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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  November 18, 2013 3:00pm-5:01pm EST

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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 briefed by the military
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leadership and the command master sargeants of the various units that are based at fort campbell, kentucky. we found that already the ability to train, the ability to retain, the ability to act with the kind of proficiency which is necessary in today's world is already being seriously degraded. so i ask my colleagues in working with senator sessions -- and this will be a sessions amendment -- to consider at least this amendment to the national defense authorization act so that we can at least soften the blow to some degree of sequestration. senator lamar alexander and i were taken by the patriotism and the hard work and the quality of the men and women who are serving our nation in the united
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states army at fort campbell, kentucky. senator alexander and i were both deeply alarmed at the fact that these people are literally having to budget and operate on a month-to-month basis. they are not able to sustain the level of readiness and capability this nation needs at this period of time so i urge my colleagues to consider this amendment that senator sessions will be sponsoring and i look forward to debating and hopefully passing this legislation to give the men and women the relief that they need to serve this country with the patriotism but now with the efficiency that we need in these difficult times. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from indiana. mr. coats: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the call of the quorum be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection, it will be suspended. mr. coats: mr. president, i'm here to talk about the piece of legislation that i've introduced that i hope my colleagues will join me in supporting, but first i would like to just make a couple of comments about the terrific storms that roared through the midwest, including my state, yesterday afternoon and evening. mother nature was in full fury,
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and it caused significant damage to my state, unfortunately. no deaths were reported. injuries, destroyed buildings, turned over cars, downed trees, power lines down, quite a bit of damage sweeping across our state, affecting a significant number of towns, muncie, kokomo, marion, lebanon, lafayette and others. there were a lot of storms that packed a lot of power and did a lot of damage. we were fortunate in indiana not to suffer a loss of life. our neighbors to the west, illinois, took the brunt of this storm, and our thoughts and prayers were out to their families and those loved ones that were lost in that storm. there has been a good response by fema, people on the ground
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already, assessments are being made, and hoosiers are rolling up their sleeves and cleaning it up as we fully expect them to do, so the response has been terrific. but certainly we have to acknowledge that this caused some severe damage, but the response has been terrific in terms of addressing it. now, the bill i would like to talk about is senate bill 1471, the alicia dawn kale respect for national cemeteries act, which hopefully i think will come before the senate this week. now, i wish this legislation wasn't necessary. it shouldn't be. there were tragic events that happened on may 30, 2012. obviously, we wish that they had never happened and wish there never had to be a bill named after alicia kale.
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i regret the department of veterans affairs made a mistake that resulted in even more pain and heartbreak for this family, which is already suffering from that heartbreak and the loss of alicia dawn kale. what were the circumstances? may 30, 2012, michael leshawn anderson went on a shooting spree at an apartment complex, injuring three people and taking the life of alicia dawn kale, a devoted wife and mother of two children. as police were arriving at the scene, anderson then killed himself. shortly after the kale family faced the uncling imaginable, putting their mother and wife to rest, they discovered that the local department of veterans affairs cemetery officials had made a very disturbing mistake. the v.a. erroneously granted the shooter a burial with military
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honors at fort custer national cemetery in augusta, michigan, on june 6, 2012, and although anderson was a u.s. veteran, his unthinkable act made him ineligible by law to be buried in a national cemetery. we've passed a law prohibiting a veteran, even though they have given service, from benefiting from the honors of a military cemetery burial. after learning that anderson was given this distinct honor of being buried alongside our country's heroes in a national cemetery, the kale family requested that the v.a. disinter his remains. for over a year, they contacted our staff, me. together, we worked and we have been working with the v.a. and the kale family to remove
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anderson's remains from fort custer national cemetery in michigan. however, earlier this year, the v.a. informed me personally that it could not exhume the remains of anderson because the department doesn't believe it has the legal authority to do so without the congress passing legislation and signature by the president. in other words, the v.a. was not permitted under current law to bury anderson at the national cemetery, but the department legal interpretation of the law says it doesn't have the legal authority to fix that mistake and exhume the remains of this ineligible veteran. so legislation had to be offered to right this wrong. the bill is being presented here would grant both the department of veterans affairs and the department of defense the authority to disinter ineligible veterans buried in national
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cemeteries who have created or committed a federal or state capital crime. it would give the v.a. the authority it needs to exhume the remains of michael anderson. now, last month, i testified in support of this bill at a senate veterans affairs committee meeting and i was pleased to be joined at the hearing by alicia's father-in-law frank and mother-in-law carol who traveled here to washington from fort wayne, indiana, in support of this particular bill, and i want to thank chairman bernie sanders and ranking member richard burr and members of the committee for immediately grasping the nature of this and being willing to do everything possible to help us move this legislation, and it couldn't have been done without their support, and their efforts have been advanced and expedited by their commitment to support this. and to give -- have senate
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action on the legislation as soon as possible. so i'm here today to urge my colleagues to support and pass this alicia dawn kale respect for national cemeteries act. the victims and family members of this tragic shooting have suffered enough and should not be forced to wait much longer to have the request met. now, as a veteran myself, i have the deepest respect for those who have worn the uniform to serve and defend our country, but no veteran who commits a capital crime should be given the honor of a military burial and be laid to rest next to our nation's military heroes. that's the law today, and we need to make sure that that law is followed, and by passing this legislation, we can resolve an unacceptable mistake that helped provide the family and helped provide the family with a sense
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of peace and closure. my indiana colleague, congresswoman susan brooks, has introduced legislation in the house and is working to carry this across the finish line, so i urge my colleagues here to pass senate bill 1471, the alicia dawn kale respect for national cemeteries act, and ensure that our fallen veterans can rest in peace next to loved ones and fellow service members, not against criminals who have created such a horrendous crime. mr. president, with that, i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: thank you. the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: s. res. 165 calling for the release from prison of former prime minister of ukraine in light of the recent european
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court of human rights ruling. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection we shall proceed. mr. durbin: i further ask the committee reported substitute amendment be agreed to, the committee reported amendment to the preamble be agreed to, the preamble as amended be agreed to, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: i'll make statement in the record and briefly -- for in a preif moment for that particular resolution. twhror other items i want to address first. i ask unanimous consent that the commander roberto l.marina, serving as harry reid's defense legislative fellow this year, be granted floor privileges for the duration of s. 119, the national defense authorization act, for 2014h. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: thank you. mr. president, i now ask that
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the statement i am bea to make be placed in a separate part of the congressional record from the earlier statements.y the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, search-and-rescue operations are underway in several illinois communities today after deadly tornadoes tore through my home state yesterday. eight people died as a result of the storms, six in my home state of illinois, and dozens are seriously injured. my heart goes out to people who lost so much and today are sorting through the rubble trying to reconstruct their homes, their lives and their businesses. take a look at what the people in washington, illinois, which is near pecon and peoria woke up to this morning. this photo shows what's left of a neighborhood on devonshire road. it's difficult to know which property's which because the homes have been reduced to rubble. tornado door a path from one end of washington, illinois, to the other, knocking down power
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lines, rupturing gas lines and ripping off roofs. this is another photo. this is of the devastation in washington, illinois, and it looks like the whole neighborhood around this photo has been destroyed. mayor gary manier says between 2,000 and 3,000 homes were damaged by tornadoes in his city alone. he credits the advanced warning system for saving many lives. mayor mannier estimates people in washington, illinois, had about four to five minutes to take cover. washington is a city of about 15,000 people in illinois. it's 150 miles southeast -- southwest of chicago. at least 400 homes were destroyed there, literally wiped off their foundation. stand-alone homes, multifamily homes and apartment buildings were damaged. rescue teams are searching the debris to make sure all the victims are accounted for. several stories have been reported of debris from
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washington ending up near streeter, illinois, 50 miles away. people in streeter found parts of a plastic recycling bin of the washington city emblem on it and a u.p.s. package addressed to one of washington's hardest-hit neighborhoods. a person in lockport, i will, whicillinois,which is two hours, found a savings bond with a washington, illinois, address. many other illinois communities were struck by the twisters. this photo shows some of the aftermath in brookport, illinois, which is in masik county, the far southern end of my state. several people in brookport said some homes moved as much as 20 feet off their foundations. 70 homes were destroyed and many more are damaged. three of the six people who died in illinois lived in masik county. the village of gifford, illinois, a small community of 500, suffered severe damage. 160 homes were destroyed in that community. people there say it looks like half the town's been wiped away. in washington county, two
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siblings, joseph hoy, 80 years old, and francis hoy, his sist sister, aged 78, died in the storms. they lived in the village of newmenden. cole city, nashville, east pea other ya, pecon, many other communities were also hit by these tornadoes. in the face of all this devastation, people all over the state are beginning the painful task of assessing the damage. in fact, we're starting to hear some amazing stories as we always do. in washington, illinois, a six-year-old boy is credited with saving the lives of his mother and older brother. this six-year-old, brevan hunter, was playing a video game when he heard the wale of the sigh lens yesterday. he said to his mom, we've got to get down in the basely. his mom, lisa hunter, had hurt the siren too but said the skies looked calm so she thought it was just a drill. brevan just wouldn't get up. he told his mom that he learned in school when you hear the siren, you go somewhere safe.
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they all grabbed a futon and went to the basement just minutes before the tornado slammed into their duplex in washington estates. lisa hunter credits her little boy with saving their lives. laura lee cox, a teacher in the city of washington, credits a former student for saving her life and her husband's. cox's house was directly in the path of the storm. she and her husband dave took shelter when they heard the sirens but they were buried by debris when the twister hit. they survived but could not get out. cox says she and her husband were dug out from under the rubble by one of her former students. governor pat quinn has declared seven illinois counties state disaster areas. champagne, groundy, lasalle, masoc, taswell, washington and woodford, all receiving the trucks, communications, equipment and heav equipment needed to remove the debris. more than 60 national guardsmen are helping with the debris. earlier today ispoke with the head of the illinois emergency management agency. he assured me that fema
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representatives are in the state assessing the damage and working with state and local officials to help everyone. the state has dispatched teams to a number of locations across the state and is providing emergency generators, light towers and communications systems. the extent of the damage is breathtaking. i commend the mayors and first responders, as always, on the frontline bringing order to the chaos and also to the governor and his team who are getting immediate help to the communities hardest-hit. i'm confident the state will need federal assistance to help with the cleanup and recovery and i stand ready, along with senator kirk, to ensure there is federal assistance to augment the arduous but critical recovery work that the municipalities and the state already have begun. mr. president, tornadoes aren't new to illinois. they're pretty common in our part of the world. but this is an unusual situation that we face. in the last 27 years, there have been approximately 194 tornadoes in our state recorded in the number of november. 101 of them were recorded
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yesterday. 194 in 27 years and 101 yesterday. is the weather changing in america? well, i think people in illinois would say it's changing for the worse when it comes to the incidence of tornadoes out of season in our state of illinois. there are two things i can predict about this disaster without fail. a year from now, you'll go back to these scenes and you'll see the most amazing work that's been done by so many families and so many neighbors who pitch in to rebuild. they just never quit and they never give up. they'll be back. they'll be back with their homes and the playgrounds and the churches and the schools and the shops. they'll be back. and the second thing i can predict without fail -- and it's not unique to illinois but i'm so proud of it -- is that neighborly quality, where people pitch in to help one another, in ways large and small. from showing up last night in washington, illinois, at one of the shelters with 35 hot pizzas, somebody just brought them in and said give them to whoever
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wants them. it's a little gesture like that and many others, large and sma small, which i'm so proud to report just part of who we are. not unique to illinois, not unique to the midwest, maybe not even unique to america. but time and again, in times of crisis, it comes out and shows itself over and over again. mr. president, i have a unanimous consent request for a committee to meet during today's session of the senate. it has the approval of the majority and the minority leadersment i ask unanimous consent -- leaders. i ask unanimous consent this question be agreed to and that the request be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, i ask in a separate place in the record that the following statement be entered. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, i rise today to speak to an issue relative to the nation of ukraine. it is the continued imprisonment of former ukrainian prime minister miss yulia tymoshenko. sadly, for over two years now, miss tymoshenko has been languishing in prison on
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politicized charges that she abused her position in connection with a natural gas contract with russia. this is a floor poster showing the former prime minister's trial in ukraine. this occurred, as i said, more than two years ago. i'm not going to judge the wisdom of that contract. one of an endless series of policy decisions that chief executives make in most nations. but this is an imprisonment that has been recognized by the international community and countless human rights organizations and by the european court on human rights as selective prosecution and politically motivated. this is an imprisonment that has the whiff of the neighboring nation of belarus, where those who run for president get strongman -- against strongman dictator lukashenko luke not only always use the election but virtually always get thrown in jail. talk about a disincentive to run for officemen office. not in the ukraine, which has looked to solidify its place
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among the community of democracies, do we expect this kind of conduct. when i visited ukraine last may, i had the opportunity to meet with the president yanokovic, the prime minister, and the foreign minister. i was grateful that they gave me their time. and during those discussions, i always raised the issue of miss tymoshenko's imprisonment. hoping that it would be solved. they gave me kind of indirect assurances that it would in a very brief time. last year, senator inhofe of oklahoma, senators boxer, casey, menendez and i introduced a senate resolution calling for her release. it passed unanimously last september, over a year ago. and yet here we are today, more than a year later and a few weeks before an important opportunity for ukraine to strengthen its ties to the west by potentially signing an association agreement with the european union, and miss tymoshenko is still in jail. mr. president, this is not only embarrassment -- embarrassing, it's disgraceful.
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this is a costly distraction from all the other important issues in ukraine. a nation which has such a great potential. it plays into russian president putin's hands, who would like nothing more than to see the european union association agreement scuttled because of the failure of the ukrainian government to release miss tymoshenko. why would ukraine's leaders want to sum come -- succumb to russian bullying and jeopardize political ties to the west over a simple grudge recording the previous prime minister? mr. president, i'm dismayed by the seeming inability to find a reasonable compromise that would allow miss tymoshenko to be released to seek medical treatment abroad, a move that would allow us to instead focus on strengthening the important ties between the u.s., the european union and ukraine. ukraine is our friend and ally. it helped us in libya and in afghanistan. its leadership rightly sees ukraine's future with the west. but when you join the community
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of democracies, you simply do not throw away your -- you simply do not throw your foreman political opponents -- your former political opponents in jail over policy disagreements. you instead over better ideas and beat them in an election. that's why this summer, regrettably, i introduced a follow-up resolution again calling for the release of miss tymoshenko. i'm happy to note senators barrasso, boozman, boxer, cardin, inhofe, menendez, murphy, portman, rubio, sessions, and shaheen have joined me. and let me add, that's not a group of senators that you see agree on too many issues. but we all agree on this. for months, we've been waiting, assured that a resolution to miss tymoshenko's case would come to fruition. we saw ukraine take promising steps toward political reform, we saw some of miss tymoshenko's allies pardoned. and over the course of the last few weeks, in particular, we were optimistic negotiations led by former president of the european parliament, pat cox, and former polish president, alexander quevnefski, were
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seemingly making headway toward a solution in which miss tymoshenko would leave, go to germany for medical treatment. we were hopeful that such a solution could come in time for ukraine to sign an association agreement with the e.u. during the eastern partnership summit in vilnius at the end of this month, a step strongly supported by the united states. we held off in calling this resolution with the hope that real progress would take place. but last wednesday, after two years of delay and obfuscation on this issue, the ukrainian parliament postponed a vote on the bill that would have secured this resolution, a move that only adds to the long, long list of missed opportunities in ukraine. that is why today, with some disappointment, my colleagues and i have decided to move forward and have passed this resolution in the united states senate. there is still time to find a solution before the eastern partnership summit takes place at the end of the month, so i'm hopeful that our friends in ukraine will be able to find an honorable way forward that puts
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the best interest of their county first and ends miss tymoshenko's detention. mr. president, the final statement i'd like to make is a brief one. i'd like to ask that it be placed at a separate place in the record as well. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, i rise to speak about the president's nomination to fill vacancies on the court of appeals for the d.c. circuit. the d.c. circuit, considered to be the second-most important court in america, has eight active judges out of the 11 judgeships authorized by law. my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have argued that the senate should not confirm any of president obama's nominees for these vacancies, but where there are vacancies on the federal judiciary, it's the duty of the president to fill them. and it's the duty of the senate to advise and consent in an honest and professional way to the filling of these vacancies. the senate does not have the right to unilaterally determine that certain judicial seats and posts should never be filled by
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certain presidents. that's exactly what's happening today in the united states senate. today we're considering the nomination of judge robert wilkins to serve on the d.c. circuit. he currently serves aes a federal judge for the u.s. district court for the district of columbia. he was confirmed by the senate in 2010 by a voice vote, no controversy. 70 of my colleagues, including 28 republicans, were here for that confirmation. there's no question that judge wilkins has the experience, qualifications, and integrity to be an outstanding circuit court judge. he is a native of indiana, graduate of harvard law, worked for 11 years as public defender in washington, then joined the venerable law firm where he served as a partner for nearly a decade. he has presided over hundreds of civil and criminal cases. he has an unblemished reputation for fairness and integrity. the leadership conference on civil rights said that he is -- quote -- "a wealth of experience and impartiality and a steadfast
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commitment to enforcing the rule of law." he is has been rated unanimously well-qualified to serve on the d.c. circuit by the american bar association. no senator, not one, questioned his qualifications before the senate judiciary committee. as a sitting federal judge, he has already demonstrated sound judgment and integrity. he serves and up-or-down vote on his nomination, and he deserves to be confirmed. but my republican colleagues have made it clear that, once again, they are going to filibuster president obama's appointment to the d.c. circuit. it has nothing to do with judge wilkins, they say. they just don't want any democratic president to fill this vacancy on this important court, period. this is become ago pattern, an embarrassing pattern in the united states senate, and this court is exhibit "a" in the abuse of the filibuster.
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president george w. bush made six nominations to the d.c. circuit during his presidency. four were confirmed. president obama has made five nominations to the d.c. circuit, and if the republicans filibuster george wilkins sai t, as they have threatened, then four o of five of president obama's nominees will have been fiblged. some of the finest attorneys in the country, some of the most outstanding women who have ever been nominated for federal judgeship, were all filibustered and stopped by the republicans over the last several weeks. my republican colleagues say, this is an argument about caseloads. there's just not enough work to justify these judges. doesn't make sense. my republican colleagues were eager to confirm nominees for the ninth, tenth, and 11th seats on the d.c. circuit when twases a republican president.
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you didn't hear them even talk about caseload then. this is a manufactured excuse for them to filibuster an obama nominee. when it comes to d.c. circuit nominees by our current democratic president, it looks like we'll see four times as many filibusters as confirmations. this is unacceptable. it is disgraceful. these jcialg vacancie -- these l nominees are qualified. these nominees do not deserve a filibuster. they deserve a chance to be judged on their merits. i urge my republican colleagues to stop these filibusters now and to allow an up-or-down vote on judge wilkins and the other outstanding nominees. we reached a bit of an agreement years ago that we wouldn't stop these nominees unless there were extraordinary circumstances. it turns out one of those extraordinary circumstances is when a democratic president, named barack obama, makes a
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nomination. too many republicans think that's extraordinary and that they can stop well-qualified, good people from serving our nation and serving on this important court. we'll have a chance this afternoon. i hope with judge wilkins he will be given that chance to serve on this important court, and i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. ms. warren: i ask that the quorum be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. warren: mr. president, i rise today to talk about the retirement cries in this country, a crisis at that has received far too little attention and far too little response from washington. i spent most of my career studying the economic pressures on middle-class families, families who worked hard, who played by the rules, but who
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still found themselves just hanging on by their fingernails. starting in the 1970's, even as workers became more productive, their wages flattened out, while things like health care and sending their kid to college kept going up. workers rolled up their slieiv , sent both pairptses into the workforce. that meant higher child care costs, a second car and higher taxes. they just tightened their belts more cutting spending wherever they could. adjusted for inflation, families spend less than they did a generation ago on food, clothing, furniture, appliances and other flexible purchases. when that still wasn't enough to cover rising costs, they took on debt, crees card debt, college debt, debt just to pay for the necessities. as families became increasingly desperate, unscrupulous financial institutions were all too happy to chain them to
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financial products that got them into more trouble, products where fine print and legalese covered up the true cost of credit. now, these trends are now new. there have been warning signs for years about what's happening to our middle class. one major consequence of these increasing pressures on working people, a consequence that receives far too little attention, is the dream of a secure retirement is slowly slipping away. a generation ago, middle-class families were able to put away enough money during their working years to make it through their later years with dignity. on average, they saved about 11% of their take-home pay while working. many paid off their homes, got rid of all other debts and retired with strong pensions from their employers. and when pensions, savings, and investments fell short, they could rely on social security to make up the difference. that was the story a generation ago, but since that time, the retirement landscape has shifted
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dramatically against our families. among working families on the verge of retirement, about a third have no retirement savings of any kind, and another third have total savings that are less than a year's annual income. many seniors have seen their housing well shrink swrl. according to aarp, in 2012, one out of every seven older homeowners was paying down a mortgage that was higher than the value of their house. and just as they needed to rely more than ever on pensions, employers are withdrawing from their traditional role in helping provide a secure retirement. two decades ago, more than a third of all private-sector workers -- 35% -- had traditional defined benefit pensions, pensions that guaranteed a certain monthly payment that retirees knew they could depend on. today that number has been cut
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in half. only 18% of private-sector workers have defined benefit pensions. employers have replaced guaranteed retirement income with savings plans like 401(k) plans that leave the retiree at the mercy of a market that rises and falls. and sometimes at the mercy of dangerous investment products. these plans often fall short of what retirees need and nearly half of all american workers don't even have access to those limited plans. this leaves more than 44 million workers without any retirement assistance from their employers. add all of this up, the dramatic decline in the individual savings and the dramatic decline of guaranteed retirement benefits and employer support in return for a lifetime of work, and we're left with a real estate tirement crisis -- a real estate tirement crisis, a -- a
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retirement crisis. with less savings and weeker private retirement protection, retirees depend more than ever on the safety and reliability of social security. social security works. no one runs out of benefits and the payments don't rise or fall with the stock market. two-thirds of seniors rely on it for the majority of their income in retirement, and 14 million seniors -- 14 million -- this is the safety net that keeps them out of poverty. god bless, social security. and yet even social security has been under attack. month plaiments are modest -- monthly payments are modest. over time those benefits are shrinking in value. this puts a terrible squeeze on seniors. with tens of millions more financially stressed as they
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approach retirement, with more and more people left out of the private retirement security system, and with the economic security of our families unraveling, social security is rapidly become the only -- only -- lifeline that millions of seniors have to keep their heads above water. and yet instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening social security, some in washington are fighting to cut benefits. just this morning "the washington post" ran an editorial mocking the idea of a looming retirement crisis. to make sure that no one missed the point, they even put the words "retirement crisis" in quotation marks. no retirement crisis? tell that to the millions of americans who are facing retirement without a pension. tell that to the millions of americans who have nothing to fall back on except social security. there is a $6.6 trillion gap
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between what americans under 65 are currently saving and what they need to maintain their standard of living when they hit retirement. $6.6 trillion, and that assumes that social security benefits aren't cut. make no mistake, there is a crisis. the call to cut social security has an uglier side to it, too. "the washington post" framed the choice as more children in poverty versus more seniors in poverty. the suggestion that we have become a country whose -- the suggestion that we have become a country where those living in poverty fight each other for a handful of crumbs tossed off the tables of the very wealthy is fundamentally wrong. this is about our values and our values tell us that we don't build a future by deciding first
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who among the vulnerable will be left to starve. look at the basic facts: today social security has a $2.7 trillion surplus. if we do nothing, social security will be safe for the next 20 years. and eve even after that will continue to pay most benefits, with some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years, and we could even increase benefits. the tools to help us build a future are available to us now. we don't start the debate by deciding who gets kicked to the curb. we are americans much. we start the debate by figuring out how to create better efficiencies, thousand make small changes that will make the system fairer, thousand grow the pool of those who contribute, and how to rebuild a system that every single one of us can rely on to make sure there is a baseline in retirement that no
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one falls below. we don't build a future for our children by cutting basic retirement benefits for their grandparents. no, we build a future for our kids by strengthening our economy, by investing in education and infrastructure and research, by rebuilding strong and robust middle class in which every kid gets a chance, and the most vulnerable have a strong safety net. the most recent discussion about cutting benefits has focused on something called the chained c.p.i. supporters of the chained c.p.i. say it is a more accurate way of measuring the cost of living increases for seniors. that statement is simply not true. chained c.p.i. falls far short of the actual increases in cost that seniors face, pure and simple. chained c.p.i., it is just a fancy way to say, cut benefits. the bureau of labor statistics has developed a measure of the
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real impact of inflation on seniors. it's called the cpi-e. if we adopt it today, it would generally increase the benefits for our retirees, not cut them. social security isn't the answer for all of our retirement problems. we need to find a way to tackle the financial squeeze that is crushing our families. we need to help families start saving again. we need to make sure that more workers have access to better pensions. but in the meantime, so long as these problems continue to exist and so long as we're in the midst of a greele a real and grg retirement crisis, a crisis that is shaking the foundations of what was once a vibrant and secure middle class, the absolute last thing we want to do is cut social security benefits. the absolute last thing we should do in 2013, at the very moment that social security has
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become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors, is allow the program to be dismantled inch by inch. over the past generation, working families have been hacked at, chipped and hammered. if we want a real middle class, a middle class that continues to serve as the backbone of our country, then we must take the retirement crisis seriously. seniors have worked their entir lives and have paid into this system, but right now more people than ever are on the edge of financial disaster once they retire and the numbers continue to get worse. that is why we should be talking about expanding social security benefits, not cutting them. senator harkin from iowa, senator begich from alaska, senator sanders from vermont, and others have been pushing hard in that direction. social security is incredibly
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effective, it is incredibly popular and the calls for strengthening it are growing louder day by day. mr. president, the conversation about retirement and social security benefits is not a conversation just about math. at its core, this is a conversation about our values. it is a conversation about who we are as a country and who we are as a people. i believe we honor our promises, we make good on a system that millions of people paid into faithfully throughout their working years, and we support the right of every person to retire with dignity. thank you, mr. president. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask that further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: as i noted last week, despite the repeated promises of president obama, millions of people are losing their health insurance, health insurance they very much liked and were assured they could keep. it has been reported that so far, 3.5 million americans have lost their health insurance under obamacare. that includes over a quarter of
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a million people in kentucky, a third of a million people in florida, and almost a million people in california. this is a serious problem that the president and congressional democrats need to do something about. unfortunately, they appear to be relying on hyped measures and creative accounting, not real solutions. for example, we learned over the weekend that the administration's goal is to have the web site serve only 80% of users, which is probably why our democratic colleagues want to spend 100% of their time discussing other subjects. which brings us to the vote we'll have today. for the third time in this work period, the majority will have the senate vote on yet another nominee to the d.c. circuit. this is not because the court needs more judges, it's the least busy court in our entire country. in fact, it is far less busy now than it was when senate
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democrats pocket filibustered president bush's nominee to that court, peter keisler, for two whole years. and this is according to our democratic colleagues on standards. our colleagues are having the senate spend time on this because doing so furthers their twin political goals. first, to quote a member of the democratic leadership, "to fill up that court because the president's agenda, according to an administration ally, runs through the d.c. circuit." second, to divert as much attention as possible from a problem plagued obamacare rollout at this formative stage of the 2014 campaign, according to published reports. in other words, rather than focusing on keeping their commitment to the american people, they're focusing on things that appeal to their base. rather than change the law that is causing so many problems for so many, they want to change the
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subject. so, unfortunately, the senate will not be voting on legislation to allow americans to keep their health insurance if they like it, as they were promised again and again and again. rather, we will be voting on another nominee to a court that doesn't have enough work to do. the senate ought to be spending its time dealing with a real crisis not a manufactured one. we ought to be dealing with an ill-conceived law that is causing millions of americans to lose their health insurance. instead, we'll spend our time today on a political exercise designed to distract the american people from the mess that is obamacare rather than trying to fix it. last week i also suggested that if our democratic leagues are going to ignore the -- democratic colleagues are going to ignore the fact that millions of people are losing their health insurance plans, they should at least be working with us to fill judicial narnlings es that actually exist rather than complaining about fake ones.
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i noted there are nominees on the executive calendar who would fill actual judicial emergencies, unlike any of the d.c. circuit nominations. several of them, in fact, have been pending on the calendar longer than the nomination on which we'll be voting today. another week has gone by without any action by the majority to fill these actual judicial emergencies. rather than work with us to schedule votes on them in an orderly manner, as we have been doing, the majority chose to leapfrog over them in order to concoct crisis on the d.c. circuit so it can distract americans from the failings of obamacare. unfortunately, our friends appear to be more concerned with playing politics than with actually solving problems. so, like last week, i'll vote "no" on this afternoon's political exercise, and as i said last week, i hope the senate will focus on things the american people care about
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rather than spend its time trying to distract them. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. [inaudible] the presiding officer: the senator is recognized. mr. grassley: i'm going to vote not to bring up the nomination of judge wilkins. i have some concerns about his record but i'm not going to focus on those concerns today because there's a lot bigger issues that we're dealing with. i have said it before and i'll say it again, by the standard the democrats established in the year 2006, we shouldn't confirm
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any more judges to the d.c. circuit, especially when those additional judges cost approximately $1 million per year, per judge. the fact of the matter is that this d.c. circuit that they want to make three more appointments to -- and this will be the third of these appointments we've dealt with -- that that circuit is underworked. the statistics makes i make it abundantly clear, but i'm not going to go through them all again, as i have in the past. i will mention a couple of brief points regarding the caseload. d.c. circuit ranks last, for instance, in both the number of appeals filed and the appeals terminated. these are the cases coming to the court and going out. not only does d.c. rank last but it isn't even close.
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to give you a frame of reference, compare d.c. to the 11th circuit, which has the highest caseload. the 11th has over five times as many appeals as filed here in the d.c. circuit. the same is true for appeals terminated. again, it isn't even close. the 11th circuit has over five times as many appeals terminated as the d.c. circuit. the bottom line is that the d.c. circuit doesn't have enough work as it is right now, let alone if we were to add even more judges. in this case, the president's desire to add three. that is why the current judges on the court -- the current judges -- have written to me and said things like -- quote -- "if any more judges were added now, there wouldn't be enough work to go around." now, as i said last week, at least some on the other side
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concede that the d.c. circuit's caseload is low, but they claim d.c.'s caseload numbers don't take into account the complexity of the court's docket based upon the number of administrative appeals filed in that circuit . as i've said, this argument doesn't stand up against scrutiny. my colleagues argue the d.c. circuit docket is complex because 43% of its dockets is made up of administrative appeals. but of course there is a reason they cite a percentage rather than a number, and that is because it is a high percentage of a very small number. when you look at the actual number of these so-called complex cases per judge, the second circuit has almost twice as many as the d.c. circuit.
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in 2012, there were 512 administrative appeals filed in the d.c. circuit, but in the second circuit there were 1,493 filed. stated differently, in d.c. there were only 64 administrative appeals per active judge. the second circuit has nearly twice as many with 115 filings. again, that's 64 administrative appeals per judge in d.c. compared to almost twice as many with the second circuit at 115. so this entire argument about complexity i hope comes out to be nonsense to most of my colleagues. now to hear the other side tell it, it is an outrage that we would hold them to the same standards that they established in 2006 when they blocked peter
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keisler's nomination to the d.c. circuit based upon caseload. since that time, by the standard that the other side established, the court's caseload has declined even further. it has declined so much, in fact, that the number of appeals back then with ten active judges is roughly the same as there are now with eight active judges. again, we didn't set this standard. the democrats did. that standard may be inconvenient for democrats today, but that is not a reason to abandon the standard that they established. and remember, the other side established the keisler standard after the so-called gang of 14 agreement. so even if that agreement hadn't
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expired by its own terms at the end of the 109th congress, the democrats established the keisler standard after that agreement supposedly took effect. so as i've said, the other side has run out of legitimate arguments in support of these nominations. that is why they seem to be grasping at straws. and when the other side grasps at straws they get desperate. when the other side gets desperate they turn to their last line of defense, accuse our republicans of bias. over the last week or so my colleagues on the other side have argued that republicans are opposing nominees based on gender. that argument i said last week and i still say is offensive and patently absurd. it is so absurd in fact that
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even "the los angeles times" called the democrats' attempt to play the -- quote unquote -- gender card a -- quote -- "pretty bogus argument" noting that in the past republicans have -- quote -- "happily confirmed female nominees." the fact of the matter is that the republicans have supported over 80 women nominated to the bench by this president as well as a host of other nominees of diverse background. those are the facts. it's unfortunate but sadly predictable that facts may not mean much. these allegations of gender bias are unfortunate because they represent cheap attacks that the other side knows are untrue. but it also is unfortunate because the entire exercise is
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designed to appear -- create the appearance of a crisis where there is no crisis. there is no crisis in the d.c. circuit because they don't have enough work to do as it is. but there is a crisis occurring right now all across the country as as a result of the health care reform bill that often goes by the terminology of obamacare. millions of americans are losing their health insurance, even though the president promised over and over again, you know the quote. if you like your health care, you can keep it. even though we have a very real and a very serious crisis facing this country because of obamacare, the other side is desperately trying to divert attention to anything but the obamacare disaster. here is how the "roll call" newspaper described the strategy -- quote -- "senate democrats are readying their negative
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assertive moves on three other issues important to their base: abortion rights, minimum wage and the federal judiciary. the goal is to divert as much attention as possible away from the problem plagued obamacare rollout." end of "roll call" quote. so let me get this straight. right now a crisis is unfolding all across this country as millions of americans are losing their health insurance because of obamacare. yet the democrats' strategy, according to "roll call" is to conceal the obamacare crisis by using the d.c. circuit as a smoke screen. that's breathtaking even by washington, d.c. standards. the other side is so eager to divert attention from the millions of americans losing their insurance because of obamacare that they're willing to manufacture a crisis in the
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d.c. circuit even though the current judges say things like -- quote -- "if any more judges were added now, there wouldn't be enough work to go around." end of quote. not only that, but after running out of legitimate arguments to justify the president's attempt to stack the deck on this court, the other side has resorted to making allegations of gender bias. i've already explained that these allegations are offensive and absurd, but since the other side's strategy is to conceal obamacare a train wreck with a d.c. circuit court smoke screen and on top of that is willing to go so far as to accuse the other side, our side of gender bias, then i'm going to take the opportunity to share some of the frustrations being experienced by my constituents in iowa, meaning women in iowa, as a result of obamacare. a woman in vinton, iowa writes
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-- quote -- "after 28 days of complete frustration, i got to look at 30 plans on the iowa health care exchange at the cheapest one is the $886 per year with a $6,300 deductible. last year i spent 843 on health care total out of my own pocket. i wouldn't even meet the deductible paying about $350 a month on the one plan offered. at that rate what i spent total last year would be spent on premiums in four months, with more and more policies being canceled at the insurance companies -- with more and more doctors refusing to serve patients with obamacare, and with the increasing anger towards elected officials, including president obama, how do you plan to fix this mess?"
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end of quote. another woman from iowa, in sioux city, writes -- quote -- "my company just had a meeting to inform us of the changes to our health care plan thanks to obamacare. it's going to cost me $190 more each month next year for my family coverage. i'm going to have to work more overtime, reduce my 401(k) contribution and opt out of my flex 125 contributions to try to recover the extra money coming out of my paycheck because of new laws. while i suppose i should count myself lucky, i did lose my employer health insurance coverage, i sure don't feel happy about the extra money i'm going to have to pay for the same coverage i was getting this year. what a joke. i wish there was something that could be done about this.
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socialized health care --" then she used a word that i can't repeat on the floor of the united states senate. end of quote. a mom in dayton, iowa -- quote -- "our family health insurance agency contacted us last week to set up an appointment to talk to us about the changes in our health coverage due to obamacare. we went to the meeting and found out that our health savings account that we currently have will no longer be available because of obamacare plus our monthly rate will go from $350 a month to $570 a month. we have no idea how we're going to afford this increase. we feel blind sided. i know that you're committed to helping iowans as well as all americans, so i ask that you keep fighting for affordable care act." end of quote. and my final message from a woman in melbourne, iowa, writes
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"i got a full in your face understanding of just how horrible it was today when i twoepbt renew my -- when i went to renew my insurance. i currently pay $110 every two weeks for insurance for my whole family. next year sreul to pay over $500 every two weeks to insure my family. the health care web site obamacare created is no better. i can't even get the web site to work properly. it will not allow me to put my husband on a joint policy with me. i actually have to weigh which is cheaper, paying the fine or paying for insurance. sadly, it will probably be paying the fine." end of quote. so, mr. president, these are real stories from real women facing a real crisis in just one state of the 50 states, my state of iowa. of course this isn't happening only in my state.
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far from it. this is happening to millions of americans all across the country. but rather than focus on this crisis, a real crisis, the other side has developed a strategy specifically designed to divert attention from it. that strategy is use the d.c. circuit as a smoke screen. so let me sum up. even though the judges themselves say -- quote -- "if any more judges were added now, there wouldn't be enough work to go around," even though we shouldn't fill these seats based upon the democrats' standard set in 2006, and even though filling these seats would waste $3 million per year in taxpayers money that we don't have, the other side seems in an unreasonable way bent upon manufacturing are a crisis for cynical political reasons. i'd urge my colleagues on the other side to come to their senses.
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let's start focusing on the real crisis facing this country. so i urge my colleagues to vote no on the cloture motion on the wilkins nomination. i yield the floor, suggest the absence of a quorum. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. moran: i ask the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. moran: thank you very much. last month, i was at the world war ii memorial, greeting a number of kansans who had arrived on an honor flight and certainly want to pay tribute to each of our service men and women and veterans and what a great experience it was on a beautiful day at the memorial. one of those veterans was someone i want to talk about this evening to my colleagues here in the united states senate. getting off the bus that day was my friend and a former member of the united states house of representatives for the fifth congressional district of
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kansas, dick nichols. there are many things i admire about kansans. folks from my home state, they always look out for others. they commit their lives to helping and improving the lives of their communities. of our state and our nation in order to make certain that it is an even better opportunity for the next generation. dick nichols, congressman nichols is certainly one of those individuals, and i'd like to pay my regards to him today. dick was born in kansas. he was raised in fort scott and served in world war ii in the united states navy. after serving our nation with great integrity and humility, he pursued and achieved a bachelor's degree in science from kansas state university in 1951. congressman nichols is a supporter of education but particularly a supporter of education that comes from kansas
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state university. he is a wildcat through and through. dick worked in a number of roles related to agriculture and banking in both top each a and hutchins before he moved to mcpherson, his home now, and in mcpherson, he began his career as a long-time community banker at the home state bank. he became president in 1969 of that bank. in 1986, he was elected to serve as president of the kansas bankers association. that same year, dick got some national notoriety. he was stabbed at the staten island ferry by a homeless refugee from cuba while he was touring the statue of liberty, and while recuperating in the hospital, he was visited by then-new york mayor ed koch who apologized on behalf of the city of new york for the event. and i also remember that he was
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invited to the johnny carson show to tell his story of the kansan at the statue of liberty and his experiences in new york city. but even during that particular event and what he said on the talk show and what he told mayor koch was that he always looked for the best in every person and in every situation. dick continued as an active banker. he served as the president and chairman of the board of his bank. until he was elected to the united states congress in 1990. due to reapportionment in our state following the 1990 census, his district, the fifth district was eliminated, and we went from five congressional districts to four, and dick returned back to the home state bank as chairman of its board. but whether he was a congressman representing the fifth or a community banker in his hometown or as an ensign in the u.s. navy, dick always put service to
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others above self-interest. he was involved in politics. prior to his election in office, to congress, he was active in kansas politics, and particularly republican politics. in my first campaign in 1996 for the u.s. house of representatives, it was an honor for me to have him agree to serve as my campaign's honorary chairman. but in addition to his political involvement, dick was so engaged in so many other things, many of them related to the community that he cares so much about, mcpherson, kansas, and it was the chamber of commerce and the rotary club. he became the commanding general of the kansas calvary. that's a group of business men and women from across our state who band together to recruit and encourage new businesses to come to our state, and he continued to serve other service men and women and veterans through his membership and participation in
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the american legion and v.f.w. dick has often been quoted to say much of life is in our mental attitude. if you think great things might happen, they do. if you question them ever happening, they won't. i agree with that sentiment and i have seen dick nichols live that in his life, and because of his attitude and character, many, including me, were inspired not only to get to know him but then to try to model our public service after his. in mcpherson, there are few people more loved and respected than dick nichols, and it's a privilege for me to be able to call him a friend and mentor. when i initially ran for congress and needed advice about his community and his county, he was the first person i reached out, and i always remember as i was campaigning for the very first time for office to congress, i had people tell me if you're a friend of dick
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nichols, you're a friend of mine. and it's an opportunity that we all ought to take to remember that how we conduct ourselves influences and effects so many others. while i know what's happens here in the united states senate, what happens in washington, d.c., has huge consequences and effect upon kansans and americans and in fact people around the globe, i continue to believe that we change the world one person at a time, and it happens in communities across my state and across the country. dick nichols represents that kind of person who changes lives. in fact, changes the life of every person he meets. so today, having seen dick nichols just a few weeks ago at the world war ii memorial built in his and other world war ii veterans' honor, i want to express my gratitude to congressman nichols for his service to his community, to our state of kansas and to our
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nation. and i use this opportunity to remind myself about the true nature of public service, about caring for other people, and i wish dick and his wife linda and their families all the very best. mr. president, i yield the floor and i notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:


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