Senate Calendar

Friday, February 17, 2012

Feb 17 2012

Senator Reid: (2: 12 PM)
  • Spoke on GOP obstructionism of judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "Regrettably, Senate Republicans continue to block, stall and obstruct these and other well-qualified nominees This obstruction is not about the nominations themselves. They are qualified and noncontroversial. Many came out of the committee, as I've indicated, by a voice vote or unanimously. Senate Republicans are blocking for political reasons, very, very weak political reasons. Not everything we do here in the Senate should be a fight. Virtually every one of these nominees could be approved today if the Senate Republicans would cooperate If we don't have some significant action during the next work period, I am going to ask the President to appoint them all."
Performed Wrap Up --
  • The Senate will conduct Pro Forma sessions on the following days:
    • Tuesday, February 21 at 12:00 PM; and
    • Friday, February 24 at 11:00 AM

  • Monday, February 27th --
    • The Senate will convene at 2:00 PM Monday, February 27th and Senator Shaheen will be recognized to deliver George Washington's Farewell Address.
    • Thereafter, the Senate will 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 proceed to Executive Session to begin consideration of Executive Calendar #409, Margo Kitsy Brodie, of New York, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York, for 1 hour of debate, equally divided.
    • At 5:30 PM, the Senate will proceed to a ROLL CALL VOTE on the nomination.

The Senate stands adjourned until 2:00 PM Monday, February 27th.

Lee, Hatch

Morning Business

Feb 17 2012

Senator Lee: (1:15 PM)
  • Spoke on the constitutionality of President Obama's "recessâ€? recess appointments.
    • SUMMARY "On January 4, to 2012, President Obama bypassed the constitutional right and unilaterally made appointments to the consumer financial protection bureau and to the national labor relations board. He purported to do so under the constitution's recess appointment clause, even though at the time of the appointments, the Senate was holding pro forma sessions roughly every 72 hours. If allowed to stand, President Obama's unprecedented and unconstitutional recess appointments could result in presidents of both parties routinely circumventing the senate's advise and consent function and thus depriving the people and the people's representatives of an essential check on the executive branch. President Obama's actions also violate the constitution's fundamental system of separation of powers. He has inserted the unilateral power to override congress's own determination of when it is in session and when it is in recess. At an absolute minimum, the senate's institutional prerogatives demand that we be allowed to make our own rules and yet President Obama's actions would deprive our body of even that basic right. In the past, I've given pretty broad deference to the president's judicial nominees, both in the judiciary committee and on the for that of the united states senate I have voted in favor of the president's vast number of nominees, but I can do so no more."
  • Spoke on the 3rd Anniversary of President Obama's stimulus bill.
    • SUMMARY "Today we're highlighting the third anniversary of President Obama's failed stimulus package. The President promised three years ago that the stimulus would create what he characterized as millions of jobs. But today, unfortunately, devastatingly, there are nearly 13 million people in America who are still unemployed and many millions more have even given up on looking for jobs. Three years ago the White House said that because of the stimulus package unemployment would not exceed 8%. That hasn't happened. In fact, the unemployment rate has topped 8% for 36 straight months now, the longest stretch of high unemployment since the great depression. The congressional budget office predicts that it's going to go even longer. We won't see sub-8% unemployment according to the CBO until 2014. The President sold the stimulus package to the American people by claiming that he would make immediate investments in what he characterized as shovel-ready jobs but last June the President acknowledged that shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected. Nevertheless, a lot of money has been spent, as we've been waiting for these jobs to materialize, jobs that never quite came about."

Senator Hatch: (1:28 PM)
  • Spoke on President Obama's unwillingness to respect the conscience rights of religious institutions.
    • SUMMARY "Our constitution protects all of us and by undermining religious liberty, this administration goes down a very dangerous path. In so doing, the officers responsible for this decision, if they knew of the serious constitutional issues here and still went ahead with this action for political reasons, violated their oath to uphold the constitution and the Congress and the American people are going to hold them accountable. The President and his reelection campaign would prefer this go away, hence the admonition from the mainstream media that we stop talking about this issue. I for one am not going to stop talking about it and I'm not going away. I'm just getting warmed up. Let me just say this, we have seen major countries go down the drain to totalitarian injustice because they didn't stand up for religious liberty. This is not a question about contraception. Women can get contraceptive pills. Nobody's denying them that and they're not all that expensive either. By the way, I haven't even dwelled on the issue that the President said that he will order the insurance companies to provide contraception freely. Nothing is free. Somebody always has to pay for it but the fact of the matter is this has gone way overboard when it infringes upon the moral and constitutional rights of religious people. There are millions and millions of people who agree that a woman if she wants to should have the rights to contraception. That's not the issue. There are many millions more who believe that this principle of religious liberty is extremely important and should not be infringed upon because of any kind of political admonitions and I'm one of those. I actually believe that's the issue here. I don't think it's got anything really to do with the sexual mores of society. The fact of the matter is once we start down the road of denying people their moral right or rights and the various churches their moral teachings and start imposing law upon them as to what they can say, do, and promulgate, we're on the way to losing the freedoms all of us hold so near and dear. Religious freedom is the first freedom mentioned in the bill of rights and my gosh, nobody should be infringing on it and nobody should start accusing others the way I think others were accused this morning on the floor of the senate. This is not just itty bitty stuff. This is important stuff."

Feb 17 2012

Senator Brown-MA: (12:31 PM)
  • Spoke on NOAA's culture of corruption.
    • SUMMARY "NOAA has a culture of corruption that has created a chasm of distrust between the agency and the fishing industry What does it take to get fired from NOAA? We have the abusive treatment of fisher resulting in the decimation of fleet. Investigations motivated by money. Improper fines, leading to foreclosure and bankruptcy. "Shredding parties" destroying 75% to 80% of requirement documents about an investigation, lying to the IG, discourage cooperation with the IG, misleading members of congress, the $300,000 party boat, $12,000 in party boat expenses paid with fishermen's fines, $30,000 engine destroyed by NOAA employee on weekend vacation, and no one is held accountable. It is unacceptable. This needs to change. Accountability starts at the top. NOAA's leadership needs to change and I'm calling one more time to have President Obama fire NOAA administrator Gene Lou Chen. If not for this, then for what? What does it take to feet fired at NOAA? Our fishermen and American taxpayers deserve better from their government."

Senator Warner: (12:40 PM)
  • Spoke in opposition to the Conference Report (Payroll Tax Credit Extension, Unemployment Insurance, Doc Fix).
    • SUMMARY "A little bit earlier today we passed a Conference Report that extended the payroll tax cut, and while I am glad the payroll tax cut was extended, I voted against that conference report because, unfortunately, we didn't pay for that tax cut. I believe we could have found ways to pay for it - a surcharge on millionaires, a means test, so it would have been targeted more towards stimulus. But also in that action, those parts of the legislation we just passed that we did pay for, things like unemployment benefits, we once again targeted a group that I think for too many in Congress becomes the payer of first resort, not payer of last resort, and that's our federal employees."
  • Paid tribute to Joseph Lawrence, who recently served as ONR's Transition Directorate in the Department of Defense.
Colloquy: (Senators Thune, Moran)
  • Spoke on the Department of Labor's regulations on child labor and agriculture.

Senator Thune: (12:47 PM)
  • SUMMARY "Just recently here in February of this year, the Department of Labor announced plans to re-propose a portion of the regulation on child labor and agriculture interpreting the "parental exception." What's interesting about it is there have been multiple efforts made to try and get a response to the letter and the Department of Labor didn't respond to a letter from 30 United States senators. It strikes me, with all the issues that were raised in that letter, with the impact this would have on the very heartland of our country and the ability of farmers and ranchers and their families to sustain themselves and to contribute to feeding the world, it seems that there would at least be the courtesy of responding to the points that were raised in that letter. Yet we have not yet received a response to that letter sent by the senator from Kansas, Senator Moran, and 29 others of us who signed on to that requesting response to the various issues that were raised It just strikes me, as certainly odd and perhaps I would have to say demonstrating an arrogance of power not to respond to 30 United States senators who on behalf of their constituents raised some issues that are very important to the economy of, certainly of the heartland of the Midwest and the people that I represent, and I know that the Senator from Kansas represents but this is - when you look at what they are proposing and the prescriptive nature of that, the detail that they go into in restricting the ability of young people to work on family farm and ranch operations, you have to just say, you know, what were these people thinking and what world are they living in? It seems to be a parallel universe to think that all these various regulations and restrictions that they would impose on young people working in agriculture wouldn't undermine the very fabric, the very nature, the very foundation of American agriculture. Farming and ranching is inherently a family enterprise. Young people have contributed for generations in helping that family farm or ranch operation survive and prosper. They contribute. they grow up in that business. In so many cases they come to take it over and it is amazing to me, really incomprehensible to think that bureaucrats in Washington, DC. could tell family farmers and ranchers how to run their operations with the kind of detail and just the incredible prescription of these regulations in the very activities that they would curtail for young people."

Senator Moran: (12:53 PM)
  • SUMMARY "I'm worried that the Department of Labor in announcing that just a few days ago that they're going to re-propose a portion of the rule, I'm worried that the Department of Labor is hoping that Americans, that farmers and ranchers, that members of Congress look the other way, that they're doing something significant to change the onerous nature of the rules that are proposed and while they are, have agreed to re-propose a portion of the rule related to the definition of family farms, what remains is two significant components fortunate way we live our lives, that we pass on to the next generation those characteristics we desire so much and that we will lose the opportunity to entice a young person to decide that agriculture is their means of earning a living as they grow older. You have to have an experience as a child to learn what opportunities are available for you. Students who become teachers have been enthused about becoming a teacher because of an experience in a classroom. It works the same way on a farm in Kansas or South Dakota or in Arkansas. It's the experience that that child has, that young person has in working with their families, with neighboring farmers that causes them to think I do, when I grow up, what I want to be is working here on this family farm. I want to earn my living in agriculture. and so the rule, while being, a portion of it being re-proposed, don't take your eye off of the consequences of the remainder of the rule, even if we got a good definition of a family farm in the re-proposed rule. What remains is replacing the things that have a time-honored tradition and success in rural communities in agriculture, in educating our kids. FAA, 4H, county extension. Those things are being replaced, and the Department of Labor is going to become the decider of whether or not an individual young person has the capabilities to work on a family farm. The Department says that those things - FAA, 4H, county extension - are too local and we have to have a nationally driven policy from the Department of Labor to decide how we educate and train and make certain that we have safety for young people working on farms."

Senator Thune: (1:03 PM)
  • SUMMARY "The very organizations that you mentioned, 4H, FAA, extension service, know full well, and the families who operate farms know full well what the risks are. They understand. They want to protect their families and instead you've got a Washington bureaucracy who thinks that it knows best telling family farms, ranches how to go about their business in a way that will make it not only more difficult for them to make a living but also I think more difficult for young people to learn that - the skills and get the experience they need when hopefully that time comes around that they can take over that operation. Farming, ranching in Kansas, as it is in South Dakota, is very much an intergenerational occupation and it's more than just an occupation. It's more than just a vocation. It is a way of life. It is something that where values are transmitted from one generation to another, values of hard work, personal responsibility, you know, just the integrity, the honesty, there's just so many character qualities that we value that young people learn in - on family farms and ranches and so notwithstanding the economic impact on family farms and ranches, certainly the cultural, social impact on our family farms and ranches in the middle of this country is tremendously impacted by these regulations."

Senator Moran: (1:07 PM)
  • SUMMARY "Farming is this way of life that farmers and ranchers are so proud of and believe they serve - and they do, they serve such a noble profession in feeding and clothing and providing energy to a hungry and cold and - and difficult world. Agriculture certainly is about economics but there is an understanding that what farmers and ranchers do is important to the world and we need to make certain that there is another generation, another set of young people who step into the shoes of an aging population of farmers and ranchers across the country and, again, these proposed rules, they need to be totally withdrawn and we ought not accept the reduce - the ruse of a portion of them being re-proposed."

Senator Thune: (1:09 PM)
  • SUMMARY "Is the senator aware of any group that was consulted on this? Were there any farm organizations that were brought into this or that - that had any input into this? or, as the senator mentioned, was this solicited by anyone? Was there any rationale based upon data collected about safety or that sort of thing that necessitated that they use such a heavy-handed, big-government approach to addressing what they perceive to be a problem?"

Senator Moran: (1:10 PM)
  • SUMMARY "Everything that I know about this topic suggests that it's - that it's otherwise and, in fact, the farm organizations and commodity groups of - of the wide array of those who advocate across the country on behalf of agriculture producers are aligned with us in opposition to these rules. and so it - it can't be that they were involve in the process of developing the rules because they, to a - at least every organization i know involved as a commodity group or a farm organization is adamantly opposed to what the department is suggesting."

Senator Thune: (1:11 PM)
  • SUMMARY "Nationally, the average age of farmers in this country is nearing 60 years old. which means one thing. somebody's going to have to fill those shoes. somebody's going to have to come along and take over that farm or ranch operation and this is going to make it increasingly difficult to - to prepare that next generation of farmers and ranchers and, again, it occurs to me that this is just something that ought to be withdrawn."

Reid, Boxer, Akaka

Morning Business

Feb 17 2012

Senator Reid: (12:16 PM)
  • Reported Reid amendment #1730 to S. 1813, the Highway bill.
  • The Senate will proceed to a period of Morning Business until 2:00 PM, with Senators permitted to speak up to 10 minutes each.
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "What we've just gone through here is an effort to bring the highway bill to an closer end, bring it closer to the end I should say. The amendment I have in it does not have the commerce committee reported matter. There's been an effort made by members of the commerce committee on a bipartisan basis to have another proposal and that's what's now this bill. I would hope that that will be accepted. I'm told it will when we get back, which will allow us to start legislating the Monday we get back on this bill. We have got to move to completion. As I said earlier today, I don't like a lot of the amendments that my Republican colleagues have offered but they have a right to offer amendments. We're going to have to work through these amendments. I hope that we can come up with the day we get back or at least the next day, with a list of finite amendments, Republican amendments, Democratic amendments, and work our way through those. We can't have hundreds of amendments. I would hope we could work that down to a reasonable number. Both sides are going to offer amendments I'm sure that won't be a lot of fun, but that's why we're elected, to make tough decisions. There are some measures that we have to vote on that relate to the bill. I know that may sound a little unusual, but there may be some amendments that are germane or relevant to the matter we're considering. We're going to work through these. I hope we don't have to file cloture on the bill. That would not nice, because this legislation is important because the surface transportation law that's now effect expires at the end of March. So we have a lot of work to do in a short period of time and so senators understand, we have a lot more to do We not only have to finish this bill but it's imperative that we bring to the floor the postal reform legislation, extremely important. We also have a lot of nominations we're going to have to deal with and these are the things that we have on a short-term - the highway bill and the postal bill are really big, important pieces of legislation."

Senator Boxer: (12:19 PM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "So what my colleague has done by - by offering this amendment is to offer now the agreed-upon commerce package and the agreed-upon bill so that we can finally get started and not have us torn asunder and it was wonderful to interact with Senator Hutchison today because she made her point that she's quite satisfied with the compromise that has been worked out between herself and Senator Rockefeller on the new compromise commerce piece."

Senator Akaka: (12:24 AM)
  • Spoke in support of the Conference Report (Payroll Tax Cut Extension, Unemployment Insurance, Doc Fix).
    • SUMMARY "I reluctantly supported the conference agreement because it is absolutely essential that we extend the payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance benefits. The stakes are too high to do otherwise for our economic recovery and for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet. We cannot abandon them or reverse progress during this difficult time. However, I strongly oppose the decision to pick the pockets of federal workers yet again. Just to offset the costs of ten months of unemployment insurance benefits. I am not opposed to offsetting the costs but I believe that shared sacrifice is essential and a simple matter of fairness and decency. Unfortunately, this agreement once again, rather than asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share of taxes, some of my colleagues insisted on taxing America's dedicated middle-class public servants. Future federal employees will be required to pay an additional 2.3% of their incomes toward their pensions. That means most employees will pay a total of 3.1% of their salaries and that is in addition to the 6.2% they pay for social security retirement benefits. This agreement effectively lowers the federal pay scale by 2.3% going forward and this comes after federal wages already have been frozen for two years. Under this agreement, future congressional employees, all of our staffs who often work long hours for us and are underpaid, will pay more toward their pensions. At the same time as we cut their pension benefits by more than one-third. These are permanent changes made to fund just ten months of unemployment benefits. Not a good investment in our nation's future. Some of my colleagues have - you believe that federal employees are overpaid and that simply is not true."

Vote Results (Conference Report)

Conference Report to accompany H.R. 3630, the Payroll Tax Cut Extension bill

Feb 17 2012

Passed, 60-36:
The Conference Report (Payroll Tax Cut Extension, Unemployment Insurance, Doc Fix) to accompany H.R. 3630, the Payroll Tax Cut Extension bill.
The vote results will be postedhere within one hour.

Vote Results (Furman Nomination)

Executive Session (Furman Nomination)

Feb 17 2012

Confirmed, 62-34:
The nomination of Jesse M. Furman, of New York, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Feb 17 2012

Not Agreed to, 54-42:
The Motion to Invoke Cloture on Reid amendment #1633 (Banking, Finance, and Commerce titles) to S. 1813, the Highway bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Hutchison, Boxer

Highway bill (S. 1813)

Feb 17 2012

Senator Hutchison: (11:00 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "I rise to urge my colleagues to vote no on cloture on Senator Reid's amendment numbered 1633 to the highway bill. The bill that we're getting ready to vote on puts the other titles into the Highway bill from the Commerce Committee, Finance Committee and Banking Committee and, I'm going to object on the grounds that the Commerce Committee title is not the title that should be included in this bill. What happened is that there was a partisan amendment that was added to a markup very late that the minority had not had a chance to work out before it went to the markup. We thought it wasn't going on the markup, but it did go on the markup before we were able to have the input and work it in a better way, which has been our usual position in the commerce committee. The bill would create an unfunded, unlimited discretionary grant program that has divided the transportation community. It will add a new assistant secretary for freight planning and development and a whole new office in the department of transportation. This is a part of the bill that certainly none of the republicans can support, and it caused a party-line vote in the commerce committee. Additionally, the bill that will be before us contains provisions in two - that would create two new programs in the research and innovative technology administration that would cost taxpayers $28 million annually to administer, and the underlying bill authorizes $615 million for ten years for these two new programs, and that would be more than double what the authorization levels are for this program in today's terms. So if we go the next ten years, it would be $318 million if we had kept it at static levels which we are doing in most other parts of this bill, but instead, the bill that we're voting on today would more than double that to $615 million over the next ten years."

Senator Boxer: (11:07 AM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "Should we not invoke cloture today, I personally hope we do and we can fix the bill, but if we don't and if Senator Rockefeller and Senator Hutchison are able to take their work and put that in as a substitute, would my friend be back on board here working toward completion of this bill?"

Senator Hutchison: (11:08 AM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "If I understand the Senator from California's question, it is if we can substitute at some point the compromise language in the commerce title, I am going to be absolutely supportive of this bill."

Feb 17 2012

Senator Grassley: (10:12 AM)
  • Spoke on President Obama's reversal on several positions: employer funding for contraception, Citizen's United, campaign funds from lobbyists, lobbyists employment in the Administration, Department of Justice/Freedom of Information Act, signing statements, and pledging to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term.

Senator Coats: (10:28 AM)
  • Spoke on the 3rd Anniversary of the Stimulus bill and the President Obama's budget proposal.
    • SUMMARY "This is the third anniversary of the President's stimulus - nearly trillion-dollar stimulus bill but it's not an anniversary worth celebrating. Back then the administration promised to the American people that the stimulus bill would keep unemployment if passed, they said, it would keep unemployment below 8% and create 3.5 million jobs. So let's look at where we are today. The unemployment rate has remained above 8% for a record 36 months, and our economy has lost nearly a half million jobs since the stimulus was passed. You can't conclude anything else other than the fact that the stimulus has failed and failed badly. It was a misuse of hard earned taxpayer dollars and proves when government tries to pick winners, many of their choices, like Solyndra, turn out to be losers, and all that at the expense of the American taxpayer. By looking at the President's budget proposal that we're going to be dealing with this year for next fiscal year, it appears that the administration has not learned from its past mistakes. Despite some glimmers of hope for improvement in our economy, today millions of Americans woke up across the country without a job. This morning, millions of Americans are wondering how to make their next mortgage payment, how to pay for their medical bills and how to fill up their gas tanks without breaking the bank. But little is being done here in Washington to address this, and while it is obvious that there are no silver bullets or short-term fixes to this problem, we have not taken the necessary steps to get a hold of our larger fiscal issue and problem. The growing red ink and debt that our economy is being burdened with through the policies that are enacted and not enacted here in Washington. The Obama budget is out of touch with the reality of our fiscal situation. The President's fiscal year 2013 budget increases spending every year, proposes the largest tax increase in history, burdens the country with more debt and never balances the budget. As we have seen before, the administration's budget principles cannot be anything but spend more, borrow more and tax more. This is a failed approach. It is dropping us deeper and deeper into debt and making our solutions more difficult every day that we spend more than we take in. One of the major things that we haven't addressed this year and because we haven't exhibited the will to do so is failure to address entitlements. Entitlements and mandatory spending plus the interest we pay on borrowed debt continue to eat up evermore of our budget. A larger and ever-growing percentage which will continue over the next ten years at staggering numbers. It just simply is not sustainable. While we must work to save our safety net programs that we had promised the American people, we need to understand that doing nothing makes the situation work - worse and does not do anything to help retirees and so we have to be honest with those retirees and those nearing retirement and those that are looking to the future solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund and solvency of the Medicare trust fund."

Senator Shaheen: (10:35 AM)
  • Spoke on women's health.
    • SUMMARY "I think it's critical to understand that the underlying issue here is about affordable access to contraception, something that is basic to women's health. birth control is something that most women use at some point in their lifetime and something that the medical community believes is essential to the health of women and their families. Research shows that access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality, that it can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, and that it's linked to overall good health outcomes and some women, 14% of them, use birth control not as contraceptives but to treat serious medical conditions. so about 1.5 million women. When the administration first announced their decision to require employers to offer health insurance coverage for contraception, there was a robust conversation about religious liberty. In response to that, the President modified his decision last week, preserving the religious liberty of those religiously affiliated institutions, such as hospitals or universities, but also protecting the women who work for them. his decision ensured that all women have access to contraceptive coverage, and if a woman's employer has a religious objection, women can get that critical coverage directly from their health plans. the catholic health association has supported this policy, and yet as we saw yesterday, some attempt to continue to politicize this issue. We can't lose sight that this is at the most fundamental level a debate about women's preventative health. women deserve a voice in this debate because after all in the end this is about our health and it is about a health care decision that is between women, their families, their doctors and their own faith."

Senator Murray: (10:40 AM)
  • Spoke on women's health.
    • SUMMARY "Last week the junior Senator from Missouri introduced an amendment to a job creating transportation infrastructure bill that is as extreme as anything we've seen. It is an amendment that will allow any employer, a barber, a banker, a multinational corporation, to be given an exemption to not cover contraception or any essential preventive - for any religious or moral reason. It is an amendment that would give any employer an unprecedented license to dictate what women can and cannot have covered. It puts your employer smack in the middle between you and your health care. It's politics between women and their health care and before the news that women across the country woke up to this morning, there was just the most recent in a very long line of attacks on our reproductive rights. Contraceptive coverage should not be a controversial issue. It is supported by the vast majority of Americans who understand how important it is for women and their families but let me remind you, Republicans have made it clear from the start this isn't about what's best for women or men or their family planning decisions. It's apparently a political calculation. This is about their constituency. It's about their continued push to do whatever it takes to push their extreme agenda. Well, the women of the United States Senate, the Democratic women, are here to say enough. we are standing up today and every day to fight for women and their right to make their own basic health care decisions. Not their employer, not an extreme part of the Republican party, not some men on a panel, but themselves and we will continue to do so and I'm proud to stand with the women of the senate to do just that."

Senator Gillibrand: (10:49 AM)
  • Spoke on women's health.
    • SUMMARY "Let me be clear once again. 99%, 99% of all of America's women have used contraception at some time in their lifetime. When will they get this simple non-debatable fact. The power to decide whether or not a woman will use contraception lies with her. Not her boss, not her employer. What is more intrusive than trying to allow an employer to make medical decisions for someone who works for them? This has nothing to do with religious freedom. You don't have to take it from me. Take it from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In the majority decision of the 1990 case on employment division versus smith, Scalia wrote we have never held that an individual's limbus beliefs free him from compliance with a valid law. It is time to get back to the real business at hand of growing our economy and getting Americans back to work. But if our Republican colleagues want to continue to take this issue head on, we will stand here as often as is necessary and draw a line in the sand that the Senate, the women of the Senate specifically, will continue to oppose these attacks on women's rights and women's health care."

Senator Boxer: (10:51 AM)
  • Spoke on women's health.
    • SUMMARY "Yesterday this is what America saw, a Republican House of Representatives that is so hostile to women's health that they didn't even think about having a person on there who was a female, nor did they have anyone on there that agreed that it's important that women have access to birth control. Knowing that for many, many women birth control is medicine for a woman, knowing that 99% of women sometime in her lifetime utilized birth control."

Senator Schumer: (10:55 AM)
  • Spoke on women's health.
    • SUMMARY "This is about women's health, and women and men all over America are scratching their heads and saying are we fighting against contraception? Are we turning the clock back 60 or 70 years? It makes no sense. It makes no sense. If a woman wants contraception for either birth control or other health purposes - and most women use it for other health purposes - it's up to that woman, not her employer. Not her employer. That's the bottom line here. The vast majority of Americans, men and women, agree with that statement. That is true I think of every major religion from the polling data I have seen, and frankly, I don't understand this Republican Party. First they made war on the Hispanic community, one of the fastest growing segments in America on immigration, and now they're making war on a majority of America, women and while not every woman feels the way we do, the majority, vast majority of women do. So I don't get it. I don't get it."
  • Spoke in support of the Furman nomination.
    • SUMMARY "If Jesse Furman cannot achieve cloture, then our system is so paralyzed, we better go back to the drawing board, because it will mean no district court judge can be approved, none and so I would ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support him. I know that we have a number of our Republican colleagues who have said that they might support him, and I hope they will. we had a good vote in the Judiciary committee on Jesse Furman and, again, he is truly excellent, endorsed by the people who clerked on the supreme court, including for Kennedy, and Scalia he passed out of the Judiciary Committee without dissent. Please, my colleagues, a vote for Furman will show that we can come together, certainly on a judge of such moderation. A vote against him will say the system is irreparably broken."


Opening Remarks

Feb 17 2012

Senator Reid: (10:02 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 Republicans controlling the first half and the Majority controlling the second half.
    • At 11:00 AM, the Senate will proceed to a ROLL CALL VOTE on the Motion to Invoke Cloture on Reid amendment #1633 (Banking, Finance, and Commerce) to S. 1813, the Highway bill.
    • If Cloture is Invoked on the Reid amendment #1633 (Banking, Finance, and Commerce) to S. 1813, the Highway bill, the bill as amended will be considered as original text.
    • If Cloture is Not Invoked, the motion to recommit on S. 1816, the Highway bill will be withdrawn and the Senate will proceed to Executive Session; The Cloture motion on Executive Calendar #366, Jesse M. Furman, of New York, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, will be vitiated and the Senate will proceed to a ROLL CALL VOTE on confirmation of the nomination.
    • At a time to be determined, there could be UP TO TWO ROLL CALL VOTES on the Conference Report (Payroll Tax Credit Extension, Unemployment Insurance, Doc Fix) to accompany H.R. 3630, the Payroll Tax Credit bill, upon receipt from the House of Representatives (Cloture and Final Passage); 10 minutes of debate, equally divided, will proceed the VOTE(s) on the Conference Report.
  • Paid tribute to Dr. Heath Morrison, Superintendent of the Washoe County School District, who is being named the 2012 Superintendent of the Year by the American Association Of School Administrators.
  • Spoke on the Conference Report (Payroll Tax Credit Extension, Unemployment Insurance, Doc Fix) and the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "I commend the members of the Conference committee for their diligence and dedication. We're holding a lot more Conference committees. That's the way this place should be. They're hard, they're difficult, they're representing this body, and it's hard to arrive at a result, but they did. The Senate will vote on that Conference Report as soon as we can today. Of course, we'll need Republican support to pass this, but the statements, my friend, the Republican leader has made makes it pretty clear that we will get republican support because, among other things, Senator McConnell has said Republicans strongly support extending this tax cut for the rest of the year and that's good. Americans are waiting and watching what happens here today. With our economy gaining steam, still fragile, it's crucial we prevent a tax increase on 160 million Americans. These are working Americans. We must also protect the safety net for millions of Americans who can't find work. We have 3.5 million people, who are in some stage of unemployment in this great country. We must protect seniors' access to quality medical care by preventing a drastic pay cut for the doctors who take care of them. An agreement to solve these three issues was possible because republicans learned the meaning of the word compromise. Both sides gave a little to get something done for the American people. We don't have to have a fight on everything. I've said that so many times recently. We need to work together. We have coming up soon this transportation legislation. Now, I'm not happy with the amendments that the republicans have offered. I don't like them. They are not relevant and germane, most of them but they have a right to offer those amendments. So we're going to have to work our way through this and I hope that my Republican colleagues will understand when we get back here that they are going to have to - can't have them all, but I'm going to make an effort to go through those, we'll have some votes that the Republicans won't want to take either but we'll work through this and get this very important bill done."

Feb 17 2012

The Senate Convened.

Feb 17 2012

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