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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 10, 2009 2:00pm-2:30pm EDT

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many people assume that credit cards make their money off the customers who use them in direct payment an interest charges and penalties. it turns out this is a whole level of fees that is -- that are imposed on retailers which obviously are passed on to consumers but have a direct impact on sales in america. if we don't address flaws in the system, many businesses find it hard to make a profit. credit card interchange fees cause consumer prices to go up as well. the most flawed element of the current system of merchant fees is this interchange fee. it's a fee that merchants phi card issuing banks on each card or credit transaction. under the current system, card networks like visa and mast spur card, unilaterally set the rates for these interchange fees. these fees vary from card to card but they average about 2% of the transaction that they cover. card companies don't let their member banks negotiate with
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merchants over the fee rates and they prevent merchants from encouraging customers to use cards that carry lower fees. yesterday, the secretary of the treasury was -- it owrntz we accept credit cards for some 200 agencies of the federal government. i asked the secretary how much we pay in interchange fees to these credit card companies as we accept credit card payments for everything from taxes to purchases of general government printing office. turns out it's over $200illion a year. the g.a.o. did a study in which it was asked whether, in fact, the federal government bargains for lower interchange fees because the volume of business that we do. it turns out there's virtually no bargaining allowed, not even with the federal government. if merchants want to accept credit cards, those merchants simply have to abide by the rates, just like the federal government, that the card networks set, even when the rates are increased. in fact, card companies regularly increase their
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interchange rates. a report by the federal reserve bank in kansas city found that between 1996 and 2006, visa and mastercard average interchange rates increased from approximately $1.30 per $100 transaction to $1.80. that's about a 40% increase over that ten-year period of time. and the rates have gone up even further for dhardz have rewards -- cards that have rewards programs. the total amount of interchange fees collected last year was $48 billion, according to estimates of the national retail federation. that's a huge increase from 2001 when the figure was $16.6 billion. despite these rising fees, many merchants have no real choice but to accept these cards as a form of payment. consumers use their credit and debit cards for over 40% of all transactions. interchange fees cut into retailer profits and force many merchants to raise consumer prices or go out of business. as you think about it, what does
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it mean for the profitability of a company if the business is required to pay the credit card company 2% of the sale price on every sale? well, for some companies that operate on a very tight marge irntion it can be significant -- margin, it can be significant. best buy, the large and successful electronics retailer, has a net profit margin of only 2.2%. whole foods, a well-known grocery store, has a profit margin of 1.4%. the food and drugstore retail sector has a profit margin of only 1.4%, according to "fortune" magazine. 10* how can these companies continue -- so how can these companies continue to be profitable if rising interchange fees paid to credit card companies cut into their already small operating margins? in 2007, the national association of convenience stores reported the entire convenience store industry had profits of $3.4 billion. however, paid credit card interchange fees of $7.6 billion. over twice the amount of
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industry profit was paid to credit card providers. and, of course, it has an impact on smaller businesses. rich neman, a friend of mine who's coming by my office this afternoon in washington, runs neman foods, a chain of 65 grocery stores based in quincy, illinois. every year i meet with him and every year he asks me for help with interchange fees. last year, neman foods made $6 million in profits but paid $3 million in interchange fees. those fee payments are going up every year. he has no ability to negotiate any change in those fee amounts and it's a growing expense he can't control. rising interchange fees force many merchants to raise the prices of their goods to cover the interchange costs. i don't want to drive small grocery stores out of business or small convenience stores. we don't want prices to go up for consumers across the bored becausboredbecause of nonnegotit card fees. the credit card fair fee act will help restore fairness. the goal is simple: it
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incentivizes companies that provide credit cards and the merchants that accept them to sit down together and negotiate a fee and terms that both sides can live w. the bill establishes a framework for negotiations and gives both sides a legitimate voice at the table. under the bill, merchants would receive limited antitrust immunity to negotiate directl directly -- pardon me, collectively with the providers of a card system over the fees and terms for access to the system. the bill then motivates the merchants and card providers to work out voluntary agreements. it establishes a mandatory period for negotiations. if they fail to reach a voluntary agreement, then the matter would go to an arbitration-style proceeding before a panel of judges appointed by the justice department and the federal trade commission. the judges would collect and disclose full information about credit card fees and costs and order a mandatory settlement conference to attempt to facilitate a deal. if that fails, the judges could conduct a hearing with the merchants and card providers and
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would each propose what they think is a fair set of fees and terms. the judges then would sleng sele proposal that most closely represents what would be fairly negotiated in a competitive market. this set of fees and terms would govern access to the card system for merchants for a period of three years. the bill contains safeguards to ensure that judges can only select a set of proposed fees and terms that's fair and pro-consumer. the ultimate goal is for the process never to get to the point where the judges would need to issue a ruling. mr. president, this is a archaic element of commerce in america that has a direct impact on consumers, the money that we pay for goods and services, as well as the profit margins of a lot of businesses that are struggling. the credit card companies have been unable to justify their interchange knees terms of the -- fees in terms of the actual cost of processing credit card payments. it is a profit margin on their side for which they're not accountable. my legislation, supported by the
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merchants payments coalition, the coalition of retailers, supermarkets, convenience stor stores, drugstores, fuel stations, on-line merchants, and other businesses. the coalitions' member associations collectively represent about 2.7 million stores nationwide with approximately 50 million employees. i ask my fellow colleagues in the senate to take a look at it. i warn them in advance that if they are interested in looking at this issue on credit cards and interchange fees, be prepared. you're going to hear from every bank that issues a credit card and they're going to tell you that the durbin legislation is the end of the world. well, i hope that you'll also listen to the merchants and retailers in the states that you represent and they will tell you that this system is unconscionable and unsustainab unsustainable. to have the credit card companies dictate these fees to their retailers all across america is fundamentally unfair. we should have arms length negotiation. we should have even at the federal government level a negotiation to dwhearn i determs
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the best arrangement for taxpayers when it comes to paying these credit card fees to the companies that provide credit cards for transactions with the federal government. it's not an unreasonable approach but i hope my colleagues will take a look at it and i hope that they'll listen to their merchants and retailers back in their states. mr. president, i ask that the statement i'm about to make be placed at a separate part of the record if this earlier statement. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. durbin: mr. president, i want to commend the obama administration for the progress that they've made to date on closing the detention facility at guantanamo bay. according to media reports tod today, the obama administration has reached an historic agreement with the government of palao to transfer 17 guantanamo detainees to this specific island. these 17 detainees are uighurs from china. the bush administration determined that all 17 are not enemy combatants and do not pose any risk to u.s. national security.
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the bush administration had determined that the uighurs couldn't be legally returned to china for fear that they would be imprisoned and tortured. a federal court looked at all the classified evidence against these 17 uighurs. the court found there's no legitimate reason to hold them and ordered them released. mr. president, this administration is going to follow that court and follow the law. i commend president obama and those working with him for finding a solution to what has been a vexing problem by convincing the government of palao to accept the uighur detainees. this is the kind of diplomacy that we need to achieve a better standing in the world and a more peaceful and secure situation for the united states. another thing happened yesterday as well. there was an important development. the administration transferred ahmed galani to the united states to be prosecuted for his involvement in the 1998 bombings of our embassies in kenya and tanzania. those bombings killed 224 peop
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people, including 12 americans. i had been to kenya. i saw the bombed building. it was devastating. and it's hard to imagine what happened inside that building and nearby when those bombs were detonated. we know that 224 people died, including 12 of our own. i want to commend president obama for his determination to hold ahmed ghalani accountable for his alleged crimes. for seven long years, the bush administration had failed to convict any of the terrorists who planned the 9/11 terrorist attacks. and for seven long years, only three individuals were convicted by military commissions at guantanamo. two of those individuals, incidentally, have been released. now, president obama's been clear. it is a priority for his administration to bring to justice the planners of 9/11 and other terrorists who've attacked our country, like ahmed ghalani. now, unfortunately, this issue has become very political and
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very complicated over the last several months. some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have expressed some things in the senate -- on the senate floor which i don't think are consistent with the security of the united states. senator mcconnell, the distinguished minority leader, and senator kyl, the distinguished assistant minority leader, have argued that we should not transfer suspected terrorists from guantanamo to the united states in order to bring them to justice. they have argued that we cannot safely hold any of these detainees in prison in the united states even, one of their arguments, during the course of a trial. when you look at the failed track record of prosecuting terrorists at guantanamo, it's pretty clear. if ahmed ghalani isn't prosecuted in the u.s. courts, there's a good chance he'll never be punished for his crimes. president obama's made it clear. he said -- and i quote -- "preventing this detainee from coming to our shores would prevent his trial and convicti conviction, and after over a
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decade, it is time to finally see that justice is served and that is what we intend to do." now, even senator kyl appears to have softened his position. on the floor of the senate yesterday, he spoke about ahmed ghalani and said -- and i quote -- "everybody acknowledges there are some people who need to be tried for serious crimes. in effect, like war crimes, and they should be tried in the united states." i commend senator kyl for this statement. i think it is a sensible, reasonable position. but let us acknowledge the obvious. if we are going to try these guantanamo detainees in the united states, we are going to incarcerate them while we try them. there's no other reasonable alternative. and if they are found guilty and face imprisonment, what will we do with them? i'm glad senator kyl acknowledged the obvious. of course we have to bring these terrorists to justice. and an american court is the best place to do it. the u.s. government frequently brings extremely dangerous individuals to the u.s. for
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prosecution. ramsey youseff, mastermind of the 1993 world trade center bombing, brought to the u.s., convicted, now being held in a federal supermax federal prison, a convicted terrorist. some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle continue continue -- continually argue that we should not prosecute detainees in u.s. courts because no prison in america is safe to hold them. yam see youseff was held in the metropolitan corrections center in new york during the course of his trial for over two years. safely. my colleagues seem to think ma that american corrections -- think that american corrections officer are not capable of safely holding terrorists. lindsey graham, who's a military lawyer, said -- and i quote -- "the idea that we can't find a flies securely house 250-plus detainees within the united states is not rational." what's the record? today, our federal prisons --
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and this is the most updated number from the justice department -- our federal prisons hold 355 convicted terrorists, including al qaeda leaders like ramsey youseff, who masterminded the world trade center bombing in 1993. no prisoner has ever escaped from a federal supermax security facility. clearly -- supermaximum security facility. clearly we know thousand hold these terrorists -- how to hold these terrorists safely and security so no one in america is at risk. unfortunately, some on the other side of the aisle continue to argue that we should keep guantanamo open at all costs. i disagree. i believe, president obama believes and i believe many americans believe that closing guantanamo is an important national security priority. now, it isn't just the president and president bush, for example, who wanted to close guantanamo, among those military and security leaders calling for the closing of guantanamo are general colin powell, the former chairman of the joint chiefs of
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staff and former secretary of state, republican senators john mccain and lindsey graham, former republican secretaries of state james baker, henry kissinger and condeleeza rice, defense secretary robert gates, first appointed by president bush, admiral mike mull learning the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and general david petraeus. y yesterday senator kyl made a statement taking issue with some of my earlier comments about guantanamo. he asked -- quote -- "what is wrong with the prison at guantanamo?" let me respond to his question. what's wrong with guantanamo is that it is a recruiting tool for al qaeda and other terrorists. that isn't just my opinion. it's the opinion of military leaders based on their experience actually fighting wars in afghanistan and iraq. the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff mike mullen said the concern i've had about guantanamo is that it has been a recruiting symbol for those extremists and jihaddists who would fight us. that's the heart of the concern
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for guantanamo's continued existence. general david petraeus said guantanamo is -- quote -- "a symbol that is used by our enemies to our disadvantage who beat around the head and shoulders with it." defense secretary robert gates said closing guantanamo is essential to national security. it has become a rallying cry and recruitment tool for our enemies. of course skaoeul is entitled to his -- of course senator kyl is entitled to his opinion and i respect him very much and count him as a friend, but we don't hear evidence to support his opinion, certainly not evidence that compares with those that i've quoted here, starting with general colin powell. not only is guantanamo a recruiting tool, there is evidence that the al qaeda is recruiting terrorists within guantanamo. the mckhra which i newspapers did an -- the mcclatchey newspaper says guantanamo often produces more terrorists by
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rounding up low-level foot soldiers and men with no allegiance to radical islam. this newspaper found that -- quote -- "guantanamo became a school for jihad and an american madras. rear admiral mark bugsby said i must make the assumption there is a fully functioning al qaeda cell at guantanamo. senator kyl continues to claim that no one was abused at guantanamo and there is no connection between the abuses at abu ghraib and guantanamo. i would commend for his reading the senate armed services committee bipartisan report which reached a different conclusion. senator levin, the democratic chairman of the committee. senator mccain, the ranking republican of the committee found -- and i quote -- "secretary of defense donald rumsfeld's authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques at guantanamo bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there. end of quote. they also concluded there was a
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connection between abu ghraib and guantanamo in saying the abuse of detainees at abu ghraib was not the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. acts such as stripping detainees of their clothes and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in iraq only after they had been approved for use in afghanistan and at gitmo. susan crawford, a top bush administration official reached the same basic conclusion. let me conclude by saying this: president bush called for the closure of guantanamo. there were little or no -- few if no complaints from the republican side. now that president obama has made that same call, we hear this chorus of opposition. i think president obama has accepted a challenge. the challenge to make certain that these detainees are treated in a responsible way, that those who should stand trial will stand trial for their crimes and
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war crimes. that those who cannot be brought to section 3 courts in america should be tried before reformed military traoeupbls that have rules of evidence and procedure -- tribunals that have rules of evidence consistent with our values and laws. that some will be returned, like the uighur, if they pose no threat. and some will be kept in contention because they continue to be a threat to our nation. that is a responsible course of conduct. it deserves bipartisan support. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, this is the car czar award for wednesday, june 10, 2009. the award is a service to taxpayers from america's new automotive headquarters: washington, d.c. it's a second in a series of car czar awards to be confirmed, to be conferred upon washington
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meddlers who distinguish themselves by making it harder for auto companies your government owns to compete in the world marketplace. on monday i presented the first car czar award to the honorable barney frank of massachusetts for interfering in the operation of general motors. congressman frank, chairman of the house financial services committee, intervened last week to save a general motors distribution center in his massachusetts congressional district. the warehouse which employs some 90 people was slated for closing under g.m.'s restructuring plan, but mr. frank put in a call to the g.m. chief executive officer, fritz henderson, and lo and behold the facility has a new lease on life according to "the wall street journal." mr. frank, of course, is chairman of the house committee that recently orchestrated paying $62 billion in taxpayer money to give the u.s. treasury 60% ownership of general motors and 8% ownership of chrysler. now for the second car czar award, there are many deserving
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contenders. for example, this afternoon my distinguished colleague, the honorable chris dodd, mr. frank's senate counterpart, is chairing a banking committee hearing featuring two of the administration's chief meddlers in washington-owned auto companies. one is mr. ron bloom, a senior advisor on the auto industry at treasury. the other is mr. ed montgomery, white house director of recovery for auto communities and workers. and tomorrow over in the house of representatives, the financial services committee will hold a hearing on salaries of workers in companies the government owns. another obvious contender for the car czar award today is the administration's new chief price fixer for the cost of labor, mr. kenneth fineberg who will review and approve how managers of car companies are paid. according to "the new york times" article on june 8, mr. fineberg is likely not just to tell government-owned car
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companies and banks how much to pay people. it's likely -- quote -- "everyone else's compensation will be monitored too." but there is time next week to honor all these worthy contenders. today's car czar award clearly should go to the members of the wisconsin and michigan and tennessee congressional delegations, each of whom met today in washington with g.m. executives imploring them to build small cars in our home states. in tennessee's case, of course, we were talking about the state your name plant in spring hill recently placed on stand-by. in other words, mr. president, i'm giving the car czar award today to, among others, myself, the senior senator from tennessee. now, in my own defense, as mr. frank's spokesman sawed on -- said on monday, when mr. tkpwrafrpbg was caught calling g.m. about the warehouse in his congressional district, mr. frank was -- quote -- "just
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doing what any other congressman would do" in looking out for the interest of his constituency. that's what i was doing today. but that is precisely the problem and precisely the reason for these car czar awards. as "the wall street journal" put it -- quote -- "that's the problem with industrial policy and government control of american business. in washington, every member of congress now thinks he's a czar who can call old fritz and tell him how to make cars. unquote. but consider for a moment the implications of all 535 of us in congress regularly participating in such incest whitehouse behavior. it is one thing -- incestuous behavior. it is one thing to argue to general motors to put the state your name plant in tennessee right next to the nissan plant. that was an arm's length transaction. it's quite another thing for me as united states senator and a member of the government, that on 60% of the company to urge
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g.m. executives to build cars in my state. i can pretend i'm making my case on the merits -- central location, right to work laws, four-lane highways, hundreds of suppliers, low taxes, a successful japanese competitor 40 miles away, a german company that's picked tennessee to make its north american cars. but my incestuous relationship as owner taints the whole affair. so i will continue to confer car czar awards seeking to end the incestuous nature of these meetings and time-waving hearings until congress and the president enact my auto stock for every taxpayer legislation which would distribute the government stock in general motors and chrysler to the 120 million americans who pay taxes on a april 15. such a stock distribution is the fastest way to get ownership of the auto companies out of the hands of me tkelg washington
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politicians and back into the hands of americans in the marketplace. it's also the fastest way to allow the car company managers to design, build, and sell cars rather than scurry around washington under oath usually answering questions and being instructed by their political owners how to build cars and trucks. distributing the stock to the taxpayers may also be the fastest way for congressmen to get themselves elected again. according to the national tennesseean and auto pacific survey reports that 81% of americans agree -- quote -- "that the faster the government gets out of the automotive business, the better." now here's an invitation for those who may be listening. if you know of a washington car czar who deserves to be honored, i hope you will e-mail me at caraward at alexander.senate.gov
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and i'll give you full credit in my regular car czar reports on the floor of the united states senate. and after you write me, i hope you'll write or call your congressman and senators and remind them to enact the auto stock for every taxpayer act just as soon as general motors emerges from bankruptcy. all you need to say when you write or call are these eight magic words: "i paid for it. i should own it." thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: mr. president, i would ask unanimous consent that i could speak in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. cardin: mr. president, i'm glad that we are now engaged in the health care debate. this debate is long overdue. and i congratulate the obama administration for taking on the
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tough issues. this is none an easy subject in order to reach the type of consensus necessary to pass major legislation. there's a lot of special interests that are going to make it difficult for us to move forward. but i'm proud that this administration's taking this issue up, because we are in a health care crisis in america. i say that because the cost of health care is not sustainable. we spend twice as much as the next most expensive nation in the world per capita on health care. $2.4 trillion a year, 15% of our gross domestic product on health care. and those numbers are increasing dramatically each and every year. the cost of health care is not sustainable. we had a great deal of discussion here about fiscal responsibility and bringing our budget into balance. president obama's correct, if we don't deal with the escalating cost of health care is going to
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make it virtually impossible for us to bring our budgets into balance in the future. whether it's the medicare budget or the medicaid budget or our household's budget, we've got to do a better job in reining in the cost of health care. america needs to be competitive internationally. we can't be competitive internationally unless we find a way to bring down the cost of health care. family insurance premiums have gone up threefold in the last eight years alone. much faster than earnings. three times as fast as earnings. the consequences for marylanders is that they're going into bankruptcy. you heard it said, we're only one health incident away from filing bankruptcy in america, for many families. they have to make difficult choices. should i really go see a doctor or not? is it really that important? because do i really have the money in order to lay out? it's not covered by my
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insurance, or i don't have insurance and what will i do. america, we have 46 million americans today who have no health insurance. and they're very costly in the way nevada enter our health care system. they use the emergency rooms. they don't get preventive health care. they spend a lot of money. increased 20% over the last 8 years. in maryland we have 760,000 marylanders, 15.4% of our nonelderly population that does not have health insurance. so, mr. president, we need to reform our health care system. we need to build on what's right in our health care system and correct what is wrong. now, what is right is that we have some of the highest quality health care in the world. i'm proud of the fact that people from all over the world travel to my own state of maryland to visit johns hopkins university or the university of maryland medical center or n.i.h. in order to get their health care needs met or to train their health care professionals. we want to maintain that edge in

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