EXECUTIVE SESSION
(Senate - November 14, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 186 (Tuesday, November 14, 2017)]
[Pages S7186-S7192]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                           EXECUTIVE SESSION

                                 ______
                                 

                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the 
Senate will proceed to executive session and resume consideration of 
the Bradbury nomination, which the clerk will report.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of Steven 
Gill Bradbury, of Virginia, to be General Counsel of the Department of 
Transportation.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in 
morning business.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so 
ordered.


                                  DACA

  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, it was 16 years ago that I introduced a 
bill known as the DREAM Act. The purpose of the DREAM Act was to give 
undocumented young people brought to the United States under the age of 
18 an opportunity to go through a background check and to earn their 
way to legal status--16 years ago. The bill passed the Senate at 
various times and it passed the House, though never quite in the same 
year at the same time.
  Now we face a crisis, literally. It is a crisis involving hundreds of 
thousands of these young people across America. It was just September 5 
when the President of the United States announced that he was going to 
eliminate DACA.
  DACA was the Executive order of President Obama that allowed these 
Dreamers to come forward, pay a filing fee of about $500 or $600, 
submit themselves to a criminal background check, and, after that 
background check, if they cleared it, to be given a 2-year allowance to 
live in the United States without fear of deportation--2 years at a 
time--and the legal capacity to work. That was what DACA was about.
  So 780,000 young people did it. They came forward. They surrendered 
the information about themselves and their families. They submitted 
themselves to criminal background checks, and they ended up getting the 
protection of DACA. They went on to go to school, to go to work, to 
become teachers or engineers, to go to medical school, and to do things 
that really mean that they will have a future in this country that will 
be a benefit to them and to all of us.
  So President Trump said that program will end on March 5, 2018, and 
he established a deadline, for those who were going to see their DACA 
eligibility end during that period of time, for them to renew. The 
deadline was October 5. It meant that they had to come forward with the 
filing fee and at least apply to go through the process again. It was 
quite a hardship on many of these young people to come up with the 
money for the filing fee and to realize that the clock was ticking in a 
very meaningful way about their ability to protect themselves. Many of 
them stepped forward and asked for help from families, from churches, 
and from friends to come up with the filing fee to make sure that they 
renewed their DACA eligibility in time.
  Let me tell you what happened to some of them who went through this 
process.
  Here is one case. On September 14, Allison Baker, a lawyer for the 
Legal Aid Society in New York, sent one of these young individuals' 
application to renew this permit that would let him stay and work in 
the United States legally as part of DACA. The date of September 14 
should be remembered because the deadline for filing was October 5. To 
be sure, this lawyer sent this renewal application for this young man 
by certified mail. Back in the day when I practiced law, that was one 
way to make sure you had written proof of when you actually mailed 
something far in advance of a deadline. Tracking data from the U.S. 
Postal Service showed that the envelope arrived in Chicago on September 
16. It was mailed from New York on September 14 and arrived in Chicago 
September 16, on its way to a regional processing warehouse of the U.S. 
Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that administers the 
program known as DACA.
  Then the packet started circling the Chicago postal system in a 
mysterious holding pattern. From September 17 to September 19, it was 
in transit to destination, according to the Postal Service. Then its 
tracking whereabouts disappeared until October 4, where, once again, 
the Postal Service assured the sender that it was ``on its way.''
  On October 6, the day after the deadline, this certified application, 
which was sent on September 14, arrived, and the application for this 
24-year-old man was rejected by our government.
  He wasn't alone. We know of at least 33 other cases just like this. 
Congressman Luis Gutierrez, of my State of Illinois, told the story of 
another application renewal sent on September 13 for an October 5 
deadline. It arrived on October 6, as well. Another sent their 
paperwork on September 21. It wasn't received until October 9. What 
Congressman Gutierrez said is very obvious: Because somebody else did 
not do their job correctly, we are taking innocent young immigrants and 
making them deportable. That is unacceptable, Congressman Gutierrez 
said.
  What does the U.S. Postal Service have to say about what I just read 
to you, those two or three cases? On Thursday, in a rare admission from 
a Federal agency, the U.S. Postal Service took the blame. David 
Partenheimer, a spokesman for the Postal Service, said that there had 
been ``an unintentional temporary mail processing delay in the Chicago 
area.''
  Remember what I am saying here. Young people, undocumented had 
applied successfully and had been accepted into the DACA Program. The 
President announced he was going to end

[[Page S7187]]

the program, and those--many of them--had to re-sign up, renew, by 
October 5. They did it. They mailed it. Their application didn't arrive 
in time.
  It doesn't take a big leap of faith or intelligence to realize what 
should be done. Clearly, this agency should be giving these young 
people a chance. Once again, they have done everything they can think 
of to comply with the law and trust our government. They trusted our 
government to give them DACA status to allow them to stay in the United 
States, and they trusted the Postal Service, in a matter of 2 weeks, to 
be able to deliver a letter.
  Yesterday I spoke to the USCIS Director, Francis Cissna, and I asked 
him about this. I said to him: There must be a way for us to 
acknowledge the obvious. These young people, in good faith, did 
everything we could ask of them to comply with the law, and now they 
have been rejected. Now they are subject to deportation because the 
Postal Service didn't do its job. I asked him: Are you prepared to at 
least reconsider this decision and give them a chance to renew their 
DACA status?
  He said he was aware of the situation and that it was being 
considered at the highest levels of the Department of Homeland 
Security.
  I raise this issue because real lives are at stake. These are real 
people. These are young men and women who are doing everything they can 
think of to become part of America's future. They are hiring lawyers, 
they are raising money, and they are filing the documents that are 
asked of them in the hopes they can stay in the United States of 
America, and the system is fighting them every step of the way. In this 
situation, this is totally unfair.
  Our government is better than this. Our people are better than this. 
Our values are better than this. I am pleading with the Department of 
Homeland Security and those who are seeking positions in that 
Department to show some common sense and a little bit of heart when it 
comes to these young people who are simply trying to make a future for 
themselves and a better United States of America.


                          Republican Tax Plan

  Mr. President, this week, Republicans in Congress are determined to 
barrel ahead at full speed in a rushed, partisan effort to pass a tax 
plan at any cost. Make no mistake, for working families in Illinois and 
across the United States, this is a mistake.
  Preliminary analysis from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation 
revealed that by 2019, more than 13 million Americans who make less 
than $200,000 a year will experience not a tax cut but a tax increase 
under the Senate Republican plan. That number jumps from 13 million to 
21 million by the year 2025.
  In my State of Illinois, taxpayers at every income bracket are going 
to see their taxes increase for this tax reform that is being pushed 
through at the last minute of this session.
  Fourteen percent of the middle fifth of taxpayers in Illinois--those 
who are the very definition of middle income--will see an average tax 
hike under the Senate plan of $1,400. So much for a tax cut. It is a 
tax increase. Mr. President, I don't know about taxpayers in your 
State, but in my home State of Illinois, a $1,400 tax hike is a gut 
punch to a working family.
  That is not all. Further analysis from the Center on Budget and 
Policy Priorities shows that in addition to the millions of households 
which will see their taxes rise under this Senate Republican plan, 53 
million households--that is 40 percent of all households earning less 
than $200,000 per year--will see no significant tax change under the 
new plan.
  Let's be clear. If you are a middle-income family listening to that 
and you are thinking you might want to take your chances under this 
Republican plan, please look at the facts. Even if you are one of the 
lucky ones who manage not to pay more under the Republican tax plan, 
make no mistake, when this plan blows a $1.5 trillion hole in our 
Nation's deficit, it will be working families who end up paying the 
bill.
  When Republicans' fake math indeed falls short and the deficit is 
skyrocketing, the Republican budget has already identified how they are 
going to pay for these tax cuts in the future. Are you ready? They are 
going to do it with an additional $470 billion in cuts in Medicare 
benefits--Medicare. They are paying for a tax cut for wealthy people by 
reducing the benefits paid out under Medicare to retired Americans and 
another $1 trillion cuts in Medicaid. Remember Medicaid? That is the 
program where the major expense is to maintain the lives and health of 
two-thirds of Americans who are in nursing homes.
  So the Republicans want to give a tax break to the wealthy. They are 
going to ask seniors who are retired to pay more or receive less from 
Medicare and make a dramatic cut in Medicaid as well. There is no 
hiding. Congressional Republicans have made clear that one way or 
another, working families in America are going to pay for what they 
call tax reform. At the heart of the Republican playbook for how to 
bankroll massive tax cuts for the wealthy few and the largest 
corporations is the elimination of three vital tax breaks for working 
families.
  The House Republican plan will be voted on this week. They are dead 
set to get this done in a matter of days, and they are going to 
eliminate in the House plan the medical expense deduction. What does 
that mean? It means, if someone in your family is diagnosed with a 
serious illness--God forbid, cancer or whatever it is--and your family 
ends up incurring massive debts, making sure that person survives, if 
you incur those debts, you currently can deduct them from your taxes 
that you pay, but the House Republican plan eliminates the deduction.
  In my State of Illinois, 370,000 or more used the medical expense 
deduction. Their medical bills are that high. The Republicans in the 
House eliminate that deduction. That isn't going to help working 
families. It puts them at risk of bankruptcy. The No. 1 reason for 
bankruptcy in America is medical bills. The House Republican tax plan 
makes it tougher. More than 370,000 Illinoisans claim an average of a 
$10,000 deduction for medical expenses, for hospital care, long-term 
nursing home care, prescription drug costs. That is just wrong.
  There is more. The House plan also eliminates the student loan 
interest deduction. Think about that for a second. Here, we have 1.5 
million young people in Illinois paying off student loans. You know 
what they face: $20,000, $40,000, $60,000, $80,000 in debt. Some of 
them are still living in their parents' basement because of their 
student loans. We give them one little break. You know what it is? The 
deductibility on the interest on student loans, and yet here comes the 
Republicans to eliminate that deduction.
  Why would we ever want to make it harder for these students and their 
families to pay off that mountain of debt that they incur going to 
college? But that is part of the so-called Republican tax reform.
  They also include the one provision I know my colleague from New 
York, the Democratic leader, feels very intensely about because our 
States share the same problem. This compromise proposed in the Senate 
eliminates the State and local property tax deduction for State income 
tax, sales tax, and property tax currently in New York and Illinois and 
many other States. We hold to the basic principle, Americans should not 
have to pay a tax on a tax.
  Unfortunately, the Republicans in the Senate believe they want to 
change that. The net result of that is to increase dramatically the 
burden so many taxpaying families already face. We have seen increases 
in our State income tax. We face regular increases in property taxes. 
This is the one deduction that gives these families a little bit of 
help, and Republicans are eliminating it.
  It was a week ago when I had a press conference with the Realtors in 
my State and the homebuilders, who are dramatically opposed to the 
elimination of this deduction and other changes that are being made 
when it comes to purchasing homes and homeownership. They have told me: 
If you want real economic growth in Illinois or any State, you start 
with people who are building and buying homes. Sadly, the Republican 
approach, when it comes to tax reform, refuses to take that into 
consideration.
  We need to stand up for working families in our States of Illinois 
and New York and across this Nation. This tax reform plan that has been 
proposed by the Republicans, who are determined to get it done in just 
a matter of a few

[[Page S7188]]

days, is going to be damaging to so many, and it is not going to help 
America grow. Middle-income families are going to pay for the cost of 
giveaways to the wealthiest taxpayers in America.
  I yield the floor.


                   Recognition of the Minority Leader

  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Democratic leader is 
recognized.


                   Thanking the Senator from Illinois

  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, first, let me thank my dear friend and 
colleague from Illinois. As I have always maintained, he is one of the 
most articulate and eloquent Members of this Senate, on either side of 
the aisle, and it is a joy to listen to him--not the subject but the 
way he articulates it, the subject we are interested in but not happy 
about, which is the tax bill.


                          Republican Tax Bill

  Now, Mr. President, Senator McConnell always comes down and says: I 
hope the Democrats will join us in the tax reform bill. Mr. Leader, Mr. 
Republican leader, we want to join you, but that doesn't mean you write 
a bill behind closed doors and then say support it.
  The way we have done tax reform successfully in the past--I was there 
in 1986--is Democrats and Republicans sat down together and came up 
with a bill that maybe a few in each party wouldn't support, but the 
mainstreams of both parties would. It avoids the secrecy. It also 
avoids one or two Members saying: Unless I get this, I am not going to 
be for the bill--which pulls the bill in many different directions.
  So, Mr. Leader, yes, Democrats do want to join this, but it is 
totally disingenuous, not honest of you, to say that without letting us 
sit at the table, without letting us see the bill. So let's knock it 
off. You want to do a bill with just Republicans, fine. You tried it 
with healthcare. You are trying it with tax reform. It is a lose-lose. 
You will either not pass the bill or you will pass the bill that was 
enshrouded in secrecy that will have so many problems every Republican 
who votes for it will regret it.
  Yesterday's markup in the Finance Committee indicated the same thing. 
The markup of the Republican tax bill wasn't the actual bill. It was 
``a preliminary draft.'' How do we know it wasn't the real bill? Well, 
today the Finance Committee has notified us that instead of continuing 
the markup as usual, the committee will recess after a morning session 
because the Republicans are not ready with their replacement bill--the 
real one.
  This is crazy. The President, who doesn't know what is in the bill--
we all know that--has set an arbitrary deadline, and to meet that 
deadline, our Republican colleagues are sacrificing the integrity of 
the process and the quality of the bill.
  We are 2 days into a markup, halfway, and Democrats haven't even seen 
a real bill yet. In their desperate rush to get this bill through 
Congress, Republicans started by marking up a bill that is not even the 
one they intended to pass. It is a bait and switch. It is the perfect 
example of the problem with rushing a bill of this magnitude through 
Congress.
  Republicans can't keep up with their own reckless, breakneck pace, 
and they are going to have to delay the markup. This same problem is 
going to repeat itself over and over again on issues of greater 
complexity and consequence.
  What happens when Republicans realize their new international tax 
regime encourages scores of new tax savings and avoidance schemes? What 
happens if the independent analysts say their new loophole for 
passthrough businesses doesn't have enough guardrails? What happens if 
the House and Senate are unable to reconcile their disparate approaches 
to slashing State and local deductions?
  In the New York Times this morning--I commend all my Republican 
colleagues to read it--they identified new potential problems in this 
Republican tax bill, problems the writers hadn't thought about, but 
corporate lawyers by the dozens, by the scores, by the hundreds will 
find a way to walk through these loopholes, even though our Republican 
colleagues didn't intend those loopholes to exist. You can be sure that 
for every 1 of these loopholes, these misadventures, the Times 
identified, there are 5 or 10 more lurking in the print, in the fine 
print. The only question is whether our Republican colleagues find them 
now or find them out later when it is too late after the bill passes.
  Instead of rushing through a bill of such enormous complexity, 
sunlight is the great fermenter of this type of legislation. If it lies 
out there for a little while, people come in and say: This is wrong or 
that is wrong. Those will be individuals, those will be pundits, those 
will be the companies our Republican friends are trying to help. They 
will say: Wait a minute; this doesn't quite work because no one has had 
a chance to really see it, examine it, and let it stew.
  Now we are asked for other significant changes. What happens if, as 
we have seen, every few days President Trump tweets, asking the 
Republicans to change their bill, and this time they repeal the 
individual mandate and drop the top rate, as he asked them to do 
yesterday? Each of these decisions has enormous, drastic consequences 
for American families and American industries.
  President Trump's crazy idea to repeal the individual mandate as a 
part of this bill, according to CBO, would boot 13 million people from 
the health insurance rolls and cause premiums to skyrocket, all to pay 
for a bigger tax cut at the top bracket--the wealthiest people in 
America. What a toxic idea. Are any Republicans going to go home and 
campaign on that? We are going to get rid of the individual mandate, 
kick 13 million people off healthcare, and raise premiums so we can 
lower the top rate when no one--no one but the hard right--is clamoring 
for it?
  Income distribution is a problem in America. We all admit that we 
have different solutions for it. So be it. But I haven't heard, as I 
did in the 1980s, 1990s, or even the early 2000s, a clamoring to lower 
the top rate, even among those who pay it. They know they are doing 
well. Wealth has gone way up in America, and it has gone to the top. 
That is not what we need. It is a toxic idea. Yet Republicans may have 
to consider adding it to the bill to placate a restless and uninformed 
President, who, we all know, knows very little of what is in this bill. 
He just tweets. Somehow our Republican colleagues, instead of ignoring 
the tweets, pay attention to too many of them.
  Yesterday, the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation said that they 
would not be able to properly analyze the effects of the Republican tax 
bill in the time they have planned for it. So we are not even having 
the JCT--nonpartisan, respected for decades--analyze the bill before we 
are going to vote on it in the committee and maybe on the floor.
  Again, the Republican leadership in the House and Senate will ask 
their Members to vote on a major bill without knowing the consequences. 
In no world is this proper legislative procedure. No party has ever 
done this before--Democrats, Republicans, Whigs, Anti-Federalists, 
Democratic-Republicans, Federalists. We have never seen this before. It 
is so wrong.
  We see so many things that ail this country, and I have to say a lot 
of them stem from the top--from the President. Yet our Republican 
colleagues are still fearful of ignoring him, of not listening to ideas 
they know are ludicrous.
  The rush is because my Republican friends, fearful of the President 
and his self-imposed deadline, are trying to hide a bill that would 
transfer even more wealth to the superwealthy while raising taxes on 
millions of middle-class Americans.
  According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, of all taxpayers making 
less than $200,000 a year, 13 million would see a tax hike in 2019, and 
20 million would see a tax hike by 2027. Both Leader McConnell and 
Speaker Ryan said that they would not raise middle-class taxes. They 
had to back off. For working Americans who do get a tax cut, the 
average is so small compared to what folks at the top are getting. 
Americans making $40,000 to $50,000 a year get an average cut of $480, 
while folks making over $1 million will get a tax cut of $50,000--100 
times more than what working families get. They can say: Well, that is 
because the wealthy are richer. But that is not what we need in America 
right now. The wealthy are getting wealthier. They are doing fine, even 
under the present

[[Page S7189]]

tax regime. Middle-class people's median income has been going down 
over the last decade. It is harder for middle-class people to average--
it shouldn't be OK for them to get $500 and the wealthy to get $50,000. 
We ought to be directing the tax cuts at the middle class.
  Republicans--Trump's organization--had an ad on TV. They said that 
wealthy people's tax rates remain the same, while the middle class gets 
a cut. That is false advertising because, when we compare apples to 
apples, the wealthy get a much larger cut than the middle-class people.
  We have known for weeks that the longer this bill is in effect, the 
worse it gets for the middle class. To stay within deficit numbers, the 
JCT confirmed that under the revised House bill, entire middle-income 
groups will see a tax hike, on average, just a few years down the road. 
Speaker Ryan and other Republicans say that those tax hikes will not 
happen because future Congresses will extend certain tax breaks in 
perpetuity. If that is true, all the deficit hawks ought to pay 
attention. There is a gigantic hidden cost to the bill if we are going 
to make these tax cuts temporary in this bill and then make them 
permanent.
  The scores this week will say that these bills blow a $1.5 trillion 
hole in the deficit over the next decade. That is bad enough. But if a 
bunch of breaks, deductions, and expansions that are now temporary are 
made permanent, as the Speaker says they will be, the real cost will be 
hundreds of billions, if not trillions, more. All of my Republican 
friends who care about the deficit should be wary of this gain.
  We do need permanence. We need corporate America in particular to be 
relying on a permanent change. But you can't do a permanent change 
without blowing a hole in the deficit, so you do a temporary change. 
There is a simple solution, which, if Democrats and Republicans work 
together, we could do: Close corporate loopholes, lower the top rate, 
keep the corporate reduction deficit-neutral and permanent. My guess is 
most corporate leaders would prefer that. They would prefer less of a 
tax decrease and more permanence because you can't build a factory or 
make a major investment if you know that the decrease is going to 
vanish.
  We shouldn't be rushing through such an ill-conceived, backward 
bill--breaking the fine traditions of this body, busting the deficit, 
breaking the backs of millions of middle-class families, making the 
funding of defense far more difficult when there is so much agreement 
between our two parties on tax reform. On healthcare, it is hard to 
agree; the visions are diametrically opposed. But on tax reform, that 
is not true. Our Republican friends are just bollixing this up. Somehow 
they had in their heads that they had to do it through reconciliation. 
They had to do it without Democrats, and the result is a very poor 
product that most Americans already don't like and even more will not 
like as they learn more about it.
  We all want to reduce the burden on small businesses. We all want to 
encourage companies to locate jobs here. We could put together a bill 
that does those things. This bill doesn't.
  If Republicans turn their backs on this deeply flawed approach, my 
commitment to so many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle--
who I know are squirming about this bill--is that we will come together 
and put a good bill together that a majority of both parties can 
support--both parties. That is how it ought to be done.


                        President's Trip to Asia

  As President Trump returns from his week-long trip to several Asian 
nations, it is worth asking: What did America get out of his trip?
  Did he forcefully confront the Chinese leaders about our imbalanced 
and unfair trade system, where we play by the rules and the Chinese do 
not? No. He said that China's behavior was not their fault and blamed 
American leaders instead for China's trade abuses.
  Even if he believes that, what is the point of saying it? He is 
encouraging China to keep doing what they have been doing all along if 
he thinks they are not to blame--letting them off the hook. Why? 
Because Xi gave him a red carpet?
  I have never been so ashamed of a foreign trip in my years. It is 
just inside out. We attack our friends, and the people who have given 
us the most trouble--China and Russia--we mollycoddle. That is so bad 
for the future of this country.
  Did President Trump engage the various regional powers in a project 
of great importance, curtailing and containing the rogue North Korean 
regime? No. He settled for a sophomoric exchange of insults on Twitter, 
far below the dignity of the office. Then he came back and bragged 
about the great ceremony and how well he was treated. Xi played the 
President. He played the President. Every American should be 
embarrassed.
  I heard one commentator say this morning that this trip cemented 
China as the leading power of the world, not because they have more 
economic power, not because they have greater intellectual ideas, not 
because they are better people but because Xi is dominating and smart, 
and the President so susceptible to flattery. It is demeaning to the 
United States and its role in the world.
  Then, to add insult to injury, he seems to have a love for dictators. 
In the Philippines, where a strongman leader is engaged in a vicious 
campaign of extrajudicial killings, did Trump admonish him? Did Trump 
uphold the beacon of the United States as the noblest power in the 
world? No. He lectured and unsettled our allies while emboldening our 
adversaries, like China and Russia, by treating them with kid gloves 
and making it clear that all they have to do is say a few flattering 
words and the United States will drop the interests that our people are 
so dependent on.
  All in all, President Trump's trip was a colossal flop and 
embarrassment. He seemed far more interested in pomp and circumstances, 
red carpets, fancy meals, and the flattery of foreign leaders than in 
advancing vital American interests in a region that is increasingly 
looking to China for leadership. After the President's performance, 
those countries are going to turn more to China. At least they have 
strength and direction, even though China will take advantage of them, 
for sure, as they have taken advantage of us.
  It is a sad state of affairs when the simplest of strategies--
flattery--can derail an entire foreign trip and undercut American 
influence in the world. President Trump was played for a fool by 
China's leaders, and he enthusiastically accepted the role.
  The President of the United States--this great, grand country we 
love--is supposed to be the single strongest voice and advocate for our 
national interests. If he will not stick up for America, her interests, 
and her values on the world stage, who will?
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.
  Mr. RISCH. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Strange). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.


                               Tax Reform

  Mr. RISCH. Mr. President, thank you. I rise to speak about the tax 
reform issue and the tax reform effort that is front and center for 
this Congress and for all Americans. Particularly, I want to point out 
the fact that Congress has not undertaken this difficult task for over 
30 years, and for anyone who has been involved in this, they now 
realize how difficult it really is.
  In the years since the last major overhaul, Congress has, by 
patchwork, added numerous carve-outs and special interests, passed 
short-term tax extenders, which have made planning for families and 
businesses very difficult, and has generally contributed to a tax code 
that today is extremely complex, burdensome, and unpredictable.
  My colleague from Idaho Senator Crapo has stated that we couldn't 
have done worse if we had set out intentionally to do worse. Many of my 
colleagues and I have heard story after story from our constituents who 
have said the same thing. The Tax Code makes it hard for families and 
businesses, especially small businesses, to comply and plan ahead, let 
alone grow and prosper. This conversation hasn't gone away, so clearly 
the system, as it stands, is not serving the American people as it 
should.
  It is imperative for the continued growth of the American economy 
that

[[Page S7190]]

we simplify the system, reduce complexity, and create certainty. Tax 
reform will bring relief to American families. Under the plan released 
by the Senate Finance Committee, middle-class Americans will see a 
benefit in the form of a lower tax bill, which means more money for 
households to bring home. In addition to keeping more money in the 
pockets of hard-working Americans, the Senate plan nearly doubles the 
standard deduction, increases the child tax credit to help families 
with the very real costs associated with raising a family, and 
preserves an existing tax credit to help care for elderly family 
members. This tax plan would also make it easier for individuals and 
families to avoid a time-consuming and expensive tax-filing nightmare 
by simplifying the Tax Code and eliminating deductions.
  The aim of this entire exercise is to make the Tax Code simpler, 
fairer, and easier to comply with, reducing the burden on taxpayers and 
creating an environment that enables families and businesses to thrive.
  Tax reform will help grow small businesses. As chairman of the Senate 
Small Business Committee, I have focused on highlighting small business 
issues in this tax reform process. The ranking member, Senator Shaheen, 
and I held a bipartisan hearing in June to talk about tax policies that 
would most benefit small businesses across the country. As a result, we 
sent a bipartisan letter to the Senate Finance Committee, which was 
drawing this bill, to outline the policies we determined were most 
important. The topline issue was the need to address the individual Tax 
Code along with the corporate Tax Code. Most of the Nation's small 
businesses are organized in a way that they pay taxes through the 
individual code. It is amazing they managed to create the majority of 
new jobs in America, despite facing this higher tax rate, with the 
added burden of spending time and money away from businesses to comply 
with this complex Tax Code. Thankfully, Ranking Member Shaheen and I 
are not the only ones who heard this message, and lower rates for small 
businesses is part of this conversation.
  Small businesses have identified tax policies that work for them, 
along with changes that could be made to help more of them across the 
country. Two of the examples are the cash method of accounting and 
section 179 expensing. Cash method accounting is a simpler way for 
small businesses to keep their books, and section 179 expensing allows 
small businesses to immediately deduct the cost of investing in their 
business up to a certain amount. Both of these commonsense policies 
will reach more business owners in tax reform.
  I am encouraged by the plan the Senate Finance Committee released 
last week and the process they are undertaking this week to move this 
bill forward. With tax reform, we have a real opportunity to make 
changes that will have a tangible, positive impact on the American 
people and create an environment for our Nation's job creators to 
prosper. I am excited to see the kind of job creation that will result 
from the changes we are considering, and I look forward to working with 
my colleagues to make this a reality.
  Thank you.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. MURPHY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                       Yemen Humanitarian Crisis

  Mr. MURPHY. Mr. President, my colleagues, cholera is a truly awful 
way to die. It is a manmade disease, a man-caused disease that this 
world could easily eradicate from existence. You become so dehydrated, 
you vomit so much liquid, your body dispenses so many nutrients, so 
much water through unending diarrhea, that your body is thrown into 
shock. You literally die from vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes over the 
course of hours, sometimes over the course of days, sometimes over the 
course of weeks.
  Inside Yemen today, by the end of this year, there will be 1 million 
people diagnosed with cholera.
  This picture I have in the Chamber is a hard image to see. I will 
replace it with this one.
  One million people will be diagnosed with cholera. Thousands and 
thousands inside Yemen today are dying because of this disease. There 
is a humanitarian catastrophe inside this country--which very few 
people in this Nation can locate on a map--of absolutely epic 
proportions. This humanitarian catastrophe, this famine--one of four 
famines across the world today--is being caused in part by actions of 
the United States of America, and it is time that we do something about 
it as a body.
  As we speak today, the Saudi-led coalition that has been engaged in 
an incessant 2-year bombing campaign in Yemen is blockading Yemen, not 
allowing any humanitarian relief, not allowing fuel or food or water to 
get into the country.
  The coalition's blockade has grounded U.N. flights. It has prevented 
humanitarian workers from flying in and out of the country. It has 
barred ships from delivering lifesaving food, fuel, and medical 
supplies. A 25,000-metric-ton World Food Programme ship is currently, 
as we speak, being denied access to the port. As we speak today, 
hospitals and aid organizations inside Yemen are shutting down because 
they do not have enough fuel to continue operating. Vaccines will run 
out in the country by the end of the month. Prices for food and 
medicine are spiking such that they are unaffordable to the majority of 
Yemenis. Because of cholera alone, 2,000 people have died. Thousands of 
other civilians have died because of other humanitarian nightmares, 
including a lack of access to the medical system.
  I mentioned that the blockade is being run by the Saudi-led 
coalition. The United States is a member of that coalition. For 2 
years, the United States has been aiding the Government of Saudi Arabia 
in a bombing campaign of the Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. That 
bombing campaign caused this outbreak of cholera. Why is that? The 
bombing campaign deliberately targeted the electricity grid of Yemen in 
and around Sana'a, the capital controlled today by the Houthis. The 
water treatment facility runs on the electricity from that grid.
  As you can read in a lengthy story in the New York Times from 2 days 
ago, the country no longer has the ability to treat water that goes to 
its capital because the Saudi-led bombing campaign has knocked out 
electricity. The fuel that has helped temporarily run the water 
treatment facility is no longer available either because the Saudi-led 
bombing campaign has targeted the infrastructure that allows for fuel 
to be delivered. So today the water is undrinkable. It is toxic. Yet, 
because there aren't other supplies of water, millions of Yemenis are 
ingesting it. They are eating food that is also toxic because of the 
inability to treat water, because of the flow of sewage and feces 
throughout the capital city, and almost 1 million people have 
contracted cholera.
  That bombing campaign that targeted the electricity infrastructure in 
Yemen could only happen with U.S. support. It is the United States that 
provides the targeting assistance for the Saudi planes. It is U.S. 
refueling planes flying in the sky around Yemen that restock the Saudi 
fighter jets with fuel, allowing them to drop more ordnance. It is 
U.S.-made and transferred ordnance that is carried on these planes and 
dropped on civilian and infrastructure targets inside Yemen.
  The United States is part of this coalition. The bombing campaign 
that has caused the cholera outbreak could not happen without us. The 
official position of the State Department with respect to the 
blockade--which was imposed by the Saudis about a week ago--is that 
they should end it, at least for the purposes of allowing humanitarian 
resources into the country. That has not happened.
  As I mentioned, there is literally a World Food Programme ship right 
now with 25,000 metric tons of food waiting to get into the capital to 
help families like this. So although that may be the official position 
of the State Department, we clearly aren't articulating that position 
to the Saudis because the Saudi blockade--which happens with U.S. 
military support--continues. Maybe that is because the State Department 
and the White House are simply operating on two different planets.

[[Page S7191]]

  While on his trip to Asia, President Trump said that he has full 
confidence in the Saudi King, that he knows what he is doing. Let me 
tell you what he is doing. He is using starvation and disease as a 
weapon of war, which is in contravention of international human rights 
law. You cannot use starvation. You cannot intentionally cause this 
kind of disease in order to try to win a military conflict. So maybe 
the Saudis do know what they are doing, but what they are doing is a 
gross violation of human rights law.
  It would be one thing if the United States were a mere observer, but 
we are a participant in this. This horror--I am sorry, it is hard to 
see--is caused in part by our decision to facilitate a bombing campaign 
that is murdering children and to endorse a Saudi strategy inside Yemen 
that is deliberately using disease and starvation and the withdrawal of 
humanitarian support as a tactic.
  Last night, the House of Representatives passed a nonbinding 
resolution making clear that there is no legal authorization for U.S. 
participation in the Saudi-led campaign against the Yemeni people. 
Importantly, the resolution also made clear that there are multiple bad 
actors in Yemen today. The vast majority of cholera cases today--I 
think upwards of 80 percent--are in Houthi-controlled areas. But the 
Houthis do not have clean hands, and their patrons, the Iranians, do 
not have clean hands. There have been human rights abuses and attacks 
on civilian targets by the Houthi forces as well.
  The Iranians should stand down immediately, as should the Saudis, as 
they continue to whip up this proxy war between regional powers that is 
killing civilians inside Yemen, but without U.S. leadership in the 
region, there is no hope for that stand-down to happen.
  In the Obama administration, at least Secretary Kerry was actively, 
personally engaged in trying to bring some resolution to the civil war 
inside Yemen. But since President Trump took office and Secretary 
Tillerson became Secretary of State, there is zero U.S. leadership on 
this question. We don't have an Assistant Secretary of State for the 
Middle East. We don't have any envoy for this crisis. All we have is a 
President who says that the Saudi Government knows what it is doing.
  That kind of unconditional endorsement of intentional humanitarian 
pain is un-American. We have stood up time and time again for human 
rights all across the world. We have been the people who deliver 
humanitarian salvation to people who are at risk of disease and famine 
and death. And instead of rescuing the people of Yemen during this 
moment of blockade, we are contributing to the deterioration of the 
quality of life inside that country.
  The Saudi blockade needs to end today. And a partial lifting of the 
blockade is not enough. This morning, the coalition did say they are 
going to allow some humanitarian access to the ports they control, but 
we need access to the ports near where the majority of the population 
actually lives--Hudaydah and Saleef. Allowing access to the ports that 
the Saudis control--which are not the ports where the majority of 
humanitarian aid flows through--is not sufficient. It will not do the 
job. Medicine and vaccinations will continue to dry up. Price spikes 
will continue to go through the roof. The cholera epidemic will 
continue.
  We have a responsibility as a nation to ensure that the coalition, of 
which we are a part, is not using starvation as a weapon of war. This 
will be a stain on the conscience of our Nation if we continue to 
remain silent. I hope the Senate takes the same action that the House 
did. I hope we make clear that there is no legal authorization for the 
United States to be part of a war inside Yemen. Congress has not given 
the authorization for this President to engage in these military 
activities.
  By the way, the civil war inside Yemen has aided the enemies we 
actually have declared war against. Al-Qaida is getting stronger inside 
Yemen because, as more and more of the country becomes ungovernable 
because of this war, al-Qaida is moving into that territory. ISIS--
against which we have not declared war, but we are engaged in active 
military activity in the region--is getting stronger there too.
  So even if you don't believe there is a humanitarian imperative 
attached to U.S. withdrawal from this coalition, there is a national 
security imperative because we are just strengthening the most lethal 
elements of the extremist movement worldwide.
  I know many other Members of this body on both sides of the aisle 
feel as strongly about this as I do. We are not going to get leadership 
on this question from the administration. They have given a blank check 
to the Saudis. They have turned a blind eye to this epidemic inside 
Yemen--an epidemic that is getting worse by the day since the Saudi 
blockade began. Leadership will have to come from this body.
  We need to make clear to the administration that they do not have the 
authority to continue to participate in this military coalition. We 
need to press the administration to tell the Saudis to end this 
blockade. We need to start using our ability as appropriators and 
authorizers to send messages to the Saudis that this kind of conduct 
cannot continue. We have tools at our disposal to lead as a Congress on 
this question--the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe happening 
right now, as we speak, getting worse by the hour inside Yemen. This 
Congress, this Senate, cannot remain silent.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Ms. HASSAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Ms. HASSAN. Mr. President, I rise today to oppose Steven Bradbury's 
nomination to serve as general counsel at the Department of 
Transportation.
  The general counsel position at DOT oversees and makes critical 
judgments about legal work that impacts public safety, development, and 
innovation that drives our economy. Unfortunately, Mr. Bradbury's 
previous actions during his time at the Department of Justice showed 
that he lacks the judgment and commitment to our shared values that are 
a prerequisite for any lawyer privileged to serve the people of the 
United States of America.
  During his time as the acting head of the Department of Justice's 
Office of Legal Counsel, Mr. Bradbury was one of three primary lawyers 
who helped lay the groundwork for the Bush administration's defense of 
what they described as ``enhanced interrogation techniques.'' The so-
called torture memos that Mr. Bradbury helped write were used to 
justify the Bush administration's decision to use torture that included 
extreme sleep deprivation, cramped confinement, and waterboarding. Mr. 
Bradbury helped find legal loopholes that were an affront to our 
American values. And he failed to fulfill the special responsibility 
all lawyers have to the quality of justice in our legal system.

  Mr. Bradbury's past government service reflects a lack of sound legal 
judgment. In fact, a 2009 review by the Department of Justice raised 
questions about the objectivity and reasonableness of the conclusions 
found in the memos he authored. Rather than standing up for our values 
and laws, Mr. Bradbury deferred to the wishes and pressure of the 
President he was serving.
  Furthermore, during his confirmation hearing, when referring to his 
legal justification for these so-called enhanced interrogation 
techniques, Mr. Bradbury stated: ``If I had my druthers, I wouldn't 
have engaged in having to address those issues.''
  If Mr. Bradbury preferred to not engage in tough legal questions at 
the time, then he should not have been serving in the Office of Legal 
Counsel, and he should not be confirmed for a general counsel position 
now. By definition, the job of general counsel is to deal with 
difficult legal questions.
  It is clear Mr. Bradbury is unwilling to provide the sound legal 
judgement and impartiality necessary for this role. He has 
demonstrated, in the past, that his legal analysis is flawed, he lacks 
a commitment to America's values, and his actions have had truly 
dangerous implications for our Nation.
  I will oppose this nomination, and I urge my colleagues to do the 
same.
  I yield the floor.

[[Page S7192]]

  



                       Confirmation of Derek Kan

  Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, I have sought recognition to note last 
night's strong bipartisan vote of 90 to 7 to confirm Derek Kan's 
nomination. I am very happy that Mr. Kan is now able to take up the 
duties of Under Secretary for Transportation Policy at the Department 
of Transportation after a long, entirely unnecessary delay. As I stated 
on the floor last week, it is truly unfortunate that it took 4 months 
and the engagement of the cloture process to confirm this well-
qualified nominee, who obviously has strong bipartisan support.
  I hope that last night's vote will signal to those who are holding 
other well-qualified nominees to the Department--including the 
nomination of Ronald Batory to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad 
Administration and the nomination of Adam Sullivan to be Assistant 
Secretary of Transportation for Legislative Affairs--over funding for 
the multibillion dollar Gateway Project in New York and New Jersey that 
their strategy is misplaced and depriving the Department of the very 
expertise needed to make progress on Gateway and a host of other 
critical issues.
  Mr. President, I have also sought recognition to voice my strong 
support for the nomination of Steven Bradbury to be general counsel at 
the U.S. Department of Transportation. Mr. Bradbury has had an 
extraordinary legal career in both the private and public sector, and 
he is well prepared to address the many challenging legal questions 
that will come before the Department.
  Mr. Bradbury is currently a litigation partner at the Dechert law 
firm here in Washington, DC, and his practice focuses on regulatory 
enforcement and investigations, rulemakings, and judicial review of 
agency actions, as well as appellate cases and antitrust matters.
  From 2005 to 2009, Mr. Bradbury headed the Office of Legal Counsel at 
the Department of Justice, the office that provides essential legal 
advice to the President and the heads of executive departments and 
agencies.
  In that role, he received the Edmund J. Randolph Award and the 
Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, among other 
awards. Before serving in the Justice Department, he worked in private 
practice for 10 years and clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas on the 
U.S. Supreme Court and for Judge James L. Buckley on the D.C. Circuit.
  On June 28, 2017, the Commerce Committee held a hearing on his 
nomination, and we reported his nomination favorably on August 2. Last 
night, the Senate invoked cloture on his nomination.
  At his nomination hearing, a number of our Democrat colleagues raised 
concerns over Mr. Bradbury's suitability for this position, mostly 
focusing on a number of opinions he wrote regarding interrogation 
policies while at the Justice Department.
  I do not doubt the sincerity of those who question the Bush 
administration's approach to detainee treatment in the wake of the 
horrific attacks of 9/11. I know that these concerns are not limited to 
a single party.
  Nevertheless, I would suggest that Mr. Bradbury has demonstrated a 
willingness to reexamine the difficult decisions made at that time in a 
manner that underscores the thoughtfulness he would bring to the 
position to which he has been nominated.
  For example, after he became the head of the Office of Legal Counsel 
in 2004, he participated in decisions to withdraw and supersede 
previous legal opinions addressing interrogation policies that had been 
issued by his predecessors.
  In response to questions for the record from some of my committee 
colleagues, Mr. Bradbury elaborated on this topic. Specifically, he 
said:

       I support the McCain-Feinstein Amendment, enacted by 
     Congress in 2015, which mandates that all agencies of the 
     U.S. government are limited to use of the Army Field Manual 
     in the interrogation of detainees and which prohibits the use 
     of physical coercion. I believe the McCain-Feinstein 
     Amendment represents a historic policy decision and a moral 
     judgment for the United States, and it reaffirms America's 
     leadership on interrogation policy and practice. The clear 
     mandate of the McCain-Feinstein Amendment appropriately 
     elevates and vindicates the compelling principle of 
     reciprocity in the treatment of captured U.S. service men and 
     women.

  Mr. Bradbury went on to say:

       Twelve years ago, when I was called upon to advise on the 
     legality of proposed interrogation policies for use by 
     intelligence officers, the McCain-Feinstein Amendment had not 
     been enacted, and it was understood at that time that 
     intelligence agencies operated under a different, less well 
     defined, legal regime from the U.S. Armed Services. I did my 
     best to pull back previous OLC opinions that were overly 
     broad or otherwise flawed; to limit OLC's advice to the 
     narrowest grounds necessary and avoid reliance on expansive 
     interpretations of presidential power; to spell out very 
     clearly the specific factual assumptions on which the advice 
     depended, including the particular conditions, limitations, 
     and safeguards that were required as part of the policies; 
     and to describe in detail the specifics of those policies so 
     that the senior decision makers on the Principals Committee 
     of the National Security Council would be fully apprised of 
     precisely what they were being asked to approve.
       The OLC opinions I prepared on these issues are no longer 
     operative, and the law has changed. I welcome the statutory 
     changes enacted by Congress.

  In sum, I believe that Mr. Bradbury has fully addressed these 
concerns.
  It is also worth noting that Mr. Bradbury's nomination has received 
the endorsement of many bipartisan leaders. During his confirmation 
process, the committee received letters of support signed by more than 
50 former government officials, including former Transportation 
Secretaries Rodney Slater and Norm Mineta; former Attorneys General Ed 
Meese, William Barr, and Michael Mukasey; former counsel to the 
President Fred Fielding; former National Security Advisor Stephen 
Hadley; former Solicitors General Ted Olson, Paul Clement, Greg Garre; 
and many others. He also received the support of nearly 20 State 
attorneys general from across the country.
  Finally, I would also like to address the concerns raised about Mr. 
Bradbury's representation of the U.S. subsidiary of Takata in 
connection with the airbag inflator ruptures before the National 
Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  Mr. Bradbury has agreed to go beyond the requirements of his ethics 
agreement to recuse himself from all aspects of the Takata airbag 
inflator recalls for the duration of Mr. Bradbury's tenure as general 
counsel at the Department of Transportation.
  Because Mr. Bradbury has agreed to go well beyond what is required by 
federal ethics laws and regulations, and well beyond the ethics 
agreement he signed with the Office of Government Ethics with respect 
to the Takata airbag inflator recall, I am satisfied that he has more 
than adequately dealt with conflict of interest concerns and recusals.
  Moreover, as I have noted, Mr. Bradbury has received bipartisan 
support for his nomination, including from former Transportation 
Secretary Rodney Slater and former Transportation Secretary Norm 
Mineta.
  Accordingly, I urge my colleagues to support the nomination of Steven 
Bradbury to be general counsel for the Department of Transportation.
  Ms. HASSAN. 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. BLUNT. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cruz). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.

                          ____________________