tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN May 7, 2014 4:00pm-6:01pm EDT
senator from wyoming is recognized. the senate will be in order. take your conversations out of the chamber. mr. barrasso: parliamentary inquiry. is it correct that no -- the presiding officer: the senator cannot be heard. the senate will be in order. mr. barrasso: mr. president, parliamentary inquiry. is it correct that no senator is permitted to offer an amendment to this bill while the majority leader's amendment or motions are pending? the presiding officer: at this time, there is no place for other amendments on the senator's amendment tree, so that is correct. mr. barrasso: i move to table the reed amendment number 3025, and i ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
the presiding officer: any senators wishing to cast their votes? the ayes are 45. the nays are 51. the motion to table is not agreed to. ms. klobuchar: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senior senator from minnesota is recognized. ms. klobuchar: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i want to thank senators harkin, warren and durbin for their leadership on the important issue of student debt. in the united states, we all appreciate the value of education.
we know it leads to higher-paying jobs. we know it leads to better health and even longer lives. education gives everyone in this country a fair shot. my grandpa, he never graduated from high school. he worked 1,500 feet underground in the means of ely, minnesota. he saved money in the coffee can in the basement so he could send my dad to college. my dad went to a community two-year college. he then went on to the university of minnesota, got his journalism degree and went from the coal mines in minnesota and went to get his journalism where he interviewed everyone from mike reagan to ginger rogers. my mom taught school until she was 70 years old. here i stand before you as a united states senator, the granddaughter of an iron ore miner, daughter of a teacher and
newspaper man and first woman elected to this job from my state, and one thing i know for sure. it would not have been possible without education. it would not have been possible without my parents, my grandparents and my teachers who believed in me and who believed in the value of education. and i still remember getting into college, and i still remember that back then -- well, okay, i graduated from high school in 1978, and back then it was $10,000 a year to go to college where i went. and i remember my dad thinking i can't afford this. we went and we met with the student loan and the financial aid people. and he was wearing his brown polyester pants and had coins in his pocket and somehow we were able to get through loans and finance ago good part of it. back then a journalist's salary, my mom's teacher salary, we were able to afford a college like that.
now i see my daughter and i know how it's changed and how expensive it is. and yet it is so necessary. higher education doesn't just benefit individual students. it benefits our entire economy by creating a more flexible, productive and mobile workforce. at a time when more jobs require some form of postsecondary education -- in manufacturing now more jobs require postsecondary education than not. but we cannot allow costs to be a barrier of opportunity when we have job openings rhode island now i see -- job openings. right now i see my friend, the senator from north. they have job openings. we have job openings in minnesota. yet a lot of our kids can't afford to get those degrees. rising costs for education are putting a strain on families and students and making college seem out of reach for too many young people. many find themselves deeply in debt long before they set foot
in the workplace. this student debt hangs like an anchor around not just these students but around our entire economy and it's driving us down. graduates with high debt are stopped from making key investments like buying a home. we had a hearing and talked about the fact that while housing is improving, it is flat because so many young people aren't forming households. they are not getting houses. student debt may impact the person's career choices by teetering graduates from take -- deterring graduates from taking jobs in order to pursue jobs that allow them to pay their debt. according to a report i released as senate chair of the joint economic committee, our state has one of the highest rates of debt in the country. 71% of graduates in minnesota have loan debt compared with 66%
nationally. the average debt load of student borrowers who graduated in 2011 in minnesota is more than $3,000 higher than the national average. it's over $30,000 in our state compared to $27,000 annually. the good news is that there are things that we can do. as you know, mr. president, hrat summer we act -- last summer we acted to prevent interest rates on subsidized stafford loans from doubling. and yet we introduced the bank loan student emergency financing loan in the senate. this bill would give student loan borrowers a fair shot at managing their debt by offering them the opportunity to refinance their debt at the same low rates offered to new borrowers in the student loan program. outstanding student loans now total more than $1.2 trillion. that even means something in washington. it surpasses total credit card debt and affects 40 million americans. that's why i'm a cosponsor of
the bank loan student emergency financing loan act because it is time we give students a chance to refinance their loans and find better financial footing. education is the pathway to economic opportunity. workers with higher levels of education have experienced much faster wage growth and lower unemployment rate than other workers. but the increasing level of student debt in recent years presents challenges for graduates just beginning their careers. these bright young people should be planning for their futures, not struggling financially because they worked hard to earn their degrees. our country has come a long way since my grandpa saved that money in that coffee can in his basement just so he could send my dad to college. but there are parents all over america that want to do the same thing. but the kind of money they have to save right now couldn't fit in a coffee can. that's why, mr. president, we have to make it easier and not harder for our students. i urge my colleagues to support
this bill, pass this bill so students can manage their debt and build a better future for themselves and for their families. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from utah is recognized. mr. hatch: mr. president, this is the first time since -- i'm going to ask unanimous consent that my remarks be placed on the energy efficiency bill, on the bill on the floor. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. hatch: mr. president, this is the tp-rs time since -- first time since 2007 that the senate has taken up and considered an energy bill. i am pleased that we are finally discussing this important issue. hoeup we will also take -- i hope we will take time to talk about the new orleans gas production. in the years since our last energy debate in the senate the united states has transitioned from a position of inordinate dependence on foreign energy sources to become one of the largest energy producers in the world today. much of this is the result of
technological innovation and we must do everything possible to make it easier for domestic companies to access, refine and transport the oil and gas that has become available with recent advances in technology. in my view, energy efficiency and industrial competitiveness should not be addressed without also addressing energy production. the two are necessarily interrelated, and it makes no sense to treat each in isolation. but that isn't happening today. as a result, we are missing a critical opportunity to have an important debate over how best to invest our nation's resources to support domestic energy production. this bill establishes new programs promoting energy efficiency for buildings and manufacturing. it authorizes new spending for career skills and work force training. but instead of simply devoting additional resources to energy efficiency programs, we should first understand the impact of existing energy sector programs
administered by the federal government and most critically have a serious conversation about broader energy policy. mr. president, if the senate actually functioned the way it was designed and i was given the opportunity, i would have called up amendment number 3015 which would eliminate some of the duplication, an overlap that has become so prevalent as the size and scope of the federal government continues to expand. our federal bureaucracy has grown to the point that government agencies are simply unaware that many of the programs they administer are duplicated by similar and sometimes nearly identical programs administered in other federal agencies. the federal leviathon has grown so large and complex that the left hand literally doesn't know what the right hand is doing. especially when it comes to spending taxpayer moneys. this is simply unacceptable. our national government has grown so unwieldily that
coordination between its individual parts cannot be assumed and often must instead be mandated. this phenomenon is certainly the case with many of the programs that would receive funding in this bill was enacted as currently written. currently the department of labor, the department of education and the department of energy each administer programs that fund training and education targeted specifically at the energy sector. i'm sure the federal bureaucrats in each of these three agencies are trying to do as best they can, but it can't possibly be necessary or for that matter wise for all three agencies to be doing the same thing. the obvious solution is for the department of energy to ensure that there are no federally funded programs with the same stated objectives as the programs that they are already administering. my amendment requires the secretary of energy to coordinate with the -- with the
secretary of labor and the secretary of education prior to issuing any career skills and work force training funding opportunity announcements to ensure that these three departments are not issuing redundant and overlapping grounds. mr. president, we cannot keep spending more taxpayer dollars in the same inefficient ways. energy efficiency is important, but far more important is our nation's overall energy policy. we should be discussing energy efficiency only as part of that critical debate. i yield the floor. a senator: madam president -- i mean mr. president. the presiding officer: the senior senator from louisiana is recognized. ms. landrieu: thank you, mr. president. i wanted to speak for a minute about the debate that has gone on the last two days on this floor about two very important issues related to the energy --
a stronger energy policy for america. as i said earlier in the week and i was proven to be correct, it's unlikely that we would develop an energy policy in the next four days in open debate on the floor of the united states senate, and i was right. lots of people came down and talked about things they thought should be in it. many of those things i agree with. but there is a process that that goes through and we're working through it, not as quickly as some people would like, but we're making a lot of progress. but right now on the floor of the united states senate, there are two really important pillars or two really important cornerstones or two really important first steps that could be taken in the building of a stronger, more vibrant, more
commonsense, more middle-class friendly, more job-creating energy policy than the one we have right now. and the saddest thing about watching this debate or this -- these speeches that -- what's the word i want to use -- the speeches that sort of parade as if it is a debate but not really, pretend that it's a debate but it's not really, the speeches that we've heard are not really outlining the truth to the american public about what's really going on. we have the opportunity, the next time the senate gathers earlier next week, to have a cloture vote on an energy efficiency bill. that means bring the bill -- debate to an end, vote on an energy efficiency bill that will
create hundreds of thousands of jobs supported by the chamber of commerce, the chemical council of america, a.p.i. and the sierra club. hundreds of organizations that have come together across the political spectrum, looking here for common sense and for cooperation, and they're not finding much of either. now, these coalitions have spent an enormous amount of time lobbying members of the house and the senate to pass an efficiency bill led by senator shaheen and senator portman, two very respected members of this body, one republican with strong conservative credentials, one democrat with strong progressive credentials, but both demonstrated in their career the ability to work together and find common ground exactly, exactly what the american public
is asking for, and you can ask any republican, any democrat, any independent. they say can't you all work together, find a way forward? so senator portman and senator shaheen did. they brought a bill to committee. i wasn't the chair. i can't take credit for this. ron wyden was the chair. lisa murkowski is the ranking member. they can take credit for this and they came up with a fantastic bill that creates jobs, that saves a lot of energy. that is our best source of energy is through efficiency. it creates jobs right here in america. it's the cleanest energy that you can produce, so these two terrific senators come and bring us a bill. it's debated in public, in committee, and amazingly comes out of committee i think on a vote of 18-3. a very important piece of
building energy policy, which let me just say even as the chair of this committee now -- and i hope to remain chair for many years to come. there is an election in between that and that aspirational goal, so we shall see. but i would like to remain chair, but i can promise you it's not going to be one bill that comes out of the energy committee that builds an energy policy. first of all, part of the bills have to come out of finance. they are about tax policy related to all sorts of generation of different kinds of electricity. not even in my jurisdiction. there are some issues that are going to have to come out of the commerce committee that have jurisdiction and authorization over pipelines. there are other committees that are going to have to contribute to strengthening and building an energy policy where america can be independent and secure, where we can have partnerships with canada and mexico, producing the cleanest fuels possible and generating electricity in the cleanest way possible, abundant
and affordable and reliable for our people, that will make manufacturing soar in this nation, that will give opportunities for more domestic drilling both on and offshore. the people that i represent want this so badly, and they know that it can happen. i'm not sure why there are more senators that don't understand this can happen, but it's going to take cooperation, it's going to take a little give and take, and i guess that's just too much to ask, and that is so sad. i guess it's just too much to ask for a little cooperation and a little give and take. so this energy efficiency bill comes to the floor and it's held up because there are many members that want other pieces of -- of their -- of the energy plan, and they most certainly
have good ideas. most certainly, there are good ideas out there on both sides of the aisle, but there is one idea that's very powerful, and to tell you how powerful it is, i'm not going to read my words about it. i have already spoken about it's time to build the keystone ploip now, it's time -- pipeline now, it's time to start studying now. i respect the president's view of the situation. i disagree with the length of time that he's taken and with the decision he made last week to continue to study. i've said respectfully to him, mr. president, the time for studying is over. the time for building is now. the process has run its course over five years, five studies. every one of them has come down on the side of building it for jobs, for security, and it's better for the environment to transport this product, these oil sands from our -- one of our best friends, canada, by pipeline than by either rail or truck, and everyone in this
country knows how dangerous and how crowded the highways and rail are. you do not need to serve on the transportation committee of the united states senate or house to understand that issue. every mother, every father, every 17-year-old with a driver's license -- in our state, it's 16. maybe in some states, it's 20 -- understand how scary it is to drive on highways with big trucks filled with lots of unfortunately sometimes dangerous things. why would we want this for our children? why can't we add to the 2.9 million miles of pipeline that we have and build a pipeline with canada? we're not talking about building a pipeline with cuba or with venezuela. we're talking about canada, our best ally, our greatest trading partner, and our partner on the front lines of wars, in the research labs we partner with them.
to build a pipeline to safely move oil, they are going to produce, one way or another, because they need it for their economy and the world needs it. they have the highest environmental standards in the world. highways are crowded. our trains are crowded. trains are colliding all over the country. every morning in some section of the country, there is another train that's run off the track with horrible materials being spilt in waters and rivers. i think democrats are upset about that, republicans are upset about it, so there is one really big idea, really big amendment to the efficiency bill that i think the republicans would really like, and that is to have a vote on the keystone pipeline. so as the chair of the committee, i know that that's your strong feeling. i'm a supporter of the keystone pipeline, so i think to myself, well, let's just see them if we
could maybe make this work. the republican leadership has been saying for months they want a vote, not a resolution, not a sense of the senate, which we have already had, but a straight up or down vote on a directive to build a pipeline. so i think to myself this is -- seems to be fair, a little give and take. democrats aren't really happy, not everybody, with the keystone pipeline, not all republicans are happy with efficiency, but the business community is broadly supportive of both, and so are labor unions. so we have labor unions, the business community and the environmental community which is strongly in favor of efficiency. of course, many of the strongest voices are not for keystone, and i understand that. we just have a different view, and i respectfully disagree with their position, but this is a big country, it's a democracy, and we represent that democracy
right here in these desks. so i think to myself in my louisiana way, you know, maybe if every side gives a little bit, we could get two really important things done when really nothing much is getting done in the energy sector, which is what we need to move our economy forward, to get labor unions working, to get people that work that aren't in labor unions working, to create jobs, hundreds of thousands, millions of jobs. everybody is talking about that in their campaign. so it really is upsetting to me to know how many people are running for re-election in this chamber and go home and talk about jobs and then turn around and come right here and vote no. talk about jobs at home, vote no in the united states senate. no for efficiency jobs. no for the keystone pipeline. now, it's very interesting. so i'm going to read what some of the republican leaders have
said about keystone. maybe they have changed their minds since they said these, and over the weekend maybe some of the press could ask them if they have had a change of heart. senator wicker said on january january 25, 2013, many americans understand the economic importance of moving forward with the keystone pipeline and what that means for job creation and energy security in the united states. it's imperative that we continue to press the administration to approve the critical -- it approve this critical project." so next week on monday or duc tuesday, my friend, the senator from mississippi, is going to have an opportunity to vote to press the president on keystone and to vote for a bill that he is a cosponsor of, the energy efficiency bill. again, he's going to have chance to press the president of the united states to build the
keystone pipeline, using all the power that he has as a senator from the state of mississippi to do that and to vote on the efficiency bill. i hope he will follow his words wordsand his promise. senator chambliss and senator isakson in a letter to president obama on february 131, 2014, said, "by any reasonable standard, the keystone pipeline is clearly in our national interest. keystone will greatly advance our energy security interests by steak a reliable supply of oil from one of the most stable trading partners and closest friends and will lead to economic growth and help create good jobs, sustainable jobs for u.s. workers." i'd like to add my name to this. they might not want to me to, st would say senator chambliss, senator isakson and senator landrieu said this. i couldn't have said it better
myself. i wonder what they're going to do next week when we have a chance to vote on the efficiency bill and on the pipeline? senator cornyn, minority whip, on may 7 says, "it might be better to build this pipeline so we could safely transport oil from canada down to refineries in my state where it can be converted to gasoline, aviation fuel, and the like, and the process create an awful lot of jobs of the" may 7 floor statement from senator cornyn. this pipeline connects to refineries in texas, so i wonder if the senators from texas, senator cruz, senator cornyn, are you going to vote for an up-or-down ve vote on keystone d vote on the efficiency bill? you can vote "no," you can vote "yes." energy efficiency may not be important to people in texas. the chamber of commerce in texas may not have a position. i think they're very supportive, the list i looked at. and the national chamber of commerce is important. maybe that's not important to them. but i think it is. i spent a lot of time in texas.
it is a neighboring state. we've go to a big economy. i do a lost work for their -- i do a lost work for their coastal -- i do a lot of work for their coastal restoration. jobs are plenty until in texas, thank goodness. thank goodness. and in louisiana. we can always use more. and building in construction jobs are very local in nature, architects and engineers, putting our nrption to work. the engineers were in my office saying, some of our nrptio our s are bus circumstance some are not -- are bus circumstanc-- --are busy, some are not. senator cornyn going have the chance to vote up or down if he wants to do that. the 0 opportunity is dpo it on an updarn vet on an energy efficiency bill. democrats get a little bit of what they want. republicans gate little bit of what they want and what the
country gets is cooperation and a chance for jobs, which is all they want really. good jobs. senator inhofe, president obama and administration no longer have a valid reason to stall the final stainls of the pipeline." approving the keystone pipeline is one thing that the president can do today with his pen that will create thousands of jobs much the president said he's not going to do it with his pen. the question is, will senator inhofe join with enough of us to pass a bill that presses him to do it? i think if we can get the vote on the floor, we might be able to get our 60 votes. i never said we were guaranteed. there is no guarantee. but we are every close. we have 11 democratic cosponsors, including miervetion on a bill with 45 republicans. we're just three or four short.
i think that would be defined as "pressing." senator burr says, "today i joinejoined 43 other senators in introducing a bill to continue construction on the keystone x.l. pipeline, a project that will take great steps towards improving our energy security as well as to create jobs for thousands of american workers. despite chambers that promoting energy -- despite claims that promoting energy is a top priority, president obama has rejected the permit earlier in month." senator mcconnell said, "the keystone pipeline, a good example of something that would create jobs for the american people." and as senator mcconnell know, there might be quite a few people from kentucky that are out of work that could travel
not too far -- it is better to work at hometown, b home, be wir family and kids. but sometimes people have to travel to work. sometimes people want to travel distances because the jobs available to them at home are minimum wage. if they travel and get out, they can makers yo make, you know, he sums. so i know there are people in kentucky that would like jobs. so i'm hoping that next week when senator mcconnell has some time to think through this, as the minority leader, he can come to the floor and say, you know what? this isn't such a bad deal after all. senator shaheen and senator portman have presented a bill that is supported by the chamber of commerce and the sierra club and so many business organizations that depend on me and senator reid to help them create private-sector jobs in america. this isn't a gues government pr.
this is creating private-sector, high-paying jobs, saving energy. we've been working on it for five years. this is not a new idea. this is not something that senator shaheen and senator portman are doing in an election year. i thank her for her great leadership. she started working on this when she was governor before she even got to the senate of the united states senate. she is an expert on energy efficiency. i can remember when president clinton came to our caucus several years ago. jean was one of the first ones to stand up, senator shaheen, and ask him several important and very timely questions and say, mr. president, you know, you've given us a way forward here on a piece of energy legislation that i think both republicans and democrats can support. i'm looking affor looking forwag it. this was years ago. this isn't an election-year
ploivment this is a half a decade of work. my question to my republican friends is, do you want to build the keystone pipeline or do you want an issue to talk about? because it seems to me that we can get a vote on the efficiency bill and on keystone pipeline, so we actual laly are doing what you all say you want to do; which is to press the president. that's all our power is. we have -- i know it is hard for people to realize this, but our powers are limited. they are limited. they are limited by the constitution. we're senators. we're knot presidents. -- we're not presidents. we have equal power to the presidency, not more and not less. so while some people might want to run around and convince people in their hometowns that
they have more power than the president, they do not. they have equal power. so let's exercise it. let's press, which is what our job is pressing the administration. sometimes administrations don't want to do what congress does, so congress presses forward. but we don't want to prerks i don'--but we don't want to presi think. i think they want to talk, or have an issue to talk about. i would like to have a vote. i would like to clear, separate the wheat from the chaff, clear the fog. this is not complicated at all. you've heard a lot about amendments, amendments, amendments. there's one amendment that is more important than all the amendments -- more than senator vitter's amendment, morehan senator barrasso's amendment, more than any amendments even in my view on our side, and that
is, are we going to vote to build the keystone pipeline? right now 70% of the people of the united states support building that pipeline. right now the studies have been completed. right now the evidence is in. i know that there are people on this floor that disagree, and i want to be as respectful as i can. there's no one on the floor here debating this now, but if you did come, i would most certainly appreciate talking with you about it, if you are opposed. i knee there are peopli know tho still feel like keystone is not the right thing to do, but the evidence is in, in my view, on that, and we should build it. it's important to secure american domestic production. it's important for america to not rely on outsiders, particularly those who are not our friends, for the energy we need to keep our economy growing and strong. it is very disheartening for me
to read the headlines every day -- and i noi from m know from cs units it is, too -- and i know from my constituents it is, too. and to watch europe not be able to be as strong as i know europe wants to be. i know they want to be stronger. but because they depend so much on russia for their gas and they are not energy-independent, they have to be careful about what they do to come to the ukraine's aid. anybody can understand that. it doesn't take a diplomat to explain what's going on. does america ever want to be too weak to stand up to russia? i don't think so. does america ever want to be too weak to stand up to china? no. do we ever want to be too weak to stand up to india if we have to? no. or venezuela? no. so build the pipeline. we've already built 2.9 million
mimemiles of pipe. i have got 9,000 miles of pipeline in los louisiana. and, yes, sometimes they have not been laid correctly. and federal and state agencies have failed in many instances to make sure the environment was as protected as it should be. but we know how to build energy infrastructure. and i tell you, the people of louisiana would much rather build infrastructure than put uniforms on our sons and daughters and send them halfway around the world so we can get gasoline in our cars. let me just put it plainly. i lost 44 men in iraq and afghanistan -- gone. i have hundreds of wounded soldiers. when you ask me what the price
is -- build the keystone pipeline or continue to have wars over oil? -- i don't know. it's pretty easy for me. so i just want overnight and tomorrow and the weekend -- i'm really not going to let people come down here and kind of get away with talking about these amendments, because it's not about amendments. it's not about process. it's about, does this senate want to press -- press; that's all we can do; we can't make the president do anything unless we can override a veto, if he vetoes it, and that's happened before -- not often. it's happened. not often. but that's what the constitution says.
so let's take it a step at a time. let's press on to build the pipeline, get an up-or-down vote. let's move forward on an energy efficiency bill that the house has tee actually, amazingly pasa good version of. not only has a democrat-controlled senate passed an efficiency bill with seven republican cosponsors and at least a dozen more that i know will vote for the bill, if allowed to by their leader, mitch mcconnell -- they would vote for the bhil bill, but the republican-controlled house has already passed an energy efficiency bill, so we would just go to conference with these two bills and work out the details and all of these organizations that have lobbied and spent money and time to try to explain this to us and, please, can you all help us create jobs we need right here
at home; we'd be so happy and encouraged that the democratic process is working, that we're hearing and listening to them; that would be a really terrific step afford. now, the final thit i'll say because you'll hear some republican leaders say, well, senator, that all sounds great, except you have to deliver 60 votes for keystone. no, i never said i could deliver 60 votes for keystone. i said i would try to deliver 60 votes. that's all i can do, to try it. i've tried my best. we had three democrats last year. we now have 11. and i'm not doing this by myself. senator heitkamp has been extraordinarily help. senator mccaskill has been wonderful. senator tester has been helping. senator done lee. there are so many democrats over here trying to work with our colleagues.
yet, when we're this close, it's not about amendments. it's about keystone. that is the amendment. keystone. and a separate vote on keystone, a separate vote on energy efficiency. we can press the president and the house to act and get those two things hopefully to the president's desk. that's the best we can do. now what the president decides to do after that, i don't know. he has a responsibility. we have a responsibility. he will exercise it as he sees fit, but we need to do our job. can't worry about doing his job. we need to do our job. so it's time to build the keystone pipeline. i'm going to submit to the record the dozens of comments made by my republican friends about how important it is to build the pipeline. they didn't say let's build the pipeline and also pass three
other important pieces of legislation. they didn't say let's build the pipeline, but we don't really want to build the pipeline until we can get votes on x, y, and z. they said the most important thing we can do, 70% supported by the american public and growing every day, is to build this pipeline, labor and business spourtd. a broad range of people supported with respect for nebraska. it has not made the final decision. our law allows for nebraska courts to make the final decision about where that pipeline is laid because the people of nebraska did not want it laid in one of the largest aquifers, water aquifers in north america, so they moved the line, just appropriate. and so that is being worked out. but other than that, we're ready to go. so i hope that the people of kentucky particularly will ask
mitch mcconnell, senator mcconnell, if he is ready to build the keystone pipeline, if he's ready to vote to press the president to build the keystone pipeline, which is what is in the limits of our power. and our powers are limited. but we could he exercise them to the fullest. i hope we will do that. and i hope next week we will get a straight-up vote on the efficiency bill that senator portman and senator shaheen worked so hard on that is supported by a broad range of coalition members, and i hope that coalition will get its members activated between now and tuesday. and i hope those in america that want to build this keystone pipeline will also activate the phones, the e-mails, contact your legislators, particularly the two leaders, both harry reid and mitch mcconnell, who are ultimately going to be responsible for whether these votes occur or not. and all we can do is do our
best. i think i've demonstrated a real effort to get this done and thank my colleagues over here who have been extraordinary, helpful. and we really hope that we can find common sense, common ground and do what the senate of the united states can do. press forward to create jobs for the american people. and i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
mr. whitehouse: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: is the senate presently in a quorum call? the presiding officer: it is. mr. whitehouse: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: mr. president, i'm here now for the 66th consecutive week that the senate has been in session to ask my colleagues here to wake uto the threat of climate change. the topic has become taboo for republicans in congress and so the discussion of climate change is somewhat one-sided around here. but the recent comprehensive national climate assessment shows americans are witnessing the effects of climate change in every state of our nation. colleagues, read the assessment. find out how climate change is already affecting every region of the country.
in march, i visited iowa, where i heard over and over that iowans are getting ready for climate change. over the april recess, i spent five days traveling down the southeastern coast of north carolina, south carolina, georgia and florida. i went there to talk to people on those coasts firsthand. i met with scientists and students, outdoorsmen, faith leaders, state and local officials, people of diverse background all with one thing in common. they're concerned for the coastal communities that they love. these folks know climate change is real, because they see it where they live. they're not waiting around for this chamber to get organized. they're acting. last week i spoke here about the business owners and community leaders and researchers i met in
north carolina. well, from there i headed into south carolina. my first stop was the university of south carolina's arook institute for marine and social scientist. i learned how salt marshals which are the ocean's nurseries and our first lines of defense against storms and hurricanes, have to adopt to rising sea levels. these marshes retain sediment as the tide goes in and out and increase their levels slowly as sea level rises if given enough time. dr. jim morris, director of the institute has been studying these marshes for decades. he's a renowned expert. he explained sea level rise is starting to happen so fast that the marshes may not keep up. and if they can't, then the marsh deteriorates to mudflat and the mudflat deteriorates to open water, which is already happening in places i visited.
that deterioration from marsh to mudflat can devastate coastal property, infrastructure and wildlife. business as usual means sea level rise increases of three feet or more by 2100. this is what the baruch, marine institute and surrounding marshes would look like after the sea level change. before and after, pretty much a goneer. next i visited cape romaine national wildlife refuge which accompanies acres of barrier islands, sandy beaches, fresh and brackish water. sea level rise threatens this area as well. one signal? last year over 70% of endangered loggerhead turtle nests had to
be relocated by people in order to prevent them from being flooded. this is a place where these turtles have been nesting for centuries. but now look how coastal erosion is affecting their nests. these are the turtle eggs and the coast has eroded away. national park service officials there told me this is not just about wildlife. this is about the community. it's about your livelihood and well-being. they're right. according to a forward by alvin taylor who is the director of the south carolina department of natural resources, in the report titled "climate change impacts to natural resources in south carolina" i mean tell me how people from south carolina are denying climate change is real when the state published a report called "climate change impacts to natural resources in south carolina."
here's what the report says. "climate-related changes may adversely affect the environment in many ways. potentially disrupting or damaging ecological services, water supply, agriculture, forestry, fish and wildlife species, endangered species and commercial and recreational fishing. just on that last point it goes on to say that fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing contribute almost $2.2 billion annually to south carolina's economy and support nearly 59,000 jobs." so how can they pretend it isn't real? business owners and executives in south carolina are starting to take action on climate change. there's a south carolina small business chamber of commerce head bid frank napp. it's organized, something called south carolina businesses acting on rising seas, to raise
awareness among businesses and their customers of the threat posed to the palmetto state. in cities including charleston and myrtle beach, coastal businesses threatened by rising sea levels are displaying strips of blue tape in their window fronts, you know, where the water level would be, to show their support for taking action. continued on down the coast and visited charleston's fort johnson where marine research facilities are located for noaa, the college of charleston, the south carolina department of natural resources and the medical university of south carolina. the tide gauges there in charleston are up over ten inches since the early 1920's. deny that all you want. it's a measurement. it's not a theory. this is what fort johnson would look like with three feet of sea level rise, which is projected for 2100. nearly all the research facilities at fort johnson would
be lost. lost, ironically, to the very seas their research helps us understand. and three feet could actually be on the low end of sea level rise by 2100. so there it is. historic fort johnson. that's what three feet of sea level rise looks like. during my visit to fort johnson, i heard from students, from faculty, from elected officials, from state and federal employees all working at the leading edge of climate change and adaptation research. just one example, a scientist, dr. peter mueller, skrused how climate change is -- discussed how climate change is allowing algae species to grow in waters where they previously were not found. as these algae species migrate to new areas, they encounter bacteria and fungi and other unfamiliar algae. as dr. mueller explained to me, under these conditions, previously nontoxic algae can make dangerous toxins that are
novel to science and nature. it sounds almost like science fiction, but these are consequences of human-caused climate change. my last stop in south carolina was at a round table discussion at the coastal conservation league. there, i heard from a diverse group of south carolinians, researchers, environmental advocates, business owners, faith leaders, about their efforts to raise awareness to the threats of climate change and to promote clean energy. i learned this, south carolinians are not afraid to talk about climate change and how it's affecting their state. at least not until they get to washington. when wcbd tv charleston asked representative mark sanford about my visit to his state, he actually said something quite nice. he said this. "at our family farm in beaufort, i've watched over the last 50
years as sea levels have risen and affected salt edges of the farm. i applaud senator whitehouse for getting people together in the low country today to discuss this problem. and while we'd likely approach solutions differently, building the conversation is a necessary first step." that's a helpful opening. i appreciate that. jim gandhi, the chief meteorologist for wltx columbia has been forecasting south carolina weather for 28 years. he is affectionately known as south carolina's weatherman. jim was at the white house this week to interview president obama about the national climate assessment. through his blog "weather and climate matter" and his broadcasts, jim makes weather and climate understandable for his viewers. i spoke with him while i was in south carolina, and i learned that his tv station thought it may actually take some heat for jim discussing climate change on the air, and they were braced
for the blowback. it never came. south carolinians have their eyes open. it's only taboo here in washington. i continued down into georgia to the heart of the savannah historic district. audi plat, former vice chair of the garden club of america's conservation committee, hosted me in her historic home in savannah for a meeting with the local garden club, joined by savannah mayor edna jackson. also there was reverend mary beene from the faith presbyterian church who talked about the pentecost ecology fund they run for ecological stewardship of natural resources. we headed out to fort pulaski at tybee island. there is a tide gauge that has been measuring sea level since 1935. it takes measurements. it's not complicated. it produces clear, irrefutable facts. at fort pulaski, noaa measures
that sea level has risen over eight inches. projections at 2,100 put most of this region under water. this chart shows that sea level rise of three feet will devastate the area. here is fort pulaski, georgia, and the coast around it. that's what's left with three feet of sea level rise. on tybee island, i had lunch with city officials and council members, representatives of the georgia conservancy, noaa scientists, georgia garden club members, local sustainability directors. the message was clear -- sea level is rising. oceans are warming, infrastructure and ecosystems that georgians depend on are being threatened. one example, according to university of georgia biologist, sea level rise will affect the state's oyster crop. the oysters in georgia thrive at the tidal edge, sometimes above
water, sometimes below water as the tide goes up and down. as rising sea levels come up, it will cause the oyster habitat to shift or leave them vulnerable to predation as they spend more time under water. being out of the water actually protects them from under water predators. the people of tybee island are preparing. councilman paul wolf showed me the new storm water tide gate which the city of tybee put in place to accommodate higher tides and rising seas. he explained to me the road out to tybee island, tybee road -- which is, by the way, the island's only access road -- will be flooded as much as 45 times per year with just one foot of sea level rise, and the city's already put in place a short-term plan for 14-20 inches of sea level rise by 2016. what does that do to an island's economy if 45 days of the year you can't get there? down the coast, i visited the
university of georgia's marine institute at sapalo island and its doctor dr. meryl albert. sapalo is a barrier island off the coast of georgia managed by the georgia department of natural resources. this marine institute is a world-renowned field station for research in coastal ecosystems. here i learned how they measure what they call blue carbon, the amount of carbon stored in the salt marsh. they are doing that as part of the national science foundation's lg-term ecological research program. salt marshes, it turns out, are huge carbon sinks. they absorb massive amounts of carbon, but the carbon that's stored there may be returned to the atmosphere and add to the climate problem if salt marshes succumb to sea level rise and have nowhere to migrate. we also heard how the intruding saltwater is changing local marsh ecosystems and jeopardizing freshwater supply.
georgia actually runs a coastal management program coastal incentive grant program to increase knowledge about sea level rise. now, if georgia runs a coastal management program, coastal incentive grant program on sea level rise, how can people who represent georgia and washington be pretending this isn't occurring? i ended the day in georgia out on the water with charlie phillips, who is a terrific character, great guy to be with, a local very successful clammer. we went out on his air boat over the marshes that he built himself. he is also very knowledgeable. he is a member of the south atlantic fishery management council that runs the regional fishery. he has been an outdoorsman his whole life, and he needs fresh, clean water for his georgia clams. unfortunately, charlie says that changes in claimant are hurting the -- in climate are hurting the ecosystem that supports his
livelihood, his and his employees. he worries about the future of his business. this is south carolina and georgia. south carolina and georgia. and when you actually go there, what do you find? business owners, researchers, faith leaders, elected officials, all responding to changes that they are witnessing. they understand, they see the risk that climate change poses, and they hope that their representatives in congress will wake up to the danger of climate change, the home state danger that their constituents are already seeing happening right around them. mr. president, after seeing the beauty of both south carolina and georgia along those lovely coasts, it's painful to see there the early warning symptoms of climate change. it called to mind president
theodore roosevelt's message from 100 years ago, more than 100 years ago to america's school children. he said this. it's sort of old-fashioned language, but that was 1907 for you. he said this -- "in your full manhood and womanhood, you will want what nature once so bountfully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed, and because of that want, you will reproach us, not for what we have used but for what we have wasted. any nation which in its youth lives only for the day, reaps without sewing and -- sowing and consumes without husbanding, must expect the penalty of the
prodigal. mr. president, the people that i met in south carolina and georgia, along with a huge majority of americans nationwide, know, know that climate change is real, see it happening in their lives and want us to take action. it's time for congress to listen to their voices. it's time for congress to listen to the fishermen who see the fisheries moving around and the oceans warming. it's time for us to listen to the clammers at the seashore who see the changes in the sea level and know what it means for them. it's time for us to listen to the for evidenters who see the pine beetle killing forests by the hundreds of square mile and the firefighters who fight fires in those forests who see the fire season expanding by 60 days. it's time for us to listen to the farmers who see unprecedented drought and flooding. it's time for congress to listen
to the voices of their constituents before we all in our foolishness and in our folly must pay the penalty of the prodigal. it is time indeed for congress to wake up. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. moran: mr. president, thank you very much. i spoke yesterday on the senate floor about my concerns wit the nature of the way that the department of veterans' affairs was being operated. much of my concern occurs as a result of conversations i have
had with veterans back home in kansas and their experiences both on the benefit and medical side. some real concerns with individual examples of things that have happened in some of our v.a. facilities in our state, and this growing sense that the department of veterans' affairs has become unable, unwilling to provide the necessary services in a cost-effective, efficient, timely manner that our veterans so deserve. as i indicated yesterday, there is no group of people that i hold in higher regard than those who have served our country and believe that the benefits that were promised our veterans must be provided to them, and i'm concerned that that's no longer the case. i indicated yesterday that i have served on the house and senate veterans' affairs committee for now 18 years. i was the chairman of the health care subcommittee. i have worked with nine secretaries of the department of veterans' affairs. during that time, i always had the sense until the last few years that things were always
getting better for our veterans, and today the frustration that i bring to share with my colleagues is the belief that many veterans no longer have hope that the department of veterans' affairs is there to meet their needs and to care for them. in preparing for those remarks yesterday but really in studying this issue over the last several years, there is a real shocking development which is the number of times we hear stories, incidents, facts about what's going on with our veterans at the department of veterans' affairs and the services that are being provided, and just to highlight to my colleagues, based upon inspector general reports that are then in part based upon press reports, here are some things that we have seen and heard about the department of veterans' affairs and their efforts to care for america's veterans. the one that's in the news at the moment -- and there is an additional i.g. report that's
being anticipated, but the phoenix veterans' affairs hospital administration apparently developed a secret waiting list of up to 1,600 sick veterans who were forced to wait months to see a doctor. it is believed that at least 40 u.s. veterans died waiting for their appointment as a result of being placed on the secret waiting list. again, this is being investigated. aeport is expected and we will see what that report says, but clearly this is one of huge concern, resulting in potentially the death of veterans. there's a wait time cover-up. according to the goo -- g.a.o., the government accounting office last year, it is hard to know how long they have been delayed because no one can give you accurate information. it is so bad that staff have found that v.a. hospitals tried to cover up backup date appointments in an effort to
make things appear better than they are, unquote. in addition, the g.a.o. stated that -- quote -- nothing has been implemented that we know of at this point -- unquote -- despite the fact that the g.a.o. and the inspector general has reported similar findings over a decade. reports of falsifying records, a story from the v.a. clinic in fort collins, colorado, where the v.a.'s office of medical inspector found -- quote -- clerks were instructed how to falsify appointment records so it appeared that the small staff of doctors were seeing patients within the agency's goal of 14 days." unquote. in fact, the investigation determined that clerical staff at the colorado clinic were punished if they allowed records to reflect that a veteran waited longer than 14 days. let me say that again. in fact, the investigators determined that clinical staff at the colorado clinic were punished if they allowed records to reflect that a veteran waited
longer than 14 days. no oversight on quality of care. in december, a g.a.o. reported that the v.a. hospitals, their finding was that patients were not being protected from doctors who have historically provided substandard treatment. none of the hospitals examined by the g.a.o. in dallas, nashville, seattle and augusta, maine, adhered to all of the requirements to review and adequately identify providers who are able to deliver safe, quality patient care. in los angeles in 2012, more than 40,000 requests for diagnoses were -- quote -- administratively closed, and essentially purged from the books so that the reported wait times would be dropped. and in dallas in 2012, another 13,000 appointments were canceled. according to the washington examiner, the v.a. canceled more than 1.5 million medical orders with no guarantee that the
patients actually received the treatment or that the tests that were required by those orders were given. by the v.a.'s own admission in april of 2014 fact sheet, cancer screening delays accounted for the death of at least 23 patients in v.a. facilities nationwide and another 53 patients suffered from some type of harm due to improper care. reports have also linked poor patient care, maintenance and other unsanitary practices to six deaths in columbia, south carolina, five in pittsburgh, four in atlanta and three each in memphis and augusta, georgia. other reports, more than 1,800 veteran patients in the st. louis v.a. medical center may have been exposed to h.i.v. and hepatitis as a result of unsanitary dental equipment. but the facility has been under fire for patient deaths, persistent safety issues and critical reports.
despite the problem at the medical center, the facility's director from 2009-2013 received nearly $25,000 in bonuses during her tenure there. cnn reported that after they obtained internal documents that deals with patients -- after the v.a. obtained documents with patients diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and 2011, at least 19 veterans have died because of the delays in simple screenings like colonoscopies and end endoscopies. in 2010 and 2011, 19 veterans died because of delays in getting simple medical screenings related to cancer. the veterans were part of 82 vets that have died or are dying or have suffered serious injuries as a result of delayed diagnoses or treatment. loopholes in the v. performance -- an iraq and afghanistan combat vet who is has former
mental health administrator at the v.a. medical center in manchester, new hampshire, said in april 2012 that the v.a. hospital mearption acros managee country regularly sought loopholes. he explained meeting the performance target rather than meeting the needs of a veteran becomes the overriding priority in providing care. offering bonuses to managers to mike sure they met performance requirements creates an incentive to find an create loopholes that will allow the facility to meet the numbers without actually providing the services or meeting the expectations of measured -- that the measures dictate. finally, this is not from the i.g. report, but in a hearing in the house veterans' affairs committee, april 9, about a month ago, the deputy for the v.a. inspector general for health care inspections stated, "i believe that the v.a. has
lost its focus on the importance of providing quality medical care as its primary mission. there is no good explanation for these events. they are not consistent with good medical practices. they are not consistent with sequence. and they're not consistent with v.a. policies that exist." mr. president, it is amaze tock me, it is so troubling to me that we have these reports over a long period of time across the country, not isolated incidents, and it's even more troubling to me that despite these reports, these inspections, these criticisms of the v.a., it's hard to find any evidence that the v.a. is doing anything to improve its report, its performance or to better care for the veterans of our country. we should demand more, and we need leadership at the department of veterans affairs that will do so. as indicated yesterday, i don't believe that this is a matter of
money. 60% increase in v.a. spending since 2009. normal increases of 2%, 3%, or 4% each year over the last several years. indicated yesterday, the president himself talked about how successful the administration has been in providing the necessary resources for the department of veterans affairs. our veterans deserve better care and treatment. these are the folks we ought to honor and esteem. these are the people that we must live up to with our commitments to provide the benefits and health care that they deserve and have earned. if these were isolated instances, they would be a terrible thing. because they are so pervasive, because they are so widespread and because there appears to be no effort to correct the problems, it is important -- it is critical that congress and the american people demand better service, care, and treatment for our nation's heroes. mr. president, i yield the floor.
senator -- the senate is currently in morning business. mr. franken: oh, thank you. i rise today to talk about the growing problem of student debt and the college affordable caree crisis that is gripping our naismtion i also rise to talk about one of the things that we need to do to address this crisis and sthas t that is to pe bank on student loans r act, whh i was proud to pass introduce with senator elizabeth warren yesterday. it is a huge ro problem in this country. the total amount of student debt, of student loan debt held by americans is more than d 1.2 trillion today, surpassing the total amount of debt -- of credit card debt in our nation.
more and more americans are becoming saddled with large amounts of student debt that limits their ability to buy homes, save for retirement, and make other purchases that will help keep our economy growing. now, my state, minnesota, has the unfortunate distinction of being the state with the fourth-highest average debt for students graduating from a four-year college at over $30,000 per student. and over the last several years, i've held college affordability round tables in minnesota to hear from students and families about the challenges that they face paying for college and talked about ways to make the situation better. let me tell but one of the about one of the stories that i heard. last month at the university of minnesota in minneapolis, i met
joel stangler, a student with a 4.12g.p.a. she dprad waited from rogers high school in minnesota as their valedictorian. she is also senior class president and the captain of her volleyball teevmen team. she doesn't lack motivation when it comes to school. both of joelle's parents were teachers. she comes from a long line going back six generations, but a couple of years ago joelle's mom casey made the difficult decision to quit her job as a teacher to go to work in the private sector where she would get more money so she could help send her four kids to college. among the fifth gra