Senate Calendar

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Stabenow, Franken (The Senate Stands Adjourned)

Flood Insurance bill (S. 1940)

Jun 14 2012

Senator Stabenow: (5:40 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "As we wrap up today and the week, I want to take a few moments to give a status report as we're moving forward in our negotiations on the Farm bill. We've actually had some very good progress today and overcome some obstacles and are putting together what will be something for the Senate for the beginning of the week that will allow us to move forward. And I want to also thank the junior senator from North Dakota, who I heard on the floor a little while ago, Senator Hoeven, talking about the 250 different amendments that we have. And, of course, the great thing about the Senate is that we can all offer amendments, whether they're relevant or not. The challenge for someone managing a bill is that anyone can offer amendments. And so we have worked our way from the 250 and you know, are working our way down from 50 down to 40 and putting together an approach that will be fair and balanced and allow us to move forward and have the input of everyone on both sides of the aisle."

Senator Franken: (6:04 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Monday, June 18th --
    • The Senate will convene at 3:00 PM and Majority Leader Reid will be recognized.
    • At 5:00 PM, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session and begin up to 30 minutes of debate, equally divided, on Executive Calendar #612, Mary Geiger Lewis, of South Carolina, to be U.S. District Judge for the District of South Carolina.
    • At 5:30 PM, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the nomination.
    • 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.he Senate stands adjourned until 3:00 PM Monday, June 18th.
The Senate stands adjourned until 3:00 PM Monday, June 18th.

Baucus, Carper, Hoeven

Flood Insurance bill (S. 1940)

Jun 14 2012

Senator Baucus: (4:26 PM)
  • Spoke on the Montana-Big Sky Honor Flight Program.
  • Spoke on campaign finance reform.
    • SUMMARY "That is the freedom of people to choose their own elected representatives. Today, the Supreme Court is considering a challenge to Montana's 1912 practice. 100 years ago, Montanans, it's said, in legislation, elections should not be bought by the copper kings. Who are the copper kings? Basically, they are three very wealthy titans trying to control the economy of Montana and control our state. Montanans said no, elections should not be bought by copper kings or by any corporation. Today we in Montana say the same thing. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court 2010 decision in Citizens United cleared the way for unlimited out-of-state corporate donations throughout the country. I applaud Montana's Attorney General Steve Bullock for sticking up for Montanans as the Supreme Court takes a closer look at this case. I have introduced a constitutional amendment to limit corporate campaign expenditures and I have supported every piece of campaign reform legislation that's come before me. As the Supreme Court looks at Montana's 1912 practices act today, it's my hope that Montana can continue to lead the nation in saying elections belong in the hands of the people, not out of state foreign corporations."

Senator Carper: (4:41 PM)
  • Spoke on the economy.
    • SUMMARY "The underlying fundamentals are not entirely bad either. Our energy costs are down, way down. Not just in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, now the net exporter of oil. We're seeing significant reductions over the last half dozen or so years and our dependence on foreign oil from about 60% of the foreign oil we use being from foreign sources to approaching 40%. The movement is right. Another underlying factor is the cost of health care in this country for years have seen double-digit increases. The rate of health care costs in this country. Last year health care costs in this country rose by 4%. That's a positive factor as we try to be more competitive with the rest of the world. Another factor is the - if you will, the disparity of the difference in labor costs between our country and those of other countries with whom we compete. One of them China. Another believe it or not Vietnam, very low-cost producer of manufactured products. What we have seen in those other countries, in Vietnam and some of the other Asian countries, their wage levels have come up, and our wage levels in this country pretty much remain the same. As a result, the inducement for companies here, particularly manufacturing companies offshore, the manufacturing operations are diminished from where they were a couple of years ago. Those are all, I think, encouraging factors. Again, to lay the groundwork for a sustained economic recovery if our friends from Europe can work their way through, navigate their way through their problems in places like Greece and Spain. But it's not all bad news. It's not all bad news. In the near term, what should we do? Again, number one, not talk ourselves back into a recession. Number two, prepare to hit a home run. I'm a guy who likes baseball a lot. We need to hit a home run. I don't think we're going to hit a home run here in this chamber, in this building, in this city maybe before the election, but the best thing in my view that we could do for the economy is to adopt a bipartisan deficit reduction deal much like that proposed by the deficit commission We need to hit a home run to really get the economy moving. In my view, the home run is a comprehensive bipartisan balanced deficit-reduction plan not unlike the Bowles-Simpson commission recommendation. When the vote is over we can pass something along those lines before the end of the year. For me that is a home run. In the meantime there is a bunch of things we can do to hit singles, maybe doubles to get the economy moving to create that nurturing environment. Among the ones that need to be done and finished with are transportation legislation to keep two or three million people working. We pass it here; the House has been less willing to help us find a good compromise. They need to. And postal legislation, which really supports an industry of seven or eight million people. We passed bipartisan legislation here two months ago. We're still waiting for the House to move a bill eight months after they reported the bill out of committee. They need to get on with that. They did that, we get a good compromise on a bipartisan bill, on transportation, we preserve those two to three million jobs, free up a lot of money for transportation projects all over the country. That would be great and on the postal side help the postal service rein in its deficits, move towards self-sufficiency and make sure those seven or eight million jobs remain there and the industry strengthens. The last thing we need to do is find ways to focus every day on how do we get better results in everything that we do. How do we do that? Not just in defense spending, defense projects, not just education, not just transportation, not just environment, not just agriculture. But all the above."
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "The legislation eliminates wasteful spending by getting rid of the so-called direct payments program which too often gave money to farmers even when farmers didn't grow anything, or even own the land. But the bill is also I think humane and this legislation is not unfair to our farmers, I believe it embraces the golden rule of treating people the way we want to be treated, that includes farmers and farm families and taxpayers. But instead of continuing the direct payments program that's prevailed for years this legislation institutes a new crop insurance program, a long sought-after goal by those of us wanting to make progressive changes to farm law. Instead of giving money to farmers that, again, sometimes don't grow even a single crop in a year, this legislation only helps farmers when they actually experience a loss on the crops they are actually growing. For a lot of people in this country that would sound like common sense. But here in Washington DC and across the country, it's an uncommon approach to farm legislation. It's a much smarter approach. In the end, the new crop insurance in the farm bill would give farmers certainty, a lot of uncertainty in farming. Sit going to rain? Is it going to be cold? Are we going to have hail? Have drought? A huge amount of uncertainty. It's important for us to the extent we can reasonably do it, reduce uncertainty and lack of predictability for all kinds of businesses. It's hard to do that, we don't control the weather or the temperature, sort of indirectly maybe, but to the extent we can provide some security and predictability for the farmers at a lower cost to the taxpayers, we ought to do that. And I think this committee has pretty well thought that through and figured out a way to do crop insurance. An old program with a new approach, a smarter approach that's good for farmers and I think good for taxpayers."

Senator Hoeven: (5:15 PM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "We have to come together in a bipartisan way, work together and come up with an agreement so that we can have a reasonable number of amendments brought forward and we can vote on those amendments and pass a Farm bill. And we should be able to do it. We absolutely should be able to get that done because this bill accomplishes some very important things for our country. First, as I said, it saves money,$23.6 billion to help with the deficit and the debt. But also because it provides a very strong farm program, and that's important not only for our farmers and ranchers but for every American. It is important for every single American. Good farm policy certainly benefits farmers and ranchers, but it benefits all Americans. First, we have the highest quality, lowest-cost food supply in the world, bar none. Highest-quality, lowest-cost food supply in the history of the world. Every American benefits from that. Second, it is a jobs bill. You're talking about millions of jobs, both on a direct basis and on an indirect basis millions of jobs. And if you want to talk about small businesses, you're talking about hundreds of thousands of small businesses across this country in every state - farmers, ranchers, and all of the businesses that go with farming and ranching, hundreds of thousands of businesses. So it really is a jobs bill at a time when we need to get our economy going and we need to get people back to worth and its also about national security. Think how important it is that we're able to rely on our own farmers and ranchers across this country for our food supply. We're not beholden to other countries or relying on other countries, particularly countries that may have very different interests than we have for our food supply. So it really is an issue of national security as well. So, for all these reasons and more, we need to move forward on this Farm bill. We're talking about legislation that affects every single American. Now, in addition to that, this is a cost-effective bill. It provides strong support to our farmers and ranchers, but as I said, it also provides real savings to help with our deficit and debt. Agriculture is doing its part to help reduce the deficit."

Jun 14 2012

Senator Manchin: (2:04 PM)
  • Spoke on Manchin amendment (hydrocodeine schedule II) to the FDA User Fee bill.
    • SUMMARY "I was so proud when the Senate came together to unanimously support an amendment I offered that would make it far more difficult to abuse addictive pain medication by reclassifying drugs containing hydrocodeine as a schedule two substance. Moving hydrocodeine to schedule two would mean people would need a prescription to get their pills. Traffickers would be subject to increased fines and penalties. As we speak, negotiations are ongoing between the House and the Senate on a compromise version of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act. The Senate version contains my amendment, and the House version does not, so we're fighting as hard as we can to make sure this amendment is included into the final bill I recognize that this amendment does not fit into the business model of selling as many pills as possible, I understand that. But with that being said, I believe we have a responsibility to this great nation and especially to the youth of America. This will affect us for generations to come. To win this war on prescription drugs, it needs to happen now and it is one of the most abused substances - hydrocodeine is one of the most abused substances we have and most addictive. I don't think I have talked to a person who has not recognized that each and every state has had horrible problems with prescription drug abusive, and the facts will bear this out. According to an issue reported by the Centers for Disease Control in November, the death toll from overdoses of prescription painkillers has more than tripled in the last decade. The finding shows that more than 40 people die every day from overdoses involving narcotic pain relievers ... These painkillers are responsible for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined."

Senator Whitehouse: (2:16 PM)
  • Spoke on climate change.
    • SUMMARY "I come before the senate today to speak about a number, a number that has a particular significance for us here. That number is 400. Why is 400 an important number at this point in our history? What's important about 400 is that it is the number of parts per million of carbon dioxide that has been measured this spring in the arctic. It's a first. We've never hit 400 before. For 8,000 centuries mankind has inhabited this planet within an atmospheric carbon dioxide range of 190 to hundred parts per million. That's been the range. That's the bandwidth that we've lived within. How long it's is 800,000 years? It's a pretty darn long time. I don't think there are any artifacts that go more than 200,000 years. If you go 10,000 years, you only see the beginnings of agriculture, people scratching the soil and planting things. So longer than our species has effectively inhabited this earth we've been in this happy bandwidth that has supported our lives, has supported congenial climate for human development, and we are out of it for the first time in that period. 800,000 years. And we're not just a little bit out of it. We didn't go to 302, we didn't go to 350, we've now crossed 400 and we're still going. We are still going. And there is no end in sight. We continue to dump tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere every single year. We continue to subsidize the people who do the dumping, and at least in this building, and probably in the board room of ExxonMobil and a few other places, we studiously ignore the facts that are right before our faces."

Senator Wicker: (2:54 PM)
  • Spoke on the recent intelligence leaks.
    • SUMMARY "I want to ask this: does the administration really want the truth in this? Or is the administration simply looking for cover? What is it about an independent special counsel that frightens this administration? Is it the truth that this administration is afraid of? And are Americans more likely to get the truth from a truly independent counsel or from U.S. attorneys who will still report directly to the attorney general? The administration's concern about special counsels is understandable. If an independent counsel investigation reveals proof of leaks for political gain, it will not be pretty and will not sit well with the American people. This Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in. It started small, but as more and more people began to ask questions and as more and more people began to demand a true investigation, the truth finally was revealed and it brought down a presidency. Early on in Watergate a member of my political party, a member of President Nixon's political party, a former nominee for president, Barry Goldwater, came forward to the American people and said let's get the truth out. No more cover-ups. Let's get rid of the stink and let's find out what was going on. Members of my party should have heeded the words of Barry Goldwater at that moment, and perhaps the scandal could have been brought to light and people involved in the subsequent cover-up would not have been asked to do so. Barry Goldwater was right. Members of both political parties would be well advised today to ask this administration to come forward, appoint a truly independent counsel to have a truly independent investigation of these breaches of national security. What I'm talking about today is evidence of criminal disclosures of national intelligence secrets, disclosures that have damaged our national security and continue to damage our national security. This issue is not going away. I urge the attorney general, I urge my president to ensure confidence in government and to appoint a special counsel to investigate and hold accountable anyone responsible for these flagrant violations of our national security."

Senator Lautenberg: (3:06 PM)
  • Spoke on the Schwartz nomination.

Senator Reed: (3:19 PM)
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "We are running out of time. The interest rate on subsidized student loans is set to double in just over two weeks. This will hit middle-class families hard at a time when they are reeling from the devastating effects of the most severe recession that we have witnessed in our lifetimes. Earlier this week, the Federal Reserve reported additional sobering news. Between 2007-2010, median family wealth declined by nearly 40%. Median family income declined by nearly 8%, and the share of families with education-related debt rose from 15.2% to 19.2%. Certainly, this is no time to increase the interest rate on need-based student loans on the more than 7 million low and moderate income students who rely on them to go to college. What we have seen is a middle class that has been in terms of wealth and income shrinking dramatically. Ironically - perhaps ironically, but the very, very wealthy have actually seen income and wealth increase. But for the vast majority of Americans, they have seen their economic position deteriorate. Closely allied with economic opportunity and the idea of making your way in this country is the need, the necessity to go on to higher education. We have been preaching that. That's what our parents told us. Go on to college. We couldn't go. When you go on to college, you will be prepared to go into the work force, increase your family income, contribute more to your country, and yet now we see a situation where not only is there a compression in middle-income wealth and income, there is also a staggering amount of student debt, almost a trillion dollars. In fact, I have heard reports suggesting that it's eclipsed credit card debt in terms of what households in America are holding. And so you have a generation of college students who have graduated, struggling with this debt. The worst thing we could do now is double the interest rate on those who need more loans to finish their school and put even a greater burden on them and their families as they go forward. We need to pass this legislation that will prevent the doubling. We need to do it before July 1."

Senator Barrasso: (3:32 PM)
  • Spoke on the Obama economy.
    • SUMMARY "Those policies have contributed to the lower wages that we're seeing, to the higher unemployment that we're living with, and to more people living in poverty. Those policies are contributing as well to the sagging home markets that threaten to keep millions of American families in dire financial straits for years to come. We all know that President Obama faced a difficult economic situation when he took office in 2009. His failed policies have not healed our economy. Higher taxes, more bureaucracy, more borrowing, more wasteful spending by Washington will continue to make things worse. Now when you take a look at what's happening around the world with Europe facing collapse and a global slowdown that threatens our economy, the president seems more concerned with his next election than with actually taking action to make things better. Alongside all the bad economic news, ABC news reported the other day that President Obama they said will continue his record smashing fundraising schedule. Record-smashing fundraising schedule. You know, that's not the kind of leadership that our economy needs today. Republicans are focused on real solutions. Making our tax code simpler, flat perks and fairer for every American. Reducing the debt and the deficit. Ending overregulation, the red tape that is burdensome, expensive and time consuming. Putting patients and doctors, their own doctors in control of health care, not creating more Washington bureaucracies. And reducing our dependency on foreign oil and sending so much American money overseas. Two years ago when the Obama administration was putting out press releases and staging photo ops to proclaim the recovery summer, Republicans were approaching real solutions to help create a healthy economy. When voters had a chance to compare the two approaches that November, November of 2010, Republicans earned control of the House of Representatives and at that time they started passing a jobs agenda There are 27 jobs bills that have passed the House of Representatives on bipartisan votes. The bills are still today waiting for Senate action. The president of the United States remains silent on these bills that would actually get people back to work. He is offering now but scare tactics, excuses, and blame. He just gave another speech today, just this very afternoon in Ohio. And what he did was just more of that: more scare tactics, excuses, and blame, because in his mind, it seems like it's always someone else's fault. Just imagine, madam president, where our economy would be today if Democrats had been willing to accept commonsense republican solutions two years ago. We would actually be in recovery today. We would have seen significant improvements to the economy. If Democrats had been willing to work with us instead of giving speeches and pushing more wasteful stimulus spending, millions of more people would be working today across the country. If President Obama had been focused on putting people back to work instead of just on keeping his own job, then today - the summer of 2012, the private sector and the American people really would be doing fine."

Senator Sessions: (3:47 PM)
  • Spoke on the President's budget proposal.
    • SUMMARY "How can we have a bipartisan discussion on how to solve the sustained debt threat that we have in this nation if the president goes around saying his plan will help pay down our debt? It does not pay down the debt. It doesn't come close to paying down the debt. And he said that last year. And I grilled his budget director at the committee. And he could not defend that statement because it's indefensible. Nobody can defend that statement. And if any member of this Congress, this Senate, Democrat member, I urge you to come down and tell me if the plan laid out by the president of the United States, the only plan we've seen is budget plan, pays down the debt. It does not. He goes on to say in this speech, "I signed into law," he says and forgive me if this is distressing to me, but we've been involved in this discussion a good long time. We have the United States Congress and United States Senate and we have the president of the United States all formulating an economic policy for the United States of America that would put our country on a growth path to eliminate the unsustainable debt course that we are on. The phrase used so often by President Obama's own debt commission, Simpson-Bowles, they told us this nation has never faced a more predictable financial crisis. Why? Because of the increasing debt, they said. The numbers are just relentless and it's unsustainable. At some point there will be a credit reaction, a financial collapse or reaction that will put us back into recession and distress. And we need to get off that path is what they pleaded with us to do. So the president says, "I signed into law - I signed a law that cuts spending and reduces our deficit by $2 trillion." Now, what does he mean by that? Well, I think most Americans can remember last August, and we reached the debt ceiling, and we borrowed so much money we hit the limit of money the United States government can borrow. Congress, the president asked us to raise that debt limit so he could keep spending and keep borrowing. Basically the Republican House and members of the Senate to the extent to which we had influence said we'll raise the debt limit but we want to you reduce spending some. So they agreed after much debate in the wee hours of the morning at the latest possible time to cut $2.1 trillion from spending. The president went kicking and screaming to that point. The Democrats pretended it was a disaster and America was going to sink into the ocean. That's what that was all about. And here we come with this plan, and the president now claims that it's his deal, that he cut $2 trillion. I remember how it went down. And that's not a fair thing to say. He signed that because if he didn't sign it, spending would have to be cut 40% immediately because that's how much out of every dollar we spend we borrow. We're borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend. If we-and raised the debt sealing the United States would have to cut all expenditures by 40%. That's why it is an unsustainable course we're on. It's not a little bitty matter. The president suggests, if you listen to his speech, don't worry about it, I've got a plan. We're moving along fine. You don't have to really sacrifice. We're going to have more education, energy, innovation, infrastructure, more spending. That's what that means. Investments, they say. That means spending, you know but we don't have the money. This country is out of money. It's a serious time. And we've got to make some tough decisions. And we need a chief executive telling the American people the truth about where we are rather than promising some balanced budget paying down debt that's nowhere in his plan when it's looked at."

Kerry, Reid

Executive Session

Jun 14 2012

Senator Kerry: (1:40 PM)
  • Spoke on Kerry amendment #2199 (repeal catfish language) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "I'd like to call my colleagues' attention to the fact that in 2008 the Farm bill's conferees inserted a provision that transfers authority of the regulation of catfish but only catfish - the only particular item singled out to be transferred - from the Food and Drug Administration to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The provision was not debated in either body. That's one much those things that as we all know people have increasingly got incensed about - in the public as well as around here in the Congress itself. Well, because it was transferred over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the USDA subsequently published a proposal in order to carry out the new mandate that it had been give tongue regulate catfish - given to regulate catfish. That proposal has remained, and properly so, stalled in the regulatory process - I say "properly so" because it serves no public interest, it's costly for taxpayers, and it would - it's duplicative and confrontational with other entities that are even engaged in that kind of oversight and as a result it will invite trade retaliation abroad and put us on a train wreck, if you will, of sort of excessive regulatory conflict here. Senator McCain and I have joined together along with a bipartisan group of our colleagues to offer an amendment # 2199 to repeal the 2008 catfish language. And if we don't repeal it, USDA is going to try to continue to proceed forward in this regulatory train wreck."

Senator Reid: (1:47 PM)
  • Confirmed by Voice Vote: Executive Calendar #501, Mari Carmen Aponte, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of El Salvador.
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "This will be the last vote today. It appears we will have no vote tomorrow. But Senator Stabenow and Senator Roberts are working very diligently to come up with an agreement on the Farm bill. We're going to have a vote Monday evening. We haven't decided exactly what that will be. We have a number of different alternatives. But we hope that we can have common sense prevail and come up with an agreement. If for no other reason, to recognize the hard work of the two managers this have bill. It's so important that we get this done. There are issues that we are going to vote on, one of which Senator Kerry has talked about. There are things, relevant amendments. We have a lot of them. We agreed to vote on those. We're trying to work out the non-relevant amendments and we're not there yet."

Reid, Inhofe, Hutchison, Brown-MA

Executive Session (Aponte nomination)

Jun 14 2012

Senator Reid: (12:58 PM)
  • Spoke on the Aponte nomination.

Senator Inhofe: (1:01 PM)
  • Spoke on a personal flight experience.
Unanimous Consent --
  • The Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of S. 3268, that the bill be read a third time and passed, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table, and that any statements relating to the bill appear at this point in the record (Rockefeller objected).

Senator Rockefeller: (1:12 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "My objection is not based so much on what he said but it's based on the whole concept of public safety. This is about public safety. We should not have to worry that potentially unqualified pilots are in the air. We have so many tens of thousands of airplanes in the air every hour of every day. This bill would create a process which would be new that could result in the federal government being unable to pursue enforcement actions because of limited resources. It's a fact of life these days. FAA has to cut way back. Or having to address other mandated priorities which are perhaps more important than this one. And that could very well mean that the FAA and the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board, which are ultimately responsible for making decisions about whether pilots who have violated aviation regulations could be barred from taking actions to prevent unsafe pilots from continuing to fly. That's heavy water. That could have serious safety consequences. According to the FAA in some cases which would typically warrant revocation of a pilot's license, some unqualified pilots would be able to avoid losing their certificates by avoiding FAA prosecution of the matter before the NTSB in this bill. This would stand the enforcement structure on its head and as a result I do object."

Senator Hutchison: (1:15 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "What Senator Inhofe's bill does is take away the NTSB portion of the appeals process. Now let me say that I have offered to Senator Inhofe, because he knew that I objected to this bill, to do everything in his bill that he has addressed. The openness, the requirement that an enforcement action that the FAA would grant the pilot all the relevant evidence in 30 days prior to a decision, that it would clarify the statutory deference as it relates to NTSB. NTSB is not a rubber stamp at all. I think they have been fair with their expertise. FAA. has the responsibility for aviation safety. Requiring the FAA to undertake a notice to airmen improvement program, i think is certainly legitimate. Making flight service station communications available to all airmen is a legitimate piece of this legislation. What I object to and have asked Senator Inhofe to let us work together to do is not to bypass NTSB, but to let the appellate process go forward and then at the end, if there is still a feeling of unfairness on the part of the pilot, that they would have access to the federal courts. They can do that now. So I think that Senator Inhofe insisting on bypassing NTSB is holding up the good parts of his bill because it is very important, in my opinion, that we keep the expertise for the safety in the skies where it is in the FAA, the in the it be and then the federal courts if rights are violated."

Senator Inhofe: (1:24 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "When you have been trying and trying to get a hearing before a committee for a year and you have 66 cosponsors, you have to resort to whatever is out there available to you for a remedy. That remedy happens to be Rule 14. Rule 14 will allow me to do this. In the event they continue, two people are holding the bill up. That's Senator Rockefeller and Senator Hutchison. In the event that they continue to do that, I will have no choice but to file cloture and to go ahead and get a vote on this bill, recognizing it takes a supermajority when you file cloture. I would do that."

Senator Brown-MA: (1:33 PM)
  • Spoke on the Ending Housing Discrimination Against Service Members and Veterans Act.
    • SUMMARY "I rise today to discuss a terrible shortcoming in our discrimination laws in legislation which I introduced and I encourage you to sign the Boston Herald reported that a veteran of Iraq in Afghanistan had been forced to file suit in Boston because a political activist landlord discouraged him from renting because of his military background claiming the situation would be "uncomfortable." This brave veteran brought his fight to the press and to the courts of Massachusetts, where state law makes it illegal to discriminate against veterans who are seeking housing. Now, in Massachusetts that is in fact the law - it is illegal. When I read this, I was angry, as I know you would be angry if it happened in your state. That this could happen today is just mind-boggling. So my staff and you started working to see what we could do to right this wrong. And see if it was something that was systemic throughout the country. We started digging into this issue and found when it comes to housing, it is apparently not illegal under federal law to discriminate against a veteran or member of our armed forces on the basis of their brave service to our nation Fair housing has a bipartisan history and today we have a chance to do it again. We can do it by protecting two additional groups from housing discrimination. By Ending Housing Discrimination Against Service Members and Veterans Act, Senate 3283, is needed and it needed right now. It amends the Fair Housing Act to protect veterans and service members from house being discrimination and by passing this bill right away, the senate can say affirmatively and immediately that veterans and service members deserve the same rights to housing as anyone else. This is a no-brainer."

Jun 14 2012

Agreed to, 62-37:
Motion to Invoke Cloture on Executive Calendar #501, Mari Carmen Aponte, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of El Salvador.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Stabenow, Blumenthal, Menendez

Flood Insurance bill (S. 1940)/Executive Session

Jun 14 2012

Senator Stabenow: (11:20 AM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "Major reforms in this bill that relate to moving to a risk-based system to support our farmers and based on a proposal that the distinguished senator, presiding officer senator brown has put forward. A bipartisan proposal. I appreciate very much your leadership on that as well as a number of other things. But it is about growing things. Almost one out of four people in Michigan have a job because we grow things. We have more diversity of crops than any state but California. So that means every page of the farm bill matters to Michigan. Which is why over the years I have paid attention to every single page of the farm bill. But overall in our country, 16 million people work because of agriculture. They may be involved in production, they may be involved in packaging, they may be involved in processing, they may make the farm equipment, maybe a variety of things, but they work because we grow things in America. Our one area of huge trade surplus where we have grown in the last few years 270%, our trade surplus is in agriculture. We are growing things here, creating jobs here and exporting. So this is a jobs bill. And I want to talk today specifically about a very important piece where we bring together making things and growing things in our economy, and that's the energy title of the Farm bill. The energy title reflects the important work being done by America's farmers, ranchers, forest managers, rural small businesses to help improve our energy security. Since we added this title in 2002, I was pleased to be a strong supporter of doing that. The rural energy for America program has helped put in place yearly 8,000 projects and jobs that help farmers lower their energy bills and actually produce electricity that goes back to the electric grid. In the last ten years, we have seen incredible advances in advanced biofuels and biobased manufacturing, which really is the ultimate at bringing together making things and growing things. Both of which are supported and strengthened in this bill. The Farm bill is also an energy bill. It's a jobs bill. There are more than 3,000 companies doing innovative biobased manufacturing using agricultural products instead of petroleum to manufacture finished products, and those companies have already created over 100,000 jobs and growing every day. Many of these businesses are in rural communities, supporting those businesses is one of the best ways that we can create jobs in economic growth in small towns across our country."

Senator Blumenthal: (11:48 AM)
  • Senator Inhofe's Utility MACT Resolution of Disapproval.
    • SUMMARY "I strongly oppose efforts underway to roll back clean air act provisions that are critical to health and safety and well-being of every man, woman and child in this country. Last December, the EPA finalized a rule aimed at reducing mercury and other toxic emissions from electric generating units by about 90%. This rule affects the most toxic emissions in the United States: mercury, acid gas, nickel, sill selenium, cyanide. These efforts are more critical than effort. The effort to roll them back should be resisted and rejected. And I hope my colleagues will join with me in opposing the joint senate resolution that would not only stymie but stop efforts to protect Americans against the most toxic emissions."
  • Spoke on S. Res. 492, designating June 15, 2012, as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
    • SUMMARY "The resolution that Senator Kirk and I offered and that this body passed recognizes the scourge that elder abuse represents here in America and around the world. I thank my colleagues for supporting it overwhelmingly and if thank the president of the United States for proclaiming tomorrow, June 15, as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. And to Secretary Sebelius for announcing today that $5.5 million in funding for states and tribes will be available to test ways to prevent elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. This initiative helps to implement the Elder Justice Act which was enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, and if believe that this kind of initiative brings together in partnership local, state, federal authorities and private groups to combat this epidemic. It is a spreading epidemic of abuse of elders. We have statistics that indicate how it is, in fact, spreading. Elder abuse incidents have increased by 150% in the last 10 years alone. A recent study of the GAO shows that every year, 14% of all non-institutionalized adults are victims of abuse or neglect or exploitation, whether physical or financial or even sexual. So the statistics show a trend that is undeniable. Not only in the two million adults who are maltreated every year but $2.9 billion taken from older adults each year as a result of financial abuse and exploitation. $2.9 billion every year taken from older Americans. But the statistics tell only a fraction of the story, because the fact is that 1 out of every 44 incidents of financial abuse is reported. 43 out of 44 incidents are unreported. And, in fact, of all incidents of abuse, 22 out of 23 are unreported."

Senator Menendez: (12:01 PM)
  • Spoke on the Aponte nomination.

McCain, Heller, Menendez (UC)

Flood Insurance bill (S. 1940)

Jun 14 2012

Senator McCain: (10:13 AM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "The Senate is considering the Farm bill, which we do every five years. During this debate, Americans will hear speeches about spending reductions and cuts farm subsidies. And I can see that there's some of that in this bill. Unfortunately, so far we failed to have an open and fair amendment process. That should be the case in the United States senate. I have several amendments that I would like to have considered, and like my other colleagues, we've been prevented from doing so. I've been in this body for some years in consideration of previous Farm bills, and I've always been able to have a couple of amendments considered and voted on. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case in this consideration of this farm bill. It's very regrettable ... Very unfortunate that we can't just start voting on amendments and then see where we are. Instead we have the filling of the tree and other language that most Americans have no idea what we're talking about, but really does prevent this body from considering the amendments of members on both sides of the aisle. It's unfortunate. Also, the fact remains that the programs authorized under this farm bill consume a colossal sum of taxpayers' dollars. This bill is over 1,000 pages and estimated at costs of $960 billion over ten years. $96 billion over ten years. That's about $is billion per page. It is a 60% increase from the previous farm bill which passed in 2008. And I believe it is necessary to assist low-income families with nutrition programs. We should keep our farmers out of the red when a natural disaster strikes, but I'm also mindful that taxpayers will saddled with a $1.5 trillion deficit and a ballooning $15 trillion national debt. The Farm bill is ripe for spending cuts. Some have taken place, not nearly as are necessary. And as usual, a Farm bill being 1,000 pages long is filled with special deals for special interests. I acknowledge the senate bill generates $23 billion in savings and that's a notable accomplishment. We've finally done away with depression-era subsidies like farm payments and countercyclical program which compensates for depressed prices. Unfortunately, it seems that Congress's idea of a Farm bill reform is to eliminate one subsidy program only to invent a new one to take its place. Cutting direct and countercyclical payments actually save the taxpayers about $50 billion rather than plug the money into deficit reduction, the farm bill blows $35 billion of its own savings on several new subsidy programs."

Senator Heller: (10:51 AM)
  • Spoke on Heller-Barrasso-Sessions amendment #2310 (Preserve the Waters of the U.S. Act) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "Under the current administration, they seem bent upon issuing regulation after regulation that threatens existing jobs and preventing new ones from being created. As I've stated before, you cannot be pro-jobs and anti-business at the same time. With unemployment at 11.7% in Nevada and it continues to lead the nation in unemployment, the only things as scarce as jobs in Nevada are private property and water. Roughly 87% of Nevada is controlled by the federal government and the remaining is heavily regulated by the federal government also. Nevada is also one of the driest states in the nation. Because of this water is a very precious commodity as we debated Farm bill, I am proud to join with some of my colleagues to provide some much-needed regulatory relief for American farmers in rural America. However, the latest efforts by this administration go well beyond the agricultural sector. For years there's been a concerted effort to expand the regulatory reach over water in this country. After years of failed attempts to legislatively change the scope of regulatory authority over water, the EPA is now trying to overturn both congressional intent and multiple supreme court decisions to further their goal of overregulation. To put it into context, if this regulation were enacted, it would give the EPA and the army corps of engineers the ability to regulate irrigation ditches, large mud puddles or anything that contains standing water, regardless of whether or not it's permanent, seasonal, or man-made. This is not the intent of Congress when writing the clean water act and Congress has repeatedly rejected any legislative effort to alter the existing law. More disturbing, the administration has bypassed public outreach and has neglected to consider the economic impact of their proposed action. This is in addition to ignoring the fact that the Supreme Court twice affirmed the limits of the federal authority under the clean water act. But apparently the EPA believes that it does not have to adhere to the laws of the land. Expanding the federal regulatory overreach into water also infringes on private property rights. It stops investments in development, infrastructure projects including housing, schools, hospitals, roads, highways, agriculture and energy. In my home state, this regulation will hurt farming, ranching, mining, and construction - the same middle-class, blue-collar jobs this administration claims to care about. In an already struggling it economy, we cannot afford to create additional regulatory barriers that will cost jobs and prevent future economic growth. This is why Senators Barrasso, Inhofe, Sessions, and I have offered an amendment to the Farm bill as well as a stand-alone piece of legislation that will preserve the current definition of "waters of the United States." The Preserve the Waters of the U.S. Act is simply straightforward legislation that would preserve current definition of "federal waters" as well as uphold private property rights."

Senator Sanders: (10:59 AM)
  • Spoke on Sanders amendment #2310 (genetically engineered ingredient labels) to the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "This year in my state of Vermont, our legislature tried to pass a bill that would have required foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients to have that information on their labels. And that information would simply give consumers in the state of Vermont the knowledge about the ingredients that were in the food that they are ingesting. Not, I believe, a terribly radical idea. I personally believe and I think most Americans believe that when a mother goes to the store and purchases food for her child, she has the right to know what she is feeding her child, what is in the food that she's giving to her kids and her family. This concern about genetically engineered labeling brought how a huge turnout to the Vermont state legislature of people who were supportive of this concept. In fact, it was one of the most hotly debated and discussed issues in our legislature this year. Over 100 Vermonters testified at a committee meeting, the agricultural committee meeting, in the state of Vermont in favor of this legislation. Ware small state and hundreds more crowded - we are a small state and hundreds more crowded into the statehouse to show their support. So what people in Vermont, and I believe all over this country, are saying, simply and straightforwardly, is we want to know what is in the food we're eating and whether or not is genetically engineered We have an opportunity with the Sanders-Boxer amendment # 2310 to affirm states' rights to label food that contained genetically engineered ingredients. This amendment recognizes that the 10th amendment to the U.S.. Constitution clearly reserves powers to our system of federalism to the states and to the people. In other words, that is what federalism is about. This amendment acknowledges that states have the authority to require the labeling of foods produced through genetic engineering or derived from organisms that have been genetically engineered. Simply put, this amendment gives people the right to know. It says that a state, if its legislature so chooses, may require that any food or beverage containing a genetically engineered ingredient offered for sale in that state have a label that makes that information public and clear. It also requires that the commissioner of the FDA, with the secretary of agriculture, shall report to Congress within two years on the percentage of food and beverages in the United States that contain genetically engineered ingredients."

Senator Menendez: (11:14 AM)
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • At 12:00 PM, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session and begin up to 30 minutes of debate, equally divided, on Executive Calendar #501, Mari Carmen Aponte, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of El Salvador.
    • At 12:30 PM, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the nomination.

Whitehouse, Boxer, Udall-CO, Udall-NM

Flood Insurance bill (S. 1940)

Jun 14 2012

Senator Whitehouse: (9:43 AM)
  • Spoke on Senator Inhofe's Utility MACT Resolution of Disapproval.
    • SUMMARY "Last December the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule called the mercury air toxics standard for power plants. This rule is important, and it was long, long, long overdue. Many Americans might not realize that before last December there were no federal standards for mercury or the other toxic air pollution pouring out of our nation's power plants. 32 years ago - 32 years ago - Congress directed EPA to limit toxic air pollution from all big polluting industries. In response, EPA set standards for nearly 100 industries across our nation. However, until December there were no such standards for the utility industry. The biggest source of mercury, arsenic and other toxic air now there are standards in place. Estimated to the provide $3 to $9 of health and economic benefits for every $1 invested in pollution controls. We should be celebrating this sensible yet significant public health achievement. Yet from the other side of the aisle, we only hear about the $1 that the polluters have to spend to clean up. We never hear about the $3 to $9 that the rest of the public saves as a result of the pollution being cleaned up ... Instead, we have colleagues on the other side who want to halt this progress, notwithstanding the savings for virtually every American. With a resolution that we're facing now that would void these standards, standards that have just emerged after 32 years for the first time regulating toxic pollution out of utility plants. This resolution would not only void the new standard, but it would bar EPA from ever setting similar limits on power plants in the future."

Senator Boxer: (9:55 AM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "First can I just thank you so much - so much - for taking to the floor today and explaining to everyone within the sound of your voice that we face a very important vote because we have a colleague on the other side of the aisle who wants to say that the Environmental Protection Agency, stop your work, allow polluters to continue to poison this atmosphere. There's arsenic, there's lead, there's formaldehyde. We have to say to the utilities, clean up your act. We're giving them enough time to do it The cost-benefit ratio of this rule that Senator Inhofe wants to now repeal is 9-1. For every $1 that we put in to make sure that this pollution goes away or is controlled, there's $9 of benefits in health."

Senator Udall-CO: (10:00 AM)
  • Spoke on the Wind Production Tax Credit.
    • SUMMARY "It has a positive economic effect on each and every one of our states, and we ought to immediately extend it. If we don't, there are tremendous risks because there will be uncertainty. There will be 37,000 jobs at risk per the estimate of the American Wind Energy Association, in 2013 if we let this important, crucial tax credit expire. On the other hand, looking at this positively, a recent study by Navigant concludes a stable tax policy would allow the wind industry to create and save 54,000 jobs. That's a clear choice. Do we want to lose 37,000 jobs or do we want to create and save 54,000 more? Over the last number of years, in tough economic times, the wind industry has been a bright spot. We've seen growth in the wind industry in the manufacturing side. And these are good-paying jobs. But we're really at a make-or-break moment for wind energy. If we let the wind PTC expire, we'll lose thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment. We also run the real risk of losing our position in the global economic race for clean energy technology. Other countries are taking note. While we're dithering here in the congress, our foreign competitors are literally eating our lunch. And I am about to attend a Senate hearing in the Energy Committee on our competitiveness in the clean energy sector, and we're going to be discussing how china is outpacing us in the clean energy economy. And the witnesses, I know, will emphasize - because I've seen their testimony - that we've got to improve and maximum manufacturing capacity or we run the risk of losing these jobs to overseas competitors."

Senator Udall-NM: (10:07 AM)
  • Spoke on Senator Inhofe's Utility MACT Resolution of Disapproval.
    • SUMMARY "I rise in opposition to the Resolution of Disapproval that we expect Senator Inhofe to offer. This resolution would permanently block the EPA from reducing mercury and toxic pollution from power plants in the United States. The standard is called the maximum achievable control technology standard Utility MACT. By blocking this standard, this resolution is bad for public health. This resolution is also bad for America's natural gas producers. This resolution is especially bad for electric utilities that did the right thing and followed the law. Environmental protection should be a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats both passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws by wide margins. I urge both parties not to support this resolution. Here are some key points on the public health issues that are before us when this resolution comes to the floor. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates this standard will save 4,000 to 11,000 lives per year by reducing toxic pollution. The EPA also estimates the standard will prevent nearly 5,000 heart attacks and 130,000 childhood asthma attacks. Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin. It is mostly a threat to pregnant women and young children. We took lead out of gasoline. We can also take mercury out of smoke stacks. Like many westerners - and I know the gentleman - the presiding officer, I enjoy, we both enjoy fly-fishing. In too many areas in America we have mercury advisories for fish from American lakes and rivers. In New Mexico, most of our streams are under mercury advisories, which means pregnant women and children cannot eat the fish from those streams. You cannot really put a price on healthy children, but if you tried, this rule produces tens of billions of health benefits each year. This Resolution of Disapproval could permanently block these benefits."


Opening Remarks

Jun 14 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 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.

Senator Reid: (9:33 AM)
  • Spoke on the Farm bill.
    • SUMMARY "We're still working to try to finish an agreement on the Farm bill so we can move forward. It's really disappointing we don't already have something, but hope is still here, and I hope we can get that done; a really important piece of legislation, but a few senators are holding this up, and that's too bad. I have agreed that we can have some amendments. I had a nice colloquy on the floor yesterday with Senator Coburn, who is concerned about this bill and legislation generally. He indicated he thought it was a good idea to have a number of amendments and just start voting on them. So I hope we can get there. We can't do all 250 amendments that are out there, but we can do a lot of them. Let's see where we are. I hope we can get it done. On the Flood Insurance bill, we have to get to that. The flood insurance expires at the end of this month. So, we'll continue to work on agreement with the farm bill. I also hope to reconsider the failed cloture vote on the nomination of upon Maria Aponte to be Ambassador to El Salvador. Votes are possible throughout today's session."

Jun 14 2012

The Senate Convened.

Jun 14 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.