Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014—Motion to Proceedby Senator Harry Reid
Posted on 2014-02-26
REID. I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Brown). Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. REID. Mr. President, this morning when I came to the Senate floor, I talked about how it is groundhog year, not ``Groundhog Day.'' What is going on here today is an example of what has been going on with the Republican-driven direction of this Congress for several years.
What are we doing here today? Nothing. Under the rules of the Senate, cloture was invoked 99 to 0. The purpose of that vote was to get on a bill. It is a shame we had to even file cloture on it, but we did, and that takes a couple of days. Everyone should understand that after cloture is invoked, there is 30 hours. It is a waste of time.
Why are they doing that? Why are they causing this? Because they don't want to legislate. They want to do anything they can to stop President Obama from accomplishing anything.
Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, has dedicated his heart and soul to something he, his committee, and the veterans community believes in--improving the lives of veterans. We have millions of people who have come home, and are coming home, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They deserve a lot.
The legislation that is on this floor is terrific. It is supported by 26 different veterans organizations, including the largest, the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Here is what the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars said earlier today: American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said Wednesday-- That is today-- that sanctions against Iran have no place in a U.S. Senate debate over legislation that aims to expand health care, education opportunities, employment and other benefits for veterans.
I ask unanimous consent that his complete statement be printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: Commander: Keep Senate Bill Focused on Vets American Legion leader says no other issues need to be attached to legislation to improve health care, education, employment and benefits for those who served our nation.
[[Page S1160]] Washington (Feb. 26, 2014).--American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said Wednesday that sanctions against Iran have no place in a U.S. Senate debate over legislation that aims to expand health care, education opportunities, employment and other benefits for veterans.
``Iran is a serious issue that Congress needs to address, but it cannot be tied to S. 1982, which is extremely important as our nation prepares to welcome millions of U.S. military servicemen and women home from war. This comprehensive bill aims to help veterans find good jobs, get the health care they need and make in-state tuition rates applicable to all who are using their GI Bill benefits. This legislation is about supporting veterans, pure and simple. The Senate can debate various aspects of it, and that's understandable, but it cannot lose focus on the matter at hand: helping military personnel make the transition to veteran life and ensuring that those who served their nation in uniform receive the benefits they earned and deserve. We can deal with Iran--or any other issue unrelated specifically to veterans--with separate legislation.'' A 99-0 vote in the Senate Tuesday cleared the way for a full debate on S. 1982, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I- Vt., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. The bill seeks to improve medical and dental care offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, open 27 new VA clinics where access to care is now difficult, renew the Vow to Hire Heroes Act that has helped some 70,000 veterans find jobs and receive employment training, improve care for those who experienced military sexual trauma and protect cost-of-living adjustments for future military retirees.
Dellinger is the leader of the nation's largest veterans service organization, the 2.4-million-member American Legion.
Mr. REID. It goes into detail as to how wrongheaded this is, that the Republicans are trying to divert attention from an issue that is so very important to the American people, and why their continued obstruction has been so detrimental to our country.
Koch Advertizing Mr. President, I can't say that every one of the Koch brothers' ads is a lie, but I will say this: The vast majority of them are. Now, enough editorial comment. I am going to read verbatim a column that appeared in today's The Hill magazine--newspaper, I should call it-- here on the Hill. It is entitled ``Koch brothers' ads shameful.'' Let me read this: Having a right is not the same thing as being in the right.
In some instances, we have the right to behave immorally. For example, the First Amendment gives some people, in some circumstances, the right to lie.
Let's set aside for a moment whether the billionaire Koch brothers have the right to run a flurry of dishonest ads about ObamaCare and ask instead whether spending millions of dollars to mislead and even lie to the American people is the right thing to do.
There is no legitimate debate about the integrity of the ads. In Louisiana, the Kochs' political front group placed an ad that, to all appearances, features a group of Louisianans opening letters from insurance companies informing them about the problems they face as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
Except that, as ABC News has documented, the individuals in their ad are not Louisianans. They are paid actors who are not reading actual letters sent by any real insurance company.
In other words, nothing about the ad is true.
The response from the brothers' organization: ``The viewing public is savvy enough to distinguish between someone giving a personal story and something that is emblematic.'' A little editorial comment before I continue with this op-ed piece: How about that for a response? That is code word for ``we have a lot of money, and we will run ads about anything we want to run ads about.'' I continue the column: Were this an ad for Stainmaster carpet, a Koch product, Federal Trade Commission guidelines would require the ad to ``conspicuously disclose that the persons in such advertisements are not actual consumers.'' That is from the FTC.
Moreover, the FTC would require them to either demonstrate that these results of ObamaCare are typical or make clear in the ad that they are not.
Needless to say, the ad meets none of these requirements, thereby conforming to the legal definition of false advertising.
Not all Koch ads feature actors. Even those with real people, though, are not necessarily factual. Witness the attack on Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.)-- Who, by the way, is running for the Senate-- in a Koch-funded ad featuring a Michigan leukemia patient.
Everyone sympathizes with her struggle, as well they should. But neither her bravery nor her suffering makes the words she utters true. They aren't.
In the ad, the patient claims, with ObamaCare ``the out-of- pocket costs are so high, it is unaffordable.'' The Detroit News reports the ``ad makes no mention that [the patient] successfully enrolled in a new Blue Cross plan where she's been able to retain her University of Michigan oncologist and continues to receive the life-saving oral chemotherapy. . . . The ad also does not mention that [her] health care premiums were cut in half.'' The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler did the math. She saved $6,348 a year on premiums. And because ObamaCare caps out-of- pocket costs for plans at $6,350, she will be paying, at most, $2 more this year for her care.
It's hard to call that an unaffordable increase.
If it were just these two egregious examples, someone might suggest I'm picking on the Koch brothers. Now, I do not always agree with the fact checkers, who are sometimes wrong. But it is striking that PolitiFact reviewed 11 ads placed by the brothers' organization, and not a single one was rated ``true'' or even ``mostly true.'' Nine were rated ``false'' or worse.
So, I return to my original question. Whatever their constitutional rights, are the Koch brothers right to degrade the Democratic process with lies? Are they right to use tactics that are, by legal definitions, deceptive and dishonest? Are voters choosing a candidate due any less respect and honesty than consumers buying carpet? We in the consulting profession-- This column is written by a nationally known pollster by the name of Mark Mellman-- We in the consulting profession need to ask ourselves hard questions about where the line is that we won't cross. When does the pursuit of victory at any cost exact too high a price? When does dishonesty distort democracy? Politicians, political parties or media that fail to condemn these tactics, as well as broadcasters that air these ads, and the consultants who make them, are all complicit in the Kochs' immorality.
Mr. President, this is the truth. This is the truth. What is going on with these two brothers who made billions of dollars last year and attempted to buy our democracy is dishonest, deceptive, false, and unfair. Just because you have huge amounts of money, you should not be able to run these false, misleading ads by the hundreds of millions of dollars.
They hide behind all kinds of entities. It is not just their front organization, Americans For Prosperity. They give money to all kinds of organizations--lots of money. When you make billions of dollars a year, you can be, I guess, as immoral and dishonest as your money will allow. It is too bad they are trying to buy America, and it is time the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty and about these two brothers who are about as un-American as anyone I can imagine.