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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  March 14, 2016 3:00pm-8:01pm EDT

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since january after arne duncan step down. president obama nominated mr. king on february 11 in a confirmation vote is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. god only wise, great is your faithfulness. inspire our lawmakers to focus on your priorities, striving to do your will on earth even as it is done in heaven. during moments of confusion,
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help them to whisper a prayer for your wisdom. remind them that you desire that they set their affection on the things above that will live beyond time into eternity. may they not forget that you expect them to be accountable to you, seeking to be responsible stewards of their talents and abilities. lord, fill them with your spirit so that they will mount up with wings like eagles, running without weariness and walking without fainting. we pray in your strong name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting
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the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. mr. mcconnell: madam president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: last week the senate took decisive action to address the opioid epidemic by passing the comprehensive addiction and recovery act. it's an important accomplishment for the american people. it's the latest example of a republican senate leading on important issues. it also reminds us what can be accomplished when senators focus on issues where they can agree
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rather than only fighting about issues where they don't grow. it's clear -- don't agree. it's clear that democrats and republicans do not agree about whether or not the american people should have a voice in the current supreme court vacancy. republicans know the american people elected a republican senate to be a check and balance to president obama. we know the next justice would dramatically change the direction of the court for decades. we think the american people deserve a voice in that conversation. democrats -- want him to make this issue on the way out the door. this is one issue we don't agree. let's keep our focus on the areas where can can find agreem. he ask colleagues to join us and continue to do our work here in the senate. as we do that, the american people can continue to make their voices heard in this important national conversation. passing cara was a great example
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of what can get done when we work constructively towards solutions. this week we'll have the opportunity to make progress on another issue, including one i'd like to mention now. vermont recently passed food labeling legislation that according to one study could increase annual food costs by more than a $1,000 per family. these aren't just vermont families i'm talking about. these are families all across our country. the senate will soon consider common sense bipartisan legislation that aims to assure decisions in one state or a patchwork of different state laws do not hurt american families throughout our country, especially at a time when so many are struggling to make ends meet already. the goal is to set clear science-based standards in order to prevent families from being unfairly heart by a patchwork of conflicting local and state labeling laws passed in states and cities where they don't even
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live. i'd like to recognize the chairman of the agriculture committee, senator roberts, for his continuing work on this issue. the agriculture committee moved to pass the chairman's mark last week with bipartisan support. chairman roberts is continuing to work with senator snab now, the ranking member and others -- stabenow, the ranking member and others on legislation that we can pass. i would urge members to continue working with him in that endeavor. let's not forget this may well be our last chance to prevent the actions of one state, just one state, from hurting americans in all the other states. legislation to address this issue passed the house last summer with bipartisan support, with cooperation from across the aisle we can take action on a bipartisan basis here in the senate as well. one final matter, when president obama was a candidate, he boasted that his energy tax policies would make electricity
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prices skyrocket for american families. when president obama took office, his administration declared a war on coal families and their jobs. for a time his administration tried to deny it was declaring a war on anyone, but now we hear boasting from the highest ranks of the democratic party that these policies are going to put coal miners out of business. miners in kentucky and across the country know that coal keeps the lights on and puts food on the table. what they want is to provide for their families, but here's how more democrats seem to view these hard-working americans and their families. just statistics, just the cost of doing business, just obstacles to their ideology. this is callous. it is wrong. and it underlines the need to stand up for hard-working middle class coal families. that's what i've done here in the senate and that's what i'll continue to do and i would hope our colleagues would join me.
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mr. reid: madam president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. reid: g.m.o., general neatically mod -- genetically modified food, that's basically what it is. what we want is to make sure that consumers know what's in their food. they deserve clear standards. they require disclosure of what's in their food, not a voluntary scheme that senator roberts is talking about bringing on the committee. all that does is leave consumers in the dark and that's the wrong way to go. mr. president, i understand the republican leader's concern about coal not being the way it
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was. it's simply the american people that made a decision that we'll have to look at another way of producing energy. there's still a place for coal in our society, but everyone has to acknowledge it's not as it was a few years ago. so i wish the republican leader cared more about moving to help the pensions of these coal miners. they're desperately looking for support. we support it on this side. all the coal miners support it. we can get no support from the republicans. we tried during the work we did at the end of the year. we came close but the republicans said no. i want all those coal miners from kentucky and around the country to understand we're trying to help you with your pensions. but unless we get some help from the republicans, there will be no support. that's too bad. we're trying, we're trying, we're trying.
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mr. president, senate republicans have finally admitted that their obstruction of president obama's supreme court nominee has nothing to do with precedent, has nothing to do with history and has nothing to do with the constitution. but has everything to do with base partisan politics. last thursday democrats in the senate judiciary committee forced chairman grassley and committee republicans to debate the supreme court vacancy during a markup. remember, this is the same markup that the chairman of the judiciary committee grassley canceled a week earlier because he and the republicans didn't want to make the meeting open to the public. he tried to have a secret meeting. democrats wouldn't agree. at that committee meeting, the one held last thursday when finally they had a meeting, the senior senator from south carolina, a republican, said and i quote, we're sending a precedent here today. republicans are in the last year at least of a lame duck
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eight-year term -- say it was going to be a four-year term, that you're not going to fill a vacancy in the supreme court based on what you're doing here today. we're headed to changing the rules, probably in a permanent fashion, closed quote. i applaud senator graham, he's being forthright in admitting what his republicans colleagues refuse to admit. their obstruction of a supreme court nominee is unprecedenced -- unprecedented. the senior senator from south carolina said that and that's what i've been saying. so the question remains, if -- denying a hearing and a vote has nothing to do with setting a precedent and what is it all about? fortunately the last thursday also yielded an answer to that question. during an interview with a wisconsin radio station, the republican senator from wisconsin johnson was asked if
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he would treat a supreme court nominee from a republican president differently. he answered and i quote, "generally and this is the way it works frks a conservative president is replacing a conservative justice, there's a little more accommodations to it." closed quote. so the senator from wisconsin admitted that he and his colleagues would accommodate a supreme court nomination from a republican president. so really what the republicans are doing is talking out of both sides of their mouth. they're simply adhering to precedent and the republican senator from south carolina has said they're changing precedent. even as they admit they're permanently changing their way that the senate treats supreme court nominations flt republicans claim they want to give the american people a voice. that's what elections are all about, madam president. president obama's reelection was the american people's voice. republicans claim, i repeat, they want to give the american
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people a voice. waiting till after a new president is sworn even while admitting that -- doesn't make sense. it's illogical and unfair. the american people do not accept this duplicitous posturing and a rationalization for why republicans won't do their jobs. during the weekend, the editorial board of the iowa city press citizen, the presiding officer's home state, made clear what they want senator grassley and senate republicans to do. they want republicans to follow the constitution. quote,.partisan posturing to score points at the expense of constitutional process doesn't change character based on the letter next to a lawmaker's name. currently a democrat is in the white house as this battle is fought but where the rules are reversed we would not alter our position. if down the line the supreme
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court justices retired or died in a presidential election year with a republican in power, we would simply urge a fair hearing for the president's nominee." closed quote. the senate's constitutional duty transcends partisan bickering. the people of iowa and america don't want the senate to treat its constitutional duties differently based on who is in the white house. they wants a senate that does its job. they want the republicans to do their jobs. so i say to my republican colleagues enough with the whole excuses and groundless rationalizations. so do your jobs. give president obama's supreme court nominee a meeting, a hearing and a vote. there's another aspect of the supreme court fight that we must address. already as we know, republicans are resorting to what they call pinata politics. this is what senator cornyn promised. radical conservative groups are running smear campaigns
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targeting president obama's potential supreme court nominees. one of those potentials is from iowa. one such ad from the judicial crisis network a dark money right wing political organization that operates in total secrecy, not knowing where its money comes from, probably the koch brothers because they fund almost everything else, is especially appalling. the antics aimed as an iowan serving on the eighth circuit court ever appeals, judge jane kelly. the accusations levels against judge kelly are despicable and they deserve to be answered by our own state senator -- i should say senators. but senator grassley is on the record as having strongly supported judge kelly's confirmation at the eighth circuit. it was he who came to the floor in 2013 and read from a letter stating that judge kelly is, quote, "a forthright woman of high integrity and honest character and exceptionally keen
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intellect." closed quote. it was senator grassley who told his colleagues about the same time and i quote, i'm pleased to support her confirmation. i urge my colleagues to join me." closed quote. and senator dprasly's judiciary committee, of which avenues senior member even then, helped vet judge kelley's nomination even before confirmation to the bench. yet senator grassley has been silent in the wake of these recent smears against judge quelly. i know the senior senator from iowa has been busy listening to what the republican leader's line is on the supreme court vacancy. but it disgusting right-wing attack on a judge he enthusiastically supported demands a response. senator grassley needs to tell the people of iowa whether he supports the smear campaign his
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republican colleagues are hurtling at judge kelly. did he support the smear chain? that the question that needs to be answered since the right-wing campaign -- praising him while at the same time smearing judge kelly. f if he doesn't go on record, he needs to do something -- i can't imagine why he wouldn't go on the record denouncing that type of disgustings rhetoric. i look forward to the senior senator from iowa setting the record straight on his fellow iowan and judge who he personally endorsed. madam, there's no one on the floor. would the chair announce the business of the day. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the
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senate will be in a period of morning business until 4:00 p.m. with senators permitted to speak therein for up it ten minutes each. mr. reid: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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ms. baldwin: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from wisconsin. ms. baldwin: are with we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are in a quorum call. ms. baldwin: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. baldwin: madam president, i rise today to speak about something that guides the work of each and every one of us: the u.s. constitution. each and every one of us has taken an oath of office to
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support and defend the constitution of the united states. we all solemnly swear that we will bear true faith and allegiance to the constitution and that we will faithfully discharge the duties of our office. have some of the senate republicans forgotten this? last week a colleague was asked in a radio interview on a wisconsin radio station if republicans would be more likely to advance a supreme court nomination had a republican been elected president in 2012. he said -- and i quote -- " generally, and this is the way it works out politically, if you're replacing -- if conservative president replacing a conservative justice, there's a little more accommodation to
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it." end quote. do senate republicans really believe that they need a republican president simply to do their jobs? i would like to remind my colleagues that president obama was elected to a four-year term in 2012 with over 65 million votes. the american people decided who our president is. and according to the constitution, the term the president earned has more than 300 days remaining. the voices of those 65 million americans needs to be heard and respected, despite how much some
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people want to silence them, disrespect them and ignore them. on supreme court vacancies, the constitution is also clear. under article 2 of the constitution, the president shall appoint judges to the supreme court, and the senate's role is to provide advice and consent. so it's the constitutional duty of the president to select a supreme court nominee, and the senate has responsibility to give that nominee a fair consideration with a timely hearing and a timely vote. it was deeply troubling to me and the people that i work for in wisconsin that the republican
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majority would choose not to fulfill their constitutional duty. before the president has even made a nomination to fill the current vacancy, a number of senators have announced that they will not perform their constitutional duty. this not only runs contrary to the process the framers envisioned in article 2, it runs counter to our nation's history. some of my colleagues have claimed that senate history supports their historic obstruction. this is simply false. in fact, six justices have been confirmed in presidential election years since 1900, including louis brandeis, benjamin cardozo and republican appointee anthony kennedy, who was confirmed by a
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democratically controlled senate during president ronald reagan's last year in office. recently one of my colleagues on the other side suggested that the nomination and confirmation process for a supreme court justice, perhaps just this impending supreme court nomination would be rather like the game of pinata. i would like to point out that when playing the game of pinata, typically children are blindfolded, spun around in circles, and they take a whack at the pinata with either a bat or a stick. you know, it's as if my republican colleagues have become dizzied by what they're hearing around them.
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donald trump's defensive -- divisive rhetoric perhaps. do they see a supreme court nominee as nothing more than to whack over and over again like a pinata? the violence of the metaphor is problematic. have they lost faith and allegiance in their constitutional duties? today the american people deserve a full and functioning supreme court, not an empty seat on the highest court in the land. the american people cannot afford partisan obstruction that threatens the integrity of our democracy and the functioning of our constitutional government.
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in my home state of wisconsin, people get it. a recent poll there done by marquette university showed a majority of people believe the senate should hold hearings and vote on a nominee this year. a majority of wisconsinites also said they believe that leaving this seat on our highest court vacant for more than a year will hurt the united states supreme court's ability to do its job. they are right and their message to washington and the republican majority is simple -- do your job so the supreme court can do its job. on behalf of all the american people. the american people deserve better, better than a long-term vacancy that could jeopardize
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the administration of justice across our whole country, so i call on my colleagues to join together on behalf of the american people to fulfill our constitutional obligation of restoring the united states supreme court to its full strength. in the spirit of cooperation, in the spirit of bipartisanship, i call on senate republicans to end their partisan obstruction and do their jobs. madam president, i yield back. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from kansas.
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mr. moran: madam president, i wish to address the senate as to a terrible tragedy that has occurred in our state. i start with the premise that our immigration system is terribly, terribly broken, and the consequences of flawed immigration policies exhibit themselves across our society. it's hard to understand why nothing has been done to address certain obviously dangerous vulnerabilities, specific problems that have put american lives at risk. sanctuary city policies and indifference about the prosecution of illegal immigrants arrested for dangerous crimes and the tolerance of bureaucratic red tape by administration all contribute to a dangerous degrading of the criminal justice system. the failure to address illegal immigration at all levels of government has been accounted for in lost lives. sometimes a government failure is just annoying.
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sometimes it's deadly. decades of broken immigration policy contributed to the situation that led to the murder of four people in kansas and another in missouri. the victims are michael calves, 41 years old, jake waters, 36 years old, clint harter, 27 years old, austin harter, 29, all of kansas city, kansas, and randy nordman, 49 years old of new florence, missouri. the man suspected of taking these lives is an illegal immigrant, a man who has unlawfully entered the united states three times. he has been arrested over and over. he has repeatedly demonstrated that he is a serious threat, yet despite these red flags, the
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system failed, and this man was free and able to commit these barbaric acts. the extent of the systemic breakdown in this case is sickening. the process, how criminal suspects unlawfully in the country are processed is a failure. the policies are terribly ineffective. in the current system, justice is delayed by bureaucracy or obstructed in some cases amazingly by design. a broken system. some people prefer it that way and work to make it so. others simply permit it to persist. regardless, this has resulted in horrific crimes. sanctuary city policies and the laws that enable them must be fixed before the unnecessary loss of innocent life happens again.
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failure to do so only allows more crimes like these murders and the spree of criminal behavior that preceded them. congress needs to act now. the president needs to act now. the department of homeland security needs to act now. local governments and law enforcement agencies need to act now. the senate's attempt to do just that has been stymied, but we must not give up on an effort to secure our nation and protect americans from harm. failure to address these problems will only make the problems worse and will make them more difficult to solve later. continuing the status quo means empowering career offenders, incentivizing law-evading behavior, impending -- impeding the prosecution of crime and
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releasing dangerous and habitually unlawful individuals who have no place in our communities. this victims of crime like last week's horrors in kansas city have been failed by their communities and by their political leaders. americans and our communities will continue to pay the price for the failure of our immigration system and the refusal of policymakers to work together to fix it. americans and their families will continue to pay, hopefully not again in the last of life, but how can we guarantee that? we must act quickly. we must act now to correct these immediate problems, improve our nation's broken immigration policies and laws and stop the terrible consequences. the loss of life is a terrible thing, and probably in this circumstance had no reason to happen, would not have happened
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if the jobs had been done. kansans, kansas families, americans, american families deserve much, much better. these victims and their families, we honor them today. we offer our condolences and provide our sympathies, but these individuals and their families deserved better. madam president, i yield the floor. mr. lankford: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. lankford: i rise to speak on the nomination of john king to
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be secretary of education. john king has an impressive credential. i had the opportunity to meet with him and discuss his leadership and his view of the law. i share with dr. king and the view of many legal experts and school officials across the country, the department of education has been bullying schools to comply with policies that simply do not have the force of law. this, however well intentioned, is wrong and it's unlawful. leadership requires those making sure the department conduct themselves in full compliance with the law have an obligation to ensure that the people of oklahoma comply with the law. regrettably, dr. king has refused to commit to stopping these regulatory abuses if he were confirmed. for that reason, i will oppose his nomination today. for far too long, we have witnessed executive overreach in this administration. from the clean power plan to the waters of the united states,
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federal departments and agencies have usurped the power to invent law with increasing boldness. the department of education overreach is similar in this kind. instead of promulgating rules that conflict -- or that -- instead of promulgating rules that conflict with congressional intent, the department of education has skirted the rule-making process altogether by issuing guidance documents they called dear colleague letters. guidance documents cannot and do not have the force of law. guidance documents my only interpret existing obligations found in statute or regulation. some agencies complain that the rule-making process is too long and requires too much public input so it's easier just to say the new rules simply interprets an existing rule and then skip the compliance with the administrative procedures act that's required for a new rule. it's a complete irony that agencies see regulatory compliance as too burdensome so they -- so they impose new regulatory guidance on states,
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local governments, tribes and private institutions at a faster pace, and those institutions have no way to fight the rules, only comply. let me give you an example from the department of education's office of civil rights. they have a great responsibility to promote our shared american values of equal opportunity, ensuring gender equality and work with federally funded schools to prohibit sexual harassment and sexual violence. as a father of two daughters, i fully support the objectives with title 9 and condemn all forms of sexual discrimination. the office of civil rights enforcement authorities that come from title 9 of the education department's 1972 bill, those office of civil rights dear colleague letters that are now being put out there supposedly notify schools of their obligations under title 9, but two of the office of civil rights dear colleagues letters significantly expands school liability by prescribing policies required neither by
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title 9 nor by o.c.r. regulations. i'm particularly concerned with o.c.r.'s 2010 dear colleague letter on harassment and bullying and a 2011 letter on sexual violence. these letters respectively prohibit conduct and require procedures not required by law. for example, the 2010 letter says that making sexual jokes or distributing sexually explicit pictures or creating emails or web sites of a sexual nature can be actionable under title 9. regardless of what one personally thinks about abhorrent things like what i have just described, the first amendment protects all forms of speech, and no part of our federal government can dictate what is said and not allowed to be said on a university campus. the 2010 letter leaves schools to wonder whether they should police certain speech on their campus or fear title 9 investigation. the 2011 letter requires schools to change their title 9
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disciplinary procedures to require what's called a preponderance of the evidence standard of proof. this means that the decisionmaker is 51% sure a student committed an act of sexual assault or sexual violence. but the office of civil rights doesn't require many due process protections for the accused that he or she would enjoy or be provided in a court of law. the office of civil rights said it was merely interpreting the equitable resolution standard that's in the law, so it changed and created a new standard, saying it's just interpreting some equitable standard that is in the law, a standard that no other administration has ever applied. now, if these policies had been subject to notice and comment rule making, i wouldn't be standing here today. when agencies follow the law, notice and comment allows for public input and leads to better regulatory outcomes, but
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universities never got that chance. so on january 7, 2016, i asked the department of education a simple question -- what text do you derive this new authority you have? where is it in the law that you created this new policy? because the department of education can't create new law, they can similarly promulgate new rules from existing law. that's a pretty basic question. where did it come from in the law? unfortunately, the department of education did not answer my question. they sent me a letter back, but in their response, they insisted they have the authority to issue guidance under title 9 and cited general abilities in the statute. they also cited prior guidance documents which are also not legal documents. you can't make a new guidance off old guidance documents. so on march 4, 2016, i replied back to them, pointing out that the 2010 and 2011 letters did, in fact, create new policy.
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in my reply, i also expressed concern over the office of civil reliance on letters of findings to support their policy requiring the preponderance of evidence standard. but these letters are not binding on other schools either, and in fact they showed the office of civil rights looks to and has enforced these policies enumerated only in their dear colleague letters across the country. legal scholars have argued that the officers' civil rights sexual harassment policy is, here's my quote, inconsist entsz with the most basic principles we teach. title 9 was not written or said to imperil these basic principles as the professors pointed out which include free speech, due process and adherence to administrative procedures. to me this is evidence the dear colleague letters change the application of title 9 and its regulatory landscape in fundamental ways. these policy changes should be subject to rule-making process,
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not just inventing new guidance. other prominent voices have also stated their concerns with the substance of the matter in which the guidance documents were issued. take, for example, the director of the civil liberties mine foundation for individual rights and education known as fire. they stated, ocr has consistently avoided giving real answers to questions about its power to issue regulations outside the bounds of the law. it cannot avoid accountability forever. on this analysis from inside higher ed, a respected newsoutlet for the post-secondary education community they said and i quote, last week the department clarified in a letter that letter coming back to me that the dear colleague letter acts only as a guidance for college and does not carry the force of law. but many college presidents and lawyers argue that the department's office for civil rights treats the guidance as far more than a series of recommendations. instead, they say ocr uses the letter to determine which colleges are in violation of title 9 and to threaten the
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federal funding of those that don't follow every suggestion. some department officials have recently said there are clear musts and clear shoulds in the guidance. though colleges say the office for civil rights does not seem to clearly differentiate between the two. attempts to clarify which parts of the letter should be read as hard regulations and which should be considered recommendations have only led to more confusion and frustration. that from this well respected entity. the publication also quotes the american council on education saying the dem's political leadership can say or write whatever they want but where the rubber meets the road is where the officer's rights shows up to investigate cases on campus and in those cases they consistently treat every single word of the guidance as an absolute man date. kent albert, a lawyer who served as the general counsel at the department of education from
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2006 automobile 2000 owe "until 2009 went on the record to say the response to my letter that i got back from dr. king and from the department of education used this. he said, it glossed over concerns regarding whether the department circumventing notice and comment rule making. hans bader, another attorney, characterized ocr's response as a question begging rationalization that did not address the criticisms made by many lawyers and law professors. mr. bader went further to say the 2011 dear colleague letter is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the education department imposing new legal rules out of thin air. without codifying them in the code of federal regulations or complying with the requirements of the administrative procedures act. judge will penned an op-ed on the same issue of my letter and said the department argues it is
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a distinction without a differ. last week in my conversations with dr. king about the department of education's practice of issuing guidance in lieu of rule making as required by law, he stated that if a school -- get this -- he stated if a school has a problem, they can challenge the department in court. basically saying if the schools have a problem with our guidance, they can sue us. i believe where the civil civil rights to take adverse action against the school to failure to comply with the guidance documents, if that school fought back in court, i believe that school would prevail. in fact, the legislative and policy director for fire said institutions would be on very solid ground in challenging o.c.r. because o.c.r. statements and policies clearly skirted the notice and comment requirements. but you tell me what school would have the incentive to accept the threat that litigation poses to their
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university when they file suit against the office of civil rights. they risk reputational harm, legal penalties and recision of federal funding all because the o.c.r. thinks no one will actually sue them. many schools decide the risk isn't worth the reward. and the department of education knows it. while individual companies or entire industries can and often fight back against regulatory overreach by the department of label or e.p.a., the department of education positions itself to hold federal funding ransom if universities don't comply with its policies even when those policies are unlawful abuses of regulatory power. this is unacceptable. just because we share an objective of equality and school safety doesn't mean we can turn a blind eye to federal -- to a federal department running roughshod over the very regulatory process we require. here the ends certainly do not
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justify the means. schools and the very students we want to protect suffer as a result. mr. president, i do want to stress that i admire dr. king's dedication to bering our nation's schools. all americans are undoubtedly enriched by contributions made by conscientious and exceptional educators. i thank him for his previous time of service, which is an impressive record. likewise i appreciate that these guidance documents predate dr. king's service to the department. and that he had no rule in overseeing their development or issuance, but when i asked him to re-examine them and the process of how they were created, he protected them instead of acknowledging the problem with the process. that tells me there are more dear colleague letters coming to our schools in this agency -- and this agency will continue to make up the rules in a vacuum and threaten federal funding for those who dare not comply.
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as part of my continued discussions with the office of civil right, the department has assured me they will take steps to clarify the interpretive role of guidance, increase its transparency and enhance opportunity for public input. i'm encouraged that the office of civil rights has committed these improvements and i look forward to a continued discussion on how better guidance practices both within the office of civil rights and across the entire government can actually occur. unfortunately these proposals don't answer the questions that i've asked dr. king, nor do they in any way address the fundamental problems with the 2010 or 2011 dear colleague letters or the office of civil rights broader practice of issuing guide crans in lieu of rule making -- guidance in lieu of rule making and because dr. king does not acknowledge that this overreach is even occurring within the agency he's nominated to lead, i have no choice but to oppose his nomination today. time will tell whether this
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department of education is about to take a new direction with new leadership or continue the same path of coercive overreach they've already been on. this needs to stop. the american people require a voice into the rule-making process and i hope this can press on today. with that i yield the floor. plaintiff morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination: department of education, john b. king of new york to be secretary. the presiding officer: under the previous order, there will be 90 minutes of debate equally divided in the usual form. a senator: madam president?
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the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. a senator: i ask unanimous consent that all -- i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. a senator: i ask unanimous
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consent that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: last thursday the democratic candidates for president had a debate. mr. cotton: they made several extreme irresponsible statements about immigration policy. i oppose their calls to reward mass illegal immigration with blanket amnesty which would undermine the rule of law, cost americans' job, drive down wages for working americans, and invite more illegal immigration. but what must president obama think? after all, he's attempted grand amnesty -- granted amnesty to five million immigrants. the courts have blocked most of those amnesties for now. yet the senator from vermont and hillary clinton both insisted take the president hadn't gone far enough. they would expand on his actions and go even further. in fact, a debate moderator
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called president obama the deporter in chief and hillary clinton tacitly accepted the characterization saying she wouldn't deport nearly as many illegal immigrants as president obama has. which of course isn't a terribly high bar to clear since deportations are down 42% since the start of president obama's second term and last year deportations hit a ten-year low. still, i can't imagine president obama is too pleased with his would-be successor. i also can't imagine a more opportunist and irresponsible position than the one taken by hillary clinton. as she panders for votes, she limited deportation priorities to violent criminals and terrorists. apparently, secretary clinton will welcome con artists, identity thieves, and other nonviolent criminal illegal immigrants with outstretched arms into our country.
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even more astonishing, she stated ungivenically, i will not -- unequivocally i will not deport children, i would not deport children. as i said this is pure opportunism. for instance, i imagined this child would have liked secretary clinton's policy to be in effect during her husband's administration. this is the famous picture of alien gonzalez, a 6-year-old cuban boy who reached our shores despite his mother tragically dying at sea. his u.s.-based family pleaded with the clinton administration to grant him asylum as was our common costume for refugees from communism. president clinton rejected those pleas citing with the castros. federal agents stormed a private residence and apprehended elan at gunpoint. where was secretary clinton? i guess she didn't have a no
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kids policy back then. but we don't have to guess. the then first lady was campaigning for senate in new york. she opposed congressional action to protect ilian and advocated returning the boy to cuba contrary to a decades long bipartisan consensus that we should grant safe harbor to refugees from totalitarian communist states. yet a sad story isn't the most recent or harmful example of her opportunism. two summers ago our country face add migrant crisis on our southern border. nearly 140,000 people, about half of them, unaccompanied kids poured across our border. notably, most did not flee from the border patrol or try to avoid capture. on the contrary they ran to u.s. border agents.
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why would brand new illegal immigrants having successfully crossed our border turn themselves in the answer is simple. they had been led to believe they would be allowed to stay. from the multiple administration memos instructing agents not to fully enforce immigration law to president obama's unlawful executive amnesty to, every signal from washington set our political class -- said our political class lacked the willpower to enforce our immigration laws in the country's interior. some might say these policies and proposals wouldn't have covered newly arrived illegal immigrants, that they would have faced deportation. perhaps. but perhaps. but what they signaled was a complete unwillingness to enforce our immigration laws. just like amnesty granted in 1986 invited another generation of illegal immigrants to migrate
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to our country and wait for the next amnesty. these policies certainly gave the human traffickers, who transported and abused these kids, plenty of grounds to tell desperate parents, send your kids north with me, and he'll get a permiso. only two years later, only a very tiny minority of unaccompanied children have been deported. in fact, more than 111,000 unaccompanied minors entered the united states illegally from 2011 to 2015. but only 6% have been returned to their home countries. yes, some may have received a deportation order from a court, usually after failing to appear for a hearing. yet the obama administration has made little to no effort to locate them. it's fair to say, therefore,
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that the human traffickers, the so-called coyotes, weren't wrong and many central american parents took an understandable risk. after all, a life in america in the shadows, as advocates for amnesty and open borders call it, may well be preferable to poverty and violence back home. while those things may have been the push factors in the migrant crisis, there can be no doubt that the pull factors of amnesty, deferred action, nonenforcement, economic opportunity, and safety were just as strong, if not stronger. that's why even the obama administration tried to address them. president obama met with leaders of honduras, guatemala, and el salvador to seek their assistance. vice president biden flew to guatemala and publicly urged parents not to believe the
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coyotes' promises of amnesty. secretary of homeland security jeh johnson wrote an open letter to central american parents. and, yes, hillary clinton got involved, too. secretary clinton stated in 2014 that these children should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who a they are responsible aduments and parents are. she insisted, we have to send a clear message. just because your child gets across the border, that doesn't mean your child gets to stay. that was the right position then, and i.t. th it's the right position now, even if real action didn't back up the obama administration's words. but that was then and this is now in the middle of another flailing presidential campaign. secretary clinton now says she would not deport children under any circumstances, not even
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those who just arrived or presumably those who arrive in the future. we've come to expect such opportunism from the house of clinton, but even worse is the irresponsibility. put yourself in the position of a desperate parent in central america. you live in third world conditions, work is scarce, food and water are a struggle, power doesn't always come on with the flip of a switch, gangs control many of the streets, murder rates are some of the highest in the world. you have every reason to try to escape these conditions -- or at least get your kid out. but where to go? you just got your answer. hillary clinton, one of the most famous people in the world, one
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of of only six people likely to be the next president of the united states, just broadcast new hope to the world: you can come to the u.s. of course, it's a peculiar kind of hope. she didn't say, go to our embassy and seek asylum. she certainly didn't say, get on an airplane and fly safely to the u.s. nor will she ever take such massively unpopular positions. indeed, she essentially invited you to take a life-and-death gamble. if you survive the trip, you can stay. how is this moral? how is it compassionate to create incentives for such reckless behavior? hillary clinton just created a full employment opportunity for human traffickers. she helped oversell illicit
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tickets on this train, the beast, a network of freight trains aboard which migrants from central america cross mexico to the united states. the beast has another name: the death train. it's called that because many who ride it don't survive. or 23 the if they do, they onlye with grievous injuries. with her irresponsible pandering, secretary clinton's words will contribute to untold suffering, pain, and death among central american families. and her words are equally irresponsible when looked at from the american perspective. secretary clinton's promise to deport only violent criminals and no children under any circumstances will badly harm struggling americans.
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decades of mass immigration has contributed to joblessness, stagnant wages, and communities stressed to the breaking point to provide education, housing, emergency services, public safety, and other basic government services. the coming clinton wave of illegal immigration will only make it harder to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and get immigration under control and working for americans, who are, after all, the people we're supposed to serve. the world is full of violence, oppression, corruption, and injustice. we cannot turn a blind eye to this. it often has a way of arriving at our borders and on our shores. like most americans, my heart breaks when i imagine the plight of those desperate parents in central america as they look upon their little ones.
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that's why i strongly support efforts to assist countries like guatemala, honduras, and el salvador to develop stronger institutions and improving living conditions there. many dedicated professionals in the state department, f.b.i., d.e.a., southern command, and other federal agencies are there serving us to do just that. at the same time, we cannot solve all the world's ills and our foremost responsibility is to americans, not foreigners. we can help reduce the push factors in foreign countries driving migrants to our borders, but we are not obligated to accept their citizens into our country. on the contrary, our obligation is to protect and serve americans and to do so, we must eliminate the pull factors for these migrants here at home. like any country, we have a right -- indeed, we have a duty
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to control who comes to our country and allow them here only if it's in our national interest. america is a nation of immigrants, but we're also a nation of laws. secretary clinton has not only displayed contempt for our immigration laws but also encouraged foreigners to break those laws to their own grave danger. we must say to these foreigners, loudly and clearly, do not make this dangerous journey. do not violate our laws. do not come here illegally. it is the humane thing to do, and it is the right thing to do. secretary clinton should be ashamed of herself for doing otherwise. madam president, i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. hatch: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: madam president, i rise today to discuss the vacancy created by the death -- the presiding officer: the senator -- mr. hatch: oh, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be resended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. hatch: i rise today to discuss the vacancy created by the death of supreme court justice antonin scalia. those of us who knew him well are still mourning the loss of a dear friend and the loss of one of the greatest jurists in history. we will only find a successor to his legacy. and we owe it to the late-justice's extraordinary legacy of service to ensure that we treat the confirmation of his successor properly. madam president, my friends in the democratic minority have settled upon one mantra upon all others in addressing this vacancy, that the senate must do its job. while i have no doubt that this
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talking point has been poll tested a understand refined to -- and refined to service the most effective political attack possible, the truth is is that this point is completely uncontroversial. i've not heard a single one of my republican colleagues argue that the senate should not do its job with respect to the supreme court vacancy. where we have a legitimate difference of opinion is how the senate can best do its job. article 2, section 2, of the constitution divides the appointment process in to two distinct roles, the power of the president to nominate and the power of the president to provide its advice and consent. despite the wild climbs of some of my democratic friends to the contrary, the constitution does not define how the senate is to go about its duty to provide advice and consent. it does not dictate that the senate must hold confirmation hearings or floor votes on the
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president's preferred time line. after all, how could the constitution provide such instruction if the judiciary committee did not come into existence until 27 years after the senate first convened in 1789. indeed, the judiciary committee only began holding confirmation hearings in the past century and nominees only began appearing before the committee regularly in the past 50 years. in fact, the constitution prescribes no specific structure or time line for the confirmation process, and the constitution's text and structure as well as long-standing historical practice confirmed that the senate has the authority to shape the confirmation process how it sees fit. in other words, the senate's job is to determine the best way to exercise its advice and consent power in each unique situation. over the years the senate has considered nominations in
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different ways and different times depending on the circumstances. consider these precedents with great bearing on the current circumstances. the senate has never -- i emphasize "never" -- confirmed a nominee to a supreme court vacancy that opened up this late in the term limited president's time in office. this is only the third vacancy in nearly a century to occur after the american people had already started voting in a presidential election, and in the previous two instances -- in 1958 and 1968 -- the senate did not confirm a nominee until the following year. and the only time the senate has ever confirmed a nominee to fill a supreme court vacancy created after voting began in a presidential election year was in 1916. and that vacancy only arose when
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justice charles evans hughes resigned his seat on the court to run against incumbent, president woodrow wilson. key democrats have long expressed strong agreement with the decision to defer the confirmation process in these circumstances. for example, senator chuck schumer, the incoming democratic leader, argued in july 2007 with a year half left in president george w. bush's term and with no supreme court seat even vacate that the senate -- quote -- "should not confirm any bush nominee to the supreme court except in extraordinary circumstances." unquote. and vice president joe biden argued in 1992 when he was judiciary committee chairman -- i was there -- that if a supreme court vacancy occurred in that presidential election year, the senate judiciary committee should seriously consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over."
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unquote. that past practice and the well documented past positions of key democrats certainly support the notion that deferring the confirmation process is an option reasonably available to the senate in certain circumstances. as for its appropriateness in the present situation, one need only consider the confirmation process would be further poisoned by election-year politics. as a member of the judiciary committee for nearly four decades, i have witnessed the judicial confirmation process become increasingly divisive and sometimes, ofttimes, as a matter of fact, down right nasty. first came the campaigns of character assassinations against robert bork and clarence thomas. then came the unprecedented filibusters against president george w. bush's nominees. then came the attempt to deny an
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up-or-down vote on samuel alito to the supreme court, a move supported by then-senators obama, biden, clinton, reid, durbin, schumer, and leahy. finally came the unilateral use of the nuclear option to blow up the filibuster and pack the d.c. circuit court of appeals. widely considered the second-most powerful court in the nation with liberal judges committed to rubber-stamping the president's agenda. those that were responsible for every single one of these major escalations in the so-called judicial confirmation wars have no credibility to lecture anyone on what a proper confirmation process should look like in this situation. for those of us who have fought against the breakdown of the confirmation process, the prospect of considering a nomination in the middle of what may be the nastiest election of my lifetime could only further
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damage the long-term prospects of a healthy confirmation process. deferring the process is in the best interest of the senate, the judiciary, and the country. the tenor of the debate since justice scalia's passing has only confirmed how right we were to take a stand to defer the process until after the election. for example, one speech i delivered on friday was briefly disrupted by protesters chanting "do your job. "quation -- ironically as i began to explain the approach is how the senate can do its job. i don't mind protesters speaking their minds but i do when they try to prevent others from differing views. then the perspective of attorneys was disrupted by
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professional activists for organizers for action and the democratic national committee demonstrates what i have been saying all along. considering a nominee in the midst of a presidential election campaign would further inject toxic political theater into an already politicized confirmation process. i would also like to submit for the record a copy of an article from "politico" detailing the political coordination between the white house and the parent oration -- organization of these protesters that risk consideration of a weighty lifetime appointment into an election-year political circus. furthermore, the minority leader has turned his daily remarks on the floor into constant diatribes against the chairman of the judiciary committee. now both are friends of mine, and there's no excuse for this. these diatribes rank among the
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nastiest and most personal remarks i've heard on the senate floor in my 40 years in this body. having served on as the chairmaf the judiciary committee for eight years i know this is political hardball but the comments on senator grassley and work ethic have gone too far. i have had the privilege of serving with senator grassley for more than 35 years. i know no one more committed to doing his job. senator grassley has not missed a vote in a record-setting 27 years. when he was home in iowa touring the awful damage of the great flood of 1993. and yet still manages to hold town hall meetings in all 99 of his state's counties every year. he sets the gold standard of service in the senate. if anyone knows his mind, it is senator grassley. each of us is entitled to our opinions on issues that come
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before this body, even controversial ones. but i want to condemn in strongest possible terms the notion that a difference of opinion with senate democrats means that senator grassley is compromising his own integrity or the independence of the judiciary committee he leads. these attacks come very close to impugning his character, and that sort of behavior is beneath the dignity of this body. i have to say it's discouraging to me to see this going on. like you're going to bully senator grassley into changing his mind? come on. madam president, the minority leader came to the floor earlier this week to seize on the comments of the senior senator from texas to manufacture another what i consider to be cheap political attack on the republican majority. in those comments, senator cornyn had speculated that the nasty political environment could unfortunately turn any
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supreme court nominee into a political pinata. the minority leader's comments are a total mischaracterization of senator cornyn's record of fairness toward nominees of both parties and of senate republicans' intentions in this situation. after all, the whole point of deferring the nomination and confirmation process is to limit the mistreatment of any nominee, as senator cornyn suggested in his remarks. this unfounded accusation is also deeply ironic coming from the party that stooped to the character assassination of robert bork and clarence thomas. madam president, if there is anyone who has been treated like a pinata in this debate, it has been senator grassley. now, chuck grassley is as tough as they come, and i have every confidence that he'll weather these nasty, unfair attacks. but if these scorched-earth political tactics reflect the
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length that some of the democratic minority are prepared to go in an election-year confirmation battle, there can be no better illustration of why we should defer this process. madam president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. ms. warren: madam president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are, senator. ms. warren: i ask that the dworl be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. warren: thank you, madam president. today the senate will vote on the confirmation of dr. john king to be the next secretary of education. while there is only a year left in the obama presidency, this is still one of the most important jobs in washington because the department of education has a powerful set of tools available that it can use to stand up for people who are struggling with
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student loan debt and tools to help make a quality, affordable college education a reality for millions of americans. secretary of education must be one of the most difficult jobs in washington because for years there has been some kind of problem at the department of education that has made it practically impossible to get the department to put the interests of students ahead of the interests of private contractors and for-profit colleges that are making the big money off our students. the department has powerful tools to make sure that fraudulent colleges aren't sucking down billions of taxpayer dollars in student loans, but for the most part these tools gather dust on the shelf while shady institutions like corinthian college spend years gobbling up taxpayer money while they dwawd their own students. the department has powerful
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tools to help students when they get ripped off by fraudulent colleges, but for years it has been like pulling out your own teeth simply to get relief for the victims who got cheated by for-profit colleges like corinthian. now, there are literally dozens of examples of how the department of education's trillion-dollar student loan bank has been putting profits for companies and for-profit colleges ahead of the needs of students. one of the worst has been the bank's approach to overseeing the student loan servicing companies that are paid by the government to collect student loan payments. consider the case of navion, a student loan servicer that got caught red-handed ripping off tens of thousands of active duty members of the military. two years ago, the department of justice and the fdic fined the
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company $100 million for breaking the law, and overcharging our active duty military on their student loans. but in the department of education didn't take any action against navion. instead of following up on the lead of the justice department and using the justice department's evidence, no, the department of education announced its own separate review of whether soldiers were harmed. a year later, they released their results, and navion -- notwithstanding the fact that navion was already sending checks to thousands of service members under the d.o.j. and fdic agreement, the department of education student loan bank concluded that everything was just fine. and that the department had no need to impose any additional fines or restrictions on navion.
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in fact, things were so fine that the department's bank rewarded navient by renewing a a $100 million contract. now, if that sounds stinky to you, it should. the department's inspector general took a good look at what was going on over at the bank, and two weeks ago they released a scathing report on the bank's whitewash. the i.g. slammed the department for a report that was a complete and utter mess, loaded with errors, calling for -- quote -- inconsistent and inadequate actions. the i.g. concluded that the department of education's happy face press release announcing that everything was fine with the servicer was -- quote -- unsupported and inaccurate. you know, when a private company breaks the law and steals from american soldiers who are
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literally in the field fighting overseas, those companies should be held accountable. the justice department held navient accountable, the fdic held navient accountable, but the department of education's bank decided it was more important to protect navient than to watch out for our military students. let's not mince words. the navient fiasco is outrageous, but it is not surprising. at a senate hearing two years ago, i asked james runcey who runs the department of education student loan bank how he could turn around and renew the contract of a company like navient that had just copped to ripping off american soldiers. his answer -- essentially, was that moving borrowers away from navient would simply be too disruptive. senator harkin said at the time
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that sounded an awful lot like too big to fail and senator harkin was right. so long as that theory remains the operating principle of the department of education, the american people can forget about the law because there will be no real limits on how much money big private companies and large fraudulent schools can steal from students and taxpayers. now, dr. king didn't create any of these problems. these problems have grown and festered over a long time, and they won't be easy to solve. for several weeks now, dr. king and i have talked about these issues, and i believe he understands the magnitude of the task he faces. he has committed in no uncertain terms to a top-down review of the way the student loan program is administered and the way that the department oversees financial institutions.
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he has announced that he will force all of the major student loan servicers to review their records and make refunds to all members of the military who were illegally ripped off. and he has embraced strong new proposals to protect borrowers who are taken in by fraudulent colleges so they can get their money back. these are serious steps in the right direction and for those reasons i will vote for him today. but let's be clear. this is not the end of the story. dr. king has an enormous amount of work to do to get the department's higher education house in order. and the american people will be watching closely for results. one of the first things that must be done is a total reform of student loan servicing to make sure that nothing like the navient disaster ever, ever
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happens again. and here are five simple principles that should guide that reform. first, put students and families first every time, every decision. the department exists to serve students, not student loan companies, and it's time they acted like it. second, punish bad actors. navient broke the law and cheated soldiers, but the department bent over backwards to protect them. right now navients owes the federal government $22 million that it stole in another scam, and the department hasn't even bothered to collect it. the department needs to show that it is willing and able to punish companies that break the rules, and that includes kicking them out of the student loan program if necessary. third, change the financial incentives for services. two years ago the department
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renegotiated the service contracts and basically just ended up paying the companies more money for the same bad outcomes. no more flt our country -- no more. our country pours millions of tax dollars into these companies and it's time to leverage those dollars to make sure the companies are working for students. fourth, release more data. the department of education adamantly refuses to share basic data about the student loan program with anyone, even other folks within the department of education. that means that nobody, nobody can even see how this bank is being run. it is time for some sunshine. and fifth, take responsibility for aggressive oversight of student loan servicers. the department needs to act before this problem metastasizes
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and when the department doesn't have the tools to act, then get out of the way and let the cfpb or other federal agencies do their job. five simple principles. everyone in government who is serious will standing up for the tens of millions of student loan borrowers in this country should embrace them because we shouldn't be running the student loan program to create profits for private companies. we should run it for students. we are facing a crisis in higher education. student debt is exploding crushing our young people and threatening the economy. opportunity is slipping away from millions of americans. the time for reform is now, not in the next presidency, not five years from now but now. reform starts with the department of education and if he is confirmed today, it is my strong hope that dr. king will
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make fixing these problems a top priority from his first day on the job to his last day on the job. thank you, mr. president. i yield and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. a senator: i ask unanimous consent to suspend the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to speak for up to 15 minutes. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered.
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a senator: mr. president, last week the senate health education, labor and pensions committee voted to advance president obama's nominee for secretary of education, dr. john king. mr. lee: tonight the nomination is set to come before the senate not for a robust debate but for a hasty vote and by all accounts confirmation is expected. i rise today to oppose the nomination of dr. king and to urge my colleagues to join me in voting against his confirmation as secretary of education. i studied dr. king's professional record, most notably his time in new york's department of education. and i've reviewed the transcript of his confirmation hearing. based on the policies that he has supported, the bipartisan opposition he has invited throughout his career, and his uncompromising commitment to the designs of bureaucrats and central planners over the latest
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experiences of parents and teachers, i believe it would be grave error for the senate to confirm dr. king's nomination at this time. indeed i believe it would be difficult for anyone to support dr. king's nomination on the basis of his record. the problem is not that dr. king lacks experience. on paper you might even think that secretary of education is the natural next step in his career. after three years as a teacher and a brief stint managing charter schools, dr. king has risen through the ranks of the education bureaucracy, climbing from one political appointment to the next. but do we really think that someone who has spent more time in a government agency than in a classroom is best suited to oversee federal education policy? and more to the point, what matters isn't the jobs that someone has held but the policies that that person has
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advanced. this, mr. president, is the problem with dr. king's nomination. look closely at his record, especially look closely at the three and a half years he spent as new york's education commissioner where he forced on an unwilling school system unpopular common core curriculum and standards and inflexible testing regime and a flawed teacher evaluation system. all of this proves that dr. king is the standard bearer of no child left behind, the discredited k-12 regime that's become synonymous with dysfunctional education policy in classrooms and households all across america. this isn't just my opinion. it was the opinion of new york's parents, teachers, legislators, school board members, and superintendents. the vast majority of whom opposed and protested against dr. king and the policies he
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championed while at the helm of the state's education department. mr. president, this congress and president obama have promised to move federal education policy in the pop sit direction -- opposite direction established by no child left behind. under these circumstances, dr. king, the embodiment of the failed k-12 status quo is not the person who should be put in charge of the department of education. if confirmed dr. king would serve as the head of the department of education for ten months until january 2017 when the next president is sworn into office. this may sound like an insignificant amount of time for a cabinet secretary to serve, but in reality the next ten months are crucially important to the future of federal education policy in america. just a few months ago, congress passed and president obama signed the every student succeeds act or essa, a bill
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that reauthorized the law governing k-12 education. now the department of education will begin implementing the essa which will set the course of the department for years to come. so what happens over the next ten months within the department of education will have sweeping, far-reaching consequences for america's schools, teachers, and students, consequences that will affect not just the quality of education students receive as children but the quality of life available to them as adults. one of the most serious flaws of the essa and one of the primary reasons i voted against the bill is that it reinforces the same k-12 model that has trapped so many kids in failing schools and confined america's education system to a state of mediocrity for half a century. this is a model that cobbs
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traits -- concentrates authority over education decisions in the hands of federal politicians and bureaucrats instead of parents, teachers, principals, and local school boards. and there is no government official who has granted more discretion or more authority under the essa than the secretary of education. the essa purports to reduce the federal government's control over america's classrooms by returning decision making authority to parents, educators, and local officials. for instance, there are several provisions that prohibit the secretary of education from controlling state education plans or coercing states into adopting federal standards and testing regimes. but when you look at the fine print, you see that in most cases these prohibitions against federal overreach contain no enforcement mechanic esm, only vague statements encouraging the secretary to limit his own powers. so the question is, if confirmed
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as secretary of education, would dr. king adhere to the spirit of the essa and voluntarily return decision-making authority to parents, teachers and local officials? there's little reason to believe that he would. dr. king's former boss and would-be predecessor around any duncan -- arnie duncan had no qualms about violating similar prohibitions in no child left behind. nor has he shied away from advertising the fact that essa would function in much the same way as no child left behind. in an interview with "politico ," duncan discussed whether the ess would in fact reduce the federal government's control over america's classrooms. he was asked, quote, "how do you respond to the notion that you've had your wings clipped on your way out the door? " this was duncan's response.
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quote, "candidly our lawyers are much smarter than many of the folks who were working on this bill." closed quote. in other words, congress can write whatever bill it wants and the administration's lawyers will be able to figure out a way to implement it according to the preferences of the cabinet secretaries and their armies of bureaucrats. this is certainly a brazen admission of bureaucratic arrogance by former secretary duncan. but it is exactly in line with the way that dr. king approached his job as education commissioner of new york just a few years ago. under dr. king's leadership, new york became one of the first states to implement common corps standards and testing requirements starting in 2011. and dr. king was one of the only education commissioners in the country to insist on rolling out the tests before teachers had
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been given adequate time to adapt to the new curriculum imposed by common core. to the surprise of no one except perhaps for dr. king, the results were a disaster. the 2013 common core test only widened the achievement gap and sparked the opt-out movement in new york which mobilized 65,000 students to opt out in 2014 and more students to opt out in 2015. around the same time that teachers were, forced to test their students on material they hadn't been given time to incorporate into their curriculum, dr. king implemented a teacher evaluation system that relied heavily on these distorted student test scores. this evaluation system was so unpopular that in 2014, one of new york's teachers unions called for dr. king's
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resignation. what's most troubling about dr. king's tenure as education commissioner isn't that he centralized decision manufactur- decision-making authority imposing one-size-fits-all policies across a diverse school system. plenty of education commissioners are guilty of the same, if not worse. no, the real problem with dr. king's record is that he routinely and apparently as a matter of policy ignored the advice and feedback of teachers, parents, principals, and school board members. even as his centrally planned house of cards was tumbling down, dr. king stayed the course, believing against all available evidence that when it comes to running a classroom, bureaucrats and politicians know better than teachers, parents, and school boards. mr. president, when the senate confirms a presidential nominee,
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we're doing more than just approving a personnel matter or accepting to a degree what that nominee stands for. so we must ask ourselves as we consider this nomination what kind of policy do the american people want and what kind of policy do america's elementary and secondary students deserve? we know that local control over k-12 and even pre-k education is more effective than washington, d.c.'s prescriptive, heavy-handed approach because we've seen it work in communities all across the country. the point isn't that there is a better way to improve america's schools but that there are 50 better ways, even thousands of better ways. but washington is standing in the way, distrustful of any alternative to the top-down education status quo. and under the leadership of dr. king, washington's outdated conformist policies will continue to stand in the way. america'sstudents deserve better
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than this. the least we can do is to not accept the failed status quo. so i urge all of my colleagues to join me in voting against this nomination. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. alexander: mr. president? mr. president, i ask consent for up to 15 minutes before the vote to be followed by senator murray for as much time as she may whicrirks and then we'll have te vote. mrs. murray: if i could ask for five minutes following the senator from tennessee. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. alexander: mr. president, the senator utah has given an excellent speech about why it would be a good idea to have a republican president of the united states, but we don't have one. so the reason we're voting today
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is that we need an education secretary, a united states education secretary, confirmed by and accountable to the united states senate so that the law to fix no child left behind will be implemented the way congress wrote it. in december at the ceremony where president obama signed the every student succeeds act, the new law to fix no child left behind, i urge the the president to send to the senate a nominee to be the education secretary to replace arne duncan. without that, we would have gone a whole year without a leader of that department confirmed by and accountable to the united states senate. i made that recommendation to the president because this is such an important year for our 100,000 public schools and the 50 million students in those schools. we need an education secretary who is confirmed, who is accountable to congress while
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we're implement ago law that may govern elementary and secondary education for sometime. i want to be sure is that we're working together to implement the law the way the congress wrote it. that law was passed with broad, bipartisan support. it passed the united states senate by a vote of 85-12. it passed the house of representatives by a vote of 359-64. we achieved this result because, as "newsweek" said, no child left behind was a law that everybody wanted fixed and fixing it was long overdue. governors, teachers, superintendents, parents, republicans, democrats, students all wanted no child left behind fixed. not only was there a consensus about the need to fix the law, there was a consensus about how to fix it and the consensus was this: continue the important measures of academic progress of students, disadegree debate
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results of those tests, report them so everyone can know how schools and teachers and children are doing, but then restore to states, school districts, and classroom teachers and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about those tests and about improving student achievement. this new law is a dramatic change in direction for federal education policy. in short, it reverses the trend toward what had become a national school board and restores to those classest to children -- closest to children the responsibility for their well-being and academic success. "the wall street journal" called the new every student succeeds act, the -- quote -- "largest devolution of federal control of schools from washington back to the states in a quarter of a century." the largest evolution of federal control of schools from washington back to the states in a quarter of a century. now i suppose you could say it
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didn't go far enough but that would like waiting in nashville, hitchhiking a ride to philadelphia, you say i think i'll wait another seven years. that's what 85 senators thought when they looked a this. the nation's governors, there's no group more interested in restoring responsibility to states than the nation's governors. they gave our new law the governors first full endorsement of any piece of legislation since they are endorsement of welfare reform 20 years ago in the united states a congress. i believe the new law can inaugurate a new era of innovation in student achievement by putting the responsibility for children back in the hands of those closest to them: the parents, classroom teachers, principals, school boards and states. the senate education committee which i chair and the senator from washington is the senior democrat, will hold at least six hearings to oversee
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implementation of the new law. all those hearings will be brnghts as our hearings almost always are. we've already held the first one on february 24, with representatives of many of the groups that worked together to pass the law and now they're work together to implement the law. they formed a coalition already made up of the national governors' association, the school superintendents, the national education association, the american federation of teachers, the national conference of state legislatures, the national association of state boards of education, the national school board association, elementary school principals, secondary school principals, national teachers association, with the support of the chief state school officers and they sent dr. king a letter saying, "although our organizations don't always agree, we're unified our belief that essa is an historic opportunity to make a world-class 21st century education system and we're dedicated to working together at the national level to facilitate
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partnership among our members and states and districts to guarantee the success of the new law. "and they go on to say, "the new law lee placings a top-down accountability and testing regime with a system based on collaborative. we must work together to closely honor congressional attempt. essa is clear, education decision making now rests with the states a understand school districts and the federal role is to support and inform those decisions. you may say something different, but you're disagreeing with the governors, superintendents, the state legislatures, state boards of education, the national school boards, elementary school principals and the national teachers association. our first oversight hearing with dr. king will be april 12. some have objected to this nomination on the grounds that he was supportive of common core when he was education commissioner of new york state. i want those who are worried about that to know that this new
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law has ended -- ended -- what had become in effect a federal common core mandate. more than that, it explicitly prohibits washington, d.c., from mandating or even incentivizing common core or any other specific academic standards. that's in the law. it is entirely up to states, local school boards an classroom teachers. here is what senator roberts of kansas, who wrote this part of the law, asked dr. king at our hearing on february 25. "senator roberts, i know that we have differences on common core. i don't want to get into that. but it is part of the existing legislation in law -- and i want to be absolutely clear" -- this is senator roberts. "the language says, no officer or an employee of the federal government including the secretary shall attempt to influence, condition, incentivize, or coerce state adoption of the common core
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state standards or any other academic standards common to a significant number of states or assessments tied to such standards." senator roberts continued, "i know that we again have difference is, dr. king, but, nevertheless, will you give us your commitment that you will respect the intent as well as the explicit binding letter of that prohibition." dr. king said, absolutely. that's why we needed a confirmation hearing. that's why we need to ar have a confirmed secretary of education. in my questions i said this about my exchanges earlier at another hearing with dr. tony sers, the wisconsin state superintendent. i said, "do you read the new law to say that if wisconsin wantsdzs to have common core, which it does, i believe, that it may? if it does not want to have
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common core, that it may not? that if it wants part of common core, or more than common correspondent, that it can do that? it simply has to have challenging academic standards that are related to the entrance requirements of public institutions of higher education in your state. the superintendent of public instruction said he agreed with that. in other words, mr. president, to be blunt it doesn't really make much difference what dr. king thinks of common core. under the law, he doesn't have anything to do with it. he doesn't have anything to do with whether a state adopts it or whether a state chooses intot to adopt it. the new law also ended the practice of granting conditional waivers through which the united states department of education has become in effect a national school board for more than 80,000 schools in 42 states. governors have been forced to go to washington to play "mother may i" in order to put a plan in to evaluate teachers or help a local reforming school.
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that is over. it evens the highly qualified teacher definition. it ends the teacher evaluation mandate. it ends the federal school turnaround models. it ends adequate yearly progress. those decisions after all the reports are made about how schools and teachers and children are doing, those decisions are made by those closest to the children. the new law moves decisions about whether schools and teachers and students are succeeding or falling db or failing from washington, d.c., and back to states and communities where those decisions belong. now, mr. president, please permit me in conclusion a personal note. today this day is actually 25 years to the day since i was confirmed as the united states education secretary. the senator from indiana, i believe, was on the education committee at that time. but there is this difference:
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under a democratictory controlled senate, my nomination took 87 days from the day it was announced. 51 days from when the nomination was formally submitted to the senate. under a republican-controlled senate, dr. king's nomination has taken 32 days. his nomination was announced and formally submitted on february 11. so let me conclude the way i started. the reason we're voting today is that we need an education secretary confirmed by and accountable to the united states senate so that the law that 85 of us voted for to fix no child left behind is implemented the way we wrote t this vote is not about whether one of us would have chosen dr. king to be the education secretary. republicans won't have the privilege of picking an education secretary until we elect a president of the united states. what we need is an education secretary confirmed by and
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accountable to the united states senate so that the law to fix no child left behind will be implemented the way we wrote it. i urge my colleagues to vote "yes," and i conclude my remarks -- but i want to do so with thanks to the senator from washington, senator murray, who played such a crucial role in passing the law fixing no child left behind. mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, thank you. i come to the floor as well today to speak in support of dr. john king's nomination to serve as secretary of education. this is really an important time for students when it comes to early learning. we've seen improvements but we have much more to do to expand access to high-quality preschool so more of our kids can start school on strong footing. this is a critical moment as well, as you heard for k-12 education as schools, districts and states transition from the broken no child left behind law to our bipartisan, every p
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student succeeds act that the president signed into law late last year. and i hear all the time from students and families who are struggling with the high costs of college and the crushing burden of student debt. with all of these challenges and opportunities, the department of education will need strong leadership, and i'm glad president obama has nominated dr. john king, who is currently serving as acting secretary of the department. i want to commend senator lamar alexander, chairman of our help committee, for moving forward with dr. king's nomination in a timely and bipartisan manner in our committee. and i also appreciate majority leader mitch mcconnell for bringing this nomination to the floor. mr. president, dr. john king has a long-standing commitment to l fighting for kids through his personal background, he knows firsthand the power that education can have in a student's life. he has enriched students' lives as a classroom teacher and as a
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principal. he has worked with schools to help close the achievement gap and he served as the commissioner of education for new york state for four years. no one can question his passion for our nation's young people. this administration has a little less than a year left in office, but that is still plenty of time to make progress in several key areas, and that progress is more likely with a confirmed secretary in place at the department. in higher education, i along with my democratic colleagues, will continue to focus on ways to make college more be affordable, reduce the crushing burden of student debt weighing on so many families today and continue working to fight back against the epidemic of campus sexual assault and violence. i'd also like to see the department take new steps to help protect students who are pursuing their degrees. as one example, students like those who went to corinthian colleges have the right to seek loan forgiveness if they attended a school that engaged
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in deceptive practices. i'm really plead the department has a new proposal to set up a simple way for students to get re lef, and all borrowers should receive the highest levels of customer service and protections under the law, particularly our service members and our military families. this is an issue i and others have raised directly with dr. king during his confirmation and one where we are finally seeing the administration make progress. mr. president, the role of education secretary has become especially important as the department begins implementing the every student succeeds act. i expect the department to use its full authority under the every student succeeds act to hold our schools and states accountable, to help reduce the reliance on redundant and unnecessary testing and to expand access to high-quality preschool. mr. president, a good education can be a powerful driving force for success in our country and help more families live out the american dream.
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that's what makes education such a vital piece of our work to help our economy grow from the middle out. not from the top down. i hope to partner with dr. king as secretary of education to work towards that shared goal, and i urge all of our colleagues today to support his nomination. thank you. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the question now occurs on the king nomination. is there a sufficient second? there is a sufficient second. the clerk will now call the roll. vote:
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vote: the presiding officer: is there anyone who wishes to vote or to change their vote? seeing none, the ayes are 49, nays 40. and the motion passes. the nomination is confirmed. under the previous order,s the motion to reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table. the president will be immediately notified of the senate's action, and the senate will resume legislative session.
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. a senator: i object. i have a right to object. i would say to the majority leader that we're about to enter a topic where people have strong opinions, and they should be able to speak at what amount they desire and not be limited to ten minutes. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, i'm not sure what the question of the the senator from is oregon is related to. i was simply going to commend the senator from louisiana for presiding over the chapter for 100 hours. mr. merkley: and i don't
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object to you doing that but there is no need to go into a ten-minute limit in morning business for you to accomplish that. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the senate be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. mcconnell: now, mr. president, i'd like to say - the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. mcconnell: i'd like to say a word to senators about our colleague currently in the chair. he just passed an important milestone. he's now presided over the senate for 100 hours. we all know what that means. he'll be receiving the golden gavel. i look forward to presenting it to him tomorrow. presiding over the senate may not seem the most glamorous job around here but it is an important one. you learn a lot about procedure.
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you learn a lot about your colleagues. and because the use of electronic devices is prohibited, you rediscover the lost art of communicating with a pen and a piece of paper. i think we could all stand to benefit from that kind of practice. today's golden gavel recipient often dashes off notes for pages to bring to his staff while in the chair. and because today's golden gavel recipient is a doctor, it also takes his staff about three hours to decipher each of the notes that he writes. but here's the bottom line for our friend from louisiana. being in the chair reminds him of all the history in this chamber. it brings to mind the many important decisions that have been made here over the years and it gives him perspective. every now and then senator cassidy says he likes to just soak up the moment. i hope he'll take the opportunity to do so now. he's the first member of the class of 2014 to earn the golden
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gavel distinction, and all of our colleagues are pleased to acknowledge this accomplishment. now, mr. president, i ask the chair to lay before the body the message to accompany s. 764. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the message. the clerk: resolved that the bill from the senate s. 764 entitled an act to reauthorize and amend the national seed grant college program act and for other purposes do pass with an amendment. mr. mcconnell: i move to concur in the house amendment to s. 764 with further amendment. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: the senator from kentucky kentucky mr. mcconnell moves to concur in the house amendment to s. 764 with amendment number 3450. mr. mcconnell: i send a cloture motion to the desk on the motion to concur. the presiding officer: the
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clerk will report the motion. the clerk: cloture motion. we, the undersigned senators senators in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the motion to concur in the house amendment with an amendment to s. 764, a bill to reauthorize and amend the national sea grant college program act and for other purposes signed by 17 senators as follows. mr. mcconnell: i ask the names be dispensed with. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask the mandatory quorum call be waived? the presiding officer: object be 0? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i move to refer the house message on s. 764 to the committee on commerce. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion. the clerk: the senator from kentucky, mr. mcconnell, moves to commit the bill s. 764 to the committee on science, commerce and transportation. mr. mcconnell: i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the
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senator from iowa. mr. grassley: today i want to pay tribute to sarah roote, a young woman from iowa who had a very bright future but was taken from this earth too soon. sarah was 21 years old and just graduated from belleview university with perfect grades. in the words of her family -- quote -- "she was full of life and ready to take on the world." end of quote. according to a close friend of hers, sarah was smart, outgoing, dedicated to her friends and family. she embodied the words that were tattooed on her body: "live, laugh, and love." the day sarah graduated, she was struck by a drunk driver. that driver was in the country
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illegally. the alleged drunk driver was ed win majea, and he had a blood alcohol content of .241, three times the legal limit. the driver was charged with felony motor vehicle homicide and operating a vehicle while intoxicated on february 3. bail was set at $50,000, but he was only required to put up 10%. so, for a mere $5,000, the drunk driver walked out of jail and into the shadows. as sarah's father said, after laying his daughter to rest that -- quote -- "the cost of the bond" -- the cost of the bond cost less than the funeral."
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end of quote. those are painful words to hear. but what's more frustrating is that the driver should have never been released. when local law enforcement apparently asked the federal government specifically the u.s. immigration and customs enforcement, to take custody of the person, the federal government declined. i.c.e. refused to place a detainer on the driver. an i.c.e. spokesman stated that the agency did not lodge a detainer on the man because his arrest for felony motor vehicle homicide -- quote -- "did not meet i.c.e.'s enforcement priorities." end of quote. now the root family must face the consequences of the federal government's inaction while grappling with their daughter's death. it is difficult for the family to have closure since the man is
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nowhere to be found. it's unknown if he's still in the united states or if he has fled to his home country of honduras. but, this is not an isolated incident. it's business as usual in the obama administration, because the administration's policies and carelessness, sarah root became another victim. this case shows once again that there is a colossal and systematic breakdown of immigration enforcement, thanks to the obama administration's flawed policies and lack of commitment to the rule of law. unfortunately, a talented young lady whose life was cut short, who didn't have an opportunity to take on the world is a story too often common.
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under president obama's priority enforcement program, a person in the country illegally will only be detained or removed in a few limited circumstances. some say that nearly 90,000 undocumented immigrants were released in 2015 thanks to this policy. secretary jeh johnson has claimed that only those that have laid down roots and do not have serious crimes would not be subject to removal. yet, their words don't match up with their actions. local law enforcement such as those in omaha, nebraska, have asked the federal government to take custody of certain individuals, but the agency in charge refuses. it hides behind their so-called
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quote, unquote, priorities. the president has a constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. the constitution i just quoted does not say that the president shall make a list of which criminals would be punished or removed and which criminals who may go about their lives. the obama administration may not agree with the laws that congress passes, but that has no bearing on its responsibilities to make sure that the laws are faithfully carried out. the administration claims it is well within its constitutional duties under the doctrine of prosecutorial discretion. however, this administration's approach at announcing its priorities and only enforcing the laws on individuals who fall under its priorities is both
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unusual and obviously an abuse of prosecutorial discretion. this is unusual to prosecutorial discretion because prosecutors do not usually announce their priorities or when they will exercise prosecutorial discretion. a liberal law professor and immigration attorney peter marcd prosecutors strive to keep lawbreakers in the dark. he explained if prosecutors discretion authority are not kept secret they -- quote -- "would effectively license the wrongdoing." he then goes on to give an example case of a burglary. he says -- quote -- "if an
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admitted burglar is youthful and the burglar's take is relatively modest, judges may not wish to sentence a, an offender to prison and may look with favor on a plea bargain that reflects this sentiment. however, it would be difficult to imagine prosecutors soliciting applications from known burglars for a burglar's holiday that would guarantee a specific period of immunity." end of quote. so, in other words, it is as ridiculous to let people contemplating illegal, illegally migrating to the united states know that they will get a pass under certain conditions as it would be to let people contemplating burglary know that they would be let off the hook if they met certain qualifiers. or consider the drunk driver
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that killed sarah root. what message does this send to people who make a conscious decision to get behind the wheel after drinking? what this case says is that drunk driving, unless convicted, is not a serious enough offense to force removal proceedings. this is moral hazard. hence, this administration's priority enforcement program is creating a moral hazard and giving license to illegal activity. sarah root is one of many victims in the past few weeks who died at the hands of undocumented immigrants. in louisville, kentucky, chelsea hoag was put into a coma when jose aguilar, an undocumented
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person, hit her while driving under the influence of alcohol. i.c.e. issued a detainer and did not take custody of aguilar but released him a day later, again, because he had no, as they say, no prior significant misdemeanor or felony conviction. then there is esmond pedras, who had been transferred to i.c.e. in august, 2013, after serving time for driving under the influence. however, he was let go on bond because of limited detention space. this is what i.c.e. said at that particular time -- quote -- "due to limited availability of detention space, i.c.e. prioritizes the use of its immigration detention beds for
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convicted felons, known gang members and other individuals whose conviction records indicate they pose a likely threat to public safety." end of quote. this is ironic, given that the administration fails to live up to the mandated detention bed limit that congress sets every year. now, just like -- just a little over two years after his drunk driving offense, pedras is charged with the murder of his girlfriend stacy aguilar. then on march 8, an individual illegally present in the united states allegedly murdered five people in kansas and missouri. the suspect entered the country in 1993, committed a series of
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crimes and was removed from the united states in 2004. he attempted to illegally enter again the same month but was given --quote, unquote -- voluntary return. however, he returned at some point and continued his criminal ways. the suspect had been arrested and charged with numerous crimes, including communicating a threat with intent to terror ize, battery of a spouse, several driving without a license offenses, a subsequent felony conviction for communicating a threat with intent to terrorize, reportedly based on his threat to kill his wife with a rifle for which he was sentenced to incarceration for two years, two arrests for
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driving under the influence while -- which produced one conviction and a conviction for domestic battery. on at least two occasions, i.c.e. was notified of the suspect, but the various reasons did not take -- but for various reasons did not take custody of that person. there was a major -- that was a major failure between the fed and local law enforcement. people are illegally entering the country, being removed, entering again and committing more crimes. illegal reentries are -- re-entries are happening because there is no consequences. that is what happened in kate steinle's death and that's why we need to move to what's called kate's law. that bill will deter people from illegally re-entering by
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enhancing penalties and establishing new mandatory minimum sentences for certain individuals with previous felony convictions. the obama administration cannot continue to turn a blind eye to sanctuary communities and ignore those who have broken our laws by illegally crossing the border time and again. how many more people have to die? how many more women like kate steinle, sarah root, chelsea hoag and stacy aguilar are going to be taken from their family and friends? the parents of these young women are grieving today, yet their stories fall on deaf ears at 1600 pennsylvania avenue. things have got to change. the president must rethink his policies and must find a way to ensure that criminal immigrants are taken off the streets.
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the obama administration should try enforcing the law instead of its priorities for the sake of the american people. i yield the floor. mr. menendez: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. menendez: mr. president, i rise to be a voice for the 3.5 million american citizens living in puerto rico, the 200,000 puerto ricans who served in our armed forces in every conflict since world war i and the 20,000 who currently wear the uniform of the united states and put their lives on the line for our country. i rise to introduce a comprehensive stability and recovery package that restores
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fairness, ensures accountability and gives puerto rico the tools it needs to dig itself out of this hole, and i rise to implore this congress to act before it is too late. let me thank senators schumer and brown, senators warren, cantwell, blumenthal and booker for supporting these efforts and working so hard on behalf of the people of puerto rico. i also want to thank congressman perdices who co-authored the tax sections of this bill along with the health care titles. and finally i want to thank the governor for his incredible leadership on the island and for strongly endorsing our legislation. the people of puerto rico are fortunate to have a governor that cares deeply about their lives and is so dedicated to putting them first and above politics. now, let me put this bluntly. puerto rico is on the brink of default and staring into the
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abyss. for the best part of the past year, the government has been compelled to take drastic and unprecedented actions just to avoid a total default of the central government. they have closed schools and hospitals. they have laid off police officers and firefighters. they have raised taxes on businesses and individuals. but all the spending cuts and tax hikes in the world won't make a dent in this crisis unless puerto rico has the ability to restructure its debts. that's because just servicing the government's $72 billion debt is swallowing a massive 36% of the island's revenue. that's 36 cents of every dollar the government takes in going not to roads and bridges and schools but bondholders instead. this percentage is six times the u.s. state average and simply
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unsustainable by any measure. in fact, despite all we hear about puerto rico's significant annual budget deficits, the island would actually be running a surplus, a surplus if it didn't have to make debt payments. let me repeat that. it would have a surplus. these debt service payments act like an albatross and handcuff the people of puerto rico, preventing them from investing in their economy. less resources for education, for infrastructure, essential services causes a death spiral as talented workers opt to leave the thailand, businesses are shuttered and revenue drops even further. that's why the first and most important step that we can take is to give puerto rico the ability to restructure its debt in an orderly fashion. a right that they had at one
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time and that was surreptitiously stripped out, there was no legislative history as to why it was stripped out but they had this right, this is not novel, our legislation would do in essence just that, providing a fair and a reasonable way for puerto rico to restructure all of its debts while avoiding a race -- a costly race to the courthouse that would result in years, years of costly litigation. but before puerto rico can even access this authority, it needs to affirmatively opt in and accept the establishment of an independent fiscal stability and reform board and create a chief financial officer. this both ensures that any restructuring plan is based on objective and independent analysis of the island's situation and provides assurances to creditors that future governments will adhere to a prudent long-term fiscal
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plan while affirming and respecting puerto rico's sovereignty. once puerto rico opts in, it receives an automatic 12-month stay to give government officials the necessary breathing room to organize their finances and develop a sustainable five-year fiscal plan upon which annual budgets and their restructuring proposal will be based. once the governor submits a restructuring proposal, a judge selected by the first circuit court of appeals would have to affirm it complies with the fiscal plan, protects the rights of pensioners, and if feasible, if feasible does not unduly impair general obligation bonds. our process follows precedent by giving creditors a voice and their ability to object in court and ultimately gives an independent judge the authority to ensure any plan is fair and reasonable, and in order to
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ensure the long-term fiscal plan is followed not just now but in the future, our legislation gives the independent board the power to review annual budgets, future debt issuances and exercise strong oversight and transparency powers. if future budgets do not comply with the fiscal plan, the board has the authority to issue a vote of no confidence which will send a strong and unequivocal message to the legislature, to capital markets and the puerto rican people that the proposed path is unsustainable, which in turn will provide much-needed transparency and accountability to the budgeting process. but at the same time we are careful to affirm the fundamental pillars of democracy by making the board of, by and for the people of puerto rico. the board will consist of nine members chosen by the governor of puerto rico, its legislature,
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both parties, the supreme court and the president of the united states. at least six of the board members must be full-time residents of puerto rico. at least six must have knowledge of its history, culture and socioeconomics, and all members, all members must have financial and management expertise. this structure strikes the proper balance by providing strong and independent oversight and accountability while still respecting the sovereignty and democratic rights of the people of puerto rico. it is not a bailout. far from it, in fact. this proposal wouldn't cost the u.s. treasury a penny, not a dime, because it is limited to the territories. it wouldn't have a contagion effect on the broader municipal market. now, as i have said before, giving puerto rico the flexibility to restructure its debt is the top priority and a
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prerequisite for any legitimate recovery plan, but it's also clear that the lack of health care funding parity is adding pressure to the overall financial situation as the island's health care system accounts for 20% of the island's economy, and it's responsible for a third of its overall debt burden. currently, puerto rico's medicaid program, rather than being reimbursed for necessary costs, is capped, and not only is it capped, it's set to hit a funding cliff as soon as mid 2017. and when it hits that cliff, when this happens, the island will instead receive funding to cover only a very small portion of its medicaid costs, a burden no state, no state could handle. our legislation, the second piece of our legislation, fixes
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this by moving puerto rico towards a medicaid system that provides stable funding for the long term. additionally, there are several policies in medicare that treat the island differently from the rest of the nation, leaving providers and seniors to face unfair penalties and lower reimbursements. this second bill eliminates many of these discrepancies to more accurately aligned medicare policies in puerto rico with the rest of the country, and as citizens of the united states -- and i emphasize that because sometimes i've had members of congress that have asked me whether they need an american passport to go to puerto rico, and i thought they were joking but they were serious. as citizens of the united states, it's only fair that puerto ricans be afforded the same access to care, coverage and health benefits as everyone else. finally, our legislation would incentivize puerto rican workers to enter the former economy and give families the help they need
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to raise their children by providing parity to the island for the earned income tax credit and child tax credit. praised by both republicans and democrats as one of the most effective tools to combat poverty and encourage workers to enter the labor market, the earned income tax credit is currently unavailable to the people of puerto rico. however, as american citizens, all it takes for a resident of puerto rico to become eligible for the credit is a short plane ride to miami. this is just another reason why so many puerto ricans have fled the island and taken up residence in the mainland. it makes no sense to prohibit american citizens living in puerto rico from taking advantage of this important credit, especially with such a stubbornly lower labor participation rate. our legislation corrects this inequity, providing equal treatment for all american citizens, regardless of whether
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they reside in puerto rico or in the states. mr. president, i shouldn't need to real estate mind this body -- remind this body that from the infan city of this nation, the people of puerto rico have been there with us and for us. now we need to be there for them. puerto rico was ceded to the united states after the spanish-american war. less than two decades later in 1917 congress passed the jones shoffroth act granting american citizenship to the residents of the ieltd. but even long before they were granted u.s. citizenship, puerto ricans have had a long and profound history of fighting on the side of america. as far back as 1777, puerto rican ports were used by u.s. ships enabling them to run british blockades and keep commerce flowing, which is so crucial to the war effort. it was puerto rican soldiers who took up arms in the u.s. civil
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war, defending this nation's capital, washington, d.c., from attack and fought in the battle of fredericksburg. in world war i, almost 20,000 puerto ricans were drafted in the u.s. armed forces. and let's not forget about the 65's infantry religious men, the segregated military unit composed only entirely of soldiers from puerto rico that played a crucial and prominent role in world war i, in world war ii, and the korean war. i'm proud to say that i worked with senator blumenthal and others to make sure that the only active segregated unit in the history of the united states and the last to be deactivated received well-deserved and long overdue national recognition when with we passed the bill
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awarding these patriots the congressional gold medal, the highest expression of national l appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions to the united states. so while some might be tempted to point their finger at our brothers and sisters on the island and for puerto rico for carrying more than $70 billion in debt, i challenge my senate colleagues to work with us on finding solutions because this problem isn't going away. mark my words, if we don't act now, this crisis will explode into a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe, not in a matter of decades or even years but in months. in just a couple of months they have a major payment that they do not have the wherewithal to make. and so we may think we will take the ball -- kick the ball down the road but, no, that human catastrophe is going to take place in months and we'll be right back here next year with the same set of proficiency only
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far -- with the same set of problems, only far, far worse. delaying action is akin to a blood infection. the longer you wait, the more painful and challenging the treatment is. puerto rico isn't asking us to pull them out of this, just give them the wherewithal to help them help themselves be able to achieve the goal. let's not stand aside and do nothing while the island burns. let's not turn our backs on our friends and fellow citizens when they need us the most. let's instead come together as a nation and support our fellow citizens like we always do when things get tough. the people of puerto rico have always been there for us and with us. let us make sure that we're there for them. mr. president, with that, i yield the floor. mrs. boxer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: mr. president, my
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colleague has brought to our attention a very crucial issue. we need to be there for each other. that's what makes america great, when we are there for each other. and so today i rise to address the crisis of lead contestimony nation in drinking water that we are seeing all across this nation. and it is time for us to come together and solve these problems. we have all been outraged by the crisis in flint, where we know children and families are being poisoned by lead in their drinking water. my colleagues from michigan, senators stabenow and peters, have an excellent bipartisan bill that senator inhofe and i helped negotiate that would provide emergency relief to address this crisis. the people of flint need this relief now, so i call on any of those holding up this bill to get out of the way and let this
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legislation pass immediately. the crisis in flint has also brought attention to the broader issue of lead in drinking water in communities throughout our nation. i want to read to you some headlines from just the last few weeks. here is from the "clarion ledger" in jackson, mississippi: "pregnant women, kids cautioned over jackson water lead." that's february 25, 2016. "newsweek," "with lead in the water, could sebring, ohio, become the next flint?" that's january 27, 2016. and then from the associated press, "elevated levels -- lead levels found in newark schools' drinking water." and in sahara hot -- "the charlotte observer," "lead in water now confined -- not confined to flint." not confined to flint. that's january 30, 2016.
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so whether it is flint, michigan or newark, new jersey, or jackson, mississippi, or durham, north carolina, or should i name some more places that are going to hit us? -- the american people have a right to expect clean, safe drinking water when they turn on their faucets. it is clear, this is a national crisis that demands a national solution going forward. so that is why today i've introduced new legislation, the lead in drink water disaster act, and we are doing this because, should there be more flints, we want to have a better way to move forward. currently the president can declare a major disaster for catastrophes like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, drought, fires, floods, and explosions. now, sometimes those fires, floods and explosions are
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man-made and yet we are able to act through the fema. the federal emergency management administration. but lead in drinking water is not on the list of major disasters covered under fema's rules. it is critical that future presidents do not have their hands tied because the definition of a major disaster does not include lead in drinking water. my bill ensures that a lead contamination crisis would be considered a disaster, which it clearly is. take a look at the color of the water coming out of the fountains here. -- the faucets. nobody -- nobody could face this in their homes. you'd get your kids out of there so fast. and then a current law doesn't think this is disaster. so i think this simple way i have of moving forward should be
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attractive to colleagues. i hope they will sign onto this very simple bill. the way it would work is the governor would ask -- the governor in any state that's hit by this would ask the president for a major disaster declaration. so for all my colleagues who feel we should process these things through the state, exactly what happens in my bill. if the president agrees, fema would provide immediate assistance to protect families from lead in the water. and what we do in this legislation is we name several agencies who would help create the plan to address the emergency. it would be -- in addition to fema, health and human services, the e.p.a., and the army corps of engineers. they would work together to create a plan to resolve the crisis. we could see what's happening in flint. the kids instead of doing their after-school activities, look how sweet they are there
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carrying bottles of water throughout their community. look, there's no safe level of lead for children. the effects of exposure are generally irreversible. lead harms the developing brains and nervous systems of children and babies. it can cause miscarriage, stillbirths, infertility in both mirm. people with prolonged exposure to lead may be at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney disease. now, what is the extent of this problem? millions of homes across america receive water from pipes that date back to an era before scientists knew of the harm caused by lead exposure. why wwhile we take steps towards investing in modernizing our infrastructure, which i hope we will do as we write a new water resources development act, and senator inhofe and i are very hard at work doing just that, we
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also have to step in and help communities that are in crisis right knew. -- right now. i want to conclude with this -- and again take a look at the drinking water coming out of the tap here. would anyone in the united states senate stand still for a minute if their children or grandchildren were in a situation where this was the drinking water? this was the bathing water. we know there is no way we would ever allow that to happen. no american should ever have to drink water that puts their health and the health of their children at risk. i hope we take action by passing the emergency legislation by the michigan senators this week. the chairman and families of flint -- the children and families of flint shouldn't have to wait one more daymen day. after we pass that measure, which addresses itself just to
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flint, michigan, i hope we will take up my legislation to help future presidents address this public health threat, which is going to pop up all over this great nation of ours. we must be prepared. we cannot tie the hands of this president or any future president. thank you very much. i yield the floor. i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senate majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask that further proceedings under the quorum call being dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i semiconductor that the senate proceed to the consideration of s. res. 398, submitted earlier today. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: senate resolution 398, designating march 15, 2016, as national speech and debate education day. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the appointment at the desk appear separately in the record as if made by the chair. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i now ask unanimous consent that when the senate completes its business today it adjourn until 10:00 a.m., tuesday, march 15. following the prayer and pledge,
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the morning hour deemed expired, the journal of proceedings be approved to date and the time for the two leaders be reserved for their use later in the day. further, that following leader remarks the senate be in a period of morning business until 12:30 with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. further, that the senate stand in recess from 12:30 until 2:15 to allow for the weekly conference meetings. finally, at 2:15 the senate resume consideration of the message to accompany s. 764. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. mcconnell: if there is no further business to come before the senate i ask that it stand adjourned following the remarks of senator merkley. the presiding officer: without objection.
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mr. merkley: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: mr. president, i rise to address the motion that is on the floor right now, and the motion that is on the floor is a version -- it is a motion to adopt an amendment that is essentially a new version of the monsanto dark act. now, dark is an acronym. it stands for deny americans' right to know. so this is, by the way, an amendment that has not been seen in any committee in the senate ever. now we heard a lot of discussion about how we were going to have process in this chamber where things would be in the ordinary fashion, go through committee and be digested and be analyzed.
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but instead this amendment to an underlying bill that has been ping-ponging back and forth between the house and the senate, this has never been heard in committee. it's just been crafted over the last few hours. and here we are with a fundamental issue of citizens' right to know, and the majority leader of this chamber has decided to bypass any ordinary consideration to jam this through on behalf of monsanto. now what's at stake here? what is this about citizens' right to know about genetically modified or genetically engineered ingredients that are in their food? well, across the country 90% of americans want to have some indication on their food as to whether there are g.e.
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ingredients. they feel this is relevant to what they'd like to buy. even if they don't personally look it up wh he they buy -- when they buy a product, they feel citizens should have this right to know. i said 90%. i rounded it off. 89% in the survey that was done last fall, in 2015. i believe it was november 2015. and this fundamental notion about the right to know what is in your food transcends every ideology in our country. right now we're having a presidential primary season in which we're seeing on display a huge range of ideologies from the left to the right. but when we talk to citizens about this right to know, it doesn't matter if they're democrats or they're independents or they're republicans or they're right-wing republicans or
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left-wing democrats. they all come out essentially the same. out of these americans, nine to one say they want to know. let's break it down by democrats. it's nine to one, 92%. republicans, 84%. i guess that's, you round it off to 8.5 republicans to one republican or one and a half republicans. huge ratio this 9 to one ratio. independents, 9 to one, 89%. they really also, when asked if they feel strongly about this, they say yes. they do feel strongly about this. and that just goes to the fundamental notion that here in america citizens believe they have the right to make up their own minds. not have the overreach of the federal government telling them what to believe or the government saying you can't have
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the information that you want in order to make your decision as a consumer. citizens resent that. citizens get angry about that. and yet right now the majority party in this chamber is trying to push through just such a repression of citizens' right to know. now this has been triggered by a law in vermont. citizens, vermont voted and they decided they want to be able to know if their food has g.e., genetically engineered ingredients, and that law goes into effect on july 1 of this year. so our big food industry, our monsanto and friends, they said, no, we can't let the citizens vermont have the information they want. we must pass a federal law to stop them. and, by the way, we need to stop every other state in the united
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states of america and every other subdivision of any state in the united states of america from providing this information that nine out of ten americans want to have on their food. well, we're all acquainted with labels on food. that's not something new. we go to it to see for some citizens the calories in the food. for others, which vitamins does it contain or what percent of the daily recommended dose of vitamins. or maybe folks go to it to see if it has a form of corn starch or corn sugar, high fructose corn syrup that maybe they like or they don't like. but we also have labeling laws about other things consumers care about on their food. if you selfish in a grocery store in america, you have to tell the consumer whether or not
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that fish has been caught in the wild or whether it's been raised on a farm. why? because citizens wanted that information. they considered it relevant to their decision about their purchase of foods for themselves and their families. or let's consider the fact that here in america if you put juice in a store, you have to say whether it's made from concentrate or whether it's fresh. why? because consumers thought that was relevant to how they would like to exercise their judgment. well, nine out of ten americans say they want the information on whether there are g.e. ingredients. but now we have this bill on the floor, this monsanto dark act edition 2.0 that says, no, we're going to take away that power from every state in the country,
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not just vermont, not just my home state of oregon. every state. we're going to take it away from any subdivision of those states. we are going to black out that information so consumers can't have it. well, here is the question that we face: are we going to hold a vote this week here in this chamber as scheduled by the majority leader for wednesday to shut down debate on this topic? now, the majority leader didn't allow debate today because he just introduced the bill tonight. he just set the schedule for tomorrow. we're not going to have debate until 2:15 tomorrow and then he says we're going to vote on wednesday morning on this critical issue of citizens' right to know.
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on behalf of monsanto and friends, he wants to make sure there's only a few hours of debate and that the citizens of our country don't even know this dirty deed is being done here in this chamber. so that's why i'm speaking right now. because it's important for the citizens to know that this is being rammed through right now at a time most likely for it not to be gaining public attention. now why is that? why did the majority leader do this on a monday night right before the five big primaries that occur tomorrow? well, because the news media is very busy covering those five big primaries. who's going to win the republican primary in florida? that will affect one way or another whether a member of this chamber stays in the race. who's going to win the republican primary in ohio? well, that's going to affect
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possibly whether the front-runner gets a majority by the time the convention comes. who's going to win the democratic primary in illinois? and who's going to win the democratic primary in ohio? that will have a big impact on the rhythm of that. so the media's very consumed and very busy, and that's why here on the eve of this major tuesday primary this bill has been put on the floor so americans have no idea it's happening, so that they can ram this thing through with no notice to the american people, because, again, this bill was never considered in committee. this was a whole new creature, this monsanto dark act 2.0. and what specifically does it do, and how has it morphed? well, this is very interesting. this act says that states are
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banned from providing information nine out of ten other citizens want. it says the subdivisions are banned from providing information that nine out of ten of their citizens want. and then it says there'll be a voluntary program. and if after a series of years citizens can get information based on consumer inquiries, then this ban will continue forever. and if they can't get the information on 70% of the major foods that are being sold, then all that's required is a response to consumer inquiries. in other words, no labeling requirement, no consumer simple fashion to find out what's in their food. if we put a ban on states from
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providing easy-to-use consumer information about g.m. or g.e. ingredients, then there must be a national consumer easy-to-use indication on the label. the argument is put forward, and i share it, that 50 different state standards would be confusing and expensive and almost impossible to implement. one warehouse serves multiple states and so on and so forth, having a different label in every state makes no sense. okay, i take that point. but if you're going to ban the states from providing the information the consumers want on the argument there should be one national standard for simplicity, then there must be one consumer-friendly national standard. and there is no such standard in
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this monsanto dark act 2.0 placed on the floor tonight. now, there is an interesting twist here because they have proposed some ideas that are different than putting consumer-friendly information on the label. the first of those ideas is a 1-800-number. so it works like this. let's say like my daughter, you're interested in high fructose corn syrup, and i'm going to use this book here as a visual aide -- visual aid. i ask unanimous consent to do so. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. merkley: thank you. and so imagine that these are products that are in the grocery store. so i, the consumer, am going down the aisle and i say oh, i want to know whether these contain high fructose corn syrup. well, turn it over, look at the ingredients. i say that one does.
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okay. i'll look at this one. no, this one doesn't. let me check the third. oh, it's right here. i got the answer. i have checked three products in five seconds. that's consumer friendly. but let's say you have to call the 1-800-number to find out. so now -- i ask unanimous consent to use my cell phone as a visual aid. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. merkley: so now i have to pull my cell phone out of the pocket, i have to find this number that's probably too small for me to read, i've got to turn on my phone and hope that there is a connection, cell connection in the store, which there might or might not be. i dial it up. oh, i'm talking to somebody in the philippines. they have no idea what i'm asking about. oh, i'm talking to some call center somewhere else and they have all kinds of information but they're not sure exactly
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what is my question about g.e. ingredients. and boy, maybe i have to wait 15 minutes while i'm on hold. you have all had that experience. every one of us have had the experience. not just waiting 15 minutes with a 1-800-number. maybe it's a half an hour. they give you a little message. we're sorry, we have high call volume. we just can't get to you yet, but we'll be back with you in, you know, maybe 30 or 40 minutes. i'm standing here in the aisle. i want to compare these three products. i have to call three different 1-800-numbers. i ask can anyone on this floor stand up and say that this is a consumer-friendly way to answer the fundamental question as to whether there is a g.e. or a g.m., genetically engineered, genetically modified ingredient? no. this is absurd. this is a sham. and that's why it's sham number one. but there is not just one sham in this bill.
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there is more. the second sham is a computer code. okay. so picture this. instead of being able to pick up the product and say oh, i want to see if this has peanuts in it, i'm allergic to peanuts. i can check my second product. here it is. check the third product, no peanuts, i'm allergic to peanuts. five seconds, i have checked three products. that's consumer friendly. but now this second sham is that i have to have a smartphone with me, i have to take a picture of this code called the quick response code, and that will take me to a web site and maybe i will find out the information in the format presented by the company itself which will probably be completely incomprehensible and
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indigestible. all i wanted to know was is there a g.m. ingredient. but now i have to take a picture. i have to go to a web site. i have to negotiate the information on the web site. all i needed was a little symbol right here. it doesn't matter what the symbol is. it could be g.m., it could be g.e., it could be a t. for transgenic, that's what brazil uses. it could be a happy face. just something that consumers knew that's what that symbol stood for. that would allow them to check it very quickly and very easily. a q.r. code is even more diabolical because when you use your phone to take a picture of this and go to that web site, they track some of your information. you have to give up your privacy. i have to give up my privacy to find out if there is a g.e. ingredient in the food i'm
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eating? no, no way, no how, just wrong. an invasion, an overreach of the federal government asking me to give up my privacy by having to take a picture of this. and envision now whether this is really practical in any way. not only it might take half an hour to go through those three different q.r. codes and find out what they really mean, but i'm shopping for groceries. this is just one item i want to buy. i want to buy a can of soup. that's what i want to do, but i have 20 more things on my list. i go to the second thing. maybe i want to buy hot dogs, and now there are terch different versions of hot dogs. what am i going to do? take a picture of all ten hot dogs on my second item on the list? now i'm two hours into my shopping trip. i have a child in the grocery cart who is hungry, who is tired, wants to go home. i want to go home.
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i want to get home and cook dinner for myself and my family. i have to spend two hours to check out two products on my grocery shop list? this is a complete sham. so there is even more to come. here we go. this is sham number three that is in monsanto protection act, monsanto dark act, deny americans right to know 2.0. a wonderful idea. this says a company can provide information via social media, as in facebook or twitter or who knows what, instagram. so here i am now, picture this. i mean, this really takes the cake. here i am, i'm in the store. i care about g.e. ingredients,
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and i check product number one for their 800 number, but they don't have an 800 number, or they have it but it's not for this purpose because this company has done their voluntary, voluntary disclosure, not through the 800 number. so i think well, am i supposed to take a picture of the smart code? i look for it. maybe i find one. i take a picture. i go to the web site. but, you know, no information there. no, because this company has decided to voluntary disclosure through social media. well, which social media? i'm supposed to know if they are putting it up on facebook or they are supposed to be putting it on instagram or twitter? no, because they can put it anywhere they want. so here we have a completely unworkable in every possible way in other words, all three of these ideas were put into this bill solely for the pretense
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that there is some form of disclosure to consumers. now, why would the author of this bill that was put on the floor tonight go to this tremendous effort to have this pretense about disclosure? well, let's go back to where i started. the reason for the pretense is that nine out of ten americans want to know, and so this is a scam on the american people. now, right now, citizens in our country, they are very angry, they are very upset. we have gone through four decades in which the middle class is being squeezed. and they know they are getting the short end of the stick. they know that our national wealth is growing enormously, but nothing is shared with the middle class. and they know this system is rigged, and here comes our
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majority leader to put a bill on the floor that further rigs the system with this monsanto dark act edition 2.0. so citizens across the country, this is being done to take away your rights when you're not paying attention because we're in the major -- middle of a major primary tomorrow. and so if you are aware of this monsanto dark act 2.0 being on the floor now and if there is going to be a vote on it on wednesday morning, then weigh annandale say it's not all right. share with other americans on your social media and say this sham disclosure bill is not okay, that taking away the desire and right of nine out of
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ten americans who want to know if there is g.e. ingredients in their food, taking away that right is a complete travesty. this is a type of overreach that makes citizens mad. this is the type of jammed through legislation on behalf of a powerful special interest to take away what citizens can know that makes people mad. and my colleagues across the aisle know this, so they want to jam this through in the dark of night when the country is not paying attention, and that is simply not okay. not okay. now, some may say what's the big deal here? aren't genetically engineered products all wonderful, and why would any citizen actually be concerned about them? why do these nine out of ten citizens have this desire? they are just misled.
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there is no concerns about g.e. ingredients, and so why? we're just taking away their right because they don't know what they're talking about. their concerns are not legitimate. well, i'll tell you tonight their concerns are legitimate. genetic engineering can produce a benefit and it can produce problems, and therefore it's the citizen's right to be able to make the evaluation of how they want to spend their dollar, just as it is their right if they want to buy reconstituted juice versus fresh juice, just as it's their right if they want to buy wild fish rather than farmed fish, just as it's their right if they don't want to buy food with high fructose corn syrup, or maybe they do want to buy it, but they get to choose, they get to look at the ingredients and the labeling and they get to choose. let me expand a little bit on
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this because science has provided us with both an accounting of some of the benefits and an accounting of some of the problems. science indicates that there is some truth in both. for example, let's take one of the benefits. this is a picture of golden rice. what is golden rice? in parts of the world, citizens suffer from a big deficiency of vitamin a, and therefore this rice has been genetically engineered to have vitamin a in it, and it can address in parts of the world where rice is routinely eaten, it can help address that, and folks have said that's a good thing. now, i don't know all the reverberations of cultivating this type of rice versus another type of rice. there might be a problem hidden away in those different cultivation techniques, but by
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and large, i've heard positive things about golden rice helping address a vitamin deficiency. or let's take transgenic carrots. their cells have been cultivated in order to provide a substance that provides a cure to gawcher's -- gaucher's disease, so that seems like a benefit because people suffering from gaucher's disease are awfully happy about having a remedy. or let's take yams grown in south africa. well, they have several different viruses that affect these yams, and so by genetic genetically engineering it to resist these viruses, as far as i'm aware, we don't know yet of any side effects that are a problem. as of now, this can be presented as something that is generally registered as a benefit to have this resistance to these viruses.
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and there is even discussion of genetic modifications that can be done that serve in lieu of immunizations. that's a very interesting scientific idea that could be a way to provide resistance to humans to certain diseases. but that's only part of the story. just as science has documented, there are some benefits, there are also some concerns. here in the united states of america, the major genetic modification is something called round-up ready. it makes a particular plant immune to the effects of an herbicide. an herbicide is something that kills plants. this makes the plants immune to the substance that kills plants. therefore, you can use this herbicide to control weeds without killing the corn or without killing the sugar beets
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or without killing the cotton, or so forth. well, so what have we seen? since this genetically engineered quality was developed, we have seen a massive increase in the use of herbicides on crops. it's gone for 7.4 million pounds back in 1994 to now over 160 million pounds. you see this massive increase and it's continued past 2012. well, one of the effects is that if you have this massive 160 million pounds of herbicide on fields that wasn't there 20 years earlier, what you have is a lot of runoff of herbicide into our streams and into our rivers. and when you put plant-killing stuff in our streams and rivers,
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it has an impact on the ecosystem. that's a scientifically documented, legitimate concern. there's another concern. when we till fields to take down the weeds, it was mechanical. and in that disturbed soil grew a variety of things. and in the edges of the fields dpriew a -- grew a variety of things. one example is milkweed. it has been scientifically documented that there is a big reduction in these miscellaneous weeds and some of the related insects and species that otherwise would have inhabited that area near these fields. and one example is the monarch butterfly. the monarch butterfly has crashed in the midwest because of the dramatic reduction in
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milkweed with a change from mechanical tilling to herbicide control of weeds. and that's just a canary in the coal mine or a monarch in the coal mine. we don't know what else is being affected by this massive application of herbicides. so here's another challenge. this is an interesting genetic modification. this is called bt corn. bt corn has been genetically modified so it produces a pesticide inside each cell. and particularly the goal is so that when the larva of these beetles start eating it, l pesticides will kill them. the larva has been referred to as the western corn worm. it does a lot of damage and you put the pesticide inside the cells. both the larva and the beetles
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themselves like to eat the corn. they like to eat even the strands of pollen that pollinate the corn, so you can end up with ears of corn that only have a few kernels on them, greatly reduced number of kernels as a result of the pollen being compromised. but what is happening as a result of the prevalence of this b.t. corn which is grown all over the united states? well, what's happening is these larva, the corn worms and the beetles are developing a resistance to it, because mother nature has a few surprises. at any one moment in a large population there are thousands or millions of accidental mutations occurring. and all of those mutations, when millions and millions of these beetles and their larva, the corn worms, are exposed, eventually a few of them have a
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mutation that makes them immune to the pesticide. and then they proceed to have offspring, and then the offspring have more mutations and become more resist pant. and suddenly you now have to go back and put pesticide on these fields even though there's pesticide produced inside each cell of the corn itself. so that type of biofeedback, that is scientifically documented. that is a concern. there is an impact on creating what is sometimes called super weed through herbicides and super bugs pesticide resistant through the massive application of b.t.-g.e. engineering. so, this chart here is just a reference to the problem in the waterways that i've already spoken to. so i don't think i need to repeat that.
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but let me come back then, if there are advantages or benefits and there are scientifically documented problems, shouldn't it be up to the consumer to decide if they want to buy a product with genetically engineered ingredients? they are not stupid. they are not crazy. they have not invented some concern. there are legitimate scientifically documented benefits and legitimate scientifically documented concerns. so it should be up to the consumer. we tell consumers, hey, you have thoughts about whether you'd rather have wild fish or farm-raised fish? well, for example, why do we require that? i'll give you an example from the pacific northwest. the pacific northwest, a lot of salmon are raised in ocean pens. those are farmed fish, and
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they're very close together. and because they're very close together, they develop more diseases. there's a sea lice that becomes prevalent. and also because they're not eating the same stuff wild fish eat, their meat is white. so they have to be fed a dye to make their meat the same color as wild salmon. well, there are folks who hear that and they say, i have a preference. i'd rather have farm fish because they're cheaper. or i'd rather have wild fish because i don't like some of the ways the farm fish are raised. or maybe they just like the idea of that wild fish and supporting the wild fishing industry rather than the farm fish industry. that's why we require the disclosure. so it should be a citizen's right to know. now, right now, here we are with
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this issue being jammed through in the middle of the night on behalf of a very powerful special interest, even though nine out of ten americans don't agree. well, let's ask the presidential candidates where they stand. i think each and every candidatd bernie sanders on the democratic side. mr. trump and mr. rubio and mr. cruz and mr. kasich on the republican side. where do you stand on this issue that's going to be voted on wednesday morning in this chamber? do you stand with the nine out of ten americans who want the right to know whether there are g.e. ingredients in their food? do you stand with the people or do you stand with the powerful
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special interests that wants the american citizens to be kept in the dark? this is very relevant. voting tomorrow in five primaries: in florida, in illinois, wherever the other three are tomorrow, they want to know where the presidential candidates stand. are they going to be the type of leader who stands with the people or are they going to be the type that wants to approve and say it's okay to slam this deny americans the right to know act 2.0. this monsanto act. it's all right to slam it through with no committee consideration in the dark of night when the country's not paying attention because there's a big set of primaries tomorrow. i want to know where they stand.
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so i say to these candidates on the republican side, the democratic side, call us up. tell us where you stand. call my office, 202-224-3753. and let the rest of the senate know where you stand. we'll help make sure everyone knows where you, the presidential candidates, stand with the citizens of america and the right to know. or whether you stand with the powerful special interests that wants to strip states' rights to inform their citizens about information that they want. i want to know from the presidential candidates do you believe the federal government should strip states of the ability to label, even if their
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labels are all consistent with each other? do you think that's okay? or do you care about states' rights? do you see states as a laboratory where we can experiment with ideas and see if they work or not? right now vermont is a laboratory. on july 1 they're going to have the first labeling law in the country, and that's an experiment that their citizens wanted consistent with nine out of ten americans who want to know. they responded. vermont responded. they are the first state in the union to do so. we're going to cut that short. we're going to trash that ability of vermont to conduct this experiment. we're going to stop on the citizens' rights to know not just in vermont, but in oregon and montana and florida and ohio
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and all 50 states and throw in a few u.s. territories as well? now, the argument is made this is very dangerous because there could be multiple states that produce different standards. but you know what? that doesn't exist. there won't be multiple states in july. there was only one state that has a bill. so it's a phony argument to say that this is something causing big expensive problems because there's conflicting standards, because there's no conflicting standards. it's just one brave state that responded to its citizens desire. who are we to stop that experiment? we should endorse that experiment. we should endorse that state laboratory. we should watch to see how well it works. i mean, we know citizens want this and that they care a lot, so why take it away because monsanto and friends don't want americans to know.
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how many members here want to go home to their citizens and say you know what? by the way, i represent all of us here in our state of iowa or our state of florida or our state of montana or our state of oregon -- my home state. it's okay with me if the federal government takes away your rights on something you really care about. but that's what this chamber is poised to do. and that's why they're doing it in the dark of night, because the senators here who are prepared to vote for monsanto dark act 2.0 don't want their citizens to know about it. that's why they've encouraged the strategy of putting it on this floor monday night right before this big tuesday primary, because citizens care a lot about knowing what they put in their mouths. and they care a lot about what they feed to their children. and it's not just simply whether it will make them sick. they care about the implications of the different way, different
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food is raised. when we talk about the difference between farmed fish and wild fish, it doesn't have anything to do with what is going to poison you. it isn't necessarily anything to do with the taste. the taste may be similar. it has to do with citizens' concern about the way the harvest is done, about the way the crop is grown, the produce is grown. when we talk about the difference between constituted juice and we require disclosure and the difference between fresh juice and constituted juice isn't because it's going to poison us to put it in our bodies. it's because citizens care about the process that got them to the product they're about to buy. well, they care about this too. they care about it. democrats, 92%. republicans, 84%. independents, 89%. in this deeply divided country when nine out of ten folks who are independents, democrats or
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republicans all agree that something is important, shouldn't we honor that? shouldn't we not trounce on their rights? shouldn't we not suppress the first state pilot project on something that nine out of ten citizens across the spectrum agree on? and yet, that's the dirty deed this chamber is planning for wednesday morning. it is just wrong. mr. president, i am deeply disturbed about what's become of our we, the people nation. what are those beautiful first three words of our constitution? you ask that in any town hall in america, and the crowd at the town hall will respond we, the
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people. those words are carved in our hearts because it is the core principle on which this nation was founded, that we would establish a republic where the decisions would be of, by and for the people, but this vote on wednesday morning is not of, by and for the people. it is of, by and for monsanto and friends. because they want to take away what we, the people, care about, the right to know whether there are g.e. ingredients in their food. now, each of us came here, and we pledged to uphold our responsibilities under the constitution, and i have to assume that each and every one of the 100 senators on this
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floor have actually read the constitution, and i should certainly hope that every senator on this floor knows that it starts out we, the people, and i hope that we understand why. president jefferson, after he was out of office, he talked about the mother principle of our republic, and that is the decisions will serve the people, and he talked about how for that to happy there has to be each citizen an equal voice, and you can imagine the vision of the town square and that there is no charge for standing up in the town square and expressing your opinion. it's free. but every citizen gets to stand up and have their say with an equal voice before a vote is taken.
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that's the equal voice jefferson talked about. that's the equal voice concept that president lincoln talked about. that understanding that each citizen would have a proportional equal voice, that was embedded in our founder's minds. they hadn't yet envisioned a world in which the town square is now for sale. the town square is television, you have to buy ads on it. it's expensive. you have to stand up and make your point. and those with the most money gets to stand up for a longer period of time than those with little money. those with a little money get to purchase the equivalent of a stadium sound system to drown out the voice of ordinary people. here's what i want to know. on wednesday morning, is this chamber going to respond to those with those stadium sound systems and proceed to drown out
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the voice of the people? let's put up that 90% chart. this is the voice of the people, democrats, republicans, independents. they care about this wednesday morning. are we going to drown out their desires on behalf of the powerful special interests? are we going to stamp out states' rights on behalf of the powerful special interests? let us not do that. let us not go that shameful direction, the direction that is completely contrary to the principles that founded this nation of an equal voice, of a nation that lincoln said operates of, by and for the people. if we want to have this debate over conflicting state labels, then fine. let's create a common standard.
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let's create one common standard for the ingredients, that's all it would take. the f.d.a. could choose it so there is nothing pejorative about it. it's not taking up space on the package. it's not taking up space on the cover. it's not pejorative. it doesn't imply there is anything wrong. it just says this is something citizens want to know, just as they want to know farm versus wild for fish, just as they want to know concentrate versus nonconcentrate for juice, just as they want to know what minerals and vitamins and ingredients are in the food they're buying. this they want to know. so let's honor that. let us not tear down that vision laid out in the first three words of our constitution and replace we, the people, with we, the titans. if you want to be a senator in a
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republic that starts out with a constitution we, the titans, then please go be a senator in a different nation. go to work somewhere else, but not here in the united states of america where we have a responsibility to the citizens and the citizens are clear on where they stand. and so if we must vote on wednesday and there is no need to, we're only voting on wednesday because within seconds of this bill being introduced tonight, the majority leader also put forward a petition that forces a vote on closing debate on wednesday morning. so before anyone has had a word to say, a petition has already been filed to close debate. what kind of a democratic process is that? and so the only time to speak to this is tomorrow when the whole world is paying attention to the
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primaries in five different states, and tonight, and that's why i'm speaking tonight. so i'm hoping a few people are tuned in enough to activate their networks and to say this is wrong, mr. majority leader. pull that bill from this floor. that is a terrible assault on dlib tiff democracy. send it to a committee and actually have a debate on it so people can analyze it. give people in that committee the opportunity to do amendments. give the chance for citizens across the nation to find out that this is going on. honor the people of this nation and their right to know. and their right to know.
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with governor kashich, not an endorsement but telling ohio republicans to vote for governor
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kashich. >> there is any significance to these two appearances by governor romney? >> guest: i think the biggest difference is it draws media attention. the first time that governor romney has appeared with another presidential candidate, and although he is not endorsing kashich, it's a strong show of support for the effort to stop donald trump and say, don't kashich has the pest chance of beating him here in ohio, and interestingly, the appearances are coming as there are other appearances by bernie sanders and then by donald trump here in ohio, and there's a finite number of reporters roaming the state and this appears tonight in columbus is going to be chance for governor romney to kind of draw some attention from reporters who might otherwise be covering donald trump at the same time, and that's been the big issue for john kashich, just even being lot of in the media
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in his own state. a popular governor here among republicans but there's some question whether he has a chance of winning the nomination, and indeed he doesn't have a chance of winning it outright so he has to persuade people who tend to like him but he is a guy who can take their vote and carry it to the white house. >> host: as your story points out, available online, john kashich has never lost an election in ohio. with the polls showing this a dead heat between trump and kashich, why did senator cruz stop by in columbus yesterday? >> guest: super interesting. so, what we saw from senator cruz was -- well, first of all, an attempt to draw up his base a little bit. he thinks he has chance of being the nominee and right now he has the mathematical chance of winning the nomination. so if he is the nominee in the fall, going to need to have a lot of ohio republicans on his side. that's one factor, more
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specifically, the senator cruz's campaign has been open about the fact they want this to be a one-on-one race with donald trump come wednesday morning. and they've been campaigning heavily in florida to try to get -- get rubio out of the race, even acknowledging that is going to hand the state and the 99 delegates there to donald trump, and i think what we saw here in columbus was the same sort of tactic. john kashich having a shot at defeating donald trump makes them nervous. they would have heart a two-candidate pace instead of three so cruz can take a couple percentage points away from john kashich, that would potentially cause kashich to suffer defeat and get him out of the race. >> host: let's turn our take to democratsful eight years ago hillary clinton win thing ohio primary even though she lost the nomination to then-senator barack obama. followingfollowing the win by be sanders in michigan, polls show the race is competitive in ohio.
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>> guest: competitive is a good way to describe it. is has been as close as five points and as far apart as 15, so, honestly, we're not sure what will happen tomorrow. one thing that people need to remember when the look at polls, one of the ways or determining lookly voter is looking at whether people have voted in the past, and a lot of bernie sanders supporters have never voted in a presidential election, they're too young. so, we don't know what turnout will look like. ohio state university is on spring break. all sorts of factors there. and bernie sanders was supposed to be defeated easily by hillary clinton in michigan, and there's some question as to whether he can pull off a similar surprise here in ohio. a blue collar state who has
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traditionally supported centrist democrats, and if bernie sanders were to pull off a victory here that would really say more than just the delegates and all that, but that his message is resounding in a -- in the midwest and a swing state and really that he could have a chance to be a formidable opponent to clinton but two republicans in the fall. >> how significant the ruling can vote tomorrow in ohio's primary? >> you know, i don't think it's very significant. >> you know, i don't think it's and they had had thousands of absentee ballots, only a few


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