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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  May 14, 2014 10:00am-12:01pm EDT

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of the motion to proceed to h.r. 3474, which the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed to calendar number 332, h.r. 3474, an act to amend the internal revenue code of 1986 and so forth. the presiding officer: the republican whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, it pains me to say that almost every day brings a new story of purported scandals and a long list of failures and abuses within the department of veterans' affairs. the latest scandals are particularly painful to me because they emanate from texas, and we have a proud tradition of being a state that contributes one out of every uniformed military member from our state, and of course we have a huge population of veterans, people
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who have worn the uniform of the united states proudly and sacrificed so much and risked it all. but just like the scandals in fort collins, colorado, phoenix, arizona, pittsburgh, pennsylvania and other cities, the ones at austin, san antonio, harlingen and waco are evidence of a calloused disregard for the health and well-being of america's heroes. the new information comes from a pair of whistle-blowers. the first one a v.a. scheduling clerk named brian turner told the austin american statesman that his survivors at the v.a. facilities in austin, san antonio and waco were directing him to falsify appointment data in hopes of covering up the problem of long wait times. meanwhile, the former associate chief of staff at the harlingen
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v.a. health care clinic, a man by the name of dr. richard krugman has gone public with a series of disturbing allegations. according to "the washington examiner," which interviewed dr. krugman, veterans seeking routine colonoscopies, cancer screenings, in other words, at the harlingen center were forced to endure extremely long wait times and in some cases they were denied those cancer screenings altogether. as a result, up to 15,000 patients, veterans all, who should have gotten colonoscopies either didn't get them or were examined only after long and unnecessary delays. dr. krugman believes that some of these veterans actually died as a result of the lack of cancer screening and addressing their symptoms. he also told "the examiner" that an office secretary deleted
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about 1,800 orders for medical tests or other services to eliminate a backlog that threatened a certification inspection from an outside group. sadly, these allegations fit within a larger pattern of v.a. abuses. at v.a. clinics across the country, reports have been made that staffers and administrators have failed to provide veterans with access to medical care and have fraudulently concealed long wait times. given all these examples, they are not just an individual data point, but connecting these data points, it appears that the problems with the veterans administration are systemic. what we have here is nothing less than a betrayal, a betrayal of our nation's veterans and a betrayal of the american people, all of whom deserve to know the truth about what their
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government is and is not doing to support our american heroes, and of course we have heard in phoenix that this betrayal has had tragic consequences with an estimated up to 40 people dying after lingering on a secret wait list never receiving the treatment that they were entitled to. we still don't know exactly how many veterans have died or otherwise suffered because of the v.a.'s assorted failures and abuses, but we do know that it's disgraceful and unacceptable for even one veteran to needlessly die or suffer because of bureaucratic malfeasance. the evidence of such malfeasance is now growing, of course, and the only questions are how can we get our veterans the care and support they need in the fastest possible way, and what is the best way to restore genuine accountability and genuine
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safeguards within the v.a. system? whenever i think about the ongoing v.a. scandals and the broader set of challenges facing america's veterans, i think of an annual tradition that we have down in texas. every year on memorial day, i host young texans who are being sent off to the service academies. these are inspiring young men and women. anyone who is feeling a little bit uncertain about our nation's future needs to meet these young men and women who go to our service academies because they are the best of the best and are an inspiration to me. so this is a wonderful event and easily one of the highlights of my year, yet i can't think of how badly the v.a. is failing not only our current generation but tainting the promise of our commitment to the next generation of our military service members and veterans. the generation that's now
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preparing to embark for places like west point, annapolis, colorado springs. these young people should be given not just a promise but an ironclad commitment that after serving our nation with honor and courage, they will get the support that they have earned and that they deserve. anything less is just not acceptable. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: mr. president, the senate is now debating the expire act. this is bipartisan legislation,
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mr. president. i want to again thank the distinguished senior senator from utah, senator hatch. he has been so constructive in trying to build a bipartisan piece of legislation, a bill that came out of the senate finance committee several weeks ago with very substantial bipartisan support. it really is designed to deal with a number of tax provisions that are temporary in nature, and it in effect extends those temporary tax provisions until the end of 2015. and in consultation with the distinguished senator from utah, i thought it was important to call this bill the expire act, and it was important because this legislation actually does expire after two years.
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it in effect says -- and i said, mr. president, on my watch as chair of the senate finance committee, there will not be another extenders bill. that's not going to happen on my watch. this is it. and in effect, by extending these important provisions now for one last time, the congress can give itself and the finance committee on a bipartisan basis the space that is needed to take on the challenge of comprehensive tax reform. it is not going to be easy, but it is absolutely imperative for the future of the american economy, and i know, mr. president, it can be done. i know we can get senators of both political parties together and build a bipartisan tax reform plan, and i know this because i have got -- and other
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senators do as well -- a fair amount of sweat equity into this cause. our former colleague, senator gregg of new hampshire, sat next to me on a sofa for more than two years to build what still is, mr. president, the only bipartisan senate comprehensive tax reform bill in the last 30 years. with senator gregg's retirement to their credit, senator coats and senator begich pitched in. so we know that there has already been a lot of bipartisan work on comprehensive tax reform, and suffice it to say, again building on this bipartisan lineage, my colleague from utah, the senior senator, senator hatch, and ambassador baucus and chairman camp in the other body have also put in years of work and laid a strong
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foundation for tax reform. so once the united states senate passes the expire act, the job of the finance committee will be to focus in a kind of laysor-like -- laser-like fashion on a bipartisan plan that's going to give all americans the opportunity to get ahead. i want to emphasize that, mr. president. if i were to sum up my philosophy about tax reform, i want everybody in america to have the opportunity to get ahead. all our small businesses, all our americans who are trying to deal with an extraordinarily challenging economy. so, frankly, that would be my first choice, mr. president, to be out here working on comprehensive tax reform, but it was clear to me, with chairman baucus going to china as our ambassador, that it wasn't going
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to be possible in a short few months to pass comprehensive tax reform, and i made the judgment, and i will share it with the senate again today, mr. president, and i brought it up yesterday that the failure to act on these temporary provisions, which are what the expire act is all about, would cause further unnecessary, really gratuitous harm to american workers, to our small businesses, to our ability to compete in tough global markets, because what the expire act is really all about is preventing a tax increase. we would clearly have a tax increase absent the expire act, and it would be on areas of the economy that i think would be particularly damaging. for example, mr. president, it
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would really be a tax on innovation because right at the center of these temporary provisions, provisions that under this bill will last only until the end of 2015 and then they will expire. not just meant to expire. they actually expire at the end of 2015, but if you don't take action to ensure that innovation has an opportunity to flourish, what will happen is we will in effect have a tax on those very jobs that are most important for our middle class, to grow wages, to encourage the kind of economic multiplier that is so good for our economy. so we ought to pass the expire act so as to not have a tax increase on innovation, and we ought to pass the expire act to not make it tougher for a company to hire a veteran, which i think is also hugely
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important, and we'll talk for a couple of minutes about in further detail. and another one that i know a lot of senators are going to hear about this week is what would happen absent this bill to millions of americans who are under water on their mortgages. these are hardworking middle americans who now are deeply under water, and their lenders are willing to work out arrangements to lower their debt in a number of instances, but absent this bill, instead of getting their head above water, what we will see is a tax increase on those homeowners that really drives them back down and increasingly sinking under all of this debt. they are really, mr. president, absent this bill, middle-class
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people would be paying a tax on phantom income. they are not really getting any net income. but when their lender works with them to relieve their debt, they surely shouldn't have to pay a hefty new tax on that. this bill does that. so i just wanted to spend a few minutes this morning because this is national small business week, and this legislation in particular goes to great lengths to make it attractive for small businesses and particularly for small businesses who would like to hire new workers. today we know there are nearly ten million americans out of work and they are looking for jobs. the unemployment rate in my home state was 6.9%, which is well above the national average. i think we would all agree that our highest priority should be to help people find jobs, and
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the expire act is an opportunity to do that, particularly with respect to what it does for our small businesses. so let me outline a few of those provisions, again temporary in nature so that we can do even more on a permanent basis for growing our economy and making it attractive for our small businesses to hire new workers. in the expire act is the work opportunity tax credit, which encourages imroir employers to , hire, and retain individuals who often have had trouble finding jocks. th-- finding jobs. the expire act extends this legislation in a few key ways so that the credit can help small businesses hire an even greater number of struggling americans. first, it would do more to help the long-term unimhoi long-termd
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work. these are these hard-hit americans who are dupely at risk of fall -- who are deeply at risk of falling between the cracks. second, the new approach will preserve the credit for veterans returning from overseas who we have seen packing -- literally packing, mr. president, job fairs in cities across the country in search of work. just picture that. the veterans who've warn th -- who've worn the uniforms of the united states and served us alf us, have coming out in throngs to these job fairs across the country, and this bill will help them. small businesses that employ military reservists also currently get a wage credit when their employees get called up to active duty. not only will the expire act increase that credit, it will open the credit up to employers of all sizes to improve job
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security for even more reservists. now, i mentioned the research and development credit, which of course encourages innovation in firms of all size. for many of them, having a strong research and development credit is simply imperative. but the reality is, mr. president, the current credit isn't doing all that it might do to help small businesses, and complicated rules that are buried in the tax code may erase any benefits the. the expire act will change that. it will expand the pool of small businesses who benefit. it will also allow start-ups to use the research and development credit to help pay their employees' salaries and it will build a bridge to tax reform so congress can do more work to
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improve the credit further and make it permanent. the research and development credit is critically important to the future of innovation in our country, and apropos again of the bipartisan scene that we have taken in the finance committee with the support of the ranking minority member, the distinguished senator from utah, there's been some very good work done by the senator from kansas, senator roberts, and senator schumer on this, and i want to commend them for their efforts to really spotlight the need to do more to reconfigure the research and development credit to help small businesses. the reality, of course, is what is the common thread between so many of our most successful companies: intel and apple and microsoft, a hos host of others.
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they all started as innovative small businesses with their eyes trained on developing the future. the expire act is a step towards a stronger, permanent research and development credit that will help even more entrepreneurs in our country grow their best ideas into successful businesses. in the meantime, we all know that small businesses in my home state of oregon and across the country still suffer from the recession. they feel the effects of sluggish growth pretty much like everyone else. in a stronger economy, healthy small businesses might have decided to turn higher profits into investments aimed at expansion. the research and development credits -- particularly the improved research and development credit -- is going to help a lot of americans. we do want to make a special focus on our small businesses because helping them to make capital investments in new machine, vehicles, or computers
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is absolutely critical. so, again, the expire act steps in to begin to address that effort in a thoughtful manner. the legislation allows small businesses to expense up to $500,000 of equipment costs right away, and it indexes that dhar amount to inflation so that it grows in the future. it's what i think a number of members know is section 179 expensing. if the congress were to fail to pass the expire act, that limit would fall from half a million dollars to just $25,000. the legislation also continues to simplify record keeping, all of the red tape that we've heard small businesses concerned about section 179 talk with us about. the legislation continues to simplify those procedures so that small businesses can focus on their own growth instead of
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red tape. now, a lot of small businesses have property that has lost value, has lost value over time. those small businesses can claim a deduction to compensate for t the expire act stengds a key provision that allows small businesses to expense up to half the cost of that property up front in the first year rather than spreading it out over a longer period. both of these tax incentives -- section 179 expensing and bonus deappreciates -- are -- d depreciation are lifelines. they are the expire act protects them. next i'd like to touch on the energy sector, which i know the distinguished president of the senate has great interest in. obviously, small energy businesses play a major role in the future of the american
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economy, building a lower carbon future, and the expire act is going to protect the incentives those businesses rely on to grow. and i'll start just briefly with the production tax credit. the wind energy industry, which benefits from the production tax credit, supports more than 50,000 jobs. many wind companies are small, and they require lots of capital and planning to bring them to market. and their story illustrates what's important to end the cycle of stop-and-go tax policies that makes our tax code, again, needlessly -- as some would say, almost insanely complicated and uncertain. growth in wind energy has leveled off over the last two years, largely because of the expiration and late renewal of provisions like the production tax credit. now, the expire act also extends provisions to encourage
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provision of other alternative, renewable fuels -- fuels like biodiesel, sel cellulosic. there are companies that stand to gain if the expire act is passed and there are incentives to create jobs in those areas, but our country is going to lose if the senate fails to act. our small businesses ought to be able to plan for the future, to chart a course, in effect, mr. president, from youth through maturity. stop-and-go tax policies only make that more difficult. even when well-intentioned, productive tax incentives go into the code, allowing them to expire over and over again -- and it really undermines their effectiveness and the ability of our businesses to have the certainty needed to grow for the
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long term. our taxpayers, small businesses included -- we recognize them especially this week -- deserve prpredictability and certainty. the expire act is called the expire act for a reason, mr. president. it is going to end after two years. and i've heard my colleagues on the other side of the aisle over the last day make a number of very thoughtful comments about the need for comprehensive tax reform, and i want to tell my colleagues, particularly on the other side of the aisle, that with respect to the need for comprehensive tax reform, they pretty much have me at hello. we are going to get this extender bill passed, and then it's my intent to work very closely with senator hatch, the distinguished rank member on the
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finance committee, all of our colleagues to start putting together a strategy for a comprehensive tax real estate form -- tax reform package to pass this congress. and i will say, madam president, on the floor that i think there is a real opportunity now to break the gridlock on tax reform. if you look, in effect, from this day -- essentially may of 2014 -- until certainly the middle of 2015, there is an ideal opportunity, an ideal window for democrats and republicans here in the united states senate to build a bipartisan coalition here, to pass, enact into law comprehensive tax reform and to work with our colleagues on the other side of the capitol who have similar interests. and i know that because i have talked to a number of them in recent months.
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so i want colleagues both sides of the aisle to know that we are going to focus on getting these extenders passed now. speed is important because the longer you wait, the more you damage, for example, our ability to create those innovation jobs, because in effect we're going to have a tax increase on unknowvation, making it -- innovation, making it harder to higher veterans. the tax hike, in effect, middle-class people would get because they're under water on their mortgages and they got a break from their lender. we've got to get that done. and it is my intent to use every single day, as we go forward with that effort, madam president, to make sure the extenders pass and pass quickly, then move on to comprehensive, bipartisan tax reform. i know we can do it. he's not here today, but my colleague from indiana, the
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distinguished senator -- senior senator, senator coats, has done very good work, stepped in when senator gregg retired, has more than met me halfway. i particularly want to commend senator begich, who has been part of our bipartisan coalition, who's had very thoughtful ideas, particularly on protecting the middle class, small business. he is a small businessperson i asmall businessperson him-- he n himself. i have been out here 20 minutes and i haven't said anything that isn't about democrats and republicans coming together, coming together foyers pass the extender -- first to pass the extender legislation and then to use every singles dasingle day f 2015 to put together a bipartisan plan that can help grow the economy. i'll close with this. after the bipartisan effort in 1986 where a big group of
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progressive democrats and conservative republicans came together, our country created 6.2 million new jobs over the next two years. and nobody can claim that every one of those jobs was due to tax reform. that's simply -- that simply would be stretching things. but clearly it helped, and the businesses that i talk to now in oregon and others who come to washington say they very much want the same certainty and predictability that was seen in 1986 in terms of being ab able o make those investments, to grow their businesses and particularly hire more middle-class americans at good wages. that's what we're going to be all about, madam president. we're going to pursue it in a bipartisan way. let's pass the expire act and move on to address the question of bipartisan comprehensive tax reform. just as i leave the floor, i touched on it while he wasn't here -- i particularly am pleased about the
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roberts-schumer addition to help more small businesses be part of those innovation jobs for the future, because what senator roberts and senator schumer did is to take that credit and do more to move it towards an approach that will help those small businesses, the ones starting in garages and all across the country where individuals are betting on the future and taking the risk. it's going to be easier because of the good work done by senator roberts and senator schumer. it is another reason for colleagues too vote for the expire act. with that, madam president, i yield the floor. mr. schumer: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: first, i ask unanimous consent that the republicans control the time from 3:00 to 3:45 and the majority control the time from 3:45 to 4:30 today. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: thank you. first let me thank my colleague from oregon, our new shining chairman of the finance committee, who's doing such a great job.
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and he's trying in his own inimitable, almost always successful way to weave together ideas of democrats and republicans to create a bipartisan solution. first on the issue of extenders and that wille that will be a bt case, and he knows tft and, second, on tax reform in general. if we can't pass these tax extenders in a bipartisan way, it will not bode well for tax reform. i am very hoh hopeful with the initial signs that we can get that vote done. as the senator from oregon mentioned, it has many, many benefits for all parts of the country, ideas from democrats, ideas from republicans, ideas that, such as he mentioned, was kind enough to mention, that we worked on together, such as the proposal that senator roberts and i put together under the guidance really of senator coons, who was the originator of the idea. so, madam president, today i want to thank my friend from arizona. i know he has some important
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towards speak in the next few minutes and he has let me go now and i appreciate that very much. and i know everyone looks forward to hearing from him. now, i rise today to continue a conversation i started, and it's apropos that my colleague from arizona is on the floor because we worked together so long and hard and at least in the senate successfully on this issue -- immigration. so i rise today to continue a conversation i started two weeks ago about the house's incomprehensible refusal to do anything to try and fix our broken immigration system. i want to remind everyone that it's now been 320 days since the senate passed a strong bipartisan bill that would secure our border, hold employers accountable for hiring illegal workers, grow our economy, and provide a chance for people currently here illegally to get right with the law and earn legal status. and during all that time, the house has failed to do anything -- underline
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"anything" -- to fix our broken immigration system. to be clear, the problem is not that there's a difference of opinion between a house bill and a senate bill on immigration that cannot be reconciled. the problem is that house republicans have completely abdicated their responsibility to address the important issue of fixing our broken immigration system. again, the problem isn't that the house has passed immigration laws the senate disagrees with. the problem is the house won't put any immigration bills up for a vote, no matter what is in those bills. two ago i stated on the floor the reason the house has done nothing on immigration is because house republicans have handed the gavel of leadership on immigration to far right extremists like congressman steve king. well, mad madam president, not y has this point not been refuted by anyone in the republican party, it has actually been confirmed in various news sources that have come out since
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the speech. for instance, just two days ago, speaker boehner was quoted as saying -- quote -- "i do believe the vast majority of our members do want to deal with this, they want to deal with it openly, honestly and fairl fairly." by saying "deal with it" speaker boehner is part of a vote no/pray yes caucus. but he said immigration hasn't been scheduled for a vote because -- quote -- "there are some members of our party who just don't want to deal with it. it's no secret." even by steven king's analysis, 20-25 members of the house republican side would vote for the senate's immigration bill. that number is clearly an underestimation of support in the house for the senate bill but it shows that even according to steven king, if the senate bill were brought up for a vote, it would pass. king added that about 100 to 120 republican members of the house could possibly vote "yes" on an immigration bill if it were presented -- on this immigration
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bill -- on an immigration bill if it were presented for a vote. given this broad support for immigration reform that supposedly exists in the house, i would say to speaker boehner and the republican house leadership, what are you waiting for? if you want to pass immigration reform and you say the vast majority of your members want to pass immigration reform, schedule immigration reform for a vote. doesn't have to be our bill, although i think that's a good, bipartisan, down the middle, not too liberal, not too conservative approach. but don't do our bill. do another bill. come up with your own ideas. that's fine with us. but i'll tell you the problem. it's that the house republican leadership is still too afraid of what steve king calls -- quote -- "the 50-70 republicans who would fight to the last drop of blood against any immigration bill, any immigration bill." it is time for house republican -- the house republican leadership to decide
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whether they stand with the majority of the american people and the supposed majority of their conference or if they're really going to let steve king continue to dictate the policy of the republican party on immigration. just to be clear, right now steve king is winning. just last week, he said -- quote -- "if i had the power, the authority to kill everything immigration-wise that comes through the house, if they actually handed me the keys to the kingdom and if i actually had the gavel that controls immigration -- the immigration issue, that would be nice." well, madam president, who among us can say that he has not been handed the gavel on immigration policy when nothing is being done on immigration? just what he said he would do if he were, indeed, handed the gavel. what has the house actually done on immigration these past two years? nothing. look it up. this is what steve king wants. he wants the house to do -- houe
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to do nothing. he is winning and america is losing. and it's not just me who's frustrated with this inexplicable action. just this week, tom donahue, president of the u.s. chamber of commerce, said -- quote -- "if republicans don't do it, they shouldn't even bother to run a candidate in 2016." he added that -- quote -- "failure to act is not an opti option." and that -- quote -- "we're absolutely crazy if we don't take advantage of having passed an immigration bill out of the senate." now, madam president, as you know, i don't always agree with the president of the u.s. chamber of commerce but he's right here. not only is this inaction damaging the republican party politically, it is also inflicting needless damage to our economy. our g.d.p. could be growing by over 3% -- 3% -- by passing this bill. more than any republican tax cut or democratic spending proposal. but steve king says "no," and
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speaker boehner abandons ship. mario diaz ballard, another republican working to pass immigration reform, said republicans need a deadline in order to get moving on immigration reform and that if no action were taken by august recess, the republican brand would be damaged with latino voters for years to come. has speaker boehner said, fine, we'll schedule a vote 3w before august recess? no, he has not. there is no sign that anything will ever be done on immigration reform. even for the very small microscopic measure known as the "enlist act," that would let certain immigrant youth earn legal status by joining the military, the house has refused to consider this so far as part of the defense authorization bill. republicans keep trying to place blame on the president, saying he can't be entrusted to enforce any laws. we believe that's a phony excu excuse. but if that's really their problem, let's pass a bill now
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and delay implementation to 2017. i would support that. and then you have no president obama enforcing any of this law. let's call their bluff. is it obama, is he the -- president obama, is he the problem? then pass a bill where he can't enforce any of these laws. we can come to a reluctant agreement on that. now, if republicans can't pass a bill that goes into effect after the president's term, then we know that the -- that that -- quote -- "mistrust of the president" is nothing but a strawman. so let's be honest about what's happening right now. republicans are currently doing nothing on immigration reform because they don't want to rock the boat with primaries happening in georgia, pennsylvania, committe kentuckyd virginia and other key states that are between that -- that occur between now and early ju june. but, madam president, we can't keep having broken families living under a broken system
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forever without any idea of when congress might act to finally provide badly needed reform. so today i want to be clear what our window is for the house to pass immigration reform. it is the window between early june and the august recess. so today i am saying that if speaker boehner, leader cantor and other republican leaders refuse to schedule a vote on immigration reform during this window, between early june and the august recess, it will not pass until 2017 at the earliest. i believe it would then pass in 2017 after republicans take a shalshellacking in the presidenl and congressional elections. but in the meantime, if immigration reform is not passed during this window, republicans will have to admit that steve king controls the republican party platform on immigration. if nothing happens during this
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window, it is clear that this has occurred because steve king calls the shots and he has won the immigration debate on the -- in the house among the house republicans. whatevewhatever your supposed eo inaction, inaction is consent to steve king's point of view. where are the leaders in the house of the republican party with the courage to stand up to steve king and the far right and say, enough is enough, we will let our party be hijacked by extremists who's xenophobe joe cause them to prefer to maintaining a broken system off achieving a tough, fair and practical long-term solution? make no mistake about it, madam president, immigration reform will pass either this year with bipartisan support and a bipartisan imprint or it will pass this a future year with only democratic support and democratic imprint because democrats will control congress and the white house simply because republicans have failed to pass immigration reform.
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in the meantime, the president would be more than justified in acting any time after recess begins to take whatever changes he feels necessary to make our immigration system work better for those unfairly burdened by our broken laws. if house republicans refuse to act, it is incumbent on all of us to look at all the areas where we can act administratively to fix our broken system. i hope immigration reform passes this year. i see my two colleagues from arizona who worked so long and hard and courageously and pulled the bill further away from what many democrats might want. but they knew america and their state of arizona demanded a solution. let us rally to their side. let us rally to the side of all americans, a majority of democrats, independents and republicans, all of whom want comprehensive immigration reform. i hope, i hope immigration
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reform passes this year because our broken families, our economy and our country so badly needs it. let's hope the house finally stops talking and starts acting. i yield the floor. mr. mccain: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i'd like to thank the senator from new york for his five-minute speech. i am pleased to join today with my friend and colleague, senator flake, to express support for this diverse and historic slate of nominees to the united states district court for the district of arizona. between today and tomorrow, the senate hopefully will vote to confirm six judges to the federal court in arizona and i urge my colleagues to join me in supporting these nominees. i'm very pleased to have worked with my colleague, senator flake, together we put together a group of people who devoted their time and effort in our
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state, who represent the best and the brightest legal minds and judicial experience people in our state in a bipartisan basis. and we acted, very frankly, on the recommendations -- the unanimous recommendations of this group of outstanding citizens of arizona that put forth these recommendations. i'm very proud that some of these nominees are, indeed, historic, including the fact that one of the nominees, diane humetewa, she has an impressive legal background ranging from work as prosecutor and an appellate judge -- court judge of the hoppi nation. she served as u.s. attorney for the district of arizona. and hers is an historic nomination. if confirmed, diane humetewa will be the first native american woman to ever serve on the federal bench, and we are very proud of she and the other
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five. the federal district court in arizona has been under tremendous strain these past few years and the confirmation of these six judges will be a great relief to an overburdened court. one which is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 busiest in the country. of the 13 authorized judgeships for this court, six are currently vacant. this together with the large caseload led by the district of arizona to be -- the district of arizona that declared a judicial emergency in 2011. this has created an untenable situation for the court in arizona and the confirmation of these nominees is critical to ensure that the administration of justice is timely and fair for the people of arizona. the slate of nominees before the senate, as i mentioned earlier, is the product of consensus, cooperation, and careful deliberation selected with the help of a nonpartisan judiciary evaluation commission.
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they saw overwhelming support in the judiciary committee here in the senate and the brief descriptions that follow only begin to capture the breadth of these nominees' experiences and the depth of their commitment to our legal system. judge steven logan has already proven to be an asset to the u.s. district court in arizona where he currently serves as a magistrate judge. that experience together with his work as an administration judge and a military trial judge make him uniquely qualified to serve as an article three judge. john tuchi currently serves as chief assistant united states attorney and has the qualifications to be a strict judge -- district judge, based in part on his extensive public service, trial experience and practice before federal courts. judge douglas rayes, also nominated for the phoenix
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division, currently serves as a maricopa county superior court judge where he has presided over thousands of cases of family law, criminal law. together with 18 years of private practice, judge rayes' experience and insight will be invaluable to the federal court. rosemary marquez worked as a prosecutor and defender as well as private practice. her hispanic heritage will be invaluable assets to the federal court. and lastly just james soto whose experience includes running a private practice and covers a broad array of criminal and civil cases on the superior court together with an understanding of issues important to border communities have prepared him to serve ably as a district judge in tucson. each of these nominees have shown a commitment to justice,
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public service and the people of arizona. each also has demonstrated the judicial temperament and professional misdemeanor necessary to serve in this capacity with integrity. i urge my colleagues to support these nominees, the three we are voting on today and hopefully the three that will be voted on tomorrow morning by voting yes for cloture and for final confirmation. i again want to thank all those individuals that were a part of the commission that came up with these recommendations. i want to thank my friend and colleague, senator flake, also a member of the judiciary committee for his -- the important role that he played in bringing these nominees before the senate. i am confident that they will serve the state of arizona with honor and distinction. i would also point out that some of these nominees may not be of the same party as senator flake
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and me and there may not be specific agreements on every issue and position that these nominees have taken, but i am confident of their ability to serve this nation and the people of arizona. i yield the floor. mr. flake: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. flake: i want to thank the senator from arizona, senior senator mccain, for the work he has done to bring this panel forward. six judges to be nominated -- or to be confirmed this week. that's a big deal, big deal for any state, for a state like arizona where we have had such a shortage for so long. this is particularly important. i just want to say a couple of things about the three that we will vote on just after i speak. judge steven logan, john tuchi and diane humetewa. judge logan has a distinguished record in the military where he
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earned a bronze star, among many other honors. in discussing his military service at his nomination hearing, one of judge logan's statements stuck out because it exemplifies his dedication to the rule of law and his fitness to be a district court judge. he said -- quote -- "the rule of law in the united states is very, very important. i have seen what happens in a country -- two countries in particular -- he was referring to iran and afghanistan -- where there is no rule of law that is active. judge logan will bring this important perspective to the bench as well as insights he has gained as an assistant u.s. attorney both in minnesota and in arizona. he is familiar with the immigration issues as well which provide a bulk of the cases that he will be looking at as district court judge. mr. tuchi has a long career as a prosecutor, having served the bulk of his career at the arizona u.s. attorney's office
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from 1998 until now. he is presently serving as chief assistant u.s. attorney where he oversees civil and criminal personnel and operations. in 2009, he served as intern u.s. attorney for several months. he has a legal career -- he began his legal career as a judicial clerk in the ninth circuit, and -- and i think he is going to make a stellar district court judge as well. miss humetewa, similar to judge logan, has served as both a prosecutor and a judge, serving in the arizona u.s. attorney's office as assistant u.s. attorney, then as a senate-confirmed u.s. attorney for arizona from 2007-2009. she has also previously -- she was acting chief prosecutor for the hopi tribe and an appellate court judge for that tribe. as senator mccain noted, if confirmed, she will be the first native american woman to serve on the federal bench. i know that her very experience as a prosecutor and a judge will
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serve her well in this capacity. let me just say what a thrill it was to be in the judiciary committee and have all six of these respective judges come with their families and to talk about their experience and how it would relate to their new -- new role if they were to be confirmed. it was great to be there to see diane humetewa and family and note that on the reservation, there were many other family members watching that hearing being streamed and being proud that the first female native american would be on the federal bench. what a great thing. what a great thing to happen. it speaks well for her qualifications and the qualifications of the others as well. we look forward in the coming days, also hopefully tomorrow, to vote on judge rayes as well as rosemary marquez.
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senator mccain mentioned judge soto. i have had the honor of getting to know judge soto and his family for a bit. he served for 13 years in the county of santa cruz's superior court and is currently a presiding judge. the only thing at that hearing that came up is the people of santa cruz county are going to be sad to lose him as a judge. he has been -- has been great there and he will be a great district court judge. i -- again, i am so happy to go through this process. this is my first time, being relatively new in this position, to go through the process of having judges nominated and go through the process, and it was a pleasure to work with senator mccain on this and also with the white house, and the president in making these nominations happen. so i urge my colleagues to vote both for cloture and for final confirmation of these three judges today and hopefully the
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other three tomorrow or later. i appreciate again the president for making these nominations, and arizona has waited a long time to fill these judgeships, and we're pleased to do so this week. i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: a senator:
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madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from mississippi. mr. wicker: i understand we're in a quorum call. if so, i ask unanimous consent that it be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. wicker: and, madam president, i sorrowfully rise this morning to take note of the sad state to which this great deliberative body has
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fallen. and i do so reluctantly because i must specifically criticize the majority leader of the united states senate for really bringing this body to what many historians observe is a new low in terms of our ability to move legislation, our ability to have open debate and open amendments in the senate. we see what has become a new normal in the united states senate. earlier this week, a bipartisan and popular piece of legislation on energy efficiency was derailed by the majority leader's resistance to the open amendment process, and certainly it is not only members of my party, it is not only persons on
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my side of the aisle who have concluded this. there was a very scathing opinion piece on the editorial page of "the wall street journal" this morning entitled "harry reid's senate blockade." madam president, i ask unanimous consent to enter this opinion piece in the record at this time. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. wicker: thank you, madam president. and i will quote at length from "the wall street journal" this morning because in mentioning this popular piece of legislation, the editorial gets right to the point. it says the reason the bill failed this week tells the real story of washington gridlock in the current congress, to-wit, harry reid has essentially shut down the senate as a place to
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debate and vote on policy, and i absolutely agree, madam president. the editorial says this, and i quote -- "the majority leader's strategy was once again on display as the senate failed to get the 60 votes to move the popular energy efficiency bill cosponsored by new hampshire democrat jeanne shaheen and ohio republican rob portman. mr. reid blamed the defeat on republican partisanship, but the impasse really came down to mr. reid's blockade against amendments that might prove politically difficult for the democrats." madam president, once again, the majority leader has made it clear that he doesn't intend to let the senate work its will on amendments. instead, the new normal is that the majority leader comes to the floor and says if the bill is worded as i think it should be, if we can come to an agreement with how it should be written, i'll bring it to the floor and
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we can vote it up or down, but this idea of amendments, that's -- that's unacceptable to the majority leader, and it is a complete departure from the way this senate has operated for decades and decades. on important pieces of legislation. i would point out, the civil rights act of 1964, one of the major accomplishments of the congress in the 20th century. there were 115 amendments calmed during the consideration -- called up during the consideration of the act. the leadership didn't know how those votes would turn out. they had probably done a whip count, and they had a decent idea. but the idea was the senate was going to be allowed to vote up or down with the light shining on the process and the american people would see how their elected senators felt on that
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issue. 115 amendments were called up during the consideration of the civil rights act in 1964. another major piece of deliberative work was done with th--done by the senate with th panama canal treaty. in that case, 89 amendments to these two treaties were called up, debated in the clear light of day and votes were held and the american people found out how their elected representatives in the senate felt about those amendments. this week and for the last 52 weeks, that has not been the case with the majority leader currently in power in the united states senate. the "wall street journal" goes on to say that the majority leader used parliamentary tricks
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to block energy-related amendments to an energy bill. this blockade is now standard procedure, as he's refused to allow a vote on all but nine g.o.p. amendments since last july. mr. reid is worried that some of these amendments might pass with support from democrats, thus embarrassing a white house that opposes them. i would point out that during the time when republicans in this supposedly the greatest deliberative body in the world have been given nine amendments over the last years -- over the last year, by contrast, republicans in the majority of the house of representatives have given their democratic colleagues 125 minority votes. and this is in a house which
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routinely shuts down debate, which has a rules committee, which limits the number of amendments historically and the number of votes. minority members in the house have had 125 votes during that same time period. this united states senate has allowed minority members nine votes during that same period of time, an outrage which the "wall street journal" continues to point out. in the case -- the editorial goes on to say, "in the case of portman-shaheen, republicans had prepared amendments to speed up exports of liquefied natural garks to object to the new natural carbon tax, to rein in the war on coal plants and on the keystone pipeline. now, madam president, i think these amendments were good amendments. i would have voted for them.
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the case could be made on the other side of the aisle that they were bad policy, but make the case. let elected senators from north dakota and from mississippi and all across the united states of america be heard and vote the wishes of their particular constituencies on these issues. instead, the majority shut down these amendments. the editorial goes ton say, "the whitehouse and mr. reid's dominant liberal wing won't take the chance that a bipartisan coalition might pass these amendments, most of which the house has passed or soon would. president obama would thus face a veto decision that would expose internal democrat divisions. so mr. reid shut down the amendment process, as he's done, as i said, in every case except for nine -- nine lonely votes.
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the he would goes on to say, "it is important to understand how much mr. reid's tactics have changed the senate. not too long ago it was understood that any senator could get a floor vote if he wanted to. the minority party, often democrats, used this right of amendment to sponsor votes they would sometimes put -- that would sometimes put the majority on the spot. it's called politics, rightly understood. this meant the senate debated national priorities and worked its bipartisan will. harry reid's senate has become a deliberative obstacle to democratic accountability," and sadly so, i might add, madam president. this harry reid gag rule is new to the united states senate. we've had a number of distinguished majority leaders
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whose names will go down in history, madam president, as the giants, the statesmen of our time, and they have not resorted to this gag rule. this is a harry reid invention largely, and i'll give you the facts. mr. reid has used the gag rule to fill the amendment tree, which is a parliamentary term. but he's used his gag rule to cut off amendments 85 times, more than twice the number of the previous six leaders combined. and these were democrats and republicans. senator dole invoked the procedural tactic only seven times. senator robert byrd, a giant, an expert, an historian in the use of senate rules, invoked it only three times. senator mitchell of maine, three times, senator lott, 11 times, senator daschle, one time, and
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senator frist, 15 times. and yet time after time again, some 85 times, this majority leader has decided he will decide that the senate doesn't variety, that the people of mississippi and the people of north dakota don't have a right for their senator to come up and offer an idea and let it rise or fall based on whether it is good policy or not. this is an outrage that the people of the united states need to understand. when past majorities, when entrusted with protecting this institution, recognized that the gag rule should be used sparin sparingly. it's current abuse undermines the senate's ability to address pressing national issues and to carry on the tradition of debate that has always defined this body. that can really not be -- not be
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denied. senator robert byrd, who i've alluded to earlier, called the senate "the last bastion of minority rights." that was true during democrat majorities, when senator byrd was the majority leader. sadly, it is not the case any longer. the "wall street journal" editorial, i would commend to the attention of anyone within the sound of my voice. it concludes this: "the lessons for voters is simple: if they want anything meaningful done in the last two years of the obama administration, they will have to elect a republican senate." words of the "wall street journal," not my words, madam president. but what has become of the united states senate, under this harry reid gag rule, is
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unconscionable. it should be reversed, and senators of both parties should stand in resistance to the idea that we cannot offer amendments and have them debated, as they've always been debated in the united states senate. i yield the floor, and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: under the previous order, there will be two minutes of debate prior to the vote to invoke cloture on the marquez nomination. mr. isakson: madam president, i yield back all time. the presiding officer: without objection, all time is yielded back. the clerk will report the "no" motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion: we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate, do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the nomination of steve paul logan of arizona to be united states district judge for the district of arizona, signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question is, is it the sense of the senate that debate on the nomination of steven paul logan
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of arizona to be the united states district judge for the district of arizona, shall be brought it a close? the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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the presiding officer: is there any senator wishing to vote or change their vote? , the ayes are 58, the nays are 37 and the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report the nomination. the clerk: nomination, the judiciary. steven paul logan of arizona to be united states district judge for the district of arizona. the presiding officer: under the previous order, there will be two minutes of debate prior to the motion to invoke cloture on the tuchi nomination. without objection all time is yielded back. the clerk will report the the
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motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: motion to invoke cloture. we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provision of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate hereby move to bring to a close the debate on the nomination of john joseph tuchi of arizona to be united states district judge for the district of arizona signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum has been waived. the question is: is it the sense of the senate that debate on the nomination of john joseph tuchi of arizona to be united states district judge for the district of arizona shall be brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote: vote:
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