Nomination of Deborah Lee James to Be Secretary of the Air Forceby Senator Patrick J. Toomey
Posted on 2013-12-11
TOOMEY. Mr. President, I rise as we consider the nomination of
Deborah Lee James as Secretary of the Air Force, and I wish to touch on
some of the points that were made by the Senator from Alabama.
I wish to state how much I appreciate his leadership, especially as the ranking member of the Budget Committee, his consistent leadership and fighting for fiscal discipline and putting our country back on a sustainable fiscal path, his commitment to an open amendment process, the opportunity to have vigorous debate in the Senate so that this body can work its will, and, of course, his work on the Armed Services Committee. I appreciate all of that, and I appreciate him being here tonight.
I do think it is important we have a discussion about how we got here, a discussion about the circumstances that have led to this completely unprecedented moment.
In the entire history of the Republic, we have never found ourselves in this circumstance where a majority party has decided that they alone should have sole say in who shall be appointed to the executive branch and who shall have the lifetime appointments to our Federal bench. I am one who believes this will very likely have very detrimental effects because when one party can ram through their choice without having to give any regard whatsoever to what the other party thinks, then what do we get? We get legislation like ObamaCare and we have extremes in the nominations that will eventually be confirmed.
Any President comes under pressure from the extremes within his or her party to put the most extreme people in positions of power, and the Senate has played a vital role in moderating that extreme, that tendency, that pressure, because it has virtually always been the case that neither party has 60 votes. Very seldom has it been the case that a party has had over 60 votes. So it has almost always been necessary that there be some broad bipartisan consensus on the people who will populate powerful posts as regulators and lifetime appointments to the bench.
That is no longer the case. There is no such check, and I fear that the consequences will be very detrimental: extremism in the regulatory agencies, volatility as we move from one administration to another and we have these swings, and probably the most disturbing of all is the real danger that the greatest source of pride Americans can have in their Federal Government, which has been an independent, nonpartisan judiciary--that very judiciary becomes a creature of the political and becomes captured by the political branches of government. That is the danger, and that is why it is important we consider how we got here and why we got here.
It is particularly extraordinary when we consider the statements of some of the leaders on the other side of the aisle, Democratic leaders who for years were passionately opposed to doing exactly what they did last month. The majority leader himself just a short time ago said: The right to extend the debate is never more important than when one party controls Congress and the White House. In these cases, a filibuster serves as a check on power and preserves our limited government.
Senator Schumer, the senior Senator from New York, put it this way: The checks and balances which have been at the core of this Republic will be evaporated by the nuclear option. The checks and balances say that if you get 51 percent of the vote, you don't get your way 100 percent of the time.
That was Senator Schumer and Senator Reid. There are many other quotes on the record in which they vigorously opposed the notion of denying the minority any say in the confirmation process when it was discussed but never implemented some years ago. So why would they have such a 180-degree reversal? Why would their opinion and that of the vast majority of my Democratic colleagues have changed to the point where they would actually take this absolutely unprecedented step? Senator Reid gave an explanation on the day he inflicted these changes on this body. I will quote from Senator Reid's explanation. He said: There has been unbelievable, unprecedented obstruction. For the first time in the history of our Republic, Republicans have routinely used the filibuster to prevent President Obama from appointing his executive team or confirming judges.
That is what Senator Reid said. So it has been about Republicans obstructing the President from appointing his executive team and confirming judges.
Well, let's consider the case of judges to start. Let's take a look at this chart. Since President Obama has been President, there are some very simple, very easily verifiable facts we can look at.
The President has sent nominees for the Senate to consider since he became President. The Senate has confirmed 215 of those nominees, but the Senate has blocked 2 of his nominees. These are verifiable facts. They are not in dispute. These are the numbers. In total, the President has sent us the names of 217 candidates for judgeships, and 215 were confirmed and are sitting judges and 2 were blocked.
There is another category of nominees; that is, the executive branch nominees--the various agencies and regulatory bodies that are subject to senatorial confirmation. The President has sent us a total of 1,494 nonjudicial executive branch nominees. The Senate has confirmed 1,492. The Senate has blocked two.
The math is not that complicated. The President has nominated and sent to the Senate for our consideration a total of 1,711 altogether, and the Senate has confirmed 1,707. The Senate has blocked four. If you do the math, that is a confirmation rate of 99.8 percent.
So of all the nominees the President has sent to this body to be confirmed, we haven't actually confirmed every one; we have only confirmed 99.8 percent of them. Of the 1,711, we have blocked 4.
I would suggest that the power of advice and consent--the Constitution says advice and consent; it doesn't just say advice. If it just said advice, then that would clearly imply that the President could ignore the advice if he chose. But it doesn't just say advice; it says advice and consent. The power to consent clearly and obviously implies that under some circumstances that consent would be withheld. If not, there is no meaning to this at all.
So I would suggest it is patently absurd to suggest that a 99.8- percent confirmation rate is a pattern of obstruction, as we have been accused of. So that can't be the real reason, obviously. Obviously, this kind of record of almost universally approving Presidential nominees can't possibly be the real reason we had this unprecedented power grab and rules change.
So what was the real purpose? What was the real motivation behind this very dramatic development? I am here [[Page S8769]] to tell you that I think it is very clear what the real motivation was. The motivation was to pack the DC Circuit Court of Appeals so that a partisan group of judges would validate an agenda that this administration and many of our friends on the other side of the aisle want to impose.
That is an outrageous thing to say in some ways. Some people might think that is quite an accusation. What would be my basis for saying something like that? It would be the fact that Senator Reid and Senator Schumer told us that was their reason. They said so. I will get to their quote, but let me explain why this has been done.
The fact is that elections have consequences. The President of the United States was elected. The Republicans have been enormously deferential in confirming his nominees, among other things.
But in 2012 the President wasn't the only person on the ballot. The entire House of Representatives was on the ballot, and the American people chose to reelect a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Those elections have consequences as well, and one of the consequences of that election--the set of elections that produced a Republican majority in the House and left many Republicans in the Senate--is that the more liberal aspects of the President's agenda can't pass in Congress. They are not supported by a majority of the American people. They are not supported by majorities in Congress. Things like cap and trade, card check, the war on coal, and recess appointments don't have support. I don't think they have broad support in either body, certainly not enough in the House of Representatives to pass.
So what is a President to do if he can't get his legislation passed but he nevertheless wants to pursue an agenda? Well, one way a President could choose to do this--especially one who is not interested in working with the minority party--and let's face it, ObamaCare is the clear example that this President is not interested in the input of Republicans. That was jammed through without a single Republican vote in either the House or the Senate. There was no input from Republicans. There was no consideration for what the minority party considered. There was not a broad consensus.
It is not surprising that a very short time later there is a big majority of the American people who do not support this bill because it was never designed with enough input and enough buy-in to have that broad consensus. If a President is not interested in working with the minority party and he cannot get his legislation through because there are not enough members of his party in Congress, the alternative is to try to impose it through the regulatory process, through the agencies, through the regulators, through the executive branch, which has become enormous and enormously powerful.
There is only one big hurdle for a President to try to go down this road and that hurdle is that eventually people who are the victims of an overreaching group of regulators and administrators and agency heads, they have recourse. If they think that a given regulator is acting unfairly or illegally or unconstitutionally, they can go to court and in fact people do that. Guess what court ends up hearing the appeals and making what is very typically the final decisions, as a practical matter, regarding Federal regulations. Why, it is the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. That is the way our Federal system works.
In fact, the DC Circuit Court has generally been upholding the laws. I believe the evidence is very clear that it is a capable, competent, nonpartisan group of talented judges who make decisions as they see fit. They call balls and strikes, as referees ought to. Among their decisions, for instance--I am sure I do not agree with all of them but they did block what I thought was an illegal overreach by the EPA, inconsistent with the laws regulating EPA. They did not believe the President had the right to decide when Congress was in recess and make appointments that suited him when we were not able to deny consent. That was the DC Circuit Court's decision. This, and several others, were completely unacceptable to some of my Democratic friends. It was unacceptable this independent, nonpartisan court might reach decisions that were inconsistent with the liberal agenda.
How do we know this was unacceptable? We have some quotes. The senior Senator from New York, Mr. Schumer, discussed this. He was speaking to a group of supporters. It is on the record. He complained that the DC Circuit overturned the EPA's ability to regulate existing coal plants. He complained the SEC cannot pass rules unless they do what is called a cost-benefit analysis. He complained they struck down the administration's illegal recess appointments to the NLRB. He told a group of supporters that Democrats ``will fill up the DC Circuit one way or another.'' That was the quote. It was pretty straightforward, I will give him that. It is pretty candid. We do not like the decisions that are coming out of this court so we will pack the court with people who agree with our ideology.
Senator Schumer was not the only one to make this case. Senator Reid had this to say of the DC Circuit: They are the ones who said the President can't have recess appointments. They have done a lot of bad things. So we are focusing very intently on the DC Circuit. We need at least one more. There are three vacancies. We need at least one more and that will switch the majority.
This is Senator Reid on the DC Circuit: ``We need at least one more,'' obviously referring to a judge. ``We need at least one more and that will switch the majority.'' I think it is pretty clear what was going on here.
Now fast-forward to a few weeks ago. There was just one obstacle to putting the people who would agree with Senator Schumer and Senator Reid on the DC Circuit Court and render the decisions they wanted. The obstacle was Republicans were not interested in going along with the scheme to pack the court for ideological purposes. They didn't think that was a very good idea. They thought it was probably better to have judges who were not there to try to advance a political agenda but believed their job is to apply the law as written and make sure it is consistent with the Constitution as opposed to pursuing a political agenda.
Despite the fact that Republicans had to that point confirmed 99.8 percent of all the President's nominees, that was going a little bit too far, to simply blatantly pack the DC Circuit Court, and we said no to the three nominees who were people they were intending to pack that court.
When we did, Senator Reid, after publicly promising he was not going to change the rules this way just this past summer, nevertheless did exactly that. Despite the fact the Senate rules are very clear to change the rules requires a vote of 67 Senators, precisely so there would be a broad consensus behind the rules, Senator Reid changed the rules with a mere 51 votes. He broke the rules so he could change the rules so the Democratic majority can now steamroll through and rubberstamp all of the President's nominees, including those necessary to pack the court so they can pursue the agenda they want to pursue. This is not my speculation. These are the quotes from the man who helped to organize this effort.
It is, frankly, very reminiscent in a lot of ways of ObamaCare: Steamroll through Congress, one party, no input from the other party, the minority party, and a complete disaster. By the way, the other big similarity is the broken promises. Senator Reid clearly, unambiguously, unequivocally, unconditionally made the promise that he was not going to change the rules and then he did.
Then what have we been hearing about ObamaCare? One broken promise after another.
What I am going to do for the remainder of the time that I consume this evening is remind all of us of some of the promises that were made. Then I am just going to read a small sample of the emails that have been coming into my office from Pennsylvanians who have learned firsthand, the hard way, the painful way, just how untrue these promises were.
The first one is maybe the most famous of the promises. This is the President's repeated promise, echoed by many others, and I will quote: ``If you like your health plan you can keep your health plan.'' I don't know how many times the President said it, but we have all seen it, we all know it. But what is particularly maddening is we also know something else. We know everybody who said this always knew this [[Page S8770]] was not true. It was not true because the design of the bill forbids people from keeping health insurance plans in many cases--not all cases but many cases--and the authors of the bill and the supporters of the bill and the people who voted for the bill knew full well that one of the purposes of the bill was to establish government-approved standards for all insurance plans.
If your plan did not meet those standards, you were going to lose your plan. So this is what some folks have written to us about this promise, that if you like your health plan you can keep your health plan. This was just 2 days ago, a gentleman from Lancaster County from Pennsylvania wrote: As my Congressional representative, you need to know how ObamaCare is harming my life and health care.
I work for a small construction company. My cost for family health care was already over $11,000 per year. We received notification that our policy was being cancelled since it did not comply with the requirements of the ``Affordable Care Act.'' Our company looked for the best rates they could find for comparable coverage which did comply. They chose a new insurance company. We just recently were given the costs for next year. My cost to cover myself and my family will be over $17,500 per year (a 59-percent increase). Even with that, the deductibles and out of pocket maximums are higher. This is not ``Affordable Care.'' This would eat up a major part of my income.
I attempted to log onto the healthcare.gov website several times, but always get kicked out. I do not hold up much hope that I will get any better rates, because I do not qualify for a credit.
We were already struggling to live on my take home pay. We cannot afford to have it reduced by over $6,500. We may have to drop health coverage for my wife or kids, and pay the penalty.
I suspect this law will result in many more people losing their health care, at the expense of a few getting free or reduced healthcare.
Another from a gentleman from Cumberland County last week.
My wife Barb and I have been trying for almost three weeks to get signed up. . . . all income and health info and private information is on the unsecured Web site and the application is accepted . . . but we have not been able to get on and pick the plan or get our price. . . . so nobody has been paid. Thus our cancelled insurance ends on December 31st and we look to be out.
A BIG mistake by the folks that voted for this . . . I've had cancer a couple times, my wife has had cancer and we both see our doctors when needed. This ACA will ruin many families if we can't get on to an insurance plan.
These folks are not only losing the insurance they have, but they have not been able to get an alternative plan.
A woman from Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, last week sent me this email.
We had our healthcare discontinued, and after an appeal were able to get it reinstated, but only for this year. Currently we have a healthcare savings plan, with a deductible of $3,000 a year. . . . In the new plan, our deductible would increase to $12,000 . . . and our premiums would increase to $9,000 a year. How is a middle class married family supposed to pay for that? This is absolutely ridiculous, and this is our situation. I hope every government worker has to purchase their plan through this plan.
A gentleman from Delaware County sent me this email last week.
I am 66 and I am on Medicare. My wife, Mary Ann is 63. Her insurance company canceled her ``longstanding'' policy due to the requirements of the ACA. Her ``new'' policy costs $350 more per month. We are on a strict budget. . . . We are the hard working middle class. Who stands for us? A small business owner in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, December 3, 2013: I am a small business owner with 3 employees looking for health insurance. My old policy is being canceled and was offered a replacement policy which is 68% higher than the old policy with higher deductibles. I went through the healthcare.gov site and was quoted an individual policy for my family which is 74 percent higher, with higher deductibles.
When do I see affordable health care for my family? I have been self-employed for 19 years and have paid for my insurance all these years myself. With deductibles I am looking at $26,000 out of pocket for health insurance this year. Please Help! Another promise that we heard--these were people, real people who were demonstrating how untrue was the promise that you could keep the health insurance plan that you have. But there was another promise we heard frequently and that promise was, ``If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period.'' The President added that flourish at the end, ``period,'' just to emphasize. These are the President's words: ``If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period.'' ____________________