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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  March 16, 2015 5:00pm-6:01pm EDT

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and to prevent her from getting to work on protecting the american public from human trafficking which is so important. the american people want action on trafficking and there are legitimate points of debate between our side on the this issue. those points of debate and differences need to be resolved, and i hope they will be, i trust they will be. i believe they are resolvable and that extraneous or relevant provisions now in the bill can be removed so that we can focus on stopping modern-day slavery which is what the -- the presiding officer: the senator's time has expired. mr. blumenthal: if i may just have another minute to finish. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: which is what we should be doing here, and i believe that we will do it.
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loretta lynch has a stellar record. she served with incredible distinction during her time as united states attorney for the eastern district of new york. i suggest to my colleagues that the best way to serve the purpose of stopping trafficking is to confirm her so she can get to work on enforcing that new law. thank you madam president. the presiding officer: under the previous order the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following nominations which the clerk will report. the clerk: nominations -- department of transportation. carlos a. monje jr. to be assistant. manson k. brown of the district of columbia to be an assistant. the presiding officer: under the previous order, there will be 30 minutes of debate equally divided in the usual form. a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: madam president i want to speak for the
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confirmation of both the nominees but first of all i want to render the courtesy to the senator from connecticut if he needed to complete his statement, i will yield to him and he can ask it in the form of a question. mr. blumenthal: the only -- and i want to express my appreciation to the senator from florida whose model i am seeking to follow in not only expertise but also graciousness and generosity. it appears to me that we are in the midst of considering yet again nomination, and so i would ask the senator from florida whether in his view his speaking now and our voting now on these nominations will detract in any way from the senate's consideration of the trafficking bill and so whether our voting on loretta lynch would in any
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way detract from our consideration of the trafficking bill. thank you senate president -- mr. president. mr. nelson: and mr. president my response to the senator is that just as in the two nominees that we will caverrably consider today, which has been bipartisan, with the great support of senator thune the chairman of the commerce committee and those are not going to interfere with the trafficking bill. so too having the president's choice which came overwhelmingly out of the judiciary committee the president's choice for attorney general likewise would not in any way hinder the trafficking bill if in fact we
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could get up the nominee -- give up the nominee because the votes would obviously be there. so my answer to the senator is clearly it would not hinder the trafficking bill. mr. president, i rise in support of the confirmation of two public servants into leadership roles in noaa, the national oceanic and atmospheric administration and the department of transportation. one is admiral manson brown. admiral brown has served our country with distinction for over 30 years. most recently as an officer in the united states coast guard. and what made him successful in the coast guard is going to be put to great use as assistant
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secretary for environment observation and prediction at noaa. hurricane season is right around the corner. his position is going to provide crucial guidance and accountability if that big storm starts swirling in a counterclockwise fashion headed to the mainland. so i -- this senator from florida is particularly appreciative to senator thune for helping expedite this confirmation and this role we'll also -- will also oversee continued efforts to modernize noaa. mr. president, we are frequently
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now launching up to date best technology weather satellites. nasa builds them, nasa launches them and noaa operates them. and they are critical in giving us the refined capability to determine the ferociousness of a storm and its track. and as a highly regarded officer, officer brown has honed significant expertise in his leadership in the coast guard maritime stewardship safety and national security. he's an engineer. in our senate commerce committee, we hold admiral brown in such high regard that we have
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reported his nomination twice one last congress and again during our very first markup, and it was unanimous. now, the second nominee is mr. carlos monje an assistant secretary for policy. he will play a major important role in shaping national transportation policy and priorities. the department of transportation, for example plays a critical role in helping ensure safety in the airspace, as well as protecting consumers. so last friday, since i did not go back to my state i went with the f.a.a. administrator we went to the next generation air
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traffic control modernization progress that is being made in the f.a.a. research and development center at the atlantic city airport. nextgen capitalizes on existing technologies such as g.p.s. capability provided by the department of defense satellite network, and what it will do is make our air traffic control systems safer and more efficient. mr. president, how that works is right now we have a series of resource and the resource, if it is an up to date radar, it will go around every 30 seconds. so you know where the airplane was but you don't know where it
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is for the next 20 seconds until the radar comes back around. and if it's where it should be, it's in the path that was filed by the crew. what the next generation of air traffic control is will track that aircraft from satellites so there is a continuous feed of data from the aircraft to the satellites back to the controllers on the ground, and because of that, they can space aircraft closer they can give them a direct route into the airport instead of a lot of the
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circular patterns that they have because of the delay of the continuous tracking. as a result, they can save a lot of money for the airlines because they can be more fuel efficient. instead of the president's step system mr. president if you're on an airliner and you're going into the airport you're going to go through a series of steps. air traffic control's going to tell you to send to such and such at such and such a heading and you're going to go there until air traffic control all of this continuous conversation going on and having to be acknowledged by the cockpit crew until they tell you to descend to the next step down. what the new next generation system will do, it will eliminate that step system because there's a continuous
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feed. it will eliminate a lot of the human conversation, some of which gets misunderstood because all of that continuous communication will be between the air traffic controller and the aircraft via communication of satellite and as a result, they can give an aircraft a direct route not through steps not all that conversation, a direct route of descent into the airport, saving a lot of potential mistakes in human communication as well as saving a lot of fuel, instead of having to power up and power down as the aircraft goes through each of those steps. and so implementing this next generation air traffic control modernization is going to be
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just one of the many transportation policy challenges that we will face and that we are developing and that we have already implemented on a trial basis in a couple of airports and in some airplanes. the department of transportation also plays a critical role in ensuring vehicle safety through its national highway traffic safety administration, and of course you have been reading the stories there. brakes that don't work, ignition switches that accidentally turn off when jostled by key chains, and now deadly air bag failures that cause the steering wheel containing an air bag to be a
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lethal weapon because it is faulty it shreds metal in the explosion, and we have five deaths in this country alone that have already been reported. so these nominees are assuming an extremely important important role in the united states government. i think that the way that senator thune has handled these nominees as our chairman in the commerce committee has been admirable, and i thank him for the bipartisanship that he has shown, and we commend to the senate these two nominees that will be voted on at 5:30. thank you mr. president. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i have two unanimous consent requests that i want to ask before i speak.
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i ask unanimous consent that privileges of the floor be granted to the following member of my staff -- francis cissna, during the penden say of the remainder of the 114th congress. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: the second one, i have one unanimous consent request for a committee to meet during today's session of the senate. it has the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent that this request be agreed to and that this request be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. nelson: mr. president will the kind senator from iowa yield for one thing that i would like to observe that i neglected to say? mr. grassley: i will yield. mr. nelson: thank you to the senator from iowa. you're very kind, because i think he would want to know that our former colleague senator
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landrieu is in the gallery in order to see the confirmation vote of carlos monje, who is from her state of louisiana. thank you mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i would ask consent that my remarks be printed in the record just prior to our going into executive session. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: in recent years we've had a lot of discussion about senate obstructionism with competing claims about who is really at fault. i think the answer to that question is becoming increasingly undeniable to any fair observer. actions speak louder than words, and there's no denying the actions of the minority party which before this congress was the majority party in the senate for eight years. even in the minority, as we've seen last week, they're up to old tricks, blocking amendments
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and grinding the senate to a halt. given the distortions of the senate rules during those eight years, it is no wonder that the american public and perhaps even some senators are confused about how the senate rules are supposed to work. so i'd like to take a few moments to talk about what in this senate is called the cloture motion. with cloture what the senate is actually voting on is this question -- quote -- "is it the sense of the senate that the debate shall be brought to a close? the proper use of cloture is when the senate has had time for debate and consideration of amendments and it seems like the senate is getting bogged down. if a cloture vote fails, then that means that the senate has decided as a body to keep on
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consideration of a particular piece of legislation. this is a crucial point and one that was routinely distorted under the previous majority, and they did it for partisan ends. a vote against cloture is a vote to continue considering a bill until at least 60 senators are satisfied that they have had their say and are ready to vote a bill up or down, aye or no. it is not always clear when the senate has reached that point so a bill can sometimes require several cloture votes. under the previous majority leadership now that group happens to be the senate minority -- we saw unprecedented abuses of senate rules to block senators from participating in the deliberative process. this included the reputed abuse
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of the cloture rule in order to shield his members from having to take tough votes, the previous majority leader routinely moved to shut down all consideration of a bill even before any debate took place and even before any amendments could be considered. as i stated, cloture is supposed to be used after the senate has considered a measure for a period of time and a preponderance of the senate thinks it has deliberated enough, and not do it to end consideration of a bill before it has begun as the previous majority leadership did for several years prior to this year. so let's contrast how our majority leader, senator mcconnell, has been running the senate.
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he has not tried to block minority amendments like was done to us when we were in the minority. in fact, we have already had more than twice as many amendment votes as all of last year. as the manager of this bill, i've been running an open amendment process and i'm not afraid to have votes on amendments of all kinds. in fact, if you're fortunate enough to be able to be located to represent your state as a united states senator it seems to me you have an obligation to the people of your state to offer amendments on issues that are important to your state. the american people saw that we were serious about restoring the senate tradition of open amendment process with the very first major bill that we took up in this new congress. supporters of the keystone pipeline bill had the 60 votes
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to end debate, but we didn't try to ram through the bill without consideration of amendments. we had a full, open amendment process like we're supposed to have in the united states senate because it's a deliberative body it's an amending body. there were more than a few "gotcha" type amendments from the other side but that is okay because that's how the senate is supposed to operate. there was also an opportunity for the first time in a very long time for senators to get votes on substantive issues that are important to the people of their individual states. that should be a big deal for every senator but it wasn't a very big deal the way the senate was run previous to this year. when senators are blocked from participating in the legislative process, the people they represent are disenfranchise.
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-- disenfranchise. we were not elected to represent the party leadership but to represent our state. that's why it was so disappointing to see senators of both political parties repeatedly voting in lockstep witht to say that sentence again. i'm sorry. that's why it was so disappointing under the previous majority to see senators repeatedly voting in lockstep with their party leadership to block amendments and end debate before it had started. i think it's pretty clear from the last election that that strategy backfired in a very major way and yet the same leaders now in the minority are up to old tricks. the previous senate leadership routinely used a tactic called filling the tree, where a former majority leader used his right of first recognition to call up his amendments and thus
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block out amendments from other senators of both political parties. when the senate is considering a number of amendments at once it requires unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendment to call up a new one so this is the way to prevent other senators then, from offering their amendments. if you don't get unanimous consent to take down on amendment to make room for your amendment, you don't get the chance to offer your amendment. and usually that was blocked. that's why there were only 18 roll call votes on amendments all last year compared to the last time i counted just so far this year, 43 votes. now, under new leadership and elections are supposed to have consequences and the consequences of the last election is that the new majority decided that the senate
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ought to operate as a deliberative body, as an amending body, where every senator can partnership. so majority leader mcconnell has not filled the amendment tree. we have substantive amendments pending as we speak. nevertheless the minority leadership has been objecting to even setting aside the pending amendment or proceeding to vote on pending amendments just like when the -- when they used the procedure of filling the amendment tree. after reporting the bill before the senate the human trafficking bill, out of the senate judiciary committee unanimously, they have decided that there is one provision that they don't like, so the bill does not move forward after days of consideration last week. looks like the same trick going
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on right now. since there is an open amendment process, and that's the way senator mcconnell runs the senate we have naturally suggested that they offer an amendment if they don't like something in this bill. they have refused to do so and instead of holding up the entire bill from being amended and finally passed. so after opening the bill up to amendments and having considered the bill for a week, the majority leader has now filed cloture. i want to be clear what this means. again, a vote against cloture is a vote to continue debate and considering amendments. i have voted against ending debate many times in recent years out of principle when senators were being denied their right to offer amendments. no one can say that this is a case right now on this human human
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trafficking bill. we've had week of debate, and it is the minority party that is blocking amendments. remember that many members of the now minority party when they were in the majority were adamant that a vote against cloche a filibuster, and that -- cloture is a filibuster and that it is illegitimate to filibuster. i would say to my colleagues if they truly believe that filibusters are wrong and it wasn't just cynical political posturing, then you had better vote for cloture tomorrow. i would also note that a couple of senators sent out a dear colleague letter at the beginning of this congress calling again for what they termed the talking filibuster. by this, those senators mean that if you vote against ending debate you should be prepared
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to talk nonstop on the senate floor. under their proposal, as soon as there are no senators talking on the senate floor, the senate would move to a final vote. the problem with this idea under the previous leadership was that amendments were routinely blocked, so it would have meant that senators would have to talk nonstop to preserve their right to offer an amendment with no guarantee that they would ever get that chance. now, that is not the issue this time. we have alloyed an -- allowed an open amendment process and it is the minority party that is blocking amendments. so i would say to all the advocates of the so-called talking filibuster, if you do vote against cloture you're saying you want to debate this bill more before a vote is taken. in that case, you'd better put
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money where your mouth is. to all my colleagues to support the so-called talking filibuster and vote against this cloture motion. i expect to see you come down to the senate floor and talk nonstop. you can use the time then to explain to the american people why you object to moving forward with this very important bipartisan legislation to combat sex trafficking. then when you're ready to move forward with a vote, let us know. i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i ask that the
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quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i'm sorry mr. president. i ask unanimous consent -- or we yield back all of our remaining time. the presiding officer: without objection. all time is yielded back. under the previous order, the question occurs on the carlos a. monje, jr. nomination. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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the presiding officer: on this vote the ayes are 94. the nays are zero. the nomination is confirmed. under the previous order, the question occurs on the brown nomination. is there any further debate? hearing none, all those in favor say aye. all those opposed no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes have it. the nomination is confirmed. under the previous order the motions to reconsider are considered made and laid upon the table. the president will be immediately notified of the senate's action, and the senate will resume legislative session. the majority leader is recognized. mr. mcconnell: mr. president i ask unanimous consent the senate be in a


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