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(Senate - June 20, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 105 (Tuesday, June 20, 2017)]
[Pages S3624-S3634]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                     EXECUTIVE CALENDAR--Continued

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Montana.
  Mr. DAINES. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that following my 
remarks, Senator Leahy be recognized next.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                     National Great Outdoors Month

  Mr. DAINES. Mr. President, Montanans can tell you that nothing beats 
getting outdoors for hunting, skiing, fishing, backpacking--you name 
it; it is our way of life. In fact, after I graduated from Montana 
State University, I had to leave Montana to start my business career, 
but I came back to Montana while my knees were still good so I could 
spend my time enjoying all that Montana's outdoors have to offer. That 
is why I am excited that June is National Great Outdoors Month.
  Montana's outdoors have a special meaning for me. In fact, I even 
proposed to my sweet wife Cindy some 31 years ago next month on the 
summit of Hyalite Peak, just south of Bozeman.
  The value of Montana's outdoors is simply incredible. In fact, 
according to the Outdoor Industry Association, there are 64,000 
Montanans whose jobs are directly tied to our outdoor recreation 
industry. In 2012, outdoor recreation generated almost $6 billion in 
consumer spending in Montana alone. Nationally--taking this to the big 
picture of our great country--outdoor recreation generates $887 billion 
in consumer spending each year and provides 7.6 million jobs.
  Folks travel across our Nation, even from around the world, to come 
visit America's great outdoors. It is all right here in our backyard--
in fact, for me literally. I grew up just about 90 miles from 
Yellowstone National Park. I went to kindergarten through college just 
90 miles away from Yellowstone National Park, and I can tell you, I go 
back there every year with my family.
  Whether it is hiking in Glacier National Park up in Northwest 
Montana, fly fishing the Gallatin River that Brad Pitt and Robert 
Redford made famous with that great movie ``A River Runs Through It''--
which runs right by my hometown--or skiing at Whitefish, Big Sky, or 
floating down the Madison on a hot summer day, we can take these things 
for granted. That is why it is so important to recognize the value of 
the outdoors during National Great Outdoors Month. If you visit one of 
our national parks or if you go on a white water rafting tour, you are 
not only getting a great experience yourself, you know you are giving 
back to our local economy, and you are helping create jobs.
  I want to encourage everyone to recognize National Great Outdoors 
Month by joining me and getting out there. Don't just talk about it. 
Get outdoors and experience all that the outdoors has to offer.
  I yield my time.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Vermont.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from Montana. I have 
hiked in his State before, and it is a wonderful place. Their mountains 
are a tad higher than ours, but both my wife and I love hiking in the 
mountains, and I have enjoyed his State.


                         Healthcare Legislation

  Mr. President, for the last 7 years, we have heard Republicans in 
Congress campaign on the pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act. For 
7 years they have said: We are going to repeal it and replace it. State 
to State, district to district, like President Trump, they pledged to 
repeal and replace the health reform bill that made access to 
affordable healthcare a reality for millions of Americans.
  One would think--and what I get asked in Vermont is--when they 
campaigned for 7 years that they were going to repeal and replace it as 
soon as they were in power, you would think they would have a plan to 
do that. But it seems there is no plan. Instead, there are a dozen or 
so Republican lawmakers meeting behind closed doors. And they are 
shielded from public view. I don't think any other Members of Congress 
are allowed in their presence--lobbyists, but no Members of Congress. 
They say they have negotiated, finally, a grand plan to repeal the 
Affordable Care Act--and oh, by the way, a plan that makes devastating 
cuts to the Medicaid Program. And they have done this with no hearings, 
no debate, no process, no showing what the cost would be, and no bill. 
They are keeping a tight lid on the decisions they are making for the 
rest of America. What I get asked back home in Vermont is: What are 
they so afraid of? We are about to find out.
  We hear they still intend to bring this yet-to-be-finalized bill to 
the Senate floor very soon under the expedited reconciliation process, 
without even the most basic vetting and transparency. Not only is this 
latest TrumpCare plan that is about to be foisted on the American 
people and on the Senate not ready for prime time; it is not fit for 
prime time. It is really nothing short of shameful.
  Certainly, in my decades here in the Senate, I have never seen 
anything by either Republican or Democratic majorities done like this. 
In fact, I will give you an idea of how it can be done differently.
  When the Democrats were in control, before we passed the Affordable 
Care Act, the Senate held over 100 hearings on the issue. Republicans 
haven't held one. We had over 100 hearings. We had roundtables on 
health reform. Hundreds of amendments were considered by the Senate 
Finance and HELP Committees during an exhaustive markup process, with 
160 amendments by Republican Senators adopted. The process itself 
stretched for so long--more than a year--in the vain hope that 
Republicans would come to the table and stay at the table. In fact, the 
final Senate bill included more than 145 Republican-authored 
amendments, and it was posted for every single person in America to see 
for nearly a week before the Finance Committee marked it up. The same 
can be said for the HELP Committee. Then, more than 160 hours were 
spent on this Senate floor in considering the Affordable Care Act. 
Everybody had an opportunity to speak on it. That is when the Democrats 
controlled the Senate.
  What is happening with the Republicans? Will they have 100 hearings? 
No, they have not had one single hearing, and they are not having any 
debate and not having any process. We don't even know what this is 
going to cost. And as of right now, there is no bill.
  In the House and now in the Senate, this charade boils down to bumper 
sticker politics. It is not a solid, seriously vetted, workable, fair 
and equitable plan or policy. Let's see what happens when you do it 
this way.
  After this bill passed in the House--a bill that no one had read--
even the Secretary admitted he hadn't read it. After it passed and 
people had a chance to see what was in it, what did we find out? That 
23 million Americans were going to lose coverage. And then the 
President proposed a budget that assumes savings from the repeal of the 
Affordable Care Act through big, big cuts to the Medicaid Program.
  Under the House-passed TrumpCare bill, the State of Vermont will 
spend hundreds of millions more on Medicaid to compensate for the loss 
of Federal funds targeted by President Trump and the House Republicans. 
Under the House-passed TrumpCare bill, premiums are expected to rise by 
20 percent. Seniors--many of whom live on fixed incomes--will be 
charged five times more than younger enrollees under the House-passed 
TrumpCare bill. Well, that translates north of $4,400 in increased 
healthcare costs for Vermonters between the ages of 55 and 64.
  Notwithstanding the millions of people being thrown off the list, 
notwithstanding the cuts to Medicaid, President Trump joined 
Republicans at the White House, and he celebrated the House-passed 
bill. He celebrated. He said: Look what we can do with me as President. 
They all applauded, and they were all so happy.
  Then somebody must have finally read the bill. Somebody at the White 
House must have read the bill and actually told the President what was 
in the bill that he was praising. And then,

[[Page S3625]]

in a sudden about-face, he described the House-passed bill as ``mean.'' 
``Mean'' is what President Trump said of the House GOP healthcare plan.
  Some back home may find it a surprise that I could be in agreement 
with President Trump, but do you know what? President Trump is right. I 
am saying it right here on the floor: President Trump is right. The 
House-passed bill that he praised is mean. It is mean because it would 
do so much harm to so many Americans.
  It is untenable. It is unrealistic. And if Senate Republicans think 
they can fix it behind closed doors, they are wrong. We should be 
working together, Republicans and Democrats--together--to improve the 
Affordable Care Act. If there are parts where it is flawed, let's fix 
it. If there are parts where it could be improved, let's join together 
and strengthen it. Let's not double down on Americans at a time when 
their President is turning his back on the very programs that support 
our social safety net. Women and children and low-income Americans and 
small businesses alike are all going to suffer under his plans.
  We 100, as representatives of our constituents--I think we have a 
responsibility to give voice to their concerns. We 100 Senators are 
elected to represent 350 million Americans. We are supposed to be the 
conscience of the Nation. Maybe it is time that each one of us, 
Republicans and Democrats alike, started listening to what Americans 
say about healthcare.
  A family physician from Manchester, VT, wrote to me saying: ``I do 
not support efforts to roll back or eliminate the patient-centered 
insurance reforms established in recent years that prohibit 
discrimination against patients due to their race, gender, health 
status, or geographic location. These reforms matter to the everyday 
lives of our patients.''
  Someone from Brattleboro, VT, wrote: ``I am writing to ask what I can 
do to help stop Medicaid from being changed to the system being 
promoted by the Republican majority.''
  From Jericho, VT: ``I had Hodgkin's lymphoma 3 years ago and was 
fortunate to have insurance to cover most of the roughly $100,000 bill. 
Having had cancer is stressful enough without constantly worrying about 
severe financial consequences if it strikes again.''
  From Bennington, VT: ``Being patient-centered means we put the 
patient first. As a physician and advocate for my patients, I do not 
want any of them to be hurt by the actions Congress takes or fails to 
take.''
  And then from Manchester Center, VT: ``I will be one of the [20 
million] people to lose their health insurance when the Trump 
administration almost certainly repeals the ACA in a few months. Tax 
credits will not help me to regain it.''
  And from the small town of Sandgate, VT: ``My son has a chronic 
illness that, without our insurance, would cost $1,000 per month in 
prescriptions alone. That doesn't even cover the regular checkups. 
Right now he is covered, but, as I'm sure you remember from when you 
first got out of college or high school, we know that he may not have 
as good coverage when he gets out on his own. The Republican plan is a 
death sentence for him.''
  The Republican plan is a death sentence for him.
  These are real people. These are real stories about their lives, and 
I am willing to guess that there are similar people in virtually every 
State in this country with more stories like these.
  This isn't a political campaign. This is about life and death and 
access to healthcare. For these Vermonters and for millions of 
Americans across the country, the decisions we make here will have 
consequences--real consequences in their lives. Every Senator should 
think about that before we hastily undo years of progress to increase 
affordable access to healthcare for millions of Americans.
  The Republican majority, led on, cheered on by President Trump, 
passed a bill which would take so many millions of people off of 
healthcare. It would devastate Medicaid. It would make it so much more 
difficult for people to get healthcare. Then the bill they fought so 
hard to pass, the bill they cheered on, the bill they celebrated in the 
Rose Garden with President Trump, finally, somebody read what they 
passed. What a novel idea. They had all voted on it. They had all gone 
home. The President had praised them. I remember the pictures of them 
beaming in the praise of the President. Well, somebody finally read the 
bill and told the President, and he said that bill is ``mean.'' The 
House GOP healthcare plan--that bill is ``mean.''
  Well, I agree with President Trump, but you know what they are 
pushing now--he and his administration--the Senate bill; yet nobody has 
seen the Senate bill. Nobody knows how many people are being cut off 
the roll. Nobody knows how many people are going to be without 
healthcare. Nobody knows how large the cuts will be to Medicaid. Nobody 
knows how much our 50 States are going to be hurt by it. Nobody knows 
which millions of Americans--good, hard-working, honest Americans--are 
going to lose healthcare in the wealthiest, most powerful Nation on 
Earth.
  Will that be celebrated? Then, after it is passed, will somebody at 
the White House whisper to the President: The Senate bill is pretty 
mean, too. The Senate bill is pretty mean, but by golly, we got it 
passed. We had it on our bumper stickers that we would, and we got it 
passed. We are wealthy. We will have our healthcare. Too bad for those 
tens of millions of Americans who won't.
  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. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


             Requests for Authority for Committees to Meet

  Ms. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, I have nine requests for committees to 
meet during today's session of the Senate. They do not have the 
approval of the Democratic leader; therefore, they will not be 
permitted to meet.
  I ask unanimous consent that a list of committees requesting 
authority to meet be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

       Committee on Armed Services
       Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
       Committee on Foreign Relations
       Committee on the Judiciary
       Committee on Intelligence
       Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and 
     the Internet
       Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining
       Subcommittee on Multilateral International Development, 
     Multilateral Institutions, and International Economic, 
     Energy, and Environmental Policy
       Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism


          40th Anniversary of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System

  Ms. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, I have come to the floor this afternoon 
to mark the 40th anniversary of the first oil moving through the Trans-
Alaska Pipeline System. In Alaska, we call it TAPS. This is an 800-
mile-long engineering marvel that runs from the North Slope of Alaska 
to tidewater in Valdez.
  Forty years is a good, long history. I recognize that, and so this 
afternoon, in the interest of time, I will abbreviate the history, but 
I want to start the story of our pipeline in the late 1960s. Believe it 
or not, this was a pretty bleak moment for oil exploration in Alaska. 
Despite great promise, many companies had given up on exploration on 
the North Slope. By some accounts, at that point in time, there were at 
least 14 dry holes that had been drilled before ARCO and Humble Oil 
Company decided they were going to sink just one last well. It was 
actually an ARCO executive who described it ``more as a decision not to 
cancel a well already scheduled to go ahead.''
  That well, Prudhoe Bay State No. 1, would prove to be a game changer 
for Alaska. We had discovered oil. We discovered oil on the North Slope 
and a lot of it. We quickly learned that Prudhoe Bay would be one of 
the largest oilfields in global history, by far the largest ever 
discovered in the United States. Early estimates, at that time, 
suggested as much as 9 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from 
it. We have learned over these intervening 40 years that we so far 
underestimated that.

[[Page S3626]]

  Yet it was not just the issue of discovering the oil. Prudhoe Bay is 
located in a very remote part of the State, as far north as you can 
go--a pretty inhospitable area given the climate--far away from 
population centers in the lower 48. So a lot of challenges needed to be 
overcome before production could begin.
  Initially, it was like, OK, how do we move significant quantities of 
oil? How do we transport this oil to market? It was Dan Yergin, in his 
book ``The Prize,'' who did a great job of describing the various 
choices that were out there.
  He wrote: ``Icebreaker tankers that would travel through the frozen 
Arctic seas to the Atlantic were seriously considered. Other 
suggestions included a monorail or fleet of trucks in permanent 
circulation on an eight-lane highway across Alaska.''
  They then ``calculated that it would require most of the trucks in 
America'' to do this. There was also ``a prominent nuclear physicist 
recommended a fleet of nuclear-powered submarine tankers that would 
travel under the polar ice cap to a deepwater port in Greenland--the 
port to be created, in turn, by a nuclear explosion. Boeing and 
Lockheed explored the idea of jumbo jet oil tankers.''
  Obviously, none of those ideas came about, and some probably for very 
good reason, but after significant study and debate, a pipeline emerged 
as the best way to transport Alaska's oil. While two routes were 
considered--one over land, which would run across Canada--an all-Alaska 
route was ultimately chosen as the best way to go.
  Yet, even then, pipeline construction could not begin right away. 
There were serious debates in the State over issues like taxes and 
tariffs and pipeline ownership, and it really consumed our State's 
legislature for years. The land claims of the Alaska Natives needed to 
be settled. This occurred in the landmark legislation that passed in 
1971.
  Then it was in 1973 that Congress took up the Trans-Alaska Pipeline 
Authorization Act. As part of that debate here on the Senate floor, 
Alaska's Senators offered an amendment to deem the environmental impact 
statement for the pipeline to be sufficient and to shield it from what 
could have been decades of litigation by its opponents. This was a 
critically important aspect to the debate and really to the future of 
the pipeline in order to ensure that this construction would not be 
delayed by litigation.
  The vote was as close as votes get here in the Senate. It was 
deadlocked 49 to 49, and sitting in that chair, the Vice President at 
the time, Spiro Agnew, cast the deciding vote in Alaska's favor. So 
every time I see the bust out here of Vice President Agnew, I look at 
him. Other people reflect on Vice President Agnew in different ways. I 
reflect on that deciding vote that allowed us to proceed with our 
Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
  The pipeline bill went on to pass the Senate on a strong bipartisan 
basis. Not long after that, then-President Richard Nixon signed it into 
law. This was tremendous news for Alaska because we would be allowed to 
move forward with the construction.
  The construction of this pipeline was a monumental undertaking, but 
that monumental undertaking was also done with considerable speed. In 
April of 1974, construction on a 360-mile haul road began. We now call 
it the Dalton Highway. It was finished in 154 days.
  For those of you who have heard my plea on the floor and to 
colleagues who have been in committees when I have talked about the 
history of my efforts to try to get a 10-mile, one-lane, gravel, 
noncommercial-use road for the people of King Cove, I think about what 
we were able to accomplish in 154 days with that haul road that allowed 
us to then help to facilitate the buildout of the pipeline.
  The pipeline itself was the largest privately funded infrastructure 
project ever undertaken in America at the time. It was significant. It 
was significant for Alaska, of course, but it was significant for the 
Nation as well. Its total cost came to be about $8 billion. In October 
of 1975, there were about 28,000 people who were working to make this 
pipeline a reality, and that pipeline was completed in 1977. Again, 
initial construction of the haul road began in 1974. It was completed 
in October 1977, which was just 3 years and 2 months after construction 
began. I am told it was actually 10 days ahead of schedule, according 
to one estimate, which is pretty remarkable.
  The Trans-Alaska Pipeline--and I cannot find a picture that really 
shows the line well--an extraordinary line, which again, is 800 miles 
long, running from the North Slope to an ice-free Port of Valdez at 
tidewater. It crosses three mountain ranges, including Atigun Pass, 
which has an elevation of more than 4,800 feet. It reaches a grade of 
55 degrees at one point in the Chugach Range. So it goes up incredible 
mountains and down the other side. It crosses more than 600 streams and 
rivers, and more than 400 miles of it are elevated above the ground.
  We have it elevated aboveground here, but in certain areas, you can 
follow the pipeline either by air, or occasionally, you can see it from 
the road. It is probably one of the most photographed pipelines in the 
country, but you will see it go underground in many areas. About half 
of it is buried underground.
  This was part of the engineering that allowed for the recognition 
that you are building in a permafrost area, so it is how you ensure 
that you are not having an impact in the ground and the area around it.
  It crosses a major fault line, the Denali Fault. Back in November of 
2002, we had a 7.9 magnitude earthquake just about 90 miles from 
Fairbanks on that Denali Fault. The pipe moved 7\1/2\ feet 
horizontally--moving back and forth this way--and 2\1/2\ feet 
vertically. This pipeline was designed for an 8.5 earthquake. It allows 
for 20 feet of horizontal movement and 5 feet of vertical movement.
  The engineers not only worked to cross some extraordinary terrain but 
also recognized that this was in an area in which earthquakes did 
happen. It is extraordinary to listen to the stories of the engineers 
who inspected every inch of that line after that earthquake in 2002 and 
to hear their comments about, truly, this engineering marvel.
  There are so many stories about the construction of the pipeline just 
as Alaskans, as we have lived through those pipeline years. It is hard 
to really capture what it was like to be in Alaska during the time of 
the construction of that line. We saw our population boom as we saw new 
workers come into the State. I was living in Fairbanks at the time. I 
was a high school student and was going into college there. Obviously, 
that was my town. In my town, all of a sudden there were people from 
Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma. I can remember seeing guys in cowboy 
boots in Fairbanks in the winter on the ice and thinking that these 
guys are going to figure out how to change their footwear. But we 
worked to welcome these people who were there to really help make a 
difference.
  There were pressures on our community. You could not find a hotel 
room. You couldn't find a rental car. It was hard for the grocery 
stores to keep the shelves stocked in many of the towns. We saw a 
significant investment in our communities in many different ways. There 
were a lot of wild stories and tales, some which are appropriate to 
tell years afterward, some which still keep us smiling, but we do not 
talk too much about them. There are many good stories out there.
  I am proud of this extraordinary infrastructure that we have in 
Alaska--an extraordinary energy asset--and to be celebrating the fact 
that, for 40 years now, this pipeline has been not only contributing to 
Alaska, but contributing to the Nation as something that, as Alaskans, 
we do look to with pride.
  This pipeline is not just a piece of pipe; it is an economic lifeline 
for the State of Alaska. Over the course of 40 years, TAPS has become 
the veritable backbone of our State's economy. It has helped us create 
jobs to the point at which our oil and gas industry either employs or 
supports fully one-third of the Alaskan workforce. So it is pretty 
significant in terms of its impact.
  It has generated tremendous revenue for our State, some $168 billion 
at last count, which has been used for everything from roads, to 
schools, to essential services. It really has helped build the State 
and continues to allow our State to operate.
  TAPS has allowed us to create our permanent fund, which we have used 
to

[[Page S3627]]

convert the revenues from a nonrenewable resource--oil--into something 
that will make an enduring contribution to the growth and the 
prosperity of future generations.
  Our pipeline has also allowed us to keep our tax burdens low, which 
is critical in a State like Alaska, where the cost of living is 
extraordinarily high. Alaska has one of the lowest tax burdens of any 
State, and that is thanks to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. It also 
allows us to keep other industries, whether it is fishing or tourism--
keep their taxes much lower than they would otherwise be. The scale of 
this is often hard to imagine.
  Dr. Terrence Cole, who is a history professor at the University of 
Alaska, put it this way back in 2004: ``Prudhoe Bay oil was worth more 
than everything that has been dug out, cut down, caught, or killed in 
Alaska since the beginning of time. The discovery of the Prudhoe Bay 
oil field in the late 1960s fulfilled even the most optimistic dreams 
for statehood.''
  From day one, Alaska's pipeline has also strengthened the energy 
security of our Nation. Remember, TAPS began operating in the wake of 
the first Arab oil embargo. It helped tide us over during the 1979 oil 
crisis. It has insulated us from OPEC and has lessened our dependence 
on nations who do not share our interests. It has provided reliable and 
affordable energy that is needed by millions of Americans all up and 
down the west coast. It really is hard to imagine Alaska without the 
Trans-Alaska Pipeline. It is hard to imagine the consequences that 
America would have faced without the 17.5 billion barrels of oil that 
it has now safely carried to market. Think about that--17.5 billion 
barrels of oil over the past 40 years. It is no exaggeration to say 
that, while we built a pipeline, that pipeline helped us build our 
State.
  Today, as we mark the 40th anniversary of TAPS, we can also take 
stock of the challenges that it faces. Many are a direct result of the 
decisions made--or perhaps not made--in this very Chamber. While our 
pipeline once carried 2.1 million barrels of oil per day, accounting 
for a full quarter of America's supply, today, that amount has been 
crimped down to just over 500,000 barrels a day. It is not due to lack 
of resources--not at all--but instead it is due to our lack of access 
to those resources. Alaska has never lacked for energy, just the 
permission to produce it, despite the promises that had been made to us 
at statehood and beyond.
  According to the Federal Energy Information Administration, we have 
at least 36.9 billion barrels of oil. That is enough to produce 1 
million barrels a day for the next 100 years. We have prolific 
potential in our National Petroleum Reserve, which was specifically set 
aside for oil production. We have world-class resources in our offshore 
areas, in the Beaufort, and in the Chukchi Seas in our Arctic Outer 
Continental Shelf. We have what is believed to be North America's 
largest untapped conventional oil field, which would occupy about one 
ten-thousandth of the nonwilderness 1002 Area within the Arctic 
National Wildlife Refuge. Again, this is an area that was specifically 
set aside for development, and the Federal Government recommended that 
it be opened for that purpose back in 1987--a 30-year anniversary 
there.

  So while we have the resources, what we need are partners at the 
Federal level who will work with us to restore throughput to the Trans-
Alaska Pipeline. I welcome the new administration and its commitment to 
helping us produce energy--energy for Alaska, energy for the Nation.
  I want to end with a quote from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. This 
is an opinion piece by VADM Tom Barrett, who is the president of 
Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. This is the TAPS operator. He has 
written this opinion piece, and he states as follows: ``Though there 
has been a lot of change on TAPS in 40 years, one unwavering constant 
remains: the commitment of the people who work on TAPS today to provide 
safe, reliable, operational excellence, 24 hours a day, seven days a 
week, resilient amid all of Alaska's extreme geography and weather.''
  I think about the men and women--the engineers, the workers, the 
contractors, and all those who do such an incredible job to deal with 
the day-to-day to keep that oil flowing safely. Again, as we recognize 
40 years of safely transporting this oil, I want to repeat to my 
colleagues: TAPS, or the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, is not just a 
pipeline; it is an economic lifeline for us. It is source of security 
and prosperity for us as a nation.
  So I join my delegation and my colleagues--Senator Sullivan and 
Congressman Young--and all of the Alaskans who are marking this 
anniversary today, as TAPS reaches 40 good years. We look back, and we 
appreciate the past, but we also look forward and set our sights on 
another good 40 years to come.
  Mr. President, I thank you, and I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Hoeven). The Senator from New Mexico.


                         Healthcare Legislation

  Mr. UDALL. Mr. President, I am happy to be joined today on the floor 
by Senator Heinrich, who has been a real fighter for healthcare for New 
Mexicans, and I am looking forward to staying on the floor and hearing 
him talk about how he feels about this Republican healthcare bill as 
well.
  I rise today for the third time this session to oppose plans by 
President Trump and the Republicans to gut our healthcare system and to 
throw millions of Americans off their health insurance.
  On May 4 of this year, the day that House Republicans narrowly passed 
their TrumpCare bill, the President held a celebration at the White 
House in the Rose Garden and pronounced the bill a great plan.
  Well, TrumpCare may be a great plan if you are wealthy and healthy, 
because if you are wealthy you get big tax cuts and if you are healthy, 
your premiums may not go up, and may even go down--that is, until you 
are sick.
  TrumpCare is not a great plan if you are over the age of 62, if you 
are a hard-working family trying to make ends meet, if you live in a 
rural area, if you have or have not had an illness like cancer or heart 
disease or diabetes, or if you are a woman. Twenty-three million 
Americans will be left high and dry--out of health insurance by 2026. 
They don't think TrumpCare is a great plan. To them, it is a mean plan. 
Actually, those were President Trump's own words several weeks after 
the Rose Garden celebration. President Trump came clean with the Senate 
Republicans, admonishing them that the bill is ``mean'' and needs to be 
more ``generous, kind, and with heart.'' For the first time since his 
inauguration, I agree with the President on healthcare.
  Since day one of the 115th Congress, Republicans have had the 
Affordable Care Act in their sights, and so has the President. They 
have tried mightily to do away with the rights and benefits under the 
ACA. But there is good news. The American people have rallied. They 
have called, they have emailed, and they have gone to town halls. They 
have marched, they have made their views known, and they have shared 
their stories. So far, they have stopped Republicans from gutting our 
healthcare system.
  Just this past Saturday in my home State, simultaneous rallies in 
opposition to TrumpCare took place in 20 counties. I say to them: Keep 
up the fight, and I will continue to fight as hard as I can. We need to 
do all we can to stop this attack on healthcare.
  The consequences of upending our healthcare system are enormous. They 
are enormous for the 20 million Americans who now have healthcare 
because of the ACA through private insurance and through Medicaid 
expansion. TrumpCare hurts the most vulnerable--the elderly, the 
disabled, and those with fewer resources.
  The consequences of gutting the ACA and restructuring Medicaid are 
enormous for our economy, one-sixth of which is related to healthcare. 
They are enormous for hospitals that rely on third-party reimbursements 
under the ACA and Medicaid expansion. These hospitals need those 
revenues, and even more so for rural hospitals that keep their doors 
open thanks to the ACA, as well as the Indian Healthcare Service 
facilities, which have reduced wait times and added services because of 
the ACA.
  But the majority in Congress refuses to hold hearings, and they are 
blocking all public participation. This is unconscionable, and it is 
undemocratic.

[[Page S3628]]

  Before Democrats voted on ObamaCare, the Senate held 100 committee 
hearings, roundtables, and walk-throughs. The final Senate bill 
included 147 Republican amendments. The majority leader has missed an 
opportunity for political and moral leadership on one of the most 
important issues we face. Senator McConnell should have an honest and 
open process, including Senate committee hearings, with full public 
participation and a chance for patients to tell Congress how this 
proposal impacts them--not hidden meanings, not limited debate and a 
simple majority vote.
  Americans deserve an open process from their elected leaders. That is 
why I introduced a bill last week with my Democratic colleagues called 
the No Hearing, No Vote Act. This bill would require a public committee 
hearing for any legislation that goes through the fast-track budget 
reconciliation process, including the TrumpCare legislation.
  Members of Congress were elected to improve lives, not destroy them, 
and I believe we need bipartisan cooperation to ensure we don't do 
that.
  If we wanted to improve on ObamaCare, we could: No 1, make sure that 
all Americans have healthcare; and No. 2, make healthcare more 
affordable.
  So I will tell my colleagues what is really happening here. The 
American people don't want the benefits they have gained through 
ObamaCare to be repealed and replaced with an inferior plan. They do 
not support TrumpCare. Only 17 percent of Americans support the House 
Republicans' current bill. With this degree of public opposition, it is 
baffling that Republicans keep pushing the bill that kicks 23 million 
Americans off their healthcare.
  But the moral underpinnings of TrumpCare are as bankrupt as Trump's 
New Jersey casinos. The winners of TrumpCare are the wealthy, and the 
Republicans are plainly serving those interests. The Republicans can 
keep trying to hide TrumpCare, but Americans understand that it is just 
plain wrong.
  I want to talk about a few of the ways that it is just plain wrong. 
While women make up half of our population, no women serve on Senator 
McConnell's healthcare working group. Yet women are uniquely affected 
by TrumpCare. For example, the range of cost-free preventive services 
under the Affordable Care Act includes screenings for breast cancer, 
including mammograms, bone density screenings, cervical cancer 
screenings, domestic violence screenings and counseling, breast feeding 
counseling and equipment, contraception, and folic acid supplements. 
All of these services were critical to maintaining women's health and 
the health of their babies as well.
  New Mexico leads the Nation in the percentage of births that are 
covered by Medicaid at 72 percent of all births in the State. So these 
services that are now available to every woman are essential.
  TrumpCare would repeal the cost-free preventive care requirements for 
the Medicaid expansion population. Not only would this repeal risk the 
health of women and their babies, but it would result in increased 
medical care costs overall. Preventive medical services save money in 
the long run.
  The Affordable Care Act requires insurance plans to provide a range 
of essential health benefits. For women, these required services 
include maternity and newborn child care. But TrumpCare would allow 
States to apply for a waiver to define their own essential health 
benefits beginning in 2020. So States could choose to exclude maternity 
and newborn care, and women would end up paying more for this care. The 
result is women not getting the care they need.
  TrumpCare would cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood for 1 
year. Planned Parenthood provides preventive medical and reproductive 
health services to women and men, and Planned Parenthood funding 
provides a safety net to low-income women. According to the CBO, 
cutting off Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood for 1 year would 
mean a total loss of access to services in some low-income communities 
because Planned Parenthood is the only public provider in some regions.
  Take Elena from Albuquerque, NM. When she was 30 years old and in law 
school, Elena found out that she had the BRCA gene mutation, which puts 
her at a much higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. The treatments 
for the BRCA gene mutation include a mastectomy and ovary removal--
treatments she couldn't afford.
  Thankfully, Elena qualified for Medicaid under the expansion. She got 
her breast cancer screenings and decided to have a mastectomy because 
of the cancer scare. Elena had three surgeries, costing thousands of 
dollars, covered by Medicaid, and now the chances of her getting breast 
cancer are very low. But Elena now worries that if she decides to have 
her ovaries removed and TrumpCare becomes law, she will not be able to 
have this potentially lifesaving surgery. If she has had a lapse in 
Medicaid coverage, her Medicaid expansion coverage will be gone, and 
because TrumpCare would end the ban against insurance companies denying 
coverage for people with preexisting conditions, she may never be able 
to get insurance or surgery.
  Public schools and schoolchildren will be hurt by TrumpCare. Schools 
are now eligible to receive Medicaid funds for necessary medical 
services for children with disabilities. Schools are reimbursed for 
vision, hearing, and mental health screenings. These services help 
children get services early so they can be ready to learn.
  Right now, New Mexico schools are reimbursed $18 million from 
Medicaid, but under TrumpCare, States would not have to consider 
schools' Medicaid-eligible providers, and the costs would be on the 
public schools. The problem is, New Mexico public schools cannot take 
on these kinds of costs. That might mean hundreds of schoolchildren 
each year will go without vision, hearing, and mental health treatment 
because no one else will be able to provide them.

  Dr. Lynn McIlroy, superintendent of the Loving Municipal Schools, a 
rural school district in Southeastern New Mexico, said:

       Medicaid funding is vital to our continuum of care and 
     service to the majority of our students. Often, our school 
     nurse is the only medical professional our students ever see.

  New Mexico has one of the highest percent Native American populations 
in the country, more than 10 percent of our residents. Even though many 
Native Americans receive healthcare through the Indian Health Service, 
IHS has not always been able to provide needed care due to a lack of 
funding. Medicaid expansion has changed that and changed that 
dramatically.
  Dr. Valory Wangler, who works with the Zuni Pueblo, says: Since the 
Affordable Care Act, patients of Zuni have access to special services 
that were once difficult to fund and often delayed or denied.
  An IHS physician working on the Zuni Reservation had a patient with 
severe arthritis that was making it difficult for her to stay 
physically active and work at a local school. She needed knee 
replacement surgery. Before Medicaid expansion, IHS had trouble funding 
knee replacements, and the surgery was denied for years because IHS 
could only afford to pay for life and loss of limb services. This 
patient is now on the Medicaid expansion. She was able to get a total 
knee replacement, is working full time, staying fit, and is no longer 
in pain.
  One of the ACA's most popular provisions is the protection from 
discrimination if you have a preexisting condition. This is one of the 
most mystifying parts of TrumpCare. Republicans would end that 
protection by allowing States to waive out and set up high-risk pools.
  All of us know someone with a serious illness or condition, like Kitt 
here. Kitt is 4\1/2\ years old and has type I diabetes that will 
require lifelong care. Her mother Dana is worried about TrumpCare. Dana 
says: It breaks my heart that elected officials are leaning toward 
dropping the Federal mandate to guarantee affordable health insurance 
for those with preexisting conditions. Sit down with a child who has an 
unbearable disease and be their warrior in DC to make everything 
possible for that special soul and their family to have an easier 
tomorrow.
  I hope we will all be those warriors to protect that healthcare 
program which has been put in place for them.
  I yield to Senator Heinrich.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.

[[Page S3629]]

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. HEINRICH. 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. HEINRICH. Mr. President, I want to start by thanking my colleague 
from New Mexico, Senator Udall, for his advocacy on behalf of the 
pieces and parts of our healthcare system that are so important to the 
State of New Mexico. Things like rural hospitals, opioid treatment, 
Indian Country, he has been an incredible champion on those. That is 
part of the reason why both of us come to the floor today, given what 
is at stake.
  Last month, President Trump and House Republicans rushed through a 
disastrous healthcare bill that would leave average New Mexico families 
paying thousands of dollars more for less healthcare coverage. It would 
destroy the Medicaid Program as it currently exists in our State and 
throw our entire healthcare system into chaos. Now Senate Republicans 
are drafting their own version of a similar healthcare bill in complete 
secret, behind closed doors, with absolutely no--none--bipartisan 
input.
  This lack of transparency and departure from regular order is 
unacceptable and deeply irresponsible, especially when every single 
American family's healthcare coverage is at stake if this bill ever 
becomes law.
  While we don't know for sure what the Senate Republicans' version of 
TrumpCare will look like, media reports say it is shaping up to look 
more and more like the train wreck of a bill that President Trump and 
House Republicans celebrated in the White House Rose Garden just a 
couple months ago, a bill President Trump reportedly said in another 
closed-door meeting with Republican Senators last week was, in his 
words, ``mean'' and cold-hearted.
  The House-passed TrumpCare bill is devastating to low-income 
families, to seniors, to Americans living with preexisting conditions. 
This isn't so much a healthcare bill as it is a tax cut for the 
ultrarich masquerading as healthcare reform. You don't have to take my 
word for it. You can look at how the nonpartisan Congressional Budget 
Office described its projected impacts of the House-passed TrumpCare 
bill.
  According to the CBO's analysis, TrumpCare would strip 14 million of 
their health insurance next year and 23 million by 2026, all to give 
tax breaks to the wealthiest of Americans. That is reckless, and 
frankly it is inexcusable by any measure.
  How would the bill do that? The House-passed bill, which again seems 
to be the baseline for the ongoing secret negotiations here in the 
Senate, would slash funding for the Medicaid Program by hundreds of 
billions of dollars and end the need-based tax credits for individual 
healthcare market plans under the ACA.
  I have heard from so many New Mexicans who have told me how access to 
healthcare coverage has helped their families and, in some cases, even 
saved their lives.
  I recently met with patients at the Ben Archer Health Center, a rural 
health clinic in Hatch, NM, and heard firsthand how important Medicaid 
coverage can be to families in Southern New Mexico. One of the New 
Mexicans I met there was Anna Marie, a Las Cruces native who worked for 
the Las Cruces public food service for 22 years.
  Anna Marie's husband passed away in 2008, and when she found herself 
unable to keep working following a minor stroke, she could not afford 
healthcare coverage on her own. When she reached out to my office last 
year, she had bronchitis and walking pneumonia. My staff helped her 
enroll in Medicaid, and now she is able to get access to the care she 
needs.
  I want to take a moment to explain why the Medicaid Program is so 
critical in my home State of New Mexico. As a Medicaid expansion State, 
New Mexico has seen dramatic gains over the last 5 years in coverage 
for the folks who need it the most. Stories like Anna Marie's 
illustrate just how important Medicaid can be for hard-working New 
Mexicans.
  Medicaid currently provides affordable healthcare coverage to over 
900,000 New Mexicans, including many schoolchildren, seniors in nursing 
homes and long-term care facilities, people with disabilities, and 
people who need treatment for mental health and addiction.
  Just one example of the wide-ranging consequences of the Republican 
healthcare plan's drastic cuts to the Medicaid Program would be the end 
to any possible progress we have made so far in fighting the opioid and 
heroin epidemic. The opioid addiction epidemic has been deeply felt in 
communities across the State of New Mexico. For years, without adequate 
treatment resources, our State has suffered through some of the highest 
rates of opioid and heroin addiction in the Nation.
  I would just note that today a story came out about how we 
hospitalized in the ER long-term care or hospital care 1.3 million 
Americans last year because of this epidemic. However, when provided 
with an opportunity to receive comprehensive treatment and 
rehabilitation, people who have suffered through the trials of opioid 
addiction can and do turn their lives around.
  Evidence-based treatment works, but it is only possible when we 
devote real resources to pay for it. So much of that comes directly 
through the Medicaid Program. As we can see on this chart, Medicaid 
pays for 30 percent of opioid medication-assisted treatment in New 
Mexico--30 percent. It is the foundation to build on for opioid 
treatment.
  In States like West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky, Medicaid pays for 
nearly half of opioid treatment payments. This came up just last Friday 
when the White House hosted its first meeting for President Trump's 
Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The 
President's top advisers probably didn't hear what they would have 
liked to from the advocates who have been on the front lines of 
fighting the growing opioid crisis.
  For example, Dr. Joe Parks, the medical director for the National 
Council for Behavioral Health, told the President's Commission:

       Medicaid is the largest national payer for addiction and 
     mental health treatment. Since the majority of increased 
     opiate deaths and suicide occur in young and middle-aged 
     adults, which is the Medicaid expansion population, the 
     Medicaid expansions must be maintained and completed.

  It is nothing short of hypocrisy for the Trump White House to claim 
it is taking steps to address the opioid epidemic when it is helping 
Republicans in Congress push through legislation that would end the 
Medicaid Program as we know it. Slashing hundreds of billions of 
dollars in Federal funding from the Medicaid Program will ultimately 
pass all of those costs on to the States. Let me give a sense for just 
how big a burden that would be.
  In New Mexico, it is estimated that our State government would have 
to either come up with a way to raise $11 billion of new taxes over the 
next decade or cut the equivalent amount of coverage for the hundreds 
of thousands of New Mexicans who rely on the program. That is a hit to 
the State budget of 1 billion-plus dollars a year. This would have an 
especially hard impact on our State's rural communities.
  When you go to small towns in New Mexico, like Clayton, Raton, and 
Santa Rosa, as I did last fall on a rural healthcare listening tour, 
you see right away the vital role hospitals play in rural communities. 
In most cases, these hospitals are the only healthcare providers for 
many miles in any direction.
  Hospitals are also often the major employer in these small towns. 
Rural healthcare providers face enormous challenges because it is 
financially difficult to provide care to populations that live over 
vast spaces and are, on average, older, less affluent, and more prone 
to chronic diseases than those in more urban and suburban communities.
  Medicaid expansion and the need-based tax credits for individual 
healthcare market plans in the ACA have been critical financial 
lifelines for rural healthcare providers. Thanks to the coverage gains 
we have seen in New Mexico, instead of seeing uninsured patients coming 
to the emergency room during expensive medical emergencies, our rural 
healthcare providers are able to help New Mexicans live healthier lives 
with primary care and a preventive medicine approach.

[[Page S3630]]

  When medical emergencies do arise, New Mexicans have coverage that 
helps rural healthcare providers cover those expenses. If President 
Trump and Republicans in the Senate pass their healthcare bill, all of 
that could go away, and some of our rural healthcare providers may very 
well have to close up shop.
  Right now, more than one-third of rural hospitals are already at risk 
of closure. If you look at where the hospitals that have been forced to 
shut down in recent years are located, they are almost all in States 
that chose not to expand Medicaid. We should learn a lesson from that.
  I know for a fact that if hospitals shut down, healthcare delivery in 
rural New Mexico would be decimated and economic impact would be severe 
in these small towns. It is estimated that when a single hospital 
closes in a small rural community, nearly 100 jobs are lost, taking 
more than $5 million directly out of the local economy.
  A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute estimates that if 
Congress passes TrumpCare into law, New Mexico alone would see a loss 
of almost 50,000 jobs by the year 2022. Thanks in large part to the 
major coverage gains that we have seen under the ACA, the healthcare 
sector has been New Mexico's strongest area of job growth for the last 
5 years. New Mexico added over 4,000 healthcare jobs in 2015 alone.
  A couple of months ago, I met with students at Central New Mexico 
Community College, CNM, in Albuquerque, who were training for those 
healthcare jobs. These bright young people want to make careers out of 
making their communities healthier and safer. With this dangerous 
legislation moving through Washington, they are all worried about what 
it might mean for their future career plans.
  Why would we want to rip the rug out from under them by wreaking 
havoc on the Nation's healthcare system? Again, you really have to ask 
yourself why Republicans are so intent on rushing through a massive 
piece of legislation before we can even understand its potential 
harmful consequences.
  As I said earlier, I have heard from literally thousands of New 
Mexicans who have called in or written or come up to me on the street 
to oppose this legislation. Many of them have told me how it will 
directly impact their families. I could pick any one of these stories 
to demonstrate what is at stake in this debate, but I will leave you 
with just one.
  Brittany, from Aztec, NM, wrote me about her two young children who 
were diagnosed with a rare form of food allergies that created 
absolutely unaffordable costs through her husband's employer-provided 
healthcare plan.
  Brittany said that she and her husband were averaging three doctors' 
visits a week and were ``barely keeping [their] heads above water just 
from paying co-pays.''
  After applying for Medicaid, she and her husband have full coverage 
for their children's medical costs. Brittany wrote to me and said:

       For us Medicaid is literally lifesaving. Please do not take 
     away this program or any of the ACA! It may not be perfect 
     and could use some work, but taking it away altogether would 
     be catastrophic for so many people like my family.

  That is what she wrote to me.
  I want to urge President Trump and I certainly want to urge my 
Republican colleagues in the Senate to listen to that urgent message. 
It is time to turn the page on the disastrous policy path that is 
``repeal and replace'' so we can finally get to work on actually fixing 
those things in the current healthcare system that we all agree need 
work.
  Our common goal--regardless of whether we are Republicans or 
Democrats--that we should all be working toward is making quality 
healthcare more accessible, more affordable for all Americans.
  I would welcome a good-faith effort to tackle that challenge because 
healthcare policies shouldn't be a political football. It should be 
about giving peace of mind to the millions of Americans like Anna Marie 
in Las Cruces, like Brittany in Aztec, who are only one diagnosis away 
from a crisis if we don't get this right.
  I reserve the remainder of my time.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.
  Ms. DUCKWORTH. Mr. President, over the past few years, the Affordable 
Care Act has made tremendous strides in expanding healthcare coverage 
for hard-working Americans and the families who need it. I thank my 
colleague for his stories, and I would like to add some of my own.
  While the law could certainly be improved, the way to do it is not by 
passing TrumpCare, which even President Trump has admitted is a 
``mean'' bill. Unfortunately, Republican Senate leadership has 
indicated whatever it is that the Republicans are crafting in secret, 
behind closed doors, is going to be very similar to the version of 
TrumpCare that has passed the House. That is simply bad news.
  The version of TrumpCare that passed the House could cost 23 million 
Americans, including 385,000 Illinoisans, to lose healthcare coverage. 
It would make it more expensive for older Americans and working people, 
especially those with preexisting conditions, to purchase insurance.
  TrumpCare would cause their premiums and their out-of-pocket costs to 
simply skyrocket. The premiums of the average Illinoisan would increase 
by $700.
  TrumpCare would also make critical services like maternity care for 
new moms and mental health and substance abuse services significantly 
more expensive, even though they are desperately needed. That is 
extremely mean-spirited.
  Making matters worse, it would also put veterans on the chopping 
block. Specifically, TrumpCare would prohibit veterans who are eligible 
for VA healthcare from receiving tax credits to help them afford 
insurance in the individual marketplace. However, there is a big 
difference between being eligible for VA healthcare and being enrolled 
in VA. Oftentimes, that is not even a choice you can make.
  According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, as many as 
7 million of our veterans are eligible for VA care but are not 
enrolled. Preventing them from receiving tax credits would amount to a 
massive tax hike that would force them to pay thousands of dollars 
extra each year. That is not just mean; it is unacceptable.
  There has been ample reporting indicating that Republicans knew 
exactly what they were doing. They could have included a fix to this 
but purposefully did not because that would have made their bill 
ineligible to be considered under the Senate's budget reconciliation 
process, which requires only 51 votes. That is because to remedy this 
huge flaw, the veterans tax credit language would need to be considered 
in committees of jurisdiction. That would entail holding public 
hearings and markups in committees, which would then reveal to the 
American people what exactly is in the Republican bill.
  Apparently, the cost of public scrutiny is too high for Senate 
Republican leaders who are willing to raise taxes on veterans so they 
can hide this bad bill from the American people. As a result, the 
appalling flaws in their bill remain unfixed, and up to 7 million 
veterans remain on the chopping block.
  That is not the only way TrumpCare would harm veterans either. Its 
massive cuts to Medicaid would have a direct impact on veterans, since 
nearly 2 million veterans across our country, including 60,000 veterans 
in my own home State of Illinois, rely on Medicaid for their healthcare 
coverage. That is 1 in 10 veterans.
  For nearly 1 million of these veterans, Medicaid is their only source 
of coverage. Many of them are eligible for VA care only for the 
injuries they sustained in the military but not for any of their other 
health needs.
  I shouldn't have to remind my colleagues that veterans are at a 
higher risk for serious health issues because of the sacrifices they 
made for our Nation. Yet, if TrumpCare becomes law, many of them will 
lose the coverage they gained from Medicaid expansion under the ACA.
  Right now, 13 Republican Senators are sitting behind closed doors in 
some secret room on Capitol Hill, gambling with the lives of millions 
of Americans and people who have honorably served their country. One of 
those lives belongs to Robin Schmidt, a veteran from the North Side of 
Chicago.
  Robin served during Desert Storm in Army military intelligence. Robin 
loved her job in the military because it had always been her dream to 
serve her country. As a 13-year-old girl, Robin

[[Page S3631]]

stood at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. She knew 
that serving her country was her true calling. However, she was 
eventually forced to end her military career because, in her words, 
``the Army refused to allow my husband to come back overseas to live 
with me.''
  When she was pregnant with her child, she was forced to leave the 
military in order to return home to Arkansas to be with her husband to 
raise their children. When she was stateside, the VA denied her 
benefits because they were not service-connected, thus forcing her and 
her husband to pay the costs of maternity care and childbirth out of 
pocket.
  She faced medical complications and developed endometriosis, a 
preexisting condition, and had to have a Caesarean section during 
delivery. After she delivered her baby, she ended up with $500,000 in 
hospital debt.
  This enormous debt followed Robin and her husband throughout their 
marriage, and it eventually left them in divorce, medical bankruptcy, 
and with all of the repercussions that come from extreme financial 
hardship. She was also blocked from accessing affordable healthcare 
coverage because she now had a preexisting condition and could not 
afford good coverage on an $8.50-an-hour wage, so she went without 
care.
  Robin remained uninsured for a total of 22 years, until she remarried 
and gained healthcare coverage under her husband's insurance. This was 
especially devastating because in 2007, Robin was diagnosed with 
cancer. Even though Robin was covered by her husband's insurance, 
insurance companies were not required to cover chemotherapy in 2007, 
and chemotherapy was too expensive for Robin and her family to pay for 
out of pocket. Instead, she had to choose debilitating surgeries.
  After her cancer diagnosis, Robin developed severe autoimmune 
arthritis. Her autoimmune treatments started at $5,000 a month and soon 
increased to $14,000 a month. Insurance companies wanted Robin to pay 
for her medication upfront, with no guarantee of reimbursement.
  As her medical costs grew and grew, Robin had to choose between her 
medical care and her mortgage payment. After the Affordable Care Act 
became law, insurance companies were mandated to cover Robin's 
medications and treatments. They were no longer able to refuse her the 
medications she needed. Her insurance premium prior to the Affordable 
Care Act was $1,600 a month, which was more than her family paid for 
their monthly mortgage and household bills. Now she pays just $300 a 
month for her entire family. There was no more redtape, constant 
stress, or fear that she might not be able to work--or worse, might not 
be able to stay alive.
  Unfortunately, the coverage, relief, and peace of mind the ACA 
brought to Robin and her family is now under attack by congressional 
Republicans. Robin is afraid that if TrumpCare becomes law, she will 
once again become nothing more than an uninsurable preexisting 
condition. She is afraid she would be considered a high-risk pool 
patient who will be able to have insurance but will not be able to 
actually afford any of her treatments. She is afraid that if 
Republicans push through TrumpCare, she will not be able to walk, work, 
and will have absolutely no quality of life.
  Her dream was to serve her country in our Armed Forces. She took two 
oaths to serve this country, and she kept those oaths--promises that 
she would defend this great Nation.
  Robin may not be in uniform anymore, but she certainly deserves that 
we in Congress and here in the Senate defend her right to access 
quality healthcare.
  For Robin and for nearly 7 million veterans, middle-class families, 
our seniors, and some of our most vulnerable Americans, I urge my 
Republican counterparts to stop these secret negotiations, take repeal 
off the table, and work with Democrats to improve our healthcare 
system. Just like Robin, each of these Americans has a story, a family, 
and a valued place in society. Robin's family and all Americans deserve 
better than having their coverage stripped away from them behind closed 
doors.
  I yield back.


                            Order for Recess

  Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate 
recess, following my and Senator Nelson's remarks, until 5 p.m. for the 
all-Senators briefing and that the time count postcloture.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to be recognized 
to speak on issues not associated with the present subject of debate.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                       Coup Attempt in Montenegro

  Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, last week, the Senate voted 97 to 2 to 
strengthen sanctions against Vladimir Putin's Russia for its attack on 
America's 2016 election and its other aggressive and illegal behavior. 
I hope the other body will take swift action to send this legislation 
to the President's desk.
  We need strong Russia sanctions now because it has been 8 months 
since the U.S. intelligence community said publicly that the Russian 
Government directed this attack on our democracy. Yet, in the last 8 
months, the Russian Government has hardly paid any price for its 
aggression. Thus, Vladimir Putin has been learning all over again that 
aggression pays. He learned that in Georgia in 2008. He learned that in 
Ukraine in 2014. He has learned that in Syria since 2015. So Vladimir 
Putin remains on the offense. This year, Russia attempted to interfere 
in France's election. We have already seen attempts to influence German 
public opinion ahead of elections in September. And there is every 
expectation that Russia will do the same thing in the Czech Republic, 
Italy, and elsewhere in future elections.
  But perhaps the most disturbing indication of how far Vladimir Putin 
is willing to go to advance his dark and dangerous view of the world is 
what happened in October 2016 in the small Balkan country of 
Montenegro, when Russian intelligence operatives, in league with Serbia 
nationalists and others, attempted to overthrow the democratically 
elected Government of Montenegro and murder its Prime Minister on the 
country's election day. Why would Vladimir Putin go this far? To answer 
this, one must understand why Russia was so interested in the outcome 
of Montenegro's election.
  Russia opposes the spread of democracy, human rights, and the rule of 
law across Europe, which is advanced by the European Union and 
protected by the NATO alliance. To Russia's great frustration, 
Montenegro's Government had committed the country to a Euro-Atlantic 
future and pursued membership in both the EU and NATO.
  Indeed, NATO's invitation to Montenegro to join the NATO alliance in 
December 2015 was considered particularly insulting and threatening by 
Moscow. After all, Montenegro had once been part of Russia's 
traditional Slavic ally, Serbia. Montenegro has long been a favorite 
destination for Russian tourists. Russian politicians and oligarchs are 
reported to own as much as 40 percent of the real estate in that 
country. A few years ago, when it feared losing its naval base in Syria 
due to the civil war, Russia reportedly sought a naval base in 
Montenegro but was rejected. Now, if Montenegro joined NATO, the entire 
Adriatic Sea would fall completely within NATO's borders.
  Montenegro's accession into NATO would also send a signal that NATO 
membership was a real possibility for other nations of the Western 
Balkans--Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and, according to 
some optimistic voices in the region, perhaps even Serbia.

  That is why Montenegro's October 16 election was no ordinary one. In 
Russia's eyes, it was a last chance to stop Montenegro from joining 
NATO, to thwart Montenegro's pursuit of a Euro-Atlantic future, and to 
reassert Russian influence in southeastern Europe. That is why there 
was little doubt that Russia would exert heavy pressure on Montenegro 
ahead of the election. Russia had already been accused of fomenting 
anti-government demonstrations and funding opposition parties. Yet few 
would have guessed how far Russia was willing to go. But now we know.
  This April, as part of my visit to seven countries in southeastern 
Europe to reaffirm America's commitment to the region, I visited 
Montenegro and was briefed by Montenegrin officials on

[[Page S3632]]

the status of the investigation into the coup attempt. On April 14, 
Montenegro's special prosecutor filed indictments against 2 Russians 
and 12 other people for their roles in the coup attempt. This past 
weekend, a Montenegrin court accepted the indictments. As a result, the 
evidence before the court is now public.
  I believe it is critically important that my colleagues and the 
American people are aware of the allegations made in these indictments. 
Pieced together, they reveal another blatant attack on democracy by the 
Russian Government--an attempt to smash a small, brave country that had 
the nerve to defy its will. And it is another unmistakable warning that 
Vladimir Putin will do whatever it takes to achieve his ambition to 
restore the Russian Empire.
  According to the indictments, the coup planning got off to a slow 
start in March 2016. That was when opposition leaders in Montenegro 
allegedly sent an emissary known as Nino to Belgrade to meet with 
Slavko Nikic. In the first meeting at Slavko's office, Nino said that 
he had been doing business for years in Russia, and he claimed that he 
was in contact with powerful men in Russia. He claimed that one of the 
men with him was a Russian FSB agent in charge of special tasks. Nino 
tried to enlist Slavko and his men to lead a plot to destabilize 
Montenegro, and Slavko indicated he was able and willing to 
participate. Later, Nino and Slavko met on the Pupin Bridge in 
Belgrade, this time with the supposed FSB agent in tow. The Russian 
told Slavko it would be good if he traveled to Moscow.
  After these encounters in Belgrade, Nino enlisted the help of 
Bratislav Dikic, the former chief of Serbia's special police and 
someone we will meet later in this story, to use his contacts to check 
into Slavko's reliability. He didn't pass the test, and this original 
version of the coup plot was abandoned.
  It was at this point that the two Russians, Eduard Shishmakov and 
Vladimir Popov, stepped in to take control of the plans for 
destabilization operations in Montenegro. Both of these men are 
believed to be members of the Russian military agency, the GRU.
  Shishmakov in particular already had a colorful past. In 2014, 
Shishmakov had been serving as deputy military attache in Russia's 
Embassy in Warsaw, Poland. After a scandal involving a Russian spy 
network within the Polish Government, the Polish Government identified 
Shishmakov as a GRU agent, declared him persona non grata, and ejected 
him from Poland.
  Having taken over the Montenegrin operation, Shishmakov moved quickly 
to contact Sasa Sindjelic. The two had first met in Russia back in 
2014, when they discussed their opposition to the EU and NATO. 
Shishmakov even offered to help support Sindjelic's organization, the 
Serbian Wolves, which promotes Pan-Slavism and close relations between 
Russians and Serbs and opposes NATO and the Government of Montenegro.
  The two met again in Moscow in 2015. This time, Shishmakov had 
Sindjelic submitted to a polygraph test that lasted for hours. After 
the test went well, he sent Sindjelic home with $5,000 and a promise to 
contact him if something urgent came up. That was in the spring of 
2016. Shishmakov wrote that Montenegro's Prime Minister, Milo 
Djukanovic, and his government must be removed immediately and that the 
people of Montenegro must rebel in order for this to happen.
  Then in September 2016, Shishmakov told Sindjelic to urgently come to 
Moscow. Shishmakov even sent $800 to Sindjelic to buy his ticket. It 
was no trouble for Shishmakov to send the money--after all, he sent it 
from a Western Union conveniently located on the same street as GRU 
headquarters in Moscow. Once in Moscow, Shishmakov and Sindjelic 
discussed the planning and operation of the plot to overthrow the 
Montenegrin Government, install the opposition in power, and abandon 
all plans for Montenegro to enter NATO. Shishmakov said opposition 
leaders from Montenegro had already visited Moscow a number of times 
and were in agreement with the plan.
  In total, Sindjelic received more than $200,000 to support the 
operation. He used those funds to pay personnel, acquire police 
uniforms and equipment, and purchase weapons, including rifles, gas 
masks, bulletproof vests, electrical tranquilizers, and a drone with a 
camera. He was also provided encrypted phones to enable secure 
communications between the coup plotters and GRU agents.
  Sindjelic and Shishmakov stayed in close touch as preparations 
continued ahead of the October elections. The plan was this:
  On election day, the Montenegrin opposition was planning large 
protests in front of the Parliament, expecting to draw nearly 5,000 
people. Sindjelic and his coconspirators, including Bratislav Dikic, 
the former commander of the Serbian special police, would recruit as 
many Serbian nationalists as they could to travel from Serbia to 
Montenegro to join the demonstrations. They were hoping 500 would join 
the protests and be ready to act when called upon.
  As the protests were underway, a group of 50 armed men recruited by 
Shishmakov and wearing police uniforms provided by Sindjelic would 
ambush and kill the members of Montenegro's Special Anti-Terrorist Unit 
to prevent them from interfering with the coup. The armed men, still 
wearing their police uniforms, would then proceed to the Parliament 
building, where they would begin shooting at members of the police 
defending the Parliament building. They hoped to create the impression 
that some members of the police were changing sides and joining the 
protesters against the government. As the coup plotters saw it, this 
was poetic justice--reminiscent of how former Serbian President and 
convicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevic had fallen from power.
  Led by the coup plotters and the Serbian nationalists, who would wear 
blue ribbons to be recognizable to one another, the protesters would 
then storm the Parliament building and declare victory for the 
opposition. Within 48 hours, the new government would be formed and 
arrests would be made across the capital, including Prime Minister 
Djukanovic. If the Prime Minister could not be captured, he would be 
killed.
  The coup plotters obviously wanted to create chaos, and it appears 
they may have had someone in mind to blame for the violence. Ahead of 
the election, the Montenegrin opposition hired a U.S. company to 
provide services, including countersurveillance and planning to extract 
personnel from the Montenegrin capital, around the time of the 
election. It is still unclear, the precise nature of this outreach to 
the U.S. company by the Montenegrin opposition or what services the 
company may have ended up providing, if any. Now, this is speculation, 
but if I know the Russians, American security personnel--some likely to 
have military or intelligence background--on the ground during the coup 
in the Montenegrin capital would have made excellent patsies for 
stories on Sputnik and Russia Today.
  Fortunately--one might even say luckily--the plan never got off the 
ground. Four days before election day, one of the coup plotters got 
cold feet and informed the Montenegrin authorities. On election day, 
Montenegrin police arrested 20 Serbian citizens, including the on-the-
ground leader of the nationalist protesters, Bratislav Dikic, the 
former commander of the Serbian special police. News of the arrests 
sparked fear among others involved in the plot, many of whom retreated 
to Serbia.
  Furious that the plot had been disrupted, Shishmakov, the Russian GRU 
agent, grasped at straws for new ways of bringing down the Montenegrin 
Government. He ordered Sindjelic to procure an assassin to kill the 
Prime Minister. Sindjelic did not carry out that order and later turned 
himself into police, fearing he would be next for assassination by the 
GRU.

  Shishmakov also ordered a false flag attack on the opposition party 
headquarters to create the appearance of an attack by the government. 
He even hoped to entice one of the political parties that was part of 
the Prime Minister's coalition to leave the government with a bribe 
using Russian money funneled through Chechnya. Again, fortunately none 
of this worked.
  Montenegrin police made several arrests in the aftermath of this 
failed coup attempt, but those arrests did not

[[Page S3633]]

include the alleged GRU agents, Mr. Shishmakov and Mr. Popov. They were 
in Belgrade, Serbia's capital. Presumably, Montenegrin authorities 
hoped the Serbian Government would consider expediting the pair to 
Montenegro as the government had done with some of the lower level coup 
plotters, but that did not happen, and the two Russian agents returned 
to Moscow.
  I know that sounded a little complicated. Every American should be 
disturbed by what happened in Montenegro. We should admire the courage 
of the country's leaders who resisted Russian pressure and persevered 
to bring Montenegro into the NATO alliance, which finally took place 
officially 2 weeks ago.
  If there is one thing we should take away from this heinous plot, it 
is that we cannot treat Russia's interference in America's election in 
2016 as an isolated incident. We have to stop looking at this through 
the warped lens of politics and see this attack on our democracy for 
what it is--just one phase of Vladimir Putin's long-term campaign to 
weaken the United States, to destabilize Europe, to break the NATO 
alliance, to undermine confidence in Western values, and to erode any 
and all resistance to his dark and dangerous view of the world.
  That is why Putin attacked our 2016 election. That is why Putin 
attempted to overthrow the Government of Montenegro. That is why he 
tried to influence the election in France and will try the same in 
Germany and elsewhere throughout Europe. That is why it probably will 
not be long before Putin attempts some punitive actions in Montenegro 
to show other countries in the Western Balkans what happens when you 
try to defy Russia.
  That is why it will not be long before Putin takes interest in 
another American election. The victim may be a Republican. It may be a 
Democrat. To Putin, it will not matter as long as he succeeds in 
dividing us from one another, weakening our resolve, undermining 
confidence in ourselves, and eroding our belief in our own values.
  I urge my colleagues again that we must take our own side in this 
fight, not as Republicans, not as Democrats but as Americans. It is 
time to respond to Russia's attack on American democracy and that of 
our European allies with strength, with resolve, with common purpose, 
and with action.
  I would like to finally add we will be holding a hearing in the Armed 
Services Committee on this whole situation that took place in 
Montenegro.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Florida.
  Mr. NELSON. Mr. President, before the Senator from Arizona leaves the 
floor, he and I are very much in syncopation on the question of what he 
has just eloquently addressed about the Russian attempts to interfere 
in other countries as well as in our country with regard to the 
elections.
  I just wanted to pose a question to the Senator. Is the Senator 
aware, as he obviously is--but it is my rhetorical question--that the 
Russians have already intervened in the elections of other countries 
and indeed tried and it boomeranged against them against France and are 
probably in the midst of trying to interfere with the German election?
  Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, every indication, I would say to my friend 
from Florida, a most valued member of the Armed Services Committee, 
they will continue to try to interfere in any election they possibly 
can. They are spending large amounts of money. They have certainly, to 
some degree, undermined confidence between countries in the NATO 
alliance, and that, coupled with the degree of uncertainty here in 
Washington, has probably put as great a strain on the NATO alliance as 
you have seen since its very beginning. I thank my colleague from 
Florida.
  Mr. NELSON. Mr. President, one further question. Has the Senator 
been--well, he obviously is aware, and he has obviously been briefed--
but can he help convey the gravity of the situation of Russia's 
interference in the upcoming elections in 2018 and 2020, where not only 
is it a question of whether they would change the vote count by getting 
in and hacking, but they could change the registration records so that 
a voter could show up to vote on election day and suddenly the 
registrar says: But you are not registered.
  Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I would just say to my colleague from 
Florida that when you look at their early attempts versus their latest 
attempts, they learn with every experience. It is a lot easier--as my 
colleague from Florida knows, it is a lot easier to play offense than 
defense.
  We are going to have a hearing on this whole Montenegrin thing, and I 
know the Senator from Florida will play a very significant role. Every 
time we turn around, we have a new revelation of some of the activities 
that have been carried out, not just by Russian hackers but by Chinese, 
by Iranian, even by single individuals. This is probably the national 
security challenge that may not be the greatest, but I would say we are 
the least prepared for.
  Mr. NELSON. Mr. President, this Senator certainly looks forward to 
that hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee. I thank the 
chairman for his leadership in constantly bringing up and reminding the 
American people of the threat that is coming through cyber attacks into 
this Nation and others.


                         Healthcare Legislation

  Mr. President, I wanted to speak about what is going on here in this 
Capitol at this moment. It has been the subject of a lot of discussion 
last night and again as we have been in session today; that is, trying 
to hatch a plan to overturn the Affordable Care Act and to find 
something that would replace it. In fact, it is being done in secret.
  I would just merely pose the question, Why is it being done in secret 
if it is to be something that is to help the American people more than 
what the existing law is? Why wouldn't that be something you would want 
to expose to the light of day? If it is to improve the existing law, 
why in the world would that not want to be done on a bipartisan basis?
  Yet we find ourselves confronting a situation where the majority 
leader has said he is trying to cobble together 50 votes to overturn 
the existing law, and it must be something that is not very palatable 
in what it is to overturn the existing law. Otherwise, it would be done 
in the open and in the sunshine.
  Now, the existing law is not perfect so we ought to improve it, but 
the existing law, as we have heard in some of these dramatic townhall 
meetings, is the reason some people are alive today. It is the reason 
some folks no longer have to worry about being denied coverage for a 
preexisting condition.
  By the way, that requirement of not allowing an insurance company to 
deny you coverage because you have a preexisting condition is not 
applicable just to those who are on the State and Federal exchanges. 
That is applicable to all insurance policies.
  So if you have that kind of condition, which I can tell you might be 
a condition such as asthma, we are not going to insure you for the rest 
of your life because you had asthma or, if you want to go to the 
extreme--and it has been done--an insurance company saying: I am not 
going to insure you because you have had a rash. The flip side of that 
is insurance companies put a lifetime limit on it so if they pay out up 
to a certain amount--let's say $50,000--the insurance policy stops, no 
more payouts.
  That is not according to the existing law. In the existing law, they 
can't say you are going to lose your coverage because you hit that 
lifetime limit cap that their payout is.
  Every day I hear from Floridians who tell me how the House-passed 
bill would affect them and what we speculate, since we don't know, that 
the Senate bill that is attempting to be brought out at the last minute 
next week--what we suspect is going to be in it. Every day I hear from 
people.
  So take, for example, the lady from Sebring, FL, Christine Gregory. 
She has allowed me to use her name.

       My daughter has Juvenile Diabetes (Type 1). She was 
     diagnosed at age 15 . . . when the Affordable Care Act was 
     signed into law. I absolutely rejoiced about the end of all 
     the horrible things that come along with having a pre-
     existing condition. She no longer had to worry about 
     cancellation of her insurance, waiting periods, denial of 
     coverage, annual and lifetime limits, higher premiums, and 
     the dreaded high-risk pools.

  Then she continues to write:

       Fast forward to 2017. All the fear and the worry are back. 
     Our President and Congress plan to repeal and replace the 
     Affordable Care Act. Now she has the very real prospect of 
     having to enter a very expensive high-risk

[[Page S3634]]

     pool. That could mean bankruptcy and denial of needed 
     medicines and care.

  Take, for example, an unnamed constituent from Florida's panhandle 
who wrote me. I got this today.

       I have chronic and persistent illnesses that would be 
     debilitating without affordable and comprehensive care. I 
     have chronic back pain from degenerative disc disease in 
     every part of my spine. I have had innumerable procedures to 
     help manage the pain, including epidural and targeted nerve 
     block injections at multiple levels.

  This unnamed individual, a constituent of mine, continues:

       I am now planning to get radio frequency ablation of the 
     nerves. Using pre-ACA rules--

  Before the existing law--

       I would have hit my lifetime limit at least 1 year ago and 
     been unable to continue getting pain-managing treatment. I 
     often feel like I am a burden to my wife who is one of the 
     most understanding and supportive people I know.

  He concludes:

       If the AHCA passes and our insurance and total health costs 
     go up significantly, the burden I feel I am right now will 
     become a reality. Please, I deserve more than to suffer from 
     uncontrollable pain. And my wife deserves more than to have 
     to care for me in that condition.

  The existing law is not perfect, but it has given millions of people, 
including those with preexisting conditions like juvenile diabetes, 
access to healthcare they otherwise would not receive. This healthcare 
bill that passed the House that is the model for apparently something--
for taking it out of that--if they are ever going to get an agreement 
between the two Houses, that Republican healthcare bill will take us 
back to the days when it was nearly impossible for people with a 
preexisting condition to get health insurance coverage. People with 
asthma could be forced to pay more than $4,000 more because of that 
preexisting condition. People with rheumatoid arthritis could be forced 
to pay up to $26,000, and people who are pregnant could pay more and 
more and more.

  Let me tell you about another constituent from Volusia County who 
shared how the repeal of this would affect her.
  She writes:

       My husband, a 50-year-old leukemia survivor, would lose his 
     ability to obtain comprehensive health insurance due to the 
     lack of protections for people with preexisting conditions.
       My daughter, who has asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, would 
     lose her ability to obtain comprehensive health insurance due 
     to the lack of protections for people with pre-existing 
     conditions. Our family, all hard working, tax paying 
     Americans, will once again be subjected to annual and 
     lifetime limits which could easily bankrupt us.
       My daughter, who is a young woman just starting her career, 
     would lose her ability to purchase affordable health 
     insurance and receive tax subsidies that she currently 
     receives under the Affordable Care Act.

  She goes on to say that she is afraid that TrumpCare would relegate 
them, if you change all of that, to second class citizens.
  Why am I saying this about preexisting conditions with regard to what 
was passed at the other end of this hallway, down at the House of 
Representatives? They say: No, no, preexisting conditions are not 
eliminated down there. But that does not tell you the whole story. The 
whole story is that, in the House-passed bill, it is left up to the 
States, and the States see that as a way of so-called lowering their 
premiums. If you start doing that for some and do not keep it spread 
over the millions and millions of people who are now under the 
protection of the preexisting conditions, it is going to become a 
select few more, and it is going to spike the cost of that insurance.
  I conclude by telling you another part of what happened down there in 
the House. In effect, they changed Medicaid as we know it by cutting 
out of it over $800 billion over a 10-year period.
  Donna Krajewski, from Sebastian, FL, wrote to me recently to tell me 
what Medicaid is for her family.
  She writes:

       I am writing this letter on behalf of my son . . . who has 
     Down syndrome. . . . These blocks--

  That is the technical term they are using in the House of 
Representatives. In other words, it is capping Medicaid to each of the 
States--

       or caps [on Medicaid] will cause States to strip critical 
     supports that my son needs to live, learn and work in the 
     community.
       These [Medicaid] funds have enabled him to participate in 
     an adult supervised day program and transportation to and 
     from the site. This program involves classes, such as daily 
     living skills, social skills, and daily life skills. He is 
     also able to go out once or twice a week to socialize. . . . 
     He has become more confident and happy with his life.

  We need to find ways to improve the healthcare system. We need to fix 
the existing law. We do not need to unwind all of the good things that 
we have done. We need to fix it in a bipartisan way so that, when folks 
come to me and ask, ``Senator, what are we going to do to fix it?'' 
what I will then say is that it is my responsibility to do something.
  Last week, I filed a bill, with a number of other Senators, that 
would lower healthcare premiums for people in Florida by up to 13 
percent. What it would do is help to stabilize the existing law's 
insurance marketplace by creating a permanent reinsurance fund that 
would lower the risk that insurance companies face--a risk pool, a 
reinsurance fund.
  It is kind of like what we did back when I was the elected insurance 
commissioner of Florida in the aftermath of the monster hurricane--
Hurricane Andrew. Insurance companies just simply could not take the 
risk that a category 5 would come along, hit directly on the coast, and 
just wipe out everything--wipe out all of the capital reserve the 
insurance companies had. What they did was to go to a reinsurance fund 
for hurricanes, which we actually created in Florida--the catastrophic 
reinsurance fund--so that the insurance companies could reinsure 
themselves against a catastrophic hurricane loss.
  That is exactly what this proposal is. It would lower premiums by 13 
percent and create a reinsurance fund--a permanent one--that would 
lower the risk to the insurance companies that are insuring people's 
health.
  At least one Florida insurer estimates that this bill, if passed, 
would reduce premiums for Floridians who get their coverage from 
healthcare.gov by 13 percent between 2018 and 2020.
  So you ask: What is a suggestion? I figured that it was my 
responsibility to come up with a suggestion on how to fix it. This is 
one of several fixes, and it is a tangible fix, and it is, in fact, 
filed as legislation.
  What we are facing in the suggestion that I have made is not the 
ultimate solution to solving the healthcare system, but it is one small 
step in the right direction to making health insurance available and 
affordable for the people who need it the most.
  How are we going to fix it?
  You are not going to do it by running around in the dead of night, 
secretly putting together a plan that is only going to be a partisan 
plan. If you are going to fix the healthcare system, you are going to 
have to do it together, in a bipartisan way, building consensus. That 
is what I urge the Senate to do instead of what we are seeing happen 
behind closed doors.
  Let's get together. Let's work together to make healthcare more 
affordable for people and stop all of this stuff behind the closed 
doors. The American people deserve better.
  I yield the floor.

                          ____________________