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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  December 20, 2013 11:00am-1:01pm EST

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the presiding officer: the yeas are 56, the nays are 36. two senators responding present. the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report the nomination. the clerk: brian j. davis of florida to be united states district judge for the middle district. the presiding officer: under the previous order, all postcloture time is yielded back and the question occurs on the nomination. a senator: ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: the yeas and nays have been asked for. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll.
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the presiding officer: are there any senators who wish to change their vote? if not the yeas are 68. the nays are 26.
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the nomination is confirmed. the senate will come to order. under the previous order, the motions to reconsider are considered made and laid on the table, and the president will be immediately notified of the senate's action. the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: we the undersigned senators in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate hereby move to bring to a close debate on the nomination of janet l. yellen of california to be chairman of the board of governors of the federal reserve system 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 of the nomination of janet l. yellen of california to be chairman of the board of governors of the federal reserve system shall be
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brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: vote:
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the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their votes? on this vote the yeas are 59. the nays are 34. the motion is agreed to. under the previous order all time on the yellen nomination is yielded back. a vote will occur on this nomination on january 6, 2014.
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the clerk will report the nomination. the clerk: federal reserve system, janet l. yellen of california to be chairman of the board of governors. mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the assistant majority leader. mr. durbin: i ask consent the senate proceed to legislative session. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. durbin: i move to proceed to calendar number 265, s. 1845. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion. the clerk: motion to proceed to calendar number 265, s. 1845, a bill to provide for the extension of certain unemployment benefits and for other purposes. mr. durbin: mr. president, i have a cloture motion at the desk. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the cloture motion. the clerk: cloture motion, we the undersigned senators in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate hereby move to bring to a close a debate on the motion to proceed to calendar number 265, s. 1845, a bill to provide for the extension of
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certain unemployment benefits and for other purposes signed by 17 senators as follows: reed of rhode island, durbin, heinrich, carper, schumer, feinstein, murray, sanders, king, franken, harkin, murray, warren, whitehouse, blumenthal and brown. mr. durbin: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection so ordered. mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of s. 1882, a bill to extend the exclusion from income for employer-provided mass transit and parking benefits, that the bill be read three times and passed and the motion to reconsider be considered and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: is there objection? a senator: reserving the right to object. the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: mr. president, i
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understand and appreciate my colleague's commitment to this particular issue. however, this is just one of many tax provisions that will expire at the end of the year. in the past the senior senator from new york has supported the extension of numerous provisions, as have i. particularly the state and local sales tax deduction in his case. i can only wondering if he is signaling the state and local sales tax provision along with all the others that will be expiring are no longer a priority for him. the financial committee has jurisdiction over all the tax extenders including the one being offered today. as of yet the committee has not been able to fully consider and report a tax extenders bill. and as a senior member of the senate finance committee himself, i would hope my colleague would want to work with other members of the committee to preserve its jurisdiction. since the house of representatives has been out for a week, my colleague's request even if agreed to here in the senate would not result in extending the mass transit
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provision. the finance committee republicans stand ready to work with our democratic colleagues when we return in a couple of weeks. the house will be back then too f. we really want to enact this extension into law rather than just sending out talking points, we have to engage in regular order when we get back. and on that basis, i ask consent to modify my colleague's unanimous consent request. i ask that the request be modified to refer this bill to the finance committee so that it can be properly considered in regular order. mr. schumer: i object. the presiding officer: the senator from new york accept the modification request? mr. schumer: no, i object. the presiding officer: is there objection to the original request? mr. hatch: mr. president, i object. the presiding officer: the objection is noted. mr. hatch: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. excuse me. the senator from new york still has the floor. mr. schumer: i thank my
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colleague, and i know we're good friends and i know his heart is in the right place here. i'd just make a couple of quick points before i get into a little bit of the substance here, and i'll be brief. the reason that this extenders has special weight and deserves being brought up today is the following. most of the tax extenders -- and i certainly support a good large number of them, a good number of them, do not -- can be put into law retroactively with little harm done. since most of them affect people's tax returns in 2015, if the law is changed in say january or february of 2014, it really doesn't affect things because the tax deduction would actually be filed before april of 2015. the one problem with the mass transit benefit is it's much harder to make retroactive. i mean, people try, and we tried last year. we did it retroactively. but since the benefit goes each month to the commuter from his or her employer, retroactivity
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doesn't work quite as well. and that is why i felt it was important to try and get this passed now so that perhaps when the house returned immediately there is good support for this in the house, bipartisan support as well, that they might enact it and we would not have to wait for the finance committee to go through a large number of other tax extenders, hearings and whatever because the longer it's retroactive, the harder it is. so i'm going to certainly -- i appreciate my colleague' objection. i'm going to fight very hard to try and get this done in january when we return. and i just make these following points about the benefit. it's really a win-win-win. it's a win for our mass transit commuters because then they get the same benefit. no more, no less than those who drive to work and park. it was an anomaly in the law pointed out by my colleague, my late colleague, friend and mentor, senator moynihan, that it was unfair to have the
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parking and driving to give people who drive their cars to work double the tax benefit of mass transit commuters. and it's only fair to make them equal. right now the law will raise the parking-driving benefit, those who drive to work, at the rate of inflation to $250. that's a good thing. per month. that's a good thing. i'm all for that. but if the law is not renewed before december 31, the mass transit benefit, which i've worked hard to make equal to the park and drive benefit, will revert back to $130 a month, which is a lot less and unfair. the second benefit is to drive people who drive. you say why would they benefit in they're getting theirs. well, the bottom line is for every person who takes mass transit and doesn't take his or her car to work, that reduces congestion on the roads. and so even if you never want to ride the train or the bus to
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work, you should be for this. and finally, i'd say the following. it benefits our environment. we all know that mass transit pollutes the air a lot less than people driving individual cars. in many places it's not possible to use mass transit. but in more and more parts of the country it is, and we ought to be encouraging that. so to so to have this benefit expire is a bad thing, bad for people who take mass transit, obviously there are a lot of them in my state, 700,000 who get this benefit. bad for those who drive, and bad for the clean air that we wish to breathe. so i will continue my quest, because i think it's only fair, it's only right and it's a good thing for all of america and as my colleague noted it's a tax break. we generally confined more agreement on tax breaks than many other issues, fiscal and tax issues in this congress. i will continue my quest to have
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this renewed as soon as possible and i think it's not unfair to do it ahead of the other tax breaks because of the unique way that this benefit functions and how it is harder, not impossible, but harder to enact retroactively. with that, mr. president, i want to wish you, the entire staff who has done a great job here through the year, and all of my colleagues, as well as those here in the gallery, a merry christmas, a happy new year, not least of whom is my good friend and colleague from utah who has a big and happy family and i wish them a merry christmas and happy new year as well and with that i yield the floor, i guess with just about almost certainty for the last time in 2013. the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: i appreciate my colleague from new york. he's a great senator. and i understand his concern here. but we ought to do things in accordance with regular order,
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especially -- especially on the finance committee, get to where we work on these things and get them done in a good way, and i will certainly try to work with my colleague throughout this process. mr. president, i also would like to wish everybody who serves in this body a merry christmas and a happy new year. this is a wonderful time of the year and we all feel pretty good today having finally gotten through most of the things that we needed to get through. mr. president, i rise today to discuss the debacle that is the so-called affordable care act. i don't think there's anyone in this chamber, republican or democrat, who would dispute that thus far the implementation of this law has been a disaster. particularly with regard to the web site and the president's promise that if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. the administration admitted it
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bungled the rolled out and tried to cover up what mr. clinton afak called -- politifact called the lie of the year -- sorry -- by passing the buck to states and insurers as to whether individuals would be able to keep their plans for the next year. but let's be clear about this. obamacare's problems are deeply rooted in its d.n.a. and they are far larger, far bigger than just a web site. is the web site causing the cost of health insurance premiums to go up dramatically? is the website causes businesses to force more and more employees to work part time? is the web site sending out cans -- cancellation notices to consumers telling them their health care plans are no longer available? of course not. yet as the functionality of the web site continues to improve the administration is starting to talk as if every problem with
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the law has been fixed and that all the other issues are going to simply dissolve. but, mr. president, we know that's not the case. in reality, the problems with obamacare only are beginning. i'd like to take just a few minutes to discuss some of the problems we're going to be seeing in the future as the president's health law continues to be implemented. i have to say that when it comes to obamacare, it's a little difficult to make predictions. that's because the administration has gone to great lengths to muddy the waters with delayed deadlines and unilateral policy changes. however, i think we can look through the opaque waters and identify at least six general areas where we can expect to see major problems in the coming month and these are six areas among many but section i want to talk about today. number one, we're going to continue to see problems with the implementation of obamacare. like i said, there have undoubtedly been improvements to the web site. they should be able to resolve
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that problem. it's a technical problem. it's a shame it wasn't resolved to begin with, it was a shame enough time wasn't given to resolve it. but there still are issues that are far from resolved besides that. let's just look at the enrollment in the exchanges to see see how things are going. as of november 30, roughly 365,000 individuals had enrolled in health insurance coverage through the state and federal exchanges. that's a small improvement from the numbers we you saw at the ef october but far short of the benchmarks that the department of health and human services had set for enrollment in the exchanges. originally, h.h.s. touted the goal enrolling seven million people in the exchanges by march of 2014. according to a memo obtained by the associated press, h.h.s. projected that on the way to reaching that goal of seven million enrollees, they would
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enroll roughly half a million people in the first month. yet after two months there were -- they were still more than 100,000 people short of that one-month benchmark which is not a high benchmark in my opinion. the same memo projected they'd have 3.3 million enrollees by the end of 2013. yet if they're going to reach that target they'll have to enroll nearly ten times as many people as they've enrolled so far in just the next week and a half. sure, many of these enrollment problems are due to poorly designed and executed web site but wean even with the web site's improvements it would take a substantial miracle for the administration to meet its el enrollment goals for the coming months. there are other significant problems to be concerned about, notably those associated with the premature subsidy program administered by the i.r.s. earlier this month the treasury inspector general for tax administration issued a report that found that the i.r.s. has
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an inadequate system in place for preventing fraudulent premium subsidy payments from occurring and that people's personal information will likely be at risk. that's the inspector general for tax administration. that's not republicans. there are real questions whether the i.r.s. can effectively verify the income of those applying for these subsidies. i've also raised the concern on a number of occasions. similar tax subsidy programs including, for example, the earned income tax credit or the eitc that are paid out before they are verified have improper payment rates as high as 25%. think of that. if we see the same improper payment rate on these obamacare subsidies as we do on the eitc, it will end up costing taxpayers hundreds of billions with a b,
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of dollars over the next ten years. as i've said in the past the obamacare premium subsidies with the lack of security and safeguards are a fraudster's dream. we've warned the administration, i've personally warned the administration. mr. president, the administration may claim that with the recent improvements to the web site all is now right with the world. however, as you can see there are a number of administrative problems that even with a functional web site have yet to be resolved. number two, americans will be left without coverage due to the problems with obamacare. as a result of the dismal rollout of obamacare, many americans, particularly those that have tried to enroll in the exchanges, could very well end up being uninsured for a time. maybe a significant time. last week an article appeared in "the washington post" that told the stories of people who were
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forced out of their existing health plans due to obamacare's coverage mandates but are unable to sign up for the new plans on the exchange due to the failings of the web site. the deadline for signing up for coverage that starts on january 1, 2014, is december 23, 2013. anyone who has been kicked off their plan who is unable to sign up before that date which is just a few days away will find themselves facing a gap in medical coverage. for the chronically ill, or for people with expensive medical conditions, this gap in coverage will be particularly acute. these people are, according to "the washington post," -- quote -- "obamacare's biggest losers"-- unquote. and yet ostensibly these are the very people this law was enacted and supposed to help. another reason that countless
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americans may end up seeing gaps in coverage is simply because they will be unable to navigate the ever changing landscape that is obamacare -- obamacare's dates and deadlines. due to the failures of the rollout, the administration has delayed or shifted virtually every deadline associated with obtaining and paying for coverage. for example, like i said, the deadline for enrolling in insurance coverage that starts on january 1 is december 23. just a few days away. the deadline for actually getting the first premium payment to insurers is december 31. both of these dates have been moved at least once already and could be moved again. and probably will be. on top of that, the administration has issued statements -- quote -- "encouraging"-- unquote insurers to extend their own deadlines for payment and enrollment.
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this is on top of the delays in the employer mandate, the shop exchanges and the countless provisions we've seen delayed or extended over the past year. people are bound to be confused by all of these changes. it is nearly impossible for anyone, let alone those with serious medical conditions, to keep track of the ever-changing deadlines the administration keeps issuing. and with no clarity as to when people should sign up and who they should pay and when, it's a virtual certainty that many consumers will find themselves uncovered for a period of time through no fault of their own. the administration added to all this uncertainty last night with the announcement it was going to hawaii lou people with canceled insurance plans to either buy catastrophic plans or avoid the
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requirement that they buy health insurance altogether. it's been less than a full day, and already this decision is causing confusion among insurers. it will almost certainly do the same for consumers. it seems, mr. president, that the obama administration is just making all of this up as they go along. undoubtedly many people will suffer the consequences of this ineptitude. i think the administration should be ashamed of the way this is bollixed up and messed up and it's just going to get worse. number three, there will continue to be spikes in premiums and other costs. we've already seen what's happening to the price of insurance in the individual market. thanks to obamacare, millions of people have already lost their existing health insurance and have found that their options on the exchanges come with much higher premiums. the sticker shock has been widely reported. but that's not the end of the
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prices problem. unfortunately, many people are finding their out-of-pocket costs will be dramatically increased thanks to higher co-payments and prescription drug costs including -- included in plans on the exchanges. in many cases, it is difficult for patients to determine which medications are covered on the obamacare plans. unlike the medicare part d or unlike in medicare part d, the obamacare web site does not have a plan finder that would enable consumers to search for plans based on drug coverage. these new costs are particularly high when compared to the insurance plans that were recently canceled. but it's not just happening in the individual market. these price spikes are also hitting people with employer-provided insurance. according to a recent poll by the associated press, nearly
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half of americans with job-based or other private insurance say their policies will be changing next year mostly for the worse. 69% say that the cost of their insurance will be going up. 59% say their annual deductibles or co-payments are increasing. the affordable care act did little to rein in the actual cost of health care. when you add in the cost associated with the lost mandates -- the law's mandates and regulations, costs are going up particularly for small businesses, our main job creators. a recent survey of small business owners by the national federation of independent businesses confirmed this is already starting to happen. in the survey, 64% of small businesses reported that they paid more for employee health insurance premiums in 2013 than they did in 2012. small business owners consistently cite the rising
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costs of health care as their top business concern. this brings us to the next obvious prediction. number four, millions of people will lose their existing employer-provided health insurance. once again we're all too familiar with president obama's infamous promise, if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. but little has been sit asaid about the threats obamacare's mandates pose to people who get their health insurance from are their employers. put simply, the health law was designed specifically to invalidate existing health care plans: those deemed inadequate by the drafters of the law in order to force people into more expensive plans with expanded coverage they don't necessarily want or need. this applies to both individual market plans and employer-provided plans alike. the administration's own estimates published in the
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"federal register" predicted that tens of millions of americans with employer-sponsored -- keep in mind, employer-sponsored insurance -- will see their plans invalidated by the so-called affordable care act's mandates and regulations. according to recent analysis by the american enterprise institute, as many as 50 million to 100 million insurance policies in the employer-provided insurance market will see their plans canceled next fall when all business plans must be fully compliant with obamacare's insurance mandates. at that point, businesses will have to face a difficult choice: offer a more expensive health care plan to their employees or send employees into the exchaiption. and as we've all seen, that is not a great place to be. number five -- health insurers will either leave the market or
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face bankruptcy. one of the foundational assumptions made by the drafters of the affordable care act was that the cost to insurers of providing vastly expanded coverage would be offset when more young and healthy patients are brought into the risk pools. indeed, this is almost the entire basis for the individual mandate. the problem is that so far this doesn't seem to be happening, and i doubt it ever will. and there's good reason to he request whether it ever will. with the ever-increasing cost of insurance as a direct result of obamacare, there will likely be many who tonight stay out -- who opt to stay out of the market altogether. there is ample data to support this conclusion right now. in a poll released from the harass vrd institute of politics -- harvard institute of politics, those in the millennial institution, the very people that obamacare desperately needs to add to the
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insurance pool, were shown to be highly skeptical of the law. in the poll, the majority of 18- to 29-year-olds disapproved of the affordable care act and said it will increase their personal health care costs. only 18% of respondents in that age group said that they thought the law would improve their health care. clearly, the authors of obamacare thought the individual mandate along with the strong sense of civic duty would coerce people into acting against their own interests and paying expanded costs for coverage they don't necessarily want or need. however, in the real world where people weigh costs and benefits before making a decision, millions of people are more likely to pay a fine instead of entering a skewed and unstable insurance market where costs are forever going up. and there are a lot of these
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yupg peoplyoung people that areg to pay the fine because there is no penalty for doing so. without an expanded risk pool for consumers, it is not going to be worth it for many insur consumers to stay in the market. insuressers are not the only ones facing a dismal economic outlook as a result of obamacare, which brings me to my final prediction. i am just limiting it to six today. i will have more to say later. number six -- obamacare will continue to be a drag on business and our overall economy. it isn't just patients and consumers that are suffering under obamacare. employers are also facing difficulties as a direct result of obamacare. as i've discussed here on the floor at length in anticipation of the employer mandate,
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businesses all across the country have either reduced employment or have stopped hiring. workers that had full-time jobs before the passage of obamacare are finding themselves moved into part-time work because, under the law, employers will be forced to provide coverage for full-time workers. even the unions who are among the largest and biggest supporters of the health law when it was being debated in congress have come out and said that the law is destroying the 40-hour workweek for american workers. last week the national association of manufacturers released its quarterly survey of its members, which showed overwhelmingly that the president's health care law is having a negative impact on the manufacturing sector. according to that survey, more than 20% of manufacturers have cut or decelerated their business investment as a result
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of obamacare. nearly one-quarter of them have either reduced employment or ceased hiring. roughly a third of them say they have reduced their business outlook for 2014, as a result of the so-called affordable care act. and more than 7 7% -- nearly eight in ten of manufacturers -- cited rising health insurance costs as a primary business challenge. in other words, mr. president, at a time when our economy is growing at a sluggish pace and job growth remains lackluster, the president and democrats in congress continue to support a health care law that is making america a much more difficult place to do business and to find and keep a job. and it's only going to get worse as this wears on. mr. president, these are just some of the problems we're going to see in the coming months as a
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direct result of obamacare, and they aren't going to go away as long as the affordable care act remains in place. as i see it, with 2013 coming to a close, the president and his allies here in congress are at a crossroads. as i see it, they have two choices: they can continue to double down on the same failed policy that is increasing the cost of health insurance in this country and causing millions of people to lose their existing corch existd will continue to wreak havoc into the future, or they can for once try to work with republicans on replacing this failure with something that has a real chance of success. i hope that eventually my colleagues will choose the latter, but needless to say, i don't think i can keep my hopes up. last but not least, i hope that
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this is not leading to a throwing of the hands in the air, admitting this doesn't works and then saying we've got to go to socialized medicine -- or what many call a single-payer system. if we do that, i've got to tell you, we'll never get out from under this mess. we had a system that was working pretty well. there were up to 30 million people who did not have coverage p. why didn't we just concentrate governmentally on helping the 30 million people rather than do this colossally bad bill that really we're all going to rue the day we did? i'm so concerned about it, there are ways that we can work together. i really believe that we've got to find some folks on the other side of the aisle who really understand this and who really understand that they're getting killed with this bill, to sit down wit and work with people le
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myself, who's been implemental in legislation over the last 30 years, in order to work together to get this whole terrible problem resolved. mr. president, i'm concerned about it. health care should never have been a partisan issue, and in this case it is a totally partisan issue. every democrat in the houseagedd -- every democrat in the house and senate voted for it. not a single republican in the houses or senate voted for t we all voted for it knowing that it is as doe disaster in advance. frankly, i would like to get rid of the disaster. i hope we can find some colleagues on the other side who are willing to work to do that. and i hope the president will wake up. i think he thinks he's got to double down and fight for this thing when in fact it's killing his reputation and the
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democratic party's reputation as well. we clearly can't keep going the way we are. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: mr. graham: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south carolina. mr. graham: i'd ask unanimous consent to be able to engage the senator from new hampshire. the presiding officer: the national is in a quorum call. the presiding officer: i'd ask
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unanimous consent that the quorum call -- the presiding officer: watt without objection, the quorum call will be suspended. mr. graham: maybe 20 minutes. i would like to discuss the military retirement provision with stho senator ayotte from nw hampshire when she gets here. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. graham: the president is from virginia and understands military men and women hav verym it is a very patriotic state when it comes to the military footprint. i am confident that he and i and others will be able to fix a problem that occurred in the budget agreement. let me say about the agreement itself, i do appreciate the fact that we are able to find a bipartisan way afford to relieve sequestration from the military and nonmilitary for a couple of years. but that's just a drop in the bucket. spending for the military is moving toward an all-time low
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with sequestration. the historical average has been well over 4%. we're going to hit below 3% if we continue sequestration. that's an issue for another day. the budget agreement called for relieving sequestration in the pay-fors. quite frankly, they were not big. they didn't change the course of the country. they're not what the senator from virginia and i would have hoped for. we'd like to do entitlement reform. i would like to do tax code simplifying. i'm willing to reduce -- eliminate deductions in the tax code and tabling some of the money -- and take some of the money to pay down debt, even though some folks on my side say you've got to put it all on tax reductions. i think the senator from virginia would be willing to engage in some commonsense tax reform to keep us from becoming greece. this didn't do the big deal, but it did provide some budget relief for a two-year period and
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it was about, oh, $60-something billion -- i can't remember the number. the bottom line is one of the ways you paid for relieving pressure on the defense budget and non-defense spending was there was a provision affecting military retirees that nobody will own that got into the budget agreement. i'm on the budget committee. i wasn't consulted about the agreement. i read about it in the paper. there is a fine line between having a bunch of people involved that kind of keep things from never developing to produce a product to a handful of people doing something in a small room not vetted. so the bottom line is, $6.3 billion of the pay-for pay-forse from adjusting military retirement quof cost-of-living allowances for those who have served our military for 20 years
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and, therefore, eligible for retirement. they took the cola, reduced it by 1%, for every military retiree until they reach the age of 62. the president to his credit, has called for adjusting c.p.i. the way colas are calculated for everybody, for civilians, military, social security, to make it more consistent with sustainable inflationary increases. this didn't adjust the cola. it left the formula as it is. it juts reduced the -- it just reduced the military retirees' cola by 1% until the military real estate tireee reaches 62. and that's the onl group in the country that had that happen. that was $6.3 billion taken away from men and women who have served for 20 years and no one else had the pleasure of that experience. civilian employees, new hires had to contribute additional
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funds to the federal retirement system to help pay for the deal, but it only affected new retirees. the people who are in the system were grandfathered. a larger portion of our budget in d.o.d. is personnel costs. the congress in their wisdom set up a higgs to look at this issue and they're supposed to report back in 2014. now maybe as late as 2015, about thousand reform military pay and benefits as part of an overall restructuring of the pentagon. one thing that the congress put into the commission's charter was that you have to grandfather
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people who are currently in the system. what we did in the budget agreement is that we singled out military retirees for a 1% reduction of their cola and nobody was grandfathered. $6.3 billion coming out of the pockets of of those who have served. to eafnlgt-7 who retires -- to an e-7 who retires at 40 and has his or her cola reduced at 62, it is between $70,000 to $80,000 loss in benefits. and an e-7 receives in retirement pay after 20 years of faithful service about $25,000 a year. not exactly becoming independently wealthy. but we have one of the leading voices on this issue, senator ayotte from new hampshire, who took this challenge up, came up with some solutions early on, has been a great voice about how unfair this is. so i would like to yield to her.
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ms. ayotte: thank you. i want to thank my colleague from south carolina and i want to just -- i come to the floor because, you know, i picked up an editorial this morning from "the washington post" that calls the cuts to the cost of living adjustments to military retirees minuscule. demeans this criticism -- calls the cut teensy-weensy. i don't understand why anyone would want to support something that singles out -- in other words, under this budget agreement the group that got the cuts currently to their current benefits was those who have sacrificed the most for our country. and to call this minuscule or teensy-weensy, i don't think it's so minuscule as the senator
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from south carolina said to an e-7 who makes about $25,000 a year in retirement, and will lose close to $72,000 from the time that he or she retires at 40 until 62. but that's about three years of your retirement. that's not minuscule in a working family. so this is not a minor situation. not minuscule to one of our veterans, those wounded warriors who have given the most who have, unfortunately, suffered so much. mr. graham: this applies to disabled retirees as well, right? ms. ayotte: it does. we've all gone to walter reed and met our wounded warriors, they're heroes, they've sacrificed more than we can ever ask anyone to sacrifice for our nation. some of them don't have arms, legs, and they receive a
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medical retirement because of their service and their disability, the service that they have rendered for our country so bravely and they get cut under this, too. i don't think any cut to them is teensy-weensy or minuscule. i don't understand perhaps the editorial board writers in washington. only in washington would this be minimized in terms of how people are viewed as minuscule or teensy-weensy in light of the service that they've given to our country. i thought this description of it was wrong and offensive, and really demoralizing in terms of the message it sends to our men and women in uniform. i think the encouraging part of where we are right now is that so many in this body have come forward and said we need to fix this, and recognize that this does have an unfair impact on
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our military retirees and, of course, those who have received a medical retirement. and so i just want to say that the people who are -- whether i disagreed with them voting for the agreement, but regard less of where you were on the agreement, i think it's time for us to come together on a bipartisan basis and do the right thing here and fix this on behalf of our men and women in uniform, especially our wounded warriors and so i just want to say that obviously this body realizes this is not minuscule and that is not teensy-weensy in terms of the impact on our heroes and those who have sacrificed so much for our country, and i'm very encouraged to see so many of my colleagues over the last couple days to come forward with different ideas about how we can fix this and do the right thing on behalf of our men and women in uniform.
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i myself have introduced a piece of legislation that would come up with billions of dollars for a pay-for to fix this. i know others have different ideas. but i know this: we can put politics aside on this. we can fix this for our men and women in uniform, and as we go home for the holidays, i think when we come back in january, this should be a number-one prior to for us in this body as to do the right thing for our military retirees, for those who are our wounded warriors, and the number of people i've seen come out in the last few days gives me encouragement, mr. president, that we will be able to do this and do it quickly on their behalf, to right this wrong and let them know that as they are -- as they are, some of them are 19 years in and maybe done multiple tours in afghanistan and thinking of getting out that we are -- we have -- we
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understand their sacrifice, we did not -- we should not have singled them out, that we will get this right and that we understand that of all the people who should not have been singled out in this agreement are those who take the bullets for us and whose families have had to go through multiple deployments. you know, when i think about the fact when you've done a 20-year military career and you've had multiple deployments your spouse can't have the same kind of career than if you were able to live in one place. they sacrifice so much because they're traveling around the world and the retirement that they receive obviously recognizes that. mr. president, as we leave in this body i hope we get this right, we take this up, we honor the service of our men and women in uniform and do the right thing here. i turn it back to the senator from south carolina. the presiding officer: the senator from south carolina. mr. graham: i think the senator from illinois has a request.
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the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: first i want to thank my colleagues from new hampshire and south carolina for allowing me to intervene between their colloquy and remarks to make this request, which we have discussed with the other side. mr. president, there is at least an opportunity or a tradition at the end of a calendar year that we take the nominations pending in the united states senate both in committee and on the calendar and literally return them to the white house. that means the beginning of the next year we start over. it may mean a hearing, it may mean postponement, but we lose all that we've achieved up to this point. we absolutely have to start over. i would like to argue at this point that we seriously consider changing that tradition and i'll make unanimous consent to change it. there are some 238 total nominees that are at issue here.
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83 are on the executive calendar and 155 are pending in committee. nominations sent by the white house to capitol hill which would be -- have been lost -- not lost in committee but held in committee or sent to the calendar. of the group that i've just mentioned, the 238, 47 are judicial nominations, 36 are ambassadors and i read through the list of countries here, they range from some of the smallest on earth to larger countries as well. and 86 nominees to cabinet-level agencies. so it is a wide spectrum aappointments that have been sent for senate consideration to capitol hill. now, we are embroiled in an internal debate about the rules of the senate, the filibuster, and nominations. it is one that has not been resolved to the satisfaction of both sides of the aisle, but we have labor day through it over the last -- labored through it over the last several weeks and will we we return. what i'm going to do is make a
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unanimous consent here that those nominations, all of them, the military nominations as well as others, be held here on the calendar and in committee and not be returned to the white house, requiring that we repeat everything that we've done in this previous year. we don't get high marks at the end of this year for our legislative performance, and to throw aside all of the effort that's been put into these nominees and require the white house to start over is just literally a waste of time and unfortunate for these nominees, many of whom have been waiting for a long, long period of time for consideration and a vote by the united states senate. so this is a chance with this unanimous consent request to get the next year off to a good start where we can take what's been done with nominees, use it, take those that are on the calendar, move forward, they'll still be subject to an up-or-down vote, the senate has to work its will and that will not be compromised at all by the
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unanimous consent request that i'm making but i'm hoping that i can get this request through so that when we return january 6 we're going to have an opportunity to move with a little more dispatch and more productivity in the senate. as in executive session, i ask unanimous consent that all the nominations received by the senate during the 113th congress, first session, remain in status quo notwithstanding the provisions of rule 31, paragraph 6 of the standing rules of the senate. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. graham: yes, reserving the right to object. to my good friend from illinois, all i can say is that the normal way the senate has operated for a couple hundred years has been destroyed this year, and to ask that normalcy come about now is just beyond the pale but we are where we are. so i object, understanding that -- but i do urge the senate to confirm the military nominations that are pending for
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the army, navy, air force and coast guard. my understanding with that understanding -- the presiding officer: objection is heard. the assistant majority leader. mr. durbin: mr. president, i understand that we're in a point of great emotions and feelings, stress in the senate over the change in the rules over the use of the filibuster in the senate. unfortunately, it appears we're going to stay in that state for at least a short period of time and i'm not holding my colleague from south carolina accountable for that. i believe what he's done is reflected the feelings on that side of the aisle, not just his personal feelings. but i do believe he's made a valuable suggestion which i'll follow up on. i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to executive session to consider the following nominations, calendar numbers 460 through and including 477, and all nominations on the secretary's desk in the air force, army, and navy, that the nominations be confirmed en bloc, the motions to reconsider be
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considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate, that no further motions be in order to any of the nominations, that any related statements be printed in the record, that the president be immediately notified of the senate's action. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. so ordered. mr. durbin: i ask unanimous consent the commerce committee be discharged from further consideration of p.n. 877 and 878, the nominations be confirmed, the motion to reconsider made and laid on the table with no intervening action or debate, that no further motions be in order to the nominations, that any related statements be printed in the record that the president be immediately notified of the senate's actions and the senate then resume legislative session. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. graham: thank you, mr. president. now let's get back to what i was discussing. the bottom line is that senator ayotte mentioned this
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"washington post" editorial. "the washington post" is in my view a very good newspaper, i like the editorial board, and they've been right on syria and a lot of other issues and we sometimes disagree, that's for sure, but this one editorial has got my attention to the point that i have to respond and quite frankly ask my friends at "the washington post" to reevaluate your position and think a little bit about what you're saying in your editorial when it comes to military retirees. as she said, the editorial says this is a teensy-weensy, small cut. i said that we were screwing the military retirement community and maybe a better way of saying it was we're disrespecting the military retirement -- retiree community. because when i said you were screwing the military retirees,
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that was sort of like the financial package. they're having to give up retirement benefits through cola reductions that not one other person in the entire country has to go through and it's not teensy weans teensy-weensy -- teensy-weensy. when it's 1% calculated from 40 to 6 is $71,000 to $80,000, if you're an officer, $100,000. again you get about $25,000 in retirement when you're an e 7, somewhere in the 30's if you're an o-5 but to get that you have to serve your country for 20 years, uprooting your family, probably the average number of moves has got to be five or six, if you've been on active duty since 9/11, god knows how many times you've been to iraq and afghanistan and other places. and here's the deal: your children are not subject to
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being drafted. why? because we abolished the draft. we put in place an all-volunteer force. part of the deal was that we would take care of the military member and their family in an appropriate way, if they would bear that burden for the rest of us. now, are these people really living large off the rest of us? should we be offended at this great deal we're giving these people, who real estate tire at 40 or -- who retire at 40 or 45 or 38? you know, my god, aren't they just sort of taking the rest of us for a ride attitude really offends the hell out of me. to get that $25 in retirement for the rest of your -- to get that $25,000 in retirement for the rest of your life, you had to work for it. you had to risk your life pour t you had to ask of your children something that most people don't have to ask -- that's moving
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every couple of years and leave your friends. you had to do things for the rest of us that apparently we don't appreciate anymore at "the washington post." now, i don't know what the editorial board's makeup is. they're all patriotic, i'm sure good people. if they got veterans down there, boy, you let your fellow veteran down by approaching this issue in such a harsh, inincentive way. -- insensitive way. their response was, no, the military redwrie retiree is notg screwed. this is just a small step to something larger. they don't know what they're talking about, which is unusual for "the washington post." don't confuse my disgust with the singling out of military retirees in a retroactive fashion to pay for a budget deal that doesn't do a whole lot to change the course of the country with my desire and willingness to reform military pay and pension benefits in the future through a logical process. that offends me.
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that's pretty clever. so can you be for reform and be disgusted at the same time? yeah. and here's the good news. very few u.s. senators are taking "the washington post" tactic that these people deserve more cuts, not less, singled out. i think "the washington post" is on an island of its own. at heat i hope so. -- at least i hope so. senator mccain, god knows he's earned his retirement. senator chambliss, senator isakson have come up with a way to fix this. and all three of them will say, i will embrace military retirement pay and benefit reform in the future. i'm just not going to single out the military retiree and reduce their cola when no one else gets that reduction retroactively violating our own commission charter. so, senator shaheen on the other side wants to fitch it. senator murray wanted to fix it.
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i'm really fleeced a the love people -- i'm really pleased that a lot of people have said, no that i know how this works, i want to fix it. if you have had your legs blown off in afghanistan, it might be pretty hard to get another job. your cola is reduced, too. what do you say to those people? thank you? itsy-bitsy teng teeny-weeny? really? $600 million from the $6 billion comes from that community. it's not just so much that we're insensitive, it just shows me how far we've fallen as a natin and how comfortable we are for other people to do the fighting and we see these folks almost as the hired help even though we he fusel--even though we praise th.
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we trip over ourselves as politicians to show our love and appreciation. the average person at airport says "thank you for your service." we're well-meaning people but to believe that somehow they're being fairly treated in this budget deal and really we're just not doing enough, from the "washington post's" per speck -- --perspective, i think loses sight of what they have done for the rest of us. let's say you never reformed a penny of military retirement in the future and we just left it as it is. about $1.734 million is the package over the lifetime from the 20-year retirement point to death, which the average could be 40 years. we need to look at that. but let's say we didn't change a
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penny. over a 40-year period at $25,000 a year, do you really begrudge these people this package, after 20 years of service -- they are now in their 40's, maybe their mid-40's. they have got to start over again. and somehow we're suggesting that we're being too generous? what would you -- would you send your kid, if i gave you $1.74 million over the next 40 years, is that worth it for you to have your kid sent over to afghanistan or iraq if they didn't want to go? that's what this is about. so to my friends at the "washington post," i just don't know what happened here. i just don't know hugh yo how yd justify and defend this provision in the budget agreement that nobody wants to claim credit for.
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again, i will reform military pay, pension, and retirement through the commission process prospectively, but i will not sit on the sidelines and watch these people, yes, get screwed financially, but more than that be disrespected. to my house and senate colleagues, republican and democrats, we created this problem together. we will have to fix it together. and to the military retiree community, the disabled retiree, i am confident that republicans and democrats will right in wrong. now, having said that there will come a day when we set down and look long and hard at the sustainable nature of personnel costs -- tricare reform, pay and pension reforel. but we're going to do it understanding that i havundersta special flais ou place in our h. when it comes to balancing the budget and righting the
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department of defense long-term oblesz, we'll look at this in a professional manner and give people notice. we won't change the deal. can you imagine what it is like to have fought since 9/11, you're getting ready to retire in 2016, after 20 years of faithful service -- or maybe longer. from your last deployment in afghanistan had a couple bawd di--had a couple buddies die, md countless birthdays and christmases. every time a car pulls up in the driveway, your spouse loses their breath. and you leed read that this is what the congress is doing to you, change the deal. you did your part in the deal. but all of a sudden, we decide to change the deal because we got to find some money around this place. to pay for a budget deal that doesn't do a whole lot for the
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long-term indebtedness of the country. and when we look to find money, we saw you as a source of money, not as the patriot, not as the frontline defender of freedom, not as the volunteer who took the burden off our backs and gave our families a pass. shame on us all. but the way you fix it is you fix it. to my friends at the "washington post," simpson-bowles never said, as part of their efforts to balance the budget -- which i embrace their process -- that we would eliminate military retiree colas as a recommendation. they set a target goal of saving $e$70 billion over ten years frm
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federal workforce entitlement task force to be set up to look at civilians and military that work for the federal government, and deleted a task force with a target goal of achieving $70 billion as a contribution toward reforming entitlements on that side of the ledger. they gave examples of what the task force might look at, used the highest five years of erptioearnings to calculate civl service pension benefits for new retirees rather than the highest three years. that could save $5 billion. defer cost-of-living adjustment, like we're talking about here. that could save $5 billion. adjust the ratio of employer-employee contributions to federal employees' health benefit plan to evalu equaliliz. these are examples of thipg to look at.
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not simpson-bowles recommendations. the recommendation of simpson-bowles was to find $0-- to find $70 billion through a task force. what did the congress do? we set up a commission -- other than the task force -- do exactly what simpson-bowles said to do and to our wisdom, we told the commission when it comes to the military, grandfather those who are currently in the system. that made sense to me. but under the budget agreement, we violated our own instructions to the commission by getting $6.3 billion from the military retirement community, retroactively, from everybody in the system up to age 62, and only them. the civilian workforce had to make a contribution only for
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newhires. if that is okay with "the washington post," then i would suggest you have lost your way down there. and i hope i never get so smart that taking $72,000, $80,000, $1000,000 -- the bottom line, is $72,000 out of the e-7 cost of living adjustment. i hope i never get so smart about the budget that i find that to be itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny. i hope i never get so callus that i could sit on the sidelines and allow the military retirement community to be singled out, unlike anybody else in the nation, to find $6.3 billion when we're looking for money p. the bottom line is, we'll find $6.3 billion. we're going to to find it in a
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more acceptable way. and there'll come day when reform benefits, but we're going to do it consistent with the charter that the congress has created. to our military community, you need to fight. you need to show up during the holiday break, and you need to remind all of us -- just not members of congress -- you need to toot your horn a little bit because it's so darn hard for you to do. you should humbly ask the united states house and senate to reconsider this. you should humbly ask that the pay you received has been earned and to change the deal in midstream is wrong. and you should remind us that i have lived up to my end of the bargain. i'm only asking that you live up to your end of the bargain. we need your voice.
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so to the senator from virginia, who is presiding over the senate, i know you will be part of this solution. there is a sweeping movement here in the senate to try to find way to right what i think is an injustice. reform will come one day, but it sure as hell is not going to come this way. i yield the floor. merry christmas. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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