(Senate - June 25, 2013)

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[Pages S5105-S5106]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, in deference to the Presiding Officer, I 
am going to forgo my speech on the Stanley Cup playoffs until another 
Member is presiding later in the day.
  Instead, I wish to address the speech made by the Senate Republican 
leader on the issue of our environment.
  Senator McConnell of Kentucky tells us if we are going to discuss the 
state of our environment in America, it is a war on coal and a war on 
  I think he is wrong. I think the Republican approach to the 
environmental issues is a war on science. It is a denial of the 
overwhelming scientific evidence that the weather affecting us on this 
Earth is changing. We know it. Storms, extraordinary storms, are more 
frequent and more violent than they have been. We know the polar icecap 
is melting. We know the glaciers are disappearing. We know the impact 
this will have on humanity as well as wildlife. Yet from the other side 
there is a complete denial of science. This is a war on science.
  Their position is also a war on public health. Twenty-five million 
Americans suffer from asthma. Nearly one in five children with asthma 
went to an emergency department for care in 2009. To

[[Page S5106]]

ignore the state of air pollution and the public health challenges it 
presents is to ignore the reality of the state of our environment and 
its impact on public health.
  Finally, the public approach when it comes to this issue is a war on 
this Earth we call home. Unless and until the United States shows 
leadership when it comes to the environment, it is difficult, if not 
impossible, to convince other nations to do the same.
  Today the President is going to make a speech which will be 
controversial about what to do with our environment. I think he is on 
the right track to engage us in a national debate, a debate about the 
legacy we leave our children and grandchildren when it comes to this 
Earth we live on.
  Senator McConnell's State of Kentucky is just south of mine. He has 
coal reserves in his State, as we do in Illinois. We have seen the use 
of those reserves, because of some of the contamination and chemicals 
that are associated with that coal, diminish dramatically over the last 
several decades.
  I haven't given up on coal if it is used responsibly. This 
administration has invested in clean coal projects. One is called 
FutureGen 2. It is a project to capture the emissions coming out of 
smokestacks from coal-fired electric powerplants and to bury them deep 
beneath the Earth, a mile beneath the Earth. It is capture and 
sequestration of these emissions. It is an energy research experiment 
which we are engaged in right now in central Illinois which I believe 
holds promise for the use of coal in the future in a much more 
responsible way.
  How much can you store below the Earth in Illinois? We can store the 
emissions of over 50 coal-fired electric power plants operating for 50 
years. Let's engage in that research. Let's find responsible ways to 
use coal.
  This notion that moving toward energy efficiency and reducing 
pollution is going to cost us jobs isn't borne out by the evidence. We 
are seeing dramatic investments being made in manufacturing for solar, 
wind, and geothermal. We are seeing dramatic investments creating new 
American jobs because we are setting new standards for more fuel-
efficient cars, for example. This is good for every family, every 
business in America. It is good for the environment, and it creates 
jobs. To suggest that dealing with the environment costs us jobs--
exactly the opposite is true.
  Let me also say a word about the Republican leader's concern about 
working families living paycheck to paycheck. Time and again on this 
side of the aisle we have offered to the Senator and his colleagues a 
chance to reduce the tax burden on working families in America by 
asking those who are doing quite well to pay a little more, and they 
have consistently said no. Again, we have asked the Republican leader 
and his colleagues to join us in raising the minimum wage and they have 
said no. So this concern about families struggling paycheck to paycheck 
should be borne out by some of their votes. That, to me, is essential.

  Let me close by saying this: I believe the environment is a challenge 
we must face head on. To ignore it is to ignore reality. Lake Michigan, 
when measured just a few months ago, was at its lowest depth in any 
measured time in recent history. What we are seeing in global warming 
is the evaporation of our Great Lakes. It is a scary thing to think 
about what this will ultimately do to us.
  The President is going to face the issue head on. There are some who 
want to run away from it. They can do that if they wish. But their war 
on science, their war on health, their war on those destructive forces 
that are affecting the Earth is shortsighted. We need leadership on 
this, bipartisan leadership.
  Let me close by saying--and then I will yield to my friend from 
Maryland--that I will come back shortly after morning business to speak 
about this historic immigration bill. The 67-to-27 vote on the floor 
last night--bipartisan vote--is an indication that we have finally come 
up with a historic measure and one that is important for the future of 
this Nation. We will do many things around here, and important things, 
but hardly anything as important as fixing this broken immigration 
system. The fact that we can do this in the Senate on a bipartisan 
basis is a tribute to this institution getting back on its feet and 
putting aside some of the political battles of the past. I only hope 
our friends over in the House are watching this and understanding that 
only through bipartisanship can we cure and solve some of the problems 
our Nation faces.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maryland.
  Mr. CARDIN. Before my friend from Illinois leaves the floor, I wish 
to congratulate him on his incredible leadership on the immigration 
bill. The Senator from Illinois brought many issues to the compromise 
that was reached, but I particularly wish to thank him on behalf of the 
children for the DREAM Act that is incorporated in this legislation 
that will help so many young people.
  I told a story on the floor of the Senate about a person who lives in 
Maryland who was offered a scholarship and had to turn it down. We 
found out he didn't have legal status in the United States. What a 
disappointment it was to him. I also told about a lot of other young 
people who have had the courage now to step forward, and the Senator's 
legislation will give them hope, in a very relatively short period of 
time, to be able to accomplish the dream of being in America.
  So I wanted to applaud him and all the Senators who were involved--
Senator Schumer just left the floor, his incredible work with Senators 
Bennet and Menendez, and the Republicans the Senator from Illinois 
worked with, Senators McCain, Graham, Flake, and Rubio.
  The Senator is absolutely right. If we want a major bill done, it has 
to be done in a bipartisan way. It is not the bill the Senator would 
have written; it is not the bill I would have written, but I think the 
Senator from Illinois has done a great service, and I thank him.
  Mr. President, I have cleared it on our side, and I ask unanimous 
consent that I be permitted to speak for up to 15 minutes.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.