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Public Statements

Health Care

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LEE. Mr. President, the President of the United States has spent the last few weeks campaigning around our great country at taxpayer expense, telling Americans about what he characterizes as the catastrophic impact of the sequester. He said, for example, that the sequester will visit hardship on a whole lot of people. He said it will jeopardize our military readiness, it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research. He said the ability of emergency responders to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be disregarded. Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced. FBI agents will be furloughed. He said Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and simply let criminals go. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country. He said thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off and that tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find childcare for their kids. And he also continued: Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care such as flu vaccinations and cancer screenings.

Today we see the predictions of doom and gloom have not come to pass. We have seen that many of these statements have been severely exaggerated, if not disproven. People in my home State of Utah have found the effects of the sequester to be not quite what the President predicted. One of our local Utah news stations reported that ``there were no signs of sequester pain'' at the airports. When asked about sequestration, one Utahn responded: ``If they can't handle a 2 percent reduction in spending then I guess we need to get better and brighter,'' meaning we need to get better and brighter people running our government.

Other press reports indicate the administration's doomsday claims have misled the public. The Washington Post reported that the Education Secretary's claims about teacher layoffs turned out simply not to be true. And Politico recently published a story showing the President's claims about some capital staff getting pay cuts to be false.

I ask Senator Barrasso, after all these scare tactics over the last 2 weeks, does the President have a credibility problem with the American people when it comes to the sequester?

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Mr. LEE. I thank my friend, Senator Barrasso. I find it interesting that what the Senator has observed on the streets of towns such as Evanston, Cheyenne, and Gillette in Wyoming is backed up by a recent poll conducted by Gallup. That poll shows Americans understand that a lot of money Washington spends is wasted. This Gallup poll shows that the average American believes Washington wastes 51 cents out of every $1 it spends--51 cents. More than half of every dollar that hard-working Americans earn and send to Washington gets wasted.

Congress and the President should be working together to target, reform, reduce, and eliminate wasteful spending that the American people are noticing. They should be working to get rid of and reform ineffective programs.

Meanwhile, the President is threatening to make cuts to government spending as painful as it can possibly be. Instead of targeting waste, the President is using scare tactics to persuade Americans that cuts have to come first from important services such as law enforcement, national security, border patrol, first responders, and educators.

Just today, the administration announced it was going to furlough schoolteachers who educate the children of military families on U.S. military bases, recognizing, of course, that most school systems are operated at the State and local level. They are funded primarily at the State and local level. The administration started focusing on educators who teach on base to military families, suggesting that those teachers would have to be furloughed.

Republicans have a better idea. The Senate Budget Committee--and in particular the ranking Republican serving on the Senate Budget Committee--has found that the cost of President Obama's recent golf vacation with Tiger Woods cost Americans an amount of money that, if saved, would have allowed us to prevent the furlough of 341 Federal employees. Can the President cancel a vacation or two in order to avoid some of these furloughs? That is the question that has prompted us to start this information campaign that we refer to as ``Cut this, not that,'' as depicted in this graphic.

This graphic shows under ``Cut this,'' golf vacations by the President, and under the ``not that,'' it shows military base teachers. That is what we should be focusing on. That is where we ought to prioritize. We need to identify those areas where there could be a lower priority attached to something we are already spending money on. ``Cut this, not that'' sends a message to the President and the American

people that Washington should be setting spending priorities rather than wasting their hard-earned tax dollars.

I ask the Senator--through the Chair--how can it be that this administration chooses to cut border law enforcement, first responders, and educators instead of the fraud and waste that is so rampant in the government?

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Mr. LEE. I thank the Senator. It is important for us to recognize that all these observations draw back to one central conclusion, which is that the sequester and wasteful spending we see so rampant throughout our Federal Government is the natural product of the failure by the majority leadership in the Senate to work with Republicans to pass a budget.

Last year, in the Senate, Republicans proposed 3 different budgets and received as many as 42 votes. That is 42 more votes than the President's budget received in this body last year or the year before or in the House last year or the year before.

The majority party in the Senate--those in charge of this body and elected to lead in this body--have refused even to propose a budget for the country for more than 1,400 days.

We have spending priorities. I am sure my friends across the aisle have spending priorities as well. It is time we do the right thing for the American people. We need to sit down and have an open and honest dialog with the American people and with each other. We need to hammer out these ideas and come up with a budget that fairly and accurately represents the priorities of the American people. We need to pass a budget, and I urge my colleagues to do so.

I thank the Chair.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. LEE. Madam President, I rise today to speak in opposition to the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to be a circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The D.C. Circuit is arguably the most important Federal appellate court in our country's judicial system, with primary responsibility to review administrative decisions made by many Federal departments and executive branch agencies. It has also served, in many instances, as a stepping stone of sorts for judges later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. As a result, the Senate has a longstanding practice of carefully scrutinizing candidates to the D.C. Circuit.

When evaluating particular nominees, we also carefully consider the need for additional judges on that very court. In July 2006 President Bush nominated an eminently qualified individual named Peter Keisler to fill a seat on the D.C. Circuit. Mr. Keisler, whom I know personally, is among the finest attorneys in the country and is also among the finest individuals I know. Because of his nonideological approach to the law, Mr. Keisler enjoys broad bipartisan support throughout the legal profession. Despite these unassailable qualifications, Democratic Senators blocked Mr. Keisler's nomination. He did not receive any floor consideration whatsoever, not even a cloture vote, and his nomination languished in the Judiciary Committee. At the time a number of Democratic Senators sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee chairman arguing that a nominee to the D.C. Circuit ``should under no circumstances be considered--much less confirmed--before we first address the very need for that judgeship.'' These Senators specifically argued that the D.C. Circuit's comparatively modest caseload in 2006 did not justify the confirmation of an additional judge to that Court, even though this was a position that by law already existed.

More than 6 years have passed, and Ms. Halligan has been nominated once again to that very same seat on the D.C. Circuit--the same seat for which Peter Keisler was nominated--but the court's caseload remains just as minimal as it was then. According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the D.C. Circuit caseload is so light that the number of appeals pending per judicial panel is 54 percent less than the average for Federal courts of appeal. With just 359 pending appeals per panel, the D.C. Circuit's average workload is less than half that of other similar appellate courts.

The D.C. Circuit caseload has actually decreased since the time Democrats blocked Mr. Keisler. Indeed, since 2005 the total number of appeals filed is down over 13 percent. The total number of appeals pending is down over 10 percent. Some have sought to make much of the fact that since 2005, two of the court's judges have taken senior status, leaving only seven active judges on the D.C. Circuit today. But the court's caseload has declined so much in recent years that even filings per active judge are only slightly higher than they were in 2005. Of course, that does not account for the six senior judges on the D.C. Circuit who continue to hear appeals and offer opinions on a regular basis. Their contribution--the contributions of the senior judges on that court--is such that the actual work for each active judge has declined and the caseload burden for D.C. Circuit judges is less than it was when Democrats blocked Mr. Keisler on the basis of a declining, insufficient caseload.

Indeed, the average filings per panel--perhaps the truest measure of the actual workload per judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals--is down almost 6 percent since that time.

In each of the last several years, the D.C. Circuit has cancelled regularly scheduled argument dates due to the lack of pending cases. Those who work at the courts suggest that in reality the workload isn't any different today than it has been in the past.

According to the Democrats' own standards, and particularly when there are judicial emergencies in other courts across the country, now is not the time to confirm another judge to the D.C. Circuit. It is certainly not the time for us to consider confirming a controversial nominee with a record of extreme views with regard to the law and the Constitution.

Make no mistake, Ms. Halligan is not what we would call a consensus nominee. The Senate has already considered and rejected her nomination. Nothing material has changed since that time.

Many of my colleagues have discussed a wide range of Ms. Halligan's views, so I will limit myself to one example. In 2003, while serving as Solicitor General for the State of New York, Ms. Halligan approved and signed a legal brief arguing that handgun manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers should be held liable for criminal actions that individuals commit with those guns. Three years later, in 2006, Ms. Halligan filed another brief arguing that handgun manufacturers were guilty of creating a public nuisance.

Such arguments amount to an invitation for the courts to engage in sweeping judicial activism. The positions she took are both bewildering and flatly inconsistent with the original understanding of the second amendment rights all Americans enjoy.

In conclusion, as measured by the Democrats' own standards and their own prior actions, now is not the time to confirm another judge to the D.C. Circuit, and it is certainly not the time to consider such a controversial nominee for that very important court. The Senate has already spoken and rejected Ms. Halligan's nomination. I urge my colleagues once again to oppose her confirmation.

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