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Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. VITTER. Madam President, I come to the floor on this budget debate and will specifically highlight several amendments that I am presenting that will be voted on in the context of the debate. We address several provisions that I think are important as we vote on moving forward with the budget.

One issue is a reform idea. It is very simple, but it is very basic, and I think it is important in terms of our leading through these fiscally tough times; that is, ending automatic pay raises for Members of Congress. I am joined in this amendment by Senator McCaskill of Missouri, and I thank her for her leadership.

There is existing Federal law that establishes automatic pay raises for Members of Congress. We don't have to put in a bill, we don't have to debate the measure on the floor, much less vote. I think that is offensive to the American people, particularly in tough economic times such as these.

To Congress's credit, we have passed stopgap legislation to refuse pay raises since 2009, but we need to go the next legitimate step. We need to end all automatic pay raises and have the courage, if it is ever justified over time with inflation, to put in a proposal, to debate it, to vote on it, not to have automatic pay raises for Members of Congress. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.

A second amendment would require photographic IDs for voting in Federal elections. This is largely provoked by the actions of the Obama administration's Justice Department which has been fighting States that are trying to institute photo IDs. That is allowed under Federal law, and several States are doing that and doing it properly, including Texas and South Carolina, but this Justice Department is trying to shut that down, even though it is allowed by Federal law. Interestingly, that assault on States trying to do their job, trying to do things properly, has been made by the head of the Civil Rights Division at Justice, Thomas Perez, who is now nominated for a Cabinet position--Labor Secretary. This amendment and this proposal would clarify it by actually requiring photo IDs for voting in Federal elections.

We require photo IDs for traveling in airports. We require photo IDs for going into a conference. We require photo IDs for a myriad of things, including visiting the White House. Surely it is a very legitimate, simple requirement that doesn't disenfranchise anyone to make sure the integrity of our election system is preserved. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.

Third, another amendment I will bring would finally require the US-VISIT system to be properly and fully executed and put in place. The US-VISIT system, as the Presiding Officer knows, is an entry and exit control system to track foreign nationals who are properly visiting our country with visas, so it tracks them as they come in and go out, and if they don't go out in time, if they overstay their visa, it brings up a red flag that is sent to law enforcement officials.

This is not a small matter because, as we all remember, the 9/11 terrorists overstayed their visas. A proper US-VISIT system would have tracked that, would have caught them, would have done something about it. There has been a crying need since at least 1996. In 1996, Congress passed legislation that mandated the executive branch, within 2 years, establish this sort of system. Of course, it wasn't done in time for 9/11. After 9/11, the 9/11 Commission specifically went back and recommended that we get on this, that we finish the work, that we fully establish the US-VISIT system. It said:

The Department of Homeland Security, properly supported by the Congress, should complete as quickly as possible a biometric entry/exit screening system.

Yet, even now, over a decade after 9/11, 12 years after 9/11, we don't have that system fully in place. We need that system, and this amendment would not just mandate the system but it would say that the Department of Homeland Security cannot grant legal status to those illegally present within the United States until we all comply with Federal law relating to the entry and exit data system required under the law originally passed in 1996.

In the context of immigration reform, I don't think we should consider granting legal status to those here illegally until we have this US-VISIT system, which is an absolutely essential component of enforcement.

A fourth amendment I have that we will be voting on over the next few days is in support of the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act. This amendment would support that act and express the sense of the Senate that Congress should enact it. What does that act do? It provides that whoever knowingly performs an abortion that is sought based on sex or gender selection would be guilty of violating the law. So it prohibits discriminating against the unborn in the form of abortion sex selection.

A lot of folks don't realize it, but, again, this is not a theoretical issue. This, unfortunately, is an ongoing practice. There are at least four studies from universities--not from ultraconservative think tanks; UC-Berkeley is not a conservative think tank, University of Connecticut, Columbia University--there are at least four studies that found there is a strong son bias within certain American communities, a bias toward having sons, not daughters. These studies say that is ``clear evidence of sex-selection, most likely at the prenatal stage.''

That is sort of academic speak. What does it mean? It means that parents are selecting and using abortion to that outcome. It is always selection against women, against girl babies, in favor of sons. That is outrageous and it is tragic. We need to follow other countries that have prohibited this practice.

Other countries--the United Kingdom, India, China--have enacted these sorts of bans. The medical community, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, and the President's own Council on Bioethics, have all condemned sex selection abortions.

In 2007, the United States even spearheaded a resolution to condemn these sorts of sex selection abortions at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Yet we are doing nothing about it in this country. So we should start doing something about this horrible practice in this country. I urge all of my colleagues to support this amendment.

Fifth and finally, I will have an amendment with regard to China, India, and Russia, and greenhouse gas regulation. The amendment and the idea are very simple. It creates a point of order against funding for greenhouse gas regulations until the administration can certify that China, India, and Russia are similarly implementing greenhouse gas regulations to reduce their own emissions.

There are big disagreements and debates about global warming, climate change, greenhouse gas regulation. I wish to forego all that and put it to the side. No matter what one thinks about that--causes and effects, trend lines, or lack of trend lines--one thing is perfectly clear and beyond dispute; that is, whatever the United States does is irrelevant if major players globally, such as China and India and Russia, don't do the same. Clearly, our action is irrelevant unless all three of those countries do the same. China has just surpassed the United States as the world's largest producer of CO

2. China now produces more than the United States and Canada combined. India is now the world's third largest offender of CO

2, and Russia is fourth. So unless these three countries adopt some sort of similar regime, our actions do zero in terms of the environment. But our actions would do a lot in terms of costing us jobs, killing jobs, and suppressing economic growth.

This is a very commonsense regulation. It shouldn't matter what one thinks about climate change with regard to how a Senator votes, because, again, our actions will have zero effect if China, India, and Russia are not taking similar action. I urge all of my colleagues to support this important amendment.

Thank you, Madam President. I yield the floor.

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