Senate Record - January 23, 2007

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Congressional Record
Senate - January 23, 2007 - week 4
110th - United States Congress
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Previous Tuesday - January 22, 2007
Next legislative session

These are consolidate excerpts from the Congressional Record, covering the major actions of the United States Senate in the 110th United States Congress on January 23, 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

Morning Session - Senate - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Senate met at 10 a.m. and was called to order by the Honorable Jon Tester, a Senator from the State of Montana.


The Presiding Officer - Today's prayer will be offered by former Senate Chaplain Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie of Los Angeles, California.

The guest chaplain offered the following prayer:

"Wait on the Lord; take courage, and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.
Gracious God, Sovereign of our Nation, Lord of our lives and source of inspiration and courage for the high calling of political leadership, the bracing admonition of the psalmist sounds in our souls. Wait on You Lord? That is not easy for us to do. Then we realize that waiting on You is not for You to catch up with us to bless what we have already decided but for us to linger in Your presence until we think Your thoughts, experience Your love, will to do Your will, and receive Your supernatural guidance for the great issues we face. Thank You for stopping us in our tracks, capturing our minds, quieting our stress-strained emotions, and interrupting our flow of words with Your Word, :"Be still and know that I am God.
Father, we need You more than our next breath and we depend on You more than the thump of our next heartbeat.
We really believe there is no problem too big for You to solve, no division so complex that there is no solution through creative compromise, and no struggle for political power that You cannot turn into a stepping stone.
On this day of the State of the Union Address, bless our President as he speaks and the Members of Congress as they listen, that unified by patriotism, they may lead our beloved Nation through this turbulent time. We thank You for the patriotic Americans who lead this Senate: Robert Byrd, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Dick Durbin, and Trent Lott. We wait on You. Grant us courage and strengthen our hearts. You are our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Pledge of Allegiance

The Honorable Jon Tester led the Pledge of Allegiance, as follows:

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.

Jon Tester named to perform the duties of the Chair for the session

The Presiding Officer - The clerk will please read a communication to the Senate from the President pro tempore (Robert Byrd).

The assistant legislative clerk read the following letter:

Washington, DC, January 23, 2007.
To the Senate:
Under the provisions of rule I, section 3, of the Standing Rules of the Senate, I hereby appoint the Honorable Jon Tester, a Senator from the State of Montana, to perform the duties of the Chair.
Robert C. Byrd,
President pro tempore.

Mr. Jon Tester thereupon assumed the Chair as Acting President pro tempore.


The Acting President pro tempore - The majority leader is recognized.

Welcome Back to Reverend Ogilivie

Mr. Harry Reid, Majority Leader - Mr. President, it is very good to have back Reverend Ogilivie, our former Senate Chaplain. A lot of thoughts came to my mind. I sat here for 6 years and listened to almost every one of his prayers. My mind goes back to some of the tragedies that had come to the Senate during his tenure, including the death of Governor Carnahan, the death of Paul Wellstone, and the death of Paul Coverdell. I mention Paul Coverdell because I traveled to his funeral in Georgia, and the Chaplain at that time, Chaplain Ogilivie, delivered the eulogy and was in charge of the services there in Georgia. I will always remember the dignity, compassion, and the understanding in the words of Reverend Ogilivie. It is good to have you back. Thank you very much for all you do for our country. I am sure you are doing good things in California, as you did here for so many years.

Mr. Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader - Mr. President, if the majority leader will allow me an observation about Dr. Ogilivie and his extraordinary service to this body and to the Nation, it was truly exemplary. I know I speak for all of the Members on this side of the aisle when I say to Dr. Ogilivie, thank you for your years of service here. It is wonderful to see you again.


Mr. Harry Reid, Majority Leader - Mr. President, this morning, we will be in a period of morning business for 60 minutes. The first half of the time will be under the control of the Republicans and the second half of the time will be under the control of the Democrats.

Following morning business, we will resume consideration of H.R. 2, the minimum wage bill. We will be in recess today from 12:30 to 2:15 for the party luncheons. As I indicated, we have two cloture motions that have been filed. The first vote, on line-item veto, will take place tomorrow. If cloture is not invoked, we will then proceed to a vote on the underlying bill, which is S. 2.

There have been a number of amendments filed and that is very good. We are looking at a number of them closely to see if we can schedule a vote on one of them sometime this morning.

Looking at the schedule, we are going to have a couple of votes Friday morning, and everyone should understand that. The only way I can see that we will not have votes Friday morning is if we can figure out a way to finish minimum wage on Thursday. That is certainly possible. I am impressed with the seriousness of the amendments that have been offered. To this point, five amendments have been offered, and we certainly could complete this bill this week if we put our minds to it. I hope we can do that. If we cannot, it will spill over into next week. I am not sure that is good; we have so many things that we have to do. I have had a number of conversations with the Republican leader and we are going to have debate on Iraq. We are going to make that as meaningful as possible. We are going to work together to see if we can limit the subject matter of the debate on Iraq. We hope we can do that. We also have other things that are facing us down the road, not the least of which is stem cell research and negotiation on Medicare. But more importantly, we have to make sure the Government has money after February 15. That is something, again, I have had a number of conversations on with the distinguished Republican leader. The Appropriations Committee, with Democrats and Republicans, has worked very well on that. Senator Cochran has been fully engaged and all of the subcommittee chairs and ranking members have been engaged.

I think we are at a point where we have a pretty good idea of the subject matter of the CR. There will be no earmarks, zero, not a single earmark on the CR. That is what we have agreed upon. Senator McConnell agrees with that, as I do, and the two appropriating bodies agree with that. So we are going to move forward on the CR. It is not going to be fun. I have been an appropriator here for many years, as has Senator McConnell. We like to do the regular process, but in my opinion we cannot get to that unless we get the CR out of the way and work on the budget and get the appropriations bills done.

It is my goal to work very hard to get the appropriations bills done this year. It has been done before and we can do it again. It has been done under Republican leadership and under Democratic leadership in the Senate. We have been working on it on a bipartisan basis. I think we can get it done.

As a reminder, first-degree amendments must be filed at the desk by 2:30 p.m. this afternoon.


The Acting President pro tempore - The Republican leader is recognized.

About cloture on Minimum Wage Bill

Mr. Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader - Mr. President, let me focus my remarks on the second cloture vote that will occur tomorrow. Were cloture to be invoked on what is generally referred to as a "clean minimum wage," the bipartisan compromise that has been put together between Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley and Senator Enzi and others would be wiped out. So I think it is extremely important to mention to Members, those who would like to continue to go forward on a bipartisan basis, if cloture were to be invoked, that would eliminate the possibility of going forward on a bipartisan basis on minimum wage. I hope cloture will not be invoked--the second cloture vote would not be invoked, so that we can proceed with the substitute, which seems to enjoy broad, bipartisan support in the Senate.

I yield the floor.


The Acting President pro tempore - Under the previous order, leadership time is reserved.

Morning Business

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 therein for up to 10 minutes each, with the first half of the time under the control of the minority and the second half of the time under the control of the majority.

The Senator from Oregon is recognized.

Health Care (Gordon Smith-OR)

Mr. Gordon Smith, Oregon - Mr. President, it is always an exciting time when a new Congress takes its oath of office and the President comes to Capitol Hill to give his State of the Union Address. It is a time when our Nation takes its pulse and checks its health.

As we contemplate what the President might say and the agenda that this Congress might pursue, it occurs to me that this is a good time to express what I hope will be a priority of this Congress, and it relates to health.

I think, undoubtedly, the President will focus some of his remarks on Iraq. That continues as a major focus of public attention and a legitimate cause of its concern. But I think the American people would also very much appreciate our turning our focus to home, on things that affect the lives of everyday Americans and their families and on their individual concerns.

There is probably no greater individual concern than health care. I do hope the President will address health care because I know moms and dads are addressing it every day.

There are three issues I would like to speak to as it relates to health care, to what I hope will be a focus of the 110th Congress.

When I think of health care in this Congress, the issues that come to mind are stem cells, mental health, and the uninsured. When I think of stem cells, I immediately think of some of the most loathesome diseases that affect humankind. Obviously, Parkinson's disease, which has certainly taken its toll in my family; Alzheimer's, which afflicts so many of our seniors and puts incredible burdens upon their caregivers; and diabetes. It is heartrending to meet with children afflicted with diabetes at an early age, that directs them down a path of lifelong suffering and dependence upon injections.

I think of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is probably our greatest killer as a people. Then, of course, there are those who, through accidents or other causes, suffer spinal cord injuries. All of these terrible afflictions have mystified our best and brightest minds in the scientific community, and yet stem cell research, in all of its forms--embryonic, adult stem cells, and some of the new breakthroughs that have been discovered through amniotic fluid--all hold great promise.

It does seem to me that one of the first steps of this Congress ought to be to return to this debate. The time is now to make progress. The time is now for us as a people to have the vast majority view heard and enacted into law. It is important for the Federal Government to show up to work on this issue. It is important because the Federal Government can provide the seed money. The Federal Government can provide the moral boundaries. The Federal Government can help to provide world leadership on this important biomedical ethical issue.

So as we enter this Congress, I do hope that by large majorities in the House and the Senate, we will pass embryonic stem cell research and further those other avenues in stem cell research that hold out so much promise. I have always believed that an ethic of life includes concern for the living as well. I believe it is time for us to unshackle the hands of our scientists so that we can unlock with the key of science these great mysteries.

Next, Mr. President, I speak of mental health. It has always been troubling to me, but especially in light of my family's history, that physical health is held at one level but mental health has always occupied a subordinate level. Because of the embarrassment and then the shame that attends mental health, a great stigma has attached to this issue, and because stigma attaches to it, society has caused those who suffer debilitating mental health issues not to seek treatment or to hide their afflictions. Yet it seems to me obvious that such issues as schizophrenia, bipolar condition, postpartum depression--it is hard to imagine anyone in this modern day and age who says these are not legitimate afflictions of humankind. And if they are legitimate, then the Congress of the United States should begin to treat them as legitimate.

It seems to me that in all of its manifestations, these biases against mental health need to be removed. We find them in our statutes relative to Medicaid and Medicare. When it comes to copays, when it comes to reimbursement, the Federal Government has a prejudice against mental health. Why would that be? If you do not have mental health but you have physical health, you do not have health. The mind and body interact in a very direct way, and both are necessary if the American people are to have health.

I do believe the Congress needs to address the biases against mental health. I do believe we should enact mental health parity in insurance law. It is a source of pride to me that my own State of Oregon this past legislative session enacted mental health parity, so that on January 1 of this year, all Oregonians woke up to know that as a matter of law their health care covers mental health as well. And we should do no less as the Federal Government. We need to change this aspect. We need to change it in Medicaid, Medicare, in insurance law, in teaching parity in our medical schools, in our pharmaceutical policies--all of these things must elevate mental health to the same level as physical health.

Another part of mental health, in my own calculation, is a very personal passion of mine; that is, the reauthorization and full funding of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act. There is a plague in this country, an epidemic, if you will, of youth suicide. It begins as depression and sometimes leads to the most tragic of results. It is my hope that this 110th Congress, the House and the Senate, united, will reauthorize and fully fund this great and important act. It is not the whole answer, but it is an important beginning because it incentivizes States to enact prevention and intervention programs--not just States but tribes, colleges, universities--to be able to respond to this issue which is costing the lives of over 3,000 young people a year. I hope we will do that. It is one of the actions the Congress before took which was truly bipartisan, which truly has made a difference in saving hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives.

Finally, let me speak to access. I think it is a source of some national shame that 46 million Americans are uninsured. It is true that probably half of that number are uninsured by choice. They tend to be young people who would want to spend their money in other ways. But of that 46 million, 9 million of these are children, and that is a national shame.

I believe we need to reauthorize the SCHIP program. SCHIP, along with Medicaid, is one of the central strands in our public safety net. I believe we need to do this because of the 6 million children who are insured by this, some 3 million more are eligible but are not enrolled.

I believe, in addition to this, we need to look at all the good ideas we can find in this Congress to provide insurance coverage for the uninsured. Senator Wyden of Oregon and I have a proposal for universal catastrophic coverage. We believe that, at least in America, if you lose your health, you should not lose your home.

Mr. President, I believe my time is up. I thank you for the time, and I focus our Nation's attention on a most pressing and urgent family and national urgency, which is health care.

I yield the floor.

The Acting President pro tempore - The Senator from Texas.

Wasteful Spending Amendment

(John Cornyn-TX)

Mr. John Cornyn, Texas - Mr. President, I rise in support of the amendment pending on the floor, the second look at wasteful spending amendment, otherwise known as the Gregg amendment, after the distinguished Senator from New Hampshire. The truth is, we might call this really the Daschle amendment or the Byrd amendment or the Levin amendment or Murray or Dodd, other Senators who have supported virtually this same proposal on previous occasions. I will explain that more in just a moment.

If we look at this amendment, compared with one offered by the former majority leader, Senator Tom Daschle, when the Democrats were, again, in leadership, we can see how the Gregg amendment corresponds virtually, precisely with the proposal made by then-Democratic majority leader Tom Daschle. It established a fast-track congressional process for consideration of Presidential rescissions. It required congressional affirmation of rescissions. It allowed the President to suspend funds for a maximum of 45 days. It does not permit the President to resubmit rescissions once rejected by the Congress. It allowed rescissions of discretionary funding and targeted tax benefits. It did not allow rescissions of new mandatory programs. That is one area where this differs from the Daschle amendment. The Gregg amendment would permit rescission of new mandatory spending.

I interject, if we are going to get a handle on runaway Federal spending, it is not going to be in discretionary spending alone. We have actually--contrary, perhaps, to popular perception--done a pretty good job limiting nondefense, nonhomeland security discretionary spending. But to paraphrase, that is not where the money is. Where the money is actually in mandatory spending--in entitlement spending, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

So the Gregg amendment quite appropriately addresses rescission of new, not existing, new mandatory spending programs. We can see here that in virtually every respect except two--the one I just mentioned and that only four rescission packages would be permitted annually under the Gregg amendment--there is virtual identity between these two amendments.

Why is this so important? I have to tell my colleagues that as I travel around my State of Texas, there are issues people talk to me about, as with other Members. They are concerned about our lack of border security. They are concerned, obviously, about the war on terror and the way forward in Iraq. But one of the really top three issues that my constituents talk to me about is Federal spending. They worry about the deficit. They worry about the long-term obligation under Social Security and Medicare, a bill that is going to be paid by our children and grandchildren, about the morality of basically putting this burden on their backs in the future. So what this amendment does, this second look at wasteful spending, it allows us to cut out some of the pork, cut out some of the waste in a way that I think responds to this very realistic concern by the American people.

You will note that in 1995, when Senator Daschle offered this amendment, this was, of course, during the Clinton administration--I want to note that--we had 21 Democratic Senators--virtually all of whom, I guess, are still in the Senate--who supported that Daschle amendment. My hope is they would vote for cloture so we can have an up-or-down vote on this Gregg amendment, which, as I showed a moment ago, is virtually identical.

Let's look at some of the quotes back then by distinguished Members of the Senate in support of the Daschle amendment. My hope would be that Senators would remember, perhaps have their recollection refreshed by this exercise in a way that would encourage them to have at least an open mind and possibly even embrace the Gregg amendment today as they did the Daschle amendment back in 1995.

Senator Byrd, the distinguished chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, someone who respects congressional prerogative and understands the separation of powers perhaps better than anybody else in this body, said:

I have no problem with giving the President another opportunity to select from appropriations bills certain items which he feels for his political or for whatever reasons, I have no problem with his sending them to the two Houses and our giving him a vote.

That was on March 22, 1995.

Then there is this comment by Senator Feinstein, the distinguished Senator from California. She said:

Really, what a line-item veto is all about is deterrence, and that deterrence is aimed at the porkbarrel. I sincerely believe that a line-item veto will work.

What we are talking about, this so-called rescission provision, is in essence a version of the line-item veto, something Presidents have called for in the past on both sides of the aisle and something I believe, obviously, there has existed bipartisan support for in the Senate.

Then there is Senator Dorgan, who has said:

Fully 43 Governors have the line-item veto, which suggests to me that it is a power that the President can safely wield ..... That is why I voted for it, and why I am pleased it is now the law of the land.

This was back on April 25, 1996.

Of course, we know what happened to the line-item veto. It ultimately was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. That is why we have had to come back with this modification of this rescission package in order to address the Court's concerns and to ensure its constitutionality.

Then there is the distinguished Senator from Delaware, Senator Joe Biden, who said:

Mr. President, I have long supported an experiment with the line-item veto power for the President.

That was Senator Biden on March 27, 1996.

Then there is Senator Dodd who has said:

I support the substitute offered by Senator Daschle.
That is the Daschle amendment.
I believe it is a reasonable line-item veto alternative. It requires both Houses of Congress to vote on a President's rescission list and sets up a fast-track procedure to ensure that a vote occurs in a prompt and timely manner.

There are just a couple of more. Mr. Feingold, the Senator from Wisconsin, said this:

The line-item veto is about getting rid of those items after the President has them on his desk. I think this will prove to be a useful tool in eliminating some of the things that have happened in Congress that have been held up to public ridicule.

That obviously goes with the pork spending, the embarrassing earmarks that we have heard so much about from our constituents, particularly leading up to this last election.

Senator Murray said:

I want to give the President the ability to line-item veto all those portions of the appropriations bills that have not been through the hearing and authorization process. All those pork items contribute to our deficit.

I think we have one more from Senator Dorgan, but we have already heard from him. There is one last one from Mr. Levin, the distinguished Senator from Michigan. He said:

That so-called expedited rescission process, it seems to me, is constitutional and is something which we can in good conscience, at least I in good conscience, support.

My point is obvious, perhaps, but let me, at the risk of beating a dead horse, say it again. If this was good policy back in 1995 and 1996, what has changed in 2007? I submit the only thing that has changed is that our deficit has increased for many years, part of which is porkbarrel spending which can be eliminated with the kind of cooperation that this particular amendment would allow. I suggest to our Democratic colleagues--in the spirit of bipartisanship in which we have started this new Congress with the overwhelming bipartisan passage of an ethics and lobby reform bill and consideration of this minimum wage bill with appropriate relief for small businesses when it comes to regulations and tax relief that will attenuate some of the blow--this is an appropriate amendment for us to consider and pass.

I hope the spirit of bipartisanship does not end so early on in this session of the Senate. I know there are many cynics who believe it will die an early death. I am not one of them. I remain hopeful and optimistic that our colleagues on both sides of the aisle will embrace this opportunity to do the right thing for the people of this great country.

I yield the floor.

The Acting President pro tempore - The Senator from Georgia is recognized.

(Johnny Isakson-GA)

Mr. Johnny Isakson, Georgia - Mr. President, how much time is remaining?

The Acting President pro tempore - Ten minutes.

Mr. Johnny Isakson - Mr. President, first of all, I commend the Senator from Texas on his remarks. I commend Senator Judd Gregg on the submission of this amendment. I commend Senator McConnell, the Republican leader, for his insistence on bringing this amendment to the floor of the Senate early. It had been my preference that it be debated during the lobbying reform and ethics bill, S. 1, which we debated last week because the remarks I am going to make tell you how much I think the enhanced rescission and a second look at wasteful spending is so important to end, curb, and finally do away with what has been an abuse in this body for a long time, and that is the abuse of earmarks.

In fact, I want to tell a story. When I first came to the Congress of the United States in 1999, the first budget that I voted on and was passed was a voluminous, huge budget--appropriations bill. It had spending in thousands of different categories, many of which I never even looked at, A, because I was not on the committee that had jurisdiction or, B, because so much of it went into last-minute negotiations in the conference committee on the appropriations bill.

I will never forget a telephone call I got at 8 o'clock in the morning from a reporter, shortly after--about 2 weeks after the passage of an Omnibus appropriations bill. A newspaper reporter called and said to me:

Congressman, why did you vote for a $50,000 appropriation for a tatoo removal parlor in California?

I said:

I didn't vote for any such a thing.

The reporter said:

Yes, you did. Didn't you vote for the Omnibus budget?

I said:

Yes, I did.

The reporter said:

Well, it was right there in clear view.

I said:

Well, it wasn't in clear view to me.

Well, it turned out, after going through that embarrassing experience, which all of us in this business go through from time to time, I started digging around trying to find the $50,000 appropriation for a tatoo removal parlor in California. Finally, I found it. It went into the budget on the appropriations bill on the last night of negotiations. It was on something like page 1186, line 33, in small print. The appropriations act we voted on was put on our desk about 8 hours before we voted on it.

I am not a fast reader anyway, but I couldn't read 1,100 pages in 8 hours. I would go blind. And the fact is, Congress was embarrassed, the Representative who put it in there was very embarrassed, but this Representative was very embarrassed. So I introduced legislation the next year to basically put an end to the last-minute earmark that said the earmark had to be in bold type, large fonts, and on the front page of each appropriations act, and had to lay on the desk for 24 hours to at least give us a chance to look at it.

What Senator Gregg has proposed today is the opportunity for us to not only get a second look, but in the case of a lot of these earmarks a first look, at wasteful appropriations. That is why I thought it should have gone on the previous bill we debated last week, the lobbying reform and ethics bill for, you see, if a President of the United States had gotten that omnibus budget and had the right of rescission, that President could have said: I think we ought to strike the $50,000 for a tatoo removal parlor in California. And under the Gregg proposal, it would come back to the Senate and the House, and we would have to affirm that. I do not think there is a single person in either party, including the author of that earmark 9 years ago, who would not have voted to affirm the President's rescission.

The light of day, sunshine, the power of knowledge, facts are stubborn things. But so often in the appropriations process facts get obliterated or not seen. Appropriations get written in late at night in negotiations between conferees, and we end up with wasteful spending.

This is an outstanding proposal by Senator Gregg. As Senator Cornyn has said, and others who have spoken today have said, it actually reflects what has been approved by Members of both parties in this Senate before. But it makes good, common, horse sense and passes the constitutional test, which is so important.

The President gets four times a year to send rescissions to the Congress. The Congress has to fast-track its response within 8 days. The Congress has to affirm the rescission, which is the key point in the balance of power between each of the bodies of Government that are so important to our Constitution. It does not give a President unilateral authority, but it forces the light of day on a Presidential decision for us to take a second look at what was probably a mistake that this body might have made.

Lastly, I have had some experience with this process. I had the privilege of representing the great State of Georgia for 17 years in its statehouse, in its State senate. At the time I was in the minority, and the Democratic Party in Georgia was in the majority. A dear friend of mine, a fellow against whom I ran for Governor of Georgia in 1990, and who came to this Senate, Zell Miller, and whom I later replaced in this Senate, a great Georgian—I watched him use the line-item veto, which is legal in Georgia, to cause accountability on the part of legislators, to let the light of day shine on appropriations and, most importantly, to see to it that Georgia was run in a fiscally sound way and we didn't get away with things that we should not have gotten away with.

If it is good enough for the States, it is good enough for the Federal Government. If it passes the constitutional test of the division of power in our Government--legislative, executive, judicial--it ought to be a part of the body of law, and this proposal does.

Most important of all, although all the promotion pieces I have read call this a second look at the budget process, in many cases because of the volume it gives us, as individuals, a first look at a mistake we made. Instead of current law, where once that mistake is made it is there, under this right of recision we have a second chance at what was a first impression, and we can make the right decision and do the right thing.

The money, when it is struck, goes where it ought to go--to deficit reduction. This country has a serious deficit problem, and it has had a serious spending problem. Enhanced rescission places the responsibility on the President to delineate a mistake and forces us to affirm if that, in fact, was a mistake, and the benefit from that savings goes to reduce the deficit, which is the mortgage on our children's future and the future of our grandchildren.

I am delighted to come to the floor today as a cosponsor of the enhanced rescissions amendment proposed by Senator Gregg to speak in its favor, and I encourage every Member of the Senate to take a second look at this proposal.

It makes sense. It is constitutional. It is the right thing to do.

I yield the floor.

Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

The Acting President pro tempore - The clerk will call the roll.

The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Mr. Durbin, Illinois - Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

The Acting President pro tempore - Without objection, it is so ordered.

Iraq (Richard Durbin-IL)

Mr. Durbin, Illinois - Mr. President, there is one moment each year when America comes together, when the leader of our country, our President, in his State of the Union Address, speaks of our experience in the past, our history, and his vision of our Nation's future. It is a rare moment on Capitol Hill, House and Senate together on a bipartisan basis, the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, the diplomatic corps. It is quite a festive and historic--sometimes solemn--gathering. Tonight will be an opportunity for us to gather again for the State of the Union Address. I am looking forward to it.

It comes at a moment in American history when there is a strong emotion across this country, a strong feeling about the war in Iraq. It is a feeling that was made even more intense by the events of this last weekend where we lost so many of our brave soldiers: a helicopter crash from the sky, lives were taken on the ground. At the end of the day, we had lost 3,059 of our best and bravest soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors in this war in Iraq.

The President will speak of many things this evening. That is his responsibility--from energy to health care to education and beyond. But the issue most dominant in the minds of America is the issue of Iraq. It was certainly the most dominant issue in the November election when the message came through loudly and clearly that it was time to change, it was time for America to step back and reassess our role in Iraq and where we go from here.

Since that election, many important things have happened. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, resigned, replaced by Robert Gates. The military leadership in Iraq was changed and the President came forward, after a time of deliberation, with his own proposal. That proposal, which we heard a little over a week ago, called for adding more troops in the theater of war in Iraq, some 21,000 more Americans, to join the 144,000 soldiers who are there today.

Most of us have spoken publicly about that in disagreement with the President: our belief that the escalation of the number of troops in Iraq is the wrong way, the wrong direction for our Nation; our belief that 21,000 soldiers cannot stop the civil war that has 14 centuries of fighting behind it; and our belief that 21,000 American lives are too many to ever lose in this kind of dangerous situation.

The President, undoubtedly, will speak to Iraq this evening and the American people will listen closely. But that is not the end of the conversation. The conversation will continue in the Senate where men and women representing States, as I have the honor to do in representing Illinois, will engage for the first meaningful debate on the war in Iraq in more than 4 years since we passed the use-of-force resolution.

Circumstances have changed dramatically. Reading the resolution today, one would wonder if it even justifies our current presence because it spoke of removing Saddam Hussein, dealing with weapons of mass destruction, stopping the march of nuclear weapons into Iraq. We now know all of those things were either wrong in that original resolution or have become moot by the events that have transpired.

There is an effort underway to make sure this debate on Iraq represents the bipartisan feeling of America, represents the fact that there are Democrats and Republicans and Independents who feel intensely that the current strategy, the current plan the President is pursuing is not the right plan.

The first resolution will be considered by the Foreign Relations Committee this week and is sponsored by Senators Biden and Levin on the Democratic side and Senator Hagel on the Republican side.

Yesterday, there was another resolution brought to the attention of the American people, introduced by three Members I respect. Senator John Warner, former chairman of the Committee on Armed Services, a Republican Senator from Virginia, the lead sponsor, Senator Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska, and Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, are about to introduce a resolution that clearly expresses the sense of Congress about this strategy in Iraq. Much has been written about it. The resolution should speak for itself because these Senators, two Republicans and a Democrat, resolve:

That it is the sense of Congress that--
(1) the Senate disagrees with the "plan" to augment our forces by 21,500, and urges the President instead to consider all options and alternatives for achieving the strategic goals set forth below with reduced force levels than proposed.

The important thing about these resolutions, though they are different in wording, is they all reach the same conclusion. The conclusion is the President's policy, the escalation or augmentation, virtually the same word, is the wrong way to move in Iraq today.

I hope at the end of the day we can come together on a bipartisan basis, that we can cooperate in finding ways to blend these resolutions so we do speak as much as possible with a common bipartisan voice in the Senate. We need to call for the kind of change in the President's policy that the American people asked for in this election.

Our call is not based on politics but based on reality--the reality of the deaths which American troops have endured in this conflict and the reality of the war on the ground, a war which becomes more serious and more violent by the day.

We know the military experts have disagreed with the White House for a long time. Genral Eric Shinseki in 2003, as Army Chief of Staff, said we would need many more troops than the administration was prepared to send and more allies to secure peace ultimately in Iraq. Not only did the administration ignore General Shinseki's advice, they invited him to leave. We now know he was the one who had the insight they should have followed.

General Abizaid, the commander of all our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, has told us that every divisional and corps commander in the theater has told him we should not send more troops. That is what the President has chosen to do despite this advice from his top generals. General Abizaid testified before Congress that he is convinced that:

... more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.

General Abizaid and others have also repeatedly stated that the solution to the violence in Iraq is not military, it is political. We have to turn to Prime Minister Maliki and his Cabinet to make the political decisions which will make the difference.

General Abizaid is not alone. The Iraqis themselves appear to agree with his conclusion. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki stated on November 27 last year:

The crisis is political, and the ones who can stop the cycle of aggravation and bloodletting of innocents are the politicians.

The Iraqi Prime Minister has said what he needs most is weapons and equipment, not American soldiers. When Prime Minister Maliki met with President Bush in Jordan in November, he didn't ask for more American troops; rather, he said he needed support by way of equipment and weapons. In fact, Prime Minister Maliki suggested we should reduce the presence of American troops in his country. The President has done just the opposite.

A United States official was quoted as saying that "The message in Amman was that Maliki wanted to take the lead and put an Iraqi face on it. He wanted to control his own forces."

The answer to all of Iraq's problems is not simply to deliver more American soldiers. But American weaponry and equipment can be helpful. President Bush has disagreed. Although he steadfastly said as the Iraqis stand up, our forces will stand down, exactly the opposite has occurred. As the Prime Minister of Iraq has offered to stand up more forces to defend his own country, the President of the United States has said we are going to send 21,000 more of our best and bravest into the face of danger.

Our troops have fought brilliantly and courageously. Over the weekend, Senator John McCain, a man whom I respect and count as a friend, made a statement on one of the talk shows, I believe it was Meet the Press, that he felt the resolutions we were debating were a vote of confidence on whether we trusted America's troops to get the job done. As much as I respect Senator McCain, I could not disagree more. This vote is not about our faith in our troops. Trust me, if a vote came to the Senate on our commitment and respect for our American military service men and women, it would be 100 to 0. We all stand in awe and admiration of the contributions they have made to our country and the courage they show every day. We have confidence that given an assignment that can be physically accomplished, they will do it better than any military force in the world.

But the debate is not over our troops. The debate is over the President's policy. Those troops didn't write the policy that sent too few troops to Iraq initially. Those soldiers didn't write the requisitions to send humvees that have become, sadly, opportunities for roadside bombs to maim and kill our soldiers. Those troops didn't make the critical decisions about disbanding the Iraqi Army. They didn't make the political decisions along the way. They did their duty. And they continue to do so.

What we are debating here is the policy decisions being made by this administration, and a larger and larger number of Democratic and Republican Senators are speaking out that these decisions have been wrong and that the President's plans continue to make the wrong decision.

The Iraq Study Group was a bipartisan effort to try to find a way through this, to come out with a plan that will work so we can truly bring our troops home successfully. They talked about the fact that adding more troops would not be a good move. In fact, bringing troops home should be our goal. They established the date of April 1, 2008, for most of those troops to be gone. And they called for something that this administration continues to ignore: They called for a surge in diplomacy--not a surge in the military but a surge in diplomacy.

Baker and Hamilton, a Republican and a Democrat, with credentials of real experience at the highest levels of our Government, said it is time for us to open a dialog with the Syrians and with the Iranians about the stability of the Middle East and to try to find common ground. There are no guarantees of success with diplomatic dialog, but there is a guarantee that if you don't try, you won't succeed.

Sadly, this administration has refused to try at the diplomatic level. Their responses continue to be military when we know time and again the solution is political within Iraq and diplomatic outside Iraq.

The Baker-Hamilton study group issued its report. It was received cordially by the White House and then ignored. Many Members believe we should return to it, begin the redeployment of American forces, start them coming home, as Prime Minister al-Malaki has asked, start moving the Iraqis into a position of more responsibility and leadership, call on the al-Malaki government in Iraq to make the political concessions to try to bring an end to the sectarian strife, the civil war that has caused all this violence and continues to on a day-to-day basis.

There is one thing we should stop and assess as well. That is the real cost of this war. I have come to the floor of the Senate many times and talked about $2 billion a week that is not being spent in America, $2 billion being spent on this war. I voted for the money to support our troops, and I will continue to, but we have to be honest about the costs of the war. Our Defense bill for the coming year, according to the Wall Street Journal last week, may top $600 billion. That figure does not include the extra $100 billion in emergency appropriations that Congress will soon be asked to vote on to sustain current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The costs of the war in Iraq have been extraordinary, whether measured in dollars or human lives. I went through a long list last week of what we could have done in America with $400 billion, the $400 billion we have spent in Iraq, what we could have done by way of extending the opportunity for health care and health insurance to millions of Americans currently uninsured, offering to pay for college education for students coming out of high school who are accepted at the best colleges. All of these things could have been done and weren't done because, instead, we have invested the money in this war.

The administration's view is, we will continue with no end in sight to spend these dollars at great expense to America and lost opportunities to our people. An open-ended commitment, as this administration has suggested, means these costs are also open-ended. It is time to break this cycle, to address our real security needs in America, to implement the 9/11 recommendations at some expense but, really, to protect our people from any future possible terrorist attack. The bipartisan resolution that will come before the Senate in the coming days states that our goal in Iraq should be to maximize our chances of success. An open-ended commitment of U.S. forces in Iraq reduces these chances rather than increasing them. Here in the safety and comfort of Washington, we owe to it our troops not to forget that today they stand in danger risking their lives.

Soon we will vote on whether we support the escalation of the war that the President has called on. Let no one confuse that issue with the question of whether we support our troops, whether we have confidence in our troops.

Let me make something else clear: The resolution we are debating is not a vote of confidence on the President, nor on the troops. It is about a policy. It is a deliberation about a policy and a strategic decision. That is why we are here. That is why we were elected. We cannot shy away from that responsibility. We all support our men and women in uniform. But like a majority of Americans, we also support the changes in policy that will lead to the redeployment of U.S. forces, ultimately bringing them home to safety. That is the change that was called for in the last election. That is the new direction that is needed at this point in our history.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

The Acting President pro tempore - The clerk will call the roll.

The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Ms. Olympia Snowe, Maine - Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

The Acting President pro tempore - Without objection, it is so ordered.

Ms. Olympia Snowe - Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to proceed as in morning business.

The Acting President pro tempore - Without objection, it is so ordered.

Compliance Assitance for Small Businesses (Olympia Snowe-ME)

Ms. Olympia Snowe, Maine - Mr. President, I wish to take this opportunity to discuss amendment that is pending before the Senate, which was offered by the ranking member of the committee, Senator Enzi, which I have introduced along with Senators Enzi and Landrieu. It is a bipartisan amendment to enhance compliance assistance for small businesses. Before I address the amendment, I wish to make a few comments about the minimum wage package we are currently considering on the floor.

I thank the leadership on both sides of the political aisle for working together to develop a bipartisan consensus to raise the minimum wage. From the outset, Senator Reid and Senator McConnell set a bipartisan tone in forging a path to increasing the minimum wage. I also thank Chairman Kennedy and the ranking member, Senator Enzi, for working together to develop this bipartisan legislation as well. I think this is a very encouraging beginning to the 110th Congress and hopefully a time we can reach across partisan divides to enact meaningful legislation.

I also commend Chairman Baucus of the Finance Committee, along with Senator Grassley, for working to draft the small business tax package that is also incorporated in the minimum wage bill. It was especially refreshing to see both Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Grassley working so closely together to forge a compromise that addresses concerns on both sides of the aisle.

By enacting the minimum wage, we will accomplish a legislative win-win by increasing the minimum wage but also at the same time providing small businesses with significant tax and regulatory relief in a way that does not add to our Nation's deficit. That is a great example of the social and fiscal responsibility we must embrace.

Small business tax and regulatory relief and increasing the minimum wage do not have to be mutually exclusive. I believe it is time to raise the minimum wage. It is certainly long overdue, since the last time the minimum wage was raised was back in 1997. Given the significant increases in the cost of living since then, most notably the rise in prices in housing, energy, and health care, families need to support themselves, and they certainly cannot do it on less than $11,000 annually.

I am deeply concerned as well about the widening wage gap in America, which is creating a burgeoning economic divide when it comes to income. As the chart behind me shows--and I think it is very important because hopefully one of the priorities in this Congress will be to explore policies that will narrow the wage gap in America--according to the latest census data, in 2005, a household in the 90th percentile earned $114,000 more--or 11 times as much--than a family in the 10th income percentile. Moreover, income for households at the top has grown over the last 30 years, while income for households at the bottom has remained flat.

A recent BusinessWeek article reported that increasing the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour could raise the pay for 16 percent of the Nation's workforce. So I am unequivocally supportive of this initiative. I also believe, as the ranking member of the Small Business Committee and previously chair of the committee, that we need to balance the minimum wage increase with a robust package of small business tax and regulatory reform to relieve many of the burdens small businesses continue to face.

The fact is, small business is the engine that is driving the economy. It is the one segment of the economy that is actually creating jobs. Three-quarters of all of the net new jobs are created by a small business; therefore, it is in our interest to make sure we can guarantee for the future that this segment of the economy is going to continue to create jobs and to restore the long-term economic vitality of small businesses.

Over the past 20 years, which is the subject of this amendment today, the number and complexity of Federal regulations has multiplied at an alarming rate. In 2004, for example, the Federal Register contained 75,675 pages, an all-time record, and 4,101 rules. These rules and regulations impose a much more significant impact on smaller businesses than larger businesses. As illustrated by the chart behind me, it demonstrates unequivocally the disproportionate burden borne by small businesses versus large corporations in order to absorb the impact of more regulations and more rules. It illustrates the conclusion found in a recent report that was prepared by the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy that said in 2004 that the per-employee cost of Federal regulations for small businesses with fewer than 20 employees was $7,647. In contrast, the per-employee cost of Federal regulations for firms with 500 or more workers was $5,282. This results in a 44-percent increase in burden for smaller businesses compared to their larger counterparts. Clearly, we must find ways to ease the regulatory burden for our Nation's small businesses so they may continue to create jobs and drive economic growth.

As the leading Republican on the Small Business Committee, I continue to hear from small businesses across the country, in addition to my home State of Maine, which is essentially a small business State where 98 percent of all employers are small businesses. But to give an example of the impact of the regulatory burden, I cite one company, Hammond Lumber Company, which faces the increased cost of regulatory compliance. It is a shining example of the American dream come true. It has been a family-owned company for three generations. They have been thriving in the State of Maine and serving not only Maine but all of New England for more than 50 years. It grew from a company of 41 employees in 1976 to over 300 employees in 2006. Hammond Lumber exemplifies the tremendous spirit of the American entrepreneur. It also demonstrates the pivotal role small businesses play in creating jobs and driving our Nation's economy. However, as Hammond Lumber has grown, so has its regulatory burden. In 1976, its total regulatory cost per employee equaled $98. Last year, it was $441 per employee. I had the opportunity to tour the company. I talked to the owners and talked to the employees. Unquestionably, it is a thriving company. They told us that the burden they were enduring as a result of the regulatory compliance was clearly having adverse consequences.

So we need to level the playing field for small businesses and make it easier for them to comply with complex regulations. All too often, small businesses don't maintain staff, don't have the financial resources to comply with Federal complexities, rules, and regulations. This places them at a disadvantage compared to larger companies. It also reduces the effectiveness of the agency's regulations. If the agency cannot describe how to comply with its regulations, how can we expect a small business to figure it out? That is why I have offered this amendment, along with Senator Enzi and Senator Landrieu, which would clarify the small business requirement that exists under Federal law.

Our amendment is drawn directly from recommendations put forward by the GAO and is intended only to clarify an already existing requirement which passed unanimously in the Senate, became law, back in 1996 when we passed the model legislation to ease the impact on small businesses with respect to the Federal bureaucracy creating rules and regulations. That legislation that became law was intended to ensure that the Federal Government and all of the agencies consider the impact to small businesses of these proposed rules and regulations.

One of the most important provisions of this act was a requirement that Federal agencies work to produce compliance assistance materials to help small businesses satisfy their regulatory obligations. Unfortunately, the GAO has discovered that Federal agencies have ignored these requirements or failed miserably in their attempt to satisfy them. GAO also discovered that the language of the act is unclear in some places about what is actually required of small businesses. Consequently, small businesses were forced to figure out all these complicated regulations on their own. Obviously, this makes compliance that much more difficult to achieve. So my amendment is drawn specifically and directly from the GAO. It clarifies when a small business compliance guide is required, how a guide shall be designated, how and when a guide shall be published, and that the agency make the guide available on the Internet. These are commonsense, good government reforms, which will provide major relief for small businesses at virtually no cost to the Federal Government.

I think it is very important that this amendment be adopted because all too often we have discovered--as underscored by GAO in their recent report--that the agencies find ways or discover loopholes to circumvent the requirement. It is that much easier because they don't want to have to bother to help small businesses comply with regulations, and they use the rationale--or the excuse, I might say--of the ambiguity in law that doesn't allow them to be clear or to provide the assistance directly to small businesses. So we want to remove the ambiguity and we want to be sure that the amendment as represented here today, which would be translated into the statute, will be abundantly clear and specific in terms of how the agencies are going to allow small businesses to comply with these regulations, with the assistance that could be provided by these agencies as well.

I think it is also important to stress that this amendment does not place any additional arduous requirements on small businesses. There are no additional enforcement measures. We are just saying that this is important to clarify, so that agencies don't have an excuse for avoiding compliance with this regulation and also providing assistance to small businesses, and doesn't undercut an agency's ability to enforce its regulation to the fullest extent they currently enjoy.

Furthermore, this amendment was introduced in the form of a bill that enjoyed broad bipartisan support. It was also included last year in the Small Business Reauthorization Act that was unanimously reported out of the Senate Small Business Committee in the 109th Congress. This isn't any new ground. It is straightforward. It will help small businesses, which are doing so much to create jobs in our economy. Frankly, we ought to do more for small businesses. I think this is a sector of our economy which we have overlooked and ignored.

There are so many resources that we could make available to small businesses for a minimal cost that I think could leverage job creation throughout this country. I know, in working with the new chair of the Small Business Committee, Senator Kerry, that we are going to look to the future to see what kind of programs we can build upon, what kind of efforts we can make that can help small businesses thrive and flourish and create the jobs that so many parts of our country desperately need and require.

I am looking forward to working with Chairman Kerry in that regard, also with Chairman Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee because the underlying bill includes some very significant tax relief measures. Unfortunately, they will expire in the future. In the short term, in some cases, such as small business expensing, I think we have to consider ways to make that expensing requirement permanent because small businesses clearly deserve to have continuity of that provision and the certainty that it is going to be there.

I applaud Chairman Baucus for undertaking this initiative as the first action as chair of the Finance Committee in the markup, and it clearly is going to go a long way toward helping to bolster a very significant part of our economy, and that is, of course, small business growth.

We want to do more, we should do more, and we can do more.

Again, I urge Members of the Senate to support this amendment.

I yield the floor.

Conclusion of Morning Business

The Acting President pro tempore - Morning business is closed.

Next Order of Business

The next order of business of the Senate for January 23, 2007 can be found here and is resumption of consideration of H.R. 2 a bill passed by the House which would raise the Minimum Wage.


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