Wednesday, Jun. 3, 2015

Senate Opening

Senate Opening

Jun 03 2015 09:32 AM

The Senate convened.

Reid, McConnell

Opening Remarks

Jun 03 2015 10:03 AM

Today –

  • Following leader remarks, the Senate will be in morning business until 11:00 AM, with Republicans controlling the first half and Democrats controlling the second half.
  • At 11:00 AM, the Senate will proceed to the consideration of H.R. 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act, for debate only until 2:30 PM.

 

Senator Reid: (9:37 AM)

  • Spoke on the National Security Agency.
    • "The Republican leadership knew for years that these programs were scheduled to expire on June 1, 2015. People who didn't like this act -- and there were a number of them - gave speeches all over the country talking about the act. It was no secret. It was that secret that the act was not that popular in some people's minds. Last year Senator McConnell knew this deadline was looming when he prevented the Senate from debating another version of the U.S.A. FREEDOM Act by conducting one of their hundreds of filibusters stopping President Obama's efforts. The majority leader knew a month ago the deadline was coming and chose to prioritize other legislation over these critical programs."
  • Spoke on the highway trust fund.
    • "A bridge collapsed and 30-some people died as a result of that. That's very recently. So how long will we wait to fix these problems? What will it take before Republicans get serious about a solution to our crumbling highways, railroads, and bridges? Democrats understand the urge of the crisis facing our country, and we are ready to work with Republicans to rebuild our bridges, roads, and our railway system. We understand that investing in our surface transportation, including rail, is a job creator and an economy booster. For every $1 billion we spend on these roads, these bridges, our rail system, we create 47,500 high-paying jobs and many other lesser-paying jobs. Before we left for recess a couple weeks ago, we passed a short-term extension for the surface transportation programs. That's the 33rd time we've done that. 33rd time. Now we're back in session; there appears to be no urgency."

 

Senator McConnell: (9:47 AM)

  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    • "I know my good friend the Democratic leader is frustrated he's no longer setting the schedule here in the Senate. He seems to differ with the order of priorities that we deal with things here. Yesterday he said that debating the defense authorization bill was, "a waste of time." To debate the defense authorization bill in a time of high crisis for our country. Nevertheless, a new majority sets the agenda and the schedule these days. Today the Senate turns to consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016. In June, not at December, at the end of the year, in a situation in which no amendments are allowed. This legislation which authorizes funds and sets out policy for our military annually is always important. But it's especially important now given the multitude of threats that challenge us as a nation. For instance, the aggressive rise of ISIL. Iran's ambitions for regional hegemony and its accompanying quest for nuclear weapons and both Chinese and Russian efforts to erode American influence and assert domination over their neighbors. It's also important given the need to start thinking about preparing our armed services for the many global threats the next president will confront the day he or she takes office."

Barrasso, Daines, Durbin

Morning Business

Jun 03 2015 11:00 AM

Senator Barrasso: (9:55 AM)

  • Spoke on the Environmental Protection Agency.
    • "A bill called the Federal Water Quality Protection Act. The bill has 30 cosponsors in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans alike. A similar bill in the House actually passed with the support of 24 Democrats and every Republican. So what does the administration have to say to the dozens of Democrats in Congress, the 24 Democrats who voted against the administration, to the millions of Americans who are concerned about this new regulation? Well, according to the article in "The Hill," president Obama's top environment advisor said -- this is of the Democrats who voted for this - "The only people with reason to oppose the rule are polluters." So the president believes that the 24 Democrats that voted to support and the Democrats in the Senate who voted to cosponsor my legislation are polluters who want to threaten our clean water. That's what the White House thinks of these Democrats in Congress. That's what the white house thinks of anyone - anyone -- who dares to suggest that this rule is bureaucratic overreach."

 

Senator Daines: (10:08 AM)

  • Spoke on over regulation.
    • "Today I've introduced legislation to help fix the regulatory burden facing Americans. My bill facilitates public input on federal rule making and provides a more predictable regulatory environment so that businesses can make plans to expand and have a predictable environment to create good, high-paying jobs because currently bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., can issue interpretative rules without warning and without public input. In fact, oftentimes, interpretative rules are dramatically changed at the whim of the presidents. I'd also like to thank Senators Lankford and Blunt for joining me in introducing in critical piece of legislation. The Regulatory Predictability for Business Growth Act will ensure that Americans' voices are heard in the rule-making process, providing a crucial planning period for individuals and businesses."

 

Senator Durbin: (10:23 AM)

  • Spoke on immigration.
    • "And the people who show such loathing for these young people and what they mean to us have forgotten that. They've ignored that. Let's rekindle our faith in what makes America great: our diversity, the ambition of young people like Yanik and the determination of our generation to open a door to give them a chance to prove themselves and make us better. That's what we're called on to do. All the petty politics aside, we're talking about human lives and about an opportunity for this young man and so many others to prove to us what they can do for the future of America."
  • Spoke on the highway trust fund.
    • "The federal highway program used to be a six-year program. Why was it six years? Because think about planning, engineering, acquiring land and building a highway. You can't do it in 60 days, not six months, not even a year. You have to have a commitment of funds that are coming back to the states. In my state, in Illinois, about 75% of all the highway construction comes from federal funds. So when we do short-term extensions, it really says to the states, you can't count on us. This money will run out at the end of July. Maybe we'll extend is it again. Maybe we won't. Is that any way to run a nation? Is that any way to run a transportation system?"
  • Spoke on the em-im bank.
    • "This allows businesses across the United States to sell their goods and services to businesses all over the world. They support about 164,000 jobs. More than 100 of these companies are located in Illinois and more than 80 of them are small the bank exports $27.4 billion in exports and, guess what? It doesn't cost the taxpayers a penny. It actually makes money, money that's returned to the U.S. Treasury for other purposes or to reduce our debt. Over the past two decades, 20 years, the export-import bank has returned $7 billion to the Treasury."
  • Spoke on taxes.
    • "We call it the Patriot Employer Tax Credit Act. It's very basic. When you look at the tax code, it is a huge document full of incentives and disincentives for business. We'll reward certain things. We won't reward other things. Well, this is something we should consider rewarding. Senator Sherrod Brown and I have introduced the Patriot Employer Tax Credit Act which would provide a tax credit to American companies that treat American veterans and workers the best. It puts the tax code on the side of these companies. These patriot employers would be eligible for tax credit equal to 10% of the first $15,000 in qualified wages for American workers, which is about $1,200 per worker."

McCain (UC)

National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1735)

Jun 03 2015 11:59 AM

Senator McCain: (11:08 AM)

  • Unanimous Consent –
    • At 1:00 PM, the Senate stand in recess until 2:00 PM.
  • (Without objection)
  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    • "The acquisition reforms in this legislation center on five principal objectives. First, legislation establishes effective accountability for results. We give greater authority to the military services to manage their own programs and we enhance the role of the service chiefs in the acquisition process. In exchange for greater authority, the bill demands accountability and creates new mechanisms to deliver it. Service chiefs, service secretaries, service acquisition executives, and program managers would sign up to binding management requirement and resource commitments. The bill also creates new incentives for the services to deliver programs on time and on budget … Second, the legislation supports the use of flexible acquisition authorities and the development of alternative acquisition paths to acquire critical national security capabilities. The bill establishes a new streamlined acquisition and requirements process for rapid prototyping and rapid fielding within two to five years … Third, the NDAA improves access to nontraditional and military contractors. To get our military the necessary capabilities to defend the nation, the Department of Defense must be able to access organization in in areas such as cyber, robotics, data analytics, miniaturization, and autonomy. Information that is much more likely to some from Silicon Valley, Austin or Mesa than Washington."

Reed, McCain, Nelson, Merkley, Burr

National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1735)

Jun 03 2015 01:13 PM

Senator Reed: (11:57 AM)

  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    • "My proposal is certainly just to fence the additional O.C.O. money until we could in fact collectively as a Congress, what we have to do and what so many people both sides have argued, until we could repeal, reform, modify, extend the Budget Control Act, much as we did due to the great efforts of Senator Murray and Congressman Ryan, which gave us the head room to actually pass legislation, not just the Department of Defense but in other agencies, that allowed us to continue the work of the government and allowed us to protect the nation. My proposal in the committee did not succeed, but I will renew that request. We have, I think, made great progress in the legislation. I think the last step is to get us into the position where we have essentially recognized that the B.C.A. caps has to be limited."

 

Senator McCain: (12:39 PM)

  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    • "I am told by the majority leader that he would like to have this legislation completed by the end of next week. That means that we have a lot of work to do. We already have a number of amendments that have been filed. I would ask my colleagues to have their amendments in hopefully by, say, tomorrow afternoon when the senator from Rhode Island and I will ask unanimous consent that no further amendments be considered. We want to give every senator an opportunity to have their amendments thoroughly vetted and debated and voted on, if that's their desire."

 

Senator Nelson: (12:42 PM)

  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    • "If we continue to budget like this, not only in defense but in non-defense as well, non-defense areas that directly affect defense, what do I mean? The Coast Guard, the C.I.A., the F.B.I., the D.E.A., customs, border patrol, air traffic control, T.S.A., all things in the federal government that are going to be under this artificial meat-ax approach of cutting across the board, all of those agencies directly affect the national security. And so what we have been doing is artificially avoiding what is the obvious. It's sequestration. It's this meat-ax cut across the board. So I want us, as we discuss this budget now highlighted first by Senator Reed, it's time for us to start talking about how we're going to get rid of the sequester."

 

Senator Merkley: (12:51 PM)

  • Spoke on the National Security Agency.  
    • "Yesterday we passed the U.S.A. FREEDOM Act, and it was quickly signed by our president because it was so important to put it in place. And it contained two items that I want to draw particular attention to. One is that there should be no secret spying on U.S. citizens here in the United States of America. And, second, there should be no secret laws here in the United States of America. And these two items are very closely connected together. Our nation was founded upon the principles of liberty and freedom. Fundamental to the exercise of those principles is the right to privacy, to be free from unreasonable intrusions."

 

Senator Burr: (1:04 PM)

  • Spoke on the National Security Agency.  
    • "I couldn't let the statements that were just made go without a degree of fact check. There is no secret court. Secret court means we don't know it exists. The every member of the United States Senate, every American knows that the FISA court exists. And the FISA court exists because, just like this body, the Senate of the United States, when we take up classified, top-secret legislation, we shut these doors, we clear the gallery, we cut the TV off because it can't be heard in public. As a matter of fact, every court in the country operates in secret sometimes when they've got sensitive information that can't be shared. I wish my colleague would say which can't be shared, can't be shared because it can't be public. There's some things that don't meet that classification, and to get up here and talk about secret courts and secret laws, we pass the laws, and the courts enforce the laws, and they're challenged, and we've got committees and we've got members that do oversight. And it is unfactual to stand on this floor and say we've got secret courts and secret laws. That's why the Senate and the House made a mistake this week."

Murray, Cantwell, Sessions, Portman, Reed

National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1735)

Jun 03 2015 02:56 PM

Senator Murray: (2:02 PM)

  • Spoke on the Children's Recovery from Trauma Act.
    • "I'm very proud that under the Children's Recovery from Trauma Act, the Clear Center would continue to receive critical federal investments. In addition, I'm very proud other child trauma centers such as those that mobilized after the 2001 terrorist attacks or natural disasters like hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and the shootings at Virginia Tech and New Town would continue to get those investments as well. As I have said before, I am so inspired by the strength and the resilience of communities in Washington State who are impacted by the tragedy on state route 530 mudslide and the shootings recently at Marysville Pilchek High School. Communities like these who face hardships can't always be predicted or prevented, but they do need our support. The Children's Recovery from Trauma Act would take some critical steps forward in this effort, and I hope all of our colleagues will join me in supporting it."

 

Senator Cantwell: (2:13 PM)

  • Spoke on the ex-im bank.
    • "Well, for some reason many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle after years and years and years and years and years and years and years of supporting the ex-im bank now all of a sudden don't want to support it anymore because the Heritage Foundation is saying it's something they shouldn't support. In fact, they are giving bonus points on a ranking system as a way to say we'll reward you for trying to get rid of what has been a viable tool for small businesses in our economy. So we hope that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will soon wake up to the fact that the expiration of such an important tool is not in the interest of our economy and not in the interest of small businesses, and come up with a vehicle for this to get done. Those on the other side of the aisle who think it's okay that the bank lapses is putting about $12 billion of deals at risk that are before the bank, but won't get executed on if the bank closes at the end of this month."

 

Senator Sessions: (2:24 PM)

  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    • "I have reached my belief that our committee has worked in a positive way. We've taken the advice of the president and the defense department. We've examined it in an appropriate way and produced this bill that I believe will strengthen our national defense. And with strong backing to modernize and expand our missile defense capabilities and to strengthen our deployed forces, allies, and partners. So I hope we don't have a fuss over demands to increase spending for non-defense when we're supposed to be funding the defense department. If there are arguments to be made in that regard, it's on another bill when those bills come up. It ought to be brought forth in that fashion. It would be wrong, and I think a big mistake, to use defense appropriations and authorization bills in any way as some sort of hostage to force spending in other areas. The bill is a good bill. It puts us on the right course."

 

Senator Portman: (2:41 PM)

  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    •  "To shave several years off the fielding time line, however, the Army needs additional funding, they say, in fiscal year 2016. They need it now. That's exactly what this amendment does. The review of these requirements by the Army was occurring while the defense bill was being marked up in committee. The House appropriators, the first to mark up since the army communicated the requirement, fully funded the need. I want to thank Chairman McCain and I want to thank the ranking member for their consideration including this important funding into this bill even though the need was communicated very recently. This turret, cannon itself will be competed and that is appropriate. The increase in funding is offset by taking additional reductions from the expected surplus from the foreign currency fluctuations identified by G.A.O."

 

Senator Reed: (2:52 PM)

  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    • "The Striker program. It has been extraordinarily effective in protecting our soldiers and their efforts both in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's a critical program. The amendment would add $371 million of funding. We all understand this is a very difficult budget environment. I would point out that the Army submitted their unfunded requirements list to the committee in March. This was not on their request. However, it's my understanding that the request for additional funding is driven by a new requirement that actually became evident in April of 2015. So the issue could have been that they weren't as aware as they should have been. For the record, this is not part of the unfunded requirement list of the Army. We did not have the chance to look at this as an approach that we would include in our defense appropriations bill."

Cornyn, Menendez, Schatz

National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1735)

Jun 03 2015 04:57 PM

Senator Cornyn: (2:57 PM)

  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    • "These amendments aim to help NATO and our other allies in Europe diversify their energy resources and lessen their dependency on energy supplies of some of our major adversaries like Russia and Iran. The first amendment would point out the existing authorities the president already has under a current law, related to energy exports if he determines that it is in our national interests, and of course this is an authority under current law that applies not only to the present occupant of the white house, it would also apply to his successor. This amendment expresses a sense of the Congress that the president should exercise these current authorities to aid our allies and partners in Europe and elsewhere. To help the United States get smart on how Russia currently uses its energy program as a weapon against our allies and partners, this amendment would mandate also an intelligence assessment to better understand the vulnerabilities of NATO and our other allies and partners in Europe."

 

Senator Menendez: (4:10 PM)

  • Spoke on Iran.
    • "I think it is incredibly important on what I believe is one of the most significant national security and international security order questions that will come before the Senate that we not just look the other way but we challenge when these facts continue to come forward about what is the truth behind them and what does it mean for any political agreement and how we continue to judge Iran's actions in the light of any potential agreement. I know that we're told constantly this is a hope and it's all going to be verified, it's not on trust but will be verified but I have to be honest with you, depends what you keep defining what is permissible and not. From my perspective, this, where we're headed, is not what I think is in the national interest and security of the United States."

 

Senator Schatz: (4:36 PM)

  • Spoke on climate change.
    • "The old standard used to be a maximum of 15% of intermittent energy onto the grid. But we have parts of our grid that are in the 25% to 35% intermittent energy, and so there are real challenges in upgrading our grid system, upgrading our electricity system and creating a smart grid that can accommodate it all of this distributed generation. But it also provides opportunities for innovation and the development of new American markets. This is not in the distant future. This is happening now. Each home, each business, each farm is now within reach of controlling its own energy future. Often with carbon-free clean energy. Distributed energy is a real solution to climate change both in the United States and around the world."

Lee, Durbin, Tillis (UC)

National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1735)

Jun 03 2015 05:27 PM

Senator Lee: (4:49 PM)

  • Spoke on L. Tom Perry
    • "I rise today to pay tribute to elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the Quorum of 12 Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder Perry passed away on Saturday, May 30, 2015, at the age of 92. L. Tom Perry was a giant of a man, with an even larger soul. His enthusiasm for life energized and inspired all who came under his extraordinary influence. It has been said that ideas go booming through the world like cannons. Thoughts are mightier than armies. And principles have achieved more victories than horse men or chariots. Inspiring ideas, transformational thoughts and powerful principles, these were the driving force in elder Perry's life and ministry and what made him such a positive force for good throughout the world."

 

Senator Durbin: (4:54 PM)

  • Spoke on the National Defense Authorization Act.
    •  "I am embarrassed to say we did an across-the-board cut at the National Institutes of Health. It was so damaging to N.I.H., which is the premier medical research agency in the world, it was so damaging they are still trying to recover today. Before we went into sequestration, consider this. If you had an application for a medical grant at N.I.H., your chances before sequestration were one out of three. One out of three. After sequestration in the cuts that took place, one out of six … The Senate should be providing real sequestration relief, not only to the Department of Defense but to all of the agencies of our government that do such important work. That should be our focus. Not a budget gimmick using overseas contingency funds to get through one year with the Department of Defense, but something more befitting a nation like ours that deserves real leadership."

 

Senator Tillis: (5:20 PM)

  • Unanimous Consent –
    • Thursday, June 4, following leader remarks, the Senate resume consideration of H.R. 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act, and there be 30 minutes of equally divided time.
    • Upon the use of time, the Senate VOTE on the following amendments to H.R. 1735:
  1. Portman Amendment #1522; and
  2. Bennet Amendment #1540.
    • No second-degree amendments in order to any of these amendments prior to the votes.
  • (Without objection)

Alexander, Stabenow, Shaheen, Heitkamp

National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1735)

Jun 03 2015 06:42 PM

Senator Alexander: (5:28 PM)

  • Spoke on education.
    • "The purpose of our hearing this morning was to find ways to keep the costs of college affordable and to discourage students from borrowing more than they can pay back. Here are five steps the federal government could take to accomplish that. One, stop discouraging colleges from counseling students how much they should borrow. Federal law and regulations actually prevent colleges from requiring financial counseling for students, even those clearly at risk of default who are over-borrowing. In a March 2014 hearing before our committee, we heard from two financial aid directors who said that there was no good reason for this … Second way we can help: help students save money by graduating sooner. For example, our bipartisan Fast Act that Senator Isakson and Burr and I on this side of the aisle and Senator Bennet and Cory booker and Angus King on that side of the aisle have sponsored - the Fast Act would make Pell Grants available year-round to students so they can complete their degrees more quickly and start earning money more rapidly with their increased knowledge and skills. Number three, make it simpler to pay off student loans."

 

Senator Stabenow: (5:48 PM)

  • Spoke on the highway trust fund.
    • "It's ironic that 60 years later my Republican colleagues are the ones blocking us from building on President Eisenhower's legacy for growing the economy by investing in long-term infrastructure. Not 60 days, not 30 days, not six months, but long-term infrastructure investments. Over the last six years Congress has passed short-term extensions over and over again, repeatedly passing over the shortfall in the highway trust fund. And today we are actually at a point where we are 57 days from the highway trust fund actually going empty, shutting down. 57 days before the highway trust fund is empty. This is no way to invest in our country and jobs and the roads and bridges and other infrastructure that we need to support a thriving economy. It makes it harder for states and for local transportation agencies to plan. The uncertainty drives up costs, we all know. The World Economic Forum's global competitiveness report for 2014 to 2015 ranks America 16th in the quality of our roads."

 

Senator Shaheen: (6:06 PM)

  • Spoke on the ex-im bank.
    • "You know, right now about 40% of large businesses export, but only 1% of small and medium sized businesses export in the United States, and yet 95% of markets are outside of America. We need to help businesses like Boyle Energy get into those international markets, and that's exactly what the ex-im bank has done. With the export-import bank's support, Boyle Energy has grown its international sales 75% over the last three years. Before using the export credit insurance that's provided by ex-im bank, the company shipped just to Mexico and Canada, but now Boyle has customers in over a dozen countries. Their exports comprise 60% of the company's $15 million in sales and ten of its 50 employees support their increase in international sales. Without the bank, Boyle energy's success just wouldn't be possible."

 

Senator Heitkamp: (6:13 PM)

  • Spoke on the ex-im bank.
    • "Without the bank, they would be unable to compete in this global marketplace. This is one of those stories in Washington, D.C. that makes the rest of the world believe that Washington doesn't get it. That the United States Congress doesn't get it. Because they don't live in their world. They live in the real world where you have to finance what you have, where those challenges get harder and harder every day, and where you are competing in a market where people do this. 70 export credit agencies in the world, all competing for the same business, all helping their home-grown business to compete for the same business that we're competing for. Unilateral disarmament … So that we actually reauthorize the bank before the end of this month."

Wrap Up (The Senate Stands Adjourned)

Wrap Up

Jun 03 2015 06:43 PM

Tomorrow –

  • The Senate will convene at 9:30 AM.
  • Following leader remarks, the Senate will resume consideration of H.R. 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act, for 30 minutes of equally divided debate time.
  • At approximately 10:15 AM, the Senate will conduct up to two VOTES on the following amendments to H.R. 1735:
  1. Portman Amendment #1522 (Stryker lethality upgrades); and
  2. Bennet Amendment #1540 (VA medical facilities).