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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  March 17, 2015 4:30pm-6:31pm EDT

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argued against this. and i want to quote from a letter that was sent to all of us explaining why a number of these groups are opposing my legislation. here's a quote. this is what they say in their letter. "individuals who have been convicted their crimes and completed sentences should not be necessarily subjected to additional punishments because of these convictions." well, wait a minute, there is a thing about the logic of that position. by that logic an admitted, convicted child molester who serves a ten-year prison sentence for his crime should be able to walk out of the jail, walk down the street, apply for and get a job teaching elementary school kids. how ridiculous is that? it's completely ridiculous. our kids shouldn't be part of involuntary members of a social experiment where we're trying to
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see which convicted child molesters are going to be recidivists. most of them are. and i'm not willing to take the risk that our kids should be left alone with people like that. we have a national sex offender registry for a reason because these people recognize the danger that extends past their time of incarceration. parents need to know about that and that's why we have this national registry, and schools need to avoid the danger. to be clear mr. president i'm not suggesting that a convicted child molester can never work again anywhere, but i am saying they shouldn't work in a school, and i think that's completely reasonable. i'm shocked frankly that these organizations would come out against this, against this commonsense legislation. but the objection in fairness, some objection that comes from our side of the aisle as well. i have a colleague who i have all the respect in the world
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for, the senior senator from tennessee is a wonderful senator, and i agree with him on far more than i disagree but i have to say i strongly disagree with his view of this particular bill. he has been here on the senate floor and has been very up front with me about his opposition to our bill. and the basis of his opposition to my bill is that he believes that passing the legislation that senator manchin and i are proposing -- requiring background checks and forbidding the passage of trash -- he believes that constitutes the equivalence of a national school board. it is an unreasonable infringement on schools. i couldn't disagree more. now, the idea of a national school board is a terrible idea. i have no interest in that, and you will never hear me arguing that the federal government should impose on the states and the school districts things like appropriate class size or whether or not you should teach
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geometry before algebra in middle school or what grade should students read "the grapes of wrath," any of those kinds of curriculum issues. or testing issues. those should be left to local school boards and states. but that's not what we're trying to do here. what i'm saying with my legislation with senator manchin is if a state takes billions and billions of federal tax dollars each year, then you can't iewts that money to -- use that money to pay the salaries of a convicted child abuser. i think that's totally different, nothing like a national school board. and furthermore we all voted in favor of the substance of these background check requirements when we all passed the child care development block grant bill which by the way passed this chamber with one dissenting vote. it was 98-1. there was one "no" vote which
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had nothing to do with the background check provision by the way. the senior senator from tennessee was the original sponsor of that legislation. that also passed the house unanimously and it's virtually identically. it holds that children in these day care centers should have the protection that comes with knowing that the employees have gone through this background check system. so do we have a national day care board? i don't think so. and if it's okay to protect the youngest of kids, which it certainly is and should be, why can't we also extend that protection to kids who just get a little bit older? we're insisting on a standard that's appropriate and rigorous for kids who are toddlers. and then when they go to kindergarten we're not going to have the same standard to protect them? that makes no sense to me at all. and then another point that i would make regarding this idea of a national school board is this idea, this practice of
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passing the trash when a school district sends a letter of recommendation for a known offender and he takes that letter with him and goes across state lines, what can a single state do about that? the case i described of jeremy bell the little boy who was killed by the teacher in west virginia who originated in pennsylvania, what could west virginia do to forbid pennsylvanians from sending a letter of recommendation for that teacher? absolutely nothing is the answer because west virginia's legislative authority does not reach into pennsylvania. this happens across state lines. in fact, it's a very conscious decision on the part of many of these predators because they want to put as much distance between their criminal activities as they can. when they move, they move far sometimes. so this demands a federal response. there is nothing a state can do to solve this problem and that's why we address it in our bill. and the other point i would make
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is this isn't the first time that we've had the federal government establish some employment standards. we have federal laws that, for instance ban discrimination in schools. schools are not permitted under federal law. you cannot discriminate in your hiring on the basis of sex or race or age or religion or pregnancy. does that mean we have a national school board? does this mean we have to repeal all these laws? i don't think so. i think it's perfectly reasonable to have employment standards. and finally madam president, i would say don't we have some responsibility of oversight of how federal tax dollars get spent by the states? i mean, do we send the money and say, hey here's a pile of cash. do whatever you'd like with that. i don't think that's a very reasonable standard. and what could be more reasonable than simply saying you can't use federal tax
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dollars that we are responsible for if you're going to use it to pay the salaries of convicted child abusers. i think that's pretty straightforward. i will say there may be alternative amendments here. there's been some discussion that some of our colleagues may offer alternatives to the legislation that senator manchin and i have. and i'm still willing to work with anyone on our side or the other side of the aisle if we can constructively work, if the goal is to actually get something passed that's going to be helpful that's going to be constructive i'll work with anybody to get there. but there's a few things i woabt agree to. i won't agree fo a provision that under the guise of privacy requires a school to say silent while a known child molester seeks a new teaching job. that's not reasonable. and i won't agree to a bill that does nothing to change the status quo a bill that does nothing to provide additional protections for our kids.
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unfortunately, in my view the amendment that's offered by the senior senator from tennessee fits into this latter category. he's got an amendment that i think provides absolutely no additional protection. it says that all states have to have a background check system. but guess what? all states already do. the problemsome -- the problem is many of them are inadequate. as i said before, there's nothing a state can do about passing the trash across state lines. so it does nothing to stop passing the trash. it does nothing to stop schools from hiring a convicted child rapist. it doesn't say anything about the standards of the background check. the bill is so loose that if a state simply decided to do a google search, that would meet the criteria of the bill. it's completely unacceptable. it does not change the status quo. it does nothing to protect the kids. and you could make the argument that not only -- this bill is
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arguably worse than doing nothing because it could undermine the effort to do this right, create the illusion of having done something at the federal level when in fact it has not done so. madam president, i will conclude by simply saying i'm not prepared to settle for the status quo. i am not satisfied when we have a situation where 459 school employees are arrested in a single year, arrested for sexual misconduct with the kids they're supposed to be taking care of. obviously we have a problem here. and i'm not going to settle for a pretend piece of legislation that accomplishes nothing. what comes home to me is my own three kids. i have three young children. and when one of my children gets on a school bus in the morning i have every right to expect that the school that child is going to, the school my child is going to is as safe an environment for him or her as it can possibly be, and every other parent in pennsylvania and every
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parent in america deserves to have that peace of mind, and every child deserves to have that security. so that's why i'm not going to give up on this, madam president. i'm confident at some point our democratic friends are going to realize that it's a huge mistake for them to continue their filibuster of the trafficking bill. and when they do, they'll agree to let us proceed to it. and when that happens i'll be back. senator manchin and i will offer our legislation as an amendment. we're going to have a debate about it. we're going to have a vote about it. i certainly hope that we win this vote. this again is legislation that passed the house unanimously. if it passes the senate, it is sure to become law. and if it doesn't pass for some reason then i'm going to come back again and again until we do. so madam president i hope we'll take this up sooner rather than later. i hope we'll get on this bill still this week because there is still time. and i know we'll have an open amendment process when we do, and i look forward to offering this amendment.
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i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. snoo quorum call: quorum call:
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the
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senator from delaware. mr. coons: madam president i ask proceedings under the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coons: madam president today, today is the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the bipartisan voting rights act of 1965, a day we are reminded of what's possible when we come together across party lines. it was 50 years ago today that republican minority leader, senator everett dirksen and democrat majority leader senator mike mansfield came together on this floor to introduce landmark legislation to ensure that no person would be denied the right to vote because of the color of his or her skin. i was reminded of the power of their example just two weeks ago when i gathered with republicans and democrats from the house and senate in selma alabama to honor the americans who came from across our country 50 years ago to march across the edmund
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pettus bridge in selma and demand equal voting rights. their example was one of unit yeep as was the example from members who introduced and eventually passed the voting rights act of 1965. i'm concerned as i come to the floor this afternoon about our troubling abilities to come together on the floor in this chamber where there should be broad agreement as well. i have with me a photographic reminder that the last time that the voting rights act was signed into law was reauthorized, it was signed by republican president george bush with the support of democrats and republicans in the then congress and those of us who gathered on the bridge in sell selma were treated to a speech by our present president and president bush that we should come together fix the voting rights
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act and reintroduce it. when it comes to voting rights the america is not the america of half a century ago. yet it is also true in too many cities and towns states and counties across our country new roadblocks are being built to make it more difficult for americans to vote. it's clear as president obama said to us two weeks ago that our march is not yet finished. in the coming weeks as senator leahy and i and others work to bring to the senate a new voting rights act that reflects today's challenges, it is my sincere hope my prayer that republican colleagues will partner with us to continue the work that remains undone. this was also to be the week that we would take up and consider and vote on the nomination of loretta lynch to serve as attorney general. and i must say madam president that the senate's proceedings this week do not portend well, because we find ourselves yet again stuck in regrettable
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partisan gridlock. for the past 129 days we've had before us an incredibly qualified and talented nominee for attorney general. loretta lynch was first nominated by president obama back in november. she's now waited for a vote longer than any attorney general nominee in 30 years. as of today her confirmation has waited longer on the floor than the last five attorneys general combined. that's unacceptable. and i frankly haven't heard a single good reason from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle for why ms. lynch's nomination deserves such a delay delay. instead, her nomination is being used by many to continue their fight with the president over his immigration policy. this after nearly shutting down the department of homeland security because of those same disagreements. while we do need to have a focused and functional debate in this congress about immigration it's simply irresponsible to hold up a highly qualified nominee for attorney general
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because some don't like that she agrees with the very president who nominated her. madam president, i take seriously the senate's role to advise and consent on presidential nominations so let's take a minute to just look at loretta lynch's experience, her background. she's a graduate of harvard college and harvard law school. she spent eight years in private practice as a stress teejous law firm then known as hogan and hartson. she served on the united nations international criminal tribunal for rwanda. she served the public and had previously been unanimously confirmed by this body, twice, i should say to be the united states attorney for the eastern district of new york. that's a job where she's prosecuted drug crimesly and violentcrimes andviolent crimes and where she's taken on corrupt politicians and on the judiciary committee our chairman called an outside panel witness of nine witnesses an outside witness panel of nine witnesses. when asked not one of them said that they opposed miss lynch's
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confirmation to be attorney general on the basis of her skills or experience. the committee was in fact, unable to produce one shred of testimony in opposition to her nomination. yet here we stand today in the middle of march and the first african-american woman ever nominated to be attorney general of the united states our nation's top law enforcement official has floundered on this floor longer than the five prior nominees combined. madam president, i think this is unanthropogenic supportable and sets an unfortunate even dangerous precedent. we should not play political games with the department of justice, an executive branch agency with 125,000 employees and a $28 billion departmental budget that's charged with all sorts of different law enforcement functions from running the federal prisons to enforcing the clean air and clean water acts, to making sure that we fight human trafficking and money laundering. frustratingly, we find ourselves this week also considering a
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bill to combat human trafficking which we don't seem to be able to move forward. it's important legislation that includes broad bipartisan support except for a simple partisan political provision that has now turned it into a divisive issue. the republican leader has this week argued that once we finish work on this human trafficking bill we can then move on to loretta lynch's nomination vote. but i'm forced to wonder when the delay tactics here will end. not only is it seemingly untrue that we can't do human trafficking legislation and this nomination at the same time because if my memory serves, we just confirmed two other executive branch nominees last night, but the republican leader knows well that if he truly wanted to move this bill forward, democrats would be ready to partner with him with just a minor revision to the bill. there's, in fact, i think a bitter air knee that as was reported -- irony that was as was reported last night loretta
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lynch's nomination is being held up over an issue human trafficking, which she herself said she would prioritize if confirmed. madam president, i ask my republican colleagues, let's find a way to move forward on all of these issues on combating human trafficking, on confirming loretta lynch to serve as attorney general on reauthorizing the voting rights act which is such an important linchpin of civil rights in this country. we agree we need to combat human trafficking so let's work together on the broad areas where we are in fact, united. and let's confirm an attorney general nominee who's qualified smart and will give the fight against human trafficking the dedication it deserves. madam president ms. lynch would make a superb attorney general and someone who has herself served in law enforcement and served in that role at the state level, i think you well appreciate the importance of having a confirmed attorney general to lead our federal department of justice. loretta lynch has demonstrated throughout her confirmation process and her many years of
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service to her country that she is well and amply prepared and qualified to take on this vital and important role. so i urge my colleagues end the delays and give loretta lynch the vote our country deserves. thank you. and with that, 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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a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. daines: i request unanimous consent to call off the quorum. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. daines: madam president i request unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. daines: madam president it is an incredible honor to represent montana in the united states senate.
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more than 150 years ago a young norwegian woman named karin dirud immigrated to this country. she came in search of freedom and opportunity. she came to a nation where a government served the people and not the other way around. after her husband passed away, this tough widow and mother of seven headed west to montana and settled with her children about an hour north of great falls. karin dirud was my great great grand mother and the beginning of my montana story. her perseverance is the reason why my family has called montana home for five generations. it's why cindy and i have been able to pass along the legacy of faith, of freedom of personal responsibility to our four children. we are blessed to live in the greatest nation on the earth. and it is the solemn responsibility of the united states senate to do everything
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in this its power to keep it that way. before i was elected to congress, i spent 28 years in the private sector, growing companies and creating jobs. in fact, i'm the only chemical engineer in congress. and in the private sector, we understand the importance of hard work, of innovation, of accountability and not spending more than you take in. the freedom of ideas and trade private property and opportunity are the fundamental elements of liberty and of prosperity. and these are the elements that helped right now technologies, a montana-based cloud computing business that i served as vice president in for 12 years where we grew from a small start-up into a publicly traded company and a global leader in cloud computing. we created over a thousand high-paying jobs, jobs that support a vibrant community with good schools and a quality of life for montana families. unfortunately, washington, d.c., under the guise of equality, is
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encroaching upon these freedoms. replacing the constitutional rule of law through elected officials with bureaucratic rule that is unaccountable inefficient, ineffective and far too costly. washington is more concerned with its own self-interests and self-gain than the well-being of the american people. as we begin consideration of the federal budget this week, we must hold government accountable to the people. last year, "the new york times" did an assessment of the health and wealth of every county in the nation. and, you know, you might expect folks in silicon valley to be doing fairly well or perhaps the suburbs of new york city. what shocked me was seeing that six of the nation's top ten wealthiest counties surround washington d.c. and that sends a pretty clear message about where washington's priorities are. during the recession while millions of americans were
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struggling to make ends meet, amidst layoffs and economic instability, washington, d.c. thrived. the federal government poured millions of dollars into new buildings, and salaries kept growing and growing. it's time for washington to be held accountable to the american people and that's why the first bill i introduced into the united states senate was the balanced budget accountability act. it simply requires congress to balance the budget or members won't get paid. it's not that complicated. it's easy to measure. it's very simple. no balanced budget, no paycheck. washington is out of touch with the day-to-day struggles that american farmers and ranchers, union workers and tribal members face every day and look no further than president obama's recent veto of the keystone x.l. pipeline. instead of working towards north american energy independence, president obama continues to
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play politics with good-paying american jobs. instead of advancing economic opportunity for hardworking montana families, president obama is instead perpetuating his war on energy and standing in the way of affordable made in montana and made in america energy. while serving in the house i invited crow tribal member chairman darrin okaia to testify before the natural resources committee, and the crow reservation in montana is home to some of the richest energy reserves in our country. but the president's senseless agenda is preventing them from developing their resources. and what chairman okaia said has stuck with me. he said this -- a war on coal is a war on the crow people. president obama and e.p.a.'s regulatory overreach is a direct threat to thousands of jobs and our nation's economic future.
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and we shouldn't be hitting pause on america's energy production. we need to encourage it. more made in america energy doesn't just mean more money in the pockets of hardworking families. it also means more jobs, it means energy independence. our energy security, though, isn't just about jobs and low energy prices. it's tied directly to our national security. i'm happy to report the u.s. will become the world's largest oil and gas producer in the world this year, surpassing both russia and saudi arabia. as we see the growing threat of isis and a nuclear iran, one thing is clear -- we need more made in america energy, not more made in the middle east oil. because we have tremendous opportunities to develop our nation's energy resources and create new jobs across the entire nation, but we must allow the states to take the lead, because rather than moving forward with commonsense
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job-creating solutions like the keystone pipeline, washington continues to put barrier after barrier up that prevents job creation and the responsible management of our resources. and we see that international force in our public lands. our public lands out west are tremendous assets to tourism and our way of life. it's one of the reasons that many people come to montana in the first place. but the federal government's perpetual failure to properly manage our national forests has led many of montana's forests and counties into economic despair. like many western states, we once boasted a robust timber industry. now timber harvests on our national forests have declined 82%. in fact, i had dinner one evening with a couple from eureka montana up in the northwest corner of our state in lincoln county, and they said steve, basically we describe this area now as poverty with a view. we must implement meaningful forest management reforms that
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get our timber industry up and running again improve the health of our forest, and ensures our rural counties aren't dependent on the whims of the federal government's annual budget. but we must ensure the states have primacy in these decisions. we must ensure that the hardworking farmers the ranchers the loggers the sportsmen who live, work and re-create on these -- recreate every day on these lands have their voices heard and those closest to the lands are guiding management's practices not bureaucrats in washington d.c., or lawyers in san francisco that would be hard pressed to find montana on a map. but washington's overreach doesn't just affect our natural resources. we're seeing it in our technology sector and the internet. i worked in the technology sector for more than 12 years. i know firsthand how the internet has removed geography as a constraint for countless businesses in montana and across our nation. i know that technology has created jobs and economic
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opportunities in communities where little previously existed. we must encourage the growth of these high-tech jobs in montana and across our country. they're good-paying jobs. they'll help us grow economically and they're going to allow us to remain globally competitive. because the internet is a laboratory of innovation. yet, d.c. wants to tie our entrepreneurs' hands by placing more regulations on the internet. the f.c.c. recently approved a 300-plus-page plan to regulate americans' internet access as a title two utility. in short a government takeover of the internet. that's like putting a buggy whip manufacturer in charge of tesla. the internet is unconstrained innovation and that's why i'll stand strong against d.c.'s attempts to tax the internet, to regulate the internet and stifle innovation. if we want to remain the greatest nation in the world we need to remain globally
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competitive, and technology plays a key role in that, but we also must implement meaningful tax reforms that encourage american businesses, incentivize american businesses to grow and create jobs here at home, not overseas. during my time at our software company, the last five years i managed asia pacific. i had offices in tokyo but headquartered in bozeman montana, as we were growing and competing against some of the world's best technology companies. and we must expand the trade opportunities certainly for farmers and ranchers across our country. so it's important that innovation and entrepreneurship is encouraged, not hindered. but unfortunately, washington d.c. is more interested in issuing press releases and headlines than getting results. as an engineer, i was strained to find solutions get results. and it's time for washington to look to the states for these solutions, to adhere to the principles of federalism and states' rights as clearly found in our constitution.
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empowering local communities state legislatures governors tribes to manage their resources to grow economic opportunity to find and determine their own destiny. in fact, it's time for washington to listen to the states. it's time for washington to listen to montana. you know, i've always said that one of the best decisions i ever made in my life was when i picked my great great grandmother. she got our family out to montana. she's buried in a small country cemetery just east of a small town called conrad, montana. and on her headstone in this very remote, small country cemetery reads three simple words -- saved by grace. because she placed her ultimate faith in her god not in her government. it's an honor to stand here today on the u.s. senate floor to serve as montana's voice in
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washington. i will continue working to bring more montana solutions to washington and get it working again for all montanans. i yield the floor. mr. mcconnell: madam president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i just wanted to congratulate our freshman colleague from montana on his initial speech and particularly second his observations about the devastation in the coalfields of america. we have a depression in the eastern part of my state as a direct result of this administration and the e.p.a., and i know it's affected the great state of montana as well, and so among the many insightful observations of the senator from montana, i particularly appreciate his thoughts about energy.
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mr. mcconnell: madam president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i send a cloture motion to the desk with the committee-reported amendment. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the cloture motion. the clerk: cloture motion, we the undersigned senators in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate, do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the committee-reported substitute amendment to s. 178, a bill to provide justice for the victims of trafficking signed by 17 senators --. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent the reading of the names be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i send a cloture motion to the desk for the bill. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the cloture motion. the clerk: cloture motion we the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate, do hereby move to bring to a close debate on s. 178 a bill to provide
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justice for the victims of trafficking, signed by 17 senators as follows --. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent the reading of the names be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask the mandatory quorum calls with respect to these cloture motions be waived. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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mr. schatz: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii. mr. schatz: thank you madam president. i ask unanimous consent that we vacate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schatz: i ask unanimous consent that i be allowed to speak for up to 15 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schatz: i rise today on two topics the first topic is to urge my colleagues to bring up the vote on loretta lynch right away. the delay on her nomination to be attorney general has gone on long enough and there are no longer any legitimate excuses. sheep is by all accounts an excellent candidate. she is highly qualified and she had bipartisan support in the judiciary committee. no one has questioned her stellar credentials. her nomination has been held up for too long, in fact,
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republicans have held up her nomination longer than the five most recent attorney general nominees combined. but now her nomination has been tied to a piece of legislation that republicans have themselves poisoned. why are they putting poison pills in their own legislation? they took a perfectly good bipartisan bill and ensured it would go nowhere and then they took a perfectly qualified attorney general nominee and tied her vote to that poisoned legislation. the majority party is getting in its own way when it comes to the major responsibilities of governing. it's time for the republicans to act like the majority and govern, and this is the difference between being in the majority and being in the minority. putting poison pills in legislative vehicles may be an odious practice, but it is normally reserved for the minority party the party that is not in charge. generally speaking you do not
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poison your own piece of legislation. the american people have given the keys to the car to the republican party but now they need to drive the car. this is the difference between being in the minority and the majority. governing includes giving advice and consent on nominations and this is a particularly important nomination. the attorney general is the top law enforcement official in president the country. he or she is responsible for enforcing our nation's laws, protecting national security, and upholding constitutional rights. this last role is vital at a time when the d.o.j. is investigating violations of constitutional rights by local law enforcement agencies. just last week, d.o.j. released a scathing report on the deep and pervasive racism in the ferguson missouri police force. in that report the department describes shocking practices
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systematic targeting of african-americans and abuse of power to collect enormous amounts in fees. in a city with a population of 21,000 people, 16,000 people have outstanding arrest warrants. 16,000 people. that is three-quarters of the ferguson population. those are issued overwhelmingly to ferguson's african-american population 92% to be exact. emails and other documents prove that the ferguson police force acted with racial animas. if confirmed ms. lynch would continue the task of investigating unconstitutional policing across the country. she faces weighty issues, the overmilitarization of our police our policing practices, and reforming our sentencing guidelines, just to name a few. as the first african-american woman to serve as attorney general, this would be a historic nomination and a
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crucial one. at a time when the public's trust in law enforcement is badly eroded we need to confirm ms. limp as our attorney general and let her get to work on fighting for our civil rights. madam president, i ask unanimous consent to have my next set of comments be inserted into another place in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schatz: thank you madam president. today the house released its budget proposal. it's a proposal divorced from reality that seeks to balance the budget on the backs of those in the country who can least afford it. it takes from the middle class and gives to the ulna wealthy. without a doubt my colleagues and i will have much to say about the republican budget in the coming weeks and months but today i want to talk about a section that seeks to deny the very real and current threat of climate change to our public health and military readiness. the department of defense is responsible for protecting the security of the united states, and that requires taking into
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consideration every threat, every threat multiplier that affects the global security environment and our national interest including climate change that's why the military spends a considerable time assessing the effects on its capabilities and missions and how those effects could undermined our ability to protect our national security. it's unfortunate today in their budget proposal, house republicans said this planning is wasteful spending. look i'm as against wasteful spending as anyone but preparing for threats to our national security planning and operations is the opposite of wasteful. it is prudent. today i want to talk about how a climate change prohibition would tie the hands of our national defense strategy. climate change affects our national security in two major ways. first, the d.o.d. has warned that climate change is likely to impact the military's facilities
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and capabilities. in particular, america's military bases may be particularly vulnerable to climate change. according to the 2008 national intelligence council finding more than 30 u.s. military installations were already facing elevated levels of risk from rising sea levels. in my home state of hawaii, for example, navy and marine corps installations like pearl harbor and marine core base kaneoe bay are literally on the water aedge. according to the department of defense, the combination of decreasing sea ice and permafrost along the coast of alaska has increased coastal erosion at several early warning and communications installations. this coastal erosion has already damaged roads sea walls and runways at our bases. second, climate change exacerbates the drivers of global instability including
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drought, food shortages water scarcity and pandemic disease. admiral sam lockhere said that the biggest long-term security threat in the region is climate change because -- quote -- "it is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen that will cripple the security environment." and i just want to make a point here the department of defense is in no position to get caught up in our partisan or ideological battles. the department of defense has to deal with what is. the department of defense has to prepare for and contend with reality. and we should have debates on the senate floor, we should talk balanced budget whether the president's clean power plant is the right approach, we should talk about how we should approach international agreements coming into the paris a cords. let's have that debate about whether or not a carbon fee is the most prudent approach. but we should not do is make it impossible for the department of
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defense to do its planning and preparation and that's what the house budget does. in its 2014 q.d.r., the department of defense warned that the effects of climate change are threat multis pliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty political instability and social tensions conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence. the stresses could break the backs of weak governments and institutions in countries around the world where the united states has enduring interests. in particular, the national intelligence council stated in its global trends 2030 report, that climate change will pose stiff challenges to governance in places like afghanistan and pakistan. that's why i find it ironic many of my republican colleagues who are so committed to slowing the pace of our withdrawal from pakistan on the premise doing so
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will are keep afghanistan stable are now tying the hands of the national security community so that they are unable to study the security effects of climate change on afghanistan and the region. and, again, i don't think we should tell them how to study it what conclusions to draw, what preparations to make, except to say that we should stay out of their way as they do their security planning as they do their security preparation. i am not suggesting that they take my view on climate change. i am suggesting that they are allowed to deal with what is and that they are not sucked into a partisan ideological battle over climate change. they don't have the lucky they don't have the luxury of getting sucked into a partisan ideological battle when it comes to climate change. they have to deal with what is because they are responsible for our national defense. fortunately, while some in congress play politics, our military leaders are clear eyed
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about the current and present threats posed by climate change and they're making the necessary investments in the knowledge of impacts to their readiness and regional and global conflicts. we need to back them up and make sure climate deniers do not tie one hand behind their back while they work to understand the threats to defend our country. madam president, i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:
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mr. lee: madam president i ask unanimous consent to suspend the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. lee: i also ask unanimous consent to grant floor privileges to a member of my staff, derrick brown until the end of the day. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. lee: madam president i ask unanimous consent to enter into a colloquy with the senior senator from illinois and the junior senator from new jersey and the senator from arizona. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. lee: we rise today to speak in favor of the smarter sentencing act a bipartisan piece of legislation that would
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make targeted reforms to mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. i was proud to join my distinguished colleague from illinois senator durbin, in introducing this legislation. he and i want to thank our cosponsors senators jeff flake cory booker, ted cruz, pat leahy, rand paul, sheldon whitehouse johnny isakson and chris coons. i also want to thank the lead sponsors of the house version of the smarter sentencing act congressman raoul lab ambassador and bobby scott. it is not often that we see a political coalition like this one on capitol hill. it reflects the importance of an issue whose time has come, reforming our federal sentencing laws. we've come to the floor today to explain what the smarter sentencing act does and to address some common misconceptions about our bill
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that have been expressed on the senate floor. and so i'd like to ask my friend and colleague senator durbin what problems does the smarter sentencing act seek to address? mr. durbin: thank the senator from utah not only for his leadership on this issue but the fact that we've been able to work together on an issue that is not considered to be simple in nature -- i.t. it's challenging it's complex controversial in some respects -- and as you mentioned at the outset, we've done it on a bipartisan basis and i think if you take a look at the cosponsors of the smarter sentencing act they span the political spectrum. i was standing at a press conference as you were speaking nextspeaking next to senator ted cruz and said, durbin and cruz on the same bill. as the saying goes around here, obviously one of us hasn't read it. we've both read it and we both
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understand the importance of this undertaking. our criminal justice system in america is in crisis. the cruise of united states of america holds more prisoners by far than any other country in the world. the federal prison population has grown by 750% since 1980, and our federal prisons are approximately 30% overcapacity. over the past 30 years spending on federal incarceration has increased more than 1,100%. our exploding prison population now consumes a quarter of the justice department's discretionary budget. these runaway expenditures are undermining other law enforcement efforts. the u.s. attorneys offices drug enforcement administration have already lost hundreds of positions and resources for state and local law enforcement have decreased dramatically. the biggest drivers of growth in the federal prison population are drug sentences. almost 50,000 more drug
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offenders in federal prisons now than 20 years ago. 50,000. this problem is made even worse by mandatory minimum sentences which have grown by 155% over the last 15 years. one-third of all federal prisoners are now subject to mandatory minimums. one-third. 50% of those are drug offenders. these mandatory penalties don't allow our courts to distinguish between the big-time career offenders who ought to be the focus of our effort and lower-level offenders. now, that just isn't very smart. and it isn't effective when it comes to holding offenders accountable and protecting public safety. we're expecting to be joined any minute by the senator from new jersey senator booker, and i thank him for joining us in this effort. to spotlight this important issue of criminal justice reform. but i would turn the floor over to my colleague and lead sponsor
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of this bill, senator lee to respond to the question of the importance of this undertaketaking. mr. lee: we've got new research that shows that there are two big problems that we face as a result of these mandatory minimum sentences within our federal system. first, they're not needed to ensure public safety in many instances and second, they're having a very negative impact on certain disadvantaged communities. last year the national research council of the national academies issued a major study of incarceration of the united states. one of their main conclusions is that mandatory sentencing and excessively long sentences generally do not have a significant deterrent effect and are ineffective unless targeted at offenders with a very high rate of recidivism or extremely dangerous offenders. the national research council concluded -- and i quote -- "we
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have reviewed the research literature the deterrent effect of such laws, and have concluded that the evidence is insufficient to justify the conclusion that these harsher punishments yield measurable public safety benefits." close quote. and recent data from the u.s. sentencing commission, an independent bipartisan federal agency shows that shorter sentences can accomplish the same goals without compromising public safety. our communities have paid a high cost for the stiff sentences that mandatory minimums require. the national research council found that high incarceration rates are scn tax rated in poor -- are concentrated in poor minority neighborhoods and that the incarceration of significant numbers of residents in these neighborhoods compounded existing social and economic problems like unemployment, poverty, family disruption, poor health and drug addiction. the application of these -- yes?
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mr. durbin: if the senator would yield senator booker has joined us. we're happy to have his cosponsorship of this. and i am a hoping that he might be able to make some of his own observations on the very issue that you are discussing. mr. booker: i want to pick up right where he left off and i want it thank really from the bottom of my heart the leadership of senator lee and senator durbin on what i think is an extraordinary piece of legislation in terms of its impact. and you all have made it clear time and time again as you did in the last congress and this congress that the application of the mandatory minimum sentences, especially drug cases, feeds a perception of pervasive unfairness in our criminal justice system just for the points that senator lee was making out. and this perception is based in that reality. when i was mayor i used to always say "god we trust." but everyone else, bring me davment and the datadata.
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it shows that mandatory minimums have a desperate impact on minority communities. let's be clear. the majority of illegal drug users and dealers in our country are white but three-quarters of all the people incarcerated for drug offenses are black and latino. and the large majority of individuals subject to federal mandatory minimum penalties are african-american and hispanic. that perception is fed by this reality: african-americans are granted relief from mandatory minimum penalties as are other citizens under the so-called safety value of--safety valve. but blacks get the safety valve far less than other groups. for example the data shows in 2010 63.7% of white offenders received the safety valve relief while only 39.4% of black offenders received that benefit.
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in 2012, blacks were 26.3% of all drug offenders just 26.3%. but they were 35.2% of the drug offenders who received no safety valves whatsoever, no relief from the mandatory minimum penalties. and now i want to yield back to senator lee -- again the lead sponsor of this bipartisan legislation -- and ask him what does this legislation do specifically to address mandatory minimums? mr. lee: i thank the senator from new jersey for this question which really cuts to the heart of many of the most important reasons why we feel this bill needs to become law. first, the smarter sentencing act would reduce federal mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses in a very targeted way. our bill would allow federal
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judges to determine on a case-by-case basis when the harshest penalties should apply. we don't repeal any minimum mandatory sentences and we do not lower any maximum sentences. this approach maintains a floor below which no offenders can be sentences, but it gives judges the discretion to determine when the very harshest of penalties should apply in a particular case. these changes in mandatory minimum sentences do not apply to violent offenses and they do not apply to offenders who import drugs into the united states unless of course the owe -- the owe fen deersoffender's role is solely to transporting or storing drug money. it would modestly expand the federal safety valve which allows federal judges to sentence a limited number of nonviolent drug offenders at levels below the mandatory minimum sentence.
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our bill would expand the safety valve to nonviolent offenders with only a minor criminal industry individual whose use weapons or play leadership roles in the offense in which would be ineligible for the safety valve in those circumstances. so let me ask the senior senator from illinois, mr. durbin, to explain other important provisions of our bill. mr. durbin: thanks, senator lee. when i was a member of the house of representatives many years ago, we were told that there was some dramatic changes when it came to narcotics use in america. they came to us and they said, we're worried. there is a new form of cocaine called crack cocaine. it is dirt cheap. it's d 5 $5 for a hit. it is deadly addictive and if a woman is addicted to it and happens to be pregnant, it could seriously damage the baby she's carrying. we did something at the time which seemed like the right
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thipg to do. what we did was to establish a sentencing standard for crack cocaine dramatically larger than powder cocaine -- dramatically. 100 times larger. i voted for it and the belief was, we're sending a clear message to anyone in america you get caught with crack cocaine, we're going to throw the book at you. that's what we voted for. and i remember that the roll call in the house of representatives was bipartisan. we felt, all across the spectrum again, let's get the message out and get it out now. before crack cocaine causes its damage. under the law at the time, it took 100 times more powder cow cane than crack -- cocaine than crack to trigger the same mandatory minimum sentences 100 times. for example possessing five grams of crack carried the same five-year mandatory minimum sentence as selling 500 grams of powder cocaine.
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that was the 100-1 crack powder sentencing disparity. the crack powder disparity disproportionately affected african-americans, who made up more than 80% of those convicted of federal crack offenses. at a hearing i held in 2009, former obama administration d.e.a. head asa hutchison known to many of us as a former colleague in the house testified and i quote "under the current disparity the credibility of our entire drug enforcement system is weakened." what was happening? african-americans were noting what was going on here. they were being sent, as senator booker sated said, over to the prison system and put away for years and years for the use of a tiny amount of crack cocaine because of the sentencing guidelines that we established in the hart. -- in the house of representatives. so the smarter sentencing act addresses this issue. i might add that in 2010, i
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joined with senator jeff sessions republican of alabama in sponsoring the fair sentencing act. we decided that we would address this issue of the 100-1 disparity and try to make sense out of it. i support 1-1. i think that's what the science backs. but we reached a political agreement. that's the nature of the senate and the house. and the bill unanimously passed the senate and the house being signed into law by the president. this fair sentencing act reduced the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. now, the smarter sentencing act the bill that we're considering today, addresses this again. it would allow some inmates who were sentenced before the fair sentencing act to petition for the sentence reductions that this law put in place in 2010. so this provision would not automatically reduce a single sentence of anyone serving under the old 100-1 standard. but it would allow federal
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judges and prosecutors to conduct a case-by-case singular individual review as to whether the individual should have their sentence reduced. responding to our decreased reliance on prisons the smarterer sentencing act would allow the justice department to report to congress on how the cost savings would be used to prevent recidivism. let's respond to statements made about the smarter sentencing act. one of our colleagues said -- and i quote -- "we're not sending huge numbers of nonviolent drug offenders to prison under lengthy mandatory minimums." senator booker, how would you respond to that comment? mr. booker: we're entitled to different opinions, different conclusions from the facts but we should not be debating facts when we have them clearly before us. let's take a look at those facts. in 2011 the sentencing
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commission issued a comprehensive study about the mandatory minimum sentences. the study found that almost 55,000 people were in federal prisons and serving mandatory minimums for a drug crime. that was more than 50% of all federal drug offenders and more than a quarter -- 25% -- of all federal prisoners period. second the great majority of federal drug offenders do not use violence. let me say that one more time because it's very important. we're talking in this bill nonviolent offenders and the drait -- great majority of drug offenders do not use violence. data show that less than 1% of offenders use or threaten violence in committing their crime and no weapons no weapons were involved in more than 80% of drug cases.
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third, many of these those serving mandatory minimum drug sentences are low-level offenders. it is true that certain low-level offenders like couriers don't often receive mandatory minimums. but other low-level offenders frequently are sentenced to mandatory minimums. for example among those who are most likely to receive a mandatory minimum sentence are street-level dealers those who sell less than one ounce of a drug. almost 45% of street-level dealers are serving mandatory minimums in federal prison. and finally these mandatory minimum sentences are lengthy. they are costly. they drain taxpayer resources. a sentencing commission study showed that the average sentence for mandatory minimums was 132 months 11 years in federal
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prison without parole. and so, senator lee some claim also that mandatory minimum sentences are not a major factor in the massive increase in the federal prison population and overcrowding in federal prisons. remember, in the last 30 years we have had an explosion in our federal prison population. 800%. and some people say that mandatory minimums have had nothing to do with that. i would love for you to respond. is that true? mr. lee: it is not true. that is simply inaccurate. so those who insist that our exploding federal prison population somehow has nothing to do with the explosion and use of mandatory minimum prison sentences within the federal prison are simply wrong. in its 2011 report, the u.s. sentencing commission concluded that mandatory minimums have had -- quote -- "a significant impact on the federal prison population." from 1995 through 2010 the
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number of federal prisoners serving a mandatory minimum sentence grew from 29,603 to 75,579. that is a 155% increase and it represents over one-third of all federal prisoners. as of december 2014, over 59% of the 210567 federal inmates 125,000 inmates overall had been convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum. of these 73.4% which represents 91,806 inmates were required to serve that mandatory minimum sentence or more. in 2013, 62.1% of all drug offenders were convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum. over 60% of them received no
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safety valve relief and 70% did not receive relief for cooperating with authorities. some have argued that those serving sentences for nonviolent drug offenses have long and violent criminal hiforts but sentencing -- histories but sentencing data show this is inaccurate. in 2014 7% of drug offenders were sentenced under the career sentencing guidelines which require two prior convictions for a drug offense or a crime of violence. but here's the important point the smarter sentencing act reduces certain mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses but we do not lower the maximum sentence. that means a judge can sentence offenders all the way up to the statutory maximum if she determines that it's appropriate under the circumstance.
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senator durbin, some raised concerns about how reducing mandatory minimums might impact serious problems like the heroin epidemic or narco-terrorism. can you address that? mr. durbin: i want to address that because it's a problem in my state. it's a problem across the united states. we are finding that high school students are turning to heroin. it's abe fordable -- it's affordable and they are using it in alternative to other drugs. the act that we are cosponsoring only reduces certain mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses. there is a separate mandatory minimum of 20 years that applies when the drugs have resulted in death or serious bodily injury, and any dealer who sells drugs that kill or hurt someone like an accidental overdose, will still be subject to the same mandatory minimum of 20 years. our bill does not touch that provision of the law.
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as for narco-terrorism a special federal sentencing guideline applies mplets -- applies. the truth is charges under that statute are very rare. between 2008 and 2012, only three cases -- three out of almost 200,000 were sentenced under that guideline. but the smarter sentencing act does not change the sentencing guideline enhancement for narco-terrorism or any of the enhancements for terrorism. we don't cut corners when it comes to that crime. our bill directs the sentencing commission to ensure severe sentences for -- quote -- " violent, repeat offenders remain in place." there will continue to be dozens of statutory penalties and sentence enhancements in the sentencing guidelines allowing judges to impose heightened sentences for repeat offenders. the smarter sentencing act which
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we're describing doesn't automatically reduce a single sentence and it doesn't eliminate any mandatory minimum or reduce any maximum sentence at all. our bill simply restores the traditional authority of a federal judge to impose a sentence that fits the crime and the criminal based on the circumstances of the case, maintaining a floor below which no judge can be sentenced. pardon me -- no person can be sentenced. senator booker can you discussed impact the smarter sentencing act will have on communities that have been the most negatively impacted by the crisis in our criminal justice system? mr. booker: this is one of the reasons i'm so passionate about the legislation r is introduced by senator lee and yourself. the mandatory minimum is unfair to people all across america whether you're white or black to have a disproportionate sentence unnecessary to punish you and
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prevent you from doing future nonviolent crime. but this, as we were talking about, so negatively concentrated in certain urban areas, it creates a pervasive belief that begins to undermine faith in our criminal justice system alone. as we said earlier the overwhelming majority of drug users and sellers are white but the overwhelming majority of people incarcerated and arrested for it are black as well as those receiving mandatory minimums. but this, what people have to understand has a punishing effect on us all. number one, it is hurting families. a friend of mine brought to my attention a ""sesame street" that even the educators in public broadcasting are seeing that certain communities have so many of their men nonviolent offenders being sucked into the prison system for these long sentences that we're creating a generation of children growing up without their parents. and that has a difficult impact
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when it comes to the poverty of that family, when it comes to the challenges of having a provider pulled away. and so the smarter sentencing act is something to help to relieve that problem but also the cost to us all. because what's wonderful at this time that we have a debt that we need to invest in infrastructure and many things; this system is costing us hundreds of billions of dollars annually. and your legislation this legislation that i have signed on as a cosponsor has a savings that can be redirected to community efforts that prevent crime in the first place evidence-based programs that undermine crime in the first place and also help people coming out of prison staying out of prison. we can save money and still protect public safety with lower rates of incarceration and a greater reliance on community supervision and treatment. and the wonderful thing about this is what i'm saying here is not speculation. it is the facts that we're
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experiencing in states that have already embraced reducing mandatory minimums. in fact, many of these states, and this is wonderful why this is bipartisan legislation, is many of these states are red states. we're seeing this path of reducing crime reducing prison populations, creating savings being shown to us in state after state model that the federal government should follow. models seen in texas and georgia. and so i would like to ask senator flake he encouraged us to pay attention to the overcriminalization in the federal system as well. you too are a champion of reforming the system and making it better. i want to ask you how does the smarter sentencing act address the problem of overcriminallization as you see it sir? mr. flake: thank you, senator booker and thank you senator durbin and slee. it is great to be -- and senator lee. it is great to be part of the
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bipartisan effort, smarter sentencing. this is important because this one section of the bill requires the attorney general and the heads of certain federal agencies to each submit a public report that identifies all criminal offenses that are established by statute or regulation that each agency enforces. p and these reports must provide information on the elements of each offense the potential penalties and required intent for each offense and the number of prosecutions for each offense for the last 15 years. this is valuable information. this section also requires the attorney general and the relevant agencies to establish a publicly accessible index for these offenses. this information is an important step toward understanding the scope of the overcriminalization problem when we have this none of us, we'll have a better idea at why these sentences are being imposed and we can make better
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recommendations moving ahead. there are some who argue that the long mandatory sentences these prison sentences encourage defendants to plead guilty and to cooperate with prosecutors. they claim that by reducing mandatory minimum sentences that our bill will reduce the incentive for defendants to plead guilty and thus cooperate. senator lee how would you respond to that claim? mr. lee: those who make that argument those that suggest that by passing this bill we would reduce the bargaining power of prosecutors are mistaken. the sentencing commission data on this point show that the longer mandatory minimum sentence is, the more likely a defendant is not to plead guilty and to cooperate instead of -- and instead to insist on going to trial. sentencing commission data also show that rates of cooperation for crimes that have no mandatory minimum sentence are the same and even higher than
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for drugs that do have rigid mandatory minimum sentences. the reality is that defendants are most likely to cooperate when they have information to give. that's why high-level drug offenders receive relief from mandatory minimums at much higher rates than lower-level offenders. defendants who organize or manage drug trafficking enterprise have the most information with which to bargain as they enter into discussions with prosecutors. low-level offenders who have less responsibility and less knowledge often don't have much information to offer no matter how long a mandatory minimum sentence they might face in a particular case. judge william wilkins, who was appointed to the bench by president reagan and served as the first chair of the u.s. sentencing commission, said the following on this topic. he said -- quote -- "there are
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few federal judges engaged in criminal sentencing who have not had the disheartening experience of seeing major players in crimes before them immunize themselves from the mandatory minimums by blowing the whistle low-level offenders p find themselves sentenced to the mandatory minimum prison term so skillfully avoided by the kingpins." now, some claim that the smarter sentencing act will add up to $1 billion in federal spending. senator flake is that true? mr. flake: you know, that is creative accounting, to pulled -- to put it mildly. here it is. the congressional budget office has taken a look at this and looked at the impact of pass passing the smarter sentencing act. it's true there will be costs incurred and that's mainly because of benefits that will be paid to people who are not in prison any longer, or for so long but the c.b.o. estimated that in the first 10 years alone, our bill would save approximately $4 billion for a net savings of about $3 billion.
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those savings can be redirected to efforts to reduce crime and to prevent -- reduce and prevent crime in the first place. senator booker, i think it's probably partly because of this reason the the cost savings that we have such broad support for the bill. do you want to discuss some of the groups that are supporting this legislation. mr. brooker: it gives me a lot of pride to see this incredible convergence from people from all different stripes in our country, all different backgrounds, races religions political philosophy. and so let's just start with the bipartisan u.s. sentencing commission the bipartisan u.s. sentencing commission, and the judicial conference have both urged congress to reduce mandatory minimum penalties. and both have stated their support for this legislation the smarter sentencing act. itact. it is supported by faith leaders like the justice fellowship and the united states conference of catholic bishops. it is supported by advocacy
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groups across the spectrum and the has been endorsed by conservative leaders like grover norquist and the americans for tax reform eli lehrer and the "r" street institute, pat naley former president of justice fellowship mark levin of the texas public policy institute and freedom works. it is supported by law enforcement leaders, including the major cities chiefs association and the association of prosecuting attorneys which represents many of the largest district attorney offices in the country big cities. they represent county, federal state and local prosecutors prosecutors at every level. the bill is supported by the council of prison locals which represents more than 28,000 correctional workers themselves who work in federal bureau of prisons. the bill is also supported by crime victims themselves including the national task force to end sexual and domestic violence a coalition of more than a thousand organizations
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that advocate on behalf of victims of domestic violence dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. as they explained mandatory minimum drug sentences are draining the resources needed for victims and women who are victims of domestic violence sometimes end up serving long sentences congress intended for kingpins and other drug organizations. all of that unity in this country supporting this act senator lee i wonder is there anything else you'd like to say about this bipartisan, widely supported by both the data and the advocates across the political spectrum, is there anything else you would like to add? mr. lee: yes. and i'd like to conclude my remarks in a moment by wrapping up. before i do that, though, i -- i'd notice on the floor with us today is my friend, senator whitehouse, who happens to be another supporter of this bill
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another cosponsor and who is also the ranking member on the crime subcommittee in the senate judiciary committee. and before i wrap up be, i wonder if my friend, senator whitehouse, would like to say a few words about this bill. mr. whitehouse: thank you senator lee. i'm glad to be a part of this conversation. i share the concern that we all have for a federal prison system that is 30% over capacity and costs $6 billion a year already. you have to add if you're going to take care of the 30% over capacity that's $6 billion under the present circumstances. and that $6 billion comes out of law enforcement budgets and community support budgets that could be making our streets safer. mr. president, at the beginning of every sentence, a judge imposes the duration of the sentence and at the end of every sentence a prisoner makes a decision about how he or she is going to engage with the public
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upon their release. there is a bill that deals with the latter part, that helps to support prisoners to make better decisions and be better prepared to reengage with the public once they are released. and i hope very much that that bill which senator cornyn and i are leading in the senate judiciary committee can as this moves forward be connected because the two are linked. they are linked thematically and it makes a big difference. the reason you care about how people at the end get back into regular society is because if they reoffend, they go back into the prison again and add to the prison population and add to the cost. and if they're in longer than they should be then you're not getting any public safety benefit out of all of this. so i look very forward to working with all of my colleagues to try to see if we can get together in the senate a
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comprehensive piece of sentencing reform legislation. having been a prosecutor myself, having used mandatory minimums, i appreciate that they can in certain circumstances have value value. but i think if you look at the big picture this sentencing reform legislation is important and will serve the public interest in a great variety of respects including safer communities. so i'm -- that's why i'm a cosponsor of it and that's why i'm an ardent supporter of it. and let me thank in closing senator durbin and senator lee for their leadership as the lead coauthors of this legislation and senator flake and senator booker for their advocacy on its behalf as fellow cosponsors. mr. lee: thank you, senator whitehouse. mr. president, i'd like to conclude by thanking my colleagues for their help in this effort. first of all, thank you to senator durbin for working with me over the last couple of years in developing this legislation.
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i thank my other cosponsors as well. i thank senator booker, senator whitehouse, and senator flake who have joined us in this discussion today. the smarter sentencing act mr. president, is a truly bipartisan/bicameral effort that brings support from across the political spectrum. excessive mandatory minimums do not make us safer. the last 30 years have shown us that they're applied unevenly and that they leave a gaping hole in the communities they impact most heavily. now we as a society have to pick up the tab. we must decide if we will continue to pay the high fiscal cost and the high social cost that mandatory minimums impose. it's important for us to remember that these costs do have many manifestations. sometimes in this body, sometimes in this town we tend
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to focus only on the fiscal price tag only on the price tag that can be expressed in raw numbers but doing that allows us to ignore too often the high human costs. the families, the communities that have lost brothers and sons and fathers and uncles and nephews. people who could be back in their communities contributing meaningfully to their success who are instead sent away for sometimes far too long of a -- of a prison sentence. we can continue down that current path or if we would rather try something smarter perhaps that would be better. the smarter sentencing act gives us an opportunity to do precisely that, to do something smarter, to rely less on prison and to do more with scarce resources. instead of just paying for prisons, it would allow us to work smarter in pursuit of justice. i hope all my colleagues will
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join us in supporting the smarter sentencing act. thank you mr. president. mr. whitehouse: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: mr. president to change the subject from sentencing reform to climate change i come to the floor today for i guess it's the 93rd consecutive week that the senate has been in session to urge that my colleagues wake up to the urgent threat of what results from our levels of carbon pollution. it is an opportune time now to consider a step up in american corporate responsibility on climate change. call it corporate climate
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responsibility 2.0. americans can celebrate and applaud the fact that america's corporate leaders have taken so many important steps on climate change. companies like wal-mart and coca-cola to pick just two see the problem clearly and have done great things. wal-mart prince, has taken exemplary responsibility -- wal-mart, for instance, haze taken exemplary responsibility for its carbon footprint not only in its facilities but beyond the corporate walls out to its international supply chain. wal-mart has led the move for consumers away from incandescent bulbs and into high efficiency lighting. and if you have ever used that machine where you have to crank electricity in order to light up an incandescent bulb and then do the same thing for a high efficiency bulb, you've had an unforgettable experience of how
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much more efficient those modern bulbs are. wal-mart has strong and responsible carbon policies and wal-mart has made a successful business model of saving money by reducing carbon emissions. wal-mart even has an internal price on carbon so that it can properly evaluate its internal processes and its own facilities against its climate standards. and this is not new for wal-mart. a decade ago wal-mart's then-c.e.o., lee scott said -- quote -- "the science is in and it is overwhelming. we believe every company has a responsibility to reduce greenhouse gases as quickly as it can." coca-cola the other company i mentioned, has exemplary carbon
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policies too. coca-cola knows how disruptive climate change can be on the water supply that is coca-cola's most basic need in its bottling facilities. they too have found the sweet spot of saving money by reducing their carbon output. as the arctic melts coca-cola even put a polar bear on its icon iic coke can. mutar kent, coca-cola's c.e.o., has said this -- i'll quote him -- "it is absolutely imperative that our commitment to a low-carbon future be fully understood. we're here to lend a coca-cola voice to the public and political debate on getting to a fair framework an inclusive framework and an effective framework so that we can achieve climate protection." many other major corporations have too. there's google and apple
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apparel giants v.f. corporation and nike mars and nestle and carghill, general motors and the ford motor company u.p.s. and federal express unilever and starbucks. all and more are in different ways clear-eyed and responsible climate champions. so there is a lot to celebrate from america's corporate leaders, mr. president. but there's also more to be done and we are right now at a societal and political tipping point on climate change. where corporations that are already good on climate change, corporations that are sensible and responsible on climate change can make a big difference by taking it up one more step and putting their politics where their policies already are. so what is putting your politics where your policies are? first, it's making climate change an issue something you
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talk about when you come to congress. i don't know whether wal-mart has ever spoken to senator boozman or senator cotton from their home state of arkansas about climate change. i know they never spoke to senator pryor when he was here in the senate because he told me so. i don't know whether coca-cola has ever spoken about climate change to senators isakson or purdue from coca-cola's home state of georgia. it's not just them. i pick wal-mart and coca-cola out because they're two of the best companies on carbon reduction. i actually don't know of one major american corporation that makes climate change a priority when it comes here to washington and lobbies congress. not one. america's corporate leaders have great carbon reduction policies
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but when they come to congress, that's not on the agenda of their politics. and if it were it would make a difference. i know it's not easy. senior corporate leaders in major american companies have told me and others that they fear retribution if they lobby congress on climate change. that they'll be punished. on tax or trade or liability or regulatory or other issues that they have here in congress. that's how ugly and rough the fossil fuel lobby plays around here. but there's an answer. group up. the fossil fuel industry and its allies in congress can't punish everyone. they can't punish coke and pepsi and walmart and target and v.f.
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corporation and nike and apple and google and ford and g.m. and mars and nestle and unilever they can't punish you all. so please, i ask our corporate leaders, make an agreement with one another that you will not abandon your climate principles when you come to congress. if good corporations won't speak up the only corporate force lobbying and politicking congress on climate change is the fossil fuel industry. and you will get exactly what you have now -- a congress in which members fear to take action on climate because they know one side, the fossil fuel boys will punish them, and they don't know any other side that will help them. so the first part of corporate climate responsibility 2.0 is
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don't abandon hope all ye who enter here. don't check your principles at the door. a second part of corporate climate responsibility 2.0 would be to stand by your principles with those who advocate for you. the best corporate citizens push their good climate policies out beyond their corporate walls out into their supply chains, and they insist that their suppliers comply with those climate principles. they won't do business with suppliers that don't abide by their climate principles. so it would be consistent to push their good climate policies out into their advocacy organizations, too and insist that their advocates comply with those same climate principles, just like their suppliers must. they ought not to do business with advocacy groups that won't
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abide by their climate principles. what am i talking about? well i've described how good coca-cola has been on climate issues and it is terrific on climate issues. well coca-cola and its bottlers are also important vital members of the american beverage association, which sits on the board of the u.s. chamber of commerce, which is one of the worst climate denial organizations and which is a persistent obstacle to any responsible action on carbon emissions. similarly, verizon 3m and ford, all with good climate policies, all sit on the board of this organization with opposite policies. if they wouldn't put up with it from their suppliers if their suppliers flouted their principles, why put up with it
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from a corporate mouthpiece they support but that flouts their principles? if corporate climate change policies are important enough to push beyond the corporate walls and into the supply chain they should be important enough to push beyond the corporate walls and into the corporation's advocacy organizations. it doesn't make sense for corporations to speak out of one side of their mouths on climate change and then contradict themselves through their corporate mouthpieces their advocacy organizations. some don't. nike resigned from the u.s. chamber of commerce board of directors over the chamber's horrible climate policies. apple left the chamber altogether. so have big electric utility companies like exelon and pg&e, and so have many local chambers of commerce. google left the american
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legislative exchange council known as alec. when google left alec last year because of that group's bad climate position, google c.e.o. eric schmidt said of the group -- quote -- they are literally lying -- close quote -- about climate change. you don't need to support an organization that is -- quote -- literally lying about climate change. not under corporate climate responsibility 2.0. it is not necessary to have your own trade association or legislative organization arguing against you. the same should be true of opinion outlets. for decades "the wall street journal" has been an important and respected voice of the business community but now on climate change, "the wall street journal" editorial page never reflects the views on climate change of most of america's corporate leaders.
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only its fossil fuel corporate leaders. that page has become exclusively the voice of the fossil fuel industry and of their climate denial front organizations. in fact, in some ways, you could say "the wall street journal" editorial page has actually become a climate denial front organization. the fossil fuel companies have co-opted "the wall street journal" editorial page, and where is the objection from american corporations, big well-known american corporations who have spent millions and millions of dollars addressing their carbon emissions? who have spent enormous corporate effort, all the way up to the c.e.o. level dedicated to a carbon solution and who have developed great policies on climate change? why be silent when the voice of the business community is saying the exact opposite of what you
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have worked so hard for and care so much about? under corporate climate responsibility 2.0 companies like that could stand up for their own well-established climate principles and against the opposition to their own corporate principles from the "wall street journal" editorial page. mr. president, i feel we are so close to getting something done, something big done on climate change. our corporate sector has shown so much leadership. had the great american corporate leadership on climate change aligns exactly with what america's science leadership is also saying. the great american corporate leadership on climate change aligns exactly with what america's military and national security leaders are also saying
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the great american corporate leadership on climate change aligns exactly with what so many of our religious leaders are saying all the way up to pope francis. and, of course, american corporate leadership on climate change aligns with what americans, the customers of these corporations, want and expect. so let's take it up a step. let's ask our corporate leaders to step it up to corporate climate responsibility 2.0 and to take your existing good policies line them up with your politics. take what you demand of your suppliers and demand the same of your advocates. that would be a big way for america's corporate leaders to
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help this body to wake up. i yield the floor. and i note 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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