tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 31, 2013 10:00am-12:01pm EDT
ahead with the nomination. several republicans said the d.c. circuit courts workload is not justified the addition of another judge. and now, live coverage of the u.s. senate here on c-span 2. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal lord, thank you for the total access you have given us to approach your throne in prayer. today, equip our senators to do your will, helping them to grasp the wonder of your purposes.
give them the ability, power, and resources to complete your mission on earth, thereby achieving the destiny you have for their lives. help them to seek not what they can get from you, but what your power can enable them to do for you. fill their hearts with your unalterable, unconditional, and unending love. we pray in your sovereign name. amen. the presiding officer: 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. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington, d.c., october 31, 2013. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable brian schatz, a senator from the state of hawaii, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: patrick j. leahy, president pro tempore. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: following my remarks and those of senator mcconnell senate will proceed to continuing executive session to consider the nomination of melvin l. watt. the time until noon will be equally divided between the two leaders or their designees. at noon, senator-elect booker will become a united states senator. following the swearing-in there will be a cloture vote on the watt nomination.
mr. president, october 31 has always been a special day for me. since it marks admission of the straight state of nevada to the union. it always parades and celebrations at home, many of which i've sadly missed in recent years because of my responsibilities here. but october 31 is special for another reason and that's not just halloween. it's my brother's birthday. my youngest brother, 22 months younger than me, my brother larry, who lives in searchlight, celebrates another birthday today. it's my pleasure to wish both my brother and the silver state of nevada a happy, happy birthday. nevada days is particularly special as it marks the yearlong anniversary of the 150th anniversary of the battle born state. for thousands of years nevada was the home to american peoples. i have in my office across the
hall a painting painted by a nevadan, it shows the first non-indian to see las vegas valley. and you can see there sunrise mountain and you can see glimpses of the oasis that were there, a number of them in that valley. he was the first non-indian to see the valley a a long, long te ago. in that picture he's on a beautiful horse with his fancy regalia. but the fact is the picture doesn't begin to look how rafael rivera look on that day. he was lost, he was with a spanish expedition and was lost and there by accident. it's a wonderful picture and we honor rafael rivera in nevada. it's a special day for us in nevada. on october 31, 1864 right in tilled the middle of the civil war nevada became the 36th state of the union. nevada was only one of two
states to join the union during the war. the first was west virginia way seceded from virginia to remain part of the union and it gained state hood before nevada. union sympathizers rushed to ensure lincoln's reelection. this was right before his reelection. in fact, they were so eager to admit a state they telephone graphed the constitution to congress. it was the longest telephone graph i ever sent, i should say telegram, coming in at 16,543 words. costing $59,294.92. mr. president, 80 days later president lincoln was reelected president of the united states. nevada's only one of two states to significantly expand its borders after admission to the union. eastern southern nevada joined the state in the late circuits
after gold was discovered in both regions. many nevadans believe the state was allowed to join the union so its mineral riches could fund the nevada war effort. i should say the northern war effort. but in truth that's just a myth. it's not true. the tale probably stems from the fact that the nevada territory was created in 1861 so its gold and silver could use the union rather than the confederacy. so the state's slogan, "battle born" in reference to the war was an erroneous episode of bonanza which helped cement that legend which is only a legend. the 150th anniversary is a wonderful time to reflect on the shared history we have as states and as a nation. so it's also a time to build a foundation for another 150 years of innovation and accomplishment for our state. nevada from the mountains and
high deserts of the east to the geothermal wells of the north including lake tahoe to the west, to, of course, southern nevada with las vegas strip from indian country to the mining towns and ranching communities is a unique state in today's modern union. i like to tell people that people don't understand nevada is more than the bright lights of las vegas. and the gliltering waters of lake tahoe. nevada is the most mountainous state in the union except for alaska. we have more than 300 mountain ranges. another alaska it's the most dangerous place to fly a private plane was you because you have weather patterns that develop so quickly. i've been involved in that as i've flown in small airplanes around the state. we have magnificent wildlife. we have mountain sheep, of course, that are famous, big
horn sheep, we have mountain goats in nevada in the liewbies in the north. we have the antelope, theest antelope herd in the world is in nevada. we have one mountain almost 14,000 feet high, we have 32 mountains over 11,000 feet high. it's a magnificent state. and i'm so fortunate to be able to represent that state, the state where i was born. so, mr. president, today and throughout the special year we should celebrate everything that makes nevada extraordinary and successful. so happy nevada day, nevadans. i want to take a minute to congratulate a man who has been part of the senate for a long, long time. for more than four decades of service to the federal government and 32 years in the senate, a man named carl fritter will retire today. he began his career at the government printing office and gave 44 years of service to the
federal government. he is respected by his colleagues in the secretary's office and admired throughout the senate community for his craftsmanship. carl learned the art of book binding as an apprentice at the government printing office. he received special training from experts across the globe. in 1977 carl was detailed to the senate library where he eventually became director of the office of conservation and preservation. my son during one of the summers many years ago worked in that office and it was a great experience. and he knew carl. in dngs to -- in addition to binding books he's built many beautiful things, boxes and other things, he is really a modern-day art ais an. -- artisan. it's amazing the things he has built. he's built boxes to contain gavels, books, and other works of art. later today, when we swear in the new senator from new
jersey, the book vice president will use was made by carl fritter. so i wish him the very, very best in his retirement. he's going to go to key west, florida, he wants to spend time there with his wife bunny, and his children and grandchildren. so i thank carl for his decades of dedicated service to this institution and to the federal government and congratulate him on a career of success of building and preserving artifacts here in the united states senate capitol.
mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: i'd like to say a few words of thanks to a member of the senate family who is leaving us today. after 44 years of government service including 32 here in the senate, carl fritter has decided it's time to go. carl's been a real friend of my office over the years through his work in the office of conservation and preservation, and we're sorry to see him leave us. but before he does, i just wanted to say you some grateful we are for his outstanding work over the years. carl learned the art of book binding in an apprentice program at the government printing office many years ago. he says he never saw himself as a bookbinder but after working outside one january during the
construction of the kennedy center, he started thinking about getting a job indoors. and his supervisors over at g.p.o. gave him the opportunity. carl would learn his trade from book binders from all over the world, each of whom taught him different techniques. which he put to good use in the senate library for many years. in 1990 the office of conservation and preservation was created. carl was named director four years later and in addition to binding and repairing books, carl taught himself a lot of other crafts. i'm told he makes some pretty amazing decorative boxes and bowls, gavels, and books. one of carl's most memorable projects was a falldown box he built as a gift for margaret thatcher. it was a box that opened up to reveal a plate in the middle with two congressional resolutions on either side.
i'm sure prime minister thatcher loved it. carl, thank you for lending us your talents for so long and for giving so much of your life to this institution. we wish you and bunny all the best in your retirement. i'm sure you'll enjoy passing down your skills to your grandkids. they'll have a great teacher. but the entire senate community will miss your craftsmanship and your commitment to excellence and we'll miss your friendship. carl, thank you so much. mr. president, on another matter, given that october is national work and family month, i'd like to take the opportunity to discuss an issue that's become increasingly important to working families and that's the need for workplace flexibility. yesterday my colleague senator ayotte and i introduced the
family friendly and workplace flexibility act of 2013, which we hope will provide american workers with the flexible work arrangements they need. countless americans have become increasingly familiar with the same reality, more and more to do with less and less time to do it. and while congress can't legislate another hour in the day, we can help working americans better balance the demands of work and family. the family friendly and workplace flexibility act is a commonsense measure congress can take to help alleviate that burden for millions of families by providing greater flexibility in managing their time. we all know working moms who are stretched between a job and supporting her kids, and baby boomers with elderly parents who require care and attention, a
2010 study conducted by the white house council on economic advisors found work flexibility programs can -- quote -- "reduce turnover and improve recruitment, increase the productivity of an employer's work force, and are associated with improved employee health and decreased absenteeism." another study conducted by the society for human resource managers found that women's responsibilities increased at work and men's responsibilities have increased at home. resulting in 60% of wage and salaried employees feeling they don't have enough time to spend with their loved ones. the american workplace has evolved dramatically since the industrial workplace of the postdepression era. yet the labor laws written during this time period are still in place today and the makeup of our workforce has also
changed dramatically. today 60% of working households have two working parents. 66% of single moms and 79% of single dads work as well. american workers have had to adapt to keep pace with this changing environment. so should our laws. instead of sticking with an antiquated labor law, i believe we need to update the fair labor standards act to actually meet the changing needs of workers. that's why i'm introducing the family friendly and workplace flexibility act. this bill will allow flexible workplace arrangements such as compensatory time and flexible credit-hour agreements which are currently available to employees working for the federal government. federal employees already have this. allow that to be extended to businesses regulated by the fair labor standards act. currently the flsa prohibits
employers from offering compensatory time or comptime to their hourly employees. this bill would amend the flsa to allow private employers to offer kofrpl -- comptime to employees at a rate of a hour to every half-hour of work. an employee can monetary payment. this gives the option to include paid time off over work instead. there is no need for washington to stand in the way of families earning the time that they need. this bill also institutes a flexible credit-hour program under which the employer and employee can enter into agreements that allow the employee to work excess hours beyond the typical number of hours he or she is typically
required to work in order to recruit -- accrue hours to be taken off at a later time. this option is for employees who do not get the opportunity to work overtime but still want to wait to build up hours to use as paid leave. like comptime, this program is voluntary and may not affect collective bargaining agreements that are in place. under this legislation, employers would not be mandated to offer flexible workplace arrangements, just as employees are not mandated to choose their benefits rather than direct compensation for overtime work. both parties are free to choose what works best for them. now i'd like to take a moment to focus on some of the protections in the bill. under this bill, an employee may accrue up to 1600 hours of comptime per year. at any opponent in the year a
participating -- at any point in the year a participating employee may revert back to traditional overtime compensation. in exchange for their accrued comptime essentially cashing out their bank time. the bill also requires employers to require monetary payment at the end of the year for unused comp or flextime. i've included a provision that safeguards unpaid comp or flextime in the case of bankruptcy. thus, the bill takes steps to protect against any potential or lost wages in these kinds of circumstances. so, mr. president, if anyone understands the benefits of comptime, it's our public employees. that's because flexible work arrangements have been available to federal employees since back in 1978. and if federal law already provides these beneficial workplace arrangements to federal and state workers, why shouldn't we make them available to all employees?
public employees enjoy these arrangements very much. so much so that the unions representing them frequently fight for comptime arrangements when negotiating collective bargaining agreements. a very important thing to note about this legislation is that it doesn't do anything to alter the 40-hour workweek. let me repeat that. this bill in no way alters the 40-hour workweek or how overtime is calculated. another way in which the family-friendly and workplace flexibility act protects employees is by prohibiting employers from coercing employees into accepting or rejecting comp or flextime arrangements. mr. president, when we look at today's modern workplace, we see some companies like dell, bank of america and g.e. that already provide flexible workplace arrangements to their salaried employees who are not subject to the rules under flsa.
perhaps it's no coincidence that workplaces like these are also among the highest-ranked companies at which to work. now is the time to allow private companies to provide the benefits of flexible arrangements like comptime to their nonexempt workers as well. after all, it's not just workers at some places of employment who are parents or family members who need to be able to take time off to attend a function for their child's school, see a son or daughter's sporting event or care for an aging parent. it's workers at all places of employment. a report by the white house council of economic advisors shows that nearly a third of all american workers consider work-life balance and flexibility to be the most important factor in considering job offers. let me say that again. nearly a third of all american workers are consider work-life balance and flexibility to be
the most important factor in considering job offers. it also shows that 66% of human resource managers cite family-supported policies and flexible hours as the single-most important factor in attracting and retaining employees. these numbers are pretty telling. mr. president, i'm pleased that the kentucky chamber of commerce has endorsed this legislation. i also want to thank my friend congresswoman robbie for advancing this cause in the house. she introduced a bill to accomplish similar ends as the family friend workplace flexibility act and actually saw her bill to pass it. now it's time for the senate to act. the effort to provide greater flexibility and support for families in the workplace is one i've long supported. i previously supported legislation allowing flexible workplace arrangements. this is the fifth time i've sponsored legislation to
establish comptime and i'm proud to continue that fight today. i consider myself very fortunate to be joined by senator ayotte in this effort. i suspect her predecessor, senator judd gregg, would be proud to see her leadership on this issue as well. senator gregg was a champion for flexible work arrangements throughout his entire senate career, and i was thankful to work with him on the issue in the past and gratified to work with senator ayotte on this issue moving forward. also senator lee yesterday introduced a similar measure that seeks to provide comptime for american workers. senator lee is helping with the effort for conservatives to find out-of-box solutions to the challenges americans face today. i applaud senator lee for his commitment to this effort and look forward to working with him on this issue in the future. so, mr. president, in closing, i urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this commonsense bill because it's the right thing to do for working families.
finally, mr. president, on one other issue, i will be voting against cloture on the millett nomination, and i'd like to discuss why. ms. millett is no doubt a fine person. this is nothing personal. peter keisler, of course, is a fine person too. but our democratic colleagues pocket filibustered his nomination to the d.c. circuit for two years -- two years -- on the browned that -- on the groud that the court's workload did not warrant his confirmation. they did so despite his considerable skill as a lawyer and his personal qualities. his nomination languished until the end of the bush administration. he waited almost 1,000 days for a vote that never came.
the criteria our democratic friends cited to block mr. keisler's nomination then clearly show that the court is even less busy now. for example, the seat to which ms. millett is nominated is not a judicial emergency. far, far from it. the number of appeals that the court is down almost 20%. and the written decisions per active judge are down 30%. in addition to these metrics, the d.c. circuit has provided another. the chief judge of the court who is appointed to the bench by president clinton provided analysis showing oral arguments for each active judge are also down almost 10% since mr. keisler's nomination was blocked. mr. president, these annual is is show -- these analysis show
the courts are less busy in relative terms meaning the court's caseload is so low it has canceled oral arguments in recent years because of lack of cases. after we confirmed the president's last nominee to the d.c. circuit a few months ago -- by the way, we confirmed him unanimously -- one of the judges on the court said if any more judges were confirmed, there wouldn't be enough work to go around. if the court's caseload clearly doesn't meet their own standards for more judges, why are senate democrats pushing to fill more seats on a court that doesn't need them. what's behind this push to fill seats on the court that is canceling oral argument days for lack of cases and which, according to the judges who serve on it, won't have enough work to go around if we do. well, we don't have to guess. our democratic colleagues and the administration supporters have been actually pretty candid about it. they've admitted they want to control the court so it will advance the president's agenda.
as one administration ally put it, the president's best hope for advancing his agenda is through executive action, and that runs through the d.c. circuit. let me repeat the reason they want to put more judges on the d.c. circuit is not because it needs them, but because the president's best hope for advancing his agenda is through executive action, and that run through the d.c. circuit. another administration ally complained that the court has made decisions that frustrated the president's agenda. really? well, the court is evenly divided between republican and democratic appointees. and according to data compiled by the federal courts, the d.c. circuit ruled against the obama administration and administrative matters less often -- less often -- than it ruled against the bush administration. let me say that again. according to data compiled by the federal courts, the d.c. circuit has ruled against the obama administration in administrative matters less often than it ruled against the
bush administration. so it's not that the court has been more unfavorable to president obama than it was to president bush. rather, the administration and its allies seem to be complaining that the court hasn't been favorable enough. evidently they don't want any meaningful check on the president. you see, there is one over in the house of representatives to check on the president, but the administration can circumvent that with aggressive agency rule making. that is, if the d.c. circuit allows it to do so. so, mr. president, a court should not be a rubber stamp for any administration, and our democratic colleagues told us again and again and again during the bush administration that the senate confirmation process should not be a rubber stamp -- a rubber stamp for any administration. for example, they said president bush's nomination of miguel estrada to the d.c. circuit was -- quote -- "an effort to pack the federal courts."
and they filibustered his nomination seven times, in fact. we have confirmed nearly all of president obama's judicial nominees. like i said, we confirmed a judge to the d.c. circuit unanimously just a few months ago. this year we have confirmed 34 circuit and district court judges. at this time in president bush's second term, the senate had confirmed only 14. let me say that again. this year we have confirmed 34 circuit and district court judges. at this time in president bush's second term the senate had confirmed only 14 of those nominees. in fact, we confirmed president obama's nominees even during the government shutdown. in writing then, judiciary committee chairman arlen sperbgts to oppose -- specter to oppose the nomination of peter keisler, senate democrats said -- quote -- "mr. keisler should under no circumstances be
considered much less confirmed before we address the very need for the judgeship and deal with the genuine judicial emergencies identified by the judicial conference." mr. president, that course of action ought to be followed here too. senator grassley has legislation that will allow the president to fill seats on courts that actually need judges. the senate should support that legislation, not transparent efforts to politicize the court that doesn't need judges in an effort to create a rubber stamp for the administration's agenda. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, federal housing finance agency, melvin l. watt of north carolina to be director. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the time until 12:00 noon will be equally
divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees. mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the assistant majority leader. mr. durbin: i ask unanimous consent an official letter of resignation as mayor of newark, new jersey, from senator-elect cory booker of new jersey be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i listened carefully to the statement just made by the republican leader. it's a shame what's about to occur on the senate floor if he has his way. the president has submitted the name of a nominee to serve on the drkt court -- d.c. circuit court. this is not just another court. some view it as the second most important court in the land. some of the most technical and challenging legal cases come before this court. the judges who serve there are called on not to just do routine things but to do extraordinary things on a regular basis. that's why the appointments to this court are so critically
needy when it comes to maintaining the integrity of our federal judiciary. what i heard from the senate republican leader was a statement he would vote against the nomination of patricia ann millett, president obama's nominee for the vacancy on the court. there are 11 judges authorized for this court. currently only eight are serving. there are three vacancies. ms. millet is being suggested for the ninth seattle out of 11 -- seat out of 11
authorized. i'm not going to go back into the history of our exchanges when it comes to the appointment of judges. i can make as compelling a case if not more compelling than that just made by the senator from kentucky. but at the end of the day those who are witnessing this will say it's another he said versus he said. one of these -- what are these pritions politicians up to, who's right, who's wrong?
i would suggest don't take my word for it and don't the word of the senator from kentucky. take the word of the chief justice of the supreme court of the united states. on april 5, the judiciary conference of the united states led by chief justice jonl roberts made its judgeship recommendations for this congress. the judicial conference is not republican or democrat, it's nonpartisan and according to its letter, its representation
recommendations reflect the judgeship needs of the federal judiciary. the judicial conference which judges the caseload and workload in the federal courts did not reach the same conclusion as the senator from kentucky. they didn't tell us we need fewer judges on the drkt court. not -- d.c. circuit at all. they called on us to fill the vacancies. that's where we should be today. let me add one additional note. what is especially troubling
about what they're going to do to this fine woman is the fact that she is so extraordinarily well qualified. she may hold a record of having been an advocate and argued before the u.s. supreme court some 32 times. and she's received the endorsement of solicitors general, those are the lawyers that represent the united states of america before that court across the street, including three former republican solicitors general. so the notion that senator from kentucky suggests that this is some partisan gambit is completely destroyed by her letters of recommendation from republicans as well as democrats who have served as solicitor general and have witnessed her fine work. this is about putting the right person in the job on one of the most important courts in the land, and sadly, unless the position of minority leader of
the senate is not the position of all republican senators, she may suffer from this partisan approach to the appointment of this vacancy. what a sad outcome for a fine woman who has done so well as a professional advocate before appellate courts, has been recommended on a bipartisan basis, the highest recommendations and now after languishing on the calendar is going to be dismissed. she didn't fit into our political game plan. that's awful. the men and women who step forward and submit their applications to become part of our federal judiciary know that they're going to be carefully criewt scriewlt newsed, know they'll be criticized for some things in their past but they do it anyway in the name of public service and what i hear from the senator from kentucky, she doesn't fit into the political game plan today on the other side of the aisle. i hope there are enough republican senators who will disagree with the senator from
kentucky. we should give patricia ann millett an opportunity to serve on the d.c. circuit court as quickly as possible. you there are others on the floor and i want to make sure everyone has the time to say what's on their mind today because there are important issues before us but i want to make another comment and ask it be placed in a separate part in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: two days ago, indicate mayor -- kate mayor of the chicago food depository came to visit me in my office. she is one might have favorite people. kate runs this huge network of food distribution in the chicagoland area. her warehouses are huge and they are filled with food thestuffs much of which is donated by companies that produce food so it can be distributed in food pant tris all around -- pantries all around the chicagoland area.
kate is one of the pest. i look forward to her visits because i know the fine work she deuce does to feed the hungry. two days ago she came to my office very sad. she said i don't know what we're going to do. i said what is the matter? she said this friday the increase in food stamps or snap benefits for the poor people who live in the greater chicagoland area are going to be cut. it may only be $10, $15 but i know these people, i know many of them personally, they live so close to the edge, it's going to call for some sacrifice on their part and many of them will be hard pressed to make that sacrifice. and, she said, i can't make up the difference. with all the donations coming in, all the charitable contributions, i just can't make up the difference. and i thought about it for a minute and i thought how would you approach a member of the united states senate or house of representatives and say young this -- you know, this cutback will really hurt.
it's hard for us in our positions in life to understand or identify with the plight and the struggle of those who are not certain where their next feel meel is coming from. most of those people have the benefit of the snap program, the food stamp program. who are these people? who are these 48 million americans who receive benefits from this program? almost one million of them, mr. president, are veterans. veterans who are not sure where their next meal is coming from. they get food stamps, snap benefits. almost half of the 48 million are children. children. 22 million children. and another nine million who are elderly and disabled. so when we talk about cutbacks in the food stamp program, talk about cutbacks in the snap program, we're talking about these people. the veterans, the children, the elderly, and the disabled. right now there are two proposals before us. one from the senate that cuts
back spending on this program to the tune of $4 billion over ten years. i supported it. because i think it closes at least the potential for abuse. i don't want to waste a penny of federal taxpayers' money on any program in any way, shape, or form. senator stabenow, chairman of the senate agriculture committee made this change in the food stamp program that will save $4 billion and i think will not create hardship, in fact, it closes what may be a loophole. now comes thowns and their -- the house of representatives and their sue view is much different. they want to cut $40 billion, ten times as much over the next ten years. when you look at the approach they're using for these cuts, ten times the amount cut by the senate, you understand how they get their so-called savings. they take almost $4 million -- 3.8 million people out of the
program. children, single mothers, unemployed veterans, and americans who get temporary help from the food stamp program. the house would cut $19 billion and 1.7 million people from snap by eliminating the authority of governors of both political parties to ask for waivers so that low-income childless adults under 50 can still receive benefits beyond the three months that they do ordinarily. this says that governors looking at their state with high unemployment understand that there are people in need. it is hard for members of congress in the house or the senate, hard for me, too, to really appreciate the lifestyle of someone living paycheck to paycheck. but that's a reality for millions of americans. many of the people who are receiving food stamps are working. that may come as a shock to people. they're not making enough money to feed their family.
i went to a food warehouse in champaign, illinois, went on a tour and had a number of people explaining the importance of not only their work with food pant ris but the food stamp program and i noticed one young woman who was part of the tour. i didn't quite understand why she was there. she was an attractive young mother, she explained she had two children, dressed well, and she was there and i learned later why. she's a food stamp recipient. she has a job. a part-time job with the local school district -- not a full-time job -- and her income is still so low she can't -- she still qualifies for food stamps, snap benefits. she was there to thank me and wanted to thank me not just for the food stamp program but because we changed the law a couple years ago and allow mothers like her to take their kids to farmers' markets and use their food stamps to buy fresh
produce. she said it's almost like a trip to disneyland for my kids. they've come to know these farmers, they look forward to meeting them each week, they give them an extra apple or tomato or this or that and my kids are getting good food in these farmers' markets and it helps us make ends meet. a working mom with two kids, single mom with two kids. those are the types of people who are receiving food stamps and benefits. the notion that that they are somehow lazy, welfare queens, go out and meet them. meet the woman at the irving park united methodist church food pantry trying to live in the city of chicago on a social security check that pays her $800 a month. i challenge any member of the senate or house, you try to get by on $800 billion a month -- on $800 a month, and she makes it because two food pantries and
she has food stamps. i'll ask that my full statement be printed in the record but i want to conclude by saying what we're talking about in food stamps is really a matter of basic hunger, of children, veterans, elderly, and disabled who get this helping hand that makes a difference in their lives. we are in great -- a great and caring nation. i am so proud to represent a great state in that nation. but we are a caring people and caring people do not turn their backs on hungry kids or hungry elderly people. we better take care when it comes to this food stamp program that we don't take cuts that are going to make their lives more difficult. finally, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that all speakers on the democratic side prior to noon be limited to five minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection.
mr. sessions: mr. president, i know swrong if senator boxer was to be recognized at this point -- i understood that senator boxer wanted five minutes and i would yield to my fine chairman of the environment and public works 2003 committee five minutes and after that i would ask consent that senators on the republican side be allocated ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: i want to thank the ranking member of the budget committee. i know he has a lot on his plate and he and i work well together and i thank him. i wanted to put in the record my strong support for congressman mel watt to be the director of the festival housing finance agency. may i do that? the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: thank you very much. i hope we have a resounding vote for mel watt.
he is a terrific person. he's got the heart, he's got the intelligence and he has the experience. and now i'd ask if i could speak as if in morning business the rest of my time. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: mr. president, i am so pleased to be down here with some really good news out of california in how obamacare, the affordable care act, is working in our great state. people are phoning, people are going online, people are talking with insurance agencies, with health insurance companies. they're getting health care coverage, some for the very first time, many for the first time it's affordable. all good policies, good policies that will be there when they're needed. and, yes, we know a small percentage, as the president he addressed yesterday, are being told that their old policies are not going to be offered to them anymore. but all of those folks know they
can get better policies. they can't be turned away. there will be competition for their business. many of them will get subsidies. so i think at the end of the day, this health care story, although quite bumpy, as we know the prescription drug launch was years ago, we know it's bumpy. and we're angry that it's bumpy, both sides of the aisle. but at the end of the day i think it's going to be good. i want to read to you some of the comments made by people sent in to covered california. that's coveredca.com. here's one. "thank you so much, president obama, and everyone who works there. this was so much easier than i thought it would be. i am so grateful to get medical shaourpbs." -- insurance. thank you. another: great phone support. thank you. no wait time. the assistant answered all my
questions clearly. another: great job. easy. what's all the fuss about? another: wow. this was easy and my monthly premiums are significantly less than my previous employer's health care coverage before the affordable care act. and one who i thought just really summed it up: thank god almighty, i am free at last. now, these are the real people. these aren't the people who have a political agenda. they are real people. they are democrats. they are republicans. they are independent voters. they have had a hard time getting health insurance. and because of the affordable care act, with all its glitches on the national web site -- we acknowledge them -- it's working. it's working in our state. and eventually once that national web site is fixed, it will work for everybody. so i want to put some real numbers on this, mr. president. 180,000 californians have begun
the process of signing up for coverage. 180,000 families. imagine the relief that they have. over two million unique visitors have been to coveredca.com. and there have been 200,000 calls to covered california's call centers. average time, wait time is under four minutes. and average total call time is less than 16 minutes for california's enrolling and coverage and asking questions. we have 4,000 insurance agents and clinic workers trained so far and certified. they have their badges so they can offer in-person help to those who are looking to enroll. i went very recently to a clinic in my home county, and i can tell you the excitement there is palpable. the doctors, the nurses, the assistants, the people in the waiting room, everybody knowing that they can get either
insurance on the exchange or insurance through an expanded medical program. we have millions of people who will be able to sign up on the exchanges. we have about 1.7 million people who can sign up for the expanded medi-cal program. do i have any time remaining, mr. president? the presiding officer: five seconds. mrs. boxer: five seblgdz. i hope we -- five seconds. i hope we get these two wonderful nominees on the way to confirmation and i hope we'll be patient with fixing health care, but i think at the end of the day it's going to be great. thank you very much. mr. sessions: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: mr. president, i wanted to share some thoughts about the filling of the district of columbia court of appeals circuit judgeships.
i've been involved on that issue for well over a decade. we started looking at the case numbers when president clinton was in office. i, along with senator chuck grassley, both republicans, blocked president bush from nominating, filling a vacancy that that court did not need. they wanted to fill it. let's be frank, presidents want to fill the d.c. court of appeals because they think they can shift the balance there and be able to advance their agenda throughout the judicial process, because a lot of cases, key cases are filed there. and the lobbyists and outside forces that care about judges want the presidents to put their kind of people on, maybe even their law partner or their friend or their political buddy on that court. and we've done that. and there are some great judges on the court.
but i'm ranking republican on the budget committee also; served on the judiciary and the budget committee. and we have no money in this country to fund a judgeship that is not needed. now the last time we were able to move one of those judges to the ninth circuit where it was needed. but this time we're not -- it's clear that the caseloads continue to fall. the number of cases per judge in the d.c. circuit continue to decline. senator grassley has been a champion of this for years. he chaired a court subcommittee of the judiciary committee. i chaired it after he did. and we've seen these numbers. and senator durbin says it's a shame. it's a shame that these nominees don't get confirmed.
senator mcconnell noted it was a shame, i guess, that peter keisler, a fabulous nominee, didn't get confirmed. but in all honestly, they didn't need that slot and they don't need any of the three slots today that are vacant. they do not need to be filled. congress has no responsibility to fill a vacancy that's not needed. and we shouldn't do it. each one costs about $1 million a year. that's what it costs to fill a judgeship. we've got needs around the country. we do have certain needs around the country, and we're going to have to adjudges. why would we fill judges we don't need and not fill judges we do need? so that's my fundamental view about it. and i would just say this, mr. president. it's not going to happen. we are not going to fill these slots. this country is in deep
financial trouble. the majority basically is saying, oh, the budget control act, we've cut to the bone. we can't find another dime in savings. you know what the problem is, america? you haven't sent us enough money. if you would just send more money to washington, we could spread it around and everything would be fine. that's basically what we're hearing from the leadership. no more cuts. in fact, the budget control act reduced spending too much. all this critically important, every dollar we spend is critically important. and we can't reduce a dime of it or even the growth of it. that's what we've been hearing. send more money to washington. we want to raise taxes. we are openly about demanding increases in taxes to fund whatever it is we want to spend here. is there any waste, abuse in this government?
there absolutely is. look at this chart. senator durbin is on the judiciary committee. he's been involved in this. he knows these numbers. there's nothing phony about what i'm showing you today. it's absolute fact. total appeals filed per active judge -- these are the judges on the court today. the d.c. circuit has eight judges. they have eight judges. per judge, the case, appeals that are filed to their court in the d.c. circuit is 149. that's -- and the average per circuit judge in america is 383. the average is two and a half times that number. we do not need to fill these slots. look at the 11th circuit. they have vacancies, but at this
point they're doing almost 800 cases per judge per year. think about that. the second circuit. that's manhattan. that's a very important circuit with very complex cases. two and a half times -- more than two and a half times the number of cases in the d.c. circuit. and remember, this is the current number of judges, colleagues. this isn't if we were to add three more judges. if we added three more judges, it would be about 100, a little over 100 cases per judge. not 149. this is absolute fact. and they take the entire summer off. no other circuit does this. they've canceled oral arguments they had scheduled because there were no cases to argue. they take the summer off. i talked to one circuit judge in
another circuit and said at least one of the judges in the d.c. circuit goes around the country sometimes and helps out. but none of our judges can because we're so busy, we don't have time to do it. most of our judges are working very hard. i am a total believer in the integrity and the value of the federal judiciary. i respect them greatly. they do important work. but it just so happens in the course of our american system here that the d.c. circuit is at a point where it is the lowest caseload per judge in decades of any circuit, and it needs to be fixed, and the number of cases continues to decline. what i would say to my colleagues is i believe the president -- we should give deference to the president in nomination of judges. i voted, i'm sure, close to 90%
of the judges president obama has submitted. i voted for most of them, almost 90%, i would suggest. but i'm not going to support three judges that we don't need. the last thing we need to be doing is burning on the mall of the united states of america $3 million to fund a judgeship we don't need. there are other places in this government we can cut wasteful spending too, but this one highlights. so i would suggest it is a test of this senate. it is a test for all the members of the senate. you say there's no place to save money in washington? you say you found every bit of waste, fraud and abuse there is? look at this court. i'm not condemning any of the nominees. i'm not complaining about that, their quality, their ability. i'm saying the taxpayers of america should not have
extracted from them another $3 million a year to fund three judges that absolutely are not needed, particularly when we have legitimate needs in other courts around the country that need to be filled or added judges to. so look at this. 11th circuit, my circuit, almost 800 judges, 800 cases per judge filed. this circuit, 149. and they want three more judges. not so. mr. president, i believe we have a ten-minute limit. how much time is left on this side? the presiding officer: the senator has one minute remaining. mr. sessions: so in conclusion, i appreciate the opportunity to be here. it looks like we will vote on the millett nomination maybe later today. with no personal criticism of that nominee in any way, i think it is important for us to say we
just don't need these slots. we are not going to fill them. not one of the three needs to be filled. we're not going to fill any of them. and we're going to honor the finances of the american people. i do -- would just once again express my appreciation to senator chuck grassley, the ranking member of the judiciary committee, who has led the fight on this issue for a number of years. i've worked with him on it. we have legislation to transfer these judgeships to other places. that's what we should be doing. move them to where they're needed. it's been great to work with senator grassley. i thank the chair and would yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mrs. hagan: mr. president, i rise today to speak about congressman mel watt.
mr. sessions: mr. president, unkweurry. under the u.c. were we going to provide 30 minutes per side? was that the content of the unanimous consent request i made earlier? the presiding officer: the time until noon is equally divided in the usual form. mr. sessions: in the usual form. all right. the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mrs. hagan: mr. president, i ask to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. hagan: thank you. mr. president, i rise today to speak about congressman mel watt, who is a champion for middle-class families in my home state of north carolina, and mel watt is the president's nominee to be the next director much our federal housing finance agency. congressman watt is a true north carolinian. he was born in north carolina. he attended the university of north carolina at chapel hill, and he has spent much of his distinguished career working for the people of north carolina.
congressman watt is an outstanding choice to lead the federal housing finance agency. over his 20 years on the house financial services and judiciary committees, congressman watt has been a steadfast advocate for affordable housing in north carolina and across the country. he has worked tirelessly to protect families from predatory and deceptive lending practices. and he's been willing to work across the aisle to find common ground on issues that promote economic opportunity for the middle class. well before the housing crisis, congressman watt raised concerns that predatory lending prices were harming consumers and putting our housing market at risk. he was instrumental in enacting dodd-frank and in supporting its antipredatory lending provisions. and he will be a tremendous asset to our housing market and economy moving forward. in a letter to the senate this week, 54 community and advocacy
organizations called for congressman watt's confirmation, saying -- let me quote -- "representative watt has the depth to grasp the problems that plague fannie mae and freddie mac and has the skills to work with everyone involved to get the housing market back on track." i agree. i was proud to join my north carolina colleague, senator richard burr, in introducing congressman watt at his confirmation hearing earlier this year and i'm pleased that the banking committee approved his nomination. the bipartisan support for congressman watt from our delegation in north carolina is representative of his longtime ability to work across the aisle. during his distinguished tenure in congress, congressman watt worked with republican judiciary committee chairman bob goodlatte and representative lamar smith to pass legislation that addressed patent and trademark
office backlogs. and he worked with representative blame luptemeyer to get transparency for a.t.m. fees while eliminating excessive regulatory burdens. congressman watt's long congressional career builds on more than two decades in the private sector as a small business owner and a legal expert. with experience in the private sector and more than two decades of service on the house financial services committee, congressman watt has the background, the skills, and history of bipartisan cooperation necessary to confront the challenges facing our recovering housing market. his nomination is supported by industry leaders, such as the national association of realto realtors, president gary thomas; and the national association of home builders chairman rick juddson. he is supported by the mortgage bankers' association and the united states conference of mayors, and he is supported by erskine bowles, cochair of the
national commission on fiscal responsibility and reform, and the former bank of america chairman and c.e.o., hugh mccall. in fact, i'd like to ask unanimous consent that these letters from the realtors, home builders and mr. mccall, which i have copies of here, be entered into the record. the presiding officer: without objection mrs. hagan: congressman watt's strong record of working with industry leaders, democrats and republicans proves that he can deliver results for middle-class families across the country and in north carolina. we need congressman watt at the federal housing finance agency. mrs. hagan: i know he will work successfully with congress to strengthen the backbone of our current housing finance system and i urge my colleagues to join me in supporting his nomination later today. mr. president, i yield the flo floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania.
mr. toomey: mr. president, parliamentary inquiry. i believe i have 10 minutes allocated to me. the presiding officer: the senator is correct. mr. toomey: thank you very much, mr. president. i rise to address the candidacy of congressman mel watt as director of the federal housing finance agency as well. let me preface my comments by making it very clear, i know congressman mel watt. he's a good man. i served with him in the house. we served on the banking committee together. i know for many, many years he has been and continues to be a passionate advocate for increasing taxpayer subsidies for housing finance and i've never once doubted his sinceri sincerity, his commitment, or his passion for working for his constituents and also for disadvantaged people germly. -- people generally. having said that, while mel watt is certainly a good man, i think this is the wrong job for this good man. and i want to explain why.
i think it's useful to first consider the massive size of the institutions that the federal housing finance agency, the fhfa, regulates. fannie mae, freddie mac, the federal home loan banks combined are enormous. fannie and freddie together hold 48% of all the outstanding mortgages in the united states of america. last year they guaranteed almost 80% of all the new mortgages that were issued. combined, fannie and freddie have assets that are nearly $5 $5.2 trillion. this is much larger than the federal reserve. which is just -- has just made itself into an enormous institution. combined, fannie and freddie are more than twice as big as j.p. morgan chase, the biggest bank in america. in addition to being very large, they're enormously complex and they are at the center, in fact,
they "are" the housing finance market of the united states of america. so they're enormously large, they're enormously complex, and the post we're talking about here, the directorship of the -- of the regulator has virtually unchecked powers. the legislation that creates this post, that creates this agency and the head of this agency empowers the director enormously -- let me quote from the statute -- "the director's powers include -- quote -- "all rights, titles, powers and privileges of the regulated entity and of any stockholder, officer, or director of the entity." in plain english, that means this person has the power of the entire board of directors, the c.e.o. and all the management, and the regulatory agency that controls it all. there is no parallel in our country for an institution where so much power is concentrated in one person.
in addition, there's no congressional oversight. the fhfa does not depend on congress for appropriations. it gets its money from fees from the entities that it regulates. so congress has no control, no authority once a person is confirmed in this post. and they're confirmed for a five-year term and can only be removed for cause. so it's unchecked power on an enormous scale. now, precisely because of the unchecked power over these enormously large, important, powerful and complex institutions, precisely for that reason the statute stipulates very clearly that the person holding this post has to be someone who is technically competent because of their own history, because they've been a practitioner in this field. the legislation demands that. and for good reason. specifically, the -- the law insists that the director shall
have -- and i'm quoting -- "shall have demonstrated understanding of the financial management or oversight and a demonstrated understanding of capital markets, including the mortgage securities markets and housing finance." so we're not talking about being automatically qualified because virtue of being a member of congress. one needs to be a practitioner. i'll give you one quick example why of many central to the management of the enormous complexity of these institutions is the use of complex derivatives which manage the interest rate risk inherent to these portfolios. fannie and freddie are the world's biggest users of derivatives for this risk management purpose. understanding how these work, the risks that are inherent in them and how it affects the -- the broader capital markets is absolutely essential, and yet in december of 2011, mel watt said this -- and i quote congressman watt -- "for all of the last serm of congress, i sat in the financial services committee and a lot of these arguments that
i'm hearing today are the same arguments that i heard about derivatives. well, i didn't know a damn thing about derivatives. i'm still not sure that i do." mr. president, derivatives are central to the management of these institutions. there's another reason why this statute insists on an experienced practitioner and a technocrat rather than a politician and that is because pursuing a political agenda at these institutions is enormously dangerous. look at the damage that it did the last time. congressman watt was an advocate for all of the policies that helped to drive fannie and freddie into the conservatorship that cost taxpayers so much money. he supported lower capital standards, lower down payments, lower underwriting standards, loan forgiveness. he was opposed to tougher regulations even when it was becoming clear that these institutions were on a downward spiral and soon would need a massive bailout. unfortunately, congressman watt still supports these policies. and if he were confirmed as the
director with all of these powers, he could unilaterally reinstitute these policies. now, fortunately at the moment, we have a director who understands his obligation to the taxpayer precludes these misguided policies. i am deeply concerned that if confirmed, congressman watt would reverse that practice and reinstitute some of these very, very damaging and dangerous policies. so, mr. president, for these reasons and for a -- i would say in respect and in honor -- in honoring the clear language of the statute, we have an obligation to not confirm congressman mel watt. and while i think he -- i know he's a very good man, i think he's the wrong person for this job. and so i would urge my colleagues to vote "no" on cloture later today. and i yield the floor. mr. grassley: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa.
mr. grassley: i rise in opposition to the motion to invoke cloture on nominees to the d.c. circuit. i'm somewhat disappointed that the senate majority wants to turn to a very controversial nomination next rather than to continue on a path of cooperative confirmation or other important senate business. it seems to me that scheduling such a controversial vote in the closing weeks of this session of congress is designed simply to heat up the partisanship of judicial nominations. my opposition is based on a number of factors. first, an objective review of the court's workload makes clear that the workload simply doesn't justify adding additional judg judges, particularly when additional judgeships cost approximately $1 million -- $1 million every year per judge.
second, given that the caseload doesn't justify additional judges, you have to ask why the president would push so hard to fill these seats. it appears clear that the president wishes to add additional judges to this court in order to change judicial outcomes. third, the court is currently comprised of four active judges appointed by a republican president and four active judges appointed by a democrat president. there is no reason to upset the current makeup of the court, particularly when the reason for doing so appears to be ideologically driven. i'll start by providing my colleagues a little bit of history regarding this particular seat on the d.c. circuit. it may come as a surprise to some but this seat has been vacant -- vacant -- for over eight years. it became vacant september 2005
when john roberts was elevated to chief justice. in june of 2006, president bush nominated an eminently qualified individual for this seat, peter keisler. mr. keisler was wided lauded as a consensus, bipartisan nominee. his distinguished record of public service included acting attorney general. despite his broad bipartisan support and qualifications, mr. keisler waited 918 days for a committee vote. vote never happened. when he was nominated, democrats objected to even holding a hearing for the nominee based upon concerns about the workload of the d.c. circuit. first, i'd like to remind my colleagues that in 2006, democrats argued that the d.c. circuit caseload was so light to justify confirming any additional judges to the bench. since that time, you know what
happened? the caseload has continued to decrease. in terms of raw numbers, the d.c. circuit has the lowest number of total appeals filed annually among all the circuit courts of appeal. in 2005, that number was 1,379. last year, 1,193, a decrease of 13.5%. there are a lot of different ways to look at these numbers, but perhaps the best numbers to examine is the workload per active judge. the caseload has decreased so much since 2005 that even with two fewer active judges, the filing levels per active judge are practically the same. in 2005 with ten active judges, the court had 138 appeals filed per active judge.
today, with only eight active judges, it has 149. this makes the d.c. circuit caseload levels the lowest in the nation and less than half the national average. it has been suggested that there are other circuits, namely the eighth and the tenth, that have lighter caseloads than the d.c. circuit. and that's inaccurate. the d.c. circuit has fewer cases filed and fewer cases terminated than either the eighth or the tenth circuit. cases filed and cases terminated measure the amount of appeals coming in to the courts and being resolved. now, some of my colleagues have been arguing that the eighth and the tenth circuit are similar to the d.c. circuit based upon the comparison of pending cases. but cases pending does not measure how many cases are being
added and removed from the docket. when looking at how many cases are added or filed per active judge, the d.c. circuit is lowest with 149. it's nowhere near the eighth circuit 280 and the tenth circuit 217. when looking at the number of cases being terminated by each court, the d.c. circuit is once again the lowest at 149. again the eighth circuit and the tenth circuit courts are much higher at 269, 218. now let me mention one other important point about pending appeals and the statistics that my colleagues use. several of my colleagues said on the floor just yesterday that in 2005 there were only 121 pending appeals per active judge. now, that number seems a little odd to me, so we looked into it a bit further what the situation
was in 2005 in order to arrive at that number, my colleagues appear to be taking the total appeals for 12 months ending june 30, 2005, and dividing it not by 12 but by 11. as it turns out, there were nine active judges for almost that entire 12-month period. janice rodgers brown was sworn in on june 10, 2005, and judge griffith was sworn in june 29, 2005. as a result, during that 12-month period there were ten active judges for a total of only 19 days. there were 11 active judges in the d.c. circuit for a grand total of one day. and just a few months later in 2005 the court was back down to just nine after judge roberts
was elevated to the supreme court and judge edwards took senior status. this is how hard-pressed the other side is to refute what everyone knows to be true. the caseload of the d.c. circuit is lower now than it was back in 2005. in order to have a statistic that appears -- that supports their judgment, the other side is claiming there were 11 active judges for that 12-month period when that claim was true for only a total of one day. the bottom line is this. the objective date, it clearly indicates the d.c. circuit caseload is very low and that the court does not need additional active judges. and that is especially true if you use the standard that senate democrats established when they blocked mr. keisler.
in addition to the raw numbers, in order to get a firsthand account, several months ago i invited the current judges of that court to provide candid assessment of caseload. what they said shouldn't surprise anyone who has looked at the issue closely. the judges themselves confirmed that the workload on the d.c. circuit is exceptionally low, stating -- quote -- "the court does not need additional judges." and, -- quote -- "if more judges were add now, there wouldn't be enough work to go around." end of quote. those are powerful statements from the sitting judges in that circuit. given these concerns, it's difficult to see why we would be moving forward with additional nominations, especially in a time when we're op 0 rating under -- when we're operating under budget constraints. unfortunately, the justification for moving forward with additional d.c. circuit nominees
appear to be a desire and an intent to stack the court in order to determine the outcome of cases this court hears. it is clear that the president wants to fill this court with ideological allies for the purposes of reversing certain policy outcomes. this is not just my view. it has been overtly stated as an objective of this administration. so i would quote along this line a "washington post" article. "giving liberals a greater say on the d.c. circuit is important for obama as he looks for ways to circumvent the republican-led house and a polarized senate on a number of policy fronts through executive order and other administrative procedures." end of quote. we have a president who says if congress won't, i will. how do you stop that? the courts are the check on that.
even a member of the democratic leadership admitted on the senate floor was the reason they needed to fill these seats was because, as he saw it, the d.c. circuit was wreaking havoc on this country. end of quote. this is perplexing given the current makeup of the court. currently there are four republican-appointed judges. and with the most recent confirmation there are now four democratic appoepbtd -- appointed judges. and now apparently some on the other side want to make sure they get a favorable outcome of this court. i have concerns regarding filling seats on this court which clearly has a very low caseload, and have greater concerns about this president's agenda to stack the court and upset the current makeup simply in order to obtain favorable judicial outcomes because if congress won't, i will. given the overwhelming lack of a need to fill these seats based
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. ms. warren: mr. president, i ask the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. warren: mr. president, before i start, i want to recognize the boston red sox team for an outstanding historic season and to congratulate red sox nation on their third world
series championship in ten years. go sox. the red sox mean so much to the communities in massachusetts and throughout new england and particularly this year. they have been a symbol of boston's strength and resilience, from their historic one-season turnaround to their win in front of the fenway faithful for the first time since 1918, to their scruffy beards, this team will be remembered forever for its heart and for its success. like all of us in massachusetts, they have shown what it means to be boston strong. i also want to congratulate the st. louis cardinals on their 97-win season and their extraordinary achievement, winning four pennants in ten years. really amazing. i'm honored every day to represent the people of massachusetts and the values we stand for, and i'm especially proud to congratulate the red sox today.
mr. president, i also rise today to speak in support of congressman mel watt's nomination to serve as the director of the federal housing finance agency. in many areas of massachusetts and around the country, housing markets have recovered. but in too many other areas, the housing market is plagued by underwater mortgages and foreclosures. a wounded housing market continues to drag down our economy and it leaves millions of families struggling to rebuild economic security. one of the people who can make an important difference in helping the housing market back to full health is the director of fhfa. the fhfa oversees fanny and freddie mac. between them fannie and freddie mac back a vast majority of mortgages in the country. the fhfa has the tools to help
homeowners who continue to struggle following the 2008 financial crisis and it has the tools to help accelerate our economic recovery. for four years now the fhfa has been led by an acting director. the time has come for some permanence and for some certainty. it's time for the fhfa to have a director, and congressman mel watt is the right man for the job. he has decades of relevant experience. he spent 22 years as a practicing lawyer, working with middle- and lower-income families on real estate closings and other housing issues. he then spent the next 21 years in congress as a member of the house financial services committee where he dealt firsthand with housing finance as a policy matter. when it comes to housing, congressman watt has seen it all. and congressman watt has shown
good judgment throughout it all. several years before the housing market collapsed in 2008, congressman watt introduced the prohibit predatory lending act in an effort to stop mortgage lenders from taking advantage of home buyers. the act would have helped congress address the underlying cause of the financial crisis by making it harder for lenders to push families toward mortgages they couldn't repay and too often didn't understand. after that crisis hit, mel built on his earlier legislation to craft laws that reduced risky mortgage lending and gave homeowners additional protections. congressman watt has worked hard to level the playing fields for consumers, but he's no ideologue. i've worked with him for many years now, and i've seen firsthand that he is a thoughtful policy-maker. he can see problems coming, and when he does he seeks common
ground and works hard to develop real solutions. as congress looks at ways to fix fannie and freddie and steady the housing market, congressman watt's approach is exactly what the fhfa needs. the people who know him best, the senators from his home state of north carolina ka, the business leaders from his congressional district in charlotte, support his nomination without reservation. so what i want to know is this. why would anyone in congress try to block mel from receiving a simple up-or-down vote? why wouldn't they want strong leadership in an agency that has been thrust into such a critical role in the economy? it just doesn't make sense, not to the people who know mel and not to the people who want to put this economy back on track. mel's work will help restore the
housing market, help lift the economy, and most of all, help strengthen america's families. it's time for obstruction for obstruction's sake to end and it's time for the senate to move forward with an up-or-down vote to confirm congressman watt so that he can get to work at the fhfa serving the american people. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
of patricia ann millett to the d.c. circuit. the d.c. circuit is an 11-member appellate court that hears some of the greatest and most serious administrative appeals in this country. most of them are complicated, somewhat convoluted and they do take a serious expertise. the court is 11 members, it currently has eight members, three of the eight are women, and there are three vacancies on the court. and patricia millett has been nominated by the president to fill one of those vacancies. what's interesting about this debate is that no one questions her qualifications or her temperament. she graduated tsunamia cum laude from the university of illinois in 1985 and magna cum laude from
mar vard law school in 19 -- harvard law school in 1988. even senator cruz of texas has pointed out how superbly qualified she is. and yet there is a good chance the votes are not here to allow us to proceed to a vote on her qualifications and therefore confirm the nomination. let me go back into some of her qualifications. she clerked for judge thomas tang on the ninth circuit in phoenix. she worked in the solicitor general's office for 11 years. in the justice department's civil appellate section for 230ur years. she leads the supreme court and appellate practice at the law firm akin-gump. she has argued 32 cases in the supreme court itself, placing her in the top ten of all attorneys from 2000 to 2012.
she has also argued dozens of cases in other appellate courts. she is known as a superb appellate lawyer. she is known as someone with sterling qualifications, and she's received the unanimous rating of well qualified from the bar association. she's received numerous awards from the department of justice, strong support across the aisle, including from all three solicitors general who served in the bush administration. she's not just an outstanding lawyer, she's also an exceptional person with a work ethic, a morality, and a history of faithful service that is truly admirable. she's the mother of two children, david and elizabeth, she's earned a black belt in tae kwon do after taking plasss -- classes with her husband and her
children. i'm not sure how important that is but i assume she's physically very fit. but she is a military spouse. her husband, bob, who is here, served in the navy and the naval reserves until his retirement in 2012. and he was deployed to kuwait in 2004. anyone who has read the "stars and stripes" article on her cannot but look at this woman and say she is the model american woman. and yet we may not even get to be able to vote on her today. during that time, so many thousands of military spouses, patricia was also one, who shoulderrered the burden of parenting while her husband was overseas. so she understands the sacrifices military families make to keep our country safe. patty did the job of two parents
while bob was away. and during bob's nine-month deployment to kuwait, she was still working at the solicitor general's office and handling a heavy supreme court caseload. now, that's pretty special, if you really think about what it means. she argued one supreme court and briefed five more while juggling her solo parenting duties. according to this article, tim goldstein, a distinguished aplatd practitioners and the -- appellate practitioner said -- and i quote -- "through it all he never saw her complain about these sacrifices for her country" -- end quote. she has also made a longtime commitment to work on behalf of the homeless. the bars and stripes article says that the project most near and dear to her heart is monlock house, a group of homeless
shelters that individuals like patty have been involved with for many years. she coordinates fruit and vegetable deliveries to make sure the shelters have fresh produce. judge thomas ambro of the third circuit court of appeals said it best. patty is a really good human being and as everyone knows she is in the first rank of appellate practitioners in this country. she combines talent, hard work, focus, she is the complete package. so the question comes, why is there opposition to this nomination? now, some on the republican side -- republican side have said the d.c. circuit which today has eight judges and three vacancies doesn't need any new judges. they say president obama is trying to pack the court. i disagree. only seven or eight years ago,
my republican colleagues were arguing to confirm president bush's nominee to fill vacancies on the ninth circuit, the 10th seat and the 11th seat on the d.c. circuit. they even threatened to invoke the nuclear option to fill these seats. the caseload isn't much different than it was then. in fact, it's greater in some measures today. the number of pending appeals per active judge on the d.c. circuit is greater than the number when all four of president bush's d.c. circuit nominees were confirmed. in addition, while the raw filings per active judge are lower on the d.c. circuit than some other shall circuits there's good reason for that. the d.c. circuit's caseload is different because of the substantial docket of complex, administrative agency appeals. i appoint -- i supported,
excuse me -- two of president bush's d.c. circuit nominees, john roberts and thomas griffith and i supported cloture on a third, brett kavanaugh. i supported other controversial bush circuit court nominees, sometimes to the chagrin on my own side. i did so because i believe those nominees were qualified and could be fair. and i believe very deeply that the judiciary is too important to play partisan games with it, and that's exactly what's going on here. why should i continue as a member of the judiciary committee with the second most seniority when the administration changes to step out and support any new republican's nominees? i've done it in the past, i've hoped to break this deadlock of partisanship, i hoped we could vote when a nominee is qualified
regardless of party. this nominee to me if a filibuster to close off debate is not granted, shows me that the atmosphere is such that this can never be the case. and that i, someone on the judiciary committee, who has been willing to cross party lines to vote for a qualified nominee, should cease and desist in this regard. that's the message of this nominee to me. just think of this woman and her history. army wife, mother of two, appellate lawyer, solicitor general's office, the fifth greatest number of supreme court appearances in the last ten years. and she's going to be denied, and no one has cast any blemish on her academic ability or her
moral ethic. so the only thing i'm left with is intense partisanship. please, let there be some republicans that want to change the nature of this place and begin that change with the recognition that we have a superior woman in a country where the majority of people are women, the number of women on this court are in the minority, and there is a need for bright, informed legal talent. this woman is one of them. i hope she will survive cloture. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: mr. president, i'll be opposing cloture on the nominations of melvin watt to be director of the federal hoifg finance administration and patricia millett to the d.c.
circuit. i do so because i believe that neither candidate should be affirmed by the united states senate at this time. i have been privileged many times to be a part of groups of senators who are able to come together and negotiate agreements to end the gridlock surrounding nominees, avert the -- quote -- "nuclear option" and allow the senate to move forward on behalf the american people. my work in these groups which is often referred to as gangs is won we praise and condemnation and often put me at odds with some in my party. in 2005 when republicans were in the majority and we were about to exercise a -- quote -- "nuclear option" on president bush's judicial nominees that were being filibustered by the other side that was in the minority, part of the agreement
addressed future nominees this agreement which has held all these years and i quote from the agreement. signatories will exercise their responsibilities under the advise and consent clause united states the united states constitution in good faith. niels should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances and each signatory must use his or her own discretion in determining whether such circumstances exist. as to both the nominees we are considering today, i find and it is my judgment as a united states senator that extraordinary conditions exist. the agreements that i have entered into, including on the motion to proceed, including last july on nlrb nominations, have all included preserving the right of individual senators to exercise their rights, and if we go to the nuclear option which i understand some of my
colleagues are now frustrated to the point where they'd like to, meaning that 51 votes will now determine either nominees or other rules of the senate, we will destroy the very fabric of the united states senate and that is that it requires a larger than numerical majority in order to govern. i understand the frustration of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. i think it's interesting that well over half of my colleagues in the senate have been here less than seven years. the majority of my friends on the other side have not been in the minority. the majority of my friends -- my colleagues on this side not have been in the majority. i've been in both. and i've watched when -- this side was in the majority, out of frustration that we wanted to curtail the 60-vote criteria and go to 51 because we were
frustrated over the appointment of judges. that was back in 2005. i've watched my colleagues on the other side want to go to 51 votes because of their frustration over the motion to proceed. i've watched and understand the frustration the majority feels because they feel their obligation to make this body function efficiently. the truth is that this body does not function efficiently, nor was it particularly designed to. now, is there more gridlock than the there used to be? in many respects, yes. and i believe with all my heart that what we just did to the american people in a shutdown of the government may motivate colleagues of mine on this side as well as the other side not to do this stuff again. our approval rating with the american people has sunk to all-time lows and they're going to see another expression of
gridlock when we take these votes today. but the cure is going to have repercussions for generations to come in this body. there is no reason to have the house and senate if we go to simple 51-vote rule in this body and my colleagues should understand it. and someday, someday this side of the aisle will be in the majority, and this side of the aisle will feel frustration as we did when we were in the majority because of blockage from the other side of the aisle. i urge patience on the part of the majority leader. i urge patience on the part of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, and most of all, i urge the kind of comity between leadership on both sides, and individuals on both sides. i see the senator from virginia here, one of those who has worked very hard to engender that in this body. can't we work some of these
things out, without having a showdown every time on this floor? this dispute won't affect the american people. what we did in the shutdown certainly injurñ -- injured the lives and well-being of millions of innocent americans. well, maybe we've learned from that. but i urge my colleagues to understand that the votes that are being taken on these two issues are in keeping with the agreement that i joined 13 of my colleagues, republican and democrat, back in 2005 that states, signatories -- those that made that agreement -- will exercise their responsibilities under the advice and consent clause of the united states constitution in good faith. in good faith. i am acting with my vote in good faith. i see my friend, the majority leader, on the floor of the senate. and i hope he understands that these -- this action is being
taken in good faith. but i also understand the frustration that my friend, the majority leader, feels. so i urge my colleagues, we get through this, we sit down and do some more conversations and negotiations so that we can avoid this kind of cliff experience which has earned us the profound and strong and well-justified disapproval of the american people. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. reid: mr. president? very briefly responding. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: let me briefly respond to my friend from arizona. i have worked with the senior senator from arizona on many things over these many years that we've been in the congress together, and i heard what he said and i -- i appreciate his suggesting that we have a conversation about what's going
to happen in the next couple days. i'm always willing to do that. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from virginia. mr. warner: mr. president, i also want to speak to the judicial nomination but i also want to respond as well to the senator from arizona. first of all, say that there are few people in this body that i have more respect for and there's view people in this body who have time and again shown the political courage that he has to put country ahead of party. and i share a lot of his views. i think it is unusual. i sometimes feel i work in the only place in america where being a gang member is sometimes regarded as a good thing. and i have not served here in these times when -- in a minority. and intelligently intellectualld
his point. but i guess what i can't answer, and what i can't answer to folks all across virginia, when they say, "why can't you guys get anything done?" is that on any historical basis, looking at the number of times these procedures have been used in the past -- and clearly they've been used by both parties -- but it seems at some point, rights of the minority need to be protected but there has to be some level of common agreement or not exercising these tools to the extent they have been to the point that this institution becomes so dysfunctional that we allowed ourselves to do something that in my tenure, both in public life and private life, was never as stupid as what we did during the first three weeks of october. so i -- i appreciate the senator's comments. i want to speak to the -- the i
think extraordinary qualifications of patricia millett, someone from virginia, but i believe in his good faith and believe that i hope we can avoid the kind of further breakdown that would further disappoint the american people and know that him for his comments. -- people and thank him for his comments. mr. president, i do want to take a couple moments and talk about something that other senators have come out, the nomination the president has made of a fellow virginian, patricia millett, to be part of the u.s. court of appeals for the d.c. circuit. i've had the opportunity as governor to appoint people to the bench and took that responsibility with -- very seriously in terms of reviewing the qualifications of the candidates. i've had the opportunity as a senator to recommend individuals to the court for the president's consideration.
and i can't think of a candidate that brings more qualifications, more evidence of bipartisan support, more deserving of appointment than patricia millett. now, we all know that the d.c. circuit plays an incredibly important role in our judicial system. we also know that the court currently has three of its 11 seats vacant. and recognize that in the past, this court has been the focus of some debate and discussion. but the idea that somehow we're going to change the rules midstream just seems inappropriate. if there is a legislative reason why we should change the d.c. circuit court from 11 to some fewer number of judges, that ought to be fully debated. but we should not hold up the qualifications of an individual that i believe are impeccable. miss millett currently chairs
the supreme court practice at aiken-gump. she went to harvard law. clerked in the 9th circuit. worked on the appellate staff of the civil division of the u.s. department of justice. she spent over a decade in the u.s. solicitor general's office, serving both democratic and republican administrations. during her time there, she was awarded the attorney general's distinguished service award, and has been mentioned by my other colleagues, during her tenure, she's argued 32 times before the supreme court, which until recently was the highest number of cases argued by any woman in our history. what is also remarkable, and as the senator from arizona mentioned, we need to move past some of these partisan divisions, this is an individual that is supported by both democrats and republicans. i'd like to enter into the record two letters here that indicate that support.
the presiding officer: without objection. mr. warner: miss millett served seven former solicitor generals from all ends of the political spectrum. and the letter here that supports her nomination includes democrats such as walter difficult ger, and republicans including ken olson and ken starr. she's been recognized by the "national law journal" as one of the hundred most influential lawyers in america and has received the endorsement of the american bar association. and as was mentioned by the senator from california already, she has a remarkable personal story as well. she's active in our community in virginia. she's a resident and actually attends church in my home city of alexandria. but as was mentioned by that, perhaps, a picture's worth a thousand words, of her and her husband. her husband was deployed a number of times as a naval reservist in operation iraqi freedom. earlier this month, the military spouse j.d. network recognized
miss millett for her professional service and for her service as a spouse of an active-duty participant. so this incredible lawyer, this incredible community servant, this individual who's got the support of both republican and democrats, should not be denied her appointment to the d.c. circuit. again, i've not been here when we were in the minority, but as has been mentioned time and again, when john roberts was, who's now obviously our supreme court chief justice, was nominated for the d.c. circuit, he was confirmed unanimously, even though many democrats did not share his judicial views. but they viewed that his political -- his qualifications were impeccable.
i've heard constantly the same from my colleagues on the other side, that this is not a question of miss millett's qualifications. why should this individual be denied her appropriate representation on the court of -- d.c. court of appeals? so i would hope my colleagues, we can avoid the kind of -- of further threats and counterthreats. let's vote this individual based upon her qualifications. on any indication of qualifications, patricia millett is ably qualified, uniquely qualified to serve on the d.c. circuit court of appeals. and i urge my colleagues to vote for her confirmation. with that, mr. president -- madam president, i yield the floor. mr. reid: madam president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: in just a few minutes, we're going to have the good fortune of w welcoming a fine young man to be the next senator from the state of new jersey.
i trust that serving in the united states senate will be among the most rewarding experience of his life, and he's had many of them. i urge my fellow senators, democrats and republicans, to get to know this good man. i feel so elated that he's going to be here. i, of course, love frank lautenberg. we served together for all those many years. but we're going to find cory booker is going to be a great asset to this nation and to the senate. he's had a tough time the last few months. his parents moved to las vegas in early august. and as things happen in life, his dad was stricken with a very, very violent stroke. and his aunt lives there, his mom's sister. she's a retired dentist from
california. and i was there because of the august recess, and i had the good fortune of meeting all three of them. his dad, of course, was not able to communicate and, sadly, he died not too long after that. but it was right before his election was completed. it was very difficult for the senator-elect booker going to nevada, campaign, going with all the national publicity that he had in that election. but he, during this time of fire, did extremely well. i'm very proud of him. he had a demanding year, no doubt, with all the things he was doing with his deciding to run for the senate. but he had, as i've indicated, traveled to nevada on various occasions to visit with his family and to be support for them. this quality that he has, that
it was so apparent so early on, his love of family and dedication to his parents, now especially his mom, who's going to be here today, was so apparent. he's not only a devoted son but a brilliant scholar and a dedicated public servant. think about this man's academic record. stanford undergraduate. senior class president, stanford. and that fine institution also allowed him to study more there. he became -- ahe got a master's degree in sociology, which has served him well in the works that he's done. goo we have order in the senate, senate -- could we have order in the senate, please. the presiding officer: the senate will be in order. mr. reid: thank you, madam president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: his having this advanced degree in sociology has helped him in his work with the
people of the state of new jersey and the city of newark. with him, one stanford degree wasn't enough; he got two. and then if that wasn't enough, which it wasn't, he was chosen to be a rhodes scholar and then got another advanced degree at oxford. and if that wasn't enough, he went to yale law school. this is quite a record, madam president. now, he's been a sitting councilman and mayor for more than a decade. he's lived with his constituents and kept in touch with them like no mayor i've ever come in contact with. i mean, we're so fortunate to have him here. he stayed in touch with his constituents because he has been with them in the inner city of newark. i commend him for his dedicated service to the people of new