EXECUTIVE SESSION; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 183
(Senate - November 09, 2017)

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[Pages S7138-S7150]
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                           EXECUTIVE SESSION

                                 F_____
                                 

                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I move to proceed to executive 
session to consider Calendar No. 314, Dabney Friedrich.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on agreeing to the motion.
  The motion was agreed to.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the nomination.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of Dabney 
Langhorne Friedrich, of California, to be United States District Judge 
for the District of Columbia.


                             Cloture Motion

  Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I send a cloture motion to the desk.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The cloture motion having been presented under 
rule XXII, the Chair directs the clerk to read the motion.
  The senior assistant legislative 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 Dabney Langhorne Friedrich, of California, to be United 
     States District Judge for the District of Columbia.
         Mitch McConnell, John Hoeven, Thom Tillis, Tom Cotton, 
           Cory Gardner, Jerry Moran, John Barrasso, Luther 
           Strange, Mike Crapo, John Cornyn, Richard Burr, Mike 
           Rounds, Orrin G. Hatch, David Perdue, Marco Rubio, John 
           Thune, John Boozman.

  Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the 
mandatory quorum calls with respect to the cloture motions be waived.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The majority whip.


                       Texas Church Mass Shooting

  Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, only 4 days have passed since the 
terrible tragedy in Sutherland Springs occurred, and, of course, the 
grieving and pain of the families who have lost loved ones and who had 
loved ones injured during the course of that terrible shooting 
incident--our thoughts and prayers are still with them. I am going to 
be traveling to Sutherland Springs this weekend to offer my condolences 
and ongoing support in person. It is important that we give the 
community the time and space they need to grieve.
  By now, we all know that 26 people lost their lives during a church 
service at the First Baptist Church. This included an unborn child. 
Twenty more were injured, and some of them still remain in critical 
condition. What is amazing to me is that First Baptist will hold a 
church service this Sunday, just 7 days after a gunman stormed the 
building and committed the deadliest mass shooting in Texas's history. 
What resilience, what incredible resolve to come together 7 days after 
this terrible shooting and have the congregation that lost 26 of its 
members come together for a church service.
  One little guy many of us will be praying for is 5-year-old Ryland 
Ward. Ryland was shot four times and was partially shielded by his 
mother, Joann, who, tragically, did not survive. Ryland is fighting for 
his life at University Hospital in San Antonio, and he remains in 
critical condition. I know we will all continue to think of him and 
pray for his recovery.
  We continue to hear more about what led to this atrocity--a gunman 
with a history of domestic violence, animal cruelty, and mental 
illness. Because of his troubled history, which included convictions 
for domestic abuse in the military, he was legally prohibited from 
purchasing a firearm, but he lied about it. Unfortunately, the 
background check system, which is supposed to alert the dealer not to 
sell a firearm to a person with disqualifiers such as his, simply did 
not come back at all to demonstrate that he was, in fact, disqualified 
from purchasing a firearm. He was legally disqualified because he had 
beaten up his wife, had fractured the skull of his stepson, and he was 
legally disqualified because a military court in New Mexico had handed 
down a felony sentence for his attacking his own family. But as we know 
now, and as I have said, that information was not uploaded by the U.S. 
Air Force or the Department of Defense in the Federal background check 
database. Under the law it was supposed to be uploaded, but it wasn't. 
So he got away with lying about his record.

  That is what we have to fix. After terrible incidents like this, the 
most common question I hear people ask or the most common statement I 
hear them say is this: We have to do something. But here that something 
we have to do is crystal clear. Troubled individuals like this monster 
should never have gained access to a gun. When he tried to purchase 
them, the person who checked the Federal database should have seen his 
name and criminal convictions and said: No way, no how.
  I have had conversations with many of our colleagues across the aisle 
and in the Chamber about this problem and what we need to do to fix it. 
Next week, I plan to introduce legislation to fix these flaws in the 
National Instant Criminal Background Check System and to ensure that 
all Federal agencies upload required conviction records like these in 
the NICS system as fast as possible. Clearly, that is not being done 
now, and we must do it and do it quickly to make sure that other 
potential killers will not be sold a firearm because of the defects in 
our National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It is imperative 
that this information be shared, that violent felons' convictions be 
uploaded, and that dangerous individuals not gain illegal access to 
firearms. Unlike law-abiding citizens, these individuals can't be 
trusted to do what is right because we know that in the wrong hands, 
guns can do tremendous harm.
  I must add that in the right hands lives can be saved too. All we 
need to do is regard the actions of Stephen Willeford. When he heard 
the gunshots going off in the church, he grabbed his AR-15--what some 
people call an assault rifle. It is a semiautomatic legal weapon. He is 
an NRA, or National Rifle Association, certified instructor. He took 
that gun and shot at this killer to try to stop him from killing more 
people, and he was successful. He wounded the killer and put himself in 
harm's way. To me, this demonstrates not only the heroism of Mr. 
Willeford, but it demonstrates another reason why law-abiding citizens 
should be able to keep and bear arms, in the terminology of the Second 
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Law-abiding gun owners are not a 
threat to the public safety. It is only so when they get in the hands 
of felons, the mentally ill, and domestic abusers, like the killer in 
Sutherland Springs. So in the right hands, guns can save lives too.
  As somebody who is a sportsman and believes in the Second Amendment 
and believes that law-abiding citizens ought to be able to keep and 
bear arms to defend their families and communities, I am proud of the 
work that Stephen Willeford did on that terrible day. I know there are 
those who believe that the NRA is somehow complicit in some of these 
terrible events, but I will tell you that the NRA did us all a favor by 
training somebody like Stephen Willeford so he was prepared on that 
horrible day to stop the shooter before he killed more innocent people. 
I applaud him for it, and I applaud them for teaching people gun safety 
and self-defense so they can protect their families, their property, 
and their communities as well.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Nebraska.


                       Nomination of Steve Grasz

  Mrs. FISCHER. Madam President, I rise today to share my strong 
support

[[Page S7139]]

for Steve Grasz, who has been nominated by President Trump to fill a 
vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The junior 
Senator from Nebraska and I asked Nebraskans to express their interest 
in this position, and we conducted a thorough process of the 
applicants. I must say that, with more than 5,700 lawyers, Nebraska 
proved itself to have a talented legal community that has demonstrated 
an unwavering dedication to the rule of law.
  However, in our search, one candidate stood out above the rest, and 
that was Steve Grasz. He is an outstanding Nebraskan and a talented 
legal mind. The President agreed. That is why he accepted our 
recommendation in August, and he nominated Steve for the Eighth 
Circuit.
  Like so many other Nebraskans I have heard from during this process, 
the President recognized Steve's temperament, intellect, and skill as 
worthy on the Federal bench.
  Steve excelled in his education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln 
and the University of Nebraska College of Law. He then built a 
distinguished legal career, practicing appellate litigation over the 
past three decades. For 12 years, Steve served Nebraska as the chief 
deputy attorney general. He did so with dedication to justice, 
passionately defending our citizens and upholding the laws of our 
State.
  Steve has handled numerous constitutional litigation matters in the 
Nebraska Supreme Court, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the 
U.S. Supreme Court. In doing so, he has earned the respect of the 
Nebraska legal community.
  For many years Steve has earned the Martindale-Hubbell ``AV 
Preeminent'' peer review rating, the very highest available. This peer-
reviewed rating is based on legal knowledge and ethical standards, a 
nonpartisan litmus test.
  Steve also serves on the executive committee of the appellate 
practice section of the Nebraska Bar Association, and he was selected 
as a fellow by the Nebraska State Bar Foundation, an honor reserved 
only for the top lawyers in my State. Nebraskans agreed that Steve has 
the extensive legal experience needed to serve on the Eighth Circuit. 
Yet the American Bar Association has rated Steve as ``not qualified'' 
for this position on the Federal bench.
  As someone who spent months reviewing Steve's extraordinary 
qualifications for this judgeship, I was shocked when I heard the 
assessment. Something didn't add up.
  But after a review of how the evaluation was conducted, things became 
more clear. The ABA rating of Steve Grasz appears to be based on his 
work defending Nebraska's pro-life laws as well as his personal views, 
which he shares with a majority of Nebraskans. Both evaluators 
discounted his remarkable legal career, choosing instead to focus on 
innuendo in their report because he associates with political 
organizations they disagree with.
  There is nothing wrong with participating in the democratic process. 
Indeed, Steve's own evaluators have done just that. Steve's first 
evaluator, Cynthia Nance, has received several awards from the 
Democratic Party of Arkansas. His second evaluator, Laurence Pulgram, a 
San Francisco attorney, works as a liberal activist and has donated 
thousands of dollars to the Democratic Party. Again, the fact that 
these Americans have decided to engage in the political process is not 
shameful. They have every right to do so, just like everyone else. But 
here is the problem. They claim to be leading an impartial evaluation 
of Steve, when in fact they are really trying to take down his 
nomination and further their own political agenda.
  A deeper review of the ABA evaluation shows a report that is long on 
anonymous sources and short on substantiated evidence.
  This is not the first time that the ABA has been criticized for using 
anonymous sources, either. In 2006, while discussing Vanessa Bryan's 
ABA rating, the senior Senator from Connecticut stated:

       I have even greater concern with the credibility of 
     anonymous sources when those sources are used as evidence for 
     a subjective characteristic such as judicial temperament. . . 
     . I urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to only consider 
     anonymous criticisms when such criticisms can be verified 
     from other sources.

  Even worse, the sourced evidence the ABA produced for their report 
doesn't hold up to scrutiny, either. One of the Nation's leading 
experts on judicial appointments also agrees that the facts are few 
when it comes to Steve's ABA rating. In his examination, Ed Whelan, the 
president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, called the ABA 
evaluation ``feeble beyond the point of incompetence'' because it 
``selectively quotes'' portions of an article written by Grasz to 
misrepresent his views. Whelan concludes that ``it would thus seem that 
. . . the ABA . . . is unable to distinguish between its role as 
advocate and its role as adjudicator of the merits of judicial 
nominees.''
  As we learned more about this evaluation process, it is clear that 
the ABA uses its power as a reviewer of judicial nominees as a way to 
support its partisan agenda, instead of making a determination based on 
the merits of judicial temperament.
  During Steve's confirmation hearing last week, my colleagues on the 
Judiciary Committee asked good questions that brought even more details 
to light. That is how we discovered that Steve was asked a number of 
inappropriate, leading questions during his ABA evaluation. These 
questions had no relevancy toward his ability to serve our Nation as a 
judge. He was asked for his personal opinion on social issues, 
including abortion, and he was later questioned about where his 
children went to school.
  In response to a line of questions from the junior Senator from 
Arizona, Steve explained that his ABA evaluator continued to use the 
term ``you people'' during the interview. When Steve finally asked what 
he meant by ``you people,'' the evaluator told him he meant 
``conservatives and Republicans.''
  Steve also told the committee:

       At least a half hour of that time was devoted to discussing 
     a white paper that I had written on the judicial selection 
     process for state judges in Nebraska. There was one paragraph 
     in that rather lengthy article [where] I had criticized the 
     oversized involvement of the American Bar Association in that 
     process, and I had mentioned some of their political 
     activities including their role in the debate over abortion 
     rights as well as Second Amendment rights of individuals.

  He continued:

       It seemed to be a topic of great concern to the 
     interviewer.

  These tactics used by the ABA are not right. They show contempt for 
ideas that do not fit the interviewer's personal beliefs and in no way 
portray an attempt to consider carefully whether or not Steve Grasz is 
capable of being a fair judge. This wasn't an evaluation. It was a 
partisan, shameful attack. It was intended to further the political 
agenda of the two evaluators and damage Steve's sterling legal 
reputation.
  In the days since the biased ABA rating was released, Nebraskans have 
spoken out, and I couldn't be more proud of them. In letters, online, 
on Facebook, and in the pages of our State's newspapers, our citizens 
have come to Steve's defense.
  Richard Kopf, a senior U.S. district judge for Nebraska said he was 
``stunned'' reading the ABA assessment of Steve. The ABA interviewed 
Judge Kopf about Steve, and although he did not know Steve personally, 
on two occasions he told the evaluator he believed Steve was ``well 
qualified.''
  Judge Kopf wrote in the Omaha World-Herald:

       One can only speculate, and my speculation was that Mr. 
     Grasz, who is by all accounts a brilliant and honorable 
     person, would do his best. I certainly have and had no 
     evidence to the contrary. . . . I respectfully suggest that 
     the committee got it wrong when it gave Mr. Grasz a ``not 
     qualified'' rating.

  Additionally, the president of the Nebraska State Bar Association, 
Timothy Engler, quickly responded to the evaluation by noting that his 
organization did not participate in the report or the ABA's grade. Mr. 
Engler also noted that his own personal view was that he always found 
Steve ``to be professional, civil, and ethical in all respects'' and 
that Grasz ``would have no questions regarding his judicial temperament 
as a member of the Judiciary.''
  We received numerous letters of recommendation on Steve's behalf. 
Nebraskans from across the political spectrum have pointed to Steve's 
thoughtfulness, fairmindedness, high ethical standards, and brilliant 
abilities as a jurist.
  The respect and admiration for Steve is also bipartisan. This 
includes former

[[Page S7140]]

Democratic Governor and U.S. Senator Ben Nelson, who wrote that Steve 
was ``an asset to our state and Nebraskans benefitted from having such 
a capable and thoughtful professional in public service. Today, he is 
unquestionably one of the foremost appellate lawyers in the state, 
making him an obvious choice for this seat on our federal appeals 
court.''
  Debra Gilg, the former U.S. attorney for Nebraska and a Democrat 
appointed by President Obama, wrote:

       Steve has always enjoyed a reputation for honesty, 
     impeccable integrity, and dedication to the rule of law. He 
     possesses an even temperament well-suited for the bench and 
     always acts with respect to all that interact with him.

  Those who have known Steve his entire life have vouched for him as 
well. For example, Bill Lydiatt of Bellevue, NE, wrote a letter to the 
editor to the Omaha World-Herald that said:

       As a classmate of Grasz in Chappell, Nebraska, from 
     kindergarten through high school and as a lifelong friend, I 
     can personally vouch that Steve holds all of the attributes 
     to be a successful judge.

  Furthermore, pointing to his integrity and fairness, he concluded:

       I don't share all his political views, but I can say 
     without any hesitation that Steve Grasz is exactly the kind 
     of person we need as a judge and is perfectly suited to the 
     high honor of joining the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

  In Nebraska, the truth holds more value than partisanship. Madam 
President, everyone serving in this Chamber swears an oath to support 
and defend the Constitution. One of the ways we do that is by 
confirming judges who we know will faithfully honor that pledge while 
serving our Federal court system. The Constitution states that we in 
the Senate, not the American Bar Association, are to advise and consent 
when it comes to judges. We have a duty to do so thoroughly, without 
bias, and through the use of all the information available to us.
  Both the junior Senator from Nebraska and I trust Steve Grasz to 
support and defend the Constitution. So do those who know him best--the 
people of Nebraska who have worked with him for nearly three decades. 
The Senate should as well.
  I urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to advance his nomination. The 
American people deserve to have talented and fair lawyers like Steve 
Grasz on the Federal bench.
  Thank you, Madam President.
  I yield the floor, and 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. HATCH. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cassidy). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.


                         Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

  Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, today, as chairman of the Senate Finance 
Committee, I am releasing a chairman's mark for the Senate version of 
the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, legislation that is the culmination of years 
of effort to reform our Nation's Tax Code. We have been at this a long 
time, and today marks a significant step forward in this effort. While 
we refer to this document as a chairman's mark, it has really been a 
group effort, with significant input from all the Republican members of 
the Finance Committee and great work from all of our staff. I want to 
thank everyone involved for their hard work, as well as their feedback, 
perspectives, advice, and ideas.
  The last time Congress enacted a comprehensive overhaul of the Tax 
Code back in 1986, President Reagan famously noted that the American 
people would finally have a tax code they could be proud of. And in 
1986, that was likely true. At that time, updates to the Tax Code were 
necessary to keep pace with the technological and geopolitical changes 
our Nation had been facing. That sounds pretty familiar, Mr. President. 
It is, after all, what we have been saying for the last several years. 
The world of 1986 was vastly different from the world we live in today. 
Advances in the past three decades have been monumental. Yet our Tax 
Code has not advanced, and it is failing us.
  The American people have dealt with years of stagnating wages, 
sluggishness in labor markets, and weak growth in the economy. 
Businesses are fleeing our country to find more favorable conditions in 
other countries. We have been working for years to address these issues 
and to meet the needs of the 21st-century global economy.
  Fortunately, we now find ourselves in a position to make good on all 
of these years of hard work. A big part of that is the fact that our 
current President is fully engaged on tax reform, unlike his most 
recent predecessor. So we have been focused this year on providing 
middle-class tax relief, reforming the business tax system, and fixing 
our obscenely outdated international tax regime.
  The mark we are releasing today will accomplish all of these goals 
and more. It will reduce individual rates across the board and direct 
substantial relief to low- and middle-income families and workers. It 
will bring down corporate tax rates--a goal long shared by Republicans 
and Democrats--and provide businesses with new opportunities for growth 
and expansion. It will modernize our international tax system, bringing 
to an end our worldwide tax regime, a relic that should have been 
retired many years ago. We have been laser-focused on reducing taxes 
for the middle class, and that is exactly what this bill will do.
  Combined, these changes to our broken Tax Code in the chairman's mark 
will give hard-working taxpayers across the country bigger paychecks 
and more opportunities. They will grow our economy, raising wages and 
improving the standard of living for all Americans. They will once 
again make America the best place in the world to create, grow, and 
keep a business--where we create more jobs and sustain a vibrant, 
growing economy.
  I will have more to say on the specifics of the mark in the coming 
days. For now, I just want to give my colleagues on the Finance 
Committee an opportunity to share their thoughts on the steps we are 
taking today.
  Before we get to that, I do want to acknowledge the elephants in the 
room. Only Republicans will be standing up today to speak in favor of 
the mark, and I expect we will hear some negative comments from our 
friends on the other side of the aisle soon enough. On that point, I 
will just reiterate what I have said many times in the past: Our desire 
from the outset of this endeavor has been to have Democrats join us in 
this effort.
  I have personally invited my colleagues to come to the table, to 
share their views, and to work with us in good faith. Yet I expect that 
we will hear a lot about supposed process fouls in the coming days. Let 
me make it clear to anyone listening: As chairman of the Senate's tax 
writing committee, I haven't turned anyone away from the process. I 
haven't refused to listen to anyone's ideas or suggestions. And I 
continue to say, with conviction, that I am still willing to have them 
onboard and hope they will be willing to get onboard and join us in 
this effort.
  A critical objective in the effort is to provide relief and support 
to the large swath of Americans in the middle class who have been left 
behind, without economic gain or opportunities for growth.
  Our tax reform efforts--represented in the chairman's mark put 
forward today--show that we are listening to those calling out for 
relief. We have a historic opportunity to help, and that opportunity 
should not be squandered by anyone on either side of the aisle for 
cheap political points.
  With that, I am grateful to be a member of this body and grateful to 
be chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which is a very powerful 
and hard-working committee--both Republicans and Democrats. I am 
grateful to make these remarks today.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Iowa.
  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, the last time Congress really did the 
big job that is before us right now was 1986. It did quite a bit to 
modernize the Tax Code. That was 30 years ago. In the generation since, 
the Tax Code has grown out of control. Everybody knows that. It has 
been a dream come true for accountants and lobbyists who make their 
living from certain provisions of that Tax Code. But for the American 
taxpayer, the gigantic Tax Code is not a dream, but a nightmare for 
most Americans.

[[Page S7141]]

  This has helped the powerful and the well connected, but it has hurt 
American workers. It has hurt American industry, and it hurts America's 
ability to compete with the rest of the world.
  The bill unveiled today takes a giant step forward to make our Tax 
Code simpler, fairer, and more competitive. It catches us up with our 
major trading partners, who have been lowering business tax rates while 
we stood still, and it keeps us uncompetitive. It will give us an 
opportunity to export more when we are competitive in the global 
economy.
  This bill will also help bring back jobs and create new ones. It will 
boost American wages by promoting economic growth and incentivizing 
investment.
  The centerpiece of the legislation is where it ought to be--in the 
center of our population, middle-class America, so it has middle-class 
tax cuts. The average middle-class family of four would see a tax cut 
of more than $1,400 and an increase in the child tax credit of $650--
above the $1,000 that is already there per child, which would mean real 
help for working parents.
  Nearly doubling the standard deduction means that many lower income 
Americans will be removed from the tax rolls completely, and the tax 
filing season will be much simpler for millions more.
  Small businesses will also see significant tax relief from the rate 
reduction on the individual side but also from an innovative, new small 
business income tax deduction. Two-thirds of the jobs in this country 
are created by those very same small businesses, and we ought to give 
them some better equity with big C corporations.
  It will provide much needed tax relief to nearly all small 
businesses, down to the smallest family-owned corner store and family 
farmer.
  Our bill recognizes the importance of small businesses in our 
economy. After all, as I just said, they are responsible for a majority 
of those new jobs. The tax savings they receive could be spent on a new 
hire. It could be spent on giving raises to employees in those same 
small businesses. It could be invested in a growing company. All of 
this adds up to Americans seeing more ``Now Hiring'' signs throughout 
our country.
  Landmark tax relief during the Kennedy and Reagan administrations 
grew wages, created jobs, and made the United States more competitive, 
so there is enough history behind what we are trying to do to know that 
it will accomplish the goals we are trying to accomplish.
  Today, Congress has a golden opportunity to do, again, what was done 
in Kennedy and the Reagan years, and it has not been done for 30 years: 
tax cuts, tax simplification, and tax reform.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from South Carolina.
  Mr. SCOTT. Mr. President, today is a good day. We have both the House 
and the Senate working on tax reform that will have a positive impact 
for everyday, hard-working Americans. This is truly a good day.
  So often when you hear us talk about tax reform, it sounds like a lot 
of numbers. I am not sure how excited or enamored people get with 
numbers, but I am the kind of guy who believes tax reform is not about 
numbers. Tax reform is about everyday Americans being able to keep more 
of their hard-earned money.
  Tax reform is about families like the one I grew up in--single-parent 
households, working paycheck to paycheck, year in and year out, praying 
and hoping for something good to happen. Today is good news for those 
single moms and single dads out there.
  It is also good news for the working-class families--dual income--
making around $75,000 a year, working every day, trying to make sure 
they have a little left over for dinner out.
  We want to say to those folks who haven't really had a raise in a 
decade: We hear you. We feel your pain. We want to deliver to your 
American family the opportunity to see more money in each paycheck. 
This is good.
  And for folks who are looking to start businesses, we have a 
Christmas surprise for you too.
  We have lowered taxes on the average family about $1,500 a year--$100 
or so a month. Here is what that means. For a family where you are in a 
single-parent household, you bring home about $450 a paycheck. That 
could easily become an extra 10 percent per paycheck. That is a lot of 
money to a single-parent household.
  We have also expanded the child tax credit to make sure that those 
folks in the middle-income brackets are able to keep more of that hard-
earned money. If there is a focus on our tax reform package, it is to 
make sure that middle America--hard-working income earners--have a 
chance to see more money materialize in their paychecks.
  We have also simplified the Tax Code. People say: Well, how did you 
do that? There are seven brackets. I understand. It is simple. 
Simplification means you do not have to itemize. Said differently, 9 
out of 10 taxpayers will be able to use the expanded standard deduction 
to figure out their tax burden, as opposed to going item by item by 
item and understanding whether you can withdraw it or subtract it from 
your income.
  I had the great pleasure to be a small business owner before entering 
Congress. Many small business owners represent the backbone of our 
economy. Most jobs created in the future will be created by a small 
business owner. We are going to lower your taxes so that you can hire 
more people and make long-term investments in building the greatest 
economy this country has known in more than a generation.
  This is a good day, and we have good news.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas.
  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I agree with the Senator from South 
Carolina. This is, indeed, a good day for the families who will benefit 
from this additional money in their paycheck, from the increased 
standard of living they will enjoy.
  For those of us who want to see businesses come back home from 
abroad, they fled this country because we have the highest corporate 
tax rate in the world. When we say we want to reform that broken 
corporate tax rate and to bring those businesses and that money home, 
we join our colleagues--ranging from the Democratic leader, Senator 
Schumer, to Barack Obama in 2011, in a joint session of the U.S. 
Congress--in advocating for bringing that business rate down so that 
businesses will stay in America. They will hire Americans, and they 
will improve wages for all working families.
  I am proud to join my fellow Finance Committee colleagues on the 
floor today to support our version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which 
was just released a few moments ago.
  I congratulate Chairman Hatch for his leadership, but I am 
extraordinarily impressed with all the members of the Finance Committee 
who worked so hard together to try to get us to where we are today. We 
plan for lower rates.
  As you heard, we increased the standard deduction, we expanded the 
child tax credit, and we reformed the Tax Code so that we can give 
Americans access to more jobs and higher wages.
  Our Democratic colleagues have said they want tax reform too. I 
mentioned Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer, our colleague from New York, 
who repeatedly said that we should lower the corporate rate so 
businesses will come home, hire Americans, and help our economy grow 
here. So we are all in agreement on that on a bipartisan basis, and 
there is room for further agreement.

  I agree with the chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Hatch. We 
invite our Democratic colleagues to come together and join us, 
particularly starting on the Finance Committee on Monday.
  If what we want is more, better paying jobs--and we do--then we have 
to focus on lowering rates on all the job creators, including small 
businesses, as you have heard. The framework we have developed was 
designed to cut taxes for middle-class families, not millionaires. It 
is to help small businesses grow and create more jobs. It is to provide 
relief for hard-working families by increasing the standard deduction, 
as our colleague from South Carolina pointed out. One out of ten 
taxpayers will now have to itemize deductions in order to take full 
advantage of the law to reduce their tax burden. So it will be simpler, 
easier to comply with, and lower their tax rate, while enhancing the 
child tax credit. These reforms will make the 1,000-page Tax Code 
easier to understand and comply with. Our efforts will simplify what 
are

[[Page S7142]]

now pages upon pages of language that only tax lawyers and lobbyists 
understand.
  I look forward to continuing the important discussions when the 
Senate Finance Committee marks up and amends this proposal starting 
Monday.
  Thank you, Mr. President.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from South Dakota.
  Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, it is a good day here in the Senate because 
today we released our tax reform legislation, and soon we hope to have 
a final bill on the President's desk.
  When you first think about coming to Washington to serve, you dream 
about fixing big problems and making a real difference in people's 
lives. Well, today we get to make a big difference.
  When I look at the Chamber, I hearken back to 1986, which was the 
last time tax reform was actually passed through the Senate and signed 
into law by the President. Senator Hatch, the chairman of our 
committee, was a Member of the Senate at that time; Senator McConnell, 
the Republican leader; Senator Grassley, whom you just heard from--they 
were all here to vote on that. I was here as a young staffer. At that 
time, I didn't have kids of my own, and today I am a grandfather. So a 
lot of time has passed, and tax reform is long overdue.
  The whole point of this exercise is to give hope to future 
generations of Americans, to give them a better opportunity at a better 
life, to improve their standard of living and their quality of life. In 
order for that to happen, we need to be taking the steps here and 
putting policies in place that will create the conditions that are 
favorable to economic growth and to the creation of better paying jobs 
and higher wages.
  Today we get to bring relief to the parents who are wondering if they 
will be able to afford a new car that they need to fit their growing 
family. Today we get to bring relief to the single mom who is wondering 
how she is going to pay the rent next month. As our colleague from 
South Carolina talked about, those parents and families who are 
literally living paycheck to paycheck. Today, we get to bring relief to 
the middle-aged couple worrying about a secure retirement, to the small 
business owner who doesn't know how he will meet his tax bill and still 
make his mortgage payment, to the family farmer who is worried that he 
will not be able to pass down his farm to his daughter.
  The comprehensive tax reform legislation we have introduced today 
will provide immediate, direct relief to hard-working Americans. It 
will immediately increase their take-home pay. It will immediately 
simplify the Tax Code so that it is easier for Americans to figure out 
what benefits they qualify for so they don't have to spend a lot of 
time and money filing their taxes.
  That is really just the beginning. Our bill is also going to reform 
the business side of the Tax Code to give Americans access to the jobs, 
the wages, and the opportunities that will set them up for a secure 
future. We are going to make it easier for small businesses to raise 
wages and to hire new workers. We are going to end the outdated tax 
framework that is driving American companies to keep jobs and profits 
overseas, and we are going to make it easier for companies to invest in 
American jobs and American workers.
  It has been a rough few years for our economy and for the American 
people. A lot of Americans haven't had a pay raise literally in almost 
a decade. But with this tax reform legislation, we can ensure that it 
doesn't stay that way.
  The American people deserve a tax code that works for them and not 
against them, that grows their paychecks instead of shrinking them, 
that expands their opportunities instead of eliminating them, and that 
is exactly what we are going to give them starting today.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Georgia.
  Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, today is America's lucky day. And we all 
know what the definition of ``luck'' is--luck is when opportunity meets 
preparation. We are very lucky as a country and we are very lucky as a 
Senate that our majority leader, Mitch McConnell, was where he is and 
is where he is at the time he is. It was his vision a few years ago 
that the tax issue was going to emerge as the central issue in the 
growth and development of our country and that unless we met the 
challenges of our Tax Code, opened up opportunity for our public, and 
expanded opportunity for our businesses, the American people could 
succumb to a high-tax system without productivity.
  We also got lucky because Senator McConnell picked a man to be 
chairman of this committee--Orrin Hatch--who brought years of 
experience in the U.S. Senate and the compassion that Orrin Hatch has 
as a Mormon and as an American to a tax code that is by no means 
simple--it was always complex--to make it simpler and fairer, pro-
family and pro-jobs.
  Let me tell you something. There are a lot of disappointed people 
overseas right now because those who have been picking our pockets by 
inverting American corporations to foreign systems because their taxes 
were lower than ours are out of luck. Now those people are going to be 
incentivized to come to America, to make investments in our country, to 
expand opportunities and jobs in our country. No longer will companies 
want to leave America; companies will invest and be more American. That 
is fantastic, and that is why this is a pro-jobs tax bill. It is going 
to create a lot of opportunity, and opportunity is what Americans want 
and what Americans need.
  For the average American family--and let me talk about my family for 
a second. I think I am pretty average. My wife and I are fortunate. We 
have three great children and nine great grandchildren. I was lucky 
enough to have worked in a small LLC--limited liability partnership--
real estate brokerage company, mom-and-pop brokerage company. My wife 
taught in public schools. Our children went to the University of 
Georgia and to the public schools of our community. We saved for their 
education. We did everything we could to invest in hope for them in the 
future, and today they are all gainfully employed. They are all happy, 
but they are all struggling, as everybody else is, with a burdensome 
tax system, with less opportunity than we would like for them to have. 
By simplifying the tax system, by making it fairer, as we have done 
here, we have given more opportunity to my grandchildren, my children, 
and more opportunity to America.
  Lastly, I want to make this point: There are only two ways to raise 
taxes or raise revenue. One is to charge more. That means you raise 
somebody's taxes. The other way to do it is to create opportunity. So 
people create companies and jobs because the opportunity is there. When 
you create opportunity and when jobs are created, revenues increase. 
When people do better in their jobs, their incomes go up. When 
companies have people who do better in their jobs, they expand. When 
they expand, they produce more revenue that becomes taxable. So we 
raise our revenue not by lowering expectations but by raising 
opportunity for our people and for our children.
  We are very lucky as Americans today. I am very lucky to be in this 
U.S. Senate today. We are lucky to have had leaders in place at a time 
that was right to address our country's biggest challenge and do it the 
right way.
  When I was in the Georgia Legislature, I sat next to an oldtime 
rural-hat politician who ran the Ways and Means Committee of the 
Georgia Legislature. I will never forget that one day he and I were 
sitting side by side as we were listening to a gentleman make a speech 
in the well. The gentleman in the well paused a minute to try to make a 
point, and he said: Ladies and gentlemen, let me tax your memory. And 
my old friend, the rural-hat politician, said: Damn, I wish I had 
thought of that.
  That is the way we have done taxes in this country for a long time--
just taxed people's memory, tried to look for an opportunity to tax 
something for us. What we are doing here is we are creating 
opportunity. We are raising revenue through prosperity. Americans will 
raise revenue for their pockets first before the country gets the 
revenue second.
  So it is our lucky day--lucky to have good leaders, lucky to live in 
the greatest country on the face of this Earth. And if we do our job--
if we pass this bill before the end of this year and

[[Page S7143]]

change the Tax Code of the United States of America to a fairer, pro-
jobs, pro-family tax code--then we will have made our contribution to 
history at a time when it was our opportunity. I hope it will never be 
said that we let our country down when that opportunity was available 
to us.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. TOOMEY. Mr. President, I want to echo the message of the Senator 
from Georgia. This is a terrific opportunity. This is a very big day. 
It is a big step forward on our path to restoring the economic growth 
that we have been waiting for all this time. I am very excited about 
this step forward and the remainder of the process to get this done, to 
get this bill signed into law.
  Why do we need this? We have just lived through the weakest recovery 
in American history--feeble growth, stagnant wages, and a widening gap 
between the wealthy and the poor. That is what has been happening for 
years.
  Some people say: Well, that is just the way it is. You just need to 
get used to it. That is the new normal. That is what America is about 
now.
  That is complete nonsense. There is nothing inevitable about the 
American economy being weak and denying opportunity for the people we 
represent. It is a direct result of bad policy, failed policy that 
prevented us from having the recovery we would normally have after a 
recession.
  What was that policy? Well, we saw it. It is very clear. It is not a 
matter of opinion, it is a matter of fact that productivity growth in 
America collapsed. It is a matter of fact that investment in the kinds 
of new plants and equipment that allow for productivity to grow 
collapsed. It is a fact that new business startups just dried up. 
People weren't able and willing to do it.
  There is no mystery about why our economy was so weak for so many 
years. We had imposed conditions that made it impossible to have the 
kind of growth that is normal. Meanwhile, what was happening in the 
rest of the world? The rest of the world was systematically making 
their tax codes more competitive. The countries that we compete with 
around the world, in Europe and Asia, were lowering the rates they 
apply to business income, they were simplifying their codes, and they 
were moving to international systems that made it more conducive for 
them to generate investment into their countries, while we did nothing 
except let our Tax Code ossify. That is what has been happening these 
last many years.
  What I am excited about is that this bill fixes exactly what is 
broken. This bill goes to exactly where the problem is and begins to 
turn this around. How do we do that? One of the things we do--a 
hallmark of this bill--is we are going to lower the cost of investing 
in the new plants and equipment that will allow American workers to 
become more productive. More productive workers get paid more in wages; 
that is just a fact. That is what is going to happen as a result of 
this bill.
  Another thing we do in this bill is we get away from this terrible 
policy we have that is resulting in foreign companies buying up 
American companies. The way we treat income earned overseas is a 
disaster, and we are the only country in the world that does it.
  I think you could make a case that today the United States has what 
might very well be the least attractive tax regime in the modern world, 
in the industrialized world. What is really exciting about this is that 
we are going to move from this system to what just might be the best 
tax system in the industrialized world. Think about the result that is 
going to have. I think the result is going to be breathtaking--new 
investment, new businesses being launched, existing businesses growing.
  Take foreign direct investment alone. If you think about it, we have 
a global economy. Capital can move around the world with literally the 
click of a mouse, and people make investment decisions based on the 
climate of the place in which they are thinking about investing. When 
we have the worst tax regime in the world, who really wants to invest 
here? When we have the best, how are we not going to attract investment 
from all around the world, including very much in the United States?
  So the changes we are making are exactly the right changes for this 
moment. That is true in another respect, and that is, if you think 
about where we are in this cycle, it has taken way too long to get 
here, but the unemployment rate is quite low now. We are getting close 
to full employment. So what happens when we create the incentives for 
businesses to grow, to invest, for new businesses to launch, for people 
to invest in America--what happens when that occurs in an environment 
where the unemployment rate is very low? It sets up a bidding war for 
workers. There is no other choice. As they grow, these businesses need 
new employees to get the job done. They have to pay ever more because 
they are competing with another business down the road that also wants 
to grow and also wants to invest in new plants and equipment.
  What we are going to do is create a bidding war for workers. That 
means wages are going up. When wages go up, families have more take-
home pay. When they have more take-home pay, they have a higher 
standard of living. This is exactly how people have a chance to live 
the American dream, when the economy is thriving and growing at the 
rate that America used to take for granted. I am here to say that those 
days are coming back.

  We have some work to do. We are not done yet by any means, but I am 
confident we are going to get this done and, when we do, our 
constituents are going to live a better life as a result.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio.
  Mr. PORTMAN. Mr. President, I really enjoyed listening to my 
colleague from Pennsylvania talking about this new tax reform plan that 
has just been unveiled by the Finance Committee. He is right; this is 
really exciting because it is an opportunity, after a lot of talk over 
a lot of years, to finally fix our Tax Code.
  Our Tax Code is broken. It is broken in a lot of different respects, 
but one that he pointed out so well is the fact that we actually have 
jobs and investment going overseas because of our Tax Code. It is the 
responsibility of the people who are in this body and in the House and 
in the Presidency to actually fix that. No one else can do it. Workers 
in America, including in my home State of Ohio, are competing with one 
hand tied behind their back because we have a tax code that encourages 
other companies from foreign countries to come in and buy our 
companies, to take our business, to take our market share, to make it 
harder for U.S. workers to be able to compete and win. So I think it is 
way past time, frankly, for us to fix that.
  People say: Well, we haven't reformed the Tax Code in 31 years and it 
is about time, and I agree with that. If we go back to the 
international part of our Tax Code that created a lot of these 
problems, we have to go back to John F. Kennedy, who last reformed it. 
That means that part of our Tax Code should qualify for AARP benefits; 
that is how old it is. So it is time for us to fix it, and it is really 
exciting to finally have the opportunity.
  There are three parts of this tax reform proposal, all three of which 
are really important. The first is a tax cut for the middle class. Why 
is that important? Because right now, even with the economy that is 
starting to grow a little bit, what is happening? Wages are flat, so 
expenses are up across the board.
  The biggest expense, by the way, is the one the Presiding Officer has 
been involved with, which is healthcare. People have seen their 
healthcare costs go up, as well as their premiums and their deductibles 
and their copays; yet their wages aren't going up, and that creates a 
middle-class squeeze. But it is more than healthcare. It is food. It is 
every day purchases. It is tuition, if you are trying to send your kid 
to school. Those have skyrocketed. So let's do something to actually 
give the family budget a little help; that is, the middle-class tax 
cuts that are in this proposal.
  You probably saw today that the middle-class tax cut alone provides, 
on average, $1,458 for every family. That is the median income family.
  One of the reporters here in the hall asked me: Gosh, $1,500 a 
family--why does that matter?
  I said: It matters a lot if you are living paycheck to paycheck. 
Maybe you

[[Page S7144]]

are not, but a lot of people whom I represent are, and that $1,500 will 
help them to be able to make ends meet and maybe begin to save a little 
bit for vacation or retirement or for the ability to make that car 
payment. So I think this is really important.
  I would say, though, beyond just that important middle-class tax cut, 
there is something else that ought to be considered, which is, if we do 
this right--the way this has been laid out by the Finance Committee--
what is going to happen is we are going to help to create more jobs and 
higher wages.
  My colleague from Pennsylvania talked about this. With a relatively 
tight labor market, as we have more investment into these businesses, 
what is going to happen? Everyone says we are going to see wages go up. 
The Congressional Budget Office, which is a nonpartisan group, and the 
Joint Committee on Taxation, also a nonpartisan group, have looked at 
all of this. They say: Yes, there is actually going to be a benefit to 
workers if we do these business tax cuts, to be able to get the 
business rate down below the average of the other industrialized 
countries, rather than having the highest business rate in the entire 
industrialized world, which it is now, because that is going to attract 
more jobs and investment here and we will stop losing jobs and 
investment.
  There are some economists who have looked at this, as well, and they 
agree that this is going to benefit workers. In fact, there are a 
couple of economic studies that show that families will get an 
additional $4,000, on average, per family. Again, we are talking about 
middle-class families who will get the benefits that are going to come 
from more investment and more jobs and higher earnings that are going 
to happen in the business world.
  So it is not just about the middle-class tax cuts, as important as 
they are; this is also tax reform that is going right to the bottom 
line. You will be able to figure it out. Go online, use the tax 
calculator, and figure out what it means to you. But also remember that 
these other reforms, in an outdated Tax Code that is just crying out 
for reform, are going to result in additional benefits flowing to you 
and your family, as well, if we do this right, and we have to do it 
right.

  There is a study that came out recently from a firm called Ernst & 
Young. The study looked at what has been happening in America over the 
past decade or so. It said that over the last 13 years, there are 4,700 
American companies that have become foreign companies because of our 
Tax Code that would still be American companies today if we put in 
place the kind of tax reform we are talking about--20 percent rate--
below that average of the other industrialized countries and this 
international system that allows you to be more competitive--4,700 
companies. Think about that.
  There is other data out there that says twice as many foreigners are 
buying U.S. companies than U.S. companies are buying foreign companies. 
Why? Because of our Tax Code. It is just true.
  This is something that has been happening in this country, not just 
in the last couple of years but really over the last couple of decades. 
It is time for us to catch up. America needs to get back in a 
leadership position, and if we do that, we are going to see more jobs 
and more investment coming here to this country rather than going 
overseas.
  Finally, the third thing this does that is so important is it levels 
the playing field internationally. Right now we have between $2.5 
trillion and $3 trillion of earnings--money--from American companies 
that are trapped overseas. Those companies aren't bringing it back. 
Why? Because of our Tax Code. This tax reform proposal actually says to 
those companies: We want that money back here. We want you to invest in 
America. We want you to create jobs here and expand plants and 
equipment; bring your intellectual property, your patents back here, 
and then send that export out from America. That will create jobs here, 
including good jobs in research and development.
  That is what this proposal does as well. It levels that playing field 
internationally to tell the foreign companies and the foreign nations 
that are taking advantage of our current Tax Code: You know what, that 
is not going to happen anymore. That is done. We now are going to have 
a competitive tax code where we are encouraging money to come here to 
this country, and that money coming back here, invested in this 
country, will also raise the economic condition for the entire country. 
Economic growth will go up, and, again, that filters down to all of us, 
including every family I represent.
  That is why I am excited about this. I think it is overdue. I wish we 
could have done this earlier, not just last year but 10 years ago or 20 
years ago.
  Senator Hatch is on the floor tonight, and he has been talking about 
this for a few decades. He has been saying that we have to fix this. He 
is now chairman of the Finance Committee. He can do it.
  Senator McConnell is going to speak in a minute. He has talked about 
this for a long time. We have had commissions on it. We have had 
bipartisan working groups--five of them--a year and a half ago on 
reform, and those bipartisan working groups looked at this issue. I 
cochaired one of those working groups on the international side. Guess 
what. On a bipartisan basis, we said: We have to have this lower tax 
rate; we have to go to this more competitive international system. Do 
my colleagues know who the cochair of that working group was? There was 
one Republican, one Democrat on all of these working groups. It was 
Chuck Schumer from New York who is now a Democratic leader. So this has 
not been a partisan issue in the past, on the international side at 
least.
  Let's figure out how we can come together and get Republican and 
Democratic support to be able to tell the workers of America: You are 
no longer going to have to compete with one hand tied behind your back. 
We are going to give you the tools to be able to be successful for you 
and your family so that you can achieve the American dream.
  I am excited about this. Let's move forward. I look forward to the 
Finance Committee next week bringing it to the floor, and I hope we can 
have support on both sides of the aisle to get this done.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the distinguished chairman of the 
Finance Committee is on the cusp of the accomplishment of his career. 
This comprehensive tax reform will make a huge difference for America. 
I wish to commend him for the efforts that have gotten us this far.
  We have heard members of the Finance Committee speaking to the bill 
that has been presented to our conference. This is going to be an 
extraordinary accomplishment, not only for the American people but for 
the distinguished chairman of the Finance Committee.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Portman). The Senator from Louisiana.
  Mr. CASSIDY. Mr. President, I wish to add my words to those that have 
been said.
  Let me begin by saying that the achievement of this tax proposal is 
not about anyone in this Chamber; it is about the working families who 
for the last 8 years have not done so well. They have either lost their 
jobs or their wages have been flat and their benefits have not improved 
or, indeed, the cost of those benefits have risen dramatically. I can 
say, with the Tax Cut and Jobs Act that is being introduced today, they 
will increase their take-home pay, they will have higher wages, and 
they will have a better life.
  Now let's talk about how that would be. How will these working 
families improve?
  The Presiding Officer, the Senator from Ohio, mentioned in his 
remarks that businesses will have money to invest. There will be 
competition for workers. And if there is competition for workers, then 
workers are paid more. They are given better benefits. What do those 
better benefits and better wages mean? It means they can invest more in 
their family, in their children's future, and that, in turn, will 
change their family's life for generations to come.
  So on behalf of those working families, I echo Chairman Hatch, that 
if there is a suggestion by anyone that can make this better, I ask 
them to bring that suggestion forward because this is not about 
Republicans, this is not about Democrats, this is not about

[[Page S7145]]

anybody in this Chamber; it is about those working families who, for 
the last 8 years, have not done as well as the American dream would say 
they should.
  On behalf of those working families, I congratulate Chairman Hatch 
for this job. I look forward to the passage of this bill, and I look 
forward to all of the benefits of this bill coming to help the families 
of this country and in my State of Louisiana.
  Thank you.
  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. HEITKAMP. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cassidy). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.


                               Healthcare

  Ms. HEITKAMP. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss a couple of 
pressing issues regarding our healthcare system and to ensure that 
Americans are aware of some critical deadlines for their health options 
in the marketplace.
  It is that time of year. Healthcare open enrollment has started, and 
Americans across the country can sign up or change their healthcare 
plans to make sure they are getting a plan that works best for them and 
their families.
  I have long said that the health reform law, otherwise known as 
ObamaCare, is not perfect, and I have been pushing since I have been 
here to make it work better for North Dakota families and small 
businesses. But there are many pieces in that healthcare law that are 
helpful, and I wish to make sure that Americans and North Dakotans take 
advantage during this open enrollment period.
  Every individual and family should be able to get access to 
affordable, quality healthcare, and no one should have to go bankrupt 
to pay for healthcare for a child with a disability, a sick family 
member, or just an emergency that you never thought could happen. That 
is why I am encouraging everyone to please make sure you explore your 
options and sign up for healthcare coverage.
  It is more important than ever that folks take advantage of this open 
enrollment period early because there are many changes this year that, 
unfortunately, make it more difficult for individuals and their 
families to sign up for health insurance. Even if you already have a 
plan, it is worth checking out healthcare plans, as these prices change 
from year to year.
  First, open enrollment today is a month and a half shorter this year 
than it has been in the past. Open enrollment is from November 2--right 
now--until December 15. That is just 45 days. Do not wait to check this 
out. It is best if you go today to find out if there is a better plan 
for you or if you need to secure health insurance on the marketplace.
  Second, the administration has significantly reduced funding for in-
person assistance, called navigators, who help individuals and families 
sign up for healthcare coverage. This action is leaving millions of 
Americans and thousands of North Dakotans without the critical help 
they need to understand their options and enroll in meaningful 
healthcare coverage.
  I want to make a point here. For those of us who in the past have 
always had the option of getting healthcare coverage through an 
employer, there is always someone in that employment office, in the 
payroll office, or in human resources who helps you through. This is 
not unique in needing this assistance. It is not unique to the 
marketplace. It is access and information that you have through your 
employer, if you are getting your insurance through your employer. The 
idea was that the same opportunity for information should be made 
available in person on the marketplace, but it is not. So we have to 
try and fill in those gaps. Because we have these gaps, we are in many 
ways seeing a number of cutbacks and a number of folks not getting 
access to the information they need.
  In fact, the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Health Board does not 
have enough funds to operate as a navigator, and they will not be able 
to help North Dakotans sign up for coverage as they have done in 
previous years. Another navigator in my State, Minot State University, 
has had its Federal funds cut by over 96 percent.
  Since 2013 the uninsured rate in North Dakota has been reduced from 
11 percent to 8 percent, in large part because of the work of these 
navigators. The navigator grantees in my State have provided an 
invaluable service by guiding families through the process of 
determining the best private health insurance coverage for them, as 
well as through traditional Medicaid and Medicaid expansion application 
processes. Many North Dakotans who sign up for coverage qualify for 
Federal assistance to help afford that coverage. So it is vitally 
important that they understand Medicaid, that they understand Medicaid 
expansion, and that they understand the tax implications of the plans 
they are selecting.
  But even those numbers that show the decrease in uninsured in North 
Dakota don't tell the full story. Not only have navigators responded to 
daily inquiries both during and outside of the open enrollment period, 
but they have identified and responded to the challenges of increasing 
enrollment, particularly in rural and hard-to-reach areas of the State 
that are less likely to have access to coverage through an employer.
  Slashing funding for navigators also has implications for Indian 
Country. The Indian Health Service has had challenges delivering 
quality care to Native Americans in my State and certainly in our 
region. But those issues have lessened as more Native Americans have 
enrolled in traditional Medicaid, Medicaid expansion, and private 
health insurance, enabling these families to access quality, affordable 
healthcare to stay healthy. Thanks to the increase of third-party 
payments, we are no longer limited to life-or-limb care at Tribal IHS 
facilities in the Great Plains service area.
  Adding to the turmoil of the enrollment process, the administration 
also announced that it is cutting off Federal funding that helps make 
healthcare affordable for families, known as cost sharing reduction 
payments. As a result, many individuals and families will see their 
premiums skyrocket by double digits. Due directly to this decision and 
the uncertainty it has injected into our healthcare system, one insurer 
has exited the healthcare marketplace in North Dakota and another has 
reduced its health insurance plan offerings, leaving many counties in 
my State with only one insurer for consumers to choose from. 
Ironically, North Dakota was one of the best covered States in terms of 
options and choices. That option and that source of pride has been 
diminished as a result of the lack of consistency with cost sharing 
reduction payments.
  A recent report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said 
that if the administration stopped paying the cost sharing reduction 
payments, as it has now done, there would be serious consequences for 
individuals and families across the country. The report said families' 
premiums would jump about 20 percent, many families would be left 
without health insurance options as the lack of payment would force 
many insurers to leave the market, and it would also add $194 billion 
to the deficit over a decade.
  Despite these efforts to sabotage the marketplaces and jeopardize 
access to coverage for families, we have fortunately seen a surge of 
encouraging enrollment numbers in the first week of enrollment. But the 
American public deserves better, and I will do everything I can to 
ensure that consumers know their options, that consumers are connected 
with opportunities for meaningful coverage, and that they are provided 
certainty in the future about healthcare costs.
  On November 1, I had launched a new page on my website, 
heitkamp.senate.gov, to help provide resources and enrollment 
information to North Dakotans. I sincerely hope folks who are looking 
to buy health insurance on the marketplace in North Dakota take 
advantage of that website.
  Access to affordable quality healthcare is a must, and I am proud to 
have worked with a group of Republican and Democratic Senators, led by 
Senators Alexander and Murray, to reach a deal to offer some immediate

[[Page S7146]]

fixes to make healthcare more affordable and accessible in North Dakota 
and across the country. Our bill would specifically address many of the 
new challenges that face folks during open enrollment.
  The deal we unveiled last month would provide certainty for insurers 
and customers by restoring the cost sharing reduction payments for 2 
years and restoring Federal funding for outreach and enrollment efforts 
in States, including the navigator services that I talked about 
earlier. It incorporates an idea that I have been championing for many 
years, which is to create a lower cost copper plan with lower premiums 
and higher deductibles to increase coverage options for young, healthy 
families, where they aren't so much worried about the day-to-day costs 
of healthcare but that catastrophic event that could throw them into a 
lifetime of poverty.
  The agreement would also provide flexibility for States to continue 
to explore their options to deliver the best healthcare options to 
their citizens. This recognizes that one size does not fit all and that 
we need to have more flexibility for States to experiment and to 
provide the kind of quality of care and the kind of care options that 
work best for their State.
  On top of having significant bipartisan support, there is a bonus. 
The bonus is that CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that 
enacting the legislation would reduce the deficit by $3.8 billion 
without substantially changing the number of people with health 
insurance coverage.
  Now Congress needs to pass our bill. I have long said there are good 
parts of the healthcare reform act and parts that need to be fixed. Our 
bipartisan deal is an important step to help families afford healthcare 
coverage so the health reform law works better for North Dakotans.

  How rare is it in this body to have this many people come together to 
propose one piece of legislation? I know that if you put this bill on 
to the floor tomorrow, it would easily pass with over 60 percent of the 
Senate. We need to get this done. We need to get it done to ensure the 
American public that we are serious about responding to their concerns 
about healthcare but that we are also serious legislators who can, in 
fact, fix the problems that we have in this country.
  This isn't everything that we have been working on, but it certainly 
is the most important and the highest priority to pass the Murray-
Alexander bill. But there are other proposals to improve healthcare 
that I am working on. I recently introduced a bill to delay the health 
insurance tax for 2 years and make coverage more affordable for the 156 
million consumers across the country impacted by the fee. It would also 
make the tax deductible moving forward, providing more certainty for 
families to plan into the future.
  Reducing the impact of the health insurance tax--a fee that directly 
impacts the healthcare affordability for families and small 
businesses--has had broad, bipartisan support. In 2015 Congress passed 
a 1-year delay of the fee. This delay benefited consumers, seniors, 
employers, State employees, and Tribes. The average premium reduction 
from that delay of the fee was 3 percent.
  If we think about the health insurance tax and we think about the 
sales taxes that many States enact, many States will tell you we don't 
enact sales tax on the necessities of life, whether it is food or 
whether it is electricity. Clearly, this is a necessity of life, having 
this health insurance. This health insurance tax is nothing more than a 
regressive sales tax on premium costs, and I believe we need to find a 
better and more commonsense alternative.
  Another commonsense bill that I have introduced to help make 
healthcare more affordable for middle-income families is a bill that 
would address what I call the current cliff problem on premium 
assistance that many middle-class families and seniors face when they 
earn above 400 percent of the Federal poverty level, putting affordable 
care out of reach.
  Right now, those earning just a nominal sum over--$1 over 400 percent 
of the Federal poverty level, which is $47,550 for an individual and 
$97,200 for a family of four--are no longer eligible for any premium 
support to make health insurance more affordable. This perhaps is one 
of those issues that I have heard more about than almost any other 
issue in the Affordable Care Act.
  What my bill would do is to get rid of the cliff and instead insert a 
slope. The bill would enable more young, healthy families to be able to 
obtain affordable healthcare coverage while diversifying the insurance 
pools, and it would make sure seniors with high medical costs aren't 
forced to lose those hard-earned retirement savings or go without care. 
Smoothing out that cliff will make health insurance more affordable, 
will make this bill more responsive to our middle-class taxpayers and 
middle-class families, and will provide some certainty for these 
families as they look at the high cost of healthcare and insurance 
premiums into the future.
  I also cosponsored a bill to provide stability in the insurance 
marketplace by making the current reinsurance program for individual 
health insurance market permanent. It would be similar to the 
successful programs used to lower premiums and spur competition in the 
Medicare Part D Program. This reinsurance program would provide funding 
to offset larger than expected insurance claims for health insurance 
companies participating in State and Federal insurance marketplaces, 
and it would encourage them to offer more plans in a greater number of 
markets, improving competition and driving down costs for patients and 
families.
  It is that catastrophic cost, which is unpredictable for the 
actuaries, that drives up high cost. If they know that catastrophic 
cost above a certain amount is subject to a reinsurance plan and those 
costs are shared more broadly than just within that system, the 
healthcare that they can provide and the insurance commissioners can 
secure with a reasonable rate would be greatly reduced.
  Lastly, another critical program that ensures access to coverage 
throughout the country and in North Dakota is the Children's Health 
Insurance Program, or CHIP. I have to tell you, I know many, many 
families who, without CHIP and without their ability to find that 
temporary opportunity to use CHIP to insure their children, would be 
bankrupt today. They would have incurred healthcare bills just from a 
simple fall off a swing set, and they would be spending a lifetime 
trying to figure out how they are going to pay or they would be finding 
their way into the bankruptcy court.
  CHIP is a program that has been used since the late 1990s, and more 
than 2,000 North Dakota children currently rely on it for affordable 
healthcare. It provides a critical bridge between Medicaid and private 
insurance coverage for children. We have to act fast to reauthorize 
CHIP and let thousands of children across the country who are on CHIP 
and their families know that we care about them, that we are standing 
up for them, and that we are not going to leave them behind.
  Unfortunately, the authorization for this critical and lifesaving 
program expired at the end of September. Without action from Congress, 
some States will already run out of Federal funding before the end of 
the year. Some already have and require emergency funding from the 
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to shore up their programs 
so that they can still provide that continuous coverage while we fail 
to act here in the Congress.
  While my State of North Dakota is not scheduled to run out of funding 
until April of next year, this is not a way to administer an ongoing 
and critical healthcare program. We need to get this program 
reauthorized now before it is too late and we have unnecessarily hurt 
American children and have created unnecessary unpredictability for 
families who need and have found some incredible benefit in covering 
their children with this program.
  The Senate Finance Committee has marked up bipartisan legislation, 
the Keep Kids' Insurance Dependable and Secure Act, to extend 
authorization for the program for 5 years. Congress needs to act now to 
make sure these families know their children have dependable and secure 
coverage. No parent and no family member should have to wonder if their 
children will get critical care. Put yourself in their shoes.
  Since I came to the Senate in 2013, I have said there are parts of 
the healthcare law and the healthcare system that need improvement to 
make sure it is working for hard-working

[[Page S7147]]

North Dakotans and hard-working Americans. As I have outlined, these 
are some tangible, commonsense policy proposals that have strong 
bipartisan support, and we can, in fact, make this system better. We 
can, in fact, tackle this challenge of healthcare, and then we can roll 
up our sleeves and reduce costs and make healthcare more affordable and 
less costly in this country.
  We can do all of that. We have a country and a group of American 
citizens who are counting on us to do our job to make sure that, into 
the future, they will have the certainty that they need, the 
predictability that they need, to get their healthcare coverage and to 
make sure that their families will never have to worry about having to 
file bankruptcy because a child has fallen off of a swing set.
  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.
  Mr. PETERS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


              The Great Lakes and Underwater Oil Pipelines

  Mr. PETERS. Mr. President, next to our people, the Great Lakes are 
unquestionably Michigan's greatest resource. They are more than an 
economic engine. They are more than a source of drinking water for 40 
million people. They are more than a destination for tourists, boaters, 
and anglers from across the globe. While the Great Lakes are certainly 
all of those things, in Michigan, they are also a way of life. They 
are, quite simply, home. You cannot sit on the edge of one of our 
massive inland seas without feeling a sense of awe and gratitude.
  Next to me is a photo of the Straits of Mackinac, a 5-mile stretch of 
water where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron and where Michigan's Upper 
and Lower Peninsulas are connected by the Mackinac Bridge.
  Unfortunately, today I cannot look out at these straits without 
feeling a grave concern. The Straits of Mackinac are home to powerful 
currents. Water, at times, flows through at a volume greater than 10 
times that of Niagara Falls. The currents are also unpredictable, as 
they can flow in any direction and can change not only by the season or 
even by the day, but they can actually change by the hour.
  The straits are also home to twin underwater oil pipelines that are 
operated by Enbridge, known as Line 5, that are now 64 years old and 
getting older by the day. A recent study by the University of Michigan 
found that the Straits of Mackinac are the absolute worst possible 
place for an oilspill anywhere in the entire Great Lakes Basin.
  Without question, there is no way that this pipeline would have been 
built today, but it is there, and we need the toughest protections and 
strictest accountability possible. To put these in place, I worked to 
pass bipartisan legislation to designate the Great Lakes as an 
unusually sensitive area, which requires the highest possible operating 
standards under Federal law.
  Rigorous Federal oversight is critical, but pipeline owners and 
operators must do their part as well by being transparent and 
forthcoming.
  While Enbridge assured us repeatedly that Line 5 is ``as good as 
new,'' we found out in August that there are bandaid-sized gaps where 
protective coatings had worn completely away and exposed the bare metal 
underneath to the harsh underwater environment in the straits. Last 
month, we learned of six additional locations with damage to the 
protective coatings, leaving areas as big as 1 square foot of exposed 
bare metal at each location. Then, on October 27, 2017, just 2 weeks 
ago, Enbridge disclosed that its pipeline integrity department knew of 
the damage that it had caused to the pipeline while conducting 
maintenance in 2014--3 years ago.
  I share the concerns that have been expressed by thousands of 
Michiganders who dread the worst case oilspill scenario, and I share 
their frustration and their anger at being misled. It is unacceptable 
that damage to a pipeline running through the Great Lakes could go 
unreported for 3 weeks, let alone 3 years.
  Simply put, Enbridge does not deserve our trust, and we deserve some 
answers. This is why, earlier this week, I called on the Pipeline and 
Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to exercise its oversight 
role and conduct a thorough investigation--examine any potential safety 
or reporting violations--and assure all Michiganders of the safety and 
integrity of Line 5, if at all possible. I also joined Senator Stabenow 
in demanding answers from Enbridge's CEO to three very critical 
questions:
  One, what are you doing to fix your broken reporting procedures?
  Two, is there any other unreported damage to Line 5?
  Three, how can we be certain that regulators are being fully informed 
by your company?
  We need these answers, and we must get them.
  I will never stop fighting to hold pipeline operators accountable and 
to keep our Great Lakes safe and clean. The Great Lakes are home, and I 
will do everything that I can to protect them for generations to come.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


               Senate Anti-Harassment Training Resolution

  Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I want to turn to two topics today.
  First, the good news is that all of the members of the Senate Rules 
Committee have come together on a mandatory sexual harassment training 
resolution that has been submitted with broad support, including from 
the two leaders and every member of the Rules Committee. I thank 
Senator Grassley for his leadership, Senator Shelby for his leadership, 
as well as Senators Capito and Cortez Masto, who were a big help.
  We are all too aware that sexual harassment continues in our 
workplaces. A recent study found that one in four women has been 
sexually harassed in the workplace and that three-quarters of 
individuals who have experienced sexual harassment at work have not 
reported the incidences. Civil service is actually among the top five 
industries with the highest sexual harassment incidences.
  We know that it will not stop on its own, and we will not be 
complacent bystanders who expect workplace cultures to change on their 
own. That is why today, with a bipartisan group of 19 of our 
colleagues, we took a major step forward with this resolution. Once it 
is adopted by the full Senate, which we hope will be shortly, this 
resolution will simply require that all Senators and staff receive 
sexual harassment training, as well as on other forms of harassment, at 
least once every 2 years--in addition to that, 60 days after it passes.
  What happens if Senators do not receive this training? The American 
people will know.
  In one part of this bill--and I appreciate the broad support from 
Senator McConnell, who has long been someone who has taken leadership 
in this area for many years, and from Senator Schumer, who has also 
taken leadership in this area--all offices will have to certify to the 
Secretary of the Senate that they and their employees here in 
Washington, as well as those working in our home States, have, in fact, 
taken the training and complied with the resolution. These 
certifications will be posted online for the public to view.

  I thank Senator Grassley, again, as well as Senator Shelby. Senator 
Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was the author of 
the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995. I want to thank as well 
Senators Cortez Masto and Capito and all the members of the Rules 
Committee for coming together, on both sides of the aisle, on this 
commonsense resolution.
  I urge my colleagues to support the Senate Anti-Harassment Training 
Resolution of 2017. There is more work to be done with regard to the 
reporting process, and that is something we are going to be working on 
in the next few weeks through the Rules Committee, but I do want to 
thank them.

[[Page S7148]]

  Senator Gillibrand has also been working in this area, and I want to 
thank her. Overall, it is a good effort in which everyone came together 
and agreed on a plan for mandatory training.


                              Veterans Day

  Mr. President, I will now turn to a completely different subject, and 
that is the subject of Veterans Day.
  I rise to honor and thank our veterans, servicemembers, and their 
families as we celebrate our veterans on Veterans Day. These brave men 
and women represent the best among us. Whether you served 50 years ago 
or still wear the uniform today, we thank our veterans for their 
service and sacrifice on behalf of this great Nation.
  No matter when they served, all veterans have one thing in common: a 
deep love of our country and a patriotism that goes beyond simply 
feeling pride. All veterans were willing to lay down their lives in 
defense of this Nation, and many continue to live the spirit of service 
in their communities once their time in the military is over.
  Last week, I attended the change of command ceremony, where we 
honored outgoing MG Richard Nash for his decades of service and saw him 
pass the leadership torch to MG Jon Jensen, who was sworn in as the new 
adjutant general of Minnesota's National Guard.
  As General Nash said earlier this year, ``Our Minnesota National 
Guard and the entire state has contributed greatly in a period of 
history that will be looked back upon as a remarkably important time.''
  He continued: ``We were always ready, always there.''
  He was right. Our servicemembers are always there for us, and, in 
turn, we must honor their service.
  At a time marked by the volatility of our politics, our commitment to 
our servicemembers and veterans remains steadfast. We stand united 
regardless of our politics. Our veterans fought for our freedom, and we 
need to be there for them.
  When our servicemembers put their lives on the line to serve our 
country, there wasn't a waiting line. When they come home to the United 
States of America, when they need healthcare or they need a job or they 
need a house, there should never be a waiting line in the United States 
of America.
  We still have a great deal of work ahead of us to honor this 
commitment. Here is an example. Amie Muller of Woodbury, MN, enlisted 
in the Air Force in 1998. After two deployments to Balad, Iraq, where 
she was stationed next to one of the war's most notorious toxic burn 
pits, she returned home. Shortly afterward, she was diagnosed with 
pancreatic cancer at age 36, half the average age for this form of 
cancer.
  When Amie passed earlier this year, she left three small children and 
her loving husband Brian behind. Since then, I have gotten to know and 
work with Brian. He has made one thing clear to me: We can't let these 
toxic burn pits become another Agent Orange. So as part of Amie's 
legacy, we are working to create a Center of Excellence within the 
Department of Veterans Affairs to deal with the mounting evidence that 
thousands of veterans have gotten sick after being exposed to toxic 
substances burned in the large pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. This isn't 
a partisan issue, and I am very pleased to have as a cosponsor of my 
bill Republican colleague Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina. We 
have been working together to get this bill passed. We are very pleased 
it was in the National Defense Authorization Act that came out of the 
Senate.
  While our National Guard and Reserve component members often serve 
with their Active-Duty counterparts on the exact same missions, they 
are not always ensured the same compensation and benefits for their 
service. When they return home, our National Guard and reservists are 
often denied the education and healthcare benefits they counted on 
during their deployments. We need to close that loophole and make sure 
that members deployed on the same missions who take the same risks 
receive the same benefits.
  Just as we have made a commitment to serving our servicemembers, we 
have made a commitment to looking out for their families. Since 
September 11, 2001, the Minnesota National Guard soldiers and airmen 
have deployed more than 26,000 times. Actually the Red Bulls, one of 
our units, is one of the longest serving units in Iraq.
  That service can take a toll on families--especially kids. That is 
why it is important for students and teachers to know which students' 
parents are servicemembers so they can help make special accommodations 
like setting up Skype during the schoolday so a young girl can talk to 
her dad who is serving abroad. That is what happens for students whose 
parents are on Active Duty in the military but not for those whose 
parents are in the Guard or Reserves. That makes no sense. Some say it 
was just an error--some say maybe not. Whatever it is, we need to fix 
it. I am leading bipartisan legislation to make sure our Guard and 
Reserve Forces and their families are treated equally.
  When our veterans signed up to serve and defend our country, there 
wasn't a waiting line, as I noted. That is why, on this day tomorrow, 
we will be honoring them by telling them we believe they deserve the 
best.
  I was reminded of that a number of years ago when I greeted one of 
the World War II Honor Flights that was coming back filled with 
veterans from Minnesota who saw, maybe for the first time or the last 
time, the World War II Memorial. They had gotten up incredibly early in 
the morning, boarded a plane, spent the day, and flew back. There were 
hundreds and hundreds of family members waiting for them late at night 
in the airport terminal with balloons and signs with their names on 
them. They got off that flight on walkers and wheelchairs, and they 
came down to where the families were, tears running down their faces. 
It was an amazing sight to see.
  In typical Minnesota tradition, a polka band was playing by the 
luggage carrousel, and one of the older veterans, who I later found out 
was in his late eighties, asked me to dance.
  I said: Well, I would love to dance. Then the band stopped playing 
because it was at the end.
  Then he said: Oh, that is OK.
  I said: I am sorry. I will have to take a rain check.
  I don't know why I said that to someone his age, but that is what I 
said.
  Then he said: That is OK. I have a great voice.
  He started singing that Frankie Valli song, ``You're just too good to 
be true. Can't take my eyes off of you,'' and he danced me around and 
around that luggage carrousel.
  As I danced with that man, I thought to myself, this is how our 
veterans should be treated every day. They should be greeted with 
balloons and signs at the airport, and they should be dancing with 
their Senators by the luggage carrousel.
  That is the spirit we have to remember as we go forward into Veterans 
Day. We are reminded of the exceptional commitment and extraordinary 
service our democracy demands of all the brave men and women who have 
stepped forward to protect it. That same democracy demands that we 
fight for our servicemembers as they fought for us. As General Nash 
said, they were ``always there'' for us, and we must be there for them 
too.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. SULLIVAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Blunt). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.


                   Tribute to Alaska Native Veterans

  Mr. SULLIVAN. Mr. President, as you know, I have been coming to the 
Senate floor pretty much every week for month after month to highlight 
someone in my State whom we call the Alaskan of the Week. It is someone 
who does something important, either for their community or the State 
or the country, and oftentimes they don't get a lot of recognition. The 
purpose of this is to say: Look at what these people are doing for 
Alaska, for America, for their community.
  My State is known for many things: its physical beauty, incredible 
hunting and fishing, adventuresome spirit, size--you don't want me 
going there. I have difficult conversations with my colleagues from 
Texas on occasion about the different sizes of our respective States, 
but I will not go into detail

[[Page S7149]]

here. These are all things we have in Alaskan space, but the thing that 
really makes us a great place to live is our people--strong, resilient, 
kind people all across our State who look out for each other, often in 
harsh weather conditions.
  We are a patriotic State. I know everybody here claims that, and that 
is great. We all are.
  Nowhere is the spirit of sacrifice and patriotism more apparent than 
in our veterans across the State. In Alaska, in Missouri--the Presiding 
Officer's State--we are all celebrating that, and we are going to 
celebrate that this weekend, going home for Veterans Day.
  In Alaska, we like to talk about our veterans. We also like to talk 
about the fact that we have more veterans per capita than any other 
State in the country. So it is a very patriotic place--full of service.
  In every city, village, and every community across Alaska, you will 
find proud veterans, many of them working tirelessly together to make 
sure they get the help and support that our veterans need. A lot of 
times that happens with the older vets--Vietnam-era vets. They come to 
make sure the new vets get the help they need.
  To all of them: I salute your service and your sacrifice. Thank you 
so much for all you have done and continue to do for our country. Happy 
Veterans Day to all of Alaska's veterans. I can't wait to get home to 
celebrate in Fairbanks and Anchorage this weekend.
  It is not just Veterans Day that is approaching in Alaska. This month 
we are also celebrating Alaska Native Heritage Month, where there is 
much to celebrate. Almost 20 percent of the population of our great 
State is Alaska Natives. This is a group of people who, generation 
after generation, have what I call a special patriotism.
  What do I mean by that? Well, Alaska Natives serve at higher rates in 
the military--just like the lower 48. Native Americans have higher 
rates in the military than any other ethnic group in the country. This 
has been going on for generations--World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the 
Cold War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. When you think about it, it is 
special.
  Let's face it. In the forties, fifties, sixties, and seventies, even 
sometimes, unfortunately, today, the Federal Government has not always 
treated Alaska Natives well. Yet, generation after generation, they go 
off to the front to fight for this country. It is truly a special kind 
of patriotism and a unique tribute to the Alaska Native heritage we are 
supporting and celebrating this month.
  I thought it was fitting today to name as our Alaskan of the Week--to 
make it a collective tribute for all Alaska Natives who have served 
their country in the military, and it is thousands, to make them 
collectively the Alaskans of the Week as we look to celebrate Veterans 
Day.
  Mr. President, here is a little bit of history. I know you know this, 
but a lot of Americans don't. During World War II, Alaska was the only 
State in the Union to be invaded and occupied by the Japanese, so we 
had big military battles in the Aleutian Island chain of Alaska to 
throw off the invaders of our American territory. Thousands of Alaska 
Natives volunteered to protect their homeland and to defend their 
country overseas. Across the State, whether they were in the Alaska 
Territorial Guard, warriors overseas, code talkers who served with the 
Marines and others--they were as old as 80 and as young as 12.
  This is a great story. It shows the warrior ethic. Alaska Native 
women, after the outbreak of World War II, originally enrolled in the 
Alaska Territorial Guard before they realized that women weren't 
allowed to enroll. In fact, the best sharpshooter in Alaska's 
Territorial Guard was a woman named Laura Beltz Wright of Haycock, AK.
  Here is how the late, great Jerome Trigg--an Alaska Native and a 
marine--put it in 1968, at the height of the Vietnam war, when he was 
testifying in front of the U.S. Congress on a very important piece of 
legislation called the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. He was the 
president of the Arctic Native Brotherhood and, as I mentioned, a proud 
marine.
  In front of a bunch of Senators, he stated as follows:

       We have showed our patriotism as proudly as any Americans 
     on earth. We have answered the call of duty with pride in 
     serving [our country]. We answered the call in [World War] II 
     100 percent. Every man in every village--old and young--
     volunteered with the Alaska National Guard.

  Remember, this was in 1968 that he was testifying. Then he said:

       I have never heard of an Alaska Native burning the draft 
     card or burning our nation's flag.

  We are patriots. That service, as I mentioned, didn't end after World 
War II. Alaska Natives have served in every conflict--the Korean war 
and in droves during the Vietnam war.
  I was honored to be in Southeast Alaska this past summer in a Native 
village called Hoonah. It is a beautiful place. There was a documentary 
I saw recently. It documented the classes in 1968 and 1969 in that 
small Native village in a film called ``Hunting and Wartime.'' It was 
about how almost every single male high school student in Hoonah--every 
one--went to go fight in Vietnam. That is incredible. It is special 
patriotism.
  Let me tell you a quick, more up-to-date story. We had the Secretary 
of Interior, Ryan Zinke--a combat vet, a Navy SEAL, a heroic man 
himself--come to Alaska this summer. I asked him to meet with a bunch 
of Alaska Native veterans, particularly our Vietnam veterans, who had 
an issue that the Department of Interior has been working on for years. 
I wanted him to hear about it firsthand.
  It was a very touching meeting. Some in the room talked about what it 
was like to be in their villages--places they had never left--when they 
were 17 and 18 and 19. Then, a few days later, they were in a steamy 
jungle, thousands and thousands of miles away, in Vietnam. Some talked 
about what it was like coming back and not feeling that they had the 
support of their country, others talked about the difficulty of 
readjusting to life back in Alaska after their service in Vietnam and 
some of the discrimination they received when they came back home, but 
even though they went through this hardship, even though they went 
through some of these very difficult times in the late sixties and 
early seventies, not one of them said they had made a mistake in 
serving their country. They were proud, patriotic warriors, and to this 
day that is what they are.

  Secretary Zinke said, after he left that meeting, he began it as 
their Secretary of Interior, and he left as a brother in arms.
  I am so honored to be able to serve these great Alaskans and to 
celebrate them as our Alaskans of the Week, just like I know everybody 
in America is going to be proud to go home and celebrate with their 
veterans.
  Once again, for our Alaska Native veterans, thank you for all you 
have done for our country, and thank you for being our Alaskans of the 
Week.


                                 Energy

  Mr. President, I just want to come down to the floor and say a few 
words about a debate that has been going on in the Congress right now, 
and that involves the importance of more energy for the United States.
  We had a hearing last week on the possibility of opening a very small 
portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge called the 1002 area--
you see it here in the picture--which would be a win-win-win for the 
United States. It would help create jobs, it would grow the economy, it 
would increase energy security, and it would also help protect the 
global environment and strengthen our Nation's national security. These 
are the two issues I want to touch on this afternoon.
  We have the highest environmental standards regarding responsible 
resource development anyplace in the world. I was actually in charge of 
these standards as Alaska's commissioner of the Department of Natural 
Resources. I could tell you, whether it was no impact exploration--what 
we call that in Alaska--or specific requirements relating to our 
incredible species, like polar bear or caribou or mandating the best 
available technology, we have an over 50-year record of responsible 
resource development in our State.
  Let me just give you one example, what we call no impact exploration. 
On the North Slope of Alaska, we only allow for exploration activities 
during the winter months. So what does that mean? Companies actually 
create ice roads and ice pads, where they drive along the tundra with 
equipment and

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with drill rigs to go explore all on ice. They do that for about 4 
months during the winter, then they leave. When the spring comes, there 
is literally zero impact on the tundra--zero impact.
  Yet some of my colleagues, particularly my colleagues on the other 
side of the aisle, have been coming down here for weeks talking about 
issues with regard to Alaska and the environment and energy. With all 
due respect, they are using talking points that are about 40 years old.
  When we had the hearing recently, the ranking member of the ENR 
Committee said nothing has changed. Well, everything has changed--the 
technology, the high standards. The only thing that has not changed are 
some of the talking points the other side has been using for the last 
40 years.
  Let me just give you one example. On the bill the Energy and Natural 
Resources Committee recently put up with regard to exploration in the 
1002 area--this is all of ANWR, I believe about the size of Wyoming. 
This is the wilderness area of ANWR. This is the 1002 area, the coastal 
area of ANWR that was set aside by Congress to look at the possibility 
of exploring a very resource-rich area of the country. This red dot--
you can barely see it--is a surface area of 2,000 acres--2,000 acres. 
That is what the bill would say. It would limit development of this 
area to 2,000 acres.
  For a little perspective, Dulles airport is 12,000 acres. This would 
be about 10 percent of Dulles airport. That is it. That is the surface 
footprint. Yet my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have been 
coming out and talking about millions and millions of acres, so it is 
important that we push back.
  Here is the big issue for those in Congress who want to continually 
shut down resource development in Alaska that they never acknowledge: 
When you disallow investment in Alaska, which has the highest standards 
in the world on the environment, you don't end up protecting the 
environment. You just drive capital investment, exploration, and 
development activities to jurisdictions in the world with little to no 
environmental protection--countries like Nigeria, Venezuela, Iran, 
Russia, many of which are our geopolitical foes.
  In conclusion, what we are looking to do on the Senate floor with 
regard to producing more energy for this country is going to help with 
regard to jobs, it is going to help with regard to energy security, it 
is going to help with regard to national security, and, yes, it is 
going to help with regard to protecting the global environment because 
we have the highest standards in the world, and we do it right in 
Alaska.
  If we are not doing it here, there will be activities in other 
countries, other jurisdictions where they don't care about the 
environment the way we do. So we need to move forward on this important 
element of the energy and natural resource bill that was introduced 
today in the committee. I encourage all of my colleagues to support 
that bill.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I was listening carefully to the 
remarks of my friend from Alaska, and I am very much supportive of the 
effort to open up this small footprint in the Alaskan wilderness. It 
struck me that my friend from Alaska is right on point when he said the 
only talking points that haven't changed are the ones on the other side 
from 40 years ago. The advances in technology are truly impressive, and 
the opportunity not only for Alaska but for America to realize these 
natural resources is something very important to the country. I thank 
my friend for pointing that out.

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