Skip to main content

tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  November 6, 2013 12:30pm-2:31pm EST

12:30 pm
employment protections against gays and lesbians. over 66% of people live in 34 states that have not enacted such protections for transgendered individuals. and there is no question discrimination in the workplace against these groups be -- remains a big problem. let me give you just a few examples. there is the case of miamacy, a a -- mia space, a case in which the justice department's found that miss macy's gender status played a role in the hiring process. she for 12 years had been a police detective in phoenix, arizona. she was a veteran. she applied for an open position in an a.t.f. ballistics lab to do ballistics imagery work she was certified to do.
12:31 pm
she was told she could have the position subject to a background check. then macy revealed her transgender status to the government contractor staffing these positions. her background check was ordered stopped by a.t.f. soon thereafter. she received an young people stating the position was no longer available because of funding cuts, even though there was no evidence that was the case. it turns out that the number of positions available had hastily been cut from two to one and the person hired for that one position lacked most -- much of the experience macy had. macy was, according to d.o.j.'s decision -- quote -- "very likely better qualified" -- end quote -- than the individual actually hired for that position. so this is wrong.
12:32 pm
ballistics matching can be the difference between a shooter in jail and a shooter who might kill again walking the streets of our neighborhoods. the person who was actually hired should be the person who can do the best job, period, regardless of whether the person is gay, straight or transgender. another case involves the police officer from the city of st. cloud, minnesota. according to a court opinion, the officer was an -- quote -- excellent, end quote, officer. he was consistently awarded marks as excellent or competent on his performance reports. the officer got letters of recognition and commendation for his accomplishments, including his work on the community crime impact team, his work against drunk driving, his performance in apprehending a sexual assault suspect and for his work in
12:33 pm
recovering a stolen vehicle. then he came out as gay. after that, according to the officer, he almost immediately -- quote -- "was subject to increased scrutiny, increased disciplinary measures, excessively through documentation and surreptitious ly recorded interventions." end quote, as well as -- quote -- "multiple internal investigations" -- end quote -- and removal from assignments. the federal court found that the almost immediate shift in the treatment of this officer -- quote -- "supports an inference of unlawful discrimination." end quote, under the equal protection clause of the constitution which applies to state and local agencies. but if a private employer had discriminated like this, there
12:34 pm
likely would have been no federal protection. in a case out of oregon, an individual who ran a production line for battery separators was subjected to harassment on the job. he was called tinkerbell and -- quote -- "a worthless queer." end quote. he was described as using phrases that i simply will not say on the senate floor because they are graphic and beyond the pale. i think they would shock many of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle. this harassment occurred on a daily basis, sometimes in the presence of a supervisor. then two days after reporting the harassment to human resources, the individual was fired. in this case, the federal court found the evidence credible enough to warrant a trial under oregon law, so sometimes
12:35 pm
discrimination is not as clear as it is in these cases, and i'm going to quote from a 93-year-old constituent of mine who called my office urging full support for this bill, and this is what he said -- quote -- "i don't usually take the time to call my senator, but this is important to me. i've lived in san francisco almost my whole life, and at 93 years old, i've seen a lot. even in a liberal state like california, as a gay man, i never felt equal to my colleagues." end quote. i used to work at a -- this is a quote, too -- "i used to work at a bank, and i kept working until i was 79 to earn my retirement. i was afraid to bring my husband to company parties. i never wanted to seem too flamboyant to my supervisors. it seems too ridiculous when i think back on it, but people
12:36 pm
don't understand that this kind of discrimination is subtle. it broke my heart when i watched the senate fall one vote shy of passing enda back in the 1990's. i hope the senator remembers what it used to be like and fights to pass enda today. well, i do remember and i do know what this -- that this bill will help stop discrimination in the workplace. the bill is simple. it says a person cannot be denied employment because of who that person is, gay, straight or transgender. the bill provides no special privilege, no special privilege. it creates no quota, it creates no exemption from the codes of conduct or anything else. it does not allow inappropriate
12:37 pm
conduct in the workplace. in fact, the bill is narrower than title seven protections in certain respects. in my view, the bill does provide critical employment protections, and it's long past the time that it be signed into law. three years ago, we recognized that a person's merit, not sexual orientation, is what matters for service in the military. the point is no different in this bill. if a person wants to be a ballistics expert, a police officer, a firefighter, a bank teller, a lawyer, a factory worker or anything else, the question should simply be can the person do the job? people have families, they have spouses, they have children,
12:38 pm
they need to put food on the table, they have college expenses for their children, student loans to pay and unforeseen medical expenses. they may have elderly parents that they care for and who need their assistance. all of this requires a job. should a person be denied that basic aspect of life? should a person's spouse or children or parents be hurt simply because that person is gay or straight or transgender? for me, the answer is simple. it's no. now, that person should not engage in any conduct that would be unseemly for a heterosexual couple. the conduct laws are also important. so if this legislation is enacted, which i hope very much will happen, that will be the law of the land, and it will be
12:39 pm
long overdue. so i just wanted to come to the floor and indicate some of the past and go back to the 45 years ago when the first employment against -- employment bill that would prohibit discrimination was enacted, and i'm very proud to have been a vote for it then. so thank you very much, madam president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: madam president, i rise today to thank my colleagues for their support earlier today of an amendment that i offered strengthening the protections for religious liberty in the enda legislation, the employee nondiscrimination act. this amendment was cosponsored by senators ayotte, heller, hatch and mccain, and i want to especially thank senator collins for the key role she
12:40 pm
played in its passage. madam president, i firmly believe that no one should be subject to unjust discrimination, so i support the basic premise of enda, which is that people should be judged by their experience, their qualifications and their job performance, not by their sexual orientation. the bottom line is people shouldn't be able to be fired just because they're gay. i believe the legislation currently before this body will help create that level playing field and ensure that employment opportunities are available to all, but it doesn't mean it's a perfect bill. it should be improved, and my amendment seeks to ensure that this legislation designed to promote tolerance of one kind doesn't enshrine intolerance of another kind. religious liberty is an important part of the employment nondiscrimination act already. the underlying bill includes a significant exemption for religious employers. but we have got to make certain that in pursuit of enforcing nondiscrimination, those religious employers are not subject to a different kind of
12:41 pm
discrimination, and that would be government retaliation. my amendment seeks to ensure that the government cannot penalize a religious employer because it qualifies as exempt from the nondiscrimination requirements of enda. it protects, for instance, a church or religious charity or religious school from adverse action by the government on the basis of adhering to its religious tenets in a manner that would otherwise be unlawful under enda. in practical terms, this means that the government can't use activities protected by enda's religious exemption as a basis to deny religious employers government grants, contracts, tax-exempt status or other benefit. so my amendment prohibits the government from punishing a religious institution for adhering to its deeply held beliefs and thereby seeks to keep the state from interfering in matters of faith. it does something else important, too. the underlying bill specifies several broad purposes related to addressing employment discrimination. my amendment adds to this introductory section an explicit
12:42 pm
reference to the fundamental right of religious freedom. it establishes as a basic purpose of enda that workplace fairness must be balanced against and made consistent with religious liberty. i believe the principles of religious liberty and nondiscrimination go hand in hand. when we think about nondiscrimination, many of us think about the great civil rights movements of the 20th century, but as we know, the fight for tolerance goes back further than that, really to the very foundation of our republic. on my mom's side, some of my ancestors were quakers. they came to this country, like so many before them, in search of religious freedom. at first, that was something hard to find in this country. when they arrived, members of this new secretary were often persecuted. their views and practices were viewed to be unorthodox, even strange. sometimes they were imprisoned. their books were burned. some of the colonies didn't want them inside their borders. they knew a little bit about religious freedom, and they certainly knew something about discrimination. and it was their experience and
12:43 pm
the experience of so many other groups of different faiths that made freedom of conscience a cornerstone of our founding documents. the first amendment begins, and i quote -- "congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." end quote. religious freedom, therefore, is our first freedom, and the amendment that protects it really is our first nondiscrimination law. any law that we pass that seeks to prevent discrimination won't succeed if it doesn't at the same time protect religious liberty. the religious liberty protections in enda aren't perfect. my amendment makes them better, and that's why i appreciate my colleagues giving this amendment the support it deserves. madam president, i'm looking forward to the passage of this legislation with this amendment, and again i appreciate the work of the senator from maine and others on this. i yield back my time. ms. collins: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: madam president, i
12:44 pm
rise to commend the senator from ohio for bringing forth this very worthwhile initiative which the senate passed without dissent just about an hour or so ago. his amendment is a very important amendment. what it simply says is that if an organization is exempt from enda for religious reasons, then government cannot turn around and somehow retaliate against this employer based on his claiming or her claiming a legitimate religious exemption as provided by enda, and that means that if the business or organization is entitled to compete for certain grants or contracts from the federal, state or local government, that
12:45 pm
there cannot be this subtle discrimination against the employer for claiming the religious exemption legitimately conferred upon the business under enda. and i think that's really important. we don't want retaliation or discrimination or unfair treatment on either side, and i really commend senator portman for coming forward with this amendment. i believe that it's consistent with the bill and that it strengthens the bill. so i want to congratulate him for his initiative and it's been a pleasure to work with him, senator ayotte, and other members of the senate in support of this initiative. thank you, madam president.
12:46 pm
ms. ayotte: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. ms. ayotte: thank you, madam president. today i rise to talk about the impact that obamacare is having on the people of my state, the state of new hampshire. it's been over a month since the health care exchanges have opened, and in that short time we've already seen so many problems with obamacare. frankly, it's a mess. the failure of is something that has revealed deeply troubling incompetence in terms of implementing a web site that people can use and have access to and is security and protects their private information, and, frankly, we're in a position where really the web site is merely the canary in the coal mine.
12:47 pm
the flaws in this law are much deeper than the web site. even former supporters of obamacare are telling me that it's not working. i'm hearing from my constituents about this, and, frankly, i feel very badly for them because so much of what's happening to them is as a result of how the law is drafted and concerns that were brought forward years ago at this point. for example, i've heard from mary ann in lisbon, new hampshire, and she said we had hoped this would be a solution, but instead, it will be more of a financial drain. the american people are the ones who are paying the price right now. they're getting cancellation notices, they're seeing their premiums go up, and they're losing their doctors. workers are suffering. many of them have seen their hours cut to 29 hours because of an arbitrary mandate defining
12:48 pm
full-time workers as those who work 30 hours a week. others are fearful that they'll lose their splor-sponsored coverage altogether, and business owners remain reluctant to expand, worried they'll trigger the looming penalties from obamacare. most tragically, we now know that the law was sold to the american people under false pretenses. the president said if you like your insurance plan, you keep it. in fact, yesterday we checked the web site for the white house, and that claim is still on there. i'm hearing every day from new hampshire residents who are telling me that they're seeing their health insurance policies canceled. in fact, in the newspaper this morning i picked it up and the headline in new hampshire announced that 22,000 individuals will see coverage
12:49 pm
canceled at the end of the year. here's what granite staters have been writing me and saying to me, and i want to share their concerns with the entire country because i know this isn't just happening to people in new hampshire, but these are the real people who are being affected by obamacare. len in greenland wrote me the president was wrong. i can't keep my coverage if i like it and i can't keep my preferred hospital, and his plans are the ones that are subpar. it's bringing me to tears on a daily basis. please help. edward in marlo is self-employed. i feel so badly when i receive letters like this. he has a rare disease and a high deductible plan. he wrote i received a notice from anthem last week that they
12:50 pm
will be canceling this policy policy. is that what president obama meant when he said that no one who currently has their own policy and likes it will lose it? i am devastated that i will now have to go out and secure another policy somewhere which could cost me significantly more. jennifer in kanaan wrote i received a letter from anthem- blue cross stating my current plan was being discontinued because it did not conform to the law under the affordable care act. in other words, the plan i was promised i could keep was made illegal by washington politicians. michael in atkinson said kelly, we have been told this would expand options. the fact is we are now being told what we can and what we cannot do and where we can go. to say that i am upset would not
12:51 pm
begin to describe how i feel. richard in alton bay said i'm a small business owner in new hampshire, and have been with my health insurance provider for over ten years. i was recently informed that the policy i have had for all of these years -- and i like quite a bit -- will be canceled due to provisions in obamacare. when i contacted the company, they said they are planning to transition me into a plan that costs more and offers substantially less benefits and protections than my original plan. i am outraged by this. jamie in littleton wrote me, today we received a letter from anthem blost stating -- blue cross stating my husband's individual health care plan which he's had for 15 years will be changing to conform to a.c.a. laws and will no longer be in
12:52 pm
effect come september 1, 2014. lewis in cenepe wrote me, what just happened? i received a cancellation notice from my insurance company and the coverage i am eligible for is more expensive. help me. president obama has made the promise that if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. for those who are seeing their plans canceled, we know that that's simply not the case. but there's another issue that new hampshire is facing, and that's the matter of choice and keeping the -- not only the doctor that you want to keep but also going to the hospital that you want to go to. because in new hampshire, there's only one insurer who is going to participate on the
12:53 pm
exchanges at this point, and to keep costs down, the insurer has decided to limit its network so ten of our 26 hospitals are not part of the exchange, and are excluded. so, for example, the cap of -- capital of new hampshire is concord. one of the hospitals excluded is concord hospital. i worked in concord for years. to think that the concord hospital is going to be excluded and all the people in that area that rely on that hospital, have had their children there, done all kinds of things and have had treatment there, that they would be excluded if they're now on the exchanges, that they can't go to the concord hospital? this is a real impact on people and their lives and i feel very badly for my constituents. a doctor in peter borough wrote me, he was once a supporter of
12:54 pm
obamacare, he described the consequences simply. in a letter to me, he said that his patients have one of three terrible options right now. and that's because the hospital in his area has been excluded from the exchange. first, they can switch doctors and drive considerable distance to a hospital that anthem does include in the exchange. two, they can purchase insurance outside of the exchange at considerably higher rates than they could this year, or three, they can stick with their current doctor, risk having no insurance, and pay the government a penalty for being uninsured. with his hospital that he's associated with excluded from the exchange, he said it's the less affordable care act for his patients. and this doctor gave me a troubling practical effect of what his hospital being left out
12:55 pm
would mean for his patients. he used this example. consider the pregnant woman who has delivered all of her current children at our hospital. she is now expecting in february. she must now either drive our twisty new england roads in the dead of winter to a hospital 55 minutes from her home to deliver her baby, her pay considerably higher insurance premiums to stay where she is comfortable and safe. he is one of numerous citizens across new hampshire who has expressed similar concerns about local hospitals being excluded from the exchange. i want to share with you some of the other concerns that have been written from my constituents. vicky in seabrook wrote the list of doctors and medical facilities that will take my insurance is limited, and my massachusetts doctors are not on
12:56 pm
the list. the one closest to me, portsmouth hospital, is not on the list. kathleen in new castle wrote the exchange choice will not allow me to use my docks including -- docs including primary care who is affiliated with portsmouth hospital. all oncology doctors are in boston, not covered. margaret in stafford wrote me she currently goes to frisbee memorial hospital which is not part of the exchange. she described the impact this way. i would no longer be able to go to frisbee memorial hospital which is four miles away. i could no longer see the gynecologist whom i trust. i could no longer use the surgeon who saved my life when emergency sucialg was required. -- surgery was required. i could no longer visit the same
12:57 pm
internist. if i were to develop heart problems, i could no longer go to portsmouth regional hospital. gregory in rochester said that his primary care physician is at frisbee. he said that means he'll have to go to another hospital. and what he told me, he said i don't know and does not know my health condition. robert in stafford said he's gone to frisbee for 40 years. he wrote i've had multiple different insurance companies, but have always been able to keep the same doctors. now, because of obamacare, frisbee is out of the loop. this is totally unfair to all the people who live in the area. what gives? theresa in peterborough wrote me, she said that none of her
12:58 pm
current physicians, including her primary care physician and her ob/gyn are in the exchange. she wrote the nearest providers in this network are 45 minutes west, 60 minutes east, or 90 minutes north. this will be very costly to me in terms of time taken off to attend appointments at these distant offices or hospitals, and since i'm self-employed, a day off to go to the doctor is one day without income. a single mother also from peterborough wrote me and said if my 17-year-old son does get sick this winter, i will be required to take a minimum of a half a day off to bring my son to kean or manchester to find a primary care physician who will accept insurance through
12:59 pm
affordable care. not that i can even afford that route. i'm also hearing heart-wrenching stories from new hampshire citizens about how their premiums are going up. as you know, the law when this law was being sold, it was sold that premiums would go down. but that's not what i'm hearing from my constituents. christopher in wren wrote my insurance is going to double on january 1 of 2014. even the options that conform to the health act are double the amount i am paying today. it doesn't make any sense that my insurance would go up by double when this is called affordable health care. rick in pembroke wrote last year the sum total of my family's health care costs was $2,300. i've been looking at the -- at
1:00 pm
health insurance for my family. the lowest insurance will cost $566.40 per month. the family deductible will be $11,500. even if i spend the same as last year on actual health care, i will have to pay an additional $6,800. this this isn't fair and it isn't affordable. i don't know how many people who can budget for an additional $6,800 a year. brendan said i'm self-employed and my wife and i pay for our health insurance through anthem that provides coverage for us and our 15 month old daughter. presently, we pay about $580 per month for a major deductible plan with a total family
1:01 pm
deductible of $7,500. a couple of weeks ago, we received a letter from anthem informing us that our old policies don't meet the requirements of the new a.c.a., and therefore we were going to be canceled. when researching new options on anthem's web site, we found that our deductible was now going to be $1,200 -- excuse me -- $12,000 per year and at an increased cost of about $150 per month. we feel as though the country has been misled about being able to keep their current coverage. holly in charleston wrote me i buy an individual policy to cover myself, but my policy went up 25% on october 1, and one of the reasons stated in the letter i received from blue cross was to cover the implementation of
1:02 pm
a.c.a. as a result, i dropped down to a less expensive plan and guess what? i got a letter telling me i was okay until 2014 when that plan will no longer be available because it doesn't comply with the new rules and regs. i heard from patty in new ipswich, and she said that after her insurance company told her to find a plan, she signed up for at least -- for the least expensive bronze plan available. she said still not only will my premium be $75 a month higher for a total of just under $600 per month for me, but in addition to that, i have a $5,400 annual deductible. also the prescription plan that
1:03 pm
mr. obama and mrs. pelosi mandated also has a $5,400 deductible. so effectively, that is not a prescription plan at all. in fact, this plan is basically a very expensive catastrophic plan and nothing more. it is not affordable, and i'm disgusted. barbara in merrimack wrote me, and her husband -- she and her husband don't yet qualify for medicare. their existing plan is being phased out, so she checked the exchange and she wrote the product that was closest to what we currently have is silver and is just too expensive. the cheapest coverage we could find is in the bronze category and will cost 1,228.32 per month and will have a deductible of
1:04 pm
$5,950 per individual and a deductible of $11,900 per family. that means that all basic services and medications will be out of pocket. medications will be covered at 40% of the co-pay, $1,228.32 squalls $14,000, $739.84fer year and is more than my mortgage. unlike the government, i can't raise my debt ceiling. anita in sutton wrote what was supposed to help people like my husband and i who are self-employed -- and he has a chronic illness -- only hurts us. our premiums went up $2.287.70 per month, and this is now with a $4,000 single, $8,000 family deductible, nothing like a 30%
1:05 pm
increase for one year. having to hoist yourself up each day and go to work and try to carry on is hard enough with this chronic illness. now we have to pick and choose what bills we can afford to pay. jane in troy said she tried to enroll her son into the federal program. this is what she wrote to me. the quote was $600 a month. do you know of any 20-year-old who can afford $600 a month? tim in merrimack wrote me contrary to the original intent of the affordable care act, individuals who obtain insurance on their own are paying radically escalating costs based on individual coverage for a healthy nonsmoking 51-year-old
1:06 pm
male available for january 1 of 2014 on the health care exchange in new hampshire, the results are as following. premium, 25% increase from $4,200 to $5,300. deductible, 20% increase from $5,000 to $6,000. an 82% increase in less than two years, $2,900 in june of 2012 to $5,300 in january of 2014. then i heard from eric in hancock. he said that he has seen a 46% premium hike. he wrote to me -- "what has been done to our health care system? this is the unaffordable care act. in some cases, the cost of insurance is rising because plans must include coverage for
1:07 pm
services that consumers don't want based on their individual situation or don't need based on their individual situation. for example, jeff in hudson says that his premiums will go up nearly 40% because of obamacare. he said it seems that some of the costs are for coverages which my wife and i do not need or want but are required to have due to law. we do not want to have maternity coverage. we must have pediatric dental insurance even though we have no children under the age of 18. doug in bedford wrote me the maternity issue is a trap for seniors. carol in newport wrote can anyone please explain to me why at 60 years of age i need an insurance plan that requires maternity provisions? can anyone explain to me why i would be required to pay for
1:08 pm
pediatric stand-alone dental when i have no children? since this is mandated by the government, why would i have to pay an insurer fee, exchange fee and reinsurance fee? she said the most affordable plan that she has seen has been $504 a month, which she can afford and a $6,350 out of pocket premium. carol asks if i cannot afford the premium, how can i afford the deductible? and others that i have heard from are worried that their employers will drop their coverage. finding it cheaper to pay the fine than to provide coverage for their workers. benjamin in greenville wrote my portion currently about $5,000 a year will jump to $20,000 per year to maintain my current coverage. i make -- quote -- "too much
1:09 pm
money to be subsidized. tell me, senator, where do i find $15,000 a year, $1,250 a month, $288 a week in my already tight budget? he wrote me no more vacations, no more dance lessons for my kids, no more family date night once a month, no more christmas presents. another theme that i have heard in the letters that i have received from my constituents is a feeling that those in the middle are being squeezed the most. donna in newport wrote my employer is now canceling the company-sponsored health plan as of january, 2014, which costs me $2,288 per year. in shopping for a new plan, i am seeing the possibility of a
1:10 pm
22-dollar subsidy to help me with a monthly cost of $400, an increase in my health care costs i cannot afford. i am in the middle class, a tax-paying and proud american that did not ask for this act and now suffering because of it. cheryl in atworth wrote not only do i have to pay twice the premium, but it will be post-tax, a double hit. if i was poor, i would be okay or if i worked for a large employer, i would be okay, but for those of us trying to make a good living and be responsible, productive citizens, we end up carrying this. this is not the american dream at all. joseph in salem wrote to me, on september 30, i received a letter from anthem informing me that my new payment to keep my current plan, which i had for
1:11 pm
over eight years, will increase 212.47 on january 1. that is a 2,548.80 increase for 2014. this is what obamacare is doing to the middle class. and roberta in nashua is, like many of my constituents, pleading for help. she wrote please hear me plea and see what you can do to allow people like me and my husband to keep our care and not be forced into purchasing exchange insurance which is so costly and will be a financial hardship for us. it is not affordable. in addition to canceled policies, patients losing their doctors and higher premiums, i have also heard about another aspect and consequence of
1:12 pm
obamacare from people who are working hard, trying to make ends meet, and those are workers that are seeing their hours cut. under the law, employers must provide coverage for employees who work 30 hours or more per week. many of these employers, not surprisingly, have decided to reduce hours rather than comply with this new mandate. so this is what my constituents are writing me about, these hardworking people, trying to make a living. i heard from an e.m.t. from the managnok region, who wrote to me and said my employer notified the 75 of us who work there that effective january 1, our hours will be cut due to obamacare, so our incomes will drop and make it harder for us to buy our own insurance. an educator from the upper
1:13 pm
valley wrote our school district and surrounding ones are cutting back paraprofessional jobs to 29 hours. many of these people were full time. instead, they hired several part-time people to cover the once full-time positions. now they are no longer entitled to any benefits. many of these individuals have worked 15 or more years with a school district as full timers. i have heard from business owners as well. they have told me that the looming mandates in the law are causing them to think about eliminating coverage for their employers -- excuse me, for their employees, even though they don't want to do it. they want to do what's right for their employees. steven in nashua wrote me i'm a small employer. i would be very tempted to dump my plan for my employees, give them a few extra dollars and just get out of the health care
1:14 pm
business. and i have also heard time and time and again about how looming penalties under obamacare are causing businesses to think twice about growing and adding new workers. i heard from matt on the sea coast. he wrote to me and said on a business level, i don't know if i will expand because i would not be able to pay the penalties or the health insurance for my staff members. madam president, these are just some of the stories that i am receiving from new hampshire about hardships that obamacare is causing for people who are working hard, who want to make ends meet, who want to keep the health plans that they have now, and i feel terribly bad for these people. it breaks my heart. i have worked hard, sponsored
1:15 pm
many efforts and voted to repeal this law. i have called repeatedly over the last several days for a time out from obamacare. we do need a time-out, madam president, because of the concerns i just talked about in this chamber that i'm hearing from my constituents and i know that many members in this chamber are hearing. we need the president to call a time-out. now, i came to the floor several times during the government shutdown and i said it was wrong to shut down the government to try to defund obamacare. because of the harmful impact of a government shutdown. i even took the step of calling on members of my own party, please, don't go forward and shut the government down. now it's time for the president
1:16 pm
to see the impact of this law and understand from someone who in some instances has stood up to her own party on the government shutdown, i'm asking the president of the united states to hear from the people of this country that are being impacted negatively by the health care law and say call a time-out, mr. president,. it's not working. they're having difficulties with the web site, they're worried that their personal information won't be protected on the web site. but as i talked about today, the problems are much deeper with people receiving cancellation notices, people receiving premium hikes that they cannot afford, with hours being cut for workers who want to work and make a living in this great country. i would ask the president to
1:17 pm
call a time-out, to bring people together. this law was passed out of this chamber on party lines. i would argue that the best way to address health care in this country and to address real concerns i know people had with the status quo as well is to bring a bipartisan group together because what we are seeing now is not working. my constituents have also taken the time to point out to me in addition to the major problems that they see with obamacare, they've shared a few ideas with me as well about where they think we should go from here instead of obamacare and i want to share those as well. many of them agreed that competition in new hampshire is effectively nonexistent. let's face it, we have one insurer on the exchange.
1:18 pm
one suggestion i saw and it's one i agree with, is to allow for the purchase of insurance across state lines. why shouldn't insurance companies have to compete on a national basis? i also agreed with a constituent who said that we need to place our focus where it belongs, crafting legislation that reduces health care costs rather than trying to create an artificial health insurance marketplace. another constituent wisely pointed out that there shouldn't be a cookie cutter set of policies such as the ones that result in seniors purchasing coverage that includes maternity care. instead, people should be able to shop for coverage that suits their particular needs. and we should respect that different people have different needs in health care. there are many other ideas that i know we could work on together. these are just some of the ones my constituents have written on and i know they've written me
1:19 pm
other great ideas as well. finally, an overarching theme i've heard is that americans are tired of being victims of partisan gamesmanship and i agree with them. we've had too much partisan gamesmanship on so many issues in the congress. they're tired of the politics. they want us to work together to solve tough problems, and i agree with them on that. on behalf of the people of new hampshire, i renew my call for a time-out on obamacare. let's have both parties come to the table and find health care solutions that work for the american people. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor.
1:20 pm
ms. ayotte: i note the absence of a quorum, madam president. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
1:21 pm
1:22 pm
1:23 pm
1:24 pm
1:25 pm
1:26 pm
1:27 pm
1:28 pm
mr. crain: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from virginia. mr. kaine: i would ask that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. kaine: i have nine unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of both the majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent these requests be agreed to and printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. kaine: madam president, i rise today to speak in the midst of our budget conference about a topic that has consumed a lot of time here in this chamber in the last number of months and that is the effect of sequestration on the national economy and in particular the effect sequestration is having on defense. this was the subject of my first
1:29 pm
speech, my maiden speech as a senator on february 27 talking about the particular effect of defense scwechtion cuts on virginia and the nation as a whole and i return to it today not just to be repetitive but because we now finally are at the table in a budget conference and as you know, i think this conference gives us an excellent opportunity to find a better path forward for the nation. sequestration which went into effect in early march has caused major damage to our economy and the capacities of our defense department. our defense department is the most capable fighting force the world has ever seen and it's vital to our security and virginians and citizens of wisconsin and every other state understand that. sequestration was designed to be so painful that it would force democrats and republicans to find an alternative. we know that did not happen so the pain that was never intended to come into effect has been in effect and we've seen the impact it's had on our economy since
1:30 pm
early march. fortunately while we did not compromise in order to avert sequester, there is still time to compromise. now when we're doing the hard work of a budget conference for the first time in five years, when we're doing the hard work of a budget conference in a divided congress for the first time since 1986, it's now the time to address these damaging cuts. let me talk for a second about the effect these cuts have on first virginia but then on our national defense and preparedness. our nation's defense department has been strung along prior to sequestration for a number of years, three years, with continuing resolutions. that's jargon that we understand here, but for -- for regular folks, it's as if you're into the next year in your household and you're told well, we can't make a decision so we'll just spend this year exactly what we spent last year. wait a minute, we had a child in college last year who is not in
1:31 pm
college this year. still you have to put money into tuition. what about a new need we have this year that we didn't have last year? well, you can't do it. you're limited to only what you did last year. that's what continuing resolution for three years in a row has done to defense with the exception of some anomalies that are passed that's required defense to spend on the same line items and not, for example, invest more in important priorities. madam president, the one i always think of is cybersecurity. if you do continuing resolutions and you just spend what you spent a few years ago, well, we know we have a bigger need for intiewrt than we -- for cybersecurity than we had a few years ago. there are attacks every day. no one thinks the need to be diligent about cybersecurity is just constant. we ought to be spending more. instead, the continuing resolution requires our defense and other departments to just spend at yesterday's line items or three year ago line items that don't make much sense. in hearing after hearing in our budget committee, in the armed services committee and others, our nation's uniformed and
1:32 pm
civilian military leaders have emphasized the damage sequestration is having on our military, and at every meeting with generals, admirals, pentagon officials, i'm struck by their call to us as democrats, republicans, as senate and house members to end this foolish policy. the next hearing we'll have is tomorrow in the armed services committee when we will be hearing again about the effects that sequestration is having on military readiness. just in virginia, just to pick one state, my home state has been hit very hard. in fact, harder than any other state due to the large federal work force and many military bases. when you add to sequestration and c.r. the effect of the shutdown we saw in september, in october, the first two weeks of october, virginians really feel it. today a total of 177,982 virginians are employed because of federal funding, either directly with the department of defense or one of the service branches, or through military
1:33 pm
contracts. for example, the talented men and women at the newport news shipyard, they are private contractors, but they manufacture the largest items that are manufactured on planet earth, nuclear aircraft carriers, and they do it to keep america men and women safe. this summer, over 70,000 d.o.d. civilians in virginia were furloughed. construction training and maintenance on military bases was delayed which affected private contractors. if sequester continues, as some are saying -- some are fatalistic about it, saying we can't do anything about it. if sequester continues into 2014, 34 planned ship maintenance availabilities will be canceled in the new year. each of these maintenance projects is massive and employs so many of these people, and as many as 19 of these people are on the east coast. 34 are on the national figure. 19 are on the east coast, including virginia. this will hurt the ship repair industry in hampton roads and could lead to a loss of about 8,000 jobs nationally in the
1:34 pm
ship repair industry. not only have these cuts flowing from sequestration affected my state satisfies economy but probably more to the point for all of us in this body we ought to be concerned because they are affecting our national security and they are degrading the capability of our military to deal with challenges. madam president, i wish i could say that since i swore in as a senator with you on january 3 that the world has become a lot safer and more peaceful and less complicated, but to the contrary in the ten months we have been here, sadly, we have seen more instances of danger, more things to be concerned about, more problems that we have to deal with. we are not in a static situation. we're shrinking our budget at the same time as the degree of challenges we have around the world are growing more dangerous. just this year, the sequestration cuts that went into effect in march have grounded one-third of our u.s. combat aircraft. think about our air force and how important it is in today's
1:35 pm
defense, in planning for warfare. one-third of our combat aircraft are grounded just because of sequestration, hampering our ability to respond to global crises and maintain strategic advantages. if sequestration goes forward, that one-third will grow. the air force will be forced to cut an additional by as much as 15%. that would suggest that nearly 50% of america's combat aircraft will be grounded in 2014 due to sequestration. we have got to ask ourselves how can we not have an air force ready to respond to crises at a moment's notice? moving to the navy, our naval capabilities have also been significantly curtailed. reducing our normal levels of three carrier groups and three amphibious groups ready to respond to crisis within one week to only one of each. again, a two-thirds reduction in the availability of carrier forces or amphibious vehicle forces that can meet that one-week response time in the event of emergency. again, we have got to have a
1:36 pm
navy that's ready to respond when there are crises, and then moving to the army, this year, because of the first year of sequestration, and it gets worse, the army canceled all, all combat training center rotations for any nondeploying unit. so if a unit is being deployed, they are being trained, but then other units that don't have a regular assigned deployment, they stay trained as well to meet an emergency need. if we know we're going to be deploying a unit to afghanistan to replace another unit that's coming back, then we will train that unit, but you do some training for the units you're not planning to deploy just so that they are ready if the need exists. but we have canceled all of the training for nondeploying units and general odi re. no has said that 85% of america's combat teams cannot meet the training requirements that are set in our present strategy. mr. president, we have asked what does that mean?
1:37 pm
when folks come before us we ask what does that mean that you're not getting the training? will you go? they say of course we'll go. but what training means is we'll go but we will suffer more casualties. what training does is give us the edge to succeed. the absence of training means that -- it's almost immoral to think about it. we have a training standard, but if you put people in harm's way who haven't been able to meet that training standard, you almost guarantee that the casualties will be more significant. and that's not something that any of us can -- can comfortably look in the mirror and tolerate. so it's not hard to see that what was promised about sequestration is in fact true. sequestration is not strategic. it was never designed to be strategic. it wasn't designed to be, you know, the careful cutting of costs that you might do, that you should do that every organization should do, and it's not only not strategic, it's not sustainable in the out years. the house armed services
1:38 pm
committee, republican house, republican majority, many republicans have admitted -- quote -- "that sequestration of discretionary accounts was never intended to be policy, and our colleagues in the house in a bipartisan way have called for a lifting of sequestration in terms of its effects on defense. and our armed services committee in the senate, also in the ndaa that we're about to debate on the senate floor reached the same conclusion. madam president, we were sitting in a markup of the ndaa bill, and i noticed at the time as a member that there was nothing in the bill about sequestration. all of our hearings virtually had touched on sequestration, so i put an amendment on the table kind of on the fly, let's just say sequestration is bad and we should get rid of it. and we debated it right there as we were marking up the bill, and i recall that the vote on the amendment was 23-3. overwhelmingly, in a voice vote, the armed services committee, democrat and republican, were willing to embrace the
1:39 pm
proposition that sequestration was bad. actually, the language was not only is it bad for the d.o.d. accounts, it's also bad for the other accounts as well. that's why i am calling in connection with our meeting as budget conferees for a sensible bipartisan approach to limit the negative impacts of sequestration. general dempsey was talking to a group of senators yesterday on the readiness subcommittee, and he said what we need to deal with in sequestration is money, time and flexibility. the cuts are too steep, they are too front loaded in terms of the timing and there is too little flexibility for our military command to be able to use the dollars to do the right thing to keep us safe, and so we have to find a way to get out of the sequestration dead end and restore some of the cuts and provide both the timing and flexibility to make the management of them easier. if we reverse sequestration in this budget conference, that will create by economists
1:40 pm
estimates 900,000 jobs at a time when our economy needs to get stronger and our unemployment rate needs to be dropped, and it will add a whole percentage point to our gross domestic product, according to the congressional budget office. so now as the budget conference committee is meeting -- and our next meeting is next week. i felt, madam president, that our opening meeting was a positive one, and it was mostly positive because as we went around the table, house members in the senate, democrat and republican, there was an absence of what i call the nonnegotiable language. i listened carefully -- being you new, i don't necessarily know all the details, but i know the lines in the sand are being drawn. we won't do this, we won't do that. when you hear that, you know the negotiation is very difficult. i applaud the 29 conferees for having that opening meeting and not putting a lot of nonnegotiable language on the table. when we meet next week, i hope that attitude continues because we need colleagues from both sides of the aisle and both the house and senate to work toward
1:41 pm
a positive solution in this conference that will do a number of things, help us grow the economy, help us deal with the debt in a responsible way, not an irresponsible way but lift the effects of sequestration so that we can be confident that we will be safe as a nation. i pointed out in conclusion, madam president, during the budget conference that while the house budget under the leadership of chairman ryan and the senate budget under the leadership of chairwoman murray are different in a lot of ways, in other ways you could step back from them and say the differences aren't so mammoth that they cannot be resolved. they are the kinds of differences that legislative bodies around the country, state legislatures often resolve. the top-line difference between the house and senate budgets for the 2014 year is about 2.5% of the federal budget. and you could argue that both of the top-line numbers had a little bit of wiggle room in them and negotiation room. so the actual difference, i would argue, between the two
1:42 pm
budgets, top line for 2014 is probably about 1.5%. given the challenges in the world, given the challenges in our economy, given the american public's desire to see us work together to find a compromise and the up side that we can achieve if we do, i can't believe that 1.5% difference in the top lines is an insuperable obstacle for us. we have hard decisions to make. we need to make them within the interests of our own constituents with the entire country in mind, and in particular in this world where every day we hear of a new potential challenge that could threaten our security if we don't deal with it in a smart way. we need to get past the continuing resolutions and again the gimmickry and the shutdowns and sequestration, return to orderly budgeting and do the hard work of finding compromise again. with that, madam president, i would yield the floor back and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
1:43 pm
quorum call:
1:44 pm
mr. merkley: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: madam president, i ask the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. merkley: thank you. i rise simply to ask unanimous consent that my intern who is shadowing me today, chloe becker, be accorded full privileges of the floor for the balance of the day. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. merkley: thank you very much, madam president. and i recognize -- i ask the
1:45 pm
absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:
1:46 pm
1:47 pm
1:48 pm
1:49 pm
1:50 pm
1:51 pm
1:52 pm
1:53 pm
1:54 pm
1:55 pm
1:56 pm
1:57 pm
1:58 pm
1:59 pm
the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, i ask consent the call of the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, the budget conferees are working to
2:00 pm
reach agreement on the fiscal year 2014 budget. i want to complement senator murray for the great work she has done on this. and i would join those who have expressed strong support for their efforts. we all know the consequences will be if we don't reach agreement on a budget, we have draconian cuts to defense acquisitions and readiness but also the social safety net programs, to infrastructure, to public schools, to police, to every federal program. every federal program is going to suffer. and every american will feel the impact. in my state and in the other 49 states. having been in the senate a long time i know anything that gets done around here happens as a result of compromise. nobody gets everything that he or she wants. and when it comes to a budget agreement, that means have you to have additional savings but
2:01 pm
you also need increased revenues. there's no other way. you have to do both. i think back to the time when we not only had balanced budgets but had a surplus in the last democratic administration, but we also did not have the kind of specialized tax cuts to those in the highest bracket. ironically, those in the highest bracket made more money during that time because the whole economy was better. and those who think it can be done only by cutting spending or by cutting corporate loopholes but not by doing both are legislators in name only. that's simply a recipe for continued gridlock, another year of sequestration, which would be a disaster. it would allow everybody to go off and give rhetoric but not face reality.
2:02 pm
they can talk about what this -- they want but never have to vote anything. the fact is, if you want to do this, you have to have some tough votes. the outcome of this budget conference will determine the extent to which the congress will play a meaningful role in federal spending for the rest of this administration and possibly well beyond. i would advise my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, i've been here with both republican and democratic administrations. if the congress is going to actually have a voice as an independent third branch of government in how the government is run and what we do, then we have to start facing up and doing real budgets and real appropriations bills. otherwise, just assume there's a top-dollar level in there and the administration will do whatever it wants to do, democratic or republican. that's not what i feel i was
2:03 pm
elected to do here. i feel as one of 100 senators, i should have a voice in what comes out of it. the outcome of this budget conference can determine the extent to which the congress will play a meaningful role in federal spending not only for the rest of this administration but possibly well beyond. as i said, let me give a couple of concrete examples. i want to do that by comparing the impact of the fiscal year 2014 house and senate versions of the bill that funds the department of state and foreign operations. the choices are stark. it puts things in perspective. the house bill provides $40 billion to fund department of state, the u.s. agency for international development, and our contributions at world bank, u.n. peacekeeping, countless other organizations and programs that contribute to global security. in contrast, the senate bill
2:04 pm
would provide $50 billion, 25% more than the house bill, for the same agencies and programs. but before you think that means the senate's are big spenders, actually the senate bill respects the current budget climate. it is $500 million below the fiscal year 2013 continuing resolution after sequestration and across-the-board reductions, has many budget reductions and savings. but unlike the house bill, we are selective in how we do it. we don't make draconian, reckless cuts that would weaken u.s. influence and cede u.s. leadership to our competitors. and given the situations in syria and north africa, other areas of conflict, areas of conflict that could involve and
2:05 pm
engulf the united states at a moment's notice, as well as the unpredictability of national disasters, funding for international response and humanitarian relief is a manner of life and death for millions of the world's most vulnerable people who look to the wealthiest, most powerful nation on earth. current demand for these programs, and certainly my mail shows strongly supported by the american people, is unprecedented and growing. the house bill cuts these programs $1.6 billion below the senate bill. and one of the most troubling cuts in the house bill is for international organizations, in which the united states plays a major role in addressing global threats, global threats to us and our allies, like transnational crime, disease epidemics, and climate change that no country can solve alone. mr. president, some of the most
2:06 pm
virulent, most deadly diseases in the world today are not on our shores but can be on our shores in a matter of hours from other parts of the world. aside from the total humanitarian reason, we have a good reason to do something to help combat those diseases. but instead the house would end our support entirely for many of these organizations. they would create large arrears of money that we're obligated by treaty to pay. they're saying, okay, we agreed to pay this, but, sorry, we're the united states. we don't have to keep our word. i don't think most americans want to hear that. but they would also erode our influence with other major contributors and shareholders, like the europeans, china, india and brazil. ask any one of our international corporations, ask any one of t
2:07 pm
the -- our organizations in this country, medical facilities, anything else that have to work around the world, do they really want the united states to give up its influence? the house bill provides no funding, not one single dollar, for u.s. voluntary contributions to the united nations children's fund or the united nations development program, united nations high commissioner for human rights, or the montreal protocol, which protects the ozone layer. the senate bill does include money for those at about the same level as five years ago. i'd like more but i don't want to go to the house, which has nothing. and so while the house would end our participation in unicef and many other u.s. agencies, the senate bill freezes spending for these organizations at the 2009 level. the house bill, for example,
2:08 pm
provides $746 million, 50% less than the senate bill, for assessed contributions. these are contributions that we're required to pay to international organizations like nato, the international atomic energy agency, the world health organization, food and agricultural organizations, asia-pacific economic cooperation, and many others. what we're saying, if some disease breaks out in the world and may come across our borders, well, gosh, that would be terrible but we can't give any money to the world health organization to try to stop it. what, there's a question of nuclear proliferation?
2:09 pm
sorry, we can't give them money we're required to give to the international atomic energy agency. now, we're already in the senate bill $72 million below the fiscal year 2009 level, but the house bill is more than three-quarters of a billion dollars below. now, does anybody believe the needs of nato or the international atomic energy agency or the world health organization are less today than they were five years ago? all you have to do is watch the news, all you have to do is read some of the reports, some of the intelligence briefs that every senator can read. you're not going to come up and say, well, the threat's less today than it was five years a ago.
2:10 pm
you're going to say, as i do as i read these reports, the threat's a great deal worse than it was five years ago. and it's dangerous. it's dangerous. not to be involved in these organizations. in fact, the house bill provides not one single dollar for most international financial institutions, like the asia development bank, the africa development bank, the inter-american development bank, or the international fund for agriculture development. so they can say to us, okay, debtor nation, okay, united states, you agreed to these but you're not paying your bill. you're -- we can't trust the united states so we're not going to let you have any say in these, we're not going to let you have the leadership you've always had in these institutions. in fact, the house bill provides
2:11 pm
no -- not even a dollar for the key multilateral environmental funds which support clean energy technology, protect forest and water resources, including the global environment facility, the clean technology fund, and the strategic climate fund. here in the senate, we freeze those agencies last year but at least we have some money in there. the house has nothing. in fact, they don't provide a single dollar for the global agricultural and food security program. the senate bill at least has the same level as last year to help the poorest countries prevent chronic malnutrition and famine. now, mr. president, we all say, why can't we have countries develop so that they're not open to some of these terrorist organizations, fundamentalist
2:12 pm
organizations. well, we have a stake in helping them. it doesn't require much money, a tiny fraction of 1% of our budget. but to just walk away from it, it makes no sense from our strategic interests but also what does it say about our moral interests as the wealthiest, most powerful nation on earth? we have to speak to what is the moral value of the united stat states. frankly, what they've done in the other body does not speak well to our moral core. not the moral core of americans that i know in my state, both republicans and democrats alike. we all understand the need for federal departments and agencies to reduce costs and eliminate waste and find efficiencies. we do this. the senate bill is $500 million below the fiscal 2013 continuing
2:13 pm
resolution. but what we try to do is say at least the united states has to keep its word. at least the united states ought to show involvement in parts of the world where it counts. unfortunately in the other body, their bill may make great sound bites, nice bumper-sticker politics, but it endangers the united states, it endangers our security accidents an, and it ge of the united states as a country that cannot keep its word. we can't do that. it's going to -- let's get forward. let's get our budget resolution. let's pass our appropriations bills, because right now everybody gets to vote "maybe." nobody gets -- has to vote "yes" or "no." well, mr. president, i've been here long enough to know that the people of my state expect me to vote "yes" or "no," not
2:14 pm
"maybe." i ask unanimous consent my full statement be made part of the record. record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: and, mr. president, what is the parliamentary situation? the presiding officer: the senate is considering the motion to proceed to h.r. 3204. mr. leahy: mr. president, has there been -- is time divided in any fashion? the presiding officer: it is not. mr. leahy: okay. mr. president, i simple suggestt the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
2:15 pm
quorum call:
2:16 pm
2:17 pm
2:18 pm
2:19 pm
2:20 pm
2:21 pm
2:22 pm
2:23 pm
2:24 pm
2:25 pm
2:26 pm
2:27 pm
2:28 pm
2:29 pm
2:30 pm
quorum call:


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on