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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  November 20, 2013 9:00am-11:01am EST

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british military writer littleheart wrote in 1944 that military history is filled with the record of military improvements that have been resisted. . . 50 years of frustration and that we can only do that with your help, with all of us working together towards this common goal. thank you. [applause]
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>> so, ladies and gentlemen, and congressman, thank you very much for that conversation. here's how we're going to proceed for the remainder of our our. we will engage in a short and brief conversation up here. i've a couple of questions i'm going to pick up on based on your comments this morning and then we will open the microphone for questions from the floor. so be thinking about the questions that you want to ask and when the time comes we'll ask you to raise your hand and do our usual procedure of wait for the microphone and identify your -- identify yourself. let me start out with a couple thoughts of your very useful description of both while you're doing what you're doing and what you hope to do. there's a lot on worth the effort peace if you will. i think he made the case very strongly for why it's important or critical. it's a little harder though to talk about the possibilities,
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not necessary the possibilities of undertaking the effort of the possibilities of achieving results. how are you going to measure your success here, if you will? are you going to measure it based upon what you can contribute even to next year or the fy 16 bill? is there a broader set of perspectives you want to use as measures of success? >> we have not set a particular timeframe although we are thinking roughly about two years. as i mentioned, if we can do different things to do in nexters defense authorization bill we're going to snatch that. at the same time are going to continue these conversations can working groups, et cetera with an idea for next year's bill. but again, i think it's really important that you don't hear this that often from people in congress that legislation is not going to solve all this. so, for example, i had a conversation last week with one of the service chiefs about career progression for program
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managers. and so part of it is i think these conversations we are going to have, and hoping to influence what's reported, what's not, the culture within the institutions. now, what's your ultimate measure of success? i hope some of the figures that i recited look better in five years time. i don't know that there's one that will tell us the whole answer, and i think it's okay if we don't solve all the problems in the world but we have to do better. >> what you described is a process where this is not a stovepipe ever by the committee but really not only within the armed services committee itself reaching across the aisle and over to the senate side as well. that's a big encouraging because take your example of promotion of individuals. we've learned i think the hard way that no matter what the power of an acquisition dynamic
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is, it's not enough to force a change to the overall personal management system and the promotion process. there's a whole set of rules and regulations in place there. fundamentally don't reward people for staying in place for too long. and yet that is emphatically the idea program a structure that would have stability and continuity and management sticking around to see the results of their own decision. i putting it at the committee level perhaps are able to bridge some of the non-acquisition related pieces. is that part of your game plan? >> think about this for a second. if you're in charge is a program manager for a highly complex weapons system and your the job for 18 months or two -- or two years, by the time to figure out what your job is, you are gone. just to give you another example, and in the subcommittee i chair, we make a habit with nearly every hearing when you have the services coming testified before us, of talking about, asking them about cyber careers. because it's a little different
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than a traditional military career. if are going to get to keep the best people we need for cyber work, then we have to adjust the career path accordingly. i think the same thing needs to happen here. we need to keep and get the best, and they need to be rewarded accordingly. some suggestions are that you could just increase their salary right away, even if they're on the military side, even if their ultimate promotion opportunities are more limited to i don't know. we need to talk with the person the people about what we can do and what we can work with the services to do to have the kind of quality people here they've got to be trained, but again, the question is what does the system reward them for doing? that will overcome any legislation that we can pass. >> if you're going to tackle this question of acquisition reform from a broader perspective beyond just the level of acquisition itself, pick up one thing on incentives
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and promotion prospects for managers inside the system. there's another aspect and that is the question of what are you doing this for? answering the what question. it's requirement issue but also what's your long-term strategy in force structure. do you see your efforts integrating that with the committees broader review of strategy of force structure of entry the question, why do we have this military? >> i think some of those questions will inevitably come up, but at the same time on really conscious of not trying to do everything in a single bound. so, for example, a lot of things were talked about reforms and personal compensation and retirement and health care and so forth. may be a very good discussion to have but that is not something beyond what we talked about what the program manager and promotions stuff but as a general reform that's not something we're going to deal with. i think there's lots of are important questions about strategy, and particularly the
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way the world is changing, that will influence certainly requirements and what we buy. but what we're focused on here is, is the value we get for the money we spend on whatever it is, goods or services. >> let me notch that down a bit. secretary gates when he was postulating some of his reductions back in 2009, 2010 was arguing for what he referred to as the 70% solution or the 80s in -- 80% solution. the idea that settle for which you can get now at a more affordable price and more reasonable timeline that meets most of the requirements. is that something you will take a look at? >> yeah, i think that will be part of this ongoing process. again, so at key milestones a lot depends on the questions we ask in congress your and if we talk about the 70% solution and preventing requirements and all
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those problems that people have identified, early on in that funding stream you can make a difference. again, we can solve it off a little but on the other hand, we can make a difference with the questions we ask and that will apply across all subcommittees and the full committee. as i say, at all of the meetings and hearings we have over the coming year. >> let me hear from industry peace as well. you mentioned that dod has fewer companies on which they are more dependent now than say 25 or 50 years ago. you also mentioned there's a lot of disincentives for companies, particularly companies in the global commercial market if you will attend business with the government. all of the government. this sets up the possibility that might be a good idea somewhere that has national security values, that isn't intended inside the defense arena. are you going to look at how you use innovation generated in the global market and bring the in and what kind of processes would
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be in place to do that? >> i'm not sure we would get into specific technologies, but the basic point of how hard it is to do business with the department of defense, which is what limits the apartment a defense of making events of some of those innovations is absolutely part of what we have to do with. it's not just the innovative. it's the smaller companies that have a niche products and so forth who are just at the point they say it's hardly worth it. >> one of my favorite savings this from a war correspondent from eric, and he had what he called the chief cause of problems is solutions but in many cases i think what we see, you know, mr. kendall last week and half ago talked about all other statutory and regulatory requirements, that program managers have to deal with. it's quite a daunting list. every one of those was well-intentioned at the time in which it was put into place but
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none of them were look at necessary in a comprehensive framework. is that what you're proposing here is to take a comprehensive view of? >> absolutely, and it's a great point because, so there's a cost overrun over here. what's the reaction? if the pentagon or congress put a new restriction, a new oversight or something, and then you add those up and it's like barnacles that just feed on themselves over time. so what i hope we can do, working with mr. kendall's office is go through, then those out, tried to simple plot and rationalize some of the regulations that apply and that gets back to what we're just talking about, making it easier for companies to do business with the department of defense and reduce the overhead costs, if you are anywhere close to a third of our procurement dollars, just think how much more we would get for the money we spend if we can cut that down. >> i can say from personal experience when some of the statues were put in place, i
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would find an opportunity to strengthen the role of my own part of the organization as part of that process, even perhaps at the casa streamlining elsewhere. now that i sit at a think tank i'm much more commentary and. no longer think in a bureaucratic framework if you will. let me turn to our audience. we have a wealth of talent and expertise here, if you will. and so i'm going to recognize a couple of -- there are some reporters. this is on the record as you know so i will start out with in the middle, joshua. jesse, thank you. just identify yourself and your affiliation and give your speech in question. >> sydney, raking former student of dr. brent bos. spent am i responsible for whatever it is you're about to say speak with. [inaudible] >> i'm making notes right now. >> my first interview with mr. thornberry was back in 98 i
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think the you mentioned regulations several time going through the line by line. what i didn't hear as much was legislation. i mean, arguably a huge amount of this problem was created by the congress, as you said. congress has the personnel system that's now been hardened by regulations which are part of the original legislation. the military personnel act. a lot of this over sides managed by congress. is a big part of the job taking large sections of title 10, raking them out of the book and setting fire to them or repealing them i guess in today's language of? >> yes, absolutely. congress has contributed to this problem over the years to a substantial extent. so as we go through the regulations that come from the department we absolutely go through the statute and reporting requirements and briefing requirements that congress imposes as well.
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and we need to thin it all out, absolutely. >> mr. piatt. >> hang on, wait for the mic phone. >> my name is edward piatt. i was acquisition executive of the navy during the '80s but we almost finished a 600 ship navy force. the system can be made to run. it can also, but it has two modes, effective and disaster. right now you can see the effective mode very successfully run program, and you see a disaster mode in the lcs, the carrier and the f-35. those decisions were all made by people, and i am very refreshed at your comments this morning. you're on the right track. i've been part of the acquisition system for 30 years and a student for 20, and in the last few years i've had the opportunity to study, to study
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it in detail. your recommendations are very close to the ones that i worked out currently with the mccain institute. my job there is acquisition. where do i sign up? >> a note has already been made, and i'm sure, i'm serious. i'm not just saying things when i say we're going to need y'all to help, whether it's experience in the past and working in the system ca and whether it's expressed in industry, or whatever it is. this cannot be a congress comes up with the answer sort of thing. this is too complex a problem. and again, what we've got to do is not come up with an answer that you try to impose on the system. we've got to understand what it's like down in the system for program managers and the decisions they make, and see what those incentives and the rewards and punishments are. and then we can start to get at
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some of those root causes that ultimately going to prevail. and so, we need all the help we can get for the. so i appreciate it. thank you. >> let me be back on that a bit and then we'll get to another question. the question often gets written into the way contracts are done because you are building incentives in the contract. unfortunately, one good solution then becomes, well, everybody's got to do that way so you have to watch out it seems to me for successful incentives becoming a requirement process guarantee. for those of you on the web if you like to e-mail your questions you can e-mail you skostro@csis. >> the guy in the third row there. >> i had a question. 20 some years of covering you folks, i've seen what congress
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does to make it worse. one of them is about 10, 15 years ago you did the attack on the pentagon choppers and ordered a 25% cut in dod acquisition. that turn all lot of the acquisition process r&d, you know, initial design over to the contractors. didn't work out particularly well. and as far as expediting procurement, every time anybody suggests speeding up the process, gao or congress gets into it and there's no, no, you're going to fast, we need to regulate and slow the whole thing down. it's just, you know, part -- you mentioned part of your problem, you know, we discovered the enemy and it is us. how do you get those contradictory things, if you turn it loose, industry lives, they end up in some way end up collocating the process.
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and how does congress get out of the way, and another bugaboo, gao. you can't do anything until technology readiness level six which means it's obsolete before it ever gets into the fleet. >> well, the first is, i think you're right. we contribute to the problem. and so the first thing is understand how we contribute to the problem. the beginning of finding solutions is understanding. secondly, i think it is a really good point, and i don't know if this analogy works or not, but, you know, wal-mart tolerates a certain percentage of -- what do they call it? shrinkage. because if the absolute prevented shoplifting from everyone other stores, they frisk you coming and going and it's not worth the cost. we're going to have to be at a point where we are willing to accept some amount of risk that somebody will do something they shouldn't do.
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but at the same time we have to have the transparency and accountability that goes with that in order to find it. so it's not micromanagement, but the accountability for the decisions that were made. you probably covered, i can't recall the ladies man who works in the army who came from the private sector at a conference a couple weeks ago. she said she was astounded at how little decision-making power, the program managers in the services actually have. versus outside. so we've got to empower them and understand there's some risk that somebody won't make a good decision by give them more power but also hold him accountable which means leaving them there longer. i think that is at least an approach that we need to move forward is exactly the opposite of the problem that you described. >> you mentioned a hearing that the committee held three weeks ago looking back in the last 25 years, which is essentially back
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to the port of the packard commission and the creation of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition. there are those who would argue that those 25 years of packard commission reforms have failed and, therefore, they should be junked, if you will. others would say they've never been tried. the basic idea of finding the right person, putting him in charge giving them clear requirements and the resources they need to do the job. and then setting out the goals and holding them accountable to it. is that something you can legislate, or do you reward that more by as you pointed out finding examples of success and making them visible? congress has quite a multiple in terms of highlighting and eliminating success as well as failure. >> i think it takes both. there's an eisenhower quote that something like the right system doesn't guarantee success, but the wrong system guarantees failure. and i kind of think that applies here. so we we have all these barnacles of legislation and regulation that are built up
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over time, then good people trying to make the right decisions are hamstrung and can't do it. so if you get rid of all those particles, does that guarantee get the right decisions? not necessarily nothing to try to focus on the incentives and encourage people to make decisions that result in the best valley for the taxpayers to i think that's a chance. you may not get a perfect system, of course, but you have a lot better one than we have now. >> wanted examples, and i get to another question from the audience, it's been over 30 years now since senator nunn and congressman mccurdy joined their names to the nunn mccurdy requirement as part of the acquisition process. the basic idea that it is too much cost in the system it either has to be canceled or the secretary of defense has to rebaselining and certified in fact this time will not overrun the cause. the idea they had was it would lead to more or been killed. referred to as disastrous at least in terms of cost schedule and performance.
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would be canceled to the rail is not many have been canceled in that regard. is this part of the problem as congress as well? how do you change the structure in congress released tolerating or signing up to cancellation or termination of programs? >> and i don't under estimate the problem but i agree that what we can do is stretch things out and make it more expensive rather than making difficult decisions. and a lot of that responsibility does rest with us. although i would certainly push back on anybody that suggests that congresses job is to automatically go along with whatever cancellation, the pentagon proposed and there's lots of examples in the past of why that hasn't worked out. but i think it does get back again to the questions we ask, key milestones along the programs have. and we need to do a better job of watching, watching for cost
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growth but also understand why it happens. and that gets back to the requirements and the other things people talk about. >> you have your own incentive structure as in the congress both at the committee level and member level. a question on the third row, joshua. raised your hand again, sir. >> i'm a consultant with the darfur program. this whole process, acquisition process is a very expensive proposition for the services, particularly the uniform officer corps. for example, a few years ago the army had 6000 officers tied up in the acquisition core. why not contract the whole thing out? >> well, i think you're spending taxpayer dollars so there has to be some federal oversight of how
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those dollars are spent. do we need to have the number of federal people that we have? i'm not sure. as the rickover quote kind of indicates, what i hear when i go to places is how many people the contractors have to put on the payroll just to meet the needs of all of the checkers and the oversight people, and then it just gets to be this escalating overhead burden that weighs down the system. so i guess my initial thought, and again, we need dolls up on this, is that -- we need dolls help on this, fewer people -- and a system that can hold them accountable for the decisions they make is a better model to move for rather than outsourcing out, you know, the whole thing spent let me add if i could,
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congressman, a couple of observations, particularly on the valley of career military officers as acquisition and procurement personnel. i think there's two big pluses if you will and we need to be careful we preserve those advantages in some of the what if they weren't done that way. one is, you actually want a bridge between operators and acquisition community. a operators being the uniformed military that you speak with and the services at the back end. and at least the practice has been that active duty officers will tend to have an operational focus a little bit of anything you can write in a scope of work of the contract because you write in flexability's. it's difficult to put in place. the second asian need to have somebody in the room with the general when they're making decisions. sir, there's reasons why you can't quite do it that way. and the contractors are typically not going to be in the room when they do that so there's some value in having active duty military. they need not be treated as second class citizens. if our they will not be a part
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of that process. we have another question right next to you. >> thank you very much. robert harris, a former naval person. august and can you mentioned several times injury marks this morning empowering program managers, helping program managers to become better at what they do. i would encourage you not to focus too narrowly on program managers. but look at the heart of the requirement folks of the pentagon. >> i think it's a very fair point, and that's one of the reasons in this process we are not come we're trying not to look too narrowly at just the regulations for the small a acquisition, but look at requirements and budgeting and how that whole system comes together to operate. so i appreciate the point. >> a couple of questions from the web that i'll read you, although in these cases i'm
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actually not clear to me that i will identify who asked them. to what extent is it a public consumption still that contractor profit can be used to motivate good performance in the acquisition system? you mentioned the example of the billion dollar cost of a 5% profit, because it's easy to explain low profit than just explain how much something costs. can you extend that thought, can we profit as a motivation? is that something that is politically acceptable as well as academically acceptable? >> well, i do think we can putting the incentives to make a profit, and not have arbitrary sorts of ideas on what is fair and right as that goes. because that certainly -- if you get reimbursed for your overhead costs, what's your incentive? increased the overhead because you get that money back.
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so you know, i was interested in frank kendall's comments 10 days ago we talked about his study looking at firm fixed price contract and cost-plus contract and there didn't seem to be the kind of difference that one would expect. i think all of that are avenues that we need to understand better, but back to dr. hamre's point, our history is that we have used the profit motive to help make sure that we have the best partnership, the best equipment, the most agile responsive system to the changing world environment. and it is that profit -- i've no doubt the contractors will adjust to whatever system we set up, however many contractors are left. what we need to have is the system that encourages them to get the best value. and if that means they make a
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bigger profit, then somebody wants them to make, that's the way it works spent 30 wall street cited this this as well. the financial community, in the days passed, defense companies were often a little bit different, if you will, then the rest of public they traded firms. increasingly though, the financial market looks at a defense coverage is the same. you don't get bonus points for patriotism are serving the needs of the military. you've got to essentially meet the same requirements as any other company in terms of return on investment and benefits to capital. how do we take that into account? because in many cases, that's a short-term focus, a very narrow focus if you will on shareholder equity. a lot of value in that but it doesn't have the needs of the nation from a military point of view as a part of the process. >> it's a fair point, although i'm struck by the number of people who point out that we don't really punish contractors who don't do a good job.
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as far as future contracts go. and so, one of the things that i think we got to at least ask about is, if you do a good job, how does that enhance the ability for you to get more jobs? and if you don't do a good job, what effect does that have on your ability for future contracts? that gives a little bit more back to whether the companies going to be successful or not, rather than companies that just play the game. and one example given to me is, intentionally funded the acquisition cost knowing that you're going to end up with all the maintenance costs and that would even be bigger over the next few years down the acquisition. that you intentionally do that. so i think those are some of the things we need to understand -- >> we will now be the last few minutes of the program for the start of today's senate session. at 10:30 a.m. senators will resume work on the defense authorization bill. the bill would authorize $625.1 billion indiscretion national defense spending
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funding for fiscal year 2014 the amendments dealing with sexual assault in the military will be debated today. live coverage on c-span2. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. father, we come to you. no other help have we, for you have been our refuge in ages past and our hope for years to come. sustain our lawmakers during
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these challenging days. forgive us when we make you our last option, depending first upon our own ingenuity to save us. lord, give our 0 senators the wisdom to seek first your kingdom, striving to remain within the center of your will. send out your light to lead them to a designation that will glorify you. thank you for smiling upon america, blessing this land we love from the reservoir of your great bounty. continue to lead us in the way of peace and unity.
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we pray in your great name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington d.c., november 20, 2013. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable edward markey, a senator from the commonwealth of massachusetts, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: patrick j. leahy,
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president pro tempore. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: following leader remarks, the senate will be in a period for an hour. the majority will control the first half. the republicans the final half. following that morning business the senate will resume consideration of the defense authorization bill. we'll debate the sexual assault issue for up to six hours, and i hope we can reach agreement on the ability to vote on those two amendments. people worked very hard on arriving at a point where we can debate this issue. i hope we can do that. i think it would be very appropriate that we have that issue resolved as quickly as possible. mr. president, i'm told that s. 1737 is due for a second reading. the presiding officer: the clerk will read the title of the bill for a second time. the clerk: s. 1737, a bill to provide for an increase in the federal minimum wage, and so forth. mr. reid: mr. president, i
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would object to any further proceedings with respect to this bill at this time. the presiding officer: objection having been heard, the bill will be placed upon the calendar. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: in recent weeks we've seen a lot of hand wringing on the other side of the aisle over obamacare, a
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little shock here, a little dismay there, and more than a little feigned outrage. what we haven't seen, of course, is anything even approaching a good answer as to why the president told the american people one thing and then did the other. or a solution to the national crisis of millions, millions of americans, some with very serious medical conditions heading into the holiday season having just been told they will lose their health care plans. the folks who voted for this law and the president whose name it bears did everything they could to keep these folks in the dark about the realities of obamacare for more than three years. three long years. but the problems we're seeing shouldn't come as news to anyone, least of all our democratic friends. because what we've seen are the you utterly, utterly pretkaeublgt
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consequences of -- predictable consequences of obamacare and a lot of folks warned about these consequences coming to pass but the president's machine steam rolled over, dismissed everyone as naysayers and cynics while all the while they basically knew, they knew we were right. countless independent experts, health care professionals and insurance authorities across the country all warned, all of them warned about what we're seeing right now. so did many of us. if only the democrats who run washington had listened. but the president needed their votes for a bill he hoped would define his legacy, so they gambled that their constituents would just learn to live with obamacare and forget the false promises. that was the gamble. in other words, washington democrats were specifically
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warned about the consequences we're seeing, and they voted for obamacare anyway. republicans repeatedly warned about americans losing their health plans. repeatedly. we repeatedly warned about americans losing access to doctors and to hospitals. we repeatedly warned about rising costs and skyrocketing premiums. check the "congressional record." we warned and we warned and we warned about each of these things. frankly, we shouldn't have had to. it doesn't take an actuary to figure this stuff out. and the things my constituents now have to put up with as a result of this law, they're just simply unacceptable. kimberly maggert from nicholsville wrote the health care available to her through
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the obamacare exchange -- now listen to this -- would cost more than her family's house payment and car payment combined. kimberly maggert from nicholsville in my state wrote the obamacare available to her would cost more than her family's house payment and car payment combined. here's what she said: we're just average kentuckians working and living paycheck to paycheck without any assistance from government programs. i really don't know what we will do if we have to pay that amount out for insurance. we might lose our home, our transportation. my daughter might have to drop out of college. the list, she said, goes on and on. what are we supposed to do, she said. harriet white from rock field said that obamacare is
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negatively impacting her family's finances and quality of care. the sad truth, she said, is that like my coworkers, my deductible has doubled along with my premiums. the only way to be able to adjust is for us to either reduce or stop our 401(k) contributions. this, she said, is hardly affordable health care. and here's larry thompson from lexington. the health plan that i've had for ten years, he said, just got canceled, and the least expensive plan on the exchange is a 246% increase. that means hundreds of extra dollars per month we don't have. look, all of this is completely and totally unacceptable. and so many of obamacare's consequences were basically predicted by republicans years ago. years ago. so it's no wonder vulnerable
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democrats are dashing for the exits performing political contortions that would make hudini blush. but here's the thing. until these folks are willing to face reality, i doubt it will matter. one of our colleagues on the other side was asked back in 2009 if she'd accept -- quote -- "100% responsibility" and -- quote -- "100% responsibility for the failure or success of any legislation she voted for." she said she would. so she and her colleagues now have a choice. they can keep trying to distance themselves from obamacare in public while simultaneously protecting it from meaningful change in private to keep standing by as this train wreck unloads on the middle class. or they can simply accept that they were wrong to ignore all the warnings, then work with
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republicans to repeal and replace obamacare with real bipartisan health care reform. that's the choice. if washington democrats are looking for political exit, that's the only meaningful one available. the only exit. if they're looking for the best policy outcome to do right by the people who elected them, they'll reach the same conclusion. that's the good news. i hope they'll get there soon. because we've already seen washington democrats travel through just about every one of its stages of grief. denial at first, claiming the law's only problem is that it was just too popular. the anger, pointing fingers of blame at contractors, republicans, of course, the media, really anyone but themselves. then bargaining. proposing nips and tucks to a law that needs an overhaul
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instead. but for the sake of our country, let's hope they just speed right along to acceptance, the acceptance that obamacare can't work and won't work and that their constituents deserve better. when they do, republicans will be right here just as we've always been ready to work with them to start over with real reforms that decrease costs and improve access to care. that's what our constituents wanted all along and that's just what we should give them. the presiding officer: under the previous order, leadership time is reserved. under the previous order the senate will be in a period of morning business for debate only for one hour with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each and with the time equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees and
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with the majority controlling the first half.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: thank you, mr. president. i rise today along with my colleague from new mexico to protest the paralysis that has kept the senate from confirming well-qualified nominees to do their jobs. the u.s. senate provides the opportunity for all of us to weigh in under our constitutional role of advice and consent. advice and consent regarding nominations to the executive branch and to the judicial branch by the president. now, everyone in this body
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agrees that the senate should under this responsibility serve as a significant check on the quality of presidential nominations. the quality of nominations or nominees for the court and for executive positions, and i certainly share that sentiment that the senate should provide this significant check on quality. the senate should vet nominees. we should question them. we should debate them, and then we should vote on whether to confirm or reject them. what was absolutely clearer, however, is that when advice and consent becomes block and destroy, then the senate process is broken. a minority of one branch of government should never be able to systematically undermine the other two branches of government, yet that is exactly
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what we have today. look at the well-qualified nominees who have been blocked from having an up-or-down vote here in the senate chamber just in recent weeks. mel watt, nominated to head the federal housing finance agency. and then nominees for the court patricia millett, cornelia pillard and now robert wilkins. now, these folks were highly qualified, but they were not allowed to have an up-or-down vote. the senate was not allowed to weigh in on whether they wish to confirm or not confirm. this situation in which the senate minority undermines the executive and judicial branches is unacceptable. it's inconsistent with the concept of co-equal branches of
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government. our constitution laid out this vision, that the house and senate as the legislative branch would serve as a co-equal branch with the executive branch and the judicial branch, and certainly the ability to check nominations, to vet nominations is part of that check on the other two branches. but when it is used in this manner, this manner in which you can systematically undermine the function of another branch, then you have taken a position and created a process that is inconsistent with co-equal branches. taken to its extreme -- and we are seeing that extreme today -- the executive branch is compromised in its ability to function. the judicial branch is compromised in its ability to function. and now we have a special situation that has arisen in which the minority says we are going to block all nominees to
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the d.c. circuit court, regardless of their qualifications, because we want to see it dominated by the nominees from a former president, and we don't let the existing president put his fair share of nominees into those vacancies. now, the argument has been brought forward to cover up this effort to ideologically pack the court, but this is simply about the work requirements of that circuit not being high enough to justify additional justices. and yet, if that was indeed the case and there was an effort to distinguish it from the ideological bent that is clear here, then that would be something one would say about the future. let's implement that eight years down the road. or we would have seen it in the past when bush was putting his nominees forward. we would have -- the republicans would have said no, we don't want to confirm these nominees because the workload isn't heavy enough. but just a few years ago, the
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argument was very much let's confirm these nominees of president bush. well, the workload, if anything, has increased, and so we cannot allow this process in which a minority says when our president is charged, we're going to insist on up-or-down votes, and when the other president or the other party is in charge, we're not going to allow those votes. let's be clear, there shouldn't be an our president or their president. the president is the president of the entire country, the blue states and red states all together. the judicial system serves all of us regardless of our party identities. it is our responsibility to make it work. now, in january, we had a promise made on the floor of this chamber, and that promise from minority leader mitch mcconnell was to restore the norms and the traditions of the u.s. senate regarding nominations. and what are the norms and traditions of the u.s. senate
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regarding nominations? it is an up-or-down vote with rare exception. but unfortunately as we stand here today, we see that that january promise has been broken. it was broken a few weeks into this year when a filibuster for the first time in u.s. history was launched on a defense secretary nominee. we then saw in july another effort of this chamber to come together and return to the normal traditions of the senate, and briefly we did have up-or-down votes on executive branch nominees but that ended a couple weeks ago when mel watts was blocked from that opportunity. so therefore the senate must act. the senate must act to restore its traditional role of being an up-or-down vote. now, i, quite frankly, would prefer in a perfect world to see this done simply through the type of agreement that we have sought a couple of times
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up-or-down votes with rare exception, but it is clear that that is not possible because the january promise was broken, because the july promise was broken, and therefore we are in the position where we have to do by rule which cannot be done by simple cooperation. now, some have said that this has never been done, changing the rules or the application of the recalls by -- of the rules by simple majority in the term, but that is simply not the case. i have in my hand a list of 18 times that this has been done since 1977. i'll put up a chart of some of those that -- changes that are quite relevant to this discussion. by simple majority in 1977, preventing postcloture filibusters. in 1979 by simple majority, preventing abuse of legislative amendments in appropriations
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bills. in 1980, preventing filibusters on the motion to proceed to nominations and treaties. in 1987, preventing filibusters via roll call of the journal. now, i have put these up for those instances that pertain to filibusters, but these are only four of the 18 times since 1977 that we have changed the application of the rule by simple majority. so let no one say that this is unprecedented, and these 18 changes have come more often in republican hands than democratic hands in terms of the majority of this body. it is time to end the block and destroy strategy being employed by the minority in regard to executive branch nominations and judicial nominations, and i am
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very honored to be a partner in this conversation with the junior senator -- actually, the senior senator from new mexico who has been raising concerns about the function at of the senate from the day he first set foot in this chamber. and with that, i will yield to my colleague. mr. udall: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new mexico. mr. udall: mr. president and senator merkley, i would ask consent for us to engage in a colloquy here following my remarks. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. udall: and senator merkley, i couldn't agree more with what you pointed out here. a lot of discussion, especially on that chart, you talked about that we've done this before. when the senate hits a roadblock, we can come back to our majority powers and get
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through the roadblock and continue to do business, to do business as a senate and do the business that we were sent here to do. as you noted, i remember i called for rules reform four years ago, and i said the senate was a graveyard for good ideas. i remember talking about that in my campaign and coming here, and i'm sorry to say that little has changed, that the digging -- the digging continues. americans are tired, i believe, with the gridlock and the dysfunction in washington, filibusters, shutdowns, hyperpartisan attacks. americans want reform in the way their government operates, more cooperation, more transparency, less partisanship, more problem solving. monday's vote was one more example of why we need reform. judge robert wilkins, well
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qualified to serve on the court of appeals for the d.c. circuit. he deserved an up-or-down vote. instead, what did we get? another filibuster. he's the fourth nominee to that court to be trampled on by the minority. not because he is unqualified, not because of any failing on his part but because a democratic president nominated him. for some, that is enough. that is all it takes to tell an imminent american to go home. first it was caitlin halligan in march, then patricia millett last month, followed by nina pillard last week and now robert wilkins. each of them exceptional. every one of them distinguished nominees. each would be a credit to the court of appeals. so the number four and counting. in baseball, three strikes and you are out. not so in the senate.
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but this isn't just about the rules. it's about having a senate that works. not one that buckles under the weight of filibusters. the partisan games continue and the game has gone on long enough because the losers are the american people. senators merkley and harkin and i have proposed changes to the rules at the beginning of this congress, rules changes that were fair. they reined in the abusive, they protected the minority. we were very clear. we called for a talking filibuster. we argued that if the minority wants to continue debate, which is what voting against cloture is, they should actually have to stand on the floor and debate. come down here if you want to slow things down and get on the floor and debate. instead, a compromise was reached. the two leaders agreed to work together to schedule votes on nominees in a timely manner by
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unanimous consent, except in extraordinary circumstances. that was the standard in the test, extraordinary circumstances. the minority leader said the subject of nominations, senate republicans will continue to work with the majority to process nominations consistent with the norms and traditions of the senate. that was the agreement, and we all know it has not been kept. in july, we had another shutdown on confirmations. all qualified candidates, all prepared to serve but nominated by a democratic president. we're asked to lead agencies the other side doesn't like. the department of labor, the e.p.a., the consumer protection bureau, all blocked. once again, we looked at changing the rules with a simple majority. to restore the senate's ability to function. we had a historic meeting in the
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old senate chamber, and we reached another compromise. i was hopeful for the outcome. there was feeling on both sides that things had to change, that we needed to change the way we do business here, and we confirmed several of those nominees. but here we are again, back on the filibuster merry-go-round and getting nowhere. four months later, the same debate, the same partisan games, with qualified nominees denied an up-or-down vote. and not just judicial nominees, but also congressman mel watt, blocked from leading the federal housing finance agency. the only extraordinary circumstance has been continual obstruction. this is not the norms and traditions of the senate. it's the failure of partisan politics. in fact, it wasn't long ago that republicans were the first to say so. during the bush administration, they were up in arms.
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why? because ten judicial nominations had been blocked. ten, mind you. that number seems quaint now, but it was enough for the republicans. here's what the republican policy committee said in 2005. these a -- these are their words. "this breakdown in senate norms is profound. there is now a risk that the senate is creating a new 60-vote confirmation standard. the constitution plainly requires no more than a majority vote to confirm. exercising the constitutional option and response to judicial nomination filibusters would restore the senate to its long-standing norms and practices governing judicial nominations and guarantee that a minority does not transform the fundamental nature of the senate's advice and consent responsibility. this approach, therefore, would be both reactive and restoreat
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ive." it would be difficult to state the case more clearly. one of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle said we should be careful what we wish for, that the majority rule could backfire. we might get more justice scalias. that is exactly the point. the constitution does not give me the right to block a qualified nominee no matter who is in the white house. the real norms and traditions of the senate honor that principle. some of us may disagree with justice scalia on judicial philosophy but he was a qualified nominee. he received an up-or-down vote and he was unanimously confirmed. likewise, justice ruth bader ginsburg was considered liberal. the former aclu general counsel. many on the other side may have disagreed with her views, but there was no filibuster.
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she was confirmed by a vote of 96-3. a minority in the senate should not be able to block qualified nominees. on the other side of the aisle, this is not advice and consent. this is obstruct and delay. the people elect a president. they give him or her the right to select a team to govern and to appoint judges to the federal bench. if those nominees are qualified, they deserve an up-or-down vote. that is how our democracy is intended to work. that is the mandate of our constitution. that is the real tradition of the senate, and that's the way it's supposed to work. and it's worked that way in the past. my father was secretary of interior for president kennedy. he later told me when i asked him how long it took to get his team in place at interior, he said, "tom, i had virtually my
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whole team in place in the first two weeks." in place, ready to serve the american people in two weeks. the president's team, his team to choose so long as they're qualified to do the job. my colleague on the other side is right, the winds can change, and let's be candid. neither side is 100% pure. both sides have had their moments of obstruction and no doubt their reasons at the time. but i don't think the american people care much about that. they don't want a history lesson or a lesson in parliamentary procedure. they want a government that is fair. they want a government that is reasonable and that works for them. so, senator merkley, we're back at this situation now where we started as we came in in the senate in 2008 and saw a broken senate and a senate that wasn't responding to the american
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people. and the thing that i wanted to ask you about, because to me it's one of the troublesome parts of what's happening with these judges, the last four judges who have been filibustered have been women. and we're talking here about, i think, a different standard, because in between the four, a man got on to the same court, was voted in. but four women have been held up in filibusters. caitlin halligan, patricia millett, nina pilllard. so we have over and over again this kind of obstruction. do you think we have a double standard? is it one when he you look at what's happened here recently with the court of appeals, a man gets on, three women get denied? . mr. merkley: to my colleague
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from new mexico, i would say it's been very disturbing to see these very capable women whom you have mentioned not be able to get an up-and-down vote. and indeed our chair of the judiciary committee, senator leahy, held a press conference to make this very concern known, that it seemed like that you have one process for a man and a different process for women. i'm going to defer to his judgment on that because i haven't been part of the judiciary committee, and i would like to think that in this day and age there is not that sort of gender bias. that's what i would like to think. but i will let senator leahy commentary on his concerns in that area speak for themselves. it is clear, though, that fundamentally the situation is this, these women were highly qualified. they did not get up-and-down
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votes. now i have in my hand here a memo from april 25, 2005. it's titled "the senate's power to make procedural rules by majority vote," and it con sists of arguments made that nominees should get up-or-down votes for the judiciary. there's many quotes from colleagues who still serve in this body who said in 2005 that regardless of if they were in the majority or the minority, that they felt nominees deserved this up-or-down vote, that the constitution demanded it. that the balance of powers between the branches demanded it. i would ask my colleague if he would help us understand what has changed since 2005. when our colleagues across the aisle made the case that nominees deserve up-or-down votes, said it was essential in the constitutional vision, was essential in the proper application of advice and
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consent. what has changed that makes those arguments disappear now in 2013, eight years later? the presiding officer: and i think you've come back -- mr. udall: and i think you've come back to the central question, and that question is how does our constitution work when it comes to nominees. and i don't have any doubt that we're talking about majorities. there are only five places in the constitution where supermajorities are mentioned. it's not mentioned when it deals with advice and consent, dealing with judicial nominees. it's not dealing with presidential nominees to the executive branch. and i think the republican policy committee said it very well in the memo that you're talking about. it was authored at the time the head of the policy committee was jon kyl. he was the chairman of the policy committee, known in the
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senate as a good lawyer, respected on the constitution. and he wrote about the constitution and how the constitution should work. and he said a couple of things which i think are interesting here. the filibustering senators -- this is back on april 25, 2005. the filibustering senators are trying to create a new senate precedent, a 60-vote requirement for the confirmation of judges contrary to the simple majority standard presumed in the constitution. and then he also says a little bit further, an exercise of the constitutional option. that means taking an action to put a judge on the court with a majority vote. the exercise of the constitutional option under the current circumstances would be an act of restoration, a return to the historic and constitutional confirmation standard of simple majority support for all judicial
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nominations. i don't think anything's changed. i don't think it's changed from, senator merkley, from 2005 to today, and i don't think the constitution's changed from the time we put it into place till today that when it comes to these nominees, that the traditions and norms of the senate are to have, majorities have a say and you get an up-or-down vote. that's the situation we're in right now. we have a filibuster going on on a number of nominees, both presidential nominees, presidential nominee and judicial nominees. so we're -- all we're trying to do, i think, in working with our leadership is say let's go back to the norms and traditions of the senate where we used a majority wisely and gave that advice and consent. mr. merkley: i thank you for
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expanding on that picture of the core elements necessary to exercise our constitutional responsibilities. i keep thinking about how polarization in our society has come to bear on this issue. i believe that there are many colleagues across the aisle who believe very much in what they said in 2005, that there should be up and down votes. and i, therefore, have to conclude that they have decided that their base demands a permanent campaign against the president and maximum use of every tool available, and that that is trumping, that that is trumping the appropriate exercise of advice and consent. and perhaps then that polarization explains why the promise made by the minority
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leader in january to return to the norms and provisions of the u.s. senate fell apart within weeks if not days. and perhaps it explains how the understanding that was reached in july to allow up-and-down votes on executive nominations fell apart a couple weeks ago. and in that situation then we have a single path left to us to appropriately exercise advice and consent. and that is to change the rules so they can't be abused. if the abuse cannot be cured through good-hearted dialogue and understanding of our need to honor the constitutional vision, then we need to change the rule. and that is why i wholeheartedly support moving towards a simple up and down vote. that was in 2005 that our republican colleagues said if the democrats keep blocking up and down votes, we're going to change the rules and require a
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simple majority. and the gang of 14 came out with a kpraoeupls, and they -- came out with a compromise and they said the compromise was democrats would only filibuster under extraordinary circumstances. and our republican colleagues would not then change the rules. but actually that worked fine in that the democrats honored that until president obama came into office. but that extraordinary circumstance wasn't continued to be honored after president obama came into office. and in that situation then, it does seem like the only way to make sure we honor the constitutional vision and the balance between powers is to actually change the rules and say it is an up-or-down vote. i would ask my colleague from new mexico whether he shares that perspective or perhaps has a different take on it. mr. udall: senator merkley, i don't think there is any doubt
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in this country that on both sides, the republican side, democrat side, the bases push us hard. and i think we've reached the stage of hyperpartisanship and our job, i believe, as leaders is to overcome that and to lead. and leading here means allowing the norms and traditions of the senate to continue, and that would be an up-or-down vote on judicial nominees. the thing that i asked you at first that was particularly troublesome to me was when you look at the history here, the last two women that were put on to the supreme court -- sonia society -- sotomayor and elena kagan, 75% of the senate voted against them. you have that history compared with the women who have been denied here.
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it's very troublesome to me to see that. i don't know. i think we're supposed to wrap up. i don't know if you have any closing comments to do that. mr. merkley: i thank my colleague from new mexico for his leadership in trying to restore this senate so it will work, work on legislation, work on executive nominations, work on judicial nominations. the country has a low opinion of the function of our chamber, and we certainly do not deserve a high opinion when we're captured by this level of partisan paralysis. so i look forward to continuing to work together to help restore this body as a great deliberative body that can fulfill its responsibilities under our constitution. thank you, mr. president. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from nebraska. mr. johanns: mr. president, i come to the floor today to discuss the reports i've heard
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from my fellow nebraskans about the president's health care bill. senators have been quoting facts and they quote figures. they quote reports about the negative effects of this law, and that dates back to when the debate began in 2009. but the reality is that no amount of facts or figures can illustrate the real-life stories from our hometowns and from main street of nebraska. these personal stories are compelling and powerful examples of what the reports have been saying all along and why we must stand with the american people and repeal obamacare. a woman by the name of deb from carney, nebraska, reached out to me. like millions of other americans, her family's
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insurance plan has been canceled notwithstanding the president's promise that if you like your plan, you can keep it, period. now she is facing new premiums for a family. mr. president, they have increased an unbelievable 133%. their plan pays for maternity coverage, even though they no longer need maternity coverage. why? because obamacare mandates that. they have no choice about it. deb said, and i'm quoting -- "obama needs to call it like it is. this is not the affordable health care act." unquote. another person from madison, nebraska, jennifer, reached out to me. a very, very compelling story.
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jennifer is a two-time cancer survivor. jennifer shared that last year she spent a fair amount of time evaluating health care plans, doing her homework. she picked a plan that made a lot of sense for her family and under her circumstances. well, recently, jennifer learned that her current plan would no longer be available because of the health care law's new requirements. she described her new plan, and i'm quoting -- "my deductible is going up," she says. "my coinsurance is going up, and my premium is almost doubling." unquote. she went on to say, and i quote here -- "i think it's an insult
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to hardworking, responsible people like myself to require me to pay for coverage of all of these additional services." unquote. then, mr. president, there is a woman by the name of hannah from lincoln, nebraska. this 25-year-old is seeing massive increases as well. get this, mr. president. her monthly premium is increasing by 160%, and her annual deductible is more than doubling to over $6,000. she explains, and again i quote -- "i am healthy and active. i love long distance running and i rarely get sick. this is impossible for my
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budget. i feel like obama is punishing those of us who have graduated college, who are working hard trying to make a life for ourselves. we're starting our families, we're building our businesses, we're launching our careers and trying to give back to our communities however we can. now obamacare is devastating the american dream of an entire generation." unquote. well, mr. president, these nebraskans and people all over this great country are understandably frustrated. there has been a lot of talk recently about this law. there has been a lot of talk about the president's promises. over the course of the last four years, none of his promises have centered on american families like these who are losing the
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plans that they do like or who are paying more for the coverage , and none of its promises indicated that young people like hannah's costs would go through the roof. one wonders if there had been honesty in this debate whether this bill would have ever passed. in fact, president obama's promises, well, they signaled just the opposite. he said over and over again, people could keep their plans if they liked them. he even put a period there. and he said they would pay less. but these consequences, well, they're not happening by accident. they are the central pillars of the president's law, obamacare. the law mandated coverage standards for health insurance plans and forced people into
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policies that meet those mandates. so, mr. president, what's the result? the result is a law that drives up costs, it eliminates choices. you see, it's motivated by a simple guiding principle. and that is that nebraskans and americans can't decide for themselves. it's motivated by a principle that government knows best. it's saying that health insurance that you freely chose is an inferior plan because the president and his people say so, and it says that government must protect you from your own decisionmaking. mr. president, that is not what the american people want, and that's not the kind of country they want to live in, and they
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have spoken loud and clear, especially when the truth came out, as the realities of obamacare are settling in to their daily lives. now, the frustrating part is that the president's announcement last week that americans can supposedly keep their plans was provoked, not by devastating stories of millions of americans or nebraskans, but it was provoked by members of his own party who are now in a panic about their re-election. well, to the american people, to the people i represent in nebraska, this is far too little and far too late. in 2010, the administration's own rule on this subject showed as many as 80% of small business plans and 69% of all business
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plans would lose their grandfathered status. i went to the senate floor then and i warned about what was coming. everyone on this side of the aisle voted to cancel this ill-advised obamacare regulation. mr. president, let me remind us that every single senator on the other side of the aisle voted, voted to let this destructive rule go forward, and now americans and nebraskans are paying the price for that vote. taking action three years ago would have been a very thoughtful step to avoiding disastrous consequences, but a surprise announcement caught
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everybody by surprise. essentially, 45 days to undo three years of obamacare damage, to protect people in their re-election is not a serious policy effort. if you're five touchdowns behind, you can't wait until there is one minute left to start playing. let's face it. president obama's announcement last week was not a policy decision. it was an attempt to arrive at a political fix to save re-election for members of his party. once again, he sidestepped congress and the legislative process to unilaterally enact a temporary delay of one of his signature law's major provisions. and let me emphasize, it's temporary. it's only designed to get us by
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election day and to try to save some seats for his party. even if you believe that insurance companies and every insurance commissioner in 50 states can undo all of the planning they have done to comply with obamacare to follow the rules, even if you assume that they can undo that in 45 days, our citizens will be right back in this same boat next year after election day. the cancellation policies will again be printed, the replacement obamacare approved policies will reveal skyrocketing prices, and our citizens will be right back to where they were. well, mr. president, the time for temporary fixes that simply shift the blame or delay the
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pain until the election is over, that needs to end. while i will fight to eliminate this law's most burdensome provisions, the truth is that changes to this law create an avalanche of consequences. the provisions of this failed policy are so interconnected, so ill-fated that no amount of amending and tweaking will solve the problems that american families and businesses are facing. we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. i believe full repeal is the only real answer for american families. congress can take a stand so millions of americans can keep their doctors and keep the plans that they like. we don't need a 2,700-page law and $1 trillion in task taxes to
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address the costs of health care and help individuals. americans are demanding what they didn't get in 2010, and since this law passed, they are demanding transparency. they are demanding thoughtful policy steps for the better, more efficient, and lower cost health care system. they want leaders who recognize we're not on the right track, we never have been with this law, and that it's time to head in a direction that puts americans first, not political opportunity. i believe it's a critical moment. i hope we seize upon this moment and do all we can to listen to the american people. mr. president, i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call: the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mr. blunt: madam president, i ask to be recognized. the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. blunt: suspend the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blunt: first, i ask unanimous consent that floor privileges be granted to major mike shirley, a u.s. air force officer who is currently serving as our defense legislative fellow in the senate office and to robert temple, an intern on my staff for the duration of the consideration of s. 1197, the fiscal year 2014 national defense authorization act. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blunt: and that they are going to be joining us here in a minute. we have certainly benefited from both of them, but particularly major shirley who has been with our office a year. it has been the first year that i have been on both the armed services committee and the
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defense appropriating committee and major shirley's help in both of those cases has been exceptional, and i'm pleased that we have had his benefit. i want to talk for a few minutes about what's happening with health care. i came to the floor last week to talk about individuals that were having problems, and people are can'ting our office. in fact, i suspect they are contacting 100 senate offices every day, expressing their concerns as they lose insurance. 4.2 million americans have now received cancellation notices on the insurance they had. last week when the president made his proposal that apparently you could keep the insurance you like for a year, if your insurance company will still offer it and if the state insurance commissioner will approve it, those are two pretty big ifs and certainly are nowhere close to you can keep
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your insurance if you like it, period. if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, period. neither of those are going to turn out to be the case, and, in fact, the insurance commissioners immediately, their organization said this is going to be practically very, very hard to comply with. so it's one of many problems. i think the law here that's likely to apply with the affordable care act will be the law of unintended consequences, consequences for individuals, consequences for people who had preexisting conditions who in 35 states were being well served by something called the high-risk pool. all of those people, i think virtually all of those high-risk pools go out of existence on december 31. i know the missouri high-risk pool goes out of existence on december 31 and the 4,300 people who depended on that for their insurance now have to find insurance on their own. they can get insurance. they can get it through the
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exchange in all cases i've heard so far, they're paying more for insurance on january 1 than they were paying for coverage on -- today or would pay up through the end of this year. so so much for what we're doing for people with preexisting conditions. there was certainly a way to extend those high-risk pools, but we didn't do that. this week i've had a number of businesses talk about the problems they're having. i want to talk about two of them briefly this morning. one of them is the older adults transportation system in our state. it's headquartered near the middle of the state in columbia, missouri. it provides transportation for seniors, people who are disabled, for low-income missourians. like many, the older adults transportation system called oats was notified their current plan would be canceled on january 1. the rate for their new policy
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for their 50 full-time employees is going to be 40% higher on january 1 than the policy that they had on december 31, and the only way they can do anything about that is to provide fewer services. so because of that 40% increase, fewer trips will be available to take the people they serve. surely that wasn't the goal of the health care plan. they wanted to insure their driving staff. there are 600 drivers in that system. they wanted to insure them. they were hopeful with all the promises about the affordable care act that they would be able to add their driving staff. but instead of adding their driving staff, they've got to figure out what they're going to do with the 50 employees they have been insuring at rates that are now 40% higher than they were before. businesses around the state are calling. i recently heard from
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macarthur's bakery in st. louis. they currently had a cap, a 9% cap on a two-year health policy that they had. it was a qualified plan. but randy, the president of macarthur's bakery, randy macarthur believes they had a pretty good plan. he thought their plan was a plan that should meet any standard that they would hope to meet. it wasn't a rich plan. he described it to me as not a cadillac plan but at least an impala plan and they thought the impala was what they could do. but suddenly they've learned there is going to be a 4.4% increase in fees and taxes and a huge increase in the deductible. their current plan has a deductible of around $500 for an individual and $1,250 for a family. the deductible on the new plan is going to be about $3,500 for the individual and $10,000 to $12,000 for the family.
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madam president, that's what i'm hearing all the time that the coverage may be broader. there may be things covered that didn't used to be covered but the deductible is now so big that the plan that people had that they thought protected their needs don't protect their needs. for most families, $12,000 is catastrophic t. doesn't take $120,000 or $500,000 to be catastrophic. $12,000 is catastrophic. if that becomes your new deductible year after year, you've got a problem that you didn't have when your deductible was $1,200. randy macarthur says the very thing that obamacare was supposed to do, was to protect the working people, to give them access to affordable insurance but is actually doing the exact opposite. instead, the law will mandate coverage, things that you have to pay for that you didn't have to pay for before. and apparently will offset that by being sure that you pay a lot
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more of your own money up front. i think we're going to continue to see these problems develop. i hope we can find ways to fix that. i introduced a number of bills in 2009 that i thought were better alternatives than this one. we may have to go back and start all over again, but right now the one thing we do know is that the law of unintended consequences appears to be hitting a lot of families and hitting all of a lot of familiey hard. and i will yield back the floor and i believe there is no quorum present. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. barrasso: thank you, madam president. how much time is remaining. the presiding officer: we're in a quorum call. mr. barrasso: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, madam president. how much time remains? the presiding officer: 8 1/2 minutes. mr. barrasso: thank you, madam president. i come to the floored today noting the front page of "politico" noting the tech chief for the web obamacare web site s 40% of work is left of obamacare. financial management tools are unfinished. madam president, this web site has been a debacle. people all around the country are angry. they're anxious, frustrated, bothered. but mostly i'm hearing anger from people in wyoming. and it's not just the web site. i will tell you the web site is
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just the tip of the iceberg. people are furious when they get letters of cancellation, when they have coverage canceled and then they see higher premiums. people are finding out all across the country because of the health care law they can't keep their doctor. they're hearing stories about fraud, identity theft, higher co-pays and tkaobls. i bring -- and deductibles. i bring to the floor today a couple of letters i had from people in wyoming. last week, veterans day i was in douglas, wyoming, for the flag-raising ceremony at the american legion at 7:00 a.m. talking to folks, some whom had gotten cancellation letters. let me read to you a letter from a family in douglas, wyoming, a small community, converse count. they say we just found out that our current health insurance policy with bluecross blueshield of wyoming, which is a $20,000 deductible for our family, will not be allowed after january 1.
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only those under age 30 will be able to have catastrophic plans. we work, we ranch, we work very hard. we have been healthy. we can't afford and don't believe a lower deductible makes sense for us. so this is a family, they decided what's best for them as a family. not what the government told them they had to buy, but what worked for them as a family. and so they wanted -- they said what they bought is something that made sense for them. basically we have had insurance to avoid losing our cows, losing our land if something catastrophic happened to us. don't know what we'll do if you guys don't get this derailed. so, madam president, as someone from the rocky mountain west, i will tell you in a community with lots of ranchers and farmers, what they're trying to do is ensure against this catastrophic loss. they go on and say quick side note. we think most people expect health insurance to cover
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everyday costs. it wouldn't make sense and cost too much to get insurance to cover new tires, washer fluid, new batteries, regular upkeep for our vehicles. we only had insurance for big health issues which is of course what they wanted to do. for big health issues, it wouldn't cost as much for all of us in the end. they go on, obamacare doesn't deal with any of the issues of why health care in america costs what it does. it truly seems to make it all worse. thank you for what you do. we know you already understand this. we just thought you should know what we are dealing with. that's a ranch family, douglas, wyoming, converse county. then this past saturday night i was in lusk, wyoming, nyaaburg county, a letter from someone who had canceled coverage, higher co-pay. just for a second, madam president, let me just show you, madam president, the
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list of the number of people that have been canceled. 4.7 million americans have been, had their health insurance canceled in 32 states and we don't even have the numbers for a number of other states. this is what people all across the country are seeing. so i would say let me read this e-mail from lusk, wyoming. this is someone who said i have supported the president and the affordable health care act since the beginning. he then goes on and he said that all changed on thursday. all along we have been told if we have insurance and we are satisfied, no changes will be necessary. he goes on, this is a misleading statement. i was informed by my company, he said my policy will be canceled in december. then they will offer me another policy but with huge changes. my premiums will go up. my deductible will go up. this isn't the same as my current policy. i feel like after decades of paying my own insurance, i'm being penalized. he said i won't -- this is
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somebody that supported the president and the health care law. he said i won't call it lying, but the president certainly misled a lot of us middle-aged americans. he says i do have one alternative i'm pursuing. i can buy insurance that doesn't meet the guidelines of the act. however, i will then be forced to pay a penalty for noncompliance. i can afford my insurance and the penalty. once again, americans do not like to be misled. it helps to solidify the mistrust we have in government. thank you for your solid leadership. madam president, that's why i'm here today on the floor. we need to hear more stories from people around the country. not just republicans. democrats need to hear these stories. i would say tweet us your story at #your story. republicans have better ideas about how people can get the better care they need from the doctors they choose. this health care law is hurting many, many millions of americans. we now know the president knew
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it at the time when he continued to repeat the fact that his -- not the fact, but repeat the line which we now now is a misleading line to the american people. and very soon we're going to see the line of if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor; millions more will be losing their doctor. and there is great damage continuing to be done. we need to start over. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mrs. gillibrand: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of s. 1197, which the clerk will report. the clerk: 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. the presiding officer: under the previous order, there will be up to six hours of debate only. mrs. gillibrand: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mrs. gillibrand: i rise today to speak about my amendment to the national defense authorization act, an amendment known as the bipartisan military justice improvement act. i want to start by thanking my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their strong and unwavering leadership on behalf of our brave men and women in uniform. i could not be more proud of the
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bipartisan work that has been done to do the right thing. i want to thank senator reid, senator booker, senator heller, our three most recent supporters of our bill. i want to thank them for scored scored -- for their leadership to end the scourge of sexual violence in the military. i want to thank the senator from missouri for her unwavering commitment for helping victims of sexual assault. although we disagree on my amendment, i want to remind all our colleagues that the defense authorization has been made stronger in innumerable ways by senator mccaskill's work, advocacy and dedication. i also will be supporting her amendment today because i think the provisions in that amendment will add even more positive changes to the command climate and will help victims feel like
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they have a stronger voice. however, while the changes in the mccaskill amendment are very good, i do not believe that they are enough to truly ensure justice for victims of sexual assault. fo -- for that, we essentially need impartial, unbiased, objective consideration of the evidence by trained military prosecutors, which is what my amendment will provide. yesterday, i proudly stood with retired generals, leaders of veterans' organizations and survivors who represent a growing chorus of military voices that are urging congress to take its oversight role head on and finally create the independent, unbiased military justice system that the men and women who served in our military so deeply deserve. leader like retired general -- major general martha rainville, the first woman in history of
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the national guard to serve as an adjunct general who has served in the military for 27 years, including 14 years in command positions. she wrote to me -- quote -- "as a former commander, endorsing a change that removes certain authority from the military commanders has been a tough decision. it was driven by my conviction that our men and women in uniform deserve to know without any doubt that they are valued and will be treated fairly with all due process should they report an offense and seek help or face being accused of an offense. when allegations of serious criminal misconduct have been made, the decision about whether to prosecute should be made by trained legal professionals. fairness and justice require sound judgment based on evidence and fact, independence of preexisting command relationships. leaders like brigadier general retired lori sutton who served as the top psychiatrist in the u.s. army, she wrote saying -- quote -- "failure to achieve
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these reforms would be a further tragedy to an already sorrowful history of inattention and ineptitude concerning military sexual assaults. in my view, achieving these essential reform measures must be considered as a national security imperative, demanding immediate action to prevent further damage to individual health and well-being, vertical and horizontal trust within units, military institutional reputation, operational mission readiness and the civilian military compact. far from stripping commanders of accountability, as some detractors have suggested, these improvements will remove the inherent conflict of interest that clouds the perception. all too often, the decisionmaking process under the current system. implementing these reforms will actually support leaders to build and sustain unit cultures marked by respect, good order and discipline. and lieutenant general retired
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claudia kennedy, the first three-star female general in the army wrote -- quote -- "having served in leadership positions in the u.s. army, i have concluded that if military leadership hasn't fixed this problem in my lifetime, it's not going to be fixed without change to the status quo. the imbalance of power and authority held by commanders in dealing with sexual assault must be corrected. there has to be independent oversight over what is happening in these cases. simply put, we must remove the conflict of interest in the current system, the system in which commanders can sweep his own crime or the crime of a decorated soldier or a friend under the rug, protects the guilty and protects serial predators, and it harms military readiness. until leadership is held accountable, this won't be corrected. to hold leadership accountable means there must be independence
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and transparency in the system. permitting professionally trained prosecutors rather than commanding officers to decide whether to take sexual assault cases to trial is measured first step toward such accountability. i have no doubt the command climate, unit cohesion and readiness will be improved by these changes. and brigadier general retired david mcginnis, who also served as a pentagon appointee, wrote i fully support your efforts to stamp out sexual assault in the united states military and believe that there is nothing in the mist justice improvement act that is inconsistent with the responsibility or authority of command. protecting the victims of these abuses and restoring american values to our military culture is long overdue. it is because they love the military that they are making their voices heard. standing united behind brave survivors. and i'd like to tell some of
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those stories because it's their stories that inform this legislation. kate weber from protect our defenders who was awarded the 2014 woman veteran of the year by the california department of veterans affairs, and sara plumber who came to washington, d.c., all the way from colorado yesterday to courageously tell their stories so that their brothers and sisters in uniform get military justice that is finally worthy of their great service to our nation. sara's story is extremely disturbing. she was raped as a young marine in 2003. she said i knew the military was notorious for mishandling rape cases, so i didn't dare think anything good would come of reporting the rape. she said having someone in your direct chain of command doesn't make any sense. it's like getting raped by your brother and having your dad decide the case. kim hanks, brave survivor from the infamous aviado case who
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spoke months ago about this issue when our journey began. kim wrote an op-ed earlier this week -- regardless of all the promises by military leadership and half measures offered in the name of reform, nothing short of removing the prosecution and adjudication authority away from the commander and placing it with independent military professionals outside the accused and victim's chain of command will end this nightmare." or trina mcdonald who was 17 and enlisted in the navy. she was stationed in a remote base in alaska. within two months, she was attacked, repeatedly drugged and raped by superior officers over the course of nine months. she said -- quote -- "at one point, my attackers threw me into the bering sea and left me for dead in the hopes that they would silence me forever. they made it clear that they would kill me if i ever spoke up or reported what had been done." or listen to army sergeant
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rebecca harilla who served in afghanistan, was raped in 2007, reported the crime to her commanding officer. to her, it was unthinkable -- quote -- "there was no way i was going to my commander. he made it clear he didn't like women." or airman first class jessica himes who was raped in 2009 by a co-worker who broke into her room at 3:00 in the morning. she said -- quote -- "two days before the court hearing, his commander called me on a conference call at the jag office and he said he didn't believe the offender -- quote -- acted like a yeah, but there wasn't a reason to prosecute. i was speechless. legal had been telling me this was going to go through court. we had the court date set for several months, and two days before, this commander stopped it. i later found out the commander had no legal education or background, and he had only been in command for four days." her rapist was given the award
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for airman of the quarter. she was transferred to another base. you also can't forget that more than half of the victims last year alone were men. blake stevens, now 29, joined the army in 2001 just seven months after graduating high school. the verbal and physical attack started quickly, he says, and came from virtually every level of the chain of command. in one of the worst incidents, a group of men tackled him, shoved a soda bottle into his rectum, threw him backward off an elevated platform onto the hood of a car. when he reported the incident, his drill sergeant sold him -- quote -- "you are the problem. you're the reason this is happening." his commander refused to take action. blake said -- quote -- "you
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just feel trapped. they basically tell you you're going to have to keep working with these people day after day, night after night. you don't have a choice." his assailants told him that once they deployed to iraq, they were going to shoot him in the head. quote -- they told me they were going to have sex with me all the time when we were there." now, this is the problem. there were 26,000 sexual assaults estimated by the department of defense last year alone, based on confidential surveys, but only 3,374 were actually reported. of those reported, 302 went to trial. so if you are starting with 26,000 estimated cases and only 302 go to trial, that is a 1% rate of conviction in the u.s. military for the heinous crime
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of degradation, aggression and dominance of rape and sexual assaults. 1%. and you just heard from these victims, there are too many command climates that are toxic, that do not ensure good order and discipline, that do not protect against rape and sexual assault, that do not create a sense that if i come forward and report that justice could be done. in this survey, this confidential survey, the reason victims didn't report is they said they didn't believe anything would be done. they also said they either feared or witnessed retaliation. this is the problem. about 23,000 cases weren't reported. it means in 23,000 command climates, these assaults are happening and victims feel they will not get justice. so i am grateful for every reform we put in place in this
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undermieg bill. they are good, strong reforms that will help victims who report, but every single one of them applies only to this 3,000 cases. they apply to the cases that are reported where the command climates are sufficient that a victim feels i can come forward, i can at least report this case. in the 23,000 other cases, those victims don't have that confidence. and so, madam president, if you don't create a transparent, accountable system that's outside the chain of command, your hope of getting more victims to come forward and report so we can at least weigh the evidence and see whether we can go to trial, it's not there. the hope isn't there. the confidence in an objective review by someone who doesn't know the perpetrator and doesn't know the victim doesn't exist. so while you have these 3,000 cases, you have these 3,000 cases that were reported and
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commanders did make sure one in ten went to trial, and when they did go to trial, you had a 95% conviction rate, so they are not making the wrong decisions about what case to try. it's just that only 3,000 of these command climates were strong enough. you can't train your way out of this problem. there is 23,000 command climates that aren't strong enough, that didn't ensure justice, that created fear of retaliation. that's the problem. and so without your objective system, without creating transparency and accountability, without saying the decider doesn't know the victim or the perpetrator, there's no bias, because in too many cases as you heard from these stories, the perpetrators may well be more valuable to the commander, may well have several tours of duty under his belt, may well have done great acts of bravery, may well have two kids and a wife at home. and so when that commander looking at the case file says i know it can't possibly have
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happened, it didn't happen this way, he waist the evidence differently, differently than someone objective who's trained, who actually knows the difference in these crimes and knows what a rape is. they know that a rape is not a crime of romance, they know that a rape is a crime of dominance. they know that a rape is a crime of violence. it's not about a date gone badly. it's not about hormones. it's not about a hookup culture. it's actually a crime that is brutal and violent committed by someone who is acting on aggression and dominance and violence. so that's why the training matters, madam president. i want somebody who knows that, who has been trained as a lawyer, who understands prosecutorial discretion and can weigh evidence objectively. so we have to look at who's
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advocating for this bill. our veterans' organizations, iraq and afghanistan veterans of america want this reform. vietnam veterans of america want this reform. servicewomen's action network want this reform. they're all speaking in one voice, and they say -- quote -- "a vote for an independent and objective military justice system is a vote for our troops and a vote to strengthen our military. they know, they've served, they're veterans. they are no longer active duty. they can speak their mind. this week, we released a letter of 26 retired generals, admirals, commanders, colonels, captains and senior enlisted personnel, including two generals and two admirals known as flag officers who are saying to congress -- quote -- "we believe that the decision to prosecute serious crimes, including sexual assault, should be made by trained legal
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professionals who are outside the chain of command but still within the military this change will allow prosecutorial decisions to be made based on facts and evidence and not be derailed by preexisting relationships, attitudes, biases and perceptions. it is our sincere belief that this change in the military justice system will provide the opportunity for real progress toward eliminating the scourge of sexual assault in the military. i am hopeful, madam president, that our colleagues will listen to these collective voices because nobody knows the military and what needs to be done to fix this broken system than they do. listen to listen to the victims who have clearly told us over and over again how a system that only produces 302 prosecutions out of the d.o.d.'s estimated 26,000


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