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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  November 22, 2013 6:00am-7:01am EST

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mr. harkin: mr. president, i want to take just a few minutes, first, to congratulate our leader, senator reid, for leading the senate finally into the 21st century. that's the step that we've taken today. thank you very much, leader reid. for your courageous action in making sure that the senate can now work and get our work done. i've waited 18 years for this moment, from 1995 when we were in the minority, i proposed changing the rules on filibuster. i've been proposing it ever since. what's really happened is that this war has escalated, this war on both sides. i said at the time in 1995 that it was pliek an arms race, that if we didn't do something about
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it, the senate would reach a point where we wouldn't be able to function. well, i thought perhaps -- perhaps at that time i thought my words were a little apocalyptic. but as it turns out, they weren't at all. and so this is a bright day for the united states senate and for our country to finally be able to move ahead on nominations so that any present -- not just this president, any president -- can put together his executive branch under our constitution. a president should have the people he or she wanted to form their executive branch. every senator here gets to pick his or her own staff. we don't have to have the house vote on it or anybody else.
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it's true of every member of the house or senate. it's true of the judiciary, the third branch of government. they can hire their clerks, their staff without coming to us. and so now i think it's appropriate that any president can now form their executive branch with only 51 votes needed in the united states senate, not a supermajority. so that is a huge step in the right direction. and now we can confirm judges of all the courts less than the supreme court -- circuits and district court judges -- again, with 51 votes, without this supermajority that's been filibustering for so long. now, i listened to the republican leader during the run-up to these votes, and he said that we were somehow going
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to break the rules -- break the rules to make a new rule. well, we did not break the rules. with the vote that we just had, the senate broke no rules. the rules provide for a 51-vote nondebatable motion to overturn the ruling of the chair. we've done it many times in the past. many times. -- many times in the past. so we did not break the rules. we simply used the rules to make sure that the senate can function. and that we can get our nominees through. i like what the writer gail collins said in her column in "the new york times" this morning about these rules changes. she's had a lot of good things there, but she talked about how we are calling it the nuclear option, and she proffered that
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it is probably called that because some think changing the rules here is worse than nuclear war. but it's not. it's not. it's time that we changed these rules. and the republican leader earlier said it was the democrats who started this -- the democrats who started this. it reminds me of a schoolyard fight between a couple of adolescents and the teefn is --d the teacher is trying to break it up. and this kid says, he hit me first. no, he hit me first. he stepped on my toe first. who cares who started it. iterit's time to stop it. even if i accept the fact that democrats started it -- maybe they can prove that we did; it is possible ... way back when. but it turned from a punch here and a punch there to almost extreme fighting. it got to the point where we can't function.
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just on nominations alone, we've had 168 nominations since 1949. i kind of picked that date because that's when all this filibuster stuff kind of really started. 168. 82 of those have been under this president. 82. that's what i mean. i.t. not worth it to talk -- it's not worth it to talk about who started this. if they want to say that the democrats started it, fine. we'll say that we started it. as i said, since 1995, it's turned into an arms race. it's time to stop t that's what we did this morning with this vote. we took a step in the right direction. in 2008 norm ornstein, a congressional scholar, wrote about the broken senate, our broken senate, how we couldn't function. but you can go back even before that, in 1985, my first year here, senator thomas eagleton
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said that the senate is now in a state of incipient anarchy. i think we had something like 20 or 30 filibusters in the congress before that. so this has been escalating over a long period of time, and it was time to stop it. and that's what we did this morning. so i say this is a big step in the right direction, but now we need to take it another step further, and that is to change filibuster on legislation. we need to change it as it pertains to legislation. for example, we just had the spectacle of a bill that i reported out of our committee -- unanimous, republicans and democrats. passed the floor of the house unanimously. comes to the senate. one senator held it up for ten days. stopped everything for ten days.
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and guess what? it finally passed by unanimous consent. should one senator be able to stop things around here like that? so it's time -- it's time to move ahead. to get rid of the legislature, at the same time to protect the right of the minority to offer amendments that are relevant and germane, to debate that and to have a vote on them -- not that they should win it, but the minority should be able to offer, debate, and have a vote on relevant and germane amendments. -- to the legislation. i proposed 18 years ago a formula that, quite frankly, was first proposed by senator dole many, many years before that. and that was on a cloture vote to end a filibuster, the first time had to be 60 votes.
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then you could wait three days, file a new petition with the requisite signatures, and at that time you'd need 57 votes. and then if you didn't have 5e votes, you could -- if you didn't have 57 votes, you could wait three days, file a new petition on the same amendment and then it would require 54 votes. if you didn't have 54, then you would wait three days, file a pu apetition, then you would need 1 votes. so at some point the senate could act, the majority could act on legislation. but the minority would have the right to slow things down. to slow things down to, as george -- senator george horr said in 189 7, to give sober second thought to things here in the united states senate. not to stop strk stop it, not t.
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slow things down, yes. maybe things shouldn't be rushed into. i understand that. maybe things ought to be amended. people ought to have that right to offer those amendments, not just spurious amendments, but amendments that are germane to the legislation. but ultimately 51 should decide in this senate on how we proceed, what we vote on, and the outcome of the vote. so i hope that the vote today leads the senate to adopt such an approach in january of 2015 when the new senate comes in. there will be a new congress. i hope at that point that the senate -- i won't be here for it, but i hope the senate will then take that next step of cutting down on the blatant use of the filibuster on legislati legislation. so of the action just taken here today, here's what i predict clierntion i predic--i predict ,
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the oceans will not dry up, a plague of locust will not cover the earth and the vast majority of americans will go on with their lives as before. but i do predict that our government will work better, a president will be able to forelo form an executive branch, our judiciary will function better, and the u.s. senate will be able to move qualified nominees through the senate in a more responsible manner. so, mr. president, this is a good day for the senate, a good day for our nation. the senate now enters the 21st century. and, again, i congratulate leader reid for bringing the senate afford, a courageous action. i compliment all my fellow senators who upheld that vote,
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upheld, overruling the ruling of the chair so that from now on we only need 51 votes to close debate and move nominations and judges through the united states senate. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. levin: i would just ask unanimous consent that after the senator from iowa is recognized -- and i believe he is going to be recognized -- that i then be recognized for up to 20 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: plap? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. grass dpras wmr. grassley: we da chance to debate the change in rules, and we should have had, so i'm going to speak now on some things that i think should have been said before we voted, not that it would have changed the outcome but because we ought know what we're doing before we vote rather than afterwards. so i'll spend a few minutes discussing what the majority leader called -- just did on the
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so-called nuclear option. unfortunately, this wasn't a new threat. over the last several years, every time the minority leader has chosen to exercise his rights under the senate rules, the majority has threatened to change the rules. in fact, this is the third time in just the last year or so that the majority leader has said that he didn't get -- if he didn't get his way on nominations, he'd change the rules. ironically, that's about as many judicial nominees as our side has stopped through a filibuster. three or so. prior to the recent attempt by the president to simultaneously add three judges to the d.c. circuit that aren't needed, republicans had stopped a grand total of two of president obama's judicial nominees. not ten, as the democrats had
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by president bush's fifth term in office, not 34 as one of my colleagues tried to suggest earlier this week. no, two have been stopped. and if you include the nominees for the d.c. circuit, we've stopped a grand total of five. again, not ten as the democrats had done in 2005, not 34 as one of my colleagues tried to argue earlier this week, but five. during the same time, we've confirmed 209 lower court article 3 judges, that's a record of 209 judges approved, to five that were not approved. so this threat isn't based on any crisis. there is no crisis. i'd note that today's "wall street journal" editorial entitled "d.c. circuit breakers"
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-- quote --"the white house wants to pack a court whose judges are underworked" -- end of quote, lays out a caseload pretty clearly, and i'd ask that this editorial be made a part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: so this is about a naked power grab and nothing more than a power grab. this is about the other side not getting everything they want, when they want it. now, the other side claims that they were pushed to this point because our side objected to the president's plan to fill d.c. circuit with judges that that court does not need. but the other side tends to forget history, and i think history is something we ought to learn from, so let's review how we got here. after the president
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simultaneously nominated three nominees for the d.c. circuit that aren't needed, a blatant power -- political power grab in its own right, what did the republicans do? we did something quite simple. we said that we want to go by the rules that the democrats set in 2006. we said we'd hold those democrats to the same standard they established in 2006 when they blocked a nominee of bush's by the name of peter keisler. so let's be clear about why the democrats are outraged. democrats are outraged because republicans actually had the temerity to hold the other political party to a standard that they established, and because we did, because we insisted that we all play by the same rules, they came right
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back and said then we'll change the rules. the other side has said in effect, we don't want to be held to the standards that we established in 2006. and not only that, but if you don't give us what we want, we're willing to forever change the senate. and that's what happened today. now we hear a lot of ultimatums around here, but this ument maim is not run of the mill. it's very different. it's different because this threat is designed to hold the united states senate hostage. it's different because it's designed to hold hostage all of the senate's history and traditions and precedents. it's different because to be effective, it relies on the goodwill of senators who don't want to see the senate as we
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know it destroyed, or as the constitution writers intended. now, i'd note that today's majority didn't always feel that way. the very way that we've seen expressed today. not too many years ago, my colleagues on the other side described their fight to preserve the filibuster with great pride. for instance, in 2006 one of my colleagues on the other side said this way -- quote -- "the nuclear option was the most important issue i've worked on in my public life. its rejection was my proudest moment as a minority leader. i emerged from the episode with a renewed appreciation for the majesty of senate rules. as majority leader, i intend to run the senate with respect witr the rules and for the minority rights the rules protect" -- end
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of quote. in 2005 another of my democrat colleagues had this to say -- quote -- "today republicans, referring to when republicans were in the majority, so i'll start the quote again. "today republicans are threatening to take away one of the few remaining checks on the power of the executive branch by their use of what has become known as the nuclear option. this assault on our traditions of checks and balances and on the protection of minority rights in this senate and in our democracy should be abandoned. eliminating the filibuster by nuclear option would destroy the constitution's design of the senate as an effective check on the executive" -- end of quote. so you've had two quotes from democrats in 2005, 2006, very
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strongly supporting the precedent -- or the senate using the filibuster to protect minority rights. but then they were in the minority. now they're in the majority, and the tradition of the senate doesn't mean much. i have another quote from late senator byrd, 2005. quote -- "and i detest this mention of a nuclear option. the constitutional option. there is nothing constitutional about it, nothing" -- end of quote. but, of course, that was way back then, just six, seven years ago. when today's majority was in the minority. and there was a republican in the white house. today the shoe is on the other foot. today the other side is willing to forever change the senate because republicans have the
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audacity to hold them, the majority party of today, to their own standard. but why? why would the other side do this? there clearly isn't a crisis on the d.c. circuit. the judges themselves say that if we confirmed any more judges, there wouldn't be enough to go around. and it's not as if all of these nominees are mainstream, consensus picks, despite what the other side would have you believe that they are somewhat mainstream. take professor pillard, for instance. she has written this about motherhood -- quote -- "productive rights, including rights to contraception and abortion play a central role in freeing women from historically routine conscription into maternity" -- end of quote.
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now, is that mainstream? she has also argued this about motherhood -- quote -- "antiabortion laws and other restraints on reproductive freedom not only enforce women's incould incubation of unwanted pregnancies but also prescribes a vision of a woman's role as mother and caretaker of children in a way that is at odds with equal protection" -- end of quote. is that mainstream? and what about her views on religious freedom? she argued that the supreme court of an evangelical liewt ral church which challenged the exception to employment discrimination represented a -- quote -- "substantial threat to american rule of law" -- end of quote. now, get this after she says that the supreme court rejected her view 9-0, and the court
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held that -- quote -- "it is impermissible for the government to contradict a church's determination of who can act as its ministers" -- end of quote. do my colleagues really believe mainstream america thinks churches shouldn't be allowed to choose their own ministers? i could go on and on but i hope you get the picture. the point is this: voting to change the senate rules is voting to remove one of the last meaningful checks on the president, any president, and voting to put these views on this important court. so i ask again, why would the other side do this? it isn't anything short of -- it is nothing short of complete and total power grab. it is the type of thing that we've seen again and again out
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of this administration and their senate allies. and you can sum it up this way: do whatever it takes. you can't get obamacare passed with republican support? do whatever it takes. pass it at 7:00 a.m. on christmas eve with just democrat votes. if you can't get all of your side to support obamacare, do whatever it takes. resort to things like the cornhusker kickback. you lose your 60th vote on obamacare, due to a special election, do whatever it takes, ram it through any way using reconciliation. the american people don't want to be taxed for not buying health care. do whatever it takes. tell the american people it isn't a tax and then you argue
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in the court that it is a tax. the american people want to keep their health care. do whatever it takes, promise them -- quote -- "if you like your health care, you can keep it" -- end of quote and then issue regulations making it impossible. your labor allies want out from under obamacare. do whatever it takes. consider issuing them, labor, a waiver from the reinsurance tax. you can't find consensus nominees for the national labor relations board. do whatever it takes. recess appoint them when the senate isn't even in session. you can't convince congress to adopt your gun control agenda. do whatever it takes, issue some executive orders. you can't convince moderate
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democrats to support cap-and-trade fee increases. well, do whatever it takes. do the same thing through e.p.a. regulation. frustrated that conservative groups' political speech is protected under the first amendment, do whatever it takes, use the i.r.s. to harass and intimidate those same conservative groups. frustrated when the court stands up for religious freedom and issues a check on obamacare contraception mandate. do whatever it takes. stack the d.c. circuit court in your favor. frustrated when the court curbs your power on recess appointments. do whatever it takes. stack the d.c. circuit with your favorite appointees, people that will rule in your favor.
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worried that e.p.a.'s regulation on cap-and-trade fee increases might get challenged in the court. do whatever it takes, stack the d.c. circuit in your favor. frustrated because senate republicans have the nerve to hold you to the same standards you established during the last administration. do whatever it takes. change the rules of the united states senate. that's what we have witnessed today. nothing but an absolute power grab. the majority in the senate and their allies in the administration are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their partisan agenda. they know that there will be additional challenges to obamacare, they know that if they can stack the deck on the d.c. circuit, they can remove one of the last remaining checks
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on presidential power. but make no mistake. my friends on the other side will have to answer this question, why did you choose this moment to break the rules to change the rules? why now? why? when we're witnessing the collapse of this massive effort to centrally plan one-sixth of this wonderful nation's economy, why when millions of americans are losing their health care, why did you choose this moment over to the president, a president with less check on his authority. because the fact of the matter is this -- any vote to break the rules to change the rules is a vote to ensure obamacare remaining intact.
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so, mr. president, i'll conclude by saying this -- changing the rules of the senate in this way was a mistake. but if the last several years have taught us anything, it's that the majority won't stop making these demands. and if we can't give in -- if we can't give in to these constant threats, sooner or later you have to stand up and say, enough is enough. but if there's one thing that will always be true, it's thi this -- majorities are fickle, majorities are fleeting, here today, gone tomorrow. that's a lesson that sadly most of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle haven't learned for the simple reason that they've never really served a single day in the minority. so the majority has chosen to take us down this path. the silver lining is that there
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will come a day when roles are reversed. when that happens, our side will likely nominate and confirm lower court and supreme court nominees with 51 votes, regardless of whether the democrats actually buy into this fanciful notion that they can demolish the filibuster on lower court nominees and still preserve it for supreme court nominees. i yield the floor. mr. levin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. levin: first i would ask unanimous consent that after my remarks, the senator from alabama be recognized. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. levin: mr. president, in the past, a few senate majorities, frustrated by their inability to get certain bills and nominations to a vote, have threatened to ignore the rules and to change them by fiat and
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to change rules to a majority vote change. rule 22 of the senate requires two-thirds of the senate to amend our rules. a new precedent has thousand been set, which is that a majority -- a new precedent has now been set, which is that a majority can now change the rules. because that step will change the rule into a legislative body that the majority, whenever it wishes, can change the rules, it has been dubbed the nuclear option. arguments about the nuclear option are not new. senator arthur vandenberg, confronting the same question in 1949, senator vandenberg, who was a giant of the senate, one of my predecessors from michigan, said that if the majority can change the rules at will -- quote -- "there are no rules except the transient unregulated wishes of a majority of whatever quorum is temporarily in control of the
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senate." now, senator vandenberg, when he took that position, was arguing against changing the rules by fiat, although he favored the rule change that was being considered. overruling the ruling of the chair, as we have now down, by a simple majority is not a one-time action. if a senate majority demonstrates it can make such a change once, there are no rules which binds a majority and all future majorities will feel free to exercise the same power, not just on judges and executive appointments but on legislation. we've avoided taking these steps in the past, these nuclear steps, but we've avoided them sometimes barely. i'm glad that we avoided the possible use of the nuclear option again earlier this year
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when our leaders agreed on a path allowing the senate to proceed to a vote on the president's nominees for several unfilled vacancies in his administration. but today we are once again moving down a destructive path. the issue, mr. president, is not whether to change the rules. i support changing the rules to allow a president to get a vote on nominees to executive and to most judicial positions. buwhat this is all about is ends and means. pursuing the nuclear option in this manner removes an important check on majority overreach. as senator vandenberg said, if a senate majority decides to pursue its aims unrestrained by the rules, we will have sacrificed a professed, vital principle for the sake of
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momentary convenience. republicans have filibustered three eminently qualified nominees to the circuit court of appeals for the district of columbia. they make no pretense of the argument that these nominees are unqualified. the mere nomination of qualified judges by this president, they say, qualifies as courtpacking. it is the latest attempt by republicans, having lost two presidential elections, to seek preventing the duly elected president from fulfilling his constitutional duties. the thin veneer of substance laid over this partisan obstruction is the claim that the d.c. circuit has too many judges. to be kind, this is a debatable proposition, one for which there is ample contrary evidence and surely one that falls far short of the need to provoke a constitutional battle. republicans know they cannot succeed in passing legislation to reduce the size of the court,
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so presented with a statutory and constitutional reality they do not like, they have decided to ignore that reality and decided that they can obstruct the president's nominees for no substantive reason. so let nobody mistake my meaning. the actions of the senate republicans in these matters have been irresponsible. these actions put short-term partisan interest ahead of the good of the nation and the future of this senate as a unique institutionment and it is deeply dispiriting to see so many republican colleagues who have in the past pledged to filibuster judicial nominees only in extraordinary circumstance engaged in such partisan gamesmanship. whatever their motivations, the repercussions of their actions are clear. they are contributing to the destruction of an important check against majority overreach
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and to the frustration of those willing to break the rules to change the rules. those of us who are unwilling to do that have now seen it occur before our eyes. the chair was overruled earlier today. so why do i not join my democratic colleagues in supporting the method by which they propose to change the rules. my opposition to the use of the nuclear option to change the rules of the senate is not a defense of the current abuse of the rules. my opposition to the nuclear option is not new and republicans threaten in 2005 -- threatened in 2005 to use the nuclear option in a dispute over judicial nominees. i strongly opposed the plans, just as senator kennedy did,
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senator biden did, senator byrd did and just about every senate democrat did. including democrats still in the senate today. back then, senator kennedy called the republican plan -- quote -- "a preemptive nuclear strike." he said, neither the constitution snore senate rules nor senate precedence nor american history provide any justification for selectively nullifying the use of the filibuster. equally important, he said, neither the constitution nor the rules nor the precedence nor history provide any permissible means for a bare majority of the senate to take that radical step without breaking or ignoring three kids of applicable rules and unquestioned precedence. and here's what then-senator biden said during that 2005 fight -- quote -- "the nuclear option abandons america's sense of fair play.
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it's the one thing this country stands for: not tilting the playing field on the side of those who control and own the field." and he said, "i say to my friends on the republican side, you may own the field right now but you won't own it forever." and he concluded, "i pray to god when the democrats take back control we don't make the same kind of naked power grab that you are doing." my position today is consistent with the position that i took then that every senate democrat took then and that's just back in 2005 and that was to preserve the rights of the senate minority. i can't ignore that nor can i ignore the fact that democrats have used the filibuster on many occasions to advance or protect policies that we believe in. when republicans controlled the white house, the senate and the house of representatives from
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2003-2006, it was a democratic minority in the senate that blocked a series of bills that would have severely restricted the reproductive rights of women. it was a democratic minority in the senate that beat back efforts to limit americans' rights to seek justice in our courts when they're harmed by corporate or medical wrongdoing. it was a democratic minority in the senate that stopped the nominations of some to the federal courts who we believed would not provide fair and unbiased judgment. without the protections afford afforded, the senate minority, total repeal of the estate tax would have passed the senate in 2006. and we don't have to go back to 2006 to find examples of senate democrats using the rules of the senate to stop passage of what many of us deemed bad legislation. just last year, these recollections prevented an adoption of an amendment that would have essentially prevented the e.p.a. from protecting
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waters under the clean water act. we stopped an amendment to allow loaded and concealed weapons on lands managed by the army corps of engineers as a minority with minority votes. as minority votes, we stopped some -- we stopped legislation that would av allowed some individuals who were deemed mentally incompetent access to firearms. that's just the last year. removing these minority protections risks that in the future important civil and political rights might just disappear because a majority agree that they should. and let us not kid ourselves. the fact that we changed the rules today just to apply to judges and executive nominations does not mean the same precedent won't be used tomorrow or the next year or the year after to provide for the end of a filibuster on legislation, on bills that are before us, and on amendments. just as i've implored my
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democratic colleagues to consider the implications of a nuclear option that would establish the precedent that a majority can change the rules at will is just as urgent for my republican colleagues to end the abuse of the rules which allow extended debate that were intended on rules that were intended to be invoked rarely. some of my democratic colleagues may rightfully ask, "if a democratic majority cannot initially muster a supermajority to end filibusters or change the rules, then what can the majority do?" the rules give us the path and that is to make the filibusters filibuster. let the majority leader bring nominations before the senate. let the senate majority force the filibusterers to come to the floor to force the filibuster. the current rules of the senate allow the presiding officer to put the pending question to a vote when no senator seeks recognition. let us, as the senate majority,
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dedicate a week or a weekend or even a night to force the filibusterers to filibuster. in 2010, in testimony before the rules committee on this subject, this is what senator byrd said. "does the difficulty reside in the construction of our rules or does it reside in the ease of circumventing them? a true filibuster is a fight, not a threat, not a bluff." and then he said, "now, unbelievably, just the whisper of opposition brings the world's greatest deliberative body to a grinding halt." and then he said, "forceful confrontation to a threat to filibuster is undoubtedly the antidote to the malady. we have not used that antidote to the malady which besets this body, allowing the mere threat
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of a filibuster to succeed without challenging that threat, without telling the filibusters, go ahead, filibuster. we've got rules that protect us. and when you pause and when there's no one else here, 3:00 on the fourth day or the fifth day or the sixth day, the chair can put the question. the am -- the american people will then see in a dramatic way the obstruction which has flanes in this body -- which has taken place in this body. but before a senate majority assumes a power that no senate majority before us has assumed to change the rules at the will of the majority, before we do something that cannot easily be undone -- and we have now done it -- before we discard the
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uniqueness of this great institution, let us use the current rules and precedents of the senate to end the abuse of the filibuster. surely we owe that much to this great and unique institution. there was a conversation, which was a formal conversation, between the majority and the republican leaders just last january, and here's what the majority leader said. "in addition to the standing order," which is what we had adopted, "i will enforce existing rules to make the senate operate more efficiently. after reasonable notice, i will insist," he said, "that any senator who objects to consent requests or threatens to filibuster come to the floor and exercise his or her rights himself or herself. this will apply to all
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objectionobjections and unanimot requests. senators should be required to come to the floor and participate in the legislative process, to voice objections, engage in debate, or offer amendments. and finally," he said, "we will also announce that when the majority leader or bill manager has reasonably alerted the body of the intention to do so, the senate is not in a quorum call and there's no order of the senate to the contrary, the presiding officer may ask if there's any further debate, and if no senator seeks recognition, the presiding officer may put the question to a vote." he said, our majority leader, that "this is consistent with the precedent of the senate and with ri riddick's senate procedure." what this showed again is that if we in the majority have the will power -- as much will power as has been shown by some
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obstructionists in this body -- if we have an equal amount of will as they have shown, that the current rules before this change today can be used to force filibuster filibusterers o filibuster, to come to the floored and talk. all we need to do is to use the rules, to take the weekend off, to take the week that we hope for a recess and use it to come back here, to take the recess itself, if necessary, during the summer -- for a month, if necessary -- to try to preserve what is so essential to this body, its uniqueness; which is that the majority cannot change the rules whenever it wants. the house of representatives can change the rules whenever it wants. it's called a rules committee.
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they can adopt and modify the rules at any time -- and they do. this body has not done that. we've resisted it. the we've attempted to do it. we've come close to doing it, but we've never done it -- until today. do i want to amend the rules? do i. i want to amend these rules with all my heart. i want to embody a principle that a president, regardless of party, should be able to get a vote on his or her nominees to executive positions and to district and circuit courts. i believe in that. i think most senators believe in that. we need to change the rules. but to change it in the way we changed it today means there are no rules except as the majority
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wants them. it is a very major shift in the very nature of this institution if the majority can do whatever it wants by changing the rules whenever it wants, with a method that has not been used before in this body to change the very rules of this body. we should have avoid add nuclear option. we should have avoided violating our precedents. we should have avoided changing and creating a precedent, which can be used in the same way on legislation. it may give comfort to some today, but this is only on judges, this is only on executive appointments. this precedent can equally available to a majority that wants to change the rules relevanrelative to the legislate process.
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madam president, those who have abused these rules -- mainly on the other side of the aisle -- whether they acknowledge it or not, are contributors to the loss of protections which we see today for the senate minority. given a tool of great power, requiring great responsibility, they have recklessly abused it. but now i am afraid that it won't just be them that will pay the price. in the short term, judges will be confirmed who should be confirmed. but when the precedent is set, the majority of this body can
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change the rules at will -- which is what the majority did today. if it can be changed on judges or on other nominees, this precedent is going to be used, i fear, to change the rules on consideration of legislation, and down the road -- we don't know how far down the road; we never know that in a democracy -- but, down the road, the hard-won protections and benefits for our people's health and welfare will be lost. i yield the floor. >> after the senate approved a obamahange, president spoke briefly to reporters. >> one of the reasons why that is is that over the past five
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, we have seen an unprecedented pattern of obstruction in congress that has prevented too much of american business from getting done. also often, we have seen a single senator or a handful of senators truce to abuse arcane -- choose to abuse arcane tactics to block compromises or to prevent well-qualified patriotic americans from filling critical positions in public service in our government. at a time when millions of americans have death really -- desperately searched for work, repeated abuse of these tactics have blocked creation that might create jobs, defeated actions that might help women fight for equal pay. they have prevented more progress than we would have liked for striving young immigrants trying to earn their citizenship, or blocked efforts for companies. they are even being used to
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block widely important steps to protect americans from gun violence, even as families of victims sat in the senate chamber and watched. they prevented talented americans from serving their country when their country needs your talent the most. it has harmed our economy and it has been harmful to our democracy. it has brought us to a point where a simple majority vote no longer seems to be sufficient for anything, even routine business through what is supposed to be the world's greatest deliberative body. neither party has been blameless for these tactics. they have developed over the years and it seems as if they have continually escalated. this pattern of obstruction is not normal. it is not what our founders envisioned. a deliberate and determined effort to obstruct
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everything just to refight the results of an election is not normal. for the sake of future generations, we cannot let it become normal. i support the steps a majority of senators took to change the way washington is doing business, more specifically, the way the senate is doing business. a majority of senators determined that it would restore the long-standing tradition of considering judicial and public service nominations on a more routine basis. here is why this is important. one of the president's constitutional responsibilities is to nominate people. over the six decades before took office, only 20 presidential nominees to executive positions had to overcome filibusters.
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and just under five years since i have taken office, nearly 30 have been treated this way. these are all public servants to protect our national security, look out for americans, keep our air and water clean. this year alone, for the first time, they filibuster the president's choice for a secretary of defense who used to be a former republican senator. they did everything the holdup are epa administrator. they blocked our nominee at a top housing regulator when we need more help for more families to afford a home and prevent what has caused the mortgage meltdowns from happening again. in each of these cases it has not been because they opposed the person. that there was some assessment they were unqualified, there was some scandal that had been unearthed. it was simply because they opposed the policies he american people voted for in the last election. this gets even worse when it
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comes to the judiciary. every president has exercised this power since george washington first name justices to the supreme court in 1789. my judicial nominees have waited two and a half times longer to receive yes or no votes than those of president bush. those are generally do get a vote are confirmed with little if any dissent. this is not obstruction on substance. on qualifications. this is just to gum up the works. this gridlock in congress causes gridlock in our criminal and justice systems. you see justices across the country including a bush appointed chief justice of the supreme court say these are
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vital vacancies that need to be filled and the gridlock has not serve the cause of justice. in fact, it has undermined today. over the past three weeks, senate republicans denied a yes or no vote. they failed to pass these nominations even though they had the support of a majority of senators. four of president bush's six nominees were confirmed. four of my five nominees have been instructed. -- obstructed. the vote today, i think, is an indication that a majority of senators believe as i do that enough is enough. it american people's business is far too important to keep falling prey day after day to washington politics. i'm a former senator. so as my vice president. we both value any senate's duty to advise and consent. it's important and we take it very seriously. but if you now refuse to treat that
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duty of advise and consent with respect that it deserves, it's no longer used in a responsible way to govern and it is used as a reckless and relentless tool to grind all business to a halt and that is not what the founders intended and not what our country needs. i just want to remind everyone what is at stake here is not my ability to the fill my constitutional duty. what is at stake is the ability of any president to for fill his or her constitutional duty. public service is not a game. it is a privilege. the consequences of action or inaction are very real. the american people deserve better than politicians who run for election telling them how terrible government is and then devote their time in elected office to try to make government not work as often as possible. now, i want to be clear. the senate has done some good bipartisan work this year. the bipartisan majority has
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passed commonsense legislation to fix our broken immigration system and up radar courts -- -- upgrade our ports. they have passed a farm bill to help rural communities and vulnerable americans and has legislation to prevent americans for being fired based on their sexual orientation. we know there are folks there, republican and democrat, who want to get things done. frankly, privately, they have expressed to me the recognition that the system in the senate had broken down. what used to be a sporadic exercise of a filibuster had gotten completely out of hand. i believe -- i'm confident -- that spirit will have a little bit more space now. i want us to make sure we can do more work together to grow the economy and create jobs. if there are differences in the senate, then debate should be had. people should vote their
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conscience. they should vote on behalf of their constituents -- but they should vote. ultimately, that is what they are there to do. ultimately, if you have a majority of folks who believe in something, then it should be able to pass. americans work hard. they do their jobs. they expect the same from everyone. as long as i have the privilege of being in this office, i will keep working as hard as i know how to make sure that the economy is growing, we are creating new jobs and widening prosperity for everybody. i know that as with the majority of people in the senate believe as well that the gears of government have to work. the stuff the majority of the senators said today i think will help make those gears work a little bit better. thanks very much everybody. >> and now josh will answer all your questions. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013]
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>> in a moment, we will get a moment about the senate vote. then we will talk about president john f. kennedy. we will look at nbc news coverage when they first reported on the assassination. this afternoon, we will take you to a ceremony in dallas, with remarks from david mccullough. the ceremonyday, in the john f. kennedy presidential library and museum in boston. on this special edition of discussing journal," how the white house and washington dc prepared for president kennedy. the legacy of john f. kennedy.
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paul gregory, who was a family friend of lee harvey oswald, will be our guest. >> today, the important distinction is not between democrats and republicans. it is between those who are willing to break the gridlock in washington and those who defend the status quo. is the senate working now? can anyone say the senate is working now? i do not think so. >> when democrats were in the minority, they argued strenuously for the thing that they say we will have to do without. namely, the right to extended debate on lifetime appointments. in other words, they believe that one set of rules should --ly to them, to them