EXECUTIVE CALENDAR--Continued
(Senate - February 27, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 34 (Monday, February 27, 2017)]
[Pages S1428-S1441]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                     EXECUTIVE CALENDAR--Continued

  Mr. CASEY. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in 
morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                  Tribute to Dr. Constance E. Clayton

  Mr. CASEY. Madam President, I rise today, as I have every year that I 
have been in the Senate, which is quite a long time now--the last 10 
years, going into 11--to give some remarks in commemoration of Black 
History Month. The way I have done that, and the way our office has 
done it, is to recognize a special figure in my home State of 
Pennsylvania, an individual who we are very proud of. Today we honor 
Dr. Constance E. Clayton, a trailblazing figure whose career in 
education positively impacted the lives of countless children in 
Philadelphia, and whose work continues to pay dividends in the city 
public schools to this day. Throughout her long career as a teacher and 
administrator in the Philadelphia School District, Dr. Clayton never 
lost sight of her mission. In her words: ``The children come first.''
  A product of Philadelphia public schools, Dr. Clayton became the 
first African American and the first woman to serve as superintendent 
of the Philadelphia School District. This Black History Month, we 
celebrate Dr. Clayton's place in that history, but as we do, we should 
also ask ourselves if we are living up to her legacy and if we are 
putting the children first--all children everywhere first.
  I will be seeing Dr. Clayton today and so many of her friends. The 
rules don't allow me to acknowledge anyone else in the Chamber. So I 
will do that later. But I do want her to know how much we appreciate 
her giving us this much time to pay tribute to her and to her work.
  Connie Clayton's story is a great American story. Born to a plumber 
and social worker, she was raised by her mother and grandmother after 
her parents divorced when she was just 2 years old. She attended Paul 
Lawrence Dunbar Elementary School in Philadelphia.
  Her mind, like that of so many children, was awakened by a special 
teacher. In her case, it was her fourth grade teacher at Dunbar, whose 
name she still readily recalls--Ms. Alice Spotwood. She remembers that 
Ms. Spotwood was kind, and she made learning fun. She also remembers 
that Ms. Spotwood seemed interested in her individually, even as she 
was interested in every other child in that classroom. Ms. Spotwood 
made Connie feel special.
  Connie Clayton went on to attend Jay Cook Junior High School and 
Philadelphia High School for Girls, where she excelled academically. 
She thought she wanted to be a doctor, even taking 4 years of Latin at 
Girls High School on the theory that she would need to decipher dated 
medical jargon. Her enthusiasm waned when she realized that calling a 
body a corpus didn't make studying its contents any more appealing. She 
chose, instead, to focus on the mind, earning her bachelor's degree and 
her master of education degree from Temple University, before going on 
to her doctorate of education in educational leadership from the 
University of Pennsylvania, where she was a Rockefeller scholar.
  Dr. Constance E. Clayton recognized that education--her education--
was what empowered her to succeed. It started at Dunbar, where teachers 
like Ms. Spotwood first taught her to raise her sights and to reach out 
and to believe. So it is no coincidence that her first step in her 
professional life was to go back to Dunbar and return the favor. She 
took a role as a student teacher alongside many of the same people who 
taught her before she could imagine that the letters ``Ph.D'' would

[[Page S1429]]

follow her name or that the title ``Superintendent'' would someday 
precede it.
  In 1955, Dr. Clayton got her first full-time teaching job at 
Philadelphia's Harrison Elementary School, where she taught fifth grade 
social studies. Grounded in that personal mission that children come 
first, Dr. Clayton's years as a teacher revealed a unique gift for 
understanding children, their specific challenges and their particular 
needs. This is no doubt why, in the years that followed, she earned a 
role in developing the social studies curriculum for the entire 
district and led an effort to develop and train teachers to implement a 
Black history curriculum throughout the school district.
  Dr. Clayton recalls understanding that for students at a 
predominantly Black school in Philadelphia, it is Black History Month 
every day, every month, and they need to see their lived experience 
reflected in the course material because they didn't see many white 
picket fences where they were growing up. To paraphrase Carter Woodson, 
often known as the father of Black history himself: Kids need to learn, 
not just about Black history but about Black people in American 
history. Dr. Clayton recalls the reward of watching kids excited to 
learn that they, too, could be a painter, an author, an astronaut or 
whatever they wanted, and of watching the limits of those children's 
imaginations dissolve before their eyes.

  Dr. Clayton didn't limit her own imagination either. In 1972, she was 
named executive director and associate superintendent of early 
childhood education programs for the Philadelphia School District.
  Early childhood education is an issue dear to my own heart, as the 
sponsor of legislation here in the Senate to ensure universal early 
education nationwide. We know that the stakes for this issue are high. 
Early learning increases future income. It reduces the chance of arrest 
or incarceration, and it also reduces reliance on social services. 
Under Dr. Clayton's leadership, the Philadelphia School District 
expanded and enhanced its early education program into a national 
model.
  Connie Clayton's passion for helping children and her competence did 
not go unnoticed. In 1982, she was chosen as superintendent of the 
Philadelphia School District, the first African American and the first 
woman to hold that role. She knew the expectation would be high, but 
her mother always told her: ``Delete the word `can't' from your 
vocabulary.'' So Connie hit the ground running hard, declaring in the 
press conference where she accepted the job that motto that would come 
to define her tenure: ``The children come first.''
  I have often said that there is a light inside of every child, and it 
is the obligation of adults, especially elected officials, to make sure 
that this light shines brightly to the full measure of its potential. 
We know that from day one as superintendent, Dr. Connie Clayton knew 
her job was to nurture this light. But as a product of segregated 
education herself, she understood that our system doesn't always allow 
every light to shine equally bright.
  High minority schools often receive less funding, often have less 
experienced teachers, and often offer fewer high-level math and science 
courses. We know still today that this is true. Black K-12 students are 
almost four times as likely as White students to receive an out-of-
school suspension and almost twice as likely to be expelled. Black 
students represent 16 percent of the public school population today but 
42 percent of the population of justice facility education programs.
  Connie Clayton refused to simply curse the darkness of these numbers. 
She worked to change them. She knew that an enlightened mind can 
empower students to overcome the traps laid by cynicism, indifference, 
and underfunding--to slip the bounds of low expectation, beat the odds, 
and then turn around and work to change them. A good education can take 
that light inside and make it flare.
  She might have asked, and we still are asking: What, then, is a good 
education? Can some combination of facts and numbers alone contain this 
transformative power of education?
  Well, W.E.B. Du Bois said: ``Education must not simply teach work--it 
must teach life.'' Dr. Clayton understood this in all of its 
implications, both clear and subtle. She knew it was clear that a good 
education starts with an open school.
  In the 5 years preceding Dr. Clayton's term as superintendent, there 
were five teacher strikes in Philadelphia that cost students 1,000 days 
in the classroom. But during her 11 years in office, there wasn't a 
single strike. She knew it was clear that a good education requires 
funding. When she came in, the Philadelphia School District was facing 
a crushing $90 million deficit. When she left, it was running a 
surplus, and she had created financial partnerships with area 
businesses, all without closing a single school.
  Dr. Clayton knew it was clear that a good education comes from a good 
curriculum. When she came in, she noticed the school district had 
stopped teaching algebra. When she left as superintendent, she fostered 
a partnership with local university professors to teach the subject of 
algebra to a voluntary class that grew from 9 kids the first year to 
over 1,900.
  She implemented a free breakfast program because she knew that 
students from certain parts of the district might not be able to get 
food in the morning. We know, as she knew well, that hungry kids cannot 
learn.
  She reinstated summer school because she knew that a few credits here 
or there can mean the difference between a diploma and a dropout, and 
in that difference lay the blueprints to divergent lives.
  She treated her schools like second homes for children because she 
remembered, from all of her years of teaching, how the vast majority of 
parents wanted more for their kids than they were able to provide and 
that they just needed some help in filling the gaps.
  She took just 1 week of vacation in 11 years as superintendent--that 
has to be some kind of national record--and just 1 day of vacation in 
her many years of teaching before that, because she felt not just a 
passion for her work but an urgency to see its results.
  Dr. Clayton had a sense of urgency about educating these children, in 
the same way it was urgent for the followers of Sojourner Truth in the 
19th century. It was urgent for the students in the Student Nonviolent 
Coordinating Committee, known as SNCC, in the 20th century. They had 
that urgency. It has been urgent for all the ordinary lives before, 
between, and since. It was urgent for little Hannah A. Lions, a girl 
studying in Philadelphia in the 1830s whose family saved her school 
copybook as ``proof that there were some educated [Black] people back 
when'' and donated this copybook to the recently opened National Museum 
of African American History and Culture here in Washington, where it 
sits on display.
  It was as urgent, of course, for Dr. Constance Clayton, when she 
attended segregated schools in the same city some 100 years after 
Hannah. That is because a good education is not just some combination 
of numbers and facts. It is enlightenment for a mind constrained, 
freedom for a soul repressed, and a passport to a future that 
transcends artificial limitations and unleashes potential.
  Dr. Clayton worked feverishly to put one of those passports in the 
pockets of each student who passed through the Philadelphia schools 
under her watch. Her passion and her vision earned her a reputation as 
a reformer whom the New York Times wrote led an ``educational 
renaissance'' in Philadelphia.
  She would do whatever it took to make schools better for her 
students. She pushed the district to meet the goals of the America 2000 
Program, an ambitious plan to significantly increase the achievements 
of urban school districts across the country. She instituted the 
Homeless Student Initiative, a successful program to provide continuity 
in education and a level of consistent support to the hundreds, perhaps 
thousands, of homeless children in the district enduring the daily 
hardships of life in shelters. Connie worked to desegregate schools and 
made sure the district was providing employment opportunities to 
minority candidates.
  Several years into her administration, the executive director of the 
Council of Great City Schools remarked of Dr. Clayton's tenure as 
superintendant: ``Looking at an array

[[Page S1430]]

of programs carried out in Philadelphia, you will see almost every 
innovative reform that has been proposed in urban schools.'' So it is 
no surprise that Dr. Clayton received all manner of awards and honors. 
Let me mention a few: the Dr. Constance E. Clayton Chair in Urban 
Education at the Graduate School of Education at the University of 
Pennsylvania, which was named in her honor--the first endowed 
professorship in the United States to be named after an African-
American woman. She received the Distinguished Daughters of 
Pennsylvania Award and the Humanitarian Service Award from the 
Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, as well as the 2008 Star 
Community Commitment in Education Award from the Philadelphia Education 
Fund, just to name a few. She has received honorary doctorates from 17 
colleges and universities, not to mention being a visiting professor at 
Harvard Graduate School of Education. I could go on and on today.
  She currently serves as trustee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 
chairing the African and Afro-American Collections and Exhibits 
Committee and is a life member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, where 
she has served in multiple leadership roles.
  Connie Clayton's life has been a life of service. We know that in our 
State capitol--the building has the following inscription: ``All public 
service is a trust given in faith and accepted in honor.'' Dr. Clayton 
honored the trust of public service. She validated the faith that the 
parents of all those students placed in her to carry out that trust, 
and she always put schoolchildren first. So on behalf of those students 
and their parents and everyone else her work touched in the course of 
her long career, it is my distinct privilege to honor Dr. Constance E. 
Clayton in celebration of Black History Month on the Senate floor 
today. I want to convey our gratitude for her devotion to education 
and, of course, to the children of Philadelphia.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, it has been since January 20 when 
President Trump was inaugurated that we have been trying to get his 
Cabinet choices confirmed here in the Senate. Unfortunately, it has 
been slow-walked to the point now that tonight we are going to be 
voting on the President's nominee to lead the Commerce Department, Mr. 
Wilbur Ross. I am grateful to Mr. Ross for wanting to serve the country 
in this way. I think President Trump has chosen wisely as to the 
Commerce Secretary.
  One of the things President Trump said Mr. Ross will do is enter into 
the negotiation process on NAFTA, the North American Free-Trade 
Agreement. In my part of the world, in Texas, NAFTA is viewed 
positively; it is not a dirty word.
  Some people have suggested that trade somehow has a negative impact 
on our economy, but I believe the evidence is to the contrary. As a 
matter of fact, just between Mexico and the United States--5 million 
jobs depend on binational trade between Mexico and the United States. I 
know from time to time we have differences of views with Mexico. I saw 
that Secretary Kelly and Secretary Tillerson were in Mexico City on 
Wednesday talking about some of those differences but reassuring our 
Mexican counterparts of our sincerity and good will in trying to work 
through those. But the fact is, we share a common border with Mexico. 
What happens in Mexico has an impact on the economy and public safety 
in the United States and vice versa.
  So I am actually grateful for the conversation I have had with the 
Secretary of Commerce nominee, Wilbur Ross and that he is interested in 
updating NAFTA, the North American Free-Trade Agreement, rather than 
throwing the baby out with the bath water. I think that is a positive 
approach and one that I certainly support.
  We have a lot more Cabinet posts that remain vacant in the executive 
branch because our friends across the aisle have decided that somehow 
serves their political interests. But it does not serve the public's 
interests and it does not serve the country's interests to have a 
brandnew administration without the ability of the President to pick 
and choose the people he wants to help him govern the country. It 
creates more problems, and it also prevents us from getting on with the 
other important business of the Congress and working together with this 
President to try to move the country forward in so many important ways.
  I am glad we will actually consider Congressman Zinke's nomination 
for the Department of Interior later this evening, but we are going to 
have to go through this arduous process, this procedural process of 
cloture and postcloture time-burning before we can actually vote on 
this qualified nominee. I have said before that by holding up these 
qualified nominees, they are not only preventing the executive branch 
from working for the benefit of the American people, but they are also 
keeping us from our other job. After we get out of the personnel 
business, we need to get about the business of legislating and 
producing results for the American people. So I hope that at some point 
and at some point soon, our Democratic friends will let us move on from 
the confirmation process and get down to work where we can make that 
progress.


                       Nomination of Neil Gorsuch

  One of the areas in which I am very excited about our ability to 
effect change will be in considering the President's nominee to fill 
the seat left vacant by the tragic passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. 
It has been a month since President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch 
to that position. As Americans--including Members of the Senate--are 
familiarizing themselves with his incredible record, I have been glad 
to see folks on both sides of the aisle speak so well of him, not just 
his sterling character and his sterling legal career but how he appears 
to be really the role model for the type of person you would want to 
see sitting on the Supreme Court of the United States. Those who know 
him and his work understand that he exemplifies the integrity, 
intellect, and accomplishment we would expect from someone on our 
highest Court.
  Some of our colleagues across the aisle--notably the minority 
leader--have complained that Judge Gorsuch has refused to prejudge 
certain issues he has been asked about that will likely come before him 
as a member of the Supreme Court of the United States. I think Judge 
Gorsuch has it right. It is common practice for Supreme Court nominees, 
reflecting the judicial ethics of not deciding cases before they are 
actually presented, to decline to answer those sorts of speculative 
questions. Justice Ginsburg, whom the minority leader clearly respects, 
made this point eloquently, and Supreme Court nominees have adhered to 
the norm ever since. If following the well-conceived practices 
developed by people like Justice Ginsburg of declining to answer 
questions about how they would decide a case if it came before the 
Supreme Court--certainly if that is the rule she would embrace, then 
that ought to be good enough for Judge Gorsuch as well.
  I think it reflects the fact that our friends across the aisle who 
are looking for something to complain about with Judge Gorsuch simply 
can't find anything, and so they are creating this false choice of 
asking him to decide cases before he even assumes the bench on the 
Supreme Court, which clearly is unethical for any judge to do because 
judges are not politicians running on a platform; a judge's job is to 
decide the law according to the law and the Constitution. How can you 
possibly know before the case is presented what the facts might be or 
how the issue might be presented to the court?
  Every ethicist, every legal scholar who has had a chance to comment 
on such things understands that we can't ethically require judges to 
say how they would decide cases before they go on the court. If they 
did, I think they would be disqualified from serving because they would 
really be just a politician wearing a black robe but one who is 
unaccountable to the American people since they serve literally for 
life.

[[Page S1431]]

  Editorial boards across the country and even former Obama 
administration officials have recognized Judge Gorsuch as a man who 
would ``help restore confidence in the rule of law.'' Before he was 
even announced as the nominee, an editorial in the Denver Post, his 
hometown newspaper, encouraged President Trump to select him. They 
called Judge Gorsuch ``a brilliant legal mind and talented 
writer.'' That same paper, by the way, endorsed Hillary Clinton for 
President. But they agree that Neil Gorsuch is a tremendous nominee for 
the Supreme Court.

  Just last week, the Washington Post issued an article titled ``Simply 
stated, Gorsuch is steadfast and surprising.'' Well, that is a very 
concise way to put it, and it is actually a great summary. He is 
steadfast in his belief in originalism; that is, the text of the 
Constitution actually means what it says, not based on some desire to 
see some particular policy affected that has nothing to do with the 
literal text of the Constitution. That is what judges do--they 
interpret a written Constitution, not an evolving Constitution or 
decide cases based on their public policy preferences.
  It is clear that Judge Gorsuch is independent. He interprets the law 
as a judge should--with fairness and without bias.
  To put it another way, Judge Gorsuch is exactly the kind of nominee 
you would hope to see from any administration, and it is gratifying to 
see him nominated to this important seat by President Trump. I am sure, 
because of the qualities I have described, that is why he was 
previously confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate to his current 
position on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
  Judge Gorsuch is a tremendous jurist and scholar. He will be 
appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March for 
questioning by members of the Judiciary Committee, and then there will 
be a vote. He has been confirmed by the Senate before unanimously, as I 
said, because he was then and is now a mainstream pick with an 
exceptional legal record. The more we learn about him, it seems the 
more we hear from folks along his journey from childhood, to law 
school, to his professional life, commending his intellect, integrity, 
and his strong sense of character. I believe he is simply the right man 
for the job. I look forward to considering him before the Judiciary 
Committee and to confirming him soon.
  Madam President, I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


            Calling for the Appointment of a Special Counsel

  Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, I have been concerned. As I read the 
press and talk with officials, I learn more about the troubling 
connections between the Russian Government and President Trump's 
campaign and administration.
  We already knew--it is very, very factual--that Russian President 
Putin ordered a multifaceted campaign to undermine public faith in our 
election and to help President Trump win in November. That is something 
all of us as Americans should be concerned about. Whether you are a 
Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent, when you have that kind of 
an attack on our democracy, it is a concern to all of us.
  Reports indicate that Trump officials were in repeated contact with 
senior Russian intelligence officials during this time. This comes on 
the heels of the President's National Security Advisor having to resign 
after providing misleading details on conversations he had with the 
Russian Ambassador concerning U.S. sanctions. But there is a lot we 
still don't know, including the extent of the contacts, who directed 
them, whether people who at one point or another left the Trump 
campaign were involved, whether there was collusion, and, of course, 
the obvious question: What did the President know and when he did he 
know it?
  The American people deserve to know the facts. They deserve a full 
and fair investigation that is free from any political influence. The 
White House has already demonstrated it is not going to respect the 
independence of this investigation. The fact that the White House Chief 
of Staff attempted to use the FBI--in violation of Justice Department 
policies--to suppress news reports about Russian contacts reveals why 
we really can't trust the White House to play by the rules. And, of 
course, the rules are very, very clear.
  For these reasons, I am calling on Attorney General Sessions to step 
aside on this issue and to appoint a special counsel to conduct an 
independent investigation. That is not an attack on Attorney General 
Sessions. I have known him for 30 years. I just want to make sure we do 
not have these continuing questions about what the President knew and 
when he knew it.
  Even a cursory review of the Justice Department's recusal standards 
reveals that the Attorney General does not--indeed, cannot--have the 
independence necessary to assure wary Americans that this investigation 
will be driven by the facts, not by relationships. Certainly those who 
have served as prosecutors--Attorney General Sessions has; I have--know 
that there are times when the prosecutor has to step aside and let 
someone else do it just so that everybody can be confident in the 
investigation.
  In fact, Justice Department regulations mandate that ``no employee 
shall participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has 
a personal or political relationship with . . . [a]ny person or 
organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject 
of the investigation.'' Of course, a ``political relationship'' is 
defined as ``a close identification with an elected official . . . 
arising from service as a principal adviser thereto.'' Prior to his 
confirmation, when we were holding the confirmation hearings on then-
Senator Jeff Sessions, I asked him whether he met the standard. It is 
not really a close call. The rule perfectly describes the relationship 
between Attorney General Sessions and President Trump. But he brushed 
the question off, claiming that he was ``merely . . . a supporter of 
the President's during the campaign.''
  Well, that is an obvious mischaracterization of the role he played as 
a top adviser to the Trump campaign. Attorney General--then-Senator--
Sessions was widely recognized as a central figure in the campaign. He 
had his fingerprints all over the President's policies. In fact, one of 
the President's top advisers, Steve Bannon, even called him the 
President's ``clearinghouse for policy and philosophy.'' That is a 
pretty close connection. I could hardly think of anything closer. To 
suggest the Attorney General was just ``a supporter'' and that he did 
not have a ``political relationship'' with the Trump campaign, when you 
look at the Bannon comments, that is patently false.
  If the Attorney General refuses to follow the Department's recusal 
standard--now as the head of the Department, well, then, I would hope 
he would follow his own recusal standards. Last year, just days before 
the election, then-Senator Sessions and other Trump campaign surrogates 
wrote an op-ed. He criticized then-Attorney General Lynch for not 
recusing herself from matters involving Secretary Clinton. The basis of 
his complaint was a ``39-minute conversation''--to use his words--that 
Attorney General Lynch had with former President Bill Clinton in 
Phoenix, AZ. I would hope he would set the same standard for himself 
that he sets for others because it is kind of hard to talk about a 
half-hour conversation and say that requires recusal when it comes to 
the Clintons, but a year's worth of vigorously campaigning with and 
vigorously advising does not when it comes to the Trump campaign. A 
year working on the Trump campaign doesn't count, but 39 minutes 
talking to former President Clinton does? Come on. If that is the 
standard for recusal in one case--I won't do the math on how many times 
39 minutes goes into a year, but I would say, using Jeff Sessions' own 
standards, he has far, far, far more reason to recuse himself in this 
matter.
  During the 20 years I have worked with him, Jeff Sessions has often 
spoken of his commitment to the rule of law. I know he feels strongly 
about

[[Page S1432]]

that, just as I do. As Senators, every one of us should. Certainly 
every one of us who has had the privilege to be a prosecutor should 
have a commitment to the rule of law. Well, Attorney General Sessions' 
commitment is now being tested.
  Whether we apply the Justice Department's recusal standard, which is 
very, very clear, or use the Jeff Sessions' 39-minute recusal standard, 
it is clear that Attorney General Sessions must step aside. In fact, 
nothing less than the integrity of our democracy is at stake with this 
investigation. And I do not say that lightly. Nothing less than the 
integrity of our democracy is at stake with this investigation. What 
did everybody know? When did they know it?
  It is essential that the investigation be led by someone who--in both 
appearance and in reality--is impartial and removed from politics. That 
does not describe someone who was in the trenches of a political 
campaign with the subjects of the investigation while they were 
allegedly engaged in the activity under investigation, or somebody who 
has been described by Steve Bannon as a ``clearinghouse for policy and 
philosophy'' for President Trump.
  For the good of the country, for the good of all of us--Republicans, 
Democrats, Independents--the Attorney General really has just one thing 
to do: Appoint a special counsel and let the public have the answers. 
What did everybody know? When did they know it? It is pretty 
simple. The people of Vermont, and I suspect throughout the country, 
would like to have those answers that go to the bedrock of our 
democracy.

  In my 42 years here, I have never seen anything that has concerned me 
so much as another country that does not have the best interests of the 
United States at heart trying to interfere in our election, another 
country trying to determine what the United States does. This is a 
country that does not have the United States' best interests at heart 
but a country that wants to manipulate the United States. This U.S. 
Senator, for the time I have in office, will continue to speak out 
against it.
  Mr. DURBIN. Will the Senator yield for a question?
  Mr. LEAHY. Yes, of course, I will yield to the distinguished Senator.
  Mr. DURBIN. I thank my colleague from the State of Vermont and, for 
many years, my fellow colleague on the Senate Judiciary Committee for 
his statement. I couldn't agree with him more that we need an 
independent, transparent investigation of this Russian invasion into 
the body politic of America in an effort to subvert our sovereignty. It 
was made by a country that is not our friend and was made at a time 
when they were trying to influence the outcome of an election.
  I just want to note to my colleague and friend from Vermont that 
during the break I visited Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine. It was 
interesting. In Poland, they put up with the notion of Putin's 
interference on a daily basis. The most frightening prospect, of 
course, is the movement of military forces, which we hope never occurs, 
but they look at it as a very real threat. They have what they call the 
hybrid war. They said it isn't just the military; it is also his cyber 
attacks on our country, and it is also his propaganda on our country.
  One of the Polish leaders asked me a question: We have been 
wondering, Senator, if the United States is not willing to confront 
Russia with its invasion of your sovereignty in your Presidential 
election, would you be willing to stand up for your NATO allies if 
there is an effort of aggression by Putin? Would you be willing to 
stand up against Russia in those times?
  I think that is a legitimate issue. If we don't take what the Senator 
has raised very seriously about putting independence in the 
investigation of this matter, and we don't do it with dispatch, shame 
on us. But it is also going to say to the world that we did not respond 
in a positive and forceful way when it came to this aggression against 
the United States.
  Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, if I might respond to my good friend and 
senior Senator from Illinois, he has been a friend and colleague for 
decades. The Judiciary Committee and the whole Senate has benefited 
from his knowledge.
  What the leader of Poland said to the distinguished Senator is a very 
chilling thing, Madam President. He knows from his own family ancestors 
how bad an area can be if it is under the domination of something like 
the then-Soviet Union and now Russia. He also knows from his own 
experience as an American how important it is that we have the freedoms 
we have.
  I was privileged, along with my wife Marcelle and several others--
Senator Cochran, Senator Udall, and Senator Bennet and Congressman 
McGovern--to visit Cuba and have long discussions with people who would 
like to see real democracy come, and then to go to Colombia where they 
have fought for over 50 years a terrible internal civil war with 
countless deaths and atrocities and to see how they were trying to 
bring back the rule of law and the rule of democracy. And we just sit 
there, and it is so easy for us who grew up in an era in which we 
believe in our democracy and we believe in our voices being heard, 
where sometimes we win elections and sometimes we lose them, but we 
believe in the fairness of it. It is so easy to sit there and think: 
But we do it right.
  This makes me wonder. Can we continue to say that? Can we be the 
beacon to the rest of the world? Can we say: Do as the United States 
does because we are open, we are transparent, we are honest.
  Well, this has not been open, transparent, or honest. Let's make it 
so. Let's not let it drag on. Let's go to it now so people can then 
start debating issues. I expect there will be areas where I will agree 
with the new administration and there are areas where I disagree with 
the new administration. But I want to know I am agreeing and 
disagreeing with an American administration, not with Vladimir Putin's 
administration.
  So I am moved by what my friend from Illinois has said. I hope the 
rest of the country listens because we are supposed to be the example. 
We pride ourselves on being the example. We are the oldest existing 
democracy in the world. Let's not do anything that will come back to 
haunt us.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. TESTER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Moran). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.


                        Nomination of Ryan Zinke

  Mr. TESTER. Mr. President, I am very pleased to see the majority of 
the Senate move forward and vote on the nomination of a fellow 
westerner, Montana's Congressman, and the next Secretary of the 
Interior, Ryan Zinke. I appreciate Ryan's willingness to serve in this 
very important post. The Department of the Interior is vital to 
Montana's economy, and I am glad to see someone from the West selected 
to lead it.
  The job of the Interior Secretary is critically important, especially 
today as America's public lands come under attack by way too many folks 
who want to see them transferred to the States or outright sold off. 
Selling them off to the States is the first step in selling our public 
lands to the highest bidder, and we can't let that happen.
  Congressman Zinke has publicly said that he will not sell off our 
public lands nor transfer them to the States, and in Montana, your word 
is your bond. For that, I am pleased to support his nomination.
  Congressman Zinke's to-do list is no doubt long, and I look forward 
to working with him to check that list off for the people of Montana.
  Montana is home to some of the world's most prized public lands, 
including Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks and the Bob Marshall 
Wilderness. The fact is, our public lands are huge economic drivers, 
creating and sustaining more than 64,000 jobs in Montana alone through 
our outdoor recreation economy and thereby pumping billions of dollars 
back into our local economies.
  That is why, when a foreign mining company threatened the gateway to 
Yellowstone National Park, I was pleased that Congressman Zinke 
expressed interest in joining me and local

[[Page S1433]]

businesses and community leaders to protect it. I look forward to 
working with him to permanently safeguard the doorstep of Yellowstone 
National Park because Montanans know there are some places more 
valuable than gold, and Yellowstone is one of those places.
  I feel confident that Congressman Zinke will handle the issues before 
him with Montana common sense--issues like our national parks, and 
coming up with a responsible solution to the deferred maintenance 
backlog that is wreaking havoc on our national park system; the Land 
and Water Conservation Fund, and how to work with Congress and work in 
this administration to ensure full and devoted funding to initiatives 
like LWCF, the visionary Land and Water Conservation Fund; in Indian 
country, living up to our trust responsibilities that we owe to 
America's sovereign Indian nations; and in resource development, how to 
responsibly manage our public lands for energy and resource 
development, and how to balance that with respect to clean water and 
clean air and wildlife.
  Of course, there are always some issues where Congressman Zinke and I 
don't see eye-to-eye, but he has publicly committed to working with 
Congress to try and address some of the most important issues of this 
Nation's economy as it applies to our public lands. Montana's economy 
is no exception, and I will take him at his word.
  As a Montanan, I know how important the Department of the Interior is 
to our way of life, and I am optimistic that Congressman Zinke will do 
right by Montana and the country in his new role. Montana will be 
watching. For that matter, the country will be watching, and I know 
Congressman Zinke will make us proud.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. MURPHY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. MURPHY. Mr. President, believe it or not, there are some smart 
people out there in America who are not billionaires. I know it doesn't 
seem like it as we debate yet another megarich Wall Street titan to 
head another department in the Federal Government, but billionaires do 
not actually have a monopoly on wisdom in this country.
  But it doesn't seem that this is what our new President thinks. If 
they all get confirmed, Donald Trump's Cabinet will have a net wealth 
that is greater than one-third of all Americans. Think about that for a 
second. The Cabinet of the United States will have a net wealth all 
together that is greater than one-third of every single American--the 
poorest third of Americans--if you put them all together.
  He has nominated millionaires and billionaires to head the Department 
of Education, the Department of Labor, the Department of the Treasury, 
the Department of Commerce--the nominee we are now debating--and the 
Department of Health and Human Services. He even nominated two of his 
rich friends to head the Army and the Navy.
  I heard President Trump talk over and over the past 2 years about how 
he was going to drain the swamp once he got here. As far as I can tell, 
all he has done thus far is just sell the swamp to his rich friends.
  I am not saying that billionaires like Wilbur Ross aren't smart. You 
have to be pretty savvy in order to make all of that money for yourself 
or for your investors. There is honor in making money. That is the 
American dream--to have the opportunity, if you want it, to become very 
rich, to become very affluent, to create a business that makes you, 
your family, and maybe those who invested in it very well off. I have a 
lot of friends who have made a lot of money in and around Wall Street. 
I don't begrudge the fact that they did it. But making a lot of money 
for yourself doesn't automatically equate to the ability to run an 
agency or to run a country.
  President Trump made a whole bunch of money for himself, but his 
first month on the job as President has been a series of not just 
domestic embarrassments but international embarrassments--writing 
Executive orders without even checking with the Cabinet to see if what 
he is doing is legal or illegal; not being able to fill positions in 
the White House or in Federal agencies--the number of foreign diplomats 
who tell me they have no idea whom to call right now in the Federal 
Government is as embarrassing as it is maddening--getting into public 
spats with even our most reliable allies like Germany and Australia; 
spending most of his time in pitch battles with the media and his own 
staff, rather than working with us on trying to solve the problems of 
this country.
  Donald Trump is good at making money for himself, but those skills, 
as we have found, do not translate very well to running a country. 
Maybe that is because when the entire focus of your entire life is 
making as much money as humanly possible for yourself, you cannot pivot 
on a dime all of a sudden and start putting all of your energy into 
helping other people. Maybe life doesn't work like that. So that is 
what really worries me about these billionaire nominees.
  A few weeks ago, I was on the floor talking about the now-Secretary 
of State Rex Tillerson. He spent his career at Exxon helping to build a 
very successful business, but in doing so, he hurt a lot of people. 
Exxon deals with horrible dictators who used those oil revenues in 
order to help murder thousands of their people. That was good for 
business, but it was awful for humanity.
  Andy Puzder, who is no longer a nominee for the Department of Labor, 
openly mocked his workers. He suggested they just got in the way of the 
efficient operation of his business, and he pined for the day when 
robots would replace them.
  Now we are debating Wilbur Ross to be Secretary of Commerce. Wilbur 
Ross made a lot of money for himself, but he has taken advantage of the 
very bad trade deals that this body has passed in order to offshore 
thousands of U.S. jobs. One such company that he owned, a textile 
company, employed 4,700 workers in factories in North Carolina and 
South Carolina. That was inefficient in Wilbur Ross's desire to make as 
much money for himself as he could. So he took those 4,700 jobs and he 
shipped them to Guatemala. He said: This project will benefit from 
Guatemala's realistic wages.
  When Mr. Ross acquired an auto parts factory in Carlisle, PA, a 
decade ago, in order to make more money for himself, he took a hard 
line with the workers, demanding cuts in wages and benefits that were 
worth between 25 and 30 percent of the workers' earnings. That is what 
he needed to do in order to squeeze as much money out of that company 
to make himself a few extra million dollars. When the union rejected 
the demands of Mr. Ross and when the workers rejected those demands, he 
shut the plant down and moved their work to North Carolina, to Canada, 
and to Mexico.
  Wilbur Ross, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, and Andy Puzder spent 
their entire lives obsessed with making as much money for themselves as 
possible and not letting anyone's good fortune get in their way. They 
fired workers, they foreclosed on people's homes, they shipped jobs 
overseas, and they supported brutal dictators--all of it justifiable as 
long as it meant they would make more money for themselves and for 
their investors. How on Earth has that become a qualification to serve 
the public, to serve at the highest level of the U.S. Government?
  I am on the floor today to oppose the nomination of Wilbur Ross to be 
Secretary of Commerce--not because he didn't do a good job enriching 
himself through the myriad of businesses that he owned and operated 
during his time in the private sector but because during that time he 
trampled on the rights of workers, he offshored jobs, and he eliminated 
people's livelihoods in order to make more money for himself. All of 
the things that Candidate Trump talked about taking on were the things 
that Wilbur Ross was doing as he took advantage of these trade 
agreements to kill jobs in the United States and offshore them to other 
places.
  President Trump said he was going to fight for the working guy. He 
isn't. He is doing the exact opposite. He is turning the keys of this 
government over to his wealthy friends so that they can potentially 
profit off of taxpayer dollars, so that they can deregulate the 
industries that, by the way, they are going to return to when their 
term is

[[Page S1434]]

up. They will get richer, just like they have through their entire 
lives, while the rest of us pay for it.
  It is time for us to recognize that billionaires in this country do 
not have a monopoly on wisdom. Sometimes the very skills that allow you 
to make a fortune for yourself don't equate to the skills necessary to 
fight for everybody else through public service. I would urge my 
colleagues to oppose the nomination of Wilbur Ross to be Secretary of 
Commerce.
  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. THUNE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, I rise to voice my strong support for the 
nomination of Wilbur Ross to be Secretary of Commerce. We held a 
hearing on his nomination on January 18, 2017. Mr. Ross has also 
completed the required paperwork and responded to all of the committee 
questions for the record. Five weeks ago, on January 24, the Commerce 
Committee acted by voice vote to favorably report his nomination to the 
floor. We invoked cloture on Mr. Ross's nomination by a vote margin of 
66 to 31 on February 17, with 15 Democratic Senators voting to invoke 
cloture.
  I am glad the Senate will finally confirm his nomination today after 
a long and unnecessary delay. When he is confirmed, Mr. Ross will bring 
decades of business, entrepreneurial, and civic experience to this 
important position.
  Mr. Ross is perhaps best known for his expertise in revitalizing 
distressed businesses, such as those in the U.S. steel industry. At a 
time when most investors had abandoned the industry, he organized the 
International Steel Group in 2002, and through acquisitions, he made it 
the largest integrated steel company in North America. Later, it merged 
with Mittal Steel to form the largest steel company in the world. It is 
for this reason that all of the major steel-industry labor unions also 
support his confirmation.
  I ask unanimous consent that the letter of support for the 
confirmation of Wilbur Ross from the United Steelworkers, dated January 
9, 2017, be printed in the Record at the conclusion of my remarks.
  Mr. Ross's nomination is also supported by a bipartisan group of 
former Secretaries of Commerce, including Secretary William M. Daley, 
who served as Commerce Secretary under President Clinton, and later as 
Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama.
  Mr. Ross's strong record of achievement in business led Bloomberg 
Businessweek to name him one of the ``50 Most Influential People in 
Global Finance'' in 2011. It is also why he is the only person elected 
to both the Turnaround Management Hall of Fame and the Private Equity 
Hall of Fame.
  Mr. Ross's nomination comes at an important time in our Nation's 
economic recovery. I believe his extensive management experience in the 
private sector and his understanding of the challenges faced by workers 
and businesses alike will equip him well for the job of leading the 
Department of Commerce.
  This large Department, which has 12 different bureaus and nearly 
47,000 employees located in all 50 States and around the world, 
oversees a diverse array of issues, from trade to fishery management 
and from weather forecasting to the Census Bureau. Mr. Ross's 
experience turning around businesses should help them anticipate and 
mitigate the risk of major programs like FirstNet, the independent 
authority charged with creating a nationwide broadband network for 
first responders and the acquisition of critical weather satellites by 
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  I would also like to underscore that the collaboration between the 
public and private sectors is one of the hallmarks of the Department's 
work, as exemplified by the ongoing development of cyber security best 
practices and standards, which the Commerce Committee has strongly 
endorsed. I look forward to Mr. Ross continuing his collaboration and 
strengthening it where necessary.
  I believe Mr. Ross's business know-how and intelligence make him an 
excellent candidate to serve as the next Secretary of Commerce. I 
strongly support his nomination. I hope my colleagues on both sides of 
the aisle will support his nomination as well. It is high time we got 
this position filled and got this experienced person--someone who has a 
wide range of know-how all across the business sector and our economy--
into a position where he can make a difference in helping to create 
jobs and grow this economy for our country.
  I see that my colleague from Florida, Senator Nelson, the ranking 
Democrat on the Commerce Committee, is here as well. I would love to 
yield the floor to him and hear what he has to say about this 
nomination.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                                          United Steelworkers,

                                  Pittsburgh, PA, January 9, 2017.
     United States Senate,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Senator: On behalf of the United Steelworkers (USW) 
     representing hundreds of thousands of American workers, we 
     urge you to support Wilbur Ross, Chairman and Chief Strategy 
     Officer of WL Ross & Co., LLC, to serve as Secretary of the 
     U.S. Department of Commerce.
       Mr. Ross has shown a deep commitment to the future of our 
     domestic manufacturing sector. Many of us have seen firsthand 
     how he has worked to keep production and manufacturing jobs 
     here in the U.S. The USW worked directly with Mr. Ross to 
     save thousands of jobs in the steel industry at a time of 
     crisis. In fact, there are now thousands of our members in 
     the steel and auto parts sectors that are working because of 
     our ability to work together to save a critical piece of 
     America's industrial base.
       He knows what it takes to get the economy back on track, 
     create jobs, and keep jobs from leaving the United States and 
     build a framework so that American workers and companies are 
     competitive and innovative in the 21st Century. There is much 
     work to be done to restore America's manufacturing base and 
     the good jobs it supports. As Secretary, Wilbur Ross will be 
     someone who has a deep understanding of the challenges this 
     vital sector faces.
       We urge the Senate to move swiftly on his nomination and 
     look forward to working with him to create more jobs for 
     American workers.
           Sincerely,
                                                    Leo W. Gerard,
                                      USW International President.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Lankford). The Senator from Florida.
  Mr. NELSON. Mr. President, I, too, support Wilbur Ross. I know him. 
He lives in Palm Beach. I think he is a very good selection to be our 
next Secretary of Commerce. He is certainly qualified to do this job. 
He gave extensive answers during his confirmation hearing before the 
Commerce Committee. He has accumulated significant experience in 
dealing with the international business community, and he has detailed 
to the committee--in our examination of him, he detailed many of his 
ideas.
  There have been some questions that have been raised about some of 
his business ties, particularly involving some of his foreign 
activities. One example is the Bank of Cyprus, which has significant 
levels of Russian investment. In the wake of the former National 
Security Advisor, General Flynn's resignation and under the overhanging 
question of the unlawful Russian involvement in a U.S. election, I 
certainly thought that it was prudent to get Mr. Ross's assurances on 
this matter in his dealings with the Bank of Cyprus and certain 
Russians who were involved in the Bank of Cyprus, so on February 16, I 
sent him a letter, along with four other members of the Commerce 
Committee, requesting information on any contact Russian investors in 
the Bank of Cyprus may have with officials from the Trump campaign or 
the Trump organization. I have spoken with Mr. Ross on at least two 
occasions since sending him the letter, one of those being today. He 
has verbally reiterated to me that he only had one meeting, 
approximately an hour, with one of the bank's Russian investors and 
that it occurred in 2014. The timing is important--2014--because that 
was before the Presidential campaign. He also assured me that he knows 
of no loans or interaction between the bank and anyone affiliated with 
the Trump campaign or organization.
  Mr. Ross has been forthcoming with me, and I believe him in what he 
has told me, that it is true to his belief. But I want to say that at 
the same

[[Page S1435]]

time, the White House and the way they have handled this matter is not 
doing Wilbur Ross any favors. There are a number of Senators on the 
Commerce Committee who are extremely troubled and frustrated that the 
White House has chosen to sit on Mr. Ross's written response to the 
questions I and other Senators have posed, and they have refused to 
provide them to the Senate prior to tonight's vote. This is despite 
repeated phone calls to the White House--repeated phone calls. It is 
also despite repeated phone calls from me to Mr. Ross to ask him to get 
the White House off the dime since he has told me he has already filled 
out the answers in writing--they are just sitting in the White House. 
So there is someone in the White House who is making the decision that 
they don't want the Senate to have, in writing, what Mr. Ross has told 
me verbally in a private conversation.
  If that is any indication of the level of transparency Congress and 
the American people can expect from this White House, then it appears 
that there is going to be a lot left on the floor and there is going to 
be the appearance of being in the dark on a lot of important matters. 
That is not the way you do confirmations. You do it in a collaborative 
fashion, especially when you have a good nominee like Wilbur Ross. The 
President proposes, the Congress disposes. The President nominates, the 
Congress confirms.
  Not only is this lack of transparency unsettling, it is behavior that 
everyone in this Senate should agree is unacceptable and should not be 
tolerated. I do not want this to be taken out on Wilbur Ross because of 
the administration's secretive behavior. Instead, as I said at the 
outset, following my colleague, the chairman of the committee, I am 
going to urge our colleagues to support his nomination, but the problem 
is that Wilbur Ross is going to get fewer ``yes'' votes than if the 
White House would release his written statements to all of those 
Senators' questions.
  As I said, I know Wilbur Ross. He is a good man. One of the reasons, 
aside from this problem of communication with the White House, is that 
Wilbur Ross brought forth candid answers about the work of the National 
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA. That agency, which is a 
part of the Department of Commerce, impacts the daily lives of every 
single American. NOAA provides the satellite data that is critical to 
observing hurricanes and severe weather and everyday forecasts that we 
have now come to rely on, that we pull up on our smartphones to find 
out what the weather is going to be. Where do you think that comes 
from? A lot of it comes from data from NOAA satellites.
  Through the National Weather Service, NOAA provides the weather 
forecasts that drive this economy, answering questions like whether a 
farmer's crops are going to get rain today or warning of dangerous 
tornadoes, particularly plaguing the State of the Presiding Officer. Of 
course, we remember the ones that just devastated parts of Georgia and 
Florida just a few weeks ago.
  The National Ocean Service tells us if ships will have enough 
clearance to get their cargo into a port on time because it often 
depends on the tide as to how much depth there is with that heavy load 
of cargo, if they can get in the channel.
  NOAA also provides world-class science regarding atmospheric 
conditions, including climate change and its impacts. My State of 
Florida, the impacts of climate change--we are ground zero. It is not 
unusual now that at seasonal monthly high tides, the streets of Miami 
Beach are flooded, and city wellfields have now had to be moved further 
to the west away from the Atlantic Ocean because of the rise of sea 
level and therefore the saltwater intrusion into the freshwater 
aquifer. Since 2006, Miami Beach has flooded significantly more often 
than it used to. Rain-related flooding events in southeast Florida have 
increased by 33 percent, and tide-related flooding has increased by a 
whopping 400 percent. That is not good for business.
  We simply cannot afford to deny what is happening. The impacts of 
climate change are affecting Florida. They are also affecting a lot of 
other places around the world, read: Bangladesh.
  NOAA quite literally saves lives and property, so naturally I fully 
expect any nominee for Secretary of Commerce to unequivocally support 
the ability of the experts at NOAA to do what they do best: collect the 
data, do the research, and provide critical products and services to 
the public free from political interference and free from censorship.
  The Department of Commerce has three Nobel laurate scientists who are 
employees. While some of the nominees for other key administration 
posts have either been less than forthright, less than committal, or 
less than knowledgeable about the very real threat posed by climate 
change, Wilbur Ross candidly and explicitly assured me during his 
nomination hearing in our Commerce Committee that he believes--and I 
will quote him--that ``science should be left to the scientists.'' I 
urge his fellow Cabinet nominees to follow suit. Don't do what we have 
seen--the intimidation techniques of saying that you can't use the term 
``climate change'' or ``sea level rise.'' Let the scientists do their 
work. Wilbur Ross also assured me that he would work collaboratively 
``to address the impacts of changes in sea level and ocean temperatures 
on coastal communities and fisheries.''

  So I want to say to the Senate that I appreciate Wilbur Ross's 
candor, his commitment, and his recognition that the important weather 
and climate work being done in NOAA directly benefits commerce. I am 
confident he is going to follow through.
  I also want to thank him, at his age, for offering himself for public 
service. This is a very schooled, experienced individual.
  I hope this hiccup with the White House not being transparent and not 
returning what he has already written as answers to the Senator's 
questions--this problem--is going to disappear and, that rather than 
hinder him, as they have, they will instead support him, as they 
should.
  For that reason, I am here to ask my colleagues to vote yes on Wilbur 
Ross's nomination.
  I yield the floor.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. President, creating jobs, fostering economic 
growth, maintaining sustainable development, and improving standards of 
living of all Americans are central tasks for any administration, and 
they are the mission of the Commerce Department.
  Congress created the Department of Commerce and Labor in 1903, and 
then renamed the Department of Commerce in 1913 as the offices working 
on labor were transferred to the Department of Labor. Through 12 
bureaus and nearly 47,000 employees, the Department runs programs that 
affect broad swaths of the American economy.
  The Department includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration, which warns of dangerous weather, charts seas, and 
protects ocean and coastal resources. The Department includes the 
Patent and Trademark Office, which fosters technology and innovation, 
and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, headquartered 
in Gaithersburg, MD, which promotes innovation and industrial 
competitiveness. The Department includes the Census Bureau and Bureau 
of Economic Analysis, which provide economic data to help business and 
policymakers make intelligent decisions. The Department includes the 
International Trade Administration, which ensures that Americans have 
access to international markets and safeguards Americans from unfair 
competition. And the Department includes the Economic Development 
Administration to promote job growth in economically distressed 
communities.
  To run the Commerce Department, President Trump has nominated Wilbur 
Ross, Jr., a 79-year-old private-equity billionaire with extensive 
holdings and extensive potential conflicts of interest. I have real 
questions about whether Mr. Ross is out of touch with ordinary 
Americans. And I have real questions about whether Mr. Ross's personal 
interests will conflict with his job as Commerce Secretary, if he is 
confirmed.
  The Commerce Secretary enforces our trade laws, including against 
major trade competitors like China. Last year, Mr. Ross told Bloomberg 
TV that he had extensive holdings in China. Mr. Ross said, ``We have--
various portfolio

[[Page S1436]]

companies have almost 20 factories doing one thing or another over 
there.'' And the New York Times reported that Mr. Ross is vice chairman 
of the Bank of Cyprus, making him a de facto business partner with 
Viktor F. Vekselberg, one of Russia's most prominent businesspeople and 
a person with ties to the Kremlin. Several newspapers have reported 
that Mr. Ross plans to keep millions of dollars invested in offshore 
entities whose values could be affected by policies that he implements 
as Commerce Secretary. Mr. Ross reported plans to hold on to 
investments in an oil-tanker company and 10 other entities that invest 
in shipping and real estate financing, according to Federal financial-
disclosure and ethics filings cited in the reports.
  I have questions about Mr. Ross's ability to work for Americans. 
Starting in the 1990s, Mr. Ross ran an investment firm that specialized 
in distressed assets. The Securities and Exchange Commission said that 
Mr. Ross's firm had failed to disclose how it calculates its fees for 
some funds, which led to investors to pay roughly $10.4 million of 
management fees that they should not have in the decade leading up to 
2011.
  The Commerce Secretary is a part of the President's economic team; 
yet Mr. Ross appears all too willing to play fast and loose with fiscal 
showdowns. When, in April 2011, Bloomberg's Mark Crumpton asked Mr. 
Ross whether S&P's downgrade of America's credit rating is ``a step in 
the right direction,'' Mr. Ross said it was. Ross said: ``Well I think 
it's a step in the right direction in that it will put pressure on the 
Democrats in the Senate and on the President to go along with some of 
the Republican reviews about really cutting the budget deficit and 
ultimately cutting the total indebtedness of the United States. So in 
that limited sense I think it is a step in the right direction.''
  Mr. Ross was all too quick to dismiss the strain that a furlough put 
on Federal Government workers. In October 2013, CNBC's Betty Liu had 
this exchange with Mr. Ross:

       Ross: I think shutting down the government--so-called 
     shutting down the government, which it's not really shut 
     down--
       Liu: What do you mean?
       Ross: Well, many parts of it are still quite open. And it's 
     just at the fringe that it--that it really matters.
       Liu: Yeah, but tell that to the government workers though 
     who are furloughed, right?
       Ross: Yeah, but they're going to get their pay. They know 
     they'll get their back pay. So I don't see that that's a 
     permanent damage.

  Mr. Ross was all too quick to dismiss the pain of homeowners who lost 
their homes in the financial crisis. Bloomberg TV's Betty Liu had this 
exchange with Mr. Ross:

       Ross: I think you have to look far and wide to find a home 
     owner who's an actual victim. These are all theoretical 
     things. They're mostly technical problems that the banks did 
     wrong. To the best of my knowledge--
       Liu: I think it'd be really hard to find, to pinpoint down 
     to individuals, right?
       Ross: Well there's never been a case that I know of where 
     someone was dispossessed who didn't have a mortgage and 
     wasn't in default.
       Liu: What do you mean?
       Ross: Well all these claims that there was robo signing and 
     all these imperfections, that's true. Those were not what 
     should be. But the real question is was anyone actually 
     dispossessed wrongly.
       Liu: Of their property.
       Ross: Yeah, incorrectly. And I don't think you find a 
     single case.

  The Commerce Secretary oversees the NOAA and the National Weather 
Service. But in a conversation with Fox Business's Neil Cavuto, Mr. 
Ross was dismissive of the reality of climate change. Mr. Ross said: 
``Well, I think unless the weatherman can tell me if it will rain 
tomorrow why would I believe you can make a 100 year forecast. So, I'm 
skeptical about the underlying basis.''
  And so President Trump has nominated to be Commerce Secretary a 
person who has so much wealth and so many foreign interests that it 
appears that it will be difficult for him to work in the interests of 
middle-class Americans. His extensive foreign business interests call 
into question his ability to fight to enforce America's trade laws. Mr. 
Ross has expressed cavalier attitudes toward economic brinksmanship and 
shown little concern for the people laid off or who lose their homes as 
a result. And Mr. Ross has expressed an open skepticism toward the 
reality of climate change that calls into question his ability to run 
the agency that does research into global climate. For these reasons, I 
cannot support his nomination.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Kansas.
  Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in 
morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                          Ending Global Hunger

  Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I am here on the floor tonight to speak 
about our Nation's efforts to end global hunger. It is an undertaking 
that countless individuals, foundations, and government agencies have 
devoted a significant amount of time, resources, and effort attempting 
to solve.
  Those who have dedicated their lives to feeding the hungry deserve 
our deepest gratitude and respect. They made the decision to improve 
the lives of others less fortunate than themselves, and they often have 
done that at their own loss of comfort and their own well-being. There 
is no nobler a calling than trying to do something for someone else, 
especially when it costs you something as well.
  Regardless of our faith, our creed, or our religion, almost all of us 
are taught early in life that it is our duty to help those in need. 
Americans consistently have taken that moral responsibility to heart. 
As individuals, we help our neighbors through our churches and other 
local organizations. We help feed our hometowns. As a country, we lead 
the world in providing food aid to millions of people who are in need 
of that assistance.
  In 1983, at a signing of a World Food Day proclamation, President 
Reagan cited 450 million people in developing countries who were 
undernourished. Our global population has risen by 3 billion people 
since that time, and today there are nearly 800 million undernourished 
people in the world who do not have enough food to lead healthy, normal 
lives.
  While strides are being made in the fight against food insecurity, it 
is clear that our commitment cannot waiver, and ending hunger must 
remain a priority.
  At that same White House ceremony, President Reagan chided the Soviet 
Union for failing to provide humanitarian relief to those in need. 
President Reagan offered a direct challenge to the Kremlin to explain 
why the Soviet Union only provided weapons but not food assistance to 
the underdeveloped world.
  While the threats in the world today are different than those faced 
during the Cold War, American food assistance remains a powerful 
foreign policy tool. American food aid elevates our country's moral 
standing and leadership in the world, as realized by President Reagan, 
but our efforts to reduce food insecurity also serve our own national 
interests by promoting political, economic, and social stability in the 
world.
  Food-related hardships and hunger--either due to price increases or 
food shortages--act as a catalyst for protests and armed conflicts. We 
have witnessed regions of the world that are critical to America's 
strategic interests descend into chaos due to people not having access 
to affordable food.
  From 2007 to 2011, spikes in global food prices led to increased food 
insecurity and unrest in the world. In the Middle East and North 
Africa, food-related challenges were one of the major drivers of the 
mass uprising that we call the Arab Spring.
  In Syria, Islamic State rebels use the promise of food and basic 
necessities to recruit soldiers. Food shortages have led refugees to 
leave camps and return to an active war zone in search of food for 
themselves and their families.
  Closer to home, food prices contributed to rioting in Haiti in 2007 
and 2008. As food prices increased and economic conditions 
deteriorated, U.S. Coast Guard interceptions of people from Haiti 
attempting to immigrate to our country rose by 20 percent, straining 
Coast Guard resources.
  The National Intelligence Council warns that a continuation of the 
fundamental contributors to food insecurity--such as expanding 
populations, slowing of agricultural yields, and gaps in infrastructure 
and distribution systems--will result in increased food insecurity, 
hunger, and instability in the

[[Page S1437]]

Middle East, Africa, and South Asia over the next 10 years without 
greater, greater intervention by the United States and others.
  In America, we take our food system for granted. Americans spend less 
than 10 percent of our disposable income on food. Even though less than 
2 percent of our country is directly engaged in farming, Americans have 
direct access to the safest, most affordable, and highest quality food 
in the world.
  I am proud of the wheat farmers and the ranchers in my home State of 
Kansas. Agriculture production is a noble calling. Feeding the world is 
important and a meaningful way to spend one's life, and Kansas families 
have done it for generations.
  Our country's food system at home is critical to our own security and 
well-being, and helping other countries achieve food security and 
stability serves our national interests as well.
  Utilizing U.S.-grown commodities in food aid programs also benefits 
American farmers and ranchers by creating export markets for our 
agricultural products, sometimes reducing an excess of supply.
  Almost 10 percent of exports of the hard red winter wheat grown in 
Kansas in 2016 was utilized by international food programs, 
representing a significant market share for wheat grown in our State. 
Today's low commodity prices only serve to highlight the need for ag 
export markets for producers.
  A few months ago, I called on the U.S. Agency for International 
Development and the Department of Agriculture to significantly increase 
the amount of wheat in our global food aid programs.
  Our country's abundance of food imparts a moral duty to provide 
humanitarian relief to those in need. We have witnessed great 
unsettlement and mass migration in the world due to political 
instability and civil wars. The vast majority of people affected, 
including displaced refugees whose lives were uprooted and whose 
ability to feed themselves was taken away, are suffering through no 
fault of their own.
  In other parts of the world, people are born into such poverty that 
simply finding sufficient food is a daily challenge. Reading recent 
articles, the question has often been: Where am I going to find food to 
feed my family?
  People in Cambodia indicate they have no idea. It is a day-to-day, 
moment-to-moment, meal-to-meal experience. Even if that food is 
available, it is often not accessible to people without the means to 
pay for it.
  Many of these people--weary, desolate, and hungry--survive only 
because of the generosity of the American people. Those hungry and less 
fortunate depend on a nation with moral strength and clarity to give 
them a helping hand.
  There is still more work to be done in the fight against hunger, and 
America ought to continue to rise to the challenge of providing food 
and helping people feed themselves throughout the world.
  It is a turbulent world stricken with conflict, and sometimes the 
hunger and problem seem so great that it would be easy just to walk 
away and say it is too big of a problem to solve. But certainly we have 
the ability.
  We have the means to feed one person. If we can feed one, why not 
two? And if we can all feed two, why not three?
  We can't simply look at this challenge as being too big to overcome 
and that the world will always have hungry people and then just say: We 
have no responsibility to respond.
  Food aid provided by the U.S. reduces despair and increases 
stability. My point is that it has a moral component. It is the right 
thing to do, but it is also beneficial to our own Nation, providing 
stability around the globe and increasing our own national security.
  The importance of these issues motivated me when I was in the House 
to chair the House Hunger Caucus, and now I cochair the Senate Hunger 
Caucus. I can't remember what year it was, but I had a midlife crisis. 
I have probably had several since then. But my thoughts were at that 
point in time, back in my House days, that at least then I thought of 
myself as a pretty good Member of Congress. I answered the mail. I met 
with constituents. I visited my State on a weekend-by-weekend basis. I 
had input. I did the things that a good Member of Congress is supposed 
to do. I represented my constituents well.
  But we all can do something more than just be a good Member of 
Congress, and that was my conclusion. If there is an issue that we want 
to champion, if there is an issue on which we want to make a 
difference, if there is a moral cause we want to rise to the occasion 
to support, hunger, particularly for Congressman--now a Senator--from 
Kansas, ought to be a place I put my stake in the ground and go to 
work.
  I suppose I have taken a few months off of this issue--and maybe I am 
having another midlife crisis--but it is time for me to reengage and to 
engage effectively as best I can to see that we live up to a moral 
commitment that also benefits our own country.
  So I now cochair the Senate Hunger Caucus. I have since I came to the 
Senate. I serve with a number of my colleagues, including the one who 
is on the floor tonight, the Senator from Illinois. I ask my colleagues 
to join us in the effort to meet the needs of a hungry world, to take 
the step to see that one more person is fed, one more family has less 
insecurity, one more mother or father no longer worries about whether 
their children are going to go to bed hungry.
  Former Kansas Senator Bob Dole has set many standards in the way that 
he led his life, which we should all aspire to meet, not the least of 
which is his unwavering commitment to ending hunger. Those of us in 
this Senate today ought to seek to carry on Senator Dole's legacy. I 
would encourage my colleagues to join me and others as we work to put 
the Senate Hunger Caucus together, to enhance its ability to address 
the issues that we face in the real world to fight hunger.
  I am committed to reengaging these efforts. Along with the other 
caucus cochairs--Senators Boozman, Casey, Durbin, and Brown--I would 
extend an invitation to each of my colleagues to join that caucus so 
that we can take the small step of fighting hunger by becoming more 
knowledgeable, more aware and engaging in the moral and strategic 
battle to end hunger around the globe.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, let me start by commending my colleague 
from Kansas. It is an honor to join him in this Senate Hunger Caucus 
effort. He does it in the tradition of Senator Bob Dole of Kansas. 
Along with George McGovern, they were two of the most unlikely 
political allies. They really dedicated a large part of their public 
lives to fighting hunger.
  I am happy to join him in the memory of Paul Simon, who did the same 
for the State of Illinois. So I am looking forward to joining the 
Senator in this effort. I hope the Senator doesn't have to suffer 
another midlife crisis in the future. Let's continue this in a good 
bipartisan spirit.
  I thank the Senator from Kansas.
  Mr. President, I have come to the floor repeatedly in recent months 
to raise concerns about the Russian cyber act of war against our 
Nation, about Russia's aggression elsewhere against the West, this 
President's disturbing alliance with Russia, and the majority party's 
incredible silence on the Senate floor on these matters.
  Well, I just spent several days visiting our allies in Eastern 
Europe--notably Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine--and return even more 
concerned.
  You see, regardless of the partisan leanings of who is in government 
in these nations, the concern is the same.
  Is the United States, history's champion of democracy and collective 
security in Europe, backing away from these values and commitments just 
as Russia is more aggressively challenging them?
  Is the American President really using phrases like ``enemy of the 
people'' to describe a free press--a term used by Soviet dictator 
Joseph Stalin, that was so ominous that Soviet Premier Nikita 
Khrushchev later demanded the Communist Party halt its use because it 
``eliminated the possibility of any kind of ideological fight''?
  Are the Trump administration's bizarre blinders to Vladimir Putin's 
aggression and true nature--and the silence of too many of my 
Republican colleagues on this danger--a harbinger of some kind of 
Western retreat to the Russians?

[[Page S1438]]

  Well, I met with many of our dedicated diplomatic and military 
personnel in the region who, as part of ramped up reassurance efforts 
by the previous administration, are working to keep Putin in check.
  These included more than 100 U.S. military personnel working with 
their Lithuanian counterparts about an hour outside of the capital in 
Rukla. These U.S. troops and their colleagues rotate out of Poland and 
throughout the Baltics to augment their NATO partners in deterring a 
Russian attack.
  Mr. President, the concerns about Russian aggression are legitimate 
and warrant serious attention. Let's take a look at just recent Russian 
actions in Europe. One day after President Trump spoke to Putin on the 
phone in late January, Russian-backed separatists increased their 
fighting in Ukraine--1eading to the highest death toll in months.
  After Vice President Pence tried to reassure allies at the Munich 
Security Conference the other week, Russia agreed to start accepting 
identification documents issued by the separatists in eastern Ukraine--
one step closer to annexing the illegally seized territory.
  Putin is strong-arming Belarussian President Lukashenko to allow 
Russian troops to remain based in Belarus following an upcoming 
significant military exercise. Russia is putting more and more 
sophisticated weapons into Kaliningrad, which when combined with 
permanent troops in Belarus, will significantly increase security 
threats to the region. Russia just announced a referendum to rename 
land it illegally seized by force in Georgia.
  Putin is trying to stir unrest in Kosovo where NATO is trying to 
maintain stability after the horrific violence of the Balkan war. He 
attempted a coup in Montenegro. And Russia continues its aggressive 
disinformation campaign and cyber attacks throughout Europe, trying to 
manipulate elections and sow instability and lack of trust in 
democratic institutions. One Polish expert summed all this up wisely, 
saying ``if the United States does not respond to the Russian attack on 
its election, Putin will feel he has a free hand to keep taking such 
destabilizing actions in the West.'' I worry that is what is already 
happening.
  So, what is the response to these actions by this White House and the 
majority party--the party of Ronald Reagan who understood the Russians 
so well?
  So far, with the exception of a few important voices, largely 
silence.
  In fact, as I have mentioned here before, since October when the 
first intelligence reports came out about the Russian attack on our 
election, not a single Republican has come to the floor to discuss this 
act of cyber war by a former KGB official on our country.
  And our President, who has attacked hundreds by Twitter for even the 
most benign perceived slight, has refused to say anything negative 
about Putin.
  Obviously, we need to get to the bottom of the Russia attacks on our 
election and if anyone in the Trump campaign had inappropriate contact 
with the Russians. An independent commission led by respected 
individuals such as Sandra Day O'Connor or Colin Powell could lead such 
an effort. And we need to see the President's tax returns to clarify 
what his son said in 2008 regarding Trump's businesses seeing ``a lot 
of money pouring in from Russia.''
  We need to pass the bipartisan Russian sanctions bills pending in the 
Senate Foreign Relations Committee--one that tightens sanctions on 
Russia for its actions here and abroad and one that requires 
congressional approval before any sanctions on Russia are lifted.
  And we need to make sure we include continued support to Ukraine and 
for the European Reassurance Initiative in our next appropriations 
bills.
  Mr. President, I remember as a young Congressman trying to get into 
Lithuania more than 25 years ago when it courageously tried to hold an 
election breaking free from the Soviet Union.
  Those brave Lithuanians had little but their idealism and a few 
rifles to protect themselves from the Soviet tanks.
  But in the end they prevailed, and one by one, Eastern European 
nations freed themselves from Communist tyranny, a struggle Ukraine is 
still fighting against Russia.
  Today one can still visit the KGB museum in the capital of 
Lithuania--a hall of horrors that nobody should ever forget. One 
Lithuanian member of parliament I met, who remembers life not only 
under the Soviets but also under the Nazis, recalled how his mother had 
survived 4 years in a Nazi concentration camp.
  He emotionally said that he had always seen the United States as the 
champion of freedom, democracy, and a Western global order. I could 
tell he was deeply worried about any backsliding on that important role 
and any possibility of returning to the darker days in Europe.
  I don't know exactly what Steve Bannon is whispering in Trump's ear 
regarding his dark world view and indifference to the transatlantic 
Western alliance, but this post World War II partnership has served 
American and global interests. The relationship has brought stability 
to Europe after decades of horrific war. It has brought democracy and 
common markets and served as a check against the Soviet Union and now 
Russia.
  I am glad Vice President Pence made some references to this at the 
Munich Security Conference, but those words will not be enough on their 
own. Quite simply, any sympathies in the White House with Russian 
efforts to undermine the transatlantic relationship are outrageous and 
dangerous, and I will oppose them here in the Senate.
  To reiterate, Mr. President, during the Presidents Day break, I took 
a trip to three capitals, which I consider to be timely and important 
visits: Warsaw, Poland; Vilnius, Lithuania, and Kiev, Ukraine. I have 
been to these cities many times, and I have a particular attachment to 
them. My mother was born in Lithuania, and so returning there, as I 
have for over 35 years, I have seen a sweep of history as that small 
Baltic State has moved from a republic of the Soviet Union to a free 
and independent nation today. I am so proud of the courage of 
Lithuanians that had brought them to this moment.
  Going to Warsaw, Poland, is natural for a Senator from Chicago. We 
have more Polish Americans in that city and in our State than anyplace 
outside of Poland. We are very proud of our Polish heritage. They are 
wonderful people. They are not only hard-working, good Polish 
Americans, but they are also always thinking about their own homeland, 
which was under the control of the Warsaw Pact, a Soviet-inspired 
alliance, for decades, at the expense of their freedom.
  I also visited Kiev, Ukraine. That capital has become well known to 
many of us since the invasion by Vladimir Putin, which is the point I 
would like to make.
  The thing that ties these three countries together, despite their 
differences in history, is the fact that if you ask each of these 
countries today to identify the major external threat to their 
existence and to their freedom, they would identify Vladimir Putin of 
Russia. I found that in Warsaw, again in Vilnius, the capital of 
Lithuania, as well as in Ukraine.
  It was interesting--and Senator Jeanne Shaheen joined me on my trip 
to visit Poland--that as we met with the leaders of that nation, we 
heard repeatedly their concerns about Russian aggression. It was 
something that was critically important to them. They were heartened by 
statements made by Vice President Pence at the Munich conference about 
the future of the NATO alliance, but let's put it in context. The 
reason the Vice President had to travel from Washington to Munich, 
Germany, to say to the Western world that was gathered there that the 
NATO alliance was still strong was because the current President of the 
United States, Donald Trump, had tweeted that NATO was obsolete, and 
one of his followers, Steve Bannon of Breitbart fame, had questioned 
whether we should be engaging in these kinds of alliances.
  Well, I think those alliances are critical. The NATO alliance has 
been one of the most successful in history. So when Vice President 
Pence went to Munich to assure our NATO allies that we were still on 
their side, it was an important message.
  I did find one other thing telling and memorable about that trip to 
Warsaw. One of the Polish leaders said to me: We have read that the 
Russians invaded your election. We are used to this. He called it the 
hybrid war. He

[[Page S1439]]

said: It isn't just aggression by Russians with military aggression, 
which is scary enough, but it is a war of cyber aggression and a war of 
propaganda, and clearly Vladimir Putin believed in your last 
Presidential election that he could use some of those same tactics that 
he uses against Poland and the Baltics in the United States. This 
leader in Poland then challenged me: What are you going to do about 
that? Now that you know that Vladimir Putin has invaded your election, 
now that your intelligence agencies tell you that, will you do 
something? Will you take this seriously? Will you investigate it? He 
said: Our worry in Poland is, if you will not respond to Vladimir 
Putin's invasion into your cyber space, what will you do if he invades 
Poland? Will you stand by us as you promised in article 5? If you don't 
take him seriously when he invades your sovereignty, will you take it 
seriously when he invades ours?
  It is an important question and a right question. I hope we take a 
lesson from it--not to take Vladimir Putin for granted, not to view him 
as a superhero or great leader but to understand that people around the 
world are watching to see how we react to this Russian invasion of our 
election.
  In Lithuania, they face propaganda on a daily basis. German troops 
under the flag of NATO are now in Lithuania making it clear that we are 
committed to the future and security of that nation. What did Vladimir 
Putin and the Russian propagandists do as soon as these German troops 
moved into Lithuania? They created an absolutely false rumor that a 
German soldier had raped a Lithuanian woman. It wasn't true, but it was 
the kind of false information that they have spread in the hopes of 
undermining the confidence of Lithuania and the NATO alliance.
  I met with the President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, and she is 
a very decisive leader. I thought of Margaret Thatcher's style when I 
met with President Grybauskaite. She is an ``Iron Lady'' in her own 
right to protect Lithuania and other Baltic States from Russian 
aggression.
  The last trip we made was to Ukraine, and Congressman Mike Quigley of 
Chicago joined me in that visit. In that visit, we had a chance to meet 
late at night, 9 o'clock at night with the President of Ukraine, Petro 
Poroshenko, who was kindly waiting for us to get off the plane and come 
join him at his Presidential offices. They are struggling even to this 
day. As President Trump is in conversation with President Putin about 
future relationships, sadly, at that very same moment, aggression by 
the Russians in Ukraine was growing. Over 10,000 people have been 
injured or died now because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. There 
is speculation, and I hope it is just that, that some backroom 
negotiations are underway to recognize this Russian aggression in 
Ukraine. I sincerely hope that never happens. We should never condone 
what Vladimir Putin has done to that country of Ukraine. They are 
struggling now to get back on their feet. They are making reforms that 
are unpopular but necessary. They are strengthening their economy and 
at the same time they are fighting a war.
  I left there with two resolves. One was to make sure we provide 
military equipment necessary for Ukraine to be successful to ward off 
this Russian aggression; No. 2, to continue to work with them in terms 
of building their economy and reform; and, No. 3, that we have a 
visible physical presence with those NATO forces in the Baltic States 
and in Poland. We have a great alliance in these countries. In Poland 
the Illinois National Guard has been a longtime ally of the Polish 
forces, and we are very proud of that relationship.
  When it came to Lithuania, we were able to see a group from Fort 
Carson in Colorado. It was a tank command. I never saw prouder soldiers 
in my life--American soldiers anxious to show this Senator the Abrams 
M1 and the fighting vehicles they were using preparing for the 
possibility of defending Lithuania and the Baltics. It was an inspiring 
moment.
  I made my statement part of the record, and I know the Senator from 
South Dakota is seeking the floor, but I left there committed to the 
NATO alliance and committed to the effort to stop the aggression of 
Vladimir Putin, committed as well to come home to the United States and 
say to my colleagues in the Senate and House that we have to take it 
seriously when Vladimir Putin tries to change the outcome of an 
American election. It is a sad day in American history. I believe 
November 8, 2016, is a day that will live in cyber infamy for what 
Vladimir Putin tried to do in the United States. For us to ignore it, 
to sweep it under the table, to hide it behind some committee door, 
when no one knows what is going on inside, is not the appropriate 
answer. We need an independent, transparent investigation of what the 
Russians did, a special prosecutor at the executive level, and an 
independent commission like the 9/11 Commission, headed by notable 
Americans like GEN Colin Powell or Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who 
will bring all the facts to light so we know once and for all the truth 
of what happened and make certain it never happens again.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Ernst). The Senator from South Dakota.


                   Repealing and Replacing ObamaCare

  Mr. THUNE. Madam President, 2 weeks ago, major health insurer Humana 
announced its decision to completely withdraw from ObamaCare exchanges 
for 2018. The company decision was not particularly surprising. Humana 
had already sharply reduced its participation in the exchanges for 
2017, but the decision did confirm yet again that President Obama's 
healthcare law is on its last legs.
  Choices on the exchanges declined sharply for 2017 as insurer after 
insurer cut back on participation. Nearly one-third of U.S. counties 
have just one choice of insurer on their exchange for 2017. Meanwhile 
premiums on the exchanges are soaring. Exchange premiums increased a 
staggering 25 percent on average for 2017. That is a 25-percent premium 
increase for just 1 year. How many working families can afford a 25-
percent increase in their healthcare premiums for 1 year?
  Things are even worse in some States. Seven States saw an average 
premium increase of more than 50 percent for 1 year. It is no surprise 
that many people who have ObamaCare insurance have found they can't 
afford to actually use their plan. Well, Democrats can talk about 
coverage all they want, but coverage doesn't mean much if you can't 
afford to actually take advantage of it.
  It is time to give the American people some relief. Over the next few 
weeks, Congress will continue with the process of repealing and 
replacing ObamaCare. Our priority is replacing ObamaCare with 
personalized, patient-centered healthcare that is affordable for every 
American. ObamaCare was supposed to lower healthcare costs for 
Americans, but it has spectacularly failed to do so. Our reform efforts 
will focus on keeping healthcare affordable, including increasing 
competition, expanding innovation, and increasing flexibility.
  ObamaCare has defaulted to a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes 
to healthcare. That means that many Americans have found themselves 
paying for healthcare that they don't need or want.
  We need much more flexibility in insurance plans. A thriving 
healthcare system would offer a wide variety of choices that would 
allow Americans to pick a plan that is tailored to their needs. We also 
need to give Americans the tools to better manage their healthcare and 
to control costs. Along with keeping healthcare affordable, we are 
going to focus on restoring decisionmaking power to the American 
people.
  ObamaCare has put Washington bureaucrats in charge of healthcare 
decisions that should be made by individuals in consultation with their 
doctor. We are going to move control away from Washington and give it 
back to individuals. We are also going to ensure that States have the 
power to innovate and embrace healthcare solutions that work for 
individuals and employers in their States.
  Our healthcare system wasn't perfect before ObamaCare--nobody is 
denying that--but ObamaCare has just made things worse. The American 
people are ready for healthcare reform that actually works, and that is 
exactly what Republicans are going to give them.


                       Nomination of Neil Gorsuch

  Madam President, in addition to healthcare reform, another Republican

[[Page S1440]]

priority for this spring is confirming Judge Neil Gorsuch to the 
Supreme Court. The Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on his 
confirmation beginning March 20, and I am hopeful Judge Gorsuch will be 
confirmed not too long thereafter. President Trump made an outstanding 
choice when he chose Judge Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.
  Judge Gorsuch has a distinguished resume. He graduated with honors 
from Harvard Law School and received a doctorate from Oxford University 
where he was a Marshall Scholar. He clerked for two Supreme Court 
Justices, Byron White and Anthony Kennedy, and he worked in both 
private practice and at the Justice Department before being nominated 
to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he served with distinction 
for the last 10 years.
  He is widely regarded as a brilliant and thoughtful jurist and a 
gifted writer whose opinions are known for their clarity. Above all, 
however, he is known for his impartiality, for his commitment to 
following the law wherever it leads, whether he likes the results or 
not. ``A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad 
judge,'' Judge Gorsuch has said more than once. Why? Because a judge 
who likes every outcome he reaches is likely making decisions based on 
something other than the law, and that is a problem. The job of a judge 
is to interpret the law, not write it, to call the balls and strikes, 
not to rewrite the rules of the game.
  Everyone's rights are put in jeopardy when judges step outside their 
role and start changing the law to suit their personal opinions. Judge 
Gorsuch's nomination has been met with acclaim from conservatives, and 
it has also been met with acclaim from liberals. I think one of the 
biggest reasons for that is because both groups know Judge Gorsuch can 
be relied on to judge impartially.
  Here is what Neal Katyal, an Acting Solicitor General, had to say 
about Judge Gorsuch: ``His years on the bench reveal a commitment to 
judicial independence--a record that should give the American people 
confidence that he will not compromise principle to favor the president 
who appointed him.''
  The Colorado Springs Gazette recently highlighted a letter signed by 
96 prominent Colorado lawyers and judges and sent to the senior Senator 
from Colorado. Here is what those individuals had to say about Judge 
Gorsuch in that letter:

       We hold a diverse set of political views as Republicans, 
     Democrats, and Independents.
       Many of us have been critical of actions taken by President 
     Trump. Nonetheless, we all agree that Judge Gorsuch is 
     exceptionally well-qualified to join the Supreme Court. We 
     know Judge Gorsuch to be a person of utmost character. He is 
     fair, decent, and honest, both as a judge and a person. His 
     record shows that he believes strongly in the independence of 
     the judiciary.

  Well, that is a pretty significant tribute. Again, those weren't just 
conservatives speaking.
  Given Judge Gorsuch's character, his sterling record, and deep 
commitment to impartiality and the rule of law, it is no surprise that 
his nomination has won support from liberals and conservatives alike or 
that the American people are liking what they see when it comes to 
Judge Gorsuch.
  Well-known Democratic pollster Mark Penn recently noted that Judge 
Gorsuch is ``off to an excellent start in his nomination 
process.'' Unfortunately, there are still far-left extremists who would 
like to see Democrats in the Senate attempt to block Judge Gorsuch's 
confirmation, but I am hopeful that my colleagues will ignore these 
voices for obstruction and, instead, listen to the many voices--liberal 
and conservative--that are highlighting just why Judge Gorsuch would be 
an outstanding addition to the Supreme Court.

  I recently met with Judge Gorsuch, and I could not have been more 
impressed. I look forward to hearing from him again at his confirmation 
hearings, and I hope the Senate will act to confirm him shortly 
thereafter. He is the kind of judge all of us should want on the 
Nation's highest Court.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Madam President, I rise to echo the concerns expressed 
by my colleague from Florida, Bill Nelson, about the White House's 
refusal to provide written testimony relevant to Mr. Ross's nomination 
prior to the vote this evening.
  Mr. Ross was a key economic adviser to the Trump campaign, and he has 
had business ties with the Bank of Cyprus, a bank with significant 
Russian investors. I understand that the Commerce, Science, and 
Transportation Committee, of which my friend from Florida is the 
ranking member, sent a letter to Mr. Ross to get more information about 
those ties. That is a perfectly reasonable request, especially given 
the circumstances. This information is particularly relevant to the 
Senate since, in recent days, questions about connections between the 
Trump administration and Russia have proliferated.
  While Mr. Ross told my friend from Florida that there is nothing to 
worry about, the White House is sitting on Mr. Ross's written response 
to Senator Nelson's letter. So the Senate will not get written answers 
to these important questions before voting on this nomination.
  This is just another example of this administration's abandoning 
transparency and trying to jam nominees through without making all of 
the relevant information public and available. They have not enjoyed a 
good few weeks with these nominees. They have gotten them through but 
with a lot of pain and a lot of public disconcert, and here we have 
another example.
  We are getting to the end of the Cabinet nominees--a nominee with 
ties to Russia. There is a document that states what they are. As is so 
typical of this administration, which stonewalls and despises 
transparency, they do not let the letter be freed and be made available 
until after the vote on a sensitive issue and one that is important to 
national security--Russia and this administration's relationship to it. 
This is another black mark on this Nation's administration.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. THUNE. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. THUNE. Madam President, I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  Under the previous order, all postcloture time has expired.
  The question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the Ross 
nomination?
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk called the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. The following Senator is necessarily absent: the Senator 
from Georgia (Mr. Isakson).
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Daines). Are there any other Senators in 
the Chamber desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 72, nays 27, as follows:

                       [Rollcall Vote No. 73 Ex.]

                                YEAS--72

     Alexander
     Barrasso
     Bennet
     Blunt
     Boozman
     Brown
     Burr
     Capito
     Carper
     Casey
     Cassidy
     Cochran
     Collins
     Coons
     Corker
     Cornyn
     Cortez Masto
     Cotton
     Crapo
     Cruz
     Daines
     Donnelly
     Duckworth
     Enzi
     Ernst
     Feinstein
     Fischer
     Flake
     Gardner
     Graham
     Grassley
     Hassan
     Hatch
     Heitkamp
     Heller
     Hoeven
     Inhofe
     Johnson
     Kaine
     Kennedy
     King
     Klobuchar
     Lankford
     Lee
     McCain
     McCaskill
     McConnell
     Moran
     Murkowski
     Nelson
     Paul
     Perdue
     Peters
     Portman
     Risch
     Roberts
     Rounds
     Rubio
     Sasse
     Schatz
     Scott
     Shaheen
     Shelby
     Strange
     Sullivan
     Tester
     Thune
     Tillis
     Toomey
     Warner
     Wicker
     Young

[[Page S1441]]


  


                                NAYS--27

     Baldwin
     Blumenthal
     Booker
     Cantwell
     Cardin
     Durbin
     Franken
     Gillibrand
     Harris
     Heinrich
     Hirono
     Leahy
     Manchin
     Markey
     Menendez
     Merkley
     Murphy
     Murray
     Reed
     Sanders
     Schumer
     Stabenow
     Udall
     Van Hollen
     Warren
     Whitehouse
     Wyden

                             NOT VOTING--1

       
     Isakson
       
  The nomination was confirmed.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Colleagues, let me just say, this next vote will be 
the last vote of the evening.
  Mr. President, I move to reconsider the vote on the nomination, and I 
move to table the motion to reconsider.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on agreeing to the motion to 
table.
  The motion was agreed to.

                          ____________________