jun 13 2012

The Senate is considering S. 3240, the farm bill.  Republican senators continue to focus on creating jobs, lowering the deficit, reducing gas prices, and replacing the Democrats' health care bill with reforms that will actually lower costs.