tv U.S. Senate CSPAN May 25, 2011 12:00pm-5:00pm EDT
i notice that the junior senator from minnesota has just taken the chair here in the chamber. minnesota knows well what can be accomplished through these kind of delivery system reforms because companies like mayo in minnesota, like gunderson lutheran across the border in wisconsin, like inner mountain in utah, like kaiser in california, all are doing this kind of work already and they're doing it effectively. we can significantly bring down costs in our health care system. we do not have to be the last. we do not have to be the least-efficient country in the world in providing health care to our people, and we can do this while improving the quality and the experience of health care for americans. i'll conclude by saying that tackling these issues won't be easy, but to go back to president kennedy's speech, he said "we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the
other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard." i urge my colleagues and the administration, we really cannot afford to fail. let's raise the stakes, set a hard challenge. the future of our nation's fiscal health certainly depends on it. i thank the presiding officer. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mrs. mccaskill: mr. president, this is a place that runs on words. the united states senate is a place where there's always a great deal of speeches and words that are spoken, and every once in awhile there's something that comes along in life when words are so completely inadequate. and what has happened in my state in the last few days is very difficult to express in words. but i did want to take a few moments to recognize an
incredible thing that's occurring in -- in the southwest portion of my state. having been there all day yesterday, arriving very early in the morning and spending time with the people of joplin, with missourians who have come to joplin from every corner of our state with federal officials, i do want to take just a -- a short amount of time to recognize the tragedy and to rejoice in the response. because so many parts of this response, in fact, are the kinds of things that we should celebrate. the loss of life is staggering. an f-5 tornado, we now know the strongest tornado classification. in fact, this is the most devastating and damaging tornado that we've had in this country in almost 60 years. the loss of life is staggering.
we are at 122 lives that have been lost and it is unfortunately a reality that that toll probably will continue to rise. i hope only slightly in the coming days but we are -- yesterday there was another five or six confirmed deaths. loss of property. over 8,000 buildings were damaged. 2,000 homes are gone. and when i say gone, i mean gone. i have responded to many, many natural disasters in missouri during my time as a public official. lots of tornadoes, flooding. i have never seen a scene that even comes close to what i observed yesterday. walking among the rubble, you realize that what you're walking through are people's lives that have been spread far and wide
and that in many ways cannot be recovered, cannot be made exactly as it was before. from the air, the swath of damage -- we were able to get up for the first time because the weather finally cooperated to look at the damage from the air. governor nixon and the administrator of fema, mr. fugate and i, along with other officials, went up in helicopters yesterday morning. and as you look down upon joplin, who you see, it looks like from the air a stave mill. it looks like through the middle of joplin, miles and miles long and miles and miles wide, surrounded by green, it looks like from the air just a massive amount of toothpicks. the trees are all gone. many 100-year-old trees laying on their sides, trees, what's left standing of them, most of them bare, the bark having been ripped off by the force of the
winds that swept through joplin shortly before 6:00 p.m. on sunday evening. the emotional toll of this devastation is one that you can't calculate, but you see it on people's faces. and what i observed yesterday, as friend friends an neighbors e standing by hoping for a miracle as firefighters from kansas city dug under the rubble at walmart hoping that they were going to find someone there that was alive, as i witnessed other people going through the rubble of their homes and talking to them, i think the initial reaction for the people of joplin was intense gratitude that they were alive, and now it's being replaced with the reality of their loss and what they have lost. from schools to churches to a hospital that employs over 2,000
people in a community of just 50,000, this is an incredible loss. but the pain is pap pabl on these people's faces, and -- but the pain is palpable on these people's faces, and that is why it is so important that we don't lose sight of what they're going to need over the coming weeks, months and, yes, even years. the response that i witnessed in terms of what was on the ground was remarkable. from federal, state, local, first responders and obviously the officials of job lynn, missouri, all working together, seamlessly as a team, the federal government, unlike many disasters where they wait several weeks to declare a disaster, they obviously understood thi this athat flexibility and th the immediacf the response was of importance and they declared a disaster
within 18 hours of when the tornado occurs. the national guard deployed, they had national guardsmen there before midnight, and since that moment on, more and more people have been responding with more and more assets to help the people of joplin and the recovery effort. i want to call out particularly the fire chief in joplin and the city manager in joplin, who have done remarkable work. the fire chief lost his home. as i walked through the firehouse yesterday going down to the command center, i heard a barking in one of the rooms. and i said, well, is that a canine unts? they said, no, the fire chief is living here with his family and that's his dog, because his home is gone. so as he lofted his home, he -- so as he lost his home, he obviously had to turn to the important job of fighting fires and then obviously participating in an unprecedented effort at
search and rescue over the following 48 hours. i'm very proud of our national guard. we have over 200 guardsmen that are there as we speak, and they have done, as always, remarkable work. i talked to one man who had just finished duty in popular bluff with the flooding and immediately came over to help in joplin with the tornado response and recovery. the state of missouri, governor nixon, has been on the ground for much of the last 72 hours, a0 long witaalong with his teevs bringing his cabinet heads down to joplin to work on various parts of this over the next 48 hours along with subcabinet levels from the federal government, housing, h.h.s., to be of assistance, and let me just take a minute to talk about the first responders.
i am so proud of the police and firefighters that i encountered yesterday. i am so proud of these men and women. as i looked around, i realized that there were search and rescue teams from every corner of our state. task force one www.there from central missouri, almost 100 kansas city firefighters were there. i had an opportunity to visit with many of them as they were attempt ago rescue scene yesterday afternoon. 3 complook in the morning, yesterday morning -- 3:00 in the morning, yesterday morning, a caravan from st. louis of over 100 firefighters and all of their equipment and assets rolled down i-44 to get to joplin to help their brothers and sisters in terms of this effort. st. francis county, camden county, you name it -- from all
over the state, police and firefighters and public safety officials responded to joplin, and frankly people need to realize that the assets that are spread all over joplin today, the various emergency vehicles, the canine units, the mobile rescue units that allow people to do very difficult rescues and very difficult circumstances, the vast majority of those assets were bort with federal dollars, the vast majority of that people came to these missouri equipment from federal grants, but these -- and a lot of these guys had worked without sleep for days. and as i talked to them and thanked them, it was almost like they vented being thanked, because to them, this is what they do. and i will tell you, one thing that yesterday gave me was an incredible passion to fight for these folks' pensions and their
salaries. these are not the people that are causing economic chaos in our country. these are not the people that deserve to be diminished in public discussions about what they receive for their work. these are the best we've got. and they deserve every dime of pension that they have bargained and fought for. i am so proud of joplin for its response to this. this is a community of great faith. this is a community that will come together like a lot of midwest comiewrntses do in circumstances, when -- midwest communities do in circumstances, when they are neighbors are in trouble. our phones are ringing over the hook, what do we need to do to help, from missouriians. the most important thing people can do is to give blood to donate to the salvation army and
red cross and to wait to hear from the officials in joplin when volunteers are needed. right now too many volunteers swarming into joplin could cause more problems than it could intofl. so people need to check in with the local red cross in ozarks. they need to check in with the city web site. when there is a call for volunteers, it will go out and those volunteers will be needed. but for now, the most important thing people can do is to give money and to give blood. and the other thing i think we can do for all of the people who lost their lives in this tragedy is to have a plan. when there is a tornado warning, many families -- and i think we are guilty of it in the midwest maybe more so than other places in the country, because we hear sirenes and tornado warnings a lot in our life. and i will be honest, i probably
have never taken it seriously enough. but that will not happen again in my life. my family will have a plan. my family will know where to go and what to do if in fact there is a tornado warning. don't ever assume that a tornado warning is not serious. this -- these sirens rang at approximately 5:17 in the afternoon and the tornado touched ground at approximately a5:41.the weather people deserva great deal of credit because nobody had vicially sighte sighs tornado. so the enact they were able to identify this for neigh deengdz make that warning 20 minutes ahead of tiernlg i can't imagine the loss of life we would have had if it hadn't been for at that 20-minute warning but having said that there were people that were not taking it seriously. they were people that didn't know exactly where to go or what to do. so, please, have a plan for your
families, as a trible to all those families who lost -- as a tribute to all those families who lost loved ones in joplin on sunday night. we will survive this with god's grace and determination, joplin will roar back because the values that are held so dearly in that part of our state, in fact in our entire country, welcome together and do this. but make no mistake about it -- the satellite cameras are going to pack up sometime in the next 48 hours. all of those satellite trucks will go back to where they came from and this will fade from the front pages and just like the junior member from minnesota, who is presiding right now, at the point and dime the bridge collapsed, there was a great deal of attention. then the attention goes away. in this instance, we're going to need to sustain the support to this community, far beyond the headlines, far beyond the
satellite trucks going home. we've got to get these schools open in september. we've got to get this hospital rebuilt. we've got to make sure that this community is not left strangdzed without the assistance it -- strangdzed without the assistance -- strangdzed without the assistance it needs. there is no question we need to be careful about the way we spend federal money. but with all due respect to congressman can terks i have a hard time believing that if this was in his descrirkts he would have a hard time talking about how disaster assistance would not be vaifnlt it must be available. this cannot be a political football. we must provide the assistance. that's what federal tax dollars are nor is to provide assistance when there is no assistance available for communities and for states because of the wraght of mother naimplet -- mother nature. we all must be with them. we must stand with joplin. all of america must stand with joplin and we will. my heart goes out to the families for their losses.
i want to congratulate the people of joplin for their response. i want to say bless you to all those first responders, and i want to say that through the greatest tragedy, sometimes comes the greatest strength. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. sessions: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: i appreciate the fine remarks from my friend from missouri, and seeing the damage that was done by the tornadoes in alabama, they exceeded anything i'd seen before, i appreciate more than most i think the damage and difficulties the people of missouri going forward. i know there will be emergency funding for that. there's a legitimate question as to whether we ought not to find that emergency spending someplace in our budget where it can be recovered that are not so
important, but we'll process that i know as we go forward. mr. president, i truly believe our nation is facing an economic crisis but not so much what i believe but what every expert that we've heard from believes and has testified to. mr. erskine bowles, who cochaired the debt commission, being appointed by president obama, said, along with senator alan simpson, his cochair, in a written statement to the budget committee that this nation has never faced so -- such a predictable economic crisis. in other words. the deficit levels we are operating with are so high and they create such danger to the economy that we have to get off this path, is what they told us. every expert has said we are on
an unsustainable path. many people have thought, well, the problem we're dealing with today places a burden on or children and our grandchildren, and, therefore, it's removed to some degree the immediacy of the problem. but that's not what mr. bowles said. in his testimony before the budget committee just a month or two ago, he said that we could have a financial crisis, when asked by senator conrad, our chairman, when, he said two years, maybe less, maybe more. senator simpson said i think it could be one year. so we are taking a risk with the american economy. this has been echoed by moody's bond ratings. it's been echoed by the s&p, who warned that our debt rating for
our debt could be downgraded. alice rivlin made those comments. pete domenici, who cochaired a debt commission with alice rivlin, former chairman of the budget committee in the senate, said to us with real passion, i've never been so afraid for my country. that's what pete domenici said. and so we know we have to take action. and now we're heading today, we're $756 -- we're 756 days since the united states senate has passed a budget. we haven't passed a budget. and i would say with confidence that in terms of a real long-term threat to the american future, this nation has never had a greater danger financially
and in debt. because the problems we face are more severe than even in the 1990's when we turned our business around and in three years balanced the budget. it's going to be harder to do it now. we went through world war ii. wr borrowed money but we had a vibrant, growing me and growing population and we promptly moved our way through that. growth took care of us. but we can't expect the level of growth, according to the experts, that we can reasonably predict, even optimistically predict in the future will be sufficient to get our house in order. so when you don't have enough money and the course that you're on is unsustainable, you need to develop a plan that puts you on a sustainable path. how simple is that. that's grownup talk. and how do you do it? what's our mechanism in the --
in the congress? this is the budget. this is title 2, section 271 et se country. c., and it has the budget in it. we can violent it. we don't go to jail, we don't have to personally pay fines. but it represented a serious commitment by a previous congress that we needed a budget. and they also made as part of that budget law that it could be passed with a simple majority so it could not be filibustered. that was one of the reasons budgets sometimes failed to be passed. on anand so they, at a time thee thinking about the future, said let's make the budget passable by a simple majority. it also has time lines in it. it says that the congress must
pass a budget by april 15. well, we're long past that.long past that. are we going on to a third year now without a budget? a thousand days without a budg budget? while our country is on a debt path unsustainable to a degree that threatens the future of america economically. yes, that's where we're headed. so people say, well, surely, jeff, that's not so. surely, there's some plan. there's not any plan. not a plan to pass the budget. what there's a plan to do is not pass a budget. and it's irresponsible. it is unwise. it is dangerous for our future because we're on a certain path,
a predictable path, as the debt commission told us, to financial ruin. and our debt to g.d.p. will reach almost 100% -- well, will reach 100% by september 30 this year. that's above the level that economic experts tell us put our country at risk. indeed, when we passed the 90% of debt to g.d.p. ratio, the economist rogoff and rinehart, who committed a national study of economies around the world by sovereign states, have warned that at that level, you reduce the growth of the economy by at least 1% of g.d.p. the average was higher than that. they said on a median level, it's 1% of g.d.p., and they've used that number. 1% growth that we don't get. well, some think we may not get 2% growth this year. would we have gotten 3%?
if we had 2%, would we have gotten -- if we get 1%, would we have gotten 2%? 1% growth in d in g.d.p. is a le thing in an economy the size of ours. it increases tax revenue, significantly increases jobs, according to experts, 1% of g.d.p. growth means a million more jobs. a decline of 1% in growth in our economy represents a loss of a million jobs. this is not a little bitty matter. so on monday, i objected. i realize what's going on in the senate, that near there's no plo deal with this, that there's a gimmicked-up scheme to bring up a series of budget votes that the majority leader knows will not pass. indeed, he intends to bring up a vote on a budget that he and all his colleagues intend to vote
against, the most responsible budget out there, the house budget passed by the republican house. that's what they want to bring up and vote on and vote against it. but the budget act doesn't say bring up the house budget. it said each house, the senate and the house should bring up their own budget. and they should pass it on the floor, it should go to committ committee. this is neither -- none of the budgets we'll be vogue on have gone to -- we'll be voting on have gone to committee. we've had no markups in the committee. not even had a markup on the budget. so why? what is this? what is going on? let me share with my colleagues why we're not having a legitimate process to produce a budget at the most critical financial time in our history. and it's politics. does that surprise you? this is what democratic staffers
said quoted in the "wall street journal" article a few days ago. what did they say about it? did they say we have a plan to solve america's future? did they say we have a plan to improve our debt and reduce our debt and get us on a sound path? did they say we understand that the future of the country is endangered by an unsustainable debt growth? no, they didn't say that. this is what they said. as a political matter, senate democratic strategists say there may be little benefit in producing a budget that would inevitably include unpopular items." so they don't want to produce a budget because to have an honest budget, a budget that would make a difference, it would have some unpopular items in it. now, i ask, is that responsible leadership?
i suggest no. but it goes on -- quote -- "many democrats believe a recent house g.o.p. proposal to overhaul medicare is proving to be unpopular and has given the democrats a political advantage. they are loathe to give that up by proposing higher taxes." what does that mean? it means their budget, if they produce one, would call for higher taxes. and they don't want to do it. they don't want to propose a budget that reduces spending. they don't want to produce a budget that has higher taxes. why? because they're playing politics rather than serving the national interest. that is as plain as day. i wish it weren't so but there's no other explanation. with this senate preparing to go into recess friday for memorial day without having even
commenced hearings on a budget. so this is what they decided to do. i'm quoting from the article. quote -- "senate democrats plan to hold a vote on the ryan pla plan." -- the house budget -- "hoping to force g.o.p. senators to cast a vote on the medicare overhaul that could prove politically difficult." now, give me a break. is that what it's all about? is that what we're here about? it's not what many of my colleagues tell me. they tell me they know we're on an unsustainable path and we've got to do something. but why are we going through this charade, to bring up one, two, three budgets, vote them all down and then say, well, we tried? maybe we'll have some secret talks over here and we'll plop something downright before some emergency date and demand
everybody vote for it half having had a chance to read it. is that what the process is going to be instead of the open process where the budget committee has open hearings, has amendments offered, a budget is voted out of committee, it comes to the floor, has a guaranteed 50 hours of debate? but the process comes to an end. the budget act sets forth how you can't filibuster it, has only a limited time of debate but there's an opportunity to debate, an opportunity to offer amendments. so we're told, well, you know, senator reid, he doesn't want his members to have to take tough votes. well, none of us like to take tough votes. none of us like to take tough votes. isn't that what we're paid for here? isn't that why they send us he here, to vote on important, tough issues that impact the future of our nation?
i -- i'm telling you, i think we are so far off path that it's stunning to me. well, what about -- i quoted what a staffer said. what about senator reid himself, the democratic leader of the senate? and neighbor has worked with senator reid likes him. and i enjoy working with him. i respect him. i know he has a difficult job.bo stand up and lead. he is not leading. neither is president obama. so this is what senator reid said just a few days ago -- i think friday. quote -- "there's no need to have a democratic budget in my opinion." well, there is a need. statutory legal requirement that we have a requirement out of the senate. then he said -- quote -- "it would be foolish to present one." why does he say it would be foolish?
i think my good friend, senator reid, is taking his eye off the national interest, he's taking his eye off the crisis that our country faces, and he's got his eye on politics. he means it's foolish politically, because he has a scheme, and this is what his scheme is: to bring up the house plan, the ryan plan, which is really in all honesty, the only plan i've seen in my time in the senate that comes close to having a long-term financial alteration of the unsustainable path we are on. it deals with it. it makes some tough choices, but they're not unbearable, and they'll actually work -- i think, most of them. i don't promise i would vote for everything that is in t but it is an historic project and plan to put america on a sustainable financial course.
i thought they could have reduced spending more in some areas, frankly. but it puts us on a sustainable course. it's produced by a house budget committee that was intensely involved in it. they had public hearings. they voted on it, and they brought it to the floor, and they passed it in the house of representatives, like the united states congress is supposed to operate with. so what is our leader in the senate -- so what does our leader in the senate do and his colleagues who support them? trave a made a decision to do -- they've made a decision to do something political, not responsible, not put forth a vision that they would have for the vision future futurings butp the ryan budget so they can all vote against t now, i don't think that's responsible. so i'm not going to participate in a scheme or this plot to have some sort of a series of votes.
count me out. i'm not supporting it. i'm not going to give consent to it. that's the way i see it. i don't see that it makes sense. if i did, i'd change my mind. but i see that it makes no sense for me to in any way consent to a process that is designed to fail. the whole thing is designed to fail, with a simple majority in the senate, our democratic colleagues can pass a vote. they've got 53 members here. they could pass a vote -- they might have all the republicans if we reached a bipartisan agreement. but there's nothing close to that. we've not approached it in any realistic way, and so i'm concerned that we're off track. arntiondz you know -- and, you
know, senator schumer, who once last time headed the democratic senatorial campaign committee, designed to elect senators, considered to be a guru around here of politics, and i deesd a good one, and there's nothing wrong with being a smart politician. but at some point, politics goes too famplet this is when he just said may 23. "we will exhibit this issue" -- in other words, he's going to calm the ryan budget -- "as an example of why we need to keep the senate democratic in order to counter house republicans. we will point to this week and say the republicans tried to end medicare but a democratic majority stopped it." "it's that simple." a pure, political, open
statement of raw politics. where is the national interest? where is the response to mr. bowles, a leading democrat, alice rivlin, a leading democrat, and their principle crisis that we do something about -- and their principles cries that we do something about the debt cries? nowhere. they want to go home. they intend to go home. go home friday. our soldiers are out there, they're not getting to go home in iraq and afghanistan and going down roads where bombs mighting planted and putting their lives at risk. don't get to go home. they are business isn't finished yet. -- their business isn't finished yet. but we plan to go home, apparently, not having done anything but gone through a political exercise that's an embarrassment to the senate at a critical time in our nation's financial history, a very, very
critical time. the fiscal commission that president obama created himself to seek a national consensus on funding, which he uttererly ignored in his utterly irresponsible budget, i have to say -- nowhere close to what's necessary to avoid our fiscal nightmare -- that's not a jeff sessions quote. that's the quote of erskine bowles, who cochaired the commission when he saw the president's budget plan that he submitted a few -- a couple of months asmg he said it's nowhere close to where necessarily a have to go to avoid our nation's fiscal nightmare. so that's -- that's what the president has done. and the senate has done nothing.
they won't even continue a markup and propose a plan. because -- why? they think it's politically unwise. they think that they can gain more politically by refusing to produce a budget, by attacking the house members who produced a budget, as they're required to by law, that's honest in the long term, would make a huge difference in america, would put us on a sustainable path, not an unsustainable path. now, i'll just conclude with a quote from the preamble to the debt physical -- the fiscal commission debt report. this is what they wrote to us. so remember now, senator reid's plan is to bring -- the plan is to brip the house budget -- to bring up the house budget, have
awful his members vote it down so they can attack republicans -- have all of his members vote it down so they can attack republicans for having the audacity to propose any changes in medicare, not in the ten years of the budget, not any of that. it's ann the out years that they're complaining -- it's the out years that they're complaining about. it would have to pass both houses of congress, any chaifnlgt but it is a vision that could work, i think, to make medicare sound and save medicare. they think they can scare people by saying we're going to end medicare. they're going to vote on it and the vote in our democratic politicians smiendz that we defend medicare and all of you oppose medicare. the american people are getting too smart for that. i don't believe they're going to buy that path any longer. they know medicare is on an unsustainable path. it cannot continue.
the medicare actuaries and trustees have just reported that it's going to last -- go bankrupt a number of years sooner than was originally expected, just today. so this is what the debt commission said about the need have a plan to fix our future. quote -- "in the weeks and months to come, countless advocacy groups and special interests will try mightily, through expensive, dramatic, and heartwrenching media assaults, to attempt -- to exempt themselves from the shared sacrifice and the common purpose. the national interest, not the special interest, must prevail. we urge leaders and citizens with principle concerns about any of our recommendations to follow what we call 'the posara
rule' -- don't shoot down an idea without offering a better idea in its place." isn't that a reasonable request? don't shoot down an idea unless you are prepared to present a better one in its place. isn't that exactly opposite of what 0 our democratic leadership is proposing? they're proposing to bring up a budget that they say they don't like. they're going to vote it down without producing anything in its place. that is not responsible leadership. it's not respectful of the budget process required by law, and it's not in the national interest. it's not in the national interest. yes, we're going to have too deal with tough issues. we've found ourselves in a fix, a deeper hole than we should ever have been in. the american people punished
congressmen and senators last year because they were unhappy, and they were right. there is no way that any member of this congress can stand before their constituents and justify a deficit this year of $1.6 trillion. and not defend our justify consider be cannot defend or justify a budget spending program in which 40% of every dollar we spend this year is borrowed? what kind of possible sanity is that? it's really insanity. that's why every one of these people are telling us we've dpot change, why pimco, the largest bond company in the world, is saying they're not buying anymore american debt. so, i believe that we need to get serious, make some serious changes. the presiding officer: the senator has used 20 minutes. mr. sessions: i thank the
chair and would just wrap and say, that's why i think the process planned for this week is unacceptable, and i do not intend to support it. i thank the chair, would yield the floor. mr. wyden: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator or 0. mr. wyden: i ask unanimous consent that at 2:00 p.m. today, senator pawbl recognized for up to one hour for debate only, following senator paul's remarks, the senator then proceed to a period -- that the senate then precede to a period of morning business for debate only until 5:00 p.m. with the time equally divided between the two leaders or their designations, further, that the final five minutes be reserved for the majority leader or his designee. mr. sessions: mr. president? the presiding officer: is there objection?
mr. sessions: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: i assume we're not in a quorum call at this point. the presiding officer: we are not. mr. sessions: mr. president, under the u.c. propounded by the senator from oregon, i will remove my objection and will not object. the presiding officer: without
mr. wyden: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: i would ask unanimous consent, mr. president, that i and senator cantwell be recognized now as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. wyden: mr. president, thank you for the opportunity to have the floor here for a few minutes. senator cantwell and i were joined on may 11 with 15 other senators. we wrote to the commodities future trading corporation, to request that that agency, which has a key role in consumer protection, take immediate actions to impose position limits on crude oil futures.
and we asked that they would act by monday, may 23. now, position limits are limits on the number of contracts that a financial speculator can buy or sell at any given time, and it is extremely important, mr. president, that consumers have this protection so that we don't see these speculators increasingly dominate the market. because, as the president of the senate knows, we've got a lot of folks who need gas to goat work and get to school. we've got trucking companies that depend on affordable fuel. we've got restaurants that need fuel. they're all getting, you know, clobbered today. and instead, the financial speculators who don't buy oil or consume oil are constantly pulling more of the oil out of
commodities market. and what is so troubling about the troach of this key agency is they've pretty much said they're not going to do anything soon. they have no sense of urgency. it's not really a priority for them to try to tackle this issue. and, in fact, they're not even going to use their interim authority. they won't even use the interim authority that they said they were going to use last year to protect this -- the consumer at this crucial time. and this is particularly unfortunately because somehow they have reached the judgment that the only thing they ought to be moving on is to try to set limits as it relates to commodities generally. mr. president, i could tell you my phone is not ringing off the hook about the question of ko ca
prices. the american people are not up in armed about what's going on in the cocoa market today. they are concerned about the fact they are getting clobbered on this gas pricing issue. and the fact of the matter is, is 40% of the oil future market is now dominated by financial speculators and it's way past time for the commodities future trading commission to act to tamp down excess speculation and its impact on higher prices. senator cantwell serves with me on the senate energy committee. she's been a leader in this issue, constantly tried to blow the whistle on this practice of speculation. it is not the only reason that gasoline prices are so high. but it clearly is a significant factor. if the financial speculators are taking so much of the oil and future oil out of the market to
essentially hold this dominant position, that means there are going to be fewer opportunities for that person who's trying to get gas at the pump, the person who runs the restaurant, the trucking, you know, company, and why it's so important that we have these position limits. so this is a crucial consumer issue, mr. president, and the commodities future trading commission's refusal to act quickly is especially upsetting because this agency knows bett better. they know better and yet they wrote to senator cantwell and i and senator collins and colleagues that they really weren't going to do much of anything any time soon. now, in january of 2010, after holding three public meetings on fuel prices, the agency proposed to set position limits on four key energy commodities: crude
oil, natural gas, gasoline, and heating oil. at the time, crude was then around $75 a barrel. now, the congress was so concerned about the need to control financial speculation that it expanded the agency's authority to set speculation limits last july as part of the financial reform legislation. that legislation specifically directed the agency to set limits on nonagricultural commodities like crude oil within 180 days of enactment and that date has long passed. so rather than getting started on protections, crucial protections for american consumers and businesses, the agency withdrew its january 2010 position limit proposal for energy commodities and basically started all over again. that is inexplicable, in my view, mr. president, that you
wouldn't even use your interim authority to take steps to help the consumer who's certainly going to be concerned about gasoline prices as we move into this memorial day weekend. now, this past january, instead of issuing a final rule within the 180 days called for by the financial reform legislation, they issued another proposed rule. now, it's certainly true that the congress gave the agency expanded authority to set limits on multiple speculation holdings in the financial reform bill and not just future contracts. the result is, there aren't any limits at all. that's the bottom line for the consumer today. now, under the schedule proposed by the agency in january and its recent proposed rule, final position limits around going to be imposed until the first quarter of 2012, almost a year from now. that's what it's going to take,
based on the signals the agency is sending today. and at least one of the commissioners at the agency, bart chilton, that this is truly contrary to the deadlines in the financial reform law. now, we know, mr. president, that most americans walking on the streets -- the main streets of this country have not heard of the commodities futures trading commission. but that certainly doesn't diminish its role in overseeing the commodities markets. and that is why i've been pleased to join with senator cantwell and other colleagues to continue to press this agency to get out of the regulatory swamp and take steps to go to bat for the consumer today and wring the excess speculation out of the oil market sooner rather than later. now, the agency was directed by the congress to set speculation limits on more than two dozen
commodities. and as i've indicated, i'm sure that setting position limits on commodities like cocoa are commission, but cocoa is not driving the american economy the way oil is every single day. americans use about 19 million barrels of oil a day every day. two-thirds of the price of a gallon of gas is the cost of crude oil used to make it. so setting limits on speculation on crude oil is going to have an impact on the price at the pump. the american people and our economy cannot afford to pay the hundreds of millions of dollars a month in additional fuel prices that come out of their wallet while they wait for the commodities future trading commission to act. the agency ought to get about doing what it proposed more than 16 months ago to do and that is
rein in speculation, the speculation that's driving up the prices at the pump. and the agency ought to do it now, before more americans face financial hardship. the country obviously is entering into the peak summer driving season. that's why i and senator cantwell and senator collins urged the agency to move and move now. i wanted to outline the agency's history of foot dragging. i see that we're joined now by senator cantwell, who's been our leader in this cause. i say to my colleague, i so appreciate, you know, her leadership, this most recent response that we got from the commodities futures trading commission shows once again no sense of urgency, no sense of priority, not even a willingness to use the interim authority
that they could use to go to bat for the american consumer. so i want it understood that i'm going to do everything i can to be your partner in this cause until we get these position limits set and get the basic protections that our consumers deserve. mr. president, i would yield the floor now that senator cantwell is here. the presiding officer: the senator from washington. ms. cantwell: thank you, mr. president. i want to thank the senator from oregon for his stalwart attention to energy markets and to the concern that many west coast residents have over high energy costs. senator wyden has long been a vocal critic of what's happened with the electricity market, what's happened with the oil markets when the west coast paid higher gas prices than any place in the country, we wanted to know why. people said we were an isolated market and that that's why we were paying the highest gas
prices. and then katrina happened and our prices still went up even though we were an isolated market. so he has long been a person coming to the united states senate fighting for the consumer and saying that we shouldn't be gouged by higher prices on energy. energy is the lifeblood of any economy. we know in the northwest we saw this with enron. when the markets were manipulated, everybody said it was environmentalists not allowing us to do new facilities. it's this situation or that situation. well, when we finally exposed the audio tapes, we realized it was pure market manipulation. in fact, what we found out is that people were taking the futures market and basically making plays in the futures market while they also had the ability to affect the physical supply market of electricity. so by combining those schemes with different things like get
shorty and fat boy and all these names they came up with, they were able to convince utilities and various customers that the supply was tight and that they were going to have to pay more for electricity in the future. and consequently, they ought to keep paying these high prices. well, thanks to a lot of hard work by a lot of individuals and ultimately the department of justice, the enron schemes were called for what they were, just out-and-out market manipulation. my colleague and i, senator wyden, screamed loud about that situation and said we wished the ferc, the federal energy regulatory commission would have acted a lot sooner on that issue, and that if they would have acted in basically taking away the market-based authority that enron had, you would have saved a lot of jobs in the northwest. you would have saved a lot of industries. a lot of people lost their jobs, their retirement, their home over those high energy prices
for electricity. thank god the result is we were able to pass new legislation, creating federal crime for anybody to manipulate natural gas or oil markets. i should say that ferc has used that authority over the last several years to recoup millions of dollars of violations by industry officials who continue to perpetrate the same kind of scheme of going in to the futures market and holding positions in the futures market and then going and taking physical supply and being able to affect the physical supply and demand. so this is something that is amazing to us from the west coast. and i know my colleagues, senator feinstein, senator boxer, senator murray, we've all been on the same page. senator merkley has been a loud voice on this. we have been through this nightmare. we've been through this nightmare, and that's why i have to say, mr. president, first and
foremost, we find it appalling that someone would propose h.r. 1 or the ryan budget and now want to take away policing authority from the commodities future trading commission on the type of activity that would allow them to properly regulate these markets. now we saw what's happened. we are so appalled about is it seems like it is happening again now in the oil markets. in fact, we see today on the front page of the "new york times," "u.s. suit sees manipulation of oil trades." so the commodities commission is finally saying now, yes, we're looking at this case. it should be no surprise of what they actually see in this case, because it's the same shenanigans that happened in electricity, the same shenanigans in natural gas. yes, the same shenanigans is happening in the oil market.
that is that the commodity agency says in this case there was a close relationship between the physical oil price and the price of the financial futures which moved in peril. so basically what happened is that in the oil futures market, these individual companies took large positions. in fact, their positions were so big -- and that's why senator wyden just described if this agency would come in and set position limits, people wouldn't be able to come in and move the market in such a significant way. but at the same time it's alleged that these companies actually had millions of barrels of physical crude oil and that they actually had no commercial use for the oil. so here you have people buying the physical supply, again, to manipulate it and help it tie in to the future market when they don't have any commercial need for it. that's why it is so important to
have the cftc do its job on this and to interpret who our legitimate hedgers, like airlines, like farmers, people who actually need the physical supply, juxtaposed to these large institutions that are just coming in and moving the market. so what's amazing is that at one point in time what they had as far as physical supply, for somebody who didn't even have a commercial use, at least according to this "new york times" article, was that they had two-thirds of the barrels on the west texas intermediate exchange. here's somebody that had the physical supply and was controlling two-thirds of it and then controlling the futures market. so they were basically making money on the up side and they were making money on the down side. that is what the cftc is alleging in its case, and i think it's one of the first cases in which a small group of traders are being charged in the
potential role of manipulation of gas prices. well, i don't have to tell the presiding officer how critically important this is. i've been home recently and paid $4 a gallon for gasoline. many people are starting what is soon going to be the summer driving season, and they are outraged at the price of gasoline. it is hurting our economy. people who have to commute to work every day, people whose businesses depend on reasonable fuel costs are getting gouged over these prices. and we have federal regulators that need to be more aggressive at investigating these cases. now i'll say i'm very happy that the obama administration and the department of justice appointed a task force that is exactly what we need. we need every federal agency that has oversight of these markets, whether it's the physical market with the f.t.c., or the cftc and the commodities market, to work together with the department of justice to make sure that these schemes are not continued to be perpetrated
on the american public. our economy is too important to have this kind of activity continue to play the kind of havoc that it is on our system. and when you think about it, it's not as if we don't know what the scheme is. we have seen it time and time again with these other energy markets. so the question is whether we're going to be aggressive and make sure that the cfts has the tools it needs -- that is not to cut funding like the ryan budget or h.r. 1 wants to do -- and that it actually takes this role and responsibility and starts setting position limits, starts the day-to-day activity. because the value that senator wyden are down here talking about is instead of this case that now is going to be investigated, how many days did we live with the potential of higher fuel costs, if this case is correct? how many days did we live with
the higher cost of that? and how long will the investigation take? versus if the cftc was actually implementing the law and the rules we gave them and enforcing position limits, it would be policing the market on a day-to-day basis and preventing consumers from paying one dime or one penny more than they need to pay on high fuel costs. the reason this is so important -- i was hoping we would get a chart here, but i guess it is probably on its way -- is that it used to be, it used to be that these oil markets were for legitimate hedgers. my colleague and i represent a very robust agriculture community. we grow lots of different products in the northwest, probably over 200 different agriculture products. we depend on the commodities markets to hedge for the future. but that market which was created after the dust bowl devastated so many farmers to give them a chance to legitimately hedge, now all of a sudden is captured by these
large financial institution players. it used to be that those who really needed the hedge, like farmers and airlines, controlled 70% of the market. now they're only 30% of the market. 70% of the market are these large players just like this was described in this article, who are people who are out there basically using their financial weight to move the market in a direction that then they can sell on the futures market to benefit from. it's outrageous. it is outrageous that our economy has to put up with this, that individuals have to put up with this. and i know my colleague from oregon and i are going to be out here and going to be loud and consistent on this until we have the rules and regulations in place to make sure that these markets are properly policed. we don't have to wait another day. we don't have to wait one more day. the commodities commission could be doing its job. they don't need another
legislative bill from us. they don't need another vote from anybody on the commission. they can use their emergency authority. they can complement thighs -- implement these rules today and help consumers save on high gas prices. i hope our colleagues will help news this effort to bring up the issues and make sure the american public understands what's going on so we can bring the pressure to bare on getting -- to bear on getting proper regulation in place. mr. wyden: would my colleague yield for a question? ms. cantwell: yes. mr. wyden: you've made a very eloquent case with respect to how this just hammers the people who need oil on a daily basis, those farmers and truckers and restaurants. you juxtaposed their situation compared to the speculators. for example, those people have a lot higher tax rate, for example, than do the speculators. so there is one advantage after another that the speculators
have over the people that you and i are concerned about. is it your understanding that the next best step to help those people who need oil, those small businesses on a daily basis, is to get the cftc out of the regulatory swamp and to enact these position limits? is that my colleague's understanding? ms. cantwell: if you're paying $4 a gallon for gasoline, you're affecting everybody who moves a product for business or anybody who commutes to work for any kind of distance. i know you've probably heard -- i've heard a lot from small businesses, small businesses who when fuel costs become the second-largest expense, it's hard for them to continue to do business. so the cftc, you're right, could basically enforce this by just implementing the authority we gave them under the financial reg reform legislation that we passed. that's all they have to do. i would say to them, they already have the emergency authority. they have so many tools at their
disposal, i'm glad that they are investigating this case. i think this case is illuminating in the type of scheme that it might might be, t the details are so familiar to you and i on how people work these schemes. i would say an investigation of these schemes are only going to go so far to helping the american consumer. if they take another six to eight months to investigate these schemes, a lot of people are going to lose their jobs. why not implement the rules we have right now, put them in place so we can protect our skaourplgs. and certainly don't pass legislation here or in the senate or in the house that is going to take away the ability to stop the kind of activities that drive up higher gas prices by manipulation. we want enforcement. we want it now. we want protection of consumers. and we're going to continue to be vocal about this issue. and i thank my colleague from oregon for joining me down here
today to talk about this issue. mr. wyden: i thank my colleague. i just think it's critically important that the senate know that we're going to keep the heat on on this issue. senator cantwell and i have tried to point out that the agency is dragging its feet. they could use existing authority. we don't think with the kind of shellacking the american consumer and our small businesses are taking, that's not right. and we are going to continue this fight until they get the consumer protections they deserve. mr. president, i have ten unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. and i ask unanimous consent that these requests be agreed to and that these requests be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. wyden: thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor and i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming is recognized. a senator: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, as you well know, i come to the floor each week with a doctor's second opinion and it specifically relates to the health care law, the law that was passed now over a year ago with many promises made by the president, one of which was
that if you like your coverage, you can keep it. we now know that's not the case, as he had promised. he also talked about this driving down the cost of health care. we've seen the cost of health care going up. last week, i came to the senate floor, mr. president, and talked about the -- something that's not really known very well. there's a part of this law, it's called the independent -- so-called independent payment advisory board. and i gave five specifics as to the problems with this board. so today i'd like to give another five, the -- and i think those are things that every single american needs to know about the mandates that are part of this health care law and what's going to happen to them as more and more components and parts of this health care law are implemented. the -- this -- actually this is called -- people refer to it as
ipab, not an ipod but an ipab. and it stands for the so-called independent payment advisory board. but i'll tell you, this is a washington board. it is not independent and i believe it's going to be very harmful in terms of the health of the american people. this board often goes unnoticed, and one of the reasons is, it actually doesn't become operational until after the 2012 elections, until 2013. but it is extremely powerful and extremely dangerous part of the president's health care law. it's a washington board. it empowers 15 unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats, 15 full-time washington bureaucrats who will decide how medicare dollars are spent. these washington bureaucrats will use basically price controls and they will use price
controls to ration medical care and services all across the country. you know, you remember, mr. president, when then-speaker of the house, nancy pelosi, said first had you to pass the bill before you got to find out what was in it. well, now as more and more americans learn about this rationing board, they will again voice their opposition to the president's health care law. i will tell you, mr. president, i want to pick up today where i left off last week. i'm going to share with the american people an additional five things that they need to know about this -- this board. and the number-one thing today is that the president wants to keep this board under the radar. he -- he and his administration simply want to disguise the long-term ghact thi impact thats board's price controls will have on our seniors on, medicare. if he does so successfully, well, the patients on medicare will be the big losers.
you know, he wants to promise the american people that the board will achieve great medicare savings, but he doesn't want to explain to the american people exactly what those medicare cuts will do and how the american people will ultimately pay the price in their health care. the president and washington descrems historically supported policies giving government the power to set health care prices. make no mistake, the president using this washington board as a trojan horse to accomplish that goal. this is exactly why this board is not going to be set up until after the 2012 elections. the american people will not face the true impact of this board and the cuts it's going to have on their loved ones until after the presidential election next year. the president's plan depends entirely on keeping the true purpose of this rationing board
well below the radar. here's a second concern and that is that the opposition to the president's payment advisory board, interestingly enough, is bipartisan. even members of the president's own party know that creating a washington board to cut medicare payments and ration medical services is bad policy when it comes to our seniors. even representative pete stark of california, ranking member of the ways and means committee in the house, on the health subcommittee said, april of this year, "new york times" article -- quote -- "in its effort to limit the growth of medicare spending, the board is likely to set inadequate payment rates for health care providers which could endanger patient care." there you have a member of ranking stature, democrat party in the house.
now let's take a look at what someone else said. she announced her support for legislation which would repeal this, the president's payment advisory board. this is representative allison schwartz of pennsylvania. actually, she's a strong champion for the health care law. she's also vice chairman of the new democrat coalition, and she had a statement that came out april 15, 2011, income tax day, saying "congress is a representative body and must assume responsibility for legislating sound health care policy for medicare beneficiaries, including those policies related to the payment systems. abdicating this responsibility undermines our ability to represent our constituents." she goes on to say, "i cannot condone the implementation of a flawed policy that will risk beneficiary access to care." third, this -- the president's
payment advisory board, it sets prices and it gives washington more power, not patients. you know, in most cases, medicare payments to doctors -- and members of the senate, both parties, understand this -- are already well below market rates. that is why doctors often limit the number of medicare patients that they see. in more severe cases, doctors stop treating new medicare parities. allowing a rationing board unlimited power to control medicare prices with -- it's only going to drive medicare payments lower and it's going to drive more doctors away from seeing medicare patients. and my concern is that the prices are going to be driven so low by this rationing board that the government will force doctors, hospitals and other medical providers to stop offering any care to medicare
patients. you know, random and punishing cuts to medicare provider payments won't -- won't make this program any more efficient, won't make people's health care better but it will reduce the supply of medical care to our seniors on medicare. the washington board's ability to set prices gives it unprecedented control over personal medical decisions and that's wrong. decisions -- those decisions should be left to the patient and his or her doctor alone, without the interference of 15 washington bureaucrats. no washington bureaucrat should ever have the right to stand between a patient and his or her doctor. at its core, the debate about the payments -- the president's payment advisory board centers around a few questions. do the american people want a washington board of unelected people that they don't know making their personal health care choices for them? or do they want to have the freedom and the choice to make
their own health care decisions? and do they want the members of congress, the people that they send to washington, to be able and to be held accountable, do they want those members of congress to explain exactly what spending cuts are being discussed and need to be made to ensure medicare's solvency? because, you know, mr. president, we all heard just last week medicare's going to be bankrupt even five weeks faster than it had been thought in the past. you know, interestingly enoug enough -- and this is number four, mr. president -- president obama doubles down on this -- on the president's payment advisory board. in his april 13 spending speech to the nation, he doubled down on his commitment to this washington rationing board. in t -- in the speech he said he actually wants to give the board more power to slash medicaid payments to providers. apparently expanding his rationing board is one of the only proposals the president has
to expand medicare and reap dues the debt. the american people sent us here to come up with solutions to solve the problem. they didn't send us here to cower behind boards and empty promises. they asked us to come to washington with the courage, the strength and the political will -- the political will, mr. president -- to make tough spending decisions rather than stand up to the challenge, the president chose to go all in placing his bet on 15 bureaucrats yet to be identified. he asked the american people to trust him that, this rationing board will squeeze out medicare savings. at the same time not impacting, he says, our seniors' access to medical care. but i don't think this is a bet that our nation's seniors should take or should be willing to take. finally, mr. president, number five, members of my party, the republicans, are working to repeal the president's payment
advisory board. senate republicans are taking a stand against this rationing board, against more government control. senator john cornyn of texas has introduced senate bill 668. it is the health care bureaucrats elimination act. this bill repeals the president's payment advisory board, ensuring medicare patients can get the care they need from the doctor that they choose. and i'm proud to be a cosponsor, original cosponsor of this piece of legislation. and that's why, mr. president, i come to you today again on the floor with a doctor's second opinion, as somebody who for a quarter of a century in wyoming has taken care of patients on medicare, many patients on medicare, to provide a doctor's second opinion that this health care law is bad for those patients. it's bad for providers, the nurses and doctors who take care of those patients. and it's bad for the taxpayers. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president?
the presiding officer: the senator from texas is recognized. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i'm glad i was here on the floor to hear the distinguished senator from wyoming's comments about the independent payment advisory board, which is washington, d.c. gobbledygook, which translates into rationing board, which is going to limit seniors' access to care, as he so ably described. and i appreciate him talking about that. it's a topic i will raise in a moment as part of my remarks, but i want to express my appreciation to him for his remarks. my larger concern today is about our budget, the federal budget. as one of our colleagues across the aisle told the media this week, he said he looks forward to voting on the republican budget. well, that may seem a little odd because this is the senate, and actually the senate doesn't have a budget. the budget committee on which i serve has not met to consider a proposal by the chairman of the budget committee, and we haven't
had a chance to offer amendments to vote on it and then for it to come to the senate floor so we would have a senate budget to vote on. what he was talking about, of course, was he was looking forward to voting on the house budget. but i would say that the senate has not considered a budget for 750 days-plus. no family, no business, no one in america, certainly no state can operate on this sort of -- in this sort of fiscally irresponsible manner. only the federal government. and now where are we? spending 43 cents out of over dollar which is borrowed money, borrowed from our kids and grandkids. and the fact of the matter, a newborn baby born into this world today inherits $46,000 in debt because we haven't had the courage to meet this challenge as we must.
well, my colleague also said that this is going to be one of the defining issues of 2012 which, by the way, is election year. i guess what he means is this is going to be an election issue. and i think he's right but not for the reasons that he suggested. first, i just want to refresh everyone's memory. it was just in december of last year that the president's own bipartisan fiscal debt commission gave us a report and really a blueprint for what i think would be a responsible start to dealing with this debt crisis we find ourselves confronted with. that report, again, a bipartisan report proposed $4 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years. the report said federal health care spending represents our single-largest fiscal challenge over the long run. as the baby boomers -- people
like me and the presiding officer -- retire and get older, health care costs will grow faster than the economy. federal health care spending threatens to balloon. well, as if on cue, the medicare trustees issued a report just this last month with even a starker warning. medicare's trust fund will be insolvent in 2024. 2024, about 13 years from now. and the gap between the promises that medicare has made to seniors and its funding, or ability to fund or pay for those services is about $24 trillion. $24 trillion. that's the so-called unfunded liability of medicare. and those estimates are, according to the chief actuary, an optimistic scenario. although it's hard to be optimistic about a $24 trillion
unfunded liability. but we also know there have been other ominous warnings both here at home and around the world. the international monetary fund in a working paper last month noted our potential debt crisis. the s&p rating agency downgraded our ability to pay those bills from stable to negative. peupl co, the -- pimco, the world's largest bondholder, no longer is purchasing american bonds, choosing to purchase other type of investments. that ought to be a warning to us. and if we needed any reminder, even the communist chinese party have given an earful to visiting senators about our debt, which they happen to own about $1 trillion of. but they're worried about the value of their own investment
and, hence, as admiral mullen said, we ought to realize that because of that situation, as admiral mullen pointed out, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, he said the debt is the single-largest national security issue facing america today. well, despite these ominous warnings and even reports from the president's own fiscal commission, and a bipartisan one at that, the majority, senator reid, our friends across the aisle simply aren't taking the fiscal situation seriously. in fact, the majority leader was quoted recently saying it would be foolish, foolish, for the leadership of the other party who controls the agenda on the floor and in committees, it would be foolish for them to propose a budget. and the white house has shown twice this year so far that it isn't really very serious about fiscal discipline. in february the president proposed a budget that completely ignored his own
deficit commission. it had $8.7 trillion in new spending, $1.6 trillion in new taxes, and an additional $13 trillion in debt. well, at the time the president released his proposed budget, there were a number of my colleagues who were very impressed by it. some called it responsible. others credible. others said it was a balanced approach, a good blueprint, a step forward, a careful evaluation, a solid starting point; and many other compliments as well. president obama was so pleased with his budget proposal that he called it our sputnik moment. but of course we know his sputnik failed to launch. none i my colleagues who he praised on the president's proposal were willing to pass a budget resolution or even take one up or have it be considered and voted on.
so president obama tried again in another big speech in april when he was finally brought unwillingly to the debate on our budget and on our debt crisis. in that speech in georgetown in april, he called for higher taxes as well as automatic tax increases that would kick in if certain conditions were met. he called for deeper cuts in defense spending. he invented a 12-year budget window to disguise the large deficits that would otherwise appear if it were the traditional ten-year budget window. and then the president, i think beneath the dignity of his office, verbally abused the very people who had the courage to propose an alternative. and then, of course, we've heard the attacks he startd which have continued -- he started which have continued, the false
attacks that republicans want to -- quote -- "end medicare as we know it." close quote. well, i will say that republicans do not want to end medicare as we know it. that is an intentional falsehood. that is a lie. republicans do not want to end medicare as we know it. we're simply trying to inject some cold, hard reality as observed by the president's own debt economics, by the medicare trustees and everyone else who's taken a responsible look at the problem. what is that reality? well, the reality is medicare as we know it will end unless we do something to fix it and to save it. my colleagues want to talk about ending medicare as we know it, well, they have short memories because it was these very same colleagues who took $500 billion out of medicare to fund obamacare. and they injected the rationing
commission that my colleague from wyoming just got through talking about and which i'll mention again in a moment. many seniors found out as a result of the health care bill that passed we so, along party line vote, only democratic votes in the senate, that many seniors have also lost their access to medicare advantage. other retiresees -- retirees have found themselves dropped into the medicare system. it's never been explained to me how you can possibly cut $500 billion out of medicare, which, as i said earlier, already has $24 trillion in unfunded liabilities. so you're exacerbating, you're making those liabilities worse, not better, to fund a new entitlement program. so i would ask, who's changed medicare? who's made it impossible for us to continue under the present
course for us to keep that promise to our seniors? and why is it so important that we work together to try to come up with a solution to fix it? just when you think the debate could not stoop any lower, that people could not act more irresponsibly, we're confronted with political ads already about republicans rolling a senior off a cliff in a wheelchair. now i know the american people are smart enough to figure that out. they realize that this is just an attack ad, and they're smart enough to look at the substance. but what we need is a real debate and discussion to try to work together and solve our problems, not the gotcha politics, the sort of things people have come to loathe about congress and washington, d.c. not people working together to solve problems, but people playing gotcha and focused only on the next election, not on the
next generation. well, my colleague from wyoming talked about the independent payment advisory board, and i realize that this is a mouth full, but it is bureaucratees, washington-speak, for an unelected, unaccountable group of bureaucrats -- 15 of them -- appointed that will actually have the job of cutting payments to doctors and hospitals which will have the practical impact of limiting senior's access to medicare benefits. what good is providing coverage or seniors if they can't find a doctor or hospital to treat them? well, this is good old-fashioned -- or i should say bad old-fashioned price controls, and they just don't work, as we've seen that already in medicare. in my state alone, in texas, about a third of doctors already limit their new medicare
patients, according to the text medicare association. if you live in the rural parts of the state, it's really hard to find a doctor. and we know that the price controls of this rationing board will just make this trend worse and accelerate it, leading to longer wait times and harder to access treatments. if the board forces our seniors to wait longer for the lifesaving treatment they need, does that change medicare? as we know it? well, it surely changes medicare as people have come to expect it and deserve it. yet, the president has done nothing but double down on this rationing board. you heard in his speech he made in april, the one i referred to a moment ago at georgetown, he said "we're going to extract in the first ten years another $500 billion in savings from medicare and in the second ten years, another $1 trillion -- $1.5
trillion sucked out of medicare. i have to ask what do you think that's going to do on people's access to a doctor and a hospital? that's the president's proposal or framework. it's not a budget. it's want the numbers that we're accustomed to considering and voting on but that's his proposal. and if the president's proposal to cut a trillion and a half out of medicare over the next two decades doesn't change medicare as we know it, then i don't know what does. well, we know the house of representatives has labored mightily to produce a budget, the so-called ryan plan. many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle relished the fact that they've stood back and waited for house republicans to act responsibly to try to wrestle with these problems, to confront them, to tell the truth to the american people about the problem and then try their dead-level best to meet those
challenges and deal with those challenges as responsible adults. what did they get? they get a kick in the teeth, they get attack ads on tv. well, this will allow, under the house proposal, for us to fix medicare and to save it. and right now it's on the road to bankruptcy and oblivion, and for the reasons i've observed, and others, it will not work. well, there are some on our side of the aisle and on the other side who may have some problems with the details of the proposed house budget, but the responsible answer to that is, well, let's take up and pass a budget in the senate and give senators on the budget committee an opportunity to offer amendments that would improve it if they can and then to bring it to the senate floorand to do what we get -- floor and to do what we get paid for, which is to take on these hard problems, confront them, debate them and
then make the best decisions we can on behalf of the people we work for in our states and across the country. well, i think some elements of the house budget have an awful lot of appeal. in fact, we've seen, based on the experience in medicare part-d, that was the prescription drug plan that we passed earlier -- in the last decade, that by injecting some market forces and transparency, we can actually bring down prices and increase quality of services. in fact, the medicare prescription drug plan has come in 46% below what it was originally expected to cost. that's an example that we can learn from and we can begin to implement in trying to bring down costs and yet not ration access to care. and, indeed, the premium support model is advocated by many democrats and republicans and is
similar to how the federal government provides health insurance for federal employees, including members of congress. well, if it's good enough for congress, why isn't it good enough to consider for the rest of the american seniors? so do republicans want to change medicare as we know it? well, we want to save it. we want to fix it. we want it to be there as a promise that we can keep as opposed to a promise we cannot keep because on the a path to bankruptcy and oblivion. so our friends across the aisle say, no, trust me, trust us, we're from the government, we'll fix it. and the way they want to do it is from draconian cuts to doctors and hospitals that will limit people's access to health care. we believe that the -- that transparency and choice and
competition that worked in medicare advantage and the prescription drug program can work here as well. and you know what, mr. president? if people disagree with me, i respect their right to disagree with me. but why aren't we having a responsible debate here on the floor of the senate and voting on a budget as opposed to the irresponsible rhetoric and the attack ads and the campaign already begun for 2012? and i'm talking about from the white house to the congress. well, i think some of my colleagues firmly believe in their heart of hearts that they're listening to their political consultants and they say to win the next election is to scare the living daylights out of our seniors. well, i think that's irresponsible. people should resist the temptation to do that just in order to win an election to keep their job. indeed, i find myself in agreement with some of the comments made by president obama
himself last summer. he said, we're not going to do anything to be able -- excuse me, he said, "we're not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterized, whatever proposals are put out there as the other party is irresponsible, the other party is trying to hurt seniors, the other party is trying to do x, y and z." well, i agree with what president obama said but that's not what we're hearing across the aisle and in the airwaves of america. that was the president's message in 2010. it's obviously changed a lot since 2012, since he began his own personal attack on the only responsible budget proposal that's been made in april. and, unfortunately, i think it's a prematurely begun election campaign for 2012. it is an abdication of our responsibility to engage in this
sort of gotcha politics without trying to take on and confront the problems. i don't think it's responsible to try to scare seniors for political points but i don't think republicans should also allow ourselves to be merely punching bags and let the other side characterize our motives or the seriousness of the problem that our country faces. what we need, mr. president, is to resist the condemn station to engage in this -- resist the temptation to engage in this sort of gamesmanship and to try to do our dead-level best to fulfill our oath and to do our job as representatives of the american people. i think they would welcome that. but all we've seen so far with the attacks and the gotcha politics i think will do nothing but earn their despise and contempt and deservedly so. we can do better and we need to
try. i yield the floor. ms. klobuchar: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota is recognized the ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business for up to ten minutes. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i rise today to discuss the budg budget. i have long believed that we need to get serious about this debt, about this deficit. i was listening to my colleague across the aisle and i believe we have to be responsible in the way that we do it. that is why a year ago i was one of a handful of senators that fought for the creation of the fiscal debt commission. in fact, a number of us came together and said, we are going to get this debt commission or we won't vote for the debt ceiling increase. and as a result, while we couldn't get the statutory fiscal debt commission, we got the debt commission. i think a lot of people think it would just result in some report
that sat on a dusty shelf. but, in fact, it has been well-received. it is the blueprint for the group of senators who are negotiating a bipartisan plan for the budget. and like everyone, i don't agree with every single recommendation in that report but i have, in fact, supported the bipartisan effort and i think there is a lot of good things that report and a very strong way to reduce our debt in the long term. but this week, mr. president, we are scheduled to vote on the ryan budget. if it wasn't already crystal clear, this vote will show that a comprehensive solution to our fiscal challenges cannot be achieved by drawing ideological lines in the sand. when the ryan budget was first rolled out, some hailed it as courageous. but i have to ask how it can be called "courageous" when it protects the $4 billion a year we give to oil companies, fails to address some of the military, the defense spending that even secretary gates has said could
be cut? instead, the house passed its budget on the backs of the middle class and the seniors. now, in minnesota, we don't call that courageous. but before we get into the policy, it's worth to take a step back and look at the numbers. according to the congressional budget office, our debt is currently projected to reach 67% of gross domestic product in 2022. but under the ryan plan, that would actually reach -- debt would actually reach 70% of g.d.p. by 2022. so despite $4.3 trillion in das i can cuts, two-thirds of which would come on the backs of the middle clarks the plan barely reduces -- middle class, the plan barely reduces deficits at all over the next decade. despite the fact that the budget does not achieve what it sets out to accomplish in deficit reduction, leaders in the house continue to try to frame the debate in terms of numbers. that is because when you take their plan to the american people and you ask them, are these your priorities, are these your values?
the resounding answer is no. the american people want a reasonable, bipartisan plan that addresses our serious challenges. that house ryan budget is not the answer. when this -- what this debate boils down to is not where we need get but how we will get there. i believe we need to reduce this debt and i believe we can reduce that $4 trillion in the next ten years and i believe there's a much better way to do it than we see in the ryan budget. now, it may look like this plan to end medicare that they've passed in the house is reducing health care costs, but it only does so by ending medicare as we know it. this plan would gradually replace medicare with a system of vouchers that seniors could use to help buy private health insurance. this would put private companies in control of health benefits and cause seniors to pay more for their health care or get fewer benefits. because of the voucher, we'll fail to keep pace with increases
in the cost of health care, the congressional budget office estimates that seniors and the disabled would pay sharply more for their medicare coverage under the ryan plan, an average of $6,359 more in the first ye year, more than double the cost under current law. now, defenders of this plan say that it won't affect anyone who's over 55 and that medicare will be available for them. unfortunately, this isn't true. the ryan plan would repeal the part of the health care reform law that closes the medicare prescription drug doughnut hole. this is 9 gap in coverage, mr. president -- this is the gap in coverage, mr. president, where seniors have to pay all of the costs of their prescription drugs. currently that number is a little over $3,600. this would mean that seniors would have to pay much more out of pocket for their prescription drugs. in minnesota, that would cost our seniors $40 million in 2012 in additional drug costs alone. i believe that we must do all we can to rein in health care
costs. minnesota has always been a leader in providing low-cost, high-quality health care and i believe we can be an example of how we can reduce health care spending while still delivering excellent care to patients. for instance, if the spending per patient with chronic diseases everywhere in the country mirrored the efficient level of spending in the mayo clinic's home region of rochester, minnesota, medicare would have saved $50 billion over five years, mr. president. they would have saved $50 billion over five years by using the mayo model, some of the highest-quality care in the world. so, yes, there are ways we can better deliver health care. not only for less cost but also for better results. medicare must continue to institute further reforms, including the creation of accountable care organizations, reductions if there are high readmission rates, bundled payments, a focus on fraud. these reforms are meant to incentivize our doctors and hospitals to provide
high-quality efficient care. the radical changes to medicare that are proposed in the ryan budget are not solutions to our long-term debt. there is a way to get the country on a better fiscal path. one where you're not doing it on the backs of seniors. now, you would think if you were going to take such a drastic step as ending medicare as we know it, you would put most of your savings towards deficit reduction. instead, mr. president, the ryan budget uses its $4.3 trillion in savings for $4.2 trillion in tax breaks that disproportionately go to the wealthiest americans. instead of putting that money into deficit savings, it disproportionately puts the money in the pockets of the wealthiest americans. at the same time, the house budget is disproportionately targeting seniors and the middle class, it leaves the pentagon that makes 20% of the budget virtually untouched. defense secretary gates himself
has mapped out several smart cuts and alternatives we can make to the defense budget to save a net $78 billion over the next five years. in the spirit of shared sacrifice, i agreed that we should include commonsense cuts to defense spending to reduce the federal budget. those are just some of the ideas, mr. president. this basically comes down to value. look what we could save here. we could save $240 billion -- $240 billion -- simply by negotiating prescription drug costs under medicare part-d. $240 million over ten years. you could save $4 billion annually. that's $40 billion over ten years. by taking away the tax breaks of the oil companies. you can save $78 billion with the defense cuts i just discussed. you can bring the tax rates back to the clinton levels for people making over $1 million, even if you set it at $1 million, mr. president, you save $360
billion over ten years. that's real money. that's a budget that's based on values that protect the middle class. mr. president, when i talk to the people of my state, they want a plan that has shared sacrifice, that's reasonable, and that's bipartisan. they want a balanced and a reasonable approach. they want us to come together on a plan that will strengthen our country. i look forward to continuing to work across the aisle to make this happen. but, unfortunately, that is not what this ryan budget is about. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. baucus: mr. president, i ask consent to speak for five minutes as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. baucus: mr. president, i rise today to call for a change of course in afghanistan. on may 1, a targeted strike by u.s. forces achieved what began
in afghanistan a year ago. the death of osama bin laden by no means ends the threat of al qaeda or other terrorist groups, however bin laden's death provides an opportunity for the congress and the white house to possess a new strategy for keeping america safe and defending our interests around the world. today i'm calling for three changes to our strategy in afghanistan. first, we must begin handling the responsibility over to afghan forces and bring most of our troops home by the end of next year. second, we should focus on fighting terrorism, not nation building. and, third, our efforts to keep america safe from terrorism should stem where most terrorist threats come from: pakistan. the united states should not be doing the work that afghans should be doing for themselves. the afghans need to stand up and
take responsibility for the security of their own country. the president has announced that this july will mark the beginning of a transition of security responsibility to afghan forces. however, in my view, the transition plan is too slow. we need to begin handling the responsibility of security to afghan forces immediately and aim to have most u.s. combat troops out of afghanistan by the end of next year. we should leave behind only a small force necessary to hunt down and kill terrorists in afghanistan and help the afghan military perform their duties. we americans are fortunate to have the best military in the world. these brave men and women continue to do everything we ask of them. we have spent almost ten years fighting in iraq and afghanistan. many of our troops have spent multiple years deployed overseas. hiking over frigid mountains,
traversing hot desserts with heavy -- deserts. you don't hear these troops complain as americans continue to serve to fight and to die for a country we all love. seeing these troops in action during my visit to afghanistan last year was truly remarkable, very impressed. this unwavering commitment has come, however, at a great price. as of today 1,219 troops have been killed in afghanistan. 11,411 have been wounded. nine montanans have died and 50 montanans have been wounded fighting in afghanistan. these montanans hail from small towns like hungry horse, darby, shepherd and troy. behind each these fallen warriors are dozens of broken hearts and their families and communities.
thousands more will suffer their entire lives with post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries that have thus far gone undetected. these brave troops continue to fight because we ask them to and because they love their country. i receive letters from their families all the time, like this one from janice roberts from malt, montana. janice writes: our 27-year-old son is being sent on a third combat deploy mission to afghanistan. this is his second ordeal in less than a year. our son has not even recovered emotionally or mentally from the last two deployments. truthfully, the only people who care about what is happening to our young troops are the military families. end quote. this letter is a sacred reminder that we have a sacred obligation to our troops and their families. any mission we ask of them to
accomplish must be vital, absolutely vital to american national security. and it is time that we demand that the afghans shoulder more of the load. afghan police forces stand at 285,000. in 2010, the afghan national security forces grew by 70,000. we spent ten years training them. it is time for the afghans to do the job we've trained them to do. as we draw down in afghanistan, the afghans will have to step up. and as we withdraw, they'll have the task of governing their own country. the afghans will develop afghan solutions to afghan problems, and that is the way it needs to be. second, we need to invest more in killing terrorists and less on nation building. the thraeud killed bin laden -- the raid that killed bin laden relied on years of perseverance by intelligence officers, expensive surveillance technology and the best special
operations forces on earth. we need to continue to make investments in these capabilities to see that other terrorists face the same fate as bin laden. as we invest more in counterterrorism capabilities, we do so knowing full well that we are facing enormous challenges at home. the united states government's total debt exceeds $14 trillion. mr. president, i ask consent to proceed for another five minutes, and i will not ask for another extension. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. baucus: and i thank my good friend for being so helpful here. the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff mike mullen described the u.s. debt as the biggest national security threat, unquote. since september 11, 2001, we spent over $1.2 trillion in iraq and afghanistan. just think of that, $1.2 trillion. every month we spend $10 billion
in afghanistan. this is roughly one out of every seven dollars we spend on defense. this level of spending is simply not sustainable. we should focus on the core mission that has led us to afghanistan to begin with. that is keeping america safe from terrorism. finally and most important, our fight against global terrorism must begin with a focus on pakistan. in 2008, then-c.i.a. director michael hayden said -- quote -- "let me be very clear today. virtually every major terrorist threat that my agency is aware of has threads back to the tribal areas of pakistan." a state department report last summer reiterated this assessment and found al qaeda's core in pakistan remained the most formidable terrorist organization targeting the u.s. homeland. we have invested enormous sums to build an effective
partnership with pakistan to fight terrorism. since 2002, the united states has provided over $18 billion in foreign assistance to pakistan, the highest of any other country in 2009 except iraq and afghanistan. yet, it is no secret that pakistan plays a double game. in osama bin laden's hide outlocation raises serious questions. i recently called upon secretary of defense gates and secretary clinton to take a hard look at whether pakistan is doing enough to find and kill terrorists in its own country. i will not support providing funding to pakistan until i view this assessment. i'm gravely concerned about the commitment of pakistan's military intelligence service to go fighting terrorism. during a visit to pakistan last year i made it clear to president zardari and general kuyani that pakistan must do
more to eliminate safe havens within their own borders. without progress in pakistan, we cannot proceed in afghanistan. the sad irony is the large troop presence in afghanistan actually makes it hard tore press -- harder to press pakistan to crack down on terrorists. most of the food and ammunition for our troops in afghanistan are imported through pakistan as long as we rely on the port of karachi for our supplies we have little edge. to effectively defend our nation against terrorism, we need to begin withdrawing from afghanistan and focus more on pakistan. our military could do almost anything we ask it to do, but it can't do everything. to meet the growing challenges around the world, we need to start bringing our troops home from afghanistan this july and
complete the withdrawal by the end of next year. we need to work together to make the 21st century the american century and focus on jobs, improving education, rebuilding roads and bridges and making the american economy the best place to do business in the world. the death of osama bin laden marks a turning point in history. we must take advantage of this opportunity to chart a new course in afghanistan. i salute the brave men and women who made this day possible and continue to serve overseas. my thoughts are with the hundreds of montanans serving in the armed forces. may god bless america, and may he keep our brave troops safe. mr. president, i again thank my friend for yielding time. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senator from kentucky is recognized for an hour. mr. paul: i come to the floor
today to speak about the patriot act. i think it's a shame that we're not going to be debating or having any votes on this, particularly since it was promised by our leadership. i would like at this time to yield the floor to my good friend from -- the senator from new mexico if he'd like to make a few remarks. mr. udall: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new mexico. mr. udall: thank you, mr. president. let me just say to my colleague from kentucky, senator paul, i very much appreciate him yielding a little bit of time here. i'm looking forward to hearing some of his statements on the patriot act. i know that this is an issue that's close to his heart. i know -- i served with his father in the house, and i know he was very passionate on this issue. i know this is an issue that the senator from kentucky campaigned
on and has great passion about this and has brought this to the floor. and i very much appreciate that and would like to work with him on this. i can tell you, first of all, that when we call it the so-called -- and i put it in quotes and call it "so-called" patriot act, this is not a patriot act. patriots stand up for the constitution. patriots stand up for freedom and liberty that's embodied in the constitution. and i think true patriots, when they're public servants, public servants stand up and do what's right even if it's unpopular. and one of the things that i talked about a little bit earlier today was how the patriot act became law. i was over in the house of representatives serving with the
senator from kentucky's father and remember well what happened on 9/11, with the planes going into the twin towers up in new york and then shortly after a plane coming in to the pentagon down here in washington, and how we were all horrified at this incident and what had happened. and what transferred on this piece of legislation, this act, this bill that later became law, the so-called patriot act, is everybody became so concerned that they decided that we couldn't -- the institution, the congress, we couldn't debate it. we had to just pass a piece of legislation we hadn't even read. so we didn't have committee hearings. we didn't have all the people that normally would be brought in to the process, that understand the constitution. we didn't do any of that.
within a matter of weeks after 9/11, we brought a bill to the floor of the house of representatives without the normal preparation, and basically everybody was told we just need to pass this. i remember one senator, one representative at the time, wave a piece of paper and saying there's only one copy of this on the floor, and it's hot off the press. and he had a piece from the xerox machine that was still hot. and those were the circumstances in which we voted, and that's how we got the patriot act. so -- the so-called patriot act. what's happened since then? you would think -- and as senator bu baucus, my colleague here from montana, talked about the capture of osama bin laden. we've been into afghanistan.
we've displaced the taliban government. we've eliminated the training camps. we've de decimated al qaeda. we've captured bin laden. so we've done awful these things. but one thing we haven't done is come back and taken a hard look at the patriot act and say, is it working store not? and allow senators -- all of the senators here have the opportunity t to offer amendmen. i know the senator from kentucky has several amendments he would like to offer. i have an amendment that really focuses on what's happened here today and the last couple of days. we had an extension. we thought we were going to have debate. because of the gridlock and everything that goes on here, we got jammed up. my amendment would say, let's not extend this for four years, without open debate. it would say, let's take three months, do another extension,
and really focus on the idea that when that three months is up, we're going to be allowed the time to open this up, to have debate to have discussion, to have very knowledgeable individuals that serve on the judiciary committee -- i believe the presiding officer serves on the judiciary committee, others serve on the judiciary committee that have the expertise -- have all of that expertise, have it come to the floor. i'm on the amendment with senator leahy, which is a very, good, solid amendment that has to do with various aspects, and i would hope we could get that to the floor. so we all have amendments, but we're jammed up in this process now, and the amendment that i would propose is that rather than four years, for three months what we do is organize ourselves, so that we can come back, we can have the debate, we can have an open amendment process, and then -- then move
on. to whatever we move on to. but at least the senate has worked its will. i mean, we are told over and over again -- and i've always learned that in my civic class -- that the senate is the greatest deliberative towed. we have not focused that deliberation on one of the most important things in our society, and that is our liberty and our freedom that's enshrined in the constitution. i find it a little bit ironic in a way that the contrast we have today -- in the middle east we have many of these countries where the people of those countries are striving for more freedom, strike for more democracy, and we're supporting that effort.
president obama, many members of the senate, many members of congress are saying we think this is a good idea, that there's more -- three there's a striving for more freedom. but higher on the floor of the united states senate -- but here on the floor of the united states senate, we aren't willing to analyze what this so-called patriot act has done to our freedom here in the united states of america. now, let me just mention a couple of things that i think are -- this isn't just my view. there's an independent view as to why the patriot act needs to be examined, why the patriot act needs this open debate, needs deliberation. in march of 2007, the justice department inspector general came out and took a look at how the patriot act process, the national security letters -- as the senator from kentucky knows,
a national security letter doesn't have court supervision. the f.b.i. can issue a national security letter, an official in the f.b.i., without that kind of supervision. and the inspector general concluded that there was abuse, that there was some serious abuse within the department of justice as to how the f.b.i. and other officials were using national security letters. and i put that information in the record earlier this morning. but it highlights serious, serious problems from an inspector general. we haven't looked at that. we haven't debated that. we haven't allowed amendments on that national security letter, and i know the senator from kentucky, i think, has one on that that he's going to be talking about in a little bit. secondly, an independent brafnlg our government, the -- an independent branch of our government, the courts have
looked at the patriot act. and several courts have found provisions of the patriot act unconstitutional in terms of the fourth amendment, in terms of the first amendment, and many of those decisions are working their ways -- working their way up through the courts. it's only prudent that we as the united states senate take a look at those rulings, analyze what the courts are saying and then come back to this so-called patriot act and see if we need to make changes based on what the courts have told us. we have those rulings. we haven't taken a look at them. so we are at a point where we need deliberation. i very much appreciate the senator from kentucky speaking out on this issue. i would just conclude today and yield back to him that benjamin franklin used to say when it was
about -- he used to talk about our freedom and liberty that was in the constitution, and i'm paraphrasing here, but he would say, those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither. very powerful statement by one of the founders of our democracy. and so, with that, i thank the senator from kentucky for yielding me some time, and i look forward to hearing his comments on the floor and look forward to working with him so that we can get an open deliberative process here that will really serve america and move us towards the deliberative process, i think that we all want. i would yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from kentucky has the floor. mr. paul: i thank the senator from new mexico for his comments. i think what this shows is that it is a bipartisan effort that says that we should protect our constitution. those on the left and those on
the right who believe in the constitution think that it should be protected. it brings some of us together who may not necessarily agree on all other issues, but when this comes to the constitution, when it comes to the basic bill of rights, that we are concerned, both on the right and left, on the democrat and the republican side. the problem is those of us who are concerned with the constitution are in the minority of both sides. so we are being quieted down, we're being told to sit could i etly -- we're being told to sit quietly in the back of the room and don't make waves. we want to have a debate about the patriot act because we're concerned about our liberties. we're all concerned about terrorism, too, but we don't think you have to give up your liberties in order to combat terrorism. on february 15, we extended the patriot act for 90 days. during that period of time and on the senate floor on february 15, we were promised a week of
debate, and we were promised an open amendment process. we are now amidst a process where we will have no debate and no amendments. do we fear terrorism so much that we will not have debate? do we fear terrorism so much that we'd throw out our constitution and are unwilling and afraid to debate our constitution? i think that's a sad day, that we can't come down -- are senators afraid to vote on the issues of the day? afraid to debate the constitution? afraid to have an open forum and debate whether or not the patriot act is constitutional? i think this does a great disservice to the voters. they talk about this being the world's most deliberative body. we're unwilling to deliberate. we're unwilling to have questions and have quells broached as -- and have questions broached as to whether or not the patriot act is unconstitutional. we have been in session 990
since then -- we have had 99 days since stweendzed it, and we've had 56 votes. what does that mean in the context of things? we are setting a record for the least amount of votes ever to occur in the senate. there are some important questions we should be debating, but unless it is a foregone cliewrks unless they've counted the votes and decided the outcome before we have the debate, we're precluded from debating. wendell philips, the great abolitionist wrote "efernal vigilance is the price of liberty." the patriot act is a perfect example of how a lack of vigilance needs to loss of liberty. in the aftermath of 9/11, we amended the constitution with the patriot act. and you say, whoa! we didn't have an amendment to the constitution, did we? well, we didn't do it the way we're professed to. but we did in reality amend the constitution with the patriot act.
how did this happen? we were fearful, 9/11 had happened, and we wanted to stop terrorism. all of us want that. but do we have to give up our constitutional liberties in order to do that? how did the patriot act change -- how did the patriot act change -- how did the patriot act change the constitution? how did the patriot act change the fourth amendment? well, we have in the fourth amendment it says that the right of the people are to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated and no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place and the persons to be seized. well, the patriot act changed this. the patriot act changed the standard from probable cause, which is a long-standing tradition and a standard within
courts, which limits the police from coming into your house unless there's probably cause you've either committed a crime or are in the act of committing a crime. we changed this to a standard that we now call relevance. but that's change the constitution. how do you change the constitution by majority vote? it's supposed to be a supermajority in both bodies. then it's supposed to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. its eatit's supposed to be difficult to change the constitution, difficult to amend the constitution. why? because we thought some of these rights were so important that we should not allow a majority to change them. those of us who own guns and believe in gun ownership think that the second amendment is protected from a simple majority taking away the second amendment. likewise, the first amendment, those of us who prize the ability of the press to print and to respond and to hold
beliefs, however unpopular, those of us who wish to have a country in which religion is not hampered and we can say what we believe and not have it hampered by the government, we don't believe that a majority should take away these rights. but a majority did take away part of the fourth amendment, because we changed the standard of the fourth amendment from "probable cause" to "relevance." so if they want to look at your records, they just have to a that it is relevant. they don't have to say that you are a trivment they don't have to say that you are a foreigner. they zoo have to say you are conspiring with anyone. they just have to say they've got some interest in your library records. now, how often is this going on? there's something called "suspicious activity reports." some of this was reported before the patriot act. much of it was emboldened by the patriot act. this is where your bank spies on you. you neigh not know this is happening. you may not even know if they've
spied on you and they probably won't tell you. but if you made a transaction that occurs -- involves more than $5,000, you could well have been spied on by your bank and reported to the government. some people say, wcialtion i'm not doing anything wrong. i don't care if they look at my record. if you look at my visa bill, you can tell what doctors i go to. if i see a psychiatrist and i don't everybody to know it, that may be on my visa bill. what magazines i veed on my visa. what books i order on the internet, whether i drink alcohol, whj i gamble. there is a lot about your life that is involved in your financial records and i think they do deserve protection and that we do deserve a standard where we don't just say, well it might be relevant. or we might just want to troll through all these records to see if anybody might be commit ag ca crime. the suspicious activity reports
do not begin with the government asking mi questions. they tell your bank to watch you. your bank is to watch you and to watch all of your transactions and to report to the government. so they have force. maybe they're only reporting terrorists, you say. since 2001, since 9/11, 8 million suspicious activity reports -- 8 million -- have been filed. over a million of these are filed in a year. the thing is you could well ask for a freedom of information inquiry and ask whether or not you have been investigated by your government for your transactions. my point is that this is an invasion of your privacy. it doesn't have any judicial restraint upon it. and the other thing is that it may not even be good for finding terrorists. it may be that they're getting so much information that they can't even read or listen to all the information. and it's kind of like what they are doing to you at the airports. because they insist that
everybody be searched and everybody be patted down, we're patting down 6-year-olds. a little girl in my town, her dad is a physician and practiced with me at my same practice. was patted down with them putting their hands inside her pants. this is absurd, 6-year-old girls. the thing is is that by doing that, they are wasting time on people who will not be attacking us and spending less time on people who might be attacking us. the same with your banking records. if they're looking at your banking records, they're not having time to spend looking at the records of people who would possibly be attacking us. eight million records have been looked at. no judge's order, no judicial review. this one isn't even reviewed by anybody in government. they are giving carte blanche this power to banks and they're telling the banks if you do not spy on your customer, you will be fined. they estimate that $7 billion a year is spent by banks complying
with this order to spy on their customers. the thing is is we're having trouble in our economy, the banks are struggling, the economy is struggling, we're having trouble with our jobs, and yet we're going to add $7 billion of cost to the banks to spy on their customers. now, might there be an occasion that a bank transfer or a bank activity could be a terrorist activity? yes, and if we're investigating those, let's ask for a warrant. you say that will be too slow, we'll never get it. guess what? warrants are almost never denied. there is a special court set up for the investigation of intelligence. it's called the fisa court. it's been around since the 1970's. before the patriot act, the fisa court never turned down a warrant. and you say well, these people are awful, we just have to get them on the street. it doesn't matter, i don't want any restraint, i just want it done. unfortunately, that's been the attitude of the majority of the people up here and a majority of americans after 9/11.
people were so frightened, they said do anything, i don't care. the problem with that attitude is even if you want to argue that it hasn't been abused yet, what happens when people are elected to your government who decide they don't like your religion or you believe in a certain kind of marriage and you want to say this but they want to investigate you. now there is no step to stop that. there is no step to say well, your church believes in this unorthodox belief or this belief that we don't call politically correct or it's no longer acceptable but we want to investigate the banking records of the church and see if we can take away their i.r.s. number or their tax exemption. if you don't have any restraint to these activities, someday we will get a government who has no restraint and then goes forward to say we want to get that church shut down because that church is saying something we disagree with, or these people are reading these books that we don't like. this goes across the party aisle. you look at people -- the library association is concerned
with this also, that people's books are being looked at. think about it. do you want the government to know what books you read? do you want to be on a list, a watch list because of the books you read? now, they say oh, there are provisions, we made provisions that that won't happen. the only way you have a real provision or protection is if you have procedural steps, procedural steps that say someone must review this before it happens. if we have someone who we really think is terrible and they need to be off the streets, if they are someone accused of rape, accused of murder, accused of robbery, accused of the most heinous crimes we can think of and it's 2:00 in the morning, we call a judge and we get a warrant. it's almost never turned down, but it is one step removed from the police breaking down every door they suspect and not having any kind of discussion with someone who has a level head who is not part of the investigation.
now, many up here will say we're in grave danger. if the patriot act expires, all things could happen, terrorism could break loose. what they're arguing, though, is they're arguing that there is a scenario where we wouldn't get warrants to invest in terrorism. that never existed. before the patriot act, we were not turning down these warrants. some have argued that massawi -- massawi was the 19th hijacker. he was captured months in advance of 9/11. many have said if we had only had the patriot act, we would have gotten him. that's untrue. there is a provision called the lone wolf provision in the patriot act, but we didn't get massawi because we didn't do our job. we didn't communicate well. the superiors to the officers in the f.b.i. and the agents in the field did not even ask for a warrant. they turned down the request for a warrant without even asking the fisa court for it. so we have the 19th hijacker a
month in advance, we have his computer. when we do look at his computer on 9/12, we link very quickly within a matter of hours to all the other hijackers. now, it's easy in hindsight to say we could have stopped 9/11, but to tell you the truth, we have to look at the rules and say could we possibly have gotten that information? the answer is yes. the f.b.i. agent in minnesota wrote 70 letters, 70 letters to his superiors. the f.b.i. was told that moussaoui was possibly an agent of terrorism, the french government confirmed it. that was all we needed with that information. had we gone to the fisa court, they would have gotten a warrant. when the 9/11 report came out, they acknowledged as much. moussaoui's warrant in all likelihood would have been turned down and there was a possibility we might have stopped it. the suspicious activity reports are particularly galling because they are businesses who are forced to spy on their citizens. there is another form of spying that goes on as well, and these
are called national security letters. these are like warrants. they go after your banking records, like the suspicious activity reports, but they are a little more targeted in the sense that the government asks for an n.s.l., but it's not a judge that asks for an n.s.l. the person who asks for an n.s.l. is an f.b.i. agent, essentially a type of a police or law enforcement agent. the danger here is we have removed the step where the police officer or the f.b.i. agent would then ask for permission from a judge. that's my problem with these national security letters. and some would say oh, we're not doing that many of them. well, initially we weren't. now we have done over 200,000 national security letters. one of my reforms if it were to take place would be to ask judges to review these. i see no reason why they shouldn't review them. now, some have said well, you have no expectation of privacy.
the courts have already ruled that you have no expectation of privacy in your papers or electronic records. this is the way it's been interpreted, but i think it's been misinterpreted. i think it's been interpret thad your banking records do not deserve privacy when they are not in your house, and i think that's an incorrect interpretation of the fourth amendment. the fourth amendment -- the fourth amendment says that in your papers, you are to be protected. it doesn't specify whether those papers are in your possession or in someone else's. at this time, i'd like to yield the floor to my good friend from south carolina. mr. demint: thank you, senator paul. i just came down to the floor to thank you for bringing up a number of issues of concern and being willing to stand down here and tell america what those concerns are. i also respect your demanding the opportunity for debate and for amendments of such an important bill.
it's extraordinary, particularly after the majority leader had promised in february that the patriot act renewal would get a week of debate, with the chance to offer amendments, and after a couple of weeks of doing absolutely nothing here on the senate floor, that senator paul and others were denied the opportunity to offer amendments that would have brought up legitimate debates about the patriot act. there are a number of things a lot of us would have liked to have learned more about. we heard some of the arguments that we have heard from senator paul here today, but unfortunately that's been limited to a relatively small amount of time, and it's frankly stunning to me that the majority is actually willing to let the patriot act expire rather than give senator paul a few amendments. that's an extraordinary situation for a senate that considers itself the world's greatest deliberative body, when
one of the most important pieces of legislation that we could consider is jammed up against a break with no opportunity for amendment. so senator paul, i don't want to interrupt your flow here because i think a lot of the things that you're talking about are important that we consider, but unfortunately they won't be considered. it doesn't sound like your debates will be allowed. and for the amendments to be considered. and it sounds like what they are going to try to do is blame you for us voting late or early, but i want to commend you for standing for just good judgment and common sense that something of this importance, whether we agree or disagree with all the amendments, is not the point. it's too important to be handled this way. so, senator, i will allow you to continue and yield back, but thank you for what you're doing. mr. paul: will you yield for a question? mr. demint: yes, i will. mr. paul: not only are we not
debating the patriot act, do you think we have given sufficient floor time for proposals and amendments as to how to deal with the debt problem? mr. demint: i think you know the answer to that. some of us have reserved some time between 2:30 and 3:30 for some give and take and some debate here on the floor about the budget amendments that are going to be -- the budget votes that will be this afternoon, but that time was canceled by the majority. we have an impending debt that everyone in the world except for those inside this body here seem to understand. we are in trouble as a country. the majority has not produced a budget. over 700 days, i think it is. and at the same time, we're trying to negotiate how we'll move forward on this huge important point of raising the debt ceiling, which none of us want to do. we're avoiding the subject of balancing the budget. the majority leader has said these kinds of issues are off
the table. and so it is very frustrating that whether it's the debt ceiling, whether it's the patriot act in our homeland security, that we're spending weeks doing nothing, bringing up in some cases controversial judges with -- that should not have been nominated in the first place. others are spending day after day of floor time and not bringing up important issues. but we're all concerned here. i know america's concerned. and again, senator, thank you very much just for your willingness to bring out the point that we have something here that's very important to our security, to the privacy of every american, that needs to be vetted and debated and amendments need to be offered. yet, this has been denied after a promise. so i'll certainly encourage you to continue and thank you for your courage. mr. paul: you know, one other question is we won't all agree necessarily on the patriot act, but the thing is is that even
for those who feel it's important that it not expire, why will they not consent to some debate? and i have asked for three amendments, three votes. we could do them in the next hour, we could debate and we could have this done and there would be no expiration of the patriot act for those who think it expiring is a problem. mr. demint: senator, as you know, you had, i think, 11 amendments that you would have liked to have had considered. you were willing to compress the time so we could do that expeditiously. they wouldn't agree to that. you were willing to compromise for three amendments. it doesn't sound like they want you to offer those amendments because, frankly, they don't want to take a vote on -- on some of them that may expose what they really believe. so -- and it's a frustrating situation for you. they -- as our majority friends over here like to do, they caused the problem and try to blame it on us. but as you said, within a few hours, this could be decided and over. we could pass the patriot act. folks could vote for or against
the way they want. we could send it to the house and it could be done. but it does appear the majority is willing to let this important legislation lapse just to keep you from offering a few amendments. that's an extraordinary situation. so again, thank you for yielding, and i appreciate your -- your getting this debate out on the floor. mr. paul: thank you. i don't quite grasp why we are so fearful of debate and fearful of votes that they are willing to let the patriot act expire in order just to prevent debate and prevent votes. the sticking point turns out to be an amendment basically on preventing gun records from being sifted through under the patriot act. now, people say well, what if someone, a terrorist, is selling guns illegally, couldn't we get them? yeah, you could get them the way we get everybody else. ask the judges for a warrant. judges routinely do not turn down warrants. it has worked for us for 225 years until the patriot act that we had a process. the fourth amendment protected us from an overzealous
government, but it also worked to catch criminals. at this time, i'd like to yield the floor to -- temporarily to my good friend from utah. mr. lee: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: i thank the distinguished senator from kentucky for standing up for the fourth amendment principles that he's articulated today. this is an important issue to all americans. americans want to make sure that we can identify and apprehend those people who would harm us. and at the same time americans are firmly committed to the idea of constitutionally limited government. the concept that regardless of how passionately we might feel about the need for certain government intervention, we can't ever allow government to be operating completely unfettered. we have liberty in place whenever government is controlled by the people, and whenever there are certain things that are beyond the reach of the government. now, senator paul has helped
identify some key areas of concern that have been implicated by the patriot act. and he has suggested that we ought to, at a minimum have, a robust debate and discussion over some amendments that might be proposed to the patriot act before we proceed. three months ago we had a discussion, we had a voargts and there were a view of us who voted against the patriot act. we voted against it because we love america, because we believe in constitutional limited government, because we want to make it better, we want to make this something that can, at the same time, protect americans but without needlessly trampling on price of interests, including many of those privacy interests protected by the fourth amendment. bad things happen when we adopt a law without adequately discussing its merits. now, years ago when i patriot act was adopted, there were a number of people who raised some of these privacy concerns.
for that and other reasons, congress made the decision way back then, almost ten years ago to adopt the patriot act and adopt certain provisions of it, subject to some sunsetting provisions. so congress would periodically be required to debate and discuss these provisions. it does us no good if every time it comes up we're told you have to vote for it or against it, we can't really debate and discuss it, we can't really consider amendments to t we were told three months ago that in may, toward the end of may $and we're now here -- we'd have an opportunity to debate, discuss, and consider amendments. that opportunity has now been taken away from us, and with it the chance to address some of these important privacy implications, many of which do implicate the fourth amendment in one way or another. senator paul has referred to some of them, including some of the implications of a national security letter, which while not directly implicated by the expiring provisions at issue right now are inextricably
intertwined with other issues in front of you including those relaterelated to section 215 iss and including the roving wiretap issue, itself up for reauthorization. i speak in support of the idea of robust debate and discussion, especially whereas here it relates to something that is so important in the american concept of limited government, so closely related to our fourth amendment interests, we ought to have robust debate, discussion, and opportunity for amendment. and i thank senator paul for his leadership in this regard. thank you. mr. paul: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kentucky. mr. paul: when we look at this date and we talk about exactly where we should go from here and why it's important, it's important to look at patriot act and say to ourselves, how do we protect our constitutional if we're not willing to protect all
parts of it? you know, so many conservatives are avid for the second amendment. i'm one of them. i want to protect the second amendment. but i tell those who want to protect the second amendment, that you can't protect the second amendment if you don't believe in the first amendment. if you don't believe in the first amendment, you really can't have that voice that it'll take. if you want to place limitations on groups who advocate gun ownership. you can't protect the second amendment if you don't believe in the fourths amendment. there is no reason why we should allow a government to lock at our gun records and to troll through all of these, if you thing someone is a terrorist, name that person, name the place and show me probable cause. do we want to allow government to troll through our records? the government has looked at 28 million electronic records -- 28 million. they're just sifting through all of our records looking for things.
i want them to catch terrorists, but i want them to use some ability to look at the constitution and use some restraint to say this person is a terrorist or we suspect him to be so for this reason. we need not be so frightened that we give up our liberty in exchange for security. now, some would say, oh, our government is full of good people. and i have not done anything wrong. i don't have to worry about it. you're not worried about good government. you're worried about bad government. jefferson said once upon a fiernlings all men were angels, we'd have no concern for having constitutional restraint. but there have been times in our history and in the history of other countries where unsavory characters where despotic characters have won elections. when hitler was first elected in 1928 -- in the 1920's and early 1930's, he was elected popularly. but the thing is that they were so mad and upset over world war i that they basically traded.
they said, we want a strong leader, give us a strong leader. but the thing is, if you have rules that allow that strong leader to grab yo up and do thi, that's your real danger. at a minimum now, your danger is at a -- it is a great danger to us if we allow this to go on if we get a despotic government at some point in time. you're not worried about good people in government. you're worried about people who might be elected, who would abuse these powers. it's happened. look at what happened during certain administrations where people looked at i.r.s. records of enemies. look at what's happening now where the executive branch is looking at donor records for those who do business with government. if you are a crertdz and do you business -- if you are a contractor and you do business with government, they want to know how do business with. it doesn't mean that we don't want to stop crime or stop terrorism, it means that we need to have a rule of law.
and that we need to pay attention to the rule of law. we propose several amendments. one of them went through the judiciary committee, was deliberated on, was amended, was passed with bipartisan support p, but we won't get a vote on it. you know, it disappears me that they are a-- it disappoints me that they are aprovided to debate this on the floor. we offered three amendments to the patriot act, one was on the gun records. that apparently unhinged people who were afraid of voting on any gun issues. and because of that, we're all going to be denied any debate and votes. and some will say, oh, you're going to keep your colleagues here until 1:00 in the morning. i think when they're here tonight at 1:00 in the morning, maybe they'll think a little bit about why they're here and why we had no debate and why we had
power to have the debate at any point in tievment i have said we can have a vote on the patriot act in an hour or two hours. we could have had a vote on the patriot act yesterday, but i want debate and i want amendments. i think that's the very least that the american people demand and that this body demand, that there be open and deliberate debate about the patriot act. one of our other amendments has to do with destroying records. some of these records they take from you through the bank spying on you or the government spying own. they're not destroyed. and i think these records should be at some point in time. for goodness sakes, why are they keeping these records? there ought to be rules on the destruction of these records if you are not a terrorist and they aren't going to prosecute you. the fourths amendment says you should name the place and the person. we have one wiretap that's called the john doe. they're not naming the place or
the pen. i think they should. are there times when we might want a to say we don't want to naiment sphearn. we could name them to the fisa commission. i do not object to them being named and the name being redacted. the name should be presented to the judge who is making the decision. and i want a judges to make the decision. james otis, part of our revolution for the 20 years leading up to the american revolution, was debate about warrants. they issued what were called writs of assistance. they're also geneva warrants. they withstand -- they're also called general warrants. they didn't tell you what crime you were accused of. the soldiers came into your houses and they would enter without warrants. the fourth amendment was a big deal. we passed the fourth amendment and it was one of the -- it was one of the primary grieve annals of our founding fathers. i don't think we should give up so easily. i don't think we should be
cowered by feared and so fearful of attack that we give up our lishts. if we do we become more different than the rest of the countries that have no liberties. our liberties are what make us essentially different from other countries. the fact that we protect the rights, even of those accused of a crime, people say, well, gorks a murderer will get a trial. yes, they'll get a trial because we don't know they are a murderer until we convict them. we want procedural restraints. people say, you give procedural restraints for terrorists? i would give it the very least that a judge has to give permission before we get records. the main reason is because we're not asking for ten records or 20 records or 40 records of people connected to terrorism. we're asking for millions of records. there are people in this room today who have had their records looked at t it is difficult to find out because what happens -- here's the real rub. this is how fearful they were. when the pay cut paiblght was --
when the patriot act was passed short a-9/11, they were so fearful, because they said, if a letter asked for records, you're not allowed to tell your attorney. you were gagged. if you told your attorney, they could put you in jail for five years. it is still a crime, punishable by five years in jail, if i have an internet service and they want my records on somebody. they don't tell me or a judge. we have no idea. there's no probable cause. this person might be relevant, which could mean anything, however tangential. if i don't reveal those records, i go jail. if i tell my wife that they are asking for my records, i could go to jail. this secrecy on millions of records, this trolling through millions of records is un-american. it is unconstitutional. they have modified the constitution through statutory
law. we have given up our rights. this body -- it should be two-thirds of the body voting to change the constitution, and three-fowrnls. states and we did it by 50% with one bill. the bill was hot when it came down here. there was one copy of it. no one read it. i came from the tea party and i had said, we must read the bills. i propose that we wait one day for every 20 pages so we're ensured that they're reading the bills. the patriot act was hundreds of pages long and nobody read t not one person read it because it wasn't even hardly printed. there were pencileddette edits in the margin and it was passed because we were afraid. but we can't be so atrade that we give up our liberties. i think it is a sad day today in america that we're afraid to debated this. that great constitutional questions like this or great constitutional questions like whether or not we can go to war with just the word of the
president, these great constitutional questions, are not being debated because we're so fearful of debate. i urge the senate to reconsider. i urge the senate to consider debating the patriot act to consider amendments, and to consider the constitution. thank you, i yield back. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate will proceed to a period of morning business for debate only until 5:00 p.m. with the time equally divided between the two leaders or their designees. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. mr. conrad: i ask consent that following my remarks for up to -- i'm being asked to withhold for just aempt moment. while i'm whoalgd on that i'd ask unanimous consent that emily eilman be granted the privileges of the floor for the duration of today and tomorrow's sessions. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. rad raid thank the chair.
mr. president, we're going to begin -- we'll go back to those unanimous consent request agreements momentarily. the budget circumstance that we confront as a nation is clear. we are on a completely unsustainable course. mr. president, the occupant of the chair knows this well, as a very valued member of the budget committee. we are currently borrowing 40 cents of every dollar that we spend. that obviously cannot continue. now, the other side has criticized those of us on our side for not going to a budget markup. the reason we have not is this is not the typical year in which the republicans put up a budget resolution in the body they control. we put up a budget resolution. we go to conference committee to work out the differences. something very different is occurring this year.
there is a leadership negotiation with the highest leaders of the republican party in the house and the senate, the highest leaders of the democratic party in the house and the senate meeting with the vice president of the united states on a plan. to put in place a ten-year effort or perhaps a five-year plan to deal with the deficit and debt. in fact, the republican leader has made this observation. the discussions that can lead to a result between now and august are the talks being led by vice president biden. that's a process that could lead to a result, a measurable result in the short term. and in that meeting is the only democrat who can sign a bill into law; in fact, the only american out of 307 million of us who can sign a bill into law, he is in those discussions. that will lead to a result.
mr. president, it makes no sense for us to go to a budget markup at this moment. it would simply be a partisan markup, when bipartisan efforts are underway. mr. president, last year for eight months i participated in the president's fiscal commission; ten democrats, eight republicans. at the end of that emerged the only bipartisan plan that's come from anywhere so far. five democrats supported it. five republicans supported it. one independent. 11 of the 18 commissioners voted for that plan to get our deficits and debt under control. we have underway this new effort, the leadership effort with the president represented at the table. we ought to give that a chance before we pass a budget resolution that may be required to implement any plan that they can come up with. mr. president, the hard reality of what we confront is simply
this. this shows the spending and revenues of the united states going back to 1950, more than 60 years of the revenue and expenditure history of the united states. the red line is the spending line. the green line is the revenue line. mr. president, what jumps out at you is spending as a share of our national income is the highest it has been in 60 years. on the other hand, revenue is the lowest it has been in 60 years as a share of national income. so, mr. president, that's the reason we have record deficits. i hear all the time on the other side of the aisle, it's a spending problem. mr. president, when you have a deficit, that is the result of the difference between revenue and spending. we have a spending problem, yes,
indeed, highest spending as a share of national income in 60 years. we also have a revenue problem, the lowest revenue we have had as a share of national income in 60 years. and so, now the house has sent us a plan, a republican budget plan, and the first thing they do is cut the revenue some more. revenue is the lowest it has been in 60 years, and the first thing they do to address the deficit is cut the revenue some more. in fact, they cut over the next ten years another more than $4 trillion in revenue. for those who are the wealthiest among us, they give them an additional $1 trillion in tax reductions by extending the top rate cuts by extending a $5
million exemption by cutting the top rate down to 25% from the 35% it is today. they are giving massive new tax cuts to the wealthiest among us. mr. president, their average revenue during the ten kwraours of their plan is -- ten years of their plan is 18.3%. you can see the last five times the budget has been balanced here, revenues have been around 20%. 19.7%, 19.9%, 19.8%, 20.6%, 20.5%. the revenue plan that they have would never have balanced the budget in the last 30 years. mr. president, if we look at what's happened on the revenue side of the equation, here's what's happened to the effective tax rate for the 400 wealthiest taxpayers in the united states. since 1995, when the effective tax rate on the wealthiest 400 was about 30%, that effective
rate today is 16.6%. warren buffet has said that his executive assistant pays a higher tax rate than he does. how can that be? well, the reason that happens is because mr. buffet has most of his income from dividends and capital gains taxed at a rate of 15%. his executive assistant is probably taxed at a rate somewhere in the 20% or 25% rate. so, mr. president, we have a circumstance in which we've got the lowest revenue in 60 years, the house republicans have sent us a budget that says let's cut it some more. let's cut it another $4 trillion and let's give $1 trillion of that to the wealthiest among us. mr. president, if you look at what our friends are proposing, when we have the largest deficits since world war ii, they are proposing to give those
who earn over $1 million a year a tax cut on average in 2013 of almost $200,000. for those earning over $10 million, they would give them on average a tax cut of $1,450,000; this at a time we have record deficits. what sense does this make? it makes no sense. and so, what are they doing to offset these massive new tax cuts for the wealthiest among us? they've decided the answer is to shred the social safety net that has been created in this country over the last 60 years. they have decided to shred medicare. shred it. they have decideed to shred program after program so that
they can give more tax cuts to those who are the wealthiest among us. mr. president, here is what a top former president reagan advisor said when he looked at the house budget proposal. remember, this is not a democrat. this is a top former reagan economic advisor. this is what he said. his name is bruce bartlett. he said in his blog about the proposal from the house republicans on the budget: distributionally, the ryan plan is a monstrosity. the rich would receive huge tax cuts while the social safety net would be shredded to pay for them. even as an opening bid to begin budget negotiations with the democrats, the ryan plan cannot be taken seriously. it is less of a wish list than a fairy tale, utterly disconnected from the real world, backed up
by make-believe numbers and unreasonable assumptions. ryan's plan isn't even an act of courage. it's just pandering to the tea party. a real act of courage would have been for him to admit, as all serious budget analysts know, that revenues will have to rise well above 19% of g.d.p. to stabilize the debt. mr. president, let's just go back to that chart that makes the point that mr. bartlett is making, that the five times the budget has been balanced around here in the last 30 years, the last 40 years -- 1969, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001. by the way, those last four all during the clinton administration. you can see what the revenue has been, nearly 20% of g.d.p. in every one of those years. revenue today is 14.5% of g.d.p.
it's no wonder we've got a problem with deficits. you combine the high spending that we have now with the low revenue, you have record deficits. mr. president, because our friends on the other side have decided that the first thing you do when you have record deficits and the lowest revenue in 60 years, they've decided the first thing you do is go out and give more tax breaks to the wealthiest among us. here's what they have to do to health care in the united states. number one, end medicare as we know it. replace it with a voucher system. they would reopen the prescription drug doughnut hole that means seniors have to pay more of their prescription drug costs. they would block grant medicaid that ends the countercyclical nature of the program. knelled tkwupbd -- they would defund health reform increasing the number of uninsured by 34
million people. 34 million more americans would not have health insurance if the plan that is before us would pass. mr. president, when i say they are ending medicare as we know it, here's why i say that. right now traditional medicare, the individual pays about 25% of the cost. the rest is paid by medicare. but look what the house republican plan would do. it would dramatically increase the health care spending by seniors. instead of paying 25% of the bill, seniors would be expected to pay 68% of their health care costs. that is what the republican plan is about. very generous additional tax breaks to the wealthiest among us, for those earning more than $10 million a year, they would give on average $1,450,000 tax
reduction. and to make up for it, they would say to seniors instead of paying 25% of your health care costs under medicare, you pay 68%. what would that mean in dollar terms? mr. president, seniors would go from paying $6,150 a year to $12,500 a year. that is the republican plan that is before us. that is the budget plan that we are going to vote on later this evening. mr. president, anybody that can't see, that is a shredding of medicare, that is a shredding of the social safety net just isn't looking very closely. mr. president, the former republican speaker called the house republican medicare proposal right-wing social engineering. those are not my words. those are his words. here's the interview.
on "meet the press" on may 15, mr. gregory, the host, asked this: "do you think the republicans ought to buck the public opposition and really move forward to completely change medicare, turn it into a voucher program?" mr. gingrich's answer: "i don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. i don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate." mr. president, this budget that is before us is not just radical with respect to what it does to medicare, what it does to the revenue of the united states. you look at every part of this budget. there are no savings in defense after we have had this massive defense build-up, from 1997 to then, you can see spending on
defense has gone from $254 billion a year to $688 billion a year. now, even the house budget committee chairman, mr. ryan, who is the architect of this plan, has said -- quote -- "there are a lot of savings you can get in defense. there's a lot of waste over there for sure." that's what he said about defense spending. here's what he did about it. he increased it dramatically. from $529 billion -- this is just the underplying defense budget. -- underplying defense budget. this doesn't count the war funding. he increased the regular budget from $529 billion in 2011 to $667 billion by 2021. he did not cut one thin dime, after saying there's lots of
waste there, lots of places for savings, after the secretary of defense himself has said they've got to restrain spending, after the secretary of defense himself has proposed $178 billion of savings, the budget before us doesn't save one dime out of defense. instead, increases it dramatically. from $529 billion to $667 billion; and that does not count war funding. war funding would be on top of it. mr. president, this budget before us, republican budget from the house, also takes some of the fundamentals of making our country strong and cuts them dramatically. education is number one. i was raised by my grandparents. my grandmother was a schoolteacher. she used to say in our household, there are three priorities. number one is education. number two is education.
number three is education. -l and we got the message. let me just read what two of the country's foremost economists have said about the importance of education to the u.s. economy. "an educated population is a key source of economic growth. broad access to education was by and large a major factor in the united states economic dominance in the 20th century, and in the creation of a broad middle class. indeed, the american dream of upward mobility both within and across generations has been tied to access to education." so what does the budget before us that's come over from the republican house do? well, it cuts education 15%. from $91 billion to $77 billion from 2011-2012.
education obviously is not the only important pillar to our economy. the other important -- another important pillar is the infrastructure of the country, our roads, bridges, highways, airports. these are the things that support a vibrant and strong u.s. economy. here is the jeers' -- engineers' report card on america's infrastructure. aviation, d, bridges, c, rail, c minus. roads, d minus. transit, d, infrastructure, grosse pointe average, a d. so what do our colleagues propose in the budget that is before us? well, they propose cutting it 30%. can you imagine what it's going to be like to try to get around this country if you go out and cut transportation 30%? anybody who has driven on any of the roads across america, certainly the roads in any of the major cities, anybody who has gone through any of the airports, anybody who has gone on a rail system in this
country, do you think we're going to be better off if we cut the funding 30%? well, that's exactly what the republican budget that is before us proposes. mr. president, we also know one of the near-term threats to the economy, what's happening to the price of gasoline. since december, 2008, gasoline has gone from $1.81 a gallon to to $3.85 on may 23. up $2 a gallon. every economist has said this is hurting the economic recovery in this country. mr. president, what do our colleagues in the house send us as a budget for energy? things that can be done to reduce our dependence on foreign energy, they cut it 57%. 57% cut in the strategies designed to reduce our dependence on foreign energy,
cut it 57%. mr. president, it doesn't add up, it doesn't make sense. it is not in the mainstream of thinking. this is a budget that if you poll the constituent elements to the american people, they reject it out of hand. they do not believe medicare should be shredded. they do not believe that those who are the most fortunate among us ought to be given more tax reductions at this time. with record deficits and a debt growing out of control, the first thing to be done is not to say to those earning over a million dollars a year you get a a $200,000 tax cut. to those earning over over $10 million a year, you get a tax reduction of $1.450000. and then to turn around and slash many of the things that
help middle-class families in this country, whether it's education or infrastructure or transportation. that is the budget that is before us from our threetion on the other side of the aisle. mr. president, we have other budget plans. the paul budget plan, the toomey budget plan. i will commend on those later, but i hope very much that colleagues are listening, that they pay close attention to this debate, that they have a chance to evaluate what should be the position of this chamber when we vote later this evening. mr. president, i believe this is a defining vote for this chamber. are we going to approve a budget that is truly radical in its scope and dimension, that fundamentally ends medicare as we know it and at the same time gives massive new tax cuts to the wealthiest among us? i would say at a time when we
are having the lowest revenue in 60 years that cutting the revenue of the united states by over $1 trillion to give additional tax reductions to those who have already enjoyed dramatic tax reductions. i pointed out early in my presentation the effective tax rate on those who are the wealthiest among us has declined dramatically during recent years. this proposal from the house of representatives said we'll do even more to reduce the tax load on those who are the wealthiest among us. mr. president, i don't think it adds up. let me just say to those who think well, at least the ryan budget, the republican budget will reduce our deficits and get our debt back on track will solve that problem, let me just leave you with one number.
the republican budget from the house of representatives that we will vote on later today increases the gross debt of the united states by $8 trillion. so anybody that thinks that shredding medicare and giving these giant tax breaks to the wealthiest among us is going to solve the problem, is going to stop the explosion of debt is just wrong. in the budget before us, the republican budget from the house of representatives, the gross debt of the united states in the next ten years is increased by by $8 trillion. for those who think the debt is already too high, you want to vote for a plan that is going to increase the debt, the gross debt of the united states another $8 trillion? well, that's the republican plan from the house of representatives. that's the budget that's before
us. that is the budget we are going to vote on later this evening. mr. president, i'd ask consent that following my remarks, senator merkley be recognized for up to five minutes and then senator sanders be recognized for up to five minutes as well. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. conrad: i yield the floor. mr. merkley: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: mr. president, the american middle class is hurting workers who are unemployed, families are losing their homes, parents are worried for good reason that their children will not have the same opportunity that they had. the american people have sent us here to do a simple agenda of creating jobs. they want a plan that will put our economy back on track and
build a foundation for our working families to succeed. well, now, republicans have produced a plan, a plan that is in consideration before us today, but is it a plan that responds to the pleas of the american people to create jobs and to help those americans who are out of work and to put this economy back on track? and the short answer is, unfortunately, it is not. perhaps it's a plan to invest in education, but then we look at the details and realize that it savages the investment in education. and here we are as the first generation of american adults whose children are getting less education than we got primarily because the cost of tuition is outpacing the average wages that working families earn. that's unacceptable. well, perhaps the republican
budget decides to invest in infrastructure. i just came back from china with the majority leader and a delegation of ten senators, and here is what we learned. china is investing 10% to 12% of its g.d.p. in infrastructure. europe is investing 5%. america is investing 2%. we're barely able to repair the infrastructure we have let alone add additional infrastructure for our economy to thrive in the future. but the republican plan doesn't invest in infrastructure. well, perhaps it invests in energy. recognizing that we're sending sending $1 billion a day overseas, that oil and our addiction to oil is half of our trade deficit, that both for national security and for strength of our economy and for sustainable environment, we need to change this, but no, the republican budget sustains our addiction to oil and withdraws our investment in american, red,
white, and blue, american-made energy. perhaps the republican budget has paid attention to our secretary of defense who has listed $175 billion in programs that are not enhancing our national security and therefore should be cut. but no, the republican budget paid no attention to that and, in fact, increased and overrode the vision laid out by the secretary of defense. so at a time when our middle class is struggling to get back to their feet, the republicans didn't address education or infrastructure or energy or defense, but instead chose to do two things -- end medicare as we know it and give bonus breaks to the best off in our society. take away from seniors across america and give it to those who earn more than $1 million a year and a whole lot more to those who earn more than $10 million a
year. that's the republican plan. on the medicare side, there is two components. the first is to reopen the doughnut hole. that is the hole into which seniors fall when they have some assistance with the first drugs they need, get no assistance until they reach a catastrophic level, and it's in that hole that seniors have been devastated had their -- devastated, had their finances devastated. we fixed it. republicans want to unfix it and throw seniors back into the abyss. then, instead of guaranteeing medicare coverage for a fixed set of benefits for every senior as medicare does now, the republican plan gives seniors a coupon and says good luck, go buy your insurance. if the insurance goes up, too bad. in fact, seniors would pay pay $6,359 more a year. now, in my working class
community, that's real money. that's money senior families don't have. that's money that families don't have because they are wrestling to just pay their basic expenses through social security. now, maybe the folks with golden parachutes who have multimillion-dollar endowments from their previous work at the top of the economic pyramid, maybe they don't realize that that $6,000 will devastate the family budgets of our seniors across this country. indeed, under the republican plan, whereas seniors contribute 25% of their health care costs today, they would by 2030 pay 68%. almost more than two-thirds, more than two-thirds. that's devastating. and indeed, this voucher plan from our colleagues across the aisle puts an insurance company bureaucrat in the middle of our medical decisions, telling the seniors what they get to have
and what they don't get to have. the bottom line is that if something is good for your health, the insurance company doesn't want to pay for it, doesn't want to put it in the policy, that's just too bad. you know, one of oregon's larger insurers is planning a 24% increase in the cost of health care next year. premiums up by 24%. seniors coupons under the republican plan perhaps 2%. so that doesn't work. colleagues, our citizens have sent us here to create jobs, not to destroy the lives of our seniors and hand the funds over to the best off in our society. let's come back to planet earth, recognize we're here to fight for an economy that raises up working families, and let's defeat this budget tonight. thank you, mr. president.
mr. sanders: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: i would ask unanimous consent for an additional two minutes and thank my friend from alabama for that. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sanders: i thank my friend from alabama. mr. president, let me begin by saying that i get a little bit tired of being lectured about deficit reduction and how significant a problem our deficit is by many folks who voted for legislation time after
time after time over the last ten years that, in fact, have caused the deficit crisis that we're in right now. some of us voted against the war in iraq, which will end up costing $2 trillion to to $3 trillion unpaid for. some of us voted against the wall street bailout. some of us voted against tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. some of us voted against the medicare part-d prescription drug program written by the insurance companies. all of those four programs have resulted in trillions of dollars in debt. so to those people who voted for that, please don't lecture us about the deficit crisis. we didn't help to cause it. mr. president, the debate over deficit reduction comes at a very unusual moment in american
economic history. while the middle complas is in rapid decline, while real median family income is going down, while wages for millions of workers are going down, while poverty is increasing, we also are at a moment when the wealthiest people in this country have never had it so good. over a recent 25-year period, 80% of owl new income -- of all new income went to the top 1%. and today as a nation with the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country, we have the 400 wealthiest people in america -- 400 people -- 0 owning more wealth than the bottom 125 million. and when you deal with deficit reduction, you have to take into consideration the decline of the
middle class, the increase in poverty, and the growing disparity in income and wealth between the people on top and everybody else. mr. president, given the reality of record-breaking corporate profits, and the increasing wealth of the people on top, it should surprise no one that poll after poll shows that the overwhelming majority of americans want our deficit crisis to be addressed through shared sacrifice -- shared sacrifice. not just coming down heavy on working families and the middle class and the children and the sick and the elderly. the american people in poll after poll have said they want everybody to contribute a and help toward deficit reduction, not just the most vulnerable people in this society. unfortunately, the house-passed
budget moves us in exactly the wrong direction. it would end medicare as we know it by giving senior citizen sena unanimous consent vouchers to -- inadequate voucherrers to buy health care. seniors will see their out-of-pocket expenses by about $600 a year. seniors at the age of 65 would be given an $8,000 voucher to go a-to-a private insurance company. you tell me if you are 65, if you are suffering with cancer or another illness what ands 8,000 plan will do for you. it is a disaster. furthermore, the republican plan would cut over ten years $770 billion from medicaid, vastly increasing the number of uninsured and threatening the long-term care of the elderly who live in nursing homes.
the republican budget would also salvage -- savage cuts in education, nutrition, affordable housing, environmental protection, infrastructure, and virtually every program that low- and moderate-income americans depend upon. with all of the focus on spending cuts, however, the republican budget does nothing to reduce unnecessary military spending at a time when our military budget is triple what it was in 1997. what people in vermont tell me is what people in oregon are telling the presiding officer, that the time is now to begin accelerating our troops out of afghanistan. it's the right thing to do public policy wise. it is certainly the right thing to do for our budget. but, mr. president, here is the kicker of this whole thing: irk ththehouse republican budget dot ask the wealthiest people in
this country whose tax rates are now the lowest on the one hand record to critter one dime more for deficit reduction. not one time more. yes, we could voucher ios medicare, slash education, infrastructure, medicaid, the environmental protection agency, but to ask the wealthiest people to pay one penney more in taxes after they receive hundreds of billions of dollars of tax breaks, oh, my good in we can't do that. but, mr. president, i have another issue i want to raise, and it is not just with the republicans. it has to do with the democrats, frankly, and with president obama. will the president demand that any deficit-reduction agreement ends bush-era tax breaks for the wealthy? will he stand up and be tall and fight for that important principle? will the president fight to eliminate corporate tax holes -- tax hoop holes? will he end the absurd policies which allow the wealthy and
large corporations to avoid taxes by establishing phony addresses in offshore tax havens? we're losing hundreds of billions of dollars a year from those who stash their money in the cayman islands and beer mew davment my hope is and the american people are hoping that the president will stand firm in fighting to end those absurd loopholes. as a vermont senator and member of the budget committee, i will not support a plan to reduce the deficit that does not call for shared sacrifice. at least 50% of any deficit-reduction plan must come from increased revenue from the wealthy and large corporations. we must ask the top 2% of income earners who currently pay the lowest income tax rate on record to start paying their fair shaimplet instead of making it harder for working families to send their kids to college, we must end the foreign tax shelters that the wealthy and
large corporations use to avoid taxes. with that, i would yield the floor. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: -- additional minutes? the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: i am going to use my leader time now. i ask unanimous consent that that time will not take anythingway from the debate we have on the budget. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: mr. president, the national security of the united states is at stake. the junior senator from kentucky is complaining he has not been able to offer amendments. let me take a moment to set the record straight. as all of us and the senator from kentucky are we will aware, i worked long and in good faith to get an agreement to consider amendments. i offered him a solution that's more than faimplet i proposed a consent agreement that would have brought before the senate six amendments, more than half of which specifically are for or written by the senator from kentucky. in order to continue his political grand standing, he
rejected that offer. it is unfortunate because the inability to reach an agreement has serious consequences. at midnight tomorrow, the patriot act will expire, unless the senator from kentucky stops standing in the way. our law enforcement will not be able to use the critical tools they need to combat terrorism. if they cannot use these tools, tools that identify and track terrorist suspects, it could have dire consequences for our national security. when the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, we will be given terrorists the opportunity to plot against our country undectd. the government has stopped dozens of terrorists before they could strike. now the senator from kentucky is threatening to take away the best tools we have for stopping them. does it mean the patriot act is perfect? onot. but today the republican leader and i received a letter from
james clapper, a three-star retired general from the united states military, the nation's director of national intelligence. he knows better than all of us the need for the fighting tools of terror. he wrote about tracking purchases of bomb-making materials and other classified materials. all of those would expire with a the patriot act if we let it expire. this particularly is a bad time to shut down electronic surveillance programs. as has been widely reported in the press, we recovered thousands of documents, photos, videosage oir material from osama bin laden's compound. this has soaped dozen of investigations and leads to new terrorist suspects and terrorist activities directed toward the united states of america. it continues to yield more and more information every day. if the senator from kentucky refuses to relent, the government will be unable
tofully pursue these leads. that would increase the risk of a retaliatory strike against the homeland and hamper our ability to deal a truly fatal blow on al qaeda. i repeat, director clapper, a retired three-star general, asked us not to allow a moment's interruption in the intelligence community's ability to protect the american people. some may be asking why, then -- why is the senator from kentucky holding out? what's keeping him from accepting an agreement to move forward, one that, as i explained, i think is more than fair to him and the senate? a couple of strong democratic amendments and his amendments, four of them in number. the reasons that he's fighting for an amendment to protect the right not of average citizens but of terrorists to cover up their gun prsms. it's all dealing with a gun amendment, mr. president.
we all remember the tragic fort hood shootings less than two years ago. radicalized american terrorist bought guns and used them to kill 13 civilians. it is hard to imagine why the senator would want to hoimed the patriot act for a misguided amendment that would make america less saism the senator from kentucky also complains that the senate has not had a week of debate. we all would like to have more debate on this issue. the presiding officer would. we'd like to have a lot of debate on other things, mr. president. the presiding officer is one of the senators that led an effort earlier in this session to make sure that we'd have more robust debate. we made a little progress but not enough. but the senator from kentucky complaining that we haven't had a week of debate better come up with something better than that. here's why. this matter has been before the senate for one week now.
i moved to proceed to the patriot act last thursday. today is wednesday. as of today, the senate has been working toward passing this measure forbe six or seven -- for six or seven days. there's no question that the senators have had the opportunity to debate t the only question has been how senators have chosen to use these last days. the bottom line is that no matter how long it takes to get there, we're going to have this vote and the vote will win. we'll pass the patriot act and do everything we can to keep the american people safe. its a up to the senator from kentucky whether those national security programs will expire before we get a chance to vote. that expiration date is extremely important, and if he thinks that it's going to be a badge of courage on his side to have held this up for a few hours, he's made a mistake. it will set this program back significantly, and that's too bad. the clock is ticking, the ball is in his court.
mr. sessions: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: mr. president, i appreciate the difficulties the majority leader has and would agree with him substantively that the patriot act needs to be passed. it does not noaa need to have -- it does not need have any gap in it. as a former federal prosecutor for 15 years, i agree that the paul amendment to make our terrorist investigators have to go further and have more to obtain gun records than the bureau of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms investigators is a far worse crime. i would say that senator paul is a courageous, strong, new member of the senate.
he has some deep beliefs. he's entitled to advocate those. i believe he's tried to advocate those in good faith. he thought he had an agreement to be able 0 offer his oaments and the -- his amendments ant majority leader says you can offer amendments but only the one i approve and he won't approve the one on guns. and i think that's not healthy in defense of senator paul, that he would not have an opportunity to offer the amendment he wants to offer. not the ones approved in advance by the majority leader. and i think to the extent that that happens, it diminishes the great, robust tradition of debate in the senate. so it is a difficult market and i know people feel strongly about t but i wanted to share those thoughts. mr. president, my good friend, senator conrad, who chairs the budget committee, made his speech. i was disappointed in some of it. he made one thing, though, very
dramatic in his statement, and we should think about it. he said that the ron budget is insufficient because it a-- the ryan budget is insufficient because it allows $8 trillion of new debt to be incurred by the i do not say over the next ten years. think about that. he says that's is unthinkable. it really is a dramatic thing that we would have that much debt accrue. but under the budget, the only budget that exists here from democratic majority is the president's budget. and the president's budget, as analyzed by the congressional budget office, without any doubt or dispute, they conclude it would add $13 trillion to the debt of the united states in ten years. they conclude the president's budget, the one that was praised
by the democrats when it came out, would increase the debt, increase spending and increase taxes more than if we did nothing. i call it the most irresponsible budget ever to be introduced because it makes our debt situation worse at a time in which we've never faced a more serious systemic debt crisis in america. and senator conrad says the federal educational budget, tkh-s basically the -- which is basically the federal bureaucracy and some programs that go out shouldn't have its funding reduced. he didn't acknowledge that the president's budget proposes to increase educational spending to the department of education by 10.5% next year, at a time when
we're in record deficits, the department of energy is proposed to receive a 9.5% increase. the department of transportation, with a phantom assumption of revenue from which the administration nowhere says where it will come from is projected to receive a 60% increase to fund all kinds of new high-speed rail and so forth that have not been proven to be effective today. we simply, if they are good, we don't have the money. sometimes you can't do things you'd like to do because you don't have the money. and to that extent, i would say that we're on the wrong track. and let me just say about congressman ryan's budget proposal, it does reduce spending every year significantly. it completely changes the debt trajectory. it reduces spending and deficits
every year. it doesn't get to a balance in ten years, but it eventually gets to a balance in out years, according to their projections. but, of course, intervening congresses will have much to say about it. but it does change the debt trajectory, and it does put us on the right path. and if passed, in my opinion, would be the kind of budget that would create confidence in the international markets, create jobs and growth in america, and create vitality in our business, and is something that would be better than doing nothing, and absolutely better than the inexcusable budget that's been presented by the democrats, the only one they've presented so far. so i want to make those points. mr. president, the simple fact is the american people are
unhappy, furious with washington, and they have every right to be. they work hard. they pay their taxes. they play by the rules. they sacrifice for their families, contribute to their communities and uphold the nation's values. they have built up the greatest, most dynamic economy on the face of the earth. but washington continues to waste their tax dollars. they've eroded our values and placed this nation's economy at grave risk. politicians have arrogantly believed that the rules don't apply to them. in the midst of a deep recession as american families have tightened their belts, as cities and counties and states have tightened their belts, washington has gone on an historic spending spree. did you know during the time of these surging deficits that president obama's spending -- not counting the stimulus --
baseline spending for non-defense discretionary spending increased 24% in two years? and they say we can't have a reduction in spending back to 2008, or we ought to go back to 2006 levels. the country is not going to cease to exist if we do that. by the end of the first three fiscal fiscal years of this administration, we will have accumulated another $5 trillion in gross debt. the first three years president bush was criticized, somewhat rightly, for his large budget deficit. it reached $450 billion. the president's budget deficit this year will be $1.6 billion. every year it's been over $1 trillion. every year over $1.6 trillion. the average over the next ten years according to the budget he submitted, will average over
$900 billion, with the lowest-single deficit in ten years because of increased spending, will be $740 billion. enormous surging debt has prompted the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, admiral mullen, to say that our debt represents the greatest threat to our national security. at $14 trillion now, it hovers over our economy like a dark cloud. it undermines confidence. it fosters uncertainty. studies show our crushing debt stifles job growth and robs us of a million jobs a year. independent economists tell us, carrying that debt, we borrow $5 billion a day, 100 billion a month. and under the president's vision we're on track to do the unthinkable, doubling our entire national debt again in the next ten years. we are faced with what has
rightly been called the most predictable economic crisis in our nation's history. the question is not so much whether a crisis will occur, but whether we act in time to prevent it. a major financial crisis is not just some hypothetical danger. i wish it were. it is very real and it is very serious. if the world loses confidence in our ability to control our spending and debt, our interest rates should dramatically spike. greece saw its interest rates triple before its debt crisis hit. the rates for ireland and portugal went up fourfold. if the same were to happen to the united states, we could become unable to pay the interest on our debt and face a greek-like debt crisis that plunges this country into another recession. it can happen. this would not be some distant
future financial event, as some have supposed, but an economic disaster felt most severely by everyday working americans. and there's no reason we should be in this situation. there is no reason, no justification whatsoever that a congress of the united states has allowed this nation to run whaup this year is project -- run up what this year is projected to be a $1.5 trillion deficit. it's utterly unacceptable, unexplainable and cannot be defended. we have to recognize that. we've got to change our business. the american workforce is the most productive on earth. our system of government is the envy of the world, but those who occupy the halls of power have not upheld the public trust. i think i've complained about our spending, but i don't believe i've done enough. our leaders have squandered this
nation's wealth and threatened our children's future. so, again, the american people have a right to be furious. they rose up in the last election, and the big spenders in washington took a shellacking. we saw the emergence of the tea party, a diverse collection of americans spread across the country who after years of sitting silent spoke out action many for the first time in their lives. they are good and decent and patriotic americans who fear for their country and for the future that their children will inherit. and they are right to be concerned. their concerns are shared by the vast majority of americans. overall, more than 70% of americans believe this country is on the wrong track. i think primarily because of our
spending and our debt. to get back on the right track requires strong leadership; don't we agree? so i've continued to hope that president obama would rally the country behind needed reform to tell the truth about our crisis. unfortunately, the president seems determined not only to keep our country on its dangerous course, but actually accelerate the pace. his budget makes it worse. he offered a budget in february which he and the, his budget director declared to the whole world -- get this -- saying that it would -- quote -- "not add more to the debt." we're trying to tell the american people the country has a serious financial problem, and the president says my budget would not add more to the debt? he went on to say -- this was his quote -- we spend only the money that we have each year.
our budget says we'll only spend the money we have each year, and -- quote -- "we would live within our means." those statements were just not honest. his budget director tried to defend them, but they're indefensible statements. as i said, the lowest annual deficit in ten years is $748 billion. how can that be living within our means? the president's budget never once produces a deficit of less than $748 billion. and get this, in the tenth year of his budget, the deficit would be $1.2 trillion, getting worse. and what about the senate? what is this august body doing to confront the crisis? is the budget committee meeting to work on a plan? i thought we would be meeting. i thought we would have long since met, frankly.
is there a senate budget being considered on the floor today? a senate budget produced by a senate budget committee? or will we be amending a resolution on the senate floor that the senate has passed? well, the answer is no. today is the 756th day since the democratically-led senate has passed a budget. in a time that congress has spent, during this two years, $7 trillion, and we've accumulated another $3.2 trillion in debt. we borrowed $3.2 trillion while we were spending $7 trillion. 40-plus cents of every dollar we spend is borrowed. every expert around the world and at home tells us this cannot continue. and what do we have to show for
it all? unemployment stuck around 9%. very anemic economic growth and the very real threat of another priceless economic crisis like the bank financial crisis. so that's where we are. i think the american people, our ultimate board of directors, the people we serve, are not haefplt they think we're on the -- are not happy. they think we're on the wrong track. they are correct to so think. it's time for this congress to get the message and to get the message and change what we're doing. i see my colleague, senator paul, here. i know he would like to take five minutes to respond to the majority leader. i think he's definitely entitled
to that. i would ask consent that he be given five minutes, mr. president, and that that five minutes not count against the time on this side. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. paul: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kentucky. mr. paul: i rise in response to a scurrilous accusation. i've been accused of wanting to allow terrorists to have weapons to attack america. to be attacked of such a belief when i'm here to discuss and debate the constutionality of the patriot act is offensive. i find it personally insulting. and i think it demeans the body. it demeans the senate body and the people that we can't have an intelligent debate over the constutionality of this. i am somehow to be told that because i believe a judge should sign a warrant that i'm in favor of terrorists having weapons?
the absurdity of it, the insult of it. if one argues that judges should sign warrants before they go into the house of an alleged murderer, are you in favor of murder? can we not have a debate on a higher plane, a debate over whether or not there should be some constitutional protections, some constitutional procedure? but to come to the floor and accuse me of being in favor of giving weapons to terrorists. the question is: can our constitution withstand? is our constitution strong enough that we could actually capture terrorism -- capture terrorists and protect our liberties at the same time? should we have some rules that say before they come into your house, before they go into your banking records, that a judge should be asked for permission, that there should be judicial review?
do we want a lawless land? do we want a land that is so much without restraint, a government without restraint that at any point in time they can come into your house? we were very worried about that. that's why our country was founded on principles such as the fourth amendment to protect us from an overzealous government. but to transform an argument where good people might disagree into an accusation that i would let terrorists have weapons, no, i believe that we would stop terrorism but do it in a constitutional fashion where you would have a warrant issued by a judge. some people say we don't have enough time to do that. at 3:00 in the morning, judges are routinely called when someone is accused of rape, when someone is accused of murder. when there is an alleged crime, we get warrants and it's worked for 225 years until we decided to throw out the constitution. we threw out the constitution with the patriot act because we changed the constitution, not by
two-thirds in this body voting for it and not by 3/4 of the state but by a scared 51% who threw out their liberties. they said make me safe. i want to be safe. i'm afraid, make me safe, but they gave up their liberties. i think it was a mistake and i think we should have an intelligent and rational discussion over this, but i don't think it furthers the debate to accuse someone who has constitutional concerns about the way we were doing things to accuse them of being in favor of putting hands -- weapons into the hands of terrorists. i object strongly to this. the leader has said that they will compromise. they said one week of debate in february and open amendments. they would be open to amendments, even amendments they disagreed with. do whatever people feel is appropriate on this bill. this doesn't mean just amendments that are not emotional or just amendments that had nothing to do with guns. they are petrified to vote on
issues of guns because they know that a lot of people in america favor the second amendment own guns and want to protect it in the right to own guns and the right to have those records not sifted through by the government. we don't want a government that eventually will allow for direction of the police towards those who own guns. we don't want our records to be public. we don't want our records to be sifted through by a government without judicial review. they don't want to vote on this because they know the american people agree with us, and if you polled this question, you would find 80% to 90% of americans don't want their banking records, don't want their gun records to be sifted through by a government without a judge ever giving any approval of this. this is a constitutional question, and i would ask the leader to stand by his agreement to an open -- an open amendment process. and so at this time i will ask unanimous consent that my
amendments numbered 363, 365 and 368 be in order, and within one hour of debate on each be followed by a roll call vote. i ask unanimous consent that this occur at this time. mr. reid: madam president, reserving the right to object. of course, as the senator knows, i have given a statement here on the floor, one amendment which i understand is in his consent makes this whole arrangement impossible. i therefore object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: i would yield to senator ayotte up to ten minutes or such time as she may consume.
ms. ayotte: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. ms. ayotte: thank you very much. today marks the 756th day without a budget. the democrat majority has abdicated a basic responsibility that we have in our government, and that is to produce a budget. you know, states produce a budget, cities and towns produce a budget. small businesses don't operate without a budget, and families produce a budget. yet, here we are running over a a $1.6 trillion deficit this year alone, and the democrat-controlled majority -- i'm a new member of the budget committee -- they're not bringing forth a budget or a blueprint for our country to put us on a path of fiscal responsibility. it seems to me if we do nothing else here, that's a basic responsibility we have as members of the senate.
on monday, all republican senators joined senator sessions and i in sending a letter to the majority leader urging him to take the steps necessary to bring forward a fiscal year 2012 budget in committee to have a full, honest debate and then to the floor to make sure that we have a transparent budget debate that the american people can weigh in on so we can put our country on a fiscally responsible path. as a reminder, the committee should have acted on the budget resolution before the statutory set deadline of april 1, and congress should have completed that action by april 15. yet, unfortunately, the majority in the budget committee and the majority leader has ignored that law. the reality is the majority party controls the work flow in the budget committee and determines what is deadbeated here on the floor. and given the enormity of the
obvious fiscal challenges that we face, there is no excuse for why my democrat colleagues have not been able to have a transparent, serious debate, both in the budget committee and on this floor, about our country's fiscal future. the american people demand and are owed nothing less. unfortunately, instead of coming up with a budget blueprint that puts us on a path to sustainability, many of my democrat colleagues have primarily focused their efforts on distorting provisions of the house-passed budget plan, trying to score political points while our country's economic future becomes even more precarious. and we have seen the warning signs for our country and other countries around the world and what has happened there, including recently the s&p's negative outlook on our bond rating. astoundingly, last week, the majority leader said it would be
foolish for his party to produce a budget plan. in talking directly with my constituents in new hampshire, i can say with certainty that that's the last word that they would use to describe the senate's refusal to have their own budget plan and to have a full and robust debate within the budget committee and within this body about the fiscal plan for our country's future. that's the last word they would use because they sit around their kitchen tables at home, they put together a budget, they look at the revenue coming in and expenses they have and they balance their budgets, and they have no idea why we aren't doing that here, and that should be a fundamental responsibility that unfortunately the majority leader has described as foolish, even though it's an exercise that families undertake every single day. last year, congress failed to pass a budget, failed to pass
any of the 12 annual appropriation bills and failed the nation by recklessly funding the government on a series of short-term spending bills. the senate cannot make the same mistake that we made last year that was made by the democrat-controlled congress this year, given the fiscal path that our country is on. with less than six months remaining until the start of the new fiscal year, it's past time for the senate to produce a basic budget plan that substantively addresses our grave fiscal crisis. we need leadership, and i would call on the majority leader to show that leadership and the chairman of the budget committee to bring forth a budget in our senate committee, and i'm a brand-new member of the budget committee. i look forward to having that debate in that very important committee in our body. to work together with members on
both sides of the aisle to craft a responsible budget plan that reduces spending and brings us to a balanced budget. that's what our country needs. in the letter that was sent to the majority leader, republicans make clear that we're ready to make the difficult choices to preserve our country and to get our fiscal house in order once and all. we stand ready to preserve the greatest country in the world. there is no question that the budget process is broken when we don't even have a budget brought forth before the budget committee and a full and robust debate in this body. congress must get serious about putting in place spending reforms. i'd like to see a balanced budget amendment to our constitution, to make sure that congress can't get around any spending reforms that we pass.
states balance their budget, and yet here in washington, we just continue to spend money that we do not have, unfortunately. now congressman ryan in the house has proposed and the house has passed a budget blueprint for our country, yet my friends on the other side of the aisle have spent considerable time demagoguing the house budget blueprint and their plan, even though they have shown the courage to put forth a budget that puts us on a path to reduced spending and eventually brings us to a balanced budget. they brought out the usual scare tactics, but for all their grandstanding, they haven't been straight with the american people. we do need to address entitlement reform. we do need to make changes to medicare, to preserve medicare for those who are relying on
medicare right now, and for future generations. i'm the mother of two children, and i certainly don't want to look my children in the eye with the fiscal crisis that our country is facing and have them say to me, mom, what did you do about this? now is the time to act. we have three choices when it comes to addressing rising health care costs in medicare. we can do nothing and watch the program go bankrupt in 2024, as outlined by the recent trustees report of medicare, an objective report that basically says that program will go bankrupt by 2024. we can go forward with the president's proposal to ration care through the administration's plan to have an unelected board of 15 bureaucrats who are going to decide who is going to get coverage, when they are going to get coverage and how physicians are going to get paid. or we can show real leadership
and strengthen the program to make it solvent for current beneficiaries and also for future beneficiaries of our country and allow them to make the choices instead of an unelected group of 15 individuals that's accountable, not to congress and certainly not to the people whose lives will be affected. i commend congressman ryan for his courageousness, and i challenge anyone, including the members on the other side of the aisle, who have been so critical of the plan, where is your plan? what is your constructive plan to save medicare? how do you go home to your constituents, your elderly constituents, people like my grandparents who are relying on medicare, knowing that the trustees report says that it's going bankrupt in 2024 and say to them i don't have a plan? a constructive plan to preserve
this program is important, it's what republicans are committed to. we are here to save medicare, to save our entitlement programs, and most of all to save our country from financial ruin. now is the time for leadership. it's time to look at the challenges we face with eyes wide open and to have the courage to fight for the american people and for the future of the greatest country in the world. we cannot afford to kick this can down the road. the presiding officer: the senator has used ten minutes. ms. ayotte: thank you. if i may finish up. thank you, senator sessions. we cannot afford to kick this can down the road any further. we must act now. we must address our entitlement programs now. and i would call on the majority leader, i would call on senate democrats, rather than demagoguing the plan that has come forward from the house, if you have a constructive plan of your own, please come to the floor right now and bring it
forth that will preserve medicare, will preserve our entitlement programs and put us on a path to fiscal responsibility and sustainability to a balanced budget to save our country. thank you, madam president. mr. sessions: before the senator departs, i want to thank her -- the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: for her good friends comments and very valuable and constructive insights. i just want to ask her about one thing. i know a lot of our new members came to congress having campaigned and talked to people all over their states with a passion to do something about the unsustainable spending path we are on, and we had a large number who wanted to be on the budget committee -- and we're glad you just got on -- but let me ask you, is it a disappointment to get on the budget committee that the law says they should write a budget and have hearings on the budget and then to find that the majority leader has decided not
to even allow a budget hearing to take place? ms. ayotte: well, i thank my friend from alabama for that -- for that question. but as the newest member of the budget committee, it is an extreme disappointment because i was looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and undertaking the responsibilities of putting forth a responsible budget to preserve our country. that's why i wanted to serve on the budget committee. i come from a small business family. i know you can't operate a business without a budget. so many of my constituents and those i met on the campaign trail, they'd ask me all the time. i have no idea, how can we operate a government without a budget? and yet here we are, and that's what's been so disappointing to me. and i hope and i would urge our democrat colleagues to change course on this and -- and let the budget committee do what it is supposed to do. mr. sessions: thank you, madam president. i thank senator ayotte of new hampshire. she's following in the footsteps
of a great budget leader, chairman and ranking member, judd gregg, and brings those good instincts to the -- to the body. madam president, i ask unanimous consent that following the remarks -- unanimous consent that republican speakers be limited to 10 minutes each and i would at this point be pleased to recognize my very able and effective colleague, senator demint, for his comments at this time. mr. demint: thank you, senator sessions. the presiding officer: without objection. the senator from south carolina. mr. demint: thank you very much, madam president. senator sessions, thank you for leading these few minutes of this debate that we were allowed. it's really an extraordinary situation, where we are as a nation, that we're here with only a few minutes of debate about what has become the most serious situation our country has ever faced and that's our debt.
when president obama was a senator in 2006, he said, "increasing america's debt weakens us domestically and internationally." admiral mullen's, our joint chief of staff -- our chief of staff, has said that our biggest national security threat is our debt. we know that the rating agencies that look at our financial condition, like standard & poor's, have downgraded us. we know that major capital funds have divested of treasury notes, concerned about our political will to deal with our debt. yet we don't have a budget. we don't have any plan to deal with the debt. and everything republicans put forward in the house and the senate, the democrats sit on the sidelines and criticize, misrepresent and yet offer no
solutions themselves. it's hard to deal with $14 trillion in debt and what it really means. here's one chart that's somewhat helpful. we know that greece and ireland and portugal, we hear it in the news that they're bankrupt, they're close to default, they're having to be bailed out by the international monetary fund. these charts just show the percent of debt relative to their total economy, their g.d.p. we see greece is already at 13 136%. ireland is at 75%. portugal, 82%. and if you add all the liabilities that we have as a nation, we're already at 95%, which means we have more debt relative to our total economy than portugal and ireland already and very soon we're on a track to even outpace greece. yet we don't even have a budget here, no plan of what to spend. when republicans talk about the
need to cut spending, all we get is criticism. the president has actually submitted a budget that nearly doubles our debt over the next ten years. we'll get a chance to vote on it. not even the democrats are going to vote for that budget. but they have not presented one on their own. we'll also get a chance to vote on -- on the house budget. the democrats think if we do, that's going to hurt, but i think you'll see most republicans vote for it because they know we have to deal with medicare. the president's budget cuts what medicare pays doctors another 35%. already about 50% of the doctors in this country will not see new medicare patients. the president cut a half trillion dollars from medicare to help pay for obama-care and somehow can look us in the eye and say this strengthened medicare. the fact is, the democrats have medicare on a course of bankruptcy which is going to
happen much sooner than is projected because people won't able to find a doctor if the president's budget is implemented anywhere close to where it's going to be implemented. republicans are trying to save medicare and make sure there are options for seniors in the future that will be good options for them, that they'll have a way to pay for health care in the future. medicare will not be there. anyone who looks at seniors today and tells seniors that traditional medicare is going to be there five or ten years from now is not telling the truth. because it's not. doctors will not see medicare patients at the rate we're going to pay. all we're doing today is we've got some what we call message votes, show votes. they're set up to fail. the majority leader does not intend to pass any budget. not the president's budget, not a republican budget. they won't even offer one on their own. so we're going to leave here today with this situation right here, with america approaching a
debt level which we've seen take down other countries and continue to ignore the obvious. and as has already been referenced by senator ayotte, the majority leader actually said, "there's no need to have a democrat budget. it would g would be foolish of o a budget at this stage." it would be foolish because it would reveal what they really intend to do, which is to keep spending and keep borrowing, keep investing, keep growing government programs and not making those hard decisions that have to be made to pull our country away from the edge of the cliff, which is where we are. everyone outside of washington seems to understand that we've got an urgent situation right now, yet here we are today with just these show votes of a budget with no intent of dealing with this at all. when what we need to be doing is recognizing the president, who
has said our debt is our biggest problem and that it's a failure of leadership to ask for an increase in the debt ceiling, is we need to recognize that we cannot raise this debt ceiling, we cannot increase our debt unless we make the hard decisions that need to be made for the future. and the only decision that will really change this place is if we pass a balanced budget requirement for the congress that the states have to ratify. if we pass this this year before we voted on the debt ceiling, then the people of this country in all 50 states would have a chance to ratify that. it would take a year or two, three years to be ratified and then there's another five years' implementation built into the bill. so we're talking six or eight years to get to a balanced budget. if we cannot make that commitment as a congress, we a are, in effect, committing to bankrupt our country. because all of us know we can't keep spending more than we're bringing in when they're already
telling us we're at a debt level that's going to bankrupt our country, that we can't even pay the interest if interest rates go up at all. we have got to be responsible, and what we're doing today is completely irresponsible. i can't raise the rhetorical level high enough to talk about the absurdity of where we are here. we put our country in danger, our future at risk yet we're having show votes budgets and no -- no budget at all from the democrat majority. so, madam president, i appreciate the senator from alabama at least taking this time that we have to point out the real issues here and the urgency of the matter and the fact that we need to move from show to real substance. we can't work up -- roll up our sleeves and work together if the other side does not agree we have a problem and we do have a problem.anproblem. and the only way to change that is for to us agree here as a
congress to balance our budget within a reasonable window and to put that structure on us so that we keep that budget balance in the future. thank you, senator sessions, and i -- and i will yield back. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. too maniy: than too mr. toomey: thank you, madam president. and i thank you, the senator from south carolina, for giving me opportunity to speak on this issue. let me point out -- follow up on the central point that the senator has been making. when i go back to pennsylvania and i talk to my constituents about the fact that the government of the united states, the world's biggest enterprise, an enterprise that's going to spend $3.6 trillion this year and we're doing it without a budget. they look at me in shocked disbelief that this could even be possible. but it's possible because my colleagues here in the senate acciden,my democratic colleaguee
to produce a budget. it's just an u unbelievable abdication of responsibility. but my colleagues have asked the american people to elect them to the united states senate, to ask the american people to be the majority party of the united states senate, which they are, and their attitude is they have no responsibility to lay out a plan for how they want to spend the $3.6 trillion that they want to spend. they have no intention of laying out the plan of where the revenue is going to come from, how much it's going to come from and which -- in which areas. how should this money be spent? no overall blueprint, no guidelines, no architecture for spending this staggering sum of money. this is an extraordinary abandonment of a very fundamental responsibility. and i have to say, i have a hard time listening to the criticism of the house budget by people who have offered no budget as an
alternative. now, let me speak about the house budget for just a minute because it's taken a great deal of criticism from my friends on the other side in particular because ten years hence in this budget, they recommend reforms to medicare that save medicare. and i want to stress this point. the current policies being advocated -- not in a budget but being advocated elsewhere by my democratic friends, they are currently in the process of crushing medicare because that's what's happening. talk to your doctors back home. talk to your hospitals. we have small hospitals across pennsylvania that are increasingly finding it so difficult to operate. reimbursements are being gradually crushed down. we have this threat that doctors' reimbursements are going to be dramatically cut. and we've created in the president's health care overhaul, we've created this independent payment advisory board, as it's called, the purpose of which is to find ways
to ratchet down reimbursements for health care providers. you know, one of the things that breaks my heart is how often i have had the conversation with a doctor who tells me, often choking up in the process, that he's encouraging his kids to pursue some other line of work, some other profession other than health care, the profession that -- that he or she has dedicated their life to. but this is the state of affairs that we have today because of where medicare is and where it's heading. so the house comes along and offers a plan that saves medicare, puts it on a viable, sustainable footing for future generations and they get attacked for it. you know, is it the perfect plan, is it the only plan? i'm sure it's not but it would work. and you know one of the things that makes so much sense about what they're doing is they're altering the -- the payments as a function of people's wealth and health.
makes a lot of sense. so when younger people reach retirement age, they get more financial help from the government if their income is lower and their health is worse, and they get less if they're wealthy and relatively healthy. and this mechanism would put individuals in control of their own health care and put the government on a sustainable path. frankly, i think we ought to congratulate them for doing some very thoughtful work, and i'm going to vote for the house plan. now, what the house plan does is it addresses a very long-term structural problem that we have for our budget and does it in a very thoughtful and sensible way. but i'm introducing an taiflt budget -- but i'm introducing an alternative budget because i want to focus the nearer term. my focus is just these next ten years, because i think we've got a crisis staring us right in the face and we've got to deal with it now. and so i think we've got to deal with it in next year's spending and in the immediate future. and a big part of my goal and what we've demonstrated in the
budget that i've introduced and that we'll have a vote on in a little while is that we can balance this budget within ten years. and i think that's just a very important goal. my budget accomplishes that really with two elements: policies that generate strong economic growth, which have all kinds of benefits, not the least of which is it generates more revenue for the federal government; and the other part of this is we've got to tighten our belt. this government's been spending way too much money. my budget ratchets that back. and the combination brings us to balance within nine years and generates a modest surplus within ten years. in the process we dramatically reduce the amount of debt as a percentage of g.d.p. we just saw the senator from south carolina present a comparison of what a dangerous position we are already in compared to that of other countries who have racked up too much debt as a percentage of their economies. wwell, we are following on this very dangerous path.
what my budget does is starts to reverse that curve, starts to lower the debt as percentage of g.d.p., and by bringing the budget into balance, it will actually stop growing the debt altogether, which i sympathy an important -- a very important goal. part of that is through pro-growth tax policy. so, number one, we would -- in this budget we would ask the committees in the two bodies to enact reforms that would simplify the tax code dramatically and allow us to lower marginal rates. a combination of a simplified code and lower rights would generate growth. i would do ton the corporate side as well as on the individual side. on the court side, notify a territorial tax system so we wouldn't continue to have the tremendous competitive disadvantage that we have, vis-a-vis our trading partners. on health care, we take a different aproon medicare. we're just focused on these next ten years. we end the fiction that we're
going to cut doctors by 30% or end the threat, depending on how you choose to look at t so the sustainable growth rairkts as it's called around here, this notion that we have to massively cut reimbursements to doctors all of a sudden, that's done away with, and we recognize that that would be very imprudent policy. another thing that we do is we adopt one of recommendations from the simpson-bowls commission on medical practice liability reform. that thoaps save some significant money across the board on health care. that includes comaimplet on medicaid, we adopt a very similar afroach that that is done in the house budget which is to say this is completely unsustainable in its current form. medicaid has been doubling every eight years, and it is a big driver of the deficit that we have in washington. it's has big driver of huge deficits across the 50 states. it's a big problem because the states have little or no flexibility in how they administer this program. they've got a big financial burden that comes with it.
and what i think we ought to do is take these resources, block-grant them to the states and give the states the flexibility to figure out a better way to deliver health care services to low-income people. and i this that among our 50 states i am very confident that there will be many who will come up with better models. and as they do they believe adopted generally and we can put this program on a sustainable path, which it is certainly not on trade. -- on today. on some other areas of spending -- on non-defense discretionary spend, we immediate to cut thsm in recent years the big surge in the recent years has come from the discretionary side. so what we call for is lowering non-defense discretionary spending to the level it was at in 2006, and then freezing that. freezing that for six years after which it would be indexed to the consumer price ind. other mandatory spending are aside from the big entitlement programs would gradually be
reduced to just over the 2007 level, i say "gradually," we do this so that people have a chance to ajusms i sympathy the economic growth we would get from the lower taxes, the lower marginal tax rates, should i say, would help facilitate this. it gets lowered to 2007 levels by 2014, after which it grows at c.p.i. our budget calls for no changes whatsoever to social security, and it calls for nonof the structural changes to medicare because those occur after the ten-year window and ware a focused on just the next ten years. madam president, i would strongly stress that we are staring at a full-blown crisis. we don't know whether it's a year from now or two years from now or 18 months or even nearer. that is impossible to know. but it's impossible to deny that we cannot continue on this course. we cannot continue running multitrillion-dollar deficits, deficits that are 10% of our entire economic output, that
rack up this huge amount of debt that we have done in recent years. that is not sustainable. my first career out of college was in finance. when i was working in finance, the idea of the federal government of the united states of america even having a credit rating was not -- tbas it was not something that was understood to be that way. the united states of america was above the credit rating system. it didges apply -- it didn't apply to us. a triple-a rating system wasn't even relevant because you didn't even talk about the creditworthiness of the united states except to refer to it as the "risk-free interest rate, requests "the risk-free security, the security for which there was no risk of a failure because this was after all the government of the united states of america. well, now, we're in a position that is absolutely shocking to me. we very much are subject to a credit rating, but it is worse than that. we have s&p telling us that they are actively contemplating the day on which they will lower our
credit rating and we won't even be a tri triple-a. this is shocking to me and has tremendously dire consequences. i will close by just saying, we cannot kick this can down the road anymore. we need to do something now. i have got a budget that balances within ten years and i would urge my colleagues sphowrt it. thank you. the presiding officer: the snrr alabama. mr. sessions: i see my colleague from utah, senator hatch and would yield to him for ten minutes. i would thank senator too maniy, a member of the budget committee. he served on the budget budget committee. he has worked hard or harder than maybe anybody on the committee. has proposed a plan that will actually balance our budget within ten years. it is the kind of thing we should be debating in the committee. unfortunately, i know the senator has got to be deeply disappointed. we're not having a markup in committee. we're not even having a chance to bring forth his budget and defend it and point out why he believes it'll make america a
better place. so thank you, senator too many me for your -- so thank you, senator toomey, for your contributions to the debate. i yield to senator hatch, a member of the finance committee the committee that deals with the financial challenges our nation faces every day. thank you, senator heavment. mr. hatch: i thank -- the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: madam president, i thank my colleague and i thank senator toomey for his work. earlier this year, i introduced a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. the people of utah want this amendment and polls show that if congress were to pass an incentive to the states for ratification it would have significant support across the country frvment my per speck tirveg the debate we have been having over fiscal year 2012 budget this week, if you can call it a debate, exemplifies yet again the need for a b.b.a. it seems like a simple thing but the balanced budget amendment
would require the president to submit and congress to pass balanced budget. given the budget process over the last few year, this requirement takes on added significance. the fact is that it has been 756 days since democrats passed any budget, the most basic of congress's constitutional responsibilities, and the fact is that absent a balanced budget amendment, congress will never adopt spending restraint necessary to restore constitutional limits on the federal government and the nation's fiscal integrity. the consequences of this ineptitude reached a new low on the senate floor yesterday. the recap for those who missed it, democrats took to the senate floor and accused republicans who are attempting to right our fiscal ship by reforming programs for the poor and elderly, of seeking to harm women, children, and other vulnerable members of our society. this verbal asought was deliberate, it was premeditated. i actually thank my colleagues on the other side to declined to participate in those attacks.
those attacks might make for good politics but they are terrible nor this country. people here might like to deny it but the fiscal crisis we face is real. they might like to say that sociasocial security's financese just did andy. but the fact is that the disability trust fund will be exhausted by 2018 and the overall trust fund will be exhausted in 2036, a year earlier than we previously thawvment as bad as social security is, the situation with medicare is even worse. according to the congressional budget office, medicare will be insolvent in 2020. according to the medicare trustees, medicare's unfundable liability is $38.4 trillion. what is the democrats' response to this? all is well. nothing is see here. please move along. this is what the democratic caned in new york special election had to say about her eents's claim that reforms to medicare were necessary to restore the solvescy of this
program. that's a scare tactic to tell our seniors that there will be nothing for them. that's not the true. uj quote. republicans are trying to scare seniors? that's rich. a liberal surrogater fort democrats is currently running an advertisement that shows house budget committee chairman paul ryan pushing and old woman in a wheelchair off a cliff. talk about a new low. the head of the democratic national committee described the house budget as a tornado through nursing homes. yesterday we were treated to claims on the senate floor that stopped shofort these attacks but not that far short. yet it is republicans that are trying to scare seniors? give me a break. still, as bad as yesterday's display washings i ended my day positive about the future. last night i aextended a dinner celebrating the centennial of president ronald reagan's birth and at that dinner i had the honor of introducing electric walesa, the former president of
poland, who helped to roll back the iron curtain. when he became president, the soviets were on the march. it was not a foregone conclusion that communism would wind up in the ash heap of history. when electric walesa landed the ship yard, the only thing he could be certain of was prosecution by soviet short authorities. but reagan understood something. he understood that communism was alive played out on the world stage. to borrow from shakespeare, reagan and walesa understood that the truth won out. the fundamental truth that we face today, one that cannot be denied, that is that our nation faces a spending crisis that no amount of additional taxes can fix. so let's talk about this budget floss a serious way. unfortunately, doing so will not reflect well on this chamber. borrowing from another one of shakespeare's plays "hamlet"
something is rotten in denmark. a budget is not larks but it is an important document that installs the guardrails for the operation of fiscal policy. understand the congressional budget act, each intoed to report a resolution by april 15 of each year. president obama submitted his budget and the house met the april 15 deadline. but senate democrats have no budget of their own. here is the senate budget resolution, this one big -- just one big laid goose egg. so here we are today talking about the house busmght the striewj that my colleagues on the other side don't want to vote on a senate democratic budget. instead they are determined to vote son a budget that everyone knows will not pass this body. why is this? with all of their hard-edge partisan fury and not even thin reed of fiscal governance, it is reasonable to conclude that something is rotten in the u.s. senate and if we follow the
scent with our noses, we will find out it comes down to numbers. the matching number is 50. 53 of the 100 members caucus with the democrats. so why aren't their 50 vote for a single democratic budget? we have heard the senate democrats won't support the president's busmght the stated haven't that the president's do-over budget was nothing more than a speech that was so vague that our friends on the other side refuse to treat it as a budget. i believe that there is a bigger problem holding up the democratic caucus. you see, the heart and soul of the democratic caucus is liberal. i respect that. but a healthy number of my friends on the other side are not entirely in that camp. and many more realize that pure liberal fiscal position might not be politically palatable. after all, the voters sent us a message last fall to get spend under control and not to hike taxes. so because senate democrats are jammed up, unable to get their act together, their leadership proposes no budget of their own.
we are engaged in a senate budget debate, but there is no substantive senate democratic budget buffs. and we don't have one because at least 50 members of this body do not agree on one, even though they have 53 on their side. so how do we define the majority's fills cal position? what budget would the majority of senate democrats support if they could? that budget is lurking in the background of this gaivment it is the budget that the party's liberals would enact if they could. it is the budget that the president and the hearts and his heart of hearts supports. it is the budget that the folks at msnbc support. it is the house progressive caucus budget, an intellectually leonest presentation of the for interested folks take a page at h-2368 to h-2870 of the "congressional record" of april 15, 2011.
there you will find the house progressive budget caucus fine print and the debate over it. i ask unanimous consent to include a copy of that budget in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. hatch: the progressive caucus budget is real, and it is ambitious. it is also politically risky. like the house budget developed by chairman ryan it took political courage. it is a statement of policy, principles, and numbers and with a goose egg as the stated senate democratic budget, from my perspective, the best place to look for the democrats' position is the budget of the house progressives. there is no doubt in -- there is no doubt that is with the majority of the senate democratic caucus really are. i think the budget offers a valuable contrast to the house-passed budget. the last time i checked, there were two major parties in congress, and both parties should be accountable for what they would do about our perilous fiscal situation. so let's hold them to account.
the house progressives aim to balance the budget by 2021. they aim to reduce public debt as a percentage of g.d.p. to 64.1% by 2021. they aim for both taxes and spending to grow significantly but to equal 22.3% of g.d.p. by 2021. house progressive advocate a fulsome growth in the role of the federal government with new domestic spending rising by $1.7 trillion. new domestic spending. how do they propose to pay for all of this? the -- whaoeuplt democrats play -- while the democrats play hide the ball on this issue, house progressives are frank. the short answer are tax hikes and cuts in defense spending. let's take a look at these new taxes. raise marginal taxes by 17.24% for single taxpayers. look at that chart there. there's an increase in the top
marginal rates by 17% to 24%. there is a brand-new "millionaire" surtax with rates reaching as high as 47%. there's a new record-high death tax rate of 65%. they treat capital gains and dividends as ordinary income. that means in some cases the marginal rate on capital gains and dividends would more than triple. they tax all overseas business income currently. that would mean with respect to growing global markets, u.s. businesses would be subject to uniquely high levels of taxation. they create new taxes on banks and financial transactions. i'll remind folks that c.b.o. told us last year this kind of tax would be passed through to bank customers and tk-rps. -- depositors. house progressives looked to reform social security by raising the pay of baseline tax by both employers and employees. look at this.
on health care, house progressive transparency is breathtaking. the presiding officer: the senator has used ten minutes. mr. sessions: madam president, i tell my distinguished colleague that we only have a few minutes left, and the senator from utah is waiting. so if you could wrap up briefly, i have thoroughly enjoyed your remarks. mr. hatch: all right. i thank my colleague. their budget anticipates taking obamacare to the next level. where are the spending cuts? one word: defense. defense would be cut by $2.3 trillion. i thank my colleague for the extra time and ask unanimous consent that the balance of my remarks be placed in the record at this point. and i intend to vote for three of these budgets today, because three of them make sense. they're not crazy.
they're not phony. and each of the three would save medicare and other matters in the federal government. i thank my colleague. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sessions: i would just have to say your remarks about the progressive budget and the fact that it represents, i think, the heart of this senate's conference view of budget is probably correct. and also, however it represents the view that would be widely and strongly rejected by the american people. senator lee from utah is a new senator. he's campaigned every corner of his state. he's had to talk about this issue on spending and listen to his people. i'm delighted to hear from him at this time. madam president, how much time is left on this side? the presiding officer: 1 minute and 15 seconds. mr. sessions: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the senator from utah have 4 minutes. the presiding officer: is there objection?
is -- mr. conrad:i'm fine with that. mr. sessions: thank you. the presiding officer: without objection, three minutes will be added to each side. the senator from utah. mr. lee: my distinguished colleagues who have spoken this afternoon point out a truth that is impossible to refute, which is at the rate the federal government is spending, we will have acquired $15 trillion of debt by the end of this year. that's a lot of money. it's requiring a lot of interest payment. that interest payment is only going to grow larger in the coming years. the obama administration is already predicting that by the end of this decade we'll be paying $1 trillion a year just to service the interest on our national debt. to put that in perspective, that's more than we spend on social security in an entire year, more than we spend on medicare and medicaid combined
in an entire year, more than we spend on national defense in an entire year. i actually believe that ten years is putting it optimistically. i think that day is coming much sooner. for that reason, i believe this body needs to pass a budget, a budget that balances. the problem has been this body has refused to do this. and every time we proceed with the idea that, well, we'll cut so many billions of dollars over the next ten years, or every time that we adopt statutory spending caps as we did with the gramm-rudman-hollings act almost 30 years ago, as we did with the paygo rules congress has treated those as something congress can exempt itself out of. the problem is that we, as a legislative body, cannot bind future congresses. we can legislate. we can appropriate only for this congress. and so our commitment now to save later isn't binding unless,
of course, we adopt an amendment to the u.s. constitution that will bind future congresses. that's why i've said i would oppose any and every attempt to raise the debt limit until such time as congress has passed out of this body and presented to the states for ratification a balanced budget amendment to the u.s. constitution, one that would require a two-thirds supermajority vote to authorize do think spend more than it takes in in any given year and spend more than 18% of gross domestic product in any given year. we cannot continue in perpetuity to rely on this kind of deficit spending. this will hurt every single federal program, whether you are most concerned, on the one hand, about preserving our ability to provide for our national defense, or on the other hand, if you're most concerned about preserving our entitlement programs, you ought to want a balanced budget amendment. you ought to be unwilling as i am to raise the debt limit until that amendment has been passed out by this body and by the house of representatives and
submitted to the states for ratification. thank you, madam president. mr. sessions: i would offer the balance of my remarks for the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sessions: and would yield the floor to my distinguished colleague, the chairman of the budget committee, with whom i have appreciated the opportunity to work and would say again that he orchestrated a fine series of budget hearings with some fabulous witnesses that made us all nervous but gave us some valuable insight. and i appreciate those good hearings, senator conrad, and appreciate the opportunity to work with you. and i'm sorry we're not able to mark up a budget this time, it looks like. mr. conrad: i want to thank the ranking member. those hearings would not have been possible without the active working together of my office and his office. and i do think they were really an excellent set of hearings
talking about the dimensions of the problem we confront and that we are on an unsustainable course. we're borrowing 40 cents of every dollar. it can't continue. madam president, after my brief remarks, i ask unanimous consent the following senators be recognized for up to five minutes off the democratic time: senator menendez, senator lautenberg, senator begich and senator whitehouse. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. conrad: madam president, i just briefly want to address this question of why we on our side have not laid down our budget proposal. and let me just repeat, we are in an unusual year. this is not going to be a circumstance in which there's a republican budget, a democratic budget, you go to conference committee and they're resolved, because we have a new process underway at the leadership level involving the white house. this is what the republican leader himself said about that process. the discussions that can lead to
a result between now and august are the talks being led by vice president biden. that's a process that could lead to a result, a measurable result. and in that meeting is the only democrat who can sign a bill into law; in fact, the only american out of 307 million of us who can sign a bill into law. he is in those discussions. that will lead to a result. madam president, we don't need a democratic budget and a republican budget. we need an american budget. we need a budget that is bipartisan because all of us know that is the only budget that can possibly be adopted. the republicans control the house of representatives. the democrats control the senate. the only possibility for us to make progress is a bipartisan budget. that's why i was deeply involved in the process on the president's fiscal commission, 18 of us for a year. and it is the only place a
bipartisan budget has so far emerged. 11 of us supported it. five democrats, five republicans and one independent. 11 of us out of the 18 on the commission. madam president, we now have underway the group of five talks, democrats and republicans working together. but most important, we have at the leadership level, republican leaders from the house and the senate, democratic leaders from the house and the senate and the president of the united states. what -- and the vice president of the united states. what sense could it make for us to go to mark up of a budget before we have seen the results of these leadership talks? that makes no sense. we have a bipartisan discussion underway, republican leaders, democratic leaders and the white house. we ought to have the courtesy and the patience to see if they come up with a plan that would
then form the basis of the budget. i thank the chair and yield the floor and recognize senator menendez for five minutes. the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. menendez: madam president, i rise deeply concerned that my colleagues on the other side in their ideological haze seem to have lost sight of the real people whose lives will be affected by the choices we make. it seems to me that the republican budget proposal fails to realize that budgets are not just about numbers. they are about people, their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations for a better life for themselves and their families. now we all have a budget. every family has one. maybe we don't think of it formally, but we all do. on the revenue side, it's our gainful employment. it's some investments we make, some interest on savings. and on the expenditure side, it's our mortgage payment, the
tuition for our children's education, the contributions that we make to our church or synagogue to a favorite charity who does a good cause. those are all an expression of our personal values. just as the nation's budget is an expression of our collective values. we may not always think of a budget in those terms, but it is about our values as a country. and we found out last night in upstate new york that the republican vision of ending medicare as we know it does not reflect american values, and voters are not buying it. once again our republican colleagues have shown that they're out of touch with the american people and on the wrong side of history when it comes to what americans think is fair, what they think is right. americans don't think it's right to give subsidies to big oil
companies, tax breaks to millionaires and take medicare away from seniors. they are saying that it's time to abandon the tired refrain of ending medicare as we know it, which is the republican proposal. it's time to abandon their ideological agenda that leaves seniors to fend for themselves, because it's not who we are as a people and it is not what americans want. this week i met with a group of seniors in fort lee, new jersey. we discussed what the republican budget cuts would do to the medicare system that they have depended on for decades and what those who will come next will depend upon. at that fort lee senior center, under the republican plan, a typical 65-year-old would pay an additional $7,000 by 2022. right now over 140,000 seniors in new jersey are impacted by that doughnut hole, lackf
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