EXECUTIVE SESSION; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 166
(Senate - October 16, 2017)

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[Pages S6383-S6390]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                           EXECUTIVE SESSION

                                 ______
                                 

                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
proceed to executive session and resume consideration of the Gingrich 
nomination, which the clerk will report.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of 
Callista L. Gingrich, of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and 
Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Holy See.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the time until 5:30 
p.m. will be equally divided between the two leaders or their 
designees.
  If no one yields time, the time will be equally divided.


                   Recognition of the Majority Leader

  The majority leader is recognized.


                         Work Before the Senate

  Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, as I discussed with the President and 
the Vice President at our working lunch today, the Senate has a full 
schedule of important work ahead of us.
  The Senate's fall agenda includes confirming more nominees to the 
judiciary, administration, and other important positions. Later today 
we will resume consideration of another nominee, Callista Gingrich, who 
has been nominated to serve as our Ambassador to the Vatican. That 
agenda includes providing continued assistance to communities affected 
by the recent hurricanes, and we will process the President's 
supplemental funding request to do just that. The Senate's agenda also 
includes completing work on the budget resolution and advancing tax 
reform--two things that are critical to helping our economy finally 
realize its true potential after the stagnation of the last decade.
  This budget will be the next step to spurring growth in our economy. 
It provides a pathway to balance, it reins in Federal spending, and it 
honors our commitments to Social Security and provides for the national 
defense.
  In addition to these important aspects of this budget, it will also 
provide the legislative tools to advance tax reform. As I have said 
before, tax reform is the single most important thing we can do today 
to get our economy moving again.
  We think taxes should be lower, simpler, and fairer for middle-class 
workers so that Americans can keep more of their own hard-earned money 
in their paychecks. We think taxes should be reformed to end the 
perverse incentives that help keep American jobs and profits offshore 
and so it is easier to make and keep American jobs where they belong--
right here at home.
  We think it is time to take more money out of Washington's pockets 
and put more money in the pockets of the American middle class. That is 
why we know it is time for tax reform.
  The tax reform goals I just mentioned are shared by many, including 
the President, his team, Chairman Orrin Hatch, and Chairman Mike Enzi. 
As I said, to get there, we first need to pass the budget before us. I 
want to thank Chairman Enzi and the members of the Senate Budget 
Committee for all of their work in getting us to this point. As we 
advance that budget on the Senate floor this week, Senators on both 
sides of the aisle will have the opportunity to offer their input.
  I look forward to putting our finances on a better path with this 
budget, just as I look forward to continuing with the other important 
initiatives on the Senate's fall agenda.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. If no one yields time, the time will be 
charged equally.


                   Recognition of the Minority Leader

  The Democratic leader is recognized.


                               Healthcare

  Mr. SCHUMER. Madam President, first, on the issue of healthcare, last 
week, President Trump committed two

[[Page S6384]]

acts of pointless sabotage of our Nation's healthcare system. He signed 
an Executive order that would give insurers more latitude to sell 
temporary, junk plans that are not only incredibly risky to the 
consumer but undermine the rest of the healthcare market by drawing 
healthy Americans out of the pool. Even worse, President Trump decided 
to stop the cost-sharing program, which reduces premiums, deductibles, 
and copays for 7 million Americans a year. There is literally no upside 
to the President's decision to end the cost-sharing program.
  Because of the President's actions, premiums will go up between 20 
and 25 percent, according to the CBO. Just today in Pennsylvania, we 
saw premiums rise by 30 percent as a direct result of the President's 
actions. Deductibles and out-of-pocket costs will go up by thousands of 
dollars. Deficits will rise by $194 billion because the government will 
have to pay more in subsidies to make up for the lack of the cost-
sharing program, and the marketplaces will become less stable because 
more people will go uninsured.
  The Republican Governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, may have said it 
best:

       It's going to hurt people. It's going to hurt kids. It's 
     going to hurt families. It's going to hurt individuals. It's 
     going to hurt people with mental health issues. It's going to 
     hurt veterans. It's going to hurt everybody.

  That is from Republican Governor Brian Sandoval.
  Another point that the President should hear is that nearly 70 
percent of the Americans who benefit from these cost-sharing payments 
live in States that Donald Trump won in the election.
  Make no mistake about it--the President is deliberately undermining 
our healthcare system with these two actions. When premiums go up 
because of this action, the blame will fall on his shoulders.
  There is a way out. The way out of all of this is for Congress to 
aggressively pursue a bipartisan healthcare bill that will take cost-
sharing out of the President's hands by locking in the payments. For 
many months, Democrats have been pushing to stabilize the markets and 
to work toward a bipartisan agreement that would keep premiums down for 
millions of Americans. Senators Alexander and Murray have been 
negotiating a package that would include cost-sharing as well as some 
provisions that the Republicans want. These negotiations began long 
before the President's decision to end cost-sharing last week. I am 
encouraged by the progress of the negotiations, and I am hopeful that 
we are nearing an agreement that makes clear that we have no intention 
of supporting the President's reckless efforts at sabotage.
  If President Trump is now supportive of an agreement that stabilizes 
and improves the existing system under the Affordable Care Act, we 
certainly welcome the change of heart. We have been asking for this for 
a long time. We hope that our colleagues on the other side of the 
aisle, in their realizing the damage the President has done, will join 
us in strengthening, not in sabotaging, the healthcare system.


                       Tax Reform and the Budget

  Madam President, now a word on the Republican tax plan.
  This week, the Republican majority will likely move to pass a budget 
resolution that includes reconciliation instructions to increase the 
deficit by $1.5 trillion. Amazingly, it also includes a total of $1.5 
trillion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Cutting taxes on the wealthy 
to be paid for by cutting Medicare and Medicaid? How many Americans 
want that--Democrat, Republican, Independent, liberal, conservative? 
The GOP budget makes it as clear as day that the Republicans will try 
to pay for a massive tax cut for the wealthy by cutting Medicare and 
Medicaid. It is the same formula they used for TrumpCare--cutting 
healthcare to pay for tax cuts for the rich. The American people rose 
up against that plan, and it failed. This plan should fail for the same 
exact reason.
  Now the White House is out with a new report today, which reads that 
a giant tax cut for big corporations will increase wages for middle-
class Americans. President Trump complains about fake news. Well, this 
is fake math, and it is as bad as any of the so-called fake news the 
President has complained about. This is a deliberate manipulation of 
numbers and facts that, quite frankly, is appalling. History shows that 
tax cuts like these benefit the wealthy and the powerful to the 
exclusion of the middle class. History shows that corporations will use 
tax cuts for CEO bonuses, stock buybacks, and dividends rather than for 
increasing worker pay or creating new jobs.
  In fact, none other than Goldman Sachs concluded that shareholders, 
not workers, ``typically get most of the benefits of tax cuts.'' This 
is not a liberal think tank or Chuck Schumer talking; this is Goldman 
Sachs, which represents shareholders--a lot of them. The two authors of 
this plan, Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin, who are from Goldman Sachs, 
should heed what their former employer says. Even Goldman Sachs is 
saying that the Trump tax cuts will not create massive growth or new 
jobs or higher wages. In fact, another recent report by Goldman Sachs 
predicts only the most minor growth effects from this tax cut, not more 
than 0.1 or 0.2 percent.
  As the President likes to point out, the stock market is at record 
highs, and companies are raking in unprecedented profits; yet wages 
have remained relatively flat. The companies are already flush with 
money--record profits. They are not creating jobs; they are enriching 
their shareholders and enhancing their CEOs' salaries with stock 
buybacks. It is proof positive that companies already have the cash 
reserves but do not use them to boost wages.
  To assert the opposite, which is that giving corporations and the 
wealthy a tax cut leads to higher middle-class wages, belies the facts 
and the history, and it is a blatant attempt to fool Americans into 
thinking that the GOP plan would benefit them when in reality it is a 
sop to the rich. No wonder our Republican friends cannot talk about 
what the plan does--cuts taxes for the wealthy and powerful. They have 
to hide it and say that this is job growth. Those are fake numbers, and 
I would like my friends on this side of the aisle to admit that they 
believe in trickle-down economics, because that is what their plan is 
all about.
  Rather than helping the biggest corporations avoid paying their fair 
share, tax reform ought to reward those companies that create jobs and 
raise wages here at home. Similarly, tax reform ought to directly 
benefit the middle class, but the Republican tax plan slashes a key 
middle-class deduction in the form of the State and local 
deductibility.
  Now let's talk about Vice President Pence. He is visiting Buffalo, 
NY--a city I love in my home State. Since Vice President Pence is 
traveling to Buffalo, I thought that I would share some numbers about 
how the elimination of the State and local deduction affects western 
New York.
  In Representative Collins' district, which stretches from East 
Buffalo toward Rochester, 29 percent of the residents claim the State 
and local deduction. They get an average deduction of $12,125. In 
Representative Higgins' district, which is in the heart of Buffalo, 27 
percent of the residents claim the State and local deduction, with an 
average deduction of $12,083. In Representative Reed's district, which 
is just south and east of Buffalo, 22 percent of the residents claim 
the State and local deduction, with an average deduction of $11,716. 
Their constituents get clobbered, as do just about all New Yorkers and 
so many in the rest of the country, when you eliminate the State and 
local deductibility. It affects the middle class and the upper class. 
The State and local deduction elimination is a dagger to the heart, not 
just to Buffalo but to Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and all of Upstate 
New York.
  Will Vice President Pence have the courage to answer questions about 
this deduction elimination? Will he tell middle-class New Yorkers that 
they are going to get a huge tax increase under this bill? When the 
Vice President arrives in Buffalo tomorrow, I hope he is prepared to 
explain why he wants to hike taxes on thousands of middle-class 
families in the Buffalo area, in the Rochester area, in the Syracuse 
area, and in the Albany area.
  Eliminating the State and local deduction hurts the middle class, and 
it hammers the New York economy. Businesses, if they do not have this 
State

[[Page S6385]]

and local deduction, are not likely to relocate in Buffalo or Rochester 
or Syracuse or Albany. It also hurts homeowners. Make no mistake about 
it--if we get rid of the State and local deduction, the values of homes 
will go down. That is why the realtors are so opposed to this 
elimination. It is not just true in New York or in California or in 
Connecticut or in New Jersey; it is true across the whole country.
  As for my dear friend and chairman of the Finance Committee's State 
of Utah, because of the great charity of his people--and so many 
tithe--35 percent of the taxpayers will get a huge, huge increase in 
their taxes with the elimination of State and local deductibility. So 
many of them do not use the standard deduction because they are so 
charitable, but they are penalized for that charity.
  Eliminating the State and local deduction, while slashing taxes for 
the wealthy and huge corporations, will hurt middle-class taxpayers.
  Now there are some efforts to compromise State and local 
deductibility. They don't work. Some have proposed letting taxpayers 
make a choice between getting rid of the mortgage deduction and getting 
rid of the State and local deduction. That is like saying: Should I 
chop off my left hand or my right hand, Mr. Middle-Class Taxpayer?
  Others have said: Let's limit it to people who earn below $100,000. 
That still leaves lots of people at risk, particularly in high-priced 
areas like Long Island, and it doesn't reduce the deficit by much. It 
is estimated that a large percentage of the deficit will still go up.
  It makes no sense to eliminate State and local deductibility. Vice 
President Pence ought to go to western New York, but instead of going 
just to a small business--and we want to lower small business taxes--he 
should go to a middle-class family in Amherst or in Orchard Park or 
Tonawanda and tell them that he is there to raise their taxes.


                        Nomination of Tom Marino

  Madam President, I want to address the President's nominee to lead 
the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Representative Marino.
  An article in yesterday's Washington Post described Representative 
Marino's advocacy for a law that may have prevented the DEA, the Drug 
Enforcement Agency, from going after the worst practices of drug 
distributors. It is a profoundly troubling revelation about the man who 
has been tapped to lead the primary agency in our government that 
focuses on stopping the opioid crisis.
  The opioid crisis was in part fueled by wholesale drug distributors 
sending millions of unnecessary pills into communities. As my friend 
Senator Manchin has pointed out, one company shipped 20 million doses 
of opioids to pharmacies in his State of West Virginia over a 5-year 
period. That included 11 million doses sent to Mingo County, WV, where 
the population is 25,000. There were 11 million pills sent to a county 
of 25,000 people over a 5-year period. No wonder there is a crisis.
  What the Washington Post revealed yesterday was that Representative 
Marino worked to pass a bill in 2016 that made it ``virtually 
impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments.'' 
Confirming Representative Marino as our Nation's drug czar would be 
like putting a wolf in charge of the henhouse.
  The American people deserve someone totally committed to fighting the 
opioid crisis, not someone who has labored on behalf of the drug 
industry. So tonight I am calling on President Trump to withdraw the 
nomination of Representative Marino for the ONDCP. We can do better. 
Senator Manchin has made such a call, and he is right. President Trump 
ought to withdraw Representative Marino's nomination.
  If the President presses forward with Representative Marino, it will 
be another betrayal in a long line of betrayals on issues near and dear 
to rural America. The President's healthcare proposals would have put 
daggers into the heart of rural America, decimating Medicaid and rural 
hospitals. The President's tax plan lavishes the wealthy and the big 
corporations but does little for the working man or woman in rural 
America. The President promised several months ago to label the opioid 
crisis a national emergency, yet he still hasn't done it. He said this 
afternoon that he will finally do it next week. We will see.
  By now, the idea that the President is sticking up for the forgotten 
man and woman in the forgotten parts of rural America should be 
dismissed. President Trump seems to have forgotten the forgotten parts 
of America, and his lack of action--we don't need talk; we need 
action--on the opioid crisis and his nomination of Representative 
Marino is just another example.


                          california wildfires

  Madam President, over the weekend, several parts of California were 
swept by some of the most devastating wildfires the region has seen. At 
least 40 people have died, thousands of homes and businesses have been 
utterly destroyed, and at one point over 100,000 people were evacuated. 
As Gov. Jerry Brown said, ``This is truly one of the greatest, if not 
the greatest, tragedies that California has ever faced.''
  Our thoughts are with everyone affected by these wildfires. We are 
enduringly grateful for the firefighters and all our first responders. 
And our response here in the Senate must be to send aid where aid is 
needed.
  For our country, this has been a devastating few months of fires and 
floods. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma buffeted Texas, Louisiana, and 
Florida. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are contending with a 
humanitarian crisis on an unprecedented scale in the wake of Hurricane 
Maria. Our job is to speedily send aid, and I am hopeful that we can 
pass another supplemental aid package this week as well as another more 
comprehensive package later in the year.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority whip is recognized.


                       Tax Reform and the Budget

  Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, today I want to talk to you about time 
and how little of it we have to accomplish two incredibly important 
legislative priorities, one that is national in scope and potentially 
historic in impact. The first of those priorities is tax reform. We 
have a target date on the calendar, and now the clock is ticking. We 
have to get to work.
  The budget resolution that we will consider this week sets November 
13 as our deadline for the Finance Committee to report a bill, and of 
course the distinguished chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator 
Hatch, is on the floor, and that is a commitment I know he takes very 
seriously.
  This bill, I hope, will broadly cut taxes on individuals and 
businesses alike and put more money in the pockets of working families 
across the country. What I like most about the plan I have seen so far 
is that it is bold. We are not trimming a little here and a tiny bit 
there. We are slashing rates, consolidating brackets, and eliminating 
pet credits and deductions. This is not JV tax reform. This is tax 
reform that is serious and based upon our commitment to get the economy 
growing again.
  Two weeks ago, the House approved its version of the resolution, and 
the Senate Budget Committee reported out its version. Now the Senate 
will consider the committee's resolution in the coming days. Why do we 
need that budget resolution? How is this all going to work?
  Well, these resolutions from each Chamber are the first step in 
passing pro-growth tax reform. They authorize the use of a tool called 
budget reconciliation. That means when the tax reform legislation is 
considered, it can't be stopped by less than a majority of the Senate. 
Of course, this isn't our first choice.
  I wish our colleagues across the aisle, our Democratic friends, would 
join us in bipartisan tax reform, but passing a budget resolution in 
the Senate is a must because this is something we can hold in reserve 
if our friends across the aisle simply refuse to participate in the 
process of pro-growth tax reform. It is a key procedural step because 
we have to fundamentally change the Tax Code before the end of the 
year.
  How well our economy does next year, how many jobs are created, and 
how much investment occurs here in the United States will depend 
largely upon our success in passing pro-growth tax reform this year. 
The clock is ticking, and we have to act with dispatch and with 
determination.

[[Page S6386]]

  As the President said last week in Pennsylvania, ``we want lower 
taxes, bigger paychecks, and more jobs for . . . American workers.'' He 
is absolutely right. Lower taxes, bigger paychecks, and more jobs are 
the things we all ought to want, and they are worth the fight.
  Under this administration we are already seeing results. The economy 
is bouncing back. Unemployment is at a 16-year low. Wages are rising 
and the stock market is soaring. The slumbering giant, which is the 
U.S. economy, is now slowly awakening. Our economy reached more than 
3.1 percent growth last quarter. Confidence, as the President stressed 
in Pennsylvania, is back when it comes to our economy and our future, 
but that confidence will not last long if we let this opportunity pass.
  We have to find ways to get companies to stay in America, to expand, 
and to hire in America. We have to find ways to take the money out of 
Washington's pocket and put it back into the pockets of those who 
earned the money in the first place--American families.
  We have to find ways to simplify the Tax Code, which, let's remember, 
hits families multiple times each year by taking their earnings, by 
stealing their time through compliance, and by trying their patience 
with complexity. Each tax return feels like three.
  I find it appalling that a majority of taxpayers are forced to pay 
someone else to do their taxes for them because they simply don't have 
the time or expertise to do it themselves.
  The unified framework released a few weeks ago will help. It calls 
for collapsing seven separate tax brackets down to three. That is what 
I call simplification. It expands the zero bracket so that if you are a 
married couple earning less than $24,000 a year, you will pay zero 
income taxes. It enhances the child tax credit. It repeals the death 
tax and special interest tax breaks, and it reduces the uncompetitive 
corporate tax rate to 20 percent and cuts tax rates for small 
businesses to the lowest level in more than 80 years. So let's make 
this happen before time runs out.


                       Hurricane Recovery Effort

  Madam President, the other item I can't stop thinking about is one 
that has taken a great toll on my State and our region of the country, 
and that is Hurricane Harvey, the most extreme rain event in the 
history of the United States. Literally 50 inches of rain fell in 5 
days in the Houston area.
  Last week, I saw images of the Texas World Speedway, a racecar track 
at College Station that is being used as a processing lot. Here is a 
picture of that.
  At its peak, tens of thousands of cars were parked there, awaiting 
damage assessments by insurance companies. A sea of them had filled the 
entire speedway, as can be seen on this chart, and it was starting to 
spill into surrounding areas, too--cars in all directions, as far as 
the eye could see.
  How could Hurricane Harvey damage so many cars? Well, cars these 
days--the newer ones--are basically computers on wheels, and when they 
get wet in an extreme flooding event like this, they essentially become 
a total loss, like these cars at the Texas World Speedway. It is an 
amazing picture. All the cars there, mind you, represent only a tiny 
percentage of all the vehicles damaged in the storm. Some of the 
estimates I have heard are that as high as one-half million personal 
vehicles were damaged and even totaled.
  The speedway is just one of the images that continue to keep me up at 
night. How are my constituents, these Texans, going to get to work? How 
are they going to take their kids to school? When will their car and 
their house be ready so they can live in their home? When will their 
highways and driveways be fixed? What is being done to ensure that 
history doesn't repeat itself when, year after year, many parts of the 
Harris County-Houston area are flooded because many of the important 
Corps of Engineer projects have not been started, much less completed, 
which would have diverted the rain and saved many of these homes and 
many of these cars.
  Last Thursday, the House passed a $36.5 billion hurricane and 
wildfire relief bill. The vote sends the measure over to the Senate, 
and I look forward to debating the supplemental appropriation in the 
days ahead.
  The House's emergency measure is intended to replenish the Federal 
Emergency Management Agency's nearly depleted coffers with $18.7 
billion to the Disaster Relief Fund. If we don't act soon, I am told, 
FEMA could run out of money as early as October 23.
  The House bill will also address the National Flood Insurance Program 
by forgiving $16 billion of its debt and allowing it to pay more claims 
for property owners in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin 
Islands.
  Nevertheless, I must say I am more than a little bit disappointed by 
this piece of legislation. I share the frustrations of Gov. Greg Abbott 
and Members of the Houston area congressional delegation, who have 
pointed out that this bill doesn't come close to fulfilling the very 
reasonable requests that have been made to rebuild and recover from 
Hurricane Harvey. Texas needs more, and the State deserves it, too, 
after all it has gone through. We are not going to throw up our hands 
and relent. We are going to keep on pushing.
  I appreciate the assurances from Speaker Paul Ryan and the 
administration that Texas will get what it needs to rebuild the homes 
and businesses lost in the hurricane and the funding that it needs to 
expand bayous and develop critical flood mitigation projects.
  Governor Abbott told me the Speaker told him Congress will take up 
the State's recent request as soon as November. I am grateful to him 
for that promise, but we don't need any more general statements of 
support. We are not asking for any more expressions of sympathy. We 
need specifics and a specific commitment to follow through on Texas's 
demonstrated need for assistance.
  I predict that the House bill will not move through the Senate until 
the bill provides the sort of specific commitment we could take to the 
bank. This isn't about Hurricane Harvey either. This is about Hurricane 
Irma and Hurricane Maria.
  We cannot afford to wait much longer. The Texas families who have 
been out of their homes since Hurricane Harvey hit can't afford to wait 
much longer. The people who have lost their mode of transportation as a 
result of this flood and this hurricane can't afford to wait much 
longer. The small businesses that have been simply wiped out and who 
have been denied access to the funds they need in order to restart and 
rebuild their lives cannot afford to wait much longer.
  The clock is ticking, and I will continue to work with the Governor 
and the rest of the Texas delegation, as well as our friends from 
Florida and others who were hit by other natural disasters, to make 
sure that collectively we present our case to the Appropriations 
Committees and to the Senate. We are not asking to be treated any 
better than anybody else after a natural disaster like this, but we 
sure will not accept being treated worse. We are going to work 
together, on a bipartisan basis, to make sure that is the case.
  Let me just close with a few words from my good friend and colleague 
from Laredo, TX, Representative Henry Cuellar. Now, Henry is what they 
call a Blue Dog Democrat, somebody I have worked with a lot on border 
issues in particular. He is on the House Appropriations Committee, and 
he was asked whether the House's most recent bill was going to be the 
final appropriation to address the losses as a result of Hurricanes 
Harvey, Maria, or Irma. ``No,'' he said emphatically, ``we are going to 
do more,'' and he is absolutely right.
  I am here to say that speaking as one Senator, I intend to make sure 
the U.S. Government keeps its commitments to the people in Texas, to 
the people in Florida, to the people in Puerto Rico, and to the people 
in the Virgin Islands when it comes to assisting them to recover from 
this terrible natural disaster.
  We are not going to continue to take the promises of the Office of 
Management and Budget or the administration or our friends in the 
leadership in the House, for that matter, that we are going to get to 
this later. There is an expression in my part of the country that when 
somebody asks you when are you going to do something, the response is 
manana--tomorrow. To every question of when, it is manana.

[[Page S6387]]

  We demand that this problem be dealt with on a timely basis, and we 
are going to keep the feet to the fire of the administration and our 
friends in the House to make sure they follow up on their commitments 
to deal with the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Utah.
  Mr. HATCH. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senator 
from Florida be granted the floor as soon as I finish.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


       Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act

  Mr. HATCH. Madam President, over the weekend, the Washington Post ran 
an article about a piece of legislation I helped negotiate last 
Congress. It was entitled the ``Ensuring Patient Access and Effective 
Drug Enforcement Act'' and was intended to encourage greater 
collaboration between DEA and the regulated community in the fight 
against opioid abuse. The Post article was sharply critical of this 
legislation, suggesting that it effectively gutted DEA's ability to do 
its job. It also suggested the pharmaceutical industry put one over on 
Congress. I rise to set the record straight on these allegations and to 
provide a fuller account of how this legislation passed the Senate and 
became law.
  First, some background. The Controlled Substances Act requires drug 
distributors to obtain a ``registration'' from DEA in order to 
distribute controlled substances, including prescription drugs. The act 
further authorizes DEA to suspend a distributor's registration in 
certain circumstances, such as where a distributor has been convicted 
of a crime involving controlled substances or had a State license 
suspended. Before suspending a registration, DEA must issue a show 
cause order directing the distributor to explain why its registration 
should not be suspended. A court then decides whether DEA has met its 
burden to suspend the registration.
  The Controlled Substances Act empowers DEA to bypass this standard 
suspension process in cases where DEA determines there is ``an imminent 
danger to the public health or safety.'' In such cases, DEA can issue 
an immediate suspension order that immediately and without court 
process terminates the distributor's ability to distribute prescription 
drugs. Prior to last Congress, the Controlled Substances Act did not 
define what constitutes an imminent danger to the public health or 
safety. This left DEA's ability to immediately suspend a party's 
ability to distribute prescription drugs essentially unfettered. Such 
unfettered discretion concerned the patient advocacy and drug 
manufacturing community because an immediate suspension order cuts off 
all drugs from a distributor, including those intended for legitimate 
users. A balance is needed to ensure that individuals who need 
prescription drugs for treatment receive them but that such drugs are 
not diverted for improper purposes.
  So the bill I helped negotiate last Congress, for the first time, 
defined what constitutes an imminent danger to the public health or 
safety. In doing so, it created a standard for when DEA may suspend a 
party's registration to distribute prescription drugs without any prior 
court process, and that standard is that there must be a ``substantial 
likelihood of an immediate threat'' that death, serious bodily harm, or 
abuse of a controlled substance will occur in the absence of an 
immediate suspension.
  In both committee and floor statements, I made clear that this 
standard is intended to cover situations where evidence of diversion 
indicates there is a substantial likelihood that abuse of a controlled 
substance or of any controlled substances will occur.
  The Washington Post article glosses over much of this background. It 
does not explain that the immediate suspension order is intended to be 
an extraordinary measure. It does not explain that prior to the bill, 
DEA had basically carte blanche authority to impose this measure. It 
does not explain the DEA has other enforcement tools available, 
including show cause orders which are supposed to be the agency's 
standard operating procedure. Equally problematic, the article barely 
even mentions the patient advocacy concerns that motivated the bill to 
begin with.
  I want to quote from a letter that a coalition of patient and health 
advocacy groups sent to Congress in support of the legislation:

       Federal agencies, law enforcement, pharmaceutical industry 
     participants and prescribers each play a role in working 
     diligently to prevent drug abuse and diversion. However, it 
     is also imperative that legitimate patients are able to 
     obtain their prescriptions without disruption. Your 
     legislation addresses both goals by fostering greater 
     collaboration, communication and transparency between 
     industry stakeholders and regulators, leading to more 
     effective efforts to combat abuse while protecting patients.

  The letter was signed by, among others, the American Academy of Pain 
Management, the Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Support Network, and the 
Drug Free America Foundation.
  Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the letter be printed 
in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                                                    March 4, 2015.
     Hon. Orrin Hatch,
     U.S. Senate,
     Washington, DC.
     Hon. Sheldon Whitehouse,
     U.S. Senate,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Senators Hatch and Whitehouse: On behalf of the 
     patient and health professional groups listed below we would 
     like to express our support for the Ensuring Patient Access 
     and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2015 (S. 483). We 
     appreciate your leadership and commitment to combating the 
     inappropriate use of prescription medicines. Your legislation 
     will help improve the balance between effective enforcement 
     against prescription drug diversion and abuse, while ensuring 
     patients who are appropriately prescribed medications 
     continue to have access to their treatments.
       As patient advocacy and health professional organizations, 
     we are committed to combating illegal use of prescription 
     drugs. Millions of Americans depend on prescription drugs to 
     treat and cure illness, alleviate pain, and improve quality 
     of life, yet prescription drug abuse remains a persistent 
     problem that requires collaboration from all those with a 
     stake in improving patient care and protecting against abuse. 
     In considering the burden on patients, it is important to 
     remember that the vast majority of patients who use 
     prescription drugs do so legitimately to address a variety of 
     health issues. Efforts to prevent drug abuse should also 
     consider legitimate users so that actions do not impede 
     patient access or lessen the effectiveness of patient care.
       Federal agencies, law enforcement, pharmaceutical industry 
     participants and prescribers each play a role in working 
     diligently to prevent drug abuse and diversion. However, it 
     is also imperative that legitimate patients are able to 
     obtain their prescriptions without disruption. Your 
     legislation addresses both goals by fostering greater 
     collaboration, communication and transparency between 
     industry stakeholders and regulators, leading to more 
     effective efforts to combat abuse while protecting patients. 
     We commend you for including a report to congress, which will 
     illuminate the issue and ultimately benefit patient care. 
     Including patient advocacy groups in the process will ensure 
     those involved in patient care will be able to identify 
     challenges and will emphasize appropriate and workable policy 
     approaches to preventing diversion and abuse of controlled 
     substances.
       We commend you for your leadership on this important issue.
           Sincerely,
       Alliance for Patient Access; American Academy of Pain 
     Management; American Pharmacists Association; American 
     Society of Consultant Pharmacists; American Society for Pain 
     Management Nursing; Center for Lawful Access and Abuse 
     Deterrence; Drug Free America Foundation, Inc.; Fibro 
     Warriors Living Life; Fibro Friends of Tennessee; 
     Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Support Network; Fibromyalgia-ME/
     CFS Support Center, Inc; Florida Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain 
     Network.
       Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association; Interstitial 
     Cystitis Association; Kentuckiana Fibromyalgia Support Group; 
     Lake Oswego Health Center; National Association of Chain Drug 
     Stores; National Community Pharmacists Association; National 
     Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association; The Pain Community; 
     Pain Connection-Chronic Pain Outreach Center, Inc.; Project 
     Lazarus; Richmond Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association; 
     Save Our Society From Drugs; U.S. Pain Foundation; Virginia 
     Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Support Group.

  Mr. HATCH. Madam President, the Washington Post article discusses 
virtually none of this. Rather, it baldly asserts that Congress cut out 
DEA's legs from underneath it through a sinister conspiracy of deep-
pocketed drug companies and their cunning allies in Congress. Nothing 
could be further from the truth.

[[Page S6388]]

  To begin with, I have spent 40 years of my life in the Senate 
fighting the scourge of drug abuse. I stood side by side with Ronald 
Reagan in the War on Drugs. In 2000, I coauthored the Drug Addiction 
Treatment Act, or DATA 2000, one of the first efforts in Congress to 
address the opioid epidemic. Last year, I led conference negotiations 
on the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act, a landmark piece of 
legislation that is making a real difference in the fight against 
opioid and heroin abuse. Currently, I am working on legislation to 
address opioid addiction in the veteran community. I am no patsy when 
it comes to drug abuse--prescription or otherwise--and neither are my 
colleagues.
  Indeed, forget me for a moment. Let's take Senator Whitehouse, who 
helped me negotiate the bill with DEA and DOJ. Are we to believe that 
Senator Whitehouse, a former Rhode Island attorney general and a former 
U.S. attorney, a crusader against corporate interests, is somehow in 
the pocket of the drug companies? Of course not. The charge is 
laughable on its face.
  How about the fact that this bill passed both Houses of Congress by 
unanimous consent? Did the entire U.S. Congress decide to shield its 
eyes to the true sinister intent of this legislation? Did the Senate 
Judiciary Committee, which approved the bill by voice vote, decide to 
look the other way? This is a committee that includes former 
prosecutors, state attorneys general, and U.S. attorneys who, at the 
time, included both the current Attorney General of the United States 
and the current Senate minority leader.
  Are we seriously to believe that Jeff Sessions, the toughest foe of 
illegal drugs I have ever known in my entire life, sat on his hands 
while Congress eviscerated the DEA's enforcement authority? No, of 
course not.
  To merely state these allegations is to make clear how utterly 
ridiculous they really are. Not one Senator or Member of the House 
opposed this bill. Do you know why? Because DEA, the very agency the 
bill impacts, the very agency that supposedly can no longer do its job 
because of this legislation, agreed to let it go forward.
  Let me be clear. The DEA could have stopped this bill. They could 
have stopped it at any time. In fact, they did stop a previous version 
in 2014 that had different language. I spent months negotiating with 
DEA and with DOJ until they were at a point they were comfortable 
allowing the bill to proceed. If they had asked me to hold the bill or 
to continue negotiations, I would have done so.
  I brought the bill to markup only after DEA and DOJ agreed with me on 
a path forward. Anyone who claims that I or anyone else steamrolled DEA 
and DOJ on this bill is either ignorant or woefully misinformed.
  That brings me to another point that was largely lost in all the 
insinuations in the Washington Post article. The language that 
purportedly eviscerated DEA's enforcement power--that is, the 
requirement that the DEA show a substantial likelihood of immediate 
threat before issuing an immediate suspension order--was written by DEA 
and DOJ lawyers and provided to Hill staff as a proposed compromise.
  So let's get this straight. Congress took language that DEA and DOJ 
wrote, inserted it into the bill, and now Congress is the bad guy? I 
should note that other aspects of DEA and DOJ's proposed language 
changed, but that key phrase ``substantial likelihood of an immediate 
threat''--the phrase that critics now point to as gutting DEA's 
enforcement authority--came from DEA and DOJ. And lest we forget, 
President Obama signed the bill into law on the advice of his own DEA 
Administrator.

  I think we need to be candid about what is going on here. Opponents 
of the current administration are trying to derail the President's 
nominee to be head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 
Representative Tom Marino, by mischaracterizing and trying to rewrite 
the history of a bill that he championed. They are being aided in their 
efforts by a group of former DEA employees who took an extremely hard 
line against drug companies when they were at the Agency and who are 
upset that the DEA chose to pursue a more collaborative approach after 
they left. I don't fault these individuals for their passion, but I do 
reject the notion that there was some sort of sinister conspiracy at 
play. And I find it unconscionable that critics of the bill and of 
Representative Marino would flat-out ignore the very real patient 
concerns that motivated this bill and motivated my personal involvement 
with it. You think this bill was a sop to the drug industry? Tell that 
to the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Network. Tell that to the American 
Academy of Pain Management. Tell that to the Drug Free America 
Foundation.
  If we are going to make this bill a political football and try to use 
it to sink Representative Marino's nomination, let's tell the full 
story. Let's be fair. Let's at least be honest. Let's not gin up a one-
sided narrative based entirely on the statements of former Agency 
officials who disagreed with the change of leadership.
  No matter how you try to spin it, this is not the latest episode of 
``House of Cards.'' Rather, let's be clear that Members of this body 
negotiated this bill in good faith with the DEA and the Department of 
Justice. Let's be clear--the DEA and DOJ themselves generated the 
language that critics now claim is so problematic. Let's remember that 
this bill passed by unanimous consent and that every single Member of 
this body and the House of Representatives agreed to it. Let's 
remember, too, that the DEA and DOJ could have stopped this bill at any 
time if they had wanted to but instead chose to allow it to proceed. 
After all, they stopped an earlier version in 2014 that had different 
language. They could have stopped it again. And even after the bill 
passed Congress, they could have advised President Obama not to sign 
on. Don't forget that the bill bears his signature. Let's not pretend 
that DEA, both Houses of Congress, and the Obama White House all 
somehow wilted under Representative Marino's nefarious influences.
  Provocative headlines and clever framing may drive page hits, but 
this body's decisions should be based on the full story. It should be 
based on all the facts. A single news article that tells only one side 
of the story should not derail a nominee who has a long history of 
fighting illegal drug use and of helping individuals with chronic 
conditions obtain treatment. Let's not ignore the full story here in 
the rush toward easy politics.
  Madam President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Florida.


                      Puerto Rico Recovery Effort

  Mr. NELSON. Madam President, I want to talk about a matter of life 
and death. It is happening, as we speak, in Puerto Rico. I went there 
yesterday. I didn't want to have a flyover of the island, but at the 
invitation of Governor Rossello, I got into a helicopter so that I 
could get up into the mountains and into the areas that have been 
closed because people hadn't been able to get there on the roads. That 
is what I wanted to see.
  We have had colleagues come back and, because of a flyover in a 
helicopter, say that they say don't see a lot of damage. Of course not, 
because they are flying over parts of towns in which most of the 
structures are concrete blocks. But if you get down there on the ground 
and go into the structure, then you will see a different story.
  First of all, you will smell a different story because the water has 
accumulated, and now it is turning to mold and mildew--inhabitable 
conditions. But when you get up into the mountains, you see the places 
that were cut off. Not until a week ago did they have the roads cleared 
so that people could get up there. And as we speak, as of yesterday, 
they are still reconstructing the roads so that people can get on these 
narrow, winding, little dirt roads that go up through the mountains. So 
for 2 and a half weeks, communities have been completely cut off, like 
the one that I saw yesterday, Utuado, which is way up in the mountains.
  I want to show you some pictures, but I want you to realize that 
today is Monday. Next Wednesday will be 4 weeks since the hurricane 
hit. Can you imagine going into a State with 3.5 million people and 85 
percent of the people do not have electricity? And by the way, these 
are our fellow American citizens; they are just in a territory. Can you 
imagine going into a State where a month after the hurricane, 50

[[Page S6389]]

percent of the people do not have potable water? It is an absolute 
outrage. And I don't think the American people realize what is 
happening.
  Let me be your eyes by what I saw yesterday. This is a river bottom 
in the little town of Utuado. This side of the river is cut off from 
this side of the river because the one bridge washed out. If you look 
at this structure, the question is, How long is this going to last? It 
is tilting to the left. Any major rush of water is going to take out 
this section.
  I want you to see how creative these people are. It is hard to see at 
this distance, but they erected a cable system going over to the other 
side. They took the basket of a grocery cart, took the wheels and 
handles off, and this is on a pulley, and these guys are pulling it 
over here and then they pull it back. This is how people on this side 
of the river are getting food and water and medicine if they can't walk 
across. This is how people are surviving. If this section of the bridge 
goes--and it is just a matter of time--they are going to try to hook up 
a cable over here at the top of this riverbank over to the top of this 
riverbank and do the same kind of pulley.
  Here in the States, on the mainland, if something like this happened, 
the Corps of Engineers would be there. We would be rebuilding. The 
Department of Transportation would be rebuilding that bridge. These are 
our fellow American citizens, and they are going without.
  Let me show you another picture. This is the bank of another river. 
Let me show you the result. This is what happened. You see this whole 
house right behind here. I will show you the church in a minute. I 
asked the pastor: Did the people survive? He said that one was trapped 
in the house. They were able to get that person out. The others had 
already fled. But you can see that with the force of the extra rain and 
the water coming down, houses like that are history.
  Here is that same section of the river with the church in the 
background. The church survived. I talked to the pastor of the church. 
Here I am having a conversation with the people who live on this side. 
I asked the pastor whether he lost any parishioners. He did not. On the 
side of his church, he has a dish, and because he has a generator, he 
is the only person in this town who has any kind of communication--in 
this case, through the satellite dish for television. Everything else 
is being run on generators because there is no electricity. As you 
know, these generators are not powerful enough to run air-conditioners; 
therefore, the water accumulates. Mold and mildew start to accumulate, 
with all the health effects as a result of that.
  Does this look like something we would have in this country, or does 
this look like a third world country? Do the images in these 
photographs bring to mind other Caribbean nations that we have seen 
that have been devastated by earthquakes and hurricanes? Think about 
what happened to Haiti.
  When people go to San Juan--by the way, 85 percent of San Juan is 
without power. You see these little pockets, and of course they are 
trying to get the generators going in the hospitals for obvious 
reasons. They need the generators to go to stations where people are 
getting their dialysis treatments. That is obvious. But what about the 
wear and tear on the generators and the replacements?
  The Governor of Puerto Rico, Governor Rossello, has a very ambitious 
schedule: He wants to restore 95 percent of power by the middle of 
December. I hope the Governor is right. It has been turned over to the 
Army Corps of Engineers to get the electrical grid and structures up 
and running. I am afraid it is going to be a lot longer. I asked for 
estimates on the immediate needs, especially rebuilding the grid. He 
said $4 billion. Are we going to be able to get that for them?
  What are going to be the ultimate needs of Puerto Rico? We just heard 
the Senator from Texas talk about his State and the estimates that you 
heard out of Texas being as much as $100 billion. What about the needs 
of Puerto Rico? What about the needs of Florida? What about the needs 
of the Virgin Islands?
  We have a supplemental coming up, but is that going to take care of 
the needs of all of those four areas that have been hit hard? If Texas 
is $100 billion, a long-term fix for Puerto Rico may well be $80 
billion to $90 billion. And who knows what it is going to be for 
Florida and the Virgin Islands. Therefore, are we in this Congress, 
with or without the leadership of the White House, going to have the 
stomach to help our fellow American citizens? I am sure we are going to 
help Texas, and I certainly hope we will help my State of Florida, but 
are we willing to help the American citizens in the Virgin Islands and 
Puerto Rico? It is not a rosy picture, but we hear some Members of 
Congress come back and say they didn't see a lot of damage. It is 
people using a pulley they have jerry-rigged across a river to survive 
with daily supplies of food and fuel and water. You can't see that from 
the air. If you have no power, you have no water, and you have no sewer 
systems, then, what you have is chaos.

  It has been a month since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. The 
hospitals are rationing services while they struggle to get the 
medicines and the fuel they need to power the generators. The dialysis 
centers are struggling to get the water and fuel they need to operate.
  Like many, I have written, in this case, to the U.S. Department of 
Health and Human Services, to urge the Department to do more to help 
these dialysis centers obtain the supplies they need.
  I wanted to come to the floor of the Senate, having gotten back very 
late last night from Puerto Rico, and tell the Senate that more needs 
to be done, and it is going to have to be done for a very long period 
of time. We have to do more to ensure that the supplies that are 
reaching the island are getting to those who need them.
  Remember, things got piled up in the ports in the first week, and 
they didn't get out to be distributed. Senator Rubio and I were saying 
at the time that it is going to take the U.S. military, which is 
uniquely organized and capable of distribution of long logistical 
lines. It wasn't until a week after the hurricane that three-star 
General Buchanan was put in charge. I met with him and the head of FEMA 
down in the Puerto Rico area. Finally, those supplies are getting out. 
These are supplies for survival.
  We need to pass a disaster relief package that fully funds Puerto 
Rico's recovery. We need to provide Puerto Rico with the community 
development block grant money that Governor Rossello has requested, 
just like we need the CDBGs for Texas and Florida and the Virgin 
Islands as well. We need to make Puerto Rico eligible for permanent 
work assistance so they can start to rebuild their infrastructure 
immediately.
  I want to make something fairly clear. There should be absolutely no 
ambiguity about what is going on in Puerto Rico. It isn't rosy. It 
isn't that you can sit in a comfortable seat in a helicopter looking 
down from 1,500 or 2,000 feet on structures that look like they are 
intact, when, in fact, the reality on the ground below is completely 
different. Certainly, they didn't go up there and see all those bridges 
washed out in the mountains. They didn't see people scrambling for 
food. They didn't see the Puerto Rican National Guard rebuilding that 
little narrow dirt road winding along the banks of that river. They 
didn't see or walk into the buildings where you would almost be 
overwhelmed with the smells--the smells, particularly, of mold and 
mildew.
  People have died as a result of this hurricane. People have died 
because of the lack of supplies and power. Our fellow Americans are 
dying, and they desperately need our help.
  Ladies and gentlemen of the Senate, I have seen it with my own eyes 
on the ground, and I am here to urge this Congress and the 
administration that we have to act and act for a very long period of 
time.
  Our citizens in Puerto Rico need our help. We have the responsibility 
to help fellow citizens in need.
  Madam President, I yield the floor.
  Mr. SHELBY. Madam President, I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  The yeas and nays were ordered.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. All time has expired.

[[Page S6390]]

  The question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the Gingrich 
nomination?
  The yeas and nays have been previously ordered.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk called the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the 
Senator from Mississippi (Mr. Cochran), the Senator from South Carolina 
(Mr. Graham), the Senator from Georgia (Mr. Isakson), the Senator from 
Arizona (Mr. McCain), the Senator from Kansas (Mr. Moran), and the 
Senator from Ohio (Mr. Portman).
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from New Jersey (Mr. 
Menendez) is necessarily absent.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Lankford). Are there any other Senators in 
the Chamber desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 70, nays 23, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 217 Ex.]

                                YEAS--70

     Alexander
     Baldwin
     Barrasso
     Bennet
     Blunt
     Boozman
     Burr
     Cantwell
     Capito
     Cardin
     Carper
     Casey
     Cassidy
     Collins
     Coons
     Corker
     Cornyn
     Cortez Masto
     Cotton
     Crapo
     Cruz
     Daines
     Donnelly
     Enzi
     Ernst
     Feinstein
     Fischer
     Flake
     Franken
     Gardner
     Grassley
     Hatch
     Heitkamp
     Heller
     Hoeven
     Inhofe
     Johnson
     Kaine
     Kennedy
     King
     Klobuchar
     Lankford
     Lee
     Manchin
     McCaskill
     McConnell
     Murkowski
     Murphy
     Murray
     Paul
     Perdue
     Reed
     Risch
     Roberts
     Rounds
     Rubio
     Sasse
     Schumer
     Scott
     Shaheen
     Shelby
     Strange
     Sullivan
     Thune
     Tillis
     Toomey
     Warner
     Whitehouse
     Wicker
     Young

                                NAYS--23

     Blumenthal
     Booker
     Brown
     Duckworth
     Durbin
     Gillibrand
     Harris
     Hassan
     Heinrich
     Hirono
     Leahy
     Markey
     Merkley
     Nelson
     Peters
     Sanders
     Schatz
     Stabenow
     Tester
     Udall
     Van Hollen
     Warren
     Wyden

                             NOT VOTING--7

     Cochran
     Graham
     Isakson
     McCain
     Menendez
     Moran
     Portman
  The nomination was confirmed.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Wyoming.
  Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that with 
respect to the Gingrich nomination, the motion to consider be 
considered made and laid upon the table and the President be 
immediately notified of the Senate's action.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Without objection, it is so ordered.

                          ____________________