(House of Representatives - September 26, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 154 (Tuesday, September 26, 2017)]
[Pages H7521-H7523]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                            MAJOR HURRICANES

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 3, 2017, the gentleman from California (Mr. Garamendi) is 
recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Speaker, to my colleagues in the House of 
Representatives, most of whom are not here right now but perhaps they 
are back in their office listening, and really to the American public 
and folks here in the Chamber, it has been a most interesting week--
well, actually, the last 3 weeks.
  The United States has been hit with three major hurricanes. In 
Houston, they say was a 500-year storm. The Florida Keys, the Virgin 
Islands, Puerto Rico, disasters beyond, in many cases, human 
understanding. We have never seen 50 inches of rain in a matter of 
  We have seen storms in the Caribbean that have been vicious. I don't 
believe we have ever seen one that completely wiped out an island, 
leaving 3.5 million people without water and power, islands in the 
Florida Keys flattened, and floods throughout most of Florida.
  These are natural disasters.
  We look to our neighbors in the south, and we see Mexico City, that 
great capital, once again, lay bare with an earthquake. Further south 
and west of that, another community. Yet, just yesterday and the day 
before, another earthquake.
  These are natural disasters.
  As Members of Congress representing 350-plus million Americans, we 
have an obligation. You heard a couple of our colleagues speak to this.
  I went to bed last night with visions and pictures of Puerto Rico on 
the television screen. I woke up this morning,

[[Page H7522]]

turned the television on, and it was all about the President calling a 
couple of athletes a name that I should not repeat on the floor.

                              {time}  1630

  What is going on here? How could it be that, 2 days after the 
devastation of Puerto Rico, our President would decide that the 
appropriate thing for him to do is to call out African-American 
athletes who are protesting the death of African Americans at the hands 
of police?
  All of that was followed in just a few moments by experts who were 
saying that we are closer to nuclear war today than we have been since 
the Cuban Missile Crisis in the sixties.
  What in the world is going on here? What is happening? Why are we in 
this situation? Why is it that we are not debating here on the floor of 
the House how to provide relief to Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, and 
the Virgin Islands--our own citizens?
  Is there a debate going on in the House of Representatives in any 
hearing? No, there isn't.
  Is there a debate on the floor about the necessity to rebuild, to 
find the money to put back the lives of people who are seriously at 
risk today?
  What are we doing?
  Well, here is what we are doing. We have got a President that is in a 
third grade brawl with a world leader. You may as well be in a 
classroom or on the school grounds with a bunch of third graders 
calling out each other about their mother. That is what our President 
did over the weekend.
  How did that promote our humanity, our empathy? Not a bit.
  How did it promote our division? Oh, it did a very good job of that. 
We see fans in the NFL stadiums booing the athletes.
  We see more division in our country. We see natural disasters. And 
our response? Let's pass a bill that will create a humanitarian crisis 
for 30 million Americans who will lose their healthcare over the next 
decade. That is what the Senate did over these last few days, a 
replication of what happened here on the floor of the House of 
Representatives months ago.
  I think Americans thought those days were over when we would see the 
Senate and the House purposely harm people, purposely set out with 
legislation to physically harm people by denying them the health 
insurance that they have been provided over the last few years.
  How can it be? How can it be that we would allow this to happen? But 
it is happening.
  Thankfully, four Senators stood up to the President, stood up to the 
Republican leadership in the Senate and said: No. No. I am not going to 
set out on a vote that is going to harm people.
  I thank them. They had courage.
  Where were the others? Where were my Republican colleagues here on 
this floor who voted to do exactly the same thing months ago? Millions 
of Americans purposely denied their health insurance.
  Where is the outrage?
  It is out there. Take a look at the polling. Take a look at the 
disabled men and women who were in the Senate Chamber yesterday who 
were physically dragged out of there--a fine testament to America's 
  Where is the outrage? Where is the outrage that there is not a bill 
on the floor this week to take care of Puerto Rico, the Virgin 
Islands--American citizens? I guess there is something more important 
to do.
  Where is our President? What is his tweet today? His tweet today is 
who knows what. I guess he is going to Puerto Rico next week, 
thankfully. Maybe there will be some humanity expressed and he will put 
in motion the great power of this administration to bring relief and to 
ask the Congress to appropriate the money that is going to be 
necessary. Maybe.
  Maybe it will be another tweet about a leader who has the fourth 
largest army in the world. You have third graders on the school ground 
bullying and demeaning, and you expect somehow to go anywhere except 
into a brawl?
  There is a road that we could take, but it begins with reducing the 
rhetoric. There is a road we can take with North Korea. It is called 
  Don't say it is not possible. It is far more possible and would have 
a far better outcome than all the bombast, all the rhetoric, all the 
  All of us have been in the third grade. We know what happens when two 
boys start fighting on the school ground.
  These boys have awesome weapons. We have 25,000 U.S. military on the 
DMZ border. They are ready to fight. We have an awesome military. It 
should only be used with wisdom. It should not be put at risk 
unnecessarily. There are tens of thousands of American servicemembers, 
spouses, and children nearby, and millions of South Koreans and North 
  It is time for our President to speak softly. We know we have a big 
stick. Speak softly. Tone it down. Move toward the negotiations. It 
would be far more fruitful. We can do this.
  I go back home, as I did this weekend, and I do my community events. 
People come up to me and say: I am scared; I am frightened. What is our 
President doing? Why is he acting this way? Why is Kim Jong-un acting 
this way?
  We don't need another crisis. We have got to deal with this. We have 
got to do it with wisdom, plenty of strength, and determination. God 
help us if we get in a war on the Korean Peninsula again.
  Consider for a moment that the 1953 Korean war never ended. It was an 
armistice. It is time for a peace treaty. It is time to recognize that 
there are two countries. It is time to settle this down. It is time for 
this Congress to turn its attention to the reality of the crisis that 
faces Americans--yet we don't.
  Instead, we have had more than 2 weeks of attention on legislation 
that would purposely harm millions upon millions of Americans by taking 
away their health insurance. We have got to put that behind us. We have 
got to find ways to improve the Affordable Care Act. We must do this. 
People are hurting.
  There are problems with the Affordable Care Act, and we know where 
the fixes are, but we can't get our colleagues on the Republican side 
to work with us here in the House of Representatives.
  Perhaps we will find Senator Murray and Senator Alexander coming back 
together again, since it appears as though the ill-begotten Graham-
Cassidy legislation is dead. Maybe Senators Murray and Alexander can 
come back together and work together.
  I would ask my Republican colleagues here to work with us on the 
Democratic side to work towards solutions to strengthen and provide the 
necessary changes and fixes to the Affordable Care Act. We can do it.
  While we are doing that, let us use the normal, natural empathy that 
resides in each one of us to reach out to those in Puerto Rico, 
Florida, Houston, and the Virgin Islands and use our innate compassion 
to provide the resources for them to rebuild.
  Then, let's take it a step further. Instead of calling out Mexico, 
instead of getting into a verbal and perhaps economic conflict with 
Mexico, let us work with Mexico. Reach out to Mexico City now. Provide 
them with the assistance that this great country can. There are so many 
things we must spend our time on.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Espaillat), 
who spoke a few moments ago. I ask him to join me here on the floor.
  Mr. ESPAILLAT. Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to join the voices that echo 
the deep, troubling concern that we shared this weekend when we saw our 
President engage in a sterile fight, a childish, almost, type of fight 
with the NFL players.
  We all know that football, baseball, and many of our sports have been 
a level playing field where many people of different races, 
ethnicities, and economic backgrounds come together and cheer for a 
particular team from their hometown or their region.
  Instead of concentrating on bringing healthcare to millions of 
Americans or retreating on failed attempts to repeal and replace 
ObamaCare, the President chose to engage in another activity: tweeting 
that insulted Americans across the country.
  Instead of engaging in a real, substantive discussion about the Dream 
Act and DACA recipients, looking at the provisions of the bipartisan 
legislation that has been put forward and cosponsored by close to 200 
Members of

[[Page H7523]]

this House, led by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from 
Florida, and Lucille Roybal-Allard, a Democrat from California, instead 
of going through the provisions of that bill that could bring relief 
for 800,000 young people who otherwise would be potentially deported--
they are larger than any of the congressional districts that any one of 
us may represent in this House. Instead of looking at the provisions of 
that, rolling up our sleeves and coming here this week to discuss how 
we bring relief to 800,000 young people who are working, going to 
school, and are members of our Armed Forces, he chose to engage in 
  Instead of looking at a real humanitarian crisis about to ensue in 
Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and some of our neighboring countries 
of Barbuda, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, and the Caribbean, as 
well as the challenges of Florida and Houston, instead of taking a look 
at a potential humanitarian crisis that may ensue in Puerto Rico and 
bringing about relief for those 3.5 million Americans, he chose to look 
the other way.
  We remember how a President hovered in his airplane over New Orleans 
and Louisiana as people drowned and died without getting the help they 
needed. This could be our modern-day Katrina, and yet our President 
chose to look the other way.

                              {time}  1645

  He could have engaged in bringing about results. Today, I join 
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Congressman Adam Smith in signing on 
to a letter asking the Department of Defense to step it up in Puerto 
  We ask for a senior general to be appointed to work with FEMA to 
manage the crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands the same 
way it was done for Katrina. We ask for Department of Defense engineers 
and aviation assets to be deployed to Puerto Rico, as many of the 
municipalities up in the mountains are still cut off from the general 
population and have not been heard of for nearly a week.
  We ask for technicians and experts to bring restoration of power and 
to work with telecommunications on the island because people are still 
disconnected from government, from hospitals, from the police 
department. There is no cell service; there is no energy on the island; 
and we ask for that as well.
  We ask, in this letter, for the USNS Comfort, an offshore medical 
treatment facility, to be deployed to the island of Puerto Rico. Puerto 
Rico only has two hospitals that have been able to restore power, yet 
the President looked this weekend the other way.
  For three major pieces and issues that confront the American people: 
healthcare, as it pertains to close to maybe 30 million people that may 
lose their services if this failed attempt to repeal and replace 
ObamaCare goes through; DACA, impacting over close to a million young 
people who go to school, who work, who are part of our future economic 
recovery, who are members of the Armed Forces; and the humanitarian 
crisis, a new-day Katrina that is about to ensue in Puerto Rico--for 
those three issues of great importance to America, our President looked 
the other way.
  He chose to engage in tweets; he chose to insult our local athletes 
in an un-Presidential manner; he chose to turn his back on the American 
  Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Speaker, I thank Mr. Espaillat very much for 
bringing to our attention the possibilities.
  The U.S. military is awesome. I am very thankful that Adam Smith, the 
ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, together with you 
and other colleagues, have called upon the President to deploy to 
Puerto Rico a military task force. The military is the most organized 
of all of our Federal organizations. They have the ability, they have 
the resources, and they certainly have the capability of addressing at 
least the immediate needs of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and 
even other islands that have been devastated in the Caribbean.
  Ultimately, the task falls to those of us who are elected to 
represent the American people in the office of the Presidency, the 
House of Representatives, or in the Senate. And the questions we must 
ask ourselves: Are we meeting our responsibilities; are we deploying 
the resources of this Nation to assist in these devastated communities; 
are we providing the funding necessary to carry out these tasks; or are 
we engaged in legislation that would create a healthcare disaster on 
top of the natural disasters?
  Well, thankfully, it appears as though four Senators have stopped a 
Republican effort in the Senate that is a repetition of an effort made 
here in the House of Representatives months ago, to stop the creation 
of a healthcare crisis in America.
  There is more out there that will be brought forward. Tomorrow, my 
colleagues on the Republican side will meet to discuss tax reform. By 
all appearances, it appears that tax reform is likely to turn out--at 
least their version of it, is likely to turn out to be serious tax cuts 
for the superwealthy and for corporations with a hope and a prayer some 
day that it might create jobs.
  There is precious little economic history to indicate that that would 
happen, but there is a lot of economic history and studies that 
indicate you continue to cut taxes for the superwealthy and we will 
have even a more serious inequality of wealth in the United States. 
That is a discussion for tomorrow and beyond.
  Today, now, the discussion must focus on our American citizens who 
are not in harm's way, they are being harmed.
  My plea to my colleagues here is to put aside these other issues, to 
focus the great power and empathy of the American people on meeting the 
needs of our American citizens in Houston, Florida, the Virgin Islands, 
Puerto Rico, and then to reach out beyond to others who have been hurt, 
wherever they may be--Mexico City, other islands in the Caribbean.
  Finally, a plea to our President. Mr. Speaker, a plea to our 
President: Tone it down. This is not a schoolyard for bombast and for 
belligerent talk. This is extraordinarily serious. It has been said by 
people who have followed these issues over the decades that we are 
closer to nuclear war now than we have been since the Cuban Missile 
  Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, please tone it down. Speak softly; tweet 
softly; don't worry about our big stick that we have. Go to the 
negotiation table; be humble; be firm; no nukes on the Caribbean 
peninsula. We can do that. We can do it.
  This is my prayer.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Members are reminded to refrain from 
engaging in personalities toward the President.