EXECUTIVE SESSION
(Senate - December 14, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 204 (Thursday, December 14, 2017)]
[Pages S8017-S8033]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                           EXECUTIVE SESSION

                                 ______
                                 

                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
proceed to executive session and resume consideration of the following 
nomination, which the clerk will report.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of James 
C. Ho, of Texas, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Fifth 
Circuit.


                   Recognition of the Majority Leader

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader is recognized.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, today the Senate will continue another 
historic week confirming more of President Trump's impressive judicial 
nominees to the Federal bench--Steven Grasz, confirmed; Don Willett, 
confirmed. And soon we will add James Ho to the list by confirming him 
to serve on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  He is an exceptionally well-qualified nominee whose career in both 
public service and the private sector has garnered respect from both 
sides of the aisle. The former Democratic mayor of Dallas supported his 
nomination, calling him ``among the most brilliant appellate lawyers in 
the United States.''
  When we vote to confirm Mr. Ho, we will be adding another fair and 
impartial judge to the Federal bench, and by doing so, the Senate will 
take another important step to ensure that the Federal judiciary 
fulfills its proper role in our constitutional system. Each of them 
will be an asset to our Nation's courts.
  Under Chairman Grassley's leadership, the Senate Judiciary Committee 
has done outstanding work to move these judicial nominees to the floor. 
I am grateful for his efforts, and I urge all of my colleagues to join 
me in voting to confirm Mr. Ho soon.


                          Funding Our Military

  Mr. President, on another matter, our Nation faces a myriad of 
threats from around the globe, and it is the Senate's responsibility to 
provide the service chiefs with the resources to train and equip our 
warfighters and to provide them with the resources they need to keep us 
safe.
  The diverse challenges posed by Iran, China, Russia, North Korea, 
ISIL, al-Qaida, and its affiliates span the spectrum of warfighting, 
and our force must be trained and prepared to operate on sea, air, 
land, and in cyber space. These challenges were only compounded by the 
Obama administration's focus on reducing the size of our conventional 
force, withdrawing our forward presence, and placing an unrealistic 
reliance upon allies and Special Operations forces.
  In stark contrast to the previous administration, this Republican-led 
Congress and the Trump administration have taken the initial steps to 
rebuild our military. We are working to ensure that the needs of the 
force are met and our servicemembers have the tools and training 
necessary to fulfill their missions.

  In our ongoing discussions surrounding government funding, we must 
continue to prioritize our Nation's men and women in uniform. It is 
illogical for this Senate to repeatedly vote to pass National Defense 
Authorization Acts at one level of authority and not meet that 
commitment with the necessary appropriations act; and this funding 
cannot be held hostage to the Obama-era demand that increases in 
defense funding be matched by equal increases in nondefense spending. 
Congress ignored that demand earlier this year, and we must do it again 
now.
  The reason is simple: Under the Budget Control Act, the Department of 
Defense has received a disproportionate funding cut--and will again if 
Congress fails to come to an agreement. That type of blow would 
unacceptably diminish our military's readiness and damage our national 
security.
  I hope that Members can work together to provide the necessary funds

[[Page S8018]]

to our military--and to all parts of our government--so that the men 
and women of our all-volunteer force can continue to keep our country 
safe.


                         Tax Cuts and Jobs Bill

  Now, on a final matter, Mr. President, yesterday, Congress moved 
closer to delivering much-needed tax relief to American families and 
small businesses as Members of the House and the Senate held a public 
meeting of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act conference committee. The 
conferees discussed the best way to provide tax reform to families and 
small businesses across our country. Throughout this process, we have 
focused on the middle class and on those left behind by the Obama 
economy--like many of the families in Kentucky who I represent.
  By overhauling our broken and outdated Tax Code, we are working to 
seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to grow paychecks, create 
more jobs, and help our economy reach its full potential. The plan 
before the conference committee will also end many of the perverse 
incentives for corporations to ship American jobs overseas. We want to 
bring those jobs and investments home and keep them here.

  Once the committee completes its work to reconcile the differences 
between each Chamber's bill, every Member of Congress will have the 
opportunity to cast a vote to provide meaningful tax relief to middle-
class Americans. That should be something we all can support. And when 
Congress does, this bill will go to the President's desk to become law.
  I would like to thank every Member who has contributed to making tax 
reform a reality, following years of hearings and proposals and a 
multitude of amendments as this legislation proceeded through regular 
order.
  This is a chance to work together to get the economy going again and 
lift up the families that the Obama Administration's policies left 
behind. I hope that we can take this opportunity to move beyond 
partisanship to deliver real tax reform for the middle class. Many of 
the provisions of this bill are based on ideas that our friends across 
the aisle used to say they supported. I hope our friends will support 
them again.
  I would like to once again commend the conferees for their work, and 
I look forward to voting on the committee report soon.
  Mr. President, 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. MORAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                  Children's Health Insurance Program

  Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I come to the floor to speak about business 
that is important to Kansas and important to the country but especially 
important to the providers of healthcare for children, the children, 
and their families who receive that coverage and care; that is, the 
Medicaid CHIP program. It was established in 1997.
  I call to the attention of my colleagues the importance of us acting 
in the next several days in regard to the reauthorization extension of 
the CHIP program. It has helped provide coverage to children of low-
income families in my State and those individuals who would otherwise 
be left without any insurance and most likely, in every case, the funds 
necessary to cover healthcare costs for the well-being of those young 
men and women.
  This program is funded through a multiyear authorization that 
requires Congress to take action each time the program reaches the end 
of that authorization. The end of that authorization occurred on 
September 30, now several months ago. While I have been assured in my 
State that there are sufficient funds to get us through the end of the 
year, I am concerned. In fact, the belief is, we may have enough funds 
to pay for our insurance program through March. That certainly is 
probably not the case across the United States, and we need to act 
within a few short days. I hope this is an issue that is addressed, as 
the continuing resolution that funds the Federal Government expires on 
December 22. As we respond to that circumstance, we ought to respond to 
the expiration of the CHIP program that occurred on September 30.
  Waiting to reauthorize that program has already created an 
unnecessary burden, but if we waited any longer, it would create even 
more unnecessary burdens for families of more than 9 million children 
who are currently receiving healthcare through that program.
  Temporary funding measures have kept the program solvent since the 
program expired, but now is the time to act, to provide some certainty 
and make sure the funds continue to be available. In Kansas, it would 
leave about 79,000 children without coverage or other good options.
  Many of our Nation's best children's hospitals serve a great deal of 
patients through that CHIP program. We are fortunate in our area to 
have Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, and those hospitals and 
other providers rely upon the CHIP program to pay their bills as well. 
With all the costs associated with healthcare and with the inability of 
people to pay, the burden then falls upon hospitals and others to 
figure out how they survive. In Kansas, almost every hospital--127 of 
them in our State--continues to hang on by a thread, and some may not 
survive. This is another opportunity for us to strengthen and provide 
certainty that a mechanism will be in place so that when they provide 
care to children of Medicaid families, they will be reimbursed. That 
benefits all of us in our healthcare delivery system and provides more 
stability and more certainty in these challenging times for healthcare 
providers across Kansas.
  I am happy the House of Representatives has passed reauthorization. 
They did their bill. It is now time for the Senate to act. The Finance 
Committee has taken its action, but this bill is still pending on the 
floor of the U.S. Senate. During this Christmas season, this holiday 
time, parents should not have to wonder what they will do in the 
absence of this insurance program that allows their children to receive 
routine care and, in many instances, lifesaving care.
  Continuing to delay action on this bill is not in the best interest 
of the American people. It would be nice, it would be appreciated by 
Americans to see the U.S. Senate work on a program that has broad 
bipartisan support but still, for some reason, can't get it across the 
finish line. That finish line, I suppose, was September 30, but I would 
say that finish line is now the end of the year, and specifically 
December 22, with the CR expiring at that point in time. It is time for 
Congress to take action in that regard.
  My plea on the Senate floor this morning is for the U.S. Senate to 
take legislative action and reauthorize this program, provide 
certainty, and care for our country's children who are, without this 
program, in significant jeopardy of having an absence of healthcare.
  I appreciate the opportunity to address the U.S. Senate.
  I yield back.
  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. Mr. 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.


                         Funding the Government

  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, on the year-end negotiations, they are 
making headway--that is good--but many issues still remain to be 
resolved.
  We need to provide funding for community health centers, CHIP, and 
areas that have been hit by disasters. We need to pass a bipartisan 
deal to pair the Dream Act with border security and pass a budget deal 
that fully funds both our national security and our economic security, 
in the common parlance known as ``parity.''
  If we don't lift the spending caps for defense and also urgent 
domestic priorities--jobs, the economy--both will come under the 
specter of sequestration. Lifting those spending caps in equal measure 
has been the basis of successful budget agreements going back several 
years.
  There has been parity between defense and nondefense for the last 
three

[[Page S8019]]

budget negotiations. That is how it ought to stay. That is what brought 
us to good agreements. That is what averted shutdowns. Unfortunately, 
it appears that the Freedom Caucus in the House, which doesn't 
represent the mainstream of America or even the mainstream of 
Republicans, is trying to derail another successful parity agreement. 
Unfortunately, Speaker Ryan, as he is doing far too often, to the 
detriment of the country and his party, is just following its lead.
  Last night, the House posted what is called a CRomnibus--a very 
short-term extension of funding for jobs and economic development that 
will lead to cuts in those areas but a long-term extension and a large 
increase of funding for defense. This is merely a ruse that is designed 
to slash funding for education, healthcare, infrastructure, and 
scientific research--all things the Freedom Caucus doesn't want the 
government to fund--against the will of the overwhelming majority of 
Americans.
  At this late hour, it is also an unfortunate waste of precious time. 
Earlier this week, 44 Senate Democrats sent a letter to our Republican 
colleagues that explicitly warned them that Democrats could not support 
such an approach. Because 60 votes are needed to advance a spending 
bill here in the Senate, House Republicans should have known not to 
waste everyone's time with a partisan spending bill that could never 
pass in the Senate.
  The CRomnibus is nothing but a spectacle--a charade, a sop--to some 
militant, hard-right people who don't want the government to spend 
money on almost anything. It is a perilous waste of time as the clock 
ticks closer and closer to the end of the year.
  It is time for our Republican colleagues--especially in the House, 
where the Freedom Caucus is like the tail wagging the dog--to get 
serious about working with Democrats toward a real parity agreement. 
Every hour that the House spends on the CRomnibus is an hour that could 
be spent on our working on a deal to avert a shutdown and solve the 
many pressing issues that Congress must grapple with before the end of 
the year.
  If Speaker Ryan decides to press forward with a CRomnibus, it will 
quickly fail in the Senate, and we can get back to negotiating a real 
bipartisan agreement that will provide certainty and full funding to 
both our national defense and the middle class. Speaker Ryan has gone 
along with this approach three times in a row--or the House Republicans 
have. I think Ryan was the Speaker for two of those three and was the 
chairman of the Ways and Means Committee for the third. Right now, 
Speaker Ryan is pursuing a dead-end strategy. Instead, we urge him to 
continue working with Democrats on a bipartisan, long-term agreement 
that will keep the government open and fund our major priorities--
defense, with jobs and the economy on the other side.
  By the way, even on the other side of the ledger, the things that 
affect our security, like the border and the FBI, are funded on the 
nondefense side, and you have to have security in every way in this 
terrorism-ridden world in which we live.


                          Republican Tax Bill

  Mr. President, a word on the Republican tax bill. On both process and 
substance, it appears that the Republicans' conference committee is 
making all the mistakes that the Republicans made when they passed 
their bill in the first place. Even though there is still not a final 
agreement on the text of the tax bill, Republican leaders promise a 
vote on the committee report as early as Monday of next week. I am not 
sure that my colleagues will have had enough time to have read and 
digested the bill that passed this Chamber a few weeks ago, let alone 
an entirely new conference report that will include many changes. It is 
the same rushed, awful process as before, and it can only result in 
mistakes and unintended consequences that could wreak havoc on the 
economy. Why are our Republican colleagues rushing this bill through? I 
think that they are ashamed of it.
  Every day, the more people know about the bill, the more they don't 
like it. Just in the polling data today, it shows that the popularity 
of the bill continues to plummet, and a poll out today said it is not 
just that the people do not like the bill but that those who vote for 
it will be affected at election time. The poll today asked people if 
they were more or less likely to vote for a Congressman who would vote 
for this bill or to vote for a Senator who would vote for this bill. 
Many in the public said that they were less likely to vote for a 
Congressman who would vote for this awful bill. The public knows that 
it is awful. Why? They know that Republicans are doubling down in this 
new proposal on the core mistake of their bill by tilting it even 
further in favor of the wealthy.
  I saw on TV this morning a guy from the Club for Growth and a guy 
from--I forgot the name--another group. These are narrow, narrow groups 
that have very little support and that are funded by the hard-right 
group of billionaires who want to see their taxes cut. They don't even 
talk about what is in the bill. They try to talk about its being a job 
creator, but they dare don't say, like so many of my Republican 
colleagues, how disproportionately it goes to those in the upper 
incomes and not to the middle class.
  Amazingly enough, behind closed doors, they have made a bad bill even 
worse. One of the most significant changes that have been made by the 
conference committee will be to lower the top tax rate 2 percentage 
points more than in the original bill. Let's help those millionaires 
get an even lower tax rate than they have now, for they are doing so 
poorly. This is crazy. There are a lot of wealthy people in America. 
God bless them. I don't resent their wealth, but they don't need a tax 
break. On the other hand, there are hundreds of millions of struggling 
middle-class people, and they could use that kind of money. Yet 
millions of people in this bill who are middle class, upper middle 
class, and who are struggling to be middle class get a tax increase. 
Instead of lowering the rate on the highest income people, why not use 
the money to help those in the middle?
  Despite all of the concerns about raising middle-class taxes, which 
makes the bill as unpopular as I just mentioned, the one big thing that 
Republicans go back and change is the rate paid by the wealthiest of 
Americans. They lower it. When it comes down to a choice between the 
middle class and the wealthy and the middle class and big corporations, 
the Republicans just instinctively, atavistically--in a knee-jerk way--
choose the wealthy and the powerful over the middle class. That is why 
they are struggling.
  I believe that is why President Trump's numbers are as low as they 
have ever been. People are getting a feel--a smell--in that President 
Trump talks about the middle class, but when he acts, like in this tax 
bill, it is to help the wealthiest and the most powerful. That happens 
with issue after issue.
  I see that my colleague Dick Blumenthal, the Senator from 
Connecticut, has come to the floor. He is going to talk about net 
neutrality, I believe. Again, help the big cable companies and the 
corporations, and make it harder for the middle class when it comes to 
cable service and the cost of cable.
  Republicans claim that lowering the top rate is an attempt to address 
tax hikes that would result from their plan to gut the State and local 
deduction, but reducing the top rate only helps the very wealthy--
couples who make over $1 million in the last draft that we heard 
about--but they are already the prime beneficiaries of this tax plan.
  I have a feeling that President Trump was hearing from his handful of 
wealthy friends who pay a lot in State and local taxes, many from my 
home State of New York. He decided, well, I will lower their taxes even 
more. But 99 percent of State and local deductions are taken by 
Americans with incomes under $1 million. More than half of the 
taxpayers who take the SALT deduction make less than $100,000. Reducing 
the top rate does nothing to help the 99 percent of taxpayers who take 
SALT. It only helps the top 1 percent, who make over $1 million. But 
this is what, it seems, the President and our Republican colleagues in 
the House and the Senate keep doing.
  As I have said from the start, eliminating or cutting the State and 
local deduction would hurt the middle class across the country. It 
would raise taxes on millions, lower home values for millions more, and 
gut our State and local

[[Page S8020]]

programs--education, law enforcement, infrastructure. None of those 
programs were addressed in the conference. Instead, the richest 
Americans will likely get an even bigger tax break.
  There is no reason to rush the bill through the Senate.
  Tuesday night, as our Presiding Officer knows, we had an election in 
Alabama. This Chamber is waiting for the seating of a new Senator. 
Shouldn't the people of Alabama have their voices in the Senate present 
for a vote on the tax bill?
  Again I would say to my friend the majority leader, slow down and 
wait for Senator-Elect Jones to arrive before taking any more votes on 
the tax bill. Democrats waited for Republican Senator Scott Brown in 
2010, but now that the shoe is on the other foot, Republicans don't 
seem to want to do the same. It is the right thing to do, and it will 
give every Senator and the American people more time to consider the 
legislation.


                             Net Neutrality

  Finally, Mr. President, a word on the FCC's vote today on net 
neutrality. We depend on a free and open internet to spur innovation 
and job creation. Our economy works best when innovators and 
entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes compete on a level playing 
field. Net neutrality, very simply, says that everyone deserves the 
same, fair access to the internet. Consumers, small businesses, 
students, everyone from the elderly couple using Skype to talk to their 
grandchildren who are half a country away, to the startup company 
operating out of its founder's basement--everyone deserves the same 
access to and quality of internet as the big corporations.
  When I was growing up in Brooklyn, my father owned a small 
exterminating business. If his competitor down the street had received 
a preferred electricity rate, he would have rightly been outraged, and 
the law would have protected him from unfair treatment. We don't 
reserve certain highways for a single trucking company, and we don't 
limit phone service to handpicked stores. We shouldn't reserve high-
speed internet for a favored few corporations either. Yet now President 
Trump's appointed Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is on the verge of 
eliminating net neutrality, which will bring to an end the free and 
open internet that has enabled so many successful companies and has 
created so many jobs.
  Our internet is the envy of the world. Why are we changing it in a 
way that could harm it? If net neutrality is eliminated, the internet 
may resemble a toll road, with the highest bidders cruising along 
private fast lanes while the rest of us inch along on a single, 
traffic-choked public lane. We could be forced to purchase internet 
packages, much like cable packages, and pay for more popular sites. It 
is hard to imagine an entrepreneur building the world's next 
revolutionary, billion-dollar company while she sits in bumper-to-
bumper traffic online. It is hard to imagine that average consumers are 
going to get a good deal if internet service providers are unshackled 
and offer premium service to premium customers.
  Again, President Trump talks one way and acts another. He talks like 
he is helping the middle class. He is fully supportive of the FCC and 
his handpicked Chairman while he hurts the middle class and helps the 
big interests when it comes to the internet.
  By ending net neutrality, Chairman Pai and the Trump administration 
are once again siding with corporate interests against consumers and 
small business. Once again, the Trump administration is picking CEOs 
over citizens--just as in the tax bill and now on net neutrality--and 
thwarting the comments of millions of Americans who have sent comments 
to the FCC asking them to save net neutrality and to keep the internet 
free and open to everyone.
  The American people have spoken. I hope Chairman Pai and President 
Trump are listening.
  Before I yield the floor, I want to thank my friend, the senior 
Senator from Connecticut, for his valiant and strong struggle to keep 
the internet free, open, and available to the little guy and gal 
equally as it is to the big shots.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.
  Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, I wish to thank the senior Senator 
from New York, our minority leader, for his very powerful and eloquent 
remarks on net neutrality. He has been a leader in protecting consumers 
in so many areas, and this one is preeminently important.
  We are here on a day when the FCC may well repeal the net neutrality 
order. I spoke at length about it yesterday, and I am struck by the 
mockery that the FCC will make of consumer protection if it proceeds 
with this very misguided and mistaken course. It is a course that will 
be reversed, I believe, in the courts if it is followed, and it should 
be reversed in this body as well. It is profoundly important to the 
future of the internet to have access and affordability to innovation, 
to our economy, and to job creation. The open and accessible internet 
is part of our lifeblood economically and culturally in this country. 
Part of what makes America great is the freedom of access and 
innovation.


           Fifth Anniversary of the Sandy Hook Mass Shooting

  Mr. President, I want to talk today on the occasion of the fifth 
anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre in my State of Connecticut. It 
was one of the saddest days of my life and one of the worst days of my 
public career when I went to the elementary school in Newtown, CT, 
along with a number of my colleagues who will be speaking today as 
well, Congresswoman Esty and Senator Murphy.
  In the Judiciary Committee, just moments ago, Senator Feinstein 
circulated a framed copy of the front page of the Daily News of 
Wednesday, December 15, 2012--5 years ago, almost to the day. That 
front page has photographs of the 20 beautiful children who were lost 
in that unspeakable act of terror and horror. They are 20 wonderful 
human beings who would be 11 years old today. Their great teachers were 
killed as well.
  Having valued and known their parents as friends and fellow advocates 
in the effort to achieve commonsense legislation against gun violence, 
I know how deeply that pain is still felt. The healing is far from 
over. The grief never ends. The prayers and thoughts of mine go every 
day to the loved ones who lost those children and educators.
  Prayers and thoughts are not enough. It never has been after any of 
these massacres, and it never will be after the mass killings or for 
the one-by-one deaths in our communities--90 every day in this great 
country. Gun violence kills 90 people every day, and 150,000 have 
perished since Sandy Hook.
  So as we commemorate this awful day, 5 years ago, let us rededicate 
ourselves to act to honor those victims with action, to honor all those 
with action. It is never too soon to honor the victims with action.
  On that front page of the Daily News, there is a line that says ``New 
York's Hometown Newspaper.'' New York wasn't the hometown to those 
Sandy Hook victims, but America felt that Sandy Hook was every town in 
America, and it is indeed quintessentially an American town, filled 
with wonderful people who hugged and grieved together that day.
  That night, in the St. Rose of Lima Church, and in the days 
following, when there were calling hours and funerals, one after the 
other, it seemed like they would never end. In some ways they have 
never ended, because those families' losses are still real and urgent. 
For us the task of honoring those 20 beautiful children and the 6 
educators ought to be real and urgent, even more so today than it was 
then.
  That day we prayed in the St. Rose of Lima Church. I said to the 
congregation that the whole world is watching. The whole world was 
watching. The world is watching America to see whether we will act.
  We are not the only country with mental health problems. Our rate of 
mental illness is no greater than any other developed industrial 
country, but our rate of gun violence is off the charts compared to 
other countries. There is no excuse for it. There is no rational 
explanation for it.
  As we prayed and grieved then, in the wake of that senseless, 
horrific tragedy, Congress turned its back. It turned its back on those 
courageous and strong families who came here in

[[Page S8021]]

the weeks following, talking to our colleagues, across the aisle and on 
this side, asking for commonsense measures, background checks. There 
was a bipartisan measure then to extend background checks and achieve 
other gun violence prevention measures, which unfortunately failed on 
this floor to gain enough votes. We had 55, but we needed 60. From the 
Gallery on that day, someone shouted: ``Shame.''
  December 14, 2012, will be forever a stain on our Nation's history. 
That day will forever be a black mark on the United States of America, 
but so will the day that those commonsense measures were rejected in 
this Chamber. That shame was richly deserved on that day.
  Congress saw the photos of those innocent babies, those wonderful 
children. It saw their grieving parents. It saw the lines of terrified 
and traumatized children that day being led to safety out of their 
elementary school. It saw the war zone that the school became when that 
mass killing turned it into something that no teacher, no educator ever 
could have foreseen. Those educators helped save lives.
  Congress saw and heard the stories of how brave educators sought to 
shield their children from the bullets coming from that assault weapon 
on that day. Unfortunately, the vice-like grip of the gun lobby and, 
principally, the NRA--let's be blunt about who is leading that lobby--
prevailed. In the 1,825 days since the Sandy Hook tragedy, despite the 
150,000 people who have perished from gun violence since then, Congress 
has chosen inaction. It has disregarded public safety and the clear 
will of the American people. It has heeded instead the campaign 
contributions of the gun lobby, and it has failed to act. It has been 
complicit in the continuing scourge of gun violence by its inaction. It 
has been complicit in those deaths. It has been an aider and abettor, 
in fact, to the 90 killings each day as a result of gun violence. Shame 
on Congress if it fails to act now.
  Today I am not just heartbroken; I am furious. I am angry beyond 
words about Congress's complicity, about the inaction we have seen, 
about Congress's abject failure to take commonsense steps that will 
protect the American people, about its failure to meet this public 
health crisis with the kind of action that the American people deserve 
and need. If 90 people every day were perishing from Ebola or some 
contagious disease--even the flu--there would be an outcry, an outrage, 
and we would be clamoring to do something.
  Here, the solutions are self-evident. None of them is a panacea. None 
is a single, magic solution to this problem. The trap raised by the gun 
lobby that none will necessarily deal with the mass killing that just 
happened is, indeed, a trap we should reject.
  The ban on bump stocks might have prevented Las Vegas but not 
Charleston. The closing of the 72-hour loophole that permits purchasers 
to buy a gun if the background check has not been completed in 72 hours 
might not have prevented Las Vegas, but it would have prevented 
Charleston. Dylann Roof purchased the gun only because he was able to 
circumvent the background check as a result of that 72-hour loophole.
  The ban on certain kinds of high capacity magazines might not have 
prevented San Bernardino or Orlando, but it would have helped to 
prevent Sandy Hook.
  We will never know whether any of these measures would prevent every 
one of the killings that we cite, but each of them can save lives, and 
if we save one life, we will have saved the world.
  Shame on Congress for allowing this tragic anniversary to be followed 
by so many more--Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, Orlando, Charleston, 
and each and every day in the news. Every day, none of our communities 
is immune from this scourge. It is truly a public health crisis.
  I am hopeful that there may well be a crack in the united partisan 
front emerging. I am proud to be part of a very powerful bipartisan 
alliance involving our colleagues, Senators Scott and Cornyn, across 
the aisle, as well as Senator Murphy and other Senators on this side of 
the aisle. I hope we can make modest and crucial improvements to the 
National Instant Criminal Background Check system.
  The NICS system should be fixed. The Fix NICS Act will provide 
incentives and encourage States to do better reporting. Right now there 
are immense gaps in reporting in the States and even in the Federal 
Government, which is why, in fact, perhaps, Sutherland Springs 
occurred, because of a failure to report by the Air Force a domestic 
violence conviction by court-martial that would have barred the shooter 
from lawfully obtaining a weapon, had it been reported accurately.

  The Fix NICS bill would ensure that Federal and State authorities 
comply with existing law and accurately report relevant criminal 
history records to the background check system. This step is the least 
we can do, not the most, but it is the bare minimum.
  While there is broad support for this modest but significant measure, 
the Republican leadership in the House is already attempting to 
sabotage it by linking it and pairing it with the truly dangerous 
Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. That act would sabotage the laws of 
States like Connecticut that seek to protect our citizens. It would, in 
effect, provide that permits from other States be treated like driver's 
licenses, no matter how lenient or even nonexistent the provisions may 
be for obtaining permits in those other States. It would eviscerate 
rights of States like Connecticut to protect our citizens with higher 
standards.
  These basic measures to prevent gun violence have no threat 
whatsoever to gun ownership. They ensure that people who are a danger 
to themselves or others and convicted criminals and others already 
barred from buying weapons will not be permitted to carry a lethal 
firearm.
  I respect the Second Amendment. It is the law of the land. No firearm 
should be taken away from law-abiding citizens. But the idea that there 
is nothing Congress can do to make a difference and save American lives 
is unacceptable and false. It is a political copout resoundingly 
rejected by the vast majority of Americans.
  Ninety-five percent of Americans want background checks applied to 
all purchases. They overwhelmingly favor fixes to the present 
background check system that make the oversight of purchases more 
accurate, and they favor commonsense measures that will protect 
innocent human beings like the 20 beautiful children and sixth grade 
educators lost that day in Sandy Hook.
  When I feel most discouraged and disgusted, I think of those 
families. I think of the parents of Olivia Engel, and I think of the 
parents of all of those beautiful children and wonder, as I am sure 
they often do, what lives they would be leading today. What would 
Olivia Engel be doing on this day filled with Sun and beauty? In 
Connecticut, this morning, it snowed. At 6 or 11, snow would still be a 
wonderful thing, never to be taken for granted by any child. This 
holiday--all of the wonder and beauty of this holiday--is never taken 
for granted by a 6-year-old or an 11-year old. The possibilities, 
opportunities, dreams, and hopes were shattered on that day and lost 
forever.
  I was at the calling hours for one of the children killed at Sandy 
Hook, and it was a gut-wrenching moment--every one of them. I spoke to 
the mother of one of those children, and I said: When you are ready, we 
should do something about gun violence.
  She said, without hesitation, through reddened eyes and cracking 
voice: I am ready now. I am ready now.
  America should be ready. America is ready. This body should follow 
America's lead--honor with action. If nothing else is remembered of 
that day 5 years ago, let us honor with action those strong and 
courageous families who have suffered this unspeakable horror, this 
unimaginable grief, and who have come here in years past to ask us to 
honor with action the victims, survivors, and loved ones of Sandy Hook 
and of all gun violence horrors in this country.
  Thank you.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Vermont.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I thank the senior Senator from Connecticut 
for his words. The Senator from Connecticut is a former prosecutor who 
knows law enforcement backward and forward. I can only imagine the 
grief felt in his State. As a neighboring New England State, I recall 
the vigils, the

[[Page S8022]]

people coming to pray, and the sadness from what happened in our 
neighboring State of Connecticut. But as so many have said, we can 
express grief--and we should--but we have to do what the Senator from 
Connecticut and others have suggested, which is actually take some 
steps that might stop these things. So I applaud him for what he said.
  Let me speak on another issue. This week, we voted on three circuit 
court nominees, just one step below the Supreme Court. All three of 
these nominees are extreme. One is objectively unqualified. The fact 
that we are so quickly casting floor votes on these troubling 
nominations, all of whom were reported out of the Judiciary Committee 
just last week, is a symptom of the Republicans' willingness to abandon 
decades of Senate tradition so that this body can serve as a 
rubberstamp for President Trump's nominees. The Senate will not be the 
conscience of the Nation or the check and balance it was always 
designed to be, but instead, a rubberstamp for the President.
  Let me just cover a couple of things. Don Willett is a sitting 
justice on the Texas Supreme Court. That should mean something. Sitting 
judges have an obligation to exercise good judgment; to not say 
anything that would lead individuals to question their impartiality. A 
question I ask nominees all the time is: Can someone who comes into 
your court--whether they are Republican or Democrat, plaintiff, 
defendant, rich, poor, whatever--look at you and say: Well, at least 
this judge is going to show impartiality. Maybe I will win or maybe I 
will lose, but it will not be because the judge wasn't impartial. When 
you look at this sitting justice, Don Willett, he fails the standard of 
impartiality.
  A few weeks ago, I questioned him about his tweet telling a young 
transgender woman, who was interested in playing softball to ``Go away, 
A-Rod.'' Justice Willett claimed that this tweet was in jest. But, let 
me say it again--a sitting justice telling a transgender teen to ``go 
away'' sends an unmistakable message to marginalized, vulnerable 
communities: Not all are welcome in my courtroom. Well, that is not a 
laughing matter.
  This was not the first time that Justice Willett has worn his bias on 
his sleeve. As an aide to George W. Bush while he was Governor of 
Texas, he objected to then-Governor Bush declaring a ``Business Women's 
Week.'' He opposed the proclamation's mention of ``glass ceilings, pay 
equity . . . [and] sexual discrimination/harassment.'' He dismissed 
these very real barriers to women in the workforce as ``hype.'' For 
these and other reasons, I seriously question his judgment or that he 
would be seen by people coming into his courtroom as impartial.
  Then we have James Ho, who is another troubling nominee. His views on 
social issues are, not surprisingly, extreme. He has even offered 
effusive praise for Jeff Mateer, another Trump nominee who has publicly 
proclaimed that transgender children are part of ``Satan's plan.'' Even 
as a judge, he has complained about the Supreme Court. Remember, these 
judges are supposed to follow the precedent of the Supreme Court. He 
has complained about the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision. He said 
that it is going to lead to ``people marrying their pets.'' I don't 
think any legal scholar anywhere from the right to the left would agree 
with that interpretation. Mr. Ho praised Mateer for ``protecting and 
enforcing the . . . civil liberties of every Texan.'' Well, it is not 
every Texan--just those he agrees with.
  Of course, this race to confirm Mr. Ho that is zipping through here 
means that we will not have fully vetted him for this lifetime 
appointment. When he served in the Justice Department's Office of Legal 
Counsel, he authored a memorandum that was cited in one of the shameful 
``torture memos.'' These torture memos have turned out to be a blot on 
the conscience of the United States. Mr. Ho has refused to answer 
questions about his involvement, despite the fact that the torture 
memos are now very much in the public domain. Unfortunately, these 
kinds of non-answers are considered sufficient as of late, since 
Republicans are more interested in rubberstamping President Trump's 
judicial nominees than asking serious questions of them as a coequal 
branch of government. I cannot believe that any Republican leadership 
would allow a nominee of a Democrat who would have been involved in the 
drafting of a key and controversial memorandum to be confirmed unless 
they are willing to answer questions about it.
  Then we have Steven Grasz, whom the American Bar Association 
unanimously rated him as unqualified for the Federal bench. In the past 
40 years, I recall seeing a unanimously unqualified rating only a few 
times, and those people never made it through. After an exhaustive 
review including more than 200 interviews about Mr. Grasz, the ABA 
concluded he could not separate his personal beliefs from his duties as 
a judge--a fundamental obligation of a judge. This is almost 
unprecedented to have a rating like this.
  To have at least a qualified rating from the ABA is a basic 
qualification for a nominee to the Federal bench. Certainly, 
Republicans would insist on it if it was a Democrat's nominee. The 
Republicans made it very clear that if a Democrat nominated somebody 
who got a ``not qualified'' rating--I don't recall it happening, but if 
they did--they made it very clear that person would never be 
considered. Well, here is somebody who is declared ``not qualified,'' 
and yet they whipped him through. You would think ``qualified'' would 
at least be the bottom line for a nomination. You would think whoever 
is President, they are at least nominating somebody who could hit the 
threshold of being considered qualified.

  Republicans are now casting aside the ABA as a biased institution; 
some have accused the ABA of opposing Mr. Grasz simply because of his 
opposition to abortion. Well, that is absurd. The ABA has rated 46 of 
President Trump's 50 nominees as ``qualified.'' Let's not delude 
ourselves, does anyone think that any of the 46 Trump nominees that the 
ABA rated as qualified support abortion rights? They would never get 
out of the White House if they did. So that argument--like so many 
others used to support these extreme nominees--does not pass the laugh 
test.
  As the longest serving member of the United States Senate and a 
former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I have spoken up about the 
steady erosion of the Committee's norms and traditions. The Committee 
has processed un-vetted, extreme nominees at an unprecedented rate. 
President Trump will have four times as many circuit court nominees 
confirmed in his first year than did President Obama. The reason 
President Trump has four times as many circuit court nominees confirmed 
in his first year than did President Obama is because Republicans 
removed any and all guardrails on our confirmation process--the 
guardrails they insisted on when there was a Democratic President. No 
matter how careful the Democratic President was in picking that person, 
they had to have these guardrails. I thought, actually, the guardrails 
made sense.
  The second you have a President who nominates extreme judges, they 
decided we don't need those guardrails anymore because President Trump 
would never make a mistake. Nominees have had hearings scheduled before 
we even had the ABA ratings. Multiple circuit court nominees are 
regularly stacked on single panels. That is something Republicans 
insisted should not be done when there was a Democratic President. Now, 
unfortunately, the chairman--who is a friend of mine and a man I 
respect--has reversed his own blue-slip policy. He has begun to advance 
nominees without favorable blue strips from both home State Senators. 
That is the first time this has been done in the last two Presidents.
  I fear we are doing lasting damage to our nomination process. I fear 
we are making the advice and consent process a completely laughable 
exercise. The three nominees who are set forth this week are evidence 
of that.
  I am going to vote no on each of them because they are not qualified. 
I have voted for many Republican nominees. I might disagree with them 
philosophically, but they were qualified, just as I voted for many 
Democratic nominees. Some I disagreed with, but they were qualified. 
These nominees aren't qualified. They are extreme. I want the standard 
I always asked for; that whoever you are, when you come into a 
courtroom, you can look at the

[[Page S8023]]

judge and say: OK, whether I am a plaintiff or defendant, rich or poor, 
facing the State as the respondent, no matter my political background, 
I am going to be treated fairly. I will win or lose my case on the 
merits, not on the judge's bias.
  We are closing our door to that. We are closing our door to it when 
the President of the United States turns the selection process over to 
an extreme political, partisan group and then asks Republicans to 
rubberstamp it. I respect my Republican colleagues, but I can't imagine 
many of them ever standing for a Democratic President doing anything 
like this. I wouldn't.
  I wish they would bring the Senate back to where we should be, where 
we can be, and where the country is better off when we are.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sullivan). The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Ms. WARREN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Ms. WARREN. Mr. President, 2 days ago, the GOP-controlled Senate 
confirmed Leonard Steven Grasz to a Federal appeals court. This is a 
man who is so aggressively ideological that he earned a rating of ``not 
qualified'' from the American Bar Association.
  The ABA reached that conclusion, in part, after speaking with many of 
Mr. Grasz's peers who expressed concerns ``that Mr. Grasz' strongly 
held social views and/or his deeply rooted political allegiances would 
make it impossible for him to have an unbiased and open mind on 
critical issues.''
  Those individuals have ample reason to be concerned. Among his many 
appalling views, Mr. Grasz believes discrimination against LGBTQ 
individuals is A-OK. He supports the harmful and discredited practice 
of conversion therapy and he opposes reproductive rights and the 
Republicans just confirmed him to a lifetime appointment as a Federal 
judge who will make life-changing decisions for millions of Americans.
  The other judicial nominee the GOP-controlled Senate confirmed this 
week, Donny Willett, doesn't fall very far from that tree either. Mr. 
Willett, a current justice on the Texas Supreme Court, isn't shy about 
his radical rightwing views. He has bragged about being the most 
conservative justice on the Texas Supreme Court, and he has a record to 
show for it.
  Mr. Willett believes judges should be able to easily overturn State 
and local laws that protect workers, including minimum wage laws and 
laws that allow workers to unionize. This view is so out of the 
mainstream that other conservative judges, including Chief Justice John 
Roberts and Judge Robert Bork, have rejected him.
  Mr. Willett's radical views don't stop there. He has ruled to limit 
the rights of same-sex couples. He has mocked transgender individuals. 
He has demonstrated hostility to issues that affect working women, 
including pay equity, discrimination, and sexual harassment. Mr. 
Willett has ruled against efforts to help remedy discrimination in 
Texas schools. On issue after issue, Mr. Willett's record shows a 
stunning disregard of the issues that impact millions of Americans.
  The truth is, Mr. Grasz and Mr. Willett are not unique. They are just 
a few of the many nominees whose records show they cannot fairly and 
impartially dispense equal justice under the law.
  Right now, the GOP-controlled Senate is executing a breathtaking plan 
to fill our courts with rightwing, radical nominees like Mr. Grasz and 
Mr. Willett. It is a plan that has been long in the making. For years, 
Republicans have worked hand in hand with billionaire-funded, rightwing 
groups to ensure that our courts advance the interests of the wealthy 
and the powerful over everyone else.
  First, after President Obama was elected, Republicans abused the 
filibuster to stop reasonable mainstream judges from filling vacancies 
on Federal courts. They didn't stop those nominees because of their 
qualifications. They didn't stop them because of their records. The 
Republicans stopped those nominees because they didn't want judges who 
cared more about justice than about protecting the powerful.
  Then, once the filibuster was gone and Republicans had gained the 
majority in the Senate, they slowed the judicial nominations process to 
a crawl. Vacancies stacked up, and the courts became overloaded with 
cases.
  Finally, last year, Republicans took their assault on our judicial 
system to new heights, refusing to consider any nominee put forward by 
the President to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. They threw the 
Constitution and Senate precedent right out the window to advance their 
radical agenda. It was shocking, and it was shameful.
  Now that there is a Republican President who is committed to tilting 
our courts further in favor of the rich and the powerful, Republicans 
are looking to fill our courts with judges who share that commitment, 
no matter how unqualified they may be.
  This week, the Senate will vote on one more of those judicial 
nominees, James Ho, a man who, like Mr. Grasz and Mr. Willett, will 
work to hand our courts over to powerful, pro-corporate interests. When 
it comes to money and politics, Mr. Ho's view is the more the better. 
He has argued that there should be no limits on campaign contributions, 
none--democracy for sale. According to Mr. Ho, the reason government is 
so corrupt isn't because there is too much secret money slithering 
through our political system but because government makes it too hard 
for those big donors to succeed in the private sector.
  Tell that to the working families, the students, the teachers, and 
the small businesses that will be paying higher taxes to give those fat 
cat donors giant tax cuts.
  Mr. Ho has also defended discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. 
While he was solicitor general of Texas, Mr. Ho defended Texas's ban on 
same-sex marriage. More recently, he has heaped praise on a Federal 
district court nominee who, among other disgusting statements, said 
that transgender children are part of ``Satan's plan.''
  Here is another troubling aspect of Mr. Ho's record: his view on 
whether torture is illegal. While Mr. Ho worked in the Justice 
Department, he authored a memo relating to the treatment of prisoners 
of war. That memo is cited in one of the torture memos that became the 
basis for the Bush administration's illegal and immoral practice of 
torturing terrorism suspects. That memo was not provided to the 
Judiciary Committee, and Mr. Ho has refused to fully answer questions 
regarding his involvement in what ultimately became the Bush 
administration's policy on torture--information that every Senator 
should demand to see before we vote on his nomination.
  Grasz, Willett, and Ho--just about all of Trump's judicial nominees--
have a lot in common. They will put powerful interests before the 
rights of workers, before the rights of women, before the rights of 
LGBTQ individuals, people of color, religious minorities, and pretty 
much everyone else. Their radical, rightwing views mean that in their 
courts, it will be easier for giant corporations and wealthy 
individuals to get relief and harder for everyone else to find justice. 
That is the perverted, upside-down justice system that every Member of 
this Congress should be working to fix.
  Now more than ever, we need judges who will stand up for equal 
justice for all, not just for the rich and the powerful. The records of 
the nominees before us this week show that they cannot meet that 
standard. That is why I voted no on the nominations of Mr. Grasz and 
Mr. Willett, and that is why I will be voting no on Mr. Ho. I urge my 
colleagues to do the same.
  Mr. President, I yield.
  Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to discuss 
the three judicial nominations we are considering this week: Steven 
Grasz, for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and James Ho and Don 
Willett, both for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  Before I talk about those nominees, I would like to offer some 
background on the importance of circuit courts and remind my colleagues 
why we have so many judicial vacancies.
  The Supreme Court hears between 100 and 150 cases each year out of 
the more than 7,000 it is asked to review. But in 2015 alone, more than 
55,000 cases were filed in Federal appeals courts.

[[Page S8024]]

  These cases range from crime and terrorism to bankruptcy and civil 
matters, and the judges who hear these cases will affect millions of 
Americans.
  So it is extremely important who is confirmed to these lifetime 
positions. Federal judges have a tremendous impact on individuals, 
businesses, and the law. In a way, circuit courts serve as the de facto 
Supreme Court to the vast majority of individuals who bring cases. They 
are the last word.
  These nominations are very important. That is why it is so concerning 
that Republicans for years refused to allow judgeships to be filled.
  The simple fact is the rush to fill judicial vacancies is the direct 
result of Senate Republicans' historic obstruction of judicial nominees 
during President Obama's administration.
  During President Obama's last 2 years in office, just 22 judicial 
nominees were confirmed. That is the fewest in a Congress since Harry 
Truman was President. In contrast, during the last 2 years of the 
George W. Bush administration, Senate Democrats confirmed 68 judicial 
nominees.
  At the end of last year, three circuit court nominees and 20 district 
court nominees had been approved by the Judiciary Committee and were 
waiting for votes on the Senate floor. Republicans refused to schedule 
votes for those nominees, many of whom Republicans themselves voted 
for, so they could hold those seats open. Four more circuit court 
nominees and 52 district court nominees were pending in committee and 
never even received a hearing.
  Now, 1 year later, the Senate is voting this week to confirm the 
10th, 11th, and 12th circuit court nominees this year. Republicans went 
from delaying all nominees to cramming them through at a breakneck 
pace.
  The 11 circuit court nominees who have already been confirmed are 
more than any President in the first year of office since Richard 
Nixon.
  Two nominees we are considering this week, James Ho and Don Willett, 
lay out the Republican playbook.
  These seats on the Fifth Circuit have been vacant since 2012 and 
2013, even though the Obama White House tried to work with my 
colleagues from Texas to fill these seats with consensus nominees.
  But once President Trump entered the White House, they wasted no time 
in rushing to put conservative judges in those seats.
  Don Willett was nominated on October 3, James Ho on October 16.
  Just a month later, on November 15, the Judiciary Committee held a 
hearing for both circuit court nominees on the same day, and cloture 
was filed immediately on both nominations after the committee advanced 
them.
  The speed at which these judges are being rammed through the process 
is stunning.
  In fact, on four occasions in the last 6 months our committee has 
held hearings for two circuit court nominees at the same time. This 
happened only three times in all 8 years of the Obama administration.
  This is a problem because it gives Senators less time to review each 
nominee's record and less time to ask each nominee questions. Candidly, 
it makes it very difficult for us to exercise our constitutional duty 
to ``advise and consent.''
  We are already seeing the ramifications. Just yesterday, the White 
House announced that two of its nominees would not be moving forward. 
One nominee, Brett Talley, had already been voted out of the Judiciary 
Committee, but we learned of troubling undisclosed information while he 
was pending on the floor. This may not have happened if we had 
sufficient time and cooperation to fully review these nominees.
  In the month of November, the Judiciary Committee had hearings for 
five circuit court nominees. I have served on this committee since 
1993, and we have never held hearings for five circuit court nominees 
in a single month before. That is during a month when we spent a week 
at home for Thanksgiving.
  Republicans refused to advance seven circuit court nominees last 
year, but now we are speeding through the process to fill those seats 
with conservative judges. Fairness aside, we should all be concerned 
that we are giving lifetime appointments to potentially unqualified 
nominees.
  Now, I would like to talk about the three nominees we're considering 
this week. This week, Steven Grasz was confirmed to the Eighth Circuit.
  The American Bar Association has rated 1,755 judicial nominees since 
1989, and only two of those have been unanimously rated ``not 
qualified'' based on concerns over their impartiality.
  One was a nominee for the Fifth Circuit in 2006 who was never 
confirmed. The other is Steven Grasz.
  Let me repeat that. This week, for the first time since at least 
1989, the Senate voted to confirm a nominee who was unanimously rated 
as ``not qualified'' by the American Bar Association.
  The ABA doesn't rate nominees based on what the evaluators think. 
Rather, they review a nominee's written record, talk to the nominee, 
and interview many people who have direct personal and professional 
knowledge about the nominee.
  Here are just two direct quotes from the ABA's review:
  ``Mr. Grasz's professional peers expressed concerns about his views 
of stare decisis, and questioned his commitment to it.''
  ``[A] number of Mr. Grasz's professional colleagues expressed the 
view that, in terms of judicial temperament . . . Mr. Grasz is not 
`free from bias.' Specifically, they expressed the view that he would 
be unable to separate his role as an advocate from that of a judge.''
  These are stunning indictments of a man who was confirmed to a 
lifetime seat on a circuit court.
  Some of my Republican colleagues argue that the ABA is biased. The 
numbers just don't bear that out.
  Over the last 30 years, during both Republican and Democratic 
Administrations, the ABA has rated nearly 1,800 nominees and rated only 
two ``not qualified'' based on their temperament.
  I voted against Mr. Grasz's nomination and am very concerned that he 
was confirmed on Tuesday. He did not have the support of a single 
Democratic Senator.
  Next I would like to talk about James Ho, nominated to the Fifth 
Circuit.
  During his time at the Office of Legal Counsel, Mr. Ho wrote a legal 
analysis of the scope of the term ``cruel, inhuman, and degrading 
treatment,'' which is prohibited under Common Article 3 of the Geneva 
Conventions.
  Unfortunately, this memo remains classified, and we haven't seen it.
  The reason we know this memo exists is because Jay Bybee cited it in 
one of the so-called torture memos, which were used to justify torture 
and have since been widely discredited.
  The Bybee memo also appears to have relied on Mr. Ho's analysis to 
argue that because the term ``cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment'' 
``appears to . . . have a rather limitless reach,'' conduct that 
qualifies as torture should be defined more narrowly than what is 
prohibited under international law.
  It is this kind of flawed legal reasoning that allowed the U.S. 
Government to torture people, and I have argued that no vote should 
have taken place on Mr. Ho's nomination until we had access to that 
memo.
  The Justice Department has provided us access to similar memos 
written by nominees for judgeships, so there is no reason to deny us 
access to the memo James Ho authored.
  I can't possibly vote in favor of a nominee to a lifetime appointment 
who may have helped provide the legal basis for torture, and it is a 
shame we are voting on this nominee this week.
  Finally, I would like to speak about Don Willett's nomination to the 
Fifth Circuit.
  At his hearing, my first question was about his 1998 comments on a 
draft proclamation for then-Governor George W. Bush to honor the Texas 
Federation of Business and Professional Women in 1998.
  Let me quote from them: ``I resist the proclamation's talk of `glass 
ceilings,' pay equity (an allegation that some studies debunk), the 
need to place kids in the care of rented strangers, sexual 
discrimination/ harassment, and the need generally for better ``working 
conditions'' for women (read: more government).''
  I asked Justice Willett if these were still his beliefs, and he 
refused to answer. I asked again, and again, he refused to answer. 
Senator Durbin asked

[[Page S8025]]

the same question, and Justice Willett refused to disavow these 
beliefs.
  As the National Women's Law Center wrote, ``Mr. Willett's skepticism 
of the existence of sex discrimination should disqualify him from the 
bench. Litigants coming before Mr. Willett . . . would have reason to 
question whether their claims of discrimination, including sexual 
harassment and pay discrimination, would be fairly and impartially 
heard or, instead, treated as `hype' to `debunk.' ''
  I could not support Justice Willett's nomination.
  Ms. WARREN. 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. CORNYN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  (The remarks of Mr. Cornyn pertaining to the submission of S. Res. 
361 are printed in today's Record under ``Submitted Resolutions.'')
  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, on a separate and happier note, today is a 
great day for our Nation's Federal judiciary. Yesterday afternoon, we 
confirmed Justice Don Willett, who currently serves on the Texas 
Supreme Court, who has been nominated by President Trump to the United 
States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Soon we will be voting 
on Jim Ho, the former solicitor general of the State of Texas, who has 
also been nominated to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  These are two outstanding nominees, and they reflect the best of 
Texas. They are each fathers, lawyers, scholars, public servants, and 
active participants in their communities. I wish to take just a few 
minutes to discuss each of their unique stories, as well as their 
sterling records of professional accomplishment.
  Don Willett was raised in Talty, a small town outside of Dallas, TX. 
He was adopted at a young age and raised by a single mom for most of 
his life. She must have been one heck of a lady because her son went on 
to achieve great things from those humble beginnings.
  He attended Baylor for undergraduate and Duke Law School. He clerked 
on the same court to which he has been nominated and now confirmed, the 
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. He worked in private practice and 
served Governor, and then President, George W. Bush.
  That is not all, though. He went on to work at the Department of 
Justice's Office of Legal Policy and later served as deputy attorney 
general of Texas before his appointment to the Texas Supreme Court. He 
was elected to his first full term in 2006 and reelected in 2012.
  While serving on my State's highest court, Justice Willett was 
recognized for his excellence by the Texas Review of Law and Politics, 
which named him as its ``Distinguished Jurist of the Year'' in 2014.
  Justice Willett's confirmation now is good news, and, perhaps, the 
best news for him personally is that he will no longer have to run for 
election, as he has had to do as a member of the Texas Supreme Court, 
because, of course, his appointment now is for life tenure.
  Jim Ho's story is no less remarkable. Jim was born in Taiwan, and his 
parents immigrated to New York when he was a toddler. Jim learned 
English by watching Sesame Street.
  When he was young, his parents moved to California, where Jim later 
attended Stanford before moving on to law school at the University of 
Chicago. As an adult, in his professional life, Jim clerked for Judge 
Jerry Smith on the Fifth Circuit, the court to which he has now been 
nominated and will be confirmed, and he later clerked for Justice 
Clarence Thomas on the U.S. Supreme Court.
  Jim has worked in a variety of legal capacities in the private 
sector. He has also served at the Civil Rights Division and the Office 
of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice.
  It is when he was at the Civil Rights Division that I first met Jim 
and I offered him a job on my Judiciary Committee staff, where he 
served as my chief counsel. Later, serving as solicitor general, he had 
the highest win rate before the U.S. Supreme Court of any person who 
has served in that role. When I was attorney general of Texas, we 
created this position of solicitor general because we had line lawyers 
who would, literally, handle cases for State agencies and who would 
handle those cases all the way to the Supreme Court, but really they 
didn't have the experience or training as an appellate advocate that we 
needed to speak with a single voice for the entire State before the 
Federal courts. Jim held that role and performed with distinction. As I 
said, he was enormously successful in his appellate advocacy.
  Jim also bears the distinction as the first Asian-American solicitor 
general of Texas, and he has taught as an adjunct professor at the 
University of Texas and is published in numerous scholarly journals.
  Simply put, Jim Ho and Don Willett are two stars in the Texas legal 
firmament. They were extensively vetted by the bipartisan Texas Federal 
Judicial Evaluation Committee, appointed by Senator Cruz and myself, as 
well as the Office of White House Counsel and the Department of 
Justice. I am glad we are now elevating them to the Federal bench.
  I wish to commend the President on these excellent nominations, and I 
thank my colleagues for their votes to support these two exceptionally 
qualified men.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. REED. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Fischer). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.


                          Republican Tax Bill

  Mr. REED. Madam President, as Republicans in both Chambers rush to 
conclude their secret negotiations on the final details of their tax 
bill, I want to make clear to my colleagues what should be obvious 
about this legislation. We may not yet know the results of all of their 
horse-trading leading up to the final legislation, but the American 
people are watching this process. It is plain to see that, should this 
Republican bill become law, Republicans will have knowingly and 
deliberately made worse the most dangerous threats that we face to our 
economic and national security. Worse yet, they will have drained the 
public coffers that our children and our children's children will need 
to take up these challenges.
  We all know what these challenges are. We face unprecedented income 
and wealth inequality that threatens to stifle the social mobility that 
is the hallmark of the American Dream. There is also declining 
productivity, which has kept middle-class wages stagnant, and bred 
economic anxiety for too many parents wondering if their children will 
attain a higher standard of living--much higher, they hope--than they 
have achieved. We have a surging deficit from decades of trickle-down 
economics and unpaid-for wars that, if left unaddressed, could apply 
huge pressure to our ability to keep our most basic promises to the 
American people, not to mention meeting our obligations as a world 
power.
  To the families watching what is going on in Washington right now, 
the Republican end game appears to be to invite fiscal crisis due to 
irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and then, 
because we have already given trillions of dollars away in tax cuts, to 
demand that Congress shred Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and 
other vital programs in order to pay our bills. We know this is the 
road that this bill sets us upon, and the American people certainly see 
this coming. So let no one who votes for this bill say that they did 
not know the consequences of their actions. This will not be remembered 
as tax reform, but rather as a serious mistake to be corrected in the 
future.
  How do middle-class Americans know that Republicans did not write 
this bill for them? Because they have watched Republican economics rig 
the tax system in favor of the wealthy and corporations for years, even 
as wealth and income inequality have reached historic levels. They took 
the Republicans at their word when Republicans promised that the Bush 
tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which skewed tax relief to the top

[[Page S8026]]

1 percent over the bottom 20 percent of Americans by more than 6 to 1, 
would eventually trickle down. That is what they thought, but on the 
eve of the great recession, aftertax income for the richest 1 percent 
had soared while middle-class wages continued to stagnate. We are still 
waiting for the Bush tax cuts to trickle down and to pay for 
themselves. They likely never will.

  These Republican proposals make matters even worse by financing tax 
giveaways for big business and the rich on the backs of those just 
trying to get by. Economists, relying on the Federal Survey of Consumer 
Finances, recently determined that the top 1 percent of American 
households now hold about 40 percent of the Nation's wealth, which is a 
50-year high. This legislation overwhelmingly benefits them while 
raising taxes on 48 percent of American taxpayers by 2027.
  Many of the families whose taxes will go up have already been through 
tough economic times during the Great Recession. Productivity in the 
American workforce has been declining, and wages have grown at an even 
slower pace than that. These families don't need numbers from the 
Bureau of Labor Statistics to know our Nation's recovery was 
historically slow. But our middle-class weathered the Great Recession 
as Americans have always done. Now, because of the lopsidedness and 
deficit-busting features of the Republican tax bill, Moody's Analytics 
has warned that this ``fiscal policy mistake'' could very well take us 
prematurely into an economic bust. Middle-class families have just 
emerged from the last crisis of Republican economics, still battered 
and bruised, and they know that, if Republicans force a plan like this 
on the Nation again, it will be their children who are on the hook to 
pay for it.
  Make no mistake, there are times when running a deficit is advisable 
or even economically necessary--particularly when times are tough and 
families need help to stay in the working class and get back on their 
feet. But regressive tax cuts just sit on our credit card with little 
to show for all that red ink, and the tab we are leaving the next 
generation is still running from 16 years ago.
  Like many of my colleagues, I was here to take the tough votes and 
make the hard choices that led to the Clinton-era surplus. The failed 
experiments of supply-side economics turned that surplus into a CBO-
projected deficit of over $10 trillion over the next decade. And even 
if we accept all of the rosy assumptions of dynamic scoring and take it 
on faith, yet again, that wealth will trickle down and that no 
recession will come in the next decade--all of which are assumptions on 
which I wouldn't wager anything--the Joint Committee on Taxation 
calculates that this bill would still increase the deficit by over $1 
trillion. Facts do not go away simply because we ignore them, and if 
Republicans continue to ignore the budget hole their policies create, 
then this massive deficit and the budget pressures that follow it will 
be their legacy for future generations.
  More importantly, however, I must ask: What national priorities will 
our colleagues on the other side deem too expensive after we have given 
1 trillion more borrowed dollars to the wealthy? What choices will 
Republicans try to force on the American people when they decide there 
simply isn't enough for the Armed Forces, the jobless, the sick, and 
the elderly? Republican leadership is already vowing to take up 
``entitlement reform'' next year, which is Washington-speak for giving 
the top 1 percent everything they want and then forcing practically 
everyone else to choose who loses their Social Security, Medicare, or 
Medicaid to plug the budget hole. Therefore, before Republicans blow 
apart the Federal budget yet again, it is worth reviewing the massive 
costs the American people are already committed to pay.
  First, as I have discussed before, this bill essentially guarantees 
that we will struggle to meet the needs of our national defense. Our 
war deficits from the past 16 years alone are projected to add over $1 
trillion to the national debt by 2023 and over $8 trillion by 2056. We 
all know we must modernize the nuclear triad, which will cost $1.2 
trillion in 2017 dollars over the next 30 years. A 355-ship Navy would 
cost, on average, $102 billion per year through 2047. Necessary 
additions to the end strengths of the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps 
will cost an additional $18 billion, $6 billion, and $3.6 billion, 
respectively. Where will this money come from, since we have already 
given it away to the wealthiest Americans?
  This chart shows what happens to the defense budget when large-scale 
tax reductions are put into effect, starting in the Reagan era of the 
1980s. One of President Reagan's first initiatives was to build up 
defense. This chart shows the percentage of GDP devoted to defense 
spending. President Reagan promised to make America strong. To 
actualize his feeling and view of peace through strength, he built up 
the defense budget significantly--going from a little over 5 percent of 
GDP when he took office up to almost 7 percent. But in the mid-1980s, 
he also engineered tax cuts that lowered taxes on the wealthy in 
proportion to lower income Americans, and eventually, those tax cuts 
and the deficit caught up with defense spending. As we notice, through 
the later 1980s and all the way into the 1990s, except for one respite, 
we had a declining defense budget. In the first year of the George 
Herbert Walker Bush administration, there was another attempt to 
decrease defense spending. So the line went up a bit, but after that, 
of course, with deficits increasing, with other pressures mounting on 
the budget, defense spending plummeted.
  Then, within the Clinton administration, there was a conscious effort 
to reduce defense spending. The so-called Cold War peace dividend took 
place. At the same time, though, because of the tough votes on tax 
reform that we took, we were building up a significant surplus.
  We saw again here, with the beginning of the George W. Bush 
administration, an increase in defense spending. Once again, that was a 
product the desire of the President to lower taxes, which he did, but 
more importantly, was the unexpected and catastrophic attack on the 
United States on September 11, 2001. That, together with the later 
decisions to go into Iraq and maintain our presence in Afghanistan, led 
us to increase defense spending, but, once again--once again--a growing 
deficit with tax cuts, with no increases to pay for wartime operations, 
saw the defense budget peak and then begin to decline, and we are in 
that decline right now.

  If history is any judge, when we pass these tax cuts, I think we will 
see a further decline as defense spending is squeezed by an already-
acknowledged increased deficit and by the difficulty of cutting other 
programs to relieve budget pressures. We are not positioning ourselves 
well. As I previously mentioned, we are already looking ahead at 
necessary expenditures totaling trillions of dollars over the future, 
and if we don't make them, it will leave our Armed Forces, and indeed 
our position in the world, in a very precarious position.
  The irony will be that many of my colleagues will come down here and 
vote one day soon on a huge tax reduction for the wealthiest, including 
a $1.5 trillion deficit increase, and on the next day say: ``We need 
more money for our military, that is the most important thing.'' If our 
military were the most important thing, we would be voting on a bill to 
provide that type of financial support and relief to the military 
today, and letting the tax cuts for the wealthy wait.
  This is one of the remarkable periods in our history; probably the 
first time in our history, that we have conducted a war for 16 years, 
and have yet to ask the American people, in any significant way, to 
participate by paying their fair share for the national defense. In 
fact, throughout this period, with rare exceptions, we have cut taxes, 
and the cuts have basically benefited the wealthiest Americans. That is 
why all of this together has caused former Secretaries of Defense Leon 
Panetta, Ash Carter, and Chuck Hagel to indicate that this tax bill is 
ill-advised. Following 16 years of debt-financed war, providing even 
bigger deficit-busting tax cuts doesn't make any sense for our national 
security.
  My previous comments, along with the comments of former Secretaries 
of Defense and others seem to have touched a nerve with Speaker Ryan 
because, when asked specifically, he took some umbrage at these 
comments. In an interview with NPR, he said he simply could not 
understand where our

[[Page S8027]]

concerns were coming from. To put it bluntly, I am comfortable siding 
with three former Secretaries of Defense over the Speaker when it comes 
to budgeting for the men and women of our Armed Forces, for the reasons 
I outlined in my discussion of the history of defense spending and tax 
cuts over the last 30-plus years. Inevitably, the tax cuts to the 
wealthy and corporations, because of the way this bill is structured, 
will put pressure on defense spending. What I don't want to happen is 
to have people down here 2 months from now pounding the desks about how 
we are not responding to the needs of our troops, saying that we 
haven't made them the most important thing in our lives, or that we are 
neglecting our national defense. Frankly, they have ignored this whole 
topic by committing to give tax cuts and increase the deficit. That is 
the wrong priority, in my view.
  As the chart clearly demonstrates, these tax cuts eventually catch up 
with us. They produced defense cuts--maybe not immediately, but we are 
not working on a situation like we had in 2001. When President George 
W. Bush instituted his tax cuts, we had a $5 trillion surplus on the 
books. That was because we took those tough votes in the 1990s to 
increase taxes and to build up a surplus.
  We don't have that pad any longer. We are already $10 trillion in the 
hole, so the effect of these cuts will be much quicker and much more 
dramatic when it comes to the situation we will face not only in terms 
of supporting our military, but actually taking major steps to upgrade 
the platforms, the technology, the training, the readiness, and the 
quality of life of the Armed Forces. We don't have a $5 trillion 
surplus to dip into to pay off the wealthiest while we try to fix 
defense. We are in a situation where advocacy for this tax cut, in my 
view, totally and deliberately ignores the costs we are going to have 
to pay to protect ourselves. For the first time in our history, we have 
conducted almost 20 years of war, and we have asked our troops and 
their families to serve, but we haven't asked any other American to 
stand up, at least with their financial support, and help us deal with 
the crises we face across the globe.
  It is not just our Armed Forces that will be squeezed and crowded out 
of the Federal budget because of these Republican proposals; the middle 
class and the working poor will also have to do a lot more with a lot 
less.
  Many of my colleagues have already pointed out that the CBO has 
estimated that 13 million Americans will lose their health insurance 
because Republicans will repeal the individual mandate to pay for tax 
cuts. They can try to spin this as an expansion of choices, but the 
bottom line is that more people will be sick, and fewer of them will 
get the care they need.
  Other middle-class American families can expect to lose access to 
critical tax advantages that allow them to remain self-sufficient 
during hard times. This approach promises to crush families on two 
fronts. It will force more families who are down on their luck to slip 
out of the working class, and then, because of massive deficits, the 
social safety net will be weakened when these families need it the 
most. This legislation will likely trigger a $25 billion cut to 
Medicare in 2018 alone, and with the Republicans' entitlement reform on 
the docket for next year--publically announced by Speaker Ryan--this 
may just be the tip of the iceberg. If we pass this tax bill, under our 
pay-go rules, we are in a position where we will be facing a $25 
billion cut to Medicare just next year, in 2018. Indeed, for many 
Americans, this vote is not about taxes, it is about Medicare--what 
they thought they had earned and are entitled to, what their children 
believe they need in order to withstand the obvious health problems as 
one ages.

  This does not even begin to cover the struggles facing working-class 
Americans every day. We are in the midst of a historic decline in labor 
force participation that economists are struggling to explain, and many 
States that are experiencing deep declines in labor force participation 
are among those hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. A few weeks ago, 
President Trump declared a public health emergency on opioids. Where 
are the resources coming from to face that national emergency? There 
will not be that much left after this tax cut.
  What we are beginning to see--this is not cause and effect, but it is 
a correlation--is that a lot of individuals are leaving the workforce 
because they feel displaced by new technology or because they are 
noncompetitive or for a number of reasons, and this seems to correlate 
very highly in those States with large losses with this opioid 
epidemic. In my home State of Rhode Island, this epidemic is real. It 
is taking the lives of individuals. On a national scale, it is 
something that has already been proclaimed a public health emergency by 
the President. Again, where will the money come from after these tax 
cuts? Will the problem just go away? I doubt it. The money is going 
away, but not the problem.
  We have to ask ourselves: If we are in a national public health 
emergency, why aren't we standing up and providing the resources to 
help Americans face this problem? It goes back to the same logic: If we 
are in our 16th or 17th year of war, why aren't we standing up and 
saying that we better put up some money for the troops, their 
equipment, and their families?
  No--what my colleagues are saying is: We had better cut taxes for the 
wealthiest Americans, for corporations. We have to create loopholes for 
passthrough entities that give advantages to private equity concerns, 
legal firms, accountants, and others.
  As we look at these problems, millions of Americans are sitting 
around their dinner tables, and they don't believe we need to give 
trillion-dollar tax cuts to corporations that have international 
operations. They are more likely thinking about more mundane things 
closer to their lives, such as, what about the roads and bridges in my 
community? Why does this country have an investment backlog in 
transportation of $836 billion for highways and bridges and $122 
billion for transit? Why aren't we doing the big infrastructure bill 
that the President indicated during the campaign--which is going to 
cost real money? Instead, we are giving real money away.
  This makes a huge difference--because pursuing tax cuts first doesn't 
just neglect infrastructure, it neglects jobs. The jobs infrastructure 
projects create are middle-class jobs. These are not the private equity 
analysts. These are not the sophisticated financial engineers. These 
are the laborers, the structural engineers, and the men and women who 
pour the concrete. They are not going to get much out of this tax bill. 
At the family dinner table, they are probably wondering how they can 
afford to send their children to college.
  How can they even continue to send their children to elementary and 
secondary schools that are in a horrendous state of repair? The 
Department of Education has estimated it would cost $197 billion to 
bring all public schools in the United States to good condition, and 
there is a $30 billion funding gap in annual capital construction and 
new facility funding. This is not just a Rhode Island problem; this is 
a problem in every State of the Union. Public school buildings are 
decrepit, and we are sending children to those schools. If this 
legislation passes, where will we find the money to help State and 
local communities deal with these issues so that children can go to 
schools that are modern, up-to-date places where they can learn?
  Once you get past the elementary and secondary education levels, 
today everyone insists the jobs of the future all require more than a 
high school education. We have a generation that has racked up about 
$1.3 trillion in student loans and is facing a job market that provides 
few opportunities and not enough opportunities to pay them off. They 
are worried. People are worried that their children--many of whom are 
still living with them after college--will never be able to pay off 
these loans. Where is the multibillion-dollar package of assistance, 
aid, and loan forgiveness that will allow this generation of Americans 
to have the same benefits that my generation had? That is not the 
situation today. Everyone in this Chamber knows this because, when they 
go home, they hear from parents who are wondering when their child will 
ever get out from underneath the significant debt they have.
  These are all real problems that working families face. There is 
another

[[Page S8028]]

problem that is looming and will exacerbate these problems even more 
dramatically. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, up to 30 
percent of the work done by 60 percent of occupations today is 
vulnerable to automation. By 2030, 75 million to 375 million--up to 14 
percent--of the global workforce will need to change jobs. These 
advances in artificial intelligence could cause a huge erosion in human 
jobs.
  What are families doing? What should we be doing? Frankly, we should 
be thinking of ways we can help people make the transition, and prepare 
them for what we know is coming. We know there is going to be a huge 
loss of jobs. We know that, when people drop out of the workforce, when 
companies get smaller, their pension obligations don't get that much 
smaller. We are also facing huge shortages in terms of pensions.
  One of the ironies I suggest will happen--``irony'' is too gentle of 
a word--is that these corporations that are getting huge tax benefits 
are not going to raise wages. They are not going to turn it over to the 
people who work for them. They will buy back their stock, and some of 
these companies will buy back their stock even though their pension 
plans are not fully funded. That is not only an irony but an additional 
problem with the approach we are taking to this legislation.
  The jobs in danger are not all entry-level positions. This is not 
about somebody who has a pick and a shovel and is displaced by a 
machine. We are talking about jobs, for example, in radiology. With 
computers and artificial intelligence today, doctors will admit they 
can read x-rays better than many technicians. They can do it in such a 
way that you don't need as many radiologists to review the records. 
They can be much more efficient. We are talking about jobs that are not 
core, entry-level jobs done by people who can easily do something else. 
We are talking about people who have master's degrees, who have years 
of training. This is going to come very quickly. What do they do? How 
do they compensate? Where do they get a job?
  We know that this is going to happen, and we are weakening ourselves 
financially from being able to respond. Yet the legislation that is 
being proposed is oblivious to what we know is going to happen.
  People will come here and say: ``We need more money for national 
defense.'' Why don't we do that now, instead of giving a big tax cut 
and raising the deficit?
  In a few years or few months, people will say: ``This opioid crisis 
is out of control; it is even worse than it was when the President 
declared it an emergency.'' Let's do something.
  We don't have the money. In a very few years, when people say, ``We 
are losing hundreds of thousands of good jobs; let's do something,'' 
the answer will be ``Sorry, we can't.''
  By the way, we don't have much of a safety net for those people who 
are being displaced by these machines because we have eroded that too. 
We have huge challenges before us. The American people are watching us. 
They know these things. They are seeing in their workplace machines 
gradually replacing human beings. If you are a driver for UPS and you 
haven't figured out yet that these big companies are buying autonomous 
vehicles, they are using drones to deliver packages, et cetera--they 
understand what is coming. They see their children with huge debt 
living at home because they can't afford to buy a home, given their 
school loans. They sense the fragility of not only their own job but 
also the support for their parents on Medicare and Medicaid.
  One of the things I thought was interesting when I heard we were 
going on to entitlement reform is the fact that the biggest amount of 
money spent in Medicaid go to nursing homes, and it goes to individuals 
who are not the poorest of poor. They are middle-class people, seniors, 
or people with long-term disabilities who have exhausted most of their 
funds. They have sold their house or mortgaged their house, et cetera, 
and they are the ones who are taking the bulk of the Medicaid money and 
funding. If we cut Medicaid, what we are going to do is tell a lot of 
middle-class people: You are out; you are out of this nursing home. Or 
we are going to tell their sons and daughters: You thought you had a 
problem paying off your children's tuition; you thought you had a 
problem at work because you haven't had a raise in several years. Guess 
what. Unless you come up with $1,000 extra a month, your mother is out 
of that nursing home.
  That is the reality. That is what Americans around their kitchen 
tables and coffee shops are talking about. They are not talking about 
big tax cuts for the wealthiest corporations and individuals. It is no 
surprise that, if you look at any of the polling with respect to this 
tax bill, the American people are against it. My colleagues, 
particularly on the other side, are committed to getting something 
through that the American people don't want. They have said it. The 
polling has been extensive: We don't want this; we have real problems 
at home.
  I am here to say that I believe this is a great mistake. I don't 
think any of us going forward should be in a position to say: Someone 
should have told me; someone should have told me that we need trillions 
of dollars to improve our defense above and beyond the current money we 
are spending. Somebody should have told me that hundreds of thousands--
if not millions--of good jobs are going away because of artificial 
intelligence. Someone should have told me that young people are 
drowning under college debt, and we should fix that. Someone should 
have told me that we are in a situation where working conditions and 
the prospect of work is so fragile for so many people.
  I think this is a great mistake. I hope my colleagues will reflect on 
what we are about to do and reject it.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona.
  Mr. FLAKE. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that 
notwithstanding rule XXII, at 1:45 p.m. today, all postcloture time be 
yielded back and the Senate vote on the confirmation of the Ho 
nomination and that, if confirmed, the motion to reconsider be 
considered made and laid upon the table and the President be 
immediately notified of the Senate's action.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                                 NAFTA

  Mr. FLAKE. Madam President, I rise today because I believe that some 
here in Washington are under the illusion about what would happen if we 
were to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, or 
NAFTA.
  Some people still, inexplicably, believe that this would be a good 
thing. They believe the relationship between the United States and 
Mexico and Canada is somehow a raw deal for Americans. Let's talk about 
Mexico for a while.
  In reality, Mexico spends 26 percent of its GDP in its purchasing of 
goods from the United States, while we spend less than 1 percent of our 
GDP--I think it is 0.2 percent--in our purchasing of goods from them. 
Again, for those who obsess over trade deficits with Mexico, Mexico 
spends 26 percent of its GDP in its purchasing of goods from the United 
States while we spend less than 1 percent of our GDP in our purchasing 
of goods from them. Prior to NAFTA, our total trade with Mexico was 
under $80 billion. Now that trade approaches $600 billion. That is a 
good thing. That is good for us, and it is good for Mexico. Trade is 
not a zero-sum game.
  These folks also seem to think that terminating NAFTA will have no 
lasting impact on this Nation or its economy. In reality, pulling out 
of NAFTA would have sweeping negative consequences for Americans all 
over the country. Let me briefly describe what America would look like 
without NAFTA.
  It would be an America with fewer jobs and higher unemployment. Some 
of these jobs that would be lost would not return for decades, maybe 
even for a generation. Other jobs would never return. It would be a 
poorer America without NAFTA. The gross domestic product would drop. 
Much of the positive growth that we have seen recently may be erased. 
In the last year, we have seen impressive GDP numbers. We have achieved 
great growth through strong, conservative policies--in our having a 
better regulatory environment, in particular. I hope the days of 1-
percent growth are behind us, but if we scrap NAFTA, that may not be 
the case. An America without NAFTA would be one crippled by subsidies.

[[Page S8029]]

  I agree with my colleague from Kansas and the Senate Agriculture, 
Nutrition, and Forestry Committee chairman, Senator Roberts. He 
recently explained that the withdrawal from NAFTA would add to farmers' 
demands for increased farm subsidies at a time when Congress simply 
cannot afford that. These farmers would prefer to sell their crops at 
reasonable prices, but in our exiting NAFTA, they will certainly ask 
for economic protection through increased farm subsidies. I believe 
that many of these subsidies are automatically added and that these 
subsidies would substantially grow the national debt and dramatically 
curtail any ability to rein in government spending.
  Without NAFTA, we will likely find ourselves in a less secure 
America. The withdrawal from NAFTA will destabilize the Mexican economy 
and create a crisis on our southern border. Terminating this agreement 
will seriously undercut the important progress that has been made over 
the past several decades--that of improving drug enforcement and 
stabilizing the Mexican economy. Efforts toward privatization, criminal 
justice reform, and modernization have been good for the Mexican 
economy. In turn, it has been good for our economy as well.
  According to the Department of Homeland Security, the number of 
people trying to cross illegally into the United States from Mexico has 
fallen to the lowest level in 46 years. That is largely due to there 
being a better economy in Mexico. If we pull out of NAFTA and allow 
Mexico to plunge into economic chaos and uncertainty, it will, 
certainly, drive up the number of those who want to come to the United 
States.
  These are the real ramifications of terminating NAFTA--an America 
with higher unemployment, a lower GDP, more Federal subsidies, 
particularly for agriculture, and increased illegal immigration.
  All of this--exiting NAFTA--would come before we would face the 
ultimate challenge of negotiating a new trade agreement to replace 
NAFTA. Anyone who suggests that this process is quick or easy is sadly 
mistaken. In today's global economy, people and nations have more 
choices than ever.
  For evidence of this, look no further than to the disastrous decision 
to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Canada and Mexico, like 
other TPP nations, could decide to move ahead without the United 
States. These countries have more choices than ever. It used to be that 
we were the only game in town. That is not the case anymore. These 
countries have and will move on without us. They could simply refocus 
their efforts on alternative markets and explore new trade partners. It 
is a dangerous game when we in America are no longer seen as a reliable 
trade partner. We will have countries that will be reluctant to enter 
into agreements with us and that will simply not want to renegotiate.
  Let's not be swayed by those who would have us believe that the 
impact of exiting this trade agreement would somehow be minor or short-
lived. There are some who say that we have to exit the agreement in 
order to negotiate a better agreement. As I have explained, just 
exiting the agreement will have real ramifications--canceled contracts, 
particularly for those in agriculture when you are dealing with 
commodities. Let's not be misled by those who are under the illusion 
that negotiating an entirely new trade agreement, as I have said, will 
be simple or painless. It will not be.
  In closing, we have seen the limits to the philosophy of ethno-
nationalism and economic nationalism. We have seen those limits 
politically, gratefully, this week in Alabama. Let's not follow those 
who believe in that philosophy or who are advocating an ethnocentric, 
or an extreme, nationalistic trade policy. That would be disastrous for 
the economy of the United States in its moving forward.
  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.
  Mrs. CAPITO. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                            Tax Reform Bill

  Mrs. CAPITO. Madam President, I come here today to again speak in 
support of comprehensive tax reform. For weeks, I have worked to 
highlight the enormous benefits that our tax reform efforts will have 
for the economy. I am very excited about the point where I think we are 
now because I know this will help our middle-income families, workers, 
and businesses of all sizes.
  I think it should not be lost that the tax reform bill doubles the 
standard deduction. In my small State of West Virginia, 83 percent of 
the people living there don't itemize. They are going to use the 
standard deduction, and that is going to be doubled. It also 
significantly increases the child tax credit, which is great for 
families and great for young families with children trying to make ends 
meet.
  It will make America's businesses more competitive around the world, 
which I think will lead to higher wages and more opportunities for our 
workers.
  I encouraged my colleagues to join these efforts as the Senate 
proposal worked its way through the Senate Finance Committee and again 
as it came to the Senate floor for debate. Next week, we hope to see 
the conference committee report on the Senate floor.
  Last week, I explained why I was proud to cast my vote for this 
critical legislation. I expressed my optimism that the Senate and the 
House would come together, reconcile the differences between the two 
bills, and settle on an agreement that would provide real relief and 
real opportunity for the American people.
  Today, we are closer than ever to getting comprehensive, pro-growth 
tax reform across the finish line, and that is why I am standing here 
to explain why it is so important that we move it all the way through 
this process and pass these reforms.
  I asked you to take my word, and I have for the last several weeks 
and months, but now, today, I ask you to not simply take my word on 
this. Throughout the process, when I have been back at home in West 
Virginia, I have heard from constituents, friends, and even strangers 
who are really rooting for this effort. They are rooting for it because 
they understand what a difference it will make in their lives. Whether 
I am at a roundtable discussion or at the grocery store, so many West 
Virginians have shared with me what tax reform would mean for them and 
their families. They have encouraged me and they have encouraged us to 
get this done because they know what tax reform would do for our State 
in terms of jump-starting the economy.
  One West Virginian I recently heard from, Donald from Beckley, 
recently wrote to me on behalf of his sons and grandchildren, who he 
said will ``reap the rewards'' of the tax reform bill. He wrote:

       There are too many minimum wage jobs in West Virginia and 
     not enough higher-paying jobs for advancement. There is no 
     ladder for the young people to climb anymore.

  Donald added that he would be very surprised if the tax bill doesn't 
help solve this problem. If we don't see higher wages, which we believe 
we will, Donald said that he would be surprised. I know we are going to 
see higher wages. He said: ``I really hope that the Senate and House 
get this bill to the President's desk before Christmas so he can sign 
it.''
  This week, similar support was echoed by a number of groups and 
organizations in West Virginia. The National Federation of Independent 
Business said that both the House- and Senate-passed tax reform 
proposals ``recognize the need for small business tax relief, which 
means businesses could reinvest in their businesses and employees, 
create local jobs in rural and urban areas of West Virginia.''
  I had to kind of laugh when they said ``urban'' areas in West 
Virginia. I am not sure we truly have urban areas. We have many rural 
areas. But we have great towns in West Virginia.
  The NFIB went on to say: ``We can't afford to miss this once-in-a-
generation opportunity to help Main Street businesses grow and create 
jobs.''
  The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses 
small and large in the State, also expressed support for the tax reform 
effort this week by calling it a ``real win-win'' and noting that ``by 
making tax rates more competitive, small businesses will be able to 
reinvest in growing their operations and creating more

[[Page S8030]]

jobs, and individuals will be able to determine how best to spend their 
hard-earned money, further stimulating economic growth.'' The chamber 
also pointed out that this effort is expected to grow jobs in our State 
by roughly 5,000 new jobs. To some States, 5,000 might not sound like a 
lot, but in a State such as ours, 5,000 jobs would be welcomed and 
welcomed heartily. They also highlighted that West Virginians are 
expected to see an average reduction of nearly $2,000 in their Federal 
taxes that they pay. That is a significant amount of money for hard-
working families across our State, to be able to determine how they 
want to spend their money.
  Additionally, the State director of the West Virginia chapter of 
Americans for Prosperity recently said:

       This is a huge step for taxpayers. This is going to make 
     American businesses competitive again. It's going to put more 
     money in the pockets of West Virginians.

  Finally, our West Virginia manufacturers--we have a great 
manufacturing sector--weighed in by saying:

       Manufacturers large and small know this reform will mean 
     more jobs in America, more investment in America, and more 
     men and women making things in America. . . . Our elected 
     leaders now need to seize this opportunity, get tax reform 
     across the finish line, and send it to President Donald 
     Trump's desk.

  I couldn't agree more.
  Many of the folks I have quoted represent numerous businesses and 
numerous people who work in and for those businesses.
  To get this economy growing is incredibly important, and that is what 
we are going to do. It is time to seize this once-in-a-generation 
opportunity. It is time to get tax reform across the finish line. It is 
time to send this pro-growth legislation to President Trump's desk. 
Families, workers, and small businesses in West Virginia and across 
this country are counting on us. They are counting on us to do the 
right thing, to be big and bold, to get this economy moving. That will 
result in more jobs, higher wages, more investment, and more 
opportunity and optimism about the future of our country.
  I thank the Presiding Officer, and I look forward to voting for this 
bill.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. CASEY. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in 
morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                                  DACA

  Mr. CASEY. Madam President, I want to cover two topics. There is so 
much to cover between now and the end of the year, but I want to focus 
today on two issues. One is the Children's Health Insurance Program, 
and the second is the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, 
the so-called DACA Program, and in particular the individuals affected 
by this policy, the Dreamers. I will start with that issue.
  The Dreamers, of course, are something on the order of 800,000 young 
people who were promised that if they came forward and made 
disclosures, their government would protect them. That is the basic 
promise that our government made. This is a significant moment in their 
lives and in the life of the Nation as to whether we are going to keep 
what I would argue is a sacred promise to 800,000 young people and in 
my home State of Pennsylvania, at last count, thousands, as many as 
5,900, approximately.
  In this case, we are talking about this issue because a promise was 
made, and then in the transition from one administration to the other, 
a different approach was taken. In September, President Trump decided 
to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. This 
announcement required those whose DACA waivers would expire within 6 
months to submit a renewal application in just 1 month--not a lot of 
time to get that done.
  Unfortunately, many DACA recipients were unable to meet this short 
deadline, and others who managed to get their applications in time were 
still rejected due to postal delays--not because of something that 
young person did but due to postal delays. While the administration has 
said these individuals may be able to resubmit, many are immediately at 
risk of deportation.
  Just imagine that. In fact, it is impossible for me to imagine it, 
and maybe it is impossible for anyone in this building to imagine that 
you are an individual who came forward because of this program, because 
of a promise your government made to you that you would be protected if 
you came forward. You came forward after years of living in this 
country--many years wouldn't add up to a long life because these 
individuals are obviously very young. Some of them came when they were 
just a couple years old or a couple of months old, and they know no 
other country. In fact, one individual whom I met with around a big 
conference table of about 15 to 20 DACA recipients said to me in this 
meeting a couple of months ago, she said: The only country that I know, 
doesn't want us. That was her assessment of what the ending of this 
program should mean to her.
  So that is what they are at risk of. They are not just at risk of 
some theoretical consequence. They are literally at risk of deportation 
after living here all these years and not knowing any other country 
because of their circumstances.
  It is estimated that 12,000 DACA recipients have already lost their 
protection--12,000 young people--and that number will grow to some 
20,000 by March. Why would our country break a promise to 12,000 
individuals and then 20,000 and then potentially much, much higher 
numbers? So we can't wait one more day, in my judgment, to help these 
Dreamers.
  Dreamers across Pennsylvania and the Nation already are living in 
fear and feeling the consequences of this horrific decision.
  ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has already picked up a 
young Dreamer during a routine traffic stop whose DACA waiver had 
expired. This Dreamer had been waiting to reapply for protection after 
his initial application was rejected due to--I will say it again--
postal delays. While the administration has said they would allow these 
applications that were rejected due to postal delays the chance to 
reapply, the administration has been silent on what these individuals 
should do in the interim. For many Dreamers, this means they must 
choose between risking deportation and continuing to work and provide 
for their children and their families, depending on the circumstance.
  These Dreamers have done everything right, and their applications 
were rejected, not due to any action they did not take, but they were 
rejected for other reasons--due to a failure of our government. Yet, 
now, they are paying the price.
  Risking ICE detention and deportation to countries within which they 
have never lived as adults is totally contrary to our values. Dreamers 
are young people who have lived in this country since they were 
children. They are law-abiding residents who have learned English, paid 
taxes, gone to school, secured jobs that support themselves and their 
families.
  This program has enabled almost 800,000 young people to grow and 
thrive in America. These impressive young people provide enormous 
contributions to our society, including paying an estimated $2 billion 
every year in State and local taxes. The economic loss to Pennsylvania 
is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions. To be exact, by one 
estimate, it is a $357.1 million loss to the State's GDP. How about the 
Nation overall? By one estimate, if this were to go forward and these 
young people were to be deported in the numbers some are talking about, 
it is a national number that is in the hundreds of billions of 
dollars--by one estimate, north of $400 billion. That is the impact.
  So we have to get this done one way or the other. It would be a 
terrible failure of our government; worse than that, it would be an 
insult to our country, and it would be breaking a sacred promise.


                  Children's Health Insurance Program

  Madam President, just a few remarks rather quickly about a major 
program we are also debating; that is, the Children's Health Insurance 
Program. We know CHIP expired on September 30. It is a total failure of 
the government to allow that to happen. It is hard to comprehend that 
even as some are debating about the size of a corporate tax break, 
which will be permanent, there is uncertainty, and any uncertainty 
about the Children's Health Insurance Program is also an insult to the 
country. Nine million children and their

[[Page S8031]]

healthcare and the security of their families is on the line. So we 
need to get the Children's Health Insurance Program passed.
  The tragic irony is, the Finance Committee, of which I am a member, 
passed a bipartisan bill: The Keep Kids' Insurance Dependable and 
Secure Act, the so-called KIDS Act of 2017, reauthorizes the CHIP 
program for 5 years. There is no reason why--no reason whatsoever--that 
KIDS Act could not be voted on and passed on the floor of the Senate 
this afternoon or tomorrow or Monday without any impediment to getting 
that done, but it is being held up, I guess, as a negotiation tactic or 
as a way to get a deal on something else.
  Children's healthcare should not be subject to any deal or any 
leverage or any engagement on other issues. We should get it done. If 
people can spend hours and hours and days and now weeks giving big 
corporations a permanent tax cut that exceeds $1 trillion, we ought to 
make sure an existing, effective, bipartisan program for children gets 
reauthorized.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Strange). The Senator from Louisiana.
  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I want to speak for a few minutes on two 
subjects. I don't have prepared remarks so I am going to speak from the 
heart.
  Let me talk first about the CHIP program. One of my favorite people 
in the U.S. Senate is my colleague from Pennsylvania, Senator Casey, 
and he just spoke very eloquently about a program called the Children's 
Health Insurance Program, which is part of our Medicaid Program. It 
provides health insurance for the children of America who are too poor 
to be sick.
  That bill will pass. The Children's Health Insurance Program will be 
renewed. I want to look the American people in the eye right now and 
tell them: Do not worry. Do not worry.
  This is an extraordinarily able program that has served the people of 
this country and our country well, and I don't want anybody to be 
unnecessarily frightened at Christmas. If you are a mom or a dad or a 
child or concerned citizen out there today and you hear that CHIP is in 
danger, with all the respect I can muster, I want to say it is not. 
Don't believe it. The CHIP program will be renewed.


                            Tax Reform Bill

  Mr. President, now, let me just talk a second about taxes. In a few 
days, we are going to vote on a tax system, and that vote will be a 
vote, as much as anything, on people's opinion about the current tax 
system. No reasonable person can look at America's current tax system 
and be impressed. For one thing, it is enormously complicated. It is 10 
million words. You can stand on it and paint this ceiling.
  I don't want to just talk about technicalities here because most 
Americans don't have time to worry about section 106(a) or section 
807(b). They are too busy getting up every day and going to work and 
obeying the law and paying their taxes. They just want to know what the 
bottom line is.
  So let me tell them what the bottom line is. We are going to pass a 
tax bill that is going to cut about $1.4 billion in taxes for the 
American people and the American businesswomen and the American 
businessmen over 10 years.
  Let me talk, first, about the impact on people--ordinary people, Mr. 
President, like you and I. We are going to double the standard 
deduction. Why is that important? Right now, about 70 percent of 
Americans take the standard deduction. After we double it, probably 
about 90 percent will. The President is right. You will be able to file 
your taxes on a postcard if you want to. For Americans who have 
children, we are going to double the children's tax credit. We are 
going to lower every marginal tax rate. I know you have been told we 
are only going to help the wealthy. That is just not true. We are 
lowering every single tax rate. I am very proud of the fact that this 
bill starts--it doesn't end, but it starts with helping our middle 
class.
  In my State, a mom and dad working hard, making $75,000 a year--mom 
makes 30-plus thousand and dad makes 30-plus thousand, and they have 
two children--right now, they pay about $3,500, $3,700 in Federal 
income taxes. Now, of course, that is not all they pay. They pay 
payroll taxes, they pay State taxes, and they pay local taxes. In fact, 
government taxes everything now at all levels. Government now taxes the 
food we eat, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the homes we live 
in. Government started thinking it owns all our money. Government taxes 
us when we work. Government taxes us when we play. Government taxes us 
when we die. So when I tell you that a couple making $73,000, $75,000 
in my State is paying $3,750, roughly, in Federal income tax, I don't 
want you to think that is all.
  The point I am trying to make is, after we pass this bill, that 
couple is going to pay about $1,500, $1,700, $1,400 in Federal income 
taxes. That mom and dad who, as I said before, get up every day and go 
to work and obey the law and try to do the right thing by their kids 
and try to save a little money for retirement and try to teach their 
children values is going to have an extra couple thousand dollars in 
their paycheck, and that is a lot of money. It is to me, and I know it 
is to you, and it is going to be a lot of money for that mom and dad.
  This bill is also going to help every businesswoman and businessman 
in America. Yes, it is going to help our large corporations. Right now, 
we tax them at a rate of 35 percent. This bill is going to reduce that 
to 21 percent, but it is not just going to help large businesses, it is 
going to help small businesses as well. I am talking about the 
subchapter S corporations and the LLCs and the LLPs and the sole 
proprietorships. I am talking about the family farms. I am talking 
about the American who decided to take a risk to create some jobs, 
start a small business, went and took a second mortgage on her home, 
maybe employs four or five people. If she fails in her business, 
government is not going to be there to bail her out. She is going to 
lose her home, but she wants to take a risk, to be her own boss, to 
create jobs in America. We are going to cut her taxes too.
  The passthrough rate, the top marginal tax rate, by my calculations 
after this bill is passed, is going to be about 29.6 percent. Right 
now, the top marginal tax rate for that businesswoman would be about 43 
percent. And you say: Well, the small businesses get a 26-percent rate. 
Why do the big corporations get 21 percent?

  Because the big corporations pay taxes twice. Saying they are going 
to pay 21 percent in our bill isn't the only part of it. When they 
declare dividends, they have to pay taxes again. So that is the reason 
for the disparity.
  Let me tell you why this is important. So many of my colleagues--in 
fact, every one of my colleagues in the Senate says that they are for 
jobs. We are all for jobs, but you can't be for jobs if you are against 
business. You can't.
  Businessmen and businesswomen need four things from government. They 
need reasonable regulation--not no regulation, reasonable regulation; 
they need a decent infrastructure; they need a skilled workforce; and 
they need low taxes. That is what government is supposed to provide. 
And then, in a free enterprise system like ours, government needs to 
get out of its way and let the free enterprise system work, which has 
lifted more people out of poverty than all the social programs put 
together.
  Our bill is going to provide lower taxes. We have a lot of 
differences of opinion in this body. Some of my colleagues--most of 
whom happen to be Democrats--believe that it is possible to tax this 
country into prosperity. Once again, I say this with all the respect I 
can muster: They are in good faith in believing that. This is America. 
You can believe what you want. But if they believe that, then they were 
in the quad throwing a frisbee during economics 101. And that is just a 
fact.
  Some of the opponents of this bill have suggested that tax policy has 
absolutely nothing to do with our economy, with economic growth. Once 
again, with all the respect I can muster, I would ask them very 
respectfully: What planet did you just parachute in from? Average 
Americans understand, ordinary Americans understand, people who work 
for a living understand that when you tax something, you get less of 
it, and when you tax it less, you get more of it.
  This is a solid bill. It is not perfect. If I were king for a day--I 
am not, and I don't want to be--I would make some

[[Page S8032]]

changes. But reasonable people disagree sometimes, and I believe this 
body will come together.
  I hope we get some Democratic votes because I think that in their 
hearts, some of our Democratic friends want to vote for this bill. They 
do. We will see whether or not they do, but I believe they do. But we 
are going to pass this legislation, and the American people are going 
to be better off. It is not going to add to the deficit. I would not 
vote for this legislation if I thought it would hurt us long term in 
terms of our deficit.
  Thank you, Mr. President.
  I yield to my colleague from Connecticut.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.


           Fifth Anniversary of the Sandy Hook Mass Shooting

  Mr. MURPHY. Mr. President, I am on the floor this afternoon to mark 5 
years since the unthinkable--since 20 6-year-olds and 7-year-olds and 6 
of their educators were killed in an elementary school in Connecticut. 
It changed the town of Newtown. It changed this country in the way that 
we think about gun violence. And it certainly changed me. I want to 
offer a few thoughts today as we once again memorialize those beautiful 
children whose lives were cut far, far too short.
  It is easy to spend today--especially those of us who come from 
Connecticut, who are very intimately connected to the tragedy and to 
those families--drowning in sadness. There is really no way to conceive 
of what it is like as a parent to lose a child that young, in that 
manner, in 5 short minutes in a hail of bullets emanating from a 
tactical assault weapon. Twenty kids who had just walked into their 
classroom, bright and cheery, were gone.
  It is easy to hang your head, thinking of all of the things that 
haven't happened. I have been down to this floor over 50 times, often 
at my wit's end, raising my voice at my colleagues in frustration at 
our quiet and unintentional endorsement of the slaughter that happens 
in this country because we haven't passed a single piece of legislation 
trying to make sense of our Nation's gun laws. In fact, to the extent 
we have made changes in gun laws, it has compounded the problem, not 
remedied it.
  But I want to spend my brief time here today not focusing on the 
sadness of today--it is there; it is inescapable--and not focusing on 
what we haven't done but focusing on so many miracles, big ones and 
small ones, that have occurred in and around the lives of those who 
have been affected in Newtown, CT, over the last 5 years.

  First, there are these individual miracles that have happened within 
these families. Again, very few people understand the kind of crippling 
pain that comes with this loss. While these families will never be the 
same, they have found ways to rebound. They have found ways to still 
capture joy in their lives. Some have added to their numbers by 
welcoming new children into their family since then. They have 
rediscovered passions. They have made sure that the surviving 
children--the siblings--have been able to live lives of optimism rather 
than live lives of perpetual fear.
  I have gotten to know so many of these families. The parents and the 
kids are now close, personal friends of mine. Watching the rebirth of 
these families instills a sense of faith in the human spirit that is 
hard to explain. Those are small miracles, but they are important ones 
to remember on this 5-year anniversary.
  The miracles also come in ways that lives have been changed and saved 
through the efforts that have sprung forth out of this tragedy. So many 
of the families joined together with their friends and started up small 
charitable organizations in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, trying 
to find a way to take the beauty of these kids and transfer it to 
others. They are almost too numerable to mention.
  The Ana Grace Project gives out a scholarship every year at Western 
Connecticut State University for incoming freshmen who are interested 
in studying music because for her whole life, Ana Grace was surrounded 
by music.
  The Vicki Soto Memorial Fund donates five books every year to every 
K-6 classroom in her hometown of Stratford. She was one of the 
teachers--heroes of that day. Kids have the opportunity to read and to 
learn to love reading--which is what she taught to these kindergarten 
kids--because of her foundation.
  The Charlotte Helen Bacon Foundation pays for therapy dogs for kids 
and families in need, reflecting Charlotte's love of dogs.
  The Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation opened an animal sanctuary on 
32 acres in Newtown to help animals that had been rescued from abusive 
or neglectful environments because of Catherine's love of animals.
  The list goes on and on. These are small, beautiful miracles that are 
happening all across Connecticut and all across the country in trying 
to honor the memory of these kids and their educators.
  Then there are miracles that have happened in the context of public 
policy. A year ago this week, I sat at the White House with a few of 
the Sandy Hook parents, quietly in the back of an auditorium, as 
President Obama signed into law the 2016 Mental Health Reform Act, 
which would not have become law without the input and activism of the 
Sandy Hook parents and many other survivors of gun violence.
  Our gun violence problem is not a mental health problem, per se. 
There is no inherent connection between mental illness and gun 
violence. But there is no mistaking that the shooter in Newtown--as has 
been the case in so many other of these mass slaughters--had deep 
mental health problems that went untreated. There have been public 
policy victories.
  So today, on the 5-year anniversary, I hope that my friends here will 
celebrate these small but meaningful miracles that have happened over 
the last 5 years, and I hope that you will be reminded that we cannot 
take one day or one moment for granted. Those moms and dads who sent 
their kids to school that morning never imagined that would be the last 
time they would be able to interact with their children. So none of us 
should think that we will have another chance to say what we want to 
say to somebody we care about. None of us should think we can put off 
saying ``I love you'' for another moment. Those small things that we do 
for each other matter desperately.
  I think about one story that I will leave you with from that morning. 
Daniel Barden is one of the young boys killed in that elementary 
school. His older brother went to school at a different time than he 
did. He would get up earlier and go down to the bus stop earlier than 
Daniel would, so they normally wouldn't really see each other in the 
morning. For some reason, the morning of the shooting at Sandy Hook, 
Daniel got up earlier than he normally did. He saw that his brother was 
at the end of the driveway waiting for the bus. He ran out of the house 
and down the driveway to say goodbye to his brother--goodbye for the 
day. It was just a small, tiny act of kindness that Daniel thought 
probably would be forgotten by his brother by the end of that day, but 
it has meant the world to that family, the idea that Daniel got the 
chance to walk down the driveway and say goodbye to his brother before 
he went to school that day and never came back.
  Don't ever think you will have another chance to say what you want to 
say to a loved one, to someone who means something in your life.
  A few months ago, one of the Sandy Hook parents arrived unexpectedly 
in my office. I got word from the front desk that she was there. She 
just wanted to stop in for a few minutes. I said: Of course, send her 
back. This mom had lost her child. I have come to know her very well. 
She burst into my office and she flung her arms around me and she 
whispered into my ear: Keep going. She unclasped her arms and looked at 
me and said: That is all I wanted to come and tell you. After a few 
pleasantries, she walked out the door.
  Keep going. That is what Newtown has done over the last 5 years. That 
is what those families have found the courage to do over the last half 
a decade.
  For those of us who believe the laws of this country must change in 
order to protect kids like those who lost their lives in Sandy Hook, it 
is what we do. As we mark 5 years since the violence at Sandy Hook 
Elementary School, we keep going.
  I yield the floor.

[[Page S8033]]

  

  Mr. BENNET. Mr. President, 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. BENNET. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Under the previous order, all postcloture time is yielded back.
  The question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the Ho 
nomination?
  Mr. BENNET. Mr. President, I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There is a sufficient second.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk called the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the 
Senator from Mississippi (Mr. Cochran) and the Senator from Arizona 
(Mr. McCain).
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from West Virginia (Mr. 
Manchin) and the Senator from Washington (Mrs. Murray) are necessarily 
absent.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Perdue). Are there any other Senators in 
the Chamber desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 53, nays 43, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 317 Ex.]

                                YEAS--53

     Alexander
     Barrasso
     Blunt
     Boozman
     Burr
     Capito
     Cassidy
     Collins
     Corker
     Cornyn
     Cotton
     Crapo
     Cruz
     Daines
     Donnelly
     Enzi
     Ernst
     Fischer
     Flake
     Gardner
     Graham
     Grassley
     Hatch
     Heitkamp
     Heller
     Hoeven
     Inhofe
     Isakson
     Johnson
     Kennedy
     Lankford
     Lee
     McCaskill
     McConnell
     Moran
     Murkowski
     Paul
     Perdue
     Portman
     Risch
     Roberts
     Rounds
     Rubio
     Sasse
     Scott
     Shelby
     Strange
     Sullivan
     Thune
     Tillis
     Toomey
     Wicker
     Young

                                NAYS--43

     Baldwin
     Bennet
     Blumenthal
     Booker
     Brown
     Cantwell
     Cardin
     Carper
     Casey
     Coons
     Cortez Masto
     Duckworth
     Durbin
     Feinstein
     Franken
     Gillibrand
     Harris
     Hassan
     Heinrich
     Hirono
     Kaine
     King
     Klobuchar
     Leahy
     Markey
     Menendez
     Merkley
     Murphy
     Nelson
     Peters
     Reed
     Sanders
     Schatz
     Schumer
     Shaheen
     Stabenow
     Tester
     Udall
     Van Hollen
     Warner
     Warren
     Whitehouse
     Wyden

                             NOT VOTING--4

     Cochran
     Manchin
     McCain
     Murray
  The nomination was confirmed.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the motion to 
reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table and the President 
will be immediately notified of the Senate's action.
  The Senator from Utah.

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