May 10, 2017 - Issue: Vol. 163, No. 81 — Daily Edition115th Congress (2017 - 2018) - 1st Session
EXECUTIVE SESSION; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 81
(Senate - May 10, 2017)
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[Pages S2853-S2871] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] EXECUTIVE SESSION ______ EXECUTIVE CALENDAR Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I move to proceed to executive session to consider Calendar No. 52, Robert Lighthizer to be United States Trade Representative. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on agreeing to the motion. The motion was agreed to. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the nomination. The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of Robert Lighthizer, of Florida, to be United States Trade Representative, with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader. Unanimous Consent Request--Authority for Committees to Meet Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I have 13 requests for committees to meet during today's session of the Senate. They include the Armed Services Committee briefing on capabilities to counter Russian influence in cyberspace, a Banking Committee hearing on North Korea, and a Homeland Security Committee hearing on cyber threats facing America. These committees and all the other committees are doing important work; therefore, I ask unanimous consent that the 13 committees be allowed to meet. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? Mr. DURBIN addressed the Chair. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The assistant Democratic leader. Mr. DURBIN. Reserving the right to object, because of the decision last night of the President of the United States to terminate the Director of the FBI and the questions that has raised, we gathered together--the Democratic Senators--on the floor and listened as our leader at least suggested a path for us to follow as an institution facing this constitutional question. We believe it is timely, and as a result of that, I object. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard. The Senator from Washington. Congressional Review Act Resolution Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I come to speak against the Congressional Review Act resolution to overrun an important rule that has been put in place to protect the American taxpayer and to protect the health of American citizens. For almost 100 years, the Federal Government has regulated undue waste in oil and gas fields. The story of oil and gas waste is as old as the story of oil and gas. Early oil gushers, like Spindletop in Texas, revealed two things about oil as an emerging source of energy: First, there was a huge amount of it. Second, without rules in place, it could be easily wasted. That is why, way back in 1915, Attorney General Thomas Gregory issued a report to the public about this issue. Gregory wrote that the law at the time allowed oil companies to ``occupy and operate any number of tracts of public oil land without restraint upon the quantities of oil produced or the methods of production and [[Page S2854]] without rendering to the . . . government anything in return.'' One can imagine that concern. Gregory went on to point out that ``the incentives to speculative occupation, negligent and wasteful operation, and excess production become obvious.'' Some of my colleagues who are not on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee may not be familiar with the law Congress passed after Attorney General Gregory put his finger on the waste problem. The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 established our modern leasing program for oil and natural gas. More than anything else, the leasing act enshrined the principle that the public should benefit from mineral production on public lands. This seems like a no-brainer today, but it took over a decade of debate to pass the leasing act. One of the main parts of the leasing act was a requirement to avoid wasting oil and gas. There are many environmental reasons to avoid wasting this resource, but let's be clear: It was dollar signs that led to the waste provision. Overproduction would glut the market and damage the oil reserves, and wasted oil provided no return to the owners--the taxpayers. The leasing act is still the law, and the law says that oil and gas operators must ``use all reasonable precautions to prevent waste of oil or gas developed in the land.'' The law says that Federal leases must include ``a provision that such rules . . . for the prevention of undue waste as may be prescribed by [the] Secretary shall be observed.'' The BLM's methane rule is entirely in keeping with that history. The rule says that the outdated 1979 version of this rule needed to be updated. The rule was put in place before the fracking took place that revolutionized the industry, before the shale plays opened, and before infrared imaging became commonplace. What has not changed since 1920 is that oil and gas companies cannot waste public resources on public lands. When equipment is leaky or old, oil and gas producers vent natural gas directly to the sky. If they do capture the gas but have nowhere to send it, the gas just gets burned on site. This venting and flaring causes a big problem. This photograph shows that actual problem happening. I am sure there are many citizens across the United States who have witnessed this and have been concerned about what pollutants might be entering the atmosphere. The hazardous health impacts of this are tremendous--benzene, which causes cancer--and I will talk more about that in a minute. The amount of venting that is happening is enough gas to supply 6.2 million American households for a year. According to more recent research, even higher estimates are coming in. That is enough gas to supply every home in the interior West--Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico--with gas left over for the Dakotas. Every home. The amount of gas we waste every single year on Federal lands would be enough to supply Tennessee forever, and there could be some left over for West Virginia. On Federal lands, operators have more than doubled how much gas they have flared and wasted between 2009 and today, and that is the practice we are trying to stop. Under the old 1979 rule, operators had to apply to BLM every time they wanted to vent or flare. In practice, BLM, because they did not have a new rule in place, basically just had a ``yes'' or ``no'' answer. In 2014, the Bureau of Land Management received 25 times more applications to vent or flare than in 2005. What was happening was that we as a Federal Government were failing in our responding and updating the act to make sure producers were living up to the intent of that earlier law, so government watchdogs got on the issue and started calling for a solution. The Government Accountability Office and the Interior Department's inspector general concluded that the Bureau of Land Management needed to change these rules. The Government Accountability Office concluded in 2010 that about 40 percent of wasted natural gas on Federal leases could be economically captured with existing technology. Some States had already taken action into their own hands. In Colorado, the State passed a strong venting and leak detection regulation, which really became the model for the national Bureau of Land Management, and oil and gas production has since increased. There was a notion that in making sure that waste was not promulgated--that it somehow was going to slow down the industry, but it has been just the opposite. In fact, some of my colleagues and some ranchers and others in these areas have talked about how the United States should lead the way on new technology to stop the leakage and to prevent these flarings as a way for the industry to show technology leadership. Also, in North Dakota, a Republican administration passed flaring restrictions after years of there being uncontrolled flaring in the Bakken. States took action, and various watchdog groups and investigators here in Washington said the Bureau of Land Management needed to act. The BLM finally acted, and its final rule is similar to the North Dakota approach. So States have already been leaders on this methane issue. But this patchwork of State rules is not what we need; we need a Federal baseline. It is bad enough that wasted natural gas will never have an economic use. Making the issue worse is that every cubic foot that is vented or flared is another cubic foot we have to produce somewhere else. What does that mean for our wallets? Research by ICF International shows that $330 million of natural gas is wasted intentionally on Federal lands every year. Over time, the public is losing billions of dollars. Over a decade, the lost royalties that have been calculated by the Government Accountability Office on wasted gas will add up to $230 million. While the final amount, of course, depends on the price of natural gas, we cannot afford to give up this revenue. A vote for disapproving the resolution will let the oil and gas industry roll back the clock to 1979. This resolution lets people continue avoiding giving the taxpayers their fair share. It is another example of special interests trumping the public interest. Even worse than the taxpayer issue, though, is that wasted natural gas harms public health. That is why those States took action. One of the most prevailing problems on this issue is in the Four Corners States, and my colleague from New Mexico will be talking about this shortly. When one looks at the entire United States on a map that shows the amount of waste of flaring, one can see all of this yellow coloring in the Midwest--in Ohio--and in other States, but one can see the hotspot in the Four Corners area. The Four Corners States have tried to take action--places like Colorado and New Mexico, with, obviously, Arizona and Utah being affected--because wasted natural gas basically releases a volatile organic compound. It creates ozone and smog. It also can make people sick. This pollution worsens asthma, emphysema, and increases the risk of premature death. It releases toxins, like benzene, that cause cancer. And the methane, the main constituent of the natural gas, is 25 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. That is why a recent analysis by the Clean Air Task Force found that over 9 million people are exposed to these dangerous levels of air pollution from oil and gas production. That is why my colleague Senator Bennet of Colorado has been such an outspoken advocate of keeping this rule in place. It is because that corner of Colorado has faced so many impacts that they want to make sure their citizens are protected. With the rolling back of this Federal rule, basically what one would be saying is that it is OK to continue this level of pollution--an anathema to what the people of Colorado have been asking for. Oil and gas pollution can make rural areas seem like the middle of a city. A few years ago, NASA scientists discovered a massive cloud of methane over the Four Corners region. This is the highest concentration of methane in the Nation. After aerial surveys, NASA found that over half of the methane is from natural gas equipment, including tanks, wells, pipelines, and processing plants. The ozone pollution in the Four Corners is almost as bad on some days as in the city of Los Angeles--a city with 300 times as many people. [[Page S2855]] As bad as methane waste is on Federal land, this rule only targets 10 percent of that wasted by the oil and gas industry because we are targeting Federal land. It only affects a small minority of the oil and gas production. Ninety-five percent of that production is in other areas. But this rule is important to put in place because we cannot ignore the impacts on pollution, and we cannot ignore the costs to our Federal lands. The Bureau of Land Management compared the costs and benefits of this rule without factoring in the reductions in ozone, particulate matter, or smog, and the BLM ignored the value of reducing carcinogens. We know that this particular conservative analysis shows a net benefit of between $46 million and $204 million each year. This makes economic sense to implement. Under the very obsolete 1979 regulation that the methane rule replaces, oil and gas operators had to apply to the BLM whenever they wanted to vent or flare natural gas. The old rules also had no specific equipment requirements in place. As I said earlier, the world has changed dramatically since 1979 when it comes to oil and gas production. The new rule takes commonsense approaches to stepping up our attempts to reduce this waste and prohibit the venting, except in emergencies and in some circumstances. They estimate that it will cut the venting by 35 percent. It also sets capture targets for flaring, allowing operators flexibility on how to meet those targets. The BLM estimates they will reduce flaring by 49 percent. The rule requires operators to inspect their wells and their equipment. People may have heard unbelievable stories from California about a huge methane leakage that caused unbelievable amounts of damage. We know that we want the best equipment, that we want the best detection, and that we want a strong rule in place to stop wasting this natural gas, give the taxpayers a fair deal, and protect the American people from harmful levels of pollution. That is why we want this rule to stay in place. With America's increased natural gas production, now is not the time to take a very solid rule off the books--a rule that protects the American people. The technology to conduct these inspections already exists. Infrared imaging and other technology has been sold commercially for decades. What we are really saying is that people just do not want to spend the money to implement them. Fourth, the rule requires operators to replace leaky equipment, like the pneumatic controllers and pumps, and it is trying to make sure that we eliminate the methane waste. So the final rule is in step with what the Government Accountability Office told us 7 years ago--that about 40 percent of the waste can be captured economically. BLM took those best practices and State examples, as I mentioned, including North Dakota and Colorado, and implemented a new rule. It includes Colorado's venting and inspection and retrofitting requirements, and regulation 7. It includes North Dakota's capture targets for flared gas in it, and it includes Wyoming's venting and inspection requirements in the Upper Green River Basin. Not only did the Bureau of Land Management adopt the best practices of States, but it also included a variance provision in the final rule. Any State or Tribe with equally effective regulation in place can minimize their methane waste and can apply for a variance from the Department of the Interior. There is a lot of flexibility there, I would say, for States that are trying to lead the way. But based on this careful approach, the final rule and its benefits are estimated, as I said earlier, to be $204 million a year. So the public in these States that are most affected certainly want this rule. As more Americans understand the level of natural gas production and the wasteful venting that continues to take place, they want this rule in place as well. Passing the resolution just after a few hours of debate and trying to undermine this rule would go against the 330,000 public comments that were collected during the process of establishing this rule. So we certainly don't want to overturn what was a very long and elaborate process to put this very important rule in place. Proposing more waste is not going to solve our economic challenges. Proposing more pollution is not a solution. We know that in the most recent annual poll by Colorado College, western voters said that 81 percent of them supported making sure that the Bureau of Land Management had strong methane rules. My colleagues appear not to understand how much the public wants to get this implemented. I hope my colleagues will continue to support the effort to turn down the Congressional Review Act resolution and instead keep this very, very important public health and economic taxpayer solution on the books. As Mark Boling, an executive with Southwestern Energy, a major natural gas producer, said, this resolution and trying to turn back the rule is ``a huge mistake.'' He pointed out that it could have ``unintended consequences for oil and gas technology.'' So I want to make sure this rule stays in place. Let's keep a strong rule on the books, as I said, for the health of the American people and to make sure that taxpayers get a fair deal with these companies that are producing on Federal lands. I thank the Chair. I yield to my colleague from New Mexico, who has been outspoken on this issue in making sure that Congress addresses the flaring and leakage of natural gas. The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Young). The Senator from New Mexico. Mr. UDALL. Mr. President, if I sound a little hoarse, it is because my allergies are acting up, but I feel just fine. Let me start out by thanking Senator Cantwell. Her leadership on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee is pretty incredible. For this Congress, I think this is the very first CRA that has been turned down. We have been voting on many of them since the Congress came back in session in January. This is the very first victory we have had on denying the CRA. When we talk about what a CRA does, it is a very blunt instrument that has only been used once until this Congress, and what it does is just blow out an entire area of the law. So if you talk about this BLM methane rule and you have a part of the law that says the government shall try to prevent waste, well, if you blow that provision of the law out, the agency can do nothing until we get to the point that the Congress acts again, and sometimes we move very slowly. So I really appreciate the leadership of Senator Cantwell, and I want to thank her so much and all of the members of her committee, in particular, Senator Heinrich. Senator Heinrich serves on that committee and has been very outspoken on this rule, and I believe his leadership has always been acknowledged by Senator Cantwell as well. This issue that we are debating and that we had this good vote on is about three things. First of all, it is about the waste of a natural resource that the public and the Tribes own. Let's talk about the resource here for a second. We are talking about, to start with, natural gas. So when we think of natural gas, as many people know, what we are talking about is when you turn on your stove, and it is a natural gas stove, that is how we cook our food. Many houses run and heat on natural gas, and we know now that many of our powerplants are converting over to natural gas because it is a very good fuel in terms of lowering carbon emissions. So natural gas is a big part of our energy economy. It is actually going up as coal is going down. Look at this photograph which shows more than $330 million of natural gas wasted. This just shows us the huge power of natural gas. What was happening is that natural gas was being flared. This depicts the top at one of these oil and gas operations. They are just burning that up. So rather than that energy being used at home or used in industry, it is just being wasted. On top of that, we know it has a massive climate impact. This was a very commonsense rule. I think the thing people should understand is that several Western States, including Colorado and Wyoming, passed an almost identical rule to deal with this issue. All BLM tried to do was to use that common sense from the West, where it had already happened in several States, and put it in place for [[Page S2856]] the Nation. So this is a good, solid rule, and it is a commonsense rule, and I think it prevents waste, just like it was laid out to do. The second point is that when we talk about this issue, it is about job creation. What we are talking about here is, when you have this kind of waste, how do you prevent the waste? Well, the thing we have seen in New Mexico that occurs is that many of these oil and gas industries reach out to people who maybe haven't been in business, and they say: How do we prevent this waste? Well, actually, we use infrared to focus on the oil and gas operations and all of their pipes, and we can detect the natural gas waste, and then we can go about actually fixing it at all the various fittings and places where that happens. Guess what. A lot of jobs are created in that process. This is growing in New Mexico, growing in Colorado, and with this rule in place, over time, it is going to continue to grow. So this is going to create some small businesses. It has already created small businesses, and it is going to be pretty dramatic on that front. The third thing that we are here about has to do with public health. Obviously, if you are venting all of this--and as Senator Cantwell showed, you have a methane cloud the size of Delaware over the Four Corners area; so it is really impacting New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona--what is the impact in terms of methane? Well, we know there are serious public health impacts. We know that asthma is impacted by this, as well as other respiratory diseases--the kinds of things that occur on a regular basis as we have that kind of methane pollution that goes into the air. As I mentioned just a little bit earlier, methane is a very, very powerful and potent greenhouse gas. So we know that by releasing it--the flaring that we talked about--we are wasting it and we are putting that methane into the atmosphere. We are also adding to the greenhouse gases, which are warming the planet and creating, in the Southwest, as we know, catastrophic forest fires, extreme weather events, impacts on water, and impacts on agriculture. So we know that it is here now and that the Western States are in the bull's-eye. So let me just say that these are three commonsense things that we have done today by asserting this rule. We are preventing waste, we are moving job creation, and we are acting on the part of public health. When we have a victory like this, there are just so many people that should be congratulated--people that pulled together. First of all, just to start, Senator Cantwell just finished, and she is our ranking member on the committee. Senator Bennet, I think, was actually the 51st, and I hope he tweeted that out. When he came over, we were at 50, and it went to 51. So he and all of the Democrats hung together on this--every single one of the Democrats. It just shows that when we get Democratic unity--and with our Independents--we come right up on about 48 votes. If we get a couple of Republicans--if we work in a bipartisan way--to come with us, we can have a big impact. Who are the Republicans who voted with us? They should be called out and congratulated for having courage, for having common sense, and for stepping forward. I would just like to say about my three friends on the Republican side-- Senator McCain, Senator Collins, and Senator Graham--thank you so much for stepping forward and seeing the commonsense nature of this issue and standing to make sure that we didn't head in the wrong direction on this. Thinking a little bit about some of the groups that voted with us and worked with us and helped us and advised us out in the field, the groups that stood with us shoulder to shoulder include the Environmental Defense Fund, the Wilderness Society, and the Ceres business group. We had a lot of businesses--understanding that this is a business issue and a job creator--like Taxpayers for Common Sense. We don't always see them weigh in on regulations like this. The Center for Methane Emissions Solutions, and so many environmental and public health groups, including Earth Justice, the National Parks Association, the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, and many, many others, including the Western Environmental Law Center, are also a part of that. I thought we should talk for a second about--in addition to all of those groups--some other groups that joined us, and they are these medical and public health groups that abhor natural gas waste. Look at all of these groups in addition to the ones I mentioned. These are people who have real expertise in public health: Allergy & Asthma Network, American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, Center for Climate Change and Health, and Physicians for Social Responsibility. I have always been impressed by that group. Here you have docs who are stepping up, wanting to be socially responsible on things. There are many wonderful physicians like that in New Mexico and across the Nation, and they have organized themselves as PSR. We also have the Public Health Institute and the National Medical Association. So we have a lot of these medical and public health groups that have stepped forward and said: We are not going to waste natural gas. Let me thank them. Also, the Western Environmental Law Center, which is in New Mexico and works on this issue, has been a pretty incredible group, hard- working, headed up by a gentleman by the name of Doug Meiklejohn, and Doug really makes a difference on all of these issues in New Mexico and, in particular, really helped us out here. I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of the groups that have pulled together--groups of ranchers, Tribes, and public health groups. We just talked about the public health groups. But there is one rancher in New Mexico whose sole focus has been this issue. His name is Don Schreiber. He appeared at a press conference yesterday here in Washington with Senator Bennet and Senator Cantwell. I was at my own press conference, and more or less as a Senator there, speaking out on methane. I know if Don is ever at a press conference, he is going to say what I would have said on this methane issue, which is that we have to prevent waste. Don Schreiber is his name. He is a rancher from Northwestern New Mexico. He is actually up under that methane cloud, and he talks about his family and his ranching operation and what the impact is. We also have Tribes in that area. I want to congratulate and thank President Begaye of the Navajo Nation. He sent in a very persuasive statement and made a very strong statement against wasting natural gas. We also had the Western Organization of Resource Councils. This is another group that has been very active in the West. They stepped forward on this natural gas waste issue, and we are incredibly thankful to them. Also, we never get anything done around here on the Senate floor without our wonderful staff. I want to thank Jonathan Black, who has worked on this issue for many years. Jonathan actually worked for Senator Bingaman on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, so he brought a lot of that expertise. We have a young man from the office sitting here with me on the floor, Sean MacDougall, helping me with these charts. Sean is a congressional fellow in our office on loan from the Bureau of Land Management, and he has brought a lot of knowledge to the table. Mr. President, to reiterate, I oppose H.J. Res. 36--the Congressional Review Act resolution to disapprove the Bureau of Land Management's methane and waste prevention rule. BLM's rule prevents the unnecessary waste of a public resource and makes sure New Mexicans--and all American taxpayers--get fair value in return for commercial use of that public resource. The rule requires oil and gas facilities operating on public and Indian lands to prevent unnecessary flaring, venting, and leaking of methane. Rigorous analysis shows that the overall benefits to the American public far outweigh the costs, and technology to implement the rule is readily available and cost-effective to industry. The current BLM rules on natural gas waste are over 35 years old, issued in 1979. Federal watchdog agencies have been issuing reports for almost a decade--recommending that the BLM update its rules and prevent waste wherever possible. With new technologies like horizontal drilling, the amount of gas wasted in recent years has increased significantly. From 2009 to 2013, the total [[Page S2857]] amount of natural gas flared on BLM land doubled. We throw the phrase ``common sense'' around a lot these days when we talk about laws or regulations we like, but the BLM's waste prevention rule really is a commonsense rule. Over the past 4 months, Congress has repealed 13 Federal rules using CRA authority. These regulations involved years of work by the agencies and were developed transparently through the public notice and comment process. Congress overturned these rules without public input, hearings, or debate. I understand repeal of ``burdensome'' Federal regulations is a strong rallying cry, and I wholeheartedly agree that Federal regulations should not be overly burdensome. The BLM's waste prevention rule is good for the American public, and the cost to industry is de minimus. In fact, there is benefit to industry from increased production and the resulting increase in revenues. The BLM's rule is one rule that should not get swept up in the political tide of CRA repeal. Congress has spoken loud and clear that the BLM has an obligation to prevent waste of oil and gas on public and tribal lands starting with the 1920 Mineral Leasing Act. That act--governing leases on BLM lands--requires every lease to contain provisions for ``the prevention of undue waste. . . .'' Federal law obligates the BLM to make sure the public gets a fair return from profits generated by oil and gas leases on public lands. The 1976 Federal Lands Policy and Management Act requires that ``the United States receive fair market value of the use of the public lands and their resources. . . .'' The 1982 Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act obligates these same oil and gas companies to pay the Federal Government ``royalty payments on oil or gas lost or wasted.'' Congress has determined that oil and gas companies extracting resources on public lands can't waste the resource, and, if they do, they must pay fair market value to the American public. Despite Congress's prohibition against waste, tremendous volumes of oil and gas under BLM lease are wasted each year through flaring, venting, and leaks. Operators do not always use best practices when they flare and vent. Some even abuse the practice. As a result, operators vent and flare significant amounts of oil and gas that are economically recoverable. Natural gas is colorless and odorless, so you can't see leaks with the naked eye. Operators do not always use best practices to detect and prevent leaks either, but we now have readily available technology, like infrared cameras, that quickly and easily identify leaks. We don't let leaky pipes in our homes go unattended. For-profit companies shouldn't be given a free pass to let gas leak on public lands. Oil and gas operators under BLM leases reported flaring and venting 462 billion cubic feet of natural gas from 2009 through 2015. That is enough gas to supply over 6.2 million households for one year. That is every household in the States of New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. An independent study by ICF International estimates that, in 2013 alone, 65 billion cubic feet of gas was wasted. That includes over 18 billion cubic feet from tribal lands, with an estimated loss to the American public of $27 million in royalties. The amount of oil and gas waste is rising dramatically. Oil and gas operators report flaring has increased over 1,000 percent between 2009 and 2015. The number of applications to vent or flare royalty free has gone from 50 in 2005 to 622 in 2011 to 1,246 in 2014. The BLM's outdated rules and the loss of royalties caught the attention of the Government Accountability Office years ago. A 2010 GAO report estimated that approximately 128 billion cubic feet of natural gas was vented or flared from Federal leases in 2008 and that approximately 50 billion cubic feet was economically recoverable. That recoverable gas represented $23 million in lost royalties in 1 year. The 2010 GAO report highlighted real world experiences, where operators made money by putting in technologies to recover gas instead of venting or flaring. One large producer in the San Juan Basin installed equipment that reduced venting by 99 percent. That same company reported increased revenues of $5.8 million, from a $1.2 million investment in technology to reduce emissions during well completion. That is money well spent. The San Juan Basin is one of the oldest and most productive gas- producing areas in the United States. It lies in the Four Corners area, where my home State of New Mexico touches Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. That area is home to a methane ``hot spot,'' with the highest concentration of methane in the Nation. In 2010, the GAO pointed out what was obvious, that the BLM's decades-old guidance did not take account of current technology to reduce venting and flaring. The GAO recommended that the BLM update its regulations to address the avoidable loss of gas on public lands. There are other GAO reports, but I will talk about one more. In 2016, the GAO issued a report entitled, ``Interior Could Do More to Account for and Manage Natural Gas Emissions.'' It detailed the BLM's highly inconsistent practices approving royalty-free venting and flaring incidents. Looking at a random sample of operator requests to vent or flare from fiscal year 2014, the GAO found that fully 90 percent had inadequate documentation, but, despite the bad documentation, the BLM approved 70 percent of the requests, almost half of which were for royalty-free venting or flaring. That is a lot of Federal, State, and tribal royalties lost based on incomplete records. The GAO is charged with helping Congress make sure Federal agencies are doing the best job they can for the American public. We should not disregard repeated GAO recommendations--spanning almost a decade--for the BLM to modernize its oil and gas royalty program. If we pass this disapproval, the BLM is foreclosed from updating these rules. In the face of the GAO report after another telling us that the BLM must do better, that would be just irresponsible to taxpayers. Secretary Zinke has been charged to review the BLM rule as part of the President's ``Energy Independence'' Executive order. If, after review, the Secretary concludes that the BLM rule should be modified, the Department of the Interior can proceed to amend the rule through the public rulemaking process, but, when we have been told time and time again that there is unnecessary waste and the BLM rules need updating, Congress should allow the DOI review to go forward and not permanently prevent DOI from considering how to prevent unnecessary waste by oil and gas facilities. Let's not forget that half the royalties from Federal leases go to State treasuries. States use these royalties for schools, roads, and infrastructure projects. My home State of New Mexico has the second highest number of acres under BLM lease in the country, after Wyoming--over 4.6 million acres-- and the second highest number of BLM oil and gas leases--over 8,000. New Mexico has a lot at stake in the BLM's waste prevention rule. ICF International estimates that the natural gas in New Mexico that could have been captured and marketed under the BLM's rule between 2009 and 2013 would have been worth more than $100 million a year and would have produced $43 million in royalty payments for our State. In New Mexico, those royalty payments are used in part for educational materials in the public schools. That is textbooks, digital materials, science supplies, art supplies, and accessible materials for students with disabilities. That $43 million would have gone a long way for New Mexico schoolkids. Many of you may be aware of the methane ``hot spot'' over the Four Corners area that I talked about earlier. The hot spot covers about 2,500 square miles--the size of the State of Delaware. This single cloud comprises nearly 10 percent of all methane emissions from natural gas in the United States. The San Juan Basin is ranked No. 1 in per capita methane pollution in the U.S. Scientists have been researching the sources of this methane plume. When the hot spot was discovered, oil and gas companies claimed the high concentrations were caused by ``natural'' [[Page S2858]] sources, but researchers have found out this is wrong. They have identified 250 sources--the majority of which are oil and gas operations and include gas wells, storage tanks, pipelines, and processing plants. Of the four States, only Colorado has robust rules to prevent methane emissions. Colorado's rules are proving successful, and the BLM incorporated provisions from those rules. It is important for my State that the BLM's waste prevention rule stay on the books. We don't need that methane hot spot in our backyard and New Mexico sorely needs the royalty payments owed. The BLM's rule is also important for tribes. As vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I work to make sure the Federal Government upholds all its trust responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is making sure tribes get the royalties they are entitled to from private oil and gas companies operating on Indian lands. Tribes receive 100 percent of the royalties from the oil and gas leases on their lands. The BLM estimates tribes will get up to $12 million more in royalties over 10 years under the rule. That is money we have a trust responsibility to make sure tribes get. The BLM estimates the rule would reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, by 310,000 tons over 10 years on tribal lands. Reducing VOC emissions means cleaner air for tribes. The Federal Government will not be upholding its trust responsibility if the BLM rule is repealed. I have a statement from the Navajo Nation president, Russell Begaye, detailing the reasons the tribe supports the BLM's rule. President Begaye states, ``It would be contrary to BLM's trust responsibility to allow Navajo Nation resources to be unreasonably wasted, particularly when best practices can be cost-effectively employed and are not overly burdensome to industry.'' A really important cobenefit of the rule is protection of public health. Toxic chemicals like benzene--harmful to the public, carcinogenic--are emitted with methane. Reducing methane emissions will reduce these toxic emissions. Similarly, other VOCs--that contribute to ozone or smog--are emitted with methane. Reducing methane emissions will reduce smog formation. Smog irritates the respiratory system, reduces lung function, and aggravates asthma--among other public health problems. Without the Rule, not only do we lose royalties for hospitals, schools, and roads, but citizens pay more for their hospital visits and healthcare. Industry arguments against the rule do not hold up. Industry argues the rule costs too much and will kill jobs. That is not true. Here are the facts. First, the rule will result in increased production and increased revenues, and the technologies and practices to prevent waste are economically feasible. In fact, many oil and gas operations will see a net benefit. Like the company in the San Juan Basin that got almost a fivefold return on its investment. The BLM conducted an exhaustive cost-benefit analysis of the rule. Looking at the average cost to a company to implement the rule, the BLM found that profits would be reduced by only 0.15 percent, a bit over one-tenth of 1 percent. That is minimal. That cost does not even count the savings to industry from increased production and increased revenues. In fact, the BLM found that net economic benefits to industry could be as much as $47 million per year--taking into account the savings from increased revenues. If the benefits of reducing methane are included, the overall net benefit is huge--up to $204 million annually. That number does not even count the public health benefits from reduced ozone and hazardous pollutants. Opponents have exaggerated the costs to industry, and they have not taken into account the benefits to States, tribes, and the public. Finally, there is no evidence anywhere that the rule will cost even one job. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has recorded 2,700 new jobs since November 2016, while the price of oil has stayed flat. This month, the Baker Hughes rig count showed 300 more rigs drilling for oil and gas since the BLM rule came into effect. This is an increase in production of over 50 percent. Colorado issued the most comprehensive rules to date to decrease methane emissions, and not only have no jobs been lost, but jobs have been gained as new companies and technologies focused on inspection, monitoring, and compliance have opened. These are good American jobs. In New Mexico, we have at least 11 new companies in the methane mitigation business, and I want to see that number grow. Even if the rule were to force an operator to shut down, that company would be eligible for exemption from the requirements. So job loss is not an issue. Second, we hear that the BLM's rule is duplicative and unnecessary, that the EPA's methane rule is adequate, and that States are already regulating methane. Here are the facts. The EPA's rule only applies to new and modified oil and gas operations. The BLM's rule applies also to existing facilities. This is a big difference between the rules. Making sure all current operations prevent waste is critical to making sure taxpayers get the benefit owed. The BLM's rule covers areas not covered by other Federal or State rules, like wasteful routine flaring. Not all States have passed methane waste prevention rules. My home State of New Mexico has not. New Mexico needs to reduce methane emissions. Also, States and tribes may get a variance if they have similar rules that achieve the same results. The BLM worked with the EPA and States to ensure the rule works for them and does not impose conflicting or redundant requirements. Just last week, the EPA announced a 90-day delay on its own methane control rule based on industry's objections to regulation. More concerning, the EPA withdrew its information request from industry that was intended to help EPA determine how to address methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources. These EPA actions mean the BLM rule is needed more than ever to reduce natural gas waste and the proper collection of royalties. Third, we hear that the BLM lacks the authority to regulate methane waste. In January of this year, the U.S. District Court of Wyoming denied a preliminary injunction to block the rule. The court found that the rule ``unambiguously'' was within the BLM's authority. The Congressional Review Act is a blunt tool, and it is the wrong tool for Congress to use to change provisions in BLM's methane waste prevention rule. Disapproval under the CRA would permanently block the BLM's authority to reform outdated rules, reforms that the GAO began recommending almost a decade ago. The BLM should not be prevented from making sure the Federal Government meets its obligations to States, tribes, and taxpayers--the obligation not to waste public resources and to make sure the public gets a fair return on the for-profit use of public resources. For these reasons, I oppose the CRA to disapprove the BLM's waste prevention rule. Just as a final word to summarize why we are here and why this victory was so important and why we need to hang tough on this: This could be changed if they decide to do another vote or if they try to do another piece of legislation or something. The core of this needs to be protected. We are here because we don't want to waste our natural resources, which belong to the people of America and belong to the Tribes. We want to create jobs, which is what this BLM methane waste prevention rule does. It creates jobs, and it protects the public health. I believe we are going to have a couple other speakers. I know Senator Heinrich is going to be here. Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll. The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll. Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. [[Page S2859]] The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in morning business. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. Authority for Committees to Meet Request Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, all of us, every Member of the U.S. Senate, all 100 of us, whether we are Republicans or Democrats, want the U.S. Senate to function. We ought to want the Senate to be able to accomplish its work. It is a challenge all the time but learning what transpired this morning on the Senate floor, in my view, reaches another low for the Senate. It is hard to explain, but it takes unanimous consent for committees to meet while the Senate is in session, and that is a request that is made on an ongoing basis when the Senate convenes, and it happened again this morning. Almost without exception, it is routine. The rules require that 2 hours after the Senate convenes, no committee can then meet unless there is agreement. So the majority leader today requested that the unanimous consent be granted, just like in almost every other day in the Senate, but what was different today was an objection was raised by the minority whip, and apparently the explanation is it is because of the firing of the Director of the FBI last night. Now, how the Senate is functioning or not functioning seems to me to be unrelated to what transpired last night relating to the Director of the FBI. So in this place, where we are trying to do the people's work and make decisions and do good for America, the spillover over partisan politics, the spillover about playing a political game, highlighting a point has now caused the Senate to not be able to conduct hearings today. In fact, the minority Members of the Senate were instructed, requested, on their own volition--all left the hearings that were already being conducted this morning in protest over what transpired last night. I am of a view that this is a diverse country. I am of a view that people of the U.S. Senate represent folks from across the country with different philosophies, different political parties, different people, different backgrounds. We all bring to the Senate a set of characteristics that are different, one from another, but I have great regard and respect for every Senator's point of view, and I would say that every Senator ought to have the ability to express their views on behalf of their constituents, but we can only do that if we allow the Senate to function. I was on the Senate floor not long ago praising the fact that we finally were successful in the appropriations process; that we passed the fiscal year 2017 appropriations bill. For too long, the appropriations process has been broken down, and we have conducted business in the United States by continuing resolution. I thought we were back on a path in which there was enough agreement, respect among Members, enough setting aside of partisan differences to actually accomplish legislation. I was pleased that we did that, but today we fall back into the pattern of when something happens we want to make a political point. We then obstruct the ability of others in the Senate to conduct their work, to express their opinion, to gather the information they need. This came to my attention--what transpired today--because this afternoon at 2:30 was scheduled a hearing by the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. That hearing has absolutely nothing to do with the FBI. We have the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs scheduled to testify about the Department's plan for modifications to a program called Choice that is important to me, my constituents, and to the veterans of Kansas. I was so pleased the hearing had been scheduled, and I was looking forward to the questioning and having a conversation with the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs about how to make this system of Choice work for veterans who live in Kansas, from the rural side of our State to the suburban and urban side of our State, but because of a pique of anger, political posturing, and partisanship, the hearing is apparently no longer able to take place. The hearing this morning, which could only last for an hour and a half and which I guess the minority members walked out--seemed to me, at least sounded like, to be things that would be very important for us to pursue. The Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities was to have a closed briefing this morning. The Homeland Security Committee was to examine cyber threats facing America, focusing on an overview of the cyber threat landscape. The list is significant in the things that we ought to be paying attention to, and yet, because of an objection, those hearings will not take place or were shortened or disrupted by only one party's participation. I am not here trying to create further partisanship between Republicans and Democrats. I am here trying to remind ourselves that there is value in allowing cooperation between the minority and majority, not for our own benefits but for the benefit of the country and the citizens we represent. Everything does not have to be partisan. Everything does not have to be political. Today we see the Senate sliding back into the habit of making things that we have really nothing to do with and weren't the cause of taking place--apparently to make a political point and perhaps to score votes for support in a political way. We ought to all, as U.S. Senators, respect the opinions, values, and the positions of others, but we do that in a setting in which we all come together, not in which we cancel meetings as a result of a political statement. I appreciate the opportunity to express my concerns about what has transpired and to ask for us to go back to the time in which we worked together on a daily basis and we don't use an excuse to shut down the committee hearing process. With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll. The assistant bill clerk proceeded to call the roll. Mr. KING. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. American Health Care Act Mr. KING. Mr. President, I rise to speak briefly about the American Health Care Act that was passed last week in the House of Representatives. I thought a lot about this bill over the past few days and over the weekend. I talked to friends, I read about it, and I did as much analysis as I possibly could, given the fact that we don't have a Congressional Budget Office analysis of this complicated and important piece of legislation. I have concluded that it is the most ill-conceived, damaging, and downright cruel piece of legislation that I have ever seen a legislative body pass in my adult life. It drastically cuts support for Americans' ability to obtain health insurance. In Maine--again, as near as we can tell, because we don't have the final analysis--the preliminary numbers are this. Maine, under the Affordable Care Act, through the payments to individuals and other support, is receiving about $354 million a year coming via the Affordable Care Act. After this bill, it appears that the number is $80 million a year--$364 million to $80 million. That is almost an 80- percent cut. No one can tell me the people of Maine are going to have better healthcare with an 80-percent cut in the funds going to support their ability to do so. It just doesn't make sense. The way this bill works is, it is a tax on the elderly. Under the Affordable Care Act, there is a rule that policies for older people, 50, 55, 60, cannot exceed three times the rate of policies for younger people. We all know that younger people's policies do in fact cost somewhat less because they tend to be healthier, but the rule was no more than 3 to 1. Under the bill that was passed by the House last week, it is now 5 to 1. That is an elder tax, and Maine happens to be the most elder State in the United States. If they had taken a blank sheet of paper and said: We want to write a bill to harm the people of Maine, it would have been this bill. There also is a massive cut to Medicaid--$880 billion--and the sponsors to this bill claim that they are helping the deficit. How are they doing it? By [[Page S2860]] shifting the cost to the States--shift and shaft. Balancing the Federal budget by simply taking costs that are now borne by the Federal Government and passing them off to the States is not responsible fiscal policy. Why don't we just have the States fund the U.S. Air Force? That would save us billions of dollars a year--probably $100 billion a year. Shift that to the States--and $880 billion shifted to the States. Then there is what I call the figleaf--the preexisting condition provision which talks about the Maine plan, which was a plan that preceded the Affordable Care Act, which did give protection for preexisting conditions, but it was adequately funded. It cost about $64 million a year to fund our preexisting plan. Again, because we don't have the precise figures--but it looks like under this new bill, that $64 million would be $20 million, one-third as much, a two-thirds reduction. It is not a real preexisting condition plan; it is a figleaf. It is to say to people: We are covering preexisting conditions--nonsense, not true. Of course, the final piece of this bill is a massive tax cut for the top one-tenth of 1 percent of people in this country. They will not even notice it, but the people who lose their healthcare will notice. Now, under the Affordable Care Act, there is a list of essential benefits which includes mental health and substance abuse. That is a big deal. That allows and assures people to have coverage for these very damaging and dangerous, in the case of substance abuse, conditions. Under this bill that passed in the House, States can waive those provisions and the waiver is very easy. The standards for the waiver are very easy, and if the Federal department doesn't respond in 60 days, the waiver is automatically provided. In those States when they have a waiver, mental health and substance abuse services could be covered under a specialized plan which would be very expensive. By the way, this waiver covers both the individual market and employer-based coverage. How many people will be impacted? We do not know because we do not have an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. I want to talk for the remainder of my time about opioids and what this bill would do on that. We are in the midst of a crisis in Maine and across the country. It is the most serious public health crisis in my adult life. In Maine, with regard to substance abuse and overdose deaths, you can see what has happened in the last 5 years. More than one person a day is dying of an overdose. Across the country, it is four an hour. We have turned ourselves inside out in this country in order to deal with the threat of terrorism, for example, which was entirely appropriate. Yet what if we had a terrorist attack that was killing 37,000 people a year across our country, and we were just sort of going along, business as usual? I have been working on this issue since I got to the Senate. I have been meeting with people throughout Maine--in hospitals and in recovery--and meeting with families and parents and law enforcement. The one thing that comes through loud and clear is that treatment works and that we need it and that we do not have enough available beds in Maine and across the country. This is a terrible disease, but the most tragic thing of all is when someone finally reaches the point at which he is ready to ask for help and he is told ``Sorry, there is a 3-week wait'' or ``There is a 3- month wait.'' That is when lives are lost and families are destroyed. Treatment does work. I have met with people for whom it has worked and changed their lives. I have a friend in Portland named Andrew Kiezulas, who I believe is graduating this weekend from the University of Southern Maine. He has been through this. He has been to the bottom, and he is now on the mountaintop. He knows treatment works, and it has made a difference in his life. Without it, he would not be where he is today. Justin Reid, another young man from Southern Maine, was in the throes of addiction and escaped. He now runs a sober house and volunteers for a program with his local police department. Access to treatment is much easier with health insurance and with sufficient Medicaid support. The House bill simply makes it more difficult to access treatment. It penalizes the very people who have taken the hard step to say that this is what they need. Let me tell you a story. Matt Braun is from Cape Elizabeth, ME, right outside of Portland. In 2009 Matt entered treatment for opioid addiction. His parents, who were strong, middle-class, professional people, purchased what they thought was good health insurance for their family. After 5 days of treatment, they received a call that the insurer was not going to pay for any more. We have decided your son only needs 5 days. His parents argued, and the medical staff argued. They finally won. They got 7 days of treatment. Those extra 2 days made a difference. The insurance company said that it was not going to help, that he was going to be a chronically relapsing, drug-addicted person, so they were going to stop at 7 days. They said he would not make it. His parents did not give up. Matt stayed in treatment and has been sober ever since 2009. He is successful. He is getting ready to take the MCAT. He wants to go to medical school. His goal is to approach addiction from the perspective of a health professional and offer care and support to people who are struggling in the way he did. ``It is frustrating how insurance companies dictate what treatment looks like and what a life is worth,'' said Matt. Getting treatment for substance abuse disorder is not easy, but this bill, the American Health Care Act, which is a misnamed bill--it should be the American Take Away Health Care Act--only makes it worse. On top of all of this, the administration has recently indicated that it is talking about essentially dismantling the Office of National Drug Control Policy--the highest level to be working on this problem in a coordinated way in the Federal Government. Here we are, in the midst of the most serious drug crisis in the history of this country, and the administration is talking about gutting the very office that is supposed to lead the fight. It would have been as if, in the middle of World War II, we had abolished the Department of Defense. It makes no sense. It is moving in absolutely the wrong direction. By supporting this healthcare bill--or non-healthcare bill--in the House of Representatives, which will drastically cut Medicaid, drastically cut reimbursements for health insurance, drastically limit the availability of coverage for preexisting conditions--by the way, drug addiction could be one--and drastically eliminate the essential benefits provisions of the Affordable Care Act, we are just making it worse. The Office of National Drug Control Policy has things like the Drug- Free Community Support Program, which administers small grants to small towns. That can make a real difference. Last fall, 18 Maine programs each received $125,000, and the DFC's 2014 national evaluation report said that there was a significant decrease in the 30-day use of prescription drugs for youth in communities with one of these programs. Prevention is one of the things we need to work on, and it is one of the things we need to understand. Yet talking about this problem is not going to solve it. Treatment is going to solve it. Money for treatment is going to solve it. Beds for treatment are going to solve it. Detox centers are going to solve it. More resources to law enforcement are going to solve it. More resources to the Coast Guard, in order to interdict drug shipments coming into this country, are going to solve it. There is no single answer, but at the core is commitment. Passing this bill from the House, which drastically undermines all of those elements of treatment and prevention, and then talking about dismantling the office that has led this fight in the entire Federal Government, is beyond comprehension in the midst of where we are. If this graph were doing this, if it were going down, I would be OK with it. But it is not going down; it is going up. It is getting worse, and we have to deal with it. As we work through this issue of healthcare--hopefully we are going to start with a blank sheet of paper over here--I hope we will bear in mind that one of the most serious health problems in the country today is opioid [[Page S2861]] abuse. This is not all about ideology, and it is not about policy. It is about people. It is about Matt, and it is about Andrew. It is about the thousands and millions of people across this country who are struggling, who want to lead productive lives, and who want to contribute to their communities. All they need is to have that moment when treatment is available, when a helping hand is available, when caring is available to help them escape the throes of this terrible disease and rejoin their communities and their families. That is what we have to keep in front of us as we work here in this body. We can make a difference in people's lives, but in leaving them behind, we will certainly not do so. I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum. The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Ernst). The clerk will call the roll. The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll. Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, what is the parliamentary situation? The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senate is considering the Lighthizer nomination. Mr. LEAHY. I thank the Chair. Firing of James Comey Madam President, I couldn't help but think, with the discussions earlier today, that the President's dismissal of FBI Director James Comey is so inappropriate that it is hard to know where to begin. In less than 4 months, this President has pushed our country to the edge of a constitutional crisis--a crisis that in many ways seems more complex, and potentially more threatening, than the one instigated by President Nixon's order to fire the special prosecutor who was investigating Watergate. First, I think we can easily dismiss President Trump's transparent pretext for dismissing FBI Director Comey. President Trump claims to have removed the FBI Director because of his unfair treatment of Secretary Clinton. This does not pass the laugh test, and we know it is not true. President Trump celebrated Director Comey's mistakes in handling the Clinton email investigation. He encouraged leaks from the FBI. He pressed Director Comey to release more embarrassing evidence. He even praised Director Comey after the Director's misguided letter to Congress last October. Yet, now, the President would have us believe that these same events compelled him to fire the FBI Director more than 6 months after it occurred. This unbelievable claim, if it was not so sad, would be laughable. The truth is that the President removed the sitting FBI Director in the midst of one of the most critical national security investigations in the history of our country and, certainly, one of the most critical in my 42 years in the Senate--a sprawling inquiry that implicates senior officials in the Trump campaign and administration. The press is now reporting that President Trump weighed firing the FBI Director for more than a week, after he became enraged at Director Comey's statements and actions in the Russia investigation. There are even reports that his firing may have been precipitated by grand jury subpoenas issued to associates of President Trump's former National Security Advisor. I have no doubt that we are going to learn more disturbing details as to the President's true motivations. I am willing to bet anything that none of them will be because of the feeling that the FBI was too tough on Secretary Clinton. I am also troubled that Attorney General Sessions played a role in Director Comey's firing. The Attorney General had supposedly recused himself from the Russia investigation--and for good reason: He was a central figure in the Trump campaign that is now under investigation. And he provided false testimony to the Judiciary Committee to hide his own contacts with Russian officials. Having done that, it is beyond inappropriate for him to then recommend the firing of the official overseeing the Russia investigation. I ask: Does anyone really believe that President Trump is interested in getting to the bottom of Russia's interference with our elections? Based on his past performance, does anyone believe the Attorney General is interested in getting to the bottom of Russia's interference with our elections? Does anyone believe that the White House will allow investigators to follow the facts without interference or obstruction at every turn? In fact, a quick review of President Trump's Twitter account, where he does most of his deep thinking, would dispel any such illusions. This is the same White House that interfered with the House Intelligence Committee's investigation--interference so strong that the Republican chairman in the House investigation had to recuse himself. This is the same White House that reportedly sought access to the highly classified FISA Court surveillance order that purportedly authorized surveillance of Trump associates. This is the same White House that demanded the FBI Director and the Department of Justice issue perfunctory statements to clear President Trump's name. Even the President's letter informing FBI Director Comey of his dismissal indicated the President had directly asked the FBI Director whether he was under investigation--three times. That should never happen. No President should be asking such a question. It is stunning, but it should also be informative. It is clear that any credible investigation must take place outside the political chain of command. That is why I and others have said for months that a special counsel must be appointed to lead the Russia investigation. A special counsel, unlike an FBI Director or a Deputy Attorney General, cannot be fired by the President. The American people must have confidence that ours is a government of laws, not of the whim of a President--any President. Frankly, our Nation is at a precipice. There is a counterintelligence investigation into the campaign and administration of a sitting President. There is evidence that that campaign colluded with a foreign government that is an adversary of ours to sway our Presidential election. Now the President has fired the lead investigator, FBI Director Comey, under what any fairminded person would say is absurd and false pretenses. There are several inquiries underway into Russian interference and collusion with Russia in the elections, but the President has fired the head of the only investigation that could bring criminal charges. In fact, it has just been reported that this came just days after Director Comey asked for additional funding for the investigation. None of this is normal--it is something I have never seen in Republican or Democratic administrations--and we cannot treat it as such. President Putin's goal, as we now know, last year was to undermine our democratic institutions, to corrode Americans' trust and faith in government, and to sway the outcome of the election in favor of Donald Trump. If we do not get to the bottom of Russia's interference in our democracy, Putin will be successful. The President appears to be content with that result. But I know, in talking with many Republican Senators as well as Democratic Senators, that they are not content with it. We have to understand, in our great democracy, in the greatest Nation on Earth, that we cannot allow any country to try to interfere in our elections. We know the Russians wanted to do that. We know President Putin wanted to do that. We know he wants to do it in many other countries. I think we owe it, not only to ourselves but all these other countries, to stand up and say: We know what you are trying to do; here is how you tried to do it. America won't stand for it, and we hope none of our democratic allies will. We 100 Senators may disagree on policy matters and we may have supported different candidates last November, but I respect all Senators, and I believe we all agree on the supremacy of the rule of law. No person, no President should be above the supremacy of the rule of law. I believe we fulfill our duty to the country if we stand united in calling for a truly independent investigation. There simply is no avoiding the fact that this cascading situation demands the prompt appointment of an independent special counsel to pick up the pieces of these investigations. How we respond at this moment [[Page S2862]] is a test of our commitment to the separation of powers. It is a test of whether the Senate can truly be the conscience of the Nation, as it should. This is not just a scandal. The President's actions are neither Republican nor Democratic. They are authoritarian. This is an effort to undo the ties that bind our democratic form of government. All of us-- both sides of the aisle--must now put country over party. In my years here, I have worked with both Republican and Democratic Presidents. I have worked with them and supported them, notwithstanding their parties, in what I felt was in the best interest of this country. I feel privileged that Vermont has allowed me to serve long enough to become, as my predecessor was, dean of the Senate. But I have also, in deciding to stay here as a Senator, always had the abiding faith that you can and should be the conscience of the Nation. This great Nation deserves no less. That means we set aside party labels and adopt just one label--United States Senator. With that, let us make sure there is a clear, full, credible, honest investigation of how Russia tried to influence our elections; a full, clear, thorough, honest investigation into if Russia has ties to anybody in our government; and, a full, clear, honest understanding of how we make sure that never happens again, to either Republicans or Democrats. I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll. The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll. Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Perdue). Without objection, it is so ordered. Unanimous Consent Request--Authority for Committee to Meet Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, this afternoon, the Senate Special Committee on Aging is scheduled to hold the second part of a two-part series of hearings that we are holding to explore the impact of isolation and loneliness on the health and well-being of our seniors. The name of our hearing for this afternoon is Aging With Community: Building Connections that Last a Lifetime. In other words, under the first hearing that we had 2 weeks ago, we learned that isolation of our seniors is associated with a greater incidence of depression, diabetes, and heart disease. We also learned that the health risks of prolonged isolation are comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes today. Well, this afternoon is the second part of our investigation of this issue, and we had planned to hear from four experts who were going to tell us how you can build a better sense of community for our seniors, how you can make sure that our seniors are connected to community. I want to indicate that we have four witnesses who, at their own expense, have flown in to participate in this hearing this afternoon. One of them, Lindsay Goldman, is the director of healthy aging from the Center for Health Policy and Programs from Rye Brook, NY. Another is from Dover-Foxcroft, ME. A third is from Spring Grove, PA. The fourth is from Miami, FL. Each of these witnesses was chosen in connection with my staff's consultation with the Democratic staff of the committee. As you can see, they represent the States of New York, Maine, Pennsylvania, and Florida, and they incurred great expense in order to come here. I am very disappointed to learn that, due to issues that are totally outside the purview of the Aging Committee--completely disconnected with this nonpartisan, bipartisan look at an issue that ought to concern all of us--we are going to be prohibited from holding this official hearing this afternoon. I am baffled by this. This has nothing to do with the firing of Jim Comey. It has nothing to do with the Intelligence Committee's ongoing and successful investigation of Russian influence on our investigations. It has nothing to do with the healthcare debate that is roiling this Congress. This is a hearing that has to do with the health and well-being of America's seniors. It is not political in any way, and to ask these four witnesses, who have come from four different States, including the State of the Democratic leader, to go back home and waste all this travel money and not help us better understand how we can deal with an issue that affects the health and well-being of our seniors is just plain wrong. Therefore, Mr. President, I make a request that the Aging Committee be permitted to meet at 2:30 p.m. today for its hearing, Aging With Community: Building Connections that Last a Lifetime. I ask unanimous consent that the committee be allowed to meet. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? The Democratic leader. Mr. SCHUMER. Given that we have no path forward on the horrible and momentous events of last night from the majority, I am constrained to object. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard. Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I see the Democratic leader is rapidly leaving the floor, so he obviously does not want to hear anything more about our hearing, but this makes no sense whatsoever. This is an example of the dysfunction of the Senate. How does it make sense that the Aging Committee, which operates in a completely bipartisan manner, is being prohibited from holding a hearing that is important to our seniors and that has nothing to do with the issues that are in the news today? I just don't understand why we are being prohibited from proceeding to do our work, to do our important jobs on an issue where we have four experts from four different States, including the State of the Democratic leader, including a witness chosen by the ranking member of the committee, and none of that matters. We are being prohibited from holding this hearing. Mr. President, it is a great disappointment to me--and I am sure it is going to be a great disappointment to our witnesses and our committee members--that we are going to have to cancel this hearing for reasons that are totally unrelated to the subject of this hearing. Mr. President, I yield the floor. Seeing no one seeking recognition, I suggest the absence of a quorum. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll. The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll. Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. Firing of James Comey Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I was, to say the least, shocked last night when I heard that President Trump had dismissed FBI Director Comey from his position as the Director of the FBI. To me, this decision by President Trump crossed the line. I have tried to understand what was going through the President's mind at the time he dismissed Mr. Comey. It is clear that he had memorandums written by the Department of Justice that were released at the time, but there is also a clear indication that President Trump had been considering this decision for over a week and that after he had reached the decision to fire Mr. Comey, he needed grounds from the Department of Justice and that that information was supplied to Mr. Trump for his decisionmaking. This was Mr. Trump's decision. At the time he dismissed Mr. Comey, President Trump's associates had been involved in the investigation being done by the Department of Justice. This is a criminal investigation that is being done by the Department of Justice because of Russia's interference that involved Mr. Trump's associates in the U.S. election system. We do not know where that investigation is going--we do not--but we do know now that the President of the United States has compromised the ability of that investigation by firing Mr. Comey. That should not happen in American politics. No one is above the law. The timing of Mr. Comey's firing is extremely suspicious. If the President were really concerned about the FBI Director's conduct in the Hillary Clinton email investigation, why didn't the President fire Director Comey when he took the oath of office in January? It just does not add up. No one is above the law. [[Page S2863]] According to news reports, President Trump was also upset over the amount of media coverage that the FBI Director and the investigations were attracting, and the White House asked DOJ officials to come up with reasons. It is clear to me that the decision to fire Mr. Comey was a personal decision that was reached by President Trump and that it was known by him at the time that it would compromise the investigation that is being done by the Department of Justice. I have been approached by others in their saying that Mr. Comey was not popular with Democrats or Republicans and that he had done things during his term as Director that had upset a lot of us, which is true, but the Director of the FBI has a 10-year term for a reason--a term that is longer than the two terms of the President of the United States. This is not a partisan position. The FBI is not required to be popular with either Democrats or Republicans. What he is required to do is to uphold the law of the land for all Americans, and no one is above the law. That is what we expect from the Director of the FBI. President Trump has compromised the integrity and independence of the FBI. At this point, what can we do? I would suggest, with regard to the criminal investigation that is being done by the Department of Justice, that there is only one course of action that will maintain the credibility of that investigation, which is that it is incumbent upon the Department of Justice to name, as soon as possible, a special prosecutor to take over that role. If that is not done, in my view, it will be difficult to have the confidence of the American people that that investigation is not being directed by those who were supposed to be the subject of that investigation. I think it would also compromise the nomination process of the next Director of the FBI. If we do not have a special counsel named, then there will be so much focus on how that next Director will handle this investigation that we really will not have attention paid to the other responsibilities and talents of that individual to be able to handle the FBI's broad jurisdiction. If that is not resolved--the investigation and the appointment of a special prosecutor--it is difficult to see how we are going to have a truly bipartisan process for maintaining support for the FBI. I urge the Deputy Attorney General to name, as soon as possible, a respected person as an independent prosecutor to take over this investigation. There are deeper concerns than just the President of the United States' hampering a criminal investigation in which associates of his are involved because it also involves a country that is not a friend to the United States. All of this was triggered by Russia's involvement in our democratic election system. We know that Russia was directly engaged in trying to compromise our election system by calling into question the confidence of our system and trying to tilt the scales in favor of one of our candidates. Russia made contact with Americans in order to further its game at bringing down our democratic system of government. This is not unique to the United States. Russia has used similar tactics in other elections of democratic countries. In the Montenegro election, we saw that Montenegrins were voting on their government's accession into NATO and that Russia exported individuals into that country to try to disrupt that election. They were not successful, but they tried. Just recently, in the French election, we saw how Russia got directly involved in trying to help one of the candidates who it believed would help pull France away from the EU and create a vacuum for Russia's influence, but the French voters turned that down. It was not successful, but that does not mean Russia will not continue to try to bring down democratic systems of government. Mr. Trump's casual and consistent dismissal of the facts, as laid out by the entire Intelligence Committee, about Russia's engagement in the United States should set off alarm bells. It cannot be business as usual. Yet, today, President Trump and Secretary Tillerson met with Foreign Minister Lavrov. Today of all days, they decided to meet like nothing has happened, but a lot has happened. Did we see any indication that the purpose of that meeting was to raise our strong objections to Russia's interference in our election system or Russia's compromising Americans to try to help in regard to its campaign against our free election system or Russia's engagement and encroachment into other countries? Did we really hear a commitment by the President of the United States that we would not tolerate that type of behavior by Russia? No. Business as usual. The President wants to establish a friendlier relationship with Russia. Russia has not just tried to bring down free elections systems; they have invaded other countries. We know about the active campaign in Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, the Russian presence in Moldova and Georgia. I met with the Prime Minister of Georgia with Senator Wicker earlier today, and he can tell you firsthand about how their country is trying to deal with the Russian presence in their sovereign country. We all know about Russia's engagement in other parts of the world. Their engagement in Syria is bringing about serious challenges to trying to resolve the crisis in that country. The Russian Government supporting the Assad regime, war crime activities targeting humanitarian convoys, targeting hospitals, the use of chemical weapons--all of that is facilitated by Russia. That is well known, but it might be not as well known that Russia is ambitious in going into many more parts of the world. Russia is now engaged in Afghanistan. We have had one of our longest wars ever in Afghanistan and our commitment to the people of Afghanistan to have a democratic government. So Russia is now engaged with the Taliban, trying to upset our ability to bring all of the parties together in unity in the government. That, to me, is totally counter to history. We know about Russia's presence in Afghanistan. Does anyone believe Russia is really sincere in maintaining peace in that country? Then we see Russia's fingerprints in Yemen, trying to get a naval base on the Yemeni coast, showing no concern for the humanitarian crisis that has been created in that country. We see Russia's presence in Libya, supporting General Haftar, who has committed his own human rights violations and war crimes and has disrupted the Government of National Accord, which is our best chance for peace in Libya. We see Russia's presence in Nicaragua, sending troops and equipment to that country and now building a major compound that many believe is being built to spy on the U.S. compound. That is Russia. So to President Trump: It is not business as usual with Russia. There is a reason we need an independent commission to investigate what Russia was doing in the United States because Russia is trying to create space where they can expand their influence, and expanding their influence is for values that are just the opposite of ours--a corrupt government, no respect for human rights, no respect for democratic institutions, and opposition to a free press. That is what Russia is trying to expand. We know that in their involvement in the United States, they are trying to find a way to expand that opportunity. So it is for all of those reasons it cannot be business as usual, and when the President of the United States interferes with a criminal investigation that was precipitated by Russia's engagement in the United States, every American should be alarmed. Every American should be asking what we can do to make sure we have an independent review so we can take steps to protect our national security. It is not acceptable for the Senate to say business as usual. We need to come together and facilitate the independent review of potential criminal involvement of Americans in facilitating the Russians and what they were doing, and we need to have an independent review of all of what Russia was doing in this country so we can take the necessary steps to protect our national security. Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll. The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll. [[Page S2864]] Mr. DAINES. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cotton). Without objection, it is so ordered. Mr. DAINES. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to display water samples from the State of Montana on the Senate floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? Without objection, it is so ordered. Unanimous Consent Request--Authority for Committee to Meet Mr. DAINES. Mr. President, today our friends across the aisle have decided to hold up Senate committee meetings. Because the Democrats object to the dismissal of James Comey from the FBI, they have chosen to play politics and prevent scheduled hearings from occurring. That means everyone who has taken time to fly to Washington, DC, to testify before Congress--per our request--and update us on important issues that face the Nation will not be heard. One of those scheduled hearings is in the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power, of which I am a member. This hearing was going to investigate the Dry-Redwater and the Musselshell- Judith Rural Water Systems. This is a critically important issue to Montana. This hearing was going to focus on water from Circle, MT. These are water samples from different families in the Circle, MT, area. This is from the Arensons' tap. This yellow-tinted water here is from the Goods' tap. This cloudy sample here is from the Hances' tap. These are all from Circle, MT. This is from the Carlsons' tap. You probably can't see it--perhaps on camera and on the floor--but there is particulate in here, floating, something you wouldn't want to drink. This is water from the Rosaaens' tap. These samples all came from a small town in Eastern Montana, Circle, MT, and the image here to my left is from Roundup, MT. This unacceptable, unclean tap water is in the homes of Montanans and North Dakotans right now as we speak. The mayor of Harlowton, MT, a town of about 1,000 in rural central Montana, is here today to testify. I met with him just yesterday. He came to our Montana coffee this morning. He spent over $1,000 on a flight. He spent almost $600 on hotel accommodations, not to mention the cost of other incidentals. Now the Democrats will not let him speak. Why? As the chairman of the Senate Western Caucus, it is shameful--as other witnesses have flown and spent thousands of dollars--to prevent improving water quality in our States. The Arizona witness, for example, spent $2,400 and 3 days out of the office to come back and testify today. The North Dakota witness spent $1,300. Yes, the FBI needs to regain the trust of the American people. In fact, Senator Schumer on November 2 said: ``I do not have confidence in [Comey] any longer,'' and on that very same day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said: ``Maybe he's not in the right job.'' But this water, as we can see these samples in front of me, has nothing to do with the FBI. There are over 36,000 Americans spread across Montana and North Dakota without access to clean water. If the mayor of Flint, MI, flew here to testify about the quality and challenges facing their water system, no one would have blocked that hearing. Frankly, this is just another sign of the marginalization of rural Montana and rural America. I was sent here to fight for rural Montana, to stand for rural America, and that is what I will continue to do. This hearing needs to happen today. Mr. President, I have a request for the Energy Committee to meet at 2:30 p.m. today. I ask unanimous consent that the committee be allowed to meet. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? The Senator from Hawaii. Ms. HIRONO. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, these are not usual times. Representing the State of Hawaii, of course, we care about clean water. So with all due respect to my colleague from Montana, we understand the importance of this issue to the people of his State. However, as I said, these are very unusual times, and, on the President's decision to fire Director James Comey in this manner, under this pretext, and at this time, it is also a total disservice to the American people. This attempt, intended to derail and disrupt the FBI's ongoing investigation into Russia's attempt to disrupt or interfere with our democracy and the Trump team's ties to those attempts, should be a matter of national concern, not a Republican or Democratic concern. We need a bipartisan call for a special prosecutor who will conduct an impartial, thorough investigation, untainted by political consideration. Therefore, I object. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard. Mr. DAINES. Mr. President, if I could respond to my colleague from Hawaii. The folks who have been derailed today are the men and women who have traveled thousands of miles to be here from very small communities across our country. They have taken time away from work and their families to be here to show our committees what is going on in rural America and the unacceptable quality of water. Water is a basic need. We have water samples here that I think would be shocking to most Members in this body. I am just saddened to see that Democrats are going to derail these hearings this afternoon. Yes, let's have a fight about the FBI and the firing of Comey. We can have a good-spirited debate about that. But why are we preventing these folks from rural America, who have traveled thousands of miles, to testify today at our request. I yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from North Dakota. Unanimous Consent Request--Authority for Committee to Meet Mr. HOEVEN. Mr. President, I have a request for the Indians Affairs Committee to meet today at 2:30 p.m. First, we have a markup in the Indian Affairs Committee. The two bills we are marking up are Democrat-sponsored bills. The first one is Senator Tester's bill, from the State of Montana, which would provide support for Native languages. I guess the summary is that it would support the education of Indian children. I believe it relates to Native languages in that educational capacity. So that is one of the bills, Senator Tester's bill. The other bill we are marking up is Senator Tim Kaine's bill, also a Democrat-sponsored bill. The short narrative I have is this: To extend Federal recognition to the Chickahominy Indian Tribe, the Chicahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi Tribe, the Rappahonnock Tribe, the Monacan Indian Nation, and the Nansemond Indian Tribe. The reason that is significant, that is something that both Senator Kaine and Senator Warner--both Senators from Virginia--have been working on for some time. The reason it is timely is that they have Pocahontas's birthday celebration coming up, which I think is going to be a large celebration in the Commonwealth of Virginia. They were hoping to have these Tribes recognized before this birthday celebration for Pocahontas. It is a timely issue. Obviously, we can't advance the bill to the Senate floor unless we mark it up. At the request of those two Democratic Senators from the Commonwealth of Virginia, we are scheduled to mark up those bills and get them to the floor and try to do it in a timely way because of the celebration they are trying to get prepared for. Everybody knows the story of Pocahontas and why that would be a big celebration and certainly a big deal in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Again, as we debate this on the Senate floor, I think Senator Daines made some strong points, and I would certainly appeal to our colleagues across the aisle to consider what I just described as far as those markups. In addition to those markups, we also have a hearing on several bills. The first one is a McCain bill, and it is to amend the PROTECT Act to make Indian Tribes eligible for AMBER Alert grants. Everybody knows what the AMBER Alert Program is and how important that program is to protect our young people when they get abducted. The reason Senator McCain, from Arizona, is bringing this bill forward is because there was an abduction in Arizona, and the AMBER Alert went out late. I [[Page S2865]] think the AMBER Alert went out a day late. Senator McCain has this PROTECT Act so we can make sure the AMBER Alert is working in Indian Country, and you certainly can understand how important it is that we do that. We have to have a hearing on the bill again so we can advance the bill to the Senate floor for consideration. The final bill that we would have a hearing on in committee, if we are allowed to meet, is a Murkowski bill, Senator Murkowski from Alaska. It would provide the conveyance of certain property in this State. You have to realize that the witnesses--and I think certainly the good Senator from Hawaii will appreciate this--had to come here from Alaska, which is quite a lengthy trip. When the Senator travels back home to Hawaii, that is a long trip. It is certainly a beautiful place but a long trip to get there. Of course, it is not inexpensive to travel from Alaska to Washington, DC. Those witnesses will be out their costs to come here if we are not able to have the hearing, and we would have to reschedule it. That certainly creates a cost burden for them, which is certainly unfair and not what they would want to have had happen on the part of their government. I am putting that in human terms. Again, we are talking about two Democratic bills, and we are talking about two Republican bills. We are talking about constituents who have traveled a long way to come here to have the hearing and the markup. Again, these are issues we should be able to work on in a bipartisan way. I would certainly ask for that consideration. At this point, I ask for unanimous consent that our committee be allowed to meet. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? The Senator from Hawaii. Ms. HIRONO. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, of course we acknowledge the importance of the matters raised by my colleague from North Dakota and, representing my State, the State of Hawaii, yes, there is support for education of Native people, of Native children, which I hope will include Native Hawaiian children. That is important as well as recognizing various Indian Tribes and the other matters that were raised by my friend from North Dakota. However, as I mentioned, these are not business-as-usual times. The untoward firing of the FBI Director, who was conducting an ongoing investigation into Russian attempts to interfere with our Democracy and the Trump team's ties to those attempts, should be a matter of national concern, should be a matter of concern to every single Member of the Senate. This is not a Republican or a Democratic concern. This is a threat to our democracy. We know Russia did this. We know we need to get to the bottom of this. We need to get to the bottom of the Trump team's ties to these efforts, and this thinly veiled attempt by President Trump to derail or disrupt these investigations cannot be sustained or supported. We continue to ask for a bipartisan call for a special prosecutor who will conduct an impartial, thorough investigation, untainted by political considerations into the Russia-Trump matter. Therefore, Mr. President, I object. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard. The Senator from Minnesota. Firing of James Comey Mr. FRANKEN. Mr. President, I rise to address President Trump's stunning dismissal of FBI Director Comey yesterday evening. We know the Russians interfered in the 2016 election. We know the Russians did so in order to undermine confidence in our democracy. We know the Russians carried out this attack with the goal of benefiting the campaign of Donald Trump, whom the Kremlin preferred to see win the election. These facts have been confirmed by our intelligence agencies. What we don't fully yet understand is all of the reasons why, all the reasons why the Russians favored Donald Trump and whether associates of the President or members of his campaign assisted in the Russian operations to sway the election in his favor. These questions are the subject of an ongoing counterintelligence investigation, an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and, until last night, an investigation led by James Comey. As former Director Comey recently testified to the House Intelligence Committee, ``[T]he FBI, as part of [its] counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election--and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia.'' The timing of Director Comey's dismissal raises serious questions, and President Trump's decision to abruptly fire the man leading an investigation that could implicate the Trump administration should shock the conscience of every American who believes that no man or woman is above the law and who has faith in the fair and impartial pursuit of justice. The White House attempted to preemptively dispel any suspicion by announcing that President Trump fired the Director ``based on the clear recommendations'' of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The White House released several documents to back up that claim: a letter from President Trump to Director Comey, firing him; a letter from Attorney General Sessions to President Trump, recommending that Comey be fired; and a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, which cited the Director's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation as damaging the FBI's reputation and credibility. These documents create more questions than they answer. First, the letter from President Trump to Director Comey firing him. President Trump, ever eager to put distance between the Russian inquiry and himself, wrote: ``While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.'' Again, we know the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russians in their efforts to influence the election. Director Comey confirmed that before he was fired. Whether President Trump is personally under investigation by the Bureau or whether investigators are merely scrutinizing his advisers and associates, the President's clumsy attempt at misdirection does little more than remind us of the many unanswered questions about his and his people's connections to Russia. Second, Attorney General Sessions' letter to President Trump. The Attorney General writes that based on his review of Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein's memo, which cites the Director's handling of the Clinton email investigation, that Attorney General Sessions has concluded that the FBI requires new leadership and a fresh start. Attorney General Sessions recommended that Director Comey be fired. Attorney General Sessions should not have had any involvement in this decision at all. On March 2, the Attorney General called a press conference to announce: ``I have now decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States.'' The reason Attorney General Sessions made that announcement was because news reports revealed he had provided misleading testimony in response to a question that I asked during his confirmation hearing; that Attorney General Sessions had falsely stated: ``I did not have communications with the Russians.'' In fact, he did meet with the Russian Ambassador during the campaign twice. Having provided misleading testimony under oath about a matter that could potentially be the subject of a criminal investigation by the FBI, Attorney General Sessions was forced to recuse himself. I find it deeply troubling that Attorney General Jeff Sessions--who misled the Judiciary Committee about his own communications with the Russian Ambassador and who pledged to recuse himself from this investigation as a result--betrayed that pledge by involving [[Page S2866]] himself in the decision to fire the Director of the FBI, who was leading the investigation into Russia's interference in our elections, including whether members of President Trump's campaign were involved in that interference. Attorney General Sessions was a member of that campaign, and he misled the committee on whether he had met with the Russians, and he did that under oath. That is why he recused himself, and yet he inserted himself in this firing. Finally, there is Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein's memo, which asserts that Director Comey's handling of the Clinton email investigation caused the public to lose confidence in the Bureau. Director Comey spoke publicly about the Clinton email investigation twice, in July and October of last year. Setting aside whether Director Comey's decision to discuss the investigation was unorthodox or broke with Justice Department and FBI protocols, his actions were well known to both President Trump and Attorney General Sessions, and both of them celebrated his actions at the time. After Director Comey wrote to Congress on October 28, informing us that the FBI had discovered additional emails and would therefore reopen its investigation into Secretary Clinton, then- Candidate Trump praised his decision. He said: ``What [Comey] did was the right thing,'' and ``It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had.'' Appearing on FOX Business Network, then-Senator Sessions said that Director Comey ``had an absolute duty, in my opinion, 11 days [before an election] or not, to come forward with the new information that he has and let the American people know that, too.'' If President Trump or Attorney General Sessions truly objected to the way that Director Comey conducted the investigation into Secretary Clinton's emails, I suspect they would have said so at the time rather than heap praise upon him. But their previous statements lauding Director Comey's handling of the Clinton email probe cast suspicion on the extent to which they relied on the Deputy Attorney General's purported rationale. Further, and this is important, if Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein were truly concerned that Director Comey's handling of the Clinton email investigation had damaged the reputation of the Bureau, then why not wait for the conclusion of an investigation by the very respected DOJ inspector general into Comey's decision during the election--his decisions--an investigation that had been underway since January? The shifting positions of President Trump and Attorney General Sessions lead me to believe something else is going on here, that this is not about Hillary Clinton's emails but about turning the page on Russia. In fact, last night, a White House spokesman said so. Appearing on FOX News, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked how Director Comey's firing would affect the Russia investigation. She replied: When are they going to let that go? It's been going on for nearly a year. Frankly, it's getting kind of absurd. There's nothing there. It's time to move on. Frankly, it's time to focus on the things the American people care about. The American people care about whether a hostile foreign government influenced our election. They care about whether advisers and associates of the President helped that foreign government do that. The events that have occurred over the past 24 hours are deeply, deeply unsettling. As my Republican colleague Senator Flake said last night: I've spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey's firing. I just can't do it. And I can't either. In my view, the timing and the circumstances surrounding Director Comey's dismissal are very suspicious. For example, just this morning, it was reported that Director Comey recently asked the Justice Department to provide additional resources for the Russian investigation--a request that purportedly he made personally to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. This raises grave concerns about the Trump Justice Department's ability to conduct a full, fair, and impartial investigation. In order to address these concerns, Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein should come to the Senate and explain their involvement to all of the Senators in this body. In the wake of what I believe was a politically motivated decision to remove Director Comey, I no longer have confidence that the Department of Justice can fulfill its obligation to resolve this matter impartially. The situation now calls very clearly for the appointment of a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into whether associates of the Trump organization or former members of the Trump campaign had knowledge of or participated in the Russian attack on our democracy. I join my colleagues' calls for an independent inquiry so the American people can have confidence that the individuals who conduct this investigation will follow the facts no matter where they lead. Thank you, Mr. President. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Colorado. Mr. BENNET. Mr. President, I am here today to speak on a different topic, but before the Senator from Minnesota leaves, I want to thank him for his statement and for his observations, which are dead-on about the need now more than ever to have an independent special counsel take a look at what has happened here. I am very grateful for that, and I believe that is the conclusion others in this Chamber, Republicans and Democrats working together, will reach as well, as they let sink in what has actually transpired over the last 24 hours. Congressional Review Act Resolution Mr. President, earlier today, in a piece of good news around here, a bipartisan majority voted to block an effort that would have wasted taxpayer resources, polluted our air, and accelerated climate change. I thank my colleagues who voted that way, in particular the Republican Senators who crossed the aisle to join us in this vote. Today, we showed that Washington can still come together to put the public above the powerful. Today we showed that, in the Senate at least, a majority still exists for common sense, for public health, and for good stewardship of public resources. Before this morning, the Trump administration and some Members of Congress sought to undo a rule from the Bureau of Land Management that had been a win for taxpayers, for businesses, and the environment. Across the country, oil and gas companies pay royalties to extract from Federal and Tribal lands. Each year, these companies waste around $330 million worth of gas because of inefficient operations, from leaky pipes to excess burning, to faulty vents. By preserving this rule, we will give taxpayers roughly $800 million in new royalties over the next decade--resources our communities could use to invest in schools or to build roads, bridges, and tunnels. Actually, the idea that we are giving the money is not right. The taxpayers will earn the royalties to which they are entitled as a result of these public lands. This is a win all the way around. For public health, it reduces toxic pollutants in the air we breathe. For businesses, it cuts waste and expands their bottom lines. For the planet, it curbs leaking methane, which is up to 80 times more potent than a greenhouse gas and accelerates climate change. In fact, without the proper protections, natural gas can burn as dirty as coal, and the benefits that we have gotten from natural gas would be dramatically reduced. Thanks to bipartisan cooperation, this rule will remain in place. I want to recognize Colorado's leadership in bringing us to this moment. In Colorado, we led the Nation to adopt the country's first-ever rule to reduce methane waste and pollution. The rule enjoys support from environmental groups, the oil and gas industry, and 83 percent of Coloradans. Our approach was so successful that the Bureau of Land Management drew on it as a model for all Federal and Tribal lands. In my State, when we were thinking about passing this rule, critics said that it would stifle energy production, but the opposite has happened. Colorado's natural gas production has continued to rise, while oil production has nearly doubled. [[Page S2867]] Critics also argued that Colorado's rule would kill jobs. Once again, the facts tell a very different story. In Colorado alone, 41 different companies put people to work to repair pipes, monitor pollution, and develop technologies to reduce emissions. Our experience showed that the rule spurred new jobs and technologies, reduced pollution, and protected the planet, all while failing to reduce energy production as critics alleged. Those facts were critical in preserving the rule this morning. Because of what we did this morning, the national standard we preserved, our State will not suffer from higher methane pollution coming across the border from other States. That would have hurt Colorado's economy. That would have hurt tourism in one of the most visited States in the country, and it would have been deeply unfair to the people of Colorado, to kids with asthma and seniors who need clean air to breathe, to the next generation of Americans, of Coloradans who deserve a healthy planet. Now that Congress has spoken, the administration should listen. My colleagues and I will vigorously oppose any attempts by the Department of the Interior to bypass, somehow administratively, the decision that has been made today. All of us need to remain vigilant to ensure that this commonsense protection remains in place, protecting Americans, protecting our environment, and I am grateful that today, at least, we can come together and put fact over ideology and put the public good over narrow interests. Mr. President, I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll. The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll. Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. Mr. SCHUMER. Thank you, Mr. President. First, I want to thank my colleague from Colorado for his outstanding remarks and, even much more important, the work on the methane CRA. Much is happening today, and not many people paid much attention, I guess, because they were so busy, but this is the first CRA to go down, and it is probably the most important one that came before us. So the fact that it wasn't voted on means the people of America and the people of the world can breathe a sigh of relief because methane--one of the great causes of global warming--will not be released into the atmosphere as easily. Russia Investigation Mr. President, now on the topic of the day, this morning the Democratic caucus met to discuss the circumstances of Mr. Comey's dismissal by the White House. There are many questions to be answered and many actions to be taken. We will be pursuing several things in the coming days and weeks that we decided in our caucus, and we will have more to say about those next steps in the days ahead, but there are three things our caucus agreed must happen right away. First, Mr. Rosenstein should not be the one to appoint the special prosecutor. That responsibility should go to the highest serving career civil servant at the Department of Justice. Second, Mr. Comey is needed more than ever to testify before the Senate. Third, Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein should brief all Senators on these events separately and in a classified setting, if necessary, and they should do it soon because the questions are just swirling about, and there are more every day, almost every hour. Let me go over each. First, it is the overwhelming view of my caucus that a special prosecutor should now be appointed to conduct the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Mr. Rosenstein cannot be the person to appoint him. Serious doubts have been cast on Mr. Rosenstein's impartiality for two reasons: First, there are many reports that Director Comey met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last week to make a request for more resources or help with the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. That would make the timing of this firing even more suspect. Second, Mr. Rosenstein signed his name to a highly political memo arguing for Director Comey's dismissal and made no complaint about the involvement of the Attorney General, who had recused himself from all matters relating to the Russia investigation, in recommending the firing of the man who was leading it. It is hard to believe that a seasoned prosecutor without bias would have allowed Sessions to be a part of this. It is also hard to believe that a seasoned prosecutor would write such a memo, which seems highly political--not in the kind of language and not with the kind of annotation that prosecutors normally write. These facts make it clear that the decision to appoint a special prosecutor should go to the highest ranking civil servant at the Department of Justice. Mr. Rosenstein and other political appointees appointed by the President, whom they are supposed to investigate, should not be the ones making a special call on a prosecutor, lest that decision be seen as influenced or, worse, made at the direction of the administration. We need to assure the American people that they can have confidence in our criminal justice system to conduct the Russian investigation impartially. The best and only way to do that now would be for a career civil servant at the Department of Justice to be the person who decides on a special prosecutor. It should not be a political appointee who makes such a decision. My friend, our great senior Senator from the State of California, brought this up in our meeting. Senator Feinstein's call that the appointment be made by someone who is a career civil servant, not a political appointee, has the widespread support of our caucus and is the only fair thing to do. Second, we have also learned that Mr. Comey will no longer be appearing before the Intelligence Committee tomorrow. In his stead will be the Acting FBI Director, Andrew McCabe. There are so many unanswered questions that only Mr. Comey can answer. We Democrats hope and expect that he will still come before the Senate in some capacity. I for one salute Senator Burr and Senator Warner for inviting him to testify next week before the Intelligence Committee. It is the right thing to do. We ought to hear from Mr. Comey. At this moment of profound doubt about the reasons and timing of FBI Director Comey's firing by the President and about the status and progress of a very serious investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia by his agency, we require answers. Third, the recent revelations about the Rosenstein and Comey meeting demand that the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General-- Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein--brief the Senate and answer questions because of so many things swirling about from last night's firing. That briefing could be classified if necessary--it may be part classified, part not--and each briefing should be done separately. Let me speak plainly. The prospect that a campaign for the Presidency of the United States colluded with a foreign power in order to win our Nation's highest office is as grave a topic for an investigation as there could be. It gets right to the heart of the pillar of our democracy: the fair and free elections of our representatives. And the fact that Mr. Rosenstein and Attorney General Sessions were involved in this firing when there are so many questions swirling about means they must come before us to answer questions. I hope Leader McConnell will understand the need for that and answer the plea I made this morning about this. Furthermore, the fact that Mr. Rosenstein--which came out after I made my request--the fact that Mr. Rosenstein, by all reports, had a meeting with Director Comey where Comey asked for more resources makes it all the more important for Rosenstein to come because that might be the reason Comey was fired--because he was pursuing the investigation in an accelerated way that was very much needed. So what we are seeking--the only thing we are seeking--are assurances that this investigation will be carried out in an impartial, independent way; that we get all the facts; that we get to the very bottom of this. All we are seeking is some assurance that the subject of this investigation is not able to [[Page S2868]] influence it or, God forbid, quash it. The topic of this investigation itself is very serious. The possibility that the investigation is being impeded or tampered with is even worse. That threatens the integrity of our criminal justice system and the hallowed American belief in rule of law. I believe this rises far above party labels. I believe it rises far above partisan politics. I have been heartened that several Republicans have expressed concerns. I hope and expect our Republican friends will join us in these efforts to make sure this investigation is conducted in the manner it deserves. We want Congress's role to be nonpartisan, looking at the good of neither political party but, rather, the good of our dear country. These are tough and serious times. We cannot shirk from our responsibilities, neither Democrats nor Republicans. I hope everyone in this Chamber will rise to the occasion. I thank my good friend from Minnesota for allowing me to speak. I yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Minnesota. Firing of James Comey Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I join in the minority leader's remarks and his plan for moving forward, which is a bipartisan plan and a plea for our colleagues to work together. America is not like some countries where people are all of the same ethnic background or practice the same religion. America is an idea. America is an ideal. America is something that is grounded in our democracy. Way back centuries ago, our Founding Fathers were concerned about foreign influence on our democracy. They were concerned at the time about Great Britain. Well, now we have another concern, and that concern is Russia. It is not just the Democrats' concern. As one of our colleagues, Senator Rubio, has noted in the past, maybe this election was an attack on one political candidate in one party, but next time it will be the other party. That is why we must join together and handle this correctly and in the spirit of our democracy and our Constitution. I have known Director Comey for a long time. We were classmates at the University of Chicago Law School. He was well liked in our class, and he earned the respect of the agents he supervised and the law enforcement he worked with. I made it clear to him that I didn't agree with how he handled the email investigation regarding Secretary Clinton, but nevertheless this man is a hard worker and someone of integrity. Just because someone doesn't agree with how an investigation is handled, even if it is in a big way, doesn't mean this person should be fired. FBI Directors have 10-year terms for a reason; that is because we want them to be independent from political influence. All Americans, including those who have criticized Director Comey for whatever reason in the past, should be very troubled by the timing of this firing. Let's look at the past week. We started the week on Monday, when Former Director Clapper testified in great detail about the Russian threat to our democracy and the fact that the Russians feel empowered and that he believes they will do it again and again. We also were on the heels of the French cyber attack, where their elections were attacked and where Russia was trying to get involved in their elections. Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified, and she made very clear that she had not just given a heads-up to the administration that their National Security Advisor was compromised by the Russians-- no. She had two formal meetings over at the White House. She outlined in detail how she had gone over to the White House and voiced her concerns. When I asked both Former Director Clapper and former Acting Attorney General Yates whether this was material for blackmail--when you have a high-ranking official saying one thing on a tape recording that the Russians knew he had said and then another to the Vice President of the United States--if that was material for blackmail, they said yes, definitively yes, that he had been compromised. Yet, as it became clear, the White House then allowed the National Security Advisor, General Flynn, to stay on for 18 days, including being part of an hour-long conversation between the President of the United States and Vladimir Putin. So that is what happened on Monday. We know what was going to happen tomorrow, Thursday, which is that Director Comey was going to testify in his capacity as the FBI Director in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. We know questions were going to be asked about Russia. Of course, I commend Senators Burr and Warner for inviting him again next week in his capacity now as a private citizen. Yet, when you look at what has happened here--the Yates and Clapper testimony on Monday, the Comey testimony expected on Thursday--what is sandwiched in between? It is the firing of the FBI Director. By the way, this is the same FBI Director who had the audacity to tell the truth before Congress when he was asked whether President Obama had wiretapped the Trump Tower, as alleged by President Trump in a tweet at 6 in the morning. The FBI Director truthfully answered, no, that it did not happen. That is also something that has happened in the past month. Today we learned that just days before he was fired, Mr. Comey asked senior officials at the Justice Department for more resources in order to carry out the Russia investigation. Now, what are my colleagues saying about this? I think it is very important to note that the two Senators who are privy to the most classified information--Senator McCain, as chair of the Armed Services Committee, and Senator Burr, as chair of the Intelligence Committee-- have both expressed serious concerns about what has happened. Senator McCain said he was disappointed, and Senator Burr, the Republican chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said: I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey's termination. I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee. Senator Flake said: I have spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey's firing. I just can't do it. The reasoning the White House is using for Director Comey's firing is bizarre, and that is why I believe Senator Burr said that his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation. The memo provided by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein cites old justifications. These are quotes from letters that I remember from the Presidential campaign, and they are used in the letter as a justification. If the administration found Director Comey's conduct during the election to be so problematic, why now--right, smack in the middle of the advancements of this Russia investigation? The answer, I believe, is that the justification that is provided in the memo is a pretext. The fact that President Trump's termination letter to Director Comey strangely discusses the fact that Director Comey informed the President that he was not under investigation in the context of the Russia investigation sheds light on what this is really about; that Director Comey was seeking the truth. Senator Burr said that Director Comey has been more forthcoming with information than any FBI Director he can recall in his tenure on the congressional intelligence committees. In firing Comey, President Trump has cast doubt about the independence and viability of any further investigation into the foreign interference of our democracy. Why was Attorney General Sessions, who had recused himself from the investigation on Russian interference, able to influence the firing of the man at the helm of the Russia investigation? That is one of the questions we want answered and why, by the way, we believe it is important to have a closed-door briefing with the Deputy Attorney General and his predecessor. Did Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein act on his own or at the direction of Attorney General Sessions or the White House? Are reports that the President had been searching for a rationale to fire the FBI Director for more than a week true? Was his firing influenced by any recent developments in the investigation, like the issuance of grand jury [[Page S2869]] subpoenas or Director Comey's recent request for more resources for the Russia investigation? Why didn't the President wait for the inspector general's investigation into Director Comey's handling of the Clinton email investigation to conclude before making his decision to fire him? I am a former prosecutor. I believe in facts, and I believe in evidence. These decisions should not have been made without these facts and without this evidence and while in the middle of a major investigation of Russian influence in our election. Answers to these questions are essential in getting to the truth and in ensuring that an independent investigation at the FBI can continue. For months, U.S. intelligence agencies--17 of them--have said that Russia used covert cyber attacks, espionage, and harmful propaganda to try and undermine our democracy. Reports show it. The facts prove it. When former Director of National Intelligence Clapper testified, he said Russia will continue to interfere in our election system. This is what he said exactly: I believe [Russia is] now emboldened to continue such activities in the future, both here and around the world, and to do so even more intensely. If there has ever been a clarion call for vigilance and action against a threat to the very foundation of our democratic political system, this episode is it. I was in that hearing and asked questions of Clapper when he said this: ``Vigilance.'' That is what he said--vigilance. How can we call it vigilance, when the FBI Director, who is conducting the investigation, has been fired? What message does that send to Russia? Does that make them think we are serious about this investigation; that we want to get to the bottom of it and that we do not want it to happen again? No. It sends the opposite message. Aides and surrogates of the Trump administration, during the campaign and the transition, were in contact with officials from a foreign government that was actively working to tear our democracy apart. We need to know why and when and how. In the first question, that is what I really want to know--the ``why.'' This week, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, as I mentioned, and Director Clapper reminded us that on the very day President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for its unprecedented attacks on our democracy, a member of the Trump transition team spoke to a senior Russian official regarding those sanctions. Michael Flynn, the National Security Advisor--the person charged with the most sensitive matters of U.S. national security--was not truthful with the Vice President. He lied to the Vice President about contact with Russian officials. In turn, the American people were misled. After the Department of Justice warned the administration that the National Security Advisor had lied and may be vulnerable to blackmail by the Russian Government, what did the administration do? It continued to allow General Flynn to handle top secret information for 18 more days. They let him participate in an hour-long phone call between President Trump and Vladimir Putin. In fact, decisive action was not taken until the Washington Post revealed what was happening. We have now seen two people resign--Trump's campaign manager and his National Security Advisor. The one thing they have in common is Russia and the President. We have also seen three people fired--Sally Yates, the Acting Attorney General of the United States, who was simply doing her job; Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in New York City; and Jim Comey, the FBI Director. The one thing they have in common is that they were all investigating links, and they were doing their jobs. Think about that. Let that sink in. The independent government officials who were or could have been charged with getting to the truth, no matter where it led, were fired. We owe it to the American people to get to the bottom of what is going on here. It is our job to get to the bottom of this because the President of the United States--President Trump--cannot fire Congress. We need to know the full extent of the Trump campaign's contact with the Russian Government during the campaign and transition, including what was said and what was done and who knew about it. That is why, on January 4, I stood with Senator Cardin and with Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings, of the House of Representatives, and called for an independent commission. Now, this is different than the special prosecutor whom we need to handle the criminal investigation. This is also different than the good work that is being done by the Senate Intelligence Committee under the leadership of Senators Burr and Warner. To me, an independent commission would help us because it could get to the bottom of what has happened, with the intent of making sure it does not happen again, in order to protect our democracy. It could have recommendations, just like the 9/11 Commission had, on how we could improve our laws. It could have recommendations on what we could do if the media gets hold of information that is the result of a cyber attack from a foreign government. It could have recommendations of what political parties and campaigns could do--perhaps even in agreement-- when they get access to information that is a result of a cyber attack against the opposite party. It was not that long ago when campaigns would come upon debate information and other things and would simply put it in an envelope and send it back to the other side. We can do this, but that is not going to come out of some simple piece of legislation or from the work that the Intelligence Committee is doing. That is why I believe we need this independent commission as well as a special prosecutor to look into all contacts between Trump aides and surrogates and Russian officials during the campaign, transition, and administration. This prosecutor must be fair and impartial and completely unattached to either political party. In addition to the independent commission, we also need our congressional committees, as I mentioned, to continue to exercise their oversight authority. Since the election, we have heard a lot about the three branches of government and our system of checks and balances. One of Congress's fundamental jobs, as I told a group of students in my office today, is to closely oversee the executive branch in order to ensure that the law is being properly followed and enforced. This shouldn't just be things that students learn from their Senators when they come in during school trips or be what they learn from a textbook. This is actually our job. This means that in addition to this independent, 9/11-style Commission, we must make sure our congressional committees continue to investigate Russian interference in our political system. We have subpoena power. We need to use it. Some of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle understand the importance of doing our jobs in order to get to the bottom of this. As I mentioned, we have the Intelligence Committee investigation, but we also have the Judiciary subcommittee, on which I serve, led by Senators Graham and Whitehouse. They are the ones who held the hearing with Sally Yates and Director Clapper this week. This is an unprecedented time in our country's history. We are witnessing a singular moment of constitutional and democratic unease. In recent months, foundational elements of our democracy, including the rule of law, have been questioned, challenged, and even undermined. Several of my colleagues have compared the President's action to President Richard Nixon's firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was investigating Watergate. Even then, Mr. Cox was replaced by a new special prosecutor. Today, we have no special prosecutor to determine whether the President's campaign colluded with a hostile foreign power. Some in Congress are continuing to resist any serious investigation. For that reason, our democracy may be in even greater peril. The night he was fired, Mr. Cox defended his decision to conduct the Watergate investigation as he saw fit rather than to yield to the President's order that he limit his request for tape recordings. Cox said: ``Whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws and not of men is now for Congress and, ultimately, the American people.'' [[Page S2870]] He is right. The American people deserve a thorough, independent investigation into the extent of Russia's interference in the 2016 Presidential election. This is not a partisan issue. Americans deserve answers now. And where should they get those answers? They should get those answers from this Chamber, because we, as Members of the Senate, cannot be fired. I yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Toomey). The Senator from Texas. Russia Investigation Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I was listening with interest to our friend and colleague from Minnesota talk about the Russia investigation. I agree with her 100 percent that it is our responsibility to get to the bottom of what exactly happened with respect to Russian involvement in our elections, much as they got involved in the elections in France, using the combined process commonly known as active measures. Active measures are a combination of cyber espionage, propaganda, and a use of social media through paid trolls who can then actually try to raise the visibility of some of this propaganda such that it then becomes part of the mainstream media and becomes accepted as part of the debate in democratic societies. I believe we share a bipartisan and universal commitment to get to the bottom of what happened in our last election. I would note that there are two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who actually serve as members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is actively involved in a rigorous bipartisan investigation. That would be myself and Senator Feinstein, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who is also the former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator Feinstein has said recently that there is no evidence of collusion between the administration and Russia. I think she would share with me a commitment not to stop there but to find out where the facts take us. Indeed, thanks to Chairman Burr and thanks to Vice Chairman Warner, our bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee has unprecedented access to raw intelligence, from the National Security Agency, the CIA, and from all sources of the intelligence community. We have access to some of the most sensitive intelligence gathered by the U.S. Government. I think that is due to the credit and leadership of Chairman Burr and Vice Chairman Warner that our committee has remained bipartisan and we are leaving no stone unturned to get to the bottom of what exactly happened. So I know people are concerned, and I share that concern. We need to come up with a program of countermeasures to deal with this because the Russian Government has been amping up their game for some time now, and now they are operating at certainly dangerous levels when it comes to trying to interfere in our most basic democratic institutions, like our elections. I would say, as far as the Department of Justice is concerned, that Rod Rosenstein was confirmed by this body by a vote of 94 to 6. That is probably the only Trump nomination so far since he has been President that has enjoyed such broad bipartisan support. It is because of his distinguished record, most recently as the U.S. attorney in Baltimore. I remember hearing from our Senators from Maryland, for example, Democrats who were praising Rod Rosenstein and saying he was exactly the kind of person we needed in this sensitive job as Deputy Attorney General. But now our colleagues seem to forget their very own conviction and vote on Rod Rosenstein, and now they say that he can't be fair, that he has somehow an appearance of a conflict of interest, making it necessary to appoint a special counsel, which, by the way, also then reports to the leadership at the Department of Justice. I think we ought to give Mr. Rosenstein a chance to demonstrate that he is capable of leading that investigation at the Department of Justice, understanding that our role here in the Congress is not to pursue a criminal investigation and case. That is the job of the Department of Justice. Our job, in parallel fashion, is for oversight reasons and to let the American people and ourselves know exactly what happened. That is why the investigation of the bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is so important, in addition to the hearings we are having in the Judiciary Committee, on which the Senator from Minnesota and I happen to serve as well. So we do need to get to the bottom of what happened, and I am confident we will. It is our duty, and we will get the job done. Healthcare Legislation On another topic, Mr. President, last week our colleagues in the House took the first necessary step to deliver on our campaign promises for the last three elections to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Why is that important? Well, because of the impact of ObamaCare on premiums and deductibles for many people, millions of people, literally, are now being priced out of the insurance market, and their insurance, even though they have the policy, is really unavailable to them because they have, for example, such high deductibles. We know insurance companies continue to pull out of the marketplace, and people are reduced to little or no choices when it comes to where to buy their insurance, because, frankly, ObamaCare was oversold and underdelivered. The President said: If you like your policy, you can keep it. Well, that proved to be false. He said: If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Well, that didn't turn out to be true, either. He said that a family of four would save an average of $2,500 on their premiums, and that didn't prove to be true, either. So like most command and control from Washington, DC-- notwithstanding, perhaps, the aspirations of our colleagues across the aisle to deliver affordable healthcare to the American people--it simply failed to do so, and it is in serious distress--even a meltdown. So we would invite our colleagues across the aisle--our Democrat friends--to join with us to help rescue the American people from this failure of the Affordable Care Act. The House passed a bill last week--the American Health Care Act. It is not a perfect bill. I dare say the Senate is going to take up a bill of its own, and we will try to work with our House colleagues to try to get legislation to the President and signed into law that will rescue the American people and will finally deliver on our promise of more affordable premiums, better access, and real choice. But it is really not enough to just stand back and criticize those who are actually trying to rescue those who are in harm's way as a result of the failures of ObamaCare. That, so far, is what our friends across the aisle are doing. They are not lifting a finger to help the people hurt today by ObamaCare. We would challenge them to get involved and to work with us. Many of our colleagues have come to the floor and talked about stories they have heard from their constituents back in their States and the harm that the Affordable Care Act has caused. Premiums have skyrocketed. Millions have been kicked off their healthcare plans. The economy is saddled with billions of dollars in new regulations. Employers are laying people off or not hiring new people because, frankly, they don't want to suffer the additional financial burdens of ObamaCare. Instead of having more access to more health insurance options, Texans--the people I represent--have less of both. The bottom line is ObamaCare has failed, and it is up to us to provide some relief to the people who are being hurt by the failure of ObamaCare. We invite our colleagues to work with us to do that. Since the creation of ObamaCare, I have been hearing regularly from my constituents back home in Texas how they need relief from the healthcare law and they need it now. Every letter, phone call, or conversation produces similar themes. One of my constituents, for example, is a woman who was paying about $300 a month for her health insurance, but under a span of just a few months, that premium skyrocketed to $800--$300 to $800. I don't know many people who can withstand that kind of increase in their expenses for healthcare. [[Page S2871]] She wrote to me and said: ``This has to stop--and quality, flexible plans need to return for individuals.'' I agree with her. Another wrote in to say that before ObamaCare her daughter was getting what she considered to be adequate healthcare insurance for about $190 a month with just a $500 deductible. Now that has gone up to a payment of almost $400 a month--roughly, doubled--with a deductible of more than $6,000. What are people supposed to do with a deductible of $6,000 which says you have to pay $6,000 before your insurance pays a penny? It is essentially no good to most hard-working, middle class families. So ObamaCare does not equal healthcare that is affordable or better for Americans. It is simply not working. In fact, in Texas, if you have a gross income of about $24,000 a year, under ObamaCare, you could end up spending about 30 percent of your total income on healthcare costs alone--30 percent of your gross income on healthcare and related costs. Fortunately, thanks to the passage of the American Healthcare Act, or the AHCA, which passed the House last week, we have the beginning of a path forward to provide a lifeline to those people who are simply priced out of the market today--the 30 million people who don't have insurance--and those who simply can't use the health coverage they have under ObamaCare. So I look forward to working with our Senate colleagues--hopefully, all of our Senate colleagues, if they are willing--to help improve the House bill and to get it passed in this Chamber and signed by the President. This is not something we can do without the support of every Republican Senator, but my hope is that we would do this with the help of more than just Republicans. Our goal to repeal and replace this bill has been, of course, no secret. We need legislation that will reform Medicaid. With the American Healthcare Act, we have the first major healthcare entitlement reform in a generation, without eliminating anybody who is currently covered by Medicaid today. We also need to do away with ObamaCare's job-killing taxes, like the individual and the employer mandate. I remember, in Tyler, TX, a few years ago, meeting with a single mom who worked in a restaurant who told me that her hours had been cut from 40 hours a week to less than 30 hours a week because her employer didn't want to pay the employer mandate and so basically had to cut people from full-time work back to part-time work. So what did she do? She had to get another job as a single mom, working in a restaurant in Tyler, TX. That is the sort of unintended consequence of ObamaCare. Then there is the medical device tax--something the Presiding Officer has led on--which is a tax on innovation. This isn't even a tax on income. It is a tax on gross receipts. I have had some medical device companies from my State tell me they have had to move their operations to Costa Rica in order to avoid the medical device tax, which has crippled their ability to innovate and invest in their business. Then there is the tax on investments and the tax on prescription drugs. Middle-income Americans and our job creators need and will get massive tax relief when we repeal and replace ObamaCare. So that is what 52 Members of the Republican conference are working on and what we would like to work on with our colleagues across the aisle, if they are willing to help. We welcome their ideas. Actually, a bipartisan solution would be preferable to one done strictly along party lines. But all Members of the Republican conference are at the table working on that today. There is no denying that our country can't afford another one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare. The American people need relief from the unworkable, unsustainable system that President Obama promised--or delivered, which is very different from what he promised. I am confident that we can get there by working together to responsibly provide relief and, in doing so, empower individuals to deliver more options and competition and responsibly help those who need care to have more access to it. I yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader. ____________________