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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  June 10, 2013 12:00pm-5:01pm EDT

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get rid of anything to speed up the process? >> at this point as we go through the regulatory process, as people are looking at the things that was authorized by congress to look at if they are talking from a federal perspective, from the state certainly the state historic preservation is something that we need to look at as we go through a particular project. and i think to look at things from the historical perspective we should be doing that as well. so i can't think of something that i would say this is the red star that i should ask you. >> not a single federal regulation that you would get rid of? >> not a red star question that i would tell you, no. >> are there any agencies you would prefer that you don't have to work with somebody from a different agency so that you can streamline the process that way?
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>> i think all of the land that put these agencies and process is in place to -- >> let's assume we can change the laws. what would you change? >> i wouldn't -- i wouldn't be able to put that out to you right now in regards to change. we work very closely with our regulatory agencies so that we can respond to their requirements and meet the national goals from the environmental point of view. >> so, if the give you additional time, can we come up with recommendations the you can submit to this committee or are we just going to have these kind of feasibility studies the first sitting here forever that 90% of the people don't read any way? i mean, what can we eliminate to streamline the process? >> what we are looking at is again bringing in of three levels of the corps of engineers to look at a project at the
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scoping mechanism so we are looking at how we scoped it realistically so that is what is really going to drive a smaller project volume than you see there to what i'm looking at as probably a 100 page report that we can bring over to you to congress so one thing we can streamline to that. but having our reports go through the state agency review is to meet all of the needs of a particular project. >> i'm out of time and i will deal back for my last question. am i to understand there's not a single regulatory act or agency at this point that he would do away with to streamline the process? other than the state historic -- >> no, sir, i wouldn't be able to provide a list of those
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things that were put in place by wall that i would have to abide by? >> i think the chairs indulgence and yelled back. >> the gentleman from long island, new york is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman. i want to pick up where the gentleman from california just ended. we have -- i thought mr. ribble did a great job of delineating the process. the overwhelming majority of which has been imposed on you buy -- byus. i want to ask a specific question and i know you can't answer it now but as you are preparing the 2013 there have been conversations that the staff level about how we can try to streamline the process. can i ask that you come back to us, not now, in writing, with
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whether of the 21 steps are there any specific steps we can either eliminate or consolidate with other steps or are there blocks of steps that we can either eliminate or consolidate as we look to go forward? >> yes, sir. >> thank you. i think there would be very helpful as we try to work our way through this process. the other thing i just want to sort of emphasize the point that i made earlier and then ask a question about that. when mr. denham asked you the questions about the project that he's interested in in california and his concerns about how long it's taken, and your response -- i'm summarizing your response, the funding stream was uncertain which believes the project and there was then -- i won't say a disagreement but a lack of consensus and the local cost share partner in terms of the
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right way. the project along the gestation period and the two problems that we have been talking about which our funding and cost share partner haven't even in sufficient funds or a different idea on how they should go forward. >> that impact the duration of the project. >> here is my question. i represent north eastern long island. i have 3 miles of coastline, 75 miles of atlantic coast. we have $5.3 billion through the sandy supplemental that will go to the core to prepare sandy sandy-related damage and mitigate against other damage if we have another storm with the same intensity of sandy. that is a lot of money. will that not give the opportunity to see how the core can work through a process when the funding stream is guaranteed
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, and at least in this particular case for five-year island -- fire island, the local cost share in the federal government will take 100% of the cost share so that will give a mechanism or a living example to see how the process works when it is adequately funded and that we also have an opportunity with katrina which we've gotten an awful lot done in a short period of time. >> the three things that we had was full federal funding and abbreviated commitment from the nation to get it done in a short amount of time. >> i guess what i'm saying is we want to make sure we keep our eye on the ball that we are all talking about regulatory agencies and 21 steps, and by the way i don't mean to diminish the importance but we could eliminate all of that and if we give you funding year after year
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projects are going to take a long time to get done, correct? thank you come gentlemen. i appreciate your work and wish you well. >> thank you. >> ligon congenital. i left off my questioning i ran out of time and didn't give you adequate time to respond to those questions. so, i would like to reiterate a few of them. first off, can you give me an estimated time of when you think the 408 permit process for the southwestern illinois prevention district might be all issues settled and offered? >> the last time i looked at that was about three months ago. i would have to get an update from that. three months ago, we hadn't yet had the submission from the local sponsor. so i couldn't give you an answer
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because we hadn't gotten the submission and i don't know if we've got them yet. i will have to go back and look at it and certainly i can have one of my staff call your staff later this week and tell you where we are on the process. that particular issue had us look at the 408 issues, the minor and major and they can resolve that locally and if it is major it has to come to the headquarters for the review. the last time i looked on that particular project, we decided that there was a major 408, but again if the submission had changed, then it may be minor but i don't know the details. >> thank you very much for that. i know the locals have also requested to use a project labor agreement on one portion of construction on the wood river cut off all project and what
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river illinois. do you have an estimated time of when a decision will be made of whether or not that request will be granted or denied? >> i think it's still out for comment, and as soon as the comment period closes, the district command will make a decision. i will have staff get back to you later this week on the time frame, because i'm not familiar with that. >> another one of my pieces of legislation i talked about, hopefully it's going to be included in any bill that passes in the chamber just like in the senate is our up public-private partnership at the win3p project that could give the court some valuable tools to move forward the party central right now and down the mississippi river up and down my district the party central to my constituents jobs and local economy. can you comment on how you think
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that piece of legislation or language that is in the senate bill and the language that is in our bill, how could it positively affect a large infrastructure project that you may be working on in the future for about this country? >> congress and, generally we do not make a comment on pending legislation, so i won't comment on the senate or door -- >> but it's a good bill. >> on your bill as well. but i think -- and we are working on how to use the public-private partnerships in the future. certainly our hydro power systems are running at about 89% efficiency. i think there is a lot if we had more investments in our hydropower and bring the deficiencies up from 89% to the
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normal industry standards which is about 98%. if we cannot find that out, then let's bring in a public-private partnership to fund the difference and figure out a way for him to pull his investment out of that particular project. i have a guy is working on a public-private partnership in the water resources in the future that hasn't developed far enough along for me to share yet. >> okay. i have another bill, the mississippi navigation act, that i know you can't comment on. so let me ask you can you comment on how further study navigation tools for the korean forecasting improvement can help the core prevent further problems like we saw last year during the low water on the mississippi when it comes to navigation? >> we have a project that is
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called navigation ecosystem sustainment program, that's work on the upper mississippi and we are trying to figure out how to forecast the green prices 50 years from now and that is challenging to do and put together a decent cost-benefit ratio on that. but we are still looking at what kind of tools can we use to pull that together? so we are working on that. in regards to floods and droughts, the beginning of this year we are in the flood stage, and we are briefing everybody that needs to be briefed. we are in the drought stage and had to blow up the pinnacles and the st. louis area and now we are in the flood stage again. i don't know -- we are certainly working with the director of the national weather service. i don't know if the climatologists were giving us this variability in the last
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four months i don't know that we have a tool that can do that but we are working with a fusion cell between the corps of engineers, the weather service and the usgs to figure out how and where we should be investing resources so that we can have a better predicted devotee on water and water resources. >> thank you very much for those comments. i am concerned about the flooding that's going on right now. i a understand that you have to deal with a wide variety of issues, droughts, floods. thank you for all of your district service helping to fight the floods along the mississippi right now. my heart goes out to the hard work they are putting in on a daily basis. we want to give you more flexibility to be able to address the situations, which is why i put that bill fourth. as, if that is something we can
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do to allow you to come in and address the situation, i think that we should work together to make that happen. now my last line of questioning has to do with infrastructure. as i mentioned before, i have been working with your local district for upwards of 16 years and we talked about upgrading the large project along the mississippi and illinois and we heard comments from the court that even if we were to fully fund those projects that are authorized, they would take upwards of 40 years to complete the project. can you comment on the length of time that you think it will take to actually upgrade them along the mississippi and illinois river? >> right now the funding stream as restricted with the inland water trust fund, which generates about $80 million a year and out of the general fund
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comes another 80 million so $160 million a year to do the major work on the locks and dams, so small funding streams aren't going to be a will to keep up with the infrastructure that needs to be repaired. there is a lock near louisiana, and its 89-years-old. as you go through that and the open and close you can see the concrete falling off the walls into the river. we aren't going to get into that in the current funding stream for another 15 years before we get that particular so it's going to have significant impact on the infrastructure with the funding stream as it is currently structured. >> i can chifley agree which is why we have the legislation that we are hoping to pass.
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i am concerned about -- i think the corps had the best intentions to build this and to come in as close the budget as possible but going from $775 million on a construction cycle to 3.1 billion we have some issues when it comes to a large infrastructure projects. what has the core learned in constructing that project that we can then take away to ensure that we do not hit those limits again or exceed them again? >> one of the issues that we are having is the amount of funding we can bring to that project. at $120 million a year its just a struggle to put together an efficient program to get that complete. well we've demonstrated in louisiana is -- and mr. bishop
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already talked about that and the same thing for hurricane sandy, federal funding coming and we can go get it accomplished. in this case we are taking the federal funding and trust fund funding and moving forward at this little amount each year. the other piece i think we just didn't put together a good cost estimate when we put together the project moving forward so what we are looking at now is we've put together a center of expertise on cost reviews. every big project we have, we send it over to wala wala and make sure we are doing a fair job how it is going to cost one we move the project forward. this particular project we will be pulling them off of this project and right now we have three shifts. we will be pulling them off at the end of the year because it isn't enough of a ready for us
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to put any more funding in the project so it will have a significant impact on the benefits that were supposed to be derived from this project because of the funding authority. >> moments left in this program. we go live now to the alliance health reform as the hosting and even on the medicare advantage. the plan offered by private companies that contract with medicare. the panel of medical experts are expected to discuss how the health care loll will impact the program to the it's just getting underway. >> in recent years, they have grown in enrollment and also as a source of policy issues at appropriate levels how well do they serve the needs of minority and low-income beneficiaries? what does the future hold for the program? today we are going to look at those questions, what changes are coming for the plans and for the beneficiaries enrolled in them. what impact the changes might
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have on those two groups. we are going to look at the future of the program and how much gets paid to them and how that is determined, which is in itself a granular process that we all need to learn more about. our partner and a co-sponsor in this briefing, the family foundation, has been cranking out some of the best analysis of medicare including medicare advantage that you are ever going to see. patricia neumann and the audience today heads up the policy project and along with her colleagues, they have produced some great analysis many of which he will find in your packets and one of which was just published today so you won't find it in your packets but if you go to our web site at allhealth.org or kff.org you will be able to find our version of the update on the medicare enrollment; is that what we are
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talking about? medicare advantage enrollment. so, we are very pleased to have the kaiser family foundation involved and especially pleased to have co moderating to aid the discussion the foundation's executive vice president, diane nolan. >> thank you, ed and all of you for joining on the topic of medicare advantage. i really appreciate the fact that today we were able to pull together such an incredible panel to look out the various aspects of how medicare advantages working, who enrolls in it, how it is paid but especially because only are their implications from the medicare advantage program or the medicare program itself and the medicare beneficiaries, but also as we increasingly are looking through the implementation through the changes going on in medicaid and
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in private insurance that a growing role for managed care and what are some of the lessons that we can take away from today's discussion that might help us as we move forward to try across the board to improve the way the health care services are paid for and delivered. so i am very pleased we have such a good panel to start off our discussion and such a great audience that i know will put good questions to them as we move forward. thank you. >> thanks, diane. if you are a member of twitter or whatever one might call it, you will notice that there is a hash tag mafuture that you can make use of in the course of the briefing. in your packet you will find a lot of information, some not even produced by the kaiser family foundation including some speaker biography is that are more extensive and you'll get from us as moderator's. there is one page materials in
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the kit and the power point presentation that we have received an advance. there will be more background information available at our web site of allhealth.org. there will be a video recording of the briefing of to double in the next couple of days things to the kaiser family foundation on their website. you can get there through our web site as well. there will be a transcript of today's after that on allhealth.org. if you are watching now on c-span and have access to the internet, and you can call the slides from the speakers as we go along by going to our web site come allhealth.org, on the info for today's briefing and then on the panelists name under the speaker presentations. at the appropriate time for those of you in the room and ask our panel a question as dalian has encouraged you to do by
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filling out one of the green question cards in your packet or by going to the microphones one on each side of the room and at the end of the briefing we would appreciate if you would fill out the form so we can improve these briefings to respond to your needs as well. let's get to the program. we have as dianne elude it to the terrific panelists that will give a brief presentation and then you will have a chance to get into the conversation. we are going to lead with correction jacobson, the director of the kaiser program who came to the foundation from the staff of the congressional research service where she specialized in health care financing for the foundation she carries out projects and direct others to shed light on medicare and the people it serves and we are pleased to have you back here on our panel.
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i will provide a bird's-eye view on the medicare advantage program and how it currently works for the people on medicare for decades now, medicare beneficiaries have had a choice between saving their benefits from traditional fee-for-service medicare or through a private managed-care plan known as a medicare advantage plan. today there are 51 million medicare beneficiaries. 28% of whom are enrolled in medicare advantage plan. medicare advantage and will these can have different kind of plans. in 2013, most people on medicare advantage plans, 65% are enrolled in hmo, 30% are enrolled in local or regional ppos, 3% on the private fee-for-service and other types of plans. the demonstrations for the
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medical savings accounts. when we look at the demographics of people enrolled in medicare advantage for the traditional medicare, we do see some subtle differences. starting with of the orange bars, you can see that a smaller share of people are under the age of 65 and disabled and a smaller share of people are 85 and older are enrolled in the medicare advantage. in the blue metal bar, you can see that a smaller share of white beneficiaries and a larger share of hispanic beneficiaries are enrolled in medicare advantage. and while they're appears to be slightly larger share of black beneficiaries and medicare advantage, this difference is not statistically significant. other differences are of significance. finally, in the green set of bars on the right, you can see that the incomes are slightly lower among the people on medicare advantage. some changes in medicare advantage plans will affect some
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groups of beneficiaries more than others. earlier you saw 28% of the beneficiaries are enrolled in medicare advantage but this hasn't always been the case it enrollment in the private plans has increased over the past couple decades. many of the changes in enrollment coincided with the changes in policies. initially, the enrollment in private plans is relatively low. then starting in the early 1990's, there was an increase in enrollment in private plans. then in 1997, the balanced budget act named the plan medicare plus choice and reduced the payments for many plants. in the years following, the enrollment increased. then in 2003 the medicare modernization act renamed the program and medicare advantage of increased payments for all plans and established the part de prescription program that was
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subsequently integrated into the medicare advantage plan. since then, enrollment has continued to steadily increase. in 2010, the affordable care act reduced the payments to the plans and established a new quality based system for the plan but subsequently expand by the cms a demonstration for 2012 through 2014 and partly offset the reduction in payments for implemented in the aca. since the aca, enrollment has continued to increase, and in 2013, more than 14 million beneficiaries are enrolled in the medicare advantage plans. while nationally, 28% of beneficiaries are enrolled in medicare advantage, this varies greatly across the country ranging from less than 1% in alaska to 49% in minnesota. in 15 states, which are shown here in orange, you can see that more than 40% of the
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beneficiaries are enrolled in medicare advantage plans. compared to less than 10% of beneficiaries in the six states shown in dark blue. enrollment also significantly varies within the state. so the changes that affect medicare advantage played out differently across the states but they also played out differently within the states. from the perspective of the beneficiary, medicare beneficiaries can choose from 20 medicare advantage plans on average in 2013. there are a lot of differences across the plans, but there are also minimum requirements that all plans must meet all plans are required to cover medicare part a and b benefits and have cost sharing that is at least actually equivalent to the cost sharing in the traditional medicare. the plans also cover the part he prescription drugs and in 2013 most medicare advantage plans
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do. unlike traditional medicare and all medicare advantage plans are required to let out of pocket expenses to $6,700 or less and these limits vary greatly across the plan. finally, most plans provide extra benefits such as lower cost sharing for benefits not covered by traditional medicare, which in addition werries me tell you in the their plan choices -- which may vary in their plan choices. >> another factor that a factor in to the beneficiary a moment decision. most medicare advantage enrollees are in plans offered by one of five affiliate's which you can see here. and this is true at the state and county level albeit with slightly different companies. so it is a select number of companies that drive the local and national medicare advantage market and have most of the enrollment.
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another factor on the beneficiary plan choices is the quality rating. so the distribution of the ratings among plans while the right side of the bar is show the distribution of the rating by enrollment. if you compare the orange set of bars on the left to the range set of bars on the right, you can see that while a quarter of all of the plants received four or more stars, about 40% of enrollment is in the plans with four or more stars. ..
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plan choices and that vary across plans including things such as provider networks or plans cost sharing. looking forward the outlook for the medicare advantage program is not entirely clear. although most expect enrollment to continue to increase through 2014, after 2014, which you can see here in read the projections differ. some say enrollment will continue to increase while others say enrollment will decrease. it remains to be seen how policy changes with the aca and chem station will change the landscape of the medicare advantage program
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in the coming years. for more information about medicare advantage see our resources on kff.org. >> thank you, gretchen. >> thanks very much. we'll hear next from mark killer, who is the executive director at the medicare advisory commission or med pac. they advise congress on all things medicare, payment, access and quality and is as nonpartisan as you can get in this town. mark held senior positions in cbo and in omb and at the centers for medicare and medicare services within hhs and in the nonprofit sector and i'm pleased to say he's a frequent flyer on our panels. or at least not as frequently we would look but we're happy to have you back. >> thank you. and nice job, gretchen. i think it sets us up really well.
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i assure you my talk will not be as smooth as gretchen's was. what they asked me to take you through the payment policy and evolution of payment policy and what is coming. that is what i will try to do here. as ed said, i'm from the medicare payment advisory commission. the commission's position is that the beneficiary should have the choice of managed care plans or private care plans and traditional fee-for-service. we think private plans have tools that fee-for-service doesn't necessarily have to coordinate care and to keep unnecessary volume down. but on the other hand, like every other payment, whether it is hospitals or physicians or otherwise we think the payments have to be done carefully to be fair to the providers but also to be fair to the taxpayer and beneficiary. there have been issues with respect to private plans. but just to jump right into it, the first thing i want you to get into your heads is that, managed care's proposition sort of works like this. fee-for-service is high cost
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because it is volume driven and uncoordinated and the proposition of managed carries, we'll come in, do a better job and with that savings we can offer the beneficiary extra benefits. those extra benefits are usually less cost-sharing. that will attract beneficiaries to go to managed care and you will have this cycle of underbidding fee-for-service and drawing beneficiaries in. and let me give you a sense how that might work. this is how the old payment system works and how the new payment system works. but of course it is obviously much more complicated than this, because it us always is. just to work our way through the slide on your left-hand side side of the slide. there is a county with $800 billion benchmark. the government says this is the etch about mark. plan a bids $700. they're $100 below it. under the old system they would keep $75 of those
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dollars and medicare pay 775. i working my way down the slide. the beneficiary would pay nothing else beyond the part-b premium and there would be $75 of extra benefits. pretend in the same county plan b comes in and bids $840. in that instance there is no rebate, there is no extra dollars because they did not bid below the benchmark. the government pays $800. the beni has to pay 800 to join the plan and there is no benefits. the beneficiary should want to choose plan a unless there is sport spear gain on plan b. assume quality is the same. they should want to pick plan a because the premium will be zero and get extra benefits. the $64,000 question is where is the benchmark set? to get this concept into your head get this picture. not imagine, what is happening in this picture is that you take the counties
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of the united states and you array them from low fee-for-service counties to high fee-for-service counties. basically what is happening up at the far right-hand side you have miami and mechanical len, texas. everybody is going to the hospital. everybody is getting an mri. down the left-hand side of the line you have the northwest, upper midwest where utilization is lower. this is stylized picture but this is the managed care proposition. they have a cost function. it is not flat like that. but it follows a line a little more. to dramatize it a little bit i want to make it flat. the point here in high fee-for-service areas of the country, managed care can be fee-for-service. but in low fee-for-service areas, managed care may not be as much, be able to compete against fee-for-service. i want you to imprint this picture in your head because it will come up again. for example, in this slide. actually, let me back up for one second. the proposition this creates for the congress is, where
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do you set your payments? do you set your payments to max savings on your right hand side of the picture, or, or do you set the payments in such a way that you have plans in all parts of the country? in other words, maybe you have to pay more than fee-for-service to get plans in the low fee-for-service parts of the country? well the congress decided over many years and over many pieces of legislation to actually set those benchmarks well above fee-for-service in the low cost fee-for-service parts of the country. as you can see the yellow line at the top. even in other parts of the country the benchmarks were above fee-for-service. you see the problem from a payment point of view. if the plans bid below that bench mark, they get, to keep some of those payments but those payments are in fact above fee-for-service. and so what we had for many years is a situation in which the payments given the payments, the way plans were
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paid, every time a ish ry, at least on average was enrolled into managed care it cost the program money. so pulling people out of fee-for-service into managed care costs the trust fund, costs the taxpayer. now of course plans offered extra benefits. so this was very attractive to beneficiaries but those extra benefits didn't come from the efficiency of that plan relative to fee-for-service. the extra benefits came from the fact that we were paying above fee-for-service and the plans were able to the if the dollars and offer extra benefits. this caused rapid growth in the industry. as you've seen in gretchen's slides. and lots of enrollment in managed care. and our concern is that it also stimulated low value plans. we mean two things. plans that were bidding well above fee-for-service. they were entering the program and saying, i can't provide these benefits efficiently but i'm going to
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enter the program anyway, and plans who set out and said i'm not even going to managed care, private fee-for-service plans. i will leave you with that thought and we can take it on question. so we recommended that the payment system shouldn't do this. that the payment system should be more neutral between fee-for-service and managed care. we should say the beneficiary should look at these two choices and not be sending one signal or another that steers them to managed care or fee-for-service. it should be a equal signal for either managed care or fee-for-service. we want to be clear about something. we don't think fee-for-service is well-functioning system. we want managed care plans to come in and do a better job in cost and quality. we made a recommendation to change the payment system and congress took some action. i will show you that in a second. and we also said within the managed care system if a plan does better on quality, it should be paid more than a plan that does worse on quality. so those plans have more money to offer extra
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benefits and attract beneficiaries to the higher quality plan. congress also acted on that. so this slide is the most complicated slide. i apologize for that. but this is why i set up the original one. the congress has divided the counties of the country into four quart tiles. they have set the benchmarks at different levels in the four quarttiles. i will illustrate on your right, in the light blue shaded area. these are the high cost areas of fee-for-service in the country. miami, texas, places like that. the benchmark is now, is transitioning to 2017 to a benchmark that is 95% of fee-for-service. in these parts of the country, managed care plans to be competitive have to bid below that in order to offer the beneficiary extra benefits. the program will save money and the beneficiary will get the extra benefits from the efficiency of the plan.
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however look on the far left, the dark blue, the benchmark there in 2017 will transition to 15% above fee-for-service. so the congress made this decision that says, in the low fee-for-service parts of the country, we will continue to allow plans to pay or to be paid above fee-for-service. so in a sense, they're getting savings from the part ever the country that has high free for service and then they're using some of those savings to subsidize plans in the low fee-for-service parts of the country. this is painful. we're almost done. just hang on. i'm not enjoying this anymore than you are. so just be clear about this. so that's what congress did on the benchmarks and the payments. then on quality what they did is they said, okay, if you're a high-quality plan, by the way there is a five-star system that works on outcomes, intermediate outcomes, patient experience
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and process measures and one other i've forgotten. there are the 50 measures between ma and the part-d part of the program. and they get stars. a couple of things happen if you're a high star plan. you get a bit of a higher benchmark. which means if you come further below it you get more money to provide in benefits, and, if you are a high star plan you get more, greater percentage of that difference. if you're a five-star plan you keep 70% of the difference. if you're a three, 3 1/2-star plan you keep 50% of the difference. that means high-quality plans have more dollars to offer extra benefits to try to attract beneficiaries to them. there are issues here with the way this has been executed. gretchen mentioned the emdid is stra. we decidedly have issues with that. i will stop here and take that on question. thank you.
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>> thank you very much, mark, it was a lot less painful than it seemed to you and me. next up we have alyssa fox, senior vice president in the office of policy and representation for the blue cross and blue shield association. the 30-member health plans in that association cover almost 100 million americans including tons of medicare beneficiaries under medicare advantage plans. she has been one of washington's premier health policy analysts for 25 years or some she's been at omb. she has been at hhs. she has run her own firm. she understands how health programs work and she will tell us how medicare advantage works from the standpoint of the plans. thanks for being with us. >> thank you so much, ed,
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for that lovely introduction and thanks so much, diane, appreciate the invitation to be here today to talk about medicare advantage. the blue cross-blue shield association as ed mentioned, is comprised of 38 independent companies across the country. plans offer coverage up to individuals, small groups, and large groups, in every zip code in this country. plans also participate, tense sievely in the government programs including medicare advantage, medicaid, as well as the federal employees health benefit programs and in addition all blue plans offer medigap coverage, medicare supplemental coverage. you heard gretchen did a great job telling you who is in the program. blue plan enrolls about 2.5 million people, about 17% of all medicare advantage beneficiaries. blue plans offer hmo
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coverage, ppos, special needs plans. we also have one msa option. there is great value in the medicare advantage program. i would like to outline some of that value. i think first of all, it is really important to understand that medicare advantage enrollees receive comprehensive, high-quality coverage. benefits and services that go far beyond what people get in the traditional program. 2013 survey found that nine of, out of 10 medicare advantage beneficiaries are satisfied with their coverage and 94% believe that they receive very high quality of care. a key feature of medicare advantage plans is the coordinated care and that's what's so important, to insure people are receiving the right care at the right time, with the greatest efficiency, and with fewer
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return visits to the hospital and doctor. i will give you a few examples for our own experience in blue plans, in medicare advantage. people want to make sure they're getting the appropriate preventative care and using the best practices, to both treat medical conditions and manage chronic illnesses. medicare advantage plans offer a range of benefits not covered in medicare fee-for-service. a key one as gretchen mentioned, out-of-pocket caps which is really a great value to make sure that you know that your out-of-pocket spending is capped and you don't get that in a traditional program as well. but medicare advantage plans also offer many other additional services to improve and release coverage including medication management, nurse help lines, hearing and vision care just to name a few. finally it's really
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important to note that medicare advantage serves many low income and minority individuals. 41% of beneficiaries in medicare advantage make under $20,000 a year compared to 37% in a traditional program. and there's a very high percentage of minorities also receiving care in medicare advantage. as a result of the coordinated care and these additional services and benefits, peer reviewedded research has demonstrated the high value of medicare advantage. i have several of the studies listed on the chart. i will just highlight a few of them. key findings include lower hospital readmissions. better performance on clinical quality measures. and the last study here by the national bureau of economic research showed a spillover effect to the
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community. so where you see high penetration of medicare advantage, you can actually see lower hospital costs in the community, both to the traditional medicare program, and to the under 65 population. so you are seeing better savings as a result of this care. and finally, not, listed on this page but a study i became aware of a few days ago, was a study by the boston consulting group which found shorter hospital says and better preventative care. that was just released a few weeks ago. blue plans are seeing very, very impressive results. for example, blue cross-blue shield of massachusetts is insuring that their knee and hip replacement members are returning home safely through home visits and phone calls to insure they're getting the proper follow-up care. there are also seeing
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significantly lower readmission rates in both hmos and ppos compared to the traditional program. wellpoint, who has 14 blue cross and blue shield plans as would the country has a many could hens sieve program that identifies high-risk members, provides them with specialized services to insure they get the care they need to prevent hospitalizations and keep them as healthy as possible. for example, con guess sieve heart failure patients are quipped with a wireless signal to set off alerts if patient gains too much weight overnight. if so the patient is seen by a clinician the next day to monitor and take care of that patient. mark did a great job talking about how medicare advantage payments are being calculated. what i would like to highlight are the cuts that are ahead.
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there are accountable care act included direct funding cuts of over $150 billion over the next 10 years. as you can see from this slide the cuts are being phased in with the largest cuts yet to come. in addition to the aca direct cuts, the aca includes a new health insurance tax that is applied to medicare advantage enrollees.
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fourth the a the aca included billions of dollars in cuts to other providers. because the benchmarks are tied to fee-for-service spending, that means there is indirect cuts being phased in to medicare advantage as well. cbo estimated that it would be $70 billion over 10 years in additional indirect cuts because of this linkage. second, new year's eve also
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brought an additional $2 billion in cuts in the fiscal cliff package. and medicare advantage is also subject to the additional 2%, because of sequestration. while not a funding reduction, starting next year, medicare advantage plans are subject to new requirements for a minimum medical loss ratio subject to 85%, which is restricting how much can be spent on administrative costs. the bottom line, there is very sizable cuts that are ahead of us. and i just want to mention too, that something gets lost sometimes too. medicare advantage is a very highly regulated product. i will just give you some examples. all the markets materials are scrutinized by cms. how quickly phones are answered are set and monitored by the government. language lines, how you are
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answering the lines, being sure that you have the right people, based upon different people's language skills. making sure you have the appropriate staff is, is monitored. how much agents and brokers pay is set. there is 53 p.m.ance measures that are, are set and reviewed and, and overseen by the government, and, on top of that, there are regular financial and performance audits. so there's a lot of oversight to make sure the government is getting what it paid for and, you know, we just want it make sure people understand that there is a lot of oversight here as well. i would like to leave with you two points. first, medicare advantage plans are very committed to continuing to serve medicare beneficiaries and to build upon the current innovations to improve quality and rein in costs. we are very proud of the job
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we're doing but we always think we can do better than we've done. we're striving to do that. we are concerned, however, that already-scheduled funding cuts are likely to lead to increased costs and reduced benefits and access for beneficiaries and look forward to talking about that. thank you. >> terrific. thank you very much. excuse me. as alissa was saying the medicare advantage program is operated in the private sector and part of the answer to the question of, that's posed in the title of our briefing about the future of medicare advantage has to do with how the private shareholders and the markets in america perceive that future. and, fortunately, we have, in my notes somewhere, a
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perfect addition to this panel. our final speaker is carl mcdonald. car is a director and a senior analyst for citi investment research and analysis. he has followed the managed care industry for a decade or more for several leading firms. we've asked him to take sort of a clear-eyed look at the future of medicare advantage from a business standpoint. carl? >> great, thanks, ed. i was tasked with the question whether or not medicare advantage is viable over the long term. when you take the policies that mark talked about, some of the funding challenges that alissa just walked through will the program be around five or 10 years and continue to thrive? i think the answer is absolutely is yes. i think the key fact to think about here medicare advantage plans are competing against a completely inefficient fee-for-service program. so in other words, these companies have the ability to actually save costs
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versus the fee-for-service program. i know medical management is sort of a vague term so some specific examples. so medicare advantage can try to make sure seniors have a primary care physician. somebody they can go to for care relatively inexpensively as opposed to showing up in the emergency room. a separate example would be the medicare advantage plans. what they try to do in terms of fraud and abuse. something that the federal government or fee-for-service program attempts to do but with very limited success. a final example that i will give you, medicare advantage plans are constantly reviewing provider networks. if there is a specific doctor utilizing significantly more than anybody else in that region with no explained reason, they could eliminate that doctor from the network. so these are all different ways that the companies can be more efficient. now when i say that medicare advantage is viable in the long term, i should be a little bit more specific. the way things are set up right now, medicare
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advantage can be absolutely viable in urban areas, thinking miami, los angeles. definitely more of a question whether medicare advantage can survive in some of the rural markets. mark alluded to this in terms of the way the payments are set up as well as the ability to control costs. i think, as you look at the last couple of years the fee-for-service medicare program consistently showing cost increases generally in the three to 5% range. medicare advantage, their cost increases have been closer to zero to 2% over the last couple of years. so there has been a pretty significant difference in those cost trends in the last couple years. as we think about where medicare advantage is going, i think it is helpful to understand where they are today. so this just gives you a summary of the medicare advantage program today. so a little bit over14 million people in risk plans. the average payment that the
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plans get today is right around $900 a month. on annualized basis, medicare advantage private plans taking in $155 billion in revenue. on average they're paying out roughly 85% of those dollars in hospital, doctor and drug costs that is 85% medical loss ratio. 10% of the payments they get are going to sg and a. fee-for-service, the sg & a ratio is in low single digits. fee-for-service and 10% medicare advantage plans are spending some of that is executive salaries. the rest is the care management programs i was talking about. you know, keeping people out of emergency rooms, fraud and abuse. all of that stuff costs money. that is what the sg & a is. private plans on average earn a margin of 5.5%. what's interesting to me if you look at the payment rates to medicare advantage plans, in the last five
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years they haven't gone up a single year. the base reimbursement has fallen including some 4 to 5% cuts in a couple of those years. so as we think about the cuts that are coming in 2014, this is not a totally new environment for these plans. they have been working through reimbursement reductions, everyone of the last couple of years. now what's interesting, if you look at the period between 2010 and 2014, despite the reimbursement cuts, medicare advantage plan enrollment has accelerated. margins have been stable to better. and, the benefits that the plans offer to the seniors have been relatively consistent. so again, another indication that the plans have been able to mitigate these rate cuts through some of the cost savings mechanisms that we talked about earlier. this is a chart from humana. what it does, it breaks their enrollment into the four different payment qaur
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tiles. if you look at the far left, that 95%. urban areas like miami. the green part at the bottom is the people that have benefits 15% or better than fee-for-service despite the rate cuts the benefits have been stable to better. that has been relatively consistent across all the payment quartiles although much more significant in the urban areas. the ability that plans have to save money versus fee-for-service, it does vary quite a bit. again these are humana statistics. what it does it breaks down membership in terms materials of provider reimbursement they have. global capitation, that is where doctors and hospitals take on all the risk. humana gets paid by the
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government. turn money over to the doctor and hospital. it is up to the provider to be able to manage care. in those situations humana can save almost 30% versus fee-for-service. that goes back to the point why i think medicare advantage i think can be viable in this payment system in those urban areas. if you scroll down to the bottom providers that have no incentives or very little incentives, the savings humana is able to generate is only 9%. so in those type of areas it is going to be much more difficult to offer the extra benefits that attract seniors into the program. and so this i think helps to explain why companies like humana are doing everything they can to try to move more people into hmo products and into more of the products where providers are taking risk. even to the point that humana among other companies has gone on to actually start buying up doctor practices.
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you've seen a couple of those acquisitions across the industry over the last couple of years. this runs through the publicly-traded companies and gives you a sense where their membership is today among the different products. so you can see there are pretty significant differences. you know, on one end of the spectrum you've got a large medicare company, united, where almost 70% of their membership is in hmo products. very little in ppo, private fee-for-service. where somebody like humana only little more than 40% of their membership is in hmo products. if you think about environment next couple years as deal with rate cuts, much easier for company like united with a lot of hmo, with a lot of risk sharing with hospitals and doctors to be able to work through the cuts than it would be for a company like humana. another company like, universal american that have significant amount of membership in more rural
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areas with providers who have no incentive to keep the cost trends down. one other thing that i think is going to become significantly more important that has been up to the on by a couple of people but these star bonus payments. higher quality medicare plans get higher payments. starting in 2014 you have to get to four stars to get a 4% bonus payment. currently if you're a three-star or better plan you get in bonus payment. in 2015 that will end. if you don't get to four-star you won't get a bonus payment. if you're a 3 or 3.5 plan in 2015, not only do you not get the bonus payment but as mark mentioned you get less of a rebate if you finish below the benchmark. that will roughly translate into the specific example i have up on the slide, you could have a $50
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differential between one plan four-star rated and one that's not. that is a significant amount of extra benefits that the four-star rated plan that will be able to offer seniors. these payments, do become significantly more important. again this has the publicly trading companies and where they stand from a star rating perspective. humana is one example. it is almost a four stars. just under. so they're in a relatively good position versus somebody like wellcare who sunday three stars at this point. wellcare operates specifically in hmo markets, particularly urban area. south florida is one big market. it will be extremely difficult for them to compete in that market in 2015 if they're not getting bonus payments and everybody else around them continues to. so, i will stop there and we can start with the questions. >> terrific. thanks very much, carl. you now have the opportunity to join the conversation if
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you are going to one. microphones, we would ask you to identify yourself and to keep the question as brief as possible. if you have a question to write on a green card, stand, or hold it up and someone will bring it forward and we'll spring it on our panelists. so i believe you were first. >> thank you, ed. alyssa did a great job, highlighting, stuart gordon from wellpoint. >> you want to identify yourself? >> stuart gordan from wellpoint. alissa did a good job to highlighting the wellpoint successes but one with the final caller they changed the risk adjustment in such a way that it will impact particularly the low income and chronic needs folks that are in wellpoint's chronic
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care special needs plans and dual eligible special needs plans. in fact, it looks to our actuaries as though the, the impact will be a reduction in reimbursement almost equal to the, to the growth factor increase that got ballyhooed in the press. dr. miller, has the medpack staff had a chance to look at the impact of the risk adjustment calculations on the dsnips and the csnips? >> what we've done there, when cms made, put out its caller, we had a comment on that change and we were concerned about it too. we felt that cms had kind of mixed the coding adjustment with the risk adjustments. we always think risk adjustment should be as accurate as possible and all of that but we felt there was some mixing of the
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coding change. so we suggested that they step back and not implement that right away. and what we have done, and we have not ground through that particular analysis but what we have done, this is talked about in our june 2012 report, we think that there does need to be some improvement to the risk adjustment system for these types of populations. we made a set of recommendations in which we think would tighten up the risk adjustment system. where did that guy go? there he is. and we do think that there is some adjustments that can be made to the risk adjustment system that would take the distribution and for those people who are taking the d-type and chronic condition patients, the risk adjustment system would work better for them. so we have a set of recommendations which we've been saying to cms that they should be pursuing to go after that particular problem. >> [inaudible]. >> no, this is already out. this is out in june 2012. and i was supposed to say
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during my talk that a lot of the things i was saying are in our march 2013 report but i forgot to tell you that. >> okay. yes, ma'am. >> i'm dr. caroline hoffman. i'm a primary care physician. we know that 20% of the medicare population is responsible for 80% of the cost. in the early days of medicare advantage, there was concern that the cohort, the population that was at tracked to medicare advantage or medicare advantage was seeking, was healthier than the population in the fee-for-service. section. so that their costs would be lower. and i was wondering if you checked for that, if anybody has looked at that recently? nobody's mentioned it.
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>> i think there's been some examinations of that issue. and, has found that, overall the differences in the risk scores i think is what you're referring to, has narrowed over a time is what most recent studies have found. although of course this will differ across plans and differ across the country. so that is something to consider. and i think more research to examine it as well. >> thank you. >> i would just add -- >> go ahead. >> sorry. initially when the program began there was not a risk adjuster. that has been added to the program and i think that made a significant difference as well to make sure that appropriate payment is made for those with chronic illnesses and what you see in the medicare advantage plans are a huge emphasis on coordination and emphasis on primary care to
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make sure those individuals are getting the right care. >> but is there a discount for people who don't require any care at all? >> yes. you get lower payments because the risk adjustment, yes. >> thank you. >> yeah. and i think, i would have said the same thing gretchen said. there has been some narrowing of the differences but there were three recent studies i think in the last year or so and they're still finding some lower risk profile for ma beneficiaries but it is not as high as it has been in the past. >> i'm jim gutman of medicare advantage news. i would like to ask carl the question that gretchen jacobson brought up the degree the beneficiaries are using star ratings and making enrollment systems. did we see any changes in the recent annual election period? to what extent are beneficiaries doing this? what extent is this likely to increase in the coming years. >> i will exaggerate here and say directly basically
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zero. seniors don't care. so, the examples i would give you is that, if you're in what is considered a low-performing plan, so under three stars for certain period of years, seniors get mailed a letter from cms alerting to that and giving special election time to move to higher rated plan. very few seniors don't make the move. generally feedback, from the shopping experience, they care about premiums first and foremost. much easier to sell a zero premium plan than a $50 premium plan. drug coverage, primary care co-pays. et cetera. but the point i made indirectly if you're a higher rated plan you get offered extra benefits. so with that extra dollars you get you're able to offer lower premium plans and extra benefits. there is indirect but generally now seniors don't care about star ratings. >> i assume you don't see that changing in the next
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couple years in terms of how much they care directly about it? >> probably not. >> i'm going to follow up to gretchen for a question we had that still relates to the star rating system and that's what kind of measures of provider quality are included in that. so is that really a good system for the beneficiary to know about the providers in the network, beyond satisfaction and other factors? >> well, part of what's included in the star rating system are what are known as measures which are quality measures that measure things such as did someone get the appropriate tests that they should have received? are they getting the appropriate preventative care that they should receive? and measures such as that which should be correlated to the quality of the physician. other measures are measures such as the patient satisfaction. and, also some
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administrative measures that are included in the star ratings as well. there is some measures in there in terms of whether or not the physicians are doing what they should be doing. >> but not directly about the physicians? >> no. shoe hi, i'm ali singer with the heritage foundation and i have a question about enrollment in the future. in 2010 the actuary says that the aca would reduce ma enrollment by 50%. >> could you stand a little closer to the microphone? thank you. >> enrollment would decrease by 50% and, in march 2012, the cbo said at end of 10-year budget window, 11 people would be enrolled in ma. in may they now say it will be 21 million in 2023, which is nearly 100% increase in ma enrollment. which includes the reductions. none of you are with the cbo do you have any idea why cbo
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has drastically changed their enrollment projections? >> i would just throw out they haven't given any explanation at least what drove this change. so i'm speculating here but historically cbo hasn't assumed any cost savings from managed care companies. basically all they have done is look at projected payment rates for the plans over the future period of time. and made assumptions about the enrollment. so my guess to have that kind of a swing is, they have to be assuming some level of efficiency that the managed care companies are able to realize. you know, my perspective is, the, these new numbers i think are directionally better although they seem a bit optimistic to me give the payment challenges we're going to face over these next couple years. >> mark? >> yeah. i'm going to take this opportunity not to answer your question. i don't know why they changed their estimate but i do want to pick up on some
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things carl said and what might be, you know, implied by as people like carl and others are looking out. i'm often asked these things to be the kind of gloomy, unhappy guy and i'm sure i accomplish that this time. . . >> as a country, we were paying 10% above fee-for-service for that privilege. now what's happening is under the pressure of the benchmark and the fact that certain sets of plans have been moved out of
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the managed care environment, the private fee-for-service plans, you now have much more focus on the plans that actually can deliver the benefit more efficiently. the average bid now is 96% of fee for service. managed care plans can provide services less expensively than fee for service. the question is whether is as a program we take advantage of that. hmo plans, their average bid is 92%. and this is why i think carl's data, people trying to move people into products where they can control the expenditures is why you're seeing that happen. maybe that has something to do with people looking forward with projections and thinking that the plans may be viable in that environment. but that's not official from cbo, okay? [laughter] >> alissa, when you get your members together, do you hear optimistic or pessimistic views of the future enrollments?
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>> well, you know, i just -- when you look at the numbers that are out there in the years to come in terms of the cuts, the new tax, it's hard to see how you can keep the level of service, the level of cost sharing and the level of benefits stable. because there's such huge cuts ahead. so it is a big concern. it's a very big concern how people are going to want to work hard to keep stability for their beneficiaries because, you know, it's really critical for older people to make sure -- they get scared. i know my parents were in medicare, well, medicare plus choice, i guess, in the '90s when plans left. and they called me every day. i mean, it's a huge problem for people when their plan, premiums go up, or they have to leave the program because of these funding
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cuts. so we look at the numbers ahead and, you know, are very concerned about the sizable cuts. and then, you know, you look at the sgr coming in december, are people going to come and say, oh, we're going to hit medicare advantage again. so it is a huge concern looking at the cuts, the tax that's very significant. so a lot of worry. but a lot of work, we're going to continue to work, um, on new innovations using what we're doing on the private sector that's been very effective and translating that into our medicare advantage plans. >> you know, just one interesting side note is i think it's helpful to think about the existing program versus new seniors that could potentially come into the program. and the distinct i would make there is for seniors that are already in the program, plans can do basically what they want to those seniors, and they will not leave. meaning you can raise premiums as much as you want, cut benefits as much as you want, and seniors have shown they will
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not leave and go back to fee for service. potentially, they'll switch to another plan, but even going back to bba back in the late '90s, early 2000s, there just -- seniors left and went back to fee for service when their plans pulled out of the market. so, yeah, i think as you think about the growth of the program, when you think about the cuts, it's really going to be how attractive is medicare advantage to seniors that aren't in the program now. >> george? >> go ahead, george. >> i'm george -- [inaudible] new york. for better or worse, we've been contracting with medicine since 1965 and now serve about 186,000 medicare advantage members. so with that background and in full mod december ty, i've never heard so much that i disagree with. [laughter] and in particular the tone of
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the optimistic enrollment forecasts, and if you forgive me, on page 13 of your excellent report the optimistic sentence that the fact that enrollment continues to grow. and, you know, i'm shortening that sentence. so in your report you point out that 45% of medicare advantage members are in high fee-for-service areas. that's not in question. and a high percentage of those are in what we call zero premium plans. most of these are in urban areas serving people, we saw the data before, who cannot afford medicare supplemental coverage. i mean, that's a big part of the constituency. the other part of the constituency, i'm sorry, you haven't talked about are the employer members who age in. okay. now, as projected, the rates in those urban areas are going to go down to 95%.
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and if you add to that the data that ali is ssa gave you -- alis is, a gave you on the impact of the cuts, several of the cuts, we've just gone through the exquisite pressure of presenting our bid to cms for next year. how can you make these enrollment, on the minutessic enrollment fore masts? -- forecasts? what am i missing here? the comment that you can charge anything and people won't leave, i'm sorry, you know, 40% of a membership is employer based. they are very price sensitive. they will leave depending on price. those low income people who can't afford, they will leave depending on price. so maybe somebody on the panel can tell me what i'm missing. but when we come back to the -- the title of this presentation, the future of medicare advantage, i've been doing this since 1971.
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i'm very pessimistic. so, please, tell me what am i missing here. >> yeah. no, i guess the -- >> yeah, i like carl -- [laughter] >> just throw me out there. no, but i think the -- no question it's a difficult environment, and 2014 in particular is going to be a very challenging year. but the way i see next year playing out to start there, as i think enrollment in the program is going to continue to grow. not nearly as much as what we've seen the last couple of years because of all these cuts, but i think some of the things to keep in mind is one there is many more seniors turning 65 now than was the case five or ten years ago. so there's a demographic aspect to it. overall, most plans are looking at something in the vicinity of a 5% reimbursement cut in 2014. now, if you're assuming that cost trends are going to rise a percent or two, it means plans
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are facing somewhere in the vicinity of a 700-basis point headwind, pricing down 5%, cost trends up too. plans are going to be able to adjust the benefits in most of the regions to be able to absorb the bulk of that. now, there may be a little bit of margin pressure as well. but, yeah, i think that type of a reimburstment cut not too dissimilar to what we saw in 2010 when rates fell 5%. now, things have been compounded over the last couple of years because rates haven't gone up, but i would think about 2010 as being a somewhat comparable example where reimbursement was down quite a bit, plans were able to cut benefits, manage through it, and you actually did see the enrollment increase in 2010. so there is some historical precedent for, you know, some seemingly big reimbursement cuts being able to be mitigated by the cost efficiencies. >> mark? >> the thing that i was going to say is once again i think the
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change in the benchmarks have put the plans under pressure to find the efficiencies that, in theory, they should have been pursuing all along. and so, and i do think -- i don't mean this to -- you asked what you're missing. i mean, i'm not saying that you're missing this, but what i see as a big change over the last, you know, four, three to four years is the bids of the plans relative to fee for service have come down. and they're creating the room under fee for service to finance the benefits. each year we keep looking at these bids and, you know, you tell me, the bids come in, and the plans themselves are projecting 9 and 10% increases in enrollment. they think they're going to be increasing enrollment. we're in an environment where everybody is pressurized. it's not just ma plans. fee for service is under pressure, the same sequester hits fee for service, and plans
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can bid themselves away from some of that to some extent, although they risk losing beneficiaries. rightly or wrongly, the congress set up -- apparently, this doesn't help you, but rightly or wrongly, the congress set up the system to have higher benchmarks in those parts of the country where managed care can't do as well. that's an important policy question we ought to discuss, but one of the reasons that people might be optimistic is they're specifically subsidizing plans in certain parts of the country, and then something else that other people said, i'm sorry, i talk so much, i didn't mean to say all this, you know, the quality rankings. i mean, that will drive money to certain plans, and i think if plans can leverage that, they can continue to even get additional resources to offer benefits. i don't mean to imply you're missing anything, but that's what i look at. and at least in the near term, that's what i see. you know, the projections 10 and 15 years out, i have no idea.
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so -- >> hi, paul cotton with the national committee for quality assurance. thanks for a great panel. when we look at the scores that are coming in to us, we're seeing a lot of plans that in the past were not very serious about the quality scores and now that dollars are attached to them are being very creative. what are some of the examples you're seeing, things that are helping to get the plans' scores up? and also as a second question, carl in particular, how can we make those measurements more relevant to the beneficiary so they do actually care about them when they pick a plan? medicare lists them by the cheapest plan first. maybe if they had the high quality plans first, would that help drive more enrollment to the high quality plans? >> yes. i would say from the plan perspective what the companies have done is, as you said, they've actually started to care about them now that there's some dollars attached. if you go to any one of these companies, they'll have a whole team of people that will be able
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to tell you down to a contract where are we on each specific metric. and so what the companies have done is they, first, go after the low hanging fruit. so if there's, you know, a county or a contract where they're currently at 3.8 stars, and if they can get 50 more people to see a primary care physician that's going to push them up to 4, well, that's where the first dollars are going to go to. and they start making outbound calls saying, either to the doctor or the member, you need to go in and see your doctor. so it's been very, very targeted to this point. as the star ratings start to get better, it's going to be more difficult for the plans to see those kind of improvements because, you know, getting from a 3.5 to a 4 star, obviously, is a much bigger jump than if you're right on the cusp. but that's what they've done up until this point. in terms of how you get seniors to care about it, i mean, your idea of the sorting, i guess it's theoretically worth a try.
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but it just seems like every single selling season it's number one is what'll the premium -- what's the premium, then is my doctor in the network, and then everything else is just so far down the list, you know, in terms of co-pays, deductibles, star ratings, you know, just a huge gap between those first two and really everything else. >> i would add that plans are working hard to try to get better data, because a lot of it has to do with giving the data and employing the types of practices where you can see improvements and results with a lot greater focus. and i don't know that i agree with you that people aren't paying attention to the ratings. i think you are seeing greater attention to the ratings. and i know that cms is looking at using similar ratings for the exchange products. so i think you're going to see attention to these kinds of rating systems across the board.
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>> yes, go ahead. >> hi, my name is brian conkling, i'm with the national rural health association, and i'm wondering what effect do you see these payment reductions and other changes having on medicare advantage, medicare advantage plans' relationship with rural safety net providers, specifically critical access hospitals? >> well, i just think the cuts, you know, we just need to be candid. those cuts are huge up ahead, and there's going to be, it's going to put a lot of pressure on payment rates to providers, on keeping the benefits at the levels, you're going to see cutbacks in benefits, you're going to see, you know, increased cost sharing, and it's going to be difficult to maintain the kinds of levels we've seen. so we're very worried about all of that. i mean, the cuts ahead are just huge.
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>> go ahead, mike. >> hi, mike miller, i'm a health policy consultant and blogger. mark brought up the concept of how medicare advantage and sort of competes in the same market as fee for service for, in digit regions. one thing i've heard about people talk about is that acos or the shared savings programs are in some ways, like, training ground or minor leagues for full capitation medicare advantage. can anybody on the panel talk about those kinds of plans, organizations then evolving and growing into medicare advantage plans and how that might affect the future, um, bandwidth for medicare advantage, both number of plans and enrollees? thanks. >> mark? >> and, actually, i don't know, maybe people at the other end of the table would be better positioned to speak about this being, you know, closer to the industry. but the people who are coming into my office -- i lost him
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again. where are you, mike? oh, there you go. for some reason eye contact helps me. [laughter] i feel like i'm actually talking to the person who asked the question. so the people who are coming into our offices and talking to us about acos seem to mostly break out on the side of, no, no, this is a provider-driven organization, it's different than an insurance organization, and there are certain advantages to that. and even though we might want to drive towards a capitation or more often partial capitation environment, we're not thinking insurance. but then, and i wouldn't -- i don't know how to characterize this in percentages or anything -- there are people who kind of show up and say, you know, we're thinking down the road we might jump the fence. but the sense is that most of the people who are coming in and talking to us about the aco stuff is it's a different model. and at least for the near term, that's the way they're thinking about it. just a quick brush.
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>> the plans are partnering with a variety of a a -- acos, and we have patient-centered medical homes now in almost all states. and so we're partnering with those physician practices in our private business as well as our medicare advantage business, and can we're also partnering with the hospital-driven acos types as well. so, you know, as part of our arrangements, we will be incorporating those types of arrangements going forward. >> and it's -- i think the aco concept is interesting, but it's a challenge for a provider group to become a managed care company. you know, just think about -- you basically need to transfer the actuarial underwriting capability of the managed care plans down to the provider level to really make that a success. it's interesting, we do a not-for-profit hospital conference every year in new
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york. two years ago all the providers, all the hospitals come in gung ho, we're going to take risks, we're going to become managed care companies, we don't need them anymore. this past year we did it and, you know, the direction is still the same, but the pace and the tone is very different as in we started this, and it's actually kind of complicated. these companies have been doing it for decades, and they still miss earnings every three years. so the idea we can just come in and price it appropriately, you know, i think the, you know, i think they've realized is a very significant challenge. they just don't have that infrastructure today. and so i think the one thing that the plans are doing better this time around relative to the physician practice management issues of a couple decades ago is rather than plans giving risk to any provider group that's willing or dumb enough to take it, you know, as mark said, they are starting, you know, sort of baby steps. so year one is here's your cost threshold. if you stay below it, you get a bonus. if you go above it, that's okay.
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try better next year. year two is double-sided risk and, you know, potentially at some point down the road you can have providers taking on full risk as opposed to jumping into it from day one. >> al milliken, am media. bipartisan letters from congress, more than 160 i see in one of the handouts to cms, the centers for medicare and medicaid services, how effective were these? >> and the subject was -- >> well -- >> repayment. >> -- the changes, the cut that turned into an increase earlier this year. >> well, you're talking about the update about what the assumption was with respect to the physician payment update? we felt that it was, that cms should have always assumed that congress would fix the payment
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rate in the medicare advantage update for several years. we wrote to cms i think it was three years ago with a legal opinion saying that it didn't make any sense to assume that medicare advantage would get a big, that there would be a big payment cut to the physicians that would be included in the medicare advantage update which, essentially, cut its significantly -- cut it significantly. and then you pay it back the year after. that's not the way we set our contracts with hospitals and doctors. so we think it was, um, very important that this year in particular when medicare advantage plans were facing such a significant cut, to make sure that the payment rates reflected the correct assumption with respect to the physician fee schedule, that there wouldn't be the kind of cuts that were initially put into the fee schedule as for the last, i think, it was ten years. there's always been an assumption that, in the baseline
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that doctor fees would be cut, but congress has acted every year in that period to make sure that didn't happen. so we were very supportive of cms' final decision on that. >> and i may have my timing off here a little bit, but the bipartisan letters of support, i think at the end of the day, probably didn't end up mattering in the sense that all of this has come out of a who knew what when. it seems like after the initial rates came out in february, fairly shortly after that -- within a couple of weeks -- they'd made the decision that they were going to fix the payment rates to the medicare advantage plans. so by the time of the bulk of those letters came out, i think the decision had already been made, you know, internally that they would give the plan some relief on the base payment. >> if they had been earlier, would it have made more of a difference, do you think? [laughter] >> yeah, i think it can't hurt. and i think part of it is who's sending the letters. if the florida delegation is sending the letters, of course
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they're sending the letters. everybody in florida is on a medicare managed plan. so i think it matters a little bit more sort of who the people are and whether it's some nontraditional. >> when we like to think the letters matter. [laughter] so it's just how much did they matter is an unanswerable question. next. >> harvey sloan, excuse me, with eurasian medical education program. i wonder if you can talk a little bit about primary care physician recruitment. is that a problem? is it more of a problem with the fee for service? with increased beneficiaries now, are you seeing that as a big situation you've got to deal with? >> yes. we believe, we've been focusing a lot of our efforts on trying to increase primary care to place a greater emphasis on primary care. that's why we think the patient-centered medical homes are so critical and such a major
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foundation as a way of trying to improve care to people. i haven't seen the numbers on graduation rates and how many people are going into primary care recently, but i know that plans are working closely. in fact, some of our plans have actually partnered with medical schools to try to get more, more graduation rates and more people going into primary care residency. so that is a major focus of plan efforts across the country. >> again, this is just a little bit off the subject, but i think your question is also broader. so in our work we survey beneficiaries every year for access problems. we've seen a lot of stability in their access, but to the extent there is noise, it's people looking for new primary care physicians. the commission has made, i'll do
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this very quickly, made a series of recommendations to try and rebalance the physician fee schedule in order to move resources towards primary care and away from procedural services. and i won't take you through the gory details, but that's something that we are worried about. sorry, back to you. >> okay. and for alissa, you've talked a lot about the impact of the cuts and what, that they will be devastating. so this question is, well, what tools do you have or do blue cross blue shield plans have and plan to use to try and met gate the increased costs -- mitigate the increased costs, especially those imposed by the aca? so what will happen from these cuts? >> first of all, we are, we are urging congress to repeal that tax for everybody. it is, it is very expensive. it's going to add significantly not only to medicare advantage premiums, but to premiums to
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individuals and small businesses. it adds for a small business, a family, it's $400 a year according to the joint committee on taxation. so we're working to try to repeal that tax. that's difficult because it, um, saves -- costs $100 billion, so you have to find an offset which is, obviously, challenging. and plans are working to constantly try to work with their providers. we're working on patient-centered medical homes, care first, for example. they're not medicare advantage, but care first has shown again for the second year in a row, i think it was 2.5% savings from the second year of their program. and so plans across the country are working closely in partnership with their hospitals and doctors to rein in costs, employ better management techniques. but, you know, when you look
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ahead, you know, the health insurance tax is a clear tax, and it's going to increase the costs to beneficiaries both in terms of medicare, medicaid, it's a cost to medicaid, federal employees and to others. so it's a big problem. >> what are some of the, what are some of the actions that the plans can take to reduce their costs at the beneficiary end of the day? i mean, how are you changing what services are provided or what reviews are being done to beneficiaries? >> well, each plan will look at their own situation, but people may be increasing cost sharing, um, may look at reduced benefits, doing more coordination in management. you don't really want to increase cost sharing or reduce your benefits. you're going to look at more efficiencies in your system. but everyone's going to look at their own plan and try to be as efficient as possible, try to get the prices down that they're
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paying their hospitals and doctors, employ more coordination in management of services before, you know, cutting back those benefits and increase cost sharing. but my guess is it's going to be a combination of all of those. >> and just one quick add-on, i think one thing you will see in 2014 is plans exit. you know, i think in a couple of cases maybe more to make a point to cms than anything else. you know, think of a company like united or humana picking three rural markets where they don't have a lot of members and just leafing the county. -- leaving the county. basically just to make the point that if you put us through this rate situation again, there will be consequences, you know? rates got cut in '14, we exited these counties, we'll do it again if we have to. it's not going to be widespread, but i think you will see a little bit of that in response. >> that's a major concern because we know what beneficiaries what is security and stability of their benefits.
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you know, as i mentioned, you know, older people, they're are concerned about -- they're very concerned about their health care expenses because they are so significant. i think just last week there was an article in the post about the financial stability of older people's health care expenses. and it's a great worry for people. so we're very concerned about the impact. >> stuart gordon from wellpoint again. let me run an idea by you that we've been knocking around our public policy offices, and that is we've heard that star ratings don't have a huge impact on beneficiary choice of plans. so suppose cms could colate, could essentially assess star ratings on folks in fee for service, collate them by county or something commensurate to the plans in the state and put the rating for the fee-for-service enrollees on the report card with the ratings for the plans.
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would that, would that make the ratings for the plans any more relevant? dr. miller, you may know whether that would, how difficult that would be for cms or, gretchen, you might know. >> wow. >> actually, we even have a question asking mark to comment on how you would compare quality in fee for service to managed care if you're trying to achieve neutrality between the two. >> sorry to get this question can. question. i should have tried to get off the stage right before it. [laughter] we actually did an extensive report on this, and the report is now i'm going say -- and this is why i'm struggling with the answer -- the report is now, i'm going to say at least three years old. i'm getting a nod. so -- [laughter] and there are several issues, and some of this dose -- goes to, you know, one of the big issues that rises is you have a different risk structure.
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we think the research is suggests that. and so anything you put out there you have to be able to track through the differences in risk. and that's not a simple thing. not necessarily impossible, but not a simple thing. the second issue you have -- and another issue that arises is kind of the geography. like sometimes you say, well, here's the plan, but the plan has reach across many different markets. and to truly make those comparisons their, what you probably end up needing to do is comparing the plan in that market to fee for service versus the plan as an entity across, you know, many markets in the country. those are are at least a couple of the challenges. then the report goes through in much more detail some of the differences in the measures and what would have to change in order to do this. and this is an extraordinarily tall order and would be very expensive. and when we put the report out, it was a requested report to congress, we said these are the
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kinds of steps you have to take. and i only touched a few of ones that i can remember off the top of my head. but also cms would be, would need to be given the resources to pull this off, because it would be a very big undertaking. but you're absolutely right, we think in terms of payment neutrality -- which i, again, didn't have time to say this -- where you ultimately want to be in terms of payment neutrality is that if managed care as an entity, i don't think this proposition is there yet notwithstanding some of the research that was cited. if managed care is a better quality product, then payments should reflect that relative to fee for service. and the signal to the beneficiary should be, well, there's higher quality over here. to we definitely grief that this -- agree that this metric should be established and that comparisons between the two settings should be made. but it's a tall order, and it was written up a few years back.
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maybe it'll give you something to work with. >> good answer. go ahead. >> and, alissa, this question is if you're a beneficiary, why should you choose an measuring a plan instead of one of the blue's med i gap plans? >> well, we're lucky, we offer both. love laugh so we think people should have a choice of balloons. most -- plans. all plans offer med gap and medicare advantage, and people choose med cower advantage for the coordinated care they get. they get lowerer benefits -- not lower, lower cost sharing. higher benefits. and so we think a lot of people make the decision for those reasons. >> and the follow-up question was, does the cap apply in your medigap plans as the same in the medicare advantage? >> you pay a lot of money for it, and you can't charge for it in the medicare advantage
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programs. so there are additional requirements in medicare advantage that are above what people in traditional fee for service get. so -- >> and then for gretchen, are the quality measures for the staff system good enough, or how could they be improved? [laughter] >> okay. so we've done a fair amount of work looking at the quality star ratings. and i think as mark mentioned, they are comprised of a lot of different measures and pretty much most of the measures that were currently out there that could be used. so they're comprised of, um, the -- [inaudible] measures which measure whether or not physicians are doing the appropriate tests. they also include the health outcome survey measures. they also include the caps measures which assess whether patients are satisfied with
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their plans. and then they also include administrative measures; everything such as did they have the right translators to their customer service. so given that they include all of these measures, i think some have raised some questions as to whether or not there needs to be a different balance to the measures or some measures to be weighted more than others. and i think that's sort of, it's still being debated, and it's still up in the air. but they do include many quality measures all in them. >> do you want to add to that? okay. mark, we have a question that came in in advance directed to you, but it's not really fair to direct it completely to you. [laughter] because it quotes the medicare trustees' report saying that the medicare advantage plan bid assumptions were lowered to reflect recent data suggesting
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that certain provisions to the affordable care act will reduce growth in these costs by more than what was previously projected. what is or are the recent data that were referred to? and as i say, i don't want to hold mark responsible for what the trustees said. anyone on the panel who wants to respond to that should feel free. >> [inaudible] [laughter] >> i'm not, i wouldn't want to speak on their behalf. >> okay. you stumped the panel. [inaudible conversations] [laughter] well, we have -- go ahead, diane? >> i think we're done. >> yeah. we've run out of card questions, we've exhausted the people at the microphone. >> we have one more -- >> almost. >> almost. >> and you should take the time while diane is digesting and reading this question out loud to fill out the blue evaluation forms that are in your packets
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for our edification after you're done. >> i would only say i think the star system has generated a lot of interest. so in our last question that we will take today, some plans have complained that they've been scored on some star criteria before they knew what the criteria were. is this a problem, and is hhs working to improve this? and i do know we don't have anyone from hhs on the panel. >> well, i would say some of our concerns about it is we always thought it should, um, go through the normal notice and comment period so that you know what the criteria are, and there would be an opportunity to comment through it, and that doesn't really happen. there's a lot of guidance today, so we would like to see a more formalized process under way. >> and is there any indication that the d. is moving -- the department is moving to a more formalized process? >> not that we're aware of.
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>> if there's anybody in the audience from the department who would like to chime in on this, they should feel free. or not. >> well, obviously, there is a lot of interest in being able to assess how well the beneficiaries make out when they are choosing one managed care plan over another or over fee for service. i think we've seen a lot of issues raised today, but i think we also are hearing very clearly that we need better ways to measure what we're getting for what we're paying and also for how to pay, and i know that medpac and everyone in town is going to continue to work on these challenging issues. and next time we won't put mark on the spot as often. >> and i would just add to that that we're going to continue our examination of different aspects of medicare in another briefing we are bringing to you with the partnership of the kaiser family
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foundation next month on the fee-for-service cost sharing plan proposals that are floating around on capitol hill and elsewhere. so we look to to deepen our knowledge about a different part of the medicare program at that point. and i would just say thank you for keeping the conversation going in a very lively and useful direction. and thank the kaiser family foundation for their contribution to making this a success and ask you to help me thank the panel for a very useful conversation. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> if you missed any of this conversation from the alliance for health reform, you can find it in its entirety online, just go to the c-span video library. the senate about to meet, they're going to be working today on immigration and the farm bill, but before we go to the senate, take a look at what to expect this week on capitol
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hill. >> rachel, take us to that immigration bill that's going to be on the floor, what's the timing for that debate, how long are we expected to see this on the senate floor? >> guest: yeah. this could be a very long process. this is a huge immigration bill that the senate's gang of eight -- because of the bipartisan group that's put together the bill -- that could see the most sweeping changes to immigration reform for, in decades. the motion to proceed, which is the 60-vote bar to get to debate on the floor, is expected to happen on tuesday. there's not supposed, there's not expected to be any objection from republicans to move on to debate. so we could see it as early as tuesday, or they could wait for some procedural hours to happen and debate might not actually start until thursday. but debate will definitely happen on this immigration bill this week, and there is expected
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to be a vote on the senate floor before the july 4th recess but not before a lot of contentious amendments come to the floor. we could see everything from some gun control amendments, certainly some stuff related to this latest nsa controversy could come up in relation to this bill, some amendments related to the gay rights -- i'm sorry, gay marriage could come up related to this and certainly stuff related to border security. so this is going to be a long, contentious debate before there is a vote. but there is expected to be a vote before the july 4th recess. >> and here's a story from "the politico" now blog, senator ayotte endorses immigration bill. this was on the sunday shows yesterday. ms. van dongen, we're going to play a clip of her and come back to you to tell us why this is important. here's senator ayotte now. >> our immigration system is completely broken. we've got 11 million people living in this country illegally
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in the shadows, we have a legal immigration system that isn't meeting our needs to grow our economy, so i looked at this careful, this is a thoughtful, bipartisan solution to a tough problem, and so that's why i'm going to support it. i looked at the border security provisions, the e-verify to make sure we control who's getting a job in this country and also making sure that a there's a better legal immigration system, bring the high-tech workers here to make sure that we can have the best and the brightest here in this country to grow our economy. and finally, with the 11 million bringing them out of the shadows, a tough but fair way for them to earn citizenship. go to the back of the line, pay taxes, pass a criminal background check, learn english. so this is a good bipartisan solution, and i look forward to supporting it. >> host: and rachel van dongen is the congressional editor of politico. why is senator ayotte's support on this bill so important? >> guest: yeah. well, republicans are going to
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be part of the swing vote here. the bipartisan group that's authored this bill is hoping to get up to 70 senate votes in their attempt to pass the bill. they're hoping to gather quite a bit of momentum so if they do, indeed, pass the bill, they can send it over to the house where, you know, getting an immigration bill through a gop-controlled house is going to be tougher. so ayotte is just one of these swing votes that they're hoping to the gather, and her support indicates that there might be several other more conservative senators that are willing to support it. there are some other swing votes out there like orrin hatch. he is on the senate judiciary committee and, indeed, voted for the bill out of that committee but has not committed to vote for it on the floor until he sees several changes. tom coburn's another one of those. most of these conservatives would like to see some changes to the border security provisions. they want to see them beefed up. they would like to see, um, they would rather see congress rather
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than the department of homeland security in charge of the plan to make sure that the border is fully secure before immigrants are allowed to receive green cards and permanent legal status. so there are several changes these conservatives want to see before they sign on to this bill. and certainly -- >> host: go ahead. >> guest: ayotte's timing is a good sign. >> host: and before you go, give us a quick update on the farm bill and where that stands this weekend. >> guest: right. yeah, there's a vote tonight in the senate, and that is expected to pass the more contentious piece of that will probably be in the house. so you're expected to see a vote on the farm bill tonight in the senate. >> host: very closely-watched bill. rachel van dongen of politico, thanks so much for joining us this morning. >> thank you. >> a cloudy day here in washington, d.c. as the u.s. senate gets ready to meet.
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senator wills continue debate today over the immigration bill. they're considering whether to bring the bill to the floor for amendments and possible passage, a vote scheduled for tomorrow to limit that debate on the motion to proceed. and this afternoon at 5 eastern, senators will is the aside immigration and take up the farm bill. at 5:30, a vote scheduled on a motion and final passage. if approved, it will go on to the house. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, retired admiral barry black, will lead the senate in praimplet admiral. the chaplain: let us pray. almighty god, your law is a lamp and your teachings illuminate our path. help us to honor your name. lord, you know every heart and provide a shield for those who have reverence for you.
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today, may our senators find treasures in your wisdom, enabling them to be responsible stewards of their noble calling. as they remember their accountability to you, empower them to live for your glory. o god, our ruler, let your glory be seen in our nation and world. and, lord, we ask your blessings on senator jeffrey kiasa as he takes his oath today. we pray in your merciful name, amen.
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the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: following leader remarks, the senate will resume the motion to proceed to s. 4 -- 744, the immigration bill. that will take lace unti place l 5:00 p.m. today. senator sessions will control two hours. senator leahy will control the remaining time today. senator-designate kaisa will be sworn in today at 4:30 p.m. at 5:00, the senate resume consideration of the farm bill. at 5:30 there will be a vote on
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passage of that bill. following that vote, the senate will reseoul the hogs to road to the immigration bill. there will be a vote on the motion to proceed to proceed at 2:15 tomorrow afternoon. there are two bills at the desk. the presidin the clerk: a bill to stop national security agency from spying on citizens of the united states and for other purposes. h.r. 126, an act to direct the secretary of the interior to enter into an agreement to provide for management of free-roaming wild horses and so forth and for other purposes. mr. reid: i would object to further proceedings on this bills. the presiding officer: objection is heard. the president pro tempore: the bills will be placed on the calendar under the provisions of rule 14. mr. reid: mr. president, for most of her life, anna nadesma has been afraid. she was a model student in las
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vegas, an artist and a member of the key club. one of the top academics at her high school, she received a scholarship to study nursing at nevada college. now she's studying hard for nurse being exams. but 23-year-old anna has lived for a long time with the constant fear that she'll be deported. anna is an documented immigrant. she was born in the philippines, brought here by her parents when she was seven years old. she was in the second grade. this is what anna told the las vegas sun newspaper -- the "las vegas sun" newspaper. "i would tell my opinion myself that they are not going to deport me because i am a nursing student and i am working hard and with aens to make a difference in my community. but constantly in the back of my head i think about being deported and having to start over." thanks to a directive issued last year by president obama,
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anna and 800,000 other young people like her, young people who are american all but paperwork, won't be deported. president obama's directive suspended deportation of the dreamers. students brought to america illegally when they were children. she ithese young people share or language, our culture, our love for americament, which in most cases is the only country they've ever known. like anarcs the dreamers are talented, patriotic young men and women wanting to defend our nation in the military, get a college education and work hard to contribute to their communities and to our country. still, the republican majority nin the house of representatives sent a chilling message to anna and others when it voted to roll back president obama's directi directive. republicans voted to abstain people just like anna that were brought to this country illegally through no fault of
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their own. that is why it is vital that congress act at long last to fix this knacks's broken immigration system. president obama's directive is temporary and squarely in the cross hairs of the tea party, this tea-party-driven republican right wing. the directive is also directed at 10 million others who are living here without the proper paperwork. a permanent, commonsense solution to our dysfunctional solution in sight. the bipartisan legislation on which the senate is now working is the solution. our economy needs. it is the solution that immigrant families need and it is the solution that anna needs. bill isn't perfect. that's the nature of legislati legislating. compromise is necessary and inevitable. but this measure takes important steps to reform our broken legal immigration system, strengthen border security, and hold unscrupulous employers accountable. over the next three weeks,
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senators will impose -- i'm sorry, over the next three weeks, mr. president, senators will propose a number of ideas to make the legislation better. some will offer ideas to make it worse. but those suggestions must preserve the heart of the bill. a pathway to earned citizen begins by going to the back of the line, paying taxes and fines, learning english and getting right with the law. whether we're democrats or republicans, whether we're from red states or blue states, we can all agree the current system is broken. we can all agree on the need for action. this bipartisan legislation is our best chance in many, many years to bend the system toward it working right. we need to mend this broken system, mr. president. the senate is about to engage in this important debate, a debate about the kind of country that we are and must continue to be. this nation was founded on the promise that success should not
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be an accident of birth but, rather, a justice reward for hard work and determination. it is no wonder that so many people from so many nations wish to share that projects but they can't all get the promise of coming to america. that's what this legislation is all about. the united states has always welcomed immigrants and that's never going to change. for those like anarcs the word of a jewish proverb are appropriate: "dreams do not die." "dreams do not die." therefore, it is up to us to help fulfill those dreams and fix our broken immigration system. the presiding officer: under the previous order, leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed on s. 744, which the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed
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to a bill to provide for comprehensive immigration reform and for other purposes. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the time until 5:00 p.m. will be divided with the senator from alabama or his designee controlling two hours and the senator from vermont or his designee controlling the remaining time. mr. leahy: thank you, mr. president. ifer officer the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, when the senate judiciary committee held lengthy and extensive markup sessions to consider the border security, economic opportunity, and immigration modernization act, or is $744, the bill before us, we worked late into the evening debating the bill. we actually considered hundreds of amendments. but what was interesting and what we heard the most about was the fact that the public was able to witness our consideration firsthand. they saw all our proceedings extremed live on the committee's
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web site. it was broadcast on c-span. in fact, about a week and a half before markup began, we had made available on our web site proposed amendments, and there were hundreds of them. and then as we made changes or there were developments, we reported it in realtime. i know that it's made a difference because i was receiving e-mails and calls from all over the country from people watching it, whether they agreed or disagreed on a particular matter. they said how much it meant to them to actually know what the senate was doing. and members from both sides of the aisle praise add the transparent process and the significant improvements the bill made by the judiciary committee and in the bill as we amended it, it was passed out of committee by a bipartisan
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two-thirds majority. again be, i think because everybody worked together, we set politics aside, and said let's do something that the american people can see what we're doing. in many ways that's the way we did it when i first came to the senate, except we didn't have way of streaming things live, we didn't have c-span. so it is even more available now. i appreciate what president obama said this morning about immigration reform. i agree with him. we have to move in a timely way. and of course the time is now for the senate toage o to act. i hope we can take some of the same steps in the senate that we took in the judiciary committee during debate on this legislation to have an efficient, transparent process. look at the makeup of the senate judiciary committee, both parties and the goals across the political spectrumes as well as
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geographically. on the west coast to the east coast, from the southern borders to the northern border. during our committee consideration last month, an editorial in the "montpelier" termed "our lessons in democracy," our proceedings demonstrate to the world how the senate can and should fulfill it its responsibility despite our differences. the rank republican on the committee, the senior senator from iowa, and i were on different sides of the legislation, but were able to work well together. i hope we continue to work on the senate floor in a bipartisan way. although a vote against the bill, the senior senator from iowa said that had his vote been necessary to report the bill to the senate, he would have voted to do so many o so. i appreciate that sentiment. i look forward to his cooperation.
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i proposed to senator grassley, as the ranking republican on the judiciary committee, managing the bill for the minority, that we try to replicate here in the senate the fair and transparent process we were able to achieve in the committee. to that end, once the senate is able to proceed to the bill, i suggest we establish a filing deadline for amendments, as we did at the onset -- or the outset of our committee consideration. ideally, then we'd be able to take these amendments and group them, work together by issue, twilights, as we did in the committee -- by title, as we did in the committee. makes it a lot easier for the public and actually for the senate to know what we're doing on the bill. it will help us with the senate's timely consideration of the legislation.
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of course, in order for senators to be able to file amendments and work on the bill, the senate has to proceed to the bill. republicans and democrats work together to develop this legislation. senators from both sides of the aisle, including the senator from alabama, who's already spoken on the senate floor at length about this legislation, had amendments adopted in committee. almost none of the more than 135 amendments adopted by the judiciary committee were adopted on party-line votes sms w votes. we had both democratic and republican amendments but they were all adopted in a bipartisan way. so we should be able to work together to ensure consideration of amendments. and then proceed to a vote on final passage without filibusters. the american people want us to vote "yes" or "no," up or down.
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they don't want us to add delaying tactics that allow us to say, well, maybe we would have been for it or maybe we would have been against it. inequity more othey expect mo mor of their senators. i would hope that the senate will turn immediately to this bill. irwho regret that tomorrow after noon we'll vote on cloture, a procedural motion used to begin debate on the bill. the legislation before us is not a partisan piece of legislation. it's a bipartisan bill. was it initially a proposal for the so-called gang of eight? we came through the committee process, a product of a group of 18 supported by a bipartisan group of the judiciary committee. the senators have come together to help support this bill keep their commitments, i have no doubt they'll be able to end this unnecessary filibuster to pass this fair but tough legislation on comprehensive
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immigration reform. there's broad agreement that our nation's immigration system is broken and is in need of a comprehensive solution. it's also broad agreement in this nation that people are tired of unnecessary delays in the united states senate. they would like to see us do the work that we're paid to do, the work we're elected to do and vote "yes" or no," not continue voting maybe by delaying. and this bipartisan legislation will achieve this. given the impact the broken system has on our economy and our families, we can't afford delay. it's a measure the senate should come together to consider and pass. we should do what is right, what is fair, what's just. comprehensive immigration reform was last on the senate floor six years ago. but it is blocked by a minority
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party, the republican party, the former chairman of our immigration subcommittee ted kennedy said a minority of the senate rejected a stronger economy that's fairer to our taxpayers and our workers. a minority of the senate rejected america's own extraordinary immigrant history. they ignored our nation's most urgent needs. we're in the struggle for the long haul. we continue the battle to be inspiration in the lives of immigrants all around us. he was right. i had the privilege of serving in the united states senate with senator kennedy from the time i arrived until the time he died. i know how passionate he felt about this. i also know both from then and
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now a small minority of the senate that continues to reject this measure should not prevail this time and dose the door on so many -- and close the door on so many people in our country. both those who are citizens and those who aspire to become citizens. i've taken inspiration from many sources. we have shared had i -- history of immigrants, with the experience of my own grandparents as they came to vermont with another culture, another language. from my wife's parents who came to vermont from another country, another culture, another language. and courageous witnesses jose antonio vargas and jerhave echo,
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as senator kennedy noted more would be secure when we enact immigration reform. during his testimony, mr. vargas asked the committee what do you want to do with us? what do you want to do with me? poignant questions. this legislation answers mr. vargas, it sends a message to be true to our extraordinary history and tradition as a nation of immigrants. i'm encouraged that some on the other side of the aisle are signaling their support for this legislation. i welcome the support of those who supported immigration reform in the past, who support this effort, again those who joined me and others in supporting what president george w. bush wanted to do with comprehensive immigration foreman. and now president obama --
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immigration reform. and now president obama, but also what so many of us here in this senate want to do. i trust that those republican senators who helped draft this legislation and helped us greatly, that they'll be with us for the long haul, be firm in their commitments and would defend the legislation they asked 14 members of the judiciary committee to consider and approve. and i hope and expect that they will not look for excuses to abandon what needs to be a bipartisan effort. because everybody had to give some in this bill. the bill now before the senate is not the bill that i would have drafted. i voted for amendments in the judiciary committee that were
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rejected, and i voted against some amendments that were accepted. i withheld an amendment what to me is an issue of fundamental fairness in ending discrimination. after republicans senators pledged to abandon their support for this bill had that amendment been offered. and i cannot begin to tell this senate how much it hurt to withdraw that amendment. but despite many shortcomings as a result of compromise, the bill before the senate is worthy of this chamber's immediate attention and support. it is time for us to stop voting "maybe." instead, proceed to this bill and get to the business of legislating. after all, that's what the american people, republicans and democrats alike, expect us to
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do. congress was unable to achieve this goal during the last decade. now in the second decade of the 21st century we again have the opportunity to make the reforms we so desperately need to carry forth to strengthen our nation. as i said to the senator from florida late last week, a majority of us stand together, if we stay true to our values and our agreements, i believe we can pass legislation to write the next great chapter of america's history in immigration, a chapter that succeeding generations will thank us for. mr. president, before i conclude on this issue, i ask a copy of the editorial which i referred to be included in the record at the end of my comments. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, seeing nobody seeking
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recognition, i ask permission to speak -- go in morning business on an issue we'll vote on later today. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, let me speak on an issue that will be in the farm bill, my amendment to the farm bill. as we all know, the internet has made a fundamental difference in our lives on how we shop, how we stay connected with one another. there are few aspects of life the internet does not touch. in the 21st century access to high quality and high-speed internet is not a luxury but a necessity. the presiding officer of the senate, when he served as governor of the commonwealth of virginia, worked very hard to get high-speed internet to his state. but unfortunately, far too many
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americans, particularly those living in rural areas like so many in my own state of vermont, can only dream about having access to this kind of critical infrastructure. i think we have to take action to correct this. i am pleased that the senate will vote today on an amendment that i've offered that sets our sights high for real ultra high-speed internet. in some areas these next generation networks are already being built. these networks are for speed that's 100 times faster than we're accustomed to today. these networks, though, bring not just -- things you might want to do and communicate with our friends, but they bring innovation, they bring jobs. over the next five years these networks will become more widely adopted in rural -- urban areas
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but rural areas will be left behind. they will see engines of innovation in urban areas equipped with ultra high-speed capability. my amendment will establish a pilot program within the rural utilities service, or r.u.s., a program part of the farm bill to fund up to five projects to deploy ultra high-speed internet service to rural areas over the next five years. the pilot is narrow in scope. it's carefully crafted to ensure the main focus of the r.u.s. program is deploying service to unserved rural areas while at the same time giving r.u.s. the flexibility to find the best areas to test gig bit service investment this is a way to pave
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the infrastructure rural areas will need in the next generation. rural areas in creating jobs, in establishing the best of life will be -- have the same advantages that urban areas. actually the next generation of giga byte can dramatically improve education and health care -plt they can have the potential to bring the innovation of silicon valley to the upper valley of vermont, to rural areas across the country. rural america has so much to offer in our way of life. without the great equalizer of high-speed internet it can't live up to its full potential. now is the time to invest in these networks. one need only look at the number of applications google received
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for its project to know citizens across the country understand the growth that comes from giga byte networks. if we're going to invest money in rural networks, it only makes sense we invest in what others call future resilient. broadband brought a bright new future for many areas of the country. i know firsthand that many rural areas are still playing catch-up. as the next generation broadband investment begins its decade, let's learn from those past mistakes and test our giga byte to rural america. i thank chairwoman stabenow for working with me since the committee first started on this amendment and for her commitment to improve the quality of life for rural america. i thank senators both republicans and democrats who have supported me on this.
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most importantly, rural america supports it. and, mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum and ask the time be equally divided. the presiding officer: without objection, the clerk will call the roll.
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mr. grassley: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i ask that the calling of the quorum be suspended. the presiding officer: without
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objection. grass as we look forward to a difficult -- mr. grassley: as we look forward to a difficult debate about immigration, i want to share my thoughts on the legislation. i want to speak about the committee process as well as the substance of the bill before us. i also want to share my personal experience from the 1980's and how we can learn from history, and finally i want to express my hope for what i -- i think a bill should look like before it leaves the united states senate. i don't know of any senator that says the status quo is the way it ought to be. in other words, this issue being on the floor of the united states senate is very appropriate. but while we're here, we need to concentrate on getting
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immigration right for the long term. in 1986, the last time we had major legislation going to the president, i was there, i lived it, i voted for it, and i acknowledged that what we did in 1986 we got it wrong. we can't afford to make the same mistakes of yesterday. from our national security to our economic security, too much is at stake, so don't repeat 1986. see that the borders are absolutely secure, no excuses from that point, no exceptions on that point. now, we are a nation of immigrants, but we're also a nation of laws.
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it's my solemn responsibility to respect law and ensure that law is upheld. do it the right way, not the easy way. take what time is necessary to get it right. we know what happens in congress works and what doesn't work, and i think if we look back at health care reform as an example, we know that we did it in too hurried of a way and consequently questions about carrying out that legislation now are legitimate points of discussion. earlier in the year when a bipartisan group of eight senators released their framework for reform, i was optimistic that the authors were going to produce legislation
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that lived up to the promises. in their framework, they stated -- quote -- "we will ensure that this is a successful permanent reform to our immigration system that will not need to be revisited." end of quote. without a doubt, this is a goal that we all should strive for. we must find a long-term solution to fixing our broken system, so i was encouraged. the authors in the framework released to the public before bill language was available said that the bill would -- quote -- "provide a tough, fair, practical road map to address the status of unauthorized immigrants in the united states contingent upon our success in securing our borders and addressing visa overstays." end of quote.
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now, who can argue with that point? that's exactly what we all believe a piece of legislation should do. at the time that this bill was put forward and the framework was put forward, i reserved judgment until i saw the details of their proposal. i thought the framework held hope, but i realized that the assurances that the group of eight made didn't really translate when the bill language emerged. it seems as though the rhetoric was spot on, but the details were dubious. this is what -- this is what the professed -- what was professed by the authors -- that the border would be secured and that the people would earn their legal status. that was not what the bill actually did.
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the bill as drafted is legalization first, border security later and tracking visa overstays later, if at all. in 1981 when i was a freshman senator, i joined the judiciary committee and was active in the subcommittee process. we sat down, wrote legislation. we had 100 hours of hearings, 300 witnesses before we marked up a bill in may, 1982. hundreds more hours and dozens more hearings would take place before the 1986 passage. this year we had six days of hearings, we spent 18 hours and 10 minutes listening to outside witnesses. we had a hearing on the needs of women and children. another hearing focused on -- quote -- "building an immigration system worthy of american values."
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end of quote. the judiciary committee received the bipartisan bill at 2:24 a.m., april 17. we held hearings on april 19, 22 and 23. we heard from 26 witnesses in three days. we heard from the head of the immigration and custom enforcement agency's union. we heard from economists and employers, law enforcement and lawyers, professors and advocacy groups. we even heard from people who are undocumented, proving that only in america would we allow someone not right with the law to be heard by the american people. one of the witnesses was homeland security secretary napolitano. we attempted to learn about how the bill would affect the functions of the executive
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branch and whether she saw the same flaws that many of us were finding. unfortunately, we have not received responses from secretary napolitano to the questions that we raised at our hearing april 23. we should have the benefit of hearing from the secretary certain questions that are raised about this legislation, particularly when it comes from somebody in the executive branch that has to enforce what's laid before her. after those hearings, a committee was posed to consider the bill through the markup process. our side of the aisle made it clear that we needed to have an open and transparent process, so we started work on may 9. we held five all-day sessions where members were able to raise questions, voice concerns and
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offer amendments. hundreds of amendments were filed. i alone filed 77 amendments. of those, i offered 37. of those 37, 12 were accepted, 25 were rejected. those on the other side of the aisle will boast that many republican amendments were adopted in committee. they are somewhat right. however, only 31 of 78 republican amendments offered were agreed to. seven of those were from members of the group of eight. but get this. of the 62 democrat amendments proposed, only one of those 62 amendments was rejected, and even that one was just narrowly rejected. common sense amendments -- commonsense amendments offering real solutions were repeatedly
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rejected. those that were rejected made some necessary improvements, but get this -- the core provisions of the bill remained the same coming out of committee as they were introduced into the committee. now, i respect the process that we had in committee. chairman leahy deserves thanks of all of us on the committee because he promised an open, fair and transparent process, and quite frankly it was. it's a good format for what needs to take place on the floor of the united states senate if the legislation that's finally voted upon is going to have credibility. in that committee, we had a good discussion and debate on how to improve the bills. it was a productive conversation focused on getting immigration
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reform right in the long term. yet i was disappointed that alliances were made to ensure that nothing passed that would make substantial changes or improvements in the bill. many of those same people gave high praise to the amendments being offered but continued to vote against them. i have often spoke about the 1986 legislation and how that law failed the american people, and 99 other senators are probably going to get sick of my reminding them of my presence there in 1986 and saying that we screwed up, because at that time promises were made and those promises were not kept. we said it was a one-time fix, just like the group of eight
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says they have a one-time fix. but that one-time fix did nothing to solve the problem. in fact, it only made matters worse and encouraged illegality. people came forward for legal status but many more illegally entered or overstayed their welcome to get the same benefits and chance at citizenship. the 1986 bill was supposed to be a three-legged stool -- control undocumented immigration, a legalization program and reform of legal immigration. we authorized $422 million to carry out the requirements of the bill and even created a special fund for states to reimburse their costs. the 1986 bill included a legalization program for two categories of people, one for
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individuals who have been present in the united states since 1982 and the second for farm workers who had worked in agriculture for at least 90 days prior to enactment. a total of 2.7 million people were legalized. we also had enforcement in that 1986 legislation. for the first time ever, we made it illegal to knowingly hire or employ someone here -- that was here undocumented. we set penalties to determine the hiring of people here undocumented. we wrote in the bill that -- quote -- "one essential element of immigration control is an increase in the border patrol and other inspection enforcement activities of the immigration and naturalization service in order to prevent and to deter
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the illegal entry of aliens into the united states and in violation of the terms of their entry." end of quote. unfortunately, the same principles from 19 -- 1986 are being discussed today. legalize now, enforce later. but it's clear that that philosophy doesn't work and proof of that is that it didn't work in 1986. so proponents of legalization today argue that we didn't get it right in 1986. and how true they are. i agree that the enforcement mechanisms in 1986 could have been stronger. there was no commitment to enforcing the law or making sure that we protected every mile of our border. knowing what i now know, an
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immigration bill must ensure that we secure the border first. legalization should only happen when the american people have faith in the system. there needs to be a commitment to enforcing the laws on the books, and as important, there need to be legal avenues that allow people to enter and stay legally in the country. now, if you want to know how important securing the border is, just come to my town meetings in iowa. so far, i have been in 73 of the 99 counties. and when immigration comes up and i talk about legislation, there is an outburst that we don't need more laws. why don't you just enforce the laws that are on the books? things like bring the troops
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home, put them down on the border. then we won't have a problem. unfortunately, the bill before us repeats our past mistakes and does very little to deliver more than the same promises that we made in 1986, which promises turned out to be empty. instead of looking to the past for guidance on what to do in the future, the bill before us incorporates the mistakes of the past and in some cases even weakens the laws we currently have. now, those of us that are complaining as i've just complained have a responsibility to put proposals before this body that will correct those things that we think are a repeat of the mistakes of 1986, and we will do this.
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now, going to further -- explain this bill, the bill ensures that the executive branch, not the congress, or the american people through their congress, have the sole power to control the situation. first, the bill provides hundreds of waivers and broad delegation of authority. two, the secretary may define terms as she sees fit and in many cases, the discretion is unreviewable, both by the american people and by other branches of government. now, can you believe that? unreviewable? the bill undermines congress' responsibility to legislate and it weakens our ability to conduct oversight. now, we should learn a lot of lessons from past legislation. we should be doing more legislating and less delegating.
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you know, just think of the recent things that have come out, that the i.r.s. has too much power. health care reform. 1,963 delegations of authority to the secretary to write regulations. you might think you understand a 2,700-page piece of legislation the president signed four years ago but you're not going to do what the legislation actually does until those 1,963 regulations are written. and i think we're waking up to the fact that we delegated too much and legislated too little. and we shouldn't be making that time mistake with this piece of legislation, and as it's written, we are making that mistake. i wouldn't have such strong resentment about this issue if i knew that i could have faith in this administration or any
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future administration, and by the time this thing gets down the road, that's going to be a future administration, to actually enforce the law. but show me the evidence. the present administration has curtailed immigration enforcement programs. it claims record deportations but then what does the president say? he turns around and says that the statistics are -- these are his words -- deceptive. the secretary says that the border is more secure than ever before. but she denounced any notion of securing the border before people here undocumented were given legal status. the administration implemented the dream act by executive fiat saying congress refused to pass a bill so it decided to do something on its own accord. now, it did that one year after the president told a group of people he didn't have the authority to do it.
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and they provided no legal justification for the actions and very few answers about how they were implementing the directive. so the refusal of any executive branch of government, whether it's republican or democrat, to refuse accountability, raises a lot of questions. they refuse to be transparent and forthcoming with congress on almost every matter, so when this bill was introduced i had to really question whether the promise for border security ten years down the road would ever be filled. no one disputes that this bill is what i've said already, is a bill that legalizes first and enforces later. now, that's the core problem. that's the core problem from the standpoint of everybody that's going to tell us on this floor
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and during this -- these weeks of debate that immigration reform is overwhelmingly popular. i'm not going to dispute that. but understand that there's very many things that are caveats on that, and number one is that we ought to have border security. so the core problem is that enforcement comes after legalization, so a core problem and the main reason i could not support it out of judiciary committee -- that's the main reason. it's unacceptable to me and it's unacceptable to the american people. the sponsors of this bill disagree. if they were to read their own legislation, they'd realize
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this fact. later in the bill i will discuss an amendment i plan -- later in the week i will discuss an amendment i plan to change this central flaw but allow me to tell my colleagues who are not on the committee about this major objection i have. we have millions of undocumented people in this country. under this bill, congress would give the secretary of homeland security six months to produce two reports, one on border security strategy, and the other on border fencing strategy. as soon as those two documents are sent to the hill, just as soon as they come up here, the secretary then has full authority to issue legal status, including work permits and travel documents, to millions of people that apply. the result is that the undocumented population receives what the bill calls registered
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provisional status after two plans are submitted. regional provisional immigrant is r.p.i. r.p.i. status is more than probation. r.i.p. -- r.p.i. status is outright legalization. after the secretary notifies congress that she believes her plan has been accomplished, newly legalized immigrants are given a path to obtain grean cards and a special path to citizenship. without ensuring adequate border security or holding employers accountable, the cycle is destined to repeat itself. i used the committee process to attempt to strengthen border security. my amendment to fix the trigger so that the secretary would need to report to congress on a fast
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track system and show that the border was secured to get congressional approval before legalization would proceed, was defeated. we used the committee process to try and track who is coming and going from our country. amendments to require a biometric exit system at all ports of entry, which is current law, were defeated. we tried to hold employers accountable and stop the magnet for illegal immigration. my amendment to speed up implementation of an employer verification system was defeated. at the end of the day, the majority argued against securing the border for another decade. the triggers in the bill that kicked off legalization are ineffective and inefficient. if we pass the bill as is, there will be no pressure on this administration or future
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administrations or those in congress to secure the border. there will be no push by the legalization advocates to get the job done. and this is what's so important about when does legalization take place, before the border is secure or after the border is secure. because once the plans are presented, there will never be any pressure from advocates for legalization or anybody else that's interested in solving this problem to push to get the job done. moreover, the bill gives congress the sole discretion over border security and fencing strategy and implementation of these strategies without any input from congress.
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so i have a lot of questions. will the secretary, who believes that the border is stronger than ever before, be willing to make it even stronger? will a secretary who does not believe in biometric exit system is feasible ensure that a mandated system is put in place? will a secretary who does not believe anything should stand in the way of legalization ensure that the triggers are achieved? proponents of the legislation claim that it includes the single largest increase in immigration enforcement in american history. proponents say that mandatory electronic employment verification is a solution to future illegal immigration. yet it's concerning that the bill delays for years the
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implementation of a mandatory electronic employment verification system through which 99.7% of all work-eligible employees are confirmed immediately today. i will speak later in the days ahead about how this bill weakens current law, particularly laws on the books to deter criminal behavior. it concerns me greatly that the bill we're about to consider rolls back many criminal statutes but also that there's nothing in the bill that enhances the cooperation between the federal government and state and local jurisdictions. in fact, it preempts state laws that are trying to enforce federal laws currently in place. we have a lot of work cut out for us. i know that there are some that don't want to see a single change in this legislation.
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for me, this bill falls short of what i want to see in strong immigration reform because the fact is we need real reform, not gimmicks that fail to fix the real problem and secure our border. and we need to be fair to millions of people who came here the legal way. not bias the system in favor of those who snuck in through the back door. we need a bill that truly balances our national security with our economic security. here is what we can do to improve the bill. i remain optimistic that on the floor we can vote on commonsense amendments that better the bill. serious consideration will be given to amendments that strengthen our ability to remove criminal gang members, hold perpetrators of fraud and abuse accountable, and prevent the weakening of criminal law.
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we must seriously consider how the bill works to the detriment of the american workers and find consensus around measures that require employers to recruit and hire from home-grown talent before looking abroad. but also improving the mechanism by which people can come here when they're needed. we must be willing to close loopholes in our asylum system, prevent criminals and evildoers from gaining immigration benefits and ensure we're improving our ability to protect the homeland. i you assure my colleagues i han open mind on this legislation. i want immigration reform. i want to get it right this time, not make the same mistakes i did in 1986. i want a bill that i can support, and to do that beyond to see stronger -- i need to stree sea stronger commitment to
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border security. i need to know that future lawmakers won't be rewarded and there will be deterrent for people who wish to remain illegally in the country. basically and simply i want the words of this bill to match the rhetoric of those proposing the plan. the bill's sponsors want a product that can garner around 70 votes in the senate. doing so, they seem to think, would send a message to the house that they should just rubber stamp a bill that passed the senate and send that bill to the president. i don't think that's going to happen. the house is prepared to move on its own legislation. there will be a conference, which is a rare occurrence around here by the way, a conference two of houses will ensure that the bill benefits from various checks and balances that we worship through our constitution. i'm not trying to jump ahead to the next step of the process.
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i'm simply telling my colleagues that this bill has a long ways to go through the legislative process. it needs to change before it's accepted by the american people or sent to the president. if they're serious about getting this done, more compromises will be made. allow me to end by echoing the words of president reagan. "our objective" -- these are his words -- quote -- "our objective is only to establish a reasonable, fair, orderly and secure system of immigration into this country, and not to discriminate in any way against particular nations or people. future generations of americans will be thankful for our efforts to humanely regain control of our borders and thereby preserve the value of one of the most sacred possessions of our people: american citizenship."
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unquote of president reagan. the path that we take in the days ahead will shape our country for years to come. it's my hope that we can find a solution while learning from our mistakes and ensuring that future generations don't have to revisit this problem down the road. thank you. i yield the floor. mr. lee: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: mr. president, our current immigration system is a travesty. it's inefficient, uncompassionate and dangerous. it doesn't serve america's economic or social interests, and it undermines respect for the rule of law and for our democratic institutions. fundamental reform is both badly needed and long overdue. that's why i support immigration reform and it's also why i initially joined a bipartisan group of senators to try to find
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common ground on this issue. but it's also why i left that group and it's why today i must oppose the so-called gang of eight immigration bill. at the outset of this debate, the gang promised a grand immigration bargain, strict border security in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for approximately 11 million illegal immigrants already here. even before the bill was introduced, gang members distributed talking points that a lot of bills beefed up security provisions, new visa reforms and measures that would make the pathway to citizenship -- quote -- "long and tough." but once the gang produced actual legislation and once senators, the media and public -- members of the public began to read the bill, it was clear that the talking points did not reflect the reality of the legislation itself. after pointing out glaring
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discrepancies between claims about the bill and the actual text, senators were told that they would have an opportunity to make changes during the judiciary committee's markup. but before gang members on the committee banded together as a bloc with democrats to defeat vitter wall all -- virtually all substantive amendments promoted to improve the bill. congressional approval of the border security plan? no. improve interior enforcement? rejected. manage the flow of new legal immigrants? failed. limit access to some of america's most generous welfare programs? blocked. as a result, the bill that will come to the senate floor this week is essentially the same huge, complex, unpredictable, expensive and special interest-driven big-government boondoggle it was when it first came to the committee. the bill does not secure the border.
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it doesn't build a fence. it doesn't create a workable biometric entry-exit system for immigrants to this country. what standards and benchmarks it does set, the bill simultaneously grants the secretary of homeland security broad discretion to waive. it will, however, immediately legalize millions of currently illegal immigrants, make them eligible for government services and put them on a pathway to citizenship. many critics compare the gang bill to the failed 1986 immigration law which, like this one, also promised border security in exchange for amnesty. but did not deliver its promises. but the gang bill actually reminds me of a more recent piece of legislation: impair. like the -- obamacare. the gang bill was negotiated in secret by insiders and special interests who offered it to congress as a is en -- a single
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take it or leave it proposition. it grants powers to the executive branch that today is mired in scandal. total cost estimates are in the trillions according to some. and rather than fix our current immigration problems, the bill makes many of them worse. however well-intentioned, the gang of eight bill is just an immigration version of obamacare. that's why true immigration reform must be pursued on a step-by-step basis with individual reform measures implemented and verified in the proper sequence. happily for immigration reformers like me, this appears to be the approach being pursued in the house of representatives. it's the only one that makes sense. first, let's secure the border. let's set up a workable entry-exit system and create a reliable employment verification system, one that protects immigrants, citizens, and
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businesses alike from bureaucratic mistakes. then let's fix our legal immigration system to make sure we're letting in the immigrants our economy needs and the numbers that make sense for our country. once these and other tasks which are plenty big in and of themselves are completed to the satisfaction of the american people, then we can address the needs of current undocumented workers with justice, compassion and sensitivity. since the beginning of this year, more than 40 immigration-related bills have been introduced in congress between the house and the senate. by a rough count, i could support more than half of them, eight of which have republican and democratic cosponsors. we should not risk forward progress on these other bipartisan reforms just because we're unable to iron out each of the more contentious issues. the gang of eight bill is not immigration reform. it is big-government
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dysfunction. it is an immigration version of obamacare. all advocates of true immigration reform, advocates on both the left and the right side of the aisle should, therefore, oppose it. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. durbin: i ask that the quorum call be suspended. officer without objection. dur i have one unanimous consent request for a committee to meet during today's session of the senate. ites had a the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask that it be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. durbin: i ask unanimous consent that emily sharp, michael branson, theresa bloom, fellows from the senate budget committee, be granted floor privileges during the consideration of s. 744. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. durbin: ask unanimous consent that fellows in senator blumenthal's office, after ffon sis l and sean aronson be granted floor privileges during the debate of s. 744. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: this week we began tate on the comprehensive reform
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of america's immigration laws. i'll be the if irrelevance to -e first to admit that i come to this debate with a bias. like many americans, i am the child of an immigrant. in 1911, 102 years ago, my grandmother came to this country with three little children. one of those children was my mother. she was two years old when she arrived in baltimore. my grandmother didn't speak a word of english but somehow managed to get my mom and my aunt and uncle on a train, the baltimore and ohio railroad train, to st. louis, missouri. they were on their way actually to east st. louis, illinois, to meet my grandfather. just one floor away a few steps away is my desk for the majority whip office. behind my desk is a
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naturalization certificate from my mother. i keep it as a reminder of who i am and where i came from and the fact that the durbin family and in her case the kakita family, were immigrants to this country. i'm sure that my grandmother never imagined that one of her grandchildren would be standing here today representing the state of illinois in the united states senate. well, that's my story. that's my family's story, and it is america's story. perhaps it's partly because of this family history, but i believe immigration is the defining, positive force in america. how can you tell when a country is in decline in when immigrants stop wanting to come to it. many other developed countries have had this experience. they've watched their economies decline and fail. that's never been the experience
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in america. look at our history. in every generation, immigrants have come to our shores from around the world and made it stronger. immigrants do not take away; they add to society. they're hardworking men and women with courage to leave everything behind and to come and try to build a new and better life for themselves and their chin. -- and their children. these immigrants, every succeeding waive wave of immigs bring new life to america. but today our immigration system is broken and doesn't reflect our heritage, as a nation of immigrants. there are millions of undocumented immigrants in our country who wants to be full-fledged americans. they have strong family values. they contribute to oury and take some of the hardest jobs in our nation. but under current law there's no way for many of them to even get this line to be legalized. we can't turn our backs on the
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people who are already here in this nation, already yearning to be part officially of the american family. they sit next to us in church, their kids go to school with our kids and grandkids, they're the ones who serve our food at the restaurants, clean up the tables afterwards, they clean our homes, they care for our kids and grandkids, and they care for our elderly parents and grandparents. when i first came to the senate in 1997, i got a surprise phone call from ted kennedy. i was still pinching myself say, i'm going to serve in the same place with ted kennedy? he said, well, i have a request for you, dick. i'd like for you to be a member of my immigration subcommittee on senate judiciary. he was the chairman, and i accepted his invitation. i set in that gallery and watched senator ted kennedy and senator bobby kennedy on the floor of the senate. i was just a student at the
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time. and i thought, i'm going to have a chance now sit in the same committee room with this man and speak to the issue of immigration. i didn't think 16 years later i'd be standing here on the floor of the senate with senator kennedy gone and we'd still be struggling to fix america's broken immigration system. we've been through a lot in that period of time. 12 years ago i wrote a bill called "the dream act." that bill would allow immigrant students to came to the united states as children to earn their citizenship by attending college or serving in the military. i've been frightin fighting to t the law of the land. we've received majority votes v, but i could never get the 60 votes i needed. in the last decade, with the leadership of senator ted kennedy and senator john mccain, we've made serious efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
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but we have always fallen short. prior to this particular debate, i can recall sitting in a room right off the senate floor with another young senator named barack obama working on immigration reform. it has been our challenge. now the senate is going to take this issue up again this week. this is the best chance we've had in 25 years to finally get this job done. six months ago i set down for the first time with seven other senators -- four republicans, three other democrats. on my side the table, chuck schumer, new york, chairman of the immigration subcommittee; senator bob menendez, the leader of our hispanic democratic senate caucus; and senator michael bennet of colorado, who knows this issue firsthand from his state. on the other side of the table, john mccain, senator marco
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rubio of florida, senator lindhgy graham of south carolina, and senator flake from nevada. they started calling us the gaining of eight. i've bee been in so many gangs. this is a diverse group, think about sitting across the table from mccain, rubio, and graham and flake. there set schumer and menendez and bennet. a the love differences, but the thing that brought us together is the realization is if we couldn't reach an agreement, neither could the senate. if we couldn't bridge the differences between democrats and republicans, conservatives and others, in our negotiations, the senate never would. well, we set out to get the job done. i wasn't sure several times if we were going to be successful. the republicans had a bottom line. they wanted strong measures to secure our border with mexico.
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and to prevent future illegal immigration. we had a bottom line on our side of the table, too. a tough, but fair path to citizenship, offered to 11 million undocumented immigrants. we met for four months. we met more than 25 times, long and difficult sessions. a couple of sessions i thought were the last ones, we wouldn't be back another day. but we returned. we made concessions. everybody gave a little. and at the end of the day we reached an agreement. we announced in january our seven principles, and then we started the hardest part -- drafting the actual legislation. by the middle of april, we finally had a bill. 8550 pages, if i'm not missteafnlt i probably art to take a look and make sure i have the page numbers correct. this version is much larger
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because it is wider spaced. but it is about 850 pages o pag. we heard testimony in the senate judiciary committee froms dozens of witnesses, supporters and opponents. thin in may we sat down for a markup which is where we amend the bill. i've been a member of the judiciary committee for 15 years and i never been through a markup like that. senator pat leahy of germ, president pro tempore of the senate, chairman of the senate judiciary committee, pledged that he would make this markup open and fair for both sides and he did. took us three weeks. we met five times for a total of 37 hours on this bill, more than 300 amendments offered, we debated and votes on 212 of them, including 112 by republicans and 100 by democrats. 136 amendments or changes were apartisan d.o.d. -- or changes were adopted. 136 passed with a bipartisan
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vote. the spirit of bipartisanship was in the senate judiciary committee as it was in our meetings leading up to it. finally came the vote for reporting the bill out of committee. it was one of those historic moments which no senator present will ever forget. when chairman leahy announced 139-5 vote in favor of this makers the room erupted in applause and cheering. people stood up in their seats and came and embraced one another realizing we'd just made history. let me go through the basics of the bill. first, our bill will secure the border and stop future illegal immigration. the border between the united states today is safer and stronger than it's ever been in 40 years. we have invested billions of dollars. we have doubled the number of federal personnel working on the border, monitoring the coming and going of people across that border every single day, and
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we've reached a level of competence and security we never dreamed of. and now we are going to do more. we have promised the republicans at the table we will secure that border with even more technology and more investment. each year we spend about $18 billion policing the border between the united states and mexico. $18 billion. that is more than the combined expenditure for all of the federal law enforcement agencies. f.b.i., secret service, drug enforcement administration, alcohol, tobacco and firearms, u.s. marshal's office. we spend more than those together on the border and now we're spend even more. for those who argue we're not serious about border protection, believe we, we are. the investment will be made with technology, with the advice and
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cooperation of the states affected by those decisions, to make that as safe as humanly possible. we've made amazing progress. we can do more. the border patrol agents, over 20,000 of them at work today, better staffed than any time in the 88-year history of that agency. 651 miles of border fencing out of the 652 mandated by congress. now, i was a skeptic when they said they were going to build fences on the bore border. i really was. my belief was if you build a ten-foot fence, it's an invitation for a 12-foot ladder and i thought they could easily overcome t. well, they built fersz where they will work and they put other devices in place where fences won't work. significant results have been shown. cities on the southern border are the safest in the country. violent crimes in the southwest border states have dropped an average of 40% over the last 20 years. and the top four big cities in
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america with the lowest rates of violent crime are all in border states -- san diego, phoenix, el paso, austin. our bill will do more. we set a clear tough target for border security. the bill requires the border patrol to have 100% persistent surveillance of the southwest border. in other words, the border patrol will have to be able to see in realtime every single port -- person who crosses that southwest border illegally. we also require 90% effectiveness rate for southwest border sectors. in other words, the border patrol will have to stop 90% of all people who attempt to enter the country illegally in each border sector. it requires the department of homeland security to create a southern border security plan and a southern border fencing strategy within six months after the bill is passed. the border security plan will spell out the personnel,
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infrastructure and technology necessary to achieve this 90% effectiveness rate. the bill approves $3 billion for this border plan, $1.5 billion more for a fencing strategy. if the d.h.s., department of homeland security, does not reach 90% effectiveness within five years, the border commission made up of southwestern state officials and a bipartisan presidential and congressional appointees, are empowered to order additional steps to secure the border. our bill appropriates up to $2 billion in additional spending, if necessary, for those measures. anyone who takes a look at this -- and you'll hear during the next three weeks many of the critics who say, "well, they're just not serious about the border." believe me, we are. we have been. we will continue to be. we've put the resources on the table, with the cooperation of the states bordering mexico, to make sure we have done absolute everything within our human capability to keep that border safe and strong and secure.
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of course, improving border security overlooks one very obvious weakness. 40% of the undocumented immigrants in the united states didn't cross the border illegally. they came into the united states legally on visas. students, visitors, similar visas were given to them and they overstayed. they were supposed to come to go to college and they stayed after college. they were supposed to come for a vacation or a family event and they overstayed their visas. so 40% of the undocumented people overstayed their visas. we address that. this bill requires the electronic tracking of people who enter and exit america. we require in this bill that all visas, passports and other travel documents for immigrants who are entering or exiting the united states be in the form of machine readable documents which can be scanned as they ten at ed
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leave the country, so we'll know who's come and going. the bill mandates this machine readable system be interoperable with the database as that are used by federal immigration and law enforcement agencies and the intelligence community. we are trying to integrate all of this information about people coming and going and living in this country. to make us safer and make the system work. this gives authorities realtime access to information, to connect the dots across law enforcement databases, including the f.b.i. fingerprint check, name check, and the ncic list. the new machine readable entry-exit system will access this information when determining whether to issue a visa or deny entry. i say to those observing this debate, when you hear just the two things i've mentioned, you've got to say, this bill, 744, this bill is going to make america safer. the border is going to be
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stronger. we're going to know who's coming and going in america. and there's more. we also need to address the job magnet that brings illegal, undocumented people into the united states. we need to make it more difficult to hire undocumented people. our bill does it. we require all employers to use a mandatory electronic employment verification system to verify the employees are legal. job applicants would have to show identifying documents, such as u.s. passport, driver's license, or biometric work authorization card. and it includes photo identification. the employer and any business in any town across america with access to a computer goes to the everify system, enters the vital information about the person sitting across the table applying for the job, pushes the button and waits to see if the photo that comes across the
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computer screen is the same photo as the one that's been presented. there is the verification. the employment contract can go forward. our bill will reform our legal immigration system to strengthen our economy, our families, and our workers. we need to ensure that families that have been separated for many years can be finally reunited. employers should be given the first -- given a chance to hire an immigrant worker when truly needed but first -- and i insisted on this throughout -- first we require that you have to offer the job to an american before you bring in a foreign worker. our first obligation, whatever state you represent, is to the people we represent, particularly those who are out of work. this bill requires, when there is a job opening, before you can offer it to a foreign worker, you must offer it to an americ american. maybe they can't fill the job. maybe they don't have the
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qualifications. maybe you need some specialty. well, then you can go forward. under specific conditions here, with limitations in hiring that foreign worker. we've been told by the business community, especially high-tech, that there is a need for more high-skilled workers in our country. mr. president, last week i went to the illinois institute of technology in chicago. there's an incubator there, and in small suites of offices, amazing things are underway. some of them i can't even explain to you. i'm a liberal arts lawyer, okay? the closest i ever got to real science was political science and that doesn't count. and i tried to listen and absorb as much as i could about what they were doing at this fabulous institution. some of the things they're doing there are dramatically reducing the cost of producing biological vaccines and medicines, medicines that are used, for
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example, in cancer therapy, to cut the cost in half. they're experimenting on new ways to do that. i met a young man named bo sung from china. the man who was introducing us was from india himself. and he was the head of the project. he said, this young man came to the illinois institute of technology and to chicago to get an advanced degree. he is possibly, he said, the smartest student i've ever had in any class, straight a's in china, learned english and came here to learn more. he's working on this project. i got to meet him. he was kind of a shy, friendly, in a way, standing off to the side and they brought him over. and i said to him, well, let me ask you, mr. sung, would you be interested in staying in the united states and developing this project? he said, if i could, i would. so here was a man brought for an education in the united states,
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who will soon be given a choice to go back to china or to stay in the united states. his preference was to stay here. we require in this bill that if you have an advanced degree in stem subjects -- science, technology, engineering, and math -- an advanced degree, and you have a job offer, that you be offered a green card. a green card is a path to legalization and citizenship. i think that's the smart thing to do. i can recall attending the graduation at the same school just a few years ago -- years back, where it seemed every advanced degree was going to someone from india or south asia. and i thought to myself, what a sad situation. we ared handing them -- we are handing them advanced degrees which they earned in the united states at the best schools and we're handing them a map on how to find their way back to o'hare and leave. this is a better approach. if there's a job offer, we need
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to keep this talent in america. it just won't employ that person, it will employ many others who can work for the companies that they're going to help. employers under our bill will be given a chance to hire temporary foreign workers when they truly need it after they have tried to recruit americans for the same jobs. we also require that any employer who hires a foreign worker must pay a fee to be set aside for a fund to help train americans. let's -- let's put the cards on the table here. if you go to the graduation ceremonies at these schools, the best engineering schools in america, you will find a majority of foreign students. that is the reality today. so let's change the reality. let's take the fees that we will collect when these foreign trained -- these foreign students, trained in the united states, are brought here to work, take the fees and create, as we do in this bill, scholarships and college funds for american engineering
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students. let's grow our own in this country. let's make sure we have young people coming out of our high schools and colleges who are prepared to get advanced degre degrees, who are from america. there's nothing wrong with that. that's our first obligation. this bill will do that. in illinois, more than 40% of the students who earn master's or doctoral degrees in stem fields are not -- are temporary, nonimmigrants. in 2011, almost 2,700 specialists in advanced fields like computer science, programming, biomedicine, who earned degrees in illinois couldn't obtain visas upon their graduation. one year, 2007, a hundred of them. yet we need -- we will need in illinois alone 320,000 stem graduates in the next five years. it makes no sense. training them at the best schools in illinois, knowing we need them in illinois and telling them to leave. it makes no sense.
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our bill allows employers to sponsor for green card any student who graduates from a u.s. school with advanced degrees in stem fields. we also have a significant increase in h-1b visas for skilled workers. we now have a limit of h-1b visas a year. it can go up to 18,000 depending on supply and demand and even as high as 180,000. for the first time, though, employers will be required to post the job at the department of labor web site for 30 days before they hire a foreign worker, going back to the point i made earlier. first, offer the job to an american. under current law, employers are permitted to pay h-1b visa holders substandard wages. we change it. we raise the wages to be paid to these h-1b workers. we don't want to create incentive to bring in low-wage foreign workers. we want a good wage to be offered to an american first. we also take important steps to
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crack down on the biggest abusive of h-1b visas -- outsourcing american jobs. when most people think of h-1b visas, these are visas to bring in professionals, you automatically think of high-tech companies like microsoft and google, hiring the engineers they need, paying them top dollar. the reality today is drama -- dramatically different. in fiscal year 2012, all of the top ten h-1b visa applicants were outsourcing firms, foreign firms. these ten companies used 40% of all the h-1b visas. under current law, employers can legally use the h-1b visa program for outsourcing. we change it. we phase out this abuse of the h-1b system so that those who will be using the h-1b's will actually be hiring those employees they need. now, let me say that one of the items in this bill near and dear to all of us, certainly on our side of the table, was a path to
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citizenship. the last presidential campaign, one of the candidates on the other side advocated what he called self-deportation. that's a phrase he used. basically inviting undocumented people to leave. it wouldn't work. it's impractical and i think it's fundamentally wrong. instead we need a fair and firm solution, strengthening our national security and our economy that's true to our heritage as a nation of immigrants. our legislation creates a tough but fair path to citizenship. here's what it boils down to. we say to the 11 million people undocumented in america if you can prove that you were here before december 31, 2011, you have a chance to step forward, register with the government, submit yourself to a background check. if there is a serious criminal problem in your background, you're finished, leave. you can't become a citizen. but if there is not, you can pay your taxes, pay a fine, live
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legally in america, work legally in america and travel and come back into this country. it's a long process. they will be monitored. they will be forced to learn english, make sure that they can be part of america and its future and their children as well. but we do this over a ten-year period of time. what we have today is de facto amnesty. we have 11 million undocumented and we don't have a law to apply to it, not one that is being enforced on a regular basis. our law would put -- our new law, if passed, will create a level playing field. according to the center for american progress, if our bill becomes law, undocumented immigrants will increase their earnings by 15% over five years, leading to $832 billion in economic growth, and $109 billion in tax revenue, they will be paying their taxes over the next ten years.
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it also will create an estimated 121,000 jobs. so i constituent down with workers, particularly union workers in my state, and they say senator, what are you doing to us? you're bringing in all these people who will now be competing with us in the workplace. i asked them to stop for a moment and reflect on the following. these undocumented workers are competing with them today, today. you could find a bricklayer, a plumber, somebody who would put on a roof in virtually any major city in america, and most of those folks are undocumented. they are getting paid many times less than a minimum wage, and they are competing with other workers legally here in america. we change all that. they come forward, they identify themselves, and they're bound by the laws of this country. it's going to help them ultimately, but it helps workers in general so that they aren't facing this unfair competitive advantage. i see senator cornyn is here and
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i want to give him a chance to say a few words, but i want to close by speaking about two things before i do. i mentioned at the beginning that 12 years ago, i introduced the dream act. the dream act was a response to a call to my office in chicago. there was a young girl in the city of chicago who came to that city from korea through brazil. her mother and father brought her in to chicago with her brother and sister, and they were very poor. her father wanted to be a minister, have a church. he never realized that dream. he stayed at home and prayed for that dream every day. her mother finally said somebody has to earn some money. she went to work at a local dry cleaners. well, the kids were raised in a one-room efficiency with hammocks so that they could sleep and all make -- get by with what little they had, and
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it was a pretty desperate circumstance. this young woman whose name is teresa lee had to basically go to school and look through the basket, wastebasket after lunch to find food to eat that other kids had thrown away. that's how desperate she was. somewhere along the way, she was invited to be part of something called the merit music program. what a wonderful program. about ten years ago, a woman in chicago said i want to create as my legacy the merit music program which offers free musical instruments and musical instruction to the students, the poorer students in our public schools. it has worked miracles. 100% of the kids in the merit music program go to college. 100%. well, teresa lee was one of them. it turned out teresa lee was an accomplished musical student who learned the piano. they gave her a key finally to the merit music program building because it was warm and she liked to stay there late at night and play the piano.
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she got so good that they said you've got to apply to the juilliard school of music and the manhattan conservatory of music in new york. she got the papers, started to fill them out. the presiding officer: the senator's time has expired. mr. durbin: i ask for four additional minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: she got the papers to fill them out for an application. it said citizenship and nationality. at which point, she turned to her mom and said what should i put there? her mom said i don't know. when we brought you here, you were on a visitor's visa but we never filed any more papers. teresa said what are we going to do? her mom said let's call durbin. they called my office, and we checked the law and the law was not very kind to a young person in that circumstance. it said she had to leave america immediately and stay away for ten years and apply to come back. she was 17 years old. it didn't make any sense. she didn't do anything wrong. she was brought here as a baby. so i introduced the dream act and said for young people in her
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circumstance, brought here before the age of 16, who finish high school, no serious criminal issues and can finish at least two years of college or enlist in the military, we'll give you a chance for citizenship. well, i have been trying to pass that ever since. these dreamers, which they now call themselves, have started stepping forward and telling their stories. they are in some peril when they do this. but they want america to know who they are. some of them have some amazing stories to tell. let me tell you two very quickly. this is allejandro morales. brought to the united states from mexico at the age of 7 months, raised in chicago. his dream was to become a u.s. marine. he enrolled in the marine math and science academy in chicago, excelled in school in the young marines program. eventually rose to become the city corps staff command of the highest ranking cadet of 11,000 junior rotc students in chicago.
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in a letter he wrote to me, he said i want to serve and fight to protect my country. i'm an american. i know nothing but the united states. last week, in a sad, tragic, meaning-spirited vote, the house of representatives passed an -- mean-spirited vote, the house of representatives passed an amendment to deport dreamers like alejandro. it is a shameless display of lack of stalk -- understanding of this fine young man and thousands more just like him who just want to be part of america's future. and losing him would not make us any stronger. let me introduce you to another dreamer. isaac carbojol and his brother victoria. isaac was brought to united states by his mother when he was 5 years old. they settled in a suburb of plord, oregon. a military recruiter told isaac he could have a promising career
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in the armed forces. he sought the advice of a family friend who had come to think of isaac as another son. in a letter to me, john wrote that isaac loved this country, his country. they both believe the recruiter who told isaac he could enlist in the military and apply for citizenship two years later. in january, 2011, when isaac went to san diego to enlist in the military, he was immediately arrested, turned over to i.c.e. and deported to tijuana the next day. he was dropped off alone in a country he hadn't seen in almost 15 years with no i.d. and nothing but $18 in his pocket. now he is barred from returning to the united states for ten years. he went to enlist in the military. although it's been almost two and a half years since he was deported, he still wants to come back and serve in the armed forces of the united states. there are so many stories just like this of these dreamers who want to make this a better nation. the strongest dream act
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provisions that have ever been crafted are included in this bill and agreed to on a bipartisan basis. let's pass this bill. let's end this debate after a fulsome exchange of ideas and amendments. let's end this debate with a strong bipartisan vote that says both republicans and democrats understand we are -- i ask for one additional minute. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: that both republicans and democrats understand that this nation of immigrants must renew its commitment every generation to our heritage, renew our commitment to those people in our families who had the courage to get up and come to this great nation, face great sacrifice, succeed and build what we call home, the united states of america. now it's our turn. let's not only prove that we can do the right thing for them and the heritage of this nation. let us prove that every once in a while, this great institution of the united states senate can actually get some important work done. mr. president, i yield the
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floor. the presiding officer: thank you very much. the republican whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, we have been working on immigration reform ever since i came to the united states senate about ten years ago. i have sponsored legislation, most notably with the former senator jon kyl, in 2005 something we called the comprehensive border security and immigration reform act, but the legislation i have worked on since i have been in the senate has dealt with virtually every aspect of the issues that immigration touches on, from high school visas and guest worker programs to border security to enhancement of our ports of entry and the staffing at those ports of entry, so the legitimate commerce and trade can go back and forth. most notably with mexico which shares 1,200 common miles of border with my state of texas,
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and as a result of that bilateral trade, six million jobs are created in the united states alone. i feel like i have been involved in some of the toughest parts of the immigration debate, and as i joked to my staff and family, i have the scars to prove it. the truth is that this is a new topic in many ways to so many members of the united states senate because 43 senators have come to this chamber since the last time we debated this topic in 2007. 43 new senators. and while the senate judiciary committee has had the opportunity to vote on this important legislation, the rest of the body has not had a chance to weigh in and offer their contributions, hopefully with an eye toward improving the bill and making it something we can be proud of. when i first read the bill produced by the so-called gang of eight, i saw many improvements in our current broken immigration system.
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for example, the bill as written by the gang of eight and now passed out of the judiciary committee allowed more stem graduates, that is graduates from our colleges and universities with math, science and engineering degrees to gain admission to the country as legal permanent residents and eventually citizens. the bill further makes improvements in terms of family unification, bringing families together that are split because of archaic and unworkable provisions in our immigration law. the bill also, i think, helps take an important step toward regaining the public's confidence that the federal government is actually up to writing laws that can be enforced and that will actually work as advertised. and that's where the e-verify provisions are so important, making sure that employers only hire people who are legally eligible to work in this country.
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and in that same vein, this bill as originally written would provide some enhanced penalties to employers who would game the system by evading legal workers and hiring people who cannot legally work in the united states. all of these provisions enjoy broad bipartisan support. and yet coming from a border state, as i said, one that shares 1,200 miles of common border with mexico through which the overwhelming majority of illegal immigration across our borders occurs, i believe that there are dramatic improvements needed in this bill when it comes to securing america's borders and promoting public safety, and those are not -- those cannot be disentangled from one another. we know the same border that allows somebody who wants to come into this country to work and have a better life is certainly we can all understand and empathize with, all permit
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drug cartels and human traffickers to penetrate our borders and apply their -- to ply their dangerous trade. we also have learned over time that our border -- our 2 thigh-mile southern border is very diverse. in other words, if you're from california and your view of the border is the san diego area where they have double fencing and mounted patrols by the border patrol, that may work to control the border in san diego but it may not work in arizona or in texas. and, in fact, we've seen dramatic improvements in arizona and two of the members of the gang of eight, senator mccain and senator flake, have been very diligent in working on those issues in their state. but i must tell you that coming from the state of texas where we have the longest extension of uncontrolled border in the country, there's a lot of work
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that needs to be done because of this diversity and that's the spirit in which i intend to offer amendments to help improve border security and public safety. now, the bill grants permanent legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants as currently written, without any guarantee of securing the border. now, how would that possibly be a good idea? in other words, there are many americans who in their humanity and around out of simple human compassion understand that the 12 million or 11 million people who are currently here undocumented or in illegal status, that we're not going to do a massive deportation of those 12 million people, it's just not going to happen. and what they would be willing to do is to accept a legal status for those individuals if they can be assured that the immigration bill that is
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actually passed will work as is advertised. those eligible for immediate legalization under the current bill would include those already deported immigrants as well as people who have been convicted of serious crimes, such as domestic violence, child abuse and drunk driving. how could that possibly be a good idea? we need to fix those provisions and fix the bill in the process. meanwhile, unfortunately, this bill also weakens current law with regard to people entering the country legally but failing to leave when their visa is expired. this is the so-called biometric entry/exit system which has been the law of the land since 1996. when you wonder why people are skeptical about the federal government's commitment to actually enforce the law as written, exhibit a is this 1996 requirement for a biometric
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entry/exit system that's never been implemented. well, visa overstays account for 40% of illegal immigration. don't you think we would want to fix that provision of the bill? yes, we should, and yes, we will if my amendment is adopted. this bill also hides from law enforcement officials certain critical information that's necessary to detect fraud. one of the big problems with the 1986 amnesty that ronald reagan signed based on the premise that there would be enforcement and no need ever to provide another amnesty again was that this would actually be enforced. but because there was so much fraud associated with it, because of the confidentiality requirements of the law, those same mistakes have been repeated in the underlying bill and needs to be fixed. my amendment, something we call
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the results amendment, because we need not just new promises, we need actual results, my amendment fixes these problems. first, it requires the department of homeland security to gain complete situational awareness and full operational control of the southwestern border with operational control defined as at least a 90% apprehension rate of illegal border crossers. ultimately the goal needs to be not on how many we apprehend but deterrence. law enforcement generally operates when people are deterred from violating the law because they fear being captured, and the punishment that goes along with it. that ultimately needs to be our goal but it will never happen unless we capture at least 90% of the people who come across and send the message that the american border is now secure. my amendment would also require the use of biometric exit system
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at all airports and seaports where customs and border protection are currently deployed and it requires national implementation of e-verify. again that system that will allow employers not to be the police but to have a simple and easy way to verify that the individuals who present themselves for employment at their place of business are legally qualified to work in the united states. about the biggest difference between my amendments and the underlying bill is that my amendment guarantees results while the gang of eight proposal merely promises results. i have to tell you that perhaps with all the confluence of scandals here occurring in washington, d.c. with the i.r.s. debacle, with health and human services secretary shaking down and raising money from the very people she regulates, there is a lot of what i would call a
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confidence deficit in washington, d.c., particularly given washington's abysmal record in enforcing our immigration laws. but it's important to distinguish between promises and results. remember, the federal government has promised to secure our border for the last quarter century, and the trail of broken promises, as i said, goes back to 1986 when congress passed an amnesty program while assuring voters that they would see results on border security and enforcement. and as everyone knows, we got the amnesty but not the enforcement in 1986, and the underlying bill suffers the same problems. at the very least, we should try to learn from history and not repeat it. and, unfortunately, the underlying bill fails to acknowledge those lessons we should have learned about steps we need to take in order to guarantee results rather than make repetitive promises that we
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ultimately don't keep. so i understand why the american people don't trust washington. i understand why they dismiss some border security promises as rhetoric. that's why my amendment, the results amendment, is so important, and it's essential to accomplishing the goal of bipartisan immigration reform. as i said, right now congress and washington have a major credibility problem. no one believes we're actually serious about actually securing the borders and stopping the hemorrhaging in of humanity across our southern border into the united states including not just people who want to work but people who are up to no good, the human traffickers and the drug dealers. i'm afraid the gang of eight bill in its current form would make this problem worse, and soy i believe that the true -- so i believe that the true poison pill would be the failure to take sensible measures by
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adopting amendments like mine which are designed to solve the problem and guarantee results rather than ignore this important credibility gap washington has. as i said, we need not more promises, we need results. and that's what my amendment would provide. instead of enacting so-called triggers that are just really talking points disguised as policy, it's time for us to adopt real triggers that condition the pathway to citizenship on washington and the broke and congress -- bureaucracy and congress working hand in hand to ensure the law is enforced as written. well, the majority leader reportedly according to "politico" has somehow called my amendment a poison pill. well, we've heard that kind of language before. this is an effort designed to discourage those who would
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actually create a workable results-driven immigration reform system from even offering their ideas. and the irony is the majority leader hasn't even read my amendment because it hasn't been reduced to legislative languages yet. so he's prematurely called it a poison pill when in fact the true poison bill would be the failure to adopt such a sensible approach that would guarantee results so when it goes to the house they can see we're serious about delivering a immigration reform bill that functions as advertised and not just another series of hollow promises. strengthening border security and enhancing interior enforcement are not alternatives to fixing our broken immigration system, they are complements of the sensible reforms members of both parties have en-- endorsed. and the provisions of my amendment actually build on the framework created by the bipartisan gang of eight proposal. the difference is, again, that
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don't want just make the promises, we just don't require the issuance of a plan, we actually require metrics to measure success and we hold congress' and the bureaucracy's feet to the fire to make sure those metrics and the goals are actually achieved. even as we debate the most controversial issues, we should be doing everything possible to promote the type of legal immigration that benefits our society and our economy as well. and, madam president, it's with that spirit in mind i will be introducing at a later time my results amendment, and i would encourage my colleagues to take a look at it and to join me in strengthening this underlying bill, making it more likely, not less likely, that we will actually pass a bill that will be taken up by the house of representatives and eventually be presented to the president for his signature. madam president, i yield the floor.
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the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: i just want to express my appreciation to the senator from texas. he's a superb member of the judiciary committee. he offered an amendment to this effect in the committee. i thought it should have passed, and it would have helped with a flawed bill, but it was voted down. i know he's working even harder now and whatever he proposes will be the kind of legislation that would strengthen this bill. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sessions: madam president, i share with the american people a deep frustration with the current failed operation of our immigration system and share some fundamental principles of
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immigration reform that have been expressed by the gang of eight. the gang has said the current system is broken. i agree. but more accurately, we should say the current law and procedures are not being properly carried out, and are resulting in monumental illegality in our country, something that is not worthy of a great nation. the gang says we must toughen our preach to border security and that we can do better. we implicitly, even openly acknowledge that our government officials have long failed, a long history of failed border enforcement and that they cannot be reasonably trusted to enforce the law. so even when the american people plead with our government to do something about the illegality, for decades this government has failed to do so.
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and that these groups lack interest in or a will to sustain a policy of fair enforcement in the future. they say we have got to guard against that, that that's what has happened before. they acknowledged that. and i agree, to ensure that amnesty which they favor for humanitarian as well as other issues does not take effect immediately with only promised enforcement in the future, which never occurs, it seems, as has happened in the 1987 amnesty bill, they have, therefore, promised that they have laws and triggers, that amnesty will not result unless the enforcement occurs. that's the promise. we've got triggers and we've got mechanisms so that you can't get amnesty unless enforcement occurs. and we have a guarantee of that. and we'll ensure that that
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happens. so i agree with the sentiment and this concern, because we know what's been happening. i've been engaged in this debate since i've been in the senate. but i do not agree that their legislation comes close to fulfilling this promise. it just does not. that is the rub. the comprehensive immigration bill does not fix our failing system. the provisions, the fo the feaux triggers, the express of interest in fencing, commissions will work no better than current law. it will not end the illegality in the future. so i'll discuss some of the flaws in their plan today and -- but i want to make one thing clear. i think most americans believe in immigration. i know they do. most americans are concerned about people who've been here a very long time and -- and had no real problems in their lives
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other than the immigration illegality, and they're prepared to reach out and do some compassionate things for them to give them a legal status that allows them to raise their family and their children, who have become citizens, they're willing to do that. but they are -- are concerned about the future and will we end up again like 1986, when a bill is passed that promises enforcement and never occurs but the amnesty occurs immediately? and then the promises in the future does not? what was wimpy's line -- "i'll be glad to pay you tomorrow for a hamburger tomorrow." i'm glad to say we will have enforcement tomorrow but i want the amnesty today in concrete. a recent rasmussen poll explains how the people view this issue. actually within the last few days.
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by a 4-1 margin, people say the enforcement should come first. yes, they are willing to be compassionate, willing to wrestle through a fair and decent way to treat people, but they do believe that enforcement should come first because we've not had it before. now, on this point, the instincts of our citizens are correct, their compassion is real, their respect for the rule of law is real. they know amnesty has has erosi, corrosive impacts on the rule of law. and we have to be very, very diligent to ensure in the future we're not creating the kind of events that erode our law even more. people are not biased. they approve of our system of a million people emigrating here every year, but they do want the system followed fairly. and the gang of eight, in their
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public statements, seemed to say that's what good policy should be. that's what they've been talking about. that's what they expect the american people to hear about their legislation. that's what they promised them they're working on and that has been produced and laid out here. they say that they, too, are upset about what's happening and they say their plan will end the illegality in the future and it's the toughest immigration law in history. one senator of the gang in the committee said it was tough as nails. thus, without equivocation, they say we must have enforcement but it's in the future and we've got a plan that you can sleep well at night and know what's going to happen. so that's the fundamental test of where we are in this legislation. there are a lot of problems with the bill, a lot of really serious problems, and we'll talk about them. but i think fundamentally the question is just that.
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has -- have our sponsors laid forth a strategy that will work? so let's examine the key components of any system that's laid out here, see how it deals with them. now, there are two ways to b become a legal resident -- to become a illegal resident in america. one is to come by visa, overstay that visa, just don't go home. 40% of the people here illegally today came legally by visa but they've just refused to go back home when the time of their visa expires. and the other way is simply to cross the border illegally, and we've had that by the millions in recent years. this legislation does not fix the enforcement defects of either one of those entry methods. it does not fix those, each one of them. and i have studied this. it can be done. we can fix both of them.
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it's within our grasp, it's something that we can accomplish, and i'd like to see us do so. unfortunately, analysis of this bill shows we've got a problem. well, first, the gang of eight's written principles that they announced at the beginning of their discussions said that the path to citizenship in their bill would be -- quote -- "contingent upon securing the borders and tracking whether illegal immigrants have left the country when required." so that's both areas, the visa failure to leave and the illegal crossing of the border. and senator rubio went so far as to say that -- quote -- "the process of legalization, none of that happens. no of the legalization happens until we have been able to certify that, indeed, the workplace security thing is in
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place, the visa tracking is in place and there's some level of operational control at the border." that was in january of this year. well, that's right. we shouldn't be doing this until we can certify and we know we've got this system under control. but around the same time, it was reported that frank sherry, the head of the pro-amnesty group, "america's voice," said that democrat senators privately reassured amnesty advocates that the border commission -- that's one of the things they promise in this bill to ensure enforcement -- one of the so-called triggers would not b be -- quote -- "constructed in a way that would hold up the amnesty process for too long." he said the democrats cannot -- quote -- "allow the commission to have a real veto over setting in motion the path to citizenship."
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he also noted that the democrats see the commission as -- quote -- "something that gives the republicans a talking point." a talking point to claim that they are prioritizing tough enforcement, giving themselves cover to back a process that -- quote -- "won't stop people from getting citizenship." in other words, the gang apparently seem to be quite happy to allow people to go out and make these promises, but to the people who are actively engaged for amnesty, they said, don't worry about it; it's not going to keep anybody from getting their full legality and eventually citizenship. and this should be a concern because the american people are unhappy with their government. the american people have asked for a lawful system of immigration for 30 years and the congress has refused to do so. and they've passed laws that
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they said will work and never have them effectively carried out, never effectively ending the illegality and the american people are unhappy about it. i suggest that mr. sherry's statement is a good indication that the people who are behind this bill, particularly the staff and special interests and lawyers who've come together from all kinds of groups to help write the bill, don't care about enforcement in future. all they care about is what they want today. and that -- that's letting the cat out of the bag, and the american people need to be very nervous about it. they have every right to be, because i'll talk about the history of some of the things that have been happening and it should make every american concerned. shortly before the bill was was introduced, the lead sponsor, senator schumer, frankly and openly -- and this was after the initial comments -- openly on
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"meet the press" said this -- quote -- "first, the people will be legalized, then we'll make sure the border is secure." so it's undisputed the bill wi will -- provides amnesty first without a single border security or enforcement measure ever having to be put in place. on sunday in an interview with "univision," senator rubio said -- quote -- "first comes legalization, then comes this border security measure, and then comes the permanent residency process. what we're talking about here is the permanent residency system regarding legalization, a vast majority of my colleagues have already accepted that, that it must take place and that it must start at the same time we start with what has to do with security. that's not conditional. "legalization is not
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conditional." what he is saying is that there's no condition in this bill, no requirement of any security to be achieved before the legalization occurs. the legalization occurs without condition and then it's just a mere promise in the future to effectuate a legal system that we haven't done for the last 30 years. even the "wall street journal" agrees with that analysis. indeed, nothing at all needs to happen for those eligible for the dream act and for agricultural workers to receive the amnesty process. their -- their process, which covers roughly 4 million people, 40% of those almost who would be admitted and given legal status is not connected in any way to any trigger or enforcement measure whatsoevermen whatsoeve. the american people reject such a policy. that's not what they've asked
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for and that's what the june 7 rasmussen poll said. the rasmussen report says this -- says this. the bill -- quote -- "legalizes the status of immigrants first and promises to secure the border later. by a 4-1 margin, voters want that order reversed." that's the polling data and i think that's a good response from the american people. they know the system has been manipulated before. and i see our majority leader. i know he's a very busy man. i had some time -, senator reid, left before 5:00 but if you had something that needed to be do
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done -- okay. in a 2009 department of homeland security report prepared by the government agency now -- this is homeland security, secretary napolitano's group, a research arm for the u.s. customs and citizenship and immigration service, says this -- quote -- it's very important, we need to think about this -- quote -- "virtually all immigration experts agree that it would be counterproductive to offer an explicit or implied path to permanent resident status or citizenship during any legalization program. that would simply encourage fraud and encourage illegal border crossings that other features of the program seek to discourage. in fact, for that reason and from that perspective, it would be best if the legislation did
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not even address future permanent resident status or citizenship." this is the government agency making it plainly, common sensical statement that's virtually undeniable if you think about it. a grant of amnesty again is going to be counterproductive and it's the kind of thing that would incentivize actions that our policies are designed supposedly to discourage. illegal entry into the united states. indeed, increased legal entries into our country are happening right now. the numbers are going up. just on hearing that there's an amnesty plan afoot, immigration illegality is increasing. according to the border patrol, so far in this year, 90,000 people illegally crossed the border and have been taken into
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custody. that's 50% more than last year. 55,000 of them, i would note, for those who are interested in this and recognize the international nature of it, 55,000 of the 90,000 are not mexican nationals. so during markup, senator grassley offered an amendment to require the secretary to certify to congress that she has maintained effective control over the entire border for six months before amnesty begins. but it was rejected by a 12-6 vote. so, we were told that the bill quo have the toughest enforcement measures in the history of the united states, potentially in the world, and would fix the illegal immigration problem once and for all. wouldn't that be great, as one of the gang of eight members on "meet the press" recently, woulden that be good?
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i think that's something we should strive for but does the legislation do it? madam chair, i see the majority leader. he approved my time this afternoon, and i have only so much of it left. i'm due to have the floor until 5:00. if there's -- maybe i would note the absence of a quorum here, if he'd like to talk about that. oh, madam president, i see there's important business to be done, and i would yield the floor. mr. reid: madam president? the presiding officer: the majority leader is recognized. mr. reid: madam president, i welcome senator chiesa to the united states senate. i congratulate him on his
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appointment to fill the seat of the late-frank lautenberg. senator chiesa and i'm sure we'll struggle with that name for a little while until we get used to it -- but i think i've done it just about right -- has certaining sh served as attorney general for the state of new jersey. he's done some remarkable things, worked with law enforcement for the state legislature to combat human trafficking, to protect children from predators, crack down on gang violence, implemented a successful gun buyback program that took 10,000 weapons off the streets including 1,200 illegal guns, so i commend him for his efforts to keep new jersey's streets safe and protecting americans from gun violence. as we all know, that was something that was very close to senator lautenberg's heart. he served for two years as chief counsel to new jersey governor christie, after leaving the
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governor's transition team. he spent seven years in the u.s. attorney's office and more than 10 years in private practice. he's graduated from the university of notre dame, got his law degree from catholic university in the district of columbia, and because of that is familiar with the district of columbia. i'm confident he will serve the people of new jersey with honor and i welcome him to the united states senate. mr. mcconnell: i would just add, i have had an taunt to meet with jeff chiesa and his wife earlier today. i think the gone of new jersey has made a wise appointment and we look forward to working with him in the coming months. the vice president: the chair lays before the senate one certificate of appointment to fill the vacancies of the death of the senator of the late-frank lautenberg. if there is no objection the reading of the certificate will be waived and printed in full in
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the record. there being in objection, if the senator designee will now present himself to the desk, the chair will administer the oath. please raise your right hand. do you solemnly swear that you will support and defend the constitution of the united states against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that you take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which you are about to enter, so help you god? mr. chiesa: i do. the vice president:
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congratulations, senator. welcome to the united states senate. the vice president: the senator from new jersey. mr. menendez: mr. president, i want to join the distinguished majority leader and the republican leader in welcoming my new colleague from the great state of new jersey, jeff chiesa, and his family to the united states senate. i look forward to working with him closely on the issues of importance to new jersey and to the nation.
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you've heard some of his exemplary milestones in his career. he is a career attorney and someone who has served in public service. certainly has the goafn's confidence, as is evidenced by the time that he spent with him at the u.s. attorney's office, in his transition the gone's transition, which he led as well as being his chief counsel and the attorney general for the state of new jersey, for which he has had some extraordinary opportunities to protect and promote the general well fair of the people of the state of new jersey. jeff's father was a chemical plant worker who died when he was eight years old. so h he and his two sisters were raised business his mother, who was a teen. i'm sure his father is reproud of thim today, the father of two children. they are extremely proud of him for all he's done throughout his career and particularly today
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he's becomes the newest member of the united states senate. he was asked at the press conference with the governor, the governor announced him as his designee, what did he intend to accomplish here in the senate. for those of us who have served in the senate for a while, we know it takes a little time and five months, that's a tough question to ask somebody what they will be able to accomplish in five months. but i think that senator key is a comes at a time in which we're having some momentous debates in this nation. he'll have an opportunity to cast some critical votes in the immigration debate. i look forward to talking to him about those issues as well as other issues that come before the country over the next five months. so i look forward to working with him and on behalf of the people of the state of new jersey, and our nation, and i'm sewer even though it is only five months, he is going to make a significant mark here in the
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united states senate. and with that, madam president, i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator? alabama. mr. sessions: i would ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. officer without objection. mr. sessions: madam president, it is a delight for me to see this new administering of the oath to our new senator and as a former federal prosecutor i know he understands much of the federal laws that we deal with around here, and having been one of those myself, i welcome here and believe there will be many gifts and experiences that he's had from that role that will help him serve in the united states senate, writing laws that
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will actually be the laws enforced by his former fellow prosecutors around the country. madam president, a close examination of the legislation before us, this is it here -- it is over 1,000 pages now, very hard to read, but you have to study it because it makes all sorts of references to exceptions provided in this section and that section, e-2-i-13 and things like that. but a close examination reveals that the promised enforcement of immigration law in the future that is so critical -- and the american people deserve, the american people have asked for it for decades -- is not there. the triggers are not triggers at all. and in fact would actually weaken even current law, granting the secretary of
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homeland security, now secretary napolitano in particular, unprecedented powers to determine how and when the border is secured, if ever. remember, at this moment the secretary of homeland security is being sued by federal law officers, i.c.e. officers, immigration and custom enforcement officers, of her own department because they say that she is issuing directives to them that keep them from complying with plain federal law. in other words, she is directing them mot not to comply with fedl law and the federal judge has taken the case and allowing it to go forward and taking testimony on it. what the bill really says at bottom is that illegal immigrants can receive amnesty, not when the border is secured but when secretary napolitano tells congress she is starting to try to secure the border. ing within six months of
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enactment of the legislation, secretary napolitano need only submit to congress her views on a comprehensive southern border strategy and a southern border fencing strategy. her views on those. and give notice that she's a begun implementing whatever plans she decides to implement. at this point she may begin processing applications and granting amnesty. indeed, she will be doing that. without any border security or enforcement measures ever being required to be in place. the reality is once amnesty is granted, it is never gimmickinge revoked. and enforcement is unlikely under this scheme ever -- is likely under this scheme ever to recur. that is just like 1987, which senator grassley earlier today, ranking member on the budget committee from iowa, who was here in 1987, says was a great
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failure at that time and voted for the bill, and he says it was a mistake, and it was a mistake because we didn't put in a mechanic mix to ensure that in the future the enforcement would actually occur. that's why he opposes this bill. and frank sharry, america's voice advocate -- activist recently said about these trigger, andagain he lets the ce bag. "the triggers are based on developing plans and speaning money, not on reaching that effectiveness." in other words, not reaching an effective system of security in the future. it's not tied to that. then he goes on to say, "which is really quite clever." really clever, isn't it, to see if they can fool the american people. they've written something that looks like a real trigger, that has teeth in it, that says you
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don't get your amnesty and legal status until enforcement occurs, but when you read the bill, it's not there. and mr. sharry actually lays it out. in 2007, senator isakson first came up with an idea of a trigger mechanism and it gained pop laimplet i think he was the one that wrote the language that was in that bill. it is much stronger than this one. it was much stronger than what's in the bill today. actually, it had the potential to rulely work. remember, this was what was said when the bill was rolled out. basically they said, american people, we go to a good bill. you can trust us. the enforcement will occur because we have triggers in the bill to guarantee that the -- that is it is enforcement that is not so, is it? does that not make you uneasy,
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colleagues? shouldn't it make the american people uneasy when they've seen congress time and time again avoid going forward with real law enforcement? the bill states that the southern border strategy should detail a plan for achieving and maintaining effective control -- close quote -- of the southern border. effective control is a new word defined "persistent sur's surveillance" which is not defined. plus "an effectiveness rate of 90% off higher." what effectiveness rate? so this is calculated by dividing the number of abeli apprehensions and turn-backs during a fiscal year by the total number of total illegal entries during that fiscal year. but this does not account for those who escaped detection by the border patrol.
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secretary napolitano all but acknowledged the effectiveness is meaningless because by definition the department of homeland security wh has no idea how many people avoided detection. how can you have that formula? the measure is subject to almost limitless manipulation. one thing we all should remember, having been involved in this a number of years now, the border should already be secure. it should already be secure. the secure fence act of 2006, passed by both houses of congress, already requires right now the department of homeland security to maintain 100% operational control of all land and maritime borders, and require the homeland security to do so within 18 months of the bill having been passed in 2006.
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but that mandate has been ignored, not complied with and the border is far from 100% operational control. so we're going to pass a new bill that's weaker than this and expect it's going to result in some major improvement in law enforcement? by contrast, the rejected 2007 immigration bill set a stronger target of 100% operational control of the entire border, which had to be met before illegal immigrants could be given the probationary legal status. the current bill is essentially the same as the failed 1986 bill. its enforcement immediately and a promise of its legality immediately, with a promise of enforcement in the future. and it's important to know that nothing in the bill prevents secretary napolitano from submitting a strategy -- that's all she has to submit is a
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strategy -- a strategy that reiterates her publicly stated views about the border. she says first the border is more secure than it's ever been, close quote. while the bill states that homeland security shall start -- quote -- "the implementation" -- start the implementation of the plan -- quote -- "immediately after" submission and give notice to congress of its commencement and provide reports on its progress, nothing in the bill actually requires the secretary to implement anything. it just doesn't. it's not there. all she has to do is start the amnesty process, which she intends to do, and then to submit reports in the future. we've heard there will be more fencing. the bill is going to make sure we have more fencing. but no language in the bill
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requires the secretary to construct any fencing at all. rather, the bill states that the secretary shall submit to congress within six months of enactment her views on a fencing plan to identify where fencing, if any, including double-layer fencing, infrastructure technology, including ports of entry, should be deployed along the border. the problem is that secretary napolitano, who will be responsible for implementing these provisions, has said multiple times that no further fencing is necessary. and she recently testified before the judiciary committee that homeland security would prefer to allow on drones -- rely on drones than high-tech surveillance. quote -- we would prefer money f. we had our druthers, we would not so designate a fence fund.
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close quote. does it make more sense to observe people entering the country illegally or does it make more sense to stop them from entering? after the secure fence act was passed requiring 700 miles of double-layer fencing, passed by the united states congress in 2006, after that passed, they said, well, we're not going to build double-layered 700 miles of fencing. we've got a better idea. we're going to have a virtual fence. we're going to use technology and balloons and things of that nature. we've got this sophisticated plan. they spent $1 billion on that plan, totally abandoned, an utter failure. that's what's upsetting the american people in this country. promises are made. we're going to build a fence. we all voted for a fence. then no, we're not going to build a fence. we've pwot -- got a better idea.
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then we spent $1 billion and got zero for it. this is not necessary. we can make great improvements at the border if we have the will to do so. the will and determination is what's lacking. proponents of the bill have repeatedly said this legislation contains the toughest border immigration enforcement measures in history. if that's the case, why is the bill weaker than current law? why is it weaker than in 2007, the bill that was offered and was rejected? congress overwhelmingly passed the mandate to build a fence in 2006 -- and i was engaged in that debate -- by 80-19 vote. with the support of then-senators biden and obama. vice president biden and president obama, they voted for it. it hadn't come close to have been built.
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i think we have 30 miles of fencing having been completed when the bill called for 700. if we had done that, we would be in a lot better place to ask the american people today let's be compassionate and see if we can't do something kind to people who have entered our country illegally. a rasmussen poll in april of this year, a substantial majority of americans want the fence built, but congress has failed to do so. the bill would authorize $8 billion in initial funding to carry out all of its provisions. and you notice it has some fencing language in it. $1.5 billion. what is the $1.5 billion for? is it to build a fence? and you can build a lot of fence with that much money. no. it's for the developing of a
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fencing strategy and the other things that money would be spent for too. but in fact, a fence does save money, since the fence is a forced multiplier, fewer border patrol agents will be needed. they can cover more miles. and it reduces costs. it makes a clear statement to the world that the united states is serious. our borders are no longer open. don't come illegally. if you do, we're going to apprehend you, and you will be disciplined in some fashion and deported. if we do that, we'll see a dramatic reduction in the number of people coming to our country illegally. during our judiciary committee markup on this legislation, further making the no fences rule without a doubt, an
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amendment was sponsored by senator leahy and was adopted that says nothing in this provision -- quote -- "shall require the secretary to install fencing." close quote. if the secretary in her discretion determines that fencing is not necessary. of course she says she doesn't favor more fencing. in addition, the amendment requires that the secretary consult with the secretaries of interior, agriculture, states, local governments, indian tribes before she can build a fence and to minimize on commerce, culture and quality of life for residents. you always try to do those things, but all of this is an indication that with regard to the question of barriers in fencing to enhance the lawfulness at our border, this bill doesn't do it. actually this bill is hostile to it. and you see that language in
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there? this was discussed in judiciary. it passed in the committee. well, only 36.3 miles of the fencing out of the 700 has ever been completed. had the rest of it been completed, we would be in a lot better shape today. and we're told that if in five years the secretary's border security plan has not reached 100% awareness and 90% apprehension, the department of homeland security will lose control of the issue and it will be turned over to the border governors to finish the job. close quote. that was senator rubio on the "mark levin show" this commission they talk about at the border mere existence is at
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the sole discretion of the secretary of homeland security only if she determines that homeland security, her own department, -- quote -- "has not achieved effective control of the border." close quote. five years after enactment. so wait five years. if she hasn't done the job she certifies, she's failed to do the job, and after the legalization has been granted, it's then entirely up to the secretary to determine whether her plans are -- quote -- "substantially completed and substantially implemented." then and only then would the southern border commission be formed, and the bill proponents claim that the commission would be a powerful and important policy-making body. close quote and that the secretary of homeland security will be compelled to implement the commission's recommendations. that was one of the gang of eight's news release. not so. the commission is empowered only
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to make recommendations to the president, the secretary and congress, which are then to be reviewed by the comptroller general. nothing in the bill requires any of the commission's recommendations to be implemented. they don't have any power. once it makes its recommendations, the commission dissolves in 30 days. kaput. as byron york noted in the washington examiner in his column today -- quote -- "there is nothing in the bill requiring the commission to finish the job of border security, and indeed it would have no authority to do so.." indeed, it has no authority to do anything really except issue a report. now the second issue that deals with illegality in our country is the visa questions. we were told that the path to citizenship in the bill would be contingent upon tracking whether illegal immigrants have left the country when required.
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that has a plain meaning. have they left when required? under current law, we have a mechanism where people are finger printed, and they are identified when they come into the country. there is just no clocking out when they leave the country. what does the bill do? does it fix that problem? let's look at the history of it. the bill rolls back the requirements in current law, laws that were passed on six different occasions by congress since 1996, for a biometric exit system. we have a biometric entry system at some points, but not an exit system. yet instead of forcing the administration's hand, making this happen, this bill gives in to the executive branch's
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occupancy over at least two administrations and provides for only an electronic system and only at land and seaports, not land ports. it's estimated nearly 40% of the illegal population here today are visa overstays, g.a.o. -- our government accountability office -- has repeatedly said that a system like the one called for in this bill will not reliably identify visa overstays. and that without a biometric exit system -- quote -- "d.h.s. cannot ensure the integrity of the immigration system by identifying and removing those people who have overstayed the original period of admission." close quote. that's the government accountability's objective nonpartisan analysis of the legislation. beyond violating our laws, visa overstays pose a substantial threat to national security. visa overstayers come from all
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over the world. the 9/11 commission, after 9/11 attacks, recommended that -- quote -- "the department of homeland security properly supported by congress should complete as quickly as possible a biometric exit-entry system." closed quote. in a report entitled the tenth anniversary report card, the status of the 9/11 recommendations that came back together to see how well their recommendations had been carried out. they praised the fact that we have an entry system, a biometric entry system known as u.s. visit, and it's been proven to be valuable, they say, as a national security tool. but despite the successful deployment of the entry component of u.s. visit, the commission notes -- quote -- "there is still no comprehensive exit system in place. as important as it is to know
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when foreign nationals arrive, it's also important to know when they leave. full deployment of the biometric exit component of u.s. visit should be a high priority, such a capability would have assisted law enforcement and intelligence officials in august and september of 2001 in conducting a search or two of the hijackers -- the presiding officer: the senator's time has expired. mr. sessions: i thank the chair. i believe 5:00 has arrived and i would yield the floor. and i would say thank you to the managers of the agriculture bill. i know you've worked hard on it. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of s. 954, which the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 73, s. 954, a bill to reauthorize agricultural programs through 2018. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the time until 5:30 p.m. will be equally

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