Recent Floor Statements

  • Sep 26 2013

    Senator Johnson Discusses CR and Potential Government Shutdown on Senate Floor

    Mr. President, any discussion of the national security impacts of a long-term continuing resolution or a potential government shutdown would be incomplete without including the potential impact on America’s 22.3 million vets.

    The good news is that under any scenario, vets would still be able to receive health care thanks to advance funding for 2014. The bad news is that most other VA programs would be shortchanged under a CR and crippled by a government shutdown. The VA budget would be impacted by the funding shortfalls or stoppages, but America’s vets would be the victims.

    VA advance funding does not extend to such important programs as disability claims processing, hospital and clinic construction, or VA cemetery operations, to name but a few examples.  Given the gravity of backlogs in the VA claims processing program, the Senate CR includes a provision funding claims processing at the 2014 budget request level.  But it does not include a package of reforms and initiatives in the 2014 Senate MilCon/VA bill intended to improve productivity, accuracy, and accountability. For claims processing, a CR is less than optimal. A government shutdown could be catastrophic.

    The current backlog of VA disability claims stands at 435,000, an improvement over the high water mark of 632,000 just six months ago.

    But the strides VA has made in addressing the backlog problem would suffer a severe setback under a government shutdown. Currently, the VA processes 5,500 to 6,000 claims a day, a massive improvement in productivity that would be stopped in its tracks by a government shutdown.  The longer the shutdown, the more severe the impact.

    Think of a fender-bender in the middle of a busy freeway.  Traffic behind the accident backs up quickly, and the backup extends farther and farther as cars pile up behind it.  Once the cars are towed away, the backup does not magically disappear. It takes time for traffic to return to normal.

    The same holds true for an interruption in VA claims processing.  The VA estimates that for every week that claims processing would be halted under a government shutdown, it would lose a month of progress in processing claims.  Our Nation – our vets – cannot afford this delay. 

    Claims processing would not be the only VA program imperiled by a government shutdown. If the government shuts down, funding for payment of mandatory VA compensation, pension, and education benefits would run out by the end of October, denying a lifeline of support to thousands of vets.          

    For anyone who cares about America’s vets, the notion of forcing a government shutdown is unthinkable.

    Mr. President, passage of a clean CR through November 15 is imperative to give Congress time to negotiate a way forward to fund government operations, agency by agency, through 2014. 

    My subcommittee also funds the Defense Department’s military construction program.  A government shutdown would have serious consequences in this area.  The furloughing of civilian personnel overseeing construction contracts could not only disrupt and delay ongoing projects, but could provoke contract interruption and increase project costs.  A CR prevents new starts so regardless of the level of funding, no new MilCon projects could be undertaken in 2014 under a CR.  A CR and government shutdown would bring DOD’s MilCon program to a screeching halt.

    The CR before the Senate today buys time, without any extraneous riders or political histrionics.  There is a time and a place for everything. The place for political statements is elsewhere.  The time for keeping the government operating until a comprehensive appropriations bill can be crafted is here.  I urge my colleagues to support the clean CR pending before the Senate.  Mr. President, I yield the floor.

  • Jun 18 2012

    Johnson Takes to the Senate Floor to Discuss Farm Bill

    Mr. President, I rise today to talk about the critically important piece of legislation currently before the Senate: the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act.  But first, I want to thank Senators Stabenow and Roberts for the great work they’ve done to get us to this point in the reauthorization process. 

    The bill as reported out of the Ag Committee saves taxpayers more than $23 billion over the next ten years and will support millions of jobs.  With this bill, we are taking several important steps in making our farm support system more responsive to actual need rather than sending payments to producers no matter what they grow.  We are long past due in eliminating direct payments.  At the same time, we are maintaining a strong crop insurance program and creating a new system that makes assistance available to producers when they actually experience a loss.

    Another important area of reform in this bill is payment limitations and ensuring that actual farmers receive payments.  Senator Grassley and I have worked for years to lower the caps on our farm program payments and to direct payments to family farmers.  The new Agriculture Risk Coverage program contains a cap of $50,000 and requires that program payment recipients contribute labor to the farm operation.  Current law has enabled multiple farm managers in an operation to qualify for separate farm program payments with as little participation as one conference call a year.  Not anymore under this bill.  I am disappointed there have been amendments filed to weaken this language.  I don’t understand how anyone can stand before this body and justify sending federal farm program payments to people who aren’t engaged in agriculture.  Our country faces serious fiscal challenges, and it seems to me that limiting farm payments to real farmers is a reasonable concept.  I urge my colleague to oppose efforts to weaken this language.

    With this bill, we are also taking important steps to combine and streamline our conservation programs while still allowing us to continue meeting the same land, water, and wildlife goals.  Additionally, this bill contains a sodsaver provision that will discourage the breaking of native sod for crop production. 

    One area of the bill with which I am disappointed is that it does not contain a livestock title.  However, I have joined with some of my colleagues in filing amendments to give our independent livestock producers a fair shake in the marketplace.  Along with Senator Grassley and others, I have worked for more than a decade to prohibit the ownership of livestock by the big meatpackers for more than 14 days prior to slaughter.  Additionally, I’ve joined with Senator Enzi in filing an amendment to require more transparency in the use of forward contracts in the livestock markets.  These are important provisions that I hope my colleagues will support.

    I would also like to applaud the Committee’s work on the energy and rural development titles, which strengthen our rural economies.  The Rural Development water and wastewater program has been a critical funding source to help alleviate a severe water infrastructure need on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation.  I hope my colleagues will act favorably on Senator Brown’s amendment that I have cosponsored to bolster this and other rural development programs. 

    Finally, I would like to commend efforts to address the pine beetle epidemic in the forestry title of the bill.  The underlying bill does good work to increase flexibility, and I support the efforts of Senator Mark Udall and others to increase the resources we are providing to the Forest Service to address this threat to our forest health and public safety.   

    Mr. President, I understand that the Ag Committee leaders and Senate leadership have been making progress in their negotiations towards an agreement on a path forward.  I hope that we can avoid letting a small minority of Senators hold up progress on this bill.  It’s time that we act, and that we give our producers certainty.


  • May 15 2012

    Senator Tim Johnson Urges Passage of Export-Import Bank Reauthorization

    Mr. President: I rise today in support of H.R. 2072, the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012. After too much delay, it is time for the Senate to pass this bill.

    “The Export-Import Bank supports nearly 290,000 jobs a year, assists thousands of American businesses, and helps reduces the federal budget deficit. It shouldn’t be surprising then, to hear that the Bank has the approval of labor unions, the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers.  Indeed, the Bank is supported by wide majorities in both houses of Congress. The bill before us today passed with an overwhelming vote of 330-93 in the House of Representatives last week, as Republicans and Democrats came together in support of truly bipartisan legislation. When we passed a similar bill out of the Senate Banking Committee last year, it had unanimous bipartisan support.

    “Mr. President, despite the urgent need for passage of the bill, there are several Republican amendments.  I urge all of my colleagues to vote against those amendments and pass the bill without delay. We are at the finish line today, with a bill that has already been approved in the House, and that has bipartisan support here in the Senate.

    “Unless we pass this bill, the Ex-Im Bank’s authorization will lapse on May 31 and nearly 300,000 American jobs will be at risk. Unless we pass this bill, American exporters will be put at a disadvantage to their foreign competitors, who in many cases already receive far greater assistance from their own nations’ export credit agencies.

    “Let’s come together and pass this bipartisan bill, and score a victory for the hundreds of thousands of American workers whose jobs are supported by the Export-Import Bank.

    “I urge my colleagues to oppose the amendments and support the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank today, so we can send this bill to the President and have it signed into law without delay. I yield the floor.”


  • Mar 20 2012

    Johnson Takes to Floor to Support Export-Import Bank Reauthorization

    "Mr. President: I rise today to speak about an amendment I am cosponsoring with Senator Cantwell, as well as Senator Graham and Senator Shelby, to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. This amendment is important to thousands of workers in Senator Cantwell’s home state of Washington, and I want to thank her for offering it with me. 

    "But this amendment is not just important to the state of Washington – it is important to our national economy. It will create and support more jobs than any other provision in the underlying bill before us today. 
    "I believe this is why there was unanimous bipartisan support last year when Senator Shelby and I passed this bill out of the Banking Committee. And that is why we should pass it this week. 

    "This legislation will ensure that the Bank is able to continue to provide support for U.S. exporters and workers. The amendment extends the authorization of the Bank for 4 years, and will increase the Bank’s lending authority to $140 billion by 2015. It also strengthens transparency and accountability at the Bank, strengthens restrictions against companies doing business with Iran, and provides for greater oversight of the Bank’s financing and any risks it might have to taxpayers. 

    "The Export-Import Bank is the official export credit agency of the U.S., and it assists in financing the export of U.S. goods and services to international markets. Following the financial crisis, the Bank experienced a dramatic increase in its activities as many companies struggled to find financing in the private market. In Fiscal Year 2010, the Bank saw a 70 percent increase in authorizations from 2008. And last year the Bank committed almost $33 billion in support of U.S. exports—a new record. 

    "The Bank has been self-funding since 2008, returning nearly $2 billion to the Treasury. In Fiscal Year 2011 alone, the Bank generated $400 million to offset federal spending and bring down the budget deficit. It’s not often that we discuss government programs that reduce the deficit, so let me repeat that: The Export-Import Bank returned $400 million to American taxpayers last year. 

    "We cannot take future success for granted, however. So I am pleased that this legislation will implement reforms to help ensure that the Bank is working as efficiently and effectively as possible to protect the taxpayers. 

    "And we must not forget that American companies are competing in a truly global marketplace. The Export-Import Bank plays a vital role in ensuring that the global marketplace is also a fair one. When other countries are helping their own companies with export financing, we cannot afford to “unilaterally disarm” in the face of this global competition. 

    "Let me be clear: this is a jobs bill. The Export-Import Bank’s Charter directs it to use exports to create and maintain jobs here at home. And last year, the Export-Import Bank supported almost 290,000 American jobs. These are jobs in cities and towns across the nation, at large companies as well as small businesses. In fact, last year the Export-Import Bank financed more than $6 billion in exports by small businesses, the engines of economic growth. In my home state of South Dakota, Ex-Im has worked with small and large businesses to help export goods all over the world. In the last five years alone it has helped support over $20 million worth of export sales. This support has been critical to many companies in my state as they seek to expand their customer base. More importantly, Ex-Im financing has helped support good-paying American jobs in South Dakota—something that we need to make sure there are more of. 
    I believe that while the Bank is doing a good job, it can—and must—do more. I believe this legislation will help the Bank reach that goal. 

    "This measure was a bipartisan effort in the Senate Banking Committee and I thank Senator Shelby for his support. In addition, I thank Senator Warner, Senator Bennet and Senator Hagan for their important input into this legislation. The Bank’s current authorization expires on May 30, 2012, in just two months, so it is important that we pass this jobs amendment today. I hope my colleagues will support the Cantwell-Johnson-Graham-Shelby amendment to ensure that the Bank continues to carry out its mission of supporting American exports and American jobs. 

    "Mr. President: I also would like to briefly address a filed amendment that Majority Leader Reid and Senator Udall have spoken on—the credit union member business lending amendment. As Chairman of the Banking Committee, I held a hearing on this issue last June, and as my staff and I have told the Leader and his staff since then, this is a very controversial matter. From the testimony of the credit union and banking industry witnesses at that hearing and the ongoing conversations over the past months, it is clear there is no consensus. If the Senate chooses to move forward on this issue, I urge the Senate to move forward carefully. 

    "Mr. President: Finally, with respect to the underlying House bill, I would like to make a few comments. This is not the bill I would have drafted. Over the last several months, I have worked to enhance the investor protections contained in the capital formation proposals passed by the House in a thoughtful manner while helping to support entrepreneurs, grow small businesses, and put Americans back to work. I will enter a separate statement into the record laying out my views in more detail, but I am pleased to have assisted my colleagues in crafting the Senate substitute amendment that addresses investor protection concerns. I urge my colleagues to support the Senate substitute. 

    "If this body chooses to reject the enhanced investor protections in the Senate substitute, we must remember that all Members of Congress have a duty to keep an eye on the effects of these changes. We are plowing new ground here, and we have a shared responsibility to ensure that going forward, the new changes we enact into law will truly benefit, and not undermine, both start-ups and investors alike. 
    Mr. President, I yield the floor." 


  • Feb 14 2012

    Chairman Johnson Offers Public Transportation Bill on the Senate Floor

    “Mr. President, I am pleased to present the Banking Committee’s public transportation bill to the Senate as an amendment to the surface transportation legislation now before us.  The transit bill was reported by our Committee unanimously earlier this month.
    “Maintaining investment in our nation’s transportation infrastructure is priority of mine and of our Committee.  I want to thank our Committee’s ranking member, Senator Shelby, who has worked for a long time on this bill.  Without his support, this bi-partisan legislation would not be possible.  I also want to thank our subcommittee chairman, Senator Menendez, and all of the members of the Committee that offered contributions to our product.
    “With this bill, we have the opportunity to preserve public transportation funding for two years at current levels and deliver critical investments in the nation’s aging transit infrastructure.  In addition, the bill will institute much needed reforms such as eliminating earmarks and speeding the construction of public transportation projects.
    “The bill also includes transit safety provisions that have been stalled for 2 years.  These are important reforms that many Senators have worked on.  Now is the time to move them forward. 
    “Finally, our bill increases formula funding for all types of transit: additional urban and rural formula funds, new money for every state to address state of good repair needs and more money for tribal transit.  Our nation’s transit systems need more $77 billion to address backlogged repairs.  This bill can’t address all of those needs, but it can ensure that our transit systems don’t fall further behind, and transit funding will support more than 386,000 jobs. 
    “Mr. President, Americans make 35 million trips on public transportation every weekday.  Many of these trips are in our cities, but in places like South Dakota rural transit service connects seniors with their doctors and helps our workers travel long distances to get to jobs.   Everyone benefits from public transportation, and I urge Senators to support this bi-partisan bill.
    “I yield the floor.”
  • Dec 08 2011

    Johnson Takes to Floor to Urge Senate to Stop Blocking Consumer Protection Nominee

    “Mr. President, two months ago the Senate Banking Committee voted along party lines to send to the full Senate the nomination of Richard Cordray to be the first Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Due to an unprecedented and irresponsible display of political gamesmanship, Mr. Cordray’s nomination and strong protections for American consumers are being held hostage. 

    “Before any candidate was put forth, Senate Republicans pledged to block the nomination, and their objections have nothing to do with Mr. Cordray’s qualifications, his politics, or his character. Republican Senators have actually admitted as much, with a public pledge to block any nominee for the new consumer agency until a list of legislative demands, which would greatly weaken the agency, are met. That those demands were debated and rejected by a bipartisan Congress last year is beside the point. The minority party is distorting the Senate confirmation process, mandated by the Constitution, to rewrite a law against the wishes of the American people. 

    “Why do Senate Republicans remain opposed to consumer protection despite national surveys showing 3-in-4 bipartisan voters support the new agency’s creation? Whatever the motivation, it appears to outweigh any concerns about protecting families buying homes, students borrowing for college, and servicemembers or older Americans falling prey to financial scams. 

    “This vocal minority opposed to strong consumer protection and helped by special interests have drummed up misleading claims to hide behind. They claim the CFPB Director will put the economy at risk – ignoring the effects of the foreclosure crisis, which was fueled by irresponsible and predatory lending. They claim the agency lacks accountability – ignoring the fact that it is bound by accountability measures comparable to or exceeding that of other independent financial regulators. And they claim restrictions on abusive financial products will hurt lenders – ignoring the damage those products inflicted on consumers tricked into signing unfair contracts filled with hidden fees and penalties. 

    “In reality the CFPB was created as an accountable yet independent regulator in bipartisan negotiations last year. Its mission is to protect consumers – by cracking down on predatory lenders and streamlining disclosures so families can make better informed financial choices. But until it has a confirmed director in place, the CFPB’s authority over nonbank financial institutions, like private student lenders and mortgage brokers, will be stifled. Every day Mr. Cordray’s confirmation is blocked, vital protections are delayed, millions of Americans – including servicemembers, veterans and older Americans - are left vulnerable, and the nation’s community banks and credit unions remain at a disadvantage to their less-regulated competitors. 

    “The question we consider today should not be whether the minority party can hijack this constitutional process and demand as ransom legislative changes that would hamstring the consumer agency. The question should be whether Mr. Cordray is qualified for the job. And I believe that Mr. Cordray is an outstanding candidate. For years Richard Cordray has worked tirelessly as a public servant. As Ohio’s Attorney General he aggressively pursued financial crimes by banks and mortgage firms, and won more than $2 billion in settlements for the State. And as Ohio’s first Solicitor, he argued cases before the Supreme Court to protect consumers and enhance the quality of our financial markets. 
    “American families paid a steep price for the financial crisis, battered by layoffs and foreclosures. Yet incredibly, many of the bad actors that contributed to the crisis remain poorly regulated and continue to lobby against tougher regulation. Congress created the CFPB to protect consumers and clean up the marketplace, but it needs a director. Richard Cordray has proven himself capable for the job, and there is no legitimate reason to block his confirmation. 

    “I urge my colleagues to reconsider their political game playing and do the right thing. 
    “Stop blocking Richard Cordray’s nomination and allow him to have an up or down vote. 

    “I yield the floor.” 


  • Jul 18 2011

    Johnson Takes to Floor to Mark Anniversary of Wall Street Reform

    Mr. President, Thursday marks the first anniversary of President Obama signing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law.  As Chairman of the Banking Committee I have a responsibility to oversee implementation of this critical new law. 
    The Wall Street Reform Act was a direct response to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  While it appears that many on Wall Street, and even some here in Washington, have already forgotten the painful costs of inadequate financial regulations – I have not.  And neither have the millions of Americans who lost their jobs, their homes, or their savings, and who are still waiting for the recovery.
    The financial crisis didn’t just happen by itself. It was the result of reckless and irresponsible behavior on Wall Street, a lack of consumer protections, and failure by financial regulators to take action even as the warning signs grew ever larger. 
    In response to the devastation, Congress passed new financial reforms that created a sound regulatory foundation to protect consumers and help prevent future crises.
    However, these reforms have been under constant attack since their inception.  Opponents of Wall Street reform continually repeat misleading claims that the new law was hastily conceived and will harm our economy. 
    The truth is the Wall Street reform law is a product of nearly 50 Senate hearings, and scores more in the House, that identified the abuses and loopholes that fueled the catastrophe and helped develop clear proposals to end them.
    After a long series of hearings that began in 2007 and 2008 with examination of the turmoil in the mortgage and credit markets, and after months of hard work by bipartisan working groups of Senators, the Banking Committee reported out a Wall Street reform bill that incorporated many Republican ideas. 
    On the Senate floor, the bill had a thorough debate in an open process that lasted more than three weeks. Fifty-six amendments were considered and thirty-two amendments were approved, fifteen of which were Republican sponsored amendments and twenty-two were bipartisan amendments.  Finally, the bill was reconciled with the House version at an open Conference Committee which worked through more than 100 additional amendments. 
    In short, through a rigorous, bipartisan, and transparent process, we produced a comprehensive reform bill that the times demanded and the American people deserved.
    The Wall Street Reform law enhances consumer protections to help ensure people can make financial decisions with honest information, and it roots out predatory lenders who fueled the subprime mortgage bubble.  The reforms we passed one year ago will no longer allow the shadow banking system that nearly destroyed our economy to continue to escape the light of day. 
    The Wall Street Reform law also enhances investor protections. 
    Mr. President, during the financial crisis, investors suffered enormous losses when their retirement accounts or other assets were decimated.   Some had invested in companies with compensation systems that encouraged executives to take on unmanageable risks.  Some relied on mutual funds or pension funds that had bought mortgage-backed securities based on predatory loans that borrowers could not repay.
    New reforms will enhance transparency, increase accountability and allow oversight of previously hidden parts of the financial system.
    Unfortunately, some powerful Wall Street apologists are trying to re-write history.  They are claiming that new regulations are overly burdensome and will hurt their bottom line and the economy. 
    Mr. President, gaps in regulation hurt the economy.  Bad, reckless decisions on Wall Street hurt the economy.
    But many top financial executives have apparently forgotten that the only reason they are still in business is that the American taxpayer saved them. 
    Now many of these financial institutions have nearly fully recovered, while Main Street Americans continue to pay the price for those bad decisions and inadequate regulations. 
    The Wall Street Reform Act established responsible rules to make our financial system work for the benefit of all Americans, so that we never return to the days of too big to fail bailouts, backroom derivatives deals, predatory subprime mortgages, and the threat of economic collapse.
    Passing the Wall Street Reform Act was a monumental achievement, but there is much work left to be done.  Now the financial regulators, the experts who have made it their life’s work to understand these issues, must work to write rules and implement these reforms.  This will take time, and we must get it right.
    If the attacks on the law and its implementation are successful in weakening or eliminating these new protections, however, our economy will once again be at risk. Since I became Chairman earlier this year, the Banking Committee has held more than 25 hearings and bipartisan briefings on financial reform.  We are exercising our oversight authority, following the regulators’ progress closely, and are committed to seeing the process of reforming Wall Street through to completion.
    We all remember the economic nightmare we lived though three years ago, and we should never forget it. That is why I take my responsibility as Chairman of the Banking Committee and custodian of this new law so seriously.  I am fully committed to helping ensure Congress does its part to hold our regulators accountable and to providing Americans with a financial system they can trust.
  • Jul 15 2011

    On Senate Floor, Johnson Urges Passage of Veterans Funding Bill

    Mr. President, I am pleased to present the FY 2012 Military Construction, VA and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill to the Senate. The bill was unanimously reported out of Committee on June 30.  It is a fiscally disciplined and bipartisan measure, and I hope all Senators will support it.

    I thank my Ranking Member, Senator Kirk, for his contributions in crafting this bill.  He has taken a very active role on the subcommittee, and it has been a pleasure to work with him. I also thank Chairman Inouye and Vice Chairman Cochran, as well as Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell, for their support and assistance in moving this bill forward.

    The MilCon/VA appropriations bill provides crucial investments in infrastructure for our military, including barracks and family housing; mission critical training and operational facilities; schools and hospitals, and childcare and family support centers.  It also fulfills the Nation’s promise to our vets by providing the resources needed for their medical care and benefits. 

    Mr. President, the bill before the Senate today totals $142 billion, of which $72.5 billion is discretionary funding.  We are all mindful of the severe economic problems facing the Nation, and this bill reflects that reality.  It is $1.25 billion below the budget request and $618 million below the FY 11 enacted level.  I can assure my colleagues that there are no congressional earmarks in the bill.  

    As always, protecting essential services for veterans tops my list of priorities.  With an aging population of veterans requiring increased services, and a surge of combat veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars entering the system, the demand for VA health care services has increased dramatically in recent years.

    This bill provides $58.6 billion for VA discretionary funding, $2.3 billion over current funding.  The bill also includes $52.5 billion in FY 13 advance appropriations for veterans medical care.  One of the very few areas in which the bill provides an increase in funding is VA medical research, which is $72 million over the budget request to restore funding to the current level.

    With little room to maneuver on the VA side of the ledger, the vast majority of the savings in the bill comes from incrementing or deferring funding for certain military construction projects.  The bill provides $13.7 billion for military construction, $1 billion below the request.  The MilCon reductions in the bill are restricted to the active duty components.  The Guard and Reserve components, Family Housing, BRAC and other accounts are fully funded at the President’s request. 

    Every military construction project funded in this bill is authorized in the Senate Defense authorization bill, which was unanimously reported out of the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 16.  In fact, if you do the math, 52 Senators in this chamber have already voted in favor of the MilCon portion of this bill. 

    In addition to MilCon and VA, the bill includes $221 million for several  related agencies, including Arlington National Cemetery and the American Battle Monuments Commission.

    Mr. President, I will submit a more detailed statement for the record, but I again thank my Ranking Member for his support in crafting this bill.  I also thank the staff of the subcommittee – Christina Evans, Chad Schulken and Andy Vanlandingham of my staff; Dennis Balkham and D’Ann Letteri of the minority staff, and former minority staffer Ben Hammond – for their months of hard work and cooperative effort to produce this bill.

    Again, this is a well-balanced and bipartisan bill.  It provides resources vital to the well being of our troops and their families, and to the millions of veterans who have served and sacrificed for their Nation.

  • May 05 2010

    Johnson on Senate Floor: Wall Street Forgot South Dakota Values

    Mr. President, this week, as the Senate moves forward with consideration of Wall Street reform legislation, I am optimistic that legislation will be passed that reforms our financial system and prevents those who nearly brought down the economy from ever being able to do that again.

    As we have heard many times over the last several weeks, the bill creates a mechanism to monitor the economy for nationwide trends and risky patterns that could lead to problems. It establishes a consumer watchdog dedicated to identifying and preventing lending trends that are harmful to consumers. In addition to preventing future bailouts, the bill also requires that most financial speculation be done in the open, while addressing the underlying problem that allowed the banks to go casino-crazy in the first place. It also brings derivatives into a transparent marketplace. I believe all these changes will make the American financial system more transparent, accountable and responsive to future risks.

    It has been discouraging to see some Members and special interests opposed to these changes. In fact, I believe it is hard to argue against these reforms with a straight face. Yet those against reforming Wall Street have been doing just that, asserting that making markets fair and transparent will somehow hurt the economy. These reforms will help, not hurt, American consumers, small banks and small businesses.

    As I have said before, our community banks in South Dakota, and across the Nation, have acted responsibly. It was the actions of large, interconnected financial institutions that endangered our economy and received Federal bailouts.

    This bill eliminates the likelihood that the government would once again be forced to throw billions of dollars at Wall Street or run the risk of bringing down our entire economy.

    The community banks in South Dakota, and across the country, are a vital part of our economy, as they reinvest money back into the communities they serve. This legislation will help community banks since it levels the playing field between banks and nonbank financials, such as mortgage lenders.

    In addition, the bill fills many regulatory gaps, helping solve the problem of charter shopping, meaning financial institutions will no longer be able to choose the regulator they think will be the friendliest.

    I would also like to see the legislation go further in some areas, such as the registration of private equity and venture capital with the SEC, in addition to hedge fund registration.

    I also believe the legislation fills important regulatory gaps relating to insurance regulation. This legislation establishes the Office of National Insurance, and gives this office the ability to negotiate international agreements, a task that is currently a struggle for our country in a global marketplace.

    These provisions will give us a better picture of what is happening in this national and international industry, something we do not have now. We should resist efforts to take authority away from the Office of National Insurance.

    This bill has had substantial input from Republicans and Democrats. As the legislation process moves forward, I hope that bipartisan language on investor protection can be retained, that we can find common ground on national preemption and State AG enforcement, and that additional good ideas from both sides of the aisle can be incorporated into this legislation through the amendment process.

    I believe all Members of this body want to support bipartisan legislation to reform Wall Street. But, as we seek bipartisan consensus, we should assess all amendments from a Main Street, commonsense perspective.

    South Dakota's small farms, ranches and business operate with transparency and accountability. It is time for that same transparency and accountability to be extended to Wall Street.

    Taxpayers, consumers, and businesses across our Nation have been affected by the gambling of Wall Street. The fallout of Wall Street's recklessness has affected all of us, whether it is job loss, foreclosure, loss of retirement funds, or decreased access to a loan or other type of credit.

    Nearly 2 years have passed since the financial crisis. It is time to move forward and fix our failed system of financial services regulation.

    A young South Dakotan was in my office last week, and said that he thought this bill represents South Dakota values, because he was raised with the value that you should be careful with your money, and even more careful with someone else's money. That is something that Wall Street forgot.

    Any legislation that passes this body must make our markets safer, better protect consumers, create a level playing field for industry, and remind Wall Street that our Nation's economy is not something they are free to gamble away.

  • Dec 16 2009

    Johnson Urges Colleagues to Support Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

    Mr. President, I rise to express my support for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and to encourage my colleagues to support this effort to address our health care system's immediate and long-term challenges in a fiscally responsible manner.
    For decades, attempts have been made to reform the way our health care system works, but only incremental changes have been made. The result is a broken system where costs are rising out of control and millions of Americans are priced out of the health insurance market.

    In the last 8 years, health care premiums have grown four times faster than wages. If health care costs continue to rise at the current rates, without reform, it is projected that the average South Dakota family will be paying nearly $17,000 in yearly premiums by 2016. That is a 74-percent increase over the current premium costs that so many already struggle to afford.

    Throughout the ongoing health reform discussion, I have heard from far too many South Dakotans who currently face barriers in accessing quality health care. This can be due to exorbitant out-of-pocket costs, having no insurance coverage, being denied coverage by insurance companies, or limited or no health care providers in their area. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act addresses these barriers in part by extending access to affordable and meaningful health insurance to all Americans.

    This legislation stands up on behalf of the American people and puts an end to insurance industry abuses that have denied coverage to hard-working Americans when they need it most.

    Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage for preexisting conditions and will not be able to drop coverage just because a patient gets sick. Reform will ensure that families always have guaranteed choices of quality, affordable health insurance whether they lose their job, switch jobs, move, or get sick.

    The bill allows Americans to shop for the best health care plan to meet their needs and provides tax credits to help those who need assistance. It strengthens our health care workforce, improves the quality of care, and reduces waste, fraud, and abuse in the health care system.

    Every American is adversely affected in some fashion by the shortcomings of our existing system, and far too many have a false sense of security. The system costs us lives, and it costs us money. If we fail to act, health care costs will consume a greater and greater share of our Nation's economy and have tremendous potential to cripple our Nation's future.

    The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act puts our Nation on a more sustainable financial path. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that this health reform bill will reduce the Federal deficit by $130 billion in the next 10 years and as much as $650 billion in the decade after that. CBO also projects that this bill will result in health care coverage for more than 94 percent of legal residents in our Nation. Our citizens deserve this basic security, while improving current Medicare benefits.

    This bill is the product of months of research, committee deliberation, and bipartisan negotiation. I have listened to some of my colleagues' claims that they support health reform yet object to this approach. These protests echo those made nearly 50 years ago when a new program called Medicare was proposed to provide meaningful health benefits to seniors. The increasing cost of health care is unsustainable and the do-nothing approach hurts all Americans by robbing us of this historic opportunity to stop talking about the problems and finally find a solution.

    This bill is not perfect, but a ``yes'' vote will allow the conference committee a chance to improve it. The United States is the only Nation among industrialized democracies to not have some form of national health care. Yet the Senate Republican Party is attempting to deny us the right to vote this historic legislation up or down. They want to kill it even before it has the chance to go to conference.

    I urge my colleagues to support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

  • Oct 21 2009

    Johnson Takes to Senate Floor to Urge Confirmation of Lange Nomination

    Mr. President, a few weeks ago I stood here on the floor and offered my support for Jeff Viken to be a District Judge for South Dakota.  That nomination passed with a vote of 99-0. 

    Today, I am here to encourage my colleagues to offer the same support for Roberto Lange, also a nominee to be a District Judge for South Dakota.  I spoke at that time of the importance of federal judgeships and the lifetime tenure of these appointments.  The lifetime appointment of a federal judge is a very serious decision; one that has a lasting impact on our democracy. 

    When I last spoke on the floor nearly a month ago, only two judges had been confirmed -- including now-Justice Sotomayor.  That day, we confirmed a third judge.  That confirmation was Jeff Viken to fill a vacancy in my home state of South Dakota.  Since that time no other judges have been confirmed by the Senate.

    I am proud to have both the third and the fourth judge confirmed by the Senate this Congress to be for the District of South Dakota.  However, it is my understanding that there are currently ten other judicial nominations pending on the Executive Calendar.  We are lucky in South Dakota to have our vacancies filled so quickly, but I encourage my colleagues to act swiftly to fill these other vacancies. 

    Mr. Lange has an impressive background.  He has over 20 years of experience practicing law in South Dakota.  Before that, he clerked for the very same docket that he has been nominated for.   He attended Northwestern University School of Law on a full tuition scholarship where he was on the Dean’s list every semester.  Prior to that, he completed his undergraduate degree at the University of South Dakota, my law school alma mater.  

    In addition, Bob has received a well qualified rating from the American Bar Association. 

    I am proud to have put Bob’s name forward for this post.  It is a great honor that President Obama has placed on Bob with this nomination.  South Dakota will be well served by this selection.  I want to congratulate Bob and his family on this accomplishment. 

    Mr. President, it is with great confidence in his abilities that I will cast my vote today for the confirmation of Roberto Lange to be the next United States Federal District Judge for South Dakota.  I urge my colleagues to support this very qualified nominee.
  • Sep 29 2009

    Johnson Takes to Senate Floor to Urge Confirmation of Viken Nomination

    As you know, one of the duties granted to the Senate in the Constitution is the advice and consent of judges appointed by the President to the bench.  The lifetime appointment of a judge is a very serious decision; one that has a lasting impact on our democracy.  Today the Senate takes up the nomination of Jeff Viken to be Federal District Judge for South Dakota.  It is this nomination that I wish to speak of today.

    So far this Congress, under this new president, we have confirmed two judges.  One of those judges is Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the other is a Second Circuit Judge.  I am proud to have a South Dakotan as the third judge to be confirmed by the Senate.  However, we are nine months into this new administration and we have only confirmed two judges.  I must say that I think the process of nominating and confirming judges has become increasingly over-politicized. While I believe the President should have some latitude in selecting judges, they should not be ideologues. 

    Jeff attended law school at my alma mater, the University of South Dakota, where our attendance overlapped.  I received my law degree in 1975 and Jeff received his law degree in 1977.  Jeff has served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Acting U.S. Attorney for South Dakota before going into private practice.  His extraordinary reputation of skill and integrity during his years of public law practice will translate well and benefit the court.  The same can be said of his tenure as the Federal Public Defender for North and South Dakota.  A job he has held since 2003.  Regarding his nomination, Jeff received a well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association.  It is clear that he has an accomplished résumé and has many years of public service.

    It is a great honor that President Obama has placed on Jeff.  We are very fortunate to have a great member of the South Dakota legal community nominated to this post.  Jeff has many years of public service and we look forward to his future work for the people of South Dakota.  Most importantly, his nomination to the bench is a victory for justice and the rule of law for not only South Dakota, but for our nation.

    I have known Jeff for a long time.  I find him to be a nominee of good moral character and standing in the community.  Mr. President, it is with great satisfaction that I will cast my vote today for the confirmation of Jeff Viken to be the next U.S. Federal District Judge for South Dakota.  I urge my colleagues to support this very qualified nominee.
  • Jan 29 2009

    Johnson Urges Colleagues to Support Children’s Health Care Legislation

    I rise to express my support for the CHIP Reauthorization Act, and to urge my colleagues to improve CHIP and cover an additional 4.1 million kids.
    I voted to create this program in 1997, and I have watched with great satisfaction as the number of uninsured children in our country has dropped. Thanks to CHIP, my state can provide health insurance to about eleven thousand kids every month. As a result, these kids have every chance to do their best in school and live long, healthy, productive lives.
    This is a great achievement, but we have more work to do. South Dakota still has about eighteen thousand uninsured children. Half of these kids meet the income requirements for Medicaid and CHIP, but remain uninsured. With health insurance premiums doubling in the past eight years and unemployment on the rise, more families just can’t keep up.
    Fortunately, this bill helps these families when they need it most. It allows states to cover more kids, and provides bonus payments for focusing on low-income kids. I am especially pleased that the bill allows kids whose private insurance does not include dental coverage to enroll in the CHIP dental plan.

    I understand some of my colleagues object to allowing states to end the five year waiting period for covering legal immigrant children and pregnant women in Medicaid and CHIP. This debate is not about whether or not to provide coverage, but rather to end the five year wait these future citizens must endure. A sick child does not have five years to wait, and it is not in the spirit of our founding fathers to force legal immigrants to wait five years for services they desperately need. I would urge my colleagues to remember that, other than Native Americans, we are a nation of immigrants.
    On a personal note, I am pleased to join in the debate on CHIP this year, as I missed much of the 2007 debate while recovering from my AVM. That experience taught me the infinite value of good health insurance and great health care, a lesson I hope we can all benefit from.
    This bill, which is fully paid for over the reauthorization period, is exactly what low-income families need during this time of economic uncertainty.

  • Jan 23 2008

    Johnson Takes to Senate Floor to Encourage Passage of Indian Healthcare Bill

    Mr. President, I am here to speak in favor of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.  To the nine treaty tribes in my state, and hundreds of others around the country, this bill is truly a matter of life and death.  It is a sad fact that the six counties in America with the lowest life expectancy are tribal counties in South Dakota.  
    Poor health care affects not only life expectancy but also the quality of life for American Indians, it is also preventable.  My office gets hundreds of calls from constituents needing help with even the most basic needs that ought to be met by the Indian Health Service.  For example, Butch Artichoker from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe told my office he did not want to have a cancer test because he would not be able to get Contract Health treatment from IHS if the test was positive.  His situation is not unique.  
    Another man from Pine Ridge contacted my office after receiving the results of a cancer test that showed his PSA levels were ten times above normal.  He could not get a referral for a treatment MRI because according to IHS his cancer was not a “Priority One – threat to life or limb.”
    I am a cancer survivor myself thanks to early screening and detection which are paramount for effective treatment.  This is also true for mental health problems and many other treatable disorders.  Passing this bill will not fix every health problem facing Indian Country, but it is a major step that we need to take.  
    I returned from my own health challenges with a better appreciation of what individuals and families go through when they face the hardship of catastrophic health issues.  Providing better health care through IHS will serve not just American Indians but protect the overall public health network for my state and the rest of the country.  IHS is a vital part of the patchwork of providers that serve our state and when one of these providers improves, the entire system benefits. This is not just a tribal issue or an Indian bill, but a moral issue for individuals and families as well as the integrity my state and our country.
    Thank you to Senator Dorgan for his leadership and persistence, I ask that my colleagues quickly pass this bill as these improvements to Indian Health Care are long overdue.
  • Sep 05 2007

    U.S. Senator Tim Johnson’s Returns to Senate Floor for the First Time Since Return

    Mr. President – Thank you.  It sure does feel good to be back here again.  

    I want to thank Senators Thune, Reid and McConnell, as well as all of my colleagues, for the warm welcome back.   In so many ways, the words and prayers from you and your spouses, on both sides of the aisle, supported both Barb and me and gave us strength.  You will never know what that meant to us.  I also want to thank Representative Herseth Sandlin for her incredible support through these tough times.

    The MilCon Approps bill is now on the floor and I must also thank Senator Jack Reed for working with my staff and for his leadership on the bill.

    Before I get too far along in my remarks, it must already be clear to you that my speech is not 100 percent.  My doctors tell me that it will get there.  

    But my thoughts are clear and my mind is sharp and I’m here to be a voice for South Dakota in the Senate.  With patience, persistence and faith, I have fought back, and my will to keep fighting for South Dakota is strong.  My ability to think is paramount so I hope that now as I return to my office, people focus on my work more than how quickly I walk these days.

    Last week, I went home to South Dakota.  Today, I come home to the United States Senate.

    This has been a long and humbling journey – a journey that has taken longer than some people have liked, and I count myself among them.  

    But I return to work today to this great body with a renewed spirit and a sharper focus.  I better appreciate today what individuals and families go through when they face crippling hardship – whether that hardship be the consequence of catastrophic health issues, economic hardship, or lack of an opportunity to reach one’s full potential in life.  

    I believe I have been given a second chance at life.  I vow to take that second chance and work harder than ever to be the best I can be for my state and for my nation; to be a voice for those individuals and families who too often are ignored or forgotten; and to fight to live up to the ideals that have made this nation great.  That is my focus and that is my commitment to my constituents back home in South Dakota, to the people of this great nation, and to my colleagues here in Washington.
    It has been the greatest honor in my life to stand for and by the people of South Dakota.  I cannot thank them, as well as the members of this chamber, enough for your patience and support.  Today, my work begins anew.  I relish the task.  It’s great to be home.

    Thank you and Mr. President, I yield the floor.