Heller, Daines, Blumenthal, Hatch, Durbin, Thune, Sanders, Recess Until 2:15 PM

Morning Business

Senator Heller: (11:18 AM)

  • Spoke on the U.S.A. Freedom Act.
    • "I will do everything I can to end the Patriot Act. But if I cannot do that, I will work to gut the patriot act of the most egregious sections that infringe upon American citizens' privacies and their civil liberties. And that is what the reforms of the U.S.A. Freedom Act begin to achieve. This legislation, among other things, will rein in the dragnet collection of data by the National Security Agency. It will stop the bulk collection of American communication records by ending the specific authorization under section 215 of the Patriot Act. And, we're reaching a critical deadline as several foreign intelligence surveillance act provisions expire at the end of May. And I want to be clear that I expect reforms to our surveillance programs and I will not consent to a straight reauthorization of the illegal activities that occur under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. It is time for our nation to right this wrong, make the significant changes necessary to restore America's faith in the federal government and restore the civil liberties that make our nation worth protecting."


Senator Daines: (11:24 AM)

  • Spoke on the U.S.A. Freedom Act.
    • "As Montana's lone representative in the U.S. House, I cosponsored the Freedom Act that would have ended the N.S.A.'s abuses and overreach. I also supported efforts to defend the 2014 defense appropriation bill and end the N.S.A.'s blanket collection of American phone records. We made significant ground in awareness of this overreach but the fight to protect America's constitutional freedoms is far from over. I'm proud to stand today as a cosponsor of the U.S.A. Freedom Act of 2015 and a strong advocate and defender of America's right to privacy. As risks facing the homeland and our interests overseas remain ever present, it's critical that our law enforcement has the tools they need to protect our national security from extremists who wish to destroy our nation and our very way of life. The U.S.A. Freedom Act provides these other tools."


Senator Blumenthal: (11:32 AM)

  • Spoke on the U.S.A. Freedom Act.
    • "They are the rule of law throughout the United States in Article 3 courts, and these changes will make the FISA court look like the courts that Americans are accustomed to seeing in their everyday experience, when they walk into a courtroom in any town in the state of Connecticut or the state of Utah or the state of Montana, what they're accustomed to seeing is two sides arguing before a judge, and that's what the FISA court would look like rather than one side making one argument whether it's for bulk collection of metadata or any other intrusion on civil rights and civil liberties, there would be an advocate on the other side to make the case that it is overreaching, that it's unnecessary, that it's unauthorized, and, in fact, that's what the Second Circuit said here the government was doing by this incredibly overextended, overreaching in bulk collection of metadata. Unless and until this essential reform is enacted, along with other critical reforms that are contained in the U.S.A. Freedom Act, I will oppose reauthorization of section 215 and I urge my colleagues to do so as well."


Senator Hatch: (11:42 AM)

  • Spoke on trade.
    • "There are 400 trade agreements out there. We've only agreed to 20 of them. And these trade agreements generally bring jobs that are much better paid than other jobs in our society, between 13% and 18% more. For the life of me, I'll never understand why the unions are so opposed to it and, thus, so many Democrats are opposite to this. I can't understand it because this will create jobs, and generally the better jobs, the jobs unions can fight to unionize if they want to, which they have a right to do under our laws. Yet, every time these matters come up, they are against getting free trade agreement passed. I think Ambassador Fruhman has done a good job up to now but his hands are tied. If we don't pass T.P.A., he's going to have a difficult time bringing about T-TIP or T.P.P., which is 11 countries plus ours, not the least Japan, that our trade representative believes he can get to sign a trade agreement with us. I believe he can, but I don't believe he can do it without T.P.A."


Senator Durbin: (11:56 AM)

  • Spoke on trade.
    • "We want to make sure that trade agreements are enforceable. It wasn't that long ago that we had thriving steel production companies in America that were victimized by many foreign countries that started dumping steel in the United States. What does it mean to dump steel? These countries: Brazil, Japan and Russia, were selling steel in the United States at lower than the cost of production. Why? They knew they could run the Americans out of business, and they did. By the time we filed an unfair trade grievance, went through the hearings, won our case, the American companies disappeared. So enforcement is an important part of any conversation about trade. And we want to know from Senator Hatch and the Republicans who bring this to the floor, are we going to enforce this trade agreement so American companies are treated fairly? I think that's a pretty legitimate question. Until it's answered, there's uncertainty and maybe the vote at 2:30 will reflect it."
  • Spoke on the highway trust fund.
    • "The Republican failure to extend the highway trust fund for five or six years sadly is going to cost us jobs in America. Not just good-paying construction jobs but jobs in businesses that count on infrastructure. I have them all over Illinois and there are thousands of workers in Illinois that depend on them. But because the Republicans have failed to come up with an extension of the highway trust fund, we are going to limp along here and, sadly, not meet our national obligation to create an infrastructure to support our economy. I'm hoping that cooler heads will prevail and leadership will prevail and the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate - they're in the majority in both chambers -- will step forward with a plan to create a highway trust fund on for six years."
  • Spoke on Syria.
    • "The photos showed children who had been maimed, lost their limbs and some had been killed by these barrel bombs that continue. Now Assad has decided to up the ante. He's included chlorine gas in these barrel bombs as well. These doctors try to save these children and save these victims. Many times they're operating on tables in abandoned schools. They're begging for medicines which are at a high premium. And many times they're not successful. What will we do? What can the United States do? I hope that we can be part of an effort, an international effort, to provide safe zones for medical treatment and for the displaced persons in Syria. I hope to join with others on a bipartisan basis in urging that alternative."


Senator Thune: (12:09 PM)

  • Spoke on trade.
    • "If we want to make sure that trade negotiations achieve the goals of American farmers and manufacturers, trade promotion authority is essential. The bipartisan bill that we're considering on the Senate floor this week reauthorizes Trade Promotion Authority and includes updates like provisions to strengthen the transparency of the negotiating process and ensure that the American people stay informed. It also contains provisions that I pushed for to require negotiators to ensure that trade agreements promote digital trade as well as trade in physical goods and services. Given the increasing importance of digitally enabled commerce in the 21st century economy, it is essential that our trade agreements include new rules that keep digital trade free from unnecessary government interference. This Trade Promotion Authority bill will help ensure any trade deals the United States enters into will be favorable to American farmers and ranchers and manufacturers and hold other countries accountable for their unfair practices. Passing this bill is essential to prevent American workers and businesses from being left behind in the global economy."


Senator Sanders: (12:20 PM)

  • Spoke on trade.
    • "Today nearly all of the shoes that are bought in the United States are manufactured overseas. Today over 330,000 workers manufacture Nike's products in Vietnam, where the minimum wage is 56 cents an hour. And I hear President Obama and other proponents of T.P.P. talking about a level playing field. We have to compete on a level playing field. Does anybody think competing against people, desperate people who make 56 cents an hour is a level playing field, is fair to American workers? Of course we want the poor people all over the world to see an increase in their standard of living, and we've got to play an important role in that. But you don't have to destroy the American middle class to help low-income workers around the world. In Vietnam, not only is the minimum wage 56 cents an hour, independent labor unions are banned and people are thrown in jail for expressing their political beliefs."


The Senate stands in recess until 2:15 PM for the weekly caucus luncheons.