Full Text Political Transcripts December 8, 2016: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid Farewell Address

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid Farewell Address

Source: Reid.Senate.gov, 12-8-16

“I didn’t make it in life because of my athletic prowess. I didn’t make it because of my good looks. I didn’t make it because I’m a genius. I made it because I worked hard, and I tell everyone whatever you want to try to do, make sure you’re going to work as hard as you can at trying to do what you want to do.”

“I want to tell everyone here, I’m grateful to all my Democratic senators. They’ve been so good to me during my time as leader. And I feel so strongly about my staff. They are my family. I really, really do believe that. I feel they’re my family.”

“What is the future of the Senate? I would hope that everyone would do everything they can to protect the Senate as an institution. As part of our Constitution, it should be given the dignity it deserves. I love the Senate.”

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid gave his farewell address on the Senate floor today. He has served Nevada in the United States Congress for 34 years. Below are his remarks:

The history of Searchlight starts this way –  the first paragraph of that book: “Searchlight is like many Nevada towns and cities. It would never have come to be had gold not been discovered. It is situated on rocky, windy and arid terrain without an artesian well or surface water of any kind, the place we call Searchlight was not a gathering spot for Indian or animal.

Searchlight: It is a long ways from Searchlight to the United States Senate. I grew up during World War II in Searchlight. My dad was a miner, hard rock miner, underground miner. But work wasn’t very good in Searchlight. The mines during World War II were especially gone – all over America, but especially in Nevada.

There were a few things that went on after the war, promotions. He would work and sometimes they would pay him. Sometimes bad checks that would bounce. Sometimes they wouldn’t pay him, they would just leave. My mom worked really hard. We had this old Maytag washer. The lines were outside. She worked really hard.

Searchlight was about 250 people then. It had seen its better days. Searchlight was discovered in 1898 – gold was discovered.  And for 15 or 18 years, it was a booming, booming town. It was one of the most modern cities in all of Nevada. It had electricity, turn of the century electricity. Telegraph. Telephones.

It had a fire station, fire trucks. It had roads with signs on them designating the name of the street. It had a railroad. When I grew up, that was all gone. Searchlight, as I said, was 250 people.

So you may ask how did my mother work so hard in a town where there was 250 people? We had at that time no mines, but 13 brothels at one time in Searchlight. Thirteen. Not over the time, but one time. The biggest was the El Rey Club. So that tells everyone what wash my mom did, from the casinos and from the brothels. And she worked really hard. She ironed. She washed.

As I look back on my growing up in Searchlight, I never felt during the time I was a boy that I was deprived of anything. I never went hungry. Sometimes we didn’t have, I guess, what my mom wanted, but we were fine. But as I look back, it wasn’t that good, I guess. We had no inside toilet. We had a toilet outside. You had to walk about 50 yards to that. My dad didn’t want it close to the house.

And we had a good time, even with that. My poor mother, what a wonderful woman she was. My younger brother and I, sometimes just to be funny, she would go to the toilet, she had tin walls, tin, it was made out of tin, and we would throw rocks at that. “Let me out,” she would say. That doesn’t sound like much fun, but it was fun at the time.

When I started elementary school, there was one teacher for grades 1-4 and then another teacher for grades 5-8, but when I got to fifth grade, there was not enough – weren’t enough students for two teachers, so one teacher taught all eight grades. I learned at that time in that little school that you can really learn.

I have never, ever forgotten a woman by the name of Mrs. Pickard. I can still see her, those glasses, just a stereotype, spinster teacher, but she was a teacher. She taught me that education was good, to learn is good. And when I graduated – we had a large graduating class, six kids – and the presiding officer from Nevada, you should feel good about me. I graduated in the top third of my class.

My parents did the best they could. My dad never graduated from eighth grade. My mom didn’t graduate from high school. In Searchlight, it is probably no surprise to anyone, there was never , ever a church service in searchlight that I can ever remember. There was no church. No preachers, no nothing, nothing regarding religion. That’s how I was raised.

My brother and I were born in our house. There was no hospital. That had long since gone. I didn’t go to a dentist until I was 14 years old.  But I was fortunate. I was born with nice teeth, especially on the top. The bottoms aren’t so good, but rarely, rarely have I had a cavity of any kind. Just fortunate in that regard. We didn’t go to doctors. It was a rare, rare occasion. There was no one to go to. I can remember my father having such a bad tooth ache, I watched him pull a tooth with a pair of pliers.

My mother was hit in the face with a softball when she was a young woman in Searchlight, and it ruined her teeth. As I was growing up, I saw her teeth disappear.  A few, few less and finally no teeth. My mom had no teeth. My brother was riding his bicycle and slid on the dirt, broke his leg. He never went to the doctor. I can remember as if it were ten minutes ago my brother Larry on that bed. Couldn’t touch the bed, it hurt him so much, but it healed. The bottom part of one leg is bent, but it healed.

I can remember a TB wagon came through Searchlight, the only time I remember. People had tuberculosis. We had miners had silicosis, some of them, my dad  included. My mother had one of those tests. She went on the big truck and had her chest x-rayed, I guess that’s what they did. a few weeks later, she got a postcard and said her test was positive, she should go see a doctor. Never went to see a doctor. I worried about that so much. I can’t imagine how my mother must have felt, but obviously it was a false positive, but think about that. Never went to the doctor, but told you have tuberculosis.

As I learned more about my dad, I know how important health care would have been for him. To be able to see somebody, to try to explain more about my dad so he could understand him a little better. I’m sure I haven’t done all the good in life I could do, but I am here to tell everyone, there is one thing I did in my life that I’m so proud of, and I will always be — I hope I’m not boasting. If I am, I’m sorry.

I worked long hours in a service station. There was no high school in Searchlight, so I went to school in Henderson, Nevada. And I worked in a standard station. I worked really hard and long hours. I took all the hours they would give me. I saved up enough money, I had $250. I was going to buy my mother some teeth. and I went to a man, he was a bigshot. They named a school after him. He was on the school board in Las Vegas. He married this beautiful woman from Searchlight. I went to him. I never met him before. I told him who I am. His name was J.D. Smith.

I said I wanted to buy my mother some teeth. He said I don’t do credit here. He insulted me. So I went to Dr. Marshall of Henderson and bought my mother some teeth. It changed my mother’s life. My mother had teeth.

So my parents lived in Searchlight until they both died. I think a number of people saw them. My staff at least knows my dad killed himself. I can remember that day so plainly. I had been out — I spent two hours with Muhammad Ali, him and I, one of his handlers and one of my staff. It was so – for me who has always been – wanted to be an athlete, wannabe, that was great. Some of you know I fought, but that was — he was in a different world than me. But he was nice. He was generous with his time and so much fun. He said let’s go cause some trouble out here. He kicked the walls and yelled and screamed, and I was happy.

I walked to my car, got to my office, and my receptionist Joanie said to me, Mr. Reid, your mom’s on the phone. And I talked to my mother all the time, many, many times a week. She said, your pop shot himself. So she lived in Searchlight. It took me an hour, hour and a half to get out there. I can still remember seeing my dad on that bed, and I was so sad because my dad never had a chance. He was depressed always. He was reclusive. You know, I did things. He never came to anything that I did. I never felt bad that he didn’t because I knew my dad. My mom came to everything that she could. I felt bad about that. I’ll talk a little more about suicide in a little bit. But I think everyone can understand a little bit of why I have been such an avid supporter of Obamacare, health care.

So I was ashamed, embarrassed about Searchlight. When I went to college, was in was in high school, law school, I just didn’t want to talk about Searchlight. I was kind of embarrassed about it. And, you know, it was kind of a crummy place. I didn’t show people pictures of my home.

So, many years later, I was a young man and I was in government, and Alex Haley, the famous writer who wrote the book “Roots” was a speaker at the University of Nevada Foundation dinner in Reno. He gave this speech and it was stunning. It was so good, and basically what he said to everyone there – and he directed, I thought, his remarks to me. Of course he didn’t. But he said be proud of who you are. You can’t escape who you are. And I walked out of that event that night a different person, a new man. From that day forward, I was from Searchlight. When I got out of law school, I bought little pieces of property. So I had contacts there. My parents lived there, so I became Harry Reid, the guy from Searchlight.

So one thing people ask me all the time, you’ve done okay. Tell me what you think are the important aspects – especially young people ask all the time. Young is a relative term. What would you recommend? What do you think was your way to success? And I tell them all the same thing. I didn’t make it in life because of my athletic prowess. I didn’t make it because of my good looks. I didn’t make it because I’m a genius. I made it because I worked hard, and I tell everyone whatever you want to try to do, make sure you’re going to work as hard as you can at trying to do what you want to do. And I believe that’s a lesson for everyone.

The little boy from Searchlight has been able to be part of a changing state of Nevada. I’m grateful I’ve been part of that change.

When I graduated from law school, the population of Nevada was less than 300,000 people. The state of Nevada is now three million people. It grew from one member of Congress from 1864 to ‘82 – one, that’s all we had.  Now we have four. During my 34 years in Congress, I’ve seen the country change. I’ve seen Nevada change. The changes in the country and Nevada have been for the better.

Now I’m going to spend a little bit of time talking about some of the things that I’ve been able to do as a member of the United States Senate. I know it’s long and somewhat tedious, but I’ve been here a long time, so please be patient.

My legislation. Reducing tax burdens. I’m sorry he’s not here – David Pryor of Arkansas. David Pryor, I don’t want to hurt the feelings of any of my very, very capable friends but the best legislator I’ve ever served with in state government, federal government, is David Pryor. He was good. Not a big speecher. But he was good at getting things done. The first speech I gave as a member of the Senate was way back there where Cory Booker is right now. And I gave a speech. I tried to do it in the House. It was called a Taxpayers Bill of Rights. I couldn’t get Jake Pickle, the chair of that subcommittee on Ways and Means, even to talk to me in the House. But I came over here and I gave that speech, and David Pryor was presiding. He was the subcommittee chair of the committee dealing with that that, in Finance. Chuck Grassley was also listening to my speech. Pryor sent me a note when I finished and said I want to help you with this. Grassley did the same thing. So my first speech led to the passage of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, with the help of David Pryor and Chuck Grassley. It was landmark legislation. It put the taxpayer on more equal footing with the tax collector. Everybody liked that so much, we’ve done two iterations of it since then to make it even stronger.

Source tax I’m sure is just a boring thing to everybody, but it wasn’t boring to people that came from California and tried to retire someplace else. The State of California was merciless in going after people. They had the law on their side, they thought. If you worked in California, it didn’t matter where you went, they would go after you for your pensions, is what it amounted to. And I tried for 15 years to get that changed, and I got it changed. No longer can California, all due respect to Feinstein and Boxer, can they do that. They can’t do that anymore. If you retire in California and move someplace else, they can’t tax that money.

Mortgage tax relief, we all participated in that. I initiated it, too, when the collapse of Wall Street took place, and that was a big help.

Tax incentives for solar and geothermal, really important. I’ll talk a little more about that. Payment in lieu of taxes, all my Western senators will appreciate that. It was just four years ago, five years ago that we were able to fully fund PILT, payment in lieu of taxes. I worked very hard with Baucus, with Wyden, and we did things to take care of some issues that they had. That’s the first time it had ever been fully funded.

Cancellation indebtedness. That’s a buzzword for people that understand taxes a little better. But what happened is everything collapsed. They would try to get out of a debt they had. They couldn’t because the IRS would tax them at the value of it when they bought it. When things didn’t work, it was unfair. And we got that changed. That was in the stimulus bill. We got that changed.

Let’s talk about the economy a little bit. I know some of my Democrat colleagues say, “Why did you do that?” Here’s what I did. I worked with Republican Senator Don Nickles from Oklahoma. There was a Republican president, okay? The worm turns, but Don and I talked about this. We knew that the administrations would change and it would affect every president, Democrat and Republican. It was called the Congressional Review Act. What that said is the president promulgates a regulation, Congress has a chance to look it over to see if it’s too burdensome, too costly, too unfair. And we’ve done that quite a few times. And that was because of Reid and Nickles. That was legislation that I did, and it was great when we had Republican presidents. Not so great when we had Democratic presidents. But it was fair.

One of the things that’s been so important to the state of Nevada has been a man by the name of Kirk Kerkorian, a non-educated man. He flew over the North Atlantic during World War II, ferrying planes to England at great personal sacrifice to himself. But he had, as I said, no education. His parents were from Armenia. He became one of America’s legendary entrepreneurs. And I many, many years ago as a young, young lawyer met him and for many, many years helped him and especially his brother with their legal issues. He’s the man that helped create Las Vegas the way it is, and he did something unique. He decided he was going to build something on the Las Vegas strip called City Center. And for those of you who go to Nevada, look at that sometime. You could be in the middle of New York City. You would think you were there. This is a magnificent operation.

Well, it started before the recession. They were desperate to get it finished. More than 10,000 people worked on that project. I would drive by there and count the cranes. Twenty-five, thirty cranes at one time there at work. Well, I interceded in that. I did some things that probably a lot of people wouldn’t do, but I did it because I thought it was very important that operation didn’t shut down. Kerkorian had already put billions of dollars of his own money in it. They had an investor from one of the Middle Eastern countries. I did a lot of things that I say a lot of you wouldn’t do, but I did it. I saved that project. I’m not going into detail, but I called people that I would doubt that any of you would call. I called bank presidents. I called leaders of countries. And anyway, it’s completed now. I take some credit for that.

The stimulus, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we got that done. Yesterday the presiding officer was the senior senator from Maine. Oh, she was so helpful. I hope it doesn’t get her into trouble to boast about her today. But she and her colleague from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter — we only had 58 votes as Democrats and they were the difference — we were able to get that passed only because of them. It was so good for our country.

Obama, the first two months after having been elected, the country lost 800,000 jobs. Can you imagine that? A month. Because of the stimulus bill, we were able to reverse that. We did a lot of wonderfully good things on that that were important for the country. Travel Promotion Act — Amy Klobuchar is here. She worked so hard in helping get that done. It promoted travel to get foreigners to come here, to come to America. It worked out so well. Seven different clotures I had to file on that to get it done but we got it done finally. It’s been remarkably good for America. Other countries, you’ll see them on TV. They’re always advertising about come visit Australia, come visit the Bahamas, come visit England, come visit every place. Now there’s advertising going on around the world: come visit America. Now everyone knows that Las Vegas gets its, more than its share probably of visitors, but it was good for Nevada but it was also good for the country.

Nevada test site workers. We were the Cold War veterans in Nevada. That was a big project. We had 11,000, 12,000 workers there at one time. We had above-ground tests, I can remember seeing them. We were a long ways away in Searchlight, but you would see that flash. You wouldn’t always feel it – sometimes it would bounce over Searchlight. But it was really a big deal. We didn’t know it was making people sick, but they were good enough to make sure the tests didn’t go off when the wind was blowing toward Las Vegas. It blew up toward Utah, and Utah suffered terribly bad because those were above-ground tests. So we worked to make sure the test site workers, who were part of the reason for winning the Cold War, because it was dangerous what they did. We passed that. A number of different segments to get it done, so we’ve done a lot to protect people.

Nevada transportation. McCarran Airport Field. I’ve tried for years to get the name taken off. He was a Democratic Senator from Nevada who was an awful man. I tried to get his name off of that. It didn’t work. I tried to get J. Edgar Hoover’s name off the FBI building, that didn’t work. We had a vote here. I can still remember how mad Orrin Hatch was when I did that. Bunt anyway, everyone had to vote on it. I think made a mistake. I tried to get it named after Bobby Kennedy. That was the mistake I made, I think.

Anyway, McCarran Airport. It’s, I think, the fifth busiest airport in America now. We’ve gotten money for a new air traffic control center, it’s one of the largest structures in the Western United States. We’ve done a good job taking care of McCarran. All kinds of construction funding for runways and rehabilitation of runways. In the stimulus bill, one of the last things we put in that was the bonding capacity that allowed McCarran Field to build a big new terminal. More than $1 billion we got in that legislation, and it was really important during the recession to have all those workers. There are thousands and thousands of them on that new terminal which is now completed.

Reno. I was also able to direct money toward getting a new traffic control center there, a new control tower. We’ve done all the construction funding, a lot of stuff, good stuff for the airport in Reno.

So I feel good about what we’ve done to help Nevada transportation. Not the least of which everybody is, billions of dollars in directed spending for roads and highways in Nevada. And it’s really made a change in Northern Nevada and in Southern Nevada. It’s important for us to be able to deal with people in Las Vegas, so we made deals with the California Department of Transportation and we participated in big construction projects that took place in California – Barstow and San Bernardino. We did that because it would make it easier for people to come to Las Vegas. I wasn’t just giving money to Las Vegas. We also did it of course for California because it helped us.

Health care. The Affordable Care Act, I’ve talked about that a little bit. It would have been wonderful if we had something like that around to help my family when we were growing up. I worked hard to help a number of you on the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Orrin Hatch was certainly involved in that.

Just like I had trouble coming to grips with my home in Searchlight, I had trouble coming to grips with the fact that my dad killed himself. I was like most — we are called victims. We shouldn’t be, but that’s what we’re called. This year about 32,000 people will kill themselves in America.

That doesn’t count the hunting accidents which are really suicides, the car accidents which are really suicides. So i couldn’t get my arms around the suicide.

Republican Senator Cohen from Maine was the chairman of the Aging Committee upon which I served, and we were doing a hearing on senior depression. And Mike Wallace came, the famous journalist, and here’s what he said:  “I have wanted to die for years. I would take the most dangerous assignments I could hoping I couldn’t come back.” He said, “You know, I’m okay now, though. I want to live forever.” He said, “I take a pill once in a while, I see a doctor once in a while and I’m good. I’m okay.” And I said for the first time publicly, “Mr. Chairman, my dad killed himself. That was a long time ago. But I think it would be extremely important for this committee to hold a hearing on senior suicide.” Because we’ve learned; since my focusing on suicide, we’ve done some good things as members of Congress.

We’ve directed spending to study why people kill themselves, because we don’t know for sure. Isn’t it interesting that most of the suicides take place in the western part of the United States. You would think it would be in dark places like Maine and Vermont where it’s so dark and cold, but no it’s in the bright sunshine of the West. So we’re learning a lot more and that has been so good to me as a person and we have now funded projects around America where there are suicide prevention programs that are extremely important.

There are suicide victims’ programs where people get together after someone, a loved one, kills themselves. So that’s something that I’m glad I worked on.

Finally, health care.

Twenty-four years ago, one of my friends from Las Vegas called me, Sandy Jolly, and she said, “I would like you to look at this film I’m going to send you. She said, and, I want you to watch it. And what it showed was a beautiful little girl in Africa in a party dress. It was white. She looked so pretty. You know, it was a party. And suddenly two men grabbed her, spread her legs apart and cut out her genitals – right there with a razor blade. I thought, man, that’s hard to comprehend. And my staff said, now, it’s something you shouldn’t deal with –  it should be for a woman. But I went ahead and I did something about it.

We haven’t done as much as we should do, and I hope that we have people who will pick up this issue. I had a meeting last Friday, the biggest audience I’ve ever had, just people – they were there. There was a conference on female genital mutilation. I say that word because that’s what it is. Millions of little girls have been “cut” –  that’s what it’s called, “cut.” Last year, no one knows for sure, but probably 250,000 little girls were cut. And last Friday, I had 200 people there. I said, this is wonderful. I said, I’ve had 10 people a couple times, but two or three of the people were lost and didn’t really want to be there.

It’s really important that we do something about it. We have some laws now – it’s against the law in the United States. You can’t go away for purposes of being cut. But there’s a lot more that needs to be done. Our government has done almost nothing.

I’ll spend a little bit of time on the environment. You know, I’ve been the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee twice. Not for very long. I gave it up once because I had to because of control of Congress. And one time I gave it way, as some will remember. I gave it away. I gave away my chairmanship and my committee spot to Jim Jeffords. And I loved that committee. I’ve been involved in the environment and energy things since I came here.

The state of Nevada is 87 percent owned by the federal government. Eighty-seven percent of the state of Nevada is federal land. The rest, 13 percent, is private land. Of course I should be concerned about it.

Yucca Mountain, I’m not going to get into a long dissertation about that. But because we we’ve spent about $8 billion there so far, maybe more. It’s gone. Someone asked me the other day, you know, the Republicans are in power now. They’re going to come back to Yucca Mountain. I said, well, they better bring a checkbook with them. Because there’s nothing there now. They’d have to start all over again. They spent more than $1 billion digging that tunnel.

That’s ground up for scrap metal. There’s nothing there. You could probably get it going again now for $10-12 billion. So if you have a way to pay for it, good luck. If you were smart, what you would do is leave it where it is in diecast storage containers, which is proven to be extremely safe and effective. And that is what should be done.

Renewable energy transmission. The stimulus bill said one of the problems we have with energy is that we don’t have a way of transmitting electricity to where it should go. We all talk about all this renewable energy which is produced in places where there aren’t lot of people, but you can’t get any place where there are a lot of people. That’s been changed with the stimulus bill.

For example, in Nevada we have One Nevada Transmission Line, it’s called, and that for the first time in the state of Nevada, we can move power from the north to the south of Nevada. Part of that legislation is under way now. That line will also goes up into the northwest. That was good legislation.

I’ve had clean energy summits for many, many years. We bring in national leaders, Democrats and Republicans, to focus attention on the problems America has with energy. The Clintons have come, Obama has been there, we’ve had Republicans, and here’s one that came and did a great job: Tom Donohue. Everybody knows him. We Democrats know him, for sure. The head of the Chamber of Commerce.

Coal. I have no problem with coal. I’ve helped fund clean coal technology.  One of my spending was Tracy Power Plant outside of Reno that was a clean coal plant. Except it didn’t work, so they had to go to another type of fuel. So I have nothing against coal.

However, I was upset about this: Nevada is very pristine. I have told a couple people this. People don’t understand Nevada. Everybody thinks it is the deserts of Las Vegas, but it is not. Nevada is the most mountainous state in the union with the exception of Alaska. We have 314 separate mountain ranges. We have a mountain 14,000 feet high, we have 32 mountains over 11,000 feet high. It’s a very mountainous state.

So when I learned by reading the papers that we were going to have power companies come to Nevada, one of the most pristine areas, and they were going to build three or four power plants. I said no. My staff said, you can’t do that. You’re up for reelection. They’ll destroy you. Well, they tried. But I won. They lost. There are going to be no coal-fired plants in Nevada. There’s two left. One of them is going out of business in a matter of two weeks. And the other is on its way out, probably within a year.

We’re not going to have coal-fired plants in Nevada, but we do have lots and lots of renewable energy. I’ve worked especially with John Ensign when he was here, on major land bills and we were able to do a lot of good things. Because of him – he was a real conservative guy – I had to make deals to make some of Nevada’s 87 percent of public land private. I was able to do that. And he was able to, with me, to create more wilderness. We worked together to get that done.

I created the first national park in Nevada. It’s wonderful. Everything within the Great Basin is in that park. Hard to believe now, but in Nevada we have a glacier. We have the oldest living things in the world on that mountain. Those old, old pine trees. They’re there. They’re 6,000 or 7,000 years old. They’re there. A beautiful, beautiful park. Basin and

Range National Monument: I worked with President Obama on this, more than 700,000 acres in a remote place of Nevada. It’s a place where John Muir came as a young man, camping there and talking about how beautiful it is in his diary. Now everyone can see that.

Part of that wonderful place is a man who is a world-famous artist. The name is Heiser, Michael Heiser. He worked for 40 years building this monument in the middle of nowhere. It is called “City.” It is the most magnificent thing. We don’t have roads coming there yet, but we will pretty soon. But that’s done.

Tule Springs: Right in the middle of the growth in Las Vegas. People came to me one time and said, we have this place in Nevada where we have the oldest and most abundant source of fossils anyplace in America. To make a long story short, that’s now a national monument.

The state of Nevada didn’t have the resources to take on the oil companies the airlines. So I got Bill Bradley, chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy, to hold a hearing. It was so important we did that. Because we determined the oil was coming from broken oil lines, fuel lines going to the Reno airport. Had we not done something, it would have been awful. It was declared an emergency Superfund site. Immediately people moved in and took care of that. Now that –  I am giving a quick look at it. That gravel pit is now a beautiful lake. It’s called the Sparks Marina. There’s condos, apartments, businesses all around that. People on boats – it’s wonderful. It all started out as a gravel pit. I appreciate Bill Bradley’s great work on that.

There are people in this chamber that are much better than I on national security, and I know that. But I worked hard. We have been a dumping ground for all things in the military. We have had Nellis Air Force Base. It’s the finest fighter training facility in the world. If you want to fly jet airplanes, you must train in Nevada. We have a great big gun range. The Navy does the same thing with their naval training center. I frankly have gotten tens and tens of millions of dollars for both those operations because they’ve been important.

Also, everyone, we hear a lot about drones. Every drone attack that takes place in the world takes place 30 miles outside Las Vegas at the air force base. It used to be called Indian Springs. That’s where they all take place. We have all these great servicemen, mostly airmen who take care of that. They protect us around the world.

Barbara Mikulski is here. She traveled as we were new senators. She was in a position to help me on appropriations. She said this facility in Reno was awful and I am going to do something about it, and she did. Very quickly. We renovated that place. It was so bad, the old VA hospital that you couldn’t get the new hospital equipment down the halls it was too small. Senator Mikulski, I said before how much I appreciated that. She took care of that.

I have had good fortune that two VA hospitals I asked money for and they were built. We had one that was an experiment, which was a joint venture with the Veterans Administration and the Air Force and it worked great except we had the Middle East war. The veterans were given – go someplace else. So we don’t have that anymore. But we have a huge new one that’s built. The newest and the best. It’s not fully — doesn’t have all the equipment they need but has been functioning now for a couple of years and has been very good. I feel very proud of that.

The Nevada test site is part of the national security. I’ve done everything I can to make sure that facility is taken care of and it is. We have a lot of experiments going on there all the time. If you – we have all these what we call fuel spills, all the testing takes place there.

Finally with the military, here’s one of the best things I ever did. As I heard Barbara Mikulski talk about yesterday, let us know what your constituents say. A group of veterans came a few feet from here to talk to me a few years ago. They said, you know, senator, this is somewhat strange. I’m disabled from the military. I’m also retired from the military. I can’t draw both benefits. What are you talking about?  He said I can’t. If you retire from the Forest Service, you can get your pension from the Forest Service, wherever it is and also get your disability but not if it’s both military. We changed that. Now, if you have a disability and you have a — you retired from the military, you can draw both. That took a long time but we got it done. It’s not perfect but it is 80 percent all done.

Judiciary. You know I talked earlier this morning I’m a lawyer and I’m proud of the fact I was a trial lawyer. I hear senators talk all the time about the judicial selection committees they have, pick who they’re going to have on the federal bench and I’m glad they do that, because I also have a judicial selection committee. You know who’s on that committee? Me. No one else is on it. I’ve selected all my judges. I’m the committee. And I’m very happy with what I’ve been able to do. One of the things I did in the House – I named a federal building in Las Vegas named after this very famous family of lawyers, two federal judges, a district attorney, a state court judge. A wonderful family called the folly family. So I go back for the 10th anniversary and I look up there and nothing but white men.

I thought to myself, gee, I hope someday I can change that.  And as fortune would have it, Lloyd George decided to take senior status and I had a chance to do something about that. And I have done – I have sent names to the President. I have selected far more judges, myself and the entire history of the State of Nevada, other senators.

So what I did with the first one, well, I want to get a woman. We don’t have a black on the court either. Why not get a black and a woman and that’s what I did. Oh was I criticized. Oh, she didn’t have enough experience. You could have found somebody better. She was a dynamo. People loved this woman. She was so good, she was so good, that she’s now on the 9th Circuit, and she quickly went there. Make a long story short, she’s been part of the talk about who could go on the Supreme Court. This is a wonderful woman named Johnnie Rawlinson.

I put Roger Hunt, a great trial lawyer, on there. Kent Dawson, one of my predecessors, city attorney. David Hagen, a wonderful trial lawyer out of Reno, I put him on the bench.

Brian Sandoval I selected as a federal judge, and he was a good federal judge. Things were going great until he ran against my son for governor. And I wish he hadn’t because my son would now be governor. But he’s my friend and we have family accepted that. But he was a Hispanic, first Hispanic on the bench.

I appointed another Hispanic, Gloria Navarro, parents born in Cuba. She’s a woman. She’s now the chief judge. Miranda Du. How about that? A woman born in Vietnam is now on the bench in Nevada. How about that?  Miranda Du.  Born in Vietnam, came when she was 11 years old to Alabama. Jennifer Dorsey, a woman.  Andrew Gordon, Harvard Law graduate. Richard Boulware, African-American. So, I’ve changed that Nevada bench significantly, federal bench. I’ve had the pleasure of voting for and against all eight members of the Supreme Court that now sit there during my career, every one of them I’ve had a chance to vote.

Education.  I’ve worked hard for education in Nevada and I’ve done okay. Desert Research Institute is a unique organization. It’s not helped by the University of Nevada at all. They do it on their own. All Ph.D.’s. They’ve been in existence for 50 years. Some of the most significant research in the world is done there. You know, these super computers, I’ve gotten two of them. You know, and our earthquake center, the best in the world.  They have more shake tables than any place in America and people come from all over the world to study what happens with earthquakes.

Biodiversity study. For many years I directed funding to the biodiversity study. It was the best science going on at the time on the environment, studying the Great Basin.

Native Americans in Nevada, we have 26 different tribal organizations. I’m really happy with what I’ve been able to do to help Native Americans. And believe me, they haven’t been treated well in Nevada or anyplace else. I’ve led the legislative efforts to make sure that we have water rights taken care of. Settled long-standing claims against the United States. We’ve done the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, Duck Valley Reservation, all have been able to develop their water rights and their economies. Pyramid Lake, for example, their money is going to be almost $100 million. Fallon was $60 million.  I worked to get two new high schools built and they were so long overdue. Shoshone Claims Distribution Act, it took decades to get it done, we finally got it done. Washoe Tribe.  Thanks to President Clinton, we were able to get the Indians who belong up there, the Washoe Tribe, get them right on the lake.

It’s been a dream job of mine to work with the Obama Administration for the last eight years. Being his point man here in the Senate, I gave an extended speech on him yesterday. I want to make it part of the Record and I ask consent to do that, Mr. President, so we don’t have to listen to the same stuff again, but I did do it yesterday. And I also want to ask unanimous consent, I have lots and lots of stuff that I’ve done that I didn’t feel I’d take the time to do. I want to make that part of the record.

Okay, winding down, everybody. I know you’re glad, but it’s been 34 years. I’ve served with 281 different senators during the time I’ve been here. I have such fond memories of so, so many, so, so many. The hilarious Fritz Hollings, the confident Fritz Hollings. I’ve never known a better joke teller — and I hope Al is not mad — than Frank Lautenberg. He could tell stories and I’ve asked him to tell the same stories so many times. I couldn’t tell it but he had one about two wrestlers. I’m not going to repeat it, but he was very, very funny. I’m not going to go through the whole Ted Kennedy list and all that but I’ve had wonderful experiences with my senator friends.

When I came as Democratic senator, there was one woman, Barbara Mikulski. That was it, one woman. I’m very happy now that we have 17 Democratic women and we have four Republican women. And I want to just say, make the record very clear, the Senate is a better place because of women being here. There is no question for many different reasons, but they’ve added so much to the Senate. The only problem we have now, there aren’t enough of them. But we did our best this go around. We got four new Democratic senators.

Leaders. I’ve already talked about Senator McConnell. It’s been my good fortune to have been able to serve with such good leaders like Robert Byrd. I don’t know if it’s true. I accept it because that’s what I want to believe. A number of people told me I was his pet. As I said, I don’t know if I was or not but he sure was good to me. George Mitchell, what a wonderful extemporaneous speaker. He was the best. This federal judge, this U.S. attorney, this good man from Maine. Bob Dole. I was a junior Senator and didn’t have a lot of interchange with him when he was a leader, but I have had a lot lately. He calls me in some of the issues he’s working on now.

I can recall one of the most moving times in my life Daniel Inouye was lying in state in the Rotunda. He called me and asked me if I would go over there with him. Of course I would. He was in a wheelchair. Somebody pushes him over there and he says stop. There’s a little alcove there. And Bob Dole as hard as it was for him walked over to the crypt where Danny was. He climbed up on the bearer and said, “Danny, I love you.” If that won’t bring a tear to your eye, nothing will. I’ll always remember that and Bob Dole.

Trent Lott, he was really a good leader, extremely conservative but extremely pragmatic. We got lots of stuff done. I was Senator Daschle’s point person to get legislation out of this body and we did some really good things. Tom Daschle, he always gave me lots of room to do things. I can remember once I was the whip and he was — I thought he’d been too generous with one of the other senators and I complained. He said look, you’re going to make this whip job whatever you want it to be and I took him at his word and I did. I never left the floor. The Senate opened, I was here. When it closed, I was here.

Bill Frist, a fine human being. I really cared about him a lot. He wasn’t an experienced legislator but that’s okay. He was an experienced human being. I liked him a lot. I already talked about Mitch.

Diversity, we don’t have enough diversity in the Senate but I do take credit for creating a diversity office with Democrats. Senator Schumer has indicated he’s going to continue that and I’m very happy he’s going to do that. We don’t have enough diversity, I repeat.

I want to tell everyone here, I’m grateful to all my Democratic senators. They’ve been so good to me during my time as leader. But I have to mention Durbin. He and I came here together 34 years ago. He has been so supportive of me. He’s been my cousin Jeff. You care if I tell the story?

My brother lives in Searchlight still. He’s an interesting man. He had a girlfriend there that was married. And he brought her home one night and her husband or boyfriend – or whatever it was – jumped out of the tree on my brother’s back. They had a fight and my brother won. So, a couple of weeks later he’s at a 49’er club, a bar, a little place in Searchlight, and he’s having a beer, whatever he drinks. He looks around and he sees a guy that he beat up. But the guy’s got a couple of people with him. He knew why they were there. They were there to work him over. He said, “Well, what am i going to do?” And just about then a miracle happened – our cousin Jeff walked in. He hadn’t been in Searchlight in a couple of years, but cousin Jeff was known as being a really tough guy. So, Larry said, “Here’s the deal.” Cousin Jeff looked him over, went to the biggest one, grabbed his nose, twisted it as hard as he could and he said, “Do you guys want any part of me or my cousin Larry?” They said no and they left. .

The reason I say that – Durbin is my cousin Jeff. I was in my office watching the floor. McConnell was up there. I was so damned mad. He was talking about stuff. I was mad. I called my office. “Why don’t we have somebody out there saying something.” He said, “Senator, that was transcribed, that was recorded earlier today. We’re out of session.” So Durbin has been my man, my cousin Jeff. Whenever I have a problem, everybody, I call Dick Durbin. Dick Durbin can talk about anything that sounds good.

Chuck Schumer. My kids said make sure you tell everybody about how smart you think he is. Okay. I’m going to do it. One day I said to Schumer –  we hadn’t known each other a long time, but I said, “How the hell did you ever get in Harvard?” He said, “It helped I had a perfect SAT. and a perfect LSAT. That’s true – it’s not just talk. He did. He is a brilliant man. He’s got a big heart and he works extremely hard, and he has been so good to me. We worked together. He took a job he didn’t want, chair of the DSCC twice, but it worked out great. We were able to get the majority. So I will always have great affection for him, and I wish him well in being my replacement. I’m confident he will do a good job. He won’t be me, but he’ll do a good job.

My staff, we checked yesterday, my staff did. It’s hard to comprehend how many people I’ve had work for me over 34 years. Almost 3,000, everybody. And I feel so strongly about my staff. They are my family. I really, really do believe that. I feel they’re my family. Chiefs of staff, I haven’t had that many, surprisingly, over 34 years. Claude Zobell, Rey Martinez, Susan McCue, Gary Myrick, David Krone, Drew Willison and of course David McCallum, who has done so much to make sure I didn’t overspend things. And my utility man, Bill Dauster. He can catch, pitch, play any position on the field. He’s been great for me. I appreciate Bill’s work very much.

Thank you, Adelle, because I would be so embarrassed if I didn’t say something about Patty Murray. She has been part of this leadership team I have had. You know, we have never had anything like this before in the Senate. Leaders prior to me, they did it all on their own. But I have had these three wonderful human beings helping me for all these years.

We meet every Monday night, get set up for the caucus on Tuesday, for the leadership meeting on Tuesday. So Patty, you and Rob, I just care so much about, and I want you to know how I appreciate your loyalty, your hard work. You’ve taken some jobs that you didn’t want to take. That budget job, oh that super – whatever the hell it was called. It was awful. I don’t know how long she’s going to live, but that took a few years off her life. But you and Rob have been great. Loretta is my friend. Iris I love. So thank you very much, you guys.

I’ve told everyone on my staff, with rare exception, you represent me. If you’re on the phone, when you answer that phone, you’re representing me. You are as if you are Harry Reid on that phone. I say the same to those who speak, write and advocate for me. They represent me, and they have done so well. They have helped me in good times and bad times.

What is the future of the Senate? I would hope that everyone would do everything they can to protect the Senate as an institution. As part of our Constitution, it should be given the dignity it deserves. I love the Senate. I don’t need to dwell on that. I love the Senate. I care about it so very, very much. I’ve enjoyed Congress for 34 years. I have, as the leader here in the Senate, I have had such joy and times of oh, wow, what are we going to do now. That’s what these jobs are like. They are so exhilarating until oh, man, something happens and I think all of you have done like I have just said, wow, what are we going to do now? The Senate has changed, some for the good, some for the bad.

I want to say this, though. It isn’t the same as when I first came here. There’s change in everything. The biggest change has been the use of the filibuster. I do hope my colleagues are able to temper the use of the filibuster. Otherwise it will be gone. It will be gone first on nominations and then it will be gone on legislation. This is something you have to work on together. Because if you continue to use it the way it’s been used recently, it’s going to really affect this institution a lot.

Something has to be done about the outrageous amount of money from sources that are dark, unknown, now involved in our federal elections. The Citizens United case in January, 2010 – if this doesn’t change, if we don’t do something about this vast money coming into our elections, in a couple more election cycles, we’re going to be just like Russia. We’re going to have a plutocracy, a few rich guys telling our leader what to do.

Leonard Cohen, who recently died, one of America’s great music geniuses, recently died, as I said. In one of his songs is called “Anthem.” he says it all: “There’s a crack, a crack in everything, there’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” That’s what he said. And I believe there are cracks in what’s happening with the huge amount of money currently in federal elections and excessive partisanship.

The cracks are the American people don’t like it. They don’t like this money, they don’t like the partisanship. So there are cracks. There are cracks, I repeat, because the American people are complaining big time about the excessive use of money and objecting to the partisanship. That’s the crack and that’s how the light’s going to get in. That’s how America has the opportunity to become a better place where money will not control our political system, nor will partisanship.

So just a little bit of advice to my colleagues, it’s worked okay for me. It doesn’t matter if I’m in Elko , a really conservative place in Nevada 400 miles from Las Vegas. If a question is asked in Elko of me, I give the same answer there as i give in Las Vegas. We should all do that.

The people in Nevada have never had to worry how I stand on an issue. I tell them how I feel, and that’s why I have never had any big bang elections. But people at least know how I stand. People who don’t necessarily like how I vote and what I talk about, at least they know how I feel. I think that’s good advice for everybody. At least that’s worked well for me, I hope. ‘But what’s your formula for success? What do you recommend?’ And I tell them the same thing about working hard. Of course that’s important. Of course it’s important, but also stay true to who you are, your roots.

Now, my social life, my time in Washington has been different than many. I’m not saying it is better, but it’s been different. Every year there are galas: The White House Correspondents Dinner, The Gridiron Club Dinner, Radio and Correspondents Dinner, Alfalfa Club. So, during my 34 years in Congress, there have been 135 or 136 of these. I attended one of them. For me, that was enough. I have attended one Congressional Picnic in 34 years. That was because my son Key had a girlfriend and he wanted to impress her, and I guess he did because they’re married. But one was enough for me. I’ve attended one state dinner. That’s because I had a son who spent two years in Argentina and wanted to meet the president of Argentina. I did that for my son Rory. But one was enough. I have never been to another one. I have never been to a White House Congressional Ball like the one that’s going to be held tonight. I guess I’m inquisitive of how it would be, but I don’t want to go. I’ve seen one World Series. That was enough. I’ve been to one Super Bowl. That was plenty. I’ve flown once in an F-18 and that was, that was enough. So I’ve gone over the years to hundreds of fundraisers for my friends and colleagues, but everyone has to acknowledge I can get in and out of those pretty quick.

So let me talk about the press a little bit and their responsibility as I see it. We’re entering a new gilded age. It has never been more important to be able to distinguish between what’s real and what is fake. We have lawmakers pushing for tax cuts for billionaires and calling it populism. We have media outlets pushing conspiracy theories disguised as news. Separating real from fake has never been more important. And I wish, I have met him, but I wish I could sit down and talk to him sometime because I so admire Pope Francis. Here’s what  he said yesterday: “The media that focuses on scandals and spread fake news to smear politicians risk becoming like people who have a morbid fascination with  excrement.” That’s what Pope Francis said. He added that using communication for this rather than educating the public amounted to a sin. Well, he can categorize sin, I can’t, but I agree with him on what he just said. I acknowledge the importance of the press. I admire what you do and understand the challenges ahead of you. But be vigilant because you have as much to do with our democracy as any branch of government. This is best understood by listening to what George Orwell had to say a long time ago, and I quote: “Freedom of the press if it means anything at all means the freedom to criticize and oppose.” So press, criticize and oppose, please do that.

This really is the end of my speech. I have five children, Lana, Rory, Leif, Josh and Key. They have been role models for me and for Landra. They were role models. We learned from them when they were young and we are still learn from them. We appreciate the exemplary lives they have lived. I am confident, hopeful and determined to make sure that they understand how much affection, love and admiration I have for each of them, for their wonderful spouses and our 19 grandchildren.

Okay. Here goes. Whatever success I had in my educational life, my life as a lawyer, my life as a politician, including my time in Congress, is directly attributable to Landra, my wife. We met when Landra was a sophomore in high school and I was a junior. That was more than six decades ago. We married at age 19. As I’ve said, we have five children. We have wonderful 19 grandchildren. She has been the being of my existence, in my personal life and my public life. Disraeli, the great prime minister said in 1837: “The magic of first love is that it never ends.”  I believe that. She’s my first love. It will never end. Landra and I have talked and we understand we will have a different life. We have said and we believe that we’re not going to dwell on the past. We’ll be involved in the past any way we need to be, but we’re going to look to the future.

I wish everyone the best. I’m sorry I talked so long. I usually don’t do that. I thank everyone for listening to my speech. I appreciate my wonderful family being here, my friends, my staff and each of you. Thank you for your friendship and support over the years.

 

Politics November 16, 2016: Senate leadership McConnell re-elected, Democrat Schumer elected, Sanders grabs post

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By Bonnie K. Goodman

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) leaves after an election meeting of Senate Democrats to elect new leadership at the Capitol November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sen. Schumer was elected as the incoming Senate minority leader. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 16: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) leaves after an election meeting of Senate Democrats to elect new leadership at the Capitol November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sen. Schumer was elected as the incoming Senate minority leader. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

After the House Republicans had voted on their leadership posts, the Senate had their turn. On Wednesday morning, Nov. 16, 2016, as predicted Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, (R-KY) was re-elected majority leader by acclamation, while New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer was elevated to minority leader, as departing minority leader Sen. Harry Reid’s heir apparent. Vermont Sen. and 2016 Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders also grabbed his first Senate leader post as Chair of Outreach.

The Republicans retained their leaders in their election for the 115th Congress. In a meeting of the GOP conference on Wednesday morning, McConnell was re-elected “by acclimation by his colleagues with a standing ovation,” as his spokesman Don Stewart told the press. Sen. Marco Rubio (R- FL) nominated McConnell, while Sen.-elect Todd Young, (R-IN) second the motion, both were instrumental to the GOP maintaining their majority.

McConnell was expected to remain in his post, and there were no surprises in the GOP leadership votes. McConnell, 74 will be serving his second term as majority leader, previously he was minority leader for four terms, and is “Kentucky’s longest-serving senator;” he was first elected in 1984.

All the action was with the Democrats after they shook up their leadership with the retirement of longtime leader Sen. Reid. Reid already named Schumer, his successor, but Wednesday’s vote made that a reality. After the being elected Schumer expressed, “I am going to wake up every single day focused on how Senate Democrats can effectively fight for America’s middle class and those struggling to join it.” While Schumer told reporters, “We are ready to go toe to toe with Republicans.” Although the minority leader acknowledged, “When you lose an election like this, you can’t flinch. You can’t ignore it. You need to look it right in the eye and ask why, analyze it and learn from it.”

Schumer, 66 has served in the Senate since 1998, and he was in the House representing Brooklyn and Queens for 18 years before that. In 2006, Reid tapped Schumer to be the party’s number three in the Senate as vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, a position her served for ten years. When Reid announced his retirement in 2015, he made it clear he wanted Schumer to succeed him as Senate Democratic leader.

Overshadowing Schumer’s election was the addition of Sanders to the enlarged leadership team. The popular Sanders will be the outreach chairman, a newly created post within the ranks. Senate Democrats were pressured to add the formerly independent Senator to their leadership ranks after his historic run for the Democratic nomination, with a still very loyal supporter base.

After his appointment, Sanders spoke to reporters, telling them he has a “heavy responsibility to help shape the priorities of the United States government. I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that the budget that leaves the United States Congress is a budget that represents the needs of working families and a shrinking middle class and not billionaires.” Sanders will also retain his post as the senior minority member of the Budget Committee.

Otherwise, in the Democratic ranks, Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill) remains minority whip. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will be the new assistant Democratic leader, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) moves up to chair the Democratic Policy and Communications Center. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, (D-WI) becomes Democratic Conference secretary, the fourth ranking in leadership, and Joe Manchin (D-WV) takes over as vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

The Democrats enlarged their team from seven to 10 posts. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) now moved up to newly titled posts of vice chairs of the Senate Democratic Conference. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) position title changed from chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee to just chair of the Steering Committee.

Additionally, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA ) becomes the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, while longtime-Judiciary member Patrick Leahy (D-VT)  moves to the Appropriations Committee.

Politics November 16, 2016: Senate leadership McConnell re-elected, Democrat Schumer elected, Sanders grabs post

By Bonnie K. Goodman

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) leaves after an election meeting of Senate Democrats to elect new leadership at the Capitol November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sen. Schumer was elected as the incoming Senate minority leader. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 16: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) leaves after an election meeting of Senate Democrats to elect new leadership at the Capitol November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sen. Schumer was elected as the incoming Senate minority leader. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

After the House Republicans had voted on their leadership posts, the Senate had their turn. On Wednesday morning, Nov. 16, 2016, as predicted Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, (R-KY) was re-elected majority leader by acclamation, while New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer was elevated to minority leader, as departing minority leader Sen. Harry Reid’s heir apparent. Vermont Sen. and 2016 Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders also grabbed his first Senate leader post as Chair of Outreach.

The Republicans retained their leaders in their election for the 115th Congress. In a meeting of the GOP conference on Wednesday morning, McConnell was re-elected “by acclimation by his colleagues with a standing ovation,” as his spokesman Don Stewart told the press. Sen. Marco Rubio (R- FL) nominated McConnell, while Sen.-elect Todd Young, (R-IN) second the motion, both were instrumental to the GOP maintaining their majority.

McConnell was expected to remain in his post, and there were no surprises in the GOP leadership votes. McConnell, 74 will be serving his second term as majority leader, previously he was minority leader for four terms, and is “Kentucky’s longest-serving senator;” he was first elected in 1984.

All the action was with the Democrats after they shook up their leadership with the retirement of longtime leader Sen. Reid. Reid already named Schumer, his successor, but Wednesday’s vote made that a reality. After the being elected Schumer expressed, “I am going to wake up every single day focused on how Senate Democrats can effectively fight for America’s middle class and those struggling to join it.” While Schumer told reporters, “We are ready to go toe to toe with Republicans.” Although the minority leader acknowledged, “When you lose an election like this, you can’t flinch. You can’t ignore it. You need to look it right in the eye and ask why, analyze it and learn from it.”

Schumer, 66 has served in the Senate since 1998, and he was in the House representing Brooklyn and Queens for 18 years before that. In 2006, Reid tapped Schumer to be the party’s number three in the Senate as vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, a position her served for ten years. When Reid announced his retirement in 2015, he made it clear he wanted Schumer to succeed him as Senate Democratic leader.

Overshadowing Schumer’s election was the addition of Sanders to the enlarged leadership team. The popular Sanders will be the outreach chairman, a newly created post within the ranks. Senate Democrats were pressured to add the formerly independent Senator to their leadership ranks after his historic run for the Democratic nomination, with a still very loyal supporter base.

After his appointment, Sanders spoke to reporters, telling them he has a “heavy responsibility to help shape the priorities of the United States government. I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that the budget that leaves the United States Congress is a budget that represents the needs of working families and a shrinking middle class and not billionaires.” Sanders will also retain his post as the senior minority member of the Budget Committee.

Otherwise, in the Democratic ranks, Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill) remains minority whip. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will be the new assistant Democratic leader, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) moves up to chair the Democratic Policy and Communications Center. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, (D-WI) becomes Democratic Conference secretary, the fourth ranking in leadership, and Joe Manchin (D-WV) takes over as vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

The Democrats enlarged their team from seven to 10 posts. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) now moved up to newly titled posts of vice chairs of the Senate Democratic Conference. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) position title changed from chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee to just chair of the Steering Committee.

Additionally, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA ) becomes the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, while longtime-Judiciary member Patrick Leahy (D-VT)  moves to the Appropriations Committee.

Politics November 11, 2016: President-Elect Trump goes to Washington meets with Obama, Ryan, and McConnell

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President-Elect Trump goes to Washington meets with Obama, Ryan, and McConnell

 

By Bonnie K. Goodman

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 10: President-elect Donald Trump (L) talks after a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama (R) in the Oval Office November 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Trump is scheduled to meet with members of the Republican leadership in Congress later today on Capitol Hill. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 10: President-elect Donald Trump (L) talks after a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama (R) in the Oval Office November 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Trump is scheduled to meet with members of the Republican leadership in Congress later today on Capitol Hill. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 10: President Elect Donald Trump, center right, walks through the halls of the U.S. Capitol for a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, center left, (R-KY) on November, 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Accompanying him are his wife, Melania, right, and Vice President Elect Mike Pence, left. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 10:
President Elect Donald Trump, center right, walks through the halls of the U.S. Capitol for a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, center left, (R-KY) on November, 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Accompanying him are his wife, Melania, right, and Vice President Elect Mike Pence, left.
(Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

President-Elect Donald Trump is moving forward having his first official Washington meeting as the nation’s new Commander-in-Chief after an upset victory on Election Day. On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, Trump went to Washington meeting first with outgoing President Barack Obama in the Oval Office for the traditional transition of power meeting. Then Trump went to Capitol Hill meeting with Republican Congressional leader, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Trump’s Vice-President-Elect Mike Pence also was busy in Washington meeting with outgoing Vice President Joe Biden and joining Trump at his Congressional meetings. The new First Lady Melania Trump also was busy meeting with outgoing First Lady Michelle Obama to tour the White House residence and join her husband on Capitol Hill for his meetings.

Trump first arrived Thursday morning with some advisors for White House meeting. Trump met with Obama in the Oval Office for 90 minutes much longer than the planned 15-minute meeting. Afterward, the president and the president-elect spoke to reporters. Although they were adversaries just days before, the country’s interests rise above partisan division when it comes to the transfer of presidential powers.

Obama told reporters, “My No. 1 priority in the next two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our President-elect is successful.” Continuing the president said to his successor, “If you succeed, the country succeeds.” Trump, in turn, thanked Obama for the long-running meeting, saying, “The meeting lasted almost for an hour and a half and as far as I’m concerned, it could have gone on for a lot longer.” The president-elect called Obama a “very good man” and expressed, “I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel. I look forward to being with you many, many more times.”

The White House meeting was surprisingly pleasant to consider the past animosity between Obama and Trump dating back to 2011 when Trump joined the birther movement. Then Trump called for Obama to release his long-form birth certificate not believing Obama was a natural-born citizen. Obama paid Trump back at the 2011White House Correspondents dinner. The rhetoric became more heated during the campaign as Trump blamed Obama for the rise of the terrorist group ISIS, while, Obama just called Trump “unfit for the presidency” on the last day of the campaign.

While Trump met with Obama in the Oval Office, the two first ladies, future and present Melania Trump and Michelle Obama met in the White House residence. Mrs. Obama gave Mrs. Trump a tour of the residence and they had tea together Yellow Oval Room. They discussed raising children in the White House; the Trump’s have son Barron, ten who will be the only one of Trump’s children to be living in the White House. The Obamas’ daughters Malia and Sasha were 10 and 7 when they moved into the White House in 2009. Michelle also showed Melania the Truman balcony.

The two have they own problems. Although Melania has never criticized Michelle, some of her convention speech closely resembled Michelle’s 2008 speech. Mrs. Obama, however, heavily attacked Trump on the campaign trail especially after the surfacing of his 2005 lewd tape in October. All the issues seem to be put behind the Trumps and Obamas at their transition meetings. Later in the evening, Trump tweeted, “A fantastic day in D.C. Met with President Obama for first time. Really good meeting, great chemistry. Melania liked Mrs. O a lot!”

After the White House, the Trumps’ along with Vice President-Elect Mike Pence had lunch at the Capitol Hill Club. They then headed off to meet with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Ryan gave Trump a tour of the Capitol building and then met in the Speaker’s office. Ryan took Trump out to his office balcony, which has views of the inauguration spot Trump and Pence will sworn-in, the Washington Monument even Trump’s new Washington hotel. At the meeting, they discussed policy priorities for the new administration and new session of Congress.

Ryan then spoke with reporters with the Trumps and Pence. The speaker expressed, “Donald Trump had one of the most impressive victories we have ever seen and we’re going to turn that victory into progress for the American people, and we are now talking about how we are going to hit the ground running to get this country turned around and make America great again.” While Trump said, “We can’t get started fast enough. And whether its health care or immigration, so many different things, we will be working on them very rapidly.”

Trump and Ryan also shared a complicated relationship throughout the campaign, but now the Speaker has embraced the president-elect fully. Only during the last days of the campaign after the FBI first announced that they were renewing their investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and Trump rose in the polls, and Trump supporters in Congress starting threatening Ryan about possibly losing his speakership if Trump loses, did Ryan campaign for the Republican nominee. After Trump won along with the Republicans keeping both Houses of Congress, Ryan has been speaking enthusiastically about the president-elect. Ryan hopes to spearhead the administration’s policies through Congress.

President-Elect Trump capped his day in Washington by meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Trumps and Pence met with the Senate leader in his Capitol office. Pence had to leave after 20-minutes to make his meeting with his predecessor Vice President Joe Biden.  After the meeting, McConnell told reporters, “It was a first-class meeting.” McConnell stressed that they discussed “issues that we obviously agree on” and told the press the President-Elect wants “get going early, and so do we.”

After the meeting, Trump told the press, “A lot of really great priorities. People will be very, very happy. Well, we have a lot. We’re looking very strongly at immigration, we’re going to look at the borders, very importantly, we’re looking very strongly at health care and we’re looking at jobs. Big league jobs.” President-Elect Trump continued, explaining, “Quite frankly we can’t get started fast enough… whether it’s on healthcare or immigration so many different things. We’re going to lower taxes, so many different things we are going to be working on.”

Politics August 12, 2016: Senate Republicans take on possible corruption over State Dept and Clinton Foundation

HEADLINE NEWS

Headline_News

POLITICS

Senate Republicans take on possible corruption over State Dept and Clinton Foundation

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Republican are taking the news that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton might have abused her power as Secretary of State seriously. Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, questioning why the State Department and Department of Justice refused to investigate a potential conflict of interest between Clinton’s high-ranking aides working at the department and her husband former President Bill Clinton’s foundation.

In the past couple of days, two troubling incidents have shown a possible conflict of interest or at worst abuse of power during Clinton’s tenure. First, was when Conservative Watchdog group Judicial Watch published previously unreleased emails from Clinton’s aide with emails to and from Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin, two trusted aides to Clinton.

The emails consisted of a request from to find a position for someone close to the foundation by a close aide to Bill Clinton, and to help a donor meet the Lebanese ambassador. Next came the CNN investigation report which uncovered that Mills interviewed candidates to head the Clinton Foundation, while she was Chief of Staff at the State Department.

Although Clinton’s campaign and the State Department defended Mill’s actions, Republicans are not accepting those responses. Cornyn in his letter said the State Dept and DOJ “favors Secretary Clinton.” The Majority Whip wrote, “This contrast does little to instill faith in the Department, part of why I called for an appointment of the Special Counsel in the email matter. But greater clarity for the public on the basis for your decision may.”

The Texas Senator called the recent discoveries “unacceptable” behavior. Sen. Cronyn continued, “It violates the commitment Secretary Clinton made to Congress and the Executive Branch following her nomination to be Secretary of State. That and her proven record of extreme carelessness with national security warrant a careful examination of Secretary Clinton’s other conduct and that of her staff.”

Additionally, Cronyn asked about CNN’s report, and why the FBI asked the DOJ to “open a case and pursue criminal charges,” however, the DOJ decided against an investigation. The DOJ claims they did not investigate because of lack of “evidence.” Cronyn wanted to know if DOJ employee, who decided against pursuing the case were questioned. The Majority Whip was concerned that at Lynch’s meeting with former President Clinton at a tarmac in Phoenix earlier this summer they discussed the conflict of interest.

Politics August 6, 2016: Trump finally endorses Paul Ryan, John McCain, and Kelly Ayotte

HEADLINE NEWS

Headline_News

POLITICS

Trump finally endorses Paul Ryan, John McCain, and Kelly Ayotte

By Bonnie K. Goodman

After a couple of days of drama, Republican nominee Donald Trump endorsed Speaker of the House and Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, Arizona Senator John McCain and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte in their re-election bids for their Congressional and Senate seats. Trump made the endorsements official on Friday evening, Aug. 5, 2016, at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Trump expressed that he wanted to be a “big tent” Republican like Ronald Reagan in a speech that was rather unusual for Trump in that he read it off prepared remarks.

Trump in announcing his endorsements stated, “This campaign is not about me or any one candidate, it’s about America. I understand and embrace the wisdom of Ronald Reagan’s big tent within the party. So I embrace the wisdom that my 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy.” Trump emphasized that he would need the support of the House and Senate as president.

Then after 10 minutes into his speech, Trump endorsed Speaker Ryan. Trump remarked, “We will have disagreements, but we will disagree as friends and never stop working together toward victory. And very importantly toward real change. So in our shared mission to make America great again, I support and endorse our speaker of the house Paul Ryan.” Trump’s endorsement comes only days before Ryan’s primary on Tuesday, Aug. 9, where he leads his opponent Paul Nehlen by 66 percent.

Continuing Trump endorsed McCain, both have been highly critical of the other. The GOP nominee said, “And while I’m at it, I hold in the highest esteem Senator John McCain for his service to our country in uniform and public office, and I fully support and endorse his reelection Very important. We’ll work together.”

After the rally, Trump’s campaign sent a fundraising email to supporters touting party unity and the endorsements. The email read, “It’s time to unite our Party and deny the third term of Obama. I have officially endorsed Paul Ryan — and together, we will fight for YOU, and together we will Make America Great Again!”

The controversy over the Ryan endorsement commenced on Tuesday, Aug. 2 when Trump spoke to the Washington for an interview. Trump echoed Ryan earlier comments about endorsing him back in May. The GOP nominee said, “I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.”

Trump running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence broke with Trump over the endorsements choosing to endorse Ryan on Wednesday, Aug. 3. Pence endorsed Ryan in a phone interview with Fox News, stating, “I strongly support Paul Ryan, strongly endorse his re-election. He is a longtime friend. He’s a strong conservative leader. I believe we need Paul Ryan in leadership in the Congress of the United States.”
Pence later tweeted that he told his running mate in advance of his decision, “I talked to @realDonaldTrump this morning about my support for Paul Ryan and our longtime friend ship….” According to a Trump campaign insider, the GOP nominee is giving Pence “latitude” to speak his mind and convictions, and Pence’s endorsement was hardly a falling out.

Trump’s withholding the endorsement, however, was causing friction with fellow Republicans, who were quickly abandoning the GOP nominee. Even Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, a friend of Ryan’s and also from Wisconsin, was upset at Trump veering off the script.

Trump’s decision to endorse Ryan came only hours after Ryan suggested he could be easily unendorsed Trump if he sees fit. On Friday morning, Ryan told local Wisconsin radio WTAQ’s Jerry Bader, “None of these things are ever blank checks, that goes with any situation in any kind of race.” Continuing Ryan explained why he endorsed Trump in the first place, “he won the delegates, he won the thing fair and square it’s just that simple.”

 

Full Text Political Transcripts March 16, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks Announcing Judge Merrick Garland as his Nominee to the Supreme Court

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President Announcing Judge Merrick Garland as his Nominee to the Supreme Court

Source: WH, 3-16-16

 

Rose Garden

11:04 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Everybody, please have a seat.

Of the many powers and responsibilities that the Constitution vests in the presidency, few are more consequential than appointing a Supreme Court justice — particularly one to succeed Justice Scalia, one of the most influential jurists of our time.

The men and women who sit on the Supreme Court are the final arbiters of American law.  They safeguard our rights.  They ensure that our system is one of laws and not men.  They’re charged with the essential task of applying principles put to paper more than two centuries ago to some of the most challenging questions of our time.

So this is not a responsibility that I take lightly.  It’s a decision that requires me to set aside short-term expediency and narrow politics, so as to maintain faith with our founders and, perhaps more importantly, with future generations.  That’s why, over the past several weeks, I’ve done my best to set up a rigorous and comprehensive process.  I’ve sought the advice of Republican and Democratic members of Congress.  We’ve reached out to every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to constitutional scholars, to advocacy groups, to bar associations, representing an array of interests and opinions from all across the spectrum.

And today, after completing this exhaustive process, I’ve made my decision.  I’ve selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness, and excellence.  These qualities, and his long commitment to public service, have earned him the respect and admiration of leaders from both sides of the aisle.  He will ultimately bring that same character to bear on the Supreme Court, an institution in which he is uniquely prepared to serve immediately.

Today, I am nominating Chief Judge Merrick Brian Garland to join the Supreme Court.  (Applause.)

Now, in law enforcement circles, and the in the legal community at large, Judge Garland needs no introduction.  But I’d like to take a minute to introduce Merrick to the American people, whom he already so ably serves.

He was born and raised in the Land of Lincoln — in my hometown of Chicago, in my home state of Illinois.  His mother volunteered in the community; his father ran a small business out of their home.  Inheriting that work ethic, Merrick became valedictorian of his public high school.  He earned a scholarship to Harvard, where he graduated summa cum laude.  And he put himself through Harvard Law School by working as a tutor, by stocking shoes in a shoe store, and, in what is always a painful moment for any young man, by selling his comic book collection.  (Laughter.)  It’s tough.  Been there.  (Laughter.)

Merrick graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law, and the early years of his legal career bear all the traditional marks of excellence.  He clerked for two of President Eisenhower’s judicial appointees — first for a legendary judge on the Second Circuit, Judge Henry Friendly, and then for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan.  Following his clerkships, Merrick joined a highly regarded law firm, with a practice focused on litigation and pro bono representation of disadvantaged Americans.  Within four years, he earned a partnership — the dream of most lawyers. But in 1989, just months after that achievement, Merrick made a highly unusual career decision.  He walked away from a comfortable and lucrative law practice to return to public service.

Merrick accepted a low-level job as a federal prosecutor in President George H.W. Bush’s administration.  He took a 50-percent pay cut, traded in his elegant partner’s office for a windowless closet that smelled of stale cigarette smoke.  This was a time when crime here in Washington had reached epidemic proportions, and he wanted to help.  And he quickly made a name for himself, going after corrupt politicians and violent criminals.

His sterling record as a prosecutor led him to the Justice Department, where he oversaw some of the most significant prosecutions in the 1990s — including overseeing every aspect of the federal response to the Oklahoma City bombing.  In the aftermath of that act of terror, when 168 people, many of them small children, were murdered, Merrick had one evening to say goodbye to his own young daughters before he boarded a plane to Oklahoma City.  And he would remain there for weeks.  He worked side-by-side with first responders, rescue workers, local and federal law enforcement.  He led the investigation and supervised the prosecution that brought Timothy McVeigh to justice.

But perhaps most important is the way he did it.  Throughout the process, Merrick took pains to do everything by the book.  When people offered to turn over evidence voluntarily, he refused, taking the harder route of obtaining the proper subpoenas instead, because Merrick would take no chances that someone who murdered innocent Americans might go free on a technicality.

Merrick also made a concerted effort to reach out to the victims and their families, updating them frequently on the case’s progress.  Everywhere he went, he carried with him in his briefcase the program from the memorial service with each of the victims’ names inside –- a constant, searing reminder of why he had to succeed.

Judge Garland has often referred to his work on the Oklahoma City case as, and I quote, “the most important thing I have ever done in my life.”  And through it all, he never lost touch with that community that he served.

It’s no surprise then, that soon after his work in Oklahoma City, Merrick was nominated to what’s often called the second highest court in the land — the D.C. Circuit Court.  During that process, during that confirmation process, he earned overwhelming bipartisan praise from senators and legal experts alike.  Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, supported his nomination.  Back then, he said, “In all honesty, I would like to see one person come to this floor and say one reason why Merrick Garland does not deserve this position.”  He actually accused fellow Senate Republicans trying to obstruct Merrick’s confirmation of “playing politics with judges.”  And he has since said that Judge Garland would be a “consensus nominee” for the Supreme Court who “would be very well supported by all sides,” and there would be “no question” Merrick would be confirmed with bipartisan support.

Ultimately, Merrick was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, the second highest court in the land, with votes from a majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans.  Three years ago, he was elevated to Chief Judge.  And in his 19 years on the D.C. Circuit, Judge Garland has brought his trademark diligence, compassion, and unwavering regard for the rule of law to his work.

On a circuit court known for strong-minded judges on both ends of the spectrum, Judge Garland has earned a track record of building consensus as a thoughtful, fair-minded judge who follows the law.  He’s shown a rare ability to bring together odd couples, assemble unlikely coalitions, persuade colleagues with wide-ranging judicial philosophies to sign on to his opinions.

And this record on the bench speaks, I believe, to Judge Garland’s fundamental temperament — his insistence that all views deserve a respectful hearing.  His habit, to borrow a phrase from former Justice John Paul Stevens, “of understanding before disagreeing,” and then disagreeing without being disagreeable.  It speaks to his ability to persuade, to respond to the concerns of others with sound arguments and airtight logic.  As his former colleague on the D.C. Circuit, and our current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, once said, “Any time Judge Garland disagrees, you know you’re in a difficult area.”

At the same time, Chief Judge Garland is more than just a brilliant legal mind.  He’s someone who has a keen understanding that justice is about more than abstract legal theory; more than some footnote in a dusty casebook.  His life experience –- his experience in places like Oklahoma City –- informs his view that the law is more than an intellectual exercise.  He understands the way law affects the daily reality of people’s lives in a big, complicated democracy, and in rapidly-changing times.  And throughout his jurisprudence runs a common thread -– a dedication to protecting the basic rights of every American; a conviction that in a democracy, powerful voices must not be allowed to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.

To find someone with such a long career of public service, marked by complex and sensitive issues; to find someone who just about everyone not only respects, but genuinely likes –- that is rare.  And it speaks to who Merrick Garland is — not just as a lawyer, but as a man.

People respect the way he treats others — his genuine courtesy and respect for his colleagues and those who come before his court.  They admire his civic-mindedness — mentoring his clerks throughout their careers, urging them to use their legal training to serve their communities, setting his own example by tutoring a young student at a Northeast D.C. elementary school each year for the past 18 years.  They’re moved by his deep devotion to his family — Lynn, his wife of nearly 30 years, and their two daughters, Becky and Jessie.  As a family, they indulge their love of hiking and skiing and canoeing, and their love of America by visiting our national parks.

People respect Merrick’s deep and abiding passion for protecting our most basic constitutional rights.  It’s a passion, I’m told, that manifested itself at an early age.  And one story is indicative of this, is notable.  As valedictorian of his high school class, he had to deliver a commencement address.  The other student speaker that day spoke first and unleashed a fiery critique of the Vietnam War.  Fearing the controversy that might result, several parents decided to unplug the sound system, and the rest of the student’s speech was muffled.

And Merrick didn’t necessarily agree with the tone of his classmate’s remarks, nor his choice of topic for that day.  But stirred by the sight of a fellow student’s voice being silenced, he tossed aside his prepared remarks and delivered instead, on the spot, a passionate, impromptu defense of our First Amendment rights.

It was the beginning of a lifelong career — as a lawyer, and a prosecutor, and as a judge — devoted to protecting the rights of others.  And he has done that work with decency and humanity and common sense, and a common touch.  And I’m proud that he’ll continue that work on our nation’s highest court.

I said I would take this process seriously — and I did.  I chose a serious man and an exemplary judge, Merrick Garland.  Over my seven years as President, in all my conversations with senators from both parties in which I asked their views on qualified Supreme Court nominees — this includes the previous two seats that I had to fill — the one name that has come up repeatedly, from Republicans and Democrats alike, is Merrick Garland.

Now, I recognize that we have entered the political season  — or perhaps, these days it never ends — a political season that is even noisier and more volatile than usual.  I know that Republicans will point to Democrats who’ve made it hard for Republican Presidents to get their nominees confirmed.  And they’re not wrong about that.  There’s been politics involved in nominations in the past.  Although it should be pointed out that, in each of those instances, Democrats ultimately confirmed a nominee put forward by a Republican President.

I also know that because of Justice Scalia’s outsized role on the Court and in American law, and the fact that Americans are closely divided on a number of issues before the Court, it is tempting to make this confirmation process simply an extension of our divided politics — the squabbling that’s going on in the news every day.  But to go down that path would be wrong.  It would be a betrayal of our best traditions, and a betrayal of the vision of our founding documents.

At a time when our politics are so polarized, at a time when norms and customs of political rhetoric and courtesy and comity are so often treated like they’re disposable — this is precisely the time when we should play it straight, and treat the process of appointing a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness and care it deserves.  Because our Supreme Court really is unique.  It’s supposed to be above politics.  It has to be.  And it should stay that way.

To suggest that someone as qualified and respected as Merrick Garland doesn’t even deserve a hearing, let alone an up or down vote, to join an institution as important as our Supreme Court, when two-thirds of Americans believe otherwise — that would be unprecedented.

To suggest that someone who has served his country with honor and dignity, with a distinguished track record of delivering justice for the American people, might be treated, as one Republican leader stated, as a political “piñata” — that can’t be right.

Tomorrow, Judge Garland will travel to the Hill to begin meeting with senators, one-on-one.  I simply ask Republicans in the Senate to give him a fair hearing, and then an up or down vote.  If you don’t, then it will not only be an abdication of the Senate’s constitutional duty, it will indicate a process for nominating and confirming judges that is beyond repair.  It will mean everything is subject to the most partisan of politics — everything.  It will provoke an endless cycle of more tit-for-tat, and make it increasingly impossible for any President, Democrat or Republican, to carry out their constitutional function.  The reputation of the Supreme Court will inevitably suffer.  Faith in our justice system will inevitably suffer.  Our democracy will ultimately suffer, as well.

I have fulfilled my constitutional duty.  Now it’s time for the Senate to do theirs.  Presidents do not stop working in the final year of their term.  Neither should a senator.

I know that tomorrow the Senate will take a break and leave town on recess for two weeks.  My earnest hope is that senators take that time to reflect on the importance of this process to our democracy — not what’s expedient, not what’s happening at the moment, what does this mean for our institutions, for our common life — the stakes, the consequences, the seriousness of the job we all swore an oath to do.

And when they return, I hope that they’ll act in a bipartisan fashion.  I hope they’re fair.  That’s all.  I hope they are fair.  As they did when they confirmed Merrick Garland to the D.C. Circuit, I ask that they confirm Merrick Garland now to the Supreme Court, so that he can take his seat in time to fully participate in its work for the American people this fall. He is the right man for the job.  He deserves to be confirmed.  I could not be prouder of the work that he has already done on behalf of the American people.  He deserves our thanks and he deserves a fair hearing.

And with that, I’d like to invite Judge Garland to say a few words.  (Applause.)

JUDGE GARLAND:  Thank you, Mr. President.  This is the greatest honor of my life — other than Lynn agreeing to marry me 28 years ago.  It’s also the greatest gift I’ve ever received except — and there’s another caveat — the birth of our daughters, Jessie and Becky.

As my parents taught me by both words and deeds, a life of public service is as much a gift to the person who serves as it is to those he is serving.  And for me, there could be no higher public service than serving as a member of the United States Supreme Court.

My family deserves much of the credit for the path that led me here.  My grandparents left the Pale of Settlement at the border of Western Russian and Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, fleeing anti-Semitism, and hoping to make a better life for their children in America.  They settled in the Midwest, eventually making their way to Chicago.

There, my father, who ran the smallest of small businesses from a room in our basement, took me with him as he made the rounds to his customers, always impressing upon me the importance of hard work and fair dealing.  There, my mother headed the local PTA and school board and directed a volunteer services agency, all the while instilling in my sister and me the understanding that service to the community is a responsibility above all others.  Even now, my sisters honor that example by serving the children of their communities.

I know that my mother is watching this on television and crying her eyes out.  (Laughter.)  So are my sisters, who have supported me in every step I have ever taken.  I only wish that my father were here to see this today.  I also wish that we hadn’t taught my older daughter to be so adventurous that she would be hiking in the mountains, out of cell service range — (laughter) — when the President called.  (Laughter.)

It was the sense of responsibility to serve a community, instilled by my parents, that led me to leave my law firm to become a line prosecutor in 1989.  There, one of my first assignments was to assist in the prosecution of a violent gang that had come down to the District from New York, took over a public housing project and terrorized the residents.  The hardest job we faced was persuading mothers and grandmothers that if they testified, we would be able to keep them safe and convict the gang members.  We succeeded only by convincing witnesses and victims that they could trust that the rule of law would prevail.
Years later, when I went to Oklahoma City to investigate the bombing of the Federal Building, I saw up close the devastation that can happen when someone abandons the justice system as a way of resolving grievances, and instead takes matters into his own hands.  Once again, I saw the importance of assuring victims and families that the justice system could work.  We promised that we would find the perpetrators, that we would bring them to justice, and that we would do it in a way that honored the Constitution.  The people of Oklahoma City gave us their trust, and we did everything we could to live up to it.

Trust that justice will be done in our courts without prejudice or partisanship is what, in a large part, distinguishes this country from others.  People must be confident that a judge’s decisions are determined by the law, and only the law.  For a judge to be worthy of such trust, he or she must be faithful to the Constitution and to the statutes passed by the Congress.  He or she must put aside his personal views or preferences, and follow the law — not make it.

Fidelity to the Constitution and the law has been the cornerstone of my professional life, and it’s the hallmark of the kind of judge I have tried to be for the past 18 years.  If the Senate sees fit to confirm me to the position for which I have been nominated today, I promise to continue on that course.

Mr. President, it’s a great privilege to be nominated by a fellow Chicagoan.  I am grateful beyond words for the honor you have bestowed upon me.  (Applause.)

END
11:30 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts January 8, 2016: President Barack Obama vetoes GOP Congress’ ObamaCare repeal the Reconciliation Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Veto Message from the President — H.R. 3762

Source: WH, 1-8-16

TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 3762, which provides for reconciliation pursuant to section 2002 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2016, herein referred to as the Reconciliation Act.  This legislation would not only repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, but would reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America.  The Affordable Care Act includes a set of fairer rules and stronger consumer protections that have made health care coverage more affordable, more attainable, and more patient centered.  And it is working.  About 17.6 million Americans have gained health care coverage as the law’s coverage provisions have taken effect.  The Nation’s uninsured rate now stands at its lowest level ever, and demand for Marketplace coverage during December 2015 was at an all-time high.  Health care costs are lower than expected when the law was passed, and health care quality is higher — with improvements in patient safety saving an estimated 87,000 lives.  Health care has changed for the better, setting this country on a smarter, stronger course.

The Reconciliation Act would reverse that course.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the legislation would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million after 2017.  The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that this reduction in health care coverage could mean, each year, more than 900,000 fewer people getting all their needed care, more than 1.2 million additional people having trouble paying other bills due to higher medical costs, and potentially more than 10,000 additional deaths.  This legislation would cost millions of hard-working middle-class families the security of affordable health coverage they deserve.  Reliable health care coverage  would no longer be a right for everyone:  it would return to being a privilege for a few.

The legislation’s implications extend far beyond those who would become uninsured.  For example, about 150 million Americans with employer-based insurance would be at risk of higher premiums and lower wages.  And it would cause the cost of health coverage for people buying it on their own to skyrocket.

The Reconciliation Act would also effectively defund Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood uses both Federal and non-federal funds to provide a range of important preventive care and health services, including health screenings, vaccinations, and check-ups to millions of men and women who visit their health centers annually.  Longstanding Federal policy already prohibits the use of Federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered.  By eliminating Federal Medicaid funding for a major provider of health care, H.R. 3762 would limit access to health care for men, women, and families across the Nation, and would disproportionately impact low-income individuals.

Republicans in the Congress have attempted to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act over 50 times.  Rather than refighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class, Members of Congress should be working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle-class families, and create new jobs.  Because of the harm this bill would cause to the health and financial security of millions of Americans, it has earned my veto.

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on House Speaker Boehner’s Resignation: ‘Country and Institution before Self’

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

McConnell on House Speaker Boehner: ‘Country and Institution before Self’

Source: McConnell.Senate.gov, 9-25-15

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the retirement of Speaker Boehner:

“Grace under pressure.

“Country and institution before self.

“These are the first things that come to mind when I think of John Boehner.

“He is an ally. He is a friend. And he took over as Republican Leader at a difficult time for his party.

“When some said Republicans could never recover, he never gave up.

“When some gave in to defeatism, he kept up the fight.

“Because he did, Speaker Boehner was able to transform a broken and dispirited Republican minority into the largest Republican majority since the 1920s.

“That’s a legacy few can match.

“He flew across the country more times than he can count to support members of his conference, and to recruit new members to the cause. As leader of a new majority, he turned the tide in Congress and brought conservative reform in many areas. He worked tirelessly to provide hope to those who dreamed of a better life and to middle-class families who struggled under the weight of this Administration.

“John knows what it’s like to struggle and to dream of something better. He’s lived it.

“That a young man from Reading, Ohio wielding a bar towel could one day wield the gavel of the U.S. House of Representatives — it reminds us of the continuing promise of this country.

“I know yesterday was an incredibly important event for the Speaker. It was his aim to bring the same spirit of grace that has always guided his life, to others. You only had to look out onto the Capitol lawn to see what he achieved. And that he chose this moment to make this decision, means he will be leaving us in a similar spirit.

“I know we’ll all have more to say in the weeks to come. But for now, thank you, my friend.”

Full Text Obama Presidency June 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s on the Passage of the USA FREEDOM Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on the USA FREEDOM Act

Source: WH, 6-2-15

For the past eighteen months, I have called for reforms that better safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of the American people while ensuring our national security officials retain tools important to keeping Americans safe.  That is why, today, I welcome the Senate’s passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, which I will sign when it reaches my desk.

After a needless delay and inexcusable lapse in important national security authorities, my Administration will work expeditiously to ensure our national security professionals again have the full set of vital tools they need to continue protecting the country. Just as important, enactment of this legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs, including by prohibiting bulk collection through the use of Section 215, FISA pen registers, and National Security Letters and by providing the American people with additional transparency measures.

I am gratified that Congress has finally moved forward with this sensible reform legislation. I particularly applaud Senators Leahy and Lee as well as Representatives Goodlatte, Sensenbrenner, Conyers, and Nadler for their leadership and tireless efforts to pass this important bipartisan legislative achievement.

Political Musings May 18, 2015: Senate moves toward passing fast track trade bill

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Senate moves toward passing fast track trade bill

May 18, 2015

After agreeing to a compromise earlier last week, the Senate passed two bills moving forward on the fast track trade, trade promotion authority (TPA) bill. On Thursday, May 14, 2015, the Senate voted 78 to 20 on a customs and…

Full Text Obama Presidency March 30, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute

Source: WH,  3-30-15

Edward M. Kennedy Institute
Boston, Massachusetts

12:16 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  To Vicki, Ted, Patrick, Curran, Caroline, Ambassador Smith, members of the Kennedy family — thank you so much for inviting me to speak today.  Your Eminence, Cardinal O’Malley; Vice President Biden; Governor Baker; Mayor Walsh; members of Congress, past and present; and pretty much every elected official in Massachusetts — (laughter) — it is an honor to mark this occasion with you.

Boston, know that Michelle and I have joined our prayers with yours these past few days for a hero — former Army Ranger and Boston Police Officer John Moynihan, who was shot in the line of duty on Friday night.  (Applause.)  I mention him because, last year, at the White House, the Vice President and I had the chance to honor Officer Moynihan as one of America’s “Top Cops” for his bravery in the line of duty, for risking his life to save a fellow officer.  And thanks to the heroes at Boston Medical Center, I’m told Officer Moynihan is awake, and talking, and we wish him a full and speedy recovery.  (Applause.)

I also want to single out someone who very much wanted to be here, just as he was every day for nearly 25 years as he represented this commonwealth alongside Ted in the Senate — and that’s Secretary of State John Kerry.  (Applause.)  As many of you know, John is in Europe with our allies and partners, leading the negotiations with Iran and the world community, and standing up for a principle that Ted and his brother, President Kennedy, believed in so strongly:  “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”  (Applause.)

And, finally, in his first years in the Senate, Ted dispatched a young aide to assemble a team of talent without rival.  The sell was simple:  Come and help Ted Kennedy make history.  So I want to give a special shout-out to his extraordinarily loyal staff — (applause) — 50 years later a family more than one thousand strong.  This is your day, as well.  We’re proud of you.  (Applause.)  Of course, many of you now work with me.  (Laughter.)  So enjoy today, because we got to get back to work.  (Laughter.)

Distinguished guests, fellow citizens — in 1958, Ted Kennedy was a young man working to reelect his brother, Jack, to the United States Senate.  On election night, the two toasted one another:  “Here’s to 1960, Mr. President,” Ted said, “If you can make it.”  With his quick Irish wit, Jack returned the toast:  “Here’s to 1962, Senator Kennedy, if you can make it.”  (Laughter.)  They both made it.  And today, they’re together again in eternal rest at Arlington.

But their legacies are as alive as ever together right here in Boston.  The John F. Kennedy Library next door is a symbol of our American idealism; the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate as a living example of the hard, frustrating, never-ending, but critical work required to make that idealism real.

What more fitting tribute, what better testament to the life of Ted Kennedy, than this place that he left for a new generation of Americans — a monument not to himself but to what we, the people, have the power to do together.

Any of us who have had the privilege to serve in the Senate know that it’s impossible not to share Ted’s awe for the history swirling around you — an awe instilled in him by his brother, Jack.  Ted waited more than a year to deliver his first speech on the Senate floor.  That’s no longer the custom.  (Laughter.)  It’s good to see Trent and Tom Daschle here, because they remember what customs were like back then.  (Laughter.)

And Ted gave a speech only because he felt there was a topic — the Civil Rights Act — that demanded it.  Nevertheless, he spoke with humility, aware, as he put it, that “a freshman Senator should be seen, not heard; should learn, and not teach.”

Some of us, I admit, have not always heeded that lesson.  (Laughter.)  But fortunately, we had Ted to show us the ropes anyway.  And no one made the Senate come alive like Ted Kennedy.  It was one of the great pleasures of my life to hear Ted Kennedy deliver one of his stem winders on the Floor.  Rarely was he more animated than when he’d lead you through the living museums that were his offices.  He could — and he would — tell you everything that there was to know about all of it.  (Laughter.)

And then there were more somber moments.  I still remember the first time I pulled open the drawer of my desk.  Each senator is assigned a desk, and there’s a tradition of carving the names of those who had used it before.  And those names in my desk included Taft and Baker, Simon, Wellstone, and Robert F. Kennedy.

The Senate was a place where you instinctively pulled yourself up a little bit straighter; where you tried to act a little bit better.  “Being a senator changes a person,” Ted wrote in his memoirs.  As Vicki said, it may take a year, or two years, or three years, but it always happens; it fills you with a heightened sense of purpose.

That’s the magic of the Senate.  That’s the essence of what it can be.  And who but Ted Kennedy, and his family, would create a full-scale replica of the Senate chamber, and open it to everyone?

We live in a time of such great cynicism about all our institutions.  And we are cynical about government and about Washington, most of all.  It’s hard for our children to see, in the noisy and too often trivial pursuits of today’s politics, the possibilities of our democracy — our capacity, together, to do big things.

And this place can help change that.  It can help light the fire of imagination, plant the seed of noble ambition in the minds of future generations.  Imagine a gaggle of school kids clutching tablets, turning classrooms into cloakrooms and hallways into hearing rooms, assigned an issue of the day and the responsibility to solve it.

Imagine their moral universe expanding as they hear about the momentous battles waged in that chamber and how they echo throughout today’s society.  Great questions of war and peace, the tangled bargains between North and South, federal and state; the original sins of slavery and prejudice; and the unfinished battles for civil rights and opportunity and equality.

Imagine the shift in their sense of what’s possible.  The first time they see a video of senators who look like they do — men and women, blacks and whites, Latinos, Asian-Americans; those born to great wealth but also those born of incredibly modest means.

Imagine what a child feels the first time she steps onto that floor, before she’s old enough to be cynical; before she’s told what she can’t do; before she’s told who she can’t talk to or work with; what she feels when she sits at one of those desks; what happens when it comes her turn to stand and speak on behalf of something she cares about; and cast a vote, and have a sense of purpose.

It’s maybe just not for kids.  What if we all carried ourselves that way?  What if our politics, our democracy, were as elevated, as purposeful, as she imagines it to be right here?

Towards the end of his life, Ted reflected on how Congress has changed over time.  And those who served earlier I think have those same conversations.  It’s a more diverse, more accurate reflection of America than it used to be, and that is a grand thing, a great achievement.  But Ted grieved the loss of camaraderie and collegiality, the face-to-face interaction.  I think he regretted the arguments now made to cameras instead of colleagues, directed at a narrow base instead of the body politic as a whole; the outsized influence of money and special interests — and how it all leads more Americans to turn away in disgust and simply choose not to exercise their right to vote.

Now, since this is a joyous occasion, this is not the time for me to suggest a slew of new ideas for reform.  Although I do have some.  (Laughter.)  Maybe I’ll just mention one.

What if we carried ourselves more like Ted Kennedy?  What if we worked to follow his example a little bit harder?  To his harshest critics, who saw him as nothing more than a partisan lightning rod — that may sound foolish, but there are Republicans here today for a reason.  They know who Ted Kennedy was.  It’s not because they shared Ted’s ideology or his positions, but because they knew Ted as somebody who bridged the partisan divide over and over and over again, with genuine effort and affection, in an era when bipartisanship has become so very rare.

They knew him as somebody who kept his word.  They knew him as somebody who was willing to take half a loaf and endure the anger of his own supporters to get something done.  They knew him as somebody who was not afraid.  And fear so permeates our politics, instead of hope.  People fight to get in the Senate and then they’re afraid.  We fight to get these positions and then don’t want to do anything with them.  And Ted understood the only point of running for office was to get something done — not to posture; not to sit there worrying about the next election or the polls — to take risks.  He understood that differences of party or philosophy could not become barriers to cooperation or respect.

He could howl at injustice on the Senate floor like a force of nature, while nervous aides tried to figure out which chart to pull up next.  (Laughter.)  But in his personal dealings, he answered Edmund Randolph’s call to keep the Senate a place to “restrain, if possible, the fury of democracy.”

I did not know Ted as long as some of the speakers here today.  But he was my friend.  I owe him a lot.  And as far as I could tell, it was never ideology that compelled him, except insofar as his ideology said, you should help people; that you should have a life of purpose; that you should be empathetic and be able to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes, and see through their eyes.  His tirelessness, his restlessness, they were rooted in his experience.

By the age of 12, he was a member of a Gold Star Family.  By 36, two of his brothers were stolen from him in the most tragic, public of ways.  By 41, he nearly lost a beloved child to cancer.  And that made suffering something he knew.  And it made him more alive to the suffering of others.

While his son was sleeping after treatment, Ted would wander the halls of the hospital and meet other parents keeping vigil over their own children.  They were parents terrified of what would happen when they couldn’t afford the next treatment; parents working out what they could sell or borrow or mortgage just to make it just a few more months — and then, if they had to, bargain with God for the rest.

There, in the quiet night, working people of modest means and one of the most powerful men in the world shared the same intimate, immediate sense of helplessness.  He didn’t see them as some abstraction.  He knew them.  He felt them.  Their pain was his as much as they might be separated by wealth and fame.  And those families would be at the heart of Ted’s passions.  Just like the young immigrant, he would see himself in that child.  They were his cause — the sick child who couldn’t see a doctor; the young soldier sent to battle without armor; the citizen denied her rights because of what she looked like or where she came from or who she loves.

He quietly attended as many military funerals in Massachusetts as he could for those who fell in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He called and wrote each one of the 177 families in this commonwealth who lost a loved one on 9/11, and he took them sailing, and played with their children, not just in the days after, but every year after.

His life’s work was not to champion those with wealth or power or connections; they already had enough representation.  It was to give voice to the people who wrote and called him from every state, desperate for somebody who might listen and help.  It was about what he could do for others.

It’s why he’d take his hearings to hospitals in rural towns and inner cities, and push people out of their comfort zones, including his colleagues.  Because he had pushed himself out of his comfort zone.  And he tried to instill in his colleagues that same sense of empathy.  Even if they called him, as one did, “wrong at the top of his lungs.”  Even if they might disagree with him 99 percent of the time.  Because who knew what might happen with that other 1 percent?

Orrin Hatch was sent to Washington in part because he promised to fight Ted Kennedy.  And they fought a lot.  One was a conservative Mormon from Utah, after all; the other one was, well, Ted Kennedy.  (Laughter.)  But once they got to know one another, they discovered certain things in common — a devout faith, a soft spot for health care, very fine singing voices.  (Laughter.)

In 1986, when Republicans controlled the Senate, Orrin held the first hearing on the AIDS epidemic, even hugging an AIDS patient — an incredible and very important gesture at the time.  The next year, Ted took over the committee, and continued what Orrin started.  When Orrin’s father passed away, Ted was one of the first to call.  It was over dinner at Ted’s house one night that they decided to try and insure the 10 million children who didn’t have access to health care.

As that debate hit roadblocks in Congress, as apparently debates over health care tend to do, Ted would have his Chief of Staff serenade Orrin to court his support.  When hearings didn’t go Ted’s way, he might puff on a cigar to annoy Orrin, who disdained smoking.  (Laughter.)  When they didn’t go Orrin’s way, he might threaten to call Ted’s sister, Eunice.  (Laughter.)  And when it came time to find a way to pay for the Children’s Health Insurance Program that they, together, had devised, Ted pounced, offering a tobacco tax and asking, “Are you for Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man, or millions of children who lack adequate health care?”

It was the kind of friendship unique to the Senate, calling to mind what John Calhoun once said of Henry Clay:  “I don’t like Clay.  He is a bad man, an imposter, a creator of wicked schemes.  I wouldn’t speak to him, but, by God, I love him!”  (Laughter.)

So, sure, Orrin Hatch once called Ted “one of the major dangers to the country.”  (Laughter.)  But he also stood up at a gathering in Ted’s last months, and said, “I’m asking you all to pray for Ted Kennedy.”

The point is, we can fight on almost everything.  But we can come together on some things.  And those “somethings” can mean everything to a whole lot of people.

It was common ground that led Ted and Orrin to forge a compromise that covered millions of kids with health care.  It was common ground, rooted in the plight of loved ones, that led Ted and Chuck Grassley to cover kids with disabilities; that led Ted and Pete Domenici to fight for equal rights for Americans with a mental illness.

Common ground, not rooted in abstractions or stubborn, rigid ideologies, but shared experience, that led Ted and John McCain to work on a Patient’s Bill of Rights, and to work to forge a smarter, more just immigration system.

A common desire to fix what’s broken.  A willingness to compromise in pursuit of a larger goal.  A personal relationship that lets you fight like heck on one issue, and shake hands on the next — not through just cajoling or horse-trading or serenades, but through Ted’s brand of friendship and kindness, and humor and grace.

“What binds us together across our differences in religion or politics or economic theory,” Ted wrote in his memoirs, “[is] all we share as human beings — the wonder that we experience when we look at the night sky; the gratitude that we know when we feel the heat of the sun; the sense of humor in the face of the unbearable; and the persistence of suffering.  And one thing more — the capacity to reach across our differences to offer a hand of healing.”

For all the challenges of a changing world, for all the imperfections of our democracy, the capacity to reach across our differences is something that’s entirely up to us.

May we all, in our own lives, set an example for the kids who enter these doors, and exit with higher expectations for their country.

May we all remember the times this American family has challenged us to ask what we can do; to dream and say why not; to seek a cause that endures; and sail against the wind in its pursuit, and live our lives with that heightened sense of purpose.

Thank you.  May God bless you.  May He continue to bless this country we love.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
12:44 P.M. EDT

Political Musings March 12, 2015: Americans find 47 Senators traitors guilty of treason in WH petition and polls

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Americans find 47 Senators traitors guilty of treason in WH petition and polls

March 12, 2015

Americans believe the 47 Republican senators who wrote and signed an open to Iran about the potential nuclear weapons deal went too far in crossing the line. Not too long after the senators released their letter on Monday, March 9…

Political Musings March 11, 2015: Did the 47 GOP Senators commit treason, violate the Logan Act with Iran letter?

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Did the 47 GOP Senators commit treason, violate the Logan Act with Iran letter?

March 11, 2015

Law professors and liberal pundits and news media are taking their criticism of the letter to Iran 47 Republican Senators signed against a potential nuclear weapons deal on Monday, March 9, 2015 to a new level charging that the Republican…

Political Musings February 17, 2015: Federal judge blocks Obama’s immigration executive actions at 26 states’ request

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Federal judge blocks Obama’s immigration executive actions at 26 states’ request

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Congressional Republicans might not need to defund the Department of Homeland Security to prevent President Barack Obama immigration executive actions, a Texas federal judge has granted the requests of 26 states to block those executive actions with a temporary injunction…READ MORE

Political Musings February 16, 2015: Boehner willing to let DHS funding expire to force Democrats on immigration

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Boehner willing to let DHS funding expire to force Democrats on immigration

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Although the Republican leadership promised not government shut downs, Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, R-OH let it be known on his Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015 appearance on Fox News Sunday that he is willing to let…READ MORE

Political Musings February 7, 2015: Biden, Democrats unofficially boycotting Netanyahu’s address to Congress

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Biden, Democrats unofficially boycotting Netanyahu’s address to Congress

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Although there will not by an official boycott against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s joint address to Congress on March 3, 2015, Democratic members of Congress might be conveniently busy and unable to attend. Even Vice President Joe Biden…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s 2016 Budget – PDF

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s 2016 Budget

Source: WH, 2-2-15

Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2016 contains the Budget Message of the President, information on the President’s priorities, budget overviews organized by agency, and summary tables.

To download “Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2016” as a single PDF click here (150 pages, 2.3 MB)

Document

Size

File Format

Descriptions of The Budget Documents and General Notes 75 K PDF
The Budget Message of the President 44 K PDF
Building on a Record of Economic Growth and Progress 110 K PDF
Investing in America’s Future 396 K PDF
A Government of the Future 130 K PDF
Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings 132 K PDF
Summary Tables 1366 K PDF

 

Full Text Obama Presidency February 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech Unveiling the FY2016 Budget

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the FY2016 Budget

Source: WH, 2-2-15

Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C.

11:27 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Please, have a seat.  Well, good morning, everybody.   It is good to be here at the Department of Homeland Security.  And let me thank Jeh Johnson not only for the outstanding job that’s he’s doing as Secretary of DHS, but also for a short introduction.  I like short introductions.  (Laughter.)  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

This is a great way to start the week, because I get to do something I enjoy doing, which is saying thank you.  Nobody works harder to keep America safe than the people who are gathered here today.  And you don’t get a lot of attention for it — that’s the nature of the job.  But I know how vital you are, and I want to make that sure more Americans know how vital you are.  Because against just about every threat that we face — from terrorist networks to microscopic viruses to cyber-attacks to weather disasters — you guys are there.  You protect us from threats at home and abroad, by air and land and sea.  You safeguard our ports, you patrol our borders.  You inspect our chemical plants, screen travelers for Ebola, shield our computer networks, and help hunt down criminals around the world.  You have a busy agenda, a full plate.  And here at home, you are ready to respond to any emergency at a moment’s notice.

It is simply extraordinary how much the Department of Homeland Security does every single day to keep our nation, our people safe.  It’s a critical job, and you get it done without a lot of fanfare.  And I want to make sure that you have what you need to keep getting the job done.  Every American has an interest in making sure that the Department of Homeland Security has what it needs to achieve its mission — because we are reliant on that mission every single day.

Now, today, I’m sending Congress a budget that will make sure you’ve got what you need to achieve your mission.  It gives you the resources you need to carry out your mission in a way that is smart and strategic, and makes the most of every dollar.  It’s also a broader blueprint for America’s success in this new global economy.  Because after a breakthrough year for America — at a time when our economy is growing and our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since the 1990s, and wages are starting to rise again — we’ve got some fundamental choices to make about the kind of country we want to be.

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?  Or are we going to build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead?

And that was the focus of my State of the Union Address a couple weeks ago — what I called middle-class economics.  The idea that this country does best when everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules.

The budget that Congress now has in its hands is built on those values.  It helps working families’ paychecks go farther by treating things like paid sick leave and childcare as the economic priorities that they are.  It gives Americans of every age the chance to upgrade their skills so they can earn higher wages, and it includes my plan to make two years of community college free for responsible students.  It lets us keep building the world’s most attractive economy for high-wage jobs, with new investments in research, and infrastructure and manufacturing, as well as expanded access to faster Internet and new markets for goods made in America.

It’s also a budget that recognizes that our economy flourishes when America is safe and secure.  So it invests in our IT networks, to protect them from malicious actors.  It supports our troops and strengthens our border security.  And it gives us the resources to confront global challenges, from ISIL to Russian aggression.

Now, since I took office, we have cut our deficits by about two-thirds.  I’m going to repeat that, as I always do when I mention this fact, because the public oftentimes, if you ask them, thinks that the deficit has shot up.  Since I took office, we have cut our deficits by about two-thirds.  That’s the fastest period of sustained deficit reduction since after the demobilization at the end of World War II.  So we can afford to make these investments while remaining fiscally responsible.  And, in fact, we cannot afford — we would be making a critical error if we avoided making these investments.  We can’t afford not to.  When the economy is doing well, we’re making investments when we’re growing.  That’s part of what keeps deficits low — because the economy is doing well.  So we’ve just got to be smarter about how we pay for our priorities, and that’s what my budget does.

At the end of 2013, I signed a bipartisan budget agreement that helped us end some of the arbitrary cuts known in Washington-speak as “sequestration.”  And folks here at DHS know a little too much about sequestration — (laughter) — because many of you have to deal with those cuts, and it made it a lot harder for you to do your jobs.

The 2013 agreement to reverse some of those cuts helped to boost our economic growth.  Part of the reason why we grew faster last year was we were no longer being burdened by mindless across-the-board cuts, and we were being more strategic about how we handled our federal budget.  And now we need to take the next step.  So my budget will end sequestration and fully reverse the cuts to domestic priorities in 2016.  And it will match the investments that were made domestically, dollar for dollar, with increases in our defense funding.

And just last week, top military officials told Congress that if Congress does nothing to stop sequestration, there could be serious consequences for our national security, at a time when our military is stretched on a whole range of issues.  And that’s why I want to work with Congress to replace mindless austerity with smart investments that strengthen America.  And we can do so in a way that is fiscally responsible.

I’m not going to accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward.  It would be bad for our security and bad for our growth.  I will not accept a budget that severs the vital link between our national security and our economic security.  I know there’s some on Capitol Hill who would say, well, we’d be willing to increase defense spending but we’re not going to increase investments in infrastructure, for example, or basic research.  Well, those two things go hand in hand.  If we don’t have a vital infrastructure, if we don’t have broadband lines across the country, if we don’t have a smart grid, all that makes us more vulnerable.  America can’t afford being shortsighted, and I’m not going to allow it.

The budget I’ve sent to Congress today is fully paid for, through a combination of smart spending cuts and tax reforms.  Let me give you an example.  Right now, our tax code is full of loopholes for special interests — like the trust fund loophole that allows the wealthiest Americans to avoid paying taxes on their unearned income.  I think we should fix that and use the savings to cut taxes for middle-class families.  That would be good for our economy.

Now, I know there are Republicans who disagree with my approach.  And I’ve said this before:  If they have other ideas for how we can keep America safe, grow our economy, while helping middle-class families feel some sense of economic security, I welcome their ideas.  But their numbers have to add up.  And what we can’t do is play politics with folks’ economic security, or with our national security.  You, better than anybody, know what the stakes are.  The work you do hangs in the balance.

In just a few weeks from now, funding for Homeland Security will run out.  That’s not because of anything this department did, it’s because the Republicans in Congress who funded everything in government through September, except for this department.  And they’re now threatening to let Homeland Security funding expire because of their disagreeing with my actions to make our immigration system smarter, fairer and safer.

Now let’s be clear, I think we can have a reasonable debate about immigration.  I’m confident that what we’re doing is the right thing and the lawful thing.  I understand they may have some disagreements with me on that, although I should note that a large majority — or a large percentage of Republicans agree that we need comprehensive immigration reform, and we’re prepared to act in the Senate and should have acted in the House.  But if they don’t agree with me, that’s fine, that’s how our democracy works.  You may have noticed they usually don’t agree with me.  But don’t jeopardize our national security over this disagreement.

As one Republican put it, if they let your funding run out, “it’s not the end of the world.”  That’s what they said.  Well, I guess literally that’s true; it may not be the end of the world.  But until they pass a funding bill, it is the end of a paycheck for tens of thousands of frontline workers who will continue to get — to have to work without getting paid.  Over 40,000 Border Patrol and Customs agents.  Over 50,000 airport screeners.  Over 13,000 immigration officers.  Over 40,000 men and women in the Coast Guard.  These Americans aren’t just working to keep us safe, they have to take care of their own families.  The notion that they would get caught up in a disagreement around policy that has nothing to do with them makes no sense.

And if Republicans let Homeland Security funding expire, it’s the end to any new initiatives in the event that a new threat emerges.  It’s the end of grants to states and cities that improve local law enforcement and keep our communities safe.  The men and women of America’s homeland security apparatus do important work to protect us, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress should not be playing politics with that.

We need to fund the department, pure and simple.  We’ve got to put politics aside, pass a budget that funds our national security priorities at home and abroad, and gives middle-class families the security they need to get ahead in the new economy.  This is one of our most basic and most important responsibilities as a government.  So I’m calling on Congress to get this done.

Every day, we count on people like you to keep America secure.  And you are counting on us as well to uphold our end of the bargain.  You’re counting on us to make sure that you’ve got the resources to do your jobs safely and efficiently, and that you’re able to look after your families while you are out there working really hard to keep us safe.

We ask a lot of you.  The least we can do is have your backs.  That’s what I’m going to keep on doing for as long as I have the honor of serving as your President.  I have your back.  And I’m going to keep on fighting to make sure that you get the resources you deserve.  I’m going to keep fighting to make sure that every American has the chance not just to share in America’s success but to contribute to America’s success.  That’s what this budget is about.

It reflects our values in making sure that we are making the investments we need to keep America safe, to keep America growing, and to make sure that everybody is participating no matter what they look like, where they come from, no matter how they started in life, they’ve got a chance to get ahead in this great country of ours.  That’s what I believe.  That’s what you believe.  (Applause.)  Let’s get it done.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:43 A.M. EST

Political Musings January 29, 2015: Senate passes Keystone Pipeline despite Obama veto threat

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Senate passes Keystone Pipeline despite Obama veto threat

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Despite President Barack Obama threat to veto any bill passed by Congress approving the Keystone XL pipeline the Republican controlled Senate passed their bill on Thursday afternoon Jan. 29, 2015 with bipartisan support and a vote of 62 to 36…READ MORE

Political Musings January 21, 2015: Obama defiant in least viewed State of the Union Address in recent history

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Obama defiant in least viewed State of the Union Address in recent history

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The state of the State of the Union Address is not good; President Obama delivered the address to the smallest audience of viewers in recent history. Only 31.7 million Americans viewed the address on television; the State of…READ MORE

Full Text Political Transcripts January 20, 2015: Iowa Senator Joni Ernst Delivers Official GOP Republican State of the Union Response

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

GOP Responds to Obama’s State of the Union Address: Full Text

“Good evening.

“I’m Joni Ernst. As a mother, a soldier, and a newly elected senator from the great State of Iowa, I am proud to speak with you tonight.

“A few moments ago, we heard the President lay out his vision for the year to come. Even if we may not always agree, it’s important to hear different points of view in this great country. We appreciate the President sharing his.

“Tonight though, rather than respond to a speech, I’d like to talk about your priorities. I’d like to have a conversation about the new Republican Congress you just elected, and how we plan to make Washington focus on your concerns again.

“We heard the message you sent in November — loud and clear. And now we’re getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country.

“The new Republican Congress also understands how difficult these past six years have been. For many of us, the sting of the economy and the frustration with Washington’s dysfunction weren’t things we had to read about. We felt them every day.

“We felt them in Red Oak — the little town in southwestern Iowa where I grew up, and am still proud to call home today.

“As a young girl, I plowed the fields of our family farm. I worked construction with my dad. To save for college, I worked the morning biscuit line at Hardees.

“We were raised to live simply, not to waste. It was a lesson my mother taught me every rainy morning.
“You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry.

“But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet.

“Our parents may not have had much, but they worked hard for what they did have.

“These days though, many families feel like they’re working harder and harder, with less and less to show for it.

“Not just in Red Oak, but across the country.

“We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs. We see the hurt caused by canceled healthcare plans and higher monthly insurance bills. We see too many moms and dads put their own dreams on hold while growing more fearful about the kind of future they’ll be able to leave to their children.

“Americans have been hurting, but when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare. It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.

“That’s why the new Republican majority you elected started by reforming Congress to make it function again. And now, we’re working hard to pass the kind of serious job-creation ideas you deserve.

“One you’ve probably heard about is the Keystone jobs bill. President Obama has been delaying this bipartisan infrastructure project for years, even though many members of his party, unions, and a strong majority of Americans support it. The President’s own State Department has said Keystone’s construction could support thousands of jobs and pump billions into our economy, and do it with minimal environmental impact.

“We worked with Democrats to pass this bill through the House. We’re doing the same now in the Senate.

“President Obama will soon have a decision to make: will he sign the bill, or block good American jobs?

“There’s a lot we can achieve if we work together.

“Let’s tear down trade barriers in places like Europe and the Pacific. Let’s sell more of what we make and grow in America over there so we can boost manufacturing, wages, and jobs right here, at home.

“Let’s simplify America’s outdated and loophole-ridden tax code. Republicans think tax filing should be easier for you, not just the well-connected. So let’s iron out loopholes to lower rates — and create jobs, not pay for more government spending.

“The President has already expressed some support for these kinds of ideas. We’re calling on him now to cooperate to pass them.

“You’ll see a lot of serious work in this new Congress.

“Some of it will occur where I stand tonight, in the Armed Services Committee room. This is where I’ll join committee colleagues — Republicans and Democrats — to discuss ways to support our exceptional military and its mission. This is where we’ll debate strategies to confront terrorism and the threats posed by Al Qaeda, ISIL, and those radicalized by them.

“We know threats like these can’t just be wished away. We’ve been reminded of terrorism’s reach both at home and abroad; most recently in France and Nigeria, but also in places like Canada and Australia. Our hearts go out to all the innocent victims of terrorism and their loved ones. We can only imagine the depth of their grief.

“For two decades, I’ve proudly worn our nation’s uniform: today, as a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. While deployed overseas with some of America’s finest men and women, I’ve seen just how dangerous these kinds of threats can be.

“The forces of violence and oppression don’t care about the innocent. We need a comprehensive plan to defeat them.

“We must also honor America’s veterans. These men and women have sacrificed so much in defense of our freedoms, and our way of life. They deserve nothing less than the benefits they were promised and a quality of care we can be all be proud of.

“These are important issues the new Congress plans to address.

“We’ll also keep fighting to repeal and replace a health care law that’s hurt so many hardworking families.

“We’ll work to correct executive overreach.

“We’ll propose ideas that aim to cut wasteful spending and balance the budget — with meaningful reforms, not higher taxes like the President has proposed.

“We’ll advance solutions to prevent the kind of cyberattacks we’ve seen recently.

“We’ll work to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“And we’ll defend life, because protecting our most vulnerable is an important measure of any society.

“Congress is back to work on your behalf, ready to make Washington focus on your concerns again.

“We know America faces big challenges. But history has shown there’s nothing our nation, and our people, can’t accomplish.

“Just look at my parents and grandparents.

“They had very little to call their own except the sweat on their brow and the dirt on their hands. But they worked, they sacrificed, and they dreamed big dreams for their children and grandchildren.

“And because they did, an ordinary Iowan like me has had some truly extraordinary opportunities — because they showed me that you don’t need to come from wealth or privilege to make a difference. You just need the freedom to dream big, and a whole lot of hard work.

“The new Republican Congress you elected is working to make Washington understand that too. And with a little cooperation from the President, we can get Washington working again.

“Thank you for allowing me to speak with you tonight.

“May God bless this great country of ours, the brave Americans serving in uniform on our behalf, and you, the hardworking men and women who make the United States of America the greatest nation the world has ever known.”

Read On ABC News Radio: http://abcnewsradioonline.com/politics-news/gop-responds-to-obamas-state-of-the-union-address-full-text-1.html#ixzz3PW3xtGoc

Political Musings January 13, 2015: Obama meets with Congressional leaders promises to disagree but work together

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama meets with Congressional leaders promises to disagree but work together

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In President Barack Obama’s first meeting with the 114th Congress’ leadership, there was no bourbon, but there was sports talk. Obama met with the Congressional leadership of the new GOP majority in the House of Representatives and…READ MORE

Political Musings January 6, 2015: 114th Congress convenes: Boehner reelected Speaker McConnell new Senate Majority Leader

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

114th Congress convenes: Boehner reelected Speaker McConnell new Majority Leader

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Despite some opposition from conservative tea party wing of the Republican Party John Boehner, R-OH was reelected for his third term as Speaker of the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 6, 2016 the first day of…READ MORE

Political Musings January 2, 2015: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid injured hospitalized after exercising accident

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid injured hospitalized after exercising accident

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Adding injury to insult, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV first lost his leadership position after the Democratic lost control of the Senate in the 2014 Midterm Elections, now he was injured after falling in an exercising accident…READ MORE
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