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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  November 18, 2013 2:00pm-3:01pm EST

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eastern time. also today possible work on bills that would expand fda oversight of pharmacies and 2014 defense program as. also today the senate homeland security committee will be examining the impact of digital currencies. we'll have that hearing live at 3 p.m. eastern over on our companion network, c-span3. live coverage now from the floor of the u.s. senate. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order and the chaplain, retired admiral barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. our father, be with us not only in great moments of experience,
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but also during mundane and common task of life. through the power of your spirit, may our senators mount up with wings like eagles, running without weariness and walking without fainting. lord, give them the wisdom to be patient with others, ever lenient to their faults and ever prompt to appreciate their virtues. rule in their hearts, keeping them from sin and sustaining their loved ones in all of their tomorrows. surround them with the shield of your favor as you provide them
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with a future and a hope. we pray in your sovereign name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. mr. reid: mr. president? the president pro tempore: the majority leader. mr. reid: i move to proceed to calendar number 91, s. 1197. the president pro tempore: the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed to calendar number 91, s. 1197, a bill to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2014 for military activities of the department of defense and so forth and for other purposes. mr. reid: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the cloture
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motion with respect to h.r. 3204, the compounding bill, be withdrawn. the pending motion and amendments be withdrawn and the senate now vote on passage of the bill. the president pro tempore: without objection, the cloture motion is withdrawn. the pending motion and amendment are withdrawn. is there further debate? all in favor say aye. opposed? the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. passed. mr. reid: thank you, mr. president. i ask unanimous consent the motion to reconsider be laid on the table, there be no intervening or debate. the presiding the president pro tempore: without objection, so ordered. mr. reid: mr. president, i see our friend here, returning upon the did he go of his son. if he wants to -- returning upon the death of his son. if he wants to say something? through the chair to the senior senator of oklahoma, we're glad to have him back.
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we all empathize with something only a parent could understand, and i am grateful to him for his, the example he sets for all of us. mr. president, i ask consent that -- let me say this. we're going to be in a period of morning business until 5:00 today. following that morning business the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the nomination of robert wilkins to be circuit judge for the d.c. circuit. at 5:30 thr-lt be -- there will be up to two roll call votes on cloture of the wilkins nomination. if cloture is not invoked there will be a second vote on the defense authorization bill. today the senate will consider another qualified nominee to be a d.c. circuit court of appeals judge considered by many to be the second highest court in all the land. it is troubling republicans
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appear poised to reject an exceedingly capable nominee to this court for blatantly political reasons. they've blocked three highly qualified female d.c. circuit nominees in a row: caitlin halligan, patricia millett and nina pilllard. today they're expected to block the nomination of district judge robert wilkins, an extremely competent and experienced nominee and this had bipartisan support. i say that because no one has questioned his qualifications or abilities. likewise no senator objected to the qualifications of ms. halligan, ms. millett or ms. pilllard. instead the republicans have blocked these nominees solely to deny president obama his constitutional right to appoint judges. in years past when republican colleagues agreed to block judicial nominees only in, quote, extraordinary circumstances, close quote. these are their words, not mine. in 2005 the senior senator from
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south carolina, senator lindsey graham, defined extraordinary circumstances for the benefit of this body. he being a highly qualified trial lawyer, i think he's qualified to respond and set this definition that we all agreed with. here's what he said -- quote -- "ideological attacks or not and extraordinary circumstance, to me would have to be a character problem, ethics problem, some allegation about the qualification of the person, not an ideological bent." no senator, i repeat, no senator's questioned the character, ethics or qualification of the three women, have already been rejected for the d.c. circuit. no one has questioned the character or qualifications of judge wilkins, so i'm frustrated that republicans will once again filibuster such a highly qualified nominee, a nominee so highly qualified in fact that he was confirmed three years ago by voice vote to become a district court judge.
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he's an indiana native who graduated cum laude with a degree in chemical engineering, and then he got a law degree from harvard. he's worked as a staff attorney for a well regarded d.c. public defender service. he was a partner specializing in white collar offense, intellectual property at the private law firm of veteran -- venable. he helped shine a national spotlight on racial profiling when he brought a landmark lawsuit against the maryland state police in 1992 after he and three family members were stopped and searched. why? because they were african-americans. it was landmark litigation, mr. president. this nominee has a bright legal mind, a remarkable dedication to the rule of law. under normal circumstances, like the circumstances of his 2010
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confirmation, he would be quickly confirmed, but now he faces a republican filibuster. unfortunately the type of republican obstructionism we face today has become commonplace. president obama's circuit court nominees have waited seven times longer than those nominated by president bush. republicans claim they're blocking nominees to this crucial court because the court is underworked and doesn't need to fill its complement of judges. republicans also claim that filling these three vacancies would amount to court packing. mr. president, that is absurd on its face. our republican colleagues were happy to confirm four bush nominees to this court. in fact, 15 of the last 19 to the d.c. circuit were appointed by republican presidents. appointing judges to fill vacate judicial seats is not court packing. it's a president's right as well as his duty.
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i ask my republican senators to support president obama's nominees or even that they vote for them, but it's right and proper that they should give president obama's nominees the same fair consideration afforded the nominees that came before them. would the chair announce the business of the day? the presiding officer: under the previous order the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business until 5:00 p.m. with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. mr. inhofe: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. inhofe: i ask unanimous consent that my ten minutes might be extended by about ten more minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. inhofe: let me start off, mr. president, before the leader leaves the floor, and i was hoping to do this before the chaplain of the senate, barry
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black, left. i had a horrible loss eight days ago, losing a son. and it was so touching to me, and i want to thank barry black, who included a good bit of some things about my son and about me in his opening prayer. and also the comments that were made, the very gentle comments were very helpful, were made by the majority leader. so i would like to through the chair thank harry reid very much for the comments he made. mr. president, we have something coming up that we're going to be talking about this week, and i'm a little disturbed because i don't know exactly when it's going to be coming up. i don't know how many objections there are going to be. i just know that there are some people who would want to use this since it is a must-pass
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bill. this is the national defense authorization act. we passed it every year for, i think, 51 years. we've never failed to pass it. this is not going to be the first year that we fail to pass it. but i'm hoping that our members will recognize how significant this is. first of all, i want to say as the ranking member on the senate armed services committee that i want to thank my colleague, the chairman of the committee, chairman levin, for his leadership and his cooperation that we enjoyed during the committee markup of this bill. we got it through the committee in pretty fast order. people realize there are some things that had to be taken up on the floor, very controversial. three very controversial issues. fine, this is where it should be taken up. it will be taken up. there will be amendments, amendments that i will strongly oppose and some that i will support. but i've always considered the
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national defense authorization act to be the most important piece of legislation congress considers each year. this bill contains crucial authorizations that support our men and women in harm's way in afghanistan and around the world. it supports training of our service members, maintenance and modernization for their equipment to ensure they are prepared to overwhelm any adversary and return home safely to their loved ones. but -- and this is a big but -- but it does so only as the reduced defense spending will allow. it authorizes research and development efforts that will ensure we maintain technological superiority over our enemies and we can successfully defeat the threats of tomorrow. this has never happened before when we are facing a reduction in our military spending that is
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so unacceptably low that it has caused our leaders in all four services, which i will read in just a moment, to talk about how this is life-threatening. but most importantly, one thing we will continue to do is provide for the pay and the benefits of the brave men and women who are in harm's way to defend this nation. in an era increasingly defined by partisan gridlock, the ndaa, national defense authorization act, is one of the rare occasions when members of both parties can come together out of a shared commitment to our military men and women. this enduring commitment was exemplified again this year by the overwhelming bipartisan majority that supported the passage of the ndaa from the committee in june. i look forward to continuing this tradition of this cooperation until we get this thing passed.
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now consideration this have year's ndaa comes at a pivotal moment for our national security. the global security environment we face is more volatile and dangerous than any other time in my memory, or i suggest in the history of this country. yet our ability to protect the country against these growing threats is at serious risk. after losing $487 billion that just came out of the defense budget through the first four and a half, five years of this administration, we now are looking at sequestration. sequestration is an outcome thought to be so egregious and irresponsible that it would never be allowed to happen. none of us believed it would happen, that we would be facing after already losing $487 billion from our defense system, to lose, to have to be facing sequestration.
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and i never can say sequestration without reminding people why is it that our budget that only, is only 18% of our budget goes to go defending america, and yet they have been forced to endure 50% of the cuts. it's wrong, but nonetheless, that's what's been happening over the last -- now we're looking -- it's been in effect for eight months. its drastic across-the-board cuts are exacerbating the effects of an already declining national security budget. as a result, the military is experiencing a dramatic decline in readiness in capabilities. let's put that chart, if you would, john. general or dare know, -- ordierno, chief of staff of the army, said his forces are -- quote -- "at the lowest readiness levels that i have seen within our army since i have been serving the last 37 years and that only two brigades are ready for combat, only two
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brigades. this is general ordierno. the reason i wanted this chart put up is because it tells us where we are today. the orange, the huge cuts that come with sequestration, far greater than the rest of them. that's readiness. that's what we're talking about. we do hear a lot about the cost of personnel and all of that, but that is in the lower blue, so you're not talking about if you're able to do away with those actually coming up with any major reductions. the yellow is force structure. we're talking about as ordierno said, down to two brigades, that's because of what has been happening the last eight months in the force structure. the modernization is the green. the modernization is always the first thing to be cut when -- when force cuts come in because they figure that's something that you still feel the pain of today. but there it is, the orange.
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i want you to concentrate on that because that's where it really would hurt. so we had general odierno saying his forces were the lowest readiness level he has seen in his 37 years in the united states army. i was in the army many, many years ago. i remember when it always had priority over everything. defending america seemed to be the big thing. admiral greenert, chief of naval operations, he said because of fiscal limitations and the situation we are in, we don't have another strike group trained and ready to respond on short notice in case of a contingency. we're tapped out. that's our navy. our top military leaders now warn of being unable to protect american interests around the world. admiral winifield, he is the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the next to the highest of the military.
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he said earlier this year, i'm quoting him, he said there could be for the first time in my career instances where we may be asked to respond to a crisis and we will have to say we cannot. general dempsey, the number one military, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, he has warned that continued national security threats -- and again, i'm quoting -- he said will -- quote -- "severely limit our ability to implement our defense strategy. it will put our nation at greater risk of coercion, and it will break faith with the men and women in uniform." that's why i am so troubled that this disastrous path that we're on, in the face of mounting threats to america, prolong budgetary uncertainties and the mindless sequestration cuts are crippling the people who are vital to our security, our men and women in the military. to be clear, our military was facing readiness shortfalls even before sequestration took effect.
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sequestration has only been in effect for eight months. we never dreamed it would, after all the cuts that we have gotten out of from quite frankly this administration. so the equipment, the problems that we have, rather than rebuild the ability of our military to defend the country, we're digging ourselves deeper in a hole. the longer we allow military readiness and capabilities to decline, the more money and time it will take to rebuild. we're falling victim to the misguided belief that as the wars of today wind down, we can afford to gut investments in our nation's defense. this is an irresponsible and dangerous course. you know, i remember back during the -- it was during the middle of the 1990's, they talked about a peace dividend at that time, and i can remember their saying well, the cold war is over, we no longer need that strong of a military. now, in this day and age, it is so much more serious than it has
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been in the past. our top military leaders agree in testimony before the armed services committee last week general amos, he is the commandant of the marine corps, he testified that if he is tasked to respond to a contingency in the current budget environment, and i'm quoting, we will have fewer forces arriving less trained, arriving later to the fight. this would delay the buildup of combat power, allow the enemy more time to build its defenses and would likely prolong combat operations altogether. this is a formula for more american casualties. that's the commandant of the marine corps. such an outcome would be immoral and a dereliction of duty. if we expect the men and women of our military to go into harm's way to protect america, we have an obligation to provide them with the training, technology and capabilities required to decisively overwhelm
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any adversary at any time and return safely home to the loved ones. under this sequestration, we can't do it. this is what i am talking about when i say we are talking about the obligation to provide the training, technology and capabilities. that's all of that orange. that means that's not what we're going to do. this is why ending sequestration ant protecting the readiness of our military men and women remains my top priority. however, something must be done now to mitigate the devastating impacts to readiness until we can find a long-term solution. this is why now again i'm just talking a little bit about the significance of having our defense authorization bill come to the floor, get it started, start working on amendments. this is what is important. but in order to address the shortfalls that we have, i have an amendment that would phase sequester in a way that would allow our senior military leaders to enact reforms without
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disproportionately degrading our ability to train and prepare our military men and women to protect this country. now, let me say quickly, one of my closest friends in this chamber is the senator -- one of the senators from -- from alabama, jeff sessions. jeff sessions, as we speak, is on a plane on his way back from california, so he can't be here. jeff sessions has come up with an amendment, and he's on the budget committee. he's a real budget hawk, and he still is willing to increase the military by 1% with a proposed amendment he might have. when jeff sessions gets back, i'm going to talk to him about going together on his amendment so that we can maybe put the two amendments together. my amendment seeks to leverage what general ordierno refers to as ramping a rephasing of the sequestration cuts that reduce the impacts of fiscal year 2014
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and 2015 to a more manageable level and shifts the remainder of the required cuts in the remaining years. so we're talking about you wouldn't feel it as much in these first two years, and yet we would make up for it and that's why it is budget neutral. the congressional budget office told me that this amendment would not score. that's very important to a lot of people. let me be real clear. i remain committed to ending sequestration of our military men and women. my amendment does not fix sequestration, nor will it impede my continued push for fixing sequestration. we're going to continue to do that. it's immoral that we're not doing it. however, the damage being done to our military is so egregious and reckless under the current sequester mechanism that i have no choice but to take this step to avoid an even greater readiness catastrophe that would seriously damage our national security. i talked just a few minutes ago to general ordierno. he is the top person in the
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united states army. i want to make sure i don't misquote him. he said if we can do what we're trying to do with this amendment, in other words, back load some of this stuff, it would actually save money three or four years from now because if you start cutting right now across the board, as would be mandated by sequestering, then you are going to be cutting in areas where it's going to cost you more to come back and do that. so i think you will find most of the military is very anxious to do that. again, i'm not going to introduce this until we have a chance to talk to senator sessions and hopefully come up with something that will be sellable to this body. in addition to my concerns about sequestration, this bill contains several provisions that i find deeply problematic. in particular, i strongly oppose this section that would loosen restrictions on the transfer of detainees from guantanamo bay to
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the united states or to countries like yemen that remain vulnerable to al qaeda and its terrorist affiliates. i am going to ad lib here a little bit because i can't remember how many years i have been trying to save one of the greatest assets this country has, and that's guantanamo bay. i say to my good friend in the chair that this is one of the few good deals that we have because we have had guantanamo basins 1904, and it has cost us, i think the total, $4,000 a year, and castro forgets to collect about every other year. it's one of the few good deals that we have out there. it's about one of the only places -- the only place you can cut these combatants where they are in a position where they can be interrogated, we can save american lives, and i don't know why this president, president obama, has this obsession to turn these people out of guantanamo bay back into the united states. he first did this his first
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year, four years ago he had a plan, he located i think it was 17 places in america where he could send these terrorists back in. one of them happened to be in my state of oklahoma at fort sill. i always remember that. i went down to fort sill, i say to the chair, because i found out that we have a small prison down there and the major, a female who runs that prison said to me, she said i can't understand what's wrong with you people in washington, why you have that perfectly good facility down there. it will save american lives, and people are treated better than they have ever been treated before. one of the major problems we have down there is obesity because they're eating so much. so it's not a matter of not being treated fairly. well, for some reason, this president has had a -- and one of the problems with turning these people back into america, into our system is that a terrorist is not a criminal. a terrorist teaches other -- they are in the business of teaching other people to be
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terrorists. you put them in our prison system, and they're going to be working on the people that are there, and that's why i have such strong feelings about -- about the closing of guantanamo or the president has been trying to do that. we stopped him from doing that for four and a half years now. we will continue. however, they're trying to make it easier for them to take people out of guantanamo bay and send them to my state of oklahoma and throughout america, and hopefully we can defeat that part of this bill. while i am pleased that the bill fully funds the budget request for missile defense and includes a provision that would establish a radar site on the east coast, i remain concerned that we are vulnerable to a growing ballistic missile threat from the middle east. and let me comment here. i -- i was upset, the first budget that president obama had, i knew -- and again, when you say liberal and conservative, that's not name calling.
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lbl means you want government to have more movement in our lives. he is liberal. most liberals don't think we need a military to start with. i always remember his first budget, i went over -- mr. president, i went over to afghanistan so i could be there when he announced his budget, so knowing if i was doing it from there with the tanks going back and forth, i would get some attention on it, and sure enough it worked. so in that first budget, the president in his budget did away with our only fifth generation fighter, the f-22, did away with our lift capacity, the c-17, did away with our future combat system, which had been the first advance of ground capability in probably 50 years, but i think the worst of everything, he did away with the site that we are building in poland and the czech republic to be a ground-based interceptor that would take care of something coming from that direction into the united states. you see, mr. president, we have 33 ground-based interceptors, they are all located on the west coast.
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now, now, our intelligence has told us since 2007 that iran is going to have the capability of a weapon and a delivery system -- by a weapon, i'm talking about a nuclear weapon and a delivery system by 2015. we're talking about less than a year and a half from now. and he is going to have that capability, so we were building that for the purpose of being able to catch something coming from that direction. well, then he took that out and he stopped that. there is other problems with that, too, because i remember when we were trying to sell poland and the czech republic on the idea, they said are you sure now, if we agree and we make russia angry at us by agreeing to have a ground-based interceptor in poland and the radar and the czech republic, are you sure that some president isn't going to come along and pull the rug out from under us? i said i'm positive and that's exactly what happened. i only mention that because the radar site on the east coast certainly would not be effective
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by the time that they're going to have that capability, but nop the less, we are addressing that. and i'm pleased that under the chairman levin's leadership, the committee was able to reach a compromise during the markup to address this scourge of sexual assault in the military. the senate bill includes 16 provisions that are specifically targeted to improving the tools, the department, the services the commanders have at their disposal for fighting sexual assaults. it includes 12 provisions to make important improvements to the military justice system and the uniform code of military justice. this is a comprehensive, targeted legislative initiative that would address that. that's going to be controversial, i understand that. a lot of us who served in the military, it happened i was in the military court many, many years ago before most of you guys were born. and at that time the one thing i learned and this is way back then, that the commanders'
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influence in discipline is necessary and we're all going to keep that in mind as we look at some of these amendments. i look forward to bringing this to the floor as soon as we can and getting these controversial things out of the way. i'm hoping that i'll get favorable consideration of my amendment that's going to make it much less devastating to the military. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: i ask consent to vitiate the quorum call.
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the presiding officer: without objection, the quorum call sunnedud. -- suspended. mr. alexander: this afternoon the senate passed and sent to the president tennesseans and americans will welcome because it deals with the terrifying fungal meningitis outbreak that occurred more than a year ago and skilled 16 tennesseans and made many others sick. the problem at that time was sterile compounded drugs that turned out not to be sterile and so when they were injected into patients for back pain or neck pain, those tainted drugs caused fungal meningitis and caused a number, 16 tennesseans, to die and many others to become sick. and had it not been for the heroic efforts of the tennessee state department of public health, many others across the country might have been injected with these tainted medicines and become sick.
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so this is a very important piece of legislation on which senators and house members have been working on for a year. and i'm glad that it passed and i'm sure the president will sign it. in our state we know how personal this was. there's the story of diana reed in brentwood, tennessee, who was the caregiver for her husband who had -- has lou gehrig's disease. she had neck pain and maybe because of helping him in and out of a wheelchair, went to the doctor, got an injection for her neck pain, and the next thing you know she has fungal general miets -- meningitis and she dies. and still her husband with lou gehrig's disease lives on. that story has been told in many, many states and we have been told by the commissioner of the food and drug administration that if we do not act, it will happen again.
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if we do not act, commissioner hamburg said, the question is not if but when there will be another tragedy. so, mr. president, we have acted. no one should believe we can guarantee that such a tragedy will never happen again but for two reasons it makes it much less likely that we'll have another tragedy like fungal meningitis as a result of contaminated drugs. number one, we've cleared up the question of accountability. after this happened and it was discovered that the tainted drugs graham the massachusetts compounding pharmacy, there was a loft finger pointing back and forth between the f.d.a. and the state board about who should have been regulating this pharmacy because there were other trouble signs. this never should have happened. if they had been properly regulated either by the state or by the federal agency, the f.d.a. that often happens when there's
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not accountability, when it's not clear who's on the flagpole as i like to say, when it's not clear who's in clarnlg. i use the example of admiral highman rickover who was a gluk bruk navy officer but in the 1950's when he was assigned the job of the nuclear navy he told his captains two contingency things. number one, you're in charge of the ship, you're in charge of the reactor, if anything goes wrong with the nuclear reactor, your career is over. as a result,, mr. president, and i'm sure as a result of that level of clear accountability, since the 1950's there has never been a death as a result of a reactor accident on one of our nuclear ships. this legislation creates that kind of accountability for compounded drugs. it preserves the traditional role of states to regulate drugstores, compounding is
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something almost every drugstore does. we have 60,000 of those, and that's an important job of the states. most states do an excellent job. it preserves the role of the food and drug administration for manufacturers. those who manufacturer large amounts of drugs, which are prepared without an individual prescription. but it creates a new sort of facility which we call an outsourcing facility. thissality ithis facility is rey the f.d.a. two things have happened. one is, either the f.d.a. or the state is in charge of a compounding pharmacy. it will be one or the other. or, the second thing is there's this new outsourcing facility appeared a doctor in virginia or tennessee may choose to buy all of its sterile drugs, for example, from a compounding comg pharmacy that's regulated by the f.d.a.
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it doesn't have to but it may choose to do that. it may choose to do that. and we believe many will choose to do that particularly with sterile drugs that are sent across state lines without a prescription. so this legislation affects the health and safety of millions of americans. there's a second part of this legislation that was passed this afternoon that is equally important and in some ways more far-reaching. we call it track-and-trace around here. that's the shorthand name for it. four billion prescriptions are written every year -- prescription drugs. and what this legislation does is attach a serial number to each drug that's manufactured that follows it from all the way from the manufacturer to the individual patient. why is that important? it's important so that you will know, if you're given a prescribed drug, it's important that you know it works, that it's not counterfeit that it may
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be safe. it'll take several years to implement this, but the four billion prescriptions will now be able to be tracked and traced from the manufacturer to the consumer. so many of our disputes, mr. president, are well-advertised around the united states senate. in fact, one could argue that that's what we're for, the resolution of disputes. if there weren't a dispute, we probably wouldn't be here. we'd probably just work things out in the governor's office or somewhere else. but the big issues stand here. the some of those are hard to resolve, obamacare is hard to he radi--is hard to resolve, fixine debt is hard to resolve. but on this issue, more than two years on track-and-trace bill, very difficult to do, we were able to do it. i commend senator harkin, chairman of our committee, here; senator harkin; senator burr,
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senator bennet, many other members of the committee. we were able to come without a unanimous recommendation from our committee and it was unanimous today. so just because it was unanimous i don't want anyone to think it was easy. l it wait was hard work and just because it was unanimous, i don'idon't want anyone to thinkt wait'snot important. it's fornt dozens of families who are sick because of those injections. it is important to the families who may still become sick in our state, in other states. it is important know that, number wurntion we'll know who's on the flag pole. it is either the state agency or the f.d.a. and second, any doctor or hospital that chooses to buy its sterile-compounded drugs that are shipped interstate in large amounts without prescriptions from an f.d.a. regulated facility may do that. so, mr. president, this is a day
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of results in the united states senate, which i'm glad to see. i thank the president. i yield the floor. mr. mccain: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: while he's here on the floor, i want to thank my cheeg from tennessee for -- my colleague from tennessee for this legislation, the hard work he's done on it, and also wit te were significant pain and difficulties faced by thinks constituents in tennessee. this is something that will benefit all americans. a rare bipartisan celebration around here. i thaipg my colleague from tennessee. mr. president, first of all, i'd like to obviously join all of my colleagues in welcoming back our dear friend, th the senator from oklahoma, senator inhofe. we know he's gone through a very
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terrible family tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with him and the members of his family, and we are very happy to see him back and working on this very important -- and leading in this very important aspect of our work here, and that is the defense authorization act. today i will have filed an amendment on behalf of senator sessions and myself -- senator sessions, as we all know, the ranking member of the budget committee, to try to address the issue of this terrible effect of our defense establishment as a result of sequestration. rather than go into the background of why it harntiond the fact is that -- the background of why it happened, the fact is that right now in 2012 and into 2013 and into
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2014, we see a continued decline in national defense and then a rise, as it's currently planned. this is current law. well, obviously, it is not a rational approach because our defense business and people in the pentagon do not plan on a day-to-day or week-to-week or month-to-month basis. so what this amendment does is it preserves sequestration, which by the way i am opposed to, but the fact remains that in order to try to ease the burden of sequestration on our military, this would smooth out this dip that has taken mace and over an -- has plan place, and over an eight-year period until the expiration of current law in 2021 would next year and the year after for 2014, 2015, 2016,
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and 2017 would give increases in spending and then reductions in those out years and still achieving the same reductions in spending, as dictated by sequestration. now, the reason why i say that is because we are looking at dramatic impact on our military, if we allow that spending to go down to that level for 2014 before we start climbing back up. now, what is happening to our military today is impactful, it's disgraceful, it is harmful. in this very unsettled world we live in, we are seeing unprecedented reductions and impact on our national security that we have not seen since the
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end of the vietnam war. and two weeks ago the armed services committee held a hearing to understand how sequestration -- how the sequester had impacted the department of defense, and we learned, according to the chief of staff of the army, general ray odierno, continued sequestration along this line will be -- will cause the army to end restructure or delay of over 100 acquisition programs. the army already drawing down by 80,000 active duty troops will be forced to reduce and eliminate an additional 60,000. the guard and reserve would be forced to remove tens of thousands of men and women from their ranks. it amounts to an almost 20% cut in troop strength over the next five years, and would result in an army that has tens of thousands of fewer soldiers than
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it had in 2011. unit training has been curtail curtailed, so that by the end of 2014, if we go down here, general odierno forecasts that only 15% of army brigade combat teams will be fully ready in the event of a contingency. the chief of naval operations, admiral grainer, testified that sequester means that the navy will operate more sparsely across the globe and less able to reassure our allies that u.s. interests around the world are served. commandant of the marine corps said that because of sequestration, he was mortgaging long-term modernization to pay for keeping his marines trained and ready today, but he also said the plan is not sustainab sustainable. as equipment and facilities age, he won't be able to pay for their upkeep while simultaneously paying for training. what will give, unfortunately,
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is readiness. as all the service chiefs testified, readiness means lives. the lower the ready in the greater the risk to sailors, soldiers, airmen, and marines' lives in the event of a deployment. the chief of the air force told us that the air force had to ground 13 combat squadrons because they lacked the funding due to sequestration. other squadrons' flying hours were cut in havment h half. he warned that continued cuts to flying hours which are a certainty under this plan will guarantee that many more squadrons will forego mission readiness in the coming years. general welch's least damaging plan to pay for sequestration is to cut some 25,000 airmen and 500 aircraft, almost 10% of the aircraft inventory. obviously, what is not reflected
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in these numbers is the impact on morale and retention. the air force is deeply concerned about the number of pilots it's losing due to private industry. my colleagues may not know that there's a large exodus of airline pilots that will be leaving the airlines dye to -- o retirement in the next few years. there's a recent story where a number of pilots were offered a bonus -- air force pilots were offered a bonus of $25,000 to remain in the united states air force and most of them turned it down. you know why they're turning it down? it's because they're not flying and they're not sure whether they're going to be flying. we are cutting their flying hours to the bone. we're grounding entire squadrons. we're harming the morale and readiness of our military today, in all of the services. i provide those examples -- one
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air force leader said senior senatorry, if you're not flying your aircraft because it is grounded, you might as well go fly something else. i provide these examples because it is important for us to understand that our actions in congress are presently materially degrading our military's ability to defend the nation and protect our interests abroad. this is not an abtraction, especially at a time when international threats and instability are growing and not lessening. i acknowledge there's i fatigue after more than a decade of war, cutting the defense budget seems an easy way to ameliorate the nation's dire budget problems. but such thinking is wrong. i remember the troop cuts and the budget reductions after vietnam. i remember that it took us 15 years to restore the military to
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the proficiency and capability and professionalism that we have today. defense represents less than 20% of total government spending. we could zero out the entire defense budget, still with the growth of entitlement spending and prevalence of tax loopholes, we would not be able to dries the federal deficit -- to reduce the federal deficit. i've worked with colleagues for two years to try to address this issue. i've toured the country with kelley ayotte and lindsey graham and met community and business leaders. i joined with our distinguished chairman, carl levin, hosted a sayers of meetings with senators -- a hosted a series of meeting with senators to find common ground. none was to be found. so here we are, my friends, with an obvious impact for next year of sequestration, which would dramatically impact our ability to defend this nation. so in desperation, i'm asking my colleagues to at least agree to
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smoothing out this path, which would end up with the same reductions into spending -- in spending, but at least not hit this bottom level, which will cause us to have planes that won't fly, ships that can't sail, and men and women in the military unable to train and operate. and once we reduce and impact operations and maintenance, readiness suffers and readiness incapability only shows up over time. i spent last sunday with my friend from tennessee, senator -- the senator from tennessee and i were in, at fort campbell, kentucky, where we spent some time with the men and women who are serving in the military. we were


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