Senate Calendar

Friday, June 29, 2012

Jun 29 2012

Senator Reid: (3:52 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up --
    • Cloture was filed on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2237, the Increased Payroll Tax Credit and Bonus Depreciation bill.
  • The Senate will conduct Pro Forma sessions on the following days (unless the Senate receives a message from the House that it has adopted S. Con. Res. 51, the Adjournment Resolution):
    • Tuesday, July 3rd at 12:00 PM; and
    • Friday, July 6th at 12:00 PM.
  • Monday, July 9th --
    • The Senate will convene at 2:00 PM and proceed to a period of Morning Business, with Senators permitted to speak up to 10 minutes each.
  • Tuesday, July 10th --
    • At 11:30 AM, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session for up to 30 minutes of debate, equally divided, on Executive Calendar #661, John Thomas Fowlkes, Jr., of Tennessee, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Tennessee.
    • At 12:00 PM, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the nomination.
    • At 2:25 PM, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2237, the Increased Payroll Tax Credit and Bonus Depreciation bill (there will be 10 minutes of debate prior to the vote).
The Senate stands adjourned until 2:00 PM Monday, July 9th.

Boxer, Landrieu

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

Jun 29 2012

Senator Boxer: (2:11 PM)
  • Thanked colleagues and staff for their work on the Highway bill.

Senator Landrieu: (2:20 PM)
  • Thanked colleagues for their work on the Highway bill.
  • Spoke on the RESTORE Act.
    • SUMMARY "It will, for the first time, set aside such a significant amount of money from a penalty that has yet to be determined by a polluter that has been determined - BP - that under the law now has to pay to the federal government $1,000 for every barrel of oil that was spilled or gushed out of the explosion for months on end. They have to pay $1,000 for every barrel of oil that was spilled, and the estimates are, that, unfortunately, for our coast, for our people, for our fishermen, for our shrimpers, for our charter boat captains and for other pelicans and fish and oystermen, unfortunately for us it was 5 million barrels of oil that was spilled between August and July until the well was capped. It's the largest pollution event in the history of the nation. It will be the largest fine. I have every confidence that the people of the Gulf Coast and the nation will find justice in the court. I hope this fine is as high as it can possibly be, based on the damage that has been done from Texas to Florida off the coast of Louisiana."

Vote Results (Passage)

Conference Report to accompany the Highway/Student Loan/Flood Insurance bill (H.R. 4348)

Jun 29 2012

Passed, 74-19-1:
Conference Report to accompany H.R. 4348, the Highway/Student Loan/Flood Insurance bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Vote Results (Motion to Waive)

Conference Report to accompany the Highway/Student Loan/Flood Insurance bill (H.R. 4348)

Jun 29 2012

Agreed to, 63-31-1:
Motion to Waive the Budget Act with respect to the Conference Report to accompany H.R. 4348, the Highway/Student Loan/Flood Insurance bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Vote Results (Motion to Waive)

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

Jun 29 2012

Agreed to, 66-28:
Motion to Waive Rule 28 (scope of conference) with respect to the Conference Report to accompany H.R. 4348, the Highway/Student Loan/Flood Insurance bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Vote Results (Motion to Waive)

Conference Report to accompany H.R. 4348, the Highway/Student Loan/Flood Insurance bill

Jun 29 2012

Agreed to, 72-20:
Motion to Waive Rule 28 (48 hour-availability) with respect to the Conference Report to accompany H.R. 4348, the Highway/Student Loan/Flood Insurance bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Reid (UC)

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

Jun 29 2012

Senator Reid: (12:49 PM)
  • Unanimous Consent --
    • At 12:55 PM, the Senate will conduct a series of stacked ROLL CALL VOTES in relation to the Conference Report to accompany H.R. 4348, the Highway/Student Loan/Flood Insurance bill.
    • Any Points of Order in order to the Conference be Budget Points of Order, and that Points of Order be relative to Rule 28, Paragraph 9. If a Rule 28 is made against the Conference Report, and an applicable Motion to Waive is made, the Senate proceed to vote on the Motion to Waive in the order they were raised. If the Motions to Waive are successful, the Senate proceed to vote on the adoption of the Conference Report. The adoption of the Conference Report be subject to a 60-affirmative vote threshold, there be two minutes equally divided prior to each vote, all after the first vote be ten minutes votes (without objection).

Lee, Paul, Sessions, Inhofe

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

Jun 29 2012

Senator Lee: (12:21 PM)
  • Spoke on the Conference Report.
    • SUMMARY "I stand to raise a concern that I have with regard to the conference committee report to accompany H.R. 4348. Pursuant to paragraph 9 of rule 28 of the standing rules of the Senate, we're supposed to have adequate notice of a report like this before we've the opportunity to vote on it. The provision states that it shall not be in order to vote on the adoption of a report of a committee of conference unless such report has been made available to members and to the general public for at least 48 hours before such vote. Now, the current version of the committee report was filed, as I understand it, at 8:07 p.m. last night. It's not even close to the 48 hours required notice. What we have ultimately, when we look at this is the fact that we have a Highway bill that was sent to conference, but it came back from closed-door negotiations with a Student Loan bill and also with a Flood Insurance bill attached to it. We were neither given the chance to debate nor given the chance to amend these provisions before they came to the floor, and now we're approaching a vote on that. We did not provide our fellow senators or the American people with an adequate opportunity to read the 596-page conference report that's required by our very own rules."

Senator Paul: (12:34 PM)
  • Spoke on the Conference Report.
    • SUMMARY "Currently Congress has about a 10% approval rate. One reason is we don't even obey our own rules. For goodness sakes, 600-page bill - and I got it this morning - not one member of the Senate will read this bill before we vote on it. We're going to vote on this in the next 30 minutes. I and Senator Lee and others will object to this. We'll have a point of order that our own rules say it has to be posted online for 48 hours. 600 pages, no one will read it. No wonder our approval rate something 10%. Nobody knows what we're voting on. In fact, things have been stuck in this bill last night that have nothing to do with any of these bills and they have been stuck in and we're just discovering it. I passed two senators in the hall going back to their office still trying to get out something that's been written in this bill that affects their states minutes ago. Had they not found out about it, nobody would have known about it. Three bills that are in question here - Transportation bill, Student loan bill. The Student Loan bill, originally the loans were at 6%, and somehow bringing in money to the treasury ... Now they say they're going to pay for it by taking .. out pensions. Raise your hand if you think it is a good tied underfund pensions more. Over half of the pensions in this country are technically insolvent. Is it a good idea to have less money go into workers' pensions to pay for a student loan program? I have a bill in Congress that says we should read the bills before we pass them. It says that we should wait one day for each 20 pages, so we'd be given time to read 600-page bills. But at the very least we ought to adhere to our own rules. Our rules say that it should be posted online at least 48 hours. 48 hours is still a challenge to find out everything in here. You know how long the "federal register" is? It is 55,000 pages added annually. It is hundreds of thousands of pages. So when you read this, you have to refer to the Federal Register that's hundreds of thousands of pages to find out what they've stuck in this bill in the dead of night."

Senator Sessions: (12:28 PM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "Let's look at this fund and it has some real money in it, a number of billions of dollars and what happens to it? Well, when the government spends more money than it takes in, it takes the money from the trust fund. Well, how does it get it? It borrows it. So there's actually a debt instrument from the United States Treasury to the trustees of the holders, the managers of the trust fund and they've loaned the money, they don't need it today, they loan it to the government so they can spend it. And it's been borrowed and has been spent and the assets in the trust fund are nothing more than debt instruments from the United States Treasury. But on the books it appears that this lust fund has assets. I guess it has U.S. Treasury notes. So the people looking around to spend money and try to meet the demands of our constituents to build highways in this case decided they can take that money. And you know something, it does not score as an expenditure in that fashion. It's an odd way this is done. It's not properly --it's seen as found money that can go over and be spent. But where does the money come from? The money is not in the fund, remember. Only the fund holds treasury bills. The highway trust fund doesn't want Treasury bills, it wants money that can be spent. And so what happens is the United States Treasury, which has been borrowing money from another government agency and giving a debt instrument in return, has to come up with the money now. If it's going to be spent, going to be taken out of the trust fund, where do they get the money? They convert an internal debt to an external debt. The only thing they will do is borrow more money. So it will be this many billion dollars more than $1.2 trillion, $1.3 trillion we have. And the debt is converted to a public debt and somebody in china or somebody in Japan or somebody in New York will loan money to the government, and they'll use that money to pay the highway trust fund with. You see how circular that is? It allows the money to be double counted."

Senator Inhofe: (12:35 PM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "It sounds real good when you stand up here and say we've only had a matter of minutes to look at something that's 500 pages. We've had this bill for a long time, for several days. We've had it, we've gone over everything. On the bill we sent from the Senate to the House, it's essentially the same thing. I don't agree when they added the two provisions on student loan and flood insurance, I didn't agree with that. Everyone knows those issues. I didn't think they should be in here. Nevertheless we dent have any control in this over that. As far as the provisions of the bill are concerned, these provisions we have seen and everyone who has spoken against it has been there when we talked about the great reforms and I've commented several times that I thought one of the problems was that we did too good of a job because we had too many reforms. And when it got over to the House where they're inclined to have more reforms in there, they had to start from the base where we had done a good job streamling, enhancements, all these things are in it and all can say from a conservative perspective, we've seen this bill, we've lived with this bill, not just ours, not just hours, not days, but actually for weeks. The basic provisions of the bill. But what we have to realize is that there is an alternative to what we're doing here today. And that alternative and the only alternative, only alternative is to go back to extensions. And when you go to extensions, a couple of things happen. Number one, you don't have any of the reforms that we have. Number two, you throw away about 30% of the money."

Graham, McCain, Ayotte, Corker, Durbin

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

Jun 29 2012

Senator Graham: (11:43 AM)
  • Paid tribute to Sergeant First Class Brad Thomas, Llieutenant Ryan Davis Raoul, and Sergeant John J.D. David Medor, who were killed in Afghanistan on June 20, 2012.

Senator McCain: (11:50 AM)
  • Spoke on sequestration.
    • SUMMARY "We're also facing another crisis as far as the military is concerned, and that is the prospect of sequestration. The Secretary of Defense has stated that sequestration would have a "devastating impact on our national security." We're talking about layoffs and some estimates are of as many as a million workers in the defense industry. We're looking at unknown effects of the strategic thinking that goes on as we plan to defend our nation's security. For example, our shift in emphasis from Europe to Asia-pacific, which requires significant air and naval assets, amongst other things I'm not sure that the American people are fully aware of the effects of something that is supposed to take, as I understand it, beginning of the next fiscal year, which would be the beginning of October of 2012 ... So we're asking the Defense Department to plan on what our force structure will be, what our mission will be, what our capabilities will be beginning the 1st of October, and all I can see so far is a total gridlock on this issue. Now, if somebody wants to say that it's our fault because we refused to "raise revenues" or the other sides insistence on that and a resistance to spending cuts ... Don't think that people understand that we still live in a very dangerous world. You just talked about those who have already sacrificed. Don't we owe it to them and their families to stop something that all of us agree would have catastrophic impact on our ability to defend this nation? And isn't it true, would you agree that it's time we sat down and started having serious negotiations, because there's no greater responsibility that the Congress and the people's representatives have than to defend the security of this nation?"

Senator Graham: (11:54 AM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "If that penalty kicks in, then we will have cut $1 trillion out of the defense department over the next decade, blindly, across the board. Every account gets affected. What did Secretary Panetta say in he said, sign me up for $450 billion. I think we can get there. We will lose some capability, but we'll be okay as a nation. We could fight Iran and win if we had to. Then I asked him, what if we did $1 trillion over the next decade, if we over-doubled what you are trying to cut? He said, we would be shooting ourselves in the head as a nation. We would not have the ability to go in and take out the nuclear program in Iran because the weapons that we need we could not maintain and afford. And when it comes to personnel costs, we're reducing the army by 80,000 people. Under the $450 billion plan. If you do sequestration Senator McCain, on top of that you're take another 100,000 people out of the army. Under sequestration, the navy would be down to 250 ships. We'd have the smallest navy, the smallest air force in the history of the country and the army would go back to 1940 he feels will. Do you believe the world has gotten that much safer are that we don't need a navy bigger than 1950, given the threats we're facing from Iran, China, North Korea? Do you think now it's good time for the country to basically disarm, given the threats we face from radical terrorism throughout the whole globe? So here's what we're going to do. And our congressional leaders need to be on notice. About a million people would lose their jobs if we put these cuts in place and we would destroy the defense industrial base that provides good jobs to the economy and keeps us free and safe by giving our people technology better than the enemy has If we do sequestration on top of what we're already trying to cut in the Defense Department, we will destroy the finest military in the history of the world at a time we need it the most."

Senator McCain: (12:00 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "If the president of the United States shares the concern that the secretary of defense shares - catastrophic, impossible to plan on, so draconian that it would cripple our ability to defend this nation. All of those are statements that the secretary of defense has made. I would argue that it would be appropriate, and I would sincerely ask that perhaps the president of the United States also be involved and members of his administration or charter members of the administration to sit down with us to see how we could resolve this. So far, the executive branch has not been involved in these efforts with the exception of the secretary of defense, who has told us in the most graphic terms the devastating consequences. And again I want to point out to my colleagues, you have to plan. Especially in national defense. What weapons you're going to procure, what the number of people you're going to maintain in the military, what those missions are going to be. All of those right now, if not held in abeyance in the pentagon as far as planning is concerned, cannot have a great deal of validity if we are staring at sequestration and these draconian reductions."

Senator Graham: (12:03 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "You've just challenged the president - who is the chief, by the way, - to fix a problem that your secretary of defense has said would be the most devastating thing possible to our ability to defend ourselves. He said it would be catastrophic, it would be draconian, there's no way to plan for it, we'd be shooting ourselves in the head. Now, you're the commander in chief. When your department secretary of defense and every general under your command is telling you and the congress you need to fix this before it gets out of hand, why aren't you asking us as republicans and democrats to answer the call of the secretary of defense? You're the commander in chief, my friend. It is your job to make sure that our military has what it needs to go fight wars that we send them to fight and protect our nation. But that's not enough. It is also our job as members of congress to take care of those who serve. So to our Republican and Democratic leader, why don't you convene a group of senators and to our leaders in the house, why don't you get a group of House members and ask us to come up with a plan to do at least one thing - avoid the consequence of sequestration for one year in 2013 to take the monkey off their back. I am willing to meet our Democrats in the middle to offset the nondefense spending but to the leaders, if you think the rest of us are going to sit on the sidelines and let this matter be taken up in lame duck when it becomes a nightmare for the country, you can forget it. So we're challenging our leaders and the president to get a group together to fix this."

Senator Ayotte: (12:06 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I join with my colleagues over the concern, deep concern that keeps me up at night about sequestration because we cannot do this to our national security. And both sides of the aisle have to come together. We need leadership from our commander in chief on this issue. Because to put it in perspective, I asked the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps what the impact of sequestration would be on the marines and you know what he told me? That the marine corps of the United States of America would be unable to respond to one major contingency. Talk about putting our country at risk. And putting ourselves in a situation where, unfortunately, there are still so many risks around the world that our country needs to be protected from. To think that our marine corps wouldn't be able to respond to one major contingency. It's outrageous and it really cries for bipartisan leadership on this issue, and particularly leadership from our commander in chief. And to put it in perspective, it's not just an issue of our national security. You would think that would be enough to bring people to the table, but we are talking about jobs across this country. The National Association of Manufacturers has estimated it would be nearly a million jobs ... This is an issue that will hit every state in this nation, but most importantly, what I'm concerned about, it is going to hit our military in a way that we break faith with our troops. In fact, one general has said we would have to cut an additional 100,000 troops from our army on top of the reductions we're making right now, approximately 72,000 and 50% would have to come from the guard and reserve. You think about the important function not only protecting our country, we could not have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq without our guard and reserve."

Senator Corker: (12:10 PM)
  • Spoke on the Budget Control Act.
    • SUMMARY "Today we're getting ready to vote on to legislation dealing with flood insurance, dealing with student lending, dealing with highways, and these are all very popular programs. What people who are listening to may be paying attention to what the Senate is doing today, what they may not know is that for the third time in a bipartisan way this body is getting ready to spend more money than was deemed by the budget that was ultimately created by the budget control act just last year when the country almost shut down trying to save a mere $900 billion over the next ten years. So a vote today for this piece of legislation is basically a vote to say that the united states senate cannot be entrusted to carry out the things that it laid out last august, to keep us from spending money that we do not have. And so I know there's going to be some budget point of orders that will be brought forth at some point later today. I just want to say as one senator from Tennessee, it continues to be unbelievable to me that this body does not have the courage, does not have the will, does not have the discipline to even live within a very modest budget that was laid out last august. Today I'm certain that we are going to pass legislation that spends billions of dollars more than we agreed to by the Budget Control Act and especially the deemed budget that came after that. The deemed budget that was put in place as a result of what we passed last august. So I would say all those who vote for this today are basically saying we do not have the discipline to live within our means, the problems that our nation faces fiscally are only going to get worse, and I think this is a very sad day for our country if that, in fact, is what happens within the next two or three hours on the Senate floor."

Senator Durbin: (12:12 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I thank the senator from Tennessee for his comments and I share his concern about our deficit. I was a member of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, voted for the report, bipartisan effort to reduce the deficit by $1.4 trillion over ten years. I think we set in place a description, maybe a guide post for how we can do this and I would agree with him that we need to take care in the money that we spend now which will add to the deficit, though I have to say my understanding is this Transportation bill is paid for. There are revenue sources that are part of this. I know that the student loan continued decrease in interest rates to 3.4% for student loans is paid for. And I believe the changes within the flood insurance program which is part of this package as well, the Republican leader spoke to this morning, reforms in that program will move it closer to sustainability and solvency. It is not where it needs to be but it is moving closer."
  • Spoke on sequestration.
    • SUMMARY "What has happened to defense spending since the budget was in balance? Domestic discretionary flat, entitlements 30%. As of this year's budget, defense spending will have risen 73% since the budget was last in balance. So, we created a Supercommittee And we said, find ways to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over ten years. They tried ... At the end of the day, they couldn't reach a bipartisan agreement on a bipartisan agreement on how it would be done. So the law we passed said if you can't reach an agreement, we're going do it automatically. We're going to take $500 billion out of defense and $500 billion out of non-defense spending. That's what this is about. People are coming to the floor and saying, we can't take another $500 billion out of defense spending. I will tell you, I think that is a lot to be taken out in light of what we've already anticipated we're going to reduce spending. I think it will cause some serious problems, but i reject the notion that that $500 billion, if it's taken out of domestic discretionary won't have equally horrible results. So I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, when you had a chance in the Supercommittee to deal with the spending cuts of a lesser amount or to deal with revenue, closing tax loopholes, you walked away from it. Now you're complaining that we may end up cutting defense spending. Incidentally, if the sequestration number went through, the additional $500 billion in cuts over the next ten years, it would bring the amount of money we spend on defense to the same percentage of the gross domestic product as it was when the budget was in balance. So, my friends who are speaking for the national defense, I join you. But I also speak for investments in America when it comes to education, innovation, and infrastructure, which will help our economy grow. And sequestration of the domestic side is unacceptable from this senator's point of view as well. We need to get beyond this and talk about an honest answer to reducing the deficit. An honest answer, going back to Simpson-Bowles, puts everything on the table - everything. To my friends on the other side of the aisle, it puts revenue on table. It must. My friends on this side. Aisle, it puts entitlement programs on the table, and it must. And it includes spending cuts. That is the only honest way to address this."

Grassley, Kyl, Manchin, Inhofe, Coats, Boxer, Sanders

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

Jun 29 2012

Senator Grassley: (10:32 AM)
  • Spoke on the Medicaid expansion.
    • SUMMARY "One of the goals of the health care reform was to provide coverage for people in need. I would argue that the people most in need of coverage are people without a job, people without income and the poorest of the poor. The Affordable Care Act requires states to cover people below poverty through Medicaid. States were mandated to expand to cover people below poverty. Now, yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory expansion is unconstitutional. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts said "nothing in our opinion precludes congress from offering funds under the Affordable Care Act to expand the availability of health care and requiring states accepting such funds to comply with the conditions of their use, but Congress is not free to doâ€?, Justice Roberts says, "is to penalize states that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding.â€? With this decision, states now have the option to expand Medicaid to cover people below poverty. The states had that option even before the affordable care act was passed. So what does this decision mean in real terms? It will be up to the states, of course, to determine if they will cover the poorest of the poor. The federal government cannot guarantee that coverage. So now, people with jobs will have to purchase insurance under the tax mandate, but people without income, people who are below poverty are dependent upon the state in which they reside. Now, I know some people will believe that the choice is perfunctory, that Medicaid expansion will move forward because the federal government has offered to pay for more than 90% of the expansion No one should assume for a second all states will expand to cover as much as was mandated under the Affordable Care Act. Of course, you might think people below poverty could still get health care through tax credits, but the people who wrote this bill made people below poverty ineligible for tax credits. So that help is not available. Those people are ineligible. It's all or nothing for the poor with Medicaid. With today's ruling, the answer is nothing ... People with income, people with jobs are mandated to purchase health insurance and face a tax penalty if they don't, while the poorest people in society, those without jobs or without income have a guarantee of nothing. I think a victory lap about the decision yesterday is premature, particularly for the 17 million to 20 million people that this Affordable Care Act promised coverage to. After this decision, a person in a family with an income of more than $80,000 a year would be guaranteed access to a subsidy to buy private insurance while a person in a family with no income would be guaranteed nothing. When people below poverty, the people who least can afford coverage or the consequences of not having coverage are left with nothing, it sounds like failure to this senator."

Senator Kyl: (10:40 AM)
  • Spoke on Obamacare (op-eds).

Senator Manchin: (10:50 AM)
  • Honored the 125th Anniversary of West Virginia's United Way.

Senator Inhofe: (10:55 AM)
  • Spoke on the Pilots' Bill of Rights bill.

Senator Coats: (11:03 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill (Asian carp provision).
    • SUMMARY "I rise here today to express my deep concern with this Transportation Conference Report, and more particular about a provision that was slipped into the Transportation Conference Report literally in the dark of the night earlier this week. This provision that was - and which I will describe, was - could have a devastating effect on my state as well as the state of Illinois, the greater Chicago metropolitan region This provision that was slipped in without debate, without consideration that didn't appear in the Senate bill, Transportation bill and didn't appear in the House Transportation bill, and therefore is a blatant violation of Rule 28, which simply states you can't do this kind of thing, but it was done anyway, and I will be at the proper point here raising an objection to that in a procedural way this provision that was incorporated in there could result in the closing of the locks of this waterway system and it would endanger - economically endangerment of about $14 billion per year in economic activity and over 100,000 jobs in this metropolitan area that I describe that rely on the Chicago area waterway system. Closing the locks also may cost up to an additional $10000 because it would require completely overhauling Chicago's underwater and sewage system. Closing the locks would also render worthless the billions of dollars that have already been invested to complete corps of engineers' flood-control projects along the entire Mississippi watershed. And they may not even solve the problem. While the Chicago waterway system is the only direct continuous connection between the great lakes system, other potential pathways could allow carp migration in times of flooding. So while it's clear that closing the Chicago locks is not an economically viable solution for stopping Asian carp - and I do understand the concerns the great lakes states have on this issue and I share those concerns - as a result of all that, we worked out a bipartisan compromise solution to addressing this area which would allow a study to go forward, allow an economic assessment of the various options that have been presented and then give Congress the information so that it can make a decision as to which solution was best needed to go forward. What this provision does in this bill is simply give the agency responsible here the authority to go ahead with the project, even though with what they think the solution is, without Congress having anything to say about it whatsoever. It's a preauthorization on a new project which could include closing of the locks. And if it does, it would have hundreds of billions of dollars of financial implications for the taxpayers and for this Congress but also have enormous negative economic impact on northwest Indiana and northeast Illinois and the entire Chicago region and the commerce, all that commerce that flows up and down the Mississippi and up and down the Saint Lawrence seaway. The other problem with this is the new language also expedites the study, even though the corps says they need more time to do so."
  • Spoke on the Budget Control Act.
    • SUMMARY "We took a mini step. Just a little bit of a step in august basically saying we're going to cap this spending so that we don't spend more than that going forward, and that will at least slow down the rate of plunging into debt. It won't - it doesn't begin to do what we need to do to address this, but it will slow down. And so what have we done since? What we have done is bring a number of bills to this floor, all of which have violated the agreement that we made. We were on this floor and I didn't vote for this because I had a lot of skepticism about it. First of all, I felt it was woefully short of what we needed to do. Secondly, I believe that having served here before and seeing how this process works, I thought we're going to waive this time after time after time. We're going to violate the agreement that we agreed to. So the majority voted for this, and we were congratulating each other. This is an important step to dealing with our budget crisis, and we have committed now not to spend more than what this budget agreement - the cap that this budget agreement has put on us. So Postal Reform bill violated the cap. Spending more than the cap allowed. The student loan interest rate extension looks like we got the score now and we're going to violate the cap. The Senate version that went over on the Transportation bill violated the cap. The payroll tax extension and the Violence Against Women Act all violated what we had promised we would do, and we wonder why the American people are skeptical. We wonder why our approval rating is in the low double digits. I mean, really low, almost into single digits. Why people are just frustrated and upset with this. Because we tell them we've made this promise to be fiscally responsible, and every bill - virtually every bill we bring up here is irresponsible and we waive what we had agreed to do. And so we can hardly blame them for our skepticism here."

Senator Boxer: (11:22 AM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "I do want him to feel proud of the way we put together the Transportation bill, because I do think in that case, which is a huge, huge policy bill, that it was transparent and that what my friend complained about was something that was put in by the other body, they said it was a must have. The truth of the matter is, up to that point, everything we had done was very much in the open. And I am very sorry that my friend feels so negatively toward what we're about to do, because in his state, it's tens of thousands of jobs. In my state, it's hundreds of thousands of jobs. It's thousands of businesses. It's going to mean a boost to this economy through the private sector. But I wanted to say to my friend, I understand his frustration and I will do everything I can to help him on his issue."

Senator Sanders: (11:25 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "Anyone who drives around the state of Vermont or, for that matter, drives around America understands that to a significant degree, our infrastructure is collapsing. In Vermont, we have dozens and dozens and dozens of bridges that are in need of repair. We have many, many hundreds of miles of road that need repair. Our public transit system needs help. And what this bill is about is a start toward rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our public transit, and in the process putting a significant number of people back to work. It is estimated that this bill will save more than 1.8 million jobs nationwide in each of the next three years and it will create a million new jobs through an expanded infrastructure financing program. And what that means in the state of Vermont are thousands and thousands of decent paying construction and other types of jobs, something that we sorely need. So this bill is enormously important. It is an excellent start. Does it go as far as it should? No, it does not. Compared to China, compared to Europe, our investments in infrastructure are minimal. And when you invest in infrastructure you make your country more productive, you put people back to work, we make ourselves more internationally competitive. So I just want to say that this is an important step forward. We've got more to do. Today we focus on roads, bridges, public transit - very important. But that's not the entire infrastructure. We have got to pick up the issue on rail. We are falling further and further behind China, Japan, Europe in terms of high-speed rail. We've got to invest in rail, create jobs doing that. We have to invest in our water systems, in our wastewater plants. We have to make sure that every community in America has high-quality broadband as well as cell phone service. That's what infrastructure is about. We have not invested anywhere near the degree that we should and now is the time to get started."

Senator Boxer: (11:28 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "We are talking about in this Transportation bill protecting two million jobs that are currently in place in this country in the construction sector and the transit sector. So these are the jobs that construction workers do on the highways, the freeways, the bridges ... The highlights of this bill, overall, jobs, jobs, jobs. Jobs in the private sector, businesses in the private sector, and we are talking about leveraging a federal program called TIFIA which is going to mean frankly hundreds of millions of dollars that will go out the door to leverage funds at the local level. And also the private sector. As we look at our bill, we see a reform bill. We see project delivery speeded up from 15 years to eight years without giving up the health and safety laws that the people deserve. We have not done away with any environmental law, we've just put deadlines in the law, we've put milestones in the law ... I want to say there are no riders in this bill. No environmental riders in this bill. And I think that does send a good message to the public that we are focused on transportation, and these other issues are going to be addressed, but they don't have to be addressed on this bill and become a target of a veto or a stand-off between the parties."
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "What I'm going to talk about is what happens if the Republicans have their way and this law is repealed. I want the American people to know, and I say this with no animosity at all. I just say I'm going to do everything I can to stop them from repealing it for a reason. And the reason are the families in my state and all over the country that are bet getting the benefits of this law. Governor Romney says it's going to be the thing he's going to do the first day he's going to repeal the health care law, if he gets elected, day one. Let me tell you what will happen very, very clearly. There are 54 million Americans who are now getting access to free preventive services such as mammograms and immunizations. If they have private insurance. That's most of our people. They would no longer get free mammograms, free checkups. Over and out. 54 million Americans lose if Governor Romney and the republicans repeal this bill. Six million of my people in California. My seniors, over 300,000, would no longer get help with their prescription drug benefit. Now they are getting help. They will they go back to choosing between taking their prescription drugs or eating dinner. I'm sorry, I'm going to stand in the way if I can. In Medicare, millions of seniors would lose access to free preventive services. 32 million Medicare patients get these services for free, including cancer screenings and flu shots. Why on earth would somebody or some party want to get up and say I'm repealing that? 105 million Americans will once again face lifetime limits on their health insurance plan. Now, if you're diagnosed with cancer, you look at your plan, it says you're covered up to $250,000. That sounds like a lot of money. I could tell you now if you're battling cancer, that's not a lot of money, and now suddenly at your worst moments, the worst moments you're facing, your radiation, your chemo, you've hit up against your lifetime limit, that will be gone. More than six million young adults including 300,000 in my state would lose their health insurance because now they have a guarantee because of the health care bill they can stay on their parents' coverage till they're 26. Why would anyone want to repeal that? Ask them. They do. Insurance companies would no longer owe rebates to customers if those insurance companies spent too much on premiums and paid the CEO's exorbitant bonuses and paid hardly anything to help you with your health care. We're going to see 12 million Americans get back a billion dollars in rebate checks. In August. They'll stop that. They want to stop that. How about millions of children who are now getting coverage because they have a preexisting condition, before this law, they couldn't."

Reid, McConnell

Opening Remarks

Jun 29 2012

  • Today --
    • The Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 2237, the Increased Payroll Tax Credit and Bonus Depreciation bill.
    • At a time to be determined, the Senate will take action on the Conference Report to accompany H.R. 4348, the Highway/Student Loan/Flood Insurance bill.

Senator Reid: (10:01 AM)
  • Spoke on the Conference Report.
    • SUMMARY "I know the senators are anxious as to what is going to happen today. The Republican leader and I have been in close contact the last several days. We're fortunate that we're now in a position to complete work today. We should be able to do it quickly. It all depends on the cooperation of senators. We actually know that the House is planning to vote around 12:30 today. They could do it more quickly. They could do it as late as 1:00. We have the ability now that the papers have been filed over in the House, we could act before they do, as we've done before. We'll have to see how the morning moves on, but we are working on a consent to have votes in relation to the Transportation Conference Report this morning. Senators have called me. I'm sure and the Republican leader on a number of occasions. As soon as we have something firmed up, we'll let everyone know."
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "Because children can now stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26, no young person will have to defer his or her dreams to take a job that offers insurance. Since health reform took effect, five million seniors have already saved about $600 each on prescription drugs, the doughnut hole is being filled now. Maybe people watching this presentation here today don't know what the doughnut hole is, but every senior citizen knows what it is because it costs them lots and lots of money. And because of this law now no longer being debatable as far as whether or not it's going to stand, it's the law of the country, millions have gotten free wellness checks and cancer screens, that they could never have done that before. Millions, free wellness checks and cancer screens. That means millions of seniors have more money in their pockets for food, gas and electric bill. And, frankly, a lot of them wouldn't spend that money anyway. They would just worry about whether they had cancer or whether they should wait a while to go see that doctor for their annual physical which was way overdue. And it means millions of seniors if, in fact, they are spending for this wellness check won't have to anymore and they could have this money for food, gas and electric bills. Hundreds of thousands of businesses already offer their employees health insurance or are getting tax credits for doing the right thing. Since Congress passed this law, insurance companies have no longer put profits ahead of people ... They can no longer discriminate against children with preexisting conditions."

Senator McConnell: (10:21 PM)
  • Spoke on the Conference Report.
    • SUMMARY "The Highway Conference Report contains significant reforms to the surface transportation program. Projects now will be completed in a more timely manner because for the first time, there are hard deadlines on agencies to complete environmental reviews. Also, states are given maximum flexibility to use their transportation dollars the way they chose rather than how Washington dictates. This bill is fully paid for with a package of offsets mostly included in the Senate-passed Highway bill. The Conference Report also contains important legislation to reform the national flood insurance program and to prevent college student loans from doubling. The Flood Insurance bill is a model of reform. It moves this long-failing program closer to where it should be: the private sector. These reforms actually cut subsidies, save the taxpayer money and greatly improve the program's financial position. And it was negotiated and reported out of committee on a bipartisan basis. On the student loan issue, Republicans and Democrats worked hard to find common ground. The agreement we've reached will ensure that college students who are already facing enormous challenges in the Obama economy won't be paying higher interest rates next month. Students can't wait for the president to get off the campaign trail and actually work with Congress to prevent student loan interest rates from rising this year. So while the president continues to ignore the bipartisan proposal sent more than three weeks ago, Senate Democrats dropped their demand for job-killing tax hikes and worked with Republicans to find solutions. It's nice to finally see the senate start to actually work like the Senate used to. It proves if this body ignores the campaign attacks from the president and if our democratic friends stop pushing job-killing tax hikes, we can actually get a lot done around here."
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "On a most important issue brought to the front page the last two days and that is the state of the new Obamacare law. Two and a half years ago, President Obama teamed up with democrats right here in Congress to pass a health care bill they knew most Americans didn't really want. Americans had been very clear about what they thought of this bill. So Democrats settled on a deeply dishonest sales pitch aimed at convincing them otherwise. And nearly every day since then, the promises that formed the heart, the very heart of that sales pitch have been exposed for the false promises they we were. Americans were promised lower health care costs, but, of course, they're going up. Americans were promised lower premiums and they're going up. Seniors were promised Medicare would be protected. It was raided to pay for a new entitlement instead. We were promised it would create jobs. CBO predicts it will lead to 800,000 fewer jobs. 800,000 fewer jobs because of Obamacare ... People were promised they could keep the plans they liked. Millions have now learned they can't. For two years, the list of broken promises has grown longer and longer and longer. But yesterday morning, we got powerful confirmation of what may have been the biggest deception of all. For years, the president and his Democrat allies in Congress have sworn up and down - sworn up and down - that failing to comply with the individual mandate did not result in a tax on individuals or families. It's not a tax, they said. And the reason was obvious. If Americans knew that failure to comply resulted in a tax hike, of course the bill would never have passed. If our friends on the other side had conceded the obvious - that it was, in fact, a tax hike - we all know it never would have passed. And the president wouldn't be able to claim his health care bill didn't claim taxes on the middle class, as he did again and again and again. Well, yesterday the court blew the president's cover. In a narrowly upheld case, on one basis only, that the penalty associated with the individual mandate is a tax, the court spoke. Congress doesn't have the constitutional authority to mandate insurance coverage under the commerce clause, it said. Congress doesn't have the authority to mandate individual insurance coverage under the commerce clause. But it obviously does have the power to tax. So they upheld the central provision of this bill on the fact that the penalty for failing to comply with it was a tax. In the eyes of the court, that's all the penalty tied to the individual mandate ever was, a tax imposed by a Democratic Congress without a single Republican vote, primarily, interestingly enough, primarily on the middle class. A tax on the middle class. So let's be very clear about that. The tax connected to the individual mandate is not primarily a tax on the rich. But on the middle-class Americans who will bear the brunt of it. Listen to this, colleagues. According to the CBO, at least 77% of the people paying this tax will meet the president's own definition of the middle class. 77% of the people paying this tax will meet the president's own definition of the middle class. Those who have to pay the tax will pay an average tax of $1,200. And even if they pay it every year, they still won't have insurance."

Jun 29 2012

The Senate Convened.

Jun 29 2012

The Senate is considering the conference report to accompany H.R. 4348, 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.