Thursday, Mar. 15, 2012

Shaheen, Reid (The Senate Stands Adjourned)

Morning Business

Mar 15 2012

Senator Shaheen: (4:01 PM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "We have an important opportunity to ensure that such important avenues to capital remain available in the coming years by extending these programs as part of the small business capital package that we're currently debating. So first, let me begin with the export-import bank, a vital agency that helps small businesses secure what they need for export deals. This is critical because exports are such an important part of the markets that are available to businesses today. You know, 95% of markets exist outside of the United States, but only 1% of small and medium-size businesses are doing business outside of the united states. So businesses need access to these international markets ... 87% of the export-import bank transactions support businesses. So I think there's a misconception about who the Ex-Im bank really helps. 87% of their transactions support businesses. Last year alone the bank helped finance more than $6 billion in export sales from small companies in the United States. Set a goal of increasing this volume by an additional $3 billion in the coming year, and it's created a new global access for small business initiative which is designed to dramatically increase the number of small companies taking advantage of its programs ... Right now this no-cost small business program is in jeopardy. Unless we act soon to reauthorize the export-import bank it will hit its lending cap and be forced to cut off support for small businesses. We can't afford to let that happen. Without the bank, small businesses will lose a significant amount of foreign sales and the jobs they maintain. Last year the banks supported over 288,000 American jobs. As more small companies become aware of the bank's programs, more businesses will be able to access new markets and create new jobs ... The second program I'd like to talk about is another no-cost program that deserves to be extended, and that's the small business administration's section 504 refinancing program. With bipartisan support, the senate passed the small business jobs act two years ago. Well, about a year and a half. And that small business jobs act created this 504 program to help small businesses refinance existing loans under the SBA's 504 lending program. Again, what we're hearing as my colleagues know and as I'm sure the presiding officer knows is that this difficult real estate market that we're in has made it challenging for many successful businesses to refinance the real estate deals. They can't get access to capital right now, particularly in the real estate industry, which has been so hard hit during this recession. What this SBA Program allows or small businesses to lock in long-term stable financing so that they can free up capital to invest in their companies and hire new workers. And although this program got off to a slow start, the small business administration has made important changes to ensure that it is working better now for small businesses and for banks. So as a result, we're starting to see a significant increase in volume ... This program is scheduled to sunset in September, and I believe it's important for the lending community to know as soon as possible that the program will continue into 2013. That's so they can devote the resources necessary to continue this initiative's budding success, and also so that we can provide the certainty that so many companies tell us they need. "

Senator Reid: (4:30 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Monday, March 19th --
    • The Senate will convene at 2:00 PM and proceed to a period of Morning Business until 4:30 PM, with Senators permitted to speak up to 10 minutes each.
    • At 4:30 PM, the Senate will resume consideration of H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act.
    • All first degree amendments must be filed at desk by 4:00 PM Monday.
    • The amendment tree has been filled.
    • Cloture has been filed on:
      1. Reid (for Reed et al) substitute amendment #1833 to H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act;
      2. Reid (for Cantwell et al) amendment #1836 (Export-Import Bank) to H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act; and
      3. H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act.
  • The next ROLL CALL VOTE will occur on Tuesday morning prior to the weekly policy lunches.
The Senate stands adjourned until 2:00 PM Monday, March 19th.

Manchin, Reed, Landrieu, Levin

JOBS Act (H.R. 3606)

Mar 15 2012

Senator Manchin: (2:44 PM)
  • Spoke in support of the Groh nomination.

Senator Reed: (2:48 PM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "H.R. 3606 can be improved and should be improved. That is why I, together with colleagues, Senators Marry Landrieu, Carl Levin, my colleague from Rhode Island, Sheldon WhiteHouse, Senator Franken, Senator Durbin and others are introducing a substitute amendment to this bill today. We hope that our legislation can serve as a base bill for the Senate to discuss and amend as we move forward. So, what are some of the most serious flaws we are trying to address in the Cantor bill? First and foremost, this bill is unlikely to create jobs, despite the title that the House has bestowed upon it. In fact, it may actually have the opposite effect. By weakening investor confidence, it could actually decrease the number of IPO's and lead to fewer investments in our capital markets. Currently our markets are considered the most transparent and liquid in the world, which have been one of its great strengths, the confidence that when an investor puts money into American financial products and the American market, he or she has detailed information about the current status and the prospects of that investment. Under the cantor bill, our markets will become less transparent, more opaque, fewer protections will be provided to investors. This could actually lead to fewer investors in the United States. Since we are in increasing competition with global markets, Hong Kong and Singapore, to name a few. One of the great hallmarks of our market, starting in 1933 with the securities legislation of the New Deal was the feeling that investors would be protected, that there would be standards in place, information would be made available to them, and they could have confidence, as much confidence as they could get in their investment and when you undermine that confidence, eventually you will undermine both their appetite and capacity to invest. The Cantor bill has more problems. It tries to create a way that crowd funding can be used to raise money for small enterprises, but it does this with very few protections for investors and would allow unregulated web sites to pedal stock without oversight. Crowd funding is an interesting new approach to raising capital. Our colleagues, Senator Merkley and Senator Bennet, spent a lot of time developing very positive legislation which balances the access to capital by tapping in to social networks and small invests, but at the same time giving those investors adequate protections. The House has not taken this approach. They have legislation that could indeed create a situation where crowd funding is plagued by fraud, by manipulation, but people who simply want to make a quick buck, move on, hoping that they will just disappear into the internet. Now the Craig's list or ebay model may work to sell unwanted clothing, bikes and other goods but doesn't work for financial security that requires more careful analysis than kicking the tires. People with more credit card debt than savings will be tempted with these mass-marketed get-rich schemes to put their money, which they can't afford in many cases, into these schemes. As the economy continues to grow, stocks will rise. We've seen some interesting and very positive developments on Wall Street over the last several weeks but this ride up could be accompanied by bubbles in these types of crowd funding schemes where people are putting money in for a quick return based on perhaps the success of one or two companies, but not having the information, not having the appropriate controls on the intermediaries so that they can make a sound and valid investment."

Senator Landrieu: (3:08 PM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "The House bill, you know that you're in a little bit of rocky ground when they don't really have the name for it. They have called it everything from an IPO bill to a jobs bill to a capital expansion bill. What I'm calling it today - and I will have a poster made over the weekend - is an ill-advised political opportunity bill. An ill-advised political opportunity bill. That's what IPO stands for in my mind. It's ill-advised because the safeguards that are required to make sure that these new ideas happen the way they should are absent from their legislation. That's why when I found out surprisingly that the Senate of the United States was getting ready to just take that bill and just adopt it whole hog, I said absolutely not. We have to slow this down, try to amend it. Not kill it but amend it and the reason is because there are very respected groups out there that started sending letter after letter after letter to the Senate urging us to do just that. Now, this isn't about a conservative-liberal fight, okay? This is about the right regulations that are necessary before we take a really good idea and mess it up. Crowd funding is a good idea, it's an exciting idea. There are great entrepreneurs out there. The internet could be a very powerful tool but everyone knows that if you enter into new territory without the caution and care, you can really fall off a cliff that you didn't even know was there. That is exactly what the House bill is going to do both bills raise the cap on regulation a offerings from $5 million to $50 million. We're happy to do that but we improve the transparency of regulation a by requiring an audited financial statement ... if you're getting ready to invest, whether it's $1,000 or $10,000 or $100,000, having an audited financial statement about the company you're getting ready to invest in would be kind of a basic thing to do. I think that maybe we learn about this when we're in maybe seventh or eighth grade. You don't have to go to Harvard to know this. The audited financial statement, however, requirement is absent from the House bill. There is no requirement in the House bill for an audited financial statement. So we just put an audited financial statement in our bill. I don't think that's a radical amendment. It's a simple one. It's an important one. We also, you've heard about this IPO on-ramp and in the House bill, they exempt companies up to $1 billion in annual revenue. Now, $1 billion is a lot of money, so everybody, wake up. The House bill says, if you are less than $1 billion, that you basically don't have to adhere to most of the rules and regulations. You can just go on your merry way. Now, how many companies went public that were over a billion dollars last year. Only 22% of companies went public last year over a billion dollars. So if my math's correct, the House bill is going to eliminate from regulation 78% of the companies from regulation. That is going too far. It is unnecessary We have the export-import bank in our bill, which is not in the House bill We also expand the SBIC, which is the small business investment program, which the President included in his state of the union address, to authorize that program to move from $3 billion to $4 billion. Why? Because we're having such success through the SBIC programs that exist in all of our states, getting money out to main street, to small businesses. So that is included in our bill. And one that you've been particularly a lead on that costs - and that is no cost to the packs pair. These things do not cost any additional money. The S.B.A. 504 refinancing that going to allow - extend for one year the ability of the small business loan program that has thousands of outstanding loans to extend for another year the opportunity for them to refinance their commercial loans. So we've added three provisions to the House bill that makes it more balanced and better for small business and we've put in a couple of oversight measures into their provisions that I think in the words of many of even the advocates of this bill, make the bill better. "

Senator Levin: (3:40 PM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "In the name of job creation, the House bill would severely weaken investor and taxpayer protections in our securities laws. In the name of putting Americans to work, the House bill would hand a series of special favors to influential special interest groups. It also reflects a disturbing failure to learn the lessons of the recent and all-too-painful past. It defies belief, madam president, that after the worst financial crisis in generations, a crisis brought on by the failure to effectively police our financial markets, that congress would consider removing vital obstacles to fraud and abuse. The House bill would take a series of steps that would undermine the integrity of our financial markets. We should not go down that road. We need not go down that road in working with Senator Jack Reed, Senator Landrieu, Senator Sherrod Brown and others I've participated in an effort to make some changes in that bill that would give small, innovative companies more tools to access the capital that they need. We want to do that. We all want to do that. But we do that in our bill without putting the stability of our economy and the interest of American investors and taxpayers at risk. And I want to just lay out some of the problems with the House bill and how our Reed-Landrieu-Levin amendment would address those problems. The House bill would lower barriers to fraud that are now present in the so-called regulation a stock offerings. These are offerings that are exempt from the sec registration requirements. House bill would expose retail investors - those with no expert trees, no resources to assess the risks of participating in the unregulated market, to massive potential fraud and abuse. Bill does not even require that companies making offerings under regulation a provide audited financial statements. The regulation a process is appropriate for very small companies, but the House bill provides fuel meaningful limits to its use. Instead, it would allow larger companies to avoid meaningful oversight year after year. Now, I'm worked with colleagues to fix this problem by ensuring that these offerings are limited. So that they're only used once every three years. That's one of the changes we would make. That investors in the offerings get an accurate picture of the company's finances by requiring add it'd financial statements. In the name of giving smaller conditions greater access to the initial public offering market, the House bill would create a new class of corporation called an emerging growth company and would strip from investors in such companies more than a dozen important investor protections. Some of the protections involve transparency. The House bill would weaken corporate governance provisions that we enacted less than two years ago in the Dodd-Frank act, including disclosures on executive pay. The House bill would exempt coops from having to comply with accounting divisions. To invest in initial public offerings from the sales teams of those same companies. There's supposed to be a law between those two parts of any company so that the sales teams don't take advantage of what the research teams are telling their customers. There's too many opportunities for conflicts of interest, and front running and other things if you allow that wall to be breached. The House bill provides that companies with up to $1 billion in annual revenue would not have to get an outside audit to check their internal controls. So what happens if one of these companies is cooking the books? Who's going to catch it?"

Vote Results (Fitzgerald nomination)

Executive Session (Fitzgerald nomination)

Mar 15 2012

Confirmed, 91-6:
Executive Calendar #461, Michael Walter Fitzgerald, of California, to be United States District Judge for the Central District of California
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Vote Results (Groh nomination)

Executive Session (Groh nomination)

Mar 15 2012

Confirmed, 95-2:
Executive Calendar #408, Gina Marie Groh, of West Virginia, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of West Virginia
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Rockefeller, Boxer, Leahy, Grassley

Executive Session (Groh and Fitzgerald nomination)

Mar 15 2012

Senator Rockefeller: (1:39 PM)
  • Spoke in support of the Groh nomination.

Senator Boxer: (1:41 PM)
  • Spoke in support of the Fitzgerald nomination.

Senator Leahy: (1:48 PM)
  • Spoke in support of the Groh and Fitzgerald nominations and the 22 delayed judicial nominations.

Senator Grassley: (1:53 PM)
  • Spoke on the judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "This week, the judicial confirmation process was a bit off track. The 17 threatened cloture petition votes were unnecessary. I'm pleased that the majority leader determined to not move forward with that plan. The Senate has now returned to its regular order of processing judicial nominations in a careful and deliberate manner. Just exactly what you ought to do when you're talking about confirming people to lifetime appointments. This means that nominees are called up, debated and voted upon just as we have been doing. In fact, we have done 131 times for President Obama's judicial nominees. Of course, on rare occasion, as within the tradition, rules and practices of the Senate, there will be difficulty in moving forward with consent to proceed on just a very few. So I view what happened yesterday not as some deal but as a rejection of a political stunt in favor of returning to regular order like we're doing today. I have worked with the Chairman and members of the Judiciary Committee as well as with my colleagues throughout the Senate to ensure that nominees are treated fairly. I will continue to do so. In the meantime, I'm pleased that the senate has turned to the jobs bill. It's an imperative that the Senate keep its focus on what the people back at the grassroots think we ought to be working on - jobs, economy, energy and other critical issues facing our nation."
Senator Kyl: (12:46 PM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "The JOBS Act will demonstrate to entrepreneurs and job creators we value what they do. We want them to gain access to capital and lift others up as they become successful. America has many dynamic companies and fast growing businesses with the potential to create many more. The people behind successful companies are driven by the satisfaction that comes from creating and innovating and solving problems and in many cases providing products or profit services that improve our quality of life. This is a good thing. It deserves our support. Good public policy hurdles to opportunity - on the other hand, need solutions and this bill will help to solve some of this by getting those hurdles out of the way. For example, the JOBS Act will cut red cape that burdens startup companies and a reduction in the costly integrity burdens contained in the Sarbanes-Oxley 404-b accounting rules. Companies can spend less time on paperwork and more time on raising capital, growing their businesses. These are companies that have the potential to be the next Groupon, Yelp or LinkedIn and all of which had recent initial public offerings. The JOBS Act would enhance capital formation needed to build new businesses, expand existing businesses and create jobs. It would put into place several important and in some cases overdue reforms that would incentivize initial public offerings or IPO's. Part of the beauty of this bill, is we don't even know who will benefit from its policy reforms. It applies to everybody. It's the opposite of the crony capitalism that provided government funds to companies like Solyndra and General Motors. Indeed this is legislation that will demonstrate what the private sector can do when government promotes freedom and opportunity. It will show that we don't need government to try to create jobs or make ham-fisted attempts to play venture capitalist."

Senator Grassley: (12:53 PM)
  • Spoke on transparency.
    • SUMMARY "We all know that actions speak louder than words. Unfortunately, based on his own administration's actions, it appears that the President's words about open government and transparency are words that can be ignored. If not ignored by the President and maybe well-intended on the part of the President, being ignored down to the bowels of the bureaucracy. Given my experience in trying to pry information out of the executive branch, and based on investigations I've conducted, and inquiries by the media, I'm disappointed to report that President Obama's statements about transparency are not being put into practice. In other words, it's a little bit like business as usual when I had the same problems when we had Republican Presidents, but based upon the President's pronouncements after his swearing-in, I expected things to be totally different in this administration, and I don't find them to be any different. Federal agencies under control of the President's political appointees have been more aggressive than ever in withholding information from the public and from the congress. Throughout my career, I've been actively conducting oversight of the executive branch regardless of who controls the Congress or what party controls the white house. When the agencies I'm reviewing get defensive and when they refuse to respond to my request, it makes me wonder what they're trying to hide. Over the last year, many of my requests for information from various agencies have been turned down again and again. Either because I'm ranking member or because I'm not chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Agencies within the executive branch have repeatedly cited privacy act as a part of the rationale for their decision not to grant requests. Even though the privacy act explicitly says that it is not meant to limit the flow of information from the executive branch to the Congress. This disregard by the executive branch for the clear language of the law is disheartening and it's quite appropriate that during sunshine week we bring out the truth."

Senator Murkowski: (1:07 PM)
  • Spoke on energy and gas prices.
    • SUMMARY "It is important for us to remember that policies have to translate from mere words into actions. With the President's comments today, unfortunately, I am not convinced that he is intending to help turn our all of the above policy into reality. I think if he was really series about doing that, he would have acknowledged that there is far more that our country can do to increase our supply when it comes to oil and oil production. I think he would admit that with oil prices that are above $100 a barrel, gasoline inching up every day, close to $4 a gallon, madam president, this is not a political opportunity for anyone. This is a legislative imperative, a legislative imperative for all of us. So the question that needs to be asked is what can we do? I would agree with the President that there is no one silver bullet, there is no one quick fix. We can't snap our fingers and have the price at the pump go down but I think it is important to talk honestly about what's going on with supply and with production here in this country. Much discussion over these past several months about the keystone project out of Canada and that pipeline. It continues to amaze me. It makes me crazy to think that we have an opportunity to have our closest neighbor and our best trading partner to supply us with oil instead of receiving oil from OPEC. Keystone to come online very quickly, bring oil to our refineries and to our gas tanks. If the administration supports construction of a pipeline from Oklahoma to Texas, as they have suggested, I don't see why we can't allow construction of a pipeline from Alberta and North Dakota and then all the way down. I'm confident that there are enough construction workers that are ready and waiting to start on both ends. When you say well, it needs more consideration, more review, I would reminded people that this has been a project that has been at least four years of environmental review. So this is one of those choices. I think it's pretty clear, pretty stark. Most Americans I believe would much, much rather get their oil from Canada than from OPEC and yet, some of what we are seeing come out of this Congress from members of the Senate here, the suggestion is instead of going to Canada, we should go tin cup in hand to Saudi Arabia and ask them for increased production. I can't imagine, I cannot imagine why it would be more preferable to producing more American oil or allowing more oil from Canada. This is a pretty clear choice for me but again, it's an argument that we continue to have and we don't seem to be making the necessary head work on it. Earlier this week, the President said that the best thing we can do about gas prices is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil which will reduce the price of gasoline over time. One year ago, he said producing more oil in America can help lower our oil prices, but again that's - that's talk that's going on right now, and talk that's not necessarily matching reality."

Senator Vitter: (1:18 PM)
  • Spoke on energy and gas prices.
    • SUMMARY "At least I give the President kudos for using the right language, saying the right things, even if his policies have not caught up with that yet. He's talking about an all-of-the-above energy strategy, something we have been advocating for years. He's also talking about a release from the strategic petroleum reserve. I disagreed with that policy, but at least it acknowledges that supply matters and if we increase supply, we would lower price. Now, I think the important way we need to do that, of course, is to produce more energy right here at home. A lot of Americans don't realize, but we are the single-most energy-rich country in the world, bar none. no one else comes close. So when you look at all of our energy resources compared to all of the energy resources of other countries, we are the richest country in terms of energy resources. Now, why don't most Americans think of ourselves that way? It's because we're the only country in the world that takes well over 90% of those resources and puts them off-limits through federal law, particularly under this become Barack Obama. America says, no, no, no, no, no. The Obama administration says no. No, you can't drill off the east coast. No, you can't drill off the west coast. No, you can't touch off the Gulf right now. No, you can't touch the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. No we're going to do less instead of more on federal land and, no, we're going to reexamine hydraulic fracturing which is a key process to the development of our reconcile shale resources The President is saying all of the above. but the policy hasn't caught up and it has to catch up. What am I thinking of? The outer continental shelf Yet President Obama's five-year plan which he's required to submit under law, his five-year plan for developing that outer continental heavily is only half as much as the previous five-year plan, so we're backing up, we're headed in the wrong direction, not the right direction of accessing more of our own energy. permitting in the Gulf of Mexico, where I live, since the BP disaster - permitting first stopped and now has started again but only at a trickle. We're still 30% to 40% below the pace of permitting compared to before the incident. We need to get back to that pace of permitting, and then surpass it. Federal lands - the area that the federal government controls most directly: production activity on federal lands is down from a few years ago. It is not up, it's down 14%, 1, 1%, from a few years ago the Keystone pipeline. It's dependable Canadian energy from a strong ally. President Obama is saying no to that. I'm happy to hear that his rhetoric has changed in an election year but when are those policies going to change on the outer-continental shelf? on permitting in the Gulf and elsewhere? On federal land? On the Keystone pipeline? That's what needs to change."

Senator Barrasso: (1:23 PM)
  • Spoke on energy and gas prices.
    • SUMMARY "The President continues to give speeches about the gasoline prices and to blame everyone other than himself but it is discouraging to see the president looking to the strategic petroleum reserve. He tapped it last year, 30 million barrels and at the time drew down our strategic petroleum reserve and still has not refilled it. So any effort to draw down from it today will take it down even further, putting us more at risk for a true supply disruption. Those are the things that we're facing today, a President with a poorly planned energy approach and having to rely on something that was placed there for true emergencies but the President continues to make his claims, as he did today, and I did last we, and you know one of the his claims is that America only has 2% of the world's oil reserves. The truth is that proven and undiscovered oil resources total seven times that amount. The President doesn't seem to want to face that fact. The President claims an all-of-the-above energy strategy but the truth is the President's strategies truly seem to be hostile to low-cost domestic fuels, especially gasoline and other products from oil. We see this when the secretary of interior, when he was a member of the Senate, said he would oppose offshore exploration even at $10 a gallon for gasoline. The President says using less gasoline will lower prices. Well, isn't that a supply-and-demand issue? Well, the President ignores supply. We need to increase supply. One way is to explore more offshore, on federal land, and in Alaska and bringing supply from Canada to the United States, with the Keystone XL pipeline, instead of saying to Canada, no, sell that to china. The - continuing to look at incredible needs of this nation for fuel, our ability to increase supply, and the President's efforts to do just about everything else."

Senator Rubio: (1:29 PM)
  • Spoke on human rights.
    • SUMMARY "As we enter this new 21st century, there are a handful of nations across the globe that do not want the issue of human rights to be central. They don't want this issue to be at the front burner because they don't believe in these things. What they seek is a new international order where the violation of human rights is nobody's business. You see that today in Syria where you have people being murdered or unarmed civilians are being pursued and shelled by an army or you're having horrifying examples of human rights violations on a daily basis in at least two countries, Russia and China, have taken the position that it's nobody's business and one of those countries is the topic that I want to talk about today, and that's China, an emerging power on the world stage that some people, I think falsely claim over place America on the world stage. I think that's an exaggeration. I think it's great news that there are millions of people in china that a decade ago were riding on a bike and now have a car, millions of people that only a decade ago were living in deep poverty and today are part of the middle class. I think that's fantastic but don't get ahead of yourself in believing that china is going to get ahead of America on the world stage. This is still the most important economy on the planet and our people are as smart and creative as they have ever been and that's not going to change but I think we have to look at China because if in fact they are this rising power, if in fact they are going to be a growing influence on the international stage, we have to ask ourselves, what is their commitment to human rights? Sadly it is not a very good one. If you look at the issue of Tibet, it's a perfect example. This is a peace-loving people that have sought a certain level of autonomy. They want to preserve their culture, they want to preserve their way of life. they have gone so farce to say we're okay with being under Chinese rules but we want to protect some of the things innate and indigenous to our culture and values and China is systematically trying to erase their culture and their heritage through processes of reeducation, through the jailing of people, through the oppression of people, through the destruction of a free press and system of communication. It manifests itself today, you've got, I think yesterday was the latest people of people in Tibet setting themselves on fire. We shouldn't encourage that; horrifying to see that. We hope it stops. But it leads to an understanding of the level of desperation that exists in Tibet. If China is a growing influence on this planet, are these the values that are going to replace American values on the world stage? Are these the values that are going to replace our belief that all individuals are created equal with certain rights that come from their creator? Are we prepared to retreat from the world stage and allow that to happen without at least speaking out against it? So we should in the be surprised that china stands by and says do nothing, don't even sanction, don't even put out a nasty letter about Syria. We should not be surprised because a nation that doesn't care about the human rights of their own people is never going to care about the human rights of others. and the question that we have as Americans is: are we prepared to retreat from the world stage and in fact allow nations like that to play a growing role in the world? Are we prepared to silence our own voice at the expense of their voice? I hope not."
Senator Klobuchar: (12:01 PM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act.
    • SUMMARY "Six years ago we passed a reauthorization bill out of the Judiciary Committee, and the bill has the support of 58 senators, including six Republicans. I'm glad that this bill has continued to attract bipartisan support. I wish it was unanimous. Just seven years ago, in fact, the reauthorization bill passed the House by a vote of 415-4 and it passed the senate by unanimous consent with 18 Republican cosponsors. I know that this year some of my Republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee are not supportive of this bill, but it is my hope that while they may disagree with the bill, they will not stop this bipartisan bill from advancing. Combating domestic violence and sexual assault is an issue that we should all be able to agree on. Many of the provisions in the reauthorization bill made important changes to the current law. The bill consolidates duplicative programs and streamlines others. It provides flexibility by adding more purpose areas to the list of allowable uses. It has training for people providing legal assistance to victims and takes steps to address the high rates in Native American communities. The bill also fills some gaps in the system and I'm pleased to say it includes the legislation that I introduced with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to address high tech stalking where stalkers use the internet, video surveillance and bugging to stalk their victims. The bill will give law enforcement better tools for cracking down on stalkers. Just as with physical stalk, high-tech stalking may foreshadow more serious behavior down the road. We need our tools for our law enforcement to be as sophisticated as those who are breaking the law."

Senator Feinstein: (12:09 PM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act.
    • SUMMARY "This act is the centerpiece of the federal government's effort to combat domestic violence and sexual assault and it has actually impacted positively response to these crimes at the local, state, and federal level and I hope to show this. The bill authorizes a number of grant programs administered by the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services to provide funding for emergency shelter, counseling, and legal services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking This bill also provides support for state agencies, rape crisis centers, and organizations that provide services to vulnerable women and American women are safer because we took action. Today, more victims report incidents of domestic violence to the police, and the rate of nonfatal partner violence against women has decreased by 53% since this bill went into effect in 1994. These figures are from the Department of Justice. So here we have a 53% decrease in the rate of nonfatal partner violence. The need for the services was highlighted in a recent survey by the centers for disease control which found on average 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. 24 a minute by an intimate partner in the United States. Over the course of the year now that equates to more than 12 million women and men. In California, my state, 30,000 people access crisis intervention services from one of California's 63 rape crisis centers in 2010 and 2011. These centers primarily rely on federal Violence Against Women Act funding, not state funding, to provide services to victims in communities. In 2009 alone, there were more than 167,000 cases in California in which local, county, or state police officers were called to the scene of a domestic violence complaint. 167,000 cases. that's many."

Senator Murray: (12:21 PM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act.
    • SUMMARY "Since it became law 18 years ago, domestic violence has decreased by 53% and while incidents have gone down, reporting of violence and abuse has gone up. more victims are finally coming forward and more women and families are getting the support and the care they need to move themselves out of dangerous situations. As a result of the language in this law, every single state has made stalking a crime and they've strengthened criminal rape statutes. We have made a lot of progress since 1994 but we still have a long way to go. Every single minute, 24 people across America are victims of violence by an intimate partner. More than 12 million people a year. 45% of the women killed in this country die at the hands of their partner and in one day last year, victims of domestic violence made more than 10,000 requests for supports and services that could not be met because programs didn't have the resources. That's why I was so proud to cosponsor and strongly support the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, and it's why I join my colleagues today in expressing our hope that we can move this critical legislation when possible. This is a bipartisan bill that will advance our efforts to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assaults, and stalking. It will give our law enforcement agencies the support they need to enforce and prosecute those crimes, and it will give communities and nonprofits the much-needed resources to support victims of violence and most importantly, to keep working to stop violence before it ever starts. This bill was put forward in a bipartisan fashion. It is supported by hundreds of national and local organizations that deal with this issue every day. It consolidates programs to reduce administrative costs. It adds accountability to make sure tax money is well spent. it builds on what works in the current law, improves what does not, and will help our country continue on the path of reducing violence towards women and, it should not be controversial. We reauthorized this law last time here in the Senate unanimously by voice vote, and President Bush signed it into law with Democrats standing there with him. So I am really hopeful that the bipartisan approach to this issue continues today as we work to reauthorize this law once again, because, this shouldn't be about politics. Protecting women against violence should not be a partisan issue. So I want to thank the Democrats and Republicans who've worked together to write this bill. I'm very glad it passed through committee. I stand ready to support this bill when it comes to the floor and I truly hope we can get President Obama for his signature in a timely fashion so women and families across this country can get the resources and support that this law will deliver."

Senator Hagan: (12:26 PM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act.
    • SUMMARY "Since its original passage in 1994, the bill has made tremendous progress in protecting women from domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The bill has transformed our criminal justice system and victim support services. It has encouraged collaboration among law enforcement, health and housing professionals, and community organizations to prevent and respond to domestic partner violence and it has funded programs, such as services training officers, prosecutors. It is training officers and prosecutors, and these are called stop grants, and they are used to train personnel, training, technical assistance and other equipment to better apprehend and prosecute individuals who commit violence, crimes against women. Unfortunately, until Congress takes action on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, the well-being of women across our country hangs in the balance. I see this as a serious lapse in our responsibility as U.S. senators and as a mother of two daughters, I am here to tell you that this reauthorization cannot wait. The rates of violence and abuse in our country are astounding and unacceptable. According to a 2010 CDC survey, domestic violence alone affects more than 12 million people each year. In the year leading up to the CDC's study, 1.3 million women were raped and this study shows that women are severely affected by sexual violence, intimate partner violence and stalking, with 1-4 women falling victim to severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Domestic violence also haze significant - also has a significant impact on our country's health, costing our health system alone over $8.3 billion each year. The reauthorization of this act strengthens and streamlines crucial existing programs that really protect women. In fact, title 5 of the reauthorization includes a bill that I sponsored titled health-focused programs while strengthening the health care system's response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This initiative fosters public health responses to domestic violence and sexual violence. It provides training and education to help the health professionals respond to what they're seeing from violence and abuse, and it supports research on effective public health approaches to end violence against women."

Senator Murkowski: (12:34 PM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act.
    • SUMMARY "The Violence Against Women Act is an important commitment to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, that they are not alone. This is a promise that resources and expertise are available to prosecute those who would torment them, and also a reason to believe that one can actually leave an abusive situation and transition to a more stable one. It's one of the greatest importance that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are confident that there is a safety net available to address them and their immediate survival needs as well as the needs of their children. Only on this level of confidence can one muster the courage to leave an abusive situation. these are some of the promises that are contained within the violence against women act ... The Violence Against Women Act I think is a ray of hope for those who service victims of domestic violence and sexual assault within our villages. It devotes increased resources to rural and isolated communities. It recognizes Alaska village public safety officer program as law enforcement so that VAWA funds can be directed to providing a full-time law enforcement presence in places that currently have none and it establishes a framework to restart the Alaska rural justice and law enforcement commission. This is an important forum for coordination between law enforcement and our Alaska native leaders to abate, discourage domestic violence and sexual assault."

Senator Mikulski: (12:40 PM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act.
    • SUMMARY "One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence. 16 million children are exposed to domestic violence every year. 23 million will be victims of physical or sexual violence. 20,000 in my own state of Maryland. Since we created the legislation in 1994, the hotline, the national hotline has received over one million calls. When women felt that they were in danger, danger, so that one million - those one million people had a chance of being rescued and who was the biggest request for passing the violence against women? It is not only the women of America, it is also local police. One out of four police officers killed in the line of duty are responding to domestic violence. They love the lethality index. When they go to a home, they have a checklist to determine how dangerous is that situation? Is it simply a spat or a dispute or are they in the danger zone? We debate big issues - war and peace, the deficit. All these are important but we have got to remember our communities and our families, and I think if you are beaten and abused, you should be able to turn to your government to either be rescued and put you on the path and also to have those very important programs early on to do prevention and intervention. I fund this bill. I stand ready to support the passage of the bill and putting the money in the checkbook to support it."

Senator Shaheen: (12:43 PM)
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act.
    • SUMMARY "It provides essential services to women and families across the united states, and I have seen it in my home state of New Hampshire where one program that I want to talk about funds services, training officers and prosecution. It is called STOP. It provides law enforcement the tools they need to combat domestic violence."

Cornyn, Durbin

Morning Business

Mar 15 2012

Colloquy: (Cornyn, Durbin)
  • Spoke on the Syria-Russia relationship.

Senator Cornyn: (11:33 AM)
  • SUMMARY "According to the United Nations, more than 8,000 Syrians have been murdered in attacks by the desperate regime of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. We continue to receive press reports on a daily basis about Assad's forces summarily executing, imprisoning and torturing demonstrators who want nothing more than what we take for granted, which is to live in freedom in a democracy. This week - this week we learned that dozens of Syrian women and children, some infants as young as four months old, were stabbed, shot, and burned by government forces in homes in Syria. I think it's difficult for most of us to comprehend and most of us would be so repulsed by it we would not want to comprehend the kind of brutality Assad is perpetrating against his own people, yet in the face of these atrocities, Russia continues to prop up the Assad regime by supplying it with arms that are being used to slaughter these innocent Syrian civilians. Russia is the top supplier of weapons to Syria, reportedly selling up to $1 billion or more worth of arms just last year. Western and Arab governments have pleaded with Russia to stop supplying these weapons to the Assad regime but they have refused so far. Russia is not just passively supplying weapons to the Assad regime, it's also recently admitted to having military weapons instructors on the ground in Syria training Assad's army on how to use these we weapons. Russian weapons, including high explosive mortars, have been found at the site of atrocities in Homs."

Senator Durbin: (11:39 AM)
  • SUMMARY "Almost 8,000 innocent people have been killed in the streets of Syria by Basher al-Assad, the dictator. The people who expressed their concern and objections to his policies are mowed down and killed in the streets. Their homes are bombed and nothing is being done. sadly, the United States, when it tried to engage the United Nations Security Council to condemn this action, to join the Arab league and others condemning what Assad is doing to these innocent people, our efforts were stopped by China and Russia. The relationship between Russia and Syria is well documented. They have been close allies for many years. We also know that they are providing about $1 billion in Russian military aid to the Syrian dictator to kill his own people in the streets. That's part of this and I have to join Senator Cornyn in saying how concerned we are when we learned that one of the leading military exporters of Russia, this Rosoboron exports, is doing business not only in Syria but with the United States government. Now, I understand the history of this. We're buying Russian helicopters to help the Afghans defend their country against the Taliban. The helicopter of choice in Afghanistan today is the old soviet I believe it's M-17, M-18 helicopter. So our government is buying these Russian helicopters to give to the Afghan government to fight the Taliban. We are, in fact, doing business with the very same company and country that is subsidizing the massacre in Syria. It is right for us as members of Congress to make that point to Secretary Panetta and the Department of Defense. I think it is also appropriate for us to ask why we are not converting the Afghan defense forces, the security forces, to another helicopter - can I be so bold as to suggest it be made in the United States of America, since we're paying for it? Why aren't we doing that? Why aren't we creating jobs here in America and training these Afghans on helicopters that come from our country? That are as good or better than anything the soviets ever put in the air? I don't have a preference on an American helicopter. Don't have any producers in my state. So I'm not into that particular bidding war. I wouldn't get into it but I do believe sending a word to the Russians immediately that our relationship of buying these helicopters in Afghanistan so that we can subsidize their military sales to Syria should come to an end. That's what this letter is about. We cannot pass resolutions on the floor condemning the bloodshed in Syria and ignore the obvious connection, Russian military arms moving into Syria, killing innocent people."

Senator Durbin: (11:52 AM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "Now comes this bill from the House of Representatives, this so-called JOBS bill, that wants to change that, and what they are suggesting is that when certain companies get started, start-up companies, that they be excused from requirements under the law from the securities and exchange commission. The argument that was made was there is just too much paperwork, too many regulations, and smaller start-up companies can't get started because there are too many legal requirements. well, first you take a look at what they consider to be smaller companies getting started, and they define them as companies with $1 billion a year in annual revenue. $1 billion. Unfortunately, those who make over a billion dollars in revenue in a year comprise only about 10% of American businesses. That means that by definition, they are characterizing 90% of American businesses and start-ups as smaller businesses that need a special break when it comes to regulation. So over the years we get into a debate, whether it's the regulation of banks or the regulation of these start-up companies or those that are going public selling securities, over the years we get into a debate about whether the government has gone too far. Are there too many rules? And I'm open to that suggestion. I think that we should be open to it. If there is a way to protect the public and investors and still create businesses in this country that generate jobs, I want to hear about it and I want to support it but too often, we go too far, and when we go too far and are not careful, some terrible things have occurred ... I want my colleagues, many of whom have just read a few press accounts of this bill, to consider carefully the statement made by Professor Coffey. He has analyzed this bill and raised some important questions about whether it goes too far. Now, I will be joining some of my colleagues here in offering a substitute which improves the law for start-up companies but also makes certain that we protect investors and make certain as well that at the end of the day we don't end up with egg on our face. How many times has congress been called on when the private sector runs amok, goes too far and starts failing in every direction to bail them out? We saw it most graphically with the bailout of the major banks not that many years ago. We have seen it in the past with the bailout of the savings and loan industry. We have seen it happen time and time again. Who ends upholding the bag when government regulation is not adequate to make sure that people don't go overboard? The American taxpayers."

Coons, Reid, Udall-CO

Morning Business/JOBS Act (H.R. 3606)

Mar 15 2012

Senator Coons: (10:49 AM)
  • Spoke on the American Dream Accounts Act of 2012.
    • SUMMARY "The American dream will expand on this idea and use modern social networking technology to bring together existing programs and deliver ideas that will work for more kids and the good news is that by utilizing existing department of education funds, this legislation comes at no additional cost to taxpayers. What makes the American dream accounts work is their unique ability to honest - harness the power available to access some of the biggest college access. The journey from elementary school to finishing high school is long. So many students in our public schools all over this country disengage or even drop out along the way because they're not connected. They attend large and sometimes anonymous schools. Their parents are stretched too thin in this tough economy trying to hang on to their jobs and their housing, and, frankly, a dedicated cadre of teachers can only do so much and these kids as they become less and less connected to a clear vision of their future drop out or make choice that is make it unlikely they'll finish high school and go on to college. American dream accounts take advantage of modern technology. They are a Facebook-inspired opportunity to deliver on secure personalized hubs of information that would connect these kids, sustain and support them throughout the entire journey of education. Second, it connects them with college savings opportunities Part of the American dream accounts is the idea of connecting young people to college savings accounts. Virtually every state has college staving program yet they are not accessed by the works class of America. Connecting students to college savings accounts has powerful impact. Studies show students who know there is a dedicated college savings account in their name are seven times more likely to go to college than their peers without one. This legislation would help open an individual savings account for each enrolled student from the beginnings of elementary school. It matters less how much money is in the account than that students are aware there is one. The third piece of this program is early intervention. State and federal governments already spend billions of dollars, on higher education, on Pell grants at the federal level in my state of Delaware on C grants. We provide this money to afford college but don't tell kid they're there until they're in high school. Most kids have already made decisions by then that make them ineligible to finish high school or attend college. So why not tell them earlier, particular given the potential impact of this information. We can change outcomes. Last is portability. One of the things I saw in my own experience with my own dreamers in Delaware was how often they moved and how often overstretched teachers with full classrooms didn't get any information or background on the student who moved into their classroom halfway through the year. So instead of being welcomed and engaged in a positive way, they became discipline problems or were difficult to teach to. This robust online secure account would empower teachers to connect with parents and mentors and understand the students who are before them. That's why portability and persistence is an essential feature of American dream accounts. This way no matter what disruptions or challenge a student might face as they travel through education, their American dream account would travel with them."

Senator Reid: (11:13 AM)
  • Offered Reid (for Reed and et al) substitute amendment #1333.
  • Proposed amendment #1834 to amendment #1833.
  • Proposed second degree amendment #1835 to amendment #1834.
  • Filed cloture on the Reid (for Reed et al) substitute amendment #1333 to H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act.
  • Offered Reid (for Cantwell et al) amendment #1836 (Export-Import Bank).
  • Proposed second degree amendment #1837 to Reid (for Cantwell et al) amendment #1836 (Export-Import Bank).
  • Filed cloture on Reid (for Cantwell et al) amendment #1836 (Export-Import Bank).
  • Moved to commit H.R. 3606, to the Committee on Housing and Urban Affairs to report back with amendment #1838.
  • Proposed amendment #1839 to #1838 to the motion to commit H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act.
  • Proposed second degree amendment #1840 to amendment #1839.
  • Filed cloture on H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act.
  • The amendment tree has been filled.

Senator Udall-CO: (11:22 AM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "The problem is we're still leaving small businesses behind. Why is that? The JOBS Act is aimed at companies with revenue under $1 billion. Let me repeat that. Billion with a B. These companies may well need help with an IPO, but I'm talking about offering relief to main street, and in light of this, I'm still committed and I appreciate the majority leader's comments, I've been very persistent on this, I'm still committed to allowing credit unions to increase the amount of money they can lend to small businesses and our bipartisan small business act was the first amendment filed to this bill and still hold out hope we'll find a way to include it in the bill. We ought to pass it immediately. We would see immediately he immediate results if we did so. Let me share a couple of examples of why I think this is so important and they're Colorado-centric. I know the presiding officer makes a point to talk about his home state on an ongoing basis. Let me talk about two small business owners in Colorado who made a difference with the help of credit unions. Stacey Hammond owns the first street salon and Lisa Herman owns happy cakes bake shop in Highland Square. They were turned away from their banks. and in the breach, Credit Unions arrived and they lent to these two small business women. and they were able to grow their businesses and hire their fellow Coloradans to help them. They didn't need a billion-dollar IPO, they needed a small bridge loan and we could be making a huge difference in many, many communities with mere pennies on the dollar of what the jobs act is focused on. Yet my amendment were to be considered, in this jobs act, would actually help small businesses directly create jobs. Credit Unions, put simply, specialize in these small, small business loans. In fact, the federal reserve has told us that many banks have quit considering loans like theirs under $200 because they aren't - $200,000 because they're not worth the bank's time. Credit Unions have money to lend to them but, unfortunately, federal law still limits the amount of small business loans a credit union can extend to these businesses to 12% of their assets. Over 500 credit unions nationally have had to stop or slow down their business lending because of this - I can't think of any other word but strange, strange federal limit on helping small businesses. it's hard to believe that. Government is telling these financial institutions that they can't help create jobs in their local communities and that's why my bipartisan amendment would double the amount of money credit unions can offer to small businesses. Now, we've heard from the banks over the years they think it's unfair that they have to compete with credit unions but the fact is it's not about banks or credit unions. It's about small businesses and I have to say that these two different kinds of financial institutions serve very different small business populations. Credit Unions serve the smallest of small businesses who often must resort to their credit cards literally to invest in their businesses, keep their cash flow going but in the process they create jobs and these have been business I'm suggesting that at the very least we let the Credit Unions loan to these small business owners that the banks don't want to do business with because they are too small."

Thune, Moran

Morning Business

Mar 15 2012

Colloquy: (Senators Thune, Moran)

Senator Thune: (10:21 AM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "The JOBS act is a bipartisan bill. It passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 390-23. It has been endorsed by the White House. Small businesses are the engines of our economy, but government red tape is currently preventing these businesses from creating even more jobs. This commonsense bill would enable small businesses in South Dakota and across the country to better access much-needed capital so that they can make investments and add additional employees. There's no reason why it should not receive similar support here in the United States Senate. Creating jobs, should be one of our top priorities here in the United States Senate. We owe it to the American people and to small businesses across this country that are counting on us to do something that will make it easier, less expensive and less difficult to create jobs. Too often, what we see coming out of Washington, D.C. are policies that put up obstacles, barriers impediments to our small businesses to create jobs We don't have a lot of time to waste. We all know what the statistics are in this country. We know the high unemployment rate, the chronic high unemployment rate that we've seen, the sluggish economic growth. We need to get this economy growing again. We need to make it easier, not harder, for small businesses to create jobs and to get access to capital and many of these bills in this package, this small business jobs package, really do focus on the issue of capital formation and allowing small businesses in this country to have easier access to the capital that will allow them to grow their companies and to grow jobs."

Senator Moran: (10:28 AM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "Because of this administration and the leadership of this congress to address - the Senate to address this issue of the deficit, I sort of am looking for ways in which we could approached the deficit - approach the deficit in perhaps is a way that is easier for us to grasp, easier for us to deal with and that is job creation, because the more people that are creating, the more taxes that are collected and the more money comes to the coffers of the united states treasury to pay down this tremendous debt and these two issues are actually related. I've tried to figure out how to explain this to Kansans back home about why the deficit matters and whether or not they have a job or have a good job or can pursue a better job and the answer is that no business is going to expand, no business is going to grow, no business is going to invest in capital and plant, equipment, hire new people if they're concerned they may be the next Greece. So the goal of paying down the debt is certainly worthy in and of itself, but if we can do that we also have the opportunity to create an environment in which business does feel comfortable in hiring more employees, in adding to plant and equipment, investing in their business and growing it and so today we come to the Senate floor in support of the JOBS bill as passed by the House of Representatives in hopes that the senate will do so in short order and it is the opportunity we have to make a tremendous difference toward - so that Americans can today and in the future pursue that American dream. We, over a long period of time, have created many impediments towards the success of that job creation."
  • Spoke on the START-UP Act.
    • SUMMARY "I appreciate earlier Senator Warner, the Senator from Virginia, being on the floor talking about legislation that he and I are working on called the START-UP Act. We believe there is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs. Research knows - this is from the Kaufman foundation - that start-ups less than five years old accounted for nearly all of the net jobs created in the United States from 1980 to 2005. In fact, start-ups create 3 million new jobs every year and so what we're about today is a portion of this legislation that Senator Warner and I have introduced, the start-up act. We're about the capital formation provisions of that bill. we've been working with senator coons and Senator Rubio and others to blend these provisions in the START-UP Act, but a portion is now on the Senate floor, and I'm certainly going to commend here the opportunity we have here to pursue that portion of job creation. It is not enough, but it is certainly a great beginning point for us in the United States national to follow the lead of the United States House of Representatives and create this opportunity for capital formation. What this legislation does is create tax incentives that will spur start-ups and win the battle for us to see that the United States remains a highly competitive, innovative, entrepreneurial environment in which businesses succeed. I believe when we say about businesses succeeding, it is not about the business's success, it is about what the consequences are when business succeed and that means that Americans have jobs and the opportunity to put food on their family's table and save for their kids' education, save for retirement and meet the responsibilities we have as parents."

Senator Thune: (10:36 AM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "We're talking about a package of legislation that would enable access for job creators, for small businesses to, the capital that they need to invest, to grow their businesses and create jobs. It is enabling in a sense, allowing better conditions for capital formation, especially for small businesses, which is where most of the jobs in this country are created. but there are other things that the federal government is not doing that it should be doing to help the economy grow, to drive down input costs for people in this country and I want to refer to the issue of fuel prices because the senator represents a state like mine where you have an agricultural economy that is very dependent upon energy, both in terms of diesel fuel, fertilizer, awful these things are - all of those things are incredibly dependent on energy and it is also a rural state with a pretty big geography, and when you see gas approach that $4 range - and in my state it is not there yet, I know other states where it is - that is a pretty serious impediment. There are things we ought to be doing to open up more domestic production, to allow people who want to invest in energy in this country to do so. We've got lots of laws and regulations that make it more difficult, that prohibit it. We've had some very low-hanging fruit, some sort of easy opportunities to do that, the keystone pipeline being one which would bring about 800 billion barrels of oil a day."

Senator Moran: (10:39 AM)
  • Spoke on energy and gas prices.
    • SUMMARY "I have no doubt that the ability to have an economic recovery and create jobs in this country is in so many ways determined by what happens with our actions in regard to an energy policy. Our development of our own resources and certainly while we're here today to talk about jobs, there is a national security, there is a military stance issue that's related to our strong dependence, our unfortunately strong dependence upon foreign energy supplies and so this congress, this administration in my view needs to get out of the way and let the private sector begin the process of meeting our country's energy comes. When we talk about high prices and complain about the price at the pump, what we are complaining about is the supply is insufficient to meet the demand. You can remedy that by increasing the supply of energy in this country. we have a vast array of those resources that, because of the regulations, the environment, and the policies of the federal government, we are unable to pursue the market would send the message that we need more supply, but the regulators are in the way of making that happen and in a state like ours, as the senator from South Dakota says, we drive long distances, agriculture is dependent upon natural gas for fertilizer, for fuel, for irrigation, diesel fuel matters to us, and we have many industries involved in the creation of manufactured products. Every time the price goes up, the ability to create a new job goes down. So this country desperately needs an energy policy that's focused on the production of energy, using the resources we have in our own country to meted meet our own - to meet our own country's needs. It is a significant and critical component if we're going to get the economy back on track and jobs created."

Senator Thune: (10:42 AM)
  • Spoke on energy and gas prices.
    • SUMMARY "We need a homegrown energy strategy. i appreciate it when the President of the United States seizes upon that slogan and talks about being in support of an all-of-the-above statement he has said that but his policies tell another story. If you look at the things that we know would address the issue that the Senator from Kansas raised - that is, increasing domestic supply, increasing homegrown production - there are a series of things that would do that. Approving the Keystone pipeline is the first one. it is 20,000 shovel-ready jobs, it is a $7 billion initial investment, it is 800,000 barrels of oil coming to us from Canada as opposed to Venezuela, from Hugo Chavez or the Middle East and so it is just a no-brainer hanging out there for us to immediately act on. Unfortunately, the administration has said "no" to that. They've also said "no" to development in Alaska, "no" to offshore development, "no" to shale development, "no" to new leases. All these things have been put off limit to energy production in this country, the very thing that would increase the supply and thereby address the issue that the Senator from Kansas mentioned, and that is that we've got too much demand chasing too little supply and, therefore, too high of a price, which bears on pocketbooks of every single American, every single small business, every single family. We need a real all-of-the-above strategy and not just lip service to it, which is what we're getting out of this administration. it is an example, of where public policy directly influences economic outcomes and economic results in this country. There is no way that you cannot argue that more supply would lead to lower prices at the pump and, for sure, more domestic supply would lead to more American jobs. That is what we are talking about here today is jobs and the economy. That's why this issue of energy bears so directly on it."
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "It makes it easier for small and growing businesses to solicit investors, to raise capital to create jocks and invest in the assets that will help our economy grow. It will remove a regulatory roadblock to potential creditor and investors. it is commonsense legislation. It will enable start-ups and small businesses across the country to better access the capital that they need. The provision has a lot of support from the job creators, America's job creators around the country. Small business and entrepreneurship council called it "A long overdue solution that would widen the pool of potential funders for entrepreneurs to seek and secure the capital they need to compete and grow. Our economy will improve once entrepreneurs are provided the tools, opportunities and incentives they need to hire and invest." There were 175 Democrats in the House of Representatives that supported this bill as a stand-alone bill. It's been endorsed by the SEC's Advisory Committee on small and emerging countries. When it was included in the broader JOBS Act in the house it passed by a vote of 390-23f. Job growth - if job growth is our priority in the United States Senate, we should not delay on moving forward with this important job-creating legislation."

Blumenthal, McConnell, Warner

Morning Business

Mar 15 2012

Senator Blumenthal: (9:45 AM)
  • Celebrated World Consumer Rights Day.
  • Spoke on the right of consumer privacy.
    • SUMMARY "The Consumer Bill of Rights has grown to include eight specific guarantees: the right to satisfaction of basic needs, the right to safety, the right to be informed, the trite to choose, the right to be heard, the right to redress, the right to consumer education, and the right to a healthy environment. Today I'd like to propose another right, a ninth right. The right to privacy. There is a growing need to defend individual rights to privacy in a multitude of areas. This country was founded, its basic bedrock is on a desire for personal privacy, on the right to be left alone. It's the reason that people came to this country, avoiding unwanted and unwarranted intrusion on their personal space, on their rights and liberties. They came here out of a desire for religious freedom, economic liberty, and the security of their person and property against intrusion. It is a uniquely bedrock American right, the right to privacy. Concerns about governmental invasion of personal privacy go back literally the founding of our republic in the protections guaranteed under the third amendment, when the British lodged troops without permission in our homes. The fourth amendment, when they searched our homes and seized goods and property from them. I've heard numerous complaints from Connecticut residents who were concerned about their privacy. They're concerned about federal and state intrusion into women's health care decisions. They're concerned about government efforts to combat terrorism through tracking of individuals via GPS or cell phone tower location. Those potential invasions of privacy are by the government, by official forces but people today are also understandably and rightly concerned about corporate intrusion into their privacy. They're concerned about companies crawling the web to collect consumers' personal information and selling it to marketers. They're concerned about mobile device acts that can access and acquire the device owner's photos and address book without his or her knowledge or consent. They're concerned about credit scores that are created from the use of medications, and those scores are used to set personal health insurance premiums and they're concerned about companies that are compiling dossiers on the use of social media sites or blogs and selling those reports to prospective employers. They're concerned because they're powerless to prevent the distribution of their contract information to marketers who then deluge them with advertisements in the mail and via e-mail concerned about companies who don't secure their personal data and the damage that occurs with from improper breaches or disclosure."

Senator McConnell: (10:02 AM)
  • Spoke on Democratic obstructionism
    • SUMMARY "I'd like to start out this morning by saying that I'm glad we're turning to the bipartisan JOBS bill that passed the House last week by such a lopsided margin. Here's a chance not only to help entrepreneurs build their businesses and create jobs but to show that we can work together around here to get things done on a bipartisan basis. Unfortunately, some of our friends on the other side don't seem to like that idea very much. Apparently they'd rather spend the time manufacturing fights and 30-second television ads than helping to create jobs. First, they tried to even keep us from bringing this jobs bill up for debate in the Senate. Now we read they're trying to figure out ways to make this overwhelmingly bill controversial. They want to pick a fight rather than get this bill to the President's desk. Then they're going it use the same strategy on a number of other bills. Their plan isn't to work together to make it easier to create jobs but to look for ways to make it easier to keep their own, then use it for campaign ads in the run-up to the November elections. If you're looking for the reason this congress has a 9% approval rating, this is it. A day after we read a headline in the congressional quarterly about democrats moving to slow a JOBS bill that got 390 votes, we see a story today about how the number-three Democrat in the Senate is scheming to spend the rest of the year hitting the other side. It goes on to list all the ways he plans to do it and then it says this: "None of these campaign-style attacks allow for the policy nuances or reasoning behind the GOP opposition and some of the bills stand no chance of becoming law, but that's really not the point." So in a moment of economic crisis, the number-three Democrat in the Senate, the Democrat in charge of strategy over there, sitting up at night trying to think up a strategy to help Democrats get reelected."

Senator Warner: (10:06 AM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "So what are we trying to do in this legislation? Well, to my mind there's three or four areas that these bills need address. First of all, we need to make it easier for these start-up companies to raise capital. Over the last decade, a lot of the traditional sources of capital-raising have actually diminished. The number of venture capital firms have actually decreased. the ability for a company to go public, which perhaps we got a little too excessive in the late-1990's when we saw dotcom companies go public and then they failed, but at that access to the public markets has been seriously constrained, partially because of added regulations, partially because of added reporting requirements, and partially because there's been, I think, a recognition that going public may not have been the right route for all of these companies. The result is that many of these start-up companies ended up having to sell to a larger company and many of the ideas and many of the job-creation opportunities are then constrained. So we need to make it easier for these companies to access capital. Some of the ideas that are going to be proposed in the legislation will do that. Some of the reforms, Reg-A, Reg-D, trying to look at raising the number of investors - that a start-up company can have before they have to report. All are, I think, sensible, appropriate incentives to help these start-up companies get going. we also need - and I understand the very important requirements put in place by the so-called Sarbanes-Oxley legislation a few years back but the cost of going public for start-up companies now, on average, $3 million to $4 million. Those costs are not costs that many of these start-up companies can absorb. So some of the sensible reforms that have been proposed by Senator Toomey, Senator Schumer, that I've been a proud cosponsor on, a so-called on ramp for start-up companies, I think help start-up companies as they try to access capital. We've seen a dramatic transformation of the internet over the last 20 years. Every business, every part of our life has been changed. There is now the ability to use the internet as a way for small investors to get the same kind of deals that up to this point only select investors have gotten that have been customers of some of the best-known investment banking firms. We can now use the power of the internet through a term called crowd funding - there has to be appropriate investor restraints on this and investor protections but crowd funding using the internet is another source of capital. i hope that would be included in the legislation that we're looking at."


Opening Remarks

Mar 15 2012

Senator Reid: (9:33 AM)
  • Today --
    • The Senate will proceed to a period of Morning Business until 11:00 AM, with Senators permitted to speak up to 10 minutes each. The time will be equally divided with the Majority controlling the first half and the Republicans controlling the second half.
    • At 11:00 AM, the Senate will begin consideration of H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act.
    • At 1:45 PM, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session for up to 15 minutes of debate, equally divided, on: (1) Executive Calendar #408, Gina Marie Groh, of West Virginia, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of West Virginia; and (2) Executive Calendar #461, Michael Walter Fitzgerald, of California, to be United States District Judge for the Central District of California.
    • At 2:00 PM, the Senate will conduct 2 ROLL CALL VOTES on confirmation of the nominations.
  • Honored Senator Mikulski, who will become the longest-serving woman in Congress on Saturday, March 17, 2012.
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "The Senate will move today to a piece of legislation that will improve innovators' access to capital and give start-ups the flexibility they need to hire and grow. This bill already passed the House by an overwhelming margin. President Obama supports this measure and both Democrats and Republicans are eager to get to work to pass it next week. In addition to the small business capital legislation, the Democrats will also advance a proposal to help American businesses sell more of their products overseas. Reauthorization of the export-import bank, or Ex-Im bank, as it's called, will help small business exports globally. It will also help large businesses, not just big businesses - I mean, not just small business; also big business. Caterpillar, Boeing - these companies really need this to continue the job creation they've been involved in now for the last several years. as an example, last year Ex-Im bank financed almost 300,000 private-sector jobs and more than 3,600 American companies in more than 2,000 communities throughout America. Foreign governments often provide financing for companies that compete with American businesses. We need to be able to do this to be more competitive. The Ex-Im bank levels the playing field by being available to help American exporters when private lend something not available. Unless we reauthorize this, it will hit its lending limit this month eliminating this for American exporters. The Export-Import bank has always had strong support and Democrats reauthorizing this measure has the firm backing of the chamber of commerce. This equals jobs. Passing these two items - this Ex-Im bank and the small business capital bill - will continue the important bipartisan work we've done this week to get our economy back on track. I'm pleased that Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have been able to find common ground."
The Senate is considering H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act.  The Senate is also considering two judicial nominations. 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.