tv [untitled] CSPAN June 10, 2009 1:30pm-2:00pm EDT
generic drugs. for many months now i've been working with several members, most notably senator shaheen of new hampshire, on bipartisan consensus generic drug reform. once again i was very hopeful that this f.d.a. bill on the floor of the senate now would be a prime opportunity, an obvious opportunity to pass that consensus bipartisan reform. once again, that door was closed to us. we're not going to have that opportunity. i express real disappointment. but we need to act in that area. i look forward to continuing to work with senator shaheen and senator brown and others in that important area. we have been focused on two things in particular that could make the huge difference. first, we need to clear up
certain loopholes, quite frankly, in the law, that allowed drug companies to make labeling changes when their patent protection is about to run out, when gentleman nearbi e market and we need to clear up those loopholes so generics can come to market and provide americans with a lower cost alternative. surely the drug companies need a period of protection so they can recoup their enormous investment in research and development. but what they don't need and what we should not allow, in my opinion, is tweaking the labels at the 11th hour and extending
that protection in an artificial and, in my opinion, unreasonable way. way. so that's a big area of reform i've been working on with senator shaheen and others and a second area of needed reform is to elevate the office of generic drugs and elevate its importance within the f.d.a. we need to give it more stature. we need to have the head of that office report directly to the head of the f.d.a., the administrator, and we need to fund it properly. again, we put the proper emphasis, the proper streamlining, on gentleman new yorgeneric drugswhich are a goot alternative to millions and millions of seniors and other americans and they provide that today but they can provide that lower cost alternative to a greater extent if we take these commonsense consensus bipartisan measures. if we do away with the loopholes
that allow last-minute labeling changes, to artificially and unreasonably extend a company's patent protection, if we elevate the stature in the place of the office of generic drugs within the f.d.a. again, it was an obvious opportunity to do just that in a bipartisan consensus way as we debate and act on this major f.d.a. bill on the floor of the senate now. i'm sorry that door has been closed to us. i'm sorry we've lot that opportunity. it's a shame. but we need to move on that issue just as we need to move on reimportation now in the next few months, this year, in this body, and in the u.s. house. we desperately need important health care reform. we need savings in the system to make costs of the overall health care system more reasonable
without sacrificing patient care; without telling seniors they can't get this treatment; they can't get that operation. these are commonsense achievable ways to do that by stabilizing the cost of prescription drugs. that's one of the most significant costs in our health care system with one of the most significant growth patterns. so let's act. let's act on reimportation, let's act on generic reform in a bipartisan way, acting for the best interests of the american seniors and the american people. with that, madam president, i yield back the door. mr. sanders: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont.
mr. sanders: madam president, i rise today to introduce the energy market manipulation prevent act. madam president, as you know, we are in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the great depression. millions of our fellow americans are losing their homes, they are losing their jobs, they're losing their live savings and their ability to seep thei sends to college and the hope that their own children will have a brighter future and a better life than they have had and this is just the very unusual moment in the history of our country. in the midst of all of this concern and decline in the standard of living of millions of americans, the last thing, the last thing that our country needs right now is to see our
people be ripped off at the gas pump this summer because speculators on wall street, some of the very same people who caused this recession, and who have received the largest taxpayer bailout in american history, are allowed to jack up oil prices through price manipulation and outright fraud. this is obviously not only an issue for the moment, for millions and millions of people who drive to work every day, for truckers, for farmers, all dependent upon gas but it is also an issue for many parts of our country such as vermont where a lot of our people heat with oil. we're not going to sit around idly and watch the price of oil artificially rise so that elderly people who heat with oil are unable to adequately heat their homes in the wintertime.
madam president, unfortunately, this artificial increase in oil and gas prices is exactly what is happening now as it occurred similarly last summer when the price of oil hit $147 a barrel, the price of gas at the pump was over $4 a gallon and truckers paid more than $5 a gallon for diesel fuel. that's where we were headed last summer and we are headed back there right now unless congress moves in an aggressive way to say "no" to speculation on oil futures. madam president, as you know, thprice of oil is supposed to be based on the fundamentals of supply and demand not by excessive speculation. but all of us learned in
economics 101, if there is limited supply and a lot of demand the price of the product goes up. if there's a lot of supply and limited demand the price goes down. that is one of the basic tenets of free market capitalism but interestingly, last month, crude oil inventories in the united states were at their highest level on record while demand for oil in the united states dropped to its lowest level in more than a decade. in other words, there was a record amount of supply and less demand than we have seen over the last 10 years. further, the international energy agency recently predicted the global demand for oil would drop this year to its lowest level since 1981. what's going on?
demand is going down, supply is high and what the fundamentals of economic theory would tell us is that gas and oil prices would go down. but as everybody who fills up their gas tank today understands, that is certainly not the case because gas and oil prices are going up. despite the record supply of oil and reduced demand, prices are going up, not down. in fact, the national average price of gasoline has cropped dd from $1.64 late last year to over $2.60 today. and crude oil prices recently reached a seven-month high. the american people have a right to ask, why is this happening in contradiction to the basic economic process of supply and demand.
we have a right and we have the obligation to act to protect those consumers. madam president, the increased prices that millions of motorists are currently seeing have caused severe financial hardship for american families, truckers, small businesses, airlines and farmers and it is putting enormous strain on an economy already in the throes of a deep recession. we passed the stimulus package in order to create millions of jobs, in order to put money into the happens of working people, many of whom had lost their jobs. and now what we're seeing as a result of this artificial increase in the price of gas and oil is those tax breaks that we gave to working families are going not into the local economy, they're going right back into wall street and speculation and they're going to the oil companies.
madam president, all of us have a responsibility to do everything we can to lower oil and gas prices immediately so that they reflect supply and demand fundamentals not excessive speculation. therefore, the legislation i'm introducing today will require the commodities futures trading commission to use its emergency powers to prevent the manipulation of oil prices and empower the cftc to prohibit excessive speculation in the oil markets. last july, the house of representatives passed similar legislation by a vote of 402-19. widely bipartisan. but that legislation, unfortunately, did not become law. madam president, in addition,
this legislation would also require the cftc to, one, immediately classify all bank holding companies and hedge funds engaged in energy futures trading as noncommercial participants and subject them to strict position limits. number two, this legislation would eliminate the conflicts of interest that arise when a firm, large wall street financial institution, has employees under one umbrella responsible for predicting the future price of oil -- the so-called analysts -- and while the same company controls physical oil assets and trading energy derivatives. number three, this legislation would immediately revoke all staff, no action letters, for foreign board of trades that have been established, that have established trading terminals in
the united states for the purpose of trading u.s. commodities to u.s. investors. madam president, i am delighted that mark children, one of the commissioners at the united states commodity futures trading commission has supported this legislation. let me briefly tell you from a letter which i will, without an objection submit, and quote from a letter to me dated june 9. he says -- quote -- "use know the commodity changes act provides the cftc with broad emergency authority to take action in its discretion in order to maintain or restore orderly trading. in your proposed legislation you have identified critically important areas of concern, excessive speculation in energy commodities, classification of bank holding companies and
limits on their energy trading, hedge fund registration, classification and trading limits, conflicts of interest by entities that trade and advise in the energy arena and foreign market access. i wholeheartedly agree with you that the time to act on these issues is now and the cftc should aggressively utilize all available authorities as appropriate including but not limited to emergency authority as currently defined in the c.e.a. to address these pressing issues," from mark children, commissioner of u.s. commodity futures trading commission. on may 28th, madam president, i wrote to the new chairman of the cftc, urging him to undertake many of these initiatives. last week, in my office, i
discussed this issue with mr. gentsler and he instructd the staff to give all the options available to respond to the concerns. and while i appreciate the efforts i hope this legislation spurs the cftc to take immediate action. bottom line is, right now at a time when unemployment is soaring, when the middle class is struggling to keep its head above water, the prices at the gas pump are soaring and we worry about what oil prices in the northern part of our country will be in the winter time. there is very strong evidence to suggest that what we're talking about here is not supply and demand, but excessive speculation on the part of wall street in terms of pushing up oil futures. this congress must act to protect the middle class and
speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. durbin: yesterday i reintroduced the credit card fair fee act. it will provide fairness and transparency in the credit card fees. the senate passed legislation that will crack down on abusive fees an practices that credit card providers impose on consumers and cardholders. this landmark legislation 20 years in the mak making, and i s pleased to support. it we need to look at the fees an restrictions that credit card providers impose on retailers. retailers like the restaurant down the corner, the grocery store, the shop. these have to be looked at as wes. banks an credit card companies impose fees an restrictions on retailers who accept their cards as a form of payment. many fees are anticompetitive