Senate Calendar

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jun 26 2012

Senator Durbin: (6:26 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Tomorrow --
    • The Senate will convene at 9:30 AM and Majority Leader Reid will be recognized. The first hour will be equally divided, with the Majority controlling the first 30 minutes and the Republicans controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • Pending is S. 1940, the Flood Insurance bill. Pending to S. 1940 are Reid (for Johnson (SD)/Shelby) substitute amendment #2468 and Reid (for Pryor/Hoeven) amendment #2469 (residual risk) to Reid (for Johnson (SD)/Shelby) substitute amendment #2468. The rest of the amendment tree was filled with date changes.
    • Pending is the Motion to Proceed to S. 2237, the Increased Payroll Tax Credit and Bonus Depreciation bill.
The Senate stands adjourned until 9:30 AM Wednesday, June 27th.

Reid, Harkin, Alexander, Boozman, Portman

Increased Payroll Tax Credit and Bonus Depreciation bill (S. 2237)

Jun 26 2012

Senator Reid: (5:20 PM)
  • Spoke on the Flood Insurance bill.
    • SUMMARY "I made a commitment to proceed to a five-year Flood Insurance bill following the Farm bill, and we've done that. It's the right thing to do. It is an extremely important piece of legislation. So that commitment I have lived up to. I had hoped that the broad support we have for this extremely important bill will allow us to reach an agreement and finish the bill in a relatively short period of time. As everyone knows, the senior senator from Arkansas has had some issues with the bill. I have suggested that he have a vote. In talking to my Republican friends, they don't have a problem with that, to give him a vote. Unfortunately, as happens around here more often than I would like, we haven't been able to reach agreement because of a really small group of Republicans who are stopping us from doing this. So my options are really very limited at this stage. I can file cloture and put at risk our ability to complete action on student loans and the transparency bill. And the transportation bill, and that's what it would do. Because if we file cloture, we're going to have a cloture vote on this thing on Thursday and I would have to file cloture twice because there's the bill and there's the substitute, which everybody agreed was the right thing to do to move forward on the substitute. That's two votes, at least 60 hours. The Flood bill is a very, very important piece of legislation. It's not something we have to complete the day after tomorrow, but it is something we have to complete a month from now. So I can file cloture and put at risk these important pieces of legislation, meaning the Transportation bill, student loans - it puts everything at risk. Or I can give supporters of this bill time to try to come to an agreement on limiting the number of amendments. I really believe that the right thing to do is to give the people who want this bill passed - Democrats and Republicans - people who support this extremely important piece of legislation a day or two to figure out if they can get something done. I hope they can. I really, honestly do. So I'm not filing cloture on this bill tonight, as I had actually contemplate. I hope that my Republican friends will work with us to get this bill done This is a bill that deals with flood insurance. I've spoken to a number of Republican senators, including Senator Vitter, who was the person that has spoken out on this more than anyone else, and he acknowledges that there may be a few amendments that we should have on this bill. I don't care. That's fine with me. Let's set up a list of amendments and finish this bill. So I hope we can get that done."
  • Spoke on the Student Loan bill.
    • SUMMARY "I'm really pleased to say that we're close to an agreement to prevent student loan rates from doubling for 7 million young men and women. That would happen at the end of this week. So I appreciate the leadership of President Obama - he's pushed forward on this for a long time, he's given many, many public statements in this regard, he's been talking to statements around the country; he was in New Hampshire yesterday talking to students; they waited in the rain to hear him talk, and he's been working with leaders in congress to ensure that students won't pay the extra $1,000 to get a degree. I would remind my colleagues that Republicans, including the Speaker, my friend, were willing to give up on this issue just a few weeks ago. We're not willing to give up on this issue, and I am a glad that my republican colleagues have agreed we shouldn't give up on this issue. We don't want to let the rates double."

Senator Harkin: (5:27 PM)
  • Spoke on the FDA Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "Today with final passage of the FDA Safety and Innovation Act and the reauthorization of the FDA user fee agreements, we have helped both the FDA and the biomedical industry. This legislation is now headed to the president for his signature and will ensure that the FDA can approve drugs and medical devices, protect patient access to new therapies and preserve America's global leadership in biomedical innovation. It will keep patients safer but modernizing the FDA's inspection process for foreign manufacturing facilities. While also improving access to new and innovative medicines and devices. It will reduce drug the approval of lower-cost generic drugs and help mitigate drug shortages. Finally, by improving the way FDA does business, increasing accountability and transparency, U.S. companies will be better able to innovate and compete in a global marketplace. With the FDA Safety and Innovation Act ready to be signed into law, we have taken an important step to improve American families' access to lifesaving drugs and medical devices. As I have said throughout this the bipartisan process that produced this excellent bill has been a shining example of what can be achieved when we all work together in good faith. I worked very closely with my colleagues both sides of the aisle as well as industry stakeholders, patient groups, and consumer groups to solicit ideas and improvements on the critical provisions in this bill. We have a better product thanks to everyone's input."
  • Thanked colleagues and staff for their work on the FDA Reauthorization bill.

Senator Alexander: (5:32 PM)
  • Thanked colleagues for their work on the FDA Reauthorization bill.
  • Spoke on leadership.
    • SUMMARY "What transforming steps should the United States take to meet these new challenges? My own view is that rather than creating new institutions as America did in the 1850's and 1860's, it would be much wiser for us to spend our time making the institutions we already have work. Let me discuss just two examples. First, our basic governmental institutions. The new Foreign Minister of Australia, Bob Carr, a great friend of the United States, said recently in Washington, DC, that the United States is one budget away - one budget deal away, he said, from reasserting its preeminence in the world. He means of course that the world is watching actually hoping that at the end of the year the United States will demonstrate that we actually can govern ourselves by resolving the fiscal mess we have in a way that reforms taxes, controls spending and reduces debt. To do this, we do not need a new government. We need for our newly elected president, whether his name be Romney or Obama, to lead. President Lyndon B. Johnson's Press Secretary George Ready defined presidential leadership as number one, seeing an urgent need; number two, developing a strategy to meet that need; and number three, persuading at least half the people that you're right. We don't need to change the rules of the United States Senate. We simply need a change in behavior. Less playing of games and more getting of results. The new Congress, next year's Congress, whether it be Republican or Democrat, must make its goal to dispute, amend, debate, vote upon the president's proposed agenda, and then to help the president succeed. Because if the president succeeds, whether he's Republican or Democrat, our country succeeds. We might well remember the words of that Chicago Tribune editorial writer in 1862 who said, "Let us first get the ship out of the breakers. Then court-martial the officers if they deserve it.""
  • Spoke on the U.S. colleges and universities.
    • SUMMARY "The second institutions we should refurbish and make work are our colleges and universities, all 6,000 of them. Not just the land grant universities that we celebrate this week. Again, we don't need new institutions. We just need to reassert the greatness of the ones we have. Our universities, along with our national laboratories, are our secret weapon for innovation. And innovation is our secret weapon for producing 25% of all the money in the world each year for just 5% of the world's population ... First, stop sending home every year 17,000 of the 50,000 international students who graduate from U.S. universities with graduate degrees in advanced science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Give them a green card and let them stay here and create jobs for Americans. Next, double funding for advanced research as the America Competes Act, which passed with huge bipartisan support in the senate has authorized. Third, repeal the federal Medicaid mandates that force states to spend money on Medicaid that otherwise would go to higher education. This has resulted in dramatic decreases in state support and increases in tuition to try to maintain quality in higher education. Next, while Congress is repealing the Medicaid mandates, it should literally cut in half the stack of regulations that hamper institutional autonomy and waste dollars that should be spent on students and research. And finally, the institutions themselves should look for ways to save money such as full utilization of facilities during the summertime, such as three-year degrees for some students and reforms in teacher tenure. In the 1960's, Mitt Romney's father, George Romney, offered this advice to the big three Detroit automobile manufacturers. Mr. Romney said "nothing is more vulnerable than entrenched success, nothing is more vulnerable than entrenched success.â€? The big three didn't pay attention, and you see what happens. It's good advice for universities today."

Senator Boozman: (5:51 PM)
  • Thanked all U.S. military personnel and veterans.
  • Paid tribute to Army Master Sergeant Gregory Childs, who died on May 4, 2012.

Senator Portman: (5:56 PM)
  • Spoke on synthetic drugs.
    • SUMMARY "The legislation addresses what is called synthetic drugs There is synthetic marijuana out there but also synthetic stimulants, synthetic ... Unfortunately they are not illegal. We need to act and we are doing so through this legislation today. As I said, one of the drugs is called Spice. It sounds like an ingredient you would find in the kitchen, something benign you would find on a shelf somewhere. The same with bath salts. Unfortunately, they are not benign at all. They are not what you think they are. They are dangerous compounds that can cause tremendous devastation, and we need to be sure that we get the word out. Users are led to believe they are getting a legal version of something that mimics marijuana or cocaine or LSD or any other illegal street drug that's what's under schedule one of the Food and Drug Administration. This means these are synthetic drugs. But because these synthetic drugs are legal, users think they are safe. They produce adverse reactions that are truly unexpected and sometimes bizarre, and like the street versions that are on schedule one, at the federal level, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FDA have both concluded that none of these drugs have any currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. So it seems to me it's appropriate for us to list them under schedule one, and again, that's what this United States Senate did today following the House of Representatives. Because they are legal, they are accessible, particularly on the internet This legislation puts these dangerous drugs in what's called schedule one, we just don't want one more young person to make one more bad decision. And to die or have a serious health problem as a result of thinking these synthetic drugs are safe. Because Washington hasn't put them on the list to tell people they are unsafe. If we want to do right by the safety and the health of our children as well as our communities, closing this loophole was common sense, and bipartisan."
  • Spoke on prescription drug abuse.
    • SUMMARY "There is a prescription drug abuse problem throughout the country but in Ohio we've been hit hard by this and one of the issues I had found in going to a town hall in southern Ohio was the fact the state prescription drug monitoring programs couldn't communicate and operate across state lines ... Prescription drug abuse has devastated the county in which Portsmouth sits, as well as other counties in the area. Because of the hard work of the community leaders and federal and state law enforcement there has been some momentum. We're beginning to turn things around, pill shops are being closed. One critical tool they told me they needed was prescription drug monitoring programs across state lines. This is a database that a lot of states used to monitor prescription drug abuse. So when someone goes to ask for a prescription, the person who is responsible for implementing the program or someone who was at a farm a doctor knows what prescriptions this person has already received, these are very effective programs. 48 states have them. One territory has it and they work well within the state but they don't communicate well between the states with each other. And, again, in a place like Piedra county, where you have interstate traffic, this legislation now will protect our community and ensure that if someone gets a prescription in Ohio and goes across the state to Kentucky and tries to fill it and they reach their limit in Ohio and that there will be a database available. So it succeeds. I'd also like to thank the alliance of states for prescription drug monitoring program which has played a critical role in promoting these national interoperability standards."

Vote Results (Motion to Concur)

FDA Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

Jun 26 2012

Agreed to, 92-4:
Motion to Concur in the House amendment to S. 3187, the FDA Reauthorization bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Burr, Harkin (UC)

FDA Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

Jun 26 2012

Senator Burr: (3:28 PM)
  • Spoke on water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
    • SUMMARY "Over four decades ago at one of the two Marine Corps bases in America, Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, they experienced serious contamination of its water. That contamination is likely the worst environmental exposure incident on a domestic military installation in the history of the country. Both in the magnitude of the population potentially exposed to volatile organic solvents and the duration of the contamination, estimated to be 30 years or longer. Hundreds of thousands of veterans, their families, along with civilian workers cycled through Camp Lejeune from the busy years of World War II through the Vietnam conflict and into the mid-1980's as we rebuilt our modern military. During these decades, unbeknown to the base residents, the wells feeding the water supply on the base were drawing water from an aquifer contaminated with industrial chemicals that were dumped on the base ... The veterans administration is awarding disability benefits to Lejeune veterans on a case-by-case basis today. But that's a slow and unpredictable process while many are suffering without adequate health care. It's my hope that in the coming weeks, we will finally pass critical legislation in this congress to require the VA to take care of the veterans and their family members. Many of them are ill from exposure-related conditions and have no other means of getting health care. They are rightly looking to the VA and to the Congress for help. If we can get this legislation passed, it will be a starting point on the road to doing the right thing for those who have sacrificed so much for our nation. I just think it's absolutely a crime that now, some 40 years later, we haven't even completed the studies that we need to, to understand the severity of the problems that we have. I might add that some of the service members and some of the family members that served at Camp Lejeune during this time are no longer with us so it's hard to reconstruct exactly why, but I can assure you, when you have some estimate ten times the number of male breast cancer cases from people that lived on that base during that time, one might conclude that it was a hot spot based upon its drinking water. My hope is that this Congress will move forward with a very small initial step but also make a commitment to these family members and service members to not quit until we do the right thing."
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "Two years ago, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Americans "We have to pass the bill so that we can find out what's in it." "We have to pass the bill so we can find out what's in it." Seems fitting that we stop and take stock of what the American people have learned about the president's health care law over the past two years. The American people have found they can't afford the president's health care law. The Medicare chief actuary in his final estimate of the health care law projected it will increase health care spending across the economy by $311 billion. Now, that's a ten-year number. But understand that the president promised that the health care law would reduce costs. It wasn't a goal. He promised it would reduce costs. Unfortunately, it's made things worse by increasing health care costs. And I think that the Medicare chief actuary is probably a very conservative estimate of an increase of $311 billion. Growth in the U.S. health care spending will almost double by 2014 due to the president's new law. Now, this is at a time where we already are in eye situation where it's financially unsustainable on the path that we're on. The predictions of the president's health care law increasing insurance premiums are already being felt by the American people. Depending upon where you live, depending upon who your employer is, depending upon whether you buy your own insurance. It depends on how hard you've been hit. But there's nobody in America that has not seen their premium go up since congress passed this health care bill that was supposed to reduce the cost of health care. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the new law will increase health insurance premiums by 10% to 13%. This means a family purchasing coverage on their loan have to pay $2,100 a year more because of the president's health care law. And, by the way, 10% to 13% is what many Americans have felt as an increase on an annual basis."
  • Spoke on the recent intelligence leaks.
    • SUMMARY "Today routinely there are leaks of classified and sensitive information. Recently there's been a series of articles published that have described in some cases, in extreme detail highly classified unilateral and joint intelligence operations. I'm not talking about suggesting that it might be there or without detail. I'm talking about specifics of what happened. To describe these leaks as troubling and frustrating is an understatement. They are inexcusable. By whoever. Our intelligence professionals are allies, and most importantly, the American people deserve better than what they've seen over the last several weeks. I'm personally sick and tired of reading articles about sensitive operations that "current and former U.S. officials, individuals who were briefed on the discussion. Officials speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the clandestine programs. A senior American officer who received classified intelligence reports. According to participants in the program. According to officials in the room. And individuals who none of would allow their name to be used because the effort remains highly classified and parts are - of it continue today. That's the basis. That's the basis that these front-page stories run on. And I'm not confirming or denying that anything in it is accurate or inaccurate. Because as a member of the committee, I sign an obligation that says no covert action even comment on. Any person that holds secret, compartmentalized clearance has an obligation to never acknowledge the existence of a program ... Our freedom with understanding that politics trumps security has reached a new level. It's got to stop and it's got to stop now. The unauthorized disclosure of classified intelligence at best violates trust and potentially damages vital liaison relationships and at worst gets people killed I strongly believe that these leakers are also violating the trust of the most important constituency of all: the American people. Even more troubling is that there appears to be a pattern that these stories and leaks, they may be designed to make the administration look good on national security. It used to be that the good stuff was buried by the media and the worst was run. Not anymore. The truth be told, rarely have I seen a story that paints this administration in a bad light. Then when we're about to, the administration invokes executive privilege."
  • Spoke on the U.S. fiscal crisis.
    • SUMMARY "On August 5, 2011, Standard & Poor's downgraded the credit rating of the United States for the first time in our history and they cited out-of-control debt and lack of a serious plan to address it as its main reason. Nearly a year later the administration's done nothing to remedy this problem. As a matter of fact, sometime at the end of this year we're going to run out of our ability to borrow money. It's called the debt ceiling. And I can't tell you today, because we're not told, whether that's going to happen in October, November, December, or January, but it doesn't go much past the first of the year. And I sort of pity the next president, whoever that is. They're probably going to get inaugurated one day, and the next day they're going to have to come to Congress and ask for $3 trillion increase to the national debt. And as difficult as it is for me to say, we're going to have to do it. The country has to have the capacity and the capability to borrow money to function. But you would think that with this all known, we'd take the opportunity now to begin to change the grotesque spending habits to begin to prioritize the investments that we make, that we would attempt to reform the programs that cost us the most and lead to an unsustainable financial future for the United States. A country that will soon be $17.8 trillion in debt that I won't be here to pay back, but my children and my grandchildren will. And you have to ask yourself as a parent: is that fair? And the answer is it's not. Now, instead of doing anything, last year the debt ceiling needed to be increased by $2.1 trillion. And we're about to blow through it. Why? Because we spent $1 trillion more on an annual basis than what we collect. There is no business, no family, no institution in the world that could spend $1 trillion more than they collect and be in business. Nor can this country. And the time is running out."

Senator Harkin: (4:30 PM)
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • Circa 4:45 PM, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the Motion to Concur in the House amendment to S. 3187, the FDA Reauthorization bill (without objection).

Harkin, Enzi, Burr, Paul

FDA Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

Jun 26 2012

Senator Harkin: (2:15 PM)
  • Spoke on the FDA Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "It will ensure that the FDA has the resources to speed market access to drugs and devices while continuing to ensure patient safety. For the first time, it will make new resources available to allow the FDA to clear its backlog of applications for generic drugs, which will help ensure that patients have access to less expensive medications. It will make sure that the FDA has the funds to prevent there ever being a backlog in applications for biosimilars. This is vital to the med product industry's ability to make these products and most importantly to patients who need both access to drug and devices and assurances that they are indeed safe. This legislation has benefited from input from a diverse range of interested parties. As senators on both sides of the aisle here, our colleagues in the House, consumer groups and patient groups. Well over a year ago, parties started bringing policy ideas to the table and we worked together in bipartisan working groups to reach consensus on these policy measures. And where we could not achieve consensus we didn't allow those differences to distract us from the critically important goal of producing a bill that could be broadly supported. As a result of this bipartisan process, we have a bill that advances our shared goals: patient safety, patient access and a strong business. We enhanced patient protections. We modernize FDA's authority to ensure that drugs and drug ingredients coming to the U.S. from overseas are safe and to ensure that our domestic companies compete on a level playing field with foreign ones. We address drug shortages and incentivize drug development for life-threatening conditions. We reauthorize incentives for studying drugs in children, finding we increase transparent at FDA the bill helps keep our regulatory system in pace to adapt to technological and scientific advances. It will create the conditions to foster innovative advances in medical technologies and, again, it will do all of this without losing sight of ensuring patient safety."

Senator Enzi: (2:40 PM)
  • Spoke on the FDA Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "This legislation reauthorizes the food and drug administration's user fee programs and it ensures that the Americans get better access to safe, innovative medicines and medical devices. It'll make significant changes. It'll improve the FDA's review and approval of new drugs and devices. Unfortunately, FDA's current process for reviewing and approving medical devices too often creates delay and unpredictability. This in turn threatens patient access to the best possible treatments for their conditions. In some cases this has forced American patients to travel overseas to obtain access to lifesaving, new devices that FDA has not approved in the United States. The bill goes a long ways toward solving these problems and makes the most significant changes to the law governing FDA's review of devices in decades. This bill will speed the approval of devices by reducing the red tape associated with the "least burdensome" standard that FDA uses to approve such devices. The bill will also make it easier for FDA to approve devices for patients with rare diseases who might not otherwise be able to have their conditions treated most effectively. It will also enable FDA to expedite safety determinations, to resolve appeals, and to improve their post approval surveillance activities to detect problems as they occur. It is not good just to get it approved. We want them watched after they're approved. The bill also contains important reforms to foster drug innovation and patient access to new therapies. It modernizes the approval pathway for drugs. And it formalizes a new process to expedite the approval of breakthrough therapies. These changes are particularly important for patients with rare diseases where there are no therapies available and it's not feasible or ethical to require large, conventional clinical trials. Nobody wants to be the one that's a test case when there might be something that would really work for them and there aren't the size of populations to be able to do the clinical trial anyway. The patient community strongly supports these improvements because these will save lives. The bill also contains important reforms that will help mitigate the problems associated with drug shortages. It'll require better coordination within FDA as well as the other federal agencies, like the DEA it will also allow FDA to move faster to take actions, to address shortages through expedited reviews and approvals."

Senator Burr: (2:33 PM)
  • Spoke on the FDA Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "This is the first time we've ever had a user fee for generic pharmaceuticals. Generics were called that because generics were created after the patent life expired, so that we could bring low-cost products to the market. And now what are we doing in we're creating generic user fees, which is going to raise generic cost prices the Americans. It may alter whether in fact it is cheaper to go in and pay for their generic prescription or whether it is cheaper to get their co-payment do it on your insurance card. That's the reality of what we're dealing with, and I'm not suggesting that it's bad. But why would you rush through it without understanding what the impact is? That's where we are today. Now, reporting only on the negotiated user fees performance goals agreed to has not provided a complete picture of FDA is working to fulfill its obstacles. What gets measured gets done. So it's got to be measured. The Wall Street Journal op-ed this year, former FDA commissioner Andy Von Eschenbach highlighted what is at stake if Congress does not get the user fee reauthorization package right and fix the underlying problems at the FDA he writes, and I quote, "the stakes couldn't be higher for our health." "The stakes couldn't be higher for our health." The U.S. biomedical industry is one of the crown jewels of the American economy. It employs 1.2 million people directly and over 5 million throughout its supply chain with a total output of $519 in ... Many of the firms are among the world's most innovative. From 2001 to 2010, the 2011 Millikin Institute showed that U.S. companies produced more than 60% of the world's new medicine. U.S. companies produced nearly 60% of the world's new medicines. Up from 42% the previous decade. But U.S. firms won't continue to lead unless the FDA retains its role as the world's gold standard for evaluating new medical products. Many people establish the gold standard as being the hurdle you have to pass to be approved. I would tell you that the gold standard is also how difficult is the process you have to go through and will the capital be there to finance the research and development so that approval is something that you see as light at the end of the tunnel? These all have to be weighed in the policies that you put in place, and I would tell you that we've come up somewhat short. Last year the National Venture Capital Association released a report that underscores America's risk of losing its standing as the world leader in medical innovation. Their survey clearly showed that the FDA's regulatory challenges, the lack of regulatory certainty, the day-to-day unpredictability, unnecessary delays are stifling investment in the development of lifesaving drugs and devices. Instead of deterring investment and innovation in lifesaving treatments in areas such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, we should accelerate. Instead of deterring that capital to come in, we should be finding policies to accelerate that capital to chase cures in heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Working with America's innovators on behalf of patients depending on the next breakthrough drug or device. Our nation's health care system is unsustainable. We all agree we must lower health care costs in America. Predictable regulatory pathways that facilitate products reaching consumers in a timely manner is key for lowering our health care costs."

Senator Paul: (3:40 PM)
  • Spoke on ending foreign aid to Pakistan.
    • SUMMARY "Dr. Shakeel Afridi's is a Pakistani who helped us get bin laden. The Pakistani government has put him in prison for 33 years. His life has been threatened. If he is released, which I hope he will be released, his life has been threatened and he's in danger because his name is public. How did his name become public? Somebody leaked his name. This is inexcusable. If this came from within our government, whoever leaked his name or leaked this information needs to be held accountable. I mean put in prison in our country for leaking state secrets. The thing is that his name is now known in public, and he is threatened. His family is threatened. Not only that, but anyone around the world who wants to help us to stop terrorism around the world who is willing to stand up and say I will help America, they are now threatened. Do you think people are going to want to help fuss they know their name is going to be printed in the New York Times"? We have things we have to not divulge about people helping us to combat terrorism. Dr. Afridi is in prison for 33 years and I'm going to do what I can to free him. I'm saying we shouldn't send them any more money. Stop immediately. I'm not saying take a small amount next year, don't send them a penny this year or next year, don't send them the $3 billion. One, we don't have it to send to them, we have to borrow it from China, but I'm giving them one chance to get out if they'll release Dr. Afridi, I'll stand down. My bill was blocked. I tried to have a vote on this last week and the leadership here said no, you won't have that vote. But we have a process where if you get enough signatures from senators, you can ask for a vote and get it. That's where we are. I have enough signatures to get a vote. I'm meeting with the Pakistani Ambassador, with President Obama's State Department and what I will tell them is what I'm telling you. This is not a secret. If Dr. Afridi is not successful with his appeal ... Then I'll have this vote. And I defy anyone in this body to stand up here and vote to send U.S. taxpayer dollars to Pakistan when they're treating us this way. So we will have a vote in this body on ending all aid to Pakistan immediately if we don't get some results. Now, this isn't mean I don't want to have diplomacy with Pakistan. Pakistan has been a friend over many years and I see in reason to end that. Pakistan has many elements who are pro-western and do want to engage in the world. I'm all for that. But you shouldn't have to buy your friends, you shouldn't have to pay a random, you shouldn't have to lavish them with taxpayer dollars. In fact, it discourages respect when you give them so much money. Let's make them earn our respect, let's be friends with Pakistan, let's have diplomatic ties to Pakistan. Let's try to help each other."

Jun 26 2012

Confirmed, 92-3:
Executive Calendar #652, Robin S. Rosenbaum, of Florida, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Florida.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Leahy, Nelson-FL

FDA Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)/Executive Session

Jun 26 2012

Senator Leahy: (11:07 AM)
  • Spoke on judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "Republican efforts to shut down Senate confirmations of qualified judicial nominees, nominees who have bipartisan support, nominees that have been honored by Republicans and Democrats in the Judiciary Committee, this effort to shut down the confirmation, that does not help the American people. It hurts the American people. It is a shortsighted policy at a time when their efforts to slow the confirmation of judges has brought about a judicial vacancy rate that's almost twice what it was at this point in the first term of president bush. One of the reasons we brought down the vacancy rate during President Bush's first term for 17 months of the 48 months of this term, I was Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. We moved through 100 of his nominees. Now Republicans did beat that record in the 31 months that they were chairing, I think they confirmed 101 or 102. The Democrats confirmed President Bush's nominees faster than the Republicans did, and yet the Republicans have done everything to slow up and block President Obama's nominees. Judicial vacancies during the last few years have been historically high levels. Nearly 1 of every 11 federal judgeships is currently vacant. Republican talk of shutting down confirmations for consensus and qualified circuit court nominees is not helping these overburdened federal courts. These are the courts which all Americans as taxpayers turn to for justice, their tax dollars are paying for them and they suddenly find there is no judge there. Senate Republicans are blocking consent to voters who qualify circuit court nominees with strong support. It's hard to see how this new application of the Thurmond rule is anything more than another name for the stalling tactics we've already seen for months and years. I've yet to hear a good explanation of why we can't work together to solve for the American people the problem of judicial vacancies."

Senator Nelson-FL: (11:57 AM)
  • Spoke on the Rosenbaum nomination.

Moran, Kyl, Conrad, Manchin

FDA Reauthorization bill (S. 3187)

Jun 26 2012

Senator Moran: (10:18 AM)
  • Spoke on community banks.
    • SUMMARY "For economic growth, in communities across Kansas, the state I represent, we're going to have to have strong community banks. The article that the Wall Street Journal included in - that I want to speak about, at least briefly this morning, the headline is small banks put up for sale sign, and the content of the article is very much about how small banks are now selling to other banks, and the primary reason this article focuses on the reason that that's happening, a growing number of tiny community banks are deciding it's time to put up the for sale sign. Many executives of these small lenders are frustrated by costly new regulations. It talks about a bank in Iowa, in Ohio, in Texas, talks about a number of banks in which the bank - the individuals who own the bank never had an intention of selling. This was their livelihood. This is what they expected to pass on to the next generation, to the next set of stockholders, but because of the regulatory environment, the article quotes these bankers as talking about how it's no longer any fun. A 66-year-old CEO is quoted as saying "I don't want to bank anymore. I run around trying to react to regulations, and frankly that's no fun.â€? And so why this is important, certainly important for the people who own and run a bank, but it matters in communities across my state that there is access to a local lender, a relatively small financial institution that knows its customers, that the farmer, the rancher, the small business person has the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with the individual that they're borrowing money from. And I know from my own circumstances of growing up and living in rural Kansas that the likelihood of being able to get a loan from the community bank, the banker think know who knows you and knows your ability, your creditworthiness, your trust worthiness, that's a pretty special relationship that we have got to be very careful we do not lose. If you're trying to borrow money from somebody you don't know, it's a different circumstance. And so I want to highlight once again this regulatory environment, not just for banks but for all businesses in which the decisions are being made we're not expanding. In this case, we're selling. And the reality is that has consequences to every American, to every American family. Job creation is going to be improved whenever we have a regulatory environment that encourages economic growth, not discourages it, at a regulatory environment that is certain. So much, particularly again in the financial services industry with banks and other financial lenders, the uncertainty that exists in large part because of the package of Dodd-Frank and now its implementation, the uncertainty of whether or not more regulations are coming and what those regulations are going to say and do."

Senator Kyl: (10:32 AM)
  • Spoke on the Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona's immigration law.
    • SUMMARY "Earlier this week, yesterday the Supreme Court determined the constitutionality of a law that the state of Arizona had passed to deal with the problem of illegal immigration in my state of Arizona. It's a serious problem there. About half of all the people who cross the border do so in the Tucson sector. And the results of that on Arizona have been devastating over the years, the damage to the environment, creating forest fires; the problem of the people who try to cross the border in the summer and end up dying in the desert because it is a very harsh environment; the people who are brought across the border by unscrupulous smugglers who badly mistreat them, who hold them hostage from their families in Central America who mistreat them brutally. In many cases the problems of crime law enforcement has to deal with. The hospitalization and medical treatment they are required to receive under the law. All of these things have had a dramatic negative impact on my state as a result of which the state legislature said to the extent that the federal government is not enforcing the law in our state, we will try to help fill that gap in cooperation and coordination with the federal government, and they passed SB-1070. The key feature of that which was this cooperation between law enforcement was upheld by the United States Supreme Court. Now, what has been the Obama administration's reaction to that? The Obama administration has reacted by saying we don't like your ruling, and, therefore, we're simply not going to cooperate with the state of Arizona as we have been in the past or any other state that has laws like Arizona even if you, the Supreme Court, says that it's constitutional. Now, the petulance and the arrogance of this are something the American people have to judge, but from a law enforcement perspective, this, to me, suggests that the administration is creating some very serious problems. It was one thing for the administration to say as to 800,000 or 900,000 primarily students who came here because their parents brought them here illegally were going to find a way in effect to suspend their deportation so that they can go to school or work here. We're just going to not apply the law to them and it's one thing for the Obama administration to say that, which it did last week. It's quite another for it to say, by the way, we're going to treat all the other illegal immigrants here the same way, that 10 million to 12 million people who have been in the United States for awhile, who crossed the border some time ago. In effect, that's what the administration has said The administration is saying we're not going to do that anymore. We don't even want to know whether the individual is an illegal immigrant. We're not going to check and we're not going to allow you access to the data base to check. Up to now the Phoenix Police Department or Maricopa County sheriff can call that data base and say we have the name of this individual. Is that person legal or not. The administration is saying it is not going to allow Arizona to check. This is a condition which cannot be allowed to stand, where the administration is not enforcing the laws of the United States, Congress is going to have to take what action we need to take to ensure that the president enforces the law as he is sworn to do."

Senator Conrad: (10:39 PM)
  • Spoke on yesterday's Washington Post's article: "High-level talks, then changes to holdings.â€?
    • SUMMARY "The truth is that what made my wife and I decide over the weekend to shift some of her retirement accounts from mutual funds to less risky money market accounts was what was happening in the markets themselves. That is what led us to make ... decisions. The Paulson call was not about markets. Notes from my staff indicate that Secretary Paulson was calling a number of members about the importance of raising the debt ceiling. The secretary of treasury was not calling me to give me stock market tips. He wasn't talking to me about the stock market. He was talking to me about the need for a debt limit increase. So I want to say clearly and unequivocally to my friends at the Washington Post and anybody who read this story the call from Secretary Paulson had nothing, had nothing to do with my wife's and my decision over the weekend to shift some of her assets into less risky money market accounts. Those decisions had everything to do with what was happening in the marketplace itself which was widely reported even on the pages of the Washington Post and what was happening in the markets was readily available to every investor. We were not shifting my wife's retirement accounts based on some secret inside information. Let me get back to the headlines, if we could. It's the Washington Post. "Credit Crunch in U.S. Upends Global Markets." Stock markets in the two days leading up dropped 500 points. In the days leading up before we made our decision, the market dropped almost 400 points in a day. The Washington Post's own story. They had a big story. This is the story showing the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 200 points within minutes of opening and dropped almost 400 points for the day. Why didn't they put that - if they wanted to be fair, why didn't they put that on the timeline? That's what I asked them to do. I didn't ask them not to run the story. I asked them put in the context in which the decisions were made. Be fair. So the fact is there is nothing Mr. Paulson could have said to me about market risk that have been more persuasive than the drop of 400 - almost 400 points in the market the previous Friday. That provided all the motivation that my wife and I needed, along with the 500-point drop that had occurred several weeks before, that provided all the motivation we needed to make a decision to move some of her retirement assets to lower risk investments."

Senator Manchin: (10:50 AM)
  • Spoke on prescription drug abuse.
    • SUMMARY "I have stood on this floor again and again to highlight the importance of an amendment I offered to this legislation that is very significant to my fellow West Virginians and all Americans. This amendment would put tighter controls on drugs containing a substance known as hydrocodone. A highly addictive prescription painkiller that is destroying communities across this country and leaving families devastated by abusive and addiction. It was a proud moment for me when the senate came together across party lines on May 23 and unanimously adopted my amendment to reclassify hydrocodone as a schedule two substance from a schedule three. In practical terms, this means that those who are using hydrocodone for illegitimate reasons would have a harder time getting their hands on it. I cannot tell you how much this amendment means to the people of West Virginia and to every law enforcement group fighting the war on drugs across this nation. Who believe very strongly that limiting access to hydrocodone would give them a powerful tool in combating prescription drug abuse, so it pains me to stand here today following last night's vote to move forward with the passage of the FDA bill which did not contain this such an important amendment. That is because the influence of special interest groups suppressed the voices of the people, not just in my state of West Virginia, but in yours and Delaware and all across this country who are begging us to do something about the prescription drug abuse epidemic. According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the united states, and it's claiming the lives of thousands of Americans every year. Prescription drugs are responsible for about 75% of all drug-related deaths in the United States and 90% in West Virginia. These narcotic painkillers claim the lives of more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined. But the groups opposed to my amendment have a huge financial stake in keeping these pills as accessible as possible, and I understand that. That is why my amendment was stripped from the FDA bill that we advanced last night. High-powered and well-funded lobbyists may have gotten their victory this time around, but I can assure you I will not give up this fight, as I know many of my colleagues won't either."


Opening Remarks

Jun 26 2012

  • Today --
    • The Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Concur in the House amendment to S. 3187, the FDA Reauthorization bill, post-cloture. The first hour will be equally divided, with the Republicans controlling the first 30 minutes and the Majority controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • At 11:30 AM, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session for up to 30 minutes of debate, equally divided, on Executive Calendar #652, Robin S. Rosenbaum, of Florida, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Florida.
    • At 12:00 PM, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the nomination.
    • At 12:30 PM, the Senate will recess until 2:15 PM for the weekly caucus lunches.
    • At 2:15 PM, there will be 6 hours and 15 minutes of post-cloture debate remaining on the Motion to Concur in the House amendment to S. 3187, the FDA Reauthorization bill, with 2 hours under the control of Senator Harkin, 4 hours under the control of Senator Burr, and 15 minutes under the control of Senator Paul.
      • It is anticipated the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the Motion to Concur in the House amendment to S. 3187, the FDA Reauthorization bill, this evening (if all time is used, a vote would occur circa 8:30 PM).
  • Pending is S. 1940, the Flood Insurance bill. Pending to S. 1940 are Reid (for Johnson (SD)/Shelby) substitute amendment #2468 and Reid (for Pryor/Hoeven) amendment #2469 (residual risk) to Reid (for Johnson (SD)/Shelby) substitute amendment #2468. The rest of the amendment tree was filled with date changes.
  • Pending is the Motion to Proceed to S. 2237, the Tax Credit/Bonus Depreciation bill.

Senator Reid: (10:02 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "We're watching very closely the great work of Senator Boxer, Senator Inhofe and the Finance Committee, the Commerce Committee, the Banking Committee in helping us work through the Highway bill. There is a possibility that we can get that bill done, I think chances today are better than 50-50 that we can get a bill done. But we're still looking at Speaker Boehner to help us get that over the finish line. So we will see what happens on that."
  • Spoke on the Flood Insurance bill.
    • SUMMARY "The remaining issue is flood insurance. And we are doing fine on flood insurance except I'm told last night that one of the Republican senators wants to offer an amendment - listen to this one - wants to offer an amendment on when life begins. I think some of this stuff is just - I have been very patient working with my republican colleagues in allowing relevant amendments on issues, and sometimes we even do non-relevant amendments. But really on flood insurance? Are we going to have to start dealing as we did with the Highway bill for weeks and weeks with contraception? Now we have another person wants to deal with when life begins. I don't understand what this is all about, but I want everyone to know this Flood Insurance bill is extremely important. The big pushers of this bill are republican senators, veteran republican senators, and they had better work on their side of the aisle because I am not going to put up with that on the flood insurance. I can be condemned by outside sources. My friends can say let them have a vote on it. There will not be a vote on that on flood insurance. We'll either do flood insurance with amendments dealing with flood insurance or we won't do it. We'll have an extension. After all the work that's been put on this bill, this is ridiculous that somebody says I'm not going to let this bill go forward unless I have a vote on when life begins. I am not going to do that, and I think I speak for the majority of senators. Now, if the Republicans won't stand up to the person that's going to do that, I'm not going to. I have tried my best to deal with these issues that have nothing to do with the piece of legislation."

Jun 26 2012

The Senate Convened.

Jun 26 2012

The Senate is considering S. 3187, the FDA reauthorization bill.  The Senate will also consider the nomination of Robin S. Rosenbaum, of Florida, to be United States district judge for the Southern District of Florida.  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.