Senate Record - February 14, 2007
|Senate - February 14, 2007 - week 7|
|110th - United States Congress|
|Senate Majority Leader||Harry Reid|
|Minority Leader||Mitch McConnell|
|Previous||Tuesday - February 13, 2007|
These are consolidate excerpts from the Congressional Record, covering the major actions of the United States Senate in the 110th United States Congress on February 14, 2007. For the daily summary of the actions in the Senate click here. For a summary of the actions in the House click here, and for Congress as a whole on this date, click here.
Only major action or debates are usually included in these excerpts. For the complete Congressional Record for this date, click on the THOMAS link (i.e. the date within the title of the opening header) in the article below.
On the Floor
Afternoon Session - Wednesday, February 14, 2007
The Acting President pro tempore - The majority leader is recognized.
Harry Reid-D (NV), Majority Leader
Mr. Harry Reid-D, (NV) Majority Leader - Madam President, today following whatever time the leaders might utilize, the Senate will be in morning business for 1 hour, with the time equally divided and Senators permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each.
Yesterday, cloture was invoked on the continuing funding resolution by a vote of 71 to 26. We need to run the 30 hours postcloture. Then all time will expire at 8:52 this evening.
Following morning business, we will resume consideration of the funding resolution.
I have had discussions with the Republican leader about other matters which we might consider prior to adjourning for the February recess. Among those would be several judicial nominations on which I have acknowledged on previous occasions we would be able to secure a time agreement. Members will be apprised of the likelihood or the possibility of votes today.
Mr. Harry Reid-D, (NV) Majority Leader - Madam President, I would like to say that this 110th Congress, when we came here, Democrats and Republicans alike had a real problem because the last Congress only funded the Government until February 15. With cooperation between Democrats and Republicans, difficult negotiations took place, but it was a situation where Senators Cochran-R and Byrd-D, who lead us in the Senate Committee on Appropriations|Appropriations Committee]], working with Chairman Obey-D on the other side of the Capitol, together with all ranking members and all chairs of the subcommittees on both sides, worked through these difficult issues. And they were difficult. We had not enough money to do all that is necessary to be done, but we got it done without a single earmark. I know this was difficult.
There are issues that are so troubling. There is a Senator on the other side of the aisle, Johnny Isakson-R from Georgia. I don't know how you could find a nicer person in the world than Johnny Isakson. He is pleasant. He always has a smile on his face. He has an issue that is really important to him concerning children and health—something that should be in this bill. It is not.
Kay Bailey Hutchison-R, the senior Senator from Texas, has an issue dealing with BRAC that has bipartisan support. There are bases that we legislated closure for, and communities are having difficult times as a result of these base closures doing all that needs to be done, and we promised them money to allow these closures to go forward without as much concern and real hardship. But there wasn't anything we could do. If we had a single amendment on this bill, it had to go back for conference.
As a result of that, it would mean that very likely we couldn't complete this by tomorrow night at midnight. I have made commitments to a number of people that we are going to take care of these things in the supplemental which should be here the last week in March, and I am going to do everything I can to make sure the process on the supplemental is as open and free as people think it should be. We will be as patient as we can be to work our way through this. I have told the distinguished Republican leader that vehicle will be open to amendments.
So I think we have done very good work. Legislation is the art of compromise and consensus building, and I appreciate very much the Republicans supporting this. There were some who didn't and I understand that and I understand why. What we did yesterday in invoking cloture on this bill is a step forward to allowing us to get the country's financial affairs in order. I have talked to Senator Byrd. I have spoken to Senator Cochran-R. I have spoken to the distinguished Republican leader. We are all going to do our very utmost this year to get appropriations bills done. We are going to be able to do that now that this CR is going to be out of the way either today early on or, if we can't work anything out, when the time expires tonight.
So, again, I want to express my appreciation publicly to everyone who worked on this matter. There were people who voted against the bill who were a part of the process of working things out. I have spent time on this issue with the senior Senator from New Mexico. I have spent a lot of time with him. He and I did that Energy and Water Subcommittee for many years as chairman and ranking member. We went back and forth. He didn't get everything he wanted, but he got quite a bit. I am not going to go through the whole rollcall of others with whom we worked on this to try to make it as easy a slide as possible. But anyway I am glad it is done. It is good for the country.
Measure Placed on the Calendar
Mr. Harry Reid-D, (NV) Majority Leader - Madam President, I know there are Senators wishing to speak, but I just want to say a few more words on a different subject. First of all, S. 574 is at the desk and due for a second reading.
The Acting President pro tempore - The clerk will report the bill by title for a second time.
The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:
A bill (S. 574S. 574) to express the sense of Congress on Iraq.
Mr. Harry Reid - Madam President, I object to any further proceedings with respect to this bill.
The Acting President pro tempore - Objection is heard. The bill will be placed on the calendar.
- (The remarks of Mr. Reid pertaining to the introduction of S. 579 and S. 588 are located in their respective articles)
The Acting President pro tempore - Under the previous order, there will be a period for the transaction of morning business for up to 60 minutes, with Senators permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each, and the time equally divided between the two sides.
State of the Economy
John Cornyn-R (TX)
Mr. Cornyn-R, Texas - Madam President, on Monday the distinguished majority leader took to the floor and bemoaned the state of our economy, calling our economic future bleak. As surprised as I was by those comments, I thought it was even more important to come down to the floor and to respond and to provide, I think, a much different picture than that depicted by the distinguished majority leader.
It is ironic the same date those comments were made, the Associated Press reported a story that leads with this paragraph:
The deficit for the first four months of the current budget year is down sharply from the same period a year ago as the government continues to benefit from record levels of tax collections.
The Treasury Department reported Monday that the deficit for the budget year that began October 1 was down 57.2 percent from the same period a year ago.
That same article goes on to say:
The continued strong growth in revenues reflects the record profits corporations have been recording in recent years and the low levels of unemployment, which means more Americans are working and paying taxes.
If this is "bleak" economic news, I would love to see what good economic news might look like.
I have a few charts that provide a more accurate picture of exactly where we stand in terms of the American economy today. This first chart demonstrates for 21 consecutive quarters we have seen the U.S. economy grow, including the latest quarter where the economy grew by 3.5 percent.
We have seen since August 2003, employment has expanded over 41 consecutive months—creating 7.4 million new jobs in America. This timeframe is not accidental. In 2003, we passed some of the tax relief which is largely responsible for giving the American worker greater incentive to work hard and to save their money and invest it in their small business, thus creating jobs and opportunity for all Americans. This has created the sort of freedom that is always demonstrated in the strength of our burgeoning economy. It is as a result of not Government action per se but, rather, the freedom we have given the economy and the hard-working American taxpayer to keep more of what they earn and creating an incentive for them to work hard and be able to earn more to support their family and their way of life.
The third chart demonstrates the economic picture is not as the distinguished majority leader said, "bleak" but demonstrates that revenue to the Federal Treasury has exceeded all historical precedent. Indeed, this last projection is that in 2007 we will see it increase by 18.5 percent, and you can see above the line on this chart that represents historical averages. Each of the following years leading up to 2012 will exceed that historical average. Again, the economy is stronger than ever and continues to grow because of our current low tax and progrowth policies.
Unfortunately, this is a lesson that Washington sometimes forgets because when given the opportunity, the instinct of Washington is to increase Federal revenue by increasing taxes. I don't think you need to know much about human nature to know that high taxes decrease the incentive we all have to work hard. What that does is actually have a wet-blanket effect on the economy and on the ability of small businesses and employers to create jobs which create the kind of economic growth and the kind of revenue our tax system generates as a result of strong economic activity.
I am worried that even with the current continuing resolution that is in the Senate now that cuts $3.1 billion from defense spending at a time when we are trying to bring our troops home from Europe and Asia and to provide them a place to come home to, that the solution offered by the distinguished chairman of the Committee on Appropriations is "Don't worry, we will add that money back in when we get to the supplemental appropriations bill."
The problem with that is the $3.1 billion that has been spent out of the current continuing resolution or Omnibus appropriations bill on things other than our military, that money has now been spent on other programs that are favored by the new majority. What they are saying is, instead of spending $3.1 billion, we will spend $6.2 billion—the $3.1 on things other than defense, but we will come back later and make the defense budget whole but in a way that aggravates the budget deficit.
Of course, the consequence of that kind of spending policy which has a tendency to aggravate the deficit lays the groundwork for our colleagues on the other side to say, the American people are not taxed enough. We need to actually raise taxes in order to generate more revenue to pay for this additional spending.
This is exactly the kind of response we do not need. As demonstrated by the charts, as demonstrated by the booming economy, we have, as a result of the low tax policy and the progrowth policies of the last 6 years, the American economy could not be stronger or better.
I hope we will all be edified by this factual data demonstrated on the charts and that the misimpression that the distinguished majority leader was under when he called the economy bleak will be now disabused. I hope he will see from the charts and from my comments--not because I said it but because this is what the facts demonstrate--the low tax and progrowth policies we have had over the last 6 years have served the American people very well and that 7.4 million new jobs have been created in America since August 2003. That, indeed, should be what we are all about.
I yield the floor.
The Acting President pro tempore - The Senator from Idaho is recognized.
The Acting President pro tempore - The Senator is recognized.
Ken Salazar-D (CO)
Mr. Salazar-D, Colorado - Mr. President, I come to the Senate to speak about the forgotten America. That is the rural America which is a wide expanse of the geographic area of these United States. When I came to the Senate 2 years ago, I gave my maiden speech about forgotten America, the rural parts of our country which have been in decline decade after decade after decade.
I did so because if you look at my own history, I come from a place that is 300 miles to the south of Denver, a place that has the name of Conejos, in English meaning rabbit county. It is one of the four poorest counties in the United States of America. In that county, as in so many counties across America, you see the kinds of problems that describe the two Americas we have. We have the America of prosperity, much of that part of America lying within the metropolitan areas of our great Nation, and we have the other America, the forgotten America, the America that struggles on the vine every day to stay alive, the part of America that has great disparity in terms of the kind of health care and the kind of education and the kind of economic opportunity that exists for them.
In my own State of Colorado, there were 64 counties, and out of the 64 counties, even in the great boom of the 1990s when unemployment was nonexistent and our economy was growing at a very rapid pace, most of those counties were withering on the vine. They were declining in population. Their population was aging. They were struggling with health care. They were struggling with a whole host of issues that affect those communities.
Out of the 64 counties in Colorado during the period of 2000 to 2005, 21 of them actually declined in population. That is a third of my State that was actually declining in population. The fact is that same statistic can apply for many other States, including Nebraska, the Dakotas, Idaho, and most of our States around the country.
I am very hopeful, as we move forward in the 110th Congress, that under the great leadership of Senator Tom Harkin-D from Iowa, we will be able to put together a farm bill that will help revitalize rural America and will help us put the spotlight on what has been the forgotten America.
Even as we start the process of moving forward and addressing the issues set forth in the 10 titles of the farm bill, we already see some statistics that to all of us should be alarming. At a hearing we had earlier this week, there was testimony provided to us that the per capita investment in rural America is about $550 less than it is in urban communities. That is because the formulas we have for community development block grants and other investments the Federal Government makes to help communities ends up, in a very disappointing way, affecting rural communities in these negative ways. I am hopeful, as we move forward with the farm bill, we will be able to correct some of these disparities and create new opportunities for rural America.
We will see one of those opportunities created with our efforts to grow our way to energy independence. The fact of the matter is, both Democrats and Republicans, progressives and conservatives, are coming together to recognize the fact that growing our way to energy independence is a matter of national security, a matter of economic security, and a matter of environmental security. I am tremendously optimistic about what we can do with the new farm bill.
Mr. President, today I speak briefly about two pieces of legislation I have introduced or will soon be introducing that are part of that agenda to try to help rural America. The first, a bipartisan legislation that creates a rural leasing institute. It is legislation which I am proudly sponsoring with Senator Pryor, my good friend and former attorney general from Arkansas and Senator Chambliss and Senator Isakson.
This legislation creates a rural policing institute to make sure our law enforcement in rural communities has a similar kind of opportunity that law enforcement has in the major metropolitan areas. In my State of Colorado, we have about 14,000 peace officers. I had the great honor as the attorney general of that State to serve as the chairman of the board that certified all the law enforcement officers in my State for a period of 6 years. There is a big difference between the kind of training rural law enforcement officers get and the kind of training provided to law enforcement areas in the metropolitan communities. Of the 14,000 peace officers in Colorado, 7,000 of the people work in departments that have fewer than 15 officers. They cannot afford the kind of training to protect themselves and to protect the public safety that other larger metropolitan police organizations can afford.
Therefore, our effort to move forward with this rural policing institute is to allow our national Government to provide training opportunities to the thousands upon thousands of police officers who live in rural communities and who work every day to protect the public safety of their communities.
I hope our colleagues will join in the passage of this legislation. Last year, this legislation enjoyed the unanimous support of the Senate. I am hopeful we will again have that same kind of support.
In conclusion, let me say that the forgotten America is, indeed, much of rural America. It is that part of rural America which we know is so important to us because of the values we find there, the bedrock values of what America is all about. It is a pioneering spirit of the West. It is the place where the food security of our Nation so depends.
If you walk into my office, for many years I have had on my desk a sigh that says: No farms, no food. No farms, no food. I would hope, as we make that statement--as I make that statement--we recognize we should never compromise the food security of the United States of America. We, obviously, have done that in a very negative and disastrous way with respect to our energy dependence on foreign countries today. We ought not to do the same thing with food security.
Our ability to revitalize rural America and to enact a farm bill that will help us revitalize rural America is very much at the heart of how we take care of this forgotten America.
- (The remarks of Mr. Salazar-D pertaining to the introduction of S. 583 are the article on that bill)
Mr. Salazar - Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum and ask unanimous consent that the time be equally divided.
The Presiding Officer - Is there objection?
Without objection, it is so ordered.
The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
The Presiding officer - Without objection, it is so ordered.
Kay Bailey Hutchison
Mrs. Hutchison-R, Texas - Mr. President, I rise to speak on the continuing resolution before the Senate, H. J. Res. 20, to point out some of the flaws in the bill. Because we have the potential for a Government shutdown, I believe it is my responsibility to vote for the legislation.
I am reluctant to be in the position of voting for a $463 billion spending bill with no capability for amendment. We passed appropriations bills out of the Senate last year. They reflected the Senate's priorities. Yet this measure changes many of the priorities that were set in last year's bills, and we haven't had the opportunity for hearings, committee markups, or to offer any amendments from the floor. That is not the way the Senate has done business, certainly not the Appropriations Committee. The Appropriations Committee has been quite bipartisan throughout the time I have been a member.
I don't like to see this type of precedent being set. The last time Republicans took over from Democrats, there were 11 appropriations bills not yet finished.
We didn't do a continuing resolution and fill up the tree so there couldn't be amendments. We did an Omnibus appropriations bill. We debated it for 6 days. We timed it so that people had full access to amendments and the process. We had 100 amendments. That was 2003. I am very concerned about this type of process. But we are now 1 day before the end of the previous continuing resolution, which means we could see a Government shutdown if we can't come to agreement.
I said last week that we had time for amendments and to confer with the House. The amendment I put forward with 27 cosponsors, the Hutchison-Inhofe amendment, would have fully restored the $3.1 billion that was taken out of military construction that was preparation for the movement of troops home from overseas, as well as many other base changes that were going to be made. I asked for the restoration of that with 27 cosponsors, and my amendment was ruled out of order.
I know there was bipartisan support for those many military construction projects. And since I am the ranking member and previously the chairman of that subcommittee, I know how important they are. I know they were so important that the chairman of all the services, plus the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, wrote a letter saying: Please do not fund with a continuing resolution the military construction projects because there will not be enough to fully cover our needs. The Secretary of Defense said the same thing.
We are not going to be able to do what is right for our military because $3 billion was taken out of the Senate-passed appropriations bill and converted to other projects. It was spread around throughout the other agencies, and the military construction was the pay-for. I tried to correct that, and I have to say that the distinguished majority leader did make an effort to work with the House to make my amendment in order. He was not able to do that. I accept that, and I accept that he tried. I do believe he tried. I think Senator Reid did make an effort. But we have a process here which is not one anyone can be proud of; that is, a $463 billion spending bill, taking $3 billion away from military construction, putting it into other priorities, and not allowing amendments. It is not right, and I protested.
I am going to vote for the bill. I think we have to do it.
I am very concerned about the NASA funding. There is money taken out of the ongoing, very important priority of getting the crew return vehicle that is the successor to the shuttle online on time. I cannot imagine we would take money out of that program, which was done in this bill, which would potentially delay us years down the road from having the crew return vehicle that is set to replace the shuttle. The shuttle is set to go out of existence in 2010, possibly 2011. We need the shuttle to finish the space station. But the Administrator, Michael Griffin, has said we need to retire the shuttle as soon as possible. We have to finish the space station. The new crew return vehicle will not be able to carry big parts up to the space station. It will not be heavy enough. But we need to close the gap so we don't have a time when the United States is not able to send people into space, and that is what is going to happen if the crew return vehicle is not able to be produced when the shuttle goes out of existence.
I think we are putting NASA in jeopardy. I met with Senator Bill Nelson, the chairman of the NASA Subcommittee, of which I am ranking member. We met with Michael Griffin and members of the staff of the Appropriations Committee who assured Michael Griffin he would have the ability to transfer money out of other accounts to go there. But I am concerned about it. Why was the money moved out of that account in the first place? That doesn't seem like the proper way to do business. But we are going to watch that very carefully.
Senator Nelson and I are very bipartisan in our approach to NASA. We both believe it is most important for us to have human spaceflight capabilities for the United States of America. It is a national security issue as well as a scientific issue that we stay in the forefront of science, and the lead we have had by going into space early is unmatched by any other country. Our lead is so important for our national security and the dominance we have had in space. The ability we have had to guide missiles from space is a phenomenal advantage America has been able to achieve by conquering space. If we don't have the ability to put humans in space for some period of time--3 to 5 years--what are we going to do? Are we going to go and beg the Russians? Who knows, by 2010 or 2011, whether the Russians would even give us space on their shuttles, much less give us the accommodations we would need and perhaps the secrecy we would need.
I am concerned about this bill. If we were not facing a potential shutoff of the Government and many important programs, including benefits to veterans and military pay, I would vote no, just as I did vote against cloture because I thought we still had time to do this right. We should have had time to do it right, but we didn't, so we are faced with the Hobson's choice of shutting down the Government or trying to do this bill in the right way with no amendments. I don't consider it a good choice.
Mr. President, I will vote for the bill. I do not think this is the Senate's finest hour. I do believe the Senate majority leader made an effort. I think he heard the merits of our bipartisan amendment with 27 sponsors. I hope he will, as he has promised, work with us to get the full funding of these military construction projects in the supplemental appropriations bill. However, we have the chance right now. I hate to give up the bird in the hand for one that might see some delays, that might see many changes. I will be right on top of it. As the ranking member of this subcommittee, I will certainly expect that we have the ability to amend the appropriations bill that comes forward as a supplemental, just as we have always had in this body. I hope we will not have to worry that we are going to have a filled up amendment tree and cloture filed on the supplemental appropriations bill.
We can do business the right way in the Senate. We have for most of the years of this great institution. I will be disappointed if we start seeing us bring bills to the floor and not allow amendments--there is no reason to have 100 Members if that is the way we are going to do business. We could just have 51 or we could just have 1 if all the decisions are going to be made in that fashion.
That is not what the Constitution intended, and I hope it is certainly not what the new majority intends as a way to do business.
I am going to hold out hope that the word is kept, that we can have the amendment process, that we can fund the military construction projects that are so important for quality of life and training capabilities for the great men and women who are serving our country and putting themselves forward to give up their lives, if necessary, for freedom for future generations of Americans.
Mr. President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The Presiding Officer - The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
The Presiding officer - Without objection, it is so ordered.
Conclusion of Morning Business
The Presiding Officer - Morning business is now closed.
The afternoon session of the Senate for February 14, 2007 can be found here, and continues with...