NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2018--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued
(Senate - September 26, 2017)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.

        
[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 154 (Tuesday, September 26, 2017)]
[Pages S6122-S6127]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




  NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2018--MOTION TO 
                           PROCEED--Continued

  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Johnson). The Senator from New Jersey.


          Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands Recovery Effort

  Mr. BOOKER. Mr. President, I appreciate the words from all the 
colleagues I have seen. It is great to see bipartisan sentiments about 
dealing with the most powerful hurricanes in recorded history. These 
hurricanes have left thousands of families homeless, destroying 
infrastructure, and leaving most people without power for the 
foreseeable future. There are thousands of individual stories of loss 
of life, of loss of possessions, of everything people own, devastated 
by this storm.
  What is important to me now is that we turn these words into action. 
I am grateful for the leadership we are seeing from the State of Texas 
and the State of Florida, but I want to focus in on what is happening 
in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. We know, right now, close to 
31.5 million American citizens on these islands are on the brink of a 
humanitarian catastrophe, including the 3.4 million people who live in 
Puerto Rico and over 100,000 Americans on the U.S. Virgin Islands. The 
American citizens living in Puerto Rico are part of a population that 
is bigger than the States of Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, and Alaska 
combined, but they don't have eight Senators representing them in this 
body--working for them, fighting for them.
  When Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey, I know the constant work 
Senator Menendez, I, and my predecessor Senator Frank Lautenberg put 
into working on making sure our communities could recover. We don't 
have direct Senators representing this incredible population of 
Americans. They don't have folks here every single day who are pressing 
for the interests of these Americans, for their safety, their security, 
their lives. We have to--the 100 of us--step up to make sure that we 
are focusing on the interests of our fellow Americans after what has 
been one of the worst storms in recorded history.

  The Americans in Puerto Rico pay taxes. They love this country. They 
serve in the military. In fact, they serve in the military at a rate 
almost twice as high as the general U.S. population. These are 
patriots. They are our brothers and our sisters. These Americans 
deserve action from this body and from the President of the United 
States.
  Puerto Rico's Governor has spoken directly to this crisis, noting 
that just 40 percent of the residents of Puerto Rico have access to 
drinking water--meaning that 2 million American citizens right now in 
Puerto Rico do not have access to clean drinking water. This is a 
serious crisis.
  More than this, we know the vast majority of Puerto Rican residents 
still don't have electricity. They are struggling to access food. They 
do not have basic means of communications on the island, even to family 
here. They can't access bank accounts. Their sanitation systems have 
come to a complete standstill. Access to basic medications--often 
urgently needed medication and healthcare--is under threat.
  It is estimated that it is going to take months before power comes 
back, and recovery and rebuilding will take years for the islands. The 
next few weeks of recovery are critically important in the effort to 
save lives.
  I saw in Superstorm Sandy how it wasn't just the hurricane itself 
that took lives; in fact, in my city, it was in the hours and days 
after that people lost lives. We know that right now in Puerto Rico, 
every minute, every hour, every day we wait to get critical aid--
necessary aid--our failure to act could mean the difference between 
life and death or between grave suffering and relieving that suffering 
for hundreds of thousands of people in Puerto Rico, as well as the U.S. 
Virgin Islands.
  We cannot afford to wait any longer to better mobilize support and 
resources and help our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the Virgin 
Islands right now. I hope that over time we are able to develop larger 
and more comprehensive aid packages, such as those being discussed for 
survivors of the hurricanes in Florida and Texas. The urgency we have 
in Puerto Rico right now, the urgency we have to provide vital 
security, energy, food, and health needs--we must answer that urgency 
with action.
  Puerto Rico needs U.S. military, disaster, and humanitarian 
assistance to maintain order and provide security, water, food, and 
fuel. Puerto Rico needs additional first responders, and they need 
generators, emergency vehicles, and fuel. Also, Puerto Rico needs to 
see that its government--the U.S. Government--will respond the way we 
have for other disasters.
  There cannot be a double standard when it comes to Americans. We are 
one country. We are one Nation. Whether it was Hurricane Sandy in New 
Jersey and New York or Hurricanes Harvey and Irma that ravaged Texas 
and Florida, when our Nation sees a natural disaster destroy the homes 
of thousands, take lives, knock down power--when a challenge like that 
comes to the United States of America, we must be there for our 
citizens. Yet I have read so many heartbreaking stories. This shows the 
lack of urgency, the lack of being present, the lack of being there 
when we are needed.
  The Washington Post reported that when journalists were looking to go 
and provide coverage--somehow journalists are making it there to report 
on the extent of the damage--they were in a remote area of Puerto Rico 
when local residents saw them. Their first response was simply to ask: 
Are you FEMA? Are you our government? Are you coming to address the 
crisis?
  Right now Americans are suffering. Right now Americans are facing 
devastation and potentially death in these hours and these days.
  I worry about this body now heading toward Thursday or Friday. How 
can we in good conscience go back to our homes this weekend, knowing 
that hundreds of thousands of American citizens in Puerto Rico and the 
Virgin Islands may be homeless, may not have shelter, may not have 
food, and may not have water? We cannot allow our fellow Americans to 
fall deeper into this crisis.
  Nosotros somos gente de esperanza; somos gente de fe. Pero nuestra 
historia siempre ha sido una que conecta oraciones y palabras con 
acciones. Necesitamos actuar ahora.
  We are a people of hope; we are a people of faith. But our history 
has always been one of matching prayers and words with actions. We must 
act now.
  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. STABENOW. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                               Healthcare

  Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, first of all, I rise with a sigh of 
relief that the decision has been made not to go forward with a vote on 
a very divisive healthcare bill.
  More importantly today, I rise to say this is really an opportunity 
for us to work together to get something done--something very 
positive--as it relates to healthcare costs and healthcare coverage for 
the people whom we all represent in our States and the people across 
the country. I am hopeful we will see action soon, and I am hopeful it 
will be this week when we can come together around very good work that 
is being done in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee 
with our two great leaders--Senator Alexander and Senator Murray.
  They have been holding a number of committee meetings and forums, and 
I am very pleased to have participated in those. We have had great 
bipartisan participation in focusing on how to stabilize the current 
insurance marketplace. We know that has to be step one

[[Page S6123]]

if we are going to bring down rates, bring down costs, and create a 
path forward so more insurance companies are participating in the 
current system. I have great confidence that we can come together and 
get that done. It needs to get done immediately because decisions are 
being made about rates this week, and I am hopeful we can take action 
on that this week.
  Mr. President, we have two other things that are very important--open 
dates that are looming by the end of the week. One is for the 
Children's Health Insurance Program, which covers 9 million American 
children across the country. In Michigan, we call it MIChild. We have 
children today who can go to the doctor and parents who can take their 
children to the doctor because of the MIChild Program. The Federal 
funding for that ends on September 30, this weekend, if we do not take 
action.
  This is another piece of good news because the distinguished chairman 
of the Finance Committee, Senator Hatch; the distinguished ranking 
member, Senator Wyden; others; and I have introduced a bipartisan bill 
that will extend that program for an additional 5 years. It needs to 
get done this week. It is a bipartisan effort, and I am hopeful that 
can get done as well.
  We have community health centers in our country--our federally 
qualified community health centers--whose funding runs out, again, this 
weekend. Funding health centers has strong bipartisan support. Senator 
Roy Blunt and I, along with a total of 70 out of 100 Members of the 
Senate, have joined in a letter to continue the funding for health 
centers. That needs to get done right away. In addition to that, there 
are what we call certain health extenders or policies that are 
bipartisan that can be done together as well.
  We see a picture of important efforts of stabilizing the insurance 
markets to bring down costs, creating more opportunity for competition 
in the marketplaces, continuing the Children's Health Insurance 
Program, continuing the funding for health centers, which are so 
critical in communities in every one of our States, where people are 
getting the care they need at their local health centers.
  Bringing those things together can be done. Now, it is a lot of work 
to do that in a couple of days, but these are bipartisan efforts that 
can be done together to show that in fact we can come together and get 
things done. I know the people in Michigan want us to do that. They 
want us to work together to get things done. They want us to focus on 
lowering costs for healthcare and increasing coverage, and they are 
anxious to see that we can come together to do that.
  I am hopeful. It is only Tuesday, and I am hopeful, with the 
remaining days of the week, given the bipartisanship that is there and 
the agreements that have been made on legislation already, that we 
could go into high gear in the next few days and come together and have 
a positive story, a good news story to tell at the end of this week 
about what we are able to do, working together, to be able to fix 
problems in the healthcare system and to be able to continue very 
important programs that provide healthcare for children and for 
families in local communities around the country.
  Thank you.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. RUBIO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                      Puerto Rico Recovery Effort

  Mr. RUBIO. Mr. President, I had the opportunity yesterday, along with 
the Coast Guard and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Jenniffer 
Gonzalez, to visit San Juan, Puerto Rico, to see firsthand some of the 
devastation that has impacted this U.S. territory. I would summarize it 
by saying that what I saw were more than 3.5 million American citizens 
potentially on the verge of a serious and growing humanitarian crisis.
  There are a lot of reasons for this. The first is that Puerto Rico 
has been in the eye of not one but three storms. The first was 
Hurricane Irma, which impacted it a few weeks ago, followed by the 
devastation of Hurricane Maria, and preexisting these two things was a 
very significant fiscal crisis that placed extraordinary constraints on 
the ability of the territory's government both to prepare for the storm 
and now to respond to it.
  Our traditional model of hurricane response--one that, unfortunately, 
because of numerous storms, I have come to know well as a resident of 
Florida--is that FEMA basically arrives in support of the State. When 
Florida gets hit by a storm and Texas gets hit by a storm, FEMA comes 
in to the State and tells the State: We are here to help. Tell us where 
to go, tell us what you need, and we will provide those resources to 
the places you want. It works that way. The President issues an 
emergency declaration, and it opens up FEMA and other disaster relief, 
and then the State government directs that assistance and tells them: 
This is what we need, this is where we need it, and this is what we can 
handle on our own. This model will not work in Puerto Rico. It will not 
work foremost because, as I stated earlier, the financial and fiscal 
constraints have limited its capacity to build its own internal ability 
to respond.
  They had just finished repairing the damage from Irma a few weeks 
ago. So, literally, there are not nearly enough basic things like those 
wooden poles to hold up the electric lines or the transformers that are 
attached to them or even the lines themselves, and, in many cases, the 
fuel, power, and crews to get to the work sites.
  It will not work because, in many cases, the government of Puerto 
Rico still does not have a full assessment of the damage of the storm. 
While communication in San Juan is severely limited, in most of the 
other areas of the big island and smaller islands, communication is 
nonexistent.
  Something was brought to my attention firsthand yesterday when we 
visited one of the Coast Guard centers and watched. Much of the 
response they are conducting there is limited to a paper map on the 
wall with some sticky note pads and four landlines on which they hope 
people can call in and get updates on what they are seeing in the field 
from a satellite phone. Hopefully, that has improved over the last 24 
hours as more Coast Guard vessels have come in to support 
communications. But we still have large parts of Puerto Rico that have 
not communicated with the rest of the island, the government, or the 
outside world, for that matter, going on to today.
  There are also logistical challenges. In most of the 50 States--
certainly in my home State of Florida, we saw the largest power 
restoration effort in the history of the world. At least that is what 
they are claiming. Literally, we saw hundreds of those bucket trucks 
from all over the United States--all 50 States and even Canada--coming 
in with prearranged contracts and their crews to restore power. Even 
with that dramatic level of response, there were people without power 
until late this weekend, and there are still a couple thousand people 
in Florida who have no power.
  You can't drive a convoy of trucks into Puerto Rico. They have to 
come in on a barge, and those barges take 7 days from Jacksonville and 
5 days from Miami, plus whatever time it takes to travel and position 
those crews to get there. You not only have to deliver the crews, you 
have to deliver the supplies in order to be able to restore power.
  What is the practical impact of not having power? Having no power is 
not simply an inconvenience; for many people it is life and death. 
Imagine an area outside of San Juan where someone is a diabetic and 
depends on insulin that needs to be refrigerated. That medicine has 
gone bad by now if they haven't run out. Imagine someone who needs 
dialysis twice a week. It has been longer than that since they have had 
it. Imagine if someone needs chemotherapy if they have cancer. That is 
not going to happen this week or next unless things change.
  These are real challenges, and I raise them only because this is a 
disaster that will require an intensity of effort on behalf of the 
Federal Government that you would not traditionally see in a storm that 
impacts the mainland for the reasons I have outlined--and many more.
  Now, the good news is, earlier today you saw the White House engage 
even

[[Page S6124]]

more in terms of some of the things they are doing. There are more 
Department of Defense assets and, as a result of some restoration at 
the airport, the ability to land more planes more quickly. So, again, 
more things are coming in. The port opened fairly quickly, but the 
challenges remain.
  Even if today we could approve $10 billion in assistance and somehow 
figured out a way to deliver it to Puerto Rico in the next 24 hours, 
they would still be challenged to take it from the airport to the 
seaport and deliver it to the places that need it the most because 
there are roads that are still not clear, because we still don't have a 
full assessment of where the damage is and where the need is most and, 
quite frankly, because there are probably roads and bridges in parts of 
Puerto Rico that will collapse if one of these big trucks drive over 
them.
  I say this because there is only one entity in the world with the 
capacity to respond to all these various issues; that is, the Federal 
Government of the United States. Leveraging the power of the Department 
of Defense and an assortment of other agencies, it remains the only 
institution certainly in our country--and probably in the world--with a 
capacity to respond quickly and effectively to the crisis at hand.
  While response to this storm will take a significant amount of 
patience, it will also take a significant amount of urgency. For each 
day that goes by, this crisis will get worse, not better. I fear that 
if, in fact, there is not enough urgency in the response, we will be 
talking about a very different set of stories in the days to come.
  I hope I am wrong, with all of my heart, but I fear that when 
communication lines come back up and when we start getting more access 
to some of these areas that have been cut off, we are going to start 
learning that the toll and the impact of the storm is far worse than we 
had imagined. I pray with all my heart that someone will watch this 
video on YouTube one day and say: Oh, look, he was exaggerating. It 
wasn't that bad after all. I hope that is what happens, but I fear it 
will not, and every day that goes by, it will only get worse.
  I don't believe it is fair to say that the response up to this point 
is because some people don't care or because they haven't paid enough 
attention to it. I honestly think it is just a challenge that is unique 
and that requires us to respond to it in ways we wouldn't traditionally 
respond, for the factors I have just pointed out.
  In most places on the mainland, if not all, the States have a certain 
capacity internally to address this, but Puerto Rico, for the 
challenges I have just outlined--and particularly because of the storm 
that just passed--has already had many of those resources depleted.
  There is positive news today. The USS Comfort, a ship that is a 
hospital ship, is on its way, but again it will take it a number of 
days to get there. The Federal Government has agreed to a 100-percent 
Federal match. It usually means the Federal Government paid a portion 
of it and the States pay the rest. The Federal Government, for the next 
180 days, has agreed to 100 percent payment of these services, and that 
will be critical because these restoration crews are going to want to 
know how their costs are going to be paid if they show up and begin to 
restore power.
  I just think it is imperative that we don't lose focus and don't lose 
sight of what is at hand because there are over 3 million American 
citizens in danger. A number of them--perhaps in the thousands--already 
have existing vulnerabilities and are in severe danger of losing their 
life and extraordinary human suffering.
  I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who, throughout the 
day, have expressed a tremendous amount of interest in wanting to know 
how they can be helpful and what they can do. I think the most 
important thing we need to do now is to continue to drive the sense of 
urgency, to do all we can to bring to bear all of the resources the 
Federal Government can bring to assist in this recovery. Then we will 
be able to work together on not just rebuilding Puerto Rico but helping 
her to rebuild so she is stronger, more prosperous, and more stable 
than ever.
  With that, I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BENNET. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Rubio). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.
  Mr. BENNET. Mr. President, I am not sure exactly what those words 
mean, but I know it allows me to speak so I am glad to have done it.
  I thank you for your leadership on the natural disasters we are 
having, particularly in Puerto Rico. There are 3.4 million American 
citizens who are living in conditions that nobody in this country 
should have to tolerate. They are without fuel, they are without food, 
they are without water, they are without energy, and they are without 
electricity. Some reports have said it is going to be months before 
that electricity is repaired. We have to do everything we can in this 
body to make sure these American citizens are supported and that they 
can rebuild, and I know the Presiding Officer feels the same way. We 
have to work together to do this.


                               Healthcare

  Mr. President, that is not the reason I am coming to the floor today. 
I wanted to say a word about healthcare now that the decision has been 
made, apparently, to not even have a vote on this latest version of the 
repeal and replace bill. This was going to be, I think, the fourth time 
we had a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The House of 
Representatives, over the last 7 years, has voted to repeal the 
Affordable Care Act somewhere on the order of 67 times or almost 70 
times. They have gone back to their constituents year after year after 
year saying they voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act; that it was a 
Socialist takeover of the United States of America that they were 
trying to correct. They distorted what the Affordable Care Act actually 
was. I am not going to litigate that today.
  It is clear, from my perspective in Colorado, whether people support 
the Affordable Care Act or whether they don't, it often turns on--not 
always--what party they are in or whether they supported President 
Obama or whether they didn't. I say not always because I get a lot of 
email and have people in my townhalls who aren't Democrats but who have 
preexisting conditions or whose children have preexisting conditions 
who have health insurance for the first time as a result of the 
Affordable Care Act.
  Having said all that, whether they support the Affordable Care Act or 
whether they don't, in my State--and I bet it is true all over the 
United States of America--people are deeply dissatisfied with the way 
they interact and their families interact and their small businesses 
interact with the American healthcare system. They should be because it 
doesn't work very well. I am not talking about the Affordable Care Act. 
I am talking about the Affordable Care Act, plus our healthcare system. 
They are not the same thing, and we should be addressing that.
  We should be addressing the costs in our system. We should be 
addressing the lack of transparency in our system. We should be making 
sure people in the richest country in the world have access to health 
insurance, but they also have to have access to quality care. In too 
many rural areas in Colorado--and it is true all over America--there 
are not enough primary care doctors, not enough primary care nurses. We 
are not delivering healthcare in those places very efficiently, and we 
are not delivering it well enough, especially when we know a lot of our 
veterans live in those communities, and we know increasingly there is a 
profound opioid addiction that needs to be dealt with.
  After 7 years of saying repeal, repeal, repeal and then some years of 
saying repeal and replace, we have now wasted 7 months of the American 
people's time on an entirely partisan effort to try to pass two bills 
that could not have been more unresponsive to the critics of ObamaCare 
in Colorado, to say nothing of the supporters. So it is not a surprise 
to me that the last attempt failed, and it is not a surprise to me that 
people weren't even going to vote on this bill because it is such a 
terrible bill that they didn't want to vote on it. So they have 
withdrawn it, which is

[[Page S6125]]

good for the American people, except the people in Colorado are still 
facing challenges in healthcare, including challenges from the 
Affordable Care Act. There, I said it. I voted for it.
  There are things we should fix, and one of those things is a problem 
that is common--I heard both Members of the Republican Party on the 
Finance Committee and Democrats on the Finance Committee yesterday at 
the hearing talk about it--which is the problem that people have in the 
individual market affording insurance. They say to me, as somebody who 
voted for the Affordable Care Act: Hey, Michael. You have required us 
to buy something--insurance because of the individual mandate--that in 
my area is too expensive because there is not enough competition of 
insurers, and the deductible is so high it is of no use to me and my 
family. Why would you make me buy something like that?
  I think that is a completely legitimate criticism of the bill. It is 
important to recognize that when we are talking about this group of 
people who are very important, it is 7 percent of the population that 
is covered in America--7 percent. Ninety three percent of the people 
are getting their insurance someplace else--from their employer, from 
Medicare, from Medicaid. This is 7 percent we are talking about.
  By the way, the issue around that 7 percent--not the people--the 
issue around that 7 percent, that is what has consumed our politics for 
the last 7 years. It is not how to make it less expensive for 100 
percent of the American people, not how to make it more transparent for 
100 percent of the American people, more predictable for 100 percent of 
the American people but what are we going to do to cover 7 percent. Of 
those, the folks who aren't getting subsidies, are about 1 percent of 
people who are insured in America. I say that not to diminish those 
people at all because they are struggling--and I meet them all the time 
in my State--I say it to show just how small that set of issues is and 
how easily they could be resolved by the U.S. Congress if we could work 
together instead of having this pitched battle about healthcare, 
instead of calling each other names and Bolshevik takeover and all the 
rest.
  Fortunately, there is a solution that is being worked on not in the 
Finance Committee but in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions 
Committee. The two leaders of that committee--Lamar Alexander, who is 
the Republican chair, and Patty Murray, who is the Democratic ranking 
member, are among two of the finest legislators in this body. Time 
after time after time, even when Washington has not worked, they have 
managed to lead that committee to what Lamar Alexander refers to as a 
result. It has come to the floor after going through a process in our 
committee, an amendment process. It has come to the floor for an 
amendment process, whether we were reforming the FDA or rewriting the 
Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which used to be known as No 
Child Left Behind. That bill actually got a unanimous vote in our 
committee--a committee that has on it Bernie Sanders from Vermont and 
Rand Paul from Kentucky. That is quite an achievement.

  So I have absolute confidence in their ability to deal with this set 
of issues related to this 7 percent of our population. And I hope that 
bipartisan process will then become a model or a foundation for the 
work we need to do on healthcare going forward. We have to turn the 
page on the last 7 years or 8 years of these repeal votes.
  From my perspective, having failed to repeal, the answer can't be to 
say: We will not help you fix the Affordable Care Act because if we 
participate in the process to fix the Affordable Care Act, it somehow 
legitimizes the Affordable Care Act.
  You should not hold the position that if you fail to repeal, you 
can't fix it. If you are going to repeal it, repeal it. And I think we 
know where that has gone. If you are not going to repeal it, you better 
be part of fixing it, or you are going to own the problem.
  There are a lot of people on this side who want to address that 
issue, and I believe there are a lot of Republicans who want to address 
that issue. We are now out of excuses for why we can't do it because 
Graham-Cassidy has been pulled, as it should have been because that 
bill, far from stabilizing our insurance system, would have actually 
made it worse, would have injected even more volatility.
  Sometimes people say: Well, don't you think there is already 
volatility in the system? My answer to that is yes, I do. That is why 
we have to fix it. The last thing we need to do is make it more 
volatile. The last thing we need to do is make matters worse. We should 
stabilize it, based on the bipartisan testimony we have had in the HELP 
Committee.
  The other thing it does--and the Senator from Minnesota is here, so I 
am going to stop--the other thing it does is it throws millions of 
people off of insurance. This is not a healthcare bill. It is not a 
healthcare bill; it is ``we are going to take your healthcare away'' 
bill. It couldn't be sustained in front of the American people. They 
wouldn't even vote on it because they knew how bad it was. We had no 
hearings before yesterday's Finance Committee. It is like watching 
``Veep.'' It is not the way the government ought to work. So they have 
an excuse for a hearing. They decide to have the hearing. The 
Congressional Budget Office report, which we should have had months to 
look at, if not weeks, comes out in the middle of the hearing and tells 
us that millions of people are going to lose their health insurance as 
a result of this bill--flying completely in the face of President 
Trump's promises.
  Let's get this short-term thing done, let's stabilize the individual 
market, which we need to do, and then let's address healthcare in a 
bipartisan way, and I will accept President Trump's goals for what it 
should look like. Let's make sure everybody is covered at a lower 
price, with higher quality. That is what he promised on the campaign 
trail, and we have the opportunity to deliver that if we are willing to 
work in a bipartisan way.
  I know that is what people in Colorado want out of this place. They 
are so tired of the Affordable Care Act being litigated in this way, 
and it is clear that the repeal effort has failed. But that is not 
enough. We have to continue to fix the system. And I wish Lamar 
Alexander and Patty Murray all the best as we try to do this in the 
HELP Committee, and then I hope Democrats and Republicans will support 
that effort on this floor, and we can actually do something useful, 
after all of these years, for the American people and their families 
and their small businesses.
  With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Minnesota.
  Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I first rise today to thank my 
colleague for his comments. I am very pleased that this process may now 
move forward--the one that was stymied because of a bill that, as my 
friend from Colorado just pointed out, would kick millions of people 
off of healthcare, jack up their premiums, and really was an effort to 
pass the buck to the States without the bucks. I think that is one of 
the reasons we saw our Republican Governors in Nevada and in Ohio 
opposing this effort. I thank him for his leadership on the relevant 
committees and his passion for this issue.
  I would agree with him that people in my State, the State of 
Minnesota, just like the State of Colorado--we have a lot of 
independent sorts in both our States, and they want to see us get 
things done. We now have the opportunity to do that.
  Mr. BENNET. Mr. President, might I interrupt?
  Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Is there a question?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Colorado.
  Mr. BENNET. I want to observe--I don't know how to phrase this 
question, but the Senator from Minnesota made such an excellent point 
about dropping this on the States. I hadn't made that point. That was 
one of the things that came up over and over again in the Finance 
Committee hearing, was that in the name of federalism, we were 
basically imposing on all of the States the obligation to decide that 
they had to reinvent their healthcare system over the next 2 years 
whether that was something they wanted to do or not. I am glad the 
Senator raised that. I also want to thank her for her leadership.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Minnesota.

[[Page S6126]]

  

  Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Thank you.
  As we wait for those bipartisan negotiations--and we hope we will get 
something soon, because I have seen reinsurance be a positive force in 
my State for bringing some of the rates down in the exchange. The 
average for the preliminary rates was 20 percent when our Republican 
legislature joined with our Democratic Governor to get this passed--20 
percent reduction. We would like to see that rolled out on a national 
basis.
  (The remarks of Ms. Klobuchar pertaining to the submission of S. Res. 
268 are printed in today's Record under ``Submitted Resolutions.'')
  Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon.


                           Climate Disruption

  Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, climate disruption is the seminal 
challenge of our generation. It affects everything from our farms to 
our forests, to our fisheries. We see the impact from disappearing ice 
sheets and melting permafrost and glaciers. We see it in the coral 
reefs. We see it in the moving insect populations. We see it in the 
more powerful storms.
  In response, communities across our globe are transforming their 
energy economies. They are working on energy efficiency, certainly--
more efficient appliances and a little more mileage in their cars. Yet 
many are also working to transform their energy economies from a fossil 
fuel energy economy to a renewable energy economy.
  How much do you know about the changes that are underway? Let's find 
out.
  Welcome to episode 5 of the Senate Climate Disruption Quiz. Here we 
go. Here is the first question.
  This August, an electric 500 horsepower Tesla Model X SUV raced a 740 
horsepower Lamborghini Aventador SV in a quarter-mile drag race. Who 
won? Was it the 500 horsepower electric Tesla or the 740 horsepower 
Lamborghini? Was the race called off or did they tie?
  Take a moment. Feel free to lock in your answer.
  The answer is, the Tesla won the race. The Tesla won the race, 
despite the fact that it had far less horsepower. In fact, it set a 
record for an SV in a quarter mile. It beat the Lamborghini by about 
500ths of a second.
  It just goes to help demonstrate the incredible torque and 
acceleration that comes with electric power, and if you have ever tried 
driving a Tesla and had it accelerate so fast that it pinned you 
against the back of the seat, you would know what I am talking about.
  OK. Let's turn to question No. 2. Taking a page from the white roof 
movement, which city in America has begun painting its streets white in 
order to lower temperatures? Is it the city of Phoenix, AZ? Is it 
Austin, TX? Is it Kansas City, MO, or perhaps Los Angeles, CA?
  The answer is, among those cities, Los Angeles, CA. You may have seen 
this in the news. After a heat wave and recordbreaking temperatures, 
Mayor Eric Garcetti announced plans to cut the average temperature in 
L.A. by 3 degrees Fahrenheit over the next two decades.
  One of the keys to doing this is to coat the city's roads in 
something called CoolSeal, which is a light-colored paint. Originally, 
it was a paint that was developed by engineers for military air bases 
so as to keep spy planes cool while they were resting on the tarmac. 
CoolSeal keeps streets and parking lots 10 degrees cooler than does 
black asphalt.
  This is an interesting innovation, and I am sure the work L.A. does 
will help create information for other cities because cities are heat 
islands. Because of the asphalt, they are often much hotter than the 
surrounding countryside.
  OK. Question No. 3. In which State do 31 communities face an imminent 
threat of destruction from climate disruption? Is it 31 communities in 
Utah or in Michigan or in Alaska or in New Hampshire?
  The correct answer is Alaska. Alaska is experiencing a tremendous 
increase in the vulnerability of towns, which is the result of melting 
ice sheets; therefore, the storms closer approach. There are higher 
seas and more violent storms so we are seeing a real assault on those 
ocean communities. For one community of 600 people, it is estimated it 
would cost about $180 million to relocate all of the residents.
  Meanwhile, the Trump administration is moving to dismantle climate 
adaption programs, like the Denali Commission, which have provided 
Federal assistance to safeguard or relocate communities that are at 
risk from rising sea levels, storms, and disappearing sea ice.
  This takes us to question No. 4. Of the following statements, which 
statement is not true; that is, which of these four statements is 
false? Is it that July 2017 was the second hottest month on record? Is 
the false statement that only one country is not signed on to the Paris 
climate agreement? Is it statement C, that climate disruption played no 
part in the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma? Is it statement 
D, that the United States is now producing 43 times as much solar 
energy as it did in 2007?
  Three statements are true, and one is false. The false statement is 
statement C. It is, in fact, July 2017 that was the second hottest 
month on record. In fact, we had a recent period during which each 
month was the hottest month on record in the calendar year. That 
extended for about 16 months in a row not so long ago.
  Then, indeed, only one country is not signed on to the Paris climate 
agreement. That country is Syria, which is in the grip of a ferocious 
civil war. Nicaragua had not signed on, but it has signed on now. 
The United States has withdrawn or expressed its intention to withdraw, 
but it will not actually go off the Paris accord until the year 2020. 
So there is just one country, and that is also true.

  It is true that solar power has increased 43 times in a 7-year 
period. We certainly know climate disruption does not cause hurricanes, 
but we also know the hotter temperature of the ocean causes the 
hurricanes we have to be much more powerful and much more destructive.
  In the days leading up to Harvey, the sea surface temperatures in 
Texas were 3 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit above average. We saw this same 
phenomenon when Hurricane Sandy struck the Atlantic coast, where 
temperatures were 5 degrees or more above average.
  Let's turn to question No. 5. Some scientists say we need to invent a 
device to pull carbon out of the air. Which of the following would 
accomplish that task? Would it be permafrost, wind turbines, glaciers, 
or trees? We do not think of any of these as an invention by humankind, 
but one of these processes that exists currently in nature does have a 
big impact in pulling carbon out of the air.
  The answer is D, trees. Of course, that is a process we see during 
which, every year, the carbon dioxide level in the air surges when the 
leaves come off the trees and then decreases in the spring when the 
leaves are on the trees because they start pulling more carbon dioxide 
out of the air. So we need a lot more force in order to reduce carbon 
pollution.
  The challenge is, worldwide, we are not adding to our forests. We 
are, in fact, losing our forests. In 2015, we lost about 47 percent 
more forested land than we did in 2001. The rate of deforestation is 
actually increasing so we need to be doing the reverse. We need to be 
ending deforestation and adding forests. Unfortunately, that is not the 
case.
  In 2015, we lost about 49 million acres of forest around the world. 
We lost it because of wildfires, because of logging, and because of 
expanding agriculture. That is about the size of Nebraska. Picture it. 
In a single year, we lost forests that were the size of Nebraska. That 
is bad news in the fight against climate disruption because 
deforestation accounts for more than 10 percent of global carbon 
dioxide emissions, not to mention that forests play an incredibly 
important role in supporting diversified ecological systems around the 
globe.
  So there we have it--this week's episode 5 of the Senate Climate 
Disruption Quiz. These are questions ripped right from the headlines. 
The facts on the ground are changing rapidly as the pace of climate 
disruption increases. This is the single biggest test facing humankind. 
It is a test that calls on every one of us to respond.
  It is simply a fact that the devastation we have witnessed recently 
in

[[Page S6127]]

Houston, TX, is far more dramatic because of climate disruption and 
carbon pollution. It is simply a fact that the devastation we just 
witnessed in Florida is far worse than the disruption and the 
devastation that would have occurred otherwise. That is why we all need 
to keep working to tackle this challenge. The United States should be 
in the lead in taking on the seminal challenge of humankind in our 
generation.
  Thank you, Mr. President.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas.

                          ____________________