tv Book TV CSPAN January 1, 2013 3:00pm-4:00pm EST
today we're busy patting ourselves on the back for avoiding the fiscal cliff. i don't know how much congratulations we ought to have for that. yesterday i was buying some groceries and the guy at the checkout stand had no idea who i was -- and shouldn't have -- and he said, what's going on on capitol hill? he says, what are those people doing in we ought to fire everybody in congress! they can't get their work done. we have to get our work done. they have to get their work done. it got down dot level of grocery store checkout people and i suspect different levels of that different occupations than that. america, beca -- america, because they're kind of tuned into the news media, which is kind of an information media or an entertainment media built this fiscal cliff so that it appeared to be niagara falls
with money running over it. it's more of a gradual slope, but we have to stop the downward slope that we're on. it's important that we do that. and this is a body that can do that. congress can do that. we do a war of words around here, this protecting the rich sticks. i don't know of anybody that's trying to protect the rich. the problem comes into the definition of "rich." that's a hard one to explain. and any attempt that looks like that goes back to the sticky word "rich," which nobody is trying to protect. i used to be in business. it was one of those -- i was one of those small business men. and i know that at the end of the year the business would show
a profit. unfortunately, we couldn't take the money out of the business if we were going to continue to grow the business. if we were going to put more people on. that meant that we needed to have more product. that meant we have to have more investment in the business. so the money that we could have taken out that showed as profit actually went back into the business. and we kept saying how come we have so little money when we make so much money? welshing that's a position -- well, that's a position that a lot of the small businessmen are in around this country. they're having to put all their money back into it. i understand when people say protect the rich, those making $250,000, $400,000, $450,000, the person working in the business making $30,000, $40,000, says if all i'm making is that amount and they're making $250,000, we really ought to tax them. it's a fairness issue.
but when it gets down to the point of what they actually get to take out, what their take-home is, it's a lot different. they look really good on paper. they look rich on paper. but the money they get to take out is significantly less than that. and that's where the divide came up on trying to solve this problem. now could it have been solved? yes, it could have been solved. what we need to do around this institution is start legislating and stop dealmaking. we're a legislative body. we are not -- you can't have 100 people involved in a deal, and consequently we don't. we have maybe as many as 12 putting together a comprehensive package to putting before this body. and those who aren't in the group are really kind of insulted by it. they don't make a big deal out
of it because it's become the tradition, but it's not how it's supposed to work. i've been there. i've gotten to legislate. it's one of the privileges of this country. the main person that i legislated with was senator kennedy. now senator ken by was considered one of the most -- senator kennedy was considered one of the most liberal people in the senate. i've always been considered one of the most conservative people in the senate. but we were able to work together to get 38 bills out of committee and through this body. the worst vote we ever got was 15 votes against. how did we do that? well, we didn't try to solve the world's problems all in one bill. we took an issue at a time and we found the common ground. we found what we could agree on. and that was usually about 80% of the whole issue. 80%. that's pretty good. we worked on issues that had
been around here 10 or 12 or 15 years without passing, coming to the floor numerous times. and what we mainly had to do was sit down with the stakeholders who were intensely interested in the bill and who had been lobbying on that bill for years and years and years. and we'd say to them this is what we can get. this is what we have to leave out. it wasn't compromise. compromise is when you give up half of what you believe in and i give up half of what i believe in and we wind up with something that neither of us believe in. but common ground happens. there's common ground on every one of these issues. and that's what we've got to find. the common ground. so we would meet with these stakeholders and they would say you're leaving out the most important part of this whole bill. this is what we really want. and with senator kennedy's constituency, he'd have to make
this comment. if it was mine i'd have to make the comment. i'd say how long have you been working on this? they would say we've been working on this for ten years. i'd say how much of it have you gone tkpwo*ten? they would -- have you gotten? they would say nothing. i'd say here's what we can get for you and outline it again. isn't that better than nothing? and the light would come on. they would say that would be good progress. and then they would quit pushing against us, and they would get with us. it's amazing that sometimes the advocates for the bill are really the ones that stop the bill from happening. and it's over the issues that 10% on each side, which amounts to 20%, that we're not going to get resolved. there's basic values on both sides and they're important to both sides, and they're both right. but they're not common ground. and that's where we've got to go. we've got to get to common ground again. and the way we do that is by
legislating. you put out a bill that's 80% of the whole issue -- not 100% of the whole issue. that's comprehensive. you put out the 80% that both sides agree on. and then you allow amendments on it. that's something we haven't been doing around here for a long time. and if you don't allow amendments, first of all, it has to go to committee. the committee is where the people intensely interested in that particular bill preside, work. exert their efforts. that's where they want to concentrate. that's where when you have a bill that comes to committee, you can have maybe 200, 300 amendments in committee. and the chairman and the ranking member -- that's the name we give to the person with the most seniority in the minority -- can sit down together and sort through these amendments. and out of the 200, there are probably 100 that nobody would really in their right mind
offer. and out of the remaining ones, you'll find that there are people on both sides that have very similar ideas on how to solve that problem. and you get those people to sit down together, take a look at all the amendments that are similar to that and see if they can't come up with a single amendment that will solve that part of the problem. and you know what? they do. now, it might not be 100% of what they want. it's probably again only 80% of what they want. but it's something they can all agree on. here's the really magnificent part that helps it get through committee. they can all say it was my idea. they can all go to the media and put out the release that they solved this particular problem. and that helps a lot around here. so committee work extremely important. when a bill comes out of committee, it's not perfect. now, when senator kennedy and i were working the bills, we not only recognized they weren't perfect, but we were able to talk to some people. we weren't able to solve their problem by the time the
amendment process came up in committee, but we promised to work with them until a bill got to the floor, and not to take the bill to the floor until we had a solution to that problem. or the right for them to offer an amendment. and that helped a lot to get the bill out of committee. if you get the bill out of committee in a bipartisan way, meaning people from both sides of the aisle, both the republicans and the democrats and the independents support the bill, then you've got a chance of bringing it to the floor and actually getting some time to do a debate. and the debate part's important. that's kind of where we bring america along on it. there's coverage on the committee process, but that's a little harder to follow. the debate here is where we bring america along on whatever ideas we have. and the debate here is very important. now, over time there's been this process, the leaders invent some things that actually
concentrates power in the hands of the leaders rather than the body as a whole. but it's the filibuster process. that filibuster process can be manufactured. i got to tell you a couple of stories. one bill that i worked on around here had a solution for health care. i called it small business health plans. and the idea behind the bill was that small businesses could get together through their association or any way they wanted to, across state lines, even nationwide to form a buying group big enough to take on the biggest of the insurance companies. think about that. the power to take on the biggest of the insurance companies. and, yes, there was some opposition to that; called it insurance companies. many of them worked with us and began to understand how they could participate in the process
and went along with it. one of the biggest in the nation had some ads out of massachusetts that opposed the bill and eventually helped to keep the bill from ever happening. but the biggest thing that kept the bill from happening -- could i get unanimous consent for another ten minutes or the right for the officer to speak and then come back to me again? mrs. boxer: i'm wondering if you'll use five minutes and then i will speak? mr. enzi: if i could have a couple of more minutes? the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. enzi: when it came to the floor, senator frist filled the
tree. filling the tree means nobody can make another amendment to the bill. here's the catch. after this thing came out of committee we had people that had a problem with the bill, and we had one amendment that would have solved those problems. with the tree filled, that one amendment can't come up. that one amendment can't happen. so what happens? we talked about the bill and how it lacked this particular part. i kept explaining how we had an amendment that would take care of that. everybody in the chamber knew that that amendment was not going to happen. and consequently, on a process vote, it was killed with just over 40 votes. that's what happens with a filibuster. had that amendment been possible, we would have had one of the things in place for health care. just one. but it would have solved a lot of things for a lot of businesses, and that's where a lot of people work in this country. it's where jobs are. so that's how you can do it. my second story would be -- and
this one is much shorter -- this year we brought senator -- senator harkin and i brought an f.d.a. bill to the floor. when it got to the floor, we explained to the leader that there were going to be 14 amendments. eight of them would be brought up and fail, the other six would be withdrawn. a week later we finally got to start on the amendments for that bill. there was worry that there would be some extraneous ones thrown in. we already had agreement from, i guess you could say the most conservative and most liberal from each of our sides, that they would not bring up the peripheral amendments. and they didn't. so a week later, when we finally got the start to vote, and we could have done that the same day, we finished up in a day and a half. what we had were eight votes that got defeated and six amendments that were withdrawn. we wound up exactly where we knew we were going to be, and the bill passed here 96-1. that's how the committee process can work.
that's how not having a filibuster can work. and that's what we need to get back to. we need to be legislating, not dealmaking, and i'll talk later about some of the dealmaking that we do. we've seen that with the cliff process. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from california is recognized. mrs. boxer: i want to say to senator enzi that i so agree with so much of what he said. our being here on new year's eve without our families, some of us, is nothing to be proud of, having been able to do our work through the committee system. and i think you make a very good point. enzi and kennedy, quite a team. baucus and grassley, they had their successes. levin and mccain recently had their success on the defense bill with lots of amendments.
boxer and inhofe on the transportation bill, i can tell you couldn't find two people more different, and yet we were able to do that work and get that done and protect two million to three million jobs. stabenow and roberts in the agriculture committee. so my friend is absolutely right we can do this in the right way and not have to be here in the middle of the night. i don't think that's anything to be proud of. however, i do believe what we did early this morning was the right thing. and a very important thing. and i think senators durbin and brown laid it out as to why that vote was so critically important it protected our families. it gave certainty to our businesses. and it keeps this economy moving forward. and all this is true if the house passes this bill.
now, as senator enzi said so eloquently and in such a straightforward fashion, this is a deal. this is a deal. and each of us could write our own deal, and each of us would be so much happier with the deal that we personally can write. but that is not the way it is. we are not a parliamentary system. we're one party -- where one party controls everything. in a parliamentary system that you see in europe, one of one party controlling everything. they have a program. the other party opposition has a program. there may be other parties as well. but two major parties. one of them gets elected. they put together a coalition. they have the discipline. they have the program. they don't have to sit down with people they don't see eye to eye with. they just have to get together
and pass the program. if the people don't like it, there's a vote of confidence and out they go, and in comes the opposition. they have a chance. that is not the american system. our system is much more difficult in so many ways. so many of us are so passionate on so many issues and believe so strongly, and yet we know we have to compromise, as senator enzi has said. when i sat down with senator inhofe on the transportation bill -- and i will be doing it now with senator vitter on the wrda, the water resources bill -- you know, i laid out the five things i cared most about, he laid out the five things he cared most about, and to be honest, there were only a couple of things that matched. so we started with those things and then we met each other in the middle with the rest. and then the senate had a chance to work its will.
when the bill got over to the house, it was stuck, it was trapped and we all went over there, all of us together, a bipartisan team to go over to speaker boehner, chairman mica and say, okay, let's get it done. and so it did. so it can get done. but we are where we are where we are. and this morning we had a choi choice, and, frankly, i was proud to see the overwhelming vote that we had. it was really amazing. 89-8. and i think -- i don't know what motivates every colleague. i only know what motivated me to feel that this was an important "aye" vote for me to cast. i will never forget this recession that we are just coming out of now, the worst recession since the great depression.
a treasury secretary, hank paulson, who put his head in his hands and was overwhelmed with what he actually called the collapse -- the potential collapse of capitalism. that's what we faced. we have short memories here. because our life is so filled with fast-moving events every day, some of them wonderful, some of them awful, some of them lifting up our hearts, some of them breaking our hearts, so we don't remember the things that happened a couple of years ago. when president obama took over after a very lifeless economy, as my friend, senator brown said, where only a million jobs have been created, maybe not even that many in the private sector, over an eight-year period, and suddenly a collapse brought on by the greed of wall street and manipulation of securities dealing with housing,
a crash, a nightmare. and we were losing 800,000 jobs, we were bleeding 800,000 jobs a month. and then the auto industry on its knees. now, believe me, in the past, i haven't been the biggest fan of the auto industry, from california, because i felt that they weren't producing the cleanest cars they could, the most fuel economy cars they could. i felt they were missing out on an opportunity. but let me tell you, when i was faced with the issue of whether to let them go bankrupt or stand up and give them a chance, i chose that chance. and i'm proud that i did it and i'm proud of this congress for doing it. i'm proud of this president for leading the way. that was critical vote. and this vote this morning i believe was a critical vote if we really want to keep this economy moving forward.
and, you know, a lot of people say, how did president obama ever win with that unemployment rate so high? and all the historians were saying it's never going to happen because it's never happened. well, i'll tell you why i believe it happened, because i think people understand what we went through, what we suffered through, what he inherited, not to mention two wars on a credit card that he has to end. so i think people understood this. we don't give the people enough credit. they got it. they understood it. and i hope that they realize that this president has led us to this point with the vice president, with senator mcconnell, with senator reid to move this economy forward. retailet me tell you just very quickly why it's so important to my home state.
a lot of my colleagues roll their eyes when i tell them we have 38 million people in california. i know my friend from wyoming, how many people in wyoming? [inaudible] 562,785. and we have 38 million people. all right? i want to tell you what it means that we voted the way we did. 400,000 people this morning. 400,000 people this morning will lose their unemployment insurance, unless the house acts. and if the house acts as we did, they will not lose it. what does this mean to people, 400,000 of them? and as my friend in the chair, the presiding officer, who's so good on economics knows, there's a multiplier effect here. for every dollar we give in unemployment benefits, we give a bang for the buck of $1.42 in
the community because the people on unemployment, they spend it because they're out of work. and they're about to lose this help. we need to help them and in this package we did. two million nationwide, 600,000 jobs at stake from the multiplier effect. and in my state, 400,000 people. almost as many people as reside in the state of wyoming. they are about to lose their unemployment insurance. imagine almost that. i'd ask for an additional five minutes. the presiding officer: is there objection? so ordered. mrs. boxer: so when we talk about our vote this morning, it's not a wonkie discussion. it's real people. five million californians are about to get trapped into the a.m.t. problem, the alternative minimum tax, which was set up
for a very fair reason. i remember, i wasn't here at that time but i remember reading about millionaires and getting away with paying no taxes because we had no alternative minimum. they took advantage of the tax code, got their deductions and paid nothing. we put it in place but it's imperfect. we had to fix it to make sure it doesn't catch the middle class. five million of my people. so -- so this is like a partridge in a pear tree, in a way. 400,000 would have lost their unemployment compensation. five million would get caught in the alternative minimum tax. that would have meant an extra $2,200 in taxes right there. and 15 million would have seen their tax rates go up an average of $2,200. this bill that we voted for this morning had real consequences, and i know a lot of people are worried about the future and what's coming down in 30 days,
60 days, 90 days. and i worry, too. but, mr. president, i've been around here long enough to know, it isn't going to get better if we put this off until then. and we have twice as many issues on our plates to deal with. so i think what we did last -- this morning -- and my voice is going because it was a very difficult and emotional day i think for all of us, some being away from their families for the first time. i know my friend from rhode island, you know, we talked about it, it wasn't easy. but we know what we're doing here is critical. we're not proud of the fact that it took us this long to get this done. i agree with my friend from wyoming. it's nothing to be proud of. but it is important, what we did. we have certainty for businesses who depend upon consumerism. we have an economy that is
driven by consumer activity, about 70% of it, and now the business community knows people -- if the house acts. i've got to keep reminding myself. it's not done. if the house acts, we will give certainty to our families, to our businesses, to our low-income people who depend upon refundable tax credits, to our energy community who rely on energy tax breaks to keep on moving and keep on producing. so i don't want to see economic growth derailed. it was too horribly painful to sit through this very difficult economic recovery inch by inch, every day hoping we would push forward despite the odds. we have the -- we had the economic crisis in europe that
weighed on us as well. well, what we did this morning was important. so i want to close by saying this to my friends in the house, all of them, democrats, republicans, liberals, moderates and conservativesmen conservati. this is not a perfect deal. we all know it. you know, each of us can find a piece of it that we really, really don't like. but on the whole, it will give certainty to this economy. in many cases, many of the provisions are permanent, like the a.m.t. it gives certainty and certainty is critical. we will not go back. we will not take billions and billions of dollars out of this economy. we can't do that now. and i would say to my conservative friends over there, now it's the 1st of the year, you're actually cutting taxes
now. because as of today, they went up. so you could take credit for cutting taxes. i -- i just hope and pray that the house will do the right thing, that democrats and republicans will come together as americans, put the country first. i believe they will do this. i pray they will do this. and with that, i would yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming is recognized. mr. enzi: thank you, mr. president. i want to join the senator from california in the hope that the house will pass the bill that was sent over from the senate last night. it was a tremendous amount of effort that was put into it by a whole number of people over a number of days and weeks, and i think is the best answer that we could come up with at this point in time. i particularly want to thank leader mcconnell and vice president biden for working
numerous hours starting again yesterday morning at 6:45 and winding up with something late last night, more than 12 hours later, over the last two issues, as i understand it. and, yes, i'm glad that a.m.t. was fixed. i would remind everybody that a.m.t. is the last effort that we had to tax the rich and it's backfired to where it now taxes everybody, or almost everybody. and so it desperately needed -- needed a fix. now we're talking about taxing the rich again. i hope that we can come up with some collective ways that will be certain that the people are rich and that it will last over time instead of just for a few short years. in my area of the world, the biggest thing in that bill was the estate taxes. people in own land in wyoming that they bought maybe at $40 an
acre now have land that's worth $2,000 an acre or more, and they haven't figured out how to pay the taxes on these few acres that they were able to scrape together over a period of time if the amount of exemption went down to a million dollars. and that's where we were headed. and at a million dollars, they'd have to sell off part of their ranch, part of their farm in order to be able to pay the taxes when somebody died. all the time that land is making a profit, people are paying the taxes on it. then when they die, they have to pay taxes on something that they would like to keep and continue in operation. and so the estate tax piece of that was a very important part for a lot of america and not just the ones where people are land rich and dollar poor. of course i keep wondering what would have happened if a month ago a basic bill would have been put on the floor, perhaps the
president's proposal, and both sides had been able to do amendments to it. and even multiple amendments on the same topic, like the department of defense bill. i think we did 119 amendments in a day and a half for two days. what if that would have happened on this bill? would we have been able to come up with a package that would have, i suspect, be very similar to what we just passed last night, but done it with everybody participating, everybody understanding, the american public thinking that congress is actual little getting something done. that would be a huge relief. i think we could have done that with an open amendment process, limiting it probably to relevant amendments. there are a lot of different things people would like to bring up because they don't know any other way they're going to get a vote. but i keep reminding my colleagues when you bring up one of those irrelevant amendments it might make it into a bill but it will be pulled out in
conference committee. you still didn't win anything. i guess you could make a big press release about how you got that into the bill to begin with, but i want to talk mostly today about the questions that i hear from americans who say why can't politicians in washington get along, why is there this gridlock? those are questions folks outside the beltway have been asking. but like many questions, the answer is involved. for many, including president obama and senate majority leader reid, it's easy and strategic to oversimplify the answer. they've identified g.o.p. senators as the culprits and the filibuster as the instrument. but as one of those g.o.p. senators, let me give you my side of the story. what i think people are missing and what some in the majority want you to miss is why a filibuster happens. you don't hear this from the majority leader, but for the last few years many filibusters in the senate have been designed and instigated by him.
they haven't been through the committee process. here's how it works. he has a bill that is popular with his party and whose title really sounds great. he knows many of those on our side, the minority, who would actually agree with many parts of the bill. but we would want votes on the items that would potentially be polyphr*eutically embarrassing -- potentially be politically embarrassing. he brings the bill directly to the senate floor, uses an arcane proceed, files for cloture and fills the amendment tree. prevents amendments on the senate floor and often because he thinks they might be embarrassing for members on his side. our majority leader is no slouch. he picks bills with great titles that on the surface anyone would support. anyone. remember most of these have not been to committee.
now who could possibly be against students or veterans or seniors or women? the problem for the minority is that within these great-sounding bills, it's usually something that deep down philosophically in our bones many just can't accept. an example would be tying a women's health care to a mandatory public funding of abortions or adding gun control to otherwise acceptable crime bill. these are poison pills. the majority knows the minority won't swallow. best of all, politically for the majority, the minority gets blamed for filibustering, and the majority leadership looks like the hero fighting hard for the cause. that's how a filibuster can be initiated -- that's how a filibuster can be initiated by the majority leader to make the minority look like obstructionists. if the majority party brings up a bill containing a poison pill, even though the bill has a great title, they shouldn't expect the
other party to swallow the poison pill without using every delay tactic possible. in fact, they don't expect the minority to go along and they use it to their full political advantage. those of us on this side who are in the minority have been seeing bill after bill that didn't even go through committee with great titles, containing poison pills come to the floor directly. we weren't assured even a vote to try to take the pill out, even though the majority had enough votes to assure the poison pill would stay in. that's the meaning of majority, enough votes to always win. if you can always win, why stop the vote? so stopping the right to vote should and has resulted in a filibuster. now the big dirty, not so secret secret is that a filibuster can be controlled by the majority leader. if the leader agrees to allow an open amendment process permission to proceed would be a a formality and work could start
immediately. that's what happened with the department of defense authorization we just finished. it was a breeze through tkh-t -- which the majority turned from a stale senate. if no agreement before starting the bill, the minority still has to be their amendments will be blocked. the majority can vote down any proposal it doesn't like. and with a motion to table, can do it quickly. let me say that again. with a motion to table, they can do it quickly. they can actually limit debate. that's why the minority has been filibustering on motions to proceed and also why the majority leader wants to end that process. delaying action on motions to proceed is our best chance to assure an open amendment process. we can slow the bill down to try to get that agreement. the majority still doesn't have to agree, and if they have 60 votes, they can move ahead. if they don't have 60 votes, it has to at least be a little bit
bipartisan. just a little bit. the real point gets lost in all of this. that is, to be effective congress has 535 people looking at every proposal. lots of viewpoints, lots of experience. if all the decisions are going to be made by the majority leader, how does every american's elected leader get to represent his or her constituents? the people back home who put their faith in their senators expect to be represented by those senators, not a party or a majority leader who doesn't know them as their own senators do. the majority leader has used the filibuster count to falsely claim obstruction by republicans. remember, you can manufacture a filibuster. now he wants to weaken the filibuster further. that may happen day after tomorrow. that is damaging america's faith in congress. that's damaging what the senator from california said was one of the basic principles of this body. there are already filibuster
rules. if used, they would make those objecting spend time on the floor explaining themselves, actually talking. that already exists. and in a very limited way, each senator has the right to one hour of debate during a filibuster. one hour. they can have other people cede their hours to them. at any point if there isn't somebody on the floor to take more of that hour, the presiding officer can end that part of the filibuster. so there are already ways to shorten the delay involved, but they aren't being used. using current rules would be much better than breaking the rules for the first time in order to change the rules. we've never done that. it's been threatened once before. it didn't happen. i hope it doesn't happen during the time that i'm in the senate. breaking the rules to change the rules is not the way of the
senate for the history of the senate. i know there are amendments on which the majority does not want to have a recorded vote, that would put his members on record. but that's a price for being in the majority. i think our side would like to be in the majority and have to take those tough votes. they're putting us on record without the poison pill being obvious in the vote. all we're voting on is a bill title, and that's the way the people of america look at it. and it worked very well in the last election. going all out to avoid votes is silencing the voices of millions of americans and tearing down the institution of the senate. and eliminating transparency. the media usually demands transparency. this hides transparency. the proposal to weaken the filibuster would only hasten the senate's decline. it's like adding lemon to a recipe that's already too sour.
we don't need a new recipe. we don't need to change the rule as the majority is proposing. we need to use the great system that's been in place for hundreds of years. even now we get glimpses of it working. if the majority leader and those who advocate for the weakening of the filibuster were in the minority, they would speak out against it. in fact, they did. in 2005, when he was in the minority, the g.o.p. started talking about challenging the filibuster, senator reid warned of grave consequences. i want to quote senator reid. "the time has come for those senators of the majority to decide where they stand, whether they will abide by the rules of the senate or break the rules for the first time in 217 years. will they support the checks and balances established by the founding fathers?" that's a quote from the majority leader. he asked if the majority would -- quote -- "silence the
minority in the senate and remove the last check we have in washington against the abuse of power." a quote from leader harry reid. i hope that he will follow his own advice and that will not be part of the problem right after we swear in the new members this next week. so i hope the institution of the senate will continue to be a senate. i hope that we will have more of a committee process, where people can work out the things that there are difficulties with and bring a more consolidated, more comprehensive, less compromising area between which neither of them believe that will get to the floor and then have an open amendment process on the floor. and i guarantee that things will happen faster than they have been in the senate. holding up things a week or two weeks while we go through the whole filibuster process is a
waste of our time. amendments are not a waste of our time. i hope we can get back to that system. i yield the floor. mr. whitehouse: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island is recognized. mr. whitehouse: thank you, mr. president. i have the greatest respect for the senator from wyoming and considerable affection. indeed, he is my ranking member on the help committee, and he has been kind enough to offer his perspective on this question of the rules change. i'll reciprocate by offering my perspective. we were in the caucus the other day, and our leader reported that during the time that lyndon johnson was the majority leader, which was a very active and disputacous time in the senate, he faced one filibuster and
leader reid said he faced 91, i think he used. the senator from wyoming correctly points out that filling the tree is a challenge to the minority, but i believe, if i recall correctly -- i was planning to speak on something else, so i don't have the numbers exactly accurate at hand. i believe the number of times the tree has been filled is something like 70. there's a huge disparity between the number of times the majority leader has filled the tree and the number of times he's been forced to file cloture. and the reason is very often there is not agreement on amendments. and while on a major bill, an open amendment process is a good thing, i believe, and we've seen examples of that recently on this floor -- senator mccain and his work on the armed services bill along with senator levin was an example.
there are also times when filibuster by amendment takes place, and it becomes abusive. i can remember sitting in the chair where the distinguished senator from ohio is now sitting and watching senator kennedy on the floor. he had a bill that would raise the minimum wage. and we often get big, fat bills on the floor. this was a bill that i think was literally one page. i mean it was the smallest, shortest bill because it was just changing a number basically. and hundreds of amendments, literally hundreds of amendments had been filed against it. when the majority leader is faced with that -- many of them were cleatly nongermane -- completely nongermane, not relevant. when the majority leader is faced with a circumstance where hundreds of nonrelevant amendments are filed on a bill
like that, it is easy to see why you try to limit the amount of time. the whole rest of the session could have been devoted to that session if you can't get control. if you can't get an agreement, and very often agreement is withheld, as to a fixed number of amendments, you have no choice but to take your best shot with the bill by filling the tree. even if i'm right that the number is 70, i would contend that the number of what the minority might consider malicious fillings of the tree would be a considerable smaller number than 70, that many of those are made necessary by the behavior of the minority in offering hundreds of amendments and refusing to enter into an agreement to a reasonable number. so i think it is a problem, but i think on balance, i stand by the view that i've expressed before that there is an unprecedented level of obstruction in this body, and i say that with some humility, because the distinguished senator from wyoming has been here a good deal longer. i've only been here six years. but that's what people who've been here for many, many years
confirm. that there's been really nothing like it. so let me ask unanimous consent, madamr. president, that the perd for morning business for debate only be extended until 5:00 p.m. with senators to speak for up to ten minutes eve. the presiding officer: is there objection? so ordered. mr. whitehouse: and may i ask for -- i it may go over 10 minutes -- so let me 15eu9 minutes, although probably not that long. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. white house whoims a going twhie house whoims a going t mr. whitehouse: the measure is now over in the house and the predecessor and the senator from california both expressed their hope and confidence that the house will act, given the dysfunction of the house and its republican leadership, i'm perhaps a little bit more cautious than they are about this. i remember that we did a very good bipartisan highway bill
here. it passed wit with an enormous e -- 70-some, if i remember correctly -- and went over to the house. they couldn't even pass a highway bill. they had no bill at all. they got so snarled up, that finally they passed a bill that did nothing but appoint conferees to go and argue about howour bill, but they couldn't bring a bill of their own into conference. we worked very hard on a farm bill here, it was a bipartisan farm bill. senator stabenow was particularly energetic in that -- and her colleague from kansas as well. and, again, bipartisan and a lot of hard work, a lot of compromises worked out. we're in a terrible drought, something i'll talk about a little bit more in aempt mo, and they can't pass the farm bill over there. the speaker tried to respond to having withdrawn from his negotiationnegotiations with tht on the fiscal cliff by coming up with a so-called "plan b"
alternative. he couldn't even get that through his caucus. there is a eelly unpress did noted -- there is a really unprecedented degree of dysfunction and i hope that does not disrupt the progress we've made on the fiscal cliff. but we will just have to wait and see. today will tell. so, what i'm talking about is not the topic of the day because the fiscal cliff is the topic of the day, but it's never the topic of the day to talk about what i'd like to address; it is the unmentionable issue, and that is climate change. it is so apparent now that changes in our climate and in our environment are occurring from pole to pole and from the height of our atmosphere down into the depths of our owe slains. -- of our oceans. the overwhelming majority of scientific research, the now virtually unanimous scientific view indicates that all these
observed changes in the earth's atmosphere are the direct result of human activity. specifically, the emission of carbon dioxide from our burning of fossil fuels. if we continue with these destructive levels of carbon pollution, climate change will not just alter our environment, it will alter our economy. now, very often discussions in washington steer away from things that are -- have to do were the environment and have to do with the health of human beings and the enjoyment of human beings of the natural world around them, and they come to who in. it so -- and they come to money. it so often in this town comes to money. well, let's talk about climate change in the context of money. markets andbitions across this -- markets and businesses across this country have developed to fit the prevailing environmental conditions in their different regions of the united states. these markets a understand these
businesses are going to face real challenges when our climate changes those prevailing conditions. whether it's liar sea levels, stronger storms, warmer winters, or drier summers, no state and no economy will be unaffected by climate change. we're already seeing real-life examples of the economic consequences of a rapidly changing environment. the economic research service of the u.s. department of agriculture reported that 80% of american agricultural land is experiencing drought, making this the most expensive drought since the 1950's. more than half a century ago. last month deutsche bank securities estimated that the drought will reduce 2012 economic growth in the u.s. by .5% to 1%. shipping on the mississippi river has been reduced and may
stop in areas where drought has left water levels too low for safe passage. the american waterways operators and the waterways council estimate that $7 billion worth of commodities are supposed to ship on the mississippi in december and january alone. so an interruption would be a considerable economic effect. the u.s. army corps of engineers has been a $10 million project to prevent the shutdown. the other option would be to release water from the missouri river, but that would just be drawing down water supplies in up-river states that are already suffering from drought themselves, like montana and nebraska and north dakota. water is also essential for power generation. according to the united states geological survey, power plants account for nearly half of the daily water withdrawn in the
u.s. drought and heat go hand in hand to push power plant towards shutdown. a 2008 drought put several power plants in the southeast within days or weeks of shutting down. texas, california, and the midwest now face a similar challenge with drought, stressing their power production. in the northeast it's not low water but warm water that caused the shutdown of unit 2 at the mill stone power plant in connecticut. the temperature of the water in long island sound from which the plant draws its cooling supply climbed to over 75 degrees fahrenheit this summer, too warm for cooling the nuclear reactor. and of course the cost to our economy of disruptions in our power supply is particularly high during warm weather when energy use is usually at its height to run air conditioners. scientists tell us the droughts and heat waves will get worse,
and water temperature will continue to increase. agriculture, shipping, and power industries will be operating under new baseline environmental conditions. warmer oceans, ocean acidification, and he can extreme weather events create an obvious stress for the fisheries and the marine trades they support. it is not just the fishermen. it is also the people who repair their nets, people who sell them equipment and gear and the people who buy and process their catch. in high home state of rhode island, average coastal water temperature has risen by four degrees over the past two decades. affecting our historic fish stocks and hurting local fishermen. and i.t. noand it's not just ine island where the seas are change. rising ocean temperatures and acidity threaten corals, which
as well as being a corner of ocean biodiversity -- but never mind, it's supposed to be a speech about the money here; back to the money -- the coral reefs are a mainstay of florida's tourist industry. if they're not there, it will affect the industries. the increasing acidification of ocean water driven imp by rising carbon dioxide lowers the levels of ocean saturation. who conveyors about carsium carbonate. calcium carbonate is the fundamental building block of the shells of aquatic species like oysters. and crabs and lobsters, fisheries we actually do care a lot about, even if we may not care about calcium carbonate.
and it's the basic building block of the plankton that comprise the very, very base of the food web. ocean acidification caused 70% to 80% losses of oyster already a say at an -- larvae loss. wild oyster stocks also failed under the stress of that more acidic water. this is an industry worth about $73 million annually along our pacific coast. faced with threats from climate change. the tera pad, also known as the sea butterfly, will be homed by ocean acidification. the terra pod is a humble beast. it is a tiny aquatic snail. nobody goes fishing for terapods, so again, who the heck
cares? well, salmon care. indeed, 47% of the diet of some pacific salmon species is terapods. and the salmon fisheries that support coastal jobs and economies care an awful lot about the salmon. extreme weather events like storm surges will become more frequent, as our climate warms and our oceans warm. extreme storms are particularly hard on shellfisheries. the national oceanic administration reported that because oysters require two or more years to grow to market many size, full recovery from hurricanes may take years and some oifort habitats may be lost permanently. "national geographic" noted that after hurricane katrina, 90% of mississippi's oiter beds and 74% of louisiana's oyster beds were destroyed. and just this fall hurricane sandy disrupted shellfisheries
all along the oft coast. coastal economies such as in my home state of rhode island are threatened in other ways by sea level eyes and he can extreme storms. the rhode island economic development council notes that tourism in rhode island is at the absolute center of our summer economy. people come from all across the nation to come to rhode island in the summer to enjoy our beautiful beaches, to enjoy our sparkling bay, to sail, to participate in all of the beachside activities, and damage to that economy would be very significant. we are rebuilding from sandy so that we will be ready when our beach visitors come this summer, but it's a reminder of how important that economy is to rhode island and a reminder of
how vulnerable it is to extreme weather. let's turn to the west where by august of this year more than six million acres had burned in wildfires. a new analysis by nasa predicts that by the middle of the century, we can expect to match the severity of 2012 fires every three to five years. it's going to become a commo commonplace. a recent study by the university of oregon -- and i see the senator oregon on the floor -- found that large wildfires cause large long-term instability. increase local spending fighting the fires is just not enough to outweigh the economic loss caused by the disruption of businesses and damage to properties from the fire. in august reuters reported that wildfires were hurting tourism in western states. one small business ownerrer in some man, idaho, claimed that she had nothing but cancellations as a result of the fires. "the new york times" has
reported that declining snowfall and unseasonably warm weather have been a doing on winter sports and recreational tourism last winter and reported forecasted before the end of the century, the number of economically viable ski locations in new hampshire and maine will be cut in half, that skiing in new york will be cut by three-quarters, and there will be no ski area in connecticut or massachusetts. that will have economic effect. looking back west again, the park city foundation in utah predicted an annual local temperature increase of 6.8 degrees fahrenheit by 2075, which would cause a total loss of snowpack in the park city resort area. the park city foundation report estimates that this will result in thousands of lost jobs, tensions of millions in
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