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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 10, 2009 10:00am-10:30am EDT

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the administration must answer this question: how does closing guantanamo, especially without a plan, make the american people safer? mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. kyl: i commend my colleague from nevada for his excellent remarks and associate myself with him. i would like to speak to the issue of health care and the reform we are attempting in washington. little disagreement exists about the node for health care reform. routine trip to the doctor's office can be surprisingly expensive and many fear if they lose their jobs or if they switch they will be left without health care. others who are unemployed may wonder how they can afford to see a doctor at all. so the question is, how can we reform health care so everyone has access to high-quality care without changing what works for millions of americans? president obama wants to centralize power in washington
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to change the way health care is obtained by all. he would create what he calls a "public option." this would not be an insurance program run by the public but run by the federal government. that is to say, bureaucrats in washington. and i believe it would result in a one-size-fits-all government system that depending on complex rules and financing schemes, some kind of federal health board, and, of course, higher taxes. it would inevitably create waiting lists for treatment and denial of care for many. why? the federal governments resources are not unlimited so health care for some will have to be delayed or denied to keep spending in check. the plan that the senior senator from massachusetts puts forward creates a medical advisory council to determine what treatments people should get and when they should be treated. the goal is to control spending. not to ensure that everyone gets care when they need it. it can tell americans went they can get their treatment and what
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medications they can and cannot have. the massachusetts senator's plan offers subsidies to those who incomes reach 500% above the poverty line. president obama has said if new government-run health care is created he won't have to use it if you refer your current plan. that's not the way congress is writing the legislation. the way the legislation is being written in the finance committee, after your insurance contract expires and it is usually an annual contract, your insurance is gone. and your insurance company must abide by a new set of federal rules that means you will not have the same policy that you had before. moreover, the government-run care would quickly crowd out other insurers. employees who have insurance through their again could be forced into the government plan if their employer decides it is cheaper to pay a fine to the federal government and eliminate the coverage. the company could reason, why bother with the paperwork when we can tell people to get on to
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the government insurance plan which is what the health experts say will happen. a group has estimated that 119 million people will shift from a private plan they currently have on to this new government-run plan if it is created. that affects two-thirds of the 170 million americans who currently have private insurance, all but ending private insurance in this country. first take over of auto companies and banks and a.i.g. and student loans and now health care apparently the agenda at lay here. republicans believe health care reform should make health care affordable and accessible. the last point is overlooked. health care needs to be accessible. people need to get the care when they need it and what the doctor prescribes for them rather than what a bureaucrat says they can have. access to health care does not mean access to a waiting list. individuals and families, not the federal government, should control decisions about their
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health care. the principles of freedom and choice should apply here. the government should not eliminate your choices and get between you and your doctor. i'm not sure why some are embracing government-run insurance when the programs have created so many problems in canada and the united kingdom. many think canadians and europeans get the same quality of health care americans get but pay less. that's not true. the stories we hear from individuals in those countries about months and years-long waiting lists and denial of court are not cherrypicked scare stories but are commonplace. people often have to wait months for an m.r.i. or dental procedure. according to a new study, a canadian-based think tank, the average wait time for treatment from a specialist in canada is 18.3 weeks -- that's the average waiting time. and stop and think, you may have
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had your physician say, i think you have something very drastically wrong and you need to see a specialist to confirm whether that diagnosis is true but you have to wait, on average, 18 weeks for the specialist to see you. well, at least some say everybody in canada has a doctor. that's also not true. that same study reports that 1.7 million canadians -- out of a country of 33 million population -- were unable to see a family physician in the year 2007. 1.7 million could not see a family doctor. and that number does not include those who have a doctor and are on a waiting list. so add the wait times. the bottom line is, having a government-run plan does not guarantee everyone will have access to a doctor or to medical care. indeed, it chokes access. now there are canadian doctors taking action because of this. private hospitals are sprouting up all over canada. a physician recently wrote an article in the "wall street
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journal" about the story of another physician, dr. brian day of vancouver who is an orthopedic surgeon grew tired of the government cutbacks that reduced access to operating room and increasing the number of people waiting to see him. so he opened a private clinic that employs 100 doctors. public hospitals send him patients because they're too busy to treat them and the "new york times" reported a private clinic is opening each week in canada. this is in response to a wonderful health care system? no. it's in response to a health care system that denies care to patients. opening a private clinic that gives health care access to more people is a noble thing to do and i commend dr. day but the success of these clinics also shows that many people who can get out of government-run health care will do so. americans do not deserve or want health care that forces them into government bureaucracy that
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will delay or deny their care and force them to enough gate a web of complex rules and regulations. they want access to high-quality care for their own families and for their neighbors. they want to pick their own doctors and they don't want washington to dictate what care they can and cannot get if their families. mr. president, on a personal note, none of us in the senate or in the gallery or anybody who may be watching as i suspect cares more about anything in the world other than perhaps their own freedom than the health of their family. if there's a health emergency right now we will all drop anything we're doing to provide whatever health care is needed for our family. we don't want anybody to stand in the way of that. but the bottom line is, it is inevitable within government wants to control -- when government wants to control the cost of health care and it has control, it will deny information to people about what openings are available as
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happened in germany, for example, delay the care which is frequently what happens in canada, or, as what frequently happened to great britain where they have a board that makes the decisions, deny the care altogether because it is too expensive for what they consider the "value" you get out of it. for example, if you are over a certain age, you are not likely to have an operation like a hip operation or knee operation. and there are other restrictions this apply, as well. we don't want that in america. we don't want the government here in washington, d.c. saying, because we want to save money, you can't get care. i would also remind folks that the alternative that's being created in canada, the private clinics, is not available under the one government program we have in america, the medicare system. we have also, a veterans care system but under medicare there is no alternative. you can't have private care. if you are on medicare and you go to a doctor that serves medicare patients it is against the law for him to treat you and
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then just champion you individually for that. under medicare it is either medicare or no care, that's the law. i know because i tried to get it changed. we tried to get something called private contracting, the same as in canada, we troyed to get that for medicare so -- we tried to get that for medicare so if you were not satisfied with medicare and you wanted to speed it up and you could find a doctor who could do it, whatever amount he would charge you had the right to do that. no, what congress did was to say, and this is in the middle of the night in a conference committee, you can't do that. only if a doctor says, in advance, i will treat no government patient, no medicare patients, for at least two years, is he able to provide that care to you. so we have a perverse incentive, if you want to take care of patients outside of medicare you have to not take medicare
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patients. we should encourage them to take more medicare patients and allow the option that they have in canada. the bottom line is, washington-run health care is not a good idea. republicans are not going to support legislation that includes washington-run insurance companies or that gets in between a physician and the patient is interferes with that important relationship to deny or delay care. the presiding officer: the senator from new mexico. mr. bingaman: mr. president, i come to the floor today as i did on the seconon the 2nd of june,e the quick action on the nomination of his particular
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nomination of hillary tompkins in the department of interior and the president has chosen well, in choosing miss tompkins to be the solicitor. she has broad experience in natural resource issues. she is extremely well qualified in all respects. she was chief counsel to the governor in new mexico, governor richardson and she has demonstrated her ability to lead a team of lawyers in that position and to provide sound legal counsel. it is unclear to me why anyone would be objecting to her being approved as our solicitor. now, i raised -- when i came to the floor on the 2nd of june about eight days ago, and talked
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about this subject, i asked unanimous consent we proceed to executive session and that her nomination be confirmed and that we advice the president of our action and that the senate go back to other business. senator mcconnell, on behalf of the republican members here in the senate, objected, and said -- i think his specific response was that they were still working on this. let me see, he said "we have not been able to get that nomination cleared yet on this side onl the will consult with republican colleagues and at some point let him know," that's me, "let him know whether did is possible to go forward." so he objected.
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that was disappointing. i am even more disappointed to announce or to call attention to the fact that we still are not able to clear miss tompkins for this important position. i think it's unfair to her. i think it's unfair to our former colleague, now secretary of interior salazar. he needs a capable person in this position. we should not be standing in the way of that occurring. i think his ability to serve the people of the country will be improved by having a good solicitor in that office and we should get on with the job of con firming that nomination. now, at the time that i was urging action on her nomination before i was advised that there were two senators who had objections, senator coburn had
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put a hold on the nominee because of concerns of one kind or another, i don't know the specifics. i believe senator bunning had, as well. i've now been advised that both of those senators have withdrawn their holds and are now satisfied. senator bunning had written a letter to mr. salazar, secretary salazar, raising concerns about coal mining and mountaintop removal related issues and secretary salazar responded to that letter on the 4th of june. as i understand it, senator coburn also wrote and his letter was to miss tompkins, raising questions about whether she was, in fact, committed to enforcing the law when she was the solicitor. and she wrote him back and said she is clearly committed to
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enforcing the law which, of course, would be part of other oath of office. and based on those exchanges of letters, i'm informed that both senator bunning and senator coburn are satisfied that her nomination can go forward at this time. i would ask unanimous consent at the end of my re, a to include the correspondence between those two -- response, to include the spoarpdz between these two senators -- correspondance tweencorrespond betweencorrespod problem is. why we cannot get this nomination cleared. i raise it at this point. i put people on notice -- or the senate on notice that if we're not able to get it cleared, i will, once again, come to the floor and ask unanimous consent later this week for us to proceed to executive session and
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to -- to confirm that nomination. i think this is a highly irregular process to just hold someone hostage for some totally unrelated concern, which she has no ability to control. and if there were some problem with nominee, if there is some objection to her qualifications, clearly that would be a different matter. but as far as i know, there is no objection to her qualifications there is no problem with this nominee or any statements she's made or any actions she's taken. and on that grounds, i think we need to move quickly to confirm her nomination, and i hope my colleagues will agree and allow that to happen later today. mr. president, with that, i yield the floor, and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mrs. murray: mr. president, this morning i rise to remind all of us of a promise our government has made to the american people. it is an unspoken trust that certain things in our lives and communities are taking care of. that we don't have to think much about because we trust our government to keep us safe. mr. president, i think most americans turn on the tap each day and expect the water that they drink to be safe and they probably don't think a lot about
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it. we expect if there's an emergency, we'll be able to pick up the phone and dial 911, someone will answer and send help to us. well, mr. president, that's exactly what the people who lived in bellingham, washington, used to think about oil and gas pipelines, if they thought about them at all. but all of our sense of safety and innocence was shattered 10 years ago today when tragedy struck for three families in an -- and an entire community came together to grieve and to learn and eventually stand up and say: never again. mr. president, june 10th, 1999, was a quiet sunny day in billingham, washington, and for a lot of students there, it was the last day of school for the year. that should have been how it remained as a day when kids played and celebrated about the coming of summer. but, unfortunately, due to a series of mistakes and neglectful actions, it is now
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remembered as the day of fear and loss that the community still grieves. 10 years ago today at around 3:30 in the afternoon on the west coast, a gasoline pipeline that ran through bellingham, ruptured releasing more than a million gallons of gasoline into wakham creek. that gas ignited sending a huge fireball destroying everything in its path for more than a mile. it created this huge plume of smoke where it rose more than 20,000 feet into the air. the photo behind me that you can see was taken just moments after that explosion. minutes before this, it was just a quiet creek. and this is what it looked like. that dramatic explosion took the lives tragically of three young people. steven servis and wade king were
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playing along the banks of the creek when this tremendous fireball ran across the water and set everything ablaze. steve threw wade into the creek to try to stop their burns. the boys were burned over 90% of their bodies and both died the next day. they were only 10 years. same afternoon, same time, liam wood, who just graduated from also five days earlier was fly fishing along the creek. he was overcome by the fumes, lost consciousness and drowned. steven, wade, and liam were innocent victims of a horrific accident. but it was an accident that could and should have been prevented. mr. president, pipelines networks stretch across the entire country. they run under our homes, they run by our schools and offices. most people don't even know
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they're there in fact, the former bellingham police chief don pierce who was on the scene back in 1999 was recently quoted and he said: as i was standing there, none of it make any sense, because wreaks don't catch on fire. i don't think i knew that there was a gas pipeline that ran under there. the chief of police didn't know there was a gas pipeline underneither that. mr. president, nationwide the office of pipeline safety oversees more than 2.3 million miles of pipeline that transports hazardous liquid and natural gas across communities in the entire country. they perform an important service bringing oil and essential products to our homes an businesses. prior to this accident in bellingham, washington, i rarely heard about themselves myself, and like most americans, i just assumed they were safe. at first i thought this bellingham explosion was a fluke, something that never happened. but, then, when i started to
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investigate this issue, i was astonished by what i learned. it turned out that what happened in bellingham was -- that day was not an isolated occurrence. in fact, it wasn't even rare. according to the office of pipeline safety, from 1986 until the time of this accident in 1999, there had been more than 5,500 incidents resulting in 310 deaths and 1,500 injuries. and not only had these accidents destroyed families, they destroyed the environment. at that time six million gallons of hazardous liquid were released by these incidents every year. that's like having an oil spill the size of the exxon valdez disaster every two years. and the environmental damage was estimated to cost $1 billion. mr. president in addition to the
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horrific loss sustain by these three families, this explosion caused massive environmental damage. in fact, i had been scheduled to be at this exact site just a few weeks later to dedicate a great newly restored salmon spawning ground. when i went there and saw the damage after the explosion, i was just shocked. that blast had destroyed all of the plant and animal life in the creek and a once very lush and diverse habitat had been burned to ashes. now, again, our community was not unique. at that time on average our nation was suffering one pipeline accident every single day. well, mr. president, while bellingham may not have been unique in our tragedy, we were one of a kind in our response. today, 10 years after this unthinkable happened, the story of the bellingham explosion is also now the story of how a community came together to tackle a nationwide problem and
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protect other americans from coast to coast. as we, together, learned about the problems with inspection and oversight of our national pipeline safety system, the community channeled their grief into action. through research, i found out that there were inadequate laws, insufficient oversight, too few inspections, and not enough trained inspectors as well as really a lack of awareness about these pipeline dangers. i learned that one of the most important public safety offices, the office of pipeline safety, was underfunded and neglected. so i asked the inspector general at the department of transportation to investigate the office of pipeline safety and provide recommendations for how we could make this system work better. and i got to work writing a bill to improve pipeline safety in america. but, mr. president, it turned out to be a very long, hard fight to convince congress that this was something we


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