(Senate - September 14, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 149 (Thursday, September 14, 2017)]
[Pages S5727-S5731]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                           EXECUTIVE SESSION


                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sasse). Under the previous order, the 
Senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following 
nomination, which the clerk will report.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of Pamela 
Hughes Patenaude, of New Hampshire, to be Deputy Secretary of Housing 
and Urban Development.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. There will now be 40 minutes of debate, 
equally divided between the two sides in the usual form.
  The Senator from Oregon.


  Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, the most important words in our 
Constitution are the first three words: ``We the People.'' That is the 
mission statement for the United States of America. It is written in 
big, bold, beautiful letters so that even from across the room, if you 
can't read the details, you know what our Nation is all about. As 
President Lincoln summarized, a Nation ``of the people, by the people, 
for the people.''
  What we have seen this year is quite an assault on this vision of 
government of, by, and for the people. It came in the form of President 
Trump's plan to rip healthcare from millions of Americans in order to 
deliver billions of dollars to the very richest among us--plan after 
plan, version after version, wiping out healthcare for 24 million, 
wiping out healthcare for 23 million, wiping out healthcare for 32 
million, and so on and so forth, always over 20 million, and always 
delivering this enormous gift of hundreds of billions of dollars to the 
richest Americans.
  You look at this from a little bit of distance, and it is just 
incredible to imagine that this could have occurred--that any member, a 
single member of our Nation would possibly

[[Page S5728]]

have supported such an outrageous, diabolical, dangerous, damaging plan 
to the quality of life for so many people across our Nation.
  It wasn't just that it ripped healthcare from more than 20 million 
people. It wasn't just that it delivered billions of dollars to the 
wealthiest among us. It also ensured that those with preexisting 
conditions wouldn't be able to get care. It was also that it would have 
raised our premiums an estimated 20 percent for those who were able to 
secure insurance.
  If one set out to design the worst possible healthcare plan you could 
ever imagine, you probably couldn't come up with one as bad as 
President Trump and the Republican team came up with. It seems 
incredible that we are still debating the basic premise of whether 
healthcare should be part of a standard foundation for families to 
thrive here in this century. Every other developed nation understands 
that healthcare is so essential to quality of life, so essential for 
our children to thrive, so essential for our families to succeed that 
they make sure that, just by virtue of living in a country, you have 
that healthcare.
  Well, I have to salute the millions of Americans who weighed in to 
say that this diabolical plan needed to be dumped. They filled our 
streets and overflowed our inboxes and flooded our phones. They made it 
perfectly clear that healthcare is a basic human right, not a privilege 
reserved for the healthy and the wealthy. I certainly agree with them. 
We decided collectively that we were not going to allow this diabolical 
plan to undo the progress we made. We made significant progress with 
ObamaCare. After decades of being essentially unable to change the 
uninsured rate, we made significant progress. There we are with a big 
drop in the uninsured rate--a big increase in the number of people who 
have access to healthcare. But we are not in that place yet where this 
number drops to zero. We still have 10 percent of our country that 
doesn't have insurance. The costs are still too high, and the 
deductibles and copays are too high. One out of five Americans can 
still not afford their prescriptions.
  In addition, we have this incredibly complicated set of healthcare 
systems. We have Medicare and Medicaid. We have on-exchange, and we 
have off-exchange. We have the Children's Health Insurance Program. We 
have workers' compensation. We have self-insurance. We have a multitude 
of varieties of healthcare through the workplace--some covering just 
the individual, others covering the entire family, some covering just a 
small percent of the healthcare costs and some more. Some are certainly 
so complicated that even the folks who have them aren't sure what the 
insurance company should pay.
  So we found in this conversation with Americans about healthcare that 
Americans weighed in very strongly about the stresses and the 
challenges of ordinary Americans to secure healthcare. It is an ongoing 
lifelong effort. Do you have an employer who covers you but not your 
children? Can you get them on the Children's Health Insurance Program? 
Do you have an insurance plan at work that you have to contribute to, 
but the costs of contributing are so high that you really can't afford 
it? Do you opt out of that? Then, what happens? Or perhaps you are 
under Medicaid--up to 138 percent of the poverty level for those States 
that have expanded Medicaid--and you gain a small increase in your pay 
and maybe now you don't qualify. In the middle of the year, can you 
apply to the healthcare exchange? Will you get tax credits credited to 
you or will you have to pay a big sum at the end of the year when your 
taxes are reconciled? It is continuous applications, continuous change, 
and continuous stress. Why do we make it that hard?
  In my 36 town halls a year--one in every county in Oregon, mostly in 
red counties because most of the counties in Oregon are red counties--I 
have had people coming out yearning for a simple, seamless system that 
says: Just by virtue of being an American, you have healthcare when you 
need it and you will not end up bankrupt. What is that vision all 
about? It is about taking an existing model, one that has worked so 
well for our seniors--the model of Medicare.
  Folks used to come to my town halls and they would say: I am just 
trying to stay alive until I reach age 65 so that I can be part of that 
wonderful healthcare plan--that Medicare plan. So this is a well-known 
commodity. I have heard some of my colleagues mocking it in the last 
few days. Well, certainly, maybe they should get out and have town 
halls. Maybe they should talk to our seniors about how well this system 
works. Maybe they should recognize that the overhead costs are much 
lower--2 percent versus 20 percent, and sometimes much more in private 
insurance healthcare. That is more than a fifth of our healthcare 
dollars simply wasted--a waste that disappears with Medicare for All.
  This is the type of healthcare system that addresses and changes this 
enormous, fractured, and stressful system. We currently spend twice as 
much as other developed nations per person on healthcare--twice as much 
as France, twice as much as Canada, twice as much as Germany, and the 
list goes on. Yet the healthcare we receive provides less health in 
America than in those countries.
  We should be ashamed that our infant mortality rates are higher, even 
though we spend twice as many dollars per capita as those other 
countries. So it is clear that there is significant room for 
improvement. By the way, there are so many opportunities to move in 
this direction.
  We laid out this Medicare for All plan, and I salute my colleague 
Bernie Sanders and my additional cosponsors. There are now 17 Senators 
who have said: We are cosponsors to this because we know that it 
addresses the fractured, stressful nature of our system. We know it is 
more cost-effective than our current system. We know that it will lead 
to greater peace of mind than our current system.
  Shouldn't peace of mind be what we are all about? That is the peace 
of mind that if your loved one gets ill or injured, they will get the 
care they need. The peace of mind that if your loved one is in an 
accident, they will get the care they need and you will not end up 
  It is time for America to have this conversation, and it is my 
intention, certainly, to have this conversation with the citizens of 
Oregon and to encourage my colleagues to have this conversation with 
their citizens. How can we move to a system where you can stop worrying 
about whether you will get the care you need, whether your loved ones 
will get the care they need, and that you will not end up bankrupt when 
you are sick or injured? That is the goal.
  Let's have that conversation, America, and keep pushing toward making 
it a reality. I am proud to sponsor this bill. I certainly am proud to 
fight for quality affordable healthcare for every single American 
because it is a basic human right.
  Thank you, Mr. President.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts.

     Congratulating the Watertown High School Field Hockey Program

  Mr. MARKEY. Mr. President, before I start my remarks on the dangers 
of nuclear war, I want to take a moment to congratulate the Watertown 
High School field hockey program in Massachusetts.
  Up until this past week, the Watertown Raiders had not lost a single 
field hockey game since November 12, 2008. For nearly 9 years, the 
Raiders have been truly perfect. Their 184-game winning streak was our 
Nation's longest in high school field hockey history. Their leader, 
Head Coach Eileen Donahue, is one of the most historic figures in 
Massachusetts high school athletics.
  To all the former and current players, coaches, parents and 
supporters, I offer my congratulations on this incredible 
  Go, Watertown Raiders. Congratulations on a historic streak of 

                            Nuclear Weapons

  Mr. President, now on the issue of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons 
give the President of the United States an unprecedented and awesome 
power. Nuclear weapons are the most destructive force in human history. 
Yet, under existing laws, the President of the United States possesses 
unilateral authority to launch them. If the President wants to, he has 
the power to initiate an offensive nuclear war, even if there is no 
attack on the United States or its allies. This is simply 

[[Page S5729]]

undemocratic, and simply unbelievable.
  Such unconstrained power flies in the face of our Constitution, which 
gives Congress the sole and exclusive power to declare war. While it is 
vital for the President to have clear authority to respond to nuclear 
attacks on the United States, our forces, or our allies, no U.S. 
President should have the power to launch a nuclear first strike 
without congressional approval.
  Such a strike would be immoral. It would be disproportionate, and it 
would expose the United States to the threat of devastating nuclear 
retaliation, which could endanger the survival of the American people 
and human civilization. If we lead potential enemies to believe that we 
may go nuclear in response to a conventional attack, then we create the 
very pressure that encourages them to build nuclear arsenals and keep 
them on high alert. This increases the risk of inadvertent nuclear war, 
a prospect that is just plain unacceptable.
  We have the world's most powerful conventional arsenal--the strongest 
Air Force, the largest Navy, and the most capable Army and Marine 
Corps. And we have the most powerful nuclear arsenal to deter nuclear 
attacks. We don't need to threaten to be the first to attack with 
nuclear weapons to deter others from launching attacks on us or our 
  Nuclear weapons are meant for deterrence and not for warfighting. As 
President Reagan said: ``A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be 
  That is why I introduced legislation earlier this year and submitted 
an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which we are 
now considering, to put an appropriate check on the American 
President's unilateral authority to launch a nuclear first strike.
  Let me be clear. I am not proposing we restrict the President's 
authority under the Constitution to launch a nuclear attack against 
anyone who is carrying out a nuclear attack on the United States, our 
territories, or our allies. Under article II of the Constitution, the 
United States President has authority to repel sudden attacks as soon 
as our military and intelligence agencies inform him that such an enemy 
strike is imminent. What I have proposed does not change that.
  But what I am proposing is that we take a commonsense step to check 
nuclear first use by prohibiting any American President from launching 
a nuclear first strike, except when explicitly authorized to do so by a 
congressional declaration of war.
  Unfortunately, the need to submit this into law is more important now 
than it has ever been, and that is because today we have a President 
who is engaged in escalatory, reckless, and downright scary rhetoric 
with North Korea, a nation with nuclear weapons. President Trump has 
threatened ``fire and fury'' and has declared our military ``locked and 
loaded'' and ready to attack North Korea. On what seems like a daily 
basis, President Trump uses the kind of inflammatory rhetoric backed by 
his unchecked authority to launch nuclear weapons, which highlights the 
very situation I described earlier.
  The United States threatens military action that could include 
nuclear weapons, North Korea responds with increasingly provocative 
behavior, and the world faces an ever-increasing risk of miscalculation 
that can lead to nuclear war.
  I have been talking about no first use and the need to provide an 
appropriate check on any American President for a long time, but 
President Trump and his Twitter account have made it painfully clear 
why the need for a no-first-use policy exists.
  No human being should have the sole authority to initiate an 
unprovoked nuclear war, not any American President, including Donald 
Trump. As long as that power exists, it must be put in check.
  We need to have this debate in the United States of America. We don't 
need an accidental nuclear war. We don't need nuclear weapons to be 
used by the United States when we have not been attacked by nuclear 
weapons. And if any President would want to use that power, then he 
should come to Congress and ask us to vote on the use of nuclear 
weapons in the event we have never been attacked by them. That is the 
least I think the Congress should do.
  We have abdicated our responsibility to declare war under the 
Constitution for far too long. It actually began with the Korean war. 
Now we face the prospect of a second Korean war. If nuclear weapons are 
going to be used and we have not been attacked, it should be this body 
that votes to give the President the ability to use those weapons.
  I yield the floor.
  Mr. CRAPO. Mr President, I rise today to urge my colleagues to 
confirm Pamela Patenaude as Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban 
  Ms. Patenaude was advanced by voice vote out of the Senate Banking 
Committee on June 14, and continues to receive nearly unanimous 
bipartisan support from affordable housing advocates, public housing 
agencies, and industry leaders.
  This month, Senate leadership received a joint letter signed by over 
60 independent housing trade groups, urging that this nomination 
finally be brought to the floor for a vote.
  Over her distinguished career, Ms. Patenaude has touched nearly every 
corner of housing policy and has held leadership roles at both the 
local and Federal level.
  This is not the first time Ms. Patenaude has been considered for 
confirmation by this body. Twelve years ago, the Senate confirmed her 
by voice vote to become Assistant Secretary of Community Planning and 
Development at HUD.
  The Senate recognized her back then for what she remains today: an 
experienced industry veteran who will provide steadfast leadership to 
  This vote is particularly important given the recent hurricanes in 
Texas and in Florida. HUD's Deputy Secretary chairs the Department's 
Disaster Management Group and coordinates the long-term recovery 
efforts of various program offices within HUD.
  Ms. Patenaude would make an immediate contribution in this critical 
leadership role, drawing from her experience responding to Hurricanes 
Katrina and Rita during her time as Assistant Secretary in the Bush 
  I am eager to work with Ms. Patenaude on that response, as well as 
other key issues within HUD's jurisdiction.
  I urge my colleagues to vote to confirm Ms. Patenaude today, and I 
also urge the Senate to take up votes on other HUD nominees, so that 
HUD can have the key leadership in place that it needs to best serve 
its important mission.
  Thank you.
  Mr. MARKEY. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BROWN. 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. BROWN. Mr. President, I rise to speak about the nomination of Pam 
Patenaude to be Deputy Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban 
Development. Ms. Patenaude comes to this nomination with valuable 
experience in the field of housing and community development and a 
history of affordable housing advocacy. In her previous work at HUD, 
she helped administer the Department's disaster relief efforts 
following Hurricane Katrina.
  While I don't agree with Ms. Patenaude on every element of housing 
policy, I respect her experience, and I respect her government service 
in her recent work to raise awareness about the affordable housing 
shortage facing so many families.
  I agreed with her in her testimony in front of the Banking Committee 
that ``as a nation we must recognize that housing is not just a 
commodity but a foundation for economic mobility and personal growth.'' 
That is why I was so troubled that during her nomination hearing, Ms. 
Patenaude defended the administration's terrible budget for the agency 
she has been nominated to help lead. The President would cut more than 
$7 billion, 15 percent, from HUD's budget, right in the midst of a 
shortage of affordable housing, about which she so articulately spoke. 
This budget cut

[[Page S5730]]

would eliminate programs like community development block grants and 
the HOME Program. These grants help our cities and small towns repair 
their infrastructure, retrofit homes for seniors and people with 
disabilities, combat homelessness among families, veterans, and people 
struggling with mental illness and substance abuse.
  Just last week, Congress approved new CDBG funds to speed up disaster 
recovery assistance to communities upended by Hurricanes Harvey and 
Irma. Ms. Patenaude came in front of this committee and defended those 
budget cuts--programs for which she has advocated but doing, 
apparently, the dirty work for the administration and for the HUD 
Secretary, she agreed with this budget.
  This budget would devastate public housing. It would cut funding for 
major repairs by some 70 percent. Again, in the face of substandard 
housing, unavailable shortages of affordable housing, it would cut 
funding for repairs by 70 percent, and it would expose more families to 
poor building conditions and health hazards.
  I have told this story before on the floor. My wife and I live in 
Cleveland, OH, in ZIP Code 44105. Ten years ago, in 2007, that ZIP Code 
had more foreclosures than any ZIP Code in the United States of 
America. Within a not very great distance from my home, there is block 
after block of homes that are in need of repair--rentals and people 
living in homes they own--far too much devastation, crying out for some 
help from this HUD budget. Yet this administration turns their back on 
  It reduces funding for lead hazard control and healthy housing 
grants. Secretary Carson, whom I voted for--and not many Democrats 
did--I voted for him because he is a neurosurgeon. He didn't know much 
about housing when he took this job, but he knew about lead paint and 
what the exposure to lead meant to babies and infants. Yet this budget 
cuts lead hazard control.
  I know, in my city, the public health department has said that in the 
old sections in my city of Cleveland, where homes are generally 60, 70, 
80 years old, virtually almost every single home has high toxic levels 
of lead. Do we not care about what we sentence the next generation of 
children to by doing nothing about the lead-based paint around the 
windows, the lead around the pipes? All of that we have a moral 
responsibility to do something about.
  These cuts to HUD programs have generated bipartisan concern about 
their effects on our communities, including concerns raised, in fact, 
by Republican members of the Banking Committee.
  I am voting against Ms. Patenaude's nomination because I can't 
support the direction the President's budget proposes for HUD, proposes 
for housing, proposes for our communities, and proposes for our 
country. She has pledged allegiance--in spite of her background, her 
skills, and her advocacy inside and outside the Department since, she 
has pledged allegiance to that disastrous vision and those horrible 
budget cuts to HUD.
  I hope she uses her experience and knowledge to convince others in 
the administration of the importance of the Federal Government's role 
in housing and community development.
  Too often, in this administration, we see officials who come to their 
agencies with valuable experience and they quickly set it aside to push 
an agenda that does not serve working families in Appalachia, OH, and 
inner-city Ohio, in inner-ring suburbs, and affluent suburbs.
  We have two very visible crises; one on the gulf coast and one 
stretching from Florida to the Virgin Islands, which we absolutely must 
tackle. We have a less visible crisis as well--not because of flooding 
or hurricanes but because decent affordable housing is beyond the reach 
of more and more Americans.
  Ms. Patenaude is intelligent. She has good insight. She knows this. 
She knows in her heart what this budget would mean to a whole lot of 
Americans who work full time, who have generally low incomes--$8, $10, 
$12 an hour--who simply can't find affordable, clean decent housing. 
Her support for that budget will make the problem worse, and it is very 
troubling. I ask my colleagues to vote no on her nomination.

               Data Breaches in Credit Reporting Agencies

  Mr. President, last week, 143 million Americans--in essence, half of 
our country--had their personal information exposed through no fault of 
their own. We are talking about names, dates of birth, Social Security 
numbers, addresses, and probably much more.
  Equifax, one of three huge data collection companies in our country, 
makes their money off of this information, and they failed to protect 
  If a student at Bowling Green, in Northwest Ohio, or a homeowner in 
Springfield, OH, fails to make that monthly payment for her student 
loan debt or for their home mortgage, Equifax dings them on their 
credit report. Yet Equifax, even after last year when they allowed the 
breach of 400,000 employees of an Ohio company, Kroger--one of our best 
companies domiciled in Ohio--they just don't seem accountable when that 
happens. This is the worst example, so far, that we have seen.
  I spoke yesterday on the phone with Bill of Hamilton, OH, who is one 
of those 143 million Americans whose personal data was exposed to 
criminals, to somebody who can use this information, use this data, on 
literally up to 143 million Americans. Bill and his wife are retired. 
They have worked hard to pay their bills. They have excellent credit. 
He went to the Equifax website after this happened and discovered his 
information may have been breached.
  He talked about how worried he was. He talked about, after all his 
family's hard work, after years of following the rules, that someone 
could get access to his personal information and shred his credit 
  This is a company whose job it is to gather this data and to protect 
this data, and they failed, without being held accountable.
  I am worried for folks in Ohio like Bill.
  I am really worried for servicemembers around this country whose 
private information might be compromised. The servicemember's credit 
history isn't just important when they want to buy a home or open up a 
new credit card. For a servicemember, a credit history damaged by 
hackers could mean losing their security clearance and maybe their job 
along with it. These patriotic men and women move around the country, 
around the world. They are not especially well paid. Their families 
rely on good credit to get housing and jobs wherever our military 
chooses to send them.
  Life for military families is stressful enough. I know that from Ray 
Patterson Air Force Base, one of the most important Air Force Bases in 
this country, near Dayton. I know that from meeting with these 
families. I know that when I see the kinds of consumer protections the 
Federal consumer bureau has provided to these servicemembers. So often 
financial companies try to prey on these servicemembers who, as I said, 
are not paid well. Maybe a servicemember is deployed overseas and the 
family struggles at home without one of their parents being present and 
with the generally low income they make. They sacrifice enough without 
them also having to worry about credit corporations and this company's 
breach putting them at risk.
  That is why I filed an amendment to the NDAA that would provide 
servicemembers with crucial consumer protections. First, the bill 
requires credit reporting agencies such as Equifax, TransUnion and 
Experian, the three big companies, to implement a cost-free and 
convenient way for all servicemembers to be able to lock down their 
credit reports if they think they are at risk.
  While credit freezes are currently available in some States, there is 
no national standard. There are often charges for starting and stopping 
a freeze, and it can be hard to figure out whom they should even 
contact. This amendment would create a standard simple and free process 
for servicemembers to protect their credit histories.
  There is so much more in this bill that will matter to 
servicemembers. We have an opportunity right now to move quickly to 
make sure this breach does not put our military men and women at risk.

[[Page S5731]]

  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Perdue). The question is, Will the Senate 
advise and consent to the Patenaude nomination?
  Mr. BROWN. I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk called the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. The following Senator is necessarily absent: the Senator 
from Florida (Mr. Rubio).
  Further, if present and voting, the Senator from Florida (Mr. Rubio) 
would have voted ``yea''.
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from New Jersey (Mr. 
Menendez) and the Senator from Florida (Mr. Nelson) are necessarily 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. (Mr. Cassidy). Are there any other Senators in 
the chamber desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 80, nays 17, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 196 Ex.]


     Cortez Masto
     Van Hollen



                             NOT VOTING--3

  The nomination was confirmed.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the motion to 
reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table and the President 
will be immediately notified of the Senate's action.