tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN March 26, 2014 4:00pm-6:01pm EDT
the presiding officer: does any senator wish to vote? does any senator wish to change his or her vote? if not, on this vote, the yeas are 69, the nays are 31. the nomination is confirmed. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the clerk will report the phal no nomination. the clerk: department of state, joseph william westphal, to the united states ambassador to the kingdom of saudi arabia. the presiding officer: there are now two minutes of debate
and he has been a capitol hill professional staff member for a long time. he actually was on the house budget committee for a long period of time. then he was a special assistant to our senator thad cochran. this has been some time ago. joe served as the army assistant secretary, then the acting secretary of the army. that was 2001. and then as the 30th army secretary for the past 35 years.
he is a good friend of mine much what's different about him -- there are a lot of people that have a career, have a background in academia. but the ones who have shown that they also have a heart, they have a reason for what they're doing, and they have a love for using the position that they hold to help other people, and that's what joe westfall has done for a long period of time. i no that he when he was under secretary -- i think he was actually acting secretary of the army when we were down together in southern oklahoma, fort sill, outside of lawton, oklahoma, in the southwestern part of the state. and we had a school -- two schools down there. one was called jee injury calle. one was called share dan. these are old schools. they're public schools. you this the roofs leaked. they had been around for a long period of time. the majority of the kids who go
to school there are the sons and daughters of our military people. and for his heart -- for them -- we went down together. and we looked at this and we saw something could really be done to help these kids. so we put together -- and he did through the army, using it -- perfectly legitimately -- for the percentage of the population in the school that was actually the sons and daughters of the military people, and we built the -- a school that is now the -- it's the model for schools in establishments that are in conjunction with large cities, and it's something that now a lot of kids are very, very happy as they graduate from the freedom elementary school at fort sill in oklahoma. oklahoma is -- has 1,000 -- this school, 1,000 service members' children.
so we replaced the old one for that. then i remember when we had a request. and you know -- i'm sure the chair knows he's made requests of bankruptcy before before. sometimes it takes longer than it should take. but we had a need in my state of oklahoma for a museum to have a -- to have an old huey helicopter. we tried everything we could to get it done and one phone call to this guy named dr. joseph william westfall and it was done. i shouldn't say this to my democrat friends over here, but i have been such a good friend of his, i was afraid to express myself for fear that president obama might change his mind. but nonetheless he is now up for confirmation. we're going to do that by scrois vote. i can't imagine that anyone wouldn't take advantage of the opportunity that that person has to vote for dr. joseph westfall
to be the united states ambassador to the kingdom of saudi arabia. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: is there further debate? the question is on the nomination. all in favor say aye. all opposed, nay. the ayes appear to have t the ayes have it. the nomination is confirmed. under the previous order, the motions to reconsider be inquired made and laid upon the table. the president will be moodily notified of the senate's action, the senate will resume legislative session. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from georgia is recognized. mr. isakson: thank the president. i rise today to discuss for a second the fifth anniversary of the tragic murder of the georgia citizen who volunteered for the peace corps, traveled to west africa to the nation of benin and lost her lie. she lost her life because she did the right thing. she reported the abuse of
children in the village school where she taught. the reason i have recently returned from benin is because i have some passion. her name was kate puzi. she was top of her class, valedictorian, outstanding student, wanted to go out and save the world and help the world and fulfill the dream that john kennedy professed in 1961 when he created the peace corps. and she went to benin and she found that one of the village natives in the village she was teaching was abusing children in the school. in this very remote area she took the only communication mechanism that she had to report the violation of these children to the appropriate authorities in benin. because those communications are mott secure, a relative of the person she reported notified the person that she had reported that he had been reported. that night in her hut in the nation of benin her throat was cut and the she decide. she died because she did the
right thing. this senate two years ago joined me and senator boxer in passion the peace corps protection act which is now named the kate puzi peace corps protection act to provide a mechanism and way where peace corps volunteers can report violations of themselves, violations or trauma of them -- of a sexual nature, gender-based violence or any other type of violence against themselves or in any ware place where they might be as a servant in the peace corps. because of that, now there are ombudsman and ways and means where our peace corps volunteers can safely report violations and have the protections not only the united states but the nation they serve. back to my trip to benin, which just took place. my second visit to go back, because what i want to i see isa continuation of the investigation of the death of this young lady until there is closure for their family. just as any of us were we the parent of a young lady that lost their life on behalf of the
united states of america. i rise to pay first particular tribute to secretary kerry, samantha power to the state department of the united states of america, to michael reigner the ambassador in benin, to todd wattly, to kevin armstrong, the as theusaid director, all of whe made it their top priority the investigation and the fulfillment of bringing this case to a reality. three years ago when i went to benin for the first time it was to encourage president yahi of benin-to-a how the united states to come in and assist in the investigation and the prosecution of the case. a rare thing to happen in that french colony which is governed by french law. to our credit and president yahi's credit, he allowed us to come in and begin assisting the
investigation. i went back last week because it looked like the case was dying. it looked like the intensity of the interest was dying and it was so important to me and for the family in my home state of georgia to see to it that in some way we could fin. mrs. feinstein:ally d.-- -- mr. isakson: we could tbienally bring closure. president yahi committed the judiciary and investigatory body in the nation of benin to accept the assistance of the united states f.b.i. and our technology and during the course of our visit he removed and separated the prisoners that had been requested by the f.b.i. to stey it that those being held thought to be guilty in this case actually could no longer communicate in the prisons where they were held now, i don't know what the ultimate result will be and i want justice to be done, i want the right person to be persecuted and prosecuted and the right person to pay the price, but i want closure to come thr this family. i want to thank the american embassy, the state department, and samantha power at the u.n.
for the intensity they have put into this investigation. the united states f.b.i. and in particular victor lloyd, special agent in lago nigeria for all the time he has put in. when that happens, it'll happen primarily because the united states government, the people of the united states of america, both president bush and president obama, and all in this congress have dedicated themselves to the interest of win child's life, kate puzi. as long as the people of this country know we as a body will come behind any injured american, ji loss of life, anybody who has deployed themselves on behalf of this country and in the service of peace and prosperity, they deserve to know that the united states congress and this united states senate are standing ready to help. but i'm here to pay tribute to the embassy of benin, to the f.b.i. special agent victor lloyd, and to all those who have helped and assisted to see to the prosecution of the case and the murder of kate puzi comes it a final conclusion. i am grateful to their service
to america and am grateful for what they have done for the puzi family in georgia and i am grateful thrav live in a countrt protects our interests on whatever shore it may be. may god bless america and the peace corps and the family of kate puzi. i yield back. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the assistant majority leader is recognized. mr. durbin: i ask consent the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. durbin: mr. president, as i speak, all over our country telephones are ringing. when the recipient of the call picks it up, they're greeted by a friendly voice of a college recruiter from a for-profit college or university. it's easy to go back to school, this recruiter will tell those who answer the phone. in fact, we can sign you up for federal loans right now. that's the key. these for-profit colleges and
universities target individuals who qualify for easy federal money: pell grants, g.i. bill benefits are preferred. all the promises sound so good to those who are receiving these phone calls. after all, going back to school is supposed to be the path to success and more money in your life. but before they know what's hit them, these people who have answered the phones from the for-profit schools and universities find out that they're taking on more debt that they can even understand and may end up with a so-called education that is worthless. that's what happened to jequetta cherry from north carolina, after trying a community college, she was lured by a kind voice on the other end of the phone and the fancy commercials on television for for-profit schools. she saw them in north carolina.
you see them across the united states. get on a bus in chicago and look around at all the signs trying to lure young people on those buses into for-profit colleges and universities. jequetta said, the schools blew up my phone. she enrolled at everest college, part of the corinthian college chain. the california attorney general is currently suing that chain of schools and the department of education is investigating allegations that they lied to the federal government about their job placements. well, in the meantime, jequetta's living situation changed and she had to drop out and couldn't continue her studies at everest. it wasn't long before she was tracked down by another for-profit school through a popup ad she clicked on on the internet. if you are college age and get on the internet, you're going to see these ads bombarding you
from for-profit colleges and universities. she got a call the next day from the education management corporation's art institutes and signed up for an online program. after taking out more loans, jequetta found herself unable to continue her courses. her roommate moved out, left her with unpaid bills and her only access to the internet was a phone turned off two days prior to her final exams. at that point she was thousands of dollars in debt with nothing to show for it. guess what? the calls kept coming. devry, second or third largest for-profit school in the united states, based in chicago, currently being investigated by the federal trade commission for their advertising and marketing policies. they called jequetta and then i.t.t. tech called her as well.
they are being sued for pressuring students into high-cost private loans. the calls she got from everest and the art institutes these days are not the kind voices that they used to be. they're very mean and threatening, she says. not surprising. jequetta is no longer an a.t.m. machine from which they can draw federal dollars. for many years for-profit schools were allowed to operate relatively freely and often one step ahead of regulators. i'm hopeful that with the investigations that i've mentioned and many others that are occurring state by state, we may be turning a corner. we need to hold these schools, all schools, but especially for-profit schools, accountable to taxpayers who often subsidize up to 90% of their operations and to students who are ultimately their victims. mr. president, if you took all the federal money that goes to the for-profit colleges and
universities, total it up, it's around $20 billion. that private-sector group would be the equivalent of the ninth-largest federal agency in washington. they survive on federal money. the only thing different is, of course, their employees aren't federal employees and their c.e.o.'s make more money than any employee in the federal government could ever dream of. there are a lot of agencies involved in looking at these for-profit colleges and universities. department of education, securities and exchange commission, consumer financial protection bureau, federal trade commission, the department of defense, and others. it's important that they work together. this morning i had a hearing on my defense appropriations subcommittee. in front of me, the secretary of the navy, commandant of the marine corps, chief of naval operations; and we talked about these schools. i can tell you in private what they've told me. they're saddened at how many military families are lured into
these skaolts and waste -- schools and waste their g. benefits, going online to places called the american military university. boy, doesn't that sound official. that sounds like the real thing. it's another for-profit school that just happened to pick a name that appeals to a lot of soldiers and sailors, airmen, marines. i had a nephew of mine, mr. president, he was a door man right up there, and then he was sent overseas to afghanistan, and he served in the army, and i was so proud of him. got home safe. then he was sent to korea. came home safely. now he's out of the army. he contacted me once and said i've got good news for you, i avoided all those for-profit schools you warned me about and signed up with the american military university. he didn't know any better. he thought for sure this was real. it's really not. i advised him there's one university from his home state -- the university of
maryland -- that's been offering courses to military for decades, and their hours are transferable when he comes home. oh, he said, i should have thought of that. what they told us this morning, what the navy told us this morning, they're sitting down with the sailors and their families and saying think twice before you sign up for these for-profit schools. you're wasting your g.i. benefits on schools that could be worthless. think twice about whether those hours are transferable when you get out of the service. sadly, there are just too many american citizens, young people primarily, and even members of the military who were lured into these awful schools before anybody warned them. senator tom harkin of iowa and i are working on a bill that we'll introduce next week to ensure that the agencies that are currently investigating all of these for-profit schools are coordinating their efforts. he and i teamed up on this issue a long time ago. it's going to be a shame when senator harkin retires from the senate this year.
but the for-profit schools should know that the spotlight which tom harkin turned on with his committee hearings is going to continue even after he leaves. an industry that receives more than $25 billion in federal dollars and has such a terrible record needs aggressive oversight. we just don't owe it to the taxpayers who are coming up with $25 billion for these schools. we owe it to the students who are lured into these schools, lured into debt and end up many times with nothing to show for it. you need to keep three numbers in mind when you think about the for-profit colleges and universities, and i always warn people these three numbers will be on the final so listen closely. 10% of the students who graduate from high school go to for-profit colleges and universities. yet, they receive 20% of all the federal aid to education because they cost twice as much. 20% of all the federal aid to education.
and for-profit colleges and universities account for 46% of all student loan defaults 46%. 10% of the students, 46% of the defaults. why? they charge too much. they lure these students deep into debt. the students can't finish school or end up with worthless diplomas when they graduate. and the sad reality is the federal government is complicit. we are complicit because we don't blow the whistles on these schools that should never, ever, never qualify for pell grants and federal student loans. and there's a kicker. unlike virtually every other debt that you can incur in life, student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. i have had students $150,000 in debt after four years in school, and their lives are virtually ruined. they had no idea what they were
getting into. and when they were private loans, those loans grew geometrically whenever they failed to pay. where are those students today? they're living in their parents' basement. they can't afford to get married, they can't buy a car, and if they get married, they can't afford to have children and they certainly can't afford to borrow any money to go to a real college or university. they're stuck, and we ought to do something about it. student loan debt in this country is exploding, it's trapping generations of students like jiqueta in poverty, and it's hurting their opportunities to be full members of our society and our economy. we have to address head on these for-profit colleges which are a scourge on higher education. there are a few exceptions, but by and large this industry, with 46% of the student loan defaults, is shameful. chairman harkin is going to hold a hearing in the senate help committee this week on the
student loan programs. i'm going to work with him, submit some testimony, and i'll tell you, mr. president, the senator jack reed of rhode island, senator elizabeth warren of massachusetts and i are putting together a package of bills. we're going to address this issue from a lot of different perspectives. there is no reason why a college student should sign up for a private loan with higher interest rates and worse conditions for payback when they are still eligible for government loans which are more flexible and lower interest rates, yet some of these irresponsible schools steer their kids into private loans. the kids don't know any better. neither do their parents. secondly, they end up loaning money to these students and to their families, that they will never, ever, ever be able to pay back. jack reed says they ought to have some skin in the game. at some point, if they have overextended in loans, they ought to have to eat some of those losses, where the students can't pay it back.
and senator warren, elizabeth warren, is tackling the even bigger issue about refinancing college loans. what's it all about? i see senator stabenow on the floor today. it's about giving a fair shot to these families and these students. we're going to talk about that a lot around here. when i think of where i am today, it's because of a mother who checked my report card every six weeks and told me i could always do better, and it's because i ended up in college and law school, and here i stand. i borrowed money from the government to do it. i couldn't have done it otherwise. so i believe in education. i certainly believe that kids from lower and middle income families, when they need to borrow money, should have that opportunity. but what's happening today is out of hand. the debt that we are piling on students today and their families is unconscionable. not just the for-profit schools but across the board. we believe on this side of the aisle that these students deserve an opportunity and they
shouldn't be saddled with a debt that can literally ruin their lives. we're going to be working on this issue. it's part of our effort this year to define what congress can do to make this a better nation for working families across the border, to make sure that everyone, everyone has a fair shot. mr. president, i yield the floor. ms. stabenow: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from michigan is recognized. ms. stabenow: thank you very much, mr. president. mr. president, we are five days away from the deadline to begin enrolling for health insurance under the affordable care act, five days for folks who don't have insurance now or want to
see if they can find a better deal under their local marketplace or federal marketplace under the affordable care act. we have heard the stories about the trouble with the web site last october, but there are so many stories about people successfully signing up now for health care coverage that we haven't heard about. those are the stories that we want to talk about, that we have not heard about in terms of the millions of people that are finding in fact for the first time they can have peace of mind, knowing they can find affordable health insurance, and not only from a cost standpoint but everyone, every woman who is able to get insurance now and knows she is not going to be rated differently and have higher costs from the insurance company just because she is a woman and being a woman is somehow a preexisting condition or if you are wanting to have a
baby, knowing that you can have your maternity care covered, which was not true for millions of women. in fact, going into the private marketplace prior to health reform, about 60% of the insurance policies didn't cover something as important and basic asthma ternt care unbelieve -- basic as maternity care unbelievably. we're talking about people who are getting covered, people who have the peace of mind of knowing that they can have affordable coverage, that they can't get dropped if they get sick, that anyone how going forward that has a policy can't get dropped just because they get sick, and anyone who has cancer or diabetes or children with juvenile diabetes or heart disease, all of the various concerns and chronic diseases that people have known that they can find insurance, that they will not be blocked from getting medical care and health
insurance because of a preexisting condition. so far over five million people have already enrolled in private health insurance plans through the new marketplaces, including over 144,000 in my home state of michigan. 144,000 people who are finally in a position where they can have the peace of mind of knowing that they have got health insurance for themselves and their families if somebody gets sick, soar if they need preventative care, they are not going to have out-of-pocket costs to get that cancer screening, the mammogram, other preventative care. and in michigan, 144,000 individuals have signed up for health care, which is nearly 16,000 more people than was actually predicted at this point in time. and that's because people want
and need affordable health care. this is not a frill. we can't control whether or not somebody in the family gets sick. now, there are things we can do to do our best to stay healthy, but we never know when something's going to happen, no matter our age or our circumstance. and people know, we all understand, we all want to make sure our children are covered, whether they are 3 years old or 30 years old. we want to make sure our moms and dads, we want to make sure we have coverage as a small business owner, that you have access to affordable coverage. and so people are signing up because this is personal for them and for their families. and i want to share success stories of three of my constituents today. the first story is about lanika, a 34-year-old volleyball coach from flint, michigan, who lived without health insurance for
years while she focused on developing her career path. she didn't think she needed health insurance because she was healthy. but then one day, she had an accident. she was playing volleyball when she and another woman collided, leaving her with a concussion. we all know head injuries are serious, so she had no choice but to go to the emergency room without having health insurance. and by the way, we all know that people who go to the emergency room without health insurance get treated, as they should, and then everybody with insurance -- this is the way we've done it for decades -- everybody with insurance sees their rates go up to pay for folks going into the emergency room, getting care in the most expensive way possible, which is rather than seeing the doctor, going into the emergency room for care. and so in this particular case, lanika said this was her aha
moment. after going into the e.r., lanika logged onto healthcare.gov to see if she could get covered. she entered her information. she compared plans, and she selected the best plan for her. she ended up selecting a silver plan from michigan's largest health insurance company for less than $100 a month because of her income level. the whole process, she said, took an hour. she said that getting her insurance card was like a breath of fresh air because she knew that if disaster struck again, she would be covered. peace of mind, as they say in the commercials, priceless. and now she can go see a doctor without worrying about a bill she can't afford to pay. another constituent, jim, from shelby, michigan, shared his story, too. he had seen all the bad press, he said, on the affordable care act on tv and social media and
thought it wasn't worth it to sign up. he planned to sign his family up for cobra coverage because he worked and could sign up for cobra to keep his former employer's coverage going and then found out that wasn't an option, so he decided to give healthcare.gov a try. after filling out his basic information, he saw how low his costs for good coverage would be and he signed up his family, and because he had such a positive experience, he began sharing it on facebook so other people could see how easy it was to get covered. a recent post of his read -- "there are only a few days left to sign up. don't let this opportunity pass without taking a look." which is our message today, mr. president. don't let this opportunity pass without taking a look. another constituent, brian, from okemos, called my east lansing
office because he was upset that his health plan had been canceled. the replacement plan he was offered by his insurer wasn't affordable. he let us know how upset he was. he then asked what he was supposed to do. we suggested he go to healthcare.gov to see if he could find a more affordable option that would meet his needs. he said he he didn't have a computer so we gave him the 1-800 number to call. he was skeptical, of course, that he would find a good plan and said he expected to have to wait on the phone for hours to talk to somebody. but we encouraged him to give it a try. he called the office back shortly with some good news. he had called the 1-800 number and someone answered right away. they were very friendly and helpful, he said, they helped ryan find a plan that had better coverage than his old plan, and on top of that, it was $60 cheaper per month than his old
plan. and he was able to add dental coverage, too. he apologized for his first call and we certainly understand when people get those kinds of notices that the insurance they have is being canceled of course everyone responds with panic and being upset, what's going on, what's going to happen for me. but the good news is that he was able to call the 1-800 number and, in fact, find better coverage, lower price and is now covered for important dental care. he said he is extremely happy with the affordable care act. lanica and jim's and brian's stories aren't unique. they are very typical despite all of the hype and all of the efforts that have gone on, they are very, very typical and it's
important that people get beyond all the politics of health care which for the life of me i don't know why we're not all working together to make sure people have the health care they need and the information they need but to get beyond that and just find out for themselves, find out for yourself, will it work or not and hopefully it will and you'll have the same kind of results that lanica and jim and brian have. to everyone in america who doesn't have health insurance right now and needs to sign up but hasn't yet, you have less than a week to begin the process. once you have begun, we want to make sure you can complete it so i appreciate the president's willingness to allow a little more time so people can complete that process was health care is an essential in life, it literally can be about life or death for a person or their family.
and i would suggest that folks not get left behind, get covered like lanica and jim and brian did. it's quick, it will give you peace of mind, and we're hopeful that you will find it to be something that is very, very good for you and your family. the presiding officer: the senator from california is recognized. mrs. boxer: i wanted to thank senator stabenow not only for her statement but she's talked a lot about people she neat metes in her state and they just say to her, senator, all we want is a fair shot. and before she leaves the floor i wanted to say i hear the same thing at home as well. and when it comes to insurance, all people want is a fair shot at affordable insurance. and that's why we're here today as we celebrate the fourth anniversary of the affordable care act, and i want to say for
the record, we have millions of reasons in california to say thank you for the affordable care act. and i want to go through some of the numbers. we've exceeded our goals, and we -- we have now signed up a million people, a million people, a million, and that's 300,000 over our goal. and we now know that president obama has extended the sign-up period for those who have already begun their sign-ups on the national exchange, we're not sure yet whether california is going to extend the time. so anyone within the sound of my voice in california, we haven't yet extended the time but join the million californians who have signed up through the exchanges. now, this is a real partisan battle. let's be clear. the house republicans have been bragging about the 54 times they voted to repeal the affordable care act, but i got to tell
them before they vote again to tear this law down and vilify this law and for the 55th time to pay attention to the people in my state and all over the country and i want to go through the math of what's happening here. we have in addition to the 1 million people in california who have signed up on the exchange, we have 400,000 young adults who are staying on their parents' insurance policies, and 1.8 million people on medicaid. so when i say we have more than a million reasons to say thank you for this law, we really do because let me add to this some other numbers. eight million californians have access now to free preventive care, including mammograms, birth control, and immunizations. 16 million californians with preexisting conditions like asthma, cancer, or diabetes
are guaranteed coverage and that includes two million children. california seniors and people with disabilities are saving money on prescription drugs. 350,000 because of the work we did to close that doughnut hole. and 12 million californians have new insurance protections and no longer have to worry about hitting annual limits on their health care. so i say to the republicans, wake up and see what's happening in your communities. don't take my word for it. listen to some of my californians. quote -- "just got my obamacare coverage california insurance plan. i'm ecstatic, saving $400 a month. another one, loving my new health care coverage, way to go, california. another, just paid my first premium for covered california health care, a 42% reduction for a nearly identical plan. and bobby duder from sacramento
writes i was being crushed by the heavy burden of health insurance premium costs costs. i had a p.p.o. plan with anthem blue cross, was paying $1,300 for a family of two. now for a comp rabble plan i'm spaying $61 a month. republicans, earth to republicans, people are saving so much money because of the affordable care act, getting peace of mind. why would republicans want to repeal a law that is helping so many people in california and across the country? i have never seen a law so vilified. but, you know, today i went back to the congressional record and i want to share this with senator murphy who has organized this today. i thought this was the only law republicans vilified, but i went back to social security when that was passed, and here's what republicans said in
1935, senator murphy, on the floor of the house during the debate on social security, republican congressman from ohio said -- quote -- "this is compulsion of the rankest kind." this is how he talks about social security, calls it rank. do not be misled. the title says old age benefits. shame on you, he said, for putting such a misleading and unfair title on such a nefarious bill. old age benefits? think of it. what a travesty. another republican congressman from pennsylvania said security for the individual whether worker or aged will be a mockery and a sham if we alot to our people the role of puppets of a socialistsic state. doesn't this sound familiar? everything you do for people republicans call it socialists socialists -- socialist. they called social security socialist. and he says we can't provide a
sense of security for programs for the destruction of wealth. that's how he described social security. listen, people paid into social security. it's an insurance plan. people pay premiums for their health care. i got to say, mr. president, the republicans are vilifying affordable care act just like they vilified social security and they vilified medicare. let's look at what republicans say about medicare and said. in 1965 a representative from missouri said -- quote -- "we cannot stand idly by now as the nation is urged to embark on an ill conceived adventure in government medicine. the end of which no one can see from which the patient is certain to be the ultimate sufferer." so i say to my colleagues, this is unbelievable. this in 1965 the republicans said that government medicine, which they called medicare even
though you have a private doctor, would lead to patients suffering. now ask patients who have medicare do they like it. they love it. even the right-wing tea partyers who came to washington with signs that said hands off my medicare. the republicans vilified medicare. another one, a republican from wyoming who said about medicare, i'm disturbed about the effect this legislation would have upon our economy and our private insurance system. and dick armey in 1995 the republican house majority leader said about medicare, this is a program i would have no part of in a free world. so i want people to understand when the republicans vilify the affordable care act, they're doing just what they did on social security, just what they did on medicare, they were on the wrong side of history then,
they're on the wrong side of history now, and, of course, newt gingrich said medicare would wither on the vine. well, it would if republicans controlled this place. senate majority leader dole in 1996, about medicare, you know what i said, senator murphy, he said i was there fighting the fight voting against medicare because we knew it wouldn't work in 1965. folks, there's a big difference between the parties. let's be clear. and when you see the republicans start to vote again to repeal the affordable care act, that's what they wanted to do to social security. that's what they wanted to do to medicare. we stopped them then, we'll stop them now. all they want to do is repeal all of these great benefits that are helping millions of people and i say to them enough already. enough. work with us.
let's make sure everyone in america, you know, has that sense of security that they can handle whatever health impacts hit their families. thank you very much and thanks again to my colleague from connecticut. mr. whitehouse: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island is recognized. mr. whitehouse: thank you, mr. president. we are here to point out through there are an awful lot of americans who are winning because of the affordable care act, whether it's a mom with kids who have gotten out of college but can't get health care, couldn't get health care on their own but now can stay on mom and dad's policy and that's one less thing for her to worry about, about her 22, 23023-year-old children. that's a pretty big win. whether you're olive, in touch with me in woonsocket who used to go into the doughnut hole because her husband has alzheimer's. she saved $2,400 a year in the
first year alone. that's a significant benefit for olive. we have people trapped in their jobs because they couldn't get away, they were chained to their jobs by the need for insurance. elena from warwick was one such person. working at one of our universities, liked her job okay but really wanted to be a web entrepreneur but she was tied to her job by the employer-supplied health care. she went to health source rhode island, our exchange, back in december, and she found a plan that worked for her, the plan's premium was so low that she told me it -- quote -- "sent her over the moon, over the moon." and she has become the proud owner of her own rhode island small business because she had the confidence she could go forward. stories like this abound. not just in rhode island but across the country. when i first came into our rhode island health exchange the first person i saw was the person ahead of me in line, there with
boxes of dunkin' donuts and two big of those carry boxes of coffee and they brought them in because they'd thaid come in earlier in the afternoon, been served by the people who were working there, they'd gotten health insurance for the first time for that family, they were thrilled so they wanted to bring back as a thank you doughnuts and coffee. that's the story that we see. and i will say we got to remember as we're going into this what the problem was we were looking at. this is an area we should be working together. look where the costs were going. that's health care costs. in 1960, $27 billion. $2.7 trillion in 2011. this was out of control. this was not going to be sustainable. something absolutely, positively has to be done to get health care under control. and the unsung part of the affordable care act is the part that begins the change in our delivery system reform so we can make our system affordable. do we do it by taking things away from people?
no. we do it by making the system better. and how do we know that will work? how do we know that will work? here's a graph of all major countries that are various kinds of competitors with us. switzerland, norway, netherlands, great britain, japan, and the rest basically of the major industrial nations. and if you plop there -- plot their life expectancy in years of their population against how much they spend her captaina on health care you get a pretty solid grouping right through here and you get a pretty clear curve that can be drown through that. well, here's the u.s.a. we are way more than the most expensive country, way more per capita. better than $2,000 per person more per capita than the most expensive other countries in the
world. and look at us for life expectancy. we come in around chile and the czech republic and we are below all of our competitors. so there is huge room for improvement. better health care at lower cost that will extend our lives and reduce the cost. if we just move back into this pack, we'd save a trillion dollars a year in health care. in this country. not just the government but across the country, it would help businesses, help taxpayers, help everybody. and there are ways to do it. here's just one little example, people who get readmitted after they've gone into the hospital. what was happening people are getting out of the hospital and they were going back to their nursing home or back to their house and their discharge planning hadn't been very good and their doctor may not have even known they were getting out and didn't know what to do with medications and two weeks, a month later they're back in the hospital again. so we decided to do something
about it. in the affordable care act. and look. this is the readmission rate. it was rocking along around 19%, then along comes our bill in 2011 and it starts to drop and starts to drop pretty dramatically and if we can keep that up, we save the money of all of those readmissions. you don't pay for a readmission that never happened. it is an absolute economic savings. plus, the family doesn't have to worry about grandma going back into the hospital again and picking up a hospital-acquired infection or some other cost like that. so i'll conclude, i want to thank the senator from connecticut, senator murphy, for organizing us on the floor today. i want to summarize that there is a great human interest story to tell about the affordable care act that is helping families not only in rhode island but across the country and moreover that it's a great tool for us as i hope we can do working together to improve our delivery system of health care
so we're delivering better health care to americans for a lower cost, we know that we can do it for crying out loud, if greece can do it and these other countries can do it, then by god so can the the united states of america united states. i yield foofer. the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut is recognized. mr. murphy: thank you to other senator whitehouse, a leader on the issue of improving costs while improving quality and to my colleagues from michigan and california, senator stabenow and senator boxer have been down here talking about the importance of the affordable care act along before i got to this body and thank you for being with us as well. our message is pretty simple. that affordable care act is working. we know that because just yesterday we had record numbers of people who went on to the web site to try to sign up for coverage who placed calls into the call centers, 1.2 million people went on to the web site yesterday looking for coverage,
about 390,000 people placed a call. we're seeing extraordinarily levels of signups day after day. it looks like we're on pace to hit that 6 million individual signup that was the goal. and that's not surprising, because folks had been crying out in desperation for a better way for years and years. people like one constituent of mine, shawn hannon from weston, connecticut. i talked about him earlier on the floor today. but he had a plan for he and his family that cost about $1,400 a month. and under the affordable care act and the connecticut exchange, he's now paying $309. and he wrote a really wonderful letter talking about what that means to him and his family, but he ended with this. he said, "we're sharing this personal information," his family is "sharing this personal information because there is an aggressive campaign underway to
dismantle this valuable program. the misinformation being put out there is skewing public opinion and this must not happen." part of the reason why we've decided to come down to the floor week after week is that republicans who are spreading mythology about this law not working for people are chilling interest all across the country in signing up. part of the reason why we're down here is that there are governors and state legislatures all around the country that are working to undermine the law rather than to implement the law. but in states like california and connecticut that are actually working to make the law work, you're seeing record numbers of people sign up. and you're seeing story after story like the hannons. in connecticut, we had a goal of signing up about 100 to 120,000 people between medicaid and the health care exchanges. and right now we have 170,000 people signed up. i don't know what our final number will be but i imagine it
will likely be double, if not more, of what our original estimate was. why? because we're actually going out and making it easy, simple for people to sign up. and when you go out and make it easy for people to get affordablaffordable insurance, t sphwh they wanwhat? they want it. and now that we're nearing the four-year mark after this law being signed by president obama, let's talk about what the reality was before the law was passed and what the reality of the law is today because that explains why you're seeing this overflow of interest in this final week of signup. and so for seniors, before the passage of this law, there were 3.4 million seniors who were medicare part-d enrollees -- that's the prescription drug benefit -- that were falling into the doughnut hole. there was about 15% of those using drugs in that doughnut hole who were skipping or stopping medications when they
reached that gap in coverage. and the average senior could be paying out as much as $160 in cost sharing for certain procedures, like colorectal cancer screenings, paying lots and lots of money in preventive health care co-pays that had effectively stopped, a lot of seniors, from getting that wellness coverage that they so badly needed. so what's happened after the passage of the law? well, there are 7.9 million seniors who are now in the doughnut hole and saving on average about $1,200 in drug costs. that's $9.9 billion being saved by seniors because of the affordable care act. 37 million seniors all cross the -- all across the country have taken advantage of the free preventive care, getting at least one free preventive service now that the law is in effect.
let's look at the other end of the age spectrum. before this law was passed, 31.4% of young adults between ages 19 and 25 lack coverage. that was nearly double the national rate. well, we're seeing young people flock to sign up for these health care exchanges. but even before that, about 3 million young adults all across the country had gained coverage because the health care law allowed them to stay on their parent's coverage until age 26. before the law, women often paid 50% more in premiums because of gender rating, that the idea that you could be charged more as a woman simply because you are a woman. put another way, being female was listed as many insurance companies as a preexisting condition. after the law, gender rating is banned and, thus, women are on equity with men in terms of the rates that they pay. and for middle-class families
that have been struggling with health care costs because of a crippling illness, they now never have to worry about losing coverage simply because someone gets sick or not being able to afford coverage in the first place because of a preexisting condition and a world in which 60% of all personal bankruptcies were reported to be related to medical costs will be history in this country. four years after the passage of the law, that is the reality of what life was like before, seniors paying thousands of dollars more in prescription drug costs, young adults unable to get coverage, women paying more for health care simply because they're women. the new reality is much different. i imagine that's also why a new poll out this week tells us that 60% of americans to want keep the affordable care act in pla place. now, they may entertain some minor changes to the law but less than 20% of americans to
want see this law repealed. there is a total diskong griewty between what people out there believe and what they are hearing is the reality from our republican colleagues. that's why we're going to come down to the floor week after week and talk about how the affordable care act is working for millions of americans. and finally i want to share just one story because our republicans are very good at come down and telling stories about people who have disagreements the law, but we are beginning to see a overflow of stories and anecdotes from people whose lives are being transformed. anne masters from norwich, connecticut, writes this. she says, "because of a minor preexisting condition, i was unable to get insurance as an individual. he could get it through my business, my own law practice, and i've always opted for good coverage but i paid dearly for it. my premiums this year increased $965 a month, equivalent to a
second mortgage payment." now, let's just break this down for a second. what she's saying is she could get coverage through their business but she couldn't get coverage as an individual and that was the real story for decades when it came to individuals who had a preexisting condition. for many of them, it wasn't a matter of just having to pay more for health care. they couldn't get insurance at all because of a preexisting condition and that was the real world for anne masterson. she further goes on to say this, "part of my practice is representing children and the elderly in local probate courts. not very lucrative, it's one of the most professionally satisfying things i do. i feel like i make a difference. however, with increased premiums, i don't know how i could continue to pay for my health insurance." let's break that down for a second. think of all the people all across this country who are stuck in a job simply because they have to get health care for them and their family. think of all of the innovation that is being stymied because
people can't go out and start a business because it would involve taking the risk of going for a period of time without health care. anne was contemplating giving up work that she loved, work that she was good at, representing children and the elderly, maybe one of the most important jobs we have in our legal system, because she couldn't afford to pay the premiums on that salary. and she finishes by saying, "urn the affordable care act silver plan, i'll have the exact same anthem policy that i have now and i'll pay nearly $600 less per month. not only will i have the peace of mind of having good health insurance, but i'll also be able to continue representing our most vulnerable citizens." you step back and think about what our job really is here. we get consumed with studies and numbers and data, but really our job is to protect the security of this country and try to increase the quality of life for the people that we represent.
it's hard to sometimes measure whether we're doing a good job at increasing the quality of life but it's really about trying to make sure that the people we represent are happy. happiness comes in all sorts of different ways. but happiness had been stolen from millions of families across this country because every morning they'd wake up thinking about how sick they were or how sick their child was or how sick their husband or wife was and their inability to pay for it. you hear that word "peace of mind" come up over and over again when people talk about the affordable care act. yes, they're getting better coverage. yes, they are healthier. but they just feel better about their existence on this world because they no longer have to worry about being part of the 60% of bankruptcies caused by medical debt. and they no longer have to worry whether their child is going to have to have their life dictated
by the terms of their illness. we can talk about the 5 million people who have signed up in exchanges all across the country or the fact, as senator whitehouse says, the federal government is slated to save $1.2 trillion related -- as compared to previous estimates on health care costs. we can talk about the $9 billion that seniors are saving because of the affordable care act when it comes to prescription drug costs. but if you really want to talk about the transformation in the affordable care act, if you really want to read in to all of these letters that we are getting in increasing volumes, it's about the fact that people just don't have to wake up every day worrying about health care, worrying about getting sick, worrying about how they're going to pay for an illness. maybe in the end, when this law is fully implemented and ultimately republicans come down to this floor and defend it today, just like they do
mr. cardin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator maryland. mr. cardin: mr. president, i ask consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: i ask consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: mr. president, tomorrow we're going to have an opportunity to vote on s. 2124, and i am pleased to learn that it looks like there's going to be overwhelming support in the senate for the passage of s. 2124. this is the legislation that helps ukraine in dealing with the invasion of russia to its
son ofty. russia's illegal actions of using its military to overtake crimea, a part of the ukraine, violates numerous international obligations that russia has committed to. i had the honor of chairing the u.s. helsinki commission. the helsinki accords were entered into in 1975. russia was one of the leading forces for forming the usoc. russia's taking over of crimea violates the helsinki act. it violates the budapest mum dumb signed by the united states, the unite united kingdod russia. it guaranteed basically ukraine's integrity of its land. it violates the 1997 ukraine-russia bilateral treaty.
it violates the u.n. charter, and the list goes on and on and on. so i believe it's absolutely essential that we have a strong voice in standing with the people of ukraine. there was absolutely no justification whatsoever for russia's action. there was no threat to the -- any of the ethnic communities in ukraine. all the rights of the people are being protected. the country was in transition from a corrupt government to a government that respected the rights of its citizens. if there were any provocation whatsoever of any unrest, it was caused by russia's presence in ukraine. we got reports from the chief rabbi in kiev that russia was staging antisemitic provocations in crimea, and the list goes on and on of what russia was doing
to give some justification for its actions. russia's thinly-veiled land grab cloaked in the cloth of self-determine i indeterminatioo unchallenged. this is a dangerous precedent we saw russia use a similar action in georgia, now in crimea, in the ukraine. there are other territorial issues involved around the world. if this goes unchecked, if we do not speak with a unified voice, it just encourages more irresponsible action by russia and other countries. we know that we have concerns about the south china sea. we know we have concerns about moldova. there are many other areas where russia could be involved in border areas. so all of these issues are matters for us to speak with a strong, unified voice. and s. 2124 does that. it does two principal things. first, it imposes the sanctions
against those responsible for russia's invasion in crimea, ukraine. it provides sanctions so that these individuals are not permitted to come to the united states, that there are economic sanctions in regards to the use of our banking system. these are similar sanctions that are now being imposed by our european allies. we need to isolate russia. and as we all know, the g-8, which included russia, is now a g-7, without russia. russia needs to know that there will be sanctions imposed, and they will be stronger sanctions unless they stop this aggressive action. in addition, the legislation provides economic assistance to the new government of ukraine. just two weeks ago the prime minister of ukraine was here and met with members of the united states senate. i tell you, it was inspirational to listen to his vision for ukraine as a democratic, independent state with full
integration into europe. that's important. he's preparing for a may 25 election for the presidency of ukraine. these are all very, very positive steps, but if ukraine does not have the economic foothold to be able to develop the type of economy and strengthen their country, it'll be difficult for ukraine to be maintained as a viable independent state. here's where the united states and our european allies -- and i hope the global community -- come together, as we have in this legislation, to provide economic help on a restructured economic plan for ukraine that will help them move forward with a very constructive way. mr. president, i must tell you, i am disappointed, though, that the reforms of the i.m.f. were eliminated -- or will be eliminated from this legislation. i think that's regrettable. we are entering into a plan for ukraine that very much depends
upon the i.m.f. -- the international monetary fund's plan to make sure that the moneys that we're spending, that europe is spending and other countries are loaning and providing to ukraine are based upon a sound economic plan that will work. that's why i.m.f. is there. and they'll be there. but the united states needs to be a full participant in the i.m.f., and we're out of compliance. and here's another opportunity lost for us to be in full compliance with the i.m.f., and i'm disappointed about that. but as i said -, as i took the floor, we must speak with one voice. the obama administration, the house, the senate, the congress, we stand with the people of ukraine for their intelling - -r integrity and adherence to the international principles, which russia has clearly violated. with that, i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
objection. mr. brown: thank you, mr. president. in october 16, 1936, president roosevelt visited then the largest city in ohio, the town my wife and i live in, cleveland, ohio, spoke about why trickle-down doesn't work, this whole view that has been tried a number of times in our country, trickle-down economics, that trickle-down economics doesn't work. that's when you give major tax breaks to the wealthiest people in the country -- president roosevelt called them economic royalists, a term that sounds a little out of date but may be fairly descriptive. but president roosevelt said when you help the wealthier get wealthier and wealthier, my republican colleagues call them the job creators, but it just doesn't work that way. and they, the hope then is that some of that wealth they accumulate -- and we don't resent their wealth.
we don't envy their wealth. we just don't think it's good economic policy for toledo or chillicothe or cleveland, that when the wealthiest people get richer and richer, it doesn't really trickle down and create jobs. forget franklin roosevelt for a minute. look at two decades in very recent memory. the 1990's during the clinton years and the eight years during the bush years, from 1993 to 2000, the clinton years, where we actually reduced the budget deficit to the point there was a surplus. there was an increase in taxes on upper-income people and some budget cuts, but what happened during that eight years is there was a growth of, there were 21 million private-sector jobs added to our economy between 1993 and 2000. 21 million private-sector jobs. then president bush took office. he did twice, once in 2001, once
in 2003, with the assistance of kind of a bought and sold special interest congress in those days. president bush gave major tax cuts to the wealthiest people in this country. you know the theory trickle down, you give tax breaks to the rich, it trickles down to moderate income, middle-class people and creates jobs. well, the middle class shrunk during those eight years. president bush gave major tax cuts to the rich twice. you know how many jobs were created during those eight years? under a million. so private-sector jobs. so from 1993 to 2000 when we didn't follow trickle down economics, 21 million private sector jobs. during the eight years of the bush administration, big tax cuts for the rich, twice, essentially no real job creation in the private sector. you know, a number of my colleagues want to continue that policy, but let's look at it the other way. the real job creation isn't tax breaks for the richest people
that trickles down and maybe some jobs will be created for the middle class and for low-income people. let's look at it the other way. it's the real job creation from the bottom up. one of the ways to do that is a minimum-wage increase. it won't mean everything but look at this. the minimum wage today is worth $7.25 an hour nationally. in some states a little bit higher. my state is 90 cents higher than that, i believe. but the minimum wage today has one-third less buying power than it did in 1968. 196, a couple minimum-wage jobs, husband and wife, they actually had an okay standard of living. they weren't doing great but they were making it. they could afford to pay the rent, they could afford a car, they could afford some things. they were doing sort of okay. minimum wage today -- a minimum-wage job is one-third less buying power than it was in 1968. but think about this, the minimum wage for tipped employees -- i imagine a number
of the pages sitting there today, but they're not indicative of this. it is really older people generally, have had minimum-wage jobs and have had jobs where they rely on tips. it's a myth that minimum-wage jobs are mostly teenagers. they are not. minimum-wage jobs, often people are supporting themselves on minimum-wage jobs, supporting kids sometimes on minimum-wage jobs. they are not teenagers but in their 20's and 30's. the tipped minimum wage is $2.30 an hour. that means if you see a valet in an airport -- you go to cleveland hopkins airport and see somebody pushing a wheelchair with an often older disabled person in it, those people don't earn more than $7.25 an hour. you know the last time the tipped minimum wage was raise stph-d 1992. for 20-plus years the tipped minimum wage is $2.13 an hour.
for 20 years. that means that the waitress in the diner, the server in the diner, the valet in front of the restaurant, the person pushing the wheelchair or driving the cart at the airport, the person working in the hotel, their minimum wage is $2.13 an hour. and that's simply -- that simply -- i mean, how does anybody -- people opposed to this minimum-wage increase, some of the, you know, to me, the most self-absorbed interest groups in this country and some of the best off, they say nobody really makes that because people get tips. if you work in a really high-end restaurant where the average patron will spend $75, $100, buy a few drinks, expensive menu,
waiters make $70,000 a year, some more than that. but in a diner where three people will come in there in the morning and sip coffee and sit there for two or three hours, that waitress -- these are usually women that are subminimum wage, tipped employees, that waitress -- they may leave a dollar on the table and she's worked for two hours because all they bought was coffee and she kept filling it up. think about the wear and tear on her body, standing on her feet all the time. she's working hard. we like to think we work hard in the senate. we do but we don't do that and it's not so bad on our bodies. when i think about this minimum wage, i'm never angry about politics. one of my heroes is hubert humphrey. they called him the happy warrior because he always fought for justice but he wasn't angry, but there are some things that make me angry about this job.
that is when i see some of my colleagues, and there are a number of them who vote for pay increases for themselves and then vote against the minimum wage. they may tell you they're working hard. they're not working harder than that person pushing the cart at the airport. they're not working harder than the woman at the diner filling the coffee cups. mr. president, i just urge my colleagues to do something that pope francis mentioned, pope francis exhorted his parish priest to go out and smell like the flock. think about the biblical allegory of that, the sheep in the old testament and the shepherd. when he said go out and smell like the parish flock, he's saying go out and find out how they live, live among them, do what they do, understand their way of life. i just ask my colleagues to think about -- i'm not asking them to live on a minimum-wage
job. i'm not asking them to wait tables. but do i ask them to spend some time talking to people about the hopes and dreams for their children and in their lives of people who are minimum-wage workers, people making $7.25 an hour and working hard, people that are making less than that and rely on tips that may or may not be there. it's justice but are we going to -- in this country are we going to reward work? we ought to increase the minimum wage. at the same time we ought to expand the earned-income tax credit. it actually rewards working. if you're a trickle-down economics guy -- and most of them are guys -- if you're a trickle-down economics guy and you believe that you reward people by cutting their taxes so they'll work harder then, maybe we ought to think about rewarding lower-income people with tax breaks who work hard. that $1,000 for a low-income, somebody making $28,000 a year, that extra $1,000 really means,
it means they can maybe put a little aside for their kids' community college or they go out to eat once in a while. maybe they can buy school supplies. what we need to do, we increase the minimum wage, we increase the earned-income tax credit, it will not only be better for those families, it will help the economy because you put money into the economy from an unemployed worker or from a minimum-wage worker, they're going to spend that money, not invest it in a swiss bank account like some wealthy people might do. they're going to spend that money. increasing the minimum wage, expanding the earned-income tax credit is good for those families, good for those communities, good for our economy. it is something, mr. president, we ought to do. i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: