EXECUTIVE SESSION; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 201
(Senate - December 11, 2017)

Text available as:

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

[Pages S7938-S7942]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                           EXECUTIVE SESSION


                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination, 
which the clerk will report.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of Leonard 
Steven Grasz, of Nebraska, to be United States Circuit Judge for the 
Eighth Circuit.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Utah.

               Recognizing James Williams and Nick Clason

  Mr. HATCH. Madam President, before I turn to the main portion of my 
remarks, I would be remiss if I failed to recognize two staffers who 
were instrumental in helping us pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act earlier 
this month--James Williams, my senior policy adviser, and Nick Clason, 
a talented young staffer. Both worked long hours to help make tax 
reform a reality. I wanted to take just a brief moment to recognize 
them for the late nights they spent helping me to hash out the details 
of this bill. They are some of the hardest working members of my staff, 
and I hope they know how much I appreciate them.

                    America's Role in Global Affairs

  Madam President, I wish to turn to a subject of great importance to 
our national security. This morning's terrorist attack reminded all of 
us that danger is never far away from our Nation's shores. While 
details about the bombing in New York are still emerging, we already 
know one thing for certain: This was an attack not only on the American 
people but on the principles that we stand for. It was an attack on our 
freedom and our very way of life.
  The violence we witnessed this morning stands as a stark reminder 
that America has many enemies. Overseas, animosity toward the United 
States grows stronger as the world grows ever more chaotic, so today I 
wish to speak on America's role in these turbulent times.
  As the Trump administration works to return our country back to its 
rightful role as the leader of a broken world, you will find my foreign 
policy recommendations today to be not only intrinsically American but 
also inherently good. My solution to the chaos that now grips the world 
is the simple principle articulated by President Reagan over 30 years 
ago in his ``evil empire'' speech. Addressing the National Association 
of Evangelicals, he said these words:

       America is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, 
     America will cease to be great.

  To be sure, we find ourselves in a world very different from that 
which President Reagan faced. Today, the structured diplomatic 
environment we once operated in has come into question with the fall of 
local governments in much of the Middle East. Global alliances, while 
strong in the commitments and connectivity among member nations, are 
weak in direction and long-term purpose. Political narratives of 
states--once stable and predictable--must today compete with the 
conversations being had on the streets and in the classrooms by those 
with access to mobile phones and social media.
  Since Reagan's time, the world has not only grown more complicated 
but also more dangerous. The threat of state-on-state military 
showdowns seems imminent--particularly with North Korea and Iran.
  Where we had achieved military successes, we remain reluctant to 
declare victory, as is the case with ISIS, and to deal with the most 
intractable issues, such as the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, and 
Iraq, we seem to rely on partner nations that often work at cross 
purposes with our own objectives.
  How has the United States engaged with this chaos? In many cases, 
President Obama sought to ignore it altogether. Indeed, if his foreign 
policy could be boiled down to two words, they would be these: ``Stay 
out.'' The Obama administration spent the better part of 8 years making 
disengagement a cornerstone of American foreign policy, captured by the 
euphemism ``offshore balancing''--in other words, deferring to local 
actors to manage regional problems.
  The Obama doctrine offered easy answers to complex problems, but easy 
answers are rarely the right answers, and a gradual U.S. withdrawal 
from an increasingly chaotic world under President Obama only made 
matters worse. Thanks to the hands-off approach of his predecessor, 
President Trump inherited a truly unprecedented state of world 
  Despite these great challenges, our ability to achieve good in the 
world has not diminished. If we are to achieve good in the world--if we 
are to restore peace and stability in these troubled times--then we 
must first rediscover our purpose in global affairs. We must make an 
honest assessment of where we have gone wrong in the past and how we 
can improve in the future.
  In our engagement with the world, we seem to have drifted far from 
how we used to do things. The foreign policy of President Obama, for 
example, chose to transact in one of two words: ``threats'' and 
``interests.'' How big is the threat to national security that ISIS or 
a nuclear Iran possesses? What is the U.S. interest in Syria? How do we 
preserve American security and interests in the South Pacific? Under 
this myopic approach, anything that didn't fit neatly into either a 
threat or interest was of little importance. The foreign policy of the 
Obama years put the United States in a short-term responsive mode, with 
little capacity to ask about the future.
  Rediscovering our purpose in the world requires us to look beyond 
mere considerations of threats and interests. It requires us to 
reconnect with our core values by making them central to our foreign 
policy. Foremost among those values is promoting freedom. Freedom is 
what we stand for as a nation. As President Reagan said:

       America is freedom--freedom of speech, freedom of religion, 
     freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It's 
     fragile; it needs protection.

  President Bush carried this tradition, squarely identifying the 
perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks as enemies of freedom. As he keenly 
observed, what divided the United States from its adversaries was not 
faith, not skin color, not gender or race, but hatred of America and 
the freedoms it stands for.
  President Bush did not mince words in describing exactly who our 
enemy was. Following the 9/11 attacks, he described those who committed 
the attacks as belonging to ``a fringe form of Islamic extremism that 
has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim 
clerics, a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of 
  In his use of the phrase ``Islamic extremism,'' President Bush was 

[[Page S7939]]

afraid to call the enemy by its name, and neither were our Muslim 
allies who joined us in the fight against terrorism. In the name of 
political correctness, President Obama refused to use the words 
``Islamic extremism,'' insisting instead on the vague expression 
``violent extremism.''
  This small but consequential change caused deep conceptual and 
bureaucratic damage to our strategy and our institutions. Not only did 
the Obama administration distract us from gaining understanding of who 
the adversary is and the tools needed to fight and understand him, but 
it also deemed irrelevant once-successful government programs on the 
grounds that they did not adequately address this beltway term of 
``violent extremism.'' Meanwhile, jihadist groups outpaced and 
outmaneuvered Obama's sophistry by strategically embedding themselves 
within local populations in Syria and Iraq, disguising themselves as 
moderate and protective of local populations.
  In place of the feckless foreign policy of the Obama years, I offer 
instead of global policy defined by one word: ``purpose.'' With 
purpose, we can look to the future and address the kind of legacy we 
hope to leave behind. With purpose, we can define what it is we seek to 
achieve in the world, where we can make a difference, and how we can 
effect lasting change on a global scale.
  Rediscovering our purpose in global affairs doesn't mean giving up 
our focus on threats and interests. Quite the opposite, it means 
ensuring that the way in which we address threats and interests helps 
us achieve our ultimate goal--that of ensuring freedom in the world.
  Today's world offers many opportunities to act with renewed purpose 
in the defense of freedom. In Syria, for example, a collapsing ISIS 
caliphate and a bloody civil war leave a traumatized population in 
their wake. While a political solution for all of Syria seems remote, 
we can work toward meaningful goals in the near term to help resettle 
internally displaced persons. Although much of the country remains at 
war, we should focus on helping the most vulnerable populations within 
these pockets of promise--those neighborhoods in Northwest Syria and 
along the Jordanian and Israeli borders. Within these pockets of 
promise, we can change people's lives--and ultimately, the region--by 
working with our local partners to build hospitals and schools with 
modern curricula.
  In Iran, too, we can make a difference. The President's recent 
decision to decertify the Iran deal was itself a step in the right 
direction. The Iran deal singlehandedly gave international legitimacy 
to an enemy regime openly committed to the destruction of the United 
States and its allies. This deal was indeed a bad one; its only 
achievement, if it can be called such, was deferring the question of 
when, not whether, Iran will be able to achieve a nuclear weapon. It 
only hardened the hostile voices against the United States, allowing 
them to build a case that those who oppose the deal are enemies of the 
Iranian people. This assertion is plainly false. As the President noted 
in his address to the United Nations, the good people of Iran want 
change, and they are the regime's longest suffering victims.
  The President now has the opportunity to act with renewed purpose in 
the region, dealing a final blow to the Ayatollah's antics. Moving 
forward, as we leverage military strength to disrupt the regime's 
hostile activities around the world, we can also actively use 
diplomatic channels to support the wishes of the Iranian people--to 
promote their freedoms and to help them realize the opportunities their 
government denies them.
  Meanwhile, in North Korea, as we prepare for any scenario that might 
await us, we must acknowledge our ultimate strategic advantage--our 
allies. The greatest threat to Kim Jong Un is that he is completely 
isolated from his neighbors and his people.
  As we seek diplomatic approaches to deescalating the tensions, we 
must ensure that it is the right kind of diplomacy with the right 
message--a message about the future of the region and the future of a 
new North Korea in that region. If Mr. Kim does not realize the need to 
change his ways, then certainly he will get that message when he sees 
the might of his neighbors working with the United States toward shared 
objectives. That is the power of alliances, of strong and loyal 
  Even as we resolve to do good in these situations, we must remain as 
vigilant and aggressive as ever in meeting the threats that no doubt 
will continue to test us. The key will be to stand true to ourselves 
and our allies. That is what we did when the President recognized 
Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last week. That is what I sought to 
do in my meetings with Prime Minister Theresa May and MI5 Director-
General Andrew Parker during my visit to the United Kingdom last month. 
There, I highlighted the need to pass legislation to enable our two 
nations to work more closely together in the fight against terror and 
criminal activity.
  We talked about my International Communications Privacy Act, which 
would create a clear legal framework for law enforcement officials who 
access data relevant to criminal investigations stored in other 
countries. We also spoke about legislation to implement the U.S.-U.K. 
data-sharing agreement, which would give law enforcement in our two 
countries reciprocal rights to access data stored in the other country 
under certain prescribed circumstances. I told the Prime Minister and 
the Director-General that I believe these two pieces of legislation are 
closely linked and that I am actively looking for vehicles to move them 
  This is precisely what President Reagan meant when he welcomed Prime 
Minister Margaret Thatcher to Washington upon assuming the Presidency: 
Our two countries are ``kindred nations of like-minded people and must 
face their tests together. . . . [For indeed], the responsibility for 
freedom is ours to share.''
  It is when America realizes its purpose--to do good in the world by 
defending freedom--that our greatness will be known. As we bring 
ourselves out from the margins of international affairs and piecing 
together the broken shards of that world order we have worked for 
decades to shape, let us help the administration and the country 
rediscover the purpose we were destined to pursue. Only then, and only 
together, will we be able to make America and the world great again.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Nebraska.
  Mr. SASSE. Madam President, I rise today in support of the nomination 
of Steve Grasz to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. One 
of the most important things this Senate has done this year and will do 
for the remainder of the year--and, in fact, well into 2018--is to 
consider nominees to the Federal courts.
  When I talk to Nebraskans, I constantly hear from women and men who 
tell me that the No. 1 issue they care about when they vote for 
President is the judiciary. Nebraskans want judges who understand that 
judges are not lawmakers. Nebraskans want judges who understand that a 
lifetime appointment isn't designed to do politics. Nebraskans want 
judges who understand that the courts are to uphold the laws fairly and 
  My colleagues and I on the Judiciary Committee agree with those 
Nebraskans from townhalls and coffee shops and Rotary clubs. In the 
Judiciary Committee, we have worked to advance a record number of 
judges who know exactly that. We are looking for thoughtful men and 
women of integrity. That is why it is a pleasure today, it is an honor 
today, to come to the floor in support of Steve Grasz.
  Steve is a Nebraskan through and through. He is a fifth-generation 
Nebraskan who grew up on a family farm--walking beans, raising sheep 
and pigs, branding cattle. When he was a young man, life in the 
Nebraska Panhandle taught him hard work. He then moved east to Lincoln, 
where the University of Nebraska taught him the law.
  Steve graduated at the top of his class and then put his law degree 
to work serving his fellow Nebraskans. He served as the chief deputy 
attorney general for our State for nearly a dozen years. Steve's job 
was to represent the people of Nebraska in court. That means he was 
bound by the law and by his professional duty to defend our laws, 
including our State's ban on the gruesome procedure known as partial-
birth abortion.
  In his role in the Nebraska AG's office, he litigated multiple cases 

[[Page S7940]]

front of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Nebraska Supreme Court, and the 
U.S. Eighth Circuit, to which he has now been nominated by President 
Trump. Every time he represented us in court, Steve did so with 
integrity, with humility, and with decency. That is just what 
Nebraskans do.

  Steve bleeds Husker red, but he is now ready to put on a judge's 
black robe. He knows that judges in America don't wear red or blue 
partisan jerseys. He knows that policy preferences, whether his or 
anyone else's, have no role in how a judge applies the law. He knows 
that, in his courtroom, two things matter and only two things--the 
facts and the law.
  Anybody who wants to ensure that Steve will approach his job as a 
judge without partisan or ideological bias should listen to the words 
of hundreds of Nebraskans who have spoken out in support of Steve's 
  Democrat Ben Nelson, Nebraska's U.S. Senator from 2001 through 2013 
and, before that, our Governor for 8 years, offered this testament to 
Steve's fitness for office:

       I first got to know Steve when I served as Nebraska's 
     Governor and he served as our state's Chief Deputy Attorney 
     General. . . . With me as a Democrat and him as a Republican, 
     we sometimes found ourselves disagreeing on policy; 
     nevertheless, I quickly learned that Steve was the kind of 
     consummate professional who is capable of putting whatever 
     personal views he may have aside when appropriate in his 
     capacity as a public servant. . . . If Steve is confirmed, I 
     fully expect him to follow the law and the facts in each case 
     because I know his loyalty is first to the rule of law, 
     rather than to any personal views he holds on matters of 
     policy. He possesses first-rate legal skills and a 
     respectful, even-keeled temperament, key ingredients in the 
     making of a good judge. As a Nebraskan, I hope our state has 
     the opportunity to benefit yet again from Steve's public 
     service in this new role.

  Then there is Deborah Gilg, who was President Obama's choice to be 
U.S. attorney for the District of Nebraska, who served in that office 
from 2009 through 2016. She wrote glowingly to our committee of Steve:

       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. . . . 
     Without a doubt, he would be a tremendous asset to the bench 
     as he demonstrates excellence in all that he does.

  Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that these letters be 
printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                                                 October 31, 2017.
     Hon. Charles E. Grassley,
     Chairman, U.S. Senate,
     Committee on the Judiciary, Washington, DC.
     Hon. Dianne Feinstein,
     Ranking Member, U.S. Senate,
     Committee on the Judiciary, Washington, DC.
       Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein: I 
     write to you today to express my strong support for the 
     nomination of L. Steven Grasz to the United States Court of 
     Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. I have no doubt that Steve 
     possesses the skills, character, and temperament necessary to 
     make him an excellent member of that court.
       I first got to know Steve when I served as Nebraska's 
     Governor and he served as our state's Chief Deputy Attorney 
     General. During his nearly twelve-year tenure in that senior 
     position, Steve won my respect by putting his considerable 
     skills to work as an effective legal advocate for our state. 
     With me as a Democrat and him as a Republican, we sometimes 
     found ourselves disagreeing on policy; nevertheless, I 
     quickly learned that Steve was the kind of consummate 
     professional who is capable of putting whatever personal 
     views he may have aside when appropriate in his capacity as a 
     public servant. He 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 
       If Steve is confirmed, I fully expect him to follow the law 
     and the facts in each case because I know his loyalty is 
     first to the rule of law, rather than to any personal views 
     he holds on matters of policy. He possesses first-rate legal 
     skills and a respectful, even-keeled temperament, key 
     ingredients in the making of a good judge. As a Nebraskan, I 
     hope our state has the opportunity to benefit yet again from 
     Steve's public service in this new role.
                                                       Ben Nelson,
     United States Senator for Nebraska, 2001-2013.

                                                  Time Health,

                                    Omaha, NE, September 19, 2017.
     Re L. Steven Grasz.

     Chairman Chuck Grassley,
     Senate Judiciary Committee, Washington, DC.
     Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein,
     Senate Judiciary Committee, Washington, DC.
       I am writing to enthusiastically recommend Steve Grasz for 
     the vacancy on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. I have known 
     Steve since 1991 when he became Chief Deputy Attorney General 
     for the State of Nebraska. At that time, I was the elected 
     County Attorney and/or appointed County Attorney for several 
     Western Nebraska rural counties. I relocated to Omaha in 2002 
     and in 2009 I became the U.S. Attorney for Nebraska until 
     March 10, 2017. At present, I am the Vice-President, Chief 
     Operating Officer and General Counsel for Time Health, a 
     healthcare management corporation. I should also mention that 
     I am a Democrat and it is with great confidence that I 
     recommend Steve.
       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. I am 
     confident that he is well-versed in legal principles, has 
     keen legal analytical skills and outstanding oral and written 
     skills. Without doubt, he would be a tremendous asset to the 
     bench as he demonstrates excellence in all that he does.
       Finally, I think it is important to have a jurist that has 
     an agricultural background and understands that not all 
     things legal revolve around urban areas. He still owns land 
     in Western Nebraska and quite clearly is a product of and 
     proud of his agricultural roots.
       I look forward to your support of his nomination.
                                                  Deborah R. Gilg,
                               Vice-President and General Counsel.

  Mr. SASSE. Madam President, Steve's reputation for honesty and 
integrity and decency have earned him bipartisan support across 
  I am a bit sad in that, when I got here to Washington, this 
nomination took a bit more of a partisan turn before the committee. 
Happily, we have the chance to do the right thing here in the full 
Senate tonight and return to a bipartisan tone. I hope that my 
colleagues will listen to the broad array of Nebraskans of all 
ideological and partisan views and support Steve's nomination tonight.
  Thank you.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                   Recognition of the Minority Leader

  The Democratic leader is recognized.

                 New York City Attempted Terror Attack

  Mr. SCHUMER. Madam President, first, this morning, as everyone knows, 
there was an attempted terrorist attack in New York City, near the Port 
Authority bus terminal and very close to Times Square. I was about 15 
blocks away when that happened. Thankfully, praise God, the attack was 
a failure, and the only serious injuries were sustained by the would-be 
  On mornings like this, I am even more thankful--and I am thankful all 
the time--for the service of the New York City Police Department, the 
Port Authority Police Department, the New York City Fire Department, 
and the bomb squad, that responded so quickly to the scene. Today was a 
startling reminder as to why the ``See Something, Say Something'' 
campaign is so crucial to keeping our city safe and why we must always, 
always, always be vigilant against the threat of terrorism.
  Madam President, on judicial nominations, this evening, the Senate 
will vote on whether we should consider the nomination of Leonard 
Steven Grasz to be a judge on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The 
nomination is significant because Grasz is just the third nominee since 
1989 to be unanimously deemed ``not qualified'' by the American Bar 
Association. To underscore that fact, the ABA has reviewed over 1,700 
judicial nominees since 1989. Before this administration, only two were 
ever unanimously deemed ``not qualified.'' Those two nominated by 
President Bush were not confirmed. The nominee we are voting on this 
evening is the third.
  A panel of nonpartisan legal experts unanimously concluded that this 
man is not fit to be a judge. What else do my colleagues need to know? 
They should all vote no this evening.
  Instead of withdrawing the nomination and finding someone better, 
which is what President Bush did in a similar

[[Page S7941]]

situation, some of my Republican colleagues have started attacking the 
  The junior Senator from Texas said:

       The ABA's record on judicial nominations has been highly 
     questionable. It has demonstrated over past decades 
     repeatedly partisan interests and ideological interests.

  I don't remember my colleague from Texas complaining when his party 
was touting then-Judge Gorsuch's favorable rating from the ABA. I heard 
over and over again from my Republican colleagues that he received a 
favorable rating from the ABA. All of a sudden, they attack it.
  Leader McConnell once likened a ``well qualified'' rating from the 
ABA to ``getting straight A+'s on your report card.'' That is what 
Leader McConnell said. Now Members of his party are singing a much 
different tune, as not one but two of President Trump's judicial 
nominees have received unanimously ``not qualified'' ratings.
  Unfortunately, this is indicative of what has become part of the 
Republican playbook--a playbook that Donald Trump specializes in, and 
unfortunately my colleagues are joining right in. If you don't like the 
message, shoot the messenger. If you don't like what the CBO is saying 
about healthcare, attack the CBO even if it is your handpicked 
Director. If you don't like what the Joint Committee on Taxation is 
saying about your tax bill, attack the JCT even if it is using the 
exact type of economic model that you asked it to use. If you don't 
like what the ABA is saying about judicial candidates, call it partisan 
even if you praised its judgment only a few months ago.
  This is the Republican Party of President Trump, who, instead of 
mounting a credible defense of his record by using facts and arguments, 
will resort to shooting the messenger, whether that is Special Counsel 
Mueller, the CIA, the intelligence community, or the entire FBI. 
Imagine attacking the entire FBI. I know those agents. They are so 
dedicated to the country--they are nonpolitical--but when they 
investigate President Trump because he might be doing something wrong, 
he just attacks them recklessly.
  The same thing has happened with our Republican colleagues. Like 
President Trump, when Republican lawmakers don't agree with what 
independent arbiters are saying, they try to discredit them. These 
attacks may suit their short-term political interests, but it is going 
to have a devastating effect on our country. A tax bill that explodes 
the deficit and raises taxes on millions of middle-class Americans may 
pass, but Republicans refuse to believe the analyses that say it does. 
Our Federal judiciary may be filled with unqualified candidates--
lifetime appointments, mind you--because Republicans refuse to trust 
the advice of independent legal experts.

  More importantly, these attacks in important ways diminish our 
democracy. We are a country founded on facts. People have different 
views once they view those facts, but we are founded on facts. That is 
what the Founding Fathers did at the Constitutional Convention--they 
debated, but they started from the same fact base. That is what the 
townhall meetings throughout America have done for two centuries and 
more. They are beautiful. They debate, they discuss, but people accept 
a row of given facts. That is what we are supposed to do here in the 
House and Senate, and for many years we did. Now, led by President 
Trump, facts don't seem to matter. Anything he doesn't like he calls 
fake news, even though it is real. He contradicts himself. He says one 
thing one day and one thing the next, and it doesn't even matter. That 
is him, and he was elected, but why are our Republican colleagues so 
willfully going along? Why are they not saying that truth matters? Why 
do they attack the ABA, which has been nonpartisan and has had a grand 
tradition for decades? When the ABA approved Judge Gorsuch, they 
embraced it.
  This is not a good thing for democracy. American democracy depends on 
our ability to work together on a common baseline of facts to find 
solutions that work in the real world. We can't do that if Republicans 
are going to discredit or ignore the judgments of agencies like the 
CBO, JCT, and ABA. We will end up with an even less productive debate 
here in Congress--something that no one will like and the American 
people can ill afford.

                          Republican Tax Bill

  Finally, Madam President, a word on the President's tax plan--the 
Republican tax plan. For months, Republicans have promised that the 
$1.5 trillion tax plan would reduce the deficit through economic 
growth--never mind the multiple analyses that concluded the exact 
  Just today, three new analyses of the Senate Republican tax bill came 
to the conclusion that the bill would not reduce the deficit but, 
rather, explode it, including a report by the Trump administration's 
own Treasury Department.
  The Tax Policy Center estimated that the tax plan would result in 
only $179 billion of growth, leaving a $1.4 trillion trail of red ink 
on the deficit and increasing our debt-to-GDP ratio by over 5 percent.
  Another analysis of the Senate Republican plan using the Penn Wharton 
model found that even with assumptions favorable to economic growth, 
the Senate tax bill will increase debt by over $1.5 trillion over the 
next decade.
  Amazingly, the Trump administration's Treasury Department released a 
one-page report estimating that the bill would pay for itself but only 
if you factor in rosy assumptions of growth that were included in the 
President's budget and are widely discredited by economists of all 
stripes. The President's budget request assumed the passage of 
entitlement reform and an infrastructure bill, both of which have not 
been proposed or written, let alone enacted. So even with this 
audacious use of fake math, the Treasury Department's analysis has to 
assume that the yet-to-be-proposed bills are passed in order to say 
that it doesn't add to the deficit.
  No amount of fake math can change the fact that the Republican tax 
bill will be a boon to the wealthiest Americans and largest 
corporations while increasing taxes for millions of middle-class 
families and leaving 13 million people without healthcare. As all three 
reports prove today, it will add over $1 trillion to the debt and 
deficit, starving our ability to invest in infrastructure, education, 
and scientific research, and endangering Social Security, Medicare, and 
  Republicans still have time to turn back from this ugly, awful bill, 
which is widely disliked by the American people, and work with 
Democrats on real, bipartisan tax reform that actually lowers taxes for 
middle-class families and stimulates economic growth without adding a 
penny to the deficit.
  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. NELSON. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                              Airline Fees

  Mr. NELSON. Madam President, we are just about to enter the holiday 
season. The traffic is already picking up. We could call it the great 
holiday migration that is going to be underway. Millions of people will 
be traveling to see their loved ones--their families, their friends--
and they will be visiting by airplane. They are going to get a big 
surprise when they head to the airline ticket counter or try to check 
in online and face a blizzard of what the airlines call ancillary fees.
  For years, many of us on the Commerce Committee have been pushing the 
Department of Transportation to adopt rules that would require a 
standardized disclosure statement for common airline fees, such as bag 
fees, change and cancellation fees, and priority boarding and seating 
fees. Comparing this to when one applies for a credit card, there is a 
box on the back of the application that shows the annual fee of the 
credit card, the interest rate, and any other fees. Consumers have this 
so they can compare adequate data to adequate data. We like to call it 
comparing apples to apples. Therefore, the consumer can know what it is 
they are looking for and choose the credit card they want. So it is a 
commonsense solution in the airline business that you would want to do 
for consumers, to make sense of all

[[Page S7942]]

those different fees on an airline ticket.

  Well, there was some progress on this earlier in the year when the 
Department of Transportation proposed a rule to require airlines to 
disclose bag fees to consumers when they purchased a ticket. Last week, 
however, the White House directed the Department of Transportation--the 
administration did this for all of those airline holiday travelers. 
They put a big lump of coal in their Christmas stockings when they 
abruptly canceled the proposed rule of the Department of Transportation 
that you were going to know what those fees were upfront when you 
purchased the ticket, along with another rule that would have required 
airlines to tell the public how much money the airline is charging for 
all the other ancillary fees. Those proposed rules were withdrawn. 
Well, that is just not in the interest of the traveling public. That is 
not in the interest of consumers, and it should not be any skin off the 
airlines' back to just show what the fees are upfront so the consumer 
understands that.
  Indeed, a new revenue source for the airlines is to have these 
additional charges. That is not what this Senator is arguing with, as 
long as those fees are properly and clearly disclosed.
  Let me give you another example. Last year, on the FAA bill we passed 
into law, it required the Department of Transportation to implement two 
basic rules to protect airline customers--two very simple rules. The 
first was, if you have checked a bag and you have paid the airline a 
certain amount of money to check that bag, what happens if your bag 
doesn't arrive or if it is delayed beyond a certain number of hours? 
Shouldn't the airline, at least, refund that fee you paid for that bag 
to be delivered in a timely fashion? Well, it is a pretty simple 
concept. If you pay $50 for a checked bag, you expect it to arrive with 
you, and if it doesn't, you should get an automatic refund. That is 
common sense, but the Department of Transportation hasn't done anything 
on that, and it is in the law. It is in the law we passed last year.
  I will give you another example. The second requirement we put in 
last year's FAA bill is that airlines, when they seat children 13 or 
under, put them adjacent to a parent or an older sibling traveling with 
them. So the Department of Transportation, earlier in the year, 
designed a rule to ensure that parents would not have to fork over 
money for a preferred seat just to be able to sit next to their child.
  The Department of Transportation was supposed to have finalized both 
of these rules by July of this year, but to date they have done 
nothing. Consumers traveling during the holidays are going to have the 
experience, if your bag doesn't show, since the rule hasn't been put in 
place by the Department of Transportation, even though it is the law 
that was passed last year--what is going to happen? Passengers with 
delayed bags will be losing out on the money they paid to check their 
bag, even if it doesn't get to them in a timely fashion.
  What is going to happen to the parent with the underaged child? They 
are going to be boarding planes wondering if they will be able to beg 
someone to give up their seat just to sit next to their child, even 
though that may be a preferred seat; in other words, a seat that costs 
more money.
  Just about everyone else will be left playing airline fee roulette, 
not knowing what the new fee is that they are going to have to pay just 
to get the basic service. It is so common sense, why do we have to 
fight about this? We are not arguing that the airline doesn't have the 
right to charge the fee; we just want it disclosed to the person who is 
purchasing that ticket. It doesn't have to be the way it is now because 
consumers should have a right to know ahead of time what they are 
paying, and then they can compare options. When an airline charges a 
fee for a service, if they failed to deliver that service, passengers 
ought to get their money back. This is called basic fairness, but that 
is not what we are seeing out there.
  I urge the leadership of the Department of Transportation--Secretary 
Chao and her staff--to go ahead and implement those two regulations 
that emanate from the law we passed and to do it quickly. I urge the 
Department of Transportation to treat airline passengers like they 
ought to be treated, which is as valued customers during this holiday 
season, as in every season.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Moran). The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. CRAPO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                             Cloture Motion

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Pursuant to rule XXII, the Chair lays before 
the Senate the pending cloture motion, which the clerk will state.
  The 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 Leonard Steven Grasz, of Nebraska, to be the United States 
     Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit.
         Mitch McConnell, Richard Burr, John Cornyn, Michael B. 
           Enzi, Johnny Isakson, Chuck Grassley, Mike Crapo, Ron 
           Johnson, Roger F. Wicker, Marco Rubio, Mike Rounds, 
           Steve Daines, Lindsey Graham, Shelley Moore Capito, 
           Cory Gardner, James E. Risch, Jeff Flake.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. By unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum 
call has been waived.
  The question is, Is it the sense of the Senate that debate on the 
nomination of Leonard Steven Grasz, of Nebraska, to be United States 
Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit, shall be brought to a close?
  The yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk called the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the 
Senator from Missouri (Mr. Blunt), the Senator from Mississippi (Mr. 
Cochran), the Senator from Arizona (Mr. McCain), and the Senator from 
Florida (Mr. Rubio).
  Further, if present and voting, the Senator from Florida (Mr. Rubio) 
would have voted ``yea.''
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from Hawaii (Mr. Schatz) is 
necessarily absent.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Lankford). Are there any other Senators in 
the Chamber desiring to vote?
  The yeas and nays resulted--yeas 48, nays 47, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 312 Ex.]




     Cortez Masto
     Van Hollen

                             NOT VOTING--5

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. On this vote, the yeas are 48, the nays are 
  The motion is agreed to.
  The Senator from North Dakota.