EXECUTIVE CALENDAR--Continued; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 172
(Senate - October 25, 2017)

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[Pages S6781-S6812]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                     EXECUTIVE CALENDAR--Continued

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Louisiana.

                               Tax Reform

  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, as the Senate irons out the details of 
our comprehensive tax reform plan to get the American economy back on 
track, I want to draw attention today to what I believe is one of the 
greatest obstacles in our path as we pursue 3-percent annual growth. 
That obstacle I am referring to is our aging national infrastructure: 
our roads, our bridges, our airports, our water systems, our sewage 
systems, and our waterways that desperately need dredging, especially 
in my State.
  If our tax plan is going to be pro-growth, then we need to take 
advantage of this once-in-a-generation chance to use Federal revenues 
to invest meaningfully in our economy. Allow me to explain what I mean 
by that. Federal investment in our roads, our bridges, our railways, 
and our waterways would be a shot in the arm for the American economy. 
It would pay dividends for decades. Companies need good roads and 
bridges and shipping channels to transport their products and to ensure 
that they aren't sitting in traffic for hours--sometimes it seems like 
days--which eats away at profits and raises costs for our people. But 
for too long, Washington's spending priorities have been to grow the 
Federal bureaucracy instead of growing our capacity for economic 
expansion and development through infrastructure upgrades. We know the 
result. Our Department of Transportation now estimates that we have a 
backlog of construction and repairs that would cost $926 billion to 
clear. It would cost nearly a trillion dollars, and that is just the 
  I have a simple solution that I would respectfully suggest to get us 
back on track. According to the Congressional Research Service, $2.6 
trillion in corporate profits made by American companies are parked 
overseas, and some outside estimates say $4 or $5 trillion. This money 
is overseas, and it will not be brought back to America as long as our 
antiquated corporate tax system is going to charge those American 
companies 35 percent in tax just to bring them back.
  Congress is already discussing repatriation as a part of the move to 
a territorial tax system, which would use a competitive tax rate to 
encourage companies to bring their dollars back to the United States 
and keep them here and invest them here in American products and 
American businesses and American employees.
  When tax reform passes--and it will--and we get a one-time surge in 
tax revenue as a result of this $3 to $5 trillion being brought back to 
the United States, we are going to get only one chance to spend that 
money wisely. Instead of blowing those repatriated dollars on an 
already bloated Federal bureaucracy, we ought to invest that money 
solely and exclusively in desperately needed infrastructure upgrades. 
Even a one-time target investment in clearing the industrial backlog 
will create jobs and stimulate the economy for decades.
  Let's face it, too many of American roads today are axle-breaking 
insults to the 21st century. They are holding our economy back.
  Let me be clear. We are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars 
flowing into infrastructure if we just make good use of those 
repatriated dollars. For example, just in my State of Louisiana, this 
could mean building a new bridge through Lake Charles. It could mean 
widening the interstate in Baton Rouge. It could mean closing the gaps 
in I-49 between Lafayette and Shreveport and New Orleans. We have 
neglected our highways and bridges for far too long, and this is our 
chance to use tax reform to catch up, to boost our international 
competitiveness, to lower costs for consumers, and to put our economy 
back on track to 3 percent-plus growth, which the American people 
expect and deserve.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. SHELBY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                             Cloture Motion

  Pursuant to rule XXII, the Chair lays before the Senate the pending 
cloture motion, which the clerk will state.
  The bill clerk read as follows:

                             Cloture Motion

       We, the undersigned Senators, in accordance with the 
     provisions of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, 
     do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the nomination 
     of Scott L. Palk, of Oklahoma, to be United States District 
     Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma.
         Mitch McConnell, Orrin G. Hatch, John Cornyn, Chuck 
           Grassley, Thom Tillis, Pat Roberts, John Barrasso, 
           Johnny Isakson, Roger F. Wicker, John Thune, Marco 
           Rubio, James Lankford, Richard Burr, Steve Daines, Mike 
           Crapo, John Boozman, James M. Inhofe.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. By unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum 
call has been waived.
  The question is, Is it the sense of the Senate that debate on the 
nomination of Scott L. Palk, of Oklahoma, to be United States District 
Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma, shall be brought to a 
  The yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk called the roll.
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from New Mexico (Mr. 
Heinrich), the Senator from Vermont (Mr. Leahy), and the Senator from 
New Jersey (Mr. Menendez) are necessarily absent.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sullivan). Are there any other Senators in 
the Chamber desiring to vote?
  The yeas and nays resulted--yeas 79, nays 18, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 250 Ex.]



[[Page S6782]]



     Cortez Masto
     Van Hollen

                             NOT VOTING--3

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. On this vote, the yeas are 79, the nays are 
  The motion is agreed to.
  The Senator from Oklahoma.
  Mr. LANKFORD. Mr. President, I rise to speak to the Senate about the 
nominee that is currently in front of this body and on whom we should 
vote in the next few hours. We just finished a cloture vote to actually 
start 30 hours of debate. In the past, we wouldn't have had 30 hours of 
debate for a district court nominee, especially a district court 
nominee like this. This would have been something that would have been 
done by consent. We would have had a vote on this individual, rather 
than burning up 30 hours of time in debate on a single individual who 
just passed a cloture vote 79 to 18. This is not a controversial 
  Let me introduce you to Scott Palk. Scott Palk was actually reported 
out of the Judiciary Committee on June 15 of this year. He was 
nominated by President Trump on May 8. He has been pending since June 
15 to get a vote on this floor because of the ongoing delays for each 
nominee as we go through the process.
  Why do I say Scott Palk is not a controversial nominee? It is not 
just the fact that he passed the cloture vote 79 to 18. Scott Palk, if 
you remember his name in this body, was also a nominee of President 
Obama for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. 
He is now a nominee of President Trump for the U.S. District Court for 
the Western District of Oklahoma.
  There may be five things total that President Obama and President 
Trump agree on. Scott Palk is one of those five. This is not a 
controversial nominee, and he will be a great judge for us. He will 
also be a great judge in Western Oklahoma.
  He currently serves as the assistant dean for students and the 
assistant general counsel at the University of Oklahoma College of Law 
in Norman, OK, a position he has held since 2011. He has the strong 
support of the president of the University of Oklahoma, who happens to 
be former Senator David Boren, a Democratic Senator from this body, who 
is now leading the University of Oklahoma and has done that with great 
excellence for the past two decades. He is also strongly behind this 
nominee as well.
  Scott Palk joined the University of Oklahoma College of Law after 19 
years of public service as a State and Federal prosecutor. He graduated 
in 1992 from the University of Oklahoma College of Law, where he began 
his legal career as a legal intern for the district attorney's office 
of district 21, serving in Cleveland, Garvin, and McClain Counties.
  After graduating and passing the bar, he became an assistant district 
attorney for Cleveland County, where he prosecuted a variety of crimes 
and death penalty cases. In 1994, he became the multicounty drug task 
force coordinator, initiating and directing the district's first wire-
interception drug investigation and coordinating Federal and local 
resources, culminating in the successful prosecution of a significant 
multicounty methamphetamine distribution organization.
  The Association of Oklahoma Narcotics Enforcers awarded him the 
Prosecutor of the Year award in 1993. In 1992, he became the first 
assistant district attorney for district 21 and served in a dual 
prosecutorial and administrative role.
  In 2002, he joined the U.S. attorney's office in the Western District 
of Oklahoma, where we are pushing him to be a judge now, as an 
assistant U.S. attorney, prosecuting violent crimes, gangs, and 
domestic terrorism.
  In 2004, he became the deputy criminal chief of the U.S. attorney's 
office and served in the additional roles of violent crime, national 
security coordinator, anti-terrorism, advisory council coordinator, and 
crisis management coordinator.
  That same year, in 2004, the Oklahoma Gang Investigators Association 
awarded him the Prosecutor of the Year award. The Executive Office for 
U.S. Attorneys awarded him the Director's Award for Superior 
  In 2005, the Drug Enforcement Administration awarded him the 
Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Contribution in the Field 
of Drug Law Enforcement.
  In his most recent role at the U.S. attorney's office, he supervised 
administrative staff and assistant U.S. attorneys, handling a criminal 
caseload primarily consisting of national security and organized crimes 
and coordinating efforts with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, the 
FBI foreign counterintelligence squad, and the National Security 
Division of the Department of Justice.
  His work in national security matters included both traditional 
criminal investigations, as well as investigations utilizing provisions 
of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
  In 2011, the FBI awarded him the Director's Certificate of 
Appreciation for Assistance to the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
  Scott Palk is eminently qualified for this task. He shouldn't be a 
controversial nominee, and he should already be a judge. We are missing 
three judges in the Western District of Oklahoma. President Trump 
nominated him on May 8, and it is now the end of October when we can 
finally get him to the floor to be able to move him.

  This delay tactic, this stalling tactic that is out there, this 
resist movement to try to prevent the President of the United States 
from getting his staff in every agency and to prevent judges from being 
able to actually go on the bench is delaying good people who are not 
controversial to be able do the job that is needed in each district. He 
is an individual who passed 79 to 18 on a cloture vote, and I am 
confident we will not consume the next 30 hours of debate about him. 
The hours will now expire as we sit in silence on the Senate floor, 
waiting for us to be able to have a final vote--just delays.
  I have made a proposal to my colleagues. It is not a radical 
proposal. Quite frankly, it was a proposal in 2013, first proposed by a 
Senator named Harry Reid: to be able to move the nominations time 
period from 30 hours of just wasted time on the Senate floor to 2 
hours--2 hours for district court, 2 hours for the Deputy Assistant 
Secretary of whatever agency it may be, having 2 hours of debate. These 
are for individuals who have already gone through committee, already 
gone through extensive vetting, already moved to the floor, and who 
most certainly will pass because it is a simple majority to be able to 
move these individuals based on the change of rules that at that time 
Senator Reid led.
  Let's also do the same rule on time. Instead of 30 hours of wasted 
time on the floor when we could do other things for the American 
people, let's go back to the 2-hour agreement that we had in the past. 
It was a simple rule of 2 hours for individuals like for district 
courts and other individuals and agencies, 8 hours for higher tier 
individuals, who may be for a circuit court and such, and 30 hours for 
Cabinet officials.
  I don't think that is an unreasonable request to make. It is a rule 
that we have done in the past, and it is a rule that we need to go back 
to. The American people are frustrated with the block in timing on 
moving people, especially people with wide bipartisan support. No one 
understands why someone who President Obama nominated and President 
Trump nominated has to take up 30 hours of time on the floor on debate 
when no one will really debate him and it is certain what the outcome 
of these people will be.
  The American people are expecting us to debate and to engage on 
issues. I recommend again to this body: Let's go back to the Harry Reid 
rule--2 hours of debate for individuals like this in district courts, 8 
hours of debate for higher tiered courts, and 30 hours of debate for 
Cabinet officials and the Supreme Court. We can do that again. We have 
done that in the past, and I recommend that we move back to that, not 
just for a single congressional body but as a change in the rules of 
the Senate, so that, permanently, we are able to be more functional 
again. A body that is

[[Page S6783]]

dysfunctional can be fixed by its own Members, moving us to a 
functional set of rules. That is what I hope we would achieve in the 
days ahead.
  I look forward to voting for Scott Palk, whenever we finish with a 
30-hour clock of time--of wasted time--to be able to move on a nominee 
and to see wide bipartisan support again for a good nominee. Scott is 
going to do a great job on the bench. We need him there to be able to 
get started.
  I yield back.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in 
morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to talk about 
what my bipartisan healthcare bill with Chairman Alexander means for 
the people we are all here to serve, what it means for patients and 
families in my home State of Washington and across the country who are 
worried about being able to afford the healthcare they need, and what 
it means for States and communities and hospitals that are 
administering and providing care.
  Negotiations of this magnitude are always tough. There are some 
things you agree on, and sometimes there is common ground that emerges 
early, but there is no question that you also find areas of strong 
disagreement. You have to work your way to each answer step by step.
  One issue that Chairman Alexander and I agreed on from the very start 
of our negotiations, where we worked our hardest, and what we had the 
most discussions on was the goal of putting patients and families first 
and that it would be families who would benefit as much as possible 
from our efforts to restore stability to our markets. That was the crux 
of our debate. It was our guiding star.
  I am very proud to say that our bipartisan bill does just that. Here 
is what is at stake. Here is what we know. Patients and families across 
the country are looking ahead to next year. They are rightly worried 
about their healthcare--premiums, benefits, and coverage--and they are 
realizing that they are about to pay the price for the uncertainty and 
partisanship we have seen on healthcare over the last 9 months.
  Like all of my colleagues, I have listened and I have talked with 
many of these families in my home State, at hospitals, schools, 
roundtables, and in meetings with patients, doctors, providers, and 
veterans. They have all made it very clear that enough is enough with 
playing politics with people's healthcare.
  Here is how our bipartisan bill would protect those families and 
restore certainty to the markets. I will not go into all of the 
details, of course, but I do want to focus on some really important 
  First of all, this bill would restore the out-of-pocket cost 
reduction payments that President Trump has announced he will be ending 
for this year as well as for 2018 and 2019. This means that some 
serious sabotage--something that experts say would raise premiums by 
double digits for millions of families--would be off the table.
  Second, this bill would make significant investments when it comes to 
healthcare outreach and enrollment to make sure that families know 
about their insurance options.
  Third, this bill makes some changes to give our States more 
flexibility when it comes to developing plans and offering options 
while maintaining essential health benefits, like maternity care and 
protecting people with preexisting conditions or protecting the 
elderly--and all of this while making sure that costs go down for 
families and preventing insurers from doubledipping and padding their 
profits with both cost reduction payments and higher premiums.
  Put simply, this bill is an important step in the right direction of 
preventing premium increases, stabilizing healthcare, and pushing back 
against President Trump's recent actions.
  This bill reflects the input of patients, Governors, State 
commissioners, experts, and advocates, and it has strong support from a 
majority here in the Senate. So far, 24 Senators--12 Democrats and 12 
Republicans--have cosponsored this bill. I know there are a lot of 
others who agree that we need to act and that we must do so in our 
working together under regular order, as with our bill, rather than 
doubling down on partisanship and dysfunction.
  I am focused on moving our bill forward as quickly as possible, and I 
certainly hope that the majority leader will listen to the Members on 
both sides of the aisle who also want this bill to be brought up for a 
vote without delay.
  Let me be clear. As this bill moves forward, I am certainly open to 
changes that expand access to quality care, put families ahead of 
insurers, and maintain those core patient protections that I have been 
clear all along have to be protected. I am certainly not interested in 
changing our bipartisan agreement to move healthcare in the wrong 
  Chairman Alexander and I have a record of seeing tough legislation 
through to the end together, whether that is K-12 education, FDA user 
fees, mental health reform, or opioid use disorders, which is why I am 
confident that we can do the same with this stabilization bill.
  We have negotiated a strong agreement that has the support of 60 
Senators, and the support is growing. The President has also expressed 
his support for our effort, so I see no reason why we should not move 
this bill through the Senate, get it signed into law, and then continue 
the bipartisan discussion on healthcare in the country.
  I will also take some time to talk about another pressing healthcare 
challenge, and that is the immediate need to extend Federal funding for 
the historically bipartisan, expired primary care cliff programs, like 
the Community Health Center Fund, the National Health Service Corps, 
and, of course, the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.
  It has now been almost 25 days since the Federal funding of these 
primary care cliff programs and CHIP were allowed to expire by the 
Republican majority, and in that time, I have heard from thousands of 
people in my State and nationwide who are urging Congress to act. Each 
day that passes is a day that we are failing to meet our commitment to 
these families and putting the health and well-being of nearly 9 
million children, including more than 60,000 children in my home State 
of Washington and the 25 million patients who, at great harm and great 
risk, get care from the community health centers.
  In Washington State, as in so many other States, notices to families 
about gaps in their children's healthcare are about to go out as soon 
as December 1, and in my State, we will run out of Federal funds for 
CHIP in November.
  Let me be clear. Parents in my home State and across the country 
should not be up at night, worrying about their children's healthcare 
because Congress cannot get the job done. That is so unacceptable.
  There is a bipartisan deal in the Senate right now that was 
negotiated between the chairman and ranking member of the Finance 
Committee that would provide certainty for this vital program. I 
understand that extreme House Republicans have chosen, instead, to take 
an irresponsible path in their trying to ram through a partisan bill 
that will jeopardize the efforts in the Senate and in the House to come 
to an agreement as soon as possible.
  To be clear, this delay has not been without serious consequences, 
but we can still act. It is up to Republican leaders now to reverse 
course, come to the table, and join with Democrats to get this done. It 
should not have to be said, but there should not be any place for 
partisanship or politics when it comes to protecting the children and 
families we represent. I hope that we get this done and get it done 
quickly, and I hope that all of our Members will move forward on this.
  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. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

[[Page S6784]]


  Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I see the Senator from New Hampshire on 
the floor. I ask through the Presiding Officer if she is about to speak 
or if I may speak after her. What I would like to do is to give a brief 
report on the Congressional Budget Office's report of the Alexander-
Murray proposal, of which the Senator from New Hampshire is a 
cosponsor. I would like to do that either before or after she speaks. 
Either way would be fine.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Hampshire.
  Mrs. SHAHEEN. Mr. President, my understanding is that Senator Cornyn 
was about to come to the floor, but I would be happy to have the 
Senator give the CBO report on this legislation, which I very 
enthusiastically support.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Tennessee.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, in respecting Senator Cornyn's 
prerogative, I will stop when he comes to the floor.
  I believe that Senator Murray has come to the floor and has reported 
that the Congressional Budget Office has just finished an evaluation of 
the Alexander-Murray proposal to the U.S. Senate that would be for the 
purpose of reducing premiums and avoiding chaos in the individual 
insurance markets during the years 2018 and 2019.
  The Senator from New Hampshire is a strong sponsor of that 
legislation. It is unusual, in fact, that it has 12 Republican Senators 
and 12 Democratic Senators. Not many pieces of legislation come to the 
floor with that support. The reason we accelerated work on it was that 
President Trump called me and asked me to work with Senator Murray to 
try to develop such a proposal. So now it is being considered by the 
President, by the House of Representatives, and by other Members of 
this body.
  An important piece of information, as Senator Murray has said, is 
what the Congressional Budget Office writes about the impact of our 
proposal on the Federal taxpayers and on the consumers across the 
  President Trump has been very clear on one thing he wants, which is 
that we do not bail out insurance companies if, in 2018, we pay cost-
sharing payment reductions, which are payments to pay for deductibles 
and copays for low-income Americans.
  I 100 percent agree with President Trump on that, and Senator Murray 
100 percent agrees with President Trump on that. We have language in 
our proposal to make sure that benefits go to consumers and to 
taxpayers and not to insurance companies. We asked the Congressional 
Budget Office to review that, and this is what it wrote: ``On net, CBO 
and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimate that 
implementing the legislation would reduce the deficit by $3.8 billion 
over the 2018-2027 period relative to CBO's baseline.''
  In other words, the Alexander-Murray proposal would reduce Federal 
spending by $3.8 billion. Not only does it not cost anything, but it 
saves the taxpayers money.
  They then wrote a second thing, and this is quoting the Congressional 
Budget Office: ``CBO and JCT expect that insurers in almost all areas 
of the country would be required to issue some form of rebate to 
individuals and the federal government.''
  Let me say that again. This is the CBO talking, the nonpartisan 
Congressional Budget Office, with respect to the Alexander-Murray 
proposal that has been cosponsored by a total of 24 Senators--12 
Republicans, 12 Democrats: ``CBO and JCT expect that insurers in almost 
all areas of the country would be required to issue some form of rebate 
to individuals and the federal government.''
  The Congressional Budget Office has found that our proposal benefits 
taxpayers and consumers, not insurance companies. The specific benefit 
to the taxpayers is $3.8 billion. The exact benefit to consumers has 
not been determined yet because that will be done State by State. Under 
our proposal, every State would come up with a plan to say, in 2018, 
because of the cost-sharing payments, premium rates need to be lower 
than they are already set. Then, in that State, they would be, and as a 
result, there would be rebates to individuals.
  The CBO also found that there is a provision in the law for a 
catastrophic plan. That is a new insurance plan for people over the age 
of 29 that would have lower premiums and higher deductibles, but it 
would allow people to afford an insurance policy so that a medical 
catastrophe would not turn into a financial catastrophe.
  ``CBO estimates that making catastrophic plans part of the single 
risk pool would slightly lower premiums for other nongroup plans, 
because the people who enroll in catastrophic plans tend to be 
healthier, on average, than other nongroup market enrollees.''
  A major objective, I think, of all of us is to attract more young, 
healthy people into the pool as a way of lowering rates for everybody.
  ``As a result of the slightly lower estimated premiums, CBO and JCT 
expect that federal costs for subsidies for insurance purchased through 
a marketplace established under the ACA would decline by about $1.1 
billion over the 2019-2027 period.''
  We have already said what the Congressional Budget Office has 
reported earlier; that if we don't pass something like the Alexander-
Murray proposal, this is what happens: If the cost-sharing payments are 
not paid, premiums in 2018 will go up an average 20 percent. They are 
already up. Our proposal will take them down. The Federal debt will 
increase by $194 billion over 10 years, if we don't pass our proposal, 
due to the extra cost of subsidies to pay higher premiums, and up to 16 
million Americans may live in counties where they are not able to buy 
any insurance in individual markets. The 350,000 Tennesseans in 
individual markets in Tennessee would be terrified by the prospect of 
not being able to buy any insurance or by the skyrocketing premiums.
  I thank Senator Cornyn and the Senator from New Hampshire, Mrs. 
Shaheen, for allowing me to interrupt and make a brief statement.
  Let me go to the bottom line once more. The President has said 
repeatedly, Senator Murray has said repeatedly, and I have said 
repeatedly that the Alexander-Murray amendment, the short-term 
bipartisan plan to reduce premiums and avoid chaos, must not bail out 
insurance companies. We have written language to make sure it does not, 
and now the Congressional Budget Office says it does not. It does not 
bail out insurance companies. It does benefit consumers. It does 
benefit taxpayers to the tune of $3.8 billion. That is very important 
  I am encouraged by the President's comment yesterday. He thanked me 
at the luncheon for working in a bipartisan way on this. I am 
encouraged that Senator Hatch and Kevin Brady have introduced a bill 
recognizing the importance of continuous cost sharing. The ball is in 
the hands of the White House right now. They have our recommendations. 
They made some suggestions. That is the normal legislative process.
  I am hopeful that something that has this kind of analysis; that it 
doesn't bail out insurance companies, that avoids a big increase to the 
Federal debt, that makes certain that people will be able to buy 
insurance for the next couple of years, that begins to lower premiums, 
that almost all Democrats want and that Republicans in the House have 
all voted for once this year when they voted for their repeal-and-
replace bill--something like that sounds like something that might 
become law before the end of the year, and I believe the sooner the 
  I thank the Presiding Officer, Senators Cornyn and Shaheen.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Hampshire.
  Mrs. SHAHEEN. Mr. President, I am delighted to follow Senator 
Alexander and was very pleased to hear the news from the CBO that this 
Alexander-Murray proposal not only doesn't bail out insurance 
companies, as we all agree we should not do--we want to make sure 
savings go to consumers--but it also will save taxpayers $3.8 billion.
  This is a bipartisan agreement. I applaud the work of Senator 
Alexander and Senator Patty Murray to craft this bipartisan agreement 
to address the challenges we have in the short term with healthcare. 
Senators Alexander and Murray have given us a template for bipartisan 
negotiations not just on healthcare but on other critical matters that 
are going to come before this Senate--tax reform, reauthorizing 
community health centers and the Children's Health Insurance

[[Page S6785]]

Program, reaching an agreement on the 2018 budget. These are all major 
issues facing this country and issues we should be working on in a 
bipartisan way. The Senate is at its best when we observe regular order 
and we follow the committee process, when we work across the aisle and 
make principled compromises to get things done for the American people. 
I believe that is exactly what this health insurance bill does.
  In a Senate that is nearly equally divided between Republicans and 
Democrats, this is the only productive way forward for us to address 
the challenges that face this country. Too often we have seen people 
use bipartisan negotiations as a last resort, but bipartisanship should 
be the Senate's first resort, not the last resort. It should be the 
foundation of our work in this body. This is how the great majority of 
Americans want us to conduct the Senate's business.
  When I travel around New Hampshire, this is the consistent comment I 
hear everywhere I go: Why can't you all work together to get things 
done for this country? This is especially true on matters like 
healthcare and tax reform, which affect families throughout the 
  I am encouraged that the Alexander-Murray bill has earned strong 
bipartisan support and, as Senator Alexander said, has 24 original 
cosponsors. That number is equally divided between Republicans and 
Democrats. This is a balanced agreement that has been negotiated by 
both parties over many months, and I think it is our best bet for 
stabilizing marketplaces in the short run so we can continue to work on 
long-term issues around healthcare.
  I am especially pleased this agreement provides for the continuation 
of cost-sharing reduction payments for 2 years. These payments are 
necessary to keep premiums, deductibles, and copayments affordable for 
working people. Without these payments, the cost of coverage will 
skyrocket, insurers will leave the marketplaces, and millions of people 
will lose their healthcare coverage. I have been working on this issue 
of cost-saving reduction payments since earlier this year, when I 
introduced a bill that would permanently appropriate funds for the 

  As the CBO said, the language in the Alexander-Murray bill ensures 
that these CSRs are not a bailout to insurance companies, but they are 
a way to help people with the cost of insurance. They are orderly 
payments that are built into the law that will go directly to keeping 
premiums, copays, and deductibles affordable for lower income 
Americans. Both Democrats and Republicans recognize that these payments 
are an orderly, necessary subsidy that keeps down the cost of health 
coverage for everyday Americans. As Senator Alexander said, we saw that 
these payments were in the bill the House voted for around healthcare, 
and they were also in the Senate bill earlier this year.
  In recent months, I have heard from hundreds of people across New 
Hampshire about the enormous difference healthcare reform has made in 
their lives. We are a small State; we have just about 1.3 million 
people. Nearly 94,000 Granite Staters have gotten individual healthcare 
coverage through the marketplaces. Nearly 50,000 have gotten coverage 
thanks to the Medicaid expansion program in New Hampshire. That has 
been a bipartisan effort, with a Republican legislature and a 
Democratic Governor, to get that program in place, and it continues to 
enjoy the support of the Republican legislature and the Republican 
  Because of the Affordable Care Act's increased access to care, we 
also have 11,000 Granite Staters who have substance use disorders and 
who have been able to get treatment for the first time. New Hampshire 
has the second highest rate of overdose deaths from the heroin and 
opioid epidemic. Having treatment available through the expanded 
Medicaid Program has made a difference for thousands of people in New 
Hampshire and their families. Hundreds of thousands of Granite Staters 
with preexisting conditions no longer face discrimination resulting in 
denial or sky-high premiums. These are important achievements, and this 
legislation will allow us to continue down that road to make sure 
people have healthcare coverage they can afford.
  For people across New Hampshire and across this country, healthcare 
coverage is often a matter of life or death. It is about being able to 
take a sick family member to a doctor. It is about knowing that a 
serious illness will not leave a mountain of debt.
  I am very pleased to be able to join in the bipartisan efforts led by 
Senators Alexander and Murray to strengthen the parts of the healthcare 
law that are working and to fix what is not working. The other 
provisions in this legislation will allow States more flexibility 
through the 1332 waiver process. The Alexander-Murray agreement 
expedites waiver approval so States can implement smart fixes to 
stabilize their marketplaces, for instance, by establishing a State-
based reinsurance program. The agreement also includes a restoration of 
funding for open enrollment outreach in educational activities, and it 
protects four protections related to insurance affordability, coverage, 
and plan comprehensiveness. All of these changes are positive steps 
forward, steps that I hope will set us on a bipartisan path, 
strengthening elements of the Affordable Care Act that are working well 
and fixing elements that need to be changed.
  I am hopeful the Alexander-Murray agreement can gain the bipartisan 
support it needs to pass in Congress, that it can gain the President's 
signature, and I am encouraged by Senator Alexander's comments about 
the President's comments yesterday because we need to restore certainty 
and stability to the marketplaces. Instead of partisan efforts to 
undermine the law and take health insurance away from people, we should 
embrace the spirit of the Alexander-Murray agreement. Let's work 
together in a good-faith, bipartisan effort to build a healthcare 
system that leaves no American behind.
  Thank you.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority whip.

                               SAFER Act

  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I know people watching and perhaps reading 
the newspaper, watching cable TV, and listening to talk radio think 
nothing ever happens here in Washington, DC, and they would be wrong. 
Certainly, we can always do better, and I am disappointed we haven't 
been more successful, but there are some measures we can make in the 
right direction in important pieces of legislation that make a very 
profound difference in people's lives.
  Today I want to talk about a problem that, thanks to a bill passed by 
the Senate on Monday, we are helping to solve. This has to do with the 
untested rape kit backlog in our country.
  Years ago, thanks to a courageous woman named Debbie Smith, I became 
a lot better informed about the nature of this problem: rape kits, the 
forensic evidence that is taken in sexual assault cases but which 
remained in evidence lockers in police stations untested or was sent to 
laboratories and never processed. At one point, it was estimated that 
there were as many as 400,000 untested rape kits in our country.
  As the Presiding Officer knows, this is powerful evidence because of 
DNA testing. We can literally almost say with certainty whether there 
is a match between the DNA of a suspect and that in a rape kit. This 
forensic evidence is collected following a sexual assault. Similarly, 
we can decide and determine whether there is no match whatsoever and, 
frankly, exclude somebody who is a potential suspect from being the 
guilty party by using this same powerful forensic evidence.
  It is also important not just to solve the crime at hand but also to 
get sexual predators off the streets because we know this type of 
offender is likely to strike time and time and time again. The experts 
tell us that when opportunities don't provide themselves for sexual 
offenders to go after adults, frequently they will even go after 
children. So this is very important evidence.
  As we know, there is typically a statute of limitations that after a 
period of time a case cannot be prosecuted, but it is really important, 
as I mentioned, to continue to test as many rape kits as we possibly 
can to get serial offenders off the streets and to determine whether 
somebody has been charged or suspected of a crime and is in fact 

[[Page S6786]]

  Thanks to courageous people like Debbie Smith, for whom we have named 
the Debbie Smith Act, as well as great bipartisan cooperation in the 
Senate, we have provided funding for the testing of rape kits at the 
State and local level, which has been supplemented by the Texas 
Legislature and other State legislatures.
  In Houston a few years ago, our mayor felt so strongly about this 
that they took this on as a citywide project, with incredible results. 
They found a number of hits of previously unsolved crimes, and they 
were able to bring peace of mind to a lot of people who had been living 
under a cloud of unsolved crime when they processed these unprocessed 
rape kits.
  Nationally, the problem is still big, with as many as 175,000 rape 
kits that still haven't been analyzed, and this is something we need to 
continue to attack. It is down from 400,000 at one point, was the 
estimate, down to 175,000, but that is still unacceptable.

  Victims of sexual assault, scarred by painful memories and physical 
trauma, can't afford to wait for funding that is easier to come by. 
They need their stories to be heard, the evidence to be tested, and the 
results expedited. Federal, State, and local officials owe them those 
things. If we dawdle, those cases go cold, and they are the ones who 
bear the scars and the pain of these unresolved crimes.
  That is why the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act, 
called the SAFER Act, is so important. That is the bill I mentioned a 
moment ago that we passed in the Senate on Monday. It reauthorizes a 
program created in 2013 that has helped law enforcement reduce the 
national rape kit backlog. I thank my friend and colleague, 
Representative Ted Poe over in the House, for sponsoring the House 
  The original legislation increased the amount of funds spent on 
untested kits by 35 percent and allowed 5 to 7 percent of them to be 
used on audits of existing law enforcement programs. These audits, in 
turn, uncovered tens of thousands of untested kits across the country, 
each with evidence that could be used to bring an offender to justice. 
The new bill passed by the Senate this week goes further. It ensures 
that pediatric forensic nurses are available for training so that, once 
they complete it, they are better equipped to respond promptly and 
appropriately to children suffering from abuse.
  Finally, the bill extends the sunset provision of the SAFER Program, 
which will ensure the longevity of a program with a proven history of 
  I am grateful to have a wide range of bipartisan support, including 
the senior Senator from Minnesota, as well as the senior Senators from 
Nevada and Colorado, who are original cosponsors. This is a good 
example of legislation that is bipartisan and that makes progress 
toward solving a very real problem in our country. But, as so often we 
find the case, there is not much reporting on it, much attention paid, 
but it is worth noting here on the Senate floor that bipartisan 
progress on important legislation that helps people's lives become 
better is being done here in the Senate.

                            CORRECTIONS Act

  Mr. President, I also want to bring up another important piece of 
legislation I reintroduced this last week, the Corrections Oversight, 
Recidivism Reduction, and Eliminating Cost to Taxpayers in Our National 
System Act. Let me call it the CORRECTIONS Act for short because that 
is a mouthful. I am grateful to my Democratic cosponsor, the junior 
Senator from Rhode Island, Mr. Whitehouse, for joining me on what is, 
like the SAFER Act, significant bipartisan legislation.
  My home State of Texas has a well-deserved reputation for being tough 
on crime, but we have also learned over time that it is important to be 
smart on crime too. We successfully implemented statewide criminal 
justice reforms that help low-risk offenders become productive members 
of society once they reenter civil society from prison, and the State 
is focused on the important role rehabilitation can play.
  I am not naive enough to think that every person who is imprisoned 
behind bars, having been convicted of a criminal offense, is going to 
take advantage of the opportunity to right their path and to get on 
with their life, but some will, and given the proper assessments and 
incentives, we have found that this sort of approach works.
  The CORRECTIONS Act that Senator Whitehouse and I have introduced 
builds off of the State models that have worked in Rhode Island, 
Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, and elsewhere, and it requires the Bureau of 
Prisons to provide programs that partner with faith-based and 
community-based organizations to better prepare these men and women to 
become law-abiding and active members of society. I hope the Senate can 
follow Texas's lead and implement these commonsense, bipartisan 
  This bill achieves a number of objectives, which I will mention 
  First, it requires the Department of Justice to develop risk-
assessment tools to evaluate the recidivism potential of all eligible 
  Second, it refocuses resources on those offenders most likely to 
commit future crimes and allows lower risk inmates to serve their 
sentences under less restrictive conditions, thus reducing prison 
costs, so the taxpayer wins too.
  Third, the bill expands programming--such as substance abuse 
treatment and vocational training--that has been proven to reduce 
  Fourth, it requires the Bureau of Prisons to foster partnerships with 
faith-based and nonprofit and community-based organizations in order to 
deliver a broad spectrum of programming to prisoners.
  Next, it allows inmates who successfully complete recidivism-
reduction programs to earn credit toward time in prerelease custody, 
while eliminating eligibility for inmates convicted of serious crimes.
  Additionally, the bill requires the Department of Justice to 
implement inmate reentry pilot projects across the country and to study 
their effects so that we can gain a better understanding of what works 
and what doesn't work when it comes to offenders' reintegration into 
  Finally, the CORRECTIONS Act creates a national commission to review 
every aspect of our criminal justice system. The last review of this 
type was done in 1965. And while I think Congress--certainly this is 
within our wheelhouse, but we probably don't have the bandwidth to do 
this, which is why this national commission is so important to be able 
to report back to Congress and make recommendations to us.
  We know one thing for sure: that when people serve their sentence and 
they are released from prison, they are going to reenter society. Why 
wouldn't we want to make sure those who are willing to deal with their 
addiction, to learn a skill, to get a GED, and to otherwise improve 
their lives--why wouldn't we want to make sure they are better prepared 
when they reenter civil society? Otherwise, they are left with this 
turnstile of crime where they go from prison, to the community, to 
committing another crime, to another conviction, and back to prison 

  Our focus should be on helping individuals find a productive path as 
contributing members of society, and that involves making sure 
returning to prison doesn't happen because there is no alternative. By 
implementing job training, drug rehabilitation, and mental health 
treatment, we can focus and save taxpayer dollars, lower crime and 
incarceration rates, decrease recidivism, and most importantly, we can 
help people change their own lives for the better.
  Joining State and local officials at the forefront of this are groups 
like Prison Fellowship and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which 
create programs for inmates, such as the Prison Entrepreneurship 
Program--or PEP for short--which teaches prisoners how to start and 
manage their own businesses when they begin life on the outside. You 
would be amazed by individuals who started their own businesses through 
the PEP program and turned their lives around in the process through 
the mentorship and fellowship that these programs provide.
  I hope we can learn from the laboratories of democracy, known as the 
States, where we implemented successful criminal justice reform 
programs--this time, in our prison system--where we will all benefit. 
Taxpayers benefit because we will have to incarcerate fewer people 
because they won't continue this cycle of release, offend, and

[[Page S6787]]

reincarceration--at least a certain percentage of them won't. We can 
help people whose lives are in a tailspin because of drug or alcohol 
addiction or who feel as though they are on a dead-end street because 
they simply don't have the job skills or the education in order to 
compete in the economy.
  I hope we can follow the lead of successful experiments in our 
States, such as Texas, and implement these commonsense, bipartisan 
reforms in our Federal prison system.
  Mr. President, let me say in conclusion that I know the 
administration is very interested in engaging on criminal justice 
reform. Last year, we worked on a sentencing and prison reform bill 
that unfortunately seems to not be going anywhere. While the prison 
reform component of it seems to have a consensus of support here in the 
Congress and I think could pass and be signed into law, the sentencing 
reform piece is a little more controversial and I know divides even the 
Republican conference, and I am not sure what it does with the 
Democratic conference. But I believe we ought to start on a step-by-
step basis, get what we can get done, and get it to the President for 
his signature, while providing these tools to inmates who are 
incarcerated through the Bureau of Prisons, and then keep working on 
the other parts on which we perhaps have not yet been able to build 
  I hope our colleagues will work with us on this important piece of 
legislation as we work to reform our criminal justice system in ways 
that make sense and that save taxpayer dollars.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Missouri.

                               Tax Reform

  Mr. BLUNT. Mr. President, yesterday in the middle of the day, the 
Presiding Officer and I and the Senator from Texas and others had a 
chance to meet with the President and talk about tax relief. It seemed 
to me very clear that the President and those of us who are advocating 
tax cuts right now are on the same wavelength, which is, let's have tax 
cuts for hard-working families, and let's do the other things we need 
to do in the Tax Code to ensure that those very same families have 
better jobs.
  As I said on the floor of the Senate last week, there are two ways to 
increase take-home pay. One is to start taking less out of the 
paychecks people are getting now, and another one is to give them an 
even better paycheck in the future. We need to look at both of those 
ways to increase the opportunity for working families and working 
  We are now into the eighth year of almost no economic growth. If 
there is no economic growth, there is very little incentive for your 
job to be a better paying job than it was the previous year no matter 
what has happened to your other costs, and we clearly see that 
  We are into the first year of this new administration. We are looking 
at 3 percent annual growth after 8 years in which growth didn't exceed 
2 percent. Anytime you begin to talk like an economist, people begin to 
wonder: Well, what does that have to do with me? Let me just say that 
for taxpayers generally, for working families generally, the more 
growth you have, one, the more revenue that comes in that takes care of 
problems like the deficit. The way you take care of those problems--the 
best way--is to grow the economy. Two, people are much more focused on 
keeping the workforce they have, getting the best of the workforce that 
is coming on board as their workforce moves on for retirement or 
relocates or does other things.
  Three percent economic growth is not good enough. The post-World War 
II average--that is more than seven decades now of average--is, I 
think, almost 3\1/2\ percent. There are very few economic problems in 
our country that wouldn't be made substantially better, including our 
own Federal deficit, if we see growth exceed or even get to the 70-year 
average. There is no reason to believe that can't happen.
  Yesterday, the President was talking about the two ways to 
immediately relieve pressures on families. One is more take-home pay, 
and two is a better job that also increases take-home pay. But the 
first step we can achieve immediately by the kind of tax relief we 
  There have been 8 years of stagnant wages. Half of the families in 
the country are living paycheck to paycheck. Very few families can face 
an emergency that is even $500 without having to restructure what they 
are doing and how they are doing it. We can do a better job at this. We 
need more jobs. We need higher wages. And the two principal goals of 
this tax bill should be to do exactly that--create more wages now, more 
take-home pay now, and create an environment in which we are going to 
be more competitive. Simplifying the Tax Code is one way to meet that 
first impact, having a tax code that people understand better, that 
they think is fairer.
  A tax code where people think they are being treated fairly is much 
more likely to be complied with than a tax code where people see that 
somebody else who makes the same amount of money as they make is paying 
a lot less taxes than they are paying. The American tax system is 
probably the greatest voluntary compliance. Sure, there are laws that 
require people to comply, but most people are never impacted by those 
laws. They know they could be, but the American people have shown a 
willingness to pay their fair share if they know that their fair share 
is, in fact, their fair share. A simpler tax system, a more easily 
understood tax system, a system that has fewer than the seven different 
tax brackets that people pay today are things we can and should 

  Doubling the standard deduction helps a lot when people look at the 
$12,000 deduction they have now. For a couple, as they look at that 
deduction and realize that deduction, that standard deduction, has 
doubled, suddenly, if you are a couple filing jointly, you are not 
paying any taxes on the first $24,000 you earn. If you are a single 
individual, you are not paying any taxes on the first $12,000 you earn. 
Keeping enough of the family-benefiting exemptions helps make the 
family do what the family would like to do. What if they would like to 
give to their church and charity? There is no discussion saying we 
wouldn't keep the standard charitable deduction as a deduction. There 
is no discussion that we wouldn't keep home mortgage as a deduction so 
we are encouraging homeownership or looking at how to make the child 
tax credit bigger rather than smaller.
  Many of the early analyses of what this Tax Code would do say that 
for a family of four, they would pay more than they are paying now up 
to certain income level. Generally, that will turn out not to be the 
case--certainly, at the middle-income levels and below if you factor in 
the child tax credit, which hasn't been determined yet.
  Our tax-writing committee will be looking at that child tax credit as 
an important addition to the individual exemptions because it costs 
money to raise kids. The Congress surely should understand that, 
appreciate that, and factor that into the deductions. Just like we are 
doubling the deduction for individual earners, we also have to look at 
what that child tax credit should look like.
  Tax policies that benefit homeownership, tax policies that encourage 
contributing to charities and community activities and church and 
synagogue and mosque--your religious activities--all would continue to 
be a part of this Tax Code.
  Also, when talking about sending kids to school, one way to not have 
student debt is to encourage families to have ways to better prepare 
for what they, in most cases, would hope would be a goal or an 
expenditure their family would make. We can do things like expanding 
the Pell grants for poor families, but for families who don't qualify 
for that, we can do things that allow the deduction early on for 
putting money in a fund that prepares people to go to school.
  Keeping well-paying jobs at home and encouraging more jobs to come 
here is also an important part of the goal. You can't have the highest 
corporate rate in the world and expect that you are going to be as 
competitive as you would be with other countries. A corporate rate of 
35 percent, in 1986, was fairly near the middle when that rate was 
arrived at with President Reagan and others working on it the last time 
we did a tax rewrite, and right in the middle is about where we should 
be. However, now the situation is we see that right in the middle is no

[[Page S6788]]

longer 35 percent; it is about 20 percent. Ireland just revised its 15 
percent rate to 8 percent. Great Britain is reducing their rate to a 
little less than 20 percent. They have been, I think, a little more 
than 20 percent. We need to be sure the products we make here and the 
jobs that are created here--that there is a competitive ability to sell 
that same product anywhere in the world, with the advantage, obviously, 
of being made by our great workforce but also an advantage where our 
tax system doesn't work us out of the marketplace, doesn't make us less 
  A territorial tax system will be one of the things we are going to 
hear talked about a lot. For most of us, that doesn't seem to have any 
impact. We earn our money here, we pay our taxes here, but we also want 
to be sure that if American companies sell products somewhere else and 
earn money there, that they can, should, and would bring that money 
back to the United States to reinvest it in the kinds of things that 
create jobs here.
  I think this doesn't have to be all that complicated. We need to 
understand what the core principles are. We need to get to those core 
principles. We need to get this done this year so people are planning, 
in the first months of next year, on how to take advantage of a new, 
simpler, fairer, and more competitive Tax Code. This needs to be job 
one of this Congress for the next few weeks. We need to get that done 
so job one for the country, beginning at the end of this debate, is 
what we can do to create more and better jobs and create more take-home 
pay for hard-working families.
  I am joined by some of my colleagues who are going to talk about this 
same topic, I hope, and others. We need to be focused. I can tell, with 
the President's comments yesterday, he is focused on this. We are 
focused on this. This is a job we need to get done.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Ernst). The Senator from Alaska.
  Mr. SULLIVAN. Madam President, I wanted to reinforce and underscore 
some of the comments made by my colleague from Oklahoma, Senator 
Lankford, on what is happening in the Senate right now. It is actually 
really important for the American people to understand what is going 
on. Maybe we would finally get the press, who sit up there above your 
chair, Madam President, to write about this topic.
  Right now, we are debating a very well-qualified district court judge 
nominee--a Federal district court judge nominee from Oklahoma. Senator 
Lankford was down here, and he obviously knows the nominee, Scott Palk. 
He is so qualified that the vote for cloture to move forward on this 
nominee--who, by the way, was nominated by President Trump for a 
Federal district court position but was previously nominated by 
President Obama with fairly bipartisan support--was 79 to 18. That is 
really strong bipartisan support. It just happened about an hour ago on 
the Senate floor.
  So what are we doing? Well, we are still going to be debating for 30 
hours. We are not really debating the nominee because he is well 
qualified. That is what we are doing in the Senate, supposedly. Anyone 
watching, you know we are not debating him because he is very well 
qualified, but we are still going to burn 30 hours. Why is this? Well, 
this raises a much broader issue of the tactics that are happening on 
the Senate floor right now. The minority leader and his colleagues will 
not come down and explain what they are up to.
  I gave a speech on this a couple of weeks ago, and I just asked: Come 
on down. Let the American people understand why we are spending all 
this time on nominees who are very well qualified and have enormous 
bipartisan support. Why are we being required to go an additional 30 
hours? Those are the rules, but normally there would be unanimous 
consent to move forward. What is happening now hasn't been explained, 
but it definitely hurts the American people, whether you are a Democrat 
or Republican. What is happening now is, every single nominee from the 
Trump administration, whether Federal judge or Assistant Secretary for 
Health and Human Services, is being delayed. Here are the numbers. 
Eight years ago, President Obama had about 66 percent of his nominees 
confirmed at this period in the fall of his first term. People were 
working through them. If you didn't like the nominee, you would just 
vote against them, but you wouldn't say we are going to burn half the 
week of the Senate to debate somebody who is not even controversial. 
This judge, when we finally get through the 30 hours, is going to pass 
with 80 Senate votes, but we are burning through it anyway. President 
Obama, 8 years ago, had 66 percent confirmed. The number for President 
Trump 8 years later is 33 percent. Imagine our friends in the media--
the New York Times--if Republicans were doing this to President Obama 
during his first few months in office. There would be front-page 
stories every day. The Republican Party is trying to undermine the new 
President--delaying, delaying, delaying. You don't hear a peep from our 
national press. They don't write about it.
  It is a problem because we have work to do in this country. I have 
asked the minority leader to just come down and tell the American 
people why you are doing this. We have had numerous judges, very 
noncontroversial, very bipartisan, where we essentially spent the whole 
week ``debating'' them. We are not debating this judge, but we are 
going to spend 30 hours on him.
  Why are they doing that? And why are my colleagues on the other side 
of the aisle agreeing to it? I asked them to come on down and explain 
it to the American people, the people watching on TV or in the Gallery. 
Why are you doing this? Does it help the country? Whether you are a 
Democrat or Republican, it doesn't help the country. That is the whole 
point, but nobody wants to come down and explain their delay tactics. 
The press will not write about it because some of them like it, I 
  Here is the truth. When we are spending all this time all week on 
this judge who will get voted on--and he will pass because he is very 
well qualified. Senator Lankford laid out his resume. He was previously 
nominated by President Obama. We are going to vote for him after this 
30-hour period, and he will pass with a strong bipartisan vote. What is 
the challenge? What happens to the other issues we need to address in 
this country--in this body? We can't get to them, if we wanted to turn 
to other issues to start moving them.
  My colleague from New Hampshire was just on the floor. She talked 
about all the things we have to do. I agree with her 100 percent: tax 
reform, healthcare, budget--we never do the budget here anymore--
National Defense Authorization Act, growing the economy, as my friend 
from Missouri talked about, infrastructure, immigration, and the 
Dreamer issue. We have so much to do, let alone getting Trump 
administration officials confirmed and judges confirmed. That is a big 
list, but because we are spending 30 hours on a debate, which really 
isn't a debate on the judge, and we can't get consent from the other 
side to actually work on these other issues, this is what we are doing. 
We are just burning time.
  The minority leader will not come down and explain it. I don't know 
if he can explain it, but that is what we are doing. Again, if the shoe 
were on the other foot, the press would be going crazy. Right now, they 
just let it happen. My view is, it would be great if one of my 
colleagues from the other side of the aisle would come down and say: 
Here is why we are wasting all of this time. Just let us know.
  As Senator Lankford mentioned, this judge was nominated by the 
President in May. Now we are going to spend most of the week 
``debating'' him, when that is not what is going on. It is just a delay 
tactic. My view is, we should just say: OK. You want to play ball like 
that? We will stay here 24/7 and keep the Senate open 7 days a week. 
Let's get to work. Let's stay here until Christmas. See if the minority 
leader and his team keep doing that, keep delaying. I think we should 
call their bluff.
  Right now, the delay tactics--which nobody on the other side wants to 
explain--in my view, are not defensible, and they are not helping the 
country. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, you want to seat the 
government. You want to get good people working for the American 
people. Right now, that is not happening.
  I just wish the other side would either explain it or stop doing it. 
Let's get to work for this Nation.

[[Page S6789]]

  Thank you.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from North Carolina.
  Mr. TILLIS. Madam President, I fully associate myself with the 
comments just made by the Senator from the great State of Alaska. We 
have to get to work here.

                               Tax Reform

  Mr. President, I am here to talk about one of the most pressing 
issues we have to deal with. Yesterday, we had lunch where the 
President spoke about why tax reform was so critical for healing the 
economy and really having our Nation rise to its full capabilities in 
terms of economic performance and global competitiveness. You read the 
headlines. The headlines read like: Republicans are for the big guy, 
for the corporations, not for the little guy.
  You will hear them talk about policies that will have us drowning in 
red ink. You will hear them talk about unsustainable economic policies. 
I saw all of those headlines before, about 6 years ago, in the North 
Carolina statehouse when we inherited a disaster for an economy. It was 
after the 2008 crisis. We had a State that was drowning in red ink, 
with a $2.5 billion structural deficit. We had a tax code that was 
absolutely out of sync with our competition, and we set about to fix 
  This is what we ended up doing. All of the headlines looked exactly 
the way the headlines looked today, but we had members on both sides of 
the aisle, Democrats and Republicans, who recognized that North 
Carolina should be one of the fastest growing, most competitive States 
in the Nation. So we went about trying to figure out how to make that 
happen. We determined, for one thing, that there was an undue burden on 
individuals and working families. So we had to simplify the tax code, 
and we had to reduce the tax burden on the individuals. We also 
recognized that our corporate tax rate was preventing us from getting 
the job expansion opportunities. The States like South Carolina, 
Tennessee, Alabama, and Virginia were winning time after time after 
  By the time I came in as the speaker of the house, there had been a 
long time before we had any major economic development opportunity in 
North Carolina. So we were able to put together a corporate tax cut, an 
individual income tax cut, and, in our case, even a sales tax cut, 
which all of the pundits said was going to be a disaster. It ended up 
engineering and serving as the basis for one of the most significant 
economic turnarounds of any State for over the past 30 or 40 years. It 
went from a zero rainy day fund to a $2 billion rainy day fund, putting 
more money into education, putting more money into Medicaid, and 
creating the resources that would allow us to do the other things we 
wanted to do.
  When I was speaker, I had to go look to see what Texas was doing--I 
see the Senator from Texas is here--and say: What could we do to be 
more competitive with Texas? We looked at Iowa. What could we do as a 
matter of tax policy that would make us more competitive with Iowa on, 
let's say, agriculture? Those were our peer competitors. As a State 
leader, I am looking at my peer competitors in their States.
  For our corporate tax policy, we look at China, at Russia, at Europe, 
and we look at our competitors and make it very clear that we are out 
of step. As Senator Blunt said, years ago we weren't out of step, but 
we are today. We are not competitive with people with whom we should be 
cleaning their clock in terms of economic expansion. You only get that 
done if you lower the corporate tax rate. If you actually get people 
who will invest that capital and hire more people, provide more 
opportunities for working families, and create more demand for jobs so 
that wages go up, that is how you ultimately get this economy moving to 
a point where we create the resources to also ultimately pay down the 
debt. I still consider that to be the single greatest threat to our 
national security.
  Along the way, the reason I know our tax policy was about right where 
it needed to be was that virtually every lobbyist in Raleigh was mad at 
me--and I mean all of them.
  If you look at 1986, the last time we did meaningful tax reform, 
virtually every lobbyist on Capitol Hill was mad at the folks who voted 
for the bill, and that was on a bipartisan basis. So we have to have 
Members who are willing to go big, who are willing to actually reduce 
the corporate tax rate, to work on the tax burden for working families, 
and to recognize that it is on us.
  We are in a historic opportunity to turn this economy around and to 
take advantage of the fact that other countries are not heeding the 
call. They are heaping more regulations on their businesses. They are 
adding more taxes in some cases. This is a historic opportunity for us 
to just blow past the competition and ultimately create the resources 
to retire our debt and provide the critical resources we need for so 
many other things that we need to get here, like strengthening our 
international defense, making sure our homeland is safe, and securing 
the border. All of these kinds of things can be done, but they can only 
be done if we have the courage to move forward with tax cuts and tax 
  I hope that all of my Members, before Thanksgiving, are in this 
Chamber and have an opportunity to vote for a bold reform package but, 
more importantly, for the fulfillment of a promise that we made to the 
American people if we had majorities in the Senate, in the House, and 
in the White House. We have it, and it is time for us to act.
  I don't care what the headlines read because I have seen those 
headlines before. I don't care what the special interests want in terms 
of exemptions and exceptions because I have had those meetings in my 
office before. At the end of the day, every single one of those folks 
who wanted to pick apart one exception or an exemption have come back 
into my office and said: You know what; you have protected us from 
ourselves, because if you had listened to us, you would have done far 
less than you were capable of doing.
  There is nobody who follows State politics that would question what 
was done in North Carolina. It has been an extraordinary turnaround. 
Now it is time to do the same thing for this great Nation.
  I hope that all of my colleagues would set aside the distractions, 
mute the voices of the special interests that will want their special 
exemption or exception and fulfill the promise that we made to the 
American people.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas.
  Mr. CRUZ. Madam President, I rise today at a time of extraordinary 
opportunity. The American people have entrusted us with something that, 
historically, is quite rare: a Republican President, Republican control 
of every executive agency, and Republican majorities in both Houses of 
Congress. Now it is incumbent on us to stand up and lead, to deliver on 
the promises we made to do what we told the American people we would 
  We have before us right now an opportunity for historic tax cuts. 
Just last week, this body voted out a budget resolution that is the 
vehicle for adopting tax cuts. I urge every Member of this body to come 
together in support of a strong, bold tax plan that cuts taxes on every 
working man and women and that brings back jobs and economic growth.
  Growth is really fundamental to every other challenge we have in this 
country. If you look historically, since World War II, our economy has 
grown on average about 3.3 percent a year. Yet, from 2008 to today, we 
have grown only 1.2 percent a year--about a third of the historic rate 
of growth.
  If we don't turn that around, none of our other problems are 
solvable. If you care about the national debt, if you care about the 
deficit, if you care about rebuilding and strengthening our military, 
if you care about strengthening and improving Social Security and 
Medicare so that they are there for the next generations, we have to 
have growth. With economic growth, every one of those is possible. 
Without growth--if we stay mired in the stagnant Obama 1- and 2-percent 
GDP growth, none of those problems are solvable.
  Growth is foundational. I would like to lay out three principles and 
then seven key elements that I think should guide this body in tax 
reform. No. 1 is growth. When we are adopting tax cuts, we should focus 
directly on jobs and economic growth and focus on the reforms that 
produce jobs, that expand

[[Page S6790]]

economic growth, that grow our economy, that create more opportunity, 
and that raise wages.
  Working men and women in this country are hurting. We need wages 
going up. We need more jobs. We need young people coming out of school 
with two, three, four, or five job opportunities. That is what tax cuts 
are all about. No. 1, we start with growth.
  I will point out that we can do this. From 2008 to 2012, the economy 
grew 0.9 percent a year--less than 1 percent a year on average. If you 
look back in history to the previous 4-year period when growth averaged 
less than 1 percent a year, it was 1978 to 1982. It was coming out of 
the Jimmy Carter administration. It was the same failed economic 
policies--high taxes, high regulation, high spending, and high debt.
  In 1981 Ronald Reagan came into the White House. The Reagan 
Presidency focused front and center on tax cuts, with major tax cuts in 
1981, and then following it up in 1986 with major tax reform.
  And what happened? When Reagan came in 1981 with across-the-board tax 
cuts and tax cuts for everybody, Democrats screamed, the media 
screamed, and yet the economy took off.
  The fourth year of the Reagan Presidency, GDP growth wasn't 3 
percent. It wasn't 4 percent. It wasn't 5 percent. It wasn't even 6 
percent. It was 7.2 percent in 1984--7.2 percent, those are numbers you 
hear in the developing world. Those are numbers you hear in China and 
  All of our learned economists who are so world weary and all of our 
media reporters who are so world weary tell us: No, no, no, that kind 
of growth is not possible in America anymore. Accept the new normal of 
1 and 2 percent of stagnancy, of young people buried in student loans, 
of people hurting. Accept that as the new normal.
  That is nonsense. If we want to see Reagan-style growth, we need a 
Reagan-style tax cut--an unapologetic, unabashed tax cut that focuses 
on jobs.
  The second big principle is simplicity. There is an old rule, KISS, 
or ``keep it simple, stupid,'' which is particularly powerful when it 
comes to tax reform. Bold simplicity has enormous power and, in 
particular, allowing every American to fill out their taxes on a 
postcard. I believe that should be an integral element of what we pass. 
It is what I have been pressing for many years, and what I would 
continue to urge my colleagues here in the Senate and in the House to 
do, which is to simplify the Tax Code so that we don't spend millions 
and millions of hours and paperwork wasted on compliance. Make it a 
postcard. Make it simple.
  Then the third objective is fairness. We want a tax system that is 
fair, that isn't arbitrary, that isn't Washington picking winners and 
losers and deciding: OK, this industry we like; so you can do OK. This 
industry we don't like; so you are going to hurt. We are going to pick 
between them.
  We need to cut everybody's taxes.
  Last week, I debated Bernie Sanders on CNN on tax reform. Bernie, to 
his credit, was very candid. He said he wanted to raise your taxes. If 
you are a taxpayer, your taxes are going up under Bernie and the 
Democrats' vision.
  My vision is every bit as simple on the other side. If you are a 
taxpayer, I want to cut your taxes. That is what we need to do--to cut 
taxes fairly, across the board for every American, to reduce the burden 
from Washington, and to create jobs and economic opportunity.
  I would note that, in that debate with Bernie, there was one exchange 
that I thought was particularly notable. Bernie, as you know, when he 
ran in Vermont did not run as a Democrat. Rather, he ran telling the 
voters he was a socialist. I asked a simple question: What is the 
difference between a socialist and a Democrat on taxes?
  He sat there for several seconds in silence and said: I don't know 
the answer to that.
  My response was: Neither do I.
  One side of this Chamber wants to raise your taxes if you are a 
taxpayer. The other side of this Chamber wants to cut your taxes if you 
are a taxpayer. That is a simple choice for the American people.
  What are the elements that should reflect those principles? There are 
seven critical elements: No. 1, I believe we should create a simple, 
low, flat rate. Currently, there are seven individual rates with the 
top rate at nearly 40 percent. Ideally, what I believe we should have 
is one simple, low, flat tax.
  When I was campaigning for President, I campaigned on a simple, flat 
tax of 10 percent for every individual and every family in this 
country, 16 percent as a business flat tax, and to abolish every other 
Federal tax, to abolish the corporate income tax, to abolish the death 
tax, to abolish the alternative minimum tax, and to abolish the payroll 
tax. Everyone pays a simple, flat 10 percent for individuals and 16 
percent for businesses. Simplicity has power.
  It may be the case that we don't have the votes to go to a simple, 
flat tax today. If that is where we are, if we don't have the votes to 
do it today, then the closer we get to that the better. If we can't get 
to a simple, flat tax, then going from seven brackets to three is an 
improvement, and going from three to two is even better, and going from 
two to one would be even better than that. We need to press 
consistently for a low, simple, flat rate that is fair for everyone.

  The second element, which we talked about just a minute ago, is 
filing your taxes on a postcard. Let me tell you the most wonderful 
aspect of that simplicity. It is not the billions of hours, it is not 
the billions of dollars that are saved. The best aspects of filing your 
taxes on a postcard are actually the physical dimensions of the 
postcard. It means that Congress can't add a bunch of new things. Even 
if we tried to put it in four-point font, eventually you will run out 
of space on the postcard. The reason a postcard is so important is it 
imposes a discipline on the Federal Government that it can't carve out 
a special loophole for every favored or disfavored group because it is 
simple and flat and fair for everybody.
  No. 3, allow immediate expensing. What does expensing mean? It means 
that if a business makes a capital expenditure, right now, they 
physically have to amortize it over a number of years. Instead, what we 
should do is allow full and immediate expensing.
  If a farmer in the Presiding Officer's home State of Iowa buys a new 
tractor, that farmer should be able to expense it immediately, that 
year. If a steel factory buys new equipment and hires new workers to 
operate that equipment, that steel factory should be able to expense 
that new equipment immediately. If a diner buys new kitchen equipment 
and hires new cooks and waiters and waitresses, the owner of that small 
business should be able to expense that capital expenditure. And why is 
that? The reason is the first principle I started with--growth.
  If you care about jobs and economic growth, expensing is a powerful 
engine for jobs and economic growth. It creates millions of new jobs 
because that capital has to be spent in the United States. It has to be 
spent here. That tractor is in the United States; that steel equipment 
is in the United States; that diner with the cooking equipment is in 
the United States, which means those jobs are in the United States.
  I would note, by the way, the people who particularly benefit from 
immediate expensing are the working men and women of this country--the 
men and women with callouses on their hands, the men and women, 
frankly, who gave Donald Trump the victory in November of 2016 or the 
union workers whom, sadly, the Democratic Party has abandoned.
  There was a time when the Democratic Party styled themselves as the 
party of the working man and woman. That time has been long since 
forgotten. The Democratic Party now listens to California 
environmentalist billionaires and ignores the plight of steelworkers, 
oilfield workers, farmers, ranchers, taxicab drivers, truckdrivers, 
waiters, and waitresses--the men and women who are working hard for 
their families. That is who the Republican Party should be fighting 
for--the working men and women of this country. Immediate expensing 
impacts working men and women, particularly in heavy manufacturing.
  The fourth element is a lower corporate rate. We are seeing, and we 
have seen over the last 8 years, companies leaving America and moving 
their headquarters, moving their legal domicile to other countries. Why 
is that? Because the United States has the

[[Page S6791]]

highest corporate tax rate of any developed country in the world. We 
have created a tax environment that tells American businesses: If you 
simply get the heck out of Dodge, if you simply move somewhere other 
than America, immediately your profitability will jump because our 
corporate tax rate is higher and, in some instances, more than twice as 
high as our competitors.
  Look at Ireland. Ireland used to have high corporate taxes. They cut 
their corporate tax rate. Then they cut it again, and they are seeing 
businesses flood into Ireland because of the low corporate tax rate, 
and they bring with them jobs.
  Our focus should be jobs. If we cut the corporate rate so that it is 
low--so that it is at least as low as our competitors and ideally even 
lower--we will create an environment where more businesses want to do 
business in America where there are more jobs.
  I am reminded of Hillary Clinton, who said during the Presidential 
campaign season: Don't let anybody tell you that corporations or 
businesses create jobs. Even in the world of politics, that was a 
particularly asinine statement. The last time I checked, you get a job 
from going to work for a business--unless you start your own business. 
You either start your own business or you go to work for another 
business. That is what gives you jobs. We need to create that 
  In recent years, we have talked about corporate inversions, companies 
fleeing America. Our friends on the Democratic side of the aisle have 
all these ideas to punish the companies that flee America. Their 
approach is: We are going to tax you so high that you can't do business 
in this country, and then, when you try to survive, we are going to 
punish you on top of that with fines and penalties. It is actually 
reminiscent of their approach to ObamaCare, where they fine people who 
can't afford insurance after driving premiums through the roof.
  It is a much better idea to cut our corporate tax rate. Let's create 
a tax and regulatory environment in America so that businesses want to 
be here and create jobs. It is my hope that 3, 5, 10 years from now, 
other countries--European countries and Asian countries--are 
complaining about corporate inversions because their companies are 
fleeing their countries and coming to American, because there is no 
place on Earth better to do business than America, because we will have 
honored our commitment on tax reform and cut taxes and created an 
environment where businesses can thrive.
  No. 5, encourage repatriation. Right now, Federal tax law subjects 
American businesses to punitive double taxation at the highest rates in 
the developed world if they bring capital back here from overseas. U.S. 
companies have roughly $2.7 trillion in capital overseas, and our tax 
system inextricably incentivizes them to keep the money overseas, which 
means--what do they do with the money overseas? It means they build 
factories in China, in Mexico, in India, and countries overseas that 
aren't America, and then they hire people overseas. Why? Because if 
they bring the capital back here and hire Americans, our tax punishes 
them. That doesn't make any sense.

  I want to see that $2.7 trillion come back to America. I want to see 
that money back in this country. I want to see new factories, I want to 
see new stores, I want to see new businesses, and I want to see new 
jobs. We need to encourage repatriation, not put a punitive tax on the 
money coming back. Do you want to talk about patriotism? There is a 
reason it is called repatriation. It is patriotic to use that money to 
hire Americans.
  Our Democratic friends just want to yell and scream and insult them. 
That is not the right answer. People are going to respond to rational 
incentives. If you punish companies for bringing money back to America, 
they are going to respond rationally by not doing that. Let's change 
our tax system so we don't punish them for bringing jobs back to 
  The sixth element, end the death tax. The death tax is one of the 
most unfair aspects of the Federal tax system. The death tax also 
happens to be the very favorite tax our friends on the Democratic side 
of the aisle love to demagogue. I have heard over past weeks attack 
after attack after attack on the death tax--that it is about the 
  Here is a secret that the Democrats will never tell you. The 
superrich don't pay the death tax. By and large, they manage to avoid 
the tax with remarkable success rates. They hire armies of accountants 
and lawyers. Do you think George Soros will pay the death tax? Hold 
your breath, and let me know how that works out. It doesn't impact the 
  The death tax actually generates very little revenue for the Federal 
Government. Who gets hit by the death tax? It is the farmers, it is the 
ranchers, and it is the small business owners. In the debate last week 
with Bernie Sanders, Bernie said that this doesn't affect farmers at 
  The Presiding Officer and I have both spoken with an awful lot of 
farmers in Iowa and in Texas. I have heard farmer after farmer after 
farmer lament the death tax because of what happens when the patriarch, 
when the farmer, passes away and passes the farm on to the next 
generation. Over and over again, the next generation is forced to sell 
the farm just to pay Uncle Sam. They have already paid taxes once; they 
pay taxes when they earn their money. The death tax says that for 
having the temerity to die, we are going to tax you again at a punitive 
rate. Death should not be a taxable event. That is not fair. It 
shouldn't be the case that when you die, the two people you get to see 
are the undertaker and the taxman.
  We see farms that are sold, that are broken up; we see ranches that 
are sold, that are broken up; we see small businesses that are sold, 
that are broken up because the next generation that wants to run the 
small business, wants to keep the jobs, suddenly has a massive Federal 
tax bill. They don't have the fancy lawyers and accountants who, like 
the superrich, help them avoid the tax. So they get hit with the full 
force of the death tax.
  If you care about jobs and economic growth, why do you want a small 
business owner to be forced to sell the factory just to pay the tax 
bill? This means the employees all get laid off; they lose their jobs. 
It is much better to have those small businesses growing, to have those 
farmers prospering, and to have those ranchers prospering.
  The final element is that we need to end the alternative minimum tax. 
The AMT is a totally second set of taxation. Every year, it is growing 
the number of people who are hit by it, and it just adds complexity to 
the code.
  We should focus on growth, simplicity, and fairness. If we do that, 
if we focus on bringing back jobs, we have the ability to have a 
tremendous impact on our country.
  Finally, I want to make a plea to the Members of our conference, to 
the Republicans. We may get some Democrats to support us on tax reform. 
It is possible. We may get one or two. Sadly, we are in a different 
world than we used to be. In 1981 and 1986, Democrats actually used to 
be willing to work with Republicans on taxes.
  Tip O'Neill, a Democrat, was Speaker of the House when Reagan passed 
massive tax cuts. Bill Bradley in this body, a liberal New Jersey 
Democrat, helped lead the effort for tax reform. There are no Tip 
O'Neills or Bill Bradleys left. There is not a single Democrat leading 
the fight for tax reform--not a one.
  You may get one or two Democrats at the end of the day who cast a 
vote after everything is done because they are afraid of the electoral 
consequences in November. But I will make a prediction right now that 
if we don't have 50 votes on this side of the aisle, not a single 
Democrat will provide the 50th vote. They might be the 52nd or 53rd 
vote, but we ain't getting vote No. 50 from that side of the aisle, 
which means that for tax reform to happen, our conference has to get 
our act together. We have 52 Republicans, and we have to get 50 on the 
same page.
  Listen, we are at a time when we are seeing personality battles, and 
we are seeing nastiness. This is a strange time in politics. Any three 
Republicans can torpedo tax reform. I am making a plea to all 52: Don't 
be selfish and petulant. Don't put personal animosities above the good 
of the country.
  We were elected by the voters to do a job. Let's do the job. Let's 
honor the promises we made. Let's cut taxes, bring back jobs, bring 
back economic growth, and demonstrate to the voters

[[Page S6792]]

there is a reason they elected Republican majorities.
  If we don't, if we can't get our act together, then I fear the 
consequences will be catastrophic, both as a policy matter and a 
political matter.
  I urge my colleagues: Let's do what we said we would do. Let's cut 
taxes. Let's bring back jobs.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.

                              Puerto Rico

  Mr. MURPHY. Madam President, I rise today to talk about the dire 
humanitarian situation in Puerto Rico and to challenge this country to 
end a century of discrimination against the Puerto Rican people.
  While the fleeting media attention may have waned, the desperation of 
the people of Puerto Rico has not. The lackluster response from the 
Trump administration is an outrage. It has been more than a month since 
the hurricane, and 80 percent of the island's electricity is still out. 
Roads and bridges have collapsed. Homes have been destroyed. Of the 67 
hospitals that are open, less than half of them are operating with 
electricity. Families are searching far and wide for clean drinking 
water, and some have been drinking water from wells at a Superfund 

  This kind of inhumane response would never ever be permitted in a 
U.S. State. But one doesn't even have to look at other States to 
evaluate this response; we can look abroad. Within 2 weeks of the 
earthquake in Haiti, there were 17,000 U.S. military personnel on the 
ground in that country. Two weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall 
in the United States, the United States had deployed only 10,000 troops 
to respond to the disaster in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin 
  News broke yesterday that the state-owned electric company on the 
island, PREPA, refused to operationalize mutual aid agreements with 
electric companies on the U.S. mainland. That is a standard step in 
normal disaster response. Fault lies with PREPA, but how on Earth did 
FEMA and the Trump administration allow that to happen, leaving 
millions of Puerto Ricans in the dark and in danger for almost a month? 
It is beyond comprehension, and it speaks to the failure of the U.S. 
Government's response.
  The truth is that Hurricane Maria exposed far more than just 
immediate physical damage; the hurricane also laid bare a very simple 
truth that is plain to every resident of the island and every Puerto 
Rican living in my State. The truth is this: The United States has been 
screwing Puerto Rico for over 100 years, and this is just the latest, 
most disgusting chapter.
  There is an undercurrent in the discourse about Puerto Rico that is 
as pernicious as it is ahistorical. You will hear people, like 
President Trump, say that Puerto Ricans are wholly responsible for the 
financial mess they find themselves in and that Puerto Rico should just 
pull itself up by its bootstraps. The rewriting of history ignores the 
fact that the Federal Government and Congress have had our hands 
tightly wrapped around those very bootstraps since 1898.
  The United States acquired Puerto Rico from Spain through the Treaty 
of Paris in 1898, when the United States defeated Spain in the Spanish 
American War. Puerto Ricans didn't ask to be part of the United States; 
we acquired the island. A century ago, Congress extended U.S. 
citizenship to Puerto Ricans. In 1950, Congress recognized the island's 
limited authority over internal governance, and Puerto Rico became 
formally known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
  Being a commonwealth or a territory is permanent second-class status. 
Without access to the same healthcare reimbursement, the same 
infrastructure funding, the same education dollars as other States, 
Puerto Rico starts every single race 50 feet behind the rest of 
America. These built-in disadvantages are designed to hold Puerto Rico 
back. They have been in place for 100 years to keep Puerto Rico from 
being a true economic competitor with the mainland.
  Believe me, the Puerto Rican people have done everything they can to 
overcome this discriminatory treatment. There is an entrepreneurial, 
never-say-die spirit in Puerto Rico. I know this because no State has a 
greater percentage of residents with Puerto Rican roots than 
Connecticut. But despite the strength of the Puerto Rican people, they 
are stuck because Washington has tied their hands behind their backs by 
taking away the right to vote in Federal elections, virtually 
guaranteeing that Puerto Rico's economic disadvantage will never ever 
be remedied. It is a black hole from which Puerto Rico and the other 
four U.S. territories can never escape.
  Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens--despite the fact that recent polling 
suggests that half of Americans don't know this--but they can't vote 
for President. They have no voting representation in Congress. Think 
about it this way: Americans with a mainland address can vote if they 
move to Mongolia or Sierra Leone, but if they temporarily take up 
residence in a U.S. territory like Puerto Rico, they miraculously lose 
their right to vote.
  There are real, practical consequences to this lack of 
representation. We are watching the most egregious example right now. 
Do you really think that if Puerto Rico had two U.S. Senators, 80 
percent of the island would still be without power a month after the 
hurricane? By the way, Puerto Rico has more citizens than 21 States 
that have a total of 42 Senators in this body. Do you think a President 
would denigrate and insult Puerto Rico the way President Trump has if 
it had electoral votes?
  The botched response to Maria is just the latest attack on the 
island, perpetuated by a Congress that can afford to ignore a big part 
of the United States that has no voice in Congress to object.
  For over six decades, the U.S. Navy pummeled the island of Vieques, 
just off Puerto Rico's coast, with ordnance, using it as a bombing 
range for military exercises. Those weapons allegedly contained 
uranium, napalm, and Agent Orange. Today, people who live on Vieques 
are eight times more likely to have cardiovascular disease and seven 
times more likely to die of diabetes than others in Puerto Rico. Cancer 
rates on Vieques are much higher.
  If you want to know why Puerto Rico has been in a decade-long 
recession, look no further than Congress. More than 50 years ago, the 
U.S. Government launched several initiatives to help spur economic 
growth on the island. It was a good thing. Ironically enough, the 
initiatives were collectively called Operation Bootstrap. One of the 
tools that were used to spur economic growth was a tax break to allow 
U.S. manufacturing companies to avoid corporate income taxes on profits 
that were made in Puerto Rico. Manufacturers descended on the island in 
droves, and the entire economy in Puerto Rico became oriented around 
those companies. But what Congress gives, Congress can take away, 
especially if the entity you are taking from has no meaningful 
representation in Congress. In 1996, Congress phased out the tax 
breaks. Guess what. It sucked the island's tax base away, cratering 
Puerto Rico's economy for the next two decades.

  It is worth noting that Puerto Rico is not blameless for the 
financial situation that it is in. There definitely has been a fair 
share of mismanagement on the island. Bad decisions have been made. 
Saying that Puerto Rico is only a victim of schemes of the mainland is 
not true. But the same can be said of fiscal mismanagement and bad 
decisions in other U.S. States. But a century of underinvestment in 
Puerto Rico has been a big part of the story as to how they arrived at 
this situation. And unlike all those other U.S. States, Puerto Rico has 
no way of rectifying the past misdeeds because its toolbox to reckon 
with its past is limited to what Congress sticks in the toolbox, and 
that toolbox doesn't provide access to the Bankruptcy Code.
  As a result, Congress passed PROMESA, which created this financial 
oversight board on the island. Puerto Rican bondholders on Wall Street, 
who bought the bonds for pennies on the dollar, are now challenging the 
current oversight board's legitimacy, with the hope of being paid 
before the island gets relief. These practices of the bondholders, who 
have been circling the island for years, are made more menacing because 
they are spending boatloads of money lobbying Congress. Just watch TV 
at night in Washington, DC, to see their ads. They know that the people 
of Puerto Rico have no voice here, have no votes here.

[[Page S6793]]

  Now it looks as though other predators are circling. News came out 
this week that a small, two-person company in Whitefish, MT, somehow, 
some way, got a no-bid $300 million contract to restore power in Puerto 
Rico from the island's power authority--the same power authority that 
refused the help of experienced electric companies that actually know 
how to turn the power back on. How does something like this happen? It 
turns out that the little town in Montana is the home of the new 
Secretary of the Interior.
  Get ready, because this is just the start. President Trump and his 
billionaire cronies are going to use this disaster to enrich 
themselves. The Whitefish power contract given to a friend of the 
Secretary of Interior--with two people employed at that company--is 
just a scratch on the surface of what is to come.
  Puerto Rico has been getting screwed for decades. None of this is 
new. None of this is unpredictable. If you think this is just one 
century-long string of rough luck, you are ignoring the last critical 
aspect of Puerto Rican history.
  Back in 1901, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that even though 
residents of the territories lived in the United States, they shouldn't 
be able to enjoy full constitutional protections, the Supreme Court was 
pretty explicit about why these citizens in places like Puerto Rico 
deserved this second-class treatment. Justice Henry Brown, who authored 
the separate but equal doctrine, held that Puerto Rico and the other 
territories didn't need to be afforded full rights under the 
Constitution because the islands were ``inhabited by alien races, 
differing from us in religion, customs, laws, methods of taxation, and 
modes of thought.'' That, my friends, is racism defined. And it is both 
past and present when it comes to the rationale for the historical and 
continued mistreatment of the people of Puerto Rico.
  It is time for that mistreatment to change--not just by doing right 
by Puerto Rico at this moment, at their hour of need. Yes, it is time 
for President Trump to command that FEMA and the U.S. military and the 
powers that be in Puerto Rico turn the lights back on right now. 
Congress should give Puerto Rico every cent they need.
  I am glad that we came together this week to approve the latest round 
of emergency aid, but it is long past time that we addressed the 
second-class treatment we have given the people of Puerto Rico for 
decades. Even that racist 1901 Supreme Court decision contemplated that 
the territories' unequal status could only be justified temporarily. It 
is time to untie the hands of the Puerto Rican people and ensure that 
they have full economic and political rights.
  I hope my colleagues will join me in this conversation in the coming 
months. It is just as important as the one we are having on emergency 
response because if anything good can come from the disaster of 
Hurricane Maria, maybe it is that.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Mexico.


  Mr. UDALL. Madam President, Republicans have spent months trying to 
repeal the Affordable Care Act. They knew that tens of millions of 
Americans would lose their care, they knew it would betray our Federal 
trust responsibility to Native Americans, and they knew it would throw 
one-fifth of our economy into chaos. TrumpCare failed because the 
American people opposed it. Americans spoke out against it in record 
numbers. TrumpCare failed to pass four times. We hope that now we have 
put that to bed and we can move on.
  But rather than listening to millions of Americans, President Trump 
has responded by sabotaging the Affordable Care Act. His reckless 
behavior is already causing chaos in the marketplace. His actions have 
hyped up the cost of premiums. He has sent out-of-pocket costs through 
the roof. Instead of helping Americans get better healthcare, he has 
put it out of reach for millions.
  I commend my colleagues Senator Alexander and Senator Murray. They 
have found a bipartisan solution to this new healthcare crisis caused 
by our President. I urge Leader McConnell to put it onto the floor.
  The Affordable Care Act isn't the only healthcare program at risk. 
The President and Republicans are letting funds run dry for other 
critical health programs. Last month, the Children's Health Insurance 
Program expired. CHIP insures almost 9 million children across the 
country, including over 11,000 kids in my home State of New Mexico. The 
Community Health Centers Program also expired last month.

  Republicans failed to extend the Maternal, Infant, and Early 
Childhood Home Visiting Services. That is one of the most effective 
health programs that we have. Without it, more than 1,000 New Mexico 
parents could miss out on home visits. They will not get crucial 
information about how to nurse their newborns, recognize healthy 
behavior in infants, and teach basic skills to their children. The 
Special Diabetes Program for Indians is also set to expire in December.
  I urge Republicans to work with us to reauthorize these critical 
healthcare programs. We need to act urgently. We can get this done by 
Thanksgiving or earlier if we work together.
  Madam President, I want to talk about CHIP first.
  CHIP provides comprehensive health insurance for kids whose families 
do not quite qualify for Medicaid but who cannot afford private 
insurance. CHIP covers basic medical care, like immunizations, 
prescriptions, routine checkups and dental visits. Thanks to CHIP, the 
rate of uninsured kids in America has dropped from 14 percent to 4.5 
  CHIP has been a lifesaver for some families. This is Colton. He is 
from the small town of Anthony, NM. Colton was 8 years old when he was 
diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, the cancer was treatable, and he 
was insured by CHIP. So the cost of his treatment and medications were 
covered. Without CHIP, Colton's family would have had to have paid 
hundreds of dollars a month for his treatment, which is the cost of a 
month's rent.
  Families should not have to choose between lifesaving care for their 
children and a roof over their heads.
  Colton's father wrote to the Santa Fe New Mexican, and it read:

       Watching my son battle for his life was almost more than I 
     could bear. I couldn't imagine dealing with the stress of 
     scraping together everything we had to cover the medical 
     bills if we didn't have coverage. Having [CHIP] allowed us to 
     focus on what was truly important--Colton's future and being 
     there for my family as we went through this life-changing 

  But, now, States are looking at contingency plans. New Mexico has 
reserves but only until next spring. Some States will be forced to 
cover all of the cost in just a few months, and others are preparing to 
send notices to families that their coverage will end. No parent who is 
already in crisis because of a sick child should have to go through 
that. CHIP was a bipartisan success story. I hope that we can get back 
to working together on this.
  The 50-year-old Community Health Centers Program delivers 
comprehensive healthcare services to some of our Nation's most 
vulnerable individuals--schoolchildren, people experiencing 
homelessness, agricultural workers, and our veterans. In New Mexico, 17 
of these clinics serve 333,000 patients in 90 underserved and rural 
  The Community Health Centers are also important to the economy in 
rural communities. In New Mexico, they employ almost 3,000 people 
across the State. These clinics cannot sustain a 70-percent funding cut 
if Federal support is canceled. Many would be forced to shut their 
  I recently visited one of these clinics--the De Baca Family Practice 
Clinic in Fort Sumner, NM. It provides high-quality medical services to 
over 3,000 patients. Over one-fifth of its patients are children, and 
another one-fifth are seniors, but if funding runs out, the De Baca 
Family Practice Clinic will be forced to start laying off essential 
medical staff and to reduce its hours.
  Clinic director Lisa Walraven told me: ``You simply cannot reduce 
funding by 70 percent from a small frontier healthcare facility and 
expect anything other than a significant loss of access to care.''
  Both CHIP and community health centers provide preventive care to 
underserved communities throughout New Mexico. They are supporting our 
healthcare system to ensure that we don't let any families fall through 
the cracks.

[[Page S6794]]

  Indian Country also depends on these programs and others like them to 
provide vital care to their communities. The Federal Government has a 
trust and treaty obligation to provide healthcare to Native Americans. 
Yet the Indian Health Service is severely underfunded. CHIP and similar 
programs help to supplement care that the Indian Health Service cannot 
provide. CHIP currently covers more than 1,400 Native American children 
in New Mexico. Allowing these programs to expire would betray our 
treaty obligations.
  Another program cited that is critical to Indian Country is the 
Special Diabetes Program for Indians. It provides grants to Native 
communities for diabetes treatment and prevention. Without proper 
treatment, diabetes can lead to limb amputation and kidney failure. The 
disproportionate impact on Native Americans is a public health problem 
that we cannot ignore.
  This program is making real progress. It helps to fund over 300 
Native health programs in 35 States, including 29 programs in New 
Mexico. They help educate communities about how to prevent diabetes and 
provide care so that Native patients can manage their diabetes more 
  It is one of the most effective public health initiatives ever 
undertaken by the Federal Government. Diabetes-related kidney failure 
has dropped 54 percent among Native Americans. In some States, like 
Alaska, leg amputations among Native people with diabetes have 
decreased more than 68 percent. This program literally saves life and 
  Program directors across Indian Country tell me that without this 
funding they will have to start laying off staff and limiting their 
diabetes programming. We need to provide funding to Tribal communities 
so that they can invest in projects that will be more effective in 
preventing diabetes over time.
  Congress must act to allow this successful program to reach its full 
potential. We cannot allow diabetes to become a death sentence in 
Indian Country once again.
  The failure to fund CHIP, the failure to fund the community health 
centers, home visiting health services, and the Special Diabetes 
Program will force families into another health crisis. Every day that 
we neglect these programs, more people will suffer. These programs have 
years--sometimes decades--of proven success.
  The American people want Congress to work together to come up with 
bipartisan solutions. Most of these programs were created through 
bipartisan cooperation. Let's get back to that spirit and work together 
for the American people again.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Tillis). The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, President Trump has been in office now 
for more than 9 months. For this entire time, Senate Democrats have 
been trying to obstruct him from doing the very job that he was elected 
by the American people to do. The President has laid out his agenda to 
create jobs, to grow the economy, and to help hard-working American 
taxpayers. Yet Democrats will do everything they can to stop the 
President from putting his team in place to accomplish these goals.
  They have tried to stop the President's legislative agenda because 
they know that his policies will actually work. When Republican 
policies become law, Democrats know that the people will see how 
successful these Republican policies are. I think Democrats are worried 
that they may never win another election again once we get these 
policies into place. That is why we have seen a record number of delays 
and obstructions by the Democrats in the Senate. They have done it on 
legislation, and they have even blocked the President from filling some 
of the most basic jobs within his administration.
  It started on day one. Normally, on Inauguration Day, the President 
gets a substantial number of people confirmed to his Cabinet. The idea 
is to let the President get his team in place so that it can hit the 
ground running. President Obama had six of his Cabinet Secretaries 
confirmed on Inauguration Day, and President Bush had seven Secretaries 
confirmed on Inauguration Day. These confirmations were by voice vote, 
but that was not the case with President Trump--just two with rollcall 
votes on Inauguration Day.
  Republicans in the Senate did not do anything to try to block the 
Cabinet Secretaries for President Obama, for we understood that it was 
best to give a new President a chance and for all of us to work 
together when we could. With George W. Bush, it was seven. That is how 
it usually works, but not anymore--no, not with this group of Democrats 
in the Senate. They really were never interested in giving President 
Trump a chance. They really do not seem to be working together. Last 
January, President Trump had two people confirmed to the Cabinet on 
Inauguration Day--the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of 
Homeland Security. They were the only two jobs that the Democrats 
allowed the President to fill.
  In President Trump's first 9 months in office, Democrats have 
continued to block the way. They have allowed just 185 of his nominees 
to take their jobs. That is how ridiculous the Democrats have been in 
trying to keep President Trump from putting his team in place. By this 
far into the administration at the same time, President Obama had 364 
nominees in place. The Democrats have blocked judges, Cabinet 
Secretaries, and other high-ranking officials.
  Now, it is interesting because you have seen this. Many of these 
nominees even have Democrat support, and they are not controversial at 
all, but Democrats are doing everything they can to slow down the 
process. During President Obama's first 9 months, he had 364 confirmed. 
So President Obama had gotten 2 for every 1 that President Trump has 
gotten confirmed.
  There are 81 of President Trump's nominees who have gone through the 
committees and another some number today. They are 81 people who have 
been nominated by the President for positions in the government who are 
just waiting right now for a vote on the Senate floor. Many of these 
people got through the nomination process in June but are still waiting 
and being blocked by Democrats in the Senate. It is outrageous.
  Do Democrats really think that these are not important jobs--that 
they do not need people in those jobs to do the important work that 
they have been assigned to do?
  I believe that we should confirm as many of them as possible today. 
There are 13 judges waiting for confirmation. There are 8 U.S. 
attorneys waiting, including the U.S. attorney from my home State of 
Wyoming. These are important jobs.
  We all understand that there is a process that we need to go through 
to fill these positions--to make sure the people are vetted and to make 
sure they are the right people for the jobs. All of these people have 
followed the process. They have been doing everything they have been 
asked to do in that they have filled out the paperwork, filled out the 
disclosures, and have gone through the committees. Now it is time for 
the Senate to get its work done. I would say let's do it today.
  Interestingly enough, in August, the Democrats finally allowed a 
significant number of people to be confirmed. More than 60 people were 
confirmed by voice vote on one day. That is the kind of thing that used 
to be very routine in the Senate--letting a large number of 
noncontroversial nominees be approved all at once. It is now time to do 
it again. There is a significant backlog. So I want to get these folks 
confirmed now. It is time to clear the deck and let these people get to 
work who have been nominated and vetted, who have gone through the 
committees and been approved.
  We need to move these nominations because we have more nominations on 
the way. We are going to have to deal with the nominations of two 
Cabinet Secretaries for positions that are currently vacant. President 
Trump has nominated Kirstjen Nielsen to be Secretary of Homeland 
Security. It is an important job, and she is very qualified for it.

[[Page S6795]]

  Do the Democrats plan to block her confirmation to be Secretary of 
Homeland Security? Do the Democrats plan to obstruct this qualified 
woman from doing the important job she has been nominated by President 
Trump to do?

  The President deserves to have his team in place. The Senate has an 
obligation to get that work done. The Department of Homeland Security 
deserves to have a Secretary in place to keep us safe. That is how it 
has worked in the past and how it should be working now.
  These people manage major Departments of the government. They manage 
many career workers. We know that the Washington bureaucracy has grown 
tremendously over the years and that it is very difficult to eliminate 
people who aren't doing their jobs properly. We have seen it in the 
scandals over the years. Remember the Gold King Mine disaster? 
President Obama's EPA--the group who is supposed to protect the 
environment--actually dumped 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater in a 
river in Colorado. Remember the scandals involving bureaucrats in the 
Department of Veterans Affairs, the IRS, and the General Services 
Administration during the Obama administration? We need Presidential 
appointees in place overseeing these Federal workers to make sure that 
the government of the people is accountable to the American people.
  The Senate needs to be involved in providing oversight through our 
power of advice and consent. Democrats don't want that to happen. They 
have been keeping the Senate from providing that oversight, dragging 
out the process, making sure that the bureaucrats whom they seem to 
have more faith in are accountable to the American people rather than 
those whom the American people voted for on election day.
  These are important jobs, and we have qualified people ready to do 
the work. Democrats have delayed for 9 months. It is time to break that 
logjam today.
  I thank the Presiding Officer.
  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. MERKLEY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                           Western Wildfires

  Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, I am coming to the floor to talk about 
the challenge we have with forest fires that have been raging in the 
West, in Montana and Idaho and Washington and Oregon and California, 
and periodically we have devastating fires in Colorado, New Mexico, and 
  We have to figure out how we do a better job in a multitude of ways. 
First, it is very important that we quit treating terrible fire years, 
enormous fires, as if they are some ordinary event because there is 
currently no FEMA-style reaction to terrible forest fires.
  We respond with FEMA for tornadoes and for floods and for tidal waves 
and for hurricanes and for earthquakes but not forest fires. Well, the 
result is, the Forest Service runs out of funds to fight the fires in a 
bad year, and then they have to drain all the other programs they are 
working on, including the programs to prepare for future timber cuts, 
the programs to thin the forests, the programs to repair the 
infrastructure in the Federal forests, all these other efforts, and 
then they can't resume those efforts until we have restored their 
funding, which can come often far later.
  This fire borrowing has to end. That is why we absolutely need to 
support the bill Senator Wyden, Senator Crapo, and others have been 
working on to say: Let's create a FEMA-like structure for these worst 
fires so we end this fire-borrowing devastation of the fire accounts. 
That absolutely needs to happen.
  Right now, there are three funding issues we need to address. First, 
we need to help out the communities that have been impacted 
economically by these devastating fires. Some have been scorched 
directly, others have been profoundly affected by the smoke in the 
community, others have been affected by highways being shut down, and 
others have been impacted by tourism dropping dramatically. So it is 
very important that we send a message to the Department of Agriculture, 
the Small Business Administration, and the Department of Housing and 
Urban Development to say: Use your emergency programs to assist these 
communities. We really should make sure they are at the front of the 
line, along with those who have suffered the disasters in Texas, 
Florida, and Puerto Rico, for emergency loans and assistance from the 
Small Business Administration and for an augmented share of community 
development block grants to assist them in a very flexible fashion.
  I had the chance to meet this weekend with leaders in the Rogue 
Valley to talk about how smoke had affected them, and company after 
company after company had been dramatically impacted. Some you would 
say was obvious. If you have a zip line company and tourists aren't 
coming because the smoke is very thick, you are going to be impacted, 
but others are a little less obvious; for example, the production of 
wine and the potential impact of the smoke and the fires directly on 
the harvest but then also on perhaps tainting the flavor of the wine, 
which will have an impact down the road.
  So we need to make sure we do all we can to assist these communities 
just as we are assisting the communities that have been devastated by 
Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma.
  The second thing we need to do is, we need to include $200 million in 
the next package, the third tranche of assistance for the disasters 
this year. We need $200 million to fund the repair and replacement of 
infrastructure and trail infrastructure damaged--the buildings and the 
trails that were damaged by these forest fires. Now, that $200 million, 
that goes half to trails and infrastructure that were damaged by the 
hurricanes and half to those impacted by the fires. Essentially, the 
damage was roughly equally split. Without this type of funding, the 
Forest Service will be forced to postpone or cancel projects in fiscal 
year 2018 to accommodate the recovery. It will compromise the work to 
remove hazardous trees for public safety, road and trail maintenance, 
restoring vegetation in watersheds, and rehabilitating wildlife and 
fish habitat.
  The third thing we have to do is seize the moment and invest in fire 
resilience. Every single time we have a fire season like this--and this 
season we spent almost twice as much, on average, to fight the fires--
people ask: Why don't we do more on the front end to reduce the risk of 
these fires?
  Well, that is such logical thinking to do more on the front end. What 
do they mean by that? We have millions of acres of second-growth 
forests. We clearcut them. Some of them regrew naturally. Others were 
replanted. We replant virtually everything now. After 10 or 20 years, 
the trees are very close together. The branches are very close to the 
ground. This is prime territory for fires. Fires love this. Disease 
loves this. So it becomes a real problem unless you go in and thin the 
trees enormously--take out a lot of those trees--and proceed to get rid 
of the hazardous fuels of branches that accumulate on the ground and so 
forth. But if you do those two things, those forests become much more 
resistant to fire.
  When you are doing this on a stand that is a bit older--20 or 30 
years older--you also get a significant supply of sawlogs for the 
mills. So this is a real win-win situation. You get a forest that is 
better in resisting fire, you get a forest that is better in resisting 
disease, you get a forest that is better for timber stands, and you get 
a forest that is better in terms of being an ecosystem. With all that 
winning, we need to do more to make it actually happen.
  In my State of Oregon, there are 1.6 million acres that have already 
gone through the environmental process. They are ready to be thinned 
and have the hazardous fuels removed. In Washington State, it is at 
least 400,000 acres. There are probably hundreds of thousands of acres 
in every State from Montana and Idaho to California, Nevada, and New 
  This picture shows the difference. This road right here had a stand 
on the left that had not been thinned. If you can make out the colors, 
these trees are dead. They are all brown--dead trees because of the 
heat of the fire when it swept through. This side of the road had been 
treated. The trees had been thinned. The brush had been

[[Page S6796]]

taken out from below. They often call that mowing. It has had 
prescriptive fire in it, which means after you have thinned it, you may 
go 10 or 15 years, and then let fire burn up the shrubs at the base. 
Therefore, on this side of the road, the forest is undamaged.
  In fact, I went out to this area outside of Sisters, OR, this last 
weekend. It is just remarkable how the area that had been thinned and 
treated with mowing and prescription fire became very resistant to the 
fire that was sweeping toward Sisters. It really helped the Forest 
Service fight the fire because they could easily maneuver through the 
area that had been thinned, much more than the area that hadn't been 
thinned. So that Milli fire was stopped before it got to Sisters, 
thankfully. In other places where the forest hadn't been thinned, the 
outcome might have been very different.
  Let's invest now in this win-win. Let's not succumb to the 
traditional timber wars of the past. After fires like this, there are 
those folks who come along and say: We just need to clearcut 
everything. Let's do a 10,000-square-foot timber sale with no 
environmental review and allow everything to be cut. That was the 
1950s. In fact, we have a bill in this Chamber that says: Do exactly 
that, and you can take out the old growth and the big trees. The irony 
of that is those are the trees that are actually fire resistant. Those 
are the trees you want to leave.
  This is a solution that brings the environmental world and the timber 
world together and provides a supply of sawlogs for our mills. Let's 
make that type of vision happen. But to do that, we have to fund the 
effort. We have to have the funds to be able to go in and do that 
thinning and mowing and fire prescription. That is why we are asking 
for about $600 million to help thin the forests of Montana, Idaho, 
Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and wherever else 
there is a forest that has gone through that environmental review. It 
is ready for action. Let's put Americans to work in those forests in 
this win-win strategy.
  Three things we need to do: Help our communities that are scorched, 
proceed to invest in emergency repair of the damaged infrastructure on 
our forest lands, and invest a significant $500 to $600 million in 
thinning the forests that have already gone through environmental 
  Thank you.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Indiana.


  Mr. DONNELLY. Mr. President, for years, I have been calling on 
Democrats and Republicans to work together to improve the healthcare 
law. There are some, like me, who recognize the benefits of the 
existing healthcare law, as well as the areas that need fixing, and I 
have proposed that we partner together to strengthen our healthcare 
  For the first time, we have legislation in the Senate that has broad 
bipartisan support and would improve issues with our healthcare system 
by stabilizing the individual marketplace and lowering premiums for 
Americans. This is what I have long pushed for. Today, it is more 
important than ever that we act to pass this bipartisan legislation. I 
would like to take a few minutes to explain why.
  Beginning next week, on November 1, millions of Americans, including 
Hoosiers, can sign up for healthcare coverage through the individual 
marketplace. Unfortunately, as consumers prepare to shop for health 
insurance plans, there is uncertainty and instability in the 
marketplace and confusion and higher prices for consumers. That wasn't 
the case earlier this year, as both public and private analyses showed 
that individual marketplaces were relatively stable and improving.
  For the last 10 months, though, the administration has worked to make 
it harder for Americans to access affordable healthcare and 
destabilized the markets. For many months, the administration refused 
to commit to continuing important cost-sharing reduction payments that 
reduce costs for consumers and, even worse, played politics with these 
payments. This culminated with the administration's announcement 
earlier this month that it would discontinue cost-sharing reduction 
payments. This decision came only weeks before open enrollment.
  There is no disputing a simple fact: The administration's actions 
created uncertainty for insurers, causing some to significantly raise 
rates and others to leave the market altogether. As a result, many 
Americans will be forced to pay more for healthcare plans through the 
individual marketplace.
  For example, CareSource, an insurance company that offers insurance 
to Hoosiers through the individual marketplace, told me earlier this 
year that rates would rise 2.2 percent if the Federal Government 
committed to continuing cost-sharing reduction payments. Because the 
administration refused to do so, rates for CareSource plans are on 
average now 20 percent higher for Hoosiers than last year.
  Centene, the other insurer offering coverage in the marketplace, will 
have average rate increases of nearly 36 percent. In addition to higher 
rates, it will be harder for Hoosiers to find help enrolling in 
healthcare plans because the administration slashed 82 percent of 
Navigator Program funding for my home State of Indiana--the deepest cut 
of any State in the country.
  Consumers also have a shorter period to enroll than in past years. 
The administration plans to do maintenance and shut down HealthCare.gov 
for 12 hours on all but one Sunday throughout the open enrollment 
  It does not have to be this way. As I have said for years, there is 
another path--a bipartisan path. We should work in a bipartisan manner 
to improve our healthcare system, all Americans working together. I 
have pressed the administration to commit to providing stability for 
health insurance markets and to working together on bipartisan 
solutions that reduce healthcare costs and ensure access to quality 
medical care.
  Over the past several months, I have engaged in bipartisan 
conversations in meetings with my colleagues to discuss ways we can 
partner together to stabilize our healthcare markets. We have talked to 
a range of healthcare experts. There has been a good-faith effort to 
find common ground on steps we can take to lower costs for families. 
That is what we should be doing.
  After participating in this effort, I was pleased that Senators Lamar 
Alexander and Patty Murray reached a bipartisan agreement last week. It 
makes improvements to our healthcare system and helps reduce costs for 
our families.
  I am proud to cosponsor this legislation. It continues cost-sharing 
reduction payments that reduce consumers' deductibles. It also reduces 
copays for two years and restores funding to help Americans navigate 
signing up for health insurance. It enables more flexibility for States 
without undermining essential health benefits or harming people who 
have preexisting conditions.
  If this legislation came to a vote today, I am confident it would 
receive more than the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate. It has 
wide-ranging support from both Democrats and Republicans. It has 
bipartisan support, not only in the Senate but also from Republican and 
Democratic Governors all across the country. We have heard from groups, 
including the American Medical Association, the U.S. Chamber of 
Commerce, and AARP, urging Congress to move forward on this proposal 
because it is common sense. It benefits families. It helps stabilize 
the insurance markets.
  It is our job to protect families from unnecessary increases in the 
cost of healthcare, particularly those within our control. We have an 
opportunity to do that with the bipartisan Alexander-Murray agreement 
that we achieved by working together.
  The healthcare debate should not be a political game. The stakes are 
way too high for that because healthcare impacts the well-being and the 
economic security of millions of Americans.
  I have said over and over that the American people expect us to work 
together to try and make life a little bit better. At the very least, 
we should do no harm. The Alexander-Murray agreement not only provides 
relief for families, it actually helps put them in a better place. 
There is no doubt we have more work to do, but this proposal is an 
important first step. Let's strengthen the healthcare system and make 
healthcare more affordable with this bipartisan solution.
  I yield back.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.

[[Page S6797]]

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cotton). Without objection, it is so 

                      Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis

  Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from Indiana for 
joining me on the floor today to raise awareness of the ethnic 
cleansing that has been occurring on the other side of our planet, 
ethnic cleansing by the Burmese military against the Rohingya Muslim 
  Just last week, together we sent a letter to U.N. Ambassador Nikki 
Haley. It was signed by 21 of our colleagues. It called for ``tangible 
actions against the Burmese government to end the violence, to help the 
Burmese people and make clear that there will be consequences for those 
who commit such atrocities against civilians.''
  I am pleased to partner with my colleague on this. I think he will 
share some remarks, and then I will follow up with some remarks of my 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Indiana.
  Mr. YOUNG. Mr. President, I thank my colleague for his leadership on 
this issue. It has been a pleasure to lead a subcommittee in the 
Foreign Relations Committee with Senator Merkley. We have always worked 
in a constructive fashion on some consequential issues and none more 
consequential than the one before us today.
  With respect to the crisis in Burma, we recently met with the lead 
person on an international NGO who just returned from camps in 
Bangladesh. He briefed us on some of the horrible circumstances facing 
these individuals who have been forced out of Burma.
  This last Friday, as Senator Merkley indicated, we also led a letter 
to Ambassador Haley regarding the Burma crisis. I would also note that 
we had an important hearing on this topic yesterday in the full Foreign 
Relations Committee. I commend our leadership for putting that 
  I want to share some of my thoughts about this crisis. Before I do, I 
would like to acknowledge folks back home in the State of Indiana. I 
happen to represent a significant number of Burmese Americans. These 
are patriotic fellow Hoosiers, who have played an instrumental role 
helping to educate me and members of my team on this crisis, and I am 
happy we can be responsive to their concerns.
  It is important for all Americans to understand what is happening in 
America and everything outside our shores. Burma is a country that 
doesn't typically capture the imagination or attention of people in the 
United States, but, right now, in light of this humanitarian crisis, it 
requires all of our attention.
  The Burmese military has conducted a deplorable campaign of violence 
against the Rohingya Muslim minority, including the systematic use of 
arson, murder, and rape. Our State Department tells us that nearly 300 
villages have been either partially or completely destroyed by fire 
just since August 25 of this year by the Burmese military. That is more 
than half of the approximately 470 Muslim villages in northern Rakhine 
  Ambassador Haley has indicated that the Burmese military's actions 
constitute a sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic 
minority--ethnic cleansing. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights 
has referred to this situation as a textbook example of ethnic 
  We have seen more than 600,000, who are mostly of the Rohingya ethnic 
minority, flee the violence in the Rakhine State and seek refuge in 
Bangladesh. They travel on foot for days, carrying what they can of 
their belongings, carrying their young children. It is mostly women and 
children who make this trek. Upon arrival in Bangladesh, we have been 
briefed that many of them require immediate lifesaving assistance.
  To put this severity in some measure of context, yesterday, our 
Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development 
characterized the resulting population movement as ``almost 
unprecedented''--almost unprecedented--amidst all of the other 
challenges we have seen in recent years, including the migrant crisis 
coming out of the Middle East and across the shores of the 
Mediterranean. Some research suggests the refugee flow from Burma has 
been swifter than the exodus from Rwanda in 1994.
  Many Americans will say: You know, honestly, we have a lot of 
challenges in the world. Why should I care about this one? Well, here 
is why: In Burma, we see a group of people--the Rohingya--being 
systematically targeted because of their ethnicity. This, of course, 
runs afoul of our basic values, the principles upon which our country 
was founded. These principles inform the rules of the international 
order that has existed for some number of decades now. These rules are 
the mortar that holds the order together. We simply cannot allow 
certain rules of international behavior to be violated or that will 
encourage other bad actors, and they will continue to be undermined, 
thus, undermining our national interests.
  Recent history demonstrates that the systematic violation of 
fundamental human rights sooner or later engenders security threats to 
Americans, to our allies, and to our collective interests--think of 
Tunisia, think of Syria, think of the countries of Yemen or Nigeria. 
There are almost countless examples just in recent history where we 
have seen or are seeing right now the depravation of basic human 
rights. That, in turn, is undermining our values and our national 
  Let me apply this observation about the linkage between our values 
and our interests--not just domestically but internationally--to the 
situation in Burma. We know the past and present Burmese Governments 
have systematically deprived the Rohingya population of their most 
fundamental human rights. Not surprisingly, this has compelled a small 
number to join the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, ARSA.

  The most recent wave of ethnic cleansing began after ARSA conducted a 
coordinated attack on Burmese security outposts, and the Burmese 
military responded with disproportionate military actions and 
deplorable attacks on civilians.
  Here is a point the Burmese Government and the Burmese military must 
understand. By refusing to treat the Rohingyas as full, equal citizens 
and by attacking their own people who just want to live in peace, the 
Burmese military is only going to increase the number of Rohingyas who 
will be radicalized, exacerbating the very problem the Burmese military 
says it is trying to address. So this is not in Burma's interest. I 
can't emphasize that enough.
  Before the most recent iteration of this crisis, in December 2016, 
the International Crisis Group--an international nongovernmental 
organization--issued a report titled ``Myanmar: A New Muslim Insurgency 
in Rakhine State.'' The report said a number of things, among them that 
the ``continued use of disproportionate force that has driven tens of 
thousands from their homes or across the border to Bangladesh . . . 
could create conditions for further radicalizing sections of the 
Rohingya population that transnational jihadists could exploit.''
  As we saw in Syria--to choose just one comparative example--when the 
government fails to respect the basic human rights of their citizenry, 
then conflict ensues. It can lead to far wider radicalization. The 
conflict becomes a magnet, a magnet for international terrorists. It 
becomes a factory that creates more international terrorists.
  In short, when governments commit systematic and large-scale 
violence, oppression, and injustice against its own people, it creates 
a fertile ground for Islamist terrorist recruitment and radicalization. 
This is contrary to the interests of everyone, including the Burmese 
  Further, if left unaddressed, the humanitarian and security situation 
in Burma and Bangladesh will worsen and increasingly threaten regional 
stability and U.S. national security interests.
  The United States must continue to lead. There has to be an 
international response in Burma. We need other partners to step up and 
participate in that response, but the United States must continue to 
lead. Part of leading comes down to clarity. What do we want of the 
Burmese Government? I see at

[[Page S6798]]

least four things the Burmese Government must do.
  First, the Burmese Government and their military must immediately end 
its ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingyas. Second, the 
Burmese Government must address the root of this conflict by 
implementing the recommendations of a U.N. panel, the so-called 
Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. Third, the Burmese Government 
must permit safe access for journalists, for humanitarians, and for a 
United Nations fact-finding mission and all of their personnel so we 
can figure out precisely what is going on and who is responsible. 
Finally, the Burmese Government must facilitate the safe and voluntary 
return of all these individuals who have been displaced.
  When I leave the Senate floor today, I am scheduled to immediately 
visit with Burma's Ambassador to the United States. The points I just 
mentioned are points I intend to reiterate directly to that Ambassador.
  Moving forward, the United States should lead efforts to document 
atrocities in Burma however we can so the perpetrators can be held 
accountable. I also support the administration's announcement yesterday 
that it is exploring accountability mechanisms that are already 
available under U.S. law, including the so-called Global Magnitsky 
targeted sanctions.
  I call on countries like China and Russia to support the suspension 
of all international weapons sales to the Burmese military. They should 
not be transferring weapons to this murderous regime.
  In conclusion, as Senator Merkley and I stated in our letter on 
Friday to Ambassador Haley, now is the time. Now is the time to take 
bold and effective actions against the Burmese Government to end the 
violence, not just to help the Burmese people but to help stabilize the 
region and protect U.S. national security interests. Now is the time to 
uphold our fundamental values, the values, frankly, of civilized 
nations. Now is the time to work with this administration and 
colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure we can reach as 
peaceful and as positive a resolution to this horrible situation as 
  I want to close by once again acknowledging the tremendous leadership 
of Senator Merkley. I thank him for his partnership in this effort.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon.
  Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, I appreciate the comments of my colleague 
and the opportunity for us to work together to help shine a light on 
this moment of great atrocities in the world. A great deal of what we 
are calling for is for America to do more to shine a light on it and 
for the world to work together, not just to shine a light on it but to 
end it and to proceed to have as much healing as can possibly take 
  I thank my colleague from Indiana for being deeply in this 
conversation. It is a real pleasure to work on the Foreign Relations 
Committee together.
  We must address this situation. According to a report from the U.N. 
High Commissioner for Human Rights, ``government forces and Buddhist 
extremists in Burma have carried out `a well-organized, coordinated and 
systematic' campaign of human rights violations against the Muslim 
Rohingya in Myanmar's Rakhine State,'' with a strategy to ``instill 
deep and widespread fear and trauma--physical, emotional and 
psychological--among the Rohingya population.'' This comes after the 
commissioner's statement that this ``security operation,'' as they 
refer to it, in Burma was ``a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.''
  As we ponder international relations, we see from time to time that 
one group, somewhere in the world, will respond to deep tribal impulses 
and prejudices and seek to wipe out another group. These are horrific 
moments in history, and we have seen this movie--this situation--occur 
time and again. After such atrocities, the world has said ``never 
again''--``never again,'' meaning that we will respond when we see this 
happening. We will apply great pressure. We will coordinate with the 
world to make sure it stops, because such effort to wipe out another 
ethnic group is so unacceptable and it is such a crime against 
  But here we are, and it is happening right now in Burma. It is 
happening with a Buddhist nation.
  We normally associate the Buddhist religion with a main emphasis on 
peaceful conduct. Yet this tribal impulse--these deep prejudices are so 
powerful that they overcome whatever peaceful impulse there is, and 
they have resulted in a massive effort to wipe out the Rohingya people. 
In the course, there have been a massive number of rapes. There have 
been children killed right in front of their mothers. There have been 
villages surrounded by soldiers and then the village huts set on fire, 
and then they have been shot as they flee. This is about as inhumane as 
it can get.
  Something close to 300 villages have burned to the ground. By some 
estimates, 3,000 civilians have been killed. A few weeks ago, we were 
talking about 400,000 refugees pouring into Bangladesh. Now, the number 
is 600,000 Rohingya refugees.
  Roughly half the Rohingyas live in Burma, and those refugees include 
300,000 children. Think about the type of trauma those children have 
just experienced and the challenges they will have regaining a 
foundation to thrive. Then there are those who are internally displaced 
inside of Burma, who have been driven out of their villages but haven't 
been able to make their way to Bangladesh. This is the challenge we 
  There is an area of Bangladesh called Cox's Bazar. That is where 
these two main refugee camps are. International aid groups are working 
to quickly get as many resources as they can into this area so that 
people do not starve and so that medical wounds can be addressed. But 
there is still a significant lack of food, a lack of clean water, and a 
lack of sanitary bath and toilet facilities. That condition is ripe for 
spreading disease--diseases like cholera.
  When I was home in Oregon, I met with a group of Rohingya refugees 
who came and settled in Oregon. As we can imagine, they have a very 
personal connection to what is happening. Some of them have distant 
relatives still there. Some have immediate family members. They don't 
know exactly what has happened to everyone in the middle of this chaos.
  We also heard about villages that didn't get burned down but where 
the military was blockading people from leaving the village to go to 
the fields to secure food and blocking them from leaving the fields and 
going back into the village, probably responding to international 
outrage over villages being burned and essentially resorting to a 
strategy of starving out the villages to drive people away. Imagine 
being trapped in one of those villages, knowing what is happening to 
village after village after village, knowing children have been 
slaughtered, women have been raped and often killed, and men have been 
shot. The desperation is enormous.
  I heard firsthand accounts of conditions of refugees from Reza Uddin, 
who had just returned from a 2-week trip to visit them. He told 
powerful and moving stories about children who had been brutalized, 
children who had been separated from their parents, children who might 
possibly now be orphans because it is not clear if their parents are 
still alive or, if alive, where they are.
  The world collectively has not done enough. The community of nations 
has not done enough to address this unspeakable brutality. Bangladesh 
should be complimented for accepting these refugees fleeing for their 
lives. They have been cooperative. It is a challenge for them, and we 
should acknowledge that. We should continue to ask them to do 
everything possible and to give the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees 
and various aid organizations full opportunity, full access, and full 
authority to be in and assist those in these refugee camps.
  The United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations have 
condemned the actions of the Burmese, and that is certainly 
appropriate, but we haven't done enough. We have not taken the steps to 
which my colleague referred to strengthen sanctions or coordinate 
international countries to all weigh in. The only thing that will make 
a real difference here is pressure on the Burmese military. They are in 
charge. We can criticize the civilian government in Burma, and many 
have, and they have been unable to stop what

[[Page S6799]]

is going on and sometimes often reflect the prejudices that contributed 
to this, but it is the military that makes the decisions.

  We had testimony from the State Department yesterday, and one of the 
officials used the term ``vigilantes'' for what the vigilantes are 
doing in this oppression. That is not the right term to use. This is 
not uncoordinated action. This is action coordinated through the 
military decision-making process. You don't surround camps, you don't 
have significant planning that goes into it, and have it just be 
vigilantes. Vigilantes may be involved, but they are not the driving 
force. They might be assisting the soldiers in some cases, but this is 
a coordinated act of the military of Burma, and it is important that 
the community of nations convey to the military how unacceptable this 
is and that there will be significant consequences.
  My colleague has referred to the fact that in this situation no 
military sales should be made to such a military. That is important, 
but that takes a conversation among nations, and the United States 
needs to be deeply engaged in this.
  There is a lot of international fundraising going on. There was a 
donors conference held on Monday to assist the refugees. It raised 
about $200 million or a little more in new funds. That is about $400 
per refugee. That is not nearly enough to provide for shelter or care 
in a situation with complete lack of access to fields or farming or 
support. It is going to take more than that. We should be involved in 
working with the United Nations, UNICEF, World Health, UNHCR, or the 
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and the World Food Program to step 
up and assist. I certainly believe it would be very helpful to have 
President Trump take this issue on and speak from the heart of our 
Nation to this dark and evil deed that is happening--that we reject it 
and we will partner with the rest of the world to end it.
  I do feel that there is a history in which we have helped lead 
nations in these situations. We haven't always been there. I know that 
President Clinton said that the biggest regret of his administration is 
that he didn't respond quickly in Central Africa when the Tutsis and 
Hutus went to battle against each other, slaughtering each other with 
machetes. This is a chance for us to really respond--to respond 
aggressively, to have that moral clarity, and to exercise that 
leadership in the world. I join my colleague in calling for such action 
for more assistance, with the aid to both Burma and Bangladesh, for the 
moral clarity to take action that pressures the Burmese military in a 
significant and compelling way and to provide assistance in the right 
of return--the ability of these individuals to be able to return to 
their villages.
  Traditionally, this group has been denied citizenship. Early on, we 
heard from the civilian government in Burma: We will let them come back 
if they show they are citizens. No. 1, they have never been granted 
citizenship. No. 2, after a horrific situation like this, if they did 
have papers, they wouldn't have papers now. They would have been burned 
along with the villages. There needs to be a change in attitude, a 
change of heart among the Burmese civilian leadership, and certainly 
among the military, to lead an effort in the peaceful tradition, the 
Buddhist tradition, of embracing this diversity and returning these 
people to their land.
  Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan now serves as chairman of 
the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. He and his team have laid out 
a report with very specific actions--actions that will help end the 
cycle of radicalization and the cycle of violence. We need to work to 
try to make sure those things are implemented, to show oppressive 
governments and the rest of the world that the world will not stand--
that the world will respond, and respond aggressively, in a 
coordinated, forceful way when ethnic cleansing occurs. That is the 
best deterrent we could have for future atrocities.
  Again, I thank my colleague for being in this dialogue and for his 
support to shine this light and to take a compelling more forceful 
action. Like him, I look forward to meeting with the Ambassador from 
Burma later today.
  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. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Rounds). Without objection, it is so 

                 Remembering Paul and Sheila Wellstone

  Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I wish to speak this afternoon to honor 
the memory of Paul and Sheila Wellstone. Today marks 15 years since we 
lost Paul and Sheila, their daughter Marcia, and staff members Tom 
Lapic, Mary McEvoy, and Will McLaughlin. Because Paul was such a 
memorable and incredible person, it is hard to believe that it has been 
15 years since we lost all of them.
  For me, as for so many Minnesotans, it is impossible to forget the 
moment that we first heard about their plane going down. It is 
impossible to forget the wait to get the final news that there were no 
survivors. That is how much Paul and Sheila meant to the people of our 
  I get my own special reminders every day. First, I get a reminder 
from the employees at the Capitol who were around when Paul graced 
these hallways. They remember him because he treated everyone with 
dignity. Whether it was the tram operator, the elevator operator, or 
the police at the front door, he treated them as though they were 
Senators. I also have the flags in my office from his Senate office. 
Every day, they are a reminder for me of Paul and all that he did for 
the people of our State.
  Paul and Sheila were always on the move. They were full of joy. They 
were persistent in their fight against injustices, small and large. 
During his lifetime as an educator, as an activist, and as a U.S. 
Senator, Paul Wellstone touched the lives of people throughout 
Minnesota and across the country. That is because his philosophy was 
simple. A lot of people, he said, would have people paid to represent 
them in Washington, but he was going to represent the other people. As 
he said in one of his famous campaign ads, he wasn't there to represent 
the Rockefellers; he was there to represent the ``little fellers.''
  If you go to any local mental health group, they remember Paul. If 
you go to any Somali event in our State, they remember Paul. If you go 
to any community on the Iron Range in Minnesota, they remember Paul--
both the man and then what he did.
  Paul was my friend and mentor. He told me that I should run for 
office, and, as he did with so many others, he taught me that politics 
should have a purpose.
  He also taught me how to campaign on city buses. This is how he would 
do it. At Nicollet Mall--being from a nearby State, the Presiding 
Officer is aware of Nicollet Mall in the city of Minneapolis. We would 
get on a city bus at one end of the mall, and we would work it as 
though we had just got on the bus: Meet everyone on the bus, go to the 
end, get off, and then get on another bus going the other way and meet 
a whole group of people. I have no idea what the busdrivers thought 
after an hour of this, but that is what we did.
  Paul Wellstone worked it bus by bus, block by block, precinct by 
precinct, and he made a lasting impression on people in a way that made 
them believe and know that getting involved in politics could make a 
real difference in their lives. He had an unending sense of optimism--
optimism that maybe people he didn't agree with in this Chamber would 
eventually change their views.
  He made a lot of friends here, on both the Democratic and Republican 
sides of the aisle. That was the message Paul took to new citizens, new 
voters, and everyone looking to get involved. He told them that working 
in public service can make a difference, and he showed them through his 
  He had many passions. He fought for everything from campaign finance 
reform to improving our rural economies. He fought against veteran 
homelessness, to protect the environment, and, of course, he fought for 
the rights of workers.
  He truly believed, as he famously said, that ``we all do better when 
we all do better'' and that politics is simply about improving people's 

[[Page S6800]]

  Anyone who ever met or talked with Paul found out that he had a 
special passion for helping those struggling with mental illness. That 
was shaped by his own family. As a young child, Paul watched his 
brother Steven's traumatic descent into mental illness. In college, his 
brother suffered a severe mental breakdown and spent the next 2 years 
in hospitals. Eventually, he recovered and graduated from college with 
honors, but it took his immigrant parents years to pay off the hospital 
  Paul would always talk about how, when he grew up, his house was dark 
because no one wanted to talk about mental illness back then because it 
had so much stigma. He wanted to get it out in the sunlight. He knew 
that there were far too many families going through the same 
experience, too many devastated by the physical and financial 
consequences of mental illness. He knew that we could and we should do 
better. For years as a Senator, he fought for funding for better care, 
better services, and better representation for the mentally ill, and he 
fought for mental health parity in health insurance coverage.

  Even years after his death, Paul's voice was heard loud and clear. 
Congressman Ramstad from Minnesota, a Republican Congressman at the 
time, took up the cause in the House. I helped. Ted Kennedy led the way 
and, of course, Pete Domenici, who had paired up with Paul on this 
important bill.
  Finally, in 2008, we passed the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici 
Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. The bill requires 
insurance companies to treat mental health on an equal basis with 
physical illness. For Paul, this fight was always a matter of civil 
rights, of justice, and of basic human decency, and that landmark 
legislation is one fitting way we honor him.
  Sheila, of course, also dedicated herself to helping others, 
especially survivors of violence. I had the opportunity to work closely 
with Sheila when I served for 8 years as Hennepin County Attorney. She 
focused on domestic violence and was instrumental in creating and 
getting the funding for the Hennepin County Domestic Abuse Center. That 
center is an international model for serving victims of domestic 
violence by bringing together a full range of services and resources in 
one central location. Victims of domestic violence don't have to go 
through the redtape that would be difficult even for a lawyer to figure 
  Of course, one of Paul's greatest legislative achievements was the 
work he did, along with Vice President Biden and others, to pass the 
original Violence Against Women Act. It was a team effort, and Sheila 
was right there on the frontlines with Paul.
  Together, they accomplished so much. Their commitment to others never 
wavered, and neither did they.
  It was just a few weeks before that tragic crash that I last saw 
Sheila and Paul. Sheila and I had been asked to speak to a group of new 
citizens, immigrants from Russia. It was a very small group, and we 
were there to talk about our own immigrant experiences, our own 
relatives. I remember she talked about her relatives in Appalachia, and 
I talked about my relatives on the Iron Range coming over from 
Slovenia. The event was winding down. It was a small, small event in a 
synagogue with these new immigrants, and, all of a sudden, a big 
surprise--in walked Paul. He wasn't supposed to be there. It was just a 
few weeks, a month away, from one of the biggest elections he had ever 
faced in the U.S. Senate. But he had gotten on an early flight and had 
come home from Washington. There he was--he and a group of immigrants 
and us--with no press, no TVs, not even a big crowd, all just a few 
weeks before his election.
  He came for two reasons. He loved Sheila, and he wanted to be there 
to support her. But he was also there because he loved the immigrant 
experience. He embraced it. His family, like so many Minnesota 
families, was an example of how you can come to America, succeed in 
America, and then, in turn, help America succeed.
  That is my last memory of Paul as he stood before those immigrants, 
telling about his own story, embracing them. I will remember him in 
that way, but I will also remember the joy he felt for politics, how he 
would run around that green bus of his, with people running alongside 
him on the parade routes.
  In the last year of his life, he told the public he had MS, and he 
couldn't run like that anymore. So he would stand in the back of the 
bus with Sheila and wave. What was so amazing about it was that he had 
energized so many people in those green Wellstone shirts to run around 
that bus that you didn't even notice he wasn't running. He had given 
them the energy and the hope to carry on his work, and they were doing 
it for him.
  Now, 15 years after we lost Paul and Sheila, it is our job to carry 
on and run around that bus. That is organizing, that is politics, and 
that is the gift of joy in improving people's lives that Paul, Sheila, 
Marcia, and those other beloved staff members left for us.
  Thank you.
  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. FRANKEN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Strange). Without objection, it is so 

          Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands Recovery Effort

  Mr. FRANKEN. Mr. President, I rise to talk about the devastation in 
Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and the need to rebuild the 
electric grid in a more resilient and sustainable way.
  Over the last few months, communities around the country have been 
devastated by natural disasters. We have had terrible hurricanes in 
Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as 
tragic wildfires across the West. These communities need immediate 
help, and that is why the disaster supplemental appropriations bill we 
passed yesterday is so important. I am glad this bill provides nearly 
$19 billion to replenish FEMA's emergency disaster accounts that help 
communities start to rebuild, but it is just a downpayment. As we know, 
it will take a lot more Federal assistance.
  One thing we need to focus on is the electric grid. Hurricanes 
Harvey, Irma, and Maria demonstrated the risks the electric grid faces 
from extreme weather. The communities hardest hit in Texas and Florida 
underwent days--sometimes much longer--without any power, and when this 
happens, it is a serious risk to the safety and health of everyone in 
the area.
  Now, American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are 
facing a major humanitarian crisis, and the Federal Government needs to 
do everything it can to assist.
  More than a month after Hurricane Maria hit, only 25 percent of 
Puerto Rico has access to electricity, and it will take many months to 
get power back to those communities. That is completely unacceptable. 
Without electricity, pumping stations can't supply drinking water to 
households. In fact, 25 percent of the island still lacks access to 
potable water. Without electricity, wastewater treatment facilities 
can't operate, which means raw sewage is contaminating rivers and 
streams. Without electricity, cell towers cease to function, making 
communication with first responders difficult. Without a stable 
electric grid, hospitals have to rely on backup power to keep 
lifesaving equipment working. That backup power is often diesel 
generators that require fuel, which is in short supply.
  Given the dire situation, it is no surprise that we have already seen 
tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans leave the island, with nearly 60,000 
arriving in Florida alone.
  The majority of the transmission and distribution lines were 
destroyed in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We need to 
rebuild them, and I think we can all agree they should be rebuilt to 
withstand the next disaster. So let's rebuild the electric grid in a 
more resilient and sustainable way that reduces future threats and 
future costs. I have been talking with my Republican colleagues and 
members of the administration, and everyone agrees this is a good idea. 
That is why I want to work with my colleagues on both sides of the 
aisle to include language in the next supplemental disaster aid package 
that does exactly this.
  I am talking about investing in a more modern and more decentralized

[[Page S6801]]

grid so that not everyone is relying on a handful of powerplants that 
can go down. Decentralized energy resources operating in microgrids are 
more likely to remain functioning during and after storms. There are 
many instances of distributed energy keeping important facilities 
online after natural disasters, including the Texas Medical Center, 
which is the largest medical complex in the world, which has a combined 
heat and power plant that kept running during Hurricane Harvey. That is 
because during extreme weather, these technologies can go into island 
mode or operate independent of the grid.
  Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have some of the highest 
electricity prices in the United States, and that is because they rely 
on oil, coal, and gas that must be shipped from the mainland. While 
these islands do not have fossil fuels, do you know what they do have? 
Lots of Sun. And the rapidly declining costs of distributed clean 
energy technologies such as solar, wind, energy efficiency, and battery 
storage, in many instances make them more affordable than existing 
power generation, which means these clean energy technologies could 
help reduce prices.
  These investments will also save money in the long run. In 2005, the 
National Institute of Building Sciences completed a study for FEMA that 
found that every dollar invested in disaster preparedness and 
resilience saves $4 in future avoided losses. We know we are going to 
see more hurricanes and extreme weather events, so let's rebuild in 
such a way that impacts are not as severe the next time around. Let's 
protect people and save taxpayer money.
  That is my message: Let's protect people, and let's all save taxpayer 
money and do the thing that makes sense.
  Thank you.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                             Climate Change

  Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, it is nice to see the distinguished 
Senator in the chair presiding. I am not sure, in my 183 ``Time to Wake 
Up'' speeches, I have yet had the pleasure of speaking while the 
Senator was presiding.
  I am here to once again call for us to wake up to the corporate 
capture of Congress and this administration--the capture of governance 
by the fossil fuel industry that keeps us from honestly addressing 
climate change. There is a saying that ``personnel is policy.'' Well, 
the Trump personnel for positions at the Environmental Protection 
Agency reflect a policy to undo the public welfare mission of the 
Agency and align it with the special interests of the fossil fuel 
  There is a word for that. It is called corruption, at least as the 
Founding Fathers knew the meaning of that term. It starts at the top. 
Trump named Scott Pruitt head of the EPA. Pruitt has a long record of 
dark money fundraising and long, cozy relationships with Big Energy 
industry political donors. In effect, he is a tentacle of the fossil 
fuel climate denial operation, wiggling and wriggling in the 
Administrator's chair, near his new $25,000 ``cone of silence'' secret 
communications booth that he built so no one would hear him checking in 
with his masters.
  Results are as expected. The New York Times has reported: ``How 
Rollbacks at Scott Pruitt's EPA are a Boon to Oil and Gas.'' No 
surprise. In the 4 months that followed his appointment, Pruitt moved 
to undo, delay, or otherwise block more than 30 environmental rules 
benefiting his fossil fuel friends. This regulatory rollback, larger in 
scope than any over so short a time in the Agency's near-half century 
history, went straight into the pockets of the fossil fuel industry.
  Longtime Pruitt benefactor Devon Energy is cashing in dividends on 
its investment in Scott Pruitt's political career, as Pruitt is working 
to eliminate rules on the leaking and flaring of methane, and has 
rescinded requirements for reporting methane emissions. Devon, as you 
may recall, is that company whose letter to the EPA Pruitt put on his 
own Oklahoma attorney general letterhead to mask Devon's hand and 
submit their work as his own official work as attorney general of his 
  So this hand-in-glove relationship between Devon as the hand and 
Pruitt as the glove goes back a long way. The EPA has career scientists 
and legal experts who bring decades of experience in environmental law 
and science to the EPA who are all being cut out as the Administrator 
takes drastic steps to undo environmental protections. Just this week, 
EPA scientists were yanked from a conference in Rhode Island where they 
were going to talk about climate change. The matter of climate change 
on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island is pretty significant. This is the 
day's Providence Journal, our leading newspaper in Rhode Island. 
Headline: ``Will climate change negate Bay cleanup?'' It has a big map 
of Narragansett Bay with all the facilities at risk of being flooded 
and overwhelmed. It is front page news.
  It is a matter of extreme importance in Rhode Island, and EPA yanked 
out its scientists. They weren't allowed to come down and talk at an 
event where they were going to talk about climate change. It is not 
just yanking the scientists. Here is a New York Times article by Lisa 
Friedman from October 20. Headline: ``EPA scrubs a climate website of 
`climate change.' '' An EPA website has been scrubbed of scores of 
links. ``About 15 mentions of the words climate change have been 
removed from the main page alone. . . .''
  It is not just at EPA. Here is today's exclusive headline: ``The 
Interior Department scrubs climate change from its strategic plan.'' I 
mean, they act as if this is the Soviet Union and the government is 
allowed to tell scientists what they can say and not say and put phony 
propaganda onto official websites and keep scientists from going to 
meetings because they might actually tell the truth about climate 
  I am the son and grandson of Foreign Service officers. I grew up 
serving in countries that did that, where the government could tell the 
scientist: No, you don't say that. No, you don't go there. No, this is 
the party line. I never thought that would happen in the United States 
of America--and here we are.
  To aid Pruitt in his fossil fuel industry crusade, our President has 
nominated a parade of fossil fuel lackeys, lobbyists, and operatives 
whose main qualification seems to be allegiance to their corporate 
clients and benefactors. It is not just the fossil fuel industry that 
gets their hacks planted in government offices.
  Do you remember in the ``Cat in the Hat,'' where they had Thing One 
and Thing Two running around? Let's look at Hack One and Hack Two, who 
just cleared committee today in the Pruitt ``EPA for Sale'' roster.
  Hack One is a toxicologist who consults for major chemical 
corporations and has spent the better part of his professional life 
fighting regulation of potentially toxic compounds in consumer goods. 
His name is Michael Dourson. President Trump nominated him to run the 
EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. A lobbying 
group for sellers of pesticides, fungicides, and rodenticides called 
Dourson ``a perfect fit'' for the job--the perfect industry hack for 
that job, more like.
  Hack Two is William Wehrum, nominated to run the EPA Office of Air 
and Radiation. Wehrum is a lobbyist who has represented a host of major 
industrial and energy corporations, and the Rubber Manufacturers 
Association, the American Forest and Paper Association, and the 
American Petroleum Institute. President George W. Bush actually 
nominated this guy to the same post in 2006, but the White House 
withdrew his nomination because it was so controversial.
  Well, that was 2006. That was before Citizens United. That was before 
that decision amped up industry power to the point where it can now ram 
through conflicted and objectionable candidates with--as happened this 
morning--unanimous Republican support. Not one Republican Senator on 
the committee would voice an objection.
  When Senators asked questions for the record in the Environment and

[[Page S6802]]

Public Works Committee nomination hearing on Wehrum and Dourson, these 
captured nominees played dumb about the central issues and programs 
they will oversee if confirmed.
  For instance, I asked Dourson if he agreed that ``the tobacco 
industry manipulated and obfuscated scientific research into the 
dangers of smoking for decades.'' Dourson, who conducted scientific 
studies designed, reviewed, and paid for by the tobacco industry and 
whose name is all over, in hundreds of places, the discovery records of 
the tobacco industry's denial operation, replied: ``I do not have 
firsthand knowledge to comment.''
  I ``do not have firsthand knowledge to comment''? This is the 
President's selection to run the office that protects Americans from 
dangerous chemicals who doesn't know the tobacco industry's history of 
falsifying science? Please. He worked for them. He was part of it.
  Remember that the tobacco industry was taken to court by the U.S. 
Department of Justice--back when the Department of Justice would take 
an industry to court--and the Department of Justice won a judgment 
declaring that tobacco had engaged in a fraud conspiracy to deny 
tobacco's harms. Dourson sees no evil. He knows nothing.
  I asked him whether he believes that hydrofluorocarbons are 
greenhouse gases and about the global warming potential of methane. His 
response: I am not sufficiently familiar with the definition of 
greenhouse gases and do not have the expertise to answer these 
  He is not familiar with the definition of greenhouse gases? This is 
basic high school science. Every one of us has a home State university 
that teaches this stuff. This has been science for more than 100 years.
  On to Hack Two, Bill Wehrum. When I asked Wehrum about carbon 
dioxide's role in the observable effects of climate change, he replied: 
``The degree to which manmade greenhouse gas emissions are contributing 
to climate change has not been conclusively determined.'' This claim 
just doesn't match the scientific record.
  The EPA--the very Agency to which Mr. Wehrum is nominated, along with 
NOAA--states that ``carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that 
is contributing to recent climate change.'' This consensus is held by 
published climate scientists, by scientific agencies and societies, by 
all of our National Laboratories, and by universities in America and 
around the globe.
  As I said, every one of us in this room--I haven't found an exception 
yet, and I have looked, but I expect every Senator has a home State 
university that doesn't just know this to be true, but it teaches it in 
its curriculum. But Hack Two sees no evil. He knows nothing.
  Wehrum's disregard for well-established science provides a grim 
preview of what we can expect from him if confirmed. His predictable 
dodging falls in lockstep with Administrator Pruitt, who has stated he 
does ``not agree that [carbon dioxide] is a primary contributor to the 
global warming that we see.'' That puts him in a very small circle of 
people, every one of whom I think is connected by money to the fossil 
fuel industry.
  I asked Mr. Wehrum what he believes is a healthy standard for ozone. 
Now, bear in mind that one of the goals of the Clean Air Act is to set 
national ambient air quality standards for ozone, that the office to 
which he is nominated oversees this ozone standard, and that the EPA 
has had ozone standards in place since 1971, more than 45 years.
  In response to my question, Wehrum answered: ``I am not familiar with 
the current science on the health effects of ozone, so I cannot comment 
on your question as to the appropriate level of the standard.'' Really?
  I asked Wehrum whether he agreed with EPA's 2009 finding that the 
current and projected concentrations of greenhouse gases in the 
atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future 
generations. I asked if he would commit not to narrow or weaken the 
EPA's endangerment finding. Wehrum wrote back that he had not read the 
endangerment finding or the record prepared in support of the finding; 
therefore, he said: ``I currently do not have a view.'' I currently do 
not have a view? That is funny.
  I bet he had a view when he was being paid by the Rubber 
Manufacturers Association, the American Forest & Paper Association, and 
the American Petroleum Institute. I guess it was the miraculous, 
evaporating view.
  Maybe these ``see no evil'' nominees, Dourson and Wehrum, don't know 
the basics of the problems they would confront. Maybe they just don't 
know, but let's not be fooled here. Polluters have paid these nominees 
well for their services over the years. They were expert enough to be 
hired by industry groups as lobbyists and consultants. We know where 
their allegiances lie. We know who has been paying them. We know whom 
they will serve.
  A preview of coming attractions, coming up before the EPW soon is 
Andrew Wheeler, Trump's nominee for the EPA's second in command. 
Wheeler was a top lobbyist for the coal mining behemoth, Murray Energy. 
Not only did this company support Trump's campaign and provide $300,000 
to help pay for his inauguration, Murray Energy has also donated to 
Pruitt-affiliated political action committees to the tune of hundreds 
of thousands of dollars. I can't wait to hear his answers on the role 
of coal in climate change, childhood asthma, and mercury poisoning.
  The sad part of all of this is, the polluting interests that own 
these nominees also throw their weight around in Congress. So good luck 
getting an honest look at this mess through congressional oversight.
  Over and over, appalling nominees get through confirmation with no 
Republican dissent, more ``see no evil.'' It is just wrong.
  For now, the American public will pay the price of dismantling these 
regulatory safeguards. They will pay the price in poisonings and 
carcinogenic exposures, in rising seas and raging wildfires, in 
childhood asthma and northbound tropical diseases. Mark my words, one 
day there will be a reckoning for all of this.
  When captured EPA officials put payback to their donors first and 
clean air and public health a way distant second, it stinks. It is 
crooked by any reasonable definition of the term. It is corrupt in 
exactly the way the Founding Fathers understood corruption.
  The fossil fuel industry will one day be held to account for this 
binge of corruption and manipulation. ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Arch 
Coal, Murray Coal, Peabody Coal, you own this just as the Republican 
Party does.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Colorado.


  Mr. GARDNER. Mr. President, I come to the floor this afternoon to 
talk about the Healthcare Tax Relief Act, legislation I introduced to 
delay the health insurance tax that was created by the Affordable Care 
  This tax is often referred to as the HIT tax. The HIT tax imposes 
fees on health insurance coverage to consumers. It is a pretty simple 
business concept that this HIT tax results in. If a fee increases on an 
insurance policy and the fee goes up--there is a fee charged to the 
company that issues this insurance policy--then that fee gets passed on 
to the consumer. It is the consumer, then, who pays the fee in the form 
of higher health insurance costs.
  As is the case with most excise taxes, whether it is an excise tax on 
food or beverage or any other item of personal good, if this health 
insurance tax takes effect, costs will be passed on to consumers 
directly in the form of higher premiums. That is confirmed by the 
Congressional Budget Office.
  This is one of the cost drivers that was built into the Affordable 
Care Act. This health insurance tax would directly increase the 
premiums of the consumer's insurance product. This tax was supposed to 
begin a few years back in 2014. It was going to start at $8 billion, 
and by 2018 the tax would reach $14.3 billion. However, Congress 
recognized that this tax was going to have a significant impact on the 
price of coverage and, as a result, suspended the tax from taking 
effect in 2017. Without congressional action to delay or stop or 
prevent this ObamaCare tax from taking place again, this tax will take 
effect in 2018.
  According to nonpartisan actuarial analysis conducted by Oliver 

[[Page S6803]]

an estimated 157 million Americans will be affected by this massive 
tax. Even more middle-income earners across this country, 157 million 
Americans and working Americans, are expected to shoulder the weight of 
this tax.
  Oliver Wyman estimated that premiums will rise by 3 percent in each 
year; 2018, 2019, and 2020. That is 3 percent each year. That is 9 
percent over 3 years.
  To put this in simple perspective, in Colorado alone, premiums in the 
individual market rose by 34 percent from plan year 2017 to plan year 
2018. Adding an additional 3 percent every year for those 3 years would 
leave those on the individual market paying nearly 43.3 percent, on 
average, more year to year if combined with the 2018 increases at the 
end of that 3-year, 9-percent increase run.
  What is more, according to the Department of Health and Human 
Services, the average individual market premiums have increased by 105 
percent from 2013 to 2017. Think about that. When the Affordable Care 
Act passed, when ObamaCare was passed, a promise was made that the 
average family would see a decrease in their healthcare costs of $2,500 
per family, but, instead, from 2013 to 2017, they saw a 105-percent 
increase in costs. If the health insurance tax takes effect, as planned 
by ObamaCare, then we would see another 9-percent increase over the 
next several years on top of that.
  Without congressional action to delay this tax, estimates show that 
costs will rise between $200 and $300 annually for individuals and $500 
annually for families. That is a $200 to $300 increase for individuals 
and a $500 increase annually for families.
  To put that into some perspective, 25 percent of Americans don't have 
access--emergency access--to $100. In an emergency, 25 percent of 
Americans don't have immediate access to $100. Yet here we are talking 
about a mandated law--you have to have insurance coverage under the 
Affordable Care Act--but this law would then increase costs $200 to 
$300 on an individual and $500 annually for families.
  Statistics from the Federal Reserve show how much of a hardship this 
would create. The Federal Reserve found that 46 percent of Americans 
did not have enough money to cover a $400 emergency expense. Yet the 
ObamaCare HIT tax would increase family insurance costs by $500. Forty-
six percent of Americans don't have access to $400 in an emergency. Yet 
the ObamaCare HIT tax would increase it by $500.
  This tax has the potential to push over half of Americans into 
financial ruin, and it would be negligent for Congress to allow this 
tax to take effect. The financial threat this tax imposes on hard-
working families is a far cry from that bold promise that was made to 
reduce costs by $2,500 per family--one of the biggest Pinocchios, so to 
speak, of the Affordable Care Act. At a time when we know that almost 
half of Americans could not shoulder a $400 emergency expense, it would 
simply be irresponsible to allow this ObamaCare HIT tax to take effect.
  Furthermore, the impacts of this tax touch our seniors who have 
earned their benefits as well. For seniors enrolled in Medicare 
Advantage plans--and Medicare Advantage is one of the most popular 
aspects of Medicare--premiums are expected to rise by roughly $370 a 
year per enrollee if Congress doesn't find a resolution. In many cases, 
these are fixed-income individuals who would see their premiums 
increase $370 a year because of the ObamaCare HIT tax.
  In addition, seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D prescription drug 
plans can expect their premiums to increase as well. Hit them on their 
Medicare plans and hit them on the prescription drug plans--higher 
costs due to this ObamaCare HIT tax.
  Even more, the impacts of the health insurance tax have large-scale 
consequences in the workplace as well. A study by the National 
Federation of Independent Business found that allowing the HIT tax to 
take effect could result in job losses for as many as 283,000 people by 
2023. This tax could have the impact of costing 286,000 jobs by 2023. 
Research and analysis from our most respected actuaries continue to 
validate the negative consequences of the health insurance tax.
  On behalf of all hard-working Americans, I call upon my colleagues in 
the Senate to join me in cosponsoring this commonsense piece of 
legislation, the Healthcare Tax Relief Act. Healthcare plans are being 
finalized right now for the 2018 rate year, and it is urgent for 
Congress to take action so that consumers are not saddled with yet one 
more cost that they can't afford.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan.

         Recognizing the University of Michigan's Bicentennial

  Mr. PETERS. Mr. President, I rise today to recognize the bicentennial 
of the University of Michigan. The university has adopted the motto 
``Always Leading, Forever Valiant'' for its bicentennial year--a motto 
that captures its 200 years at the forefront of American academic 
  The genesis of the University of Michigan predates the founding of my 
home State of Michigan.
  On August 26, 1817, Lewis Cass, Governor of the Michigan territory, 
enacted a charter to create the University of Michigania, aligned with 
territory judge Augustus Woodward's envisioned System of Universal 
  In 1852, the university's first president, Henry Philip Tappan, 
pioneered a model of higher education in which scholars do not settle 
for existing knowledge but actively pursue new knowledge through 
rigorous science. This approach solidified the university's enduring 
legacy as a center for scientific research and discovery.
  The university has paved the way for future innovation with many 
firsts throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. It was the first 
university with a chemical laboratory, the first to own and operate a 
hospital, the first to teach aeronautical engineering, the first public 
university with dental and pharmacy schools, and the first with a 
program in human genetics. Perhaps the most game-changing first--it was 
the first large State university to open its doors to both men and 
  Today, faculty and students continue to reach new firsts by answering 
important research questions that will affect future generations. Take, 
for instance, how the university has laid the groundwork for 
breakthroughs in American mobility.
  In 2015, Mcity, a public-private partnership led by the University of 
Michigan, became the world's first controlled environment designed to 
test connected and automated vehicle technologies. The 32-acre 
simulated urban and suburban landscape is designed to support rigorous, 
repeatable testing of self-driving car technologies before they are 
tested on public roads and highways. This hub of innovation reflects 
our State's legacy as the heart of the American auto industry and will 
help lead our country into the next era of transportation.
  A similar nexus between our past and future is true across nearly 
every discipline that U of M's research touches--engineering, medicine, 
social sciences, humanities, and more. Students and faculty are 
developing new cancer treatments, creating energy-efficient batteries, 
engaging in cutting-edge environmental science to protect the Great 
Lakes, and building prototypes of engines to take us to Mars. That is 
just to name a few.
  Tied with the University of Michigan's drive to pursue knowledge is 
its drive to put that knowledge into action for the greater good. At 
its core, the university's mission is to serve society. This has been 
demonstrated by its history of activism and civic engagement.
  The university commemorates one such event that occurred on October 
14, 1960. Senator John F. Kennedy, whose former desk is just a few feet 
in front of me here today, delivered an unplanned speech on the steps 
of the Michigan Union at 2 a.m. He challenged University of Michigan 
students to work abroad in developing nations in an effort to promote 
peace. These remarks laid the blueprint for the U.S. Peace Corps, which 
was established in 1961.
  The University of Michigan continues to have a truly global reach. It 
provides a world-class education to a diverse student body of 63,000 
students on its Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint campuses, educating 
instate, out-of-state, and international students alike. They are drawn 
to the university's unfaltering endeavor to expand our

[[Page S6804]]

base of knowledge and empower individuals to leave a lasting and 
positive impact on the world around them.
  With more than 572,000 living alumni--including my daughter Madeline, 
who just graduated this past May--the University of Michigan has one of 
the largest alumni networks, full of artists, astronauts, business and 
government leaders, entrepreneurs, and humanitarians, as well as Nobel 
laureates in economics, medicine, and science.
  The University of Michigan's many illustrious alumni include U.S. 
President Gerald R. Ford, Swedish diplomat and humanitarian Raoul 
Wallenberg, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Arthur Miller, actor 
James Earl Jones, civil rights leader Mary Frances Berry, Google 
cofounder Larry Page, and author and scholar Robin Wright. Many more 
alumni will follow in these footsteps. They share a drive to make what 
is affectionately known as the Michigan Difference and, of course, 
cheer for the Maize and Blue.
  I would like to congratulate the University of Michigan on its 
bicentennial as we look forward to a future driven by Michigan 
  With that, I will close with something very simple: ``Go Blue!''
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Ms. HASSAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Gardner). Without objection, it is so 

                            Opioid Epidemic

  Ms. HASSAN. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss an issue that is 
devastating families and communities in my home State of New Hampshire 
and across the United States: the fentanyl, heroin, and opioid crisis. 
This crisis is the most pressing public and safety challenge that New 
Hampshire faces. It does not discriminate. It affects people in every 
community and from every walk of life.
  In 2016 alone, 485 people in New Hampshire lost their lives as a 
result of this epidemic. The rising use of synthetic drugs like 
fentanyl is making matters worse, killing people faster with smaller 
amounts. Last year, 72 percent of drug-related deaths in New Hampshire 
involved fentanyl. Behind those numbers are real people--moms and dads, 
sons and daughters who are dying. Their loss reverberates in pain and 
suffering for the family and friends whom they have left behind.
  The people of my State have a longstanding tradition of sharing their 
stories and their priorities with their elected officials who represent 
them. Everywhere I go, I hear stories from those families and friends 
of people who have been affected by this crisis. Granite Staters are 
stepping forward and explaining what they have gone through, all in an 
attempt to break down the stigma of addiction, push for solutions, and 
hope that they can help others by making their voices heard.
  Earlier this year, Greg and Linda of Derry, NH, reached out to my 
office to share the story of their son, who was also named Greg. They 
wrote to say:

       If you were to put a name and face to this disease, it 
     would be that of the devil. Let's change that. Let's put a 
     face of hope and humanity to the disease of addiction. If by 
     doing so, even if just one life is saved, it is worth it.

  I would like to share some of Greg's story today. Greg was born on 
November 16, 1985. He and his younger brother Neil were raised in a 
caring and loving home, where their parents did their best to teach 
them right from wrong, stressing the importance of being considerate, 
polite, and kind.
  When Greg was 15, his parents moved to Derry, where he attended 
Pinkerton Academy and graduated with honors in 2004. During his senior 
year, like so many other students his age, he applied for college, 
eventually deciding on Keene State College, pursuing a major in 
biochemistry. He had a dream of becoming a physician.
  He excelled academically, but his mom Linda said that during his 
transition between his freshman and sophomore year, something began to 
appear off. She wrote:

       I saw firsthand that something was off about him. He was 
     very quiet and withdrawn. He was showing obvious signs of 
     depression which runs in both sides of the family.

  Even as his depression progressed, Greg battled through. He graduated 
cum laude with a bachelor's degree in biochemistry. After graduating 
and moving back home, his parents urged him to seek help, but Greg held 
back. During this time, he had an outpatient surgery, after which he 
was prescribed an opioid-based painkiller. His mom said that after he 
was prescribed that opioid, he went from bad to worse.
  Eventually Greg sought help. He saw a physician and was prescribed an 
anti-depressant. His mom said he seemed to be coming back around; he 
seemed happier. He took steps to advance his career, hoping to find a 
job with his biochemistry degree that would offer him a reimbursement 
on tuition so that he could continue to pursue a career in medicine. 
Though the job market was tough, his mom said:

       Hands down, I have to say that one of the happiest days of 
     my life was when he finally got a decent job. . . . The dark 
     cloud was lifted--temporarily.

  Unfortunately, Greg eventually lost that job, and then things 
spiraled out of control. His mom wrote:

       The years following were a nightmare to remember. Just 
     imagine a loved one slowly losing all sense of themselves. 
     Legal trouble, bouncing from one job to the next, losing his 
     license more than once while we drove him back and forth from 
     jobs--some an hour away.
       A restraining order here, a night in jail there. Debts that 
     weren't getting paid. Fits of rage, fights, a lack of 
     interest in family, friends, and basic hygiene.

  She said:

       By the time our worst fears were confirmed, he was using 
     heroin, we basically lost the soul of our son.

  Greg's last few years were filled with back-and-forths. He had 
overdosed, his brother finding him in the bathroom of their home. Tired 
of being dependent on heroin, he sought help, signing up for a 
methadone clinic, entering rehab, and giving his parents hope that he 
would make progress.
  Unfortunately, he started to use again but was getting ready to enter 
a drug court program. After joining his family on a vacation to visit 
an ailing relative, he decided to clean up his act, going to the gym 
and eating right.
  Tragically, though, his mom wrote:

       This was short lived however, as the demon snuck into his 
     room and stole him from us. All he left for us was a lifeless 
     body on the floor behind a locked door.

  Greg's death and his heartbreaking story is the story of far too many 
people in New Hampshire and across the country, of people with dreams, 
hopes, and aspirations, whose lives are cut short as a result of this 
illness. Greg wanted to be a doctor. He wanted to be a husband and a 
father. He loved dogs and video games, and he loved to watch Patriots 
games on Sunday with his mom, his dad, and his brother. As his mom put 

       Brilliant and head strong, he was to be reckoned with, and 
     as his parents, we will never stop trying, on his behalf, to 
     see that there is an end to this epidemic.

  His parents wanted to make clear that his substance use disorder 
really grew as a result of the opioid he was prescribed following 
surgery, a painkiller that was originally manufactured for terminally 
ill patients. They believe that pharmaceutical companies marketed this 
drug at the expense of their son, saying: ``Given to ease pain and 
suffering, ironically, it has caused irreparable pain, suffering, and 
  We can never thank families who have lost loved ones enough for 
speaking out about this issue and for working tirelessly and 
courageously to try to prevent others from suffering as they have. Nor 
can we forget to thank law enforcement and first responders who are on 
the frontlines of this epidemic.
  I want to make a special mention of Greg's father, Greg senior, who 
is a firefighter in Nashua, witnessing as a first responder every day 
the havoc that this crisis wreaks on other families and living with the 
reality of his own family's loss too.
  Greg's mom said that at the moment of his death, she vowed that she 
would ensure that his life would not be in vain. His family reached out 
because they wanted to make a difference. I am grateful for their 
efforts to do this because they do, in fact, have the ability to make 
  Speaking up helps break down the stigma that prevents too many from 
seeking help and prevents too many others from offering it. It provides 

[[Page S6805]]

voice to the voiceless, making those who have died more than just a 
statistic. It gives us a perspective from which we can learn, and it 
pushes us to take action.
  While thanking these families for their bravery is appropriate, it is 
simply not enough. Their bravery and their struggle must be marked by 
constant vigilance and urgent action. We must continue to focus on an 
``all hands on deck'' approach at all levels of government and with 
those on the frontlines in order to make progress, save lives, and end 
this epidemic.
  I am going to continue fighting and working with Members of both 
parties to combat this crisis, and I will continue sharing the stories 
of the people of my State. It is up to all of us to stop this from 
happening to more families.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Ms. WARREN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


  Ms. WARREN. Mr. President, on September 30, the Children's Health 
Insurance Program expired. It has now been 25 days since the Congress 
has put our children's health and well-being on the back burner. My 
colleagues and I do not think that children's health belongs on the 
back burner. So we have come to the floor of the Senate to spend the 
afternoon speaking up for kids.
  Thank you to everyone who joins me today to say that we should not 
wait any longer to make sure that children, community health centers, 
and new mothers have access to the healthcare programs that they need.
  Republicans control Congress. It is up to them what we vote on and 
when we do it. So what was more important to the Republican leadership 
than the health of little kids? Republican leaders blew through the 
days before the children's healthcare deadline by trying to repeal 
healthcare for millions of Americans.
  Once the Children's Health Insurance Program had already expired, 
Republican leaders burned through more time by holding a series of 
votes on a budget with giant tax cuts for billionaires and giant 
corporations that would also gut Medicare, Medicaid, and a bunch of 
programs that help working families. Republicans jammed through their 
terrible budget without a single Democratic vote last week, 19 days 
after blowing past the deadline to fund healthcare for kids.
  Last night, 24 days past the deadline to make sure the kids had 
healthcare coverage, what were Republican leaders doing? Republican 
leaders stayed up late into the night holding a vote to make it easier 
for financial institutions to cheat people.
  The days continue to tick by--24, 25. Tomorrow Members of Congress 
will leave for the weekend, 26 days past the deadline, and still there 
will be no vote to fund this critical program.
  Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator Orrin Hatch, a Democrat and 
Republican, wrote this legislation together back in the late 1990s. The 
Children's Health Insurance Program, also called CHIP, provides health 
insurance to low-income children and to pregnant women. Senator Kennedy 
and Senator Hatch created this program because they knew that providing 
healthcare coverage for children would make them healthier as children 
and healthier even after they grew up. They knew that some children 
were slipping through the cracks, and this was their solution. The 
children covered by CHIP didn't qualify for Medicaid, they weren't 
covered by employers, and they couldn't afford to buy private 
  In 1997, 15 percent of all the children in this country lacked any 
form of health insurance coverage. Today, because of the CHIP program 
and the Affordable Care Act, that number has shrunk to 5 percent of 
children. CHIP works with Medicaid to provide health insurance for one 
out of every three kids in this country.
  States choose whether or not they want a CHIP program. Here is the 
deal. Every single State has chosen one because every single State 
recognizes the value of providing their children with healthcare 
coverage. In Massachusetts, the percentage of children with healthcare 
coverage is even higher than the national average. It is at 99 percent. 
We are doing something right here.
  The original program was set for 10 years, and since then, every few 
years, Congress has had to act to reauthorize the program so that 
children can continue to get healthcare coverage. The CHIP program has 
been reauthorized four times since 1997, and not one of those times has 
Congress missed the deadline--not one--until now. In fact, in past 
years, Congress has made sure to reauthorize the program many months 
ahead of its expiration in order to give States the time they need to 
plan their budget. It sounds like a pretty sensible thing to do--but 
not this year. We are 25 days past the deadline for reauthorizing 
CHIP--25 days and counting. This isn't fair to States, to kids, or to 
their families.
  So what actually happens now?
  Well, the money runs out. Eleven States are set to run out of their 
CHIP funding by the end of 2017, and the others, soon after. Our 
Republican Governor in Massachusetts sent me a letter on day 3 past the 
CHIP deadline, and he wrote:

       Parents are already afraid that their children's insurance 
     may be lost in the near future. With each passing week, their 
     fears continue to grow.

  My Governor is right. States have to start making tough decisions. 
They may have to decrease enrollment, turning away sick little kids who 
qualify for coverage but don't make it through the door on time. They 
could start kicking kids off of their insurance saying: Sorry, we just 
can't help anymore. Or they could be forced to make tough calls on 
benefits: We can't cover the wheelchair you need to get around. There 
is no physical therapy or no prenatal care until the funding comes 
through again.
  That is just flat out immoral. Tax cuts for billionaires shouldn't 
come before making sure that a sick kid gets the help he or she needs. 
Mothers are lying awake at night. Fathers are tossing and turning, 
worrying about their healthcare coverage. What is the Republican 
leadership doing? Tomorrow they will be heading home for the weekend 
without lifting a finger to fund a bipartisan program that has been 
reauthorized four times over the past 20 years.
  If that isn't bad enough, September 30 wasn't just the deadline for 
Congress to reauthorize CHIP. We also blew past the deadline on several 
other healthcare programs to help children, to help pregnant women, to 
help older Americans, and to help the chronically ill. We blew past the 
deadline to reauthorize the Community Health Center Fund and the 
National Health Service Corps, which funds health centers and supports 
healthcare workers that provide children with high-quality primary 
care. We blew past the deadline to reauthorize the Maternal, Infant, 
and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, which funds home visits to 
new and expectant parents to give them help keeping a new baby healthy 
and safe. We blew past the deadline to reauthorize the Special Diabetes 
Program, which funds diabetes research that could offer hope to many 
children living with diabetes.
  When a kid is sick, moms and dads move Heaven and Earth to get them 
the care they need. They don't wait 25 days to go to the doctor and 
check to see if something is wrong. They stay up all night to make sure 
their little ones are all right. They wait outside the hospital room, 
pacing until they get an answer, but Republican leaders in Congress 
just don't seem to care. They don't seem to care if these families have 
the health insurance coverage they need so they can get an x ray or pay 
for an antibiotic or run some tests.
  Twenty-five days, 26 days, 27 days--it just doesn't seem to matter to 
Republican leaders, but it sure matters to moms and dads and kids in 
Massachusetts and all over this country.
  Senator Kennedy used to say: ``The test of greatness for a nation is 
how it cares for its children.'' Right now Republican leaders in 
Congress are failing that test. My colleagues have come to the floor 
today to say that time is up. We are here to fight for kids.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Delaware.

[[Page S6806]]


  Mr. COONS. Mr. President, I rise in support of my colleagues who have 
come to the floor to urge the Senate to quickly pass funding for the 
Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP.
  CHIP provides comprehensive health insurance to 9 million low-income 
children who don't qualify for Medicaid, including 18,000 children in 
my home State of Delaware. Lots of other States would say that 18,000 
children is a small number, but in Delaware that is a significant 
population. Bluntly, whether it is 1 or 100 or 1,000 or 18,000, how can 
we allow inaction in this Chamber to put at risk the healthcare of 
millions of children across our country?
  It has now been more than 3 weeks since funding for CHIP expired. 
While some States have enough money in their accounts to carry them 
through to the end of the year or just beyond, the uncertainty about 
when or if CHIP funds will be reauthorized is causing chaos, concern, 
and anxiety across the country. Some States will have to start issuing 
notices to households that they will face the loss of CHIP coverage. 
Imagine the unnecessary fear this will bring to parents and families 
and struggling households across the country as they are facing other 
challenges in their life.
  This is totally unnecessary. We can stop this uncertainty right now 
and bring needed stability for parents, children, and States and show 
some kind of leadership from our Federal Government. I am a proud 
cosponsor of the bipartisan KIDS Act, S. 1827, being led by Senator 
Orrin Hatch of Utah and Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. This KIDS Act 
would extend funding for CHIP for 5 years. I urge the Senate to do 
right by America's children and America's working families and swiftly 
take up and pass this bill.
  While we are on the topic of programs desperately in need of 
reauthorization, I also want to draw attention to the expiration of the 
Community Health Center Fund, which ensures access to cost-effective 
primary and preventive care for 26 million patients across the country. 
In my home State of Delaware, about 50,000 Delawareans benefit from 
several community health centers that are widely respected, well run, 
and provide affordable, accessible, and preventive healthcare in 
communities up and down my State. Funding for this critical program 
also lapsed more than 3 weeks ago, and now, sadly, community health 
centers across my State and across the country are struggling to make 
key decisions--decisions like signing new leases or signing on new 
medical personnel to positions. Without certainty that the Federal 
Government will authorize their funding, how can we expect health 
centers to plan, to provide services, and to provide preventive 
healthcare that improves health and strengthens our community?
  We should do everything we can to swiftly pass a 5-year 
reauthorization for funding for community health centers, such as the 
bipartisan bill that Senator Blunt of Missouri and Senator Stabenow of 
Michigan have introduced, the Community Health Investment, 
Modernization, and Excellence Act of 2017, S. 1899, which I am proud to 
  Folks, I urge that we work together in a bipartisan way. We should 
not be using children's access to healthcare as a bargaining chip. We 
should be taking up these two bills to provide reauthorization, 
funding, and certainty immediately for both CHC and CHIP funding now 
and without hesitation.
  With that, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. CASEY. Mr. President, as you know, the Children's Health 
Insurance Program expired on September 30, in large part because we 
spent much of this year and the days leading up to that date debating 
the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, instead of focusing on 
bipartisan priorities like the Children's Health Insurance Program. As 
a result, the program known as CHIP expired and the health of 9 million 
children, including some 340,000 Pennsylvania children, are now at 
  CHIP is not just a bipartisan program but a successful program with a 
Pennsylvania history. It was modeled after a State program in 
Pennsylvania that was signed into law by my father when he served as 
Governor in the early 1990s. The program provides affordable health 
insurance to children whose family incomes mean they don't qualify for 
Medicaid but still struggle to find affordable health insurance 
options. It is a program that working families rely upon and that 
provides peace of mind to parents.

  Many families turn to CHIP during times of economic hardship, such as 
when a parent loses his or her job. At such a stressful time, I have 
heard from parents over and over how they have peace of mind knowing 
that their children will get the healthcare they need.
  Some parents who rely upon CHIP for their children are, in fact, 
students, working and going to school so they can make that leap into 
stable, middle-class life. They may not have a job with health 
insurance or they may not be able to afford the insurance, but they 
know their children will get the healthcare they need.
  Regardless of what drives families to the CHIP program, it is thanks 
in large part to CHIP that the United States of America has the highest 
rate of insured children in our Nation's history. According to the 
Census Bureau, 95.5 percent of children had health insurance in 2016. 
CHIP is also a popular program, as repeated studies have demonstrated. 
Parents think CHIP is a valuable program, and they are satisfied with 
the coverage and with the care their children receive.
  Unless the Senate acts and acts very soon, we will have betrayed all 
of those children and all of those families. There is no reason for 
CHIP to have expired and no reason why we shouldn't pass the bill right 
now, if not in the next couple of days--certainly, in the next 2 or 3 
weeks--to ensure that not one single child loses his or her health 
  We have taken important steps to extend the program. The Finance 
Committee marked up the bipartisan Keep Kids' Insurance Dependable and 
Secure Act of 2017, known by the acronym K-I-D-S, or KIDS. The KIDS Act 
came out of the Finance Committee, which reauthorizes CHIP for 5 years, 
and that happened some 3 weeks ago. I am proud to be a cosponsor of 
that bill.
  So it is time to act. We have a commonsense, bipartisan, successful 
bill in the Senate that is ready to go. It is out of the Finance 
Committee. So I would urge my colleagues to join me and to join others 
who have come to the floor today and on earlier days to take swift 
action to pass the KIDS Act.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Lee). The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, healthcare for our Nation's children is 
something we ought to be able to all come together on, but this 
Congress, which has not done much of anything, is always able to find a 
way to help Wall Street. Think about the middle-of-the-night vote last 
night, where the Vice President of the United States came to the rescue 
of Equifax and the rescue of Wells Fargo and the rescue of Wall Street 
overall. Think of the celebrations last night on Wall Street because of 
that tie vote, which stripped consumers of their days in court. It 
stripped consumers of their consumer rights.
  This Congress, when it came to the Children's Health Insurance 
Program, allowed it to expire at the end of last month. It left 
millions of families afraid they will lose healthcare for their kids. 
Think about what this uncertainty means for parents. Trying to make 
sure your children are safe and healthy is enough to worry about.
  Families shouldn't have to fear losing coverage for their kids 
because of some politicians in Washington. All of us have taxpayer-
funded health insurance. Some politicians in Washington don't seem to 
care much about these kids.
  In my State, more than 200,000-plus children have insurance under 
CHIP. So even if something happens to their parents--even if they lose 
their job or their insurance--those 200,000-plus children in Ohio have 
insurance because of CHIP. But it expired on September 30.
  Governor Kasich is a Republican. I am a Democrat. We stand together 

[[Page S6807]]

this, as we stand together protecting Medicaid and as we stand together 
protecting the Affordable Care Act. He tells us that there is still a 
little bit of money left over in Ohio to get us through these next few 
weeks until Congress does its job. But that doesn't mean parents don't 
worry about their children possibly losing their health insurance.
  Kids on CHIP are a little more likely to have asthma or a little bit 
more likely to have an illness, in part because they are low-income 
kids and they may live near a bus line and the air they breathe may not 
quite be so good. Or they live in Appalachia, where they might not be 
able to get to the doctor quickly. Those kids are more at risk, and 
those parents are worried, even though Governor Kasich assures them and 
I assure them we are going to do this.
  Congress worked into the middle of the night last night and debated 
for hours on a giveaway to Wall Street. They debated for hours on 
helping Equifax, which abused the public trust of 145 million people--5 
million in my State. They bailed out Wells Fargo, which fraudulently 
attacked, for want of a better term, 3.5 million customers. Congress 
can bail them out, but it can't pass the Children's Health Insurance 
  Because of CHIP, 209,000--I said more than 200,000 before; more 
precisely, 209,000 Ohio children have access to affordable healthcare 
today--healthcare they may not have received otherwise. That is the 
importance of this program. It used to be bipartisan until this 
Congress, always in its rush to help Wall Street, forgot about these 
  This program provides peace of mind for parents. Regardless of 
income, when a parent knows that a daughter or a son has health 
insurance, it provides peace of mind. They know if their child has a 
sore throat or earache, they don't have to wait until the child is so 
sick they take her to the emergency room. They won't have to hesitate 
or wonder if they can afford the doctor visit or antibiotic. They get 
the care their kids need.
  Most of us in this body are parents. Most of us in this body have 
insurance provided by taxpayers. Wouldn't you think that this would be 
important enough to Leader McConnell and the leaders of this body and 
to President Trump and to Speaker Ryan? Wouldn't you think it would be 
important enough?
  We all talk about loving our kids. We talk about grandchildren. Most 
of us are at the age where many of us have grandchildren. We don't care 
enough about these children as we get insurance from taxpayers. We 
don't care enough about these kids to do this?
  It has already been 3 weeks now since CHIP expired. CHIP means a 
child in Cincinnati or Dayton or Portsmouth or Akron or Youngstown or 
Mansfield can see a family doctor when they need it, preventing a 
costly ambulance ride and emergency room visit. CHIP means getting 
vaccines and shots. It means having dental coverage. We know what 
happens to low-income kids who don't get good dental care.
  The State of Ohio probably has enough money to help protect CHIP kids 
through the end of the year, but Congress needs to act now.
  I have met with CHIP families across Ohio. Let me tell you some 
stories. Josh, whom I met in Cleveland--his children were covered by 
CHIP when he was laid off from his job. He said, ``The ability to take 
health insurance out of the equation, feeling confident that my family 
will continue to get the same quality of care they had while I was 
working, was a huge weight lifted.'' Think about that.
  This father, knowing that he has insurance--he had plenty of things 
to worry about. He lost his job. Who knows what that means about their 
home and their lifestyle and their family? But at least he knew he 
could rely on insurance--until now. Look what this Congress has failed 
to do.
  Think about Noble from Columbus, who came to my office earlier this 
year with his mom to talk about how important CHIP is. Noble relies on 
CHIP for coverage for the five pediatric specialists he sees at one of 
America's great hospitals, Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus.
  My colleagues need to think about Josh and his kids in Cleveland and 
Noble and his mom in Columbus. We need to think about the mother of a 
son with diabetes, worrying about whether her son will be able to see 
the same doctor next year or about a father with a daughter with 
asthma, praying she doesn't lose her inhaler on the playground because 
in a few months they might not have insurance to pay for that inhaler.

  My wife has asthma, and I know what that means. She had a father who 
had health insurance through his union plan with the Illuminating 
Company in Northeast Ohio. He worked maintenance. It was a good blue-
collar job. It didn't pay enough to send her to college, but it did pay 
enough with good insurance that it gave them a decent lifestyle. They 
didn't have CHIP back then. More people had union plans. More people 
were protected.
  We used to have CHIP until September 30, when this Congress didn't 
care enough to provide it. We should not be playing politics with 
families' lives.
  Two years ago, I led the fight in this body to protect CHIP. Because 
of that work, with the support of advocates all across Ohio--and there 
are so many of them across the country--we extended funding for CHIP 
for 2 years. Again, this was with bipartisan support, back when 
Congress operated that way.
  We have already come a long way this year. We passed a 5-year 
extension of CHIP out of the Senate Finance Committee. It had every 
vote in that Committee, with the exception of one. I thank Senator 
Hatch and Senator Wyden and my colleague from Ohio, Senator Portman, 
and so many of our colleagues for their help with that.
  But this process is taking too long. Josh and Noble and the 209,000 
Ohioans and 9 million children across the country are in a situation in 
which their parents are unsure of whether they will have insurance 
through the end of the year and next year and the year after.
  It is time for us to come together to ensure that the families we 
work for have the healthcare they need for their children.
  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.
  Ms. HIRONO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Ms. HIRONO. Mr. President, Donald Trump and the Republican Congress 
have spent most of the past year pushing their misplaced priorities, no 
matter the direct and collateral damage it causes for millions of 
Americans across the country.
  There are many examples to choose from to illustrate this point. Just 
last night, the Vice President had to come in and break a tie to 
protect huge corporations from the victims of the frauds they 
perpetuated. Now they are putting together a huge tax cut for the 
wealthiest people in our country, and they are trying to sell it as a 
raise for the middle class. In Hawaii, we call this shibai--or B.S.
  But there is perhaps no issue in which Donald Trump's dangerous 
agenda has caused more harm than his quest to deprive millions of 
Americans the healthcare and the health insurance they need. His first 
attempt at repealing the Affordable Care Act would have thrown as many 
as 30 million people off of their health insurance. Thanks to the 
combined efforts of so many people--active people, engaged people 
across the country--we defeated this proposal.
  A few months later, continuing the assault on healthcare, Donald 
Trump renewed his attack on our healthcare system under the so-called 
Graham-Cassidy bill. But once again, the combined outrage of millions 
kept the bill from coming to the floor.
  In the time they spent on their single-minded, unrelenting quest to 
repeal the Affordable Care Act, Donald Trump and Republicans in 
Congress have allowed authorization for the Children's Health Insurance 
Program, or CHIP, to lapse. Nearly 30,000 children in Hawaii and more 
than 9 million across the country depend on CHIP for their healthcare. 
You heard just now my colleague from Ohio tell you stories about the 
children in Ohio--children with asthma. In Hawaii, we have children 
with asthma, children with diabetes.

[[Page S6808]]

  Nearly 30,000 children in Hawaii who rely on CHIP for their 
healthcare are being affected by our inaction. Primarily covering 
children from low-income families who earn too much to qualify for 
Medicaid, CHIP provides critical and much needed care for children with 
complex medical conditions.
  Although existing funding has allowed States to stretch budgets to 
keep the program in place, money is quickly running out. If we don't 
take action soon, as many as 4 million children could lose their health 
insurance entirely--4 million children.
  Congress cannot and should not be complicit in what I would call 
gross negligence. It is not negligence; it is gross negligence.
  CHIP has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support. In fact, it 
emerged from the committee with bipartisan support. I am glad Senators 
Wyden and Hatch have come together to create the KIDS Act, which I have 
cosponsored. This bill would extend CHIP's authorization and funding 
through 2022 and provide much needed certainty to millions of families 
across the country.
  If we brought this bill to the floor right now, it would pass. It 
would clearly have the votes to pass. The only question is, Why don't 
we do it? Why don't we provide healthcare to millions of children in 
our country, for Heaven's sake?
  I cannot believe that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle 
are afraid to risk incurring the wrath of a vengeful President. I 
cannot believe that is what is keeping them from doing the right thing.
  I encourage the majority leader to bring this bill to the floor for a 
vote as soon as possible.
  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. MARKEY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. MARKEY. Mr. President, this summer the Children's Health 
Insurance Program, or CHIP, turned 20 years old.
  I served on the House committee that created this bill and was proud 
to support providing the affordable comprehensive health insurance to 
low-income children and pregnant women. It is a bipartisan program, and 
it is an effective program. Last year alone, CHIP covered nearly 9 
million children throughout the country. In Massachusetts, CHIP has 
been instrumental in achieving near-universal coverage for our children 
in the Bay State.
  Yet, instead of celebrating CHIP's successes over the last two 
decades, congressional Republicans have placed CHIP in programmatic 
purgatory. That is because they allowed CHIP to expire at the end of 
September. Instead of focusing on reauthorizing this critical 
healthcare lifeline, Republican leadership chose to waste months of 
time trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They let just one of 
these successful programs lapse while they tried unsuccessfully to end 
another. They were more interested in ripping healthcare coverage away 
from millions of Americans and taking a machete to Medicaid rather than 
protecting our Nation's children.
  We should not forget that CHIP stands on Medicaid's shoulders. Any 
fundamental changes to how Medicaid operates--whether it is block-
granting or capping the program--will hamstring CHIP's ability to serve 
children as effectively and efficiently as it was intended to do, but 
instead of immediately returning attention to ensuring that this lapsed 
deadline is not effective, House Republicans have further delayed 
action by inserting partisan policies to pay for the program. This has 
not only caused an unnecessary delay in passing a bill to reauthorize 
CHIP, but it has dragged CHIP onto the political game board, turning it 
and our children into pawns in their ruthless game of partisan chess.
  CHIP has historically been and should be above such games because 
CHIP is not just an insurance program, it is a reassurance program. It 
reassures States that they can provide comprehensive healthcare 
coverage to some of their most vulnerable, it reassures doctors that 
their patients will be able to access care and treatment, it reassures 
teachers that their students can be healthy enough to learn, and it 
reassures Mom and Dad that their children can still get well in the 
face of financial hardship.
  Continued inaction on CHIP is dangerous and damaging. Every day we 
delay reauthorizing CHIP is another day parents across the United 
States live in fear that their children may soon lose their health 
insurance. They panic at the thought of leaving their child's asthma 
untreated, skipping a trip to the dentist, or delaying a doctor's visit 
because they can't afford to pay for the treatment or medication that 
may be prescribed. If we don't act soon, this fear may become a 
terrible reality for families. In Massachusetts, CHIP funding will 
expire early next year. This could impact coverage for 160,000 children 
in the Commonwealth, potentially delaying access to treatment and 
services that could have ramifications into adulthood.
  In Congress, we are celebrating the 20th birthday of a successful 
children's insurance program by effectively threatening to end it. That 
is what Congress is now doing to the State of Massachusetts. That is 
what they are saying to the State of Massachusetts; that they are going 
to effectively try to shut down a program that for 20 years has served 
the children in our State. That makes no sense.
  I urge my Republican colleagues to put their partisan games aside to 
provide certainty and stability to States, to providers, and to 
reassure families by reauthorizing CHIP. When President Trump says he 
wants to make the healthcare system in America better, when President 
Trump says he wants to make sure families are able to take care of 
their children, we have a program that does that already. It is 
successful, and families and the States love it. All we need is 
Republicans in the Senate to work together in order to make sure that 
program continues for the health of all children in our country.
  I yield the floor.
  Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, the Senate is currently considering 
the nomination of Scott Palk to a lifetime appointment as a Federal 
district court judge on the Western District of Oklahoma. I voted 
against Mr. Palk's nomination in the Judiciary Committee, and I will 
oppose his nomination on the floor.
  While his nomination was pending for a lifetime appointment to be a 
Federal judge, Mr. Palk changed his membership with the National Rifle 
Association to take out a life membership in the organization. When I 
asked Mr. Palk about this change, he asserted he expects to maintain 
this ``lifetime member'' status, even if he is confirmed, and he 
refused to commit to recuse himself from any cases where the National 
Rifle Association has taken a legal position.
  What I find disconcerting about this is Federal judges must be 
impartial. Federal judges must not have any appearance of conflicts of 
interest. When individuals come before a court, they need to trust that 
their case will be heard fairly and on the merits.
  Every American must believe that they will get a fair, unbiased 
hearing no matter who their judge is. Federal judges must follow 
applicable laws and regulations that severely limit the kinds of 
organizations they can participate in.
  For example, the code of conduct for Federal Judges says, ``[A] judge 
should not participate in extrajudicial activities that detract from 
the dignity of the judge's office, interfere with the performance of 
the judge's official duties, reflect adversely on the judge's 
impartiality, lead to frequent disqualification, or violate the 
limitations set forth below.''
  That is why members of the Senate Judiciary Committee often ask 
judicial nominees at their hearings what steps they will take to 
prepare for the bench. It is the committee's duty to determine whether 
a nominee is prepared to leave their former roles and personal beliefs 
at the door and instead serve in an impartial arbiter.
  In fact, when nominated for lifetime appointments, most nominees try 
to rid themselves of conflicts and limit their affiliations, especially 
with advocacy organizations. However, Mr. Palk not only chose to 
maintain his membership with the NRA, he chose to extend his membership 
for life.

[[Page S6809]]

  The fact that we are considering this nominee, given this issue with 
his background, just 3 weeks after the Las Vegas shooting, should 
really give us all a reason to pause. Las Vegas is now the deadliest 
mass shooting committed by an individual in the United States. It has 
only been a year since the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando, which 
was previously the deadliest mass shooting in our Nation's history. It 
has been only 5 years since 20 6-year-olds and 6 adults were murdered 
at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. What happened after 
each of those shootings?
  After Sandy Hook, the NRA opposed any legislation that would have 
restricted high-capacity magazines or military-style assault rifles.
  After the Pulse Nightclub shooting, the NRA opposed any legislation 
to expand background checks on gun buyers or to prevent gun sales to 
people on terrorist watch lists.
  After the Las Vegas shooting, the NRA, despite initial statements to 
the contrary, has come out opposed to any legislation to ban ``bump-
fire stocks,'' even though such devices allow guns to function as 
machineguns, which are already banned under the law.
  The NRA has never supported any commonsense gun legislation. The 
NRA's views on gun control issues could not be clearer, which is why it 
is so problematic that a judicial nominee chose to double-down on his 
NRA membership while his nomination was pending, rather than extricate 
himself from his prior commitments and then refuse to commit to 
recusing himself on cases where the NRA has made its views abundantly 
clear. This should trouble all of us.
  Our job in evaluating judicial nominees is to ensure our Federal 
courts are an independent part of our system of checks and balances. To 
do that, we need confidence that judicial nominees will safeguard their 
own impartiality. I think all of my colleagues feel that way.
  That is not what Mr. Palk has done. Instead of taking steps to 
separate himself from strong political views, he has proactively taken 
steps to increase his commitment to specific views of the law.
  I will vote against Mr. Palk's nomination and urge my colleagues to 
do the same.
  Mr. MARKEY. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

               AFRICOM, Foreign Policy, and Our Military

  Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I came back just a week ago from visiting 
our troops stationed all around the world, in all the commands--
AFRICOM, EUCOM, CENTCOM--and talked to them about the threats in all 
these regions.
  At a time when I hear colleagues across the aisle and political 
pundits ask the question, Why do we have troops in various places like 
Africa, it is important to remember the strategic importance of Africa.
  I remember 10 years ago we didn't have a command for Africa. It was 
part of three commands: Pacific Command, Central Command, and European 
Command. Now we have AFRICOM. It is its own command. It seemed a little 
unreasonable that we were treating Africa as somewhat of a stepchild 
when that is the breeding ground out there for a lot of the things 
happening in terms of terrorism.
  Despite our military's reach and influence, our Nation's shrinking 
defense budget has put AFRICOM at risk during a time when commanders 
are saying we face the most dangerous world we have ever faced, and we 
  I have often said that I look wistfully back at the days of the Cold 
War, when we had two superpowers and they were predictable. We knew 
what they had. They knew what we had. You have people from all over the 
world who are putting together equipment that we never dreamed they 
would have.
  We have just gone through 8 years of another administration. I don't 
say this critically of him, but one thing about President Obama was 
that he was a committed, sincere liberal. Liberals generally don't pay 
a lot of attention to the military. Now we find ourselves in a 
situation where we are hurting. A lot of people assume that we don't 
have any problems militarily.
  Sometimes I remind people that up until about 1962, we spent more 
than half--52 percent in 1962--of all of our revenues on defending 
America. What is it today? It is 15 percent. When I tell people that, 
they are in shock that we are in the situation we are in. We have 
terrorist groups in Africa--such as ISIS, al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram--
and they are all growing in capability and have expanded their areas 
throughout Africa. This year we have seen horrific events occurring at 
the hands of these extremists. On October 14, a truck bombing killed 
300 people in Somalia's capital. In Niger--it just happened--we had 
four of our U.S. soldiers who were killed in action on October 4 by an 
ISIS group.
  We know that we have serious problems. I think it is a great 
disservice for people to say that we must have known that we had the 
threat that was out there in Niger, when in fact we didn't know it. 
They even compare it sometimes with Benghazi. I remember Benghazi. I 
was there at the time. I remember Chris Stevens. Chris Stevens was the 
Ambassador who went there. He was in my office right before he left, 
talking about the threats that were there, talking about the Taliban, 
his training there, and talking about organized terrorist activity.
  I have to remind people that the persons who are responsible for 
advising the Secretary of State, who at that time was Hillary Clinton, 
and the President, who was President Obama at that time, are the DNI--
that was James Clapper at that time--the Secretary of Defense and 
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. When the Benghazi event 
happened, the annex was blown up. They all said at that time--they 
advised us, the President, and the Secretary of State--that they were 
forewarned by more than a month that on the anniversary of 9/11 things 
would blow up, and it was going to be an organized attack.
  Right now there is an investigation going on to determine whether or 
not there is any way that we could have anticipated that in Niger this 
would be happening, and so far, that hasn't come up.
  Despite the best of intentions, many of our partners in the region 
lack the capacity and the effectiveness to adequately defend 
themselves. People say: What do we have to gain there? This is exactly 
the same situation that we saw in Afghanistan prior to the war there. 
The terrorists have to have a safe harbor to train in, and that is what 
has happened.
  During my travel, I had the opportunity to meet Prime Minister 
Benjamin Netanyahu. I have to say this about him. I have never seen him 
so ecstatic. A lot of us were looking back at what they were trying to 
do during the Obama administration. It was disheartening to think that 
they put together this Iran deal, and our Secretary of State at that 
time, John Kerry, talked about how great it was and all of these 
concessions that were made when, in fact, that wasn't the case. 
Nonetheless, when our President came out and said that he was not going 
to recertify the Iran deal, that was kind of neat because people don't 
realize that it takes a recertification every 30 days by the President 
in order to keep the Iran deal together. He has not done that.
  Shortly after that, I happened to be talking to Prime Minister 
Netanyahu. It was an incredible relief to him that we were going to be 
looking at this. Still today, I think we all understand that Iran is 
the one that is financing terrorism all around the world. We discussed 
the shortcomings and looked forward to working with my colleagues in 
the future so that Iran does not become a nuclear nation, not now or 
  What is perhaps the most encouraging is the message that this 
approach sends to the rest of the world, specifically to North Korea. 
President Trump's approach shows me--and, more importantly, shows Kim 
Jong Un--that an America-first foreign policy means that we refuse to 
take a single-minded approach to global threats.
  I recall the changes taking place 8 years ago when our new President, 
President Obama, started his appeasing tour by going over and talking 

[[Page S6810]]

how America hadn't been doing the right thing. Now, all of a sudden, we 
have changed that around. That is what is taking place now. At that 
time we didn't have the threats that are out there today.
  We look at North Korea. North Korea is run by a questionable person, 
totally unpredictable, according to our own military leaders. He is 
rapidly getting the capability not just of an ICBM--he has already 
proven he has an ICBM--but with a range not just of Alaska and some of 
those areas but of the entire continental United States.
  On July 4 he launched his first successful ICBM. If that were fired 
on a standard trajectory, that missile could have reached Alaska. Some 
experts think it could have reached even further, into the continental 
United States. In light of that test, the Defense Intelligence Agency 
updated their assessment of the timeline by which North Korea would 
have the capability of hitting an American city. Instead of being 2 
years out and 3 years out, it is now down to 1 year out. Some people 
say they have it right now. We have that threat that is out there. It 
is the greatest threat, in my opinion, that we are facing now or that 
we have ever faced.
  Following this, on September 3, North Korea tested what is believed 
to be a hydrogen bomb. That would be seven times the power of what was 
dropped on Hiroshima. Even if delivered by a relatively inaccurate 
ICBM, there would be horrible damage imposed on our continent.
  It is important to remember that all of this power is being wielded 
by an erratic despot, Kim Jong Un. North Korean officials have stated 
that they are not interested in diplomacy until they have an ICBM 
capable of reaching the east coast of the United States.
  What does that tell you? It tells you that they are on their way. 
This stresses the need for the United States to enhance and accelerate 
our ballistic missile defense systems and to continue to put pressure 
on North Korea through every other means we can, diplomatic and 
  My recent travels enforced again what I have been saying for some 
time; that is, that this is the most dangerous situation we have had, 
certainly in my lifetime. We have an opportunity to counter that threat 
right now. We are in the midst of our NDAA. One thing about the 
National Defense Authorization Act is that this act is going to pass. 
It has passed for 55 consecutive years so we know it is going to pass 
now. But we need to go ahead and get it done. It is important because 
the primary constitutional responsibility that we have is to provide 
for the common defense of our great Nation.

  We have serious readiness issues that are going to have to be 
addressed, and they are being addressed in this bill. I am the chairman 
of the Readiness Subcommittee, and we have fought hard to ensure that 
this year's NDAA takes care of these shortfalls we have had. Our forces 
are smaller now. We actually had a Readiness Subcommittee hearing, and 
we had the Vice Chiefs of all of the services there. They came in and 
said that right now we are in the same situation we were in when we had 
the hollow force following the Carter administration in the 1970s.
  In January of this year, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, General 
Daniel Allyn, said: What it comes down to is that we are going to be 
too late. Our soldiers arrived too late. Our soldiers required too much 
time to close the manning, the training, and the equipment we have, and 
the end result is extensive casualties to civilians and to our forces.
  We are talking about death. That is what is at stake right here. Just 
last week, I met with the Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson, 
to discuss aviation readiness. Right now we are 1,500 pilots short, and 
1,300 of those are fighter pilots. Only 50 percent of the Air Force's 
squadrons are actually trained and ready to conduct all of their 
assigned missions. One-third of our ground brigades don't work. They 
are not ready for combat. As to the aviation brigades, it is the same 
  Right now, as we know, the Marines use our fleet of F-18s. Sixty-two 
percent of them don't work. They don't have the parts for combat. We 
have this situation. That is going to have to be direct. This year's 
bill will increase the troop levels. We will do what is necessary to 
correct these problems. We need to get moving on that and make people 
aware that help is on the way.
  By the way, here is one of my concerns in this bill. A lot of people 
are interested in the BRAC process. We do prohibit base realignment 
closings to take place for another year. The reason for that is not 
that there may be excess capacity right now or excess resources out 
there, but when we are in a rebuilding mode, we would rather be able to 
use those resources that aren't being used now rather than build new 
ones. One thing is true about a BRAC; it always loses money the first 3 
years. Right now we can't afford to lose any of the money that goes to 
defending America.
  Anyway, of the additional funding, there is going to be $8.5 billion 
for the missile defense that has been suffering, and we are going to be 
doing some good things. As we continue the conference process, which 
started today--we had our first conference meeting today--we need to 
focus on where we are.
  Again, I repeat, the threat is there. We understand that. We know 
what is happening in Africa. By the way, the number of troops we have 
over there--you have to quit using this number of about 6,000--is 
really 1,300 troops for the entire continent who are not committed or 
working in some of the Embassies. We need to get busy on that.

                    Environmental Protection Agency

  Mr. President, I have another issue I wish to visit. A lot of people 
are critical of what is happening right now in the Environmental 
Protection Agency. I feel I have to talk about this because, first of 
all, I was chairman of the committee that had jurisdiction over the 
Environmental Protection Agency for about 8 years. I see the things 
that are happening now, improvements that are being made.
  One is by a guy named Scott Pruitt. Scott Pruitt happens to be from 
Oklahoma. He is doing things now, and I don't know of anyone who has 
ever been abused during a confirmation process like he was. Poor Scott 
sat there. As a general rule, after a committee gets through with that 
process, they have questions for the record. Normally, they are 
somewhere between 15 and 20 questions for the record. Do you know how 
many questions Scott Pruitt got? He got 675 questions for the record. 
Anyway, he sustained that. He is now doing great things.
  Over the last 8 years, I have had little, if any, chance to praise 
the work of the EPA, but I can do it now. After 8 years of being 
relentlessly targeted by the Obama administration to shut out our 
farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and energy industries, we have an 
administration that will listen to them and work with them. This is 
what jobs are all about.
  There is a lot of talk about the visit that was made to our 
conference by President Trump yesterday. What he talked about most of 
the time was jobs. We are in the position to correct it.
  What have we done to do that? A lot of the overregulations have been 
eliminated. There is the caricature of businesses referred to as 
greedy, loony boogeymen. But in reality, businesses are run by people 
who want what is best for America, for their families, and for the 
  Now, like any sector of society, you are going to find a few bad 
actors, but we have laws and remedies in place to make sure we go after 
those individuals. The last administration treated those they regulated 
as the enemy, not as partners in ensuring that the environment was 
taken care of, which led to very harmful, unworkable regulations.
  All of that is changing right now with President Trump and his 
administration. The administration realizes that working with those 
they regulate will produce better outcomes than only listening to those 
who wish to drive the industry into the ground. Administrator Pruitt 
has been meeting with farmers, ranchers, energy producers, and other 
industries to listen to and learn about how regulations affect them and 
how a worthwhile regulation might be implemented in a way that is 
producing an unintended harm.
  I really cannot see why this is a bad thing, as the goal of the EPA 
is not to put companies or farmers out of business; it is to put 
forward policies that protect the environment and do not have a heavy 
cost, but just meeting with those who have been shut out of

[[Page S6811]]

the process in the past has extremists on the left seeing red. I guess 
they are just upset that they have lost their monopoly and their 
ability to write rules for the EPA.
  Pruitt and the EPA are also moving forward to repeal the unlawful 
waters of the United States. This is one of the things, if you talk to 
the farmers throughout not just Oklahoma but throughout America, they 
will say, of all of the rules and regulations, this is the most 
harmful. This is No. 1. That is what they say. In fact, Tom Buchanan is 
the head of the Farm Bureau in the State of Oklahoma, and he says that 
is the problem.
  People are not aware. In my State of Oklahoma, when you get out into 
Western Oklahoma, it is dry out there. I mean, it is about as arid as 
any part of the United States. Yet we know, if they were to move that 
jurisdiction of water away from the States and to the Federal 
Government, as was proposed in a rule that was promulgated by the 
previous administration, that area in Western Oklahoma would be 
considered a wetland before it is over. Anyway, that is probably, 
singularly, the best of the rules that he changed.
  By the way, if anyone wants to see the rules--a lot of people say the 
President has not been doing anything. Most of these rules and 
regulations--there are up to 48 now--that have been costing jobs and 
putting people out of business have now been addressed by this 
administration, by the Trump administration, and very successfully. 
Right now, we are in the process of getting some of these things done.
  The waters rule is going to take a while to get done because that is 
going to take some hearings and so forth. Another of the rules the EPA 
is working on repealing is the Clean Power Plan. Now, this is the thing 
that came from the Paris show. In fact, I have done this before. I have 
talked about the history of these things that have been put forth for 
21 consecutive years now by the U.N., which is that they have these 
meetings. They get 196 countries together, and they try to see what 
they can do to get them to reduce CO2 emissions, when, in 
fact, they have not been able to do this.
  Besides that, 87 percent of the power that is developed to run our 
country is either from fossil fuels or it is nuclear. If you extract 
those, as they tried to do, how do you run the machine called America? 
The answer is, you can't.
  Anyway, as far as the Clean Power Plan, that was put together by 
President Obama, and it was something you could talk about as long as 
you wanted to, but the fact is, it was not good for the country. The 
rule was so unpopular that 27 States, 37 rural electric co-ops, and 3 
labor unions challenged it in court. The cost of the rule was estimated 
to be $292 billion, but I have seen estimates that are well in excess 
of $400 billion.
  The plan would raise electricity prices in 47 States; 40 of those 
States would see double-digit increases, and these increases would be 
shouldered by American families, many of whom already have to choose 
between making rent payments and paying their power bills or choosing 
between putting food on their tables or paying their power bills. The 
plan would also see the closure of 66 powerplants and eliminate over 
125,000 jobs in the coal industry--an industry that has already been 
struggling in recent years.
  The goal of this rule was to effectively end the use of coal-fired 
powerplants, which is a cheap and bountiful energy. What benefit would 
we get out of this? It would be more expensive energy.
  By the way, the whole idea of the Paris thing was not just the Clean 
Power Plan put forth by our President; it was also what other countries 
were forced to do. For example, in signing on to this deal in Paris, 
which everyone was so upset about, China committed, for the next 10 
years, to continue to increase, every 10 days, an additional coal-fired 
powerplant. Then they would try to reduce them after that.
  What kind of a deal is that? They look back at the United States and 
think they know what is going to happen to our manufacturing base. They 
would go to China if we had to do this thing.
  The most ridiculous thing about this is, the President's commitment 
under the Clean Power Plan was to reduce our CO2 emissions 
by somewhere between 26 and 28 percent by 2025. The problem with that 
is, it cannot be done. We even called in the EPA so they may tell us 
how this could be done, and they agreed it could not be done.
  Anyway, that is something that is behind us now. I commend Scott 
Pruitt for realizing the legal footing of this rule and seeing that the 
costs the American people will bear under this rule is not going to 
  Just last week, the EPA announced that it will end its controversial 
policy known as sue and settle. This is a good one. It is a policy that 
has cost the taxpayers an estimated $67 billion in new regulations that 
stemmed from this practice. How this works is that some extremist group 
will come in and sue the EPA for not doing something, and so they go 
into a settlement agreement with the EPA, and the EPA is in concert 
with them to come up with the very thing they were not able to get 
through legislatively. It is called sue and settle. You have heard the 
President talk about ending that practice. It is one that needs to be 
ended, and it is going to be. This practice circumvented the 
Administrative Procedure Act and usually ended up in settlements that 
were extremely beneficial to extremist groups and got them exactly what 
they wanted all the time.
  My State of Oklahoma was a victim of this practice. In 2011, the EPA 
used consent agreements that stemmed from court cases in other States, 
not in Oklahoma, as Oklahoma was not even part of it or aware of it. 
They do that to overrule the State's Regional Haze Plan to impose EPA's 
own costly plan on Oklahoma electricity ratepayers. Now, the plan the 
EPA has pushed on this State costs an estimated $282 million each year. 
That is just in our State of Oklahoma, and it is something we would 
have to pay for.
  The regional haze problem has nothing to do with health. It is all 
visibility. So this was ruining the theme of the Obama EPA. Never mind 
that regional haze is entirely a visibility issue and not a health 
issue, never mind that Congress specifically gave States the authority 
to regulate regional haze under the Clean Air Act in the amendments I 
strongly supported when they went through because it is a visibility 
issue and not a health issue. Yet because an environmentalist group did 
not like how Oklahoma was handling its own business, it sued the EPA in 
court outside of Oklahoma and did not include Oklahoma as a party in 
the case. The EPA capitulated and entered into an agreement with some 
of the extremists that conveniently required the EPA to impose its own 
expensive plan on my State of Oklahoma.

  So I am glad Administrator Pruitt has announced an end to this 
policy, and I urge my colleagues to take up S. 119. It is the Sunshine 
for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, of which I am an original 
cosponsor, to ensure that this practice is ended across the government 
and cannot be implemented by future administrations.
  Finally, I would like to encourage the EPA to move ahead with a 
hinted-at, pending directive that would restrict scientists who receive 
EPA grants from serving on the Agency's scientific advisory committees. 
I have previously expressed concerns over the composition of the 
Agency's advisory committees for many reasons, including highlighting 
the fact that many science advisers under the Obama EPA, including a 
majority of those on the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee--that 
is called CASAC--have received considerable financial support from the 
EPA. They are calling into question their independence and the overall 
integrity of panels on which the advisers sit.
  The National Academy of Sciences and the EPA's own ``Peer Review 
Handbook'' state that grants can constitute a conflict or a lack of 
impartiality. We are not talking about small grants either; we are 
talking about millions of dollars in grants. During the last year of 
the Obama administration, CASAC had six of seven members receiving 
these. Keep in mind, six of the seven members received a total of $119 
million in grants--in EPA research grants--and three of the members 
received in excess of $25 million each. These are the scientists who 
are making the decisions. There were 22 of the 26 members of the CASAC 
Subcommittee on Particulate Matter who

[[Page S6812]]

received more than $330 million in EPA grants.
  The scientists who receive vast sums of money from the very agencies 
they are advising certainly constitute a conflict of interest and, at a 
minimum, give an appearance of a lack of impartiality. As such, I 
welcome the news that Administrator Pruitt will be seeking to limit 
this worrisome practice.
  I have laid out only a few of the many great things the EPA is doing 
right now and what Administrator Pruitt is doing. I got to know him a 
long time ago. In fact, I flew him around the State in my airplane back 
when he ran for the first statewide office. He is a guy who is a tiger 
and who is doing the right thing. I am very proud of what they are 
  After this morning, the EPA is now advancing five EPA nominees for 
the EPA general counsel and for the Offices of Enforcement and 
Compliance Assurance, Air and Radiation, Water, and Chemical Safety and 
Pollution Prevention. Each of these nominees is needed for the issues I 
have talked about and for the many others that are on the Agency's 
  Scott Pruitt has been working on so much of the President's 
conservative agenda alone, and he needs help to run these policies. I 
call on my colleagues and the leadership to prioritize these 
nominations. You cannot get this stuff done unless you have help. We 
have never seen a time when we have gotten this far into an 
administration and have had this large of a number of people who have 
not been confirmed.
  Mr. President, I do want to mention one other thing because, for some 
reason, the Democrats have decided they are going to run out the whole 
30 hours on the confirmation of a guy named Scott Palk. I have to say, 
Scott Palk has been doing a great job. In fact, on the vote that just 
took place on him, he received 79 votes in the U.S. Senate. Yet, just 
to be obstructionists, they are still demanding 30 hours.
  Scott Palk is an experienced prosecutor with a decade of service. He 
was the assistant district attorney for Cleveland County in my State of 
Oklahoma and spent 9 years as an assistant U.S. attorney in the 
criminal division of the Western District of Oklahoma. He has a 
reputation for honesty, integrity, and a commitment to fairly applying 
the law. Mr. Palk will serve Oklahoma with distinction as a principled 
jurist who will uphold the Constitution.
  He is going to be confirmed. We know he is going to be confirmed 
because he already received 79 votes. There is no reason to delay it, 
other than to hold people here and be obstructionists. I would urge my 
friends on the other side of the aisle to go ahead and confirm the guy. 
He is going to do a great job.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Tillis). The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I have remarks that I wish to make, but I 
will yield at this time in order for the Republican leader to be 
recognized after which I will seek recognition.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I thank my friend from Illinois.