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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  December 17, 2009 12:00pm-5:00pm EST

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issue of helping the unemployed, they should read this article that i've just put in the record. people across this country are not only worried about getting a job and taking care of their families, it's reached a point where it is traumatic. some of them were making critical life decisions, spending their savings, knowing -- no health insurance to cover themselves or their kids. i would just ask the republicans who will follow me, please, regardless of how long you want to talk today, agree with us that we should move quickly to fund our troops, send the money for those members of the military and their families to give them the peace of mind that we stand behind them. don't make them part of any political delay and strategy that really leaves uncertainty. let's do it today. let's not wait until the money runs out tomorrow and fund our unemployment benefits too. let's give these families, who through no fault of their own, are out of work, the peace of
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mind knowing that when we go home for christmas, that they will have, even if it is small, an unemployment check coming in. mr. grassley: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa is recognized. mr. grassley: i ask to speak as if in morning business for 10 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. grassley: mr. president, i rise on the issue of jobs and 10% unemployment and to tell my fellow senators what we can do to preserve maybe 23,000 jobs yet in an industry that by the end of the month will be otherwise shut down because congress is not taking action. and the main point of my remarks are the issue of if we don't extend the biodiesel tax credit by the end of the month, she's jobs will be lost. in fact -- mr. durbin: excuse me senator. do you mind if i make a unanimous consent request? i'm sorry to interrupt you. i didn't have this when i was speaking, i have 10 unanimous consent requests for committees to meet in today's session of
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the senate, they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders, i ask that these be agreed to and printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. grassley: mr. president, my point was that 23,000 jobs will be lost and, in fact, right now on december the 17th, continues are taking plans to shut down these operations by the end of the year. so everybody knows that our unemployment rate is 10%. everybody knows that the president has spent a great deal of time over the last two other three weeks talkin talking about creating jobs and getting us out of the recession. but we have to remember that for those without work this is not just a recession, it's a depression. we all agree that we should take whatever action's necessary to jump-start our economy and get people back to work.
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president obama, vice president biden, have been talking for months about the need to create green jobs. well, green jobs, purple jobs, whatever kind of jobs, jobs are jobs. and i don't object to the creation of green jobs. in fact, what i'm talking about is some of these green jobs. president obama recently has held three public events in recent days to highlight his concern about the economy and the need to create jobs. yesterday, the administration apparently announced billions more for tax credits and renewable energy and energy conservation efforts. i'll bet when you look at that list, i'm going to support most of those because i believe a national energy policy involves capturing whatever we can of -- of petroleum and fossil fuels we have available for a short period of time because we're
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never going to get rid of them in the short term. we need conservation and we need renewable and alternative energy. those three things make a comprehensive energy program. so obviously if i'm for that comprehensive energy program, i'm for renewable energy and alternative energy. it seems like nearly everyone, in fact, in the administration is touting the benefits of green jobs and clean energy economy, and i'm doing that right now myself. it's astonishing, though, with all of this talk about green jobs and clean energy that this congress right now will -- seems to be heading for the holidays while thousands of green energy workers will receive pink slips and furloughs. on december 31 of this year, the current biodiesel tax credit
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will expire. the biodiesel tax credit provides a $1-per-gallon credit for biodiesel made from soybean oil ask yellow grease and animal fats. the tax credit is essential in maintaining the competitiveness of this clean burning domestically produced green fuel and the jobs that are connected with it. the tax credit exists for commonsense reasons, something we've been using for a long period of time to offset the higher costs of producing biodiesel or i could just as well insert the word "ethanol" in there compared to petroleum diesel. without the tax credit, petroleum marketers will be unwilling to purchase the more expensive biodiesel and demand will vanish. and from this standpoint of tax credit, i hope everybody remembers, whether it's wind or whether it's energy -- ethanol
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or whether it's solar or whether it's biodiesel or biomass, w geothermal that it takes tax credits to get these programs off the ground. right now wind energy is a big industry in my state, not only from the production standpoint but from the standpoint of manufacturing of components, because in 1992, i got a wind energy tax credit passed. otherwise, we would not have a wind energy and everybody touts wind energy today. well, it's a little bit like the very infant of biodiesel industry wealth. you know, you might not think biofuels are an infant industry because ethanol's been around for 30 years. but biodiesel is about where ethanol was 30 years ago. and so we want to -- we want to help move this industry along, so eventually it can stand on its own legs, like that's the
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motive behind all these tax credits, to get an infant industry started and then they stand on their own. in 2008, getting back to the jobs in this industry, biodiesel had supported 51,000 green jobs because of the downturn in the economy and the credit crisis, the biodiesel industry has already shed 29,000 green jobs. so now what about the rest of those jobs. that's what my remarks are all about and that's what getting the tax credit renewed at the end -- before the end of the year is all about. because the industry is currently operating at just around 15% of capacity. without an extension of the tax credit, all u.s. biodiesel production will grind to a halt. plants will be shuttered and workers will be let go. no one should be surprised,
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then, by the upcoming expiration of this tax credit. it was extended most recently in october 2008. so we've known for 14 months, hence nobody should be surprised that it would need to be extended by the end of this year. the senate has been in session nearly continuously for months. earlier this year, senator cantwell and i introduced a bill to extend the tax credit for five years and change it to a production tax credit. there's no excuse for inaction on this credit. the democratic leadership is intent to leave -- content to leave here without doing the necessary work on extenders, believing that they can extend the tax provisions retroactively sometime next year 78 year. retroactivity does work a lot of times on tax extenders that are not extended at the end of the year and are made retroactive,
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but retroactivity in the case of the biodiesel market doesn't help bring it from the grinding to a halt on january the 1st, 2010. because without the incentive, the biodiesel will cost much more than petroleum diesel. while the house and senate dither, thousands will lose their jobs, demand for dirty imported petroleum diesel, however, will continue. investments in domestic renewable fuels industry will lose valuable -- value and possibly disappear. quite to the contrary, what i just said earlier in my remarks of yesterday, the president announcing various tax credits. so this one's been on the books. tall has to do is be reauthorized. so it's too bad among all the talk of green jobs and the clean energy economy that congress is unable to pass a simple
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extension of an existing tax credit. once again, the actions of the majority do not match their words. for all the talk, they will have failed all those in the biodiesel industry working today to reduce our dependence upon foreign oil if we leave here without extending this critical tax credit before the end of the year. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from texas is recognized. mr. cornyn: mr. president, we've conferred with the other side of the aisle and i think we've reached an agreement that i would ask for unanimous consent that i be allowed to speak for up to ten minutes and then i believe two senators from the other side of the aisle would like to speak for up to ten minutes each. so i'd ask for unanimous consent to that effect. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. cornyn: thanks,
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mr. president. it shows we can still do some bipartisan things around here still, albeit small things. mr. president, we're talking about the defense appropriations bill, but i think it's important to point out that the majority leader has waited until the very last minute to bring this very important bill up which i'm sure will pass by large majorities, but it was two years -- two months ago that the fiscal year ended. and the majority leader has now left us here eight days before christmas with a lot on our plate, a lot yet to do, and, of course, threatening to keep congress here through christmas -- certainly up to christmas, and, of course, we are -- i won't say we're happy to be here but this is a great responsibility. these are important issues and none of us are going to shy away from dealing with these issues, albeit eight days before
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christmas. it's also appropriate to talk about christmas because this bill not only funds our troops, it is a christmas tree on which members of congress have hung nice, shiny little ornaments. provisions that have nothing to do with funding our troops and the defense appropriation bill. as a matter of fact, this bill would actually create new entitlement spending programs. that's what some of these little shiny ornaments are, rather than fix the ones we have. but it is significant. we're talking about our troops at the same time we're talking more generally about health care, because under federal law, tricare, which handles the reimbursement rates for the health care for our troops and their families, is required under federal law to follow medicare reimbursement rates. and we know that under the
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underlying health care bill that we'll be considering up until christmas, it looks like, that there are actually going to be $500 billion in cuts to medica medicare, and the concern is that if their access to care is jeopardized for medicare beneficiaries, which we know it will be for at least some, particularly medicare advantage beneficiaries, and there are cuts to tricare reimbursement rates -- cuts to tricare reimbursement rates could follow. we also know that this bill includes a two-month band-aid for the medicare reimbursement rates for doctors, the so-called doc fix. this is the sustainable growth rate formula which has never worked since congress passed it in 1997. it shows that congress makes assumptions, this one back in 1997, that we're going to cut medicare here and in this particular instance, medicare
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reimbursement rates for doctors, and that somehow that won't have a negative impact on people's ability to find a doctor who will see them. well, i know that in travis county in austin, texas, the last report, only 17% of doctors will see a new medicare patient. and it's even worse for medicaid, which pays less than medicare. so we know that the cuts that the underlying health care bill will make to medicare are going to have an impact, a negative impact, on access to care for many of our seniors. and because tricare rates are linked to medicare rates under federal law, they could well jeopardize our troops and their dependents' access to care as well. but this experience we've had since 1997 under the balanced budget act with the sustainable growth rate, which unless congress acts will actually cut reimbursement rates for doctors by 23%, and this bill provides a two-month -- a two-month fix --
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that these assumptions have never worked. and yet this bill, this health care bill, which we've seen -- at least the 2,074-page version; we have yet to see the read substitute which will appear i'm sure miraculously sometime around saturday as the medical tries to cram -- as the majority leader tries to cram this bill through before christmas. it -- we know it contains or will contain many other assumptions like this s.g.r. formula that will improve unenforceable and will never work. but yet those will be used by the congressional budget office to provide a cost estimate or score which may meet the demands of politics today but which will bear no relationship whatsoever to the ultimate costs, and the american people understand that. they understand the budget gimmicks of -- of having a ten-year program but not implementing it until year four,
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but starting the taxes that will pay for it day one. they understand the budget gimmicks, and that's why they don't trust the united states congress to be honest and transparent when it comes to spending their money, because of their unfortunate experience. but i also want to focus on other promises that the president has made about health care reform which bear on the process by which these bills and the health care reform is being considered, and unfortunately ways in which the reid bill breaks those promises. this is one that we've talked about before, but i think it bears repeating again because the american people want us to read the bills before we vote on them. they want to be able to read the bills. they want to have it posted on the internet so they understand how this legislation will impact them and their families. here's what the president said. he said -- "i'm going to have all negotiations" -- these are
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the health care negotiations -- "around a big table. we'll have negotiations televised on c-span so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies." well, i see one of our colleagues on the floor who is a chief proponent of an amendment that had to do with drug prices, and we all know this is the worst kept secret in washington, d.c., that the drug companies have cut a special deal behind closed doors, not about a big roundtable in front of c-span, but behind closed doors that many of us don't know the exact terms of. but we do know that while the big drug companies may be protected, the american people are not there at the table while special interests are cutting deals that, frankly, we have not yet fully come to the light of day. so i -- i really think this is a tragedy. there's no reason why the president's promise can't be
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kept other than try to run something by congress and the american people before they have had a full opportunity to read it and understand what's in it. this is exactly the kind of cynical act that breeds public skepticism about congress and their elected representatives. we are elected by the people of our respected states, to use our best judgment on their behalf, to listen to them and say what do you think about this? tell me as your elected representative, how do you think i should vote on these important issues? but if we hide the substance of these cooked up deals behind closed doors from the american people, no wonder congressional approval rating is so low. because, unfortunately, promises like this, promises made but broken by the reid bill i think do nothing but breed skepticism or cynicism on behalf of the american people. of course, "the washington post"
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reported last october that the first reid bill was written in secret and behind closed doors. that's the 2,074-page bill which we have seen stacked up on our table. now, that bill was -- with sleight of happened is going to be swept off the table and a new one miraculousy appear, i predict sometime on saturday, and that's the bill we're going to be asked to pass by christmas. again, without anybody knowing exactly what's in it now, and there is, of course, speculation among the press corps and among the political class here in washington as to whether the majority leader is going to be able to get 60 votes on a bill. people are saying yes, i think he'll get 60 votes. others say no, he is miss ago few votes, he's not quite there yet. we're talking about a bill that most of us haven't seen. how in the world can anybody tell their constituents that they are for the bill or against the bill until we have had a
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chance to read it? it is mind-boggling, mr. president. and yet we know these closed doors meetings are still going on eight days before christmas to work on a new perhaps 2,000-page reid bill. i know that some of our colleagues were irritated with our colleague from oklahoma who -- that asked that the sanders amendment be read before we actually consider it. you know, only in washington, d.c., would people be mad about knowing what's in a bill or an amendment before we're asked to vote on it. the american people want to know, and they are being excluded, as are many of the rest of us who don't yet know what's been cooked up behind closed doors. we know that these private meetings continue apace. the president has had meetings with our democratic colleagues from which republicans have been
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excluded. we don't know what kind of agreements, what kind of discussions were occurring behind those closed doors. certainly no c-span cameras were allowed. mr. president, i would ask unanimous consent for two more minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. so ordered. mr. cornyn: mr. president, we need to have every single senator look at what's in these bills before we are asked to vote on them. and let me just close on one last issue. the president has also said -- "first, i will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits, either now or in the future." that's what the president said. but you know what? unfortunately, because of this cynical attitude of washington and of the political class in washington toward the public generally, 74% of voters said they don't believe that.
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74% of voters, including 82% of independents saying we don't believe the president of the united states when he says the bill will not add one dime to the deficit. and you know one reason they might think that is because of what this reid bill -- at least the 2,000-page variety that we know says. indeed, the chief actuary for the center of medicare and medicaid services said that pledge is unrealistic or doubtful under the reid bill. and david broder, one of the deans of the washington press corps, has said -- "these bills, as they stand now, are budget busters." i don't know what it's going to take before congress wakes up and listens to our constituents and the american people. i guess it's going to take another election in 2010 or 2012 where the american people get to
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hold us accountable. because in the end, the american people will get the kind of congress they want and the kind of congress they deserve, and i would hope it would be a kind of congress that embraces the transparency pledges that the president has made and in reality lets the american people know what we're doing here and asks whether they approve or whether they do not approve. mr. president, i thank the chair and i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota is recognized. mr. dorgan: mr. president, it is interesting to listen to the discussion on the floor of the senate. we hear a lot about what's wrong these days, and let me just for a moment say that there's a lot right in this country as well. we are in a deep economic
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problem, i understand that. this is the deepest economic recession we have seen since the great depression. it's a difficult circumstance. but you know what? this country has been in tough circumstances before, and the american people are a resilient bunch. they have pulled themselves up and moved forward. and i -- i understand the angst and the concern across this country, and i understand the debate in the chamber about what is wrong, and i -- i would be the first to say i don't think either political party is a great bargain sometimes. both political parties have their faults. i think of that ogden nash poem that probably skies it. ogden nash had a four-line poem ." he drinks because she scolds he thinks. she scolds because he drinks she thinks. neither will knit what's really true. he is a drunk and she is a shrew." you know, both political parties, it seems to me, have faults, but both political parties have also contributed to the well-being of this country, and when i hear people say nothing works in america -- i've
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answered phones at the front desk yesterday for a while to hear from callers who were calling in about various things, and i heard it on many occasions because there's a lot on television and radio programs that say nothing works in america, there's nothing that the federal government has ever done that works. well, really, i mean, the internet, what a wonderful invention in the life of our planet. yes, that was invented, that was created by the federal government. going way back, we brought electricity to america's farms and unleashed the barrage of productivity in american agriculture. when you drive around with one of these little locators on your dashboard of your car, yeah, that's a g.p.s. satellite up there. yeah, that's the government as well. the interstate highway system that connects america, you drive down these big roads that are connecting all of america, that's the interstate highway system, suggested by president dwight d. eisenhower. what a remarkable thing. and i also think of the story i
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read a while back about those two little creatures that are crawling around the surface of mars right now. one is called spirit and one is called opportunity. and five years ago, our country sent both of them to land on the surface of mars. they landed one week apart. they are dune buggy-sized little mechanical creatures on the surface of mars. we sent them up by a rocket, and they landed encased in a shroud and they bounced and then the shroud opened up and these dune buggy-sized vehicles began driving on the surface of mars, and they were expected to last 90 days. five years later, spirit and opportunity have been driving on the surface of mars collecting samples. one of them -- i believe it was spirit -- had an arm that kind of looked like it was arthritic, and so it was hanging at an angle almost like a salute, and then the wheel broke, and so they were dragging a wheel and creating a trench, and the arm reached back -- the
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scientists -- it takes nine minutes to send a signal up there. the scientists had the arm reach back and dig into the trench dug by the wheel so they get better samples from the surface of mars. these little dune buggies were running on the surface of mars. yes, that's the federal government and all the contractors. when someone said to me the federal government has never done anything right, i said, you know, if you ever get to the moon, just check the boot prints. those aren't chinese boot prints or russian boot prints. they were made by an american astronaut. the same astronaut that planted the american flag when they got to the surface of the moon. oh, there is a -- there is plenty wrong in this country, to be sure, plenty wrong, but there is a lot right about this country. you know, about nine years ago, at the start of this decade, our country had a budget surplus, and poor old alan greenspan, the chairman of the federal reserve board, wasn't even able to sleep. he was worried we were going to pay down the debt too quickly. i assured him that he ought to
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go to sleep peacefully because that is not a problem, and president bush came to town and said you know what? we're going to do very big tax cuts because it's estimated we're going to have very big surpluses, and i was one of those on the floor of the senate that said you know what? maybe we ought not do that. let's be a little conservative. these surpluses don't exist for the next ten years yet. they existed that year for the first time in a long, long time in the year 2000, a budget surplus. president bush said no, no, we're going to begin very large tax cuts right now in anticipation of these large surpluses in the future. some of us said well, let's be careful. no, we're going to do them. and the wealthiest americans got very large tax cuts, especially. and then almost immediately, this country went into a recession, and six months after that, this country was hit with 9/11, an unbelievable terrorist attack. almost immediately, we went into the country of afghanistan to go after osama bin laden.
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then very quickly, invaded iraq. and at war for the rest of the decade without paying for one penny of it, not a penny was paid for that war or those wars or the increased funding to deal with terrorist attacks, not a penny. some of us went to the floor of the senate and said let's -- let's begin to try to pay for some of this. why should we send men and women to war and decide that we won't ask anybody to pay for it? we'll just have the kids or the grandkids pay the costs, and the president said if you add this to the bill to pay for it, i will veto the bill. and so here we are. and then we -- we see it exactly the same time during this decade, regulators coming to town, boasting that they were willing to be willfully blind and they wouldn't look, wouldn't see, wouldn't care. and we had a bunch of big high fliers create unbelievably exotic financial instruments, credit default swaps, so on and so forth, liars' loans for home mortgages, and steered this
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country right into a ditch while the biggest people at the top were making a massive amount of money. caused an economic wreck, the likes of which we haven't seen since the 1930's. and the deficit has ballooned, our revenue at the federal government has dropped dropped $400 billion because of the deep recession. the expenditures of unemployment and food stamps and so on that are cause to go up during a recession have increased substantially, and we have very serious economic problems. there's no question about that. and i can recite the problems as well as anybody. but let's also from time to time recite the strength of this country, it requires leadership from all of us to put this country back on track and i'm convinced we can, i'm convinced we will do that. we need a little cooperation here and there. there's not much these days. i'm convinced all of us want the same thing for this great country and perhaps we can come together even if we have different views how to get to that common destination, i'm convinced one of these days we will make progress and put
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america first. mr. president, i wanted to come today to talk just about something that's happening halfway around the world in copenhagen and that is climate change and energy, as leaders join together in copenhagen to talk about climate change, i want to talk about the thing that really affects a response to climate change. that is real energy policy that protects the planet by reducing carbon emissions. we're not going to reduce carbon emissions because somebody signs a paper place. we have a lot of environmental laws. mexico has great environmental laws on the books, they're not enforced. signing a paper isn't going mean very much unless we have an agreement that makes sense for the planet and an agreement that is enforced and a an agreement that is agreed to by virtually all of the countries emitting a great deal of carbon. what will make a difference and that is for the united states
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congress to do energy policy in a way that really does move us in the direction of addressing climate change. that energy policy by the way, is not some sort of secretive policy. we have just passed six months ago out of the senate energy committee, an energy bill that does all of the things that i think you need to do or virtually all of the things to address the issue of climate change and a lower carbon future. but i was not brought to the floor of the senate or the house of representatives because we are told that energy legislation must be merged with climate change. i don't happen to agree with that. we're going to have wasted a year, in my judgment. a year we could have had on the floor of the united states senate, an passed into law by the signature of the senate, energy legislation that maximizes the use of energy, where the wind blows, the sun shines, some of that activity could be maximized. the building of the interstate renewable transportation system. the establishment of a renewable
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electric standard. the retrofit of buildings, which is very important to do to save energy. the ability to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by opening up oil-and-gas production in the eastern gulf of mexico. and that's the amendment that i offered. all of these issues are in an energy bill that passed the energy committee on a bipartisan shoavote. and yet those energy policies that do make a lot of sense will not be available this year because those pushing for climate change legislation here, said you have to do energy and climate change together. i say this, i hope when we turn the corner and start a new year, that an energy bill that is bipartisan -- mr. president, i indicated that i wanted to take 20 minutes today. let me ask consent for the 10 additional minutes. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. dorgan: mr. president, the -- the -- the legislation that exists and is ready, in my
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judgment, could be signed by the president already moving in country down the road. i mean the deliverable for a president to go to copenhagen could have been, look what we have done in energy policy. we've taken the significant step in right direction. and, yet, we are told that energy has to move with climate change legislation. i'm not opposed to a lower carbon future. i'm not opposed to try to do something on climate change legislation. i have indicated that i am not supportive of the trade piece of cap-and-trade. i have no interest in consigning to wall street the opportunity to have a $1 trillion carbon securities market that could trade on monday and tuesday so that they could tell us on wednesday and thursday how much we're going to pay for our energy. i have no interest in doing that. but there are a lot of things that we can do, especially an energy policy at the front end. i hope that early next year we'll advance this country's energy security, number one, and advance this country's movement toward a lower carbon future.
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i want to just put up a couple of charts as i describe this. we reduce our dependence on foreign energy. especially foreign oil. 70% of the oil that we use comes from off of our shores. we stick straws in the planet an suck oil out. we stuck out 70 million barrels a day and one-fourth has to come to this country because that's our appetite for oil. when 70% comes from other countries, many that don't like us very much, that means that we have an energy security problem. this energy bill that i just described that is out of the energy committee now for six months on a bipartisan vote, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, increases domestic production, establishes a new renewable electricity standard, creates a transmanages superhighway. in we laid 11,000 miles of natural gas pipelines. you know how many we have of
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natural voltage transmission line? 660. i worked on the transmission piece with senator bingaman and others. we can build an interstate highway of -- so you can put it on a wire and move it to where it needs. this isn't rocket science. this is rather simple. we have passed a bill, a bipartisan bill out of a committee to do this. electfication and the diversification of our vehicle fleet is there. enhances energy efficiency and -- in a wide range of areas. expands clean energy technology and the training of an energy workforce for tomorrow. every one of us get up this morning, and perhaps the first thing we do is flick a switch, turn a switch and all of a sudden there's light. and many decide to plug in a coffeemaker or turn on the stove. turn on the radio. turn on the television set. get in the car. put in a key. hear the engine. all of it is energy.
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and that's before you get to work. and no one even thinks about it. about the role that energy plays in our life. and that's why it's important for us to understand, we've got a very serious energy security issue in this country, number one. and, number two, we have a serious issue of the need to construct new kinds of energy and also to use the existing energy differently or produce energy differently and reduce carbon emissions. i chair the committee that funds most of our energy projects. i chair the energy and water appropriations subcommittee and it funds the energy and water issues, obviously. there is a lot going on, for example, that i think is so exciting that can unlock our opportunity to continue to use coal. some say, you can't use coal. of course you can. our science an technology can decarbonize coal. that is our abundant resource. why not use that going forward? there are unbelieve things going
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on dr. craig venter is working on this, developing synthetic microbes that would turn coal into methane. it would turn from coal to meth train. pretty interesting to me. there's a guy in california that has that patented idea. i don't know if it works, but they insist that it is the silver bullet. he mineralizes it and it doesn't separate co2 and turns it into a product harder than concrete and more valuable than concrete and produces, as a result the cost of carbon at almost near zero. maybe that's the silver bullet. i don't know. mine, there -- i mean, there are dozens of examples like it that are very, very exciting and very interesting. i started algae research after it had been discontinued 15
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years, single-cell pond scum, that green scum on the pond out on the farm, algae. well, you know what? take the co2 from a coal plant, feed it to an algae farm an grow algae. it increases its bulk in hours, and harvest the algae and produce diesel fuel. that's called value added. i mean, that's called beneficial use of carbon. there are others now, dr. craig venter is involved with this, along with exxon, that have algae that excretes lipids directly. instead of harvesting algae and -- it excretes lipids directly with very little manipulation is fuel. one of the scientists of sdia national laboratory talked about a heat engine, where you
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fracture the molecules and recombine them and you have methanol. water, co2, develop a fuel. all of these things are opportunities for us to continue to use coal and decarbonize the use of coal. my point is i think we ought to be doing a lot of everything. -- with respect to producing a better energy future for this country and with respect to reducing the carbon in our future. i'm not somebody who's a naysayer about climate change at all. i expect to be a part of discussions about how to reduce carbon in our future. but i do believe it would be a profound mistake if we don't advance the policies that we have the opportunity to advance near the congress, near the senate. the very policies that move us in the direction of reducing carbon and making us more energy secure. and to date what we have had is all of this breathlessness about you've got to do a climate
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change bill right now and you can't do energy until you do climate change. you know what? i just don't agree. i hope that high on the list of the agenda next year for this congress is to say, we have a really serious energy security problem and we have a serious issue with tonigh carbon. let's deal with both. if anybody believes that this country can continue to have a 70% addiction for our need or oil from foreign countries, they're dreaming. that is not something that will -- will be sustainable in the long term. it undermines this country's economy to have that kind of addiction to foreign oil. and so how do you -- how do you address that and fix it. you address it with thoughtful policies inside this country to increase efficiency, increase conservation, increase production and increase production in the right way that protects our planet. all of these things are possible.
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and i guess i've spoken six or eight times on the floor of the senate about these issues and not that anybody's listening so much, i guess, but it's all -- all health care all the time right now. health care's not unimportant. i happen to think among the first things in the agenda here is a, financial reform, which restores confidence. that was important because a bunch of high fliers steered this country into the ditch. you have to make sure people don't think that will happen again. then, second, restarting the economic eng and i putting people to work -- eng and i putting people to work, jobs. dealing with energy which has to do with the security to create jobs in this country. all of these are important issues. and my hope is when the calendar turns and january comes, we'll have the opportunity to be able to grab and seize the progress that was made in the energy committee nearly six months ago to do the right thing for this country and do the right thing to address climate change at the same time. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the
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senator from washington is recognized. mrs. murray: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i come to the floor today on behalf of over 10,000 constituents from my home state of washington who have sent me letters and e-mails over the past six months to tell me their stories and their struggles with our health care system. and i come to the floor today on behalf of the thousands more who don't have the time or who don't have the resources to write to me and ask for help but who are struggling as well. mr. president, i come to the floor today on behalf of small business owners, parents, senior citizens, and people with breen preexistinpeople withpreexistind people without insurance who spend their nights praying they don't have an accident or fall ill. mr. president, these people are
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all worried about keeping their jobs or making a mortgage payment and whom the cost of getting sick today or being dropped from their health care plan or opening their mail to see another premium increase is just too much to bear. and, mr. president, those are the people who deserve a real debate and a real plan, not distortions or silly distracti distractions like conversations about how many pages are in this health care bill. what is more important than the number of pages in this health care bill is the help within those pages for businesses and families across this country. now, mr. president, i have watched day after day after day as our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have come down to this floor, they've made outrageous claims, they've handed out reimburses of paper and -- reems of paper with
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copies of the health bill to turn a serious debate into a side show. if my colleagues on the other side want to focus on pages, fine, let's focus on pages. mr. president, beside me is a photo of a woman named doreen kelsey. in front of her is a stack of papers. those are hundreds upon hundreds of pages and forms and rejection letters and appeals and denials from her insurance company. these are pages that have taken hours and hours to fill out and that have stood between doreen's husband and the care that he desperately needed. you know, i met doreen at a roundtable i hosted in august in spokane, washington, in my state. she told me she is self-employed and isn't able to purchase her own health insurance because she has a pre-existing condition.
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now, luckily, she and her family have health insurance coverage through her husband tony's employer. now, doreen told me that she and tony thought their family had good insurance coverage, but when he asked for a colonoscopy, they soon discovered the lengths to which insurance companies will go to deny, to delay, and dispute the care that families like kelseys assume were included in their coverage. their insurance carrier told them that before they would pay for this preventative care, it would have to be approved by a primary care physician. after being delayed for more than a month because of that requirement and this little stack of papers here, the colonoscopy ultimately confirmed their fears, and he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. now, that diagnosis in hand, the kelseys were determined to beat this terrible disease together,
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but rather than focusing on fighting cancer, they were forced to fight their insurance company. now, doreen told me that although they had faithfully paid their premiums throughout their entire working lives, now that tony desperately needed life-saving treatment, he was in a constant struggle of paperwork with his insurance company to pay for even return care. now, they weren't asking for anything new. they weren't asking for anything experimental. they were just asking for the kind of care that a lifetime of paid premiums should entitle them to. the kelseys assumed what most americans do when they are paying for good health insurance. they assumed that while their insurance may be expensive, it will be there for them when they need it. well, mr. president, doreen and her family, like many other american families and businesses, have come to find that out, that in our current
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health care insurance system, stability is sometimes nothing more than an illusion. with each procedure and each battle the kelseys faced a new fight. more paperwork stacked on more paperwork. another appeal and another appeal. and at one point, doreen told me that she had to appeal all the way to the state insurance regulator just to get a corrected explanation of benefits -- paperwork -- form from her insurance company. and she told me they had to borrow thousands of dollars to pay doctors while their claims were tied up in what seemed like an endless appeal process. paperwork, mr. president. the kelseys' insurance now costs more than their mortgage, and they are constantly worried that tony's employer could drop that coverage. now, thankfully, she told me that tony is successfully and
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working hard to battle his cancer, and doreen in the meantime has successfully been battling her insurance company. but this isn't how our system should work, mr. president, and when we pass the bill that is in front of the senate, we are debating on, it won't be. so let me tell all of you and the kelseys how our bill will help them. first of all, our bill ends that insurance company discrimination for pre-existing conditions, so in the first place doreen can then be able to purchase insurance on her own and not have to rely on her husband's employer. doreen would also have access to a number of different plans through an exchange that we're setting up where insurance companies for the first time would have to compete for her business. our plan would inject competition into the insurance market, and that, mr. president, we know will lower costs and
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give families like doreen's more choices. our plan also makes it illegal for insurance companies to drop people when they get sick, so doreen and tony wouldn't have to worry about losing their coverage at the moment that they needed it the most. and since we know that preventative care is critical to saving lives and saving money on health care costs wrong -- long term, our bill ensures three preventative services under all insurance plans. our plan invests in prevention and public health to encourage innovations in health care that prevent illness and disease before they require more costly treatment. it would have allowed tony to get a colonoscopy when he first needed it so he could get his treatment started sooner. mr. president, we also know that families deserve the security and stability of knowing that if they or their loved one do get
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sick, they will not be forced into bankruptcy to pay for the costs. our bill restricts the arbitrary limits that insurance companies currently place on the amount of coverage that families receive. it caps the total amount that insurance companies can make people pay out of pocket on co-pays and deductibles. and it eliminates the lifetime limits insurance companies can impose on coverage. now, in addition to putting in place those important consumer protections that would help people like doreen and tony, it will give families the stability and security they deserve and lower the cost of care so americans like tony and doreen won't have coverage that costs as much or more than their mortgage. and we do that by putting in place premium rate reviews to track increases and crack down on excessive insurance company overhead costs. when our bill passes -- and,
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mr. president, i'm confident it will, despite the delay and the delay and the delay that we're seeing on the other side of the aisle -- insurance companies will no longer be able to hike up doreen's premiums to pay for a bureaucracy that they will then put to work battling her claims, and we provide sliding scale premium tax credits, tax credits for families who still can't afford coverage, which would help in my home state of washington about 450,000 people get the coverage that they need. mr. president, the bill before us today, which my colleagues, some of them have sitting on their desks and bring out here on a daily basis to show us the pages, will help families like the kelseys. that is what's within those pages that we keep seeing thrown at us. so i think, mr. president, rather than talking about the number of pages in the bill, i hope our colleagues on the other side actually talk about what's in it, because right now instead
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of debating the merits of bringing down costs or protecting families from losing the coverage when they get sick, our colleagues are actually spending time complaining this bill has too many pages. mr. president, i ask you and our colleagues on the other side to take a look at this photo of doreen sitting next to hundreds and hundreds of pages of correspondence and appeals and fights with her insurance companies. these are the pages we ought to be talking about. these are the pages that impact people's lives, and the kelseys are the people we ought to be talking about. so when my colleagues come on down here and complain about the number of pages in our health reform bill, those pages that will help our families and businesses lower costs, i want them to think about the number of pages right here in front of doreen. these are pages that have caused the kelseys unimaginable heartache, and these are the pages that have come between them and the health care that
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they paid for. these are the numbers we ought to be focusing on. the 14,000 people who are losing coverage offer day are the numbers we ought to be focusing on. the 51 million people who have no insurance, those are the numbers we ought to be focusing on, not the number of pages in the bill. mr. president, we have got to end the politics and the delay and the burp. we need to end this obstruction because that's what the kelseys faced every day, was delay and obstruction, and they are facing it again here on the floor of the united states senate. it's time for us to come together on this important bill and bring our businesses and our families the insurance reform they have been asking for. mr. president, i hope that's what americans will remember. at the end of the day, the pages in this bill are going to change their lives so they don't have to fight their insurance companies again. mr. president, we are here today in the senate, nobody on the
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floor, just me talking about what we ought to be doing, you in the chair, waiting. why? because we have a defense appropriations bill in front of the united states senate. it is a defense appropriations bill that needs to be passed by the end of this year. it needs to be passed so we can get back and get on the floor and pass our health care reform bill. now, some people on the other side of the aisle have decided that delaying this defense bill will somehow help them delay this from ever being passed, the health care bill that will help doreen and her family. well, mr. president, it isn't just about making a political point. what we are doing is putting our soldiers who are serving on the ground in iraq and afghanistan, around the globe and here in the country, wondering what they are going to get for christmas. a delay from the united states senate? military pay increases. this bill in front of us provides a 3.4% military pay increase. this is an all-volunteer force we have out there working for
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us. many of them are away from their families this christmas. they don't want to hear that the senate is delaying passing this important bill that will give them the security they need because of political obstruction to delay a health care bill. mr. president, this defense bill is critically important. it has very important support for our military and their families. it has passed through this senate and we are ready -- before, and we're ready now to make the final trip to the white house, which needs to be done, by the way, by tomorrow. so i hope that our colleagues won't continue to delay. i hope that they will allow us to move to final passage on this bill so that our men and women who are serving us in the military around the globe know that there is a senate who is working for them. now, i have heard some of them on the other side complain that some things were added to the senate defense bill that need to be done also by the end of the year besides the defense bill. making sure that our families
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whose benefits are running out for unemployment or cobra for health care insurance get a two-month extension so our christmas present to them isn't sorry, you aren't going to get your small little help as we end this year. we're going to keep that going for another three months in one of the worst economic times we have. yes, of course we put it in this bill because -- because of the obstruction on the other side, we can't get it through in a timely fashion. it has to be done by the end of this year. we're doing the right thing for our families. we're doing the right thing for our military by putting in this bill, getting it done, getting it to the president so we can finish our work. mr. president, these are all critical issues. we are all tired. we have been here day after day after day. it's time to get this done and i'll tell you why. because doreen and her husband are facing piles and piles of paperwork to care for her husband, fighting insurance companies, and all we have to do is put these bills in front of
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us, get them done and provide relief for america. i hope that's what we focus on, mr. president. i hope we stop the denying and the delay and the obstruction that the kelseys had to fight when they were fighting their insurance company and move these bills and go home to our families for christmas. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. burris: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois is recognized. mr. burris: thank you, mr. president. i also would like to make a few comments on this issue that's pending before this body and has been debated and debated and debated, discussed and discussed and discussed, and, mr. president, it's time to bring it to a meaningful and
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final conclusion. so, mr. president, as i address this chamber today, we stand at the cusp of history. for many years, we have known that the american health care system is badly broken. now after nearly a century of discussion and debate, after 100 years of delays and false starts, this body is on the verge of laying the issue of health reform to rest. this bill represents the culmination of decades of hard work. its course has been shaped by 11 presidents and countless members of the house and senate. it has taken a long and winding
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path to reach this point. this legislation is a product of compromise and consensus, of give and take on both sides. it is not perfect by no means. it is not perfect. but here we stand. we've come further than any congress in history on this issue. we have worked hard to craft a measure that can accomplish the goals of reform without alienating those whose support we need to pass this bill. out of commitment to certain ideals, this bill would be empty and ineffective. but without a willingness to work together and achieve
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compromise, this bill could never become a political reality. as responsible legislators, this is the fine line we must always walk. it is never easy, and so i applaud my colleagues for the fine work they've done at every step along the way. still, not everyone is satisfied, and so the work goes on. it is the genius of our founding fathers and the rule of this body that allow one senator to keep debate alive so that we can work, debate, and write, rewrite legislation together. one senator, mr. president, can do that, under the rules of this body. now some have suggested that we kill this legislation and start
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over. they suggest that we stop, come up with something new. they say that without perfection , they should give up on reform altogether. i've said on this floor, mr. president, you know what my position has been. but, mr. president, giving up on this issue is not an option. and so as my colleagues and i continue to move forward from here, i would like to make one thing very, very clear: after 100 years of debate, we've come too far and worked too hard to turn back now. too many americans are counting on us, mr. president, to make a decision on their behalf, and
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they need it now. they don't need it tomorrow or next week or next month or next year or never. they need it now, mr. president. killing the bill would ignore those who look to us for help in their time of crisis. we cannot abandon them at this time. leaving tens of millions of people without any health care coverage at all is also unacceptable. and to all of those who believe we should kill this bill, i would say this: i understand their frustration. the impulse to say enough is enough. not our vote in this body on this bill -- but our vote in this body on this bill is not the end of the path for this
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sweeping legislation, only a door to the next step of conference. i've not yet seen the details of the legislation. i have not yet seen the c.b.o. score. and i've not yet seen the provisions that will earn my vote, namely, cost containment, competition, and accountability. it is only through keeping this legislation alive that we can continue our work to make this a more perfect document. so, mr. president, i say to you that we must continue to work on this document that we have before us, and we cannot kill this legislation and start over.
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so we must keep working through this legislation, keep it alive so that we can continue, continue to make this document what we want it to be. and that's what we must do. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. i suggest, mr. president, the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. kaufman: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware is recognized. mr. kaufman: i ask to suspend the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. kaufman: mr. president, i speak today about the need for urgent action on the defense appropriations bill. i shouldn't have to speak about urgent action on the defense appropriations bill, because this is the one area that is so important to the country and which we should always operate as quickly as we can.
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i urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to stop their attempts to do their health care bill and allow the appropriations bill to move forward. i suspect, as i always do, that my colleagues have different views. we have different views on all kinds of things and we have all kinds of substance of difference. i'm one of the people in this body who believes that there are basic differences, that a lot of our differences are not political. they are about basic differences that separate us from being democrats and republicans. we can disagree on tactics and on principles. but i know my colleagues on the other side of the aisle support our troops, and supporting our troops should never be a partisan issue. this bill funds more than $100 billion for operations, maintenance requirements and military personnel requirements for our armed action in afghanistan and iraq. it provides more than $23 billion for equipment critical
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for protecting the brave men and women in uniform. and they are brave men and women, and they deserve this. and i know the other side of the aisle agrees with that. that's why we should move ahead on this bill. it funds more than $150 billion for the training of our troops, critical to our success. it's incumbent upon the congress to ensure our troops in afghanistan, iraq and throughout the world have the resources they need to be safe, secure and effective in the war zone. this bill, which has been operated and worked on by both parties, puts our troops first with equipment and improved benefits for the military and their families. this isn't just about our troops. this is about the brave men and women who remain at home here, the families that need the benefits. again, an issue that i know my colleagues on the other side of the aisle agree with. they deserve our support and they deserve it now.
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in addition to providing a 3.4% pay increase for our troops, it improves military health care and research, including the very, very important psychological health, which is especially important given the startling rates of post traumatic stress disorder. everybody knows we must train and equip our troops, our men and women going into battle. but it's equally important -- and everyone agrees with this too -- it's equally important to care for the troops and their families after they've returned home. that's what this bill does. this bill is necessary as it demonstrates solidarity with the troops and gratitude for the sack tpaoeugss they make on our behalf. it is an investment in our military and our security and in our future. this is why our house colleagues overwhelmingly agreed to it yesterday by a vote of 395-34 and why we must end these
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partisan delays to move this bill forward. it's critical that we pass the bill and there's no good reason why our troops and military families should have to wait, especially in this holiday season, while the other side of the aisle is playing politics. i support conducting a real debate on afghanistan or a host of other military issues. but the current debate is not about substance. it's about politics. our troops should come first and they deserve better. we should pass this bill without delay to give the military and their families the funding they need to do their jobs and to protect our nation. thank you, mr. president. 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 delaware. mr. kaufman: i ask unanimous consent the call of the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. kaufman: i ask to speak in morning business for ten minutes. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. kaufman: mr. president, i rise today to discuss health care fraud. earlier this month i introduced along with senators leahy, specter, kohl, schumer and klobuchar an amendment that would protect our increased national investment in the health of americans by improving fraud enforcement. everyone believes in fraud enforcement, and this amendment does that. it's no secret that fraud represents one of the fastest-growing and most costly forms of crime in america today. in no small part our current economic crisis can be linked to financial fraud starting with unchecked mortgage fraud generated by loan originators, through securities fraud that hastened the eventual market
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crash and maximized its impact on main street and average american investors. in response, this body passed the fraud enforcement recovery act,fera which directed critical tools to antifraud efforts. fear was passed in response to an unprecedented financial crisis, but americans should expect congress to do more than simply react to crises after their most destructive impacts have been felt. we owe it to our constituents to identify and address problems when they arise so that we can prevent disaster rather than just trying to figure out how to clean up after it happens. in undertaking comprehensive health care reform, we must be proactive in combatting health care fraud and abuse. it's hard to believe, but each year criminals drain between $72
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billion and $220 billion -- that's billion dollars -- $72 billion and $220 billion from private and public health care plans through fraud, increasing the costs of medical care and undermining public trust in our health care system. not just do we lose the money, we lose the trust people have to the system and how the system works. we pay these costs through taxpayers and through higher health insurance premiums. this amendment will provide needed tools for reducing those costs through effective investigation, prosecution, and punishment of health care fraud. it's pretty clear that as we take the steps to increase the number of americans who's covered by health insurance and to improve the health care system for everyone, we must also ensure that law enforcement has the tools it needs to stop health care fraud.
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the finance and "help" committees as well as leadership have worked long and hard to find ways to fight fraud and bend the cost curve down. they've done a great job. however, there's more work to be done, and this amendment is an important additional step. this amendment takes straightforward but critical improvements to the federal sentencing guidelines, to health care fraud statutes and to forfeiture, money laundering and obstruction statutes, all of which would strengthen prosecutors' abilities to combat health care fraud. first, this amendment directs a significant increase in the federal sentencing guidelines for large-scale health care fraud offenses. you know, it's really kind of strange, but despite the enormous losses in many health care fraud cases, analysis from the united states sentencing commission suggests that health care fraud offenders often
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receive shorter sentences than other white-collar offenders in cases with similar loss amounts. so people basically feel you can do health care fraud and you can get away with it and you not pay a major price. according to statements from cooperating health care fraud defendants, many criminals are drawn to health care fraud because of this low risk to reward ratio. so here we have this incredible expansion of health care that's going to go forward, more funds and we know that criminals out there think this is easy. i go out, i commit the fraud, it's a -- it's a very complex process -- i commit the fraud and then my chances of getting caught are not that great, but even more, i've got an added bonus that if i get caught, i'm not going to get much of a penalty. so that's why we need to ensure that these offenders are punished not only commensurate with the costs that they impose upon our health care system but
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also a level that will offer a real deterrence. these folks cannot believe that they can engage in health care fraud, and even if they get caught, not have much of a penalty. so our amendment directs changes in the sentencing guidelines that as a practical matter amount to sentencing increases of between 20% and 50% for health care crooks stealing over a million dollars. in addition, the amendment updates the definition of health care fraud offense in the federal criminal code to include violations of the antikickback statute, the food, drug and cosmetic act, and certain provisions of erisa. these changes will allow the full range of law enforcement tools to be used against all health care fraud. the amendment also provides the department of justice with subpoena authority for investigations conducted pursuant to the civil rights for institutional persons act, also known as cripa.
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it's hard to believe, but under the current law, department of justice must rely upon cooperation of the nursing homes, mental health institutions, facilities for persons with disabilities, and residential high school -- schools for children with disabilities that are the targets of cripa investigations. now, you can figure out that in most cases these targets will cooperate, but sometimes they do not, and the current lack of subpoena authority puts vulnerable victims at needless risk. finally, the amendment corrects an apparent drafting error by providing that obstruction of criminal investigations involving administrative subpoenas under hippa, the health insurance portability and accountability act of 1996, should be treated in the same manner as criminal investigations involving grand
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jury subpoenas. mr. president, as we consider the debate on health care reform, we must ensure that criminals who engage in health care fraud and those that think about doing so understand two things. if they engage in health care fraud, they're going to be faced with swift prosecution by prosecutor -- by more prosecutors and more folks to enforce the law and that when they are found guilty, they will face substantial punishment. these commonsense provisions should be a central part of health care reform, and i urge my colleagues to support this amendment. mr. president, i yield the flo floor. mrs. hutchison: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mrs. hutchison: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business for up to 10 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mrs. hutchison: mr. president, i rise today to speak about the health care bill that is pendi
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pending. the department of defense bill is also pending. it is the business that we have on the floor today and i have no doubt that at the appropriate time there will be a vote in support of funding our troops. and i know that that may come on saturday after the time for debate has run out. but i'd like to talk about the health care issue because i think the reason that we have been here for really most of the last month and voting every friday, every saturday, every sunday is aut to talk about the health care bill, debate the health care bill, assure that the american people know what is in this health care bill and assure that people start looking at the affect it is going to have on their business and their
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families, because i can't think of anything that we have ever voted on in this body since i have been here that will affect people's lives in such a stark way. and i have tried to -- to look at what is good in the bill and then i look at what i don't like in the bill and i have to say that the scale is very heavily tilted toward what i don't like. in fact, i had a tele-town hall meeting, which is a new capability that we have in the senate now to talk to people, and it's a wonderful way to be able to reach out in your state, to have people who are interested in asking questions to actually call in and ask questions. and at all times during the tele-town hall that i had last night, there were over 6,000 people that were in and out of that tele-town hall.
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and i was very pleased, because every single question was a real question. iit was a real person that -- oe man is on kidney dialysis treatments, and, of course, he has very high drug costs and very high expenses. and then you had people on medicare asking how the cuts in medicare would affect their treatment and their care. and then you had small business people who are scared to death of having more burdens, more taxes, more mandates on small business when they're almost screaming into the phone. but don't people realize how hard it is to make ends meet right now for small business? don't -- don't you all realize that we are trying to stay afloat while we are in one of the worst recessions of our lifetimes? and, of course, i assured them
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that i do understand that. that's why i am trying to amend this bill, trying to change it, trying to encourage my colleagues on the other side of the aisle that we really should start over, that we should start over and try to have a health care reform bill that does three basic things. we want a health care reform bill that actually lowers the cost of health care. right now, the bill before us will increase the cost of health care. the -- the cost of the bill that is before us today, if you start when the bill takes effect, eff, which is 2014 and you go ten years out, you're looking at $2.5 trillion. we have a debt of $12 trillion in america right now. those numbers are staggering. we used to be worried about
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$12 billion, $15 billion, $100 billion. we're talking about a trillion. we're talking about $12 trillion in debt right now. and the idea that we would put $2.5 trillion more in this health care bill with mandates and taxes to offset some of it on businesses and employers and families is unthinkable. it is unthinkable in good times but in bad times, as we have now, it's just unthinkable. so here we are now talking about this bill that will increase the debt and increase the mandates, and the people of texas -- i did a little poll on the tele-town hall, and i just said register in, punch 1 for yes on your phone, punch 2 for no and 3 for undecided, and i asked, how do you stand on the bill that is before us today? if you say yes, press 1; no,
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press 2. and 81% instantly started registering against this bill. and i was listening to my colleague, senator barrasso of wyoming, and he had had the same tele-town hall. many senators are doing this n now. in wyoming. and he had had a couple thousand people from wyoming on the call, and it was 93% that registered on the poll against this bill. nebraska, my colleague from nebraska, senator johanns, said that the polls in nebraska are overwhelming against this bill. people who are listening to the debate, reading the newspapers, getting every bit of information they can, listening to the tele-town hall conference calls and asking their questions are registering in unprecedented numbers. the interest in this bill and the overwhelming rejection of
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this bill. so i talk about what's in the bill before us and then what we could have. instead of a hundred billion dollars of new taxes that would start next month, we could step back and say, we're not going to put new taxes on business and families and companies before the bill even takes effect. in fact, senator thune and i had an amendment that was rejected yesterday on the floor. it was tabled yesterday afternoon. and it would have done exactly that. very simply, if the bill is going to pass, at least don't start the taxes until there is some program available that is the result of this bill. very simple, very clear. that was our amendment and it was tabled. 41 senators said yes and we lost the motion. so it is a great concern to us
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that the tax cuts -- that the tax increases are in this bill and that they next month, that we will have $100 billion in new taxes starting next month, that the 40% excise tax on premium health care coverage policies takes effect in 2013. but the bill doesn't take effect until 2014. so that's the bill that we're debating today that the overwhelming number of american people are rejecting. and they're rejecting it because they don't want taxes, they don't want mandates and they don't want the government to step between themselves and their doctors. they want the physician-patient relationship that is the hallmark of american health ca care. it's what makes us different from most other countries in the world, that we don't have
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government standing in the way in most of our private plans and saying no, no, you can't have this treatment because you're too old or you're not fit enou enough. having government say here is who is qualified for this procedure is not the health care that we have known in america. so we are for health care reform that lowers the cost of health care in our country so more people will have affordable options. now, there's a part of this bill that could provide that. it doesn't mean a government takeover. we don't need a government takeover. that's why you have all the taxes and mandates, because it's going to cost so much that taxes and mandates are the way that the majority is putting forward to pay for this expensive government takeover. why not have the health care
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exchange without all the mandates so that there would be a free market on the exchange with no cost that would allow people to have choices, that the insurance companies would come forward and there would be high-deductible plans for people who wanted high-deductible plans, low-deductible plans that would be more expensive but some people would prefer to have that. you could make your choices among the plans that would be put on an exchange that would be open, transparent, and competitive, and you would have bigger risk pools and therefore lower premiums would be the result. how about in addition to that, which would not require a big government takeover, therefore no cost -- the presiding officer: the senator's time has expired. mrs. hutchison: i would like to ask unanimous consent to have five more minutes. the presiding officer: is there objection?
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mrs. hutchison: okay, two more -- could i have unanimous consent to have two more minutes? thank you. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mrs. hutchison: so let me just say, talking about what republicans would like to see in health care reform and asking the majority if we could stop going through every weekend with one vote on friday, one vote on saturday, one vote on sunday so that we are not able to do anything with our families during this holiday season, instead, why don't we step back and say we'll come back after christmas or whenever the majority would like to come back and just say let's sit down in a bipartisan way and let's have three principles in a health care reform bill. number one, we would lower the cost with an exchange, bigger risk pools, lower costs. number two, how about tax credits for every individual or family that would buy their own
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policies because they don't have access through an employer or if they are going to go on this exchange that would not cost anything, they would be able to have a tax credit to buy their own health care coverage. that would increase the number of people insured in our country much larger than what we're looking at today with a big government-run plan, which is said to only increase the number of insured 11 million. well, i think we could get 11 million with the free market working. and number three, what about medical malpractice reform? we could take $100 billion out of the cost of health care by just having frivolous lawsuits curbed with some kind of reasonable limits on damages or attorneys' fees that would allow people to get a -- some compensation for a transgression but not something that is going
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to raise the cost of premiums so high for doctors and hospitals that they have to charge more and that raises the cost of health care across the board. those would be the principles, mr. president, that we could support. the presiding officer: the senator's time has expired. mrs. hutchison: let's start again after the christmas time and do a rational proposal that the american people would accept. thank you, mr. president, and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, is it any wonder that people are responding negatively when asked do you support health care when they have been bombarded with millions of dollars of tv advertisements that are not telling what this health care bill does? is it any wonder when they hear comments like that this health care bill will not save the american consuming public on
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their health insurance premiums, what does it do? well, can you believe that it's not going to allow insurance companies to cancel your policies? can you believe it is not going to let an insurance company cop up with some kind of fictitious excuse that you have had a skin rash and therefore you have a pre-existing condition and they are not going to insure you? can you believe that it is going to bring in 31 million new people that are going to have health insurance that did not have health insurance before and that all of the rest of us paid for when they showed up at the emergency room? can you believe that this health care bill is going to bring down
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the cost of medicare over the course of time and is going to save medicare instead of medicare running out of funds in about six or seven years? can you believe that by creating a health insurance exchange for the private marketplace, for private health insurance companies to compete for that available exchange of people that want to buy health insurance there, can you believe that it's going to bring down their health insurance premiums than what they would otherwise pay? and you probably say it's hard for me to believe that because of all the negative that i have heard, but that's exactly what the experts tell us that this bill is going to do. and, oh, by the way, it's going to do one more thing.
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over ten years, this bill is going to reduce the deficit by by $130 billion. can you believe that? not if you have been listening to all the stuff that's been thrown about how bad the bill is, but that is the tactic. that is the tactic of in your face, oh, ain't it awful, and it's time that the real story get out. and you know what will happen, mr. president? when this bill is passed and it's finally signed into law by the president, then the real story is going to get out and people will know. now, in the meantime, i wish that here in the senate, we could have closed the doughnut hole. the doughnut hole is the gap in coverage for medicare recipients
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where they have to continue to pay premiums for medicare but they receive no drug coverage whatsoever. under current law, a medicare beneficiary will pay up to $310 for their drugs which is the deductible, and then they pay 25% of their drugs up until they have paid out a total out of their pocket of $940, and above that, they hit the dreaded doughnut hole which they continue to pay premiums but they receive no help from medicare for their drugs, all the way up to a much higher level, and there are 3.5 million people that hit that dreaded doughnut hole.
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and each year, because of the formulas, the doughnut whole grows bigger and it's compounded by higher and rising drug prices. and we have seen that the pharmaceutical industry has just raised their prices 9%. well, these out-of-control increases in prescription costs are really hurting our folks and especially seniors on fixed incomes. and it's no secret that i wanted to fill the doughnut hole here. it's not going to happen, but what is going to happen when this gets into conference with the prowps, in fact, there has been a commitment by the majority leader. there has been a commitment and a statement by aarp which has a significant interest in this
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legislation. there was a pledge on this floor by senators reid, baucus, and dodd to close the doughnut hole, and i suspect that what has happened is they have gotten the agreement of the pharmaceutical industry to help them close that doughnut hole once we get into the conference committee with the house of representatives. but first, mr. president, we have got to get the bill out of here. that means we have to stand up and push back all of this nonsense and misinformation that is coming about this bill. what does it do? to recapitulate, it letters the cost of medicare over time. it gives a reduction of the federal deficit. it allows insurance for people that don't have it to be
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available and affordable and they can't cancel or use some flimsy excuse to cancel. it will utilize the private marketplace in which to make this happen. this is an american story, and it's going to be an american success story. mr. president, i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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that doctors take, the hippocratic oath, which basically is first, do no harm. in other words, you don't want to kill the patient when you're trying to cure him of cancer, and you don't want to disable the patient, make their condition actually worse in trying to help them. i think it would be advisable if congress took a hippocratic oath. nowhere is that more appropriate than when talking about health care. we ought to make sure that whatever we do, we don't make things worse. and yet the underlying health care bill, the reid bill, makes things worse. i'll talk about that in detail. we all agree that health care reform is needed, just that some
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of us have different ideas about what that reform should look like. we know that health care premiums have more than doubled in the last ten years for american families, and health care costs typically rise at two or three times the rate of wage growth. we also know that this is all unsustainable. we can't keep doing what we're doing. so republicans and democrats agree on the nature of the problem. the question is what is the cure? what are we going to do to make it better? and are we, perhaps due to inadvertens or unintended consequences, are we actually going to make things worse than they are now? well, the reid bill, the health care bill that we're going to be -- that's going to be considered along with a substitute that has been negotiated behind closed doors that we haven't seen yet, the basic reid bill would actually increase premiums by $2,100 for american families purchasing insurance on their own.
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i just -- i'd like to recall the words of president obama as he was describing his bill. he said -- "i have made a solemn pledge that i will sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as president that will cover every american and cut the cost of a typical family's premium by up to $2,500." and yet this bill breaks president obama's pledge because for an average american family buying their insurance on their own, it would raise their premiums by $2,100, not cut it. and according to the congressional budget office and the joint committee on taxation, all of the new taxes -- that is, the tax on health benefits if you have so-called cadillac plans. i had three firefighters from texas in my office two days ago that said please don't let them tax our health care plans.
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we negotiated those in lieu of wage increases, and now we have accepted lower wages because we want a better health care plan, and now you're going to tax our health care plan? that's just not right. and we know that those taxes, on medical devices, on health insurance, whatever they may be, on prescription drugs eventually will find their way back to the consumer. it's sheer fantasy to think that these companies are just going to absorb those taxes and those cuts and they won't have an impact on the price of the consumer. so that's why, rather than bending the cost curve down, making health care more affordable, this will actually make it worse. a new independent study by oliver wyman found that the reid bill would actually increase insurance premiums for people with insurance. again, i thought the purpose of health care reform was to bring costs down through managed care,
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medical homes, accountable care organizations, delivery reform, through medical liability reform, through parity of tax treatment, through increased competition across state lines. those are the kinds of things that this bill does not do which would actually have some hope of bending the cost curve down for the average american family. but this study by oliver wyman found that the reid bill would actually make people's insurance premiums go up, premiums this study said would go up by 54%. in my state, in texas, by 61% for americans purchasing health insurance on their own. in other words, it's not employer provided. they have to go out in the marketplace if you're a small business man or woman and buy insurance or if you're just an individual buying health insurance. this will make your premiums go up by 61% in texas, 54% across the nation. so an average family of four in houston, texas, would see their
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premiums more than double to to $1,352 a month. now, is that the kind of health care reform that we thought we were signing onto when we engaged in this debate? it certainly isn't what i call health reform. this is not what my constituents in texas call health reform. to double the premiums for an average family of four in houston, texas. that just makes things worse. premiums could go up for -- up to 20% higher for small businesses struggling to provide benefits for their employees. you know, the worst part about this, mr. president, is these kinds of so-called reforms have been tried before and they have failed miserably. for example, in new jersey and new york, both have tried the kinds of mandates, community ratings, guaranteed issue, these other things that sound a little arcane but which have had the
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impact of skyrocketing premiums in those states and causing insurance companies to leave the market rather than bearing these financial and regulatory burdens, many of them say you know what? we're out of here, leaving people with less choices and higher premiums. and then there is the medicaid-medicare cost shift. for example, medicare pays about 80% of what private insurance does to a doctor or a hospital, medicaid even less. and so these providers have to make it up somewhere else, so what they end up doing is charging more to people with insurance. that's what the cost shift is all about. according to one study, that cost shift means higher premiums of about $1,800 a year for the average family. about half of that comes from medicaid alone. and yet, the reid bill includes the biggest expansion of medicaid since the program was created in 1965. unless we forget, medicaid is a
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joint federal-state program, and by expanding the coverage of medicaid, you're basically imposing an unfunded mandate on the states, and in my state, a state of 24 million people, this medicaid expansion will result in $20 billion of an unfunded mandate imposed on state taxpayers that the federal government is not going to help them out with. $20 billion over ten years. now, the american people intuitively know all of this. a new "washington post" poll, abc poll came out this week that found that most americans, 53%, believe that washington's health care bill will actually increase their costs. small businesses know this is true. according to a letter i received by the national federation of independent business, they said the patient protection and affordable care act, which is short on savings and long on costs, is the wrong reform at
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the wrong time and will increase health care costs and the costs of doing business. why in the world would we impose additional costs on small businesses at the same time we're trying to get small businesses to create jobs? to try to get our economy to come back. and we know that small businesses are the engine of job creation. now we're just going to impose more costs, more premiums on them. what's that going to do? that's going to discourage them from keeping employees they have in a tough economy and perhaps not hiring the new people when we want to try to do everything we can to bring down the 10% unemployment rate in this country. well, in houston, texas, according to one small business owner i've heard from, they have said the proposed health care bill is going to have a negative impact on my business because of the costs of employee health insurance will go up. i don't believe what some are saying, that the costs will go
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down. this bill does not make economic common sense. one thing about common sense is you find out the older you get, it's not too common, and this bill simply defies the explanation that some have given to it that it will actually make things better rather than worse. my constituents, small business owners, everyone understands that the pressure that's going to be put on premiums and costs is going to make things worse. here's a chart that shows that from the time this bill is passed until 2016, you're going to see a huge increase on premiums for businesses and individuals as well. large businesses, small businesses, individuals. well, americans know that this is going to make an unsustainable status quo even worse, yet the president and the majority -- the presiding officer: senator,
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your time has expired. mr. cornyn: i would ask unanimous consent for an additional two minutes. the presiding officer: in my capacity as the senator from alaska, i object. mr. cornyn: i thank the senator for his courtesy. the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i would ask unanimous consent to speak for an additional five minutes. the presiding officer: in my capacity as the senator from alaska, i object. mr. cornyn: mr. president, may i inquire of the chair, is it the intent of the presiding officer to prevent any senator from speaking on the floor on this important bill? i'm looking around. i don't see any other senator waiting to speak. i simply would like an explanation of the chair's ruling. the presiding officer: i release my objection.
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mr. cornyn: mr. president, the congressional budget office has said -- and this is, of course, a nonpartisan office which is tasked with the job of scoring or determining the costs of these bills before us. the congressional budget office has opined that the reid bill will result in 90% of americans seeing the same unsustainable premium increases as they currently do year after year, or in some cases even higher. so if we're going to spend spend $2.5 trillion over ten years, if we're going to cut medicare by half a trillion dollars, if we're going to raise taxes by another half a trillion dollars, just to have no impact for 90% of americans and for the
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others to actually see premiums go up, it strikes me that this is a solution in search of a problem, and the problem is we know the premiums are too high, costs are too high, and we need a better answer than is being proposed by this reid bill. the congressional budget office estimates that families who get their health care through small businesses or large employers will see -- see their premiums go up, as i said, under this bill. now, the new ideas that we have seen offered by our friends on the other side are designed to score political points which are not -- but are not aimed at solving problems. for example, one of our colleagues, the senator from arkansas, offered an amendment to cap compensation for insurance executives and argued that it would actually lower premiums somehow miraculously. now, we asked the congressional budget office whether that would
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have any impact on premiums, and it said that the impact would be negligible, negligible. so what's the point? we have heard a lot about repealing the antitrust exemption for health insurers. the congressional budget office said while that may be a feel-good sort of provision, that it would actually make premiums higher and make things worse. the congressional budget office concluded that by enacting the legislation, it would have no significant impact on the premiums that private insurers would charge for health insurance. they also noted to the extent that insurers would become subjected to additional litigation, their costs and their premiums charged to consumers might increase. and we also heard from some of our colleagues about their cost containment ideas. the group of democratic senators who offered an amendment, and i
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do think it does have some good ideas in it, but it only saves saves $200 million, $200 millio. not an insignificant amount of money, but in a $2.5 trillion bill, $2.5 trillion bill. so the bottom line is this bill spends $2.5 trillion to increase premiums or at best maintain the status quo. that's not health care reform, and we should reject this bill and start over with a step-by-step approach that will actually solve the problems confronting the american people. we should not accept, no matter what the crush is before the christmas holidays, these last eight days of this year, we should not accept a bill that cuts half a trillion dollars from medicare, which cuts benefits for medicare advantage beneficiaries, a half a million of whom live in texas, there are 11 million total. we should not accept a bill that raises premiums for many americans, and we should not
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accept a bill that puts crushing new taxes on small businesses when unemployment is at 10%. mr. president, i yield the floor. and i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum quorum call:
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objection. mr. rockefeller: mr. president, i rise today with my colleagues,
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senator lieberman and whitehouse, who are on their way, to offer an amendment to strengthen and improve the independent medicare advisory board included in the underlying bill. i firmly believe that creating an independent authority to help congress make informed decisions about reimbursing medicare, getting away from the fee-for-service system and making it based upon the costs which is occurred but also quality which now has to be required, evidence-based outcomes. that's the direction medicare and all of health care has to go. these are not just cost decisions but also quality decisions. i think it's critical to sustaining our program and the promise that we made to millions of seniors that we would do right by them and still keep medicare afford -- you know, keep it the trust fund solvent.
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it's meant to go broke in 2017. that doesn't help hospitals, doctors, medicare beneficiaries or anybody else. so that's -- we have to keep that in mind as we talk about this. i applaud leader reid for his bold leadership in including this advisory board in his underlying bill. it's a very strong step forward. in their may report this year, the medicare trustees determined that if we do nothing, that the medicare trust fund will basically go insolvent in 2017. in health care terms, that's like next february. it's abundantly clear that if we fail to put medicare on a path to fiscal sustainability, this incredible program and the security it means for seniors in my state of west virginia and the presiding officer's state of alaska and people everywhere and
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the disabled, who are unfortunately often forgotten, it will be -- we'll be in tremendous danger. we cannot allow that to happen. so what does this amendment do. if we're serious about protecting medicare's future, we have to be serious about how we handle medicare, how we allocate it, how we use it as a reimbursement and a quality to tool. so this amendment includes a number of changes to do just exactly that. the most important change, this amendment eliminates a significant loophole in the underlying bill and that is it eliminates the carveout which was created by some for hospitals and other providers. i repeat, it eliminates the carveout. and the carveout now comprises about 60% of all of medicare, so it's a sham t. ha sham t. has tr else -- it's a sham. it has to go or else medicare is
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in deep trouble. i want to talk about this a little bit. we protect the board's integri integrity. in fact, we give the board integrity. we give them authority. congress right now has the sole authority to change medicare's cost curve and yet as the ranks of lobbyists grow and prey upon members of the house and senate, it is amazing the relationship between how the cost of medicare grows and their activities. let's just be quite honest about it. this is not a politic thing to say but it's the truth. probably about 12% of the congress understands health care down to the weed depth that is needed to be able to decide on the reimbursement procedures, the quality outcomes procedures which we use to reimburse medicare providers.
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and this means that we've made a lot of mistakes and the cost of medicare has gone out of control and we -- we provide medicare reimbursement unevenly and unfairly. people complain when they shouldn't, don't complain when they should. and you have to understand, mr. president, that medicare is such a powerful force that it drives prices and it drives policies in health care for years and years to come all across the span of health care. it is "the" elephant in the room. power represents an opportunity. medicare clout can also be harnessed in a direction to improve our health care system, improve efficiency. and that's why i'm adamantly opposed to the carveout for hospitals and other providers
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because it weaves special interest treatment into the very fafabric of a board created to remove them from the process. medpac was created by a republican congress in 1997. it, in theory, decides how medicare reimbursement is going to be updated on an annual basis. the fact of the matter is, it has no power to do any such thing. that has to be changed. is this a significant change? yes, it is. is it just like people are changing their lives in various ways all across america because they're facing situations which they haven't faced before? people don't have work, people are having anxiety over all kinds of subjects, they have anxiety over health care. and they should have anxiety over health care, because particularly if you're a senior, medicare -- the trust fund is running out on us, and so the only way you can do that is to,
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in my judgment, get away from a fee-for-service -- that is, you provide the service and whatever it is, i'll pay you the fee -- it's simple, it's what we've used, it's what's got us in trouble, because we don't insist upon experts making these decisions and on demanding evidence-based outcomes in the way hospitals, doctors, others are reimbursed under medicare. medicare is taxpayers' money. it's not a frivolous matter. as was my intent of my original policy, it's time to change the equation and put expert evidence and advice at the forefront of health care decisionmaking. it's time to take the special interests out of the process and create an independent, politically insulated entity whose sole job is to protect medicare's long-term quality and
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solvency. now, i'm sure many will come and object to that, saying that we should do that in congress, but i repeat is congress really qualified, does it have the knowledge to the depth that it can make a decision on how much providers should be reimbursed? my answer is some do, most don't, and therefore the cost of medicare keeps rising, and the system is more in danger. i have no doubt that a strong, independent medicare advisory board would be a powerful cornerstone for meaningful health care reform, all in the right direction, but if we want the board to succeed, it needs the tools for both medicare reform and genuine private sector cost containment. congress cannot do this on its own. we have proven ourselves incapable of making efficient, consistent decisions about medicare's future. that is now -- that now amounts
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to a crisis. we cannot continue standing in the way of progress. i urge my colleagues to join me in support of this truly transformative policy. i simply repeat that if we're going to make it in health care, if we're going to make it in medicare, if we're going to preserve the trust fund, we have to change the way we do business. people may not like that, people will complain about it, people will complain if we do nothing, people will complain if we do everything. people will complain, that's the nature of it. and that doesn't matter. what matters is that we do the right thing, that we bend the cost curve by making accurate decisions that were tough in our decisionmaking, that the congress will have a chance to review it, but cannot override it except by a very substantial vote, and that's what the medicare advisory board is all about. it is the answer to medicare's
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future in this senator's judgment. the security this policy provides for our seniors is just too important. we need to fight for them always. we need to protect them. we need to protect the solvency of the trust fund. we need to make sure that they are getting the best possible care. the day has ended when people can just submit a bill and say i did this and therefore pay me that. that's our system now, it's a wrong system, it's gotten us into trouble, it's not good for health care, and it's very bad for the solvency of the trust fund. i see that my distinguished colleague, senator lieberman, has arrived. he and i have been working on this for some time together, i'm proud to say. i thank the chair and i ask that the full text of the amendment be printed in the record immediately following my statement. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. lieberman: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. lieberman: i thank the
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chair. mr. president, i'm really honored to stand and speak on behalf of this amendment which i'm offering with senator rockefeller and senator whitehouse. i thank them for their leadership on this, and i want to speak for a few moments about it. it's -- it's not an uncontroversial amendment, but i i -- i think it really redeems one of the two central promises, our goals of this bill. in fact, a lot of the current health care reform debate in fact is focused on issues that are not central to two big goals that i think most of us share, which are, one, to expand the number of people who have health insurance coverage in our country, and secondly, to lower the costs because the costs continue to go up way beyond the rate of general inflation in our country, and that has a -- a
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very burdensome effect on millions of individuals, families, businesses, our government, indeed our entire economy. now, this amendment focuses on the second of those two big shared goals which is containing the increases in health care costs. it's become a mantra around here, but it's never bad to repeat a mantra, which is that national health expenditures in our country are now well over over $2 trillion. hard to imagine that amount of money, but let me try to get inside it. we spend twice as much per person on health care as the average developed country in the world, but i'm afraid we are not receiving as a country the best value for our health care spending. the fact is that the united states provides some of the best health care in the world, but we
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don't provide it to all of our people, and we don't provide it efficiently. medicare and medicaid account for over 20% of the federal budget and over 27% of national health expenditures. these two programs are expected to rise to equal 20%, 1/5 of our gross domestic product by 2050. now here's the animating, motivating fact that brings senator rockefeller, senator whitehouse and i together to introduce this amendment. the medicare trust fund that provides medicare benefits to approximately 37 million senior americans, that they depend on, that they have depended on in a
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way that has helped to extend their lives as average life expectancy goes up. the medicare trust fund is expected to be insolvent, out of money, bankrupt by 2017, unable to pay the bills. 2017. that's eight years from now. and it is to prevent that unacceptable result that my colleagues and i come forth to introduce this amendment to make sure that by then we have done a lot of things, but one of them is to make the delivery of health care more efficient, delivery of health care to seniors through medicare more efficient so that they can look forward with confidence to having medicare coverage throughout the rest of their lives. and as we all know, it's not just the ones that are on there now, the baby boomers are coming of age to get onto medicare, and
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that will add enormously to its responsibilities. i would say that senators reid, baucus, dodd, and harkin did a superb job, a very good job in the patient protection and affordable care act, the underlying bill, to reduce health care spending and particularly to do so while expanding coverage for 30 million more americans, which is the second great goal that i believe we all share. while these numbers are encouraging, senators rockefeller, whitehouse, and i think we can and should do more. that is, the cost containment numbers. my colleagues introduced earlier this year the medp.a.c. reform act -- the medpac reform act which created an independent authority, a separate, nonpartisan body to mix critical
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health care cost decisions or make remgz about them. in the current senate health care reform bill, their idea appears centrally as the independent medicare advisory board. it will bring together a panel of experts whose mission it will be to extend the solvency of the medicare trust fund by seeking out new efficiencies, new cost containments and improving the quality of care delivered by medicare and the private sector. the board will have the authority to make recommendations to the president and congress to reduce medicare spending in particular ways, and those recommendations will be fast tracked through congress with strict requirements for the committees of jurisdiction to review them, report the recommendations to the full congress, and then be subject, those recommendations, to limited floor debate, limited by the underlying legislation.
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if congress does not pass the advisory board's recommendations or adopt other proposals that produce an equivalent amount of savings, secretary of health and human services will be required to implement the board's original recommendations. as senator rockefeller said -- it's the second time today i've said this. earlier today the homeland security and governmental affairs committee held a hearing on efforts to establish a commission to begin to turn around the exploding national debt that we have, and part of the reason we do that or part of the reason this independent board outside of congress is being created is that we haven't proven ourselves capable of controlling costs because we find it a lot easier to say yes to people for good reasons, for humane reasons, but don't find it too easy to pay for the
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resulting costs of our affirmative answers to their requests. the c.b.o. has estimated that the advisory board in the current bill will save save $23 billion in the next ten years. now, the administration and dozens of respected economists have said that the creation of this board is instrumental in lowering costs and literally saving medicare from bankruptcy. the amendment that i am introducing -- or have introduced for senators rockefeller and whitehouse i am convinced, it is certainly our intention to make this independent board stronger so that it will result in larger savings and contain more costs over the long run. six provisions in the amendment that i want to denote, describe briefly. first, this amendment will extend the board's authority to cover hospitals and hospices. sensitive, i know, but the board
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must have the authority to consider the entire breadth of medicare expenditures in making its recommendations to congress to maximize savings for the government, for taxpayers, and most of all for the beneficiaries of medicare so the program is still there to help them. second, our amendment makes it easier for the board to make recommendations in the years beyond 2019 than the underlying bill does so that it can continue to monitor medicare over the longer term and ensure its long-term solvency. we want those on medicare, now those coming on medicare to be able to depend on it over the course of their lives. third, this amendment will raise the amount of savings the board must meet in years where medicare growth exceeds the target growth rate set in the law, in the proposal. fourth, we move up the time of implementation of the board's recommendations by two months to
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minimize, frankly, the influence of interest groups who will be in the normal course of the process fighting to stop these cost-effective recommendations. fifth, the amendment allows the board to offer recommendations in years where the medicare growth rate does not outpace the target growth rate. the goal of this provision is to be clear that the purpose of the board is not just to contain costs beyond a certain standard, but also to search out constantly for efficiencies, for waste, for the expenditure of medicare dollars that's not actually benefiting medicare recipients. and finally, our amendment clarifies that the purpose of the board is not just to contain costs within medicare, but to look more broadly at health care spending outside of these publicly supported programs.
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it's very significant. it will provide an opportunity for broad savings in health care and health insurance for pretty much everybody in our country. the presiding officer: i'm sorry. the senator has spoken for ten minutes. mr. lieberman: i wonder if i could ask unanimous consent for just an additional moment. the presiding officer: in my capacity as the senator from minnesota, i object. mr. lieberman: really? okay. don't take it personally. i will ask unanimous consent that the remainder of my remarks be included in the record as if read. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. lieberman: i thank the chair. the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the senator from rhode island be recognized for ten minutes and followed by the senator from michigan, the distinguished chairman of the armed services committee, who will be speaking on the bill, and that i be recognized to follow them.
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mr. levin: i assume that that's for ten minutes each. the presiding officer: is that for ten minutes each? mr. mccain: i do, but i -- i just saw -- i have been around here 20-some years. the first time i have ever seen a member denied an extra minute or two to finish his remarks, and i must say that i don't know what's happening here in this body, but i think it's wrong. and so i -- it's fine with me that it be ten minutes, but i'll tell you, i have never seen a member denied an extra minute or so, as the chair just did. mr. levin: if the senator would yield for that? i don't object to the unanimous consent request on that condition. i think that the same thing did occur earlier this afternoon for reasons which have to do with trying to get this bill going. mr. mccain: i just haven't seen it before myself, and i don't like it and i think it's -- it harms the comity of
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the senate not to allow one of our members at least a minute. i'm sure that time is urgent here, but i doubt if it would be that urgent. so i renew my unanimous consent request that the senator from rhode island be recognized for ten minutes, the senator from michigan be recognized for ten minutes and then i be recognized for ten minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: i thank the distinguished senator from arizona and the distinguished senator from michigan. i know they've been waiting here longer than i have and it is a personal courtesy from them to me to allow me to join senator rockefeller and senator lieberman as a cosponsor and have our remarks follow in series. so i'm very grateful to both of them. i'm here, of course, today to speak in support of the amendment that has been offered by senator rockefeller, senator lieberman and myself which would strengthen the provisions of the reform bill creating a nonpartisan group of experts to put the brakes on out-of-control
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medical spending. i would say to my colleagues that one of the first things that we can count on in terms of this bill being one -- this amendment being one that would continue to protect medicare beneficiaries is that its prime sponsor is senator rockefeller, a man who has dedicated his career since long before i was here, even back during his days in west virginia looking out for the seniors and looking out for the disabled, and since he's been in the senate, looking out for medicare. that is a credential that deserves great respect with respect to this amendment. one of the most consist he want concerns about -- in this health care debate, of course, is cost control. i've spoken on the floor many times about the overriding importance of cost containment, for the future of health care and especially the need for innovative delivery system reforms which can be driven by the way you pay providers. our republican attackers complain that democrats in this
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bill are just doing more of our usual taxing and spending and that we won't impose any discipline on the system. well, mr. president, as someone who has worked for years on health care delivery system reform, i can tell you that is simply not true. this bill undertakes the most comprehensive redesign of our chaotic, wasteful system ever attempted. one leading health expert and an expert in cost containment, jonathan gruber recently wrote of the democrats effort in this bill, that he couldn't think of anything to try that they didn't try. they really made the best that effort has he have been made. everything is in here. you couldn't have done better than they are doing. many critics talk about cost control as if it were just a matter of political will, that congress can come here and cut costs by flipping a switch. well, that may be true if you
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want to cut benefits for the elderly and the disabled or if you want to throw the elderly and the disabled off of coverage or if you want to pay doctors even less for treating medicare patients. but those would be brutal, callous cuts that would create human misery and suffering. better to tackle the waste in the system, the $700 billion annually in excess costs found by president obama's council of economic advisors, a number that actually may be as high as over a trillion dollars every year according to the lewen group and according to george bush's former secretary of the treasury, paul o'neill. this method, you save money by improving the quality and the efficiency of care, by tackling the multiple sources of waste and inefficiency in the system, by improving quality of and access to care, and giving doctors, hospitals, employers,
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and employees all the correct financial incentives to adopt healthy, cost-saving, efficient practices. now, the complexity of getting those incentives right, getting them aligned with top-flight health care versus the power of the interest groups that are involved has historically paralyzed congress. history teaches that the significant national dialogue and debate we are now having about health care is a momentary exception rather than the general rule. it is possible that this debate will usher in a sustained period of focus on health reform, but the steepening fall of our health care system towards catastrophe should counsel us to protect against that congressional institutional paralysis. so this independent, nonpartisan board of experts to help us control costs in a way that is smart and humane and not all politics is important.
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the independent medicare advisory board will force congress to act by issuing recommendations to reduce costs and increase efficiency that will automatically go into effect if congress does what we so often do around here -- nothing. if congress can agree to different ideas, it can change the board's recommendations. but we still have to reduce medicare costs by a minimum savings target. in other words, the board will force congress to engage thoughtfully and for the public good on the most important fiscal and health issue our nation faces. senator rockefeller's amendment strengthens this board in several important ways. it expands the circumstances in which the board's recommendations go into effect when congress does nothing. it raises the maximum level of savings that the board's recommendations must achieve. it enshiewrdz tha ensures that , including large hospitals, oo are equally --
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are equally responsible for bringing costs down, and it empowers the board to issue regulations for improving medicare over the long term, even in years where spending comes under control. my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have depicted the board as a frightening o orwelln all-powerful dictator that will cut medicare benefits. hogwash. the bill specifically prohibits the board from doing anything to increase premiums, to ration care, to restrict benefits, or to modify eligibility. the facts no lockse no longer so matter to our friends on the other side. they've called this group the rationing commission. but if you look at page 1,004 lines 3 and 4, it says this: "the proposal shall not include any recommendation to ration health care." in the law. you're entitled to your own opinion around here, and we all have one, but you're not entitled to your own facts.
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it's actually, mr. president, that kind of demagoguery about medicare that proves the case for creating the board. thoughtful, smart, technically expert penal under congressional oversight but protected from highs partisan spasms of congressional vitriol and passion and folly will make careful and consistent decisions for all of our benefit without diminishing the power of the american people and their elected representatives so that we can preserve and protect medicare. i urge my colleagues to support senator rockefeller's amendment that senator lieberman and i have so proudly joined him in, and i yield the floor again with my thanks to the distinguished senator from michigan for being so gracious and allowing me to join my colleagues in sequence on this bill. mr. levin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the
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senator from michigan. mr. levin: mr. president, first on behalf of senator dodd, i would ask unanimous consent that a military fellow in his office, captain joselyn hemler, be graintd floor privileges for the duration of the 2010 defense appropriations bill. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. levin: mr. president, i want to speak for the few minutes i have this afternoon in support the appropriations bill which is before us, the defense appropriations bill. senator mccain and i and other members of the armed services committee spend a lot of time each year authorizing important programs to support our troops, protect our troops, support their families in a whole host of ways and hopefully to authorize funds which can help us succeed in afghanistan and iraq. that bill now is law and in front of us is an appropriations bill which contains most of
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those same provisions. not all, but most of those same provisions. and it's critically important that this appropriations bill be passed. you know, there's differences inside this body and between this body and the house of representatives and -- about the policies that are involved in the war in afghanistan and the war in iraq. that is normal. that is the way it should be, that we can have democratic debates inside this great democracy of ours. we don't have to agree and we don't agree on many of the policies that are involved in these two war efforts. where i believe this body is unanimous is that we are determined to support our troops when they're in the field, regardless of whether we agree with the particular strategy that they are supporting or whether or not we happen to have supported their mission even. because it has been the
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tradition of the congress once a decision has been democratically arrived at to send troops to the field that we support those troops. this bill has -- this appropriations bill has critically important provisions to support our troops, and i believe that at least on those provisions, that there's unanimity in this bill, consensus in this body, and i want to focus on a few of those provisions and as to why they're so important. we have added significant funds, just to start off with one example, for the so-called mrap vehicles, these mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles. these vehicles, these are life-and-debt matters that we're talking about here, and these vehicles are a perfect example of that. the faster we can get the advanced mraps to the field in afghanistan, the more we can get to the field in afghanistan, the fewer americans are going to be killed in afghanistan.
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so we have funds in here, more than actually have been requested, to send over 6,600 new mrap vehicles -- these are all-terrain vehicles, so that they can function a lot better in afghanistan than the ones we sent in iraq, which were generally able to move down the road. these are all-terrain vehicles and they've been designed, developed in record time in order to get them to our troops. we should be acting in record time on this appropriation bill, and there's many reasons for that, but surely getting more mraps more quickly into the field is one of those reasons. we have an organization called the joint i.e.d. defeat organization whose sole purpose, whose sole mission is to come up with the stra strategies, to cop with the technologies to defeat these i.e.d.'s, the -- these
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improvised explosive devices which are killing our troops, in order to defeat the device or to train our troops that are deployed there in how to identify and protect themselves against these i.e.d.'s. we have $1.8 million in this -- $1.8 billion in this appropriation bill for that organization. they have a laser mission to defeat the i.e.d.'s. we've got to get this money to them. this bill's got to be signed. the president needs to sign it, and he will, so we can get these funds as quickly as possible to our troops. we need to adopt this appropriation bill. now, we've got pay raises and we've got health programs in this bill. we add $1.3 billion more than the president requested for the defense health program. this covers shortfalls that exist in private-sector care.
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it increases funds for medical research, including what's called t.b.i., which are the brain injuries, as well as the ptsd, which have so afflicted our troops in these wars. we add additional funds for those programs. the quicker this bill is signed, the faster those funds get appropriated and spent, the better off our wounded warriors who suffer from t.b.i. and from psychological health are going to be. in afghanistan now, one of the key issues is going to be whether or not we can get the afghan troops trained quickly enough, supported quickly enou enough, given the equipment that they need so that they hopefully, earlier rather than later, can join with us, partner
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with us and take responsibility for their own security. regardless of people's differences over the policies and strategies in afghanistan, i believe there is a consensus in this body. no matter what the votes end up being on the bill, whether people vote for the bill or vote against the bill, i would think that all of us believe that we must provide quickly funds to train and support and sustain the afghan security forces. we want to fund that effort in this bill at $6.6 billion. counternarcotics in afghanistan, i think we all know that the narcotics industry in afghanistan is being used to support the taliban. we want to continue efforts to train afghan counternarcotics
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forces and to support u.s. counternarcotics and interdiction activities in afghanistan. $300 million in this bill is going to do that. we have a fund called the commanders emergency response program or cerp. that fund has been used to great advantage. this bill provides $1.2 billion for that commanders emergency response program. $1 billion of that is for that program in afghanistan, and hundred million of the cerp program is in iraq. this represents about twice as much cerp funding for afghanistan as we had in f.y. 2009. those cerp funds are able to provide very quickly support, economic development for village by village, by village. our commanders are able without
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going through a whole lot of red tape to make relatively small investments in things which make a difference in terms of the security of our troops and the betterment of the lives of afghans. it has had a huge positive impact in terms of the perception of the afghan community about us, satisfying them that we are there for their benefit, not for -- not just for our benefit. we're not occupying afghanistan. when we leave afghanistan, we want to leave afghanistan in better shape than we found it. and the cerp funds are a major contribution to that goal, and one of the things that we have authorized in the bill which senator mccain and i and members of the armed services committee have brought to this body, was adopted by this body and signed into law was the authorization to use those cerp
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funds to help reintegrate where we can afghan taliban fighters into afghanistan society. those who will renounce violence against the government of afghanistan and make a commitment to participate in civilian life. we're able here to actually have the funds that are so essential to make that program work. we don't yet have a program in place. that's being worked on as we speak, but these funds need to be available to support that program of reintegration, afghans, those low-level taliban people who are with the taliban, not for any ideological reason, but because they get some pay from the taliban. now, not all the members of the taliban fall into that category, but for the ones that do, this funding becomes critical. madam president, i believe my
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ten minutes is up, and i would ask unanimous consent that the balance of my statement be inserted in the record, and i want to thank my good friend from arizona, senator mccain, for allowing me to go first. i think the order of priority here was that he go immediately after someone speaking on this side, but as always his courtesy shines through to me and i very much appreciate it, and i yield. the presiding officer: without objection, the materials will be entered into the record. mr. mccain: madam president, i thank my friend from michigan. the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i thank him for his leadership of the armed services committee. madam president, the train is about to leave the station on the last of the appropriations bills for 2010, and unfortunately nothing has changed. everything's the same. earmarking, pork barrel, excessive and unnecessary spending, billions in wasteful earmarks have again found their way into this bill which could otherwise be spent for the
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priorities that our men and women, our military leaders as well as the secretary of defense has asked for. there is in this one, here we go again, appropriations bill loaded up with earmarks 523-page explanatory statement for 1,720 earmarks, totaling $4.3 billion. so let's do some simple math here. $4.3 billion in pork, pork, $2.5 billion in unauthorized and unrequested c-17's, $500 million in unrequested and unwanted funding for the joint strike fighter alternative engine and presidential helicopter. $7.3 billion that the military nor do the defense department request and doesn't need. $7.3 billion. now, some people would say that's not a lot of money. well, it's enough to keep the
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state of arizona's budget requirements fulfilled for ten months. states across america are facing great difficulties, as we know, and an additional $7.3 billion would not be so bad. and i want to say again this process of earmarking breeds corruption. that's why we have former members of congress in federal prison. it wasn't inadequate disclosure requirements that led duke chunk to violate -- duke cunningham to violate his oath of office and take .5 million in bribes in exchange for doling out out $70 million or $80 million of the taxpayers' funds to a defense contractor was his ability to freely earmark taxpayer funds without question. and i want to point out again the president pledged during the campaign that he would work to eliminate earmarks. the president last march when we had an omnibus spending bill said they wouldn't do it anymore. in september, the president spoke in phoenix, arizona, to the veterans of foreign wars.
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in that speech, the president's words were quite compelling about waste and pork-barrel spending in defense bills. in that speech, the president promised, promised to end -- an end to, quote -- "special interests and their exotic projects" and reaffirmed that he was leading the charge to kill off programs like the f-22, the second engine for the joint strike fighter and the outrageousiously expensive expensive helicopter. the president went on to say, quote -- "if a project does not support our troops, we will not fund it. if a system doesn't perform well, we will terminate it. and if congress sends me a bill loaded with that kind of waste, i will veto it. we will do right by our troops and taxpayers." well, mr. president, i can tell you, the president of the united states, that meets your criteria with over $7 billion of unnecessary, unwanted spending. will the president veto this bill? not a chance, not a chance.
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but the american people are going to demand that this -- that obscene process stop. the american people are going to demand that we stop wasting wasting $7 billion of their tax dollars on a -- in wasteful and earmarked spending, and i am confident that they are aware. they are aware that we're spending $7.6 million to fund research in montana on hypersonic wind tunnels called mariah. this self--licking ice cream cone has been with us earmarked and unrequested since 1998. the air force lost interest in 2004, so the appropriators moved it to the army. the army has no requirement for this capability and published a report in 2005 stating their disinterest in the -- in the program. in summary, we have spent spent $70 million for some hypersonic wind tunnel that nobody wants. $70 million. and unless we demand and receive
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change, there will be more millions in it next year. $5 million to the battleship u.s.s. missouri memorial association. $18 million -- $18.9 million for a center at the university of massachusetts, quote -- "dedicating to educating the general public, students, teachers, new senators, and senate staff about the role and importance of the senate." what does that have to do with defending this nation? what does that have to do with providing the men and women who are risking their lives as we speak with the equipment that they need? $18.9 million to educate the public about the importance of the senate? give me a break. $9.5 million to the university of hawaii for a program called "the panoramic survey telescope and raid response system." the list goes on and on. but the air force is paying for
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this, and the air force won't be allowed -- won't be getting much in return since it will only be allowed to use the telescope 5% of the time. in other words, in dollar figures, the air force pays pays $10 million to the university and receives $500,000 in return. what's more, the air force is not in the nine-year life of this earmark requested a single dollar for this program. since 2001, the air force has been forced to spend more than than $75 million of its budget allocation on a program it doesn't want. madam president, i would ask unanimous consent to have these other pork-barrel earmark programs such as $1.2 million for american museum of natural history infectious disease research into the record at this time. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: so the list goes on and on, so $2 million for the cedars-sinai medical centers
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operating room of the future in los angeles, california. that's the second earmark i've seen. the other one is from irritable bowel syndrome. now we have an operating room of the future. remarkable. $2.3 million for marine species. $2 million for marine mammal detection system. there's a threat. $2.4 million for marine mammal awareness alert and response system. the list goes on and on. i know that my time is near to expire. so here we are with a deficit of of $1.4 trillion for this year, a debt of over $12 trillion, unemployment at 10%. 900,000 families lost their homes in 2008, and we're spending $7 billion, over over $7 billion on earmark pork-barrel projects that the d.o.d. neither needs nor want. and there are programs that are not fully funded because of this that are vital to defending the
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lives of the men and women who are serving in the military. again, this appropriations bill is a disgrace. madam president, i yield the floor. mr. kerry: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. mr. kerry: i thank the chair. madam president, i rise to speak to something else, but i say very quickly, i have listened to colleagues on the other side of the aisle lamenting where we are today. we're about what? nine -- i guess 11 months since a new president was inaugurated, and obviously everybody understands this is not a mess that he created. the last eight years of the stewardship of this country, there was never one appropriations bill vetoed, not in that entire time. it's an extraordinary story of public negligence and even malfeasance. so we are where we are, we're creating jobs, the economy is turning around. we have had the least loss in the last 11 months. we're beginning to see those
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changes. we will ultimately have the strength in our economy to deal with this deficit. but i rise for -- for a different reason right now, madam president. it's a bittersweet privilege for me to speak today about my friend and my wise counselor, david mccain, the staff director of the foreign relations committee who is leaving the senate at the end of this month to become the chief executive officer of the john f. kennedy library foundation. i have enjoyed the benefit of david's advice for almost 20 years now, and he will be sorely missed. my only consolation is that this son of massachusetts will again be able to vote for me. he has been a part of my life in the senate since 1987. when i was a freshman and he was a younger and idealistic legislative assistant. over the years, i've drawn significantly on his knowledge and his skills, and he leaves the senate now to continue in public life, but he leaves it a
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little bit older but still idealistic and young at heart. when he came to our office, he had already made a mark. he had graduated magna cum laude from harvard college, received a law degree from duke university and a master's degree from fletcher's school of diplomacy. he also taught english at the waterford kamlaba school in swaziland, africa. but he was a crusading soul, deeply interested in public policy, with a zeal for investigations and an instinct to hold washington accountable. he was looking for a place to put all of those interests to work in the senate, and he found it, but he also found something more, i might add, much more. that summer of 1987, there was a young kellogg fellow from the university of pennsylvania working in my office at that
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time, and her name was kathleen kay, and she was extraordinarily smart and committed, and david did not fail to notice those qualities and a lot more. and their marriage now and their three wonderful children, who i'm pleased to say are sitting up in the gallery here right now , shaw, christian, and kay, are a tribute and more to the relationship that they share. david has devoted his career to public service. after five years of working in my office, he moved across the capitol as chief of staff to another member of the massachusetts delegation, representative joe kennedy. he later became special counsel at the commodities futures trading commission before returning home to the senate as deputy chief counsel at the government affairs committee and staff director of the permanent subcommittee on investigations. i failed to mention that before going to the permanent subcommittee, he worked with my staff early in his career in
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helping to develop one of the great investigative efforts, i think, here in the senate in recent memory, which was the bcci investigation and wound up on the cover of "time" magazine and as a seminal report, one of the best reports i have seen in the 26 years i have been here. in 1999, i was lucky to entice him to come back to my office as chief of staff. it turned out to be his longest tenure in any of those public jobs so far. earlier this year when i became chairman of the foreign relations committee, he became the staff director. david is the ultimate team builder and a magnet for great talent, so he would be the first to tell you that his success did not come single-handedly, but it's clear that david played the essential role in turning 2009 into a stellar year for the committee and for its new chairman. under its guidance, we conducted 125 hearings on topics rating
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from afghanistan to zimbabwe. we secured passage of the enhanced partnership with pakistan act and we won approval of legislation bringing far-reaching reform to our foreign assistance program. he has worked tirelessly with the committee members and the white house over the past year and our record i think is a testament to his determination and skill, and i think our committee has succeeded in going through the nominations of more people and passing them more rapidly to the floor than any other in the senate and i congratulate him for that effort. somehow during his career of service, he has found time to indulge in his passion for history and scholarship. he's the author of a highly acclaimed biography tommy corcoran, and he also wrote a book on taj clifd, which "the new york times" called the book of the year, and he skillfully
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and perhaps surprisingly transformed the story behind the supreme court's landmark marbury v. madison into what the "washington post" called a political their. thriller. as most in this body know, we are only capable and quality. he's been a confident advisor, trustworthy, loyal, unafraid of speaking up when i was about to veer off in the wrong direction, which clearly was very seldom, indeed. never was he more valuable to me than in the immediate aftermath of the 2004 presidential election. 48 hours after an election night and early morning and early afternoon that didn't end up the way that i had hoped it might, i returned to the senate for a vote. back to work. i don't remember what the vote was about but i do remember that david was there with a plan to
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get us through the day and the next two years, and i will miss that wisdom and guidance. our loss is the kennedy library's gain. in some ways, i think a library, something like the kennedy library, is really the perfect place for this man who is at heart a scholar and an intellectual. but the kennedy library is particularly well suited to david because it's a place jackie kennedy hoped would turn -- help to turn history into advocacy and activism. and i have no doubt that david's vision and his experience will help to ensure that the legacy of president kennedy endures to inspire future generations. madam president, i want to close by simply saying that my colleagues and i are grateful for david's distinguished service. i will personally miss him very much. i wish him and kathleen and their children my very best as they return home to massachusetts to start this next special chapter in david's career in public service.
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i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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objection. ms. stabenow: thank you, madam president. first i would ask unanimous consent that at 5:30 p.m. today, the majority leader be recognized to make a motion to
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recess until 12:01 a.m. a senator: i object. the presiding officer: the objection is heard. a senator: reserving the right to object, if i might? the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: if the senator would propose again her unanimous consent request, i will consider it. ms. stabenow: thank you, madam president. i ask unanimous consent that at 5:30 p.m. today, the majority leader be recognized to make a motion to recess until 12:01 a.m. the presiding officer: is there objection? ms. stabenow: thank you very much. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. ms. stabenow: thank you, madam president. i'd like to speak for a few moments about the position we find ourselves in right now as we come to the end of the year, despite incredible successes that we have had and the recovery act and equal pay and children's health insurance and
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and -- and so many other areas where we have been focused and working hard to make a difference. we have been doing that every step of the way, as with the current bill over stalling tactics, objections, filibusters, and now again the very, very important department of defense funding bill. department of defense for the country. we are in a filibuster. i had to make the motion -- make the motion that i just did because we're going to have to come in at 1:00 in the morning and have a vote to stop a filibuster. that's what this is all about, filibustering a bill, first of all, that has a pay raise in it for our troops, that has help for families in it, military families, that has the funding for the next year. we are in the middle of two wars, essential funding that is
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needed to support our military. and as our chair knows, who has been such a leader on this as well, we also have placed provisions that are incredibly important for families into this bill, extending unemployment insurance for families across the country, who find themselves in a situation not of their making, where their job has gone away. they have been laid off because their company can't continue to employ them. maybe because of rising health care costs, which is certainly part of the equation here. and people are finding themselves in a situation where due to nothing that they have done other than be a good citizen, care for their kids and follow the rules, they are without employment. and we have this year extended unemployment insurance, and i'm so grateful that es


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