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Public Statements

Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act--Continued--

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Madam President, there are a number of my colleagues who are going to be speaking in the next hour about the President's announcement today of his plan to address carbon pollution and the changes it is wreaking on our planet.

We just heard from the distinguished Senator from Oklahoma about the politics and motives behind the President's decision. We can disagree about the politics and motives, but I think we should be past the point of disagreeing about the facts.

The facts are that in the past 15 years, during which the distinguished Senator said we have not seen any increase in temperature, we have actually had the hottest decade on record. I will get the exact figures in a moment, but I think 10 of the 12 hottest years on record have been in the past 15 years. I heard the distinguished Senator say that so I don't have the exact numbers, but there has been a terrific spike.

If you go to the property casualty insurance industry--which is not an industry that is heavily involved with Democratic or liberal politics--these people who do their calculations make their living by trying to predict correctly, and their cold-hearted actuaries have no purpose other than to provide the insurance industry the best possible information. They are showing an exceptional spike in both the number and severity of storms we are seeing, and they are having to adjust their insurance practices accordingly.

I hope we can find a way to work together, because I think the President's step that he took today is one that is long overdue and vitally important to our economy, vitally important to our national security, vitally important to our international credibility and, most of all, vitally important to our children and grandchildren. This is the great issue and responsibility of our time, and I am delighted to see the President has stepped up to it.

I see the distinguished Senator from Hawaii is on the floor. He was at the President's announcement with me, and I know he wants to say a few words.

Trying to do something about this and put a price on carbon has been described as the biggest tax in history, perhaps, and as something that would amount to the crushing of our economy. I think it is pretty safe to show that neither of those statements is accurate.

For starters, there is nothing that says the government has to keep the money when it is in a carbon pollution fee. It could go straight back to American families and be essentially a wash in the economy. In fact, by going back to families 100 cents on the dollar and changing the economic behavior of the industry for the better, I think it will prove to be an economic plus.

Over and over, EPA regulations have been imposed that created more economic benefit for the country than they cost. I am confident this regulation, once it gets going, will create more economic benefit for the country than it will cost. And every dollar of it could go back. It would mean as much as $900 a year for every American family to offset any increase in energy cost and to spend how they will.

But to do something that Republicans ordinarily agree is important, and that is to set the market straight so there isn't an imbalance in which the price of a product doesn't reflect the true cost of a product, that is law 101, it is economics 101, it is fairness 101. It should not be a proposition we are debating.

I intend to stay here until this hour or so we have is concluded, and I yield to the distinguished Senator from Hawaii who was also at the President's announcement in the blazing heat. But since he is from Hawaii, he is more used to the heat than I am.

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Mr. WHITEHOUSE. I yield the floor, whoever seeks recognition.

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Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Madam President, I thank the distinguished Senator from Hawaii. I ask unanimous consent, if he wishes to engage in a colloquy on the Senate floor, if that would be agreeable.

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Mr. WHITEHOUSE. We were both at the President's speech today. One of the things the President mentioned that I think is an important point to bear in mind is carbon pollution isn't free right now. We are not going to suddenly impose a cost on the economy through regulation that otherwise would not be there.

I can speak for Rhode Island. We are paying the price right now in the price of food and goods that are more expensive because of wildfires and droughts. We are paying the price in the cost of repairs to homes and shorelines that have been damaged by floods and storms. We are paying the price in terms of increased taxes for more disaster services--not only in Rhode Island but across the country. We are paying the price in the form of hikes in our insurance premiums. We pay the price in softer ways--in days spent in the hospital with a child having an asthma attack when you could be working or at home. And certainly we pay the price in what you might call the lost victories of innovation we never achieved because we were so busy subsidizing these old fuels.

I wish to ask the Senator from Hawaii to comment for a moment on how he sees the costs in his home State of Hawaii, which is far away from my home State of Rhode Island, both very ocean and coastal States. But I would
love to hear his experience and his views as well.

Then I see the Senator from Connecticut is on the floor, who is welcomed to either join in the colloquy or to make a statement, as he wishes.

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Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Madam President, I know the Senator from Texas is waiting to speak. I wish to, first of all, thank the Senator from Maryland, who is such a wonderful leader and ally and friend. He is very loyal to the needs and concerns of Maryland in this area. He has been terrific.

Earlier, the Senator from Oklahoma said--I think I am quoting him correctly--that in the past 15 years, there has not been any increase in temperature--I guess to suggest this isn't a real problem and we don't have to worry about it. I tried to get the figure right, but I have double-checked it, and I would like to correct myself. In the past 15 years, 13 of those 15 years are the 13 hottest years on record. So the past 15 years has been a period of very unusual heat.

What happens when you have that type of unusual heat? What happens when you have the climate disruption--to use the good phrase of Senator Blumenthal. You end up with added storms.

This is a graph prepared by the insurance industry--not exactly a bunch of liberals. This is how they make their money. They want to get it right. They have graphed the storm activity, starting all the way over there in 1980, coming here to 2012.

So if you go back in the last 15 years here, you will see a significant increase in storm activity--the type of major storms the insurance industry has to pay for, so they care very deeply about this. They get their data right, and I think they can be trusted.

I also think that the 13 out of 15 being the hottest years on record can
be trusted because that is science that comes from NASA. I do not know where the Senator from Oklahoma was getting his data, but I will trust the scientists at NASA. These are people who have put an explorer the size of an SUV on the top of a rocket, fired it off into space, sent it to Mars, landed it on the surface of Mars, and they are now driving it around on the surface of Mars. I do not think these are scientists who are incapable of getting it right. So I trust the insurance industry for these numbers about storms. I trust the NASA scientists for the numbers about temperature.

I think it is pretty clear that we are way out of the bounds of history, as Mr. Merkley, the senior Senator from Oregon, said. The entire history of our species on this planet--until the Industrial Revolution and our great carbon dump--has been within 170 to 300 parts per million. That has been the range for as long as we have been a species on this planet--until this sudden up-surge, and that has now taken us to 400. It is a novelty, if that is not too frivolous a word to use for such an excursion outside of the bandwidth in which our species has inhabited this planet throughout our entire existence.

I see the Senator from New Mexico and the Senator from Texas organizing who is going to speak next, and I will respectfully yield to whichever one of them wishes to proceed. But I do want to thank my colleagues for coming to the floor today to discuss this issue. Senator Murphy from Connecticut, Senator Merkley from Oregon, Senator Schatz from Hawaii, Senator Blumenthal from Connecticut, Senator Cardin from Maryland, and now Senator Tom Udall from New Mexico all have been here on very short notice because we all want to support this President in his decision to move forward on regulating our carbon pollution and beginning to forestall the damage it is doing to our economies, to our States, to our coastlines, to our forests, to our farms. If anything, one could say it is about time, but it certainly is time, and I applaud that the President has stepped so well forward.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Objection.

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