EXECUTIVE SESSION
(Senate - April 27, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 72 (Thursday, April 27, 2017)]
[Pages S2566-S2600]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                           EXECUTIVE SESSION

                                 ______
                                 

                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the Acosta 
nomination, which the clerk will report.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of R. 
Alexander Acosta, of Florida, to be Secretary of Labor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Iowa.
  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I think I have 15 minutes to speak. When 
I get to about 13 minutes, would you raise your thumb or something and 
tell me, please.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Chair certainly will.
  Mr. GRASSLEY. Thank you.


          Defense Department's Office of the Inspector General

  Mr. President, I come to the floor today to spotlight a potential 
failure of leadership at the Defense Department's Office of Inspector 
General in that a large number of hotline cases have been set aside, 
neglected, and possibly forgotten.
  The hotline plays a very critical role in the inspector general's 
core mission of rooting out fraud, waste, and abuse. The hotline is the 
command and control link between whistleblowers on the one hand and 
investigators on the other hand. To succeed, hotline tips need quick 
and decisive action, but speed is not one of the chief assets of this 
unit. Without a quick response, the full value of whistleblower 
information is lessened.
  Last year, at my request, I was given a 12-page spreadsheet dated 
November 8, 2016. It listed 406 hotline cases that had been open for 
more than 2 years or over 730 days. Frankly, I was stunned by what I 
saw on this spreadsheet. I counted 240 cases--over half of the total--
that had been open for more than 1,000 days. Many had been open for 
more than 1,300 days. Some were right at a 4-year marker; that is 1,460 
days. The oldest is now pushing close to 1,600 days. Even--if you can 
believe it--5-year-old cases are not unheard of. So we can see why 
working quickly on these investigations--taking tips from 
whistleblowers and pursuing them on waste, fraud, and abuse--is very 
important, and we shouldn't have this time wasted.

  When cases remain open for years, they become stale. Inattention 
breeds neglect. Work grinds to a halt. Cases slowly fade from memory. 
This is unacceptable, and my colleagues ought to consider it 
unacceptable, and the Secretary of Defense ought to consider it 
unacceptable. The hotline, then, with this waiting period, loses its 
full value.
  The deputy inspector general for administrative investigations, Mrs. 
Marguerite C. Garrison, is in charge of the hotline, so she is 
accountable for the backlog. The backlog shows a lack of commitment to 
the hotline creed and the plight of whistleblowers. Here is why: 
Hotline posters are displayed throughout the Department of Defense. 
They are a bugle call for whistleblowers. They encourage whistleblowers 
to step forward, and they do that at considerable risk. In return, 
then, these patriotic people ought to deserve a quick and honest 
response.
  Allowing their reports to slide into a deep, dark hole, in limbo for 
2, 3, or 4 years--and even more, as I have pointed out--leaves 
whistleblowers exposed, leaves them vulnerable to retaliation, and of 
course distrusting of the system that is designed to protect the 
whistleblowers. So, in the end, this kind of treatment will discourage 
others from stepping forward in the future.
  Hotline officials, including Mrs. Garrison, were questioned about the 
backlog on December 15, 2016. They attempted to deflect responsibility 
elsewhere and showed little interest in the problem. After numerous 
followup inquiries, a second meeting was requested.
  So at a March 30 meeting this year, Hotline officials were singing a 
whole different song. They tried to dispel the notion that a surge in 
cases closures were triggered by my inquiry. To the contrary, they 
said, it was part of routine, ongoing ``cleanup of the hotline mess'' 
that began way back in March of 2013. They reported that 107,000 cases 
were swept up, including the so-called bad dog cases from 2002.
  This explanation may be fiction.
  Mrs. Garrison should know that the 406 cases date back to 2012 and 
2013. After sitting on the hotline docket for up to 4-plus years, these 
cases are anything but routine. They are tough nuts to crack, of 
course, and very difficult to resolve--sort of like the bad dogs way 
back in 2002.
  What they needed was clear direction from the top. They needed to be 
handed off to a tiger team, but that didn't happen. Priorities became 
an afterthought, and the hotline mess got more nourishment.
  Then, finally, the ``routine, ongoing'' cleanup reached the 406 most 
egregious cases--the worst of the worst. The ones that bring me to the 
floor today.
  Since January, I received five updated spreadsheets trumpeting the 
closure of 200 of these so-called bad dogs--done with due diligence, I 
hope. Though late and incomplete, the surge shows what is possible when 
management starts doing what we expect management to do; in other 
words, managing. The backlog can be controlled and eliminated.
  Why did it take top managers so long to see the light and get on the 
stick doing their job? Maybe they just didn't care--at least not until 
the Senator from Iowa started asking questions. Then and only then did 
they indicate what had been characterized as ``aggressive management 
oversight.''
  Well, praise the Lord. Those words--``aggressive management 
oversight''--warm my heart, but the deputy IGs need to exercise 
aggressive oversight at all times, not just when a Senator steps in and 
not just when embarrassing revelations get some daylight. Good managers 
don't need a Senator looking over their shoulders to know what needs to 
be done. That is no way to run a railroad, as we say. The managers 
responsible for the hotline mess need more supervision.

[[Page S2567]]

  One of Mrs. Garrison's other directorates--the whistleblower reprisal 
investigations, or what we call the WRI unit--is always crying out for 
help. It is facing its own hotline-style tsunami. It has a staff of 56 
personnel, but only 28 of those 56--or about 50 percent--are actually 
assigned to investigative teams. They complete 50 to 60 reports per 
year. With some 120 cases under investigation at any one time, a large 
number inevitably get rolled forward from year to year. The backlog 
could easily double or triple over the next few years.
  In November, 38 cases were beyond acceptable limits. As of March 28, 
the oldest one was 1,394 days old. While many of these cases were 
recently closed, new ones keep popping up on the list. Despite very 
substantial increases in money and personnel since 2013, the deputy IG 
still seems overwhelmed by the volume of work.

  While beefing up the whistleblower reprisal investigations may be 
necessary, Mr. Fine and his deputies need to do more with what they 
have. With an annual budget of $320 million and a 1,500-person 
workforce, efficiencies can be found.
  Some units are said to be top-heavy and ripe for belt-tightening. The 
investigative processes are notoriously cumbersome and could be 
streamlined.
  The audit office, with 520 workers, turns out mostly second-rate 
reports. It needs strong leadership and it needs redirection. The Obama 
administration never seemed to take these problems very seriously. I 
hope this new administration coming in to drain the swamp will do 
better.
  Weak leadership gave us the hotline backlog. Weak leadership is 
giving us the continuing mismatch between the workforce and the 
workload. Both are messy extensions of a much more harmful leadership 
problem--a festering sore that is eating away at integrity and 
independence.
  This is what I am hearing:
  Top managers have allegedly been tampering with investigative reports 
and then retaliating against supervisory investigators who call them to 
account. This is sparking allegations that a culture of corruption is 
thriving in the Office of the Inspector General. I gave my colleagues a 
glimpse of this problem in a speech on April 6 of last year. I used the 
fifth and final report of Admiral Losey's investigation to illuminate 
this problem.
  That report was allegedly doctored by senior managers. Investigators 
were allegedly ordered to change facts and remove evidence of suspected 
retaliation.
  Can my colleagues believe this?
  Mrs. Garrison even sent a letter that cleared the admiral long before 
investigators had even completed the review of the evidence. This was a 
very serious error in judgment, giving the appearance of impropriety.
  Was this then a coverup to facilitate the admiral's pending 
promotion?
  Thankfully, Acting Inspector General Fine intervened. He showed real 
courage. After taking a firsthand look, he backed up the investigators, 
overturning some--but not all--unsupported charges. He helped to bring 
evidence and findings back into sync. I thank Inspector General Fine 
from the bottom of my heart.
  But Mr. Fine still has more work to do.
  The alleged doctoring of the Losey report, I am told, is not an 
isolated case. There are at least five others just like it--and 
probably more--that all need oversight.
  As I understand it, the Office of Special Counsel is contemplating a 
review of these matters and could rule in favor of whistleblower 
reprisal investigations. They blew the whistle on all of the alleged 
tampering going on--and do my colleagues know what these patriotic 
people got for it? They got hammered for it. They got hammered for 
protecting Federal workers.
  If top managers are tampering with reports and retaliating against 
their own people who report it, then how can they be trusted to run the 
agency's premier whistleblower oversight unit?
  All of the pertinent issues need to be resolved, and they demand 
high-level attention. So I call on the new Secretary of Defense and the 
acting inspector general to work together to address these problems.
  No. 1, the hotline needs to be brought up to acceptable standards 
under stronger management; No. 2, all potential solutions to the 
workload-workforce mismatch need to be explored, including internal 
realignments; No. 3, an independent review of all cases where alleged 
tampering occurred should be conducted, to include an examination of 
the Garrison letter clearing an admiral in the midst of an 
investigation. If tampering and retaliation did in fact occur, then the 
culprits should be fired.
  I look forward to receiving a full report.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority whip.


                        U.S. Military Readiness

  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, our military and our intelligence 
community grapple with intersecting issues that aren't wholly unique to 
this day and age. Our national security has always been imperiled by 
foreign threats, from the Revolutionary War to two World Wars, and we 
previously faced a seemingly unsurmountable debt burden following World 
War II.
  The challenge seems to be, as it always is in a democracy, that 
people of different views differ on the sense of urgency on priorities 
and the means to address both those threats and our financial house in 
order to be able to pay for what it takes to keep America safe. What is 
unique is the range and complexity of the problems we face and their 
scale.

  I am reminded of a sobering quote from the former Director of 
National Intelligence during a hearing just last year, former Director 
James Clapper, who served 50 years in the U.S. intelligence community. 
He said: ``In my time in the intelligence business, I don't recall a 
time when we have been confronted with a more diverse array of 
threats.'' I agree with him.
  On top of that diverse array of threats, never before has our country 
been at war for such an extended period of time since 9/11, and never 
before have we done so much with an all-volunteer military force 
stressed by repeated deployments, while at the same time defense 
spending has been cut by nearly 15 percent over the last 8 years.
  So the United States is at a crossroads when it comes to meeting the 
diverse threats we face today, while simultaneously preparing for the 
ever-evolving future threats headed our way tomorrow.
  I wish to first provide a little bit of context about our lack of 
readiness to meet those threats by framing the challenges our military 
and our Nation faces, and then I wish to offer some thoughts about how 
we can rise to meet these challenges and maintain our military 
preeminence and leadership in the world.
  First, there are the challenges abroad. We face a range of 
adversaries unlike any other in our history. In the Middle East, even 
as ISIS forces are pushed back in Iraq, their ideology spreads like a 
contagion through their so-called cyber caliphate, and it continues to 
permeate the West and attract the vulnerable and the disillusioned. FBI 
Director Comey has said that his agency has open investigations into 
home-grown jihadists in all 50 States.
  Iran, under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is a breakout 
nuclear threat and remains the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism in the 
world. At the same time, it is rapidly growing its ballistic missile 
arsenal and has regained much of its financial strength following 
sanctions relief under the JCPOA.
  Then there is Syria. Since the Syrian civil war began, 400,000 have 
died in a bloody civil war, while Bashar al-Assad, a brutal dictator 
known to repeatedly use chemical weapons on his own people despite 
redlines drawn, enjoys Russian and Iranian support and protection.
  In addition to its meddling in the Middle East, Russia has invaded 
eastern Ukraine and annexed Crimea. It routinely threatens NATO member 
states and has ramped up its use of ``active measures''--a program of 
both overt and covert action that leverages propaganda, cyber 
espionage, social media, and a sometimes gullible mainstream media both 
here and abroad--to influence and undermine public confidence in the 
very foundation of our democracies, which are our free and fair 
elections.
  In the Pacific, China seeks to advance its regional dominance by 
making claims to former sandbars and reefs

[[Page S2568]]

that it has now built into strategic military bases--complete with a 
10,000 foot runway--in the South China Sea.
  Finally, as we learned more about yesterday at the White House in the 
briefing from the President's national security advisers, North Korea 
continues to develop and test its nuclear and ballistic missile 
capabilities with the threat of soon being able to combine the two to 
threaten the continental United States and wreak death and destruction.
  Many before me have observed that American strength on the world 
stage is a deterrent and a stabilizing influence, while weakness is an 
invitation to our adversaries and inherently destabilizing. I think 
that proposition has never been more evident than it is today.
  But to address these threats--to maintain the peace and fight, if we 
must--we need a capable, ready, and modern military force. But the 
truth is we are not ready. While I believe America will always rise to 
the challenges once roused from our national complacency, it makes a 
dangerous world even more dangerous.
  U.S. military readiness and modernization--already under great stress 
and stretched thin around the world--has suffered 15 years of continued 
operations and simultaneous budgetary restrictions and deferred 
maintenance and investment. That has led to some very real consequences 
for our military. Let me just illustrate a few of those consequences.
  According to General Walters, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine 
Corps, more than half of all Marine Corps fixed- and rotary-wing 
aircraft were unable to fly at the end of 2016. Let me say that again. 
That is a shocking statistic. More than half of the Marine Corps' 
fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft were unable to fly by the end of 2016. 
These aircraft are in constant operation overseas and are absolutely 
necessary to continue the fight against ISIS and terrorism, yet half of 
them are unable to take off.
  The Navy fleet currently stands at 275 of the 350 ship requirement. 
Law mandates an inventory of 11 aircraft carriers and has a stated 
force level goal of 12. But today, the Navy requires a waiver in order 
to operate just 10, currently. As we all know, these carrier strike 
groups deploy worldwide, and, as the Navy likes to say, they act as 
``100,000 tons of diplomacy that doesn't need a permission slip.''
  Of our 58 Army brigade and combat teams, only three are considered 
fully ready for combat. These are the main building blocks of the Army 
that support the majority of Army operations, and only three are fully 
ready. Keep in mind, too, that our Army is smaller than at any time 
since before World War II, as a result of draconian cuts in defense 
spending.
  Finally, when it comes to our Air Force, General Wilson, the Air 
Force Vice Chief of Staff, recently testified: ``Sustained global 
commitments and funding reductions have eroded our Air Force to the 
point where we have become one of the smallest, oldest equipped, and 
least ready forces across the full-spectrum of operations in our 
service history.'' The Air Force currently has 5,500 aircraft in its 
inventory. That is down from 8,600 since 1991. The average aircraft in 
the U.S. Air Force is 27 years old. For example, I was at Dyess Air 
Force Base in Abilene, TX, just last week, viewing some of their B-1 
bombers, which is a plane first flown in 1974.
  Then, of course, there is the grandpa of our aircraft fleet, the B-
52--that is still in operation--first introduced in the 1950s.
  The Air Force is also experiencing a pilot shortage crisis due to the 
pressure on the force, including quality of life issues and, of course, 
increased demand and competition from the airline industry.
  So our military faces these internal issues as well. No one would 
argue that in order to keep the peace and to protect our national vital 
interests, we must have a credible and modern force. But the hard truth 
is that we don't currently meet that standard, and we can't afford to 
ignore the problems.
  So why, I ask, do we continue to do so? More importantly, the 
question is this: Where do we go from here? How can we assure that our 
military can maintain its competitive edge and ensure it is ready to 
meet these and future challenges? I have a few suggestions.
  First, we must fund our military to meet the threat environment, not 
do what we can to meet the threat environment with what we funded for 
the military. In other words, the threat should determine the resources 
necessary to meet that threat. So I would suggest we should start by 
eliminating sequestration of Department of Defense funding under the 
2011 Budget Control Act. The truth is that the Budget Control Act was 
never meant to cut military spending. It was meant to spur action. 
Remember the supercommittee and the hoped-for grand bargain? Instead, 
the BCA took a meat ax to our defense budget. Allowing the Budget 
Control Act to keep making automatic cuts to our military until 2021 
does not serve the national security interests of the United States. It 
does the opposite. These cuts add risk not just to our national 
security but also to our servicemembers and their families--who, as I 
said, have been fighting the longest war in our Nation's history--and 
it does so by undermining their training, readiness, and modernization.
  At a time when our growing national security threats require greater 
investment in technology, we are tying the hands of our military and 
simply hoping for the best. So if we want to return to a strong 
American military after years of stress and inadequate funding, we need 
to start with ending the Department of Defense sequestration.
  Of course, the next logical question becomes this: If we do away with 
the defense portions of the Budget Control Act, how do we control 
overspending, deficits, and unsustainable national debt, which is a 
serious problem?
  That brings me to my second point. A bipartisan Congress and the 
Trump administration must address our budget priorities by looking at 
and addressing all government spending, not just the 30 percent or so 
represented by discretionary spending. Right now, about 70 percent of 
Federal spending isn't even appropriated by the Congress. It simply 
runs on autopilot, and it grew last year at the rate of 5.5 percent, 
while discretionary spending has remained relatively flat. Until we 
have the political courage on a bipartisan basis to tackle our 
structural financial problems, we will never adequately fund the 
military or our other national priorities.
  We also need a bipartisan commitment to ending continuing resolutions 
and the self-destructive drama and narrative of potential government 
shutdowns.
  Most importantly, perhaps, the Defense Department needs to be able to 
plan, not just for the duration of the next continuing resolution, but 
it needs to be able to plan long term and to spend the money that is 
appropriated to it in an efficient way.
  The Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Goldfein, captured the 
point well 2 months ago, when he said: ``There is no enemy on the 
planet that can do more to damage the United States Air Force than us 
not getting a budget.'' This sentiment is shared by all the service 
chiefs, and I wholeheartedly agree.
  In a Department as big, as large, and as unwieldy as the Department 
of Defense, there is no doubt that there is room to streamline, improve 
efficiencies, and reduce duplication. We can all agree on that. But the 
truth is we need to take a hard, strategic look at our budgetary and 
fiscal needs across the Federal Government. Endless continuing 
resolutions aren't the answer. Continuing resolutions actually limit an 
agency's ability to be efficient and flexible, and they prevent the 
establishment of new programs and the retiring of the old and obsolete 
programs.
  At the end of the day, the only way we can rein in spending, get a 
handle on our debt, and ensure our military stays ready for the threats 
facing it every day is to clearly articulate our country's needs and 
how we plan to meet them. That way, we can restore constitutional 
oversight responsibilities to Congress.
  Finally, Congress has a tremendous opportunity, working with the 
Trump administration, to propose a strategy to modernize our military 
and prepare for the next generation of warfighting. Both readiness and 
modernization have been encumbered by the lack of a coherent national 
security and foreign

[[Page S2569]]

policy strategy in recent years, in addition to the blanket 
restrictions placed on defense spending.
  Too frequently, modernization has simply been pushed aside by myopic 
views of how to deal with our financial challenges, which place greater 
risk on the warfighter and our collective security. You had better 
believe that, not hamstrung by redtape and regulations or continuing 
resolutions or deep cuts in defense spending or national security 
spending, our enemies take full advantage of our reluctance to deal 
with our challenges on a bipartisan basis. All the while, the United 
States operates on platforms engineered decades ago to fight the last 
generation's wars.
  I can't think of a better example than our nuclear weapons program. 
This is the preeminent deterrent to war. Our country is the leading 
pioneer in science and technology, but instead of modernizing our 
nuclear weapons to provide a safe, reliable, and dependable deterrent, 
we, in effect, merely extend the service life of outdated and ancient 
weapons.

  Clearly, we need a coherent national security strategy from President 
Trump and his Cabinet to do that. I know Congress is committed to 
working with them to make that happen.
  By doing away with the Budget Control Act, putting the Pentagon on a 
dependable and predictable budget and developing a coherent national 
security strategy, we can maintain our status as the top military in 
the world. Along the way, we can deter our enemies and reassure our 
allies. We don't need to rewrite the playbook. We need to go back to 
the basics of government, providing for our national defense and 
keeping our fiscal house in order, all in light of the challenges and 
threats these times present.
  My hope is that we will get out of the rut we have been in the Senate 
and in the Congress for the last few years and we will actually 
capitalize on this moment--and rally around a bipartisan commitment 
that a strong, modern, and ready military is really a nonnegotiable 
item--to lay the foundation for a modern military that will continue to 
keep our Nation safe for generations. I am committed to working with 
the administration and all of my colleagues in order to accomplish 
these goals.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.


                   Recognition of the Minority Leader

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Democratic leader is recognized.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I enjoyed hearing my friend and gym 
colleague talking about defense. I agree with him; we need a strong 
defense. I agree with him that deficits are an enemy of getting the 
defense spending that we need. I hope when we consider tax cuts, we 
will hear that same view that we can't go deeply into deficit. I 
appreciate my colleague's great comments.


                        Government Funding Bill

  Mr. President, I wish to talk first about some good news: the 
appropriations process--our negotiations to keep the government open. 
The President has backed off his threat to hold government funding 
hostage over the wall and over cutting healthcare funding for millions 
of Americans. This healthcare funding is essential to ensuring that 
millions of Americans will not see their premiums skyrocket and that 
they will not be kicked off their plans. Make no mistake, we will watch 
the administration like a hawk to make sure they follow through on 
their promise to continue this funding.
  We are very happy that they have seen the light that Democrats have 
tried to show them for weeks. Threatening to hurt Americans for 
political gain is a loser.
  Much like the administration's withdrawal of their demand for wall 
funding, which Democrats laid out a month ago as a condition for 
successful bipartisan negotiations on the appropriations bill, this 
decision brings us closer to a bipartisan agreement to fund the 
government and is good news for the American people.
  The tendency of this administration has been to go at it alone. What 
these negotiations show is that when the Trump administration takes 
into account the Democratic position and is willing to move in our 
direction, they can make progress on issues as we have on the 
appropriations bills.
  On those appropriations bills, of course, there are a few remaining 
issues to be settled. The most vexing are poison pill riders. We will 
not accept them, but I believe we are close to final agreement. Our 
side will continue to work in good faith to see that an agreement is 
reached to keep the government open by tomorrow's deadline.
  I hope that this is something of a metaphor for the future, that the 
administration will not put together its plan and say that 
bipartisanship means you support our plan without any Democratic 
consultation, input, and, more importantly, taking into account our 
values, which we believe are close to where American values are--much 
closer than some on the other side.


                        The President's Tax Plan

  Mr. President, yesterday the President released--and this is not as 
good news, unfortunately--a one-page outline of his plan to change the 
U.S. Tax Code. Even from the very limited details that were released, 
the President's priorities are clear: Give massive tax breaks to folks 
like himself--the very, very wealthy in America.
  The top rate would come down; taxes that disproportionately affect 
the very wealthy would go away, while middle-class and working families 
would be denied some of the most useful deductions. This isn't simply 
the Trump plan to lower taxes. It is the plan to lower the taxes of 
Trump and those with enormous wealth, similar to his.
  The prime beneficiaries of the Trump plan would be his Cabinet. 
Secretary Mnuchin, one of the architects of the plan, could not 
guarantee this morning that the middle class will not pay more under 
the Trump tax plan. If, on one sheet of paper, you can guarantee that 
corporations pay less and you can guarantee that the wealthiest 
Americans pay less but you can't guarantee that hard-working, middle-
class Americans pay less, you don't have a good recipe for changing our 
Tax Code. And, for the good of America, you are to go back to the 
drawing board.
  This proposal falls short, far short of the mark in several ways: 
First and foremost, it mostly benefits the very wealthy. In the Trump 
tax plan, corporations and the very wealthy get a huge tax break 
through lower rates and the elimination of things like the estate tax. 
In fact, the proposal the President put out yesterday is actually even 
more of a giveaway on the estate tax than his proposal in his campaign. 
In the campaign, President Trump promised to repeal the estate tax for 
estates up to $10 million, retaining it for the wealthiest of estates. 
This proposal would eliminate the tax completely, particularly on those 
multimillion- and even billion-dollar estates. The result would be that 
the 5,200 wealthiest families in America would each receive, on 
average, a $3 million windfall, and many would receive much, much more 
than that.
  Also, because the Trump plan lowers the tax rate on the so-called 
passthrough entities to 15 percent, wealthy businessmen, like President 
Trump, will be able to use passthrough entities to pay 15 percent in 
taxes while everyone else pays in the twenties and thirties. This has 
implications for something we don't need--the carried interest 
loophole. President Trump promised to get rid of this in his campaign. 
Instead of using the carried interest loophole under the President's 
bill, Wall Street funds could file their taxes at a new passthrough 
rate of 15 percent, which is even lower than the present tax on carried 
interest.
  Ironically, the President's tax plan would indeed get rid of the 
carried interest loophole only by making it lower than the present rate 
and making it permanent--a total, total reversal of what he pledged in 
his campaign.
  It all goes to show that those who stand to benefit most from this 
proposal are folks like the President and those at his level of wealth, 
while tens of millions of American middle-class, working families are 
hurt and could very well pay more.
  This brings me to my second point, which is that the Trump plan hurts 
middle-class and working Americans by eliminating their most popular 
and useful deductions. Take the elimination of the State and local tax 
deduction, for instance, which is used by so many middle-class families 
in my home State of New York. As it was cited in the Syracuse Post 
Standard: ``The loss of the deduction will cost New Yorkers an average 
of $4,500 per year for those who file itemized returns, totaling about 
$68 billion per

[[Page S2570]]

year that State residents will no longer be allowed to deduct from 
Federal returns.''
  I saw in Newsday this morning that a number of our Long Island 
Republican colleagues said they couldn't be for this. We hope they will 
stand up to anything that gets rid of State and local deductibility 
because, let me repeat, that is $4,500 a year that New Yorkers would no 
longer be able to deduct on average--massive tax cuts for the very 
wealthy, crumbs at best for everyone else.
  Third, the Republican plan is steeped in hypocrisy. Even without 
filling in the details, Trump's plan is already impossible to pay for. 
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that Trump's 
tax cuts will cost about $5.5 trillion over 10 years, as much as $7 
trillion. That is a huge amount of money in our economy.
  CRFB projects that ``no plausible amount of economic growth would be 
able to pay for the tax plan.'' The Republican plan would explode the 
deficit.
  For the last 8 years, all we heard from our Republican colleagues was 
that Obama was raising the deficit and we needed to cut programs that 
benefit the poor and the middle class; cut the entitlements, Social 
Security, Medicare because of the deficit. All of a sudden, now with a 
Republican President and a proposed tax cut for the wealthy, we are 
hearing from the other side of the aisle that deficits don't matter.
  Our Republican colleagues certainly believe the admonition that 
``consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.''
  Fourth, the Trump tax plan would explode the deficit and, thus, 
endanger Social Security and Medicare, which may well be the nefarious, 
ultimate goal of the hard right.
  Sadly, I know it can happen. I have seen it before with the Bush tax 
cuts. President Bush pushed a big tax break for the wealthy. It blew a 
hole in the deficit and racked up debt, and then he and his Republican 
colleagues tried to pursue deep cuts to the social safety net to 
balance the ledger.
  If Trump's tax plan were to pass, you can be sure, America, that a 
few years down the line--maybe even not that long--the deficit will be 
so large that our Republican colleagues will throw up their hands and 
say: We have no choice but to come after Social Security and Medicare 
and other important programs for the middle class as a way to address 
the deficit they created by showering tax breaks on the very rich.
  They will resume the cry they had in the Obama years: Cut the 
deficit--which seems to apply to the programs that help the middle 
class but never to the ones that benefit the wealthy.
  Just from the bare-bones skeleton the administration outlined 
yesterday, we can already surmise that this plan is not much more than 
a thinly veiled ruse to give away trillions to the wealthiest among us, 
starve the government of resources, balloon the deficit, and then cut 
Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare to make up the difference.
  This plan will roundly be rejected by taxpayers of all stripes. The 
American people are once again learning that what President Trump 
promised to working America in his campaign and what he is doing are 
totally at odds.


                               TrumpCare

  Mr. President, on TrumpCare, very briefly--on the new version of 
TrumpCare that may soon be headed for a vote in the House, let's not 
forget the reason that Americans were against the first version of 
TrumpCare. They are still in the second version. This version is worse, 
and there has been a lot of focus on a few of the changes.
  The fundamental nastiness of the TrumpCare proposal--raising the 
rates on people 50 to 65, 24 million people uncovered, difficulty in 
covering preexisting conditions--is still in this bill. In fact, it is 
even worse. The new TrumpCare will allow States to decide whether 
insurers have to cover Americans with preexisting conditions. It is 
hard to come up with a crueler bill than one that would have resulted 
in 24 million fewer Americans with healthcare coverage, but this new 
TrumpCare manages to do it. It would hurt even more Americans and bring 
us back to the days when an insurance company could deny you coverage 
exactly when you needed it most.
  I say to the more moderate Republicans in the House: If you didn't 
like the first version, you surely shouldn't like this version. 
Frankly, you will pay a huge consequence in the 2018 elections if you 
vote for it. We hope you don't vote for it because we know how many 
people it would hurt. Even if it passed the House, the chances for 
survival in the Senate are small. We don't even know if the new version 
would survive under the rules of reconciliation, the amendment to allow 
States to drop preexisting conditions. The fulcrum of the new changes 
very possibly violates the Byrd rule and would be kicked down here and 
need 60 votes, which they won't get for such a nasty provision.

  A warning to all those voting for it in the House: It may well be a 
chimera, all to save face for the President in his first hundred days.


                 The President's First One Hundred Days

  Finally, Mr. President, we are only a few days from President Trump's 
100th day in office, and by all accounts, this has been a vastly 
different Presidency than was promised during his campaign. So far this 
week, we Democrats have highlighted how this President has broken or 
not fulfilled promise after promise to the working men and women of 
America.
  Today, I would like to focus on a particularly stunning reversal this 
President made in the first 100 days on one of the central pillars of 
his campaign: his promise to drain the swamp. President Trump repeated 
this phrase at every campaign rally. In many ways, it summed up his 
``outsider'' campaign. Make no mistake about it--the President ran as a 
populist outsider, not as a traditional, hard-right, conservative 
Republican. He challenged the establishments of both parties and 
pitched himself as a change agent, someone who could shake up the 
status quo. ``Drain the swamp'' was his tag line.
  We Democrats disagree with this President on many things, but we 
agree with him that the very wealthy, powerful special interests have 
far too much power in Washington. Large corporations that have the 
resources to make unlimited, undisclosed campaign contributions, that 
have resources to hire lobbyists on issue after issue, hold far too 
much power in this Nation's Capital, and that structure has created a 
system where the wealthy and powerful are advantaged in DC, while 
average, hard-working Americans have a much smaller voice.
  Draining the swamp would be a good thing, but unfortunately, despite 
the many times he pledged radically to change the power structure in 
Washington in the first 100 days, the President has abandoned the 
mission. He filled his government with billionaires and bankers laden 
with conflicts of interests. He has broken with the practice of the 
Obama administration by ending the publishing of visitor logs to the 
White House, so the press and the American people don't know who has 
the ear of the President and his top people. He has even granted 
waivers to lobbyists to come work at the White House on the very same 
issues they were just lobbying on, and he has kept those waivers 
secret.
  A President who truly wanted to drain the swamp wouldn't have taken a 
single one of those actions. What are the American people going to 
think? He campaigned on this and totally reversed himself within the 
first 100 days. What are they going to think of him? It is no wonder 
his popularity ratings are low and sinking.
  President Trump ran as a populist, but at the 100-day mark, he hasn't 
even tried to change the power structure in Washington and has in many 
ways rigged the government even more to benefit corporate special 
interests. This is one of the biggest broken promises he made to the 
working men and women of America. That is how we Democrats sum up the 
first 100 days--broken and unfulfilled promises to the working people 
of America. And when it comes to draining the swamp, he has not done 
it.
  One final point. The events yesterday have further proven our point. 
The President promised one thing in his campaign and is now doing 
another. On his new healthcare proposal, he has shown his hand: Promise 
something for the working people but deliver legislation that only 
helps the very wealthy. On his new tax plan, which still benefits the 
rich: Promise the working people; deliver for the wealthy. The 
President has made our point better than we

[[Page S2571]]

could this week. After these two bills, his promises to working people 
are in tatters.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.
  Mr. MURPHY. Mr. President, I thank the leader for his remarks, 
especially with respect to the new addition of the healthcare bill. It 
is a disaster for Americans. It is immoral. It doesn't work. It doesn't 
address any of the problems that remain in the underlying healthcare 
system. Hopefully the Senate can rise above it and work together to do 
something better for the American people.


                              Gun Violence

  Mr. President, I rise today because tomorrow President Trump is going 
to become the first President in about 30 years to address the National 
Rifle Association. He will address the NRA tomorrow, and I thought it 
would be appropriate to come down to the floor to talk a little bit 
about the epidemic of gun violence in the context of this speech.
  A lot of us were thrown off by the tone of the President's inaugural 
address. It was very different from a lot of inaugurals we have heard--
not uplifting, really. There was much more of a dark, dystopian picture 
of America, one that was frankly unfamiliar to a lot of us. Maybe the 
most memorable line from the President's inaugural address was that 
after describing this dystopia that he believed most persons lived in, 
he said: ``This American carnage stops right here and it stops right 
now.''
  I wanted to come down to the floor today to talk about that idea of 
American carnage, what it really is. I mean, this is American carnage. 
It is 31,000 Americans, mostly young men and women, who die every year 
from gunshot wounds--2,600 a month, 86 a day. That is an enormous 
number. There is no other country in the first world, in the 
industrialized world, that has numbers like this. They happen for a 
variety of reasons. Two-thirds of those are suicides. That is an 
epidemic in and of itself. A lot of them are homicides. A number are 
accidental shootings. But America has this problem uniquely. There is 
no other industrialized competitor where this happens. That is the face 
of American carnage.
  President Trump is going to address the National Rifle Association 
tomorrow--an organization that is, frankly, dedicated to continuing 
this real carnage that is happening in America. You can't explain these 
numbers through mental illness. There is just as much mental illness in 
all of our economic competitors around the world. You can't explain 
this through exposure to violent content on TV or movies or video 
games. There are plenty other countries that have rates that are much 
lower than this and the kids see that same content. You can't explain 
this away by law enforcement. We spend an awful lot of money putting 
cops on the streets. What we have in this country that is different 
from any other nation is loose and lax gun laws that allow for 
criminals and people with serious mental illness to get their hands on 
weapons that are more powerful than those that are available in other 
nations. That was the case in Sandy Hook, too--enormous destruction in 
a short amount of time.
  I want to talk a little bit today about two things--first, about the 
real scope of this carnage, and second, about the real story of gun 
owners.
  The President is going to go talk to the NRA--a group that is 
increasingly wildly out of step with gun owners not just in my State 
but across the country.
  First, I want to talk about this idea of carnage in America--the 
central focus of the President's inaugural address. I commend to my 
colleagues an article that appeared earlier this week--maybe late last 
week--called ``What Bullets Do to Bodies.''
  We don't like to talk about that a lot because today the popular 
image of a gun is almost divorced from its actual function. People 
collect them. People buy them in order to convey a certain image or 
lifestyle. People certainly have weapons to protect themselves, but 
very few Americans actually understand what these guns are designed to 
do. They are designed to kill people. They are designed to gravely hurt 
people. In particular, the AR-15 and AR-15 variants are dedicated to 
killing people as fast and as gruesomely as possible.
  This article, ``What Bullets Do to Bodies,'' follows a trauma surgeon 
in Philadelphia. I want to read a few paragraphs from this article. It 
says:

       The main thing that people get wrong when they imagine 
     being shot is that they think the bullet itself is the 
     problem. The lump of metal lodged in the body. The action-
     movie hero is shot in the stomach; he limps to a safe house; 
     he takes off his shirt, removes the bullet with a tweezer, 
     and now he is better. This is not trauma surgery. Trauma 
     surgery is about fixing the damage the bullet causes as it 
     rips through muscle and vessel and organ and bone.
       The bullet can stay in the body just fine. But the bleeding 
     has to be contained, even if the patient is awake and 
     screaming because a tube has just been pushed into his chest 
     cavity through a deep incision without the aid of general 
     anesthesia (no time; the patient gets an injection of 
     lidocaine). And if the heart has stopped, it must be 
     restarted before the brain dies from a lack of oxygen.
       It is not a gentle process. Some of the surgeon's tools 
     look like things you'd buy at Home Depot. In especially 
     serious cases, 70 times just at Temple last year, the 
     surgeons will crack a chest right there in the trauma area. 
     The technical name is a thoracotomy. A patient comes in 
     unconscious, maybe in cardiac arrest, and Goldberg has to get 
     into the cavity to see what is going on. With a scalpel, she 
     makes an incision below the nipple and cuts 6 to 10 inches 
     down the torso, through the skin, through the layer of fatty 
     tissue, through the muscles. Into the opening she inserts a 
     rib-spreader, a large metal instrument with a hand crank. It 
     pulls open the ribs and locks them into place so the surgeons 
     can reach the inner organs. Every so often, she may have to 
     break the patient's sternum--a bilateral thoracotomy. This is 
     done with a tool called a Lebsche knife. It's a metal rod 
     with a sharp blade on the end that hooks under the 
     breastbone.

  The surgeon in this case is Dr. Goldberg.

       Goldberg takes out a silver hammer. It looks like--a 
     hammer. She hits the top of a Lebsche knife with the hammer 
     until it cuts through the sternum. ``You never forget that 
     sound,'' one of the Temple nurses told me. ``It's like a 
     tink, tink, tink. And it sounds like metal, but you know it's 
     bone. You know like when you see on television, when people 
     are working on the railroad, hammering the ties?''

  ``It's just the worst,'' one nurse told the writer of this story. 
``They're breaking bone. And everybody--every body--has its own kind of 
quality. And sometimes there's a big guy you'll hear, and it's the 
echo--the sound that comes out of the room. There's some times when it 
doesn't affect me, and there are some times when it makes my knees 
shake, when I know what's going on in there.''
  The article goes on to talk about what happens to those who survive.

       The price of survival is often lasting disability. Some 
     patients, often young guys, wind up carrying around colostomy 
     bags the rest of their lives.

  They go to the bathroom through a stoma, a hole in their abdomen.

       ``They're so angry,'' Goldberg said. ``They should be 
     angry.'' Some are paralyzed by bullets that sever the spinal 
     column. Some lose limbs entirely.

  AR-15s are designed by the military in order to kill people even more 
quickly so that you don't ever have the chance of going to an emergency 
room. That is what happened at Sandy Hook. What is remarkable is that 
not a single one of those kids ever made it to a trauma surgeon. All of 
those kids died on the spot--20 of them.
  You sort of have to think about bullets like running fingers through 
the water: When you run your fingers through the water, it causes 
ripples, it causes disruptions in the water around them. Well, a bullet 
coming out of an AR-15 rifle moves three times faster than a bullet 
coming out of a handgun. So just look what happens when you run your 
hand through water. You run it through at this speed versus running it 
through at that speed. The ripples and the disruptions get bigger, 
right? And they spread further. That is what happens when the bullet 
from an AR-15 enters the body of anyone, but it certainly does 
something different when it enters the body of a 6-year-old. One trauma 
surgeon said that when it hits bone, it likely will just turn it to 
dust. If a bullet from an AR-15 hits the liver, well, this surgeon says 
that ``the liver looks like a Jell-o mold has been dropped on the 
floor.''
  I know some people think AR-15s are fun. They are fun to show off to 
your friends. They are neat to fire. But that is carnage. A little 
kid's bones turning to dust in the middle of a first grade classroom is 
not sport; that is American carnage. Do you know what? A lot

[[Page S2572]]

of gun owners get this. A lot of gun owners understand that this has 
gotten out of hand.
  There was a poll that was conducted just about 2 weeks ago of gun 
owners across the country. Eighty percent of them support requiring a 
background check before you buy a gun. That is pretty similar to the 
number you would find when you ask gun owners and nongun owners, but 
the gun owners in my State were frankly just as shocked and horrified 
at what happened in that classroom at Sandy Hook as my nongun owners 
were.
  Gun owners in this country increasingly are not represented by the 
National Rifle Association, the group Donald Trump is going to go talk 
to this week, because the National Rifle Association, which claims to 
be speaking for gun owners, opposes background checks. They don't want 
a single additional gun sale to go through a background check. They are 
just fine with the fact that almost half of all guns sales in this 
country occur without a background check, meaning criminals and people 
with serious mental illness can get a gun so easily in this country 
that they don't even have to make much of an effort.
  Eighty-six percent of gun owners in this poll support prohibiting 
anyone who is convicted of stalking or domestic abuse from buying a 
gun. The NRA opposes that. Eighty-five percent of gun owners support 
prohibiting those who are on the Federal terror watch list or no fly 
list from buying a gun. The NRA opposes that.
  Eighty-eight percent of gun owners believe you should have a permit 
to carry a concealed handgun in a public place. The NRA opposes that. 
So it is no secret that 67 percent of gun owners feel the NRA used to 
be an organization dedicated to gun safety, but it has been overtaken 
by lobbyists. Fifty percent of gun owners feel the NRA does not 
represent their interests.
  When President Trump goes to talk to the NRA tomorrow, I hope he 
understands they are not advocating for the views of gun owners in my 
State, they are not advocating for the gun owners in most all of your 
States. They are a radical political organization. They have to start 
answering for why they don't square with the views of gun owners.
  Finally, here is a story of American carnage. Keon Huff, Jr., was 15 
years old when he was shot on March 17 of this year in Hartford, CT. 
Here is what Keon said to one of his mentors in the North End of 
Hartford. He said: ``I'm either going to go on to college and play 
basketball or I'm going to die on the streets.''
  Can you imagine there are kids who think that in this country? Can 
you imagine there are kids in this country who think their choices are 
to go play basketball in college or die on the streets of Connecticut? 
Most Americans cannot imagine a little kid saying that, but Keon 
thought that. He was right--because he was a great basketball player. 
He lived at the North End YMCA. He devoted all of his energy to 
basketball. He wanted to be the next Michael Jordan. If you told him 
otherwise, he just did not want to hear it. He was committed to playing 
basketball in college, but it was the other one that got him. He died 
in the hallway of his apartment complex when he was shot in the head on 
Friday, March 17. He died on the streets of Hartford. He did not end up 
going to college to play basketball. He is just one of 2,600 a month 
who die from guns, 31,000 a year, 86 a day.
  A lot of gun owners in this country get that. They understand the 
flow of illegal weapons into our streets. They understand there are 
some weapons out there that are way too powerful that do those terrible 
things to bodies when the bullet enters.
  When Donald Trump talks to the NRA, I hope he takes them on and asks 
why they refuse to stand up for policies that will end this American 
carnage that the President talked about in his speech and why they will 
not start actually representing the views of American gun owners.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sullivan). The Senator from Wyoming.


                             Foreign Policy

  Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, people around the country know the world 
continues to be a very dangerous place. It became more dangerous over 
the past 8 years. I believe that is particularly related to what I saw 
as unwise and unsound policies by the Obama administration, certainly 
when it comes to foreign policy.
  Every President's foreign policy should secure America's national 
interests and demonstrate America's leadership around the world. That 
was not the case under President Obama. The last President and his team 
followed a policy, what has been called strategic patience--strategic 
patience--when dealing with hostile countries all around the world: 
Iran, North Korea.
  Any time there was a belligerent, aggressive, cunning dictator on the 
move, President Obama's position was strategic patience. It was a 
terrible approach--a terrible approach for us in dealing with reckless 
regimes.
  I always thought President Obama was completely focused on signing a 
nuclear deal with Iran, not because it actually was a great deal but 
maybe because it might reflect well on his legacy. I thought he wanted 
a deal so badly that he ended up getting a deal that was a bad deal. 
Well, as part of the deal, the former President accepted Iranian 
demands--and he accepted all of them--to lift an arms embargo that the 
United Nations had put into place.
  This was an embargo that said that Iran was not supposed to be 
selling weapons to other countries. The embargo was going to disappear 
in 5 years, whether Iran complied with it or not. We already know Iran 
has no intention of playing by the rules. They haven't played by the 
rules all the way through. Last week, the Secretary of Defense, James 
Mattis, said Iran has already been violating the embargo. That is why I 
believe they have no intention of playing by the rules.
  The Secretary of Defense tells us they are not playing by the rules 
now. He said we have seen Iranian-supplied missiles--our Secretary of 
Defense said: We have seen Iranian-supplied missiles being fired into 
Saudi Arabia by the rebels in Yemen. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson 
was even more clear. He said last week that Iran is ``the world's 
leading state sponsor of terrorism.''
  He said that Iran is ``responsible for intensifying multiple 
conflicts''--``intensifying the conflicts and undermining U.S. 
interests in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon.'' Now, 
this is a direct result of President Obama spending 8 years being 
strategically patient. It is the result of sending the signal that Iran 
would be rewarded for its bad behavior.
  So let's look at what happened last year when the Obama 
administration was bragging about the nuclear deal--and they were high-
fiving, bragging about the deal.
  Just when the deal went into effect, President Obama arranged to send 
to Iran $1.7 billion in cash--$1.7 billion is an astonishingly large 
amount of money. It is a million and a million and a million--it is 
1,700 piles of $1 million. Remember--try to visualize this. You may 
remember the news reports about pallets of cash stacked up going to 
Iran. President Obama sent $400 million as a downpayment.
  Within 24 hours, the Iranians agreed to release a group of Americans 
whom they had been holding hostage. The Obama White House said it was 
not a ransom payment to free the hostages. The Obama administration 
actually thought the American people were naive enough to believe it 
was just a coincidence in timing. Well, you can bet the Iranians did 
not believe it was a coincidence because they actually said it was not 
a coincidence.
  The Iranians described the money as for the release of the hostages. 
We know from experience that the Iranians see hostage-taking as a valid 
way of conducting their own foreign policy. Right now, North Korea also 
has taken hostages--three American hostages written about today in the 
papers.
  We know from experience the Iranians see hostage-taking as a valid 
way to conduct foreign policy, and they have also gotten the message, 
at least from the previous administration, that it can be a very 
profitable policy as well. President Obama played right into their 
hands. There is something else President Obama did that we just learned 
about, and that is why I wanted to speak about this today.
  Politico had a major expose on Monday of this week. The headline was: 
``Obama's hidden Iran deal giveaway''--

[[Page S2573]]

the ``hidden deal giveaway.'' Around the same time President Obama was 
sending cash to Iran, he also released seven Iranians who had been 
arrested by the United States. The President downplayed the crimes 
these individuals had committed. He said it was a ``one-time gesture'' 
to help grease the skids for his Iran deal.
  Now, according to the documents obtained by Politico, the Obama 
administration also dropped charges and international arrest warrants 
against 14 other individuals. Some of them were wanted for serious 
threats to our own American national security. One man was charged with 
trying to buy thousands of assault weapons--thousands of assault 
weapons--and send them to Iran.
  Another was charged with conspiring to get from Iran thousands of 
pieces of equipment with nuclear applications. The scheme included 
hundreds of U.S.-made sensors for uranium enrichment centrifuges in 
Iran. Centrifuges were a big reason we were concerned about Iran's 
nuclear program in the first place. Yet, according to President Obama, 
this doesn't seem to be a problem.
  According to the article that came out Monday, ``As far back as the 
fall of 2014, Obama administration officials began slow-walking some 
significant investigations and prosecutions of Iranian procurement 
networks operating right here within the United States.''
  As one expert told Politico, ``This is a scandal.'' She said: ``It's 
stunning and hard to understand why we would do this.'' Republicans in 
Congress warned about this kind of thing from the very beginning. 
President Obama was so interested in getting a deal that he got one 
that in my opinion, has been very bad for the United States--not just 
for the United States, bad for the world because Iran with a nuclear 
weapon makes the world less safe, less secure, and less stable.
  President Obama has this as part of his legacy, but I will tell you 
strategic patience has failed. Secretary of State Tillerson said so 
last week, and I agree with him completely. I am glad to hear our top 
diplomat recognized this, and I am glad to see the Trump administration 
doing a comprehensive review of the Iran nuclear agreement.
  The last President put international opinion first when it came to 
foreign policy. We see this all around the world. This President, 
President Trump, is showing that we will put America's interests first. 
It is not just Iran where we have the problem. I was recently in Asia 
over the break, along with a group of Senators. We went to Tokyo, we 
went to Beijing to meet with the leaders in China. We went around that 
region. We met with the Premier of China, who is the No. 2 person in 
China, and we met with the No. 3 and the No. 4 to talk specifically 
about the problems of North Korea and the region.
  For a long time, North Korea has been called the land of lousy 
options, but there is new urgency as we see the increasing capacity of 
North Korea now with their rockets not just propelled with liquid fuel 
but now with solid fuel that allows for quicker launches. The launch 
vehicles are no longer on wheels limited to the roads in North Korea, 
they are now on tracks and they can go anywhere.
  North Korea has increased their nuclear capacity as well as their 
missile deliverability, and they are working on intercontinental 
ballistic missiles that can hit the United States. That is why we were 
at the White House yesterday for this secure briefing. That is why it 
is so critical that we focus on North Korea and we have a President who 
is focused on a peaceful resolution but is not afraid to use force, as 
we have seen in Syria and in Afghanistan, because if you want to use 
deterrence, you have to have a capacity--which we have had in the 
United States, which is incredible--through the Presidents over the 
years. You have to have a commitment to use that capacity, and we have 
seen from President Trump a commitment to use that capacity in Syria, 
in Afghanistan. You have to communicate a willingness to use that 
capacity, as President Trump is doing today.

  Last week, Vice President Pence traveled to the demilitarized zone 
between South Korea and North Korea. He said very clearly that when it 
comes to North Korea's nuclear weapons program, ``the era of strategic 
patience is over.''
  North Korea has been allowed to get away with too much for too long. 
It continues to test nuclear weapons. It continues to test missiles. It 
continues to use hostages as a way of getting what it wants from other 
countries.
  Over the weekend, we learned that North Korea arrested an American 
professor who was in that country. North Korea, like Iran, has a 
history of taking hostages and using them as leverage to get what it 
wants. We now know three Americans are being held in North Korea.
  The leadership of countries like Iran and North Korea need to 
understand that this kind of action will not succeed.
  No one wants a fight with Iran. No one wants a fight with North 
Korea. The way to avoid the fight is to show that there is a limit to 
the patience of civilized countries of the world, which is why the age 
of strategic patience is now in the past.
  There is new leadership with negotiation, deterrence, and, as a final 
option, the use of force, if necessary, which has not been the case in 
the last 8 years, where the use of force, the message sent by that 
administration was: We have no commitment to use the capacity which the 
United States has.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Delaware.
  Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, there is probably nobody in the Senate I 
admire more than the Senator from Wyoming, except maybe his colleague, 
Mike Enzi, who is also from Wyoming.
  I come to the floor not to talk about these issues but to talk about 
others. I feel compelled to respond to some of what he said.
  There's no need for Senator Barrasso to remain. So don't feel as 
though you have to, but thank you just the same.
  Mr. President, a little background: As the Presiding Officer knows, 
having spent some time in the military--'06, the Marine Corps; the Navy 
salutes the Marine Corps. I am a retired Navy captain, three tours in 
Southeast Asia in the Vietnam war. I served as a P-3 aircraft mission 
commander right at the end of the Cold War. The month I stepped down as 
a Navy captain, I led a congressional delegation back into Vietnam. Six 
of us--Democrats, Republicans--went at the behest of former President 
George Herbert Walker Bush's administration to find out what happened 
to thousands of MIAs to see if we could get information about them and 
to provide that information to their families for closure. That was the 
beginning of an effort in the House, mirrored by the one over here led 
by John McCain and John Kerry, to move us toward normalized relations 
to see if the Vietnamese would cooperate with us in providing 
information that we wanted and the families wanted and deserve.
  In fact, a year ago, I learned, along with President Obama, that we 
are there to kind of close the circle on our relationship with Vietnam, 
which has changed a lot over the last 30 years. Interestingly enough, 
we are Vietnam's best trading partner, and they are a very good trading 
partner to us.
  When we were there, they announced they were going to buy something 
like $10, $12, $14 billion worth of our aircraft--not fighter aircraft, 
not military aircraft, but civilian aircraft from, I believe, Boeing.
  I learned about some polling data. They had taken two polls, two 
surveys of the Vietnamese people early last year, and the question 
asked of Vietnamese people was: How do you feel about other countries, 
the people from other countries? How do you feel about the Chinese, the 
Russians, Filipinos, Malaysians, Indians, Pakistanis, Americans, and 
others? How do you feel about them? In one survey, 85 percent of the 
Vietnamese people said they had favorable opinions toward America and 
Americans--85 percent, the highest of any other nation surveyed. 
Another survey said: No, no, 95 percent of Vietnamese have favorable 
opinions of the United States, which is higher than their opinions of 
any other nation.
  The reason I mention Vietnam--they were a bitter enemy of this 
country. The names of 55,000 men and women with whom I served in 
Southeast Asia are on a wall just down 2 miles from here, down by the 
Lincoln Memorial. While we were bitter enemies, we resolved those 
differences in the 1990s.

[[Page S2574]]

We are now close trading partners. We don't agree with them on every 
single thing, but they like us a lot. We have much more of a 
relationship than we have ever had in the past, and it is a much better 
economic relationship than we have ever had in the past.
  The reason I mention Vietnam is that there are some corollaries here 
with Iran. In 1978, that was when some will recall--the pages are too 
young to remember this. But in 1978, Iranians, led by their religious 
leader, captured, took control of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. They held 
our folks for a year or two as part of their cultural revolution or 
religious revolution.
  When they did that, do you know what we did? We seized a lot of their 
assets in this country, in other countries as best we could. And that 
was not just a couple of dollars, not just a couple million dollars; it 
was hundreds of millions of dollars, and, man, maybe even more. Maybe 
it was even billions of dollars.
  We held those assets, and we kept the Iranians from reclaiming those 
assets for, gosh, over 30 years--maybe close to 40 years. They have 
litigated in court. They say that they feel they should have access to 
what is theirs, what was theirs.
  We are told by lawyers--I am not a lawyer--but we are told by some 
pretty smart lawyers on our side and others that they had a very good 
chance of getting all that and more in court if we didn't settle.
  What we did, at the end of the day, when the Iranians agreed to the 
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement, which was reached with 
not just the United States but with the Germans, the French, the Brits, 
the Chinese, and the Russians--the idea was to make sure that Iran 
didn't have a quick path, a fast track to continuing their development 
of nuclear weapons. They were clearly wanting to do it, and we wanted 
them not to do that.
  So we ended up negotiating this agreement. Part of the agreement was 
to settle these claims from almost 40 years ago, financial claims, 
valuable assets that we basically seized and refused to return.
  It turns out, we have to mention how highly the Vietnamese people 
think of us today. As it turns out, Vietnam is a very young country, 
very young. So is Iran.
  Iran has about 80 million people. In Iran, the majority of the people 
are under the age of 25. They like this country a lot, but they have 
people over there who are more in line with the old regime, who don't 
like us. The Revolutionary Guard, some of the military leadership--they 
don't like us.
  They have newly elected leadership from 4 years ago, President 
Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif, and others who, frankly, want to be 
able to work with us, if they can. They are willing to agree to what I 
think is a very harsh agreement to ensure that they don't move forward 
on developing weapons and developing nuclear weapons. If they do, then 
we are going to impose these really stringent sanctions on them, shut 
down their economy--double-digit rates of inflation, economy in the 
tank. Finally, they said: OK, uncle. We will agree to this agreement.
  Since then, the Iranians have done what the Vietnamese did a year 
ago; they have a more abundant civilian air fleet. Their civilian 
aircraft are old, decrepit, and they need new ones. They are doing what 
the Vietnamese have already done: buying a lot of American-made 
aircraft, passenger aircraft by Boeing. We are not talking about just a 
couple billion dollars' worth but certainly more than $10 billion 
worth.
  I think they have already taken orders on one and have made one of 
the very first ones, and there is more to come. I think they are also 
going to buy a bunch of airbuses. I think more than half of the 
airbuses have components made in America, and that is another boost to 
our economy.
  I don't remember who said it, but a Chinese military leader once 
said: The greatest victory of all is the one that we win without firing 
a shot. That is what he said: The greatest victory of all is the one we 
win without firing a shot.
  Well, for a Navy guy who has seen some time in a combat area and the 
Presiding Officer, who knows a little bit about this stuff as well--I 
think he probably agrees with me that if you can win one without 
shooting anybody or getting anybody killed, I think that is worth 
doing.
  The other thing I would say is, that doesn't mean we just trust Iran 
that they are going to do what they said they are going to do in the 
deal. There is an agency--I think it is called the International Atomic 
Energy Agency. They are all over them in terms of monitoring the deal 
and making sure that what the Iranians agreed to do, they actually do. 
What is it, trust but verify? That is really what the Iranian deal is 
all about: trust but verify. We will see how it all works out.
  Color me hopeful. A lot of times when we vote on stuff, we vote our 
hopes as opposed to our fears. Sometimes we vote our fears, as opposed 
to our hopes. On the Iran deal, I voted my hopes. We will see how it 
goes, and I am hopeful.


                              Border Wall

  Mr. President, that is not why I came to the floor. There is a lot of 
talk about a wall. I heard a song by Pink Floyd the other day: ``All in 
all it was just a brick in the wall.''
  The President wants us to build a wall on our southern border with 
Mexico. It is about 2,000 miles between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf 
Coast. I have been down there any number of times as the chairman of 
the Homeland Security Committee and still as the senior Democrat on the 
Homeland Security Committee. The ranking member is Claire McCaskill of 
Missouri.
  I have not been on every square mile of the border with Mexico, but I 
can tell you that there are some places on the border where a wall 
makes some sense, and there are frankly a lot of places where it 
doesn't, including where you have hundreds of miles of river where it 
doesn't make any sense.
  Also, I have heard from folks from Yuma down there, where the Border 
Patrol told me--where they had an area where they had some wall. I 
think the wall was maybe 15 feet high, and they kept finding like 18-, 
19-foot ladders on the other side of the wall, where people would come 
up with a ladder to the wall and go over and above the wall. So you can 
go over a wall. You can even go over a high wall with a ladder that is 
high enough. A lot of that has been done.
  You can go under a wall, tunnel under. A lot of people tried to get 
out of Mexico into the United States by tunneling under the wall.
  As it turns out, walls in some places make sense. Fences in some 
places make sense. Boats in some places, like on the river that happens 
to be our border, the Rio Grande border with Mexico--boats make sense. 
Sometimes fast boats, really fast boats make sense. Sometimes it makes 
sense to build a ramp so you can get boats into the water in different 
places. Sometimes it makes sense to build a road on our side of the 
border to give us mobility. Sometimes it makes sense to put 
surveillance equipment in drones. Sometimes it makes sense to put 
surveillance equipment in helicopters. Sometimes it makes sense to put 
surveillance equipment in fixed-wing aircraft and also not just 
binoculars to try to find people.
  There is something called VADER. It is an acronym for Vehicle and 
Dismount Exploitation Radar, to find people. It is very highly 
sophisticated surveillance equipment to go on our drones, go on our 
helicopters, and go on our fixed-wing aircraft.
  What is so special about this? It can see at night. It allows us to 
see dozens of miles into Mexico at night--through fog, through rain. We 
have a system and if we need to, rather than just send out aircraft or 
drones or whatever without that kind of surveillance equipment, let's 
put the surveillance equipment on it. That makes far more sense than 
building a 2,000-mile wall.
  Other things that make sense are surveillance towers. We have to go 
100 feet up in the air, 200, 300 feet. Some of them are mobile. Some of 
them are stationary. We have motion detectors. In some places, that 
makes a lot of sense.
  There is no shortage of ideas that make sense. What I like to do to 
try to figure out what to do is I ask people like the Border Patrol: 
What do you think makes sense? And what they pretty much say is an 
``all of the above'' approach.
  We have an ``all of the above'' approach in energy. If we are smart 
about securing our border with Mexico, I think we have gotten smarter 
as we

[[Page S2575]]

have gone on. We certainly have a lot more people down there than we 
had before that. We have 20,000 people, our men and women in the Border 
Patrol. They work hard and do a good job.
  It is an ``all of the above'' approach. So I wanted to get that off 
my chest.
  Does it make sense to spend $25 billion to build a wall that we may 
need less than 100 miles? Probably not. Absolutely not.
  The people who are coming across our border with Mexico are not 
Mexicans. They used to be. There are more Mexicans going back into 
Mexico from the United States than are coming into the United States 
from Mexico. The places where a lot of illegal immigration is coming 
from are three countries: Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. 
Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
  Here is why they come. It is because they live lives of desperation. 
They live lives without economic hope, economic opportunity, murder, 
mayhem, some of the highest murder rates in the world. I think El 
Salvador--I don't know if we have the numbers here. They have a number 
of different routes they take from the three countries of Honduras, 
Guatemala, and El Salvador, mostly coming into the United States right 
here. They don't so much go over to El Paso. They certainly don't head 
over here on land to get in on the western side of our border. Some try 
to come by air, but mostly they come by--it used to be by train, now 
mostly it is by land, and they are dangerous missions. The reason they 
come is because there is not much hope there.

  Frankly, the reason there is not much hope there, in part, is because 
of us. There used to be a comic strip called ``Pogo.'' The Presiding 
Officer remembers ``Pogo.'' One of the lines from ``Pogo'' is, ``I 
found the enemy, and it is me.''
  We are the enemy. The chairman of the Homeland Security Committee 
said many times, the root cause of what is going on down there is our 
addiction to drugs in this country. The drugs are trafficked through 
here, they come into the United States, are sold, and the money from 
the drugs goes back there along with guns. When we deport the bad guys, 
what do we do? We take the bad guys who were selling the drugs, and we 
put them right back down here. It is a toxic mix of guns, weapons, and 
bad guys. They make life down here miserable for people.
  As it turns out, Colombia, a few years ago, was a miserable place to 
live too. One time, about 20 years ago, a bunch of gunmen in Colombia 
rounded up the supreme court justices of the Colombian supreme court, 
took them into a room and shot them to death--shot them to death.
  There was a time when the FARC, the rebel groups, the leftist groups, 
and the drug gangs were trying to take down the Government of Colombia, 
and it looked like they could. And some great people in Colombia stood 
up and said: Not on my watch. This is not going to happen on my watch. 
They came up with Plan Colombia in order to make sure this didn't 
happen. President Clinton and a guy named Joe Biden, who was chairman 
of the Foreign Relations Committee, led an effort to--not for us to 
fully fund Plan Colombia, but they basically said: This is on you. You 
can do it like at Home Depot. You can do it. We can help. They did the 
heavy lifting. They did most of the raising of revenues, and we played 
our role. We continued to play our role for 20 years and Colombia is a 
different place today.
  The same thing can happen to these three countries down here. Joe 
Biden was playing a significant role as Vice President. I was helpful, 
as was Jeh Johnson, former Secretary of Homeland Security, and others 
as well. These folks, along with these three countries, came up with 
something they called the Alliance for Prosperity. It is really like 
Plan Colombia--find out what works, do more of that. Plan Colombia 
worked, and they are trying an approach like this down here. The idea 
is to restore the rule of law, to focus on infrastructure, to focus on 
making good government work and be effective, to really tamp down on 
the corruption they have there, the obstruction that goes on with small 
businesses. The idea is to create a safer, better place. Most people 
don't want to leave here. I talked to plenty of them. They want to stay 
there. Some of them want to come up here and work but then go home. 
This is their country, and they love their country, like we love ours.
  Finally, as we have been joined on the floor by one of my colleagues, 
I ask him to allow me just maybe another minute or two.


                                 NAFTA

  Mr. President, there has been talk about NAFTA. There has been talk--
and I don't know if these are alternative facts coming out of the White 
House or what--that the President is going to pull out of NAFTA.
  I would just state this. I met with Robert Lighthizer, who is going 
to be our Trade Rep--and I understand that he will be a good one. He 
will succeed Michael Froman, who was an excellent Trade Rep for a 
number of years. When I met with Mr. Lighthizer in my office a couple 
of months ago, he talked about renegotiating NAFTA. When we negotiated 
the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 other countries around the 
world--40 percent of the world's markets--we did that over the last 
couple of years, we were renegotiating NAFTA. We fixed a lot of things 
in NAFTA that needed to be fixed, not just in the Mexico part of NAFTA 
but also Canada.
  One of the things that needed to be fixed was in our top market--we 
raise a lot of chickens in Georgia, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and 
other places. Our top market for poultry is Mexico. Canada doesn't buy 
our chickens. They keep us out. The Trans-Pacific Partnership 
renegotiated NAFTA, not just for poultry but for a variety of other 
commodities we want to sell.
  So my friendly advice to the President is, before he goes ahead and 
pulls out of NAFTA, why doesn't he and the administration take a closer 
look at what we renegotiated in the Trans-Pacific Partnership when we 
renegotiated NAFTA. I think we will find a lot of what we need to do, 
want to do, and what we can agree to do.


                               Healthcare

  Mr. President, I want to talk about healthcare reform. The 
Republicans came up with a really good idea in 1993. It was introduced 
by John Chafee, the Senator from Rhode Island, and cosponsored by 23 
Senators. It was an alternative plan to HillaryCare in 1993. The 
Republicans got the ideas from the Heritage Foundation, and they turned 
out to be good ideas.
  One provision they included was that every State would have an 
exchange. If people couldn't get healthcare, they could buy their 
healthcare coverage as a part of a large purchasing pool called an 
exchange. The Republican idea from Chafee and others not only had 
exchanges but had sliding-scale tax credits for buying down the 
healthcare for lower income folks to buy down the cost of coverage for 
lower income people. When their income reached a certain level, the tax 
credit went away. That was in 1993, the alternative plan to 
HillaryCare, with the individual mandate. Basically, many folks had to 
be covered, and there would be a fine if they didn't get coverage. We 
can't make people get coverage, but the idea was to get people to get 
coverage.
  The employer mandate was the fourth concept. The fourth concept said 
employers of a certain size--I think it was employers with 50 to 100 
employees--were to provide healthcare to their employees.
  The last piece was that insurance companies could not deny coverage 
to people because of preexisting conditions. That was the 1993 
proposal, courtesy of the Heritage Foundation.
  When Mitt Romney was Governor of Massachusetts, he took that game 
plan, lock, stock, and barrel, and established RomneyCare and it worked 
out pretty well. When we did the Affordable Care Act, we took 
RomneyCare and built on that.
  I will close with this. The piece that needs to be fixed and 
repaired, not repealed but fixed, out of the original Republican idea 
is the idea that the insurance companies need a stable insurance pool 
of healthy people, not just old people and sick people but healthy 
people and younger people as well. There are some ways we can fix that. 
It is one of the fixes we need to make. It isn't all that hard. It 
isn't all that hard, and I will talk about that some other day.
  I appreciate my friend from one of those Dakotas--South Dakota--for 
being patient and waiting. Thank you.
  I yield the floor.

[[Page S2576]]

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from South Dakota.
  Mr. ROUNDS. Thank you, Mr. President.
  My colleague and friend, the Senator from Delaware, is also a former 
Governor, and it is always enjoyable to listen to the experiences and 
clearly the understanding about a number of the issues we have in 
common in terms of things that concern us.
  I remember back in 1993, as well when we were looking at healthcare 
reform in South Dakota, we actually, in our process, adopted the vast 
majority of what was considered to be the recommendations from the 
National Association of Insurance Commissioners--guaranteed 
renewability of policies, guaranteed to be able to move from one group 
insurance product to another group insurance product, a minimum amount 
of premium versus maximum amount of premium by any carrier in any 
single group of policies in one plan. Those provisions actually worked 
for us for a period up until 2009, when ObamaCare became the law of the 
land, and at that point we suffered through the same problems most of 
the rest of America is suffering through right now.
  But there are some things that really do bind us together, and one of 
them is trying to make and produce the best healthcare products for the 
citizens within our different States that we possibly can. I think in 
the U.S. Senate there are enough of us who truly believe we can fix, 
repeal, replace ObamaCare. I think Democrats would like to say we are 
going to fix it. I think Republicans recognize that we are probably 
going to do more of a startover because the basic concept of ObamaCare, 
which was moving more and more into a single-payer system, will not 
work.
  For those of us who believe in the free market, what we want to do is 
take away the regulations at the Federal level, give them back to the 
States, and allow the States to actually experiment and make a more 
competitive healthcare product. That allows for businesses to be able 
to insure more individuals to help pay for their costs. It also means, 
then, you can actually get more individuals to receive the benefits of 
private healthcare rather than being responsible for or at least 
expecting that the Federal Government is going to subsidize with 
Federal taxpayer money their healthcare costs. I think that is part of 
what we need to be concerned with here today.


                           Regulatory Reform

  Mr. President, we all want a strong economy. We want more jobs being 
made available. One of the reasons I am here on the floor today is to 
talk about not just the healthcare regulations that impact the ability 
of employers to hire employees, but we should also be talking about the 
regulatory environment in the United States.
  That is what I really want to talk about today, is this tremendous 
success we are beginning to have in just the first 3 months that 
President Trump has taken office. We have been successful in undoing a 
number of the regulatory hurdles that have been hindering job growth 
and prosperity in the United States.
  It has been 3 months now since the President took office, with a 
Republican-led Congress in place ready to help him advance policies 
that grow our economy and allow hard-working Americans to keep more of 
their paycheck each month.
  We are going to be talking a lot about tax reform, but we shouldn't 
forget about regulatory reform as well.
  One of the items with tax reform, some folks actually suggested a tax 
on items being brought into the United States--a border adjustment tax. 
One of the reasons for that was they thought we would be buying more 
American goods if we made those goods from other countries more 
expensive by putting a tax on them, which would be passed on to the 
consumers. I think that is the wrong approach.
  What we should be doing is allowing our consumers the availability of 
a less expensive American product, and the way you do that is we allow 
manufacturers in the United States to become more competitive. We do 
that by reducing their input costs, including a regulatory impact that 
is huge.
  We believe we should be creating an atmosphere in the United States 
for products to be produced at a cost that is less in the first place. 
We shouldn't have to increase the cost of other people's products 
coming into the United States. We should be making it less expensive 
for our producers to compete with them. The way we accomplish this, 
first and foremost, is by reducing the regulatory environment in 
America, which is way too intrusive, duplicative, and overreaching.
  If anyone is wondering how bad the regulatory environment is in the 
United States today, well, regulations cost the American people $1.9 
trillion annually, the bulk of which is handed down to consumers. 
Businesses don't absorb it, they pass it on.
  How are the consumers paying for it? Through higher prices on 
products and goods produced in the United States. If you are wondering 
why it is such a big deal, it is because we want our manufacturers, our 
producers, and our businesses in the United States to be able to 
compete with our competitors overseas, the ones that don't have the 
crippling regulatory environment we have here at home. Right now, our 
businesses and job creators are crippled by Federal regulations that 
limit their ability to expand and grow, to create more job 
opportunities, and pay higher wages.
  If the $1.9 trillion we spend annually on regulations were a country, 
it would be the 10th largest economy in the world, about the size of 
India or Russia's economy. Get this. We pay more as consumers for the 
cost of regulations at $1.9 trillion than we as taxpayers pay in 
personal income taxes on April 15. On April 15, we pay about $1.4 
trillion in personal income taxes, and yet we pay $1.9 trillion--one-
half trillion more in the costs of regulations.
  No other country in the world even comes close to this sort of 
unhealthy, costly regulatory environment. It is putting us at a 
competitive disadvantage in the international arena. While there has 
been a lot of focus this week on reforming our tax policy to get us 
back to the level of global competitiveness that we need, we must not 
lose sight of the need to reform our regulatory environment to one that 
invites growth and innovation. Both are needed. We have to reform our 
tax policy, and we absolutely have to reform our regulatory policies.
  Already in the first 3 months that President Trump has been in 
office, we have made progress in stopping harmful regulations from 
taking effect. Under the Congressional Review Act, the Senate has 
passed 13 resolutions so far this year to undo Obama-era regulations. 
The Congressional Review Act allows us to disapprove certain 
regulations that basically were approved by the administration or 
created by the administration over the last 6 months. The reason we are 
able to do it is because we can do it with just a majority vote. It is 
a privileged motion in the U.S. Senate. It is a majority vote in the 
House and takes a majority vote in the Senate. It doesn't require 60 
votes, so we are actually able to, with a majority vote, undo these 
regulations that were going to be imposed on the American public over 
the last 6 months. I think that is a step in the right direction. This 
is a program which in the past has been used only one time since it was 
created in the 1990s. We have done it 13 times in just these first 3 
months. The Congressional Review Act, or CRA, is truly an important 
oversight tool that allows Congress to undo Federal regulations issued 
by unelected bureaucrats at Federal agencies by this simple majority 
vote.
  For example, we have been able to reverse the Obama administration's 
education mandate which would have imposed Federal education standards 
to assess schools at the State and level local. We think that should be 
done at the State and local level.
  We also stopped an Obama regulation that would have imposed 
burdensome new restrictions on internet service providers that would do 
nothing to increase privacy protections for consumers. If you follow 
some of the misinformation that has been put out there, some people 
have suggested that we were taking away privacy that had been put in 
place by the last administration. Not true. Actually, what happened was 
that the courts had already stopped these provisions before they were 
ever put into effect.
  So, for the people who like the policy protections that are in place 
today,

[[Page S2577]]

they are still there. This was a new regulation that they were going to 
impose that took an entirely different approach to managing privacy. We 
were able to stop it. We have told the agencies to go back, to start 
over again, and to start following a similar course of action to what 
was already in place and that people already liked.
  The savings that come from undoing these and other regulations that 
we have stopped under the Congressional Review Act, combined with the 
President's Executive actions and rule delays, will save Americans, 
approximately, 52 million hours of paperwork annually and, if you 
accumulate what the costs are over an extended period of time, over $65 
billion in regulatory compliance costs. To the President's credit, he 
has also been busy using the tools he has available in order to undo 
burdensome regulations that are crippling growth.
  The new administration put a halt to the overreaching waters of the 
United States--or WOTUS--rule, requiring the Environmental Protection 
Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to review the WOTUS rule in 
order to make certain it promotes economic growth and minimizes 
regulatory uncertainty. I would suspect that this time around, rather 
than the last time around, they will actually be required to use sound 
science in making those determinations.
  It also stopped the Obama administration's costly Clean Power Plan, 
which would have required States to completely rework their electric 
grids and would have led to dramatically higher electricity bills for 
every single American in the country.
  Now, I am not suggesting that all rules are bad. Some rules are 
necessary for a government to operate in an orderly fashion and keep 
Americans safe, but too much regulation is costly and clearly stifles 
innovation. For the past 8 years, Americans have seen an unprecedented 
number of new rules and regulations that have been issued by unelected, 
unaccountable Washington bureaucrats.
  We are committed to changing that ``Washington knows best'' mentality 
because, at the end of the day, overregulation hurts families the most 
because they are the ones who are forced to pay more for goods and 
services when businesses are forced to spend exorbitant amounts of 
money just to put their products on the market.
  It is time for America to retake its position as a world leader in 
innovation. It is time for America to get busy on production again--
creating new job opportunities, selling more of our products at a 
competitive advantage overseas, affording young people new job 
opportunities and the ability to stay here in the United States, 
inviting more capital to come in because there is a better return on 
capital, which, once again, gets reinvested in the United States and, 
thus, grows our economy and allows us to be able to enjoy the services 
that economy supports.
  It is time to take a second look at regulations. It is time for the 
United States to be a leader again and for the American people to have 
the ability to have influence on the laws that are being created. Those 
laws should be voted on by their elected representatives, not imposed 
on them by unelected Washington bureaucrats.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Kennedy). The Senator from Missouri.
  Mr. BLUNT. Mr. President, I want to follow up on the remarks that 
have just been made by our friend from South Dakota.
  During his first 100 days in office, President Trump has wasted no 
time in fulfilling one of his key promises and one of those promises 
that is hard to appreciate because, if bad things do not happen to you, 
it is hard to realize they did not happen. Yet there were many bad 
things in store for the American people and frankly a lot of bad things 
that have happened through the very kinds of regulations, over the last 
years, that Senator Rounds was talking about.
  Over the last 8 years, any time I had been traveling in Missouri, one 
of the top-of-mind issues with group after group had always been a 
different and more troublesome and more burdensome recent regulation by 
the Federal Government. I had heard about healthcare, but often I had 
heard about healthcare with regard to the irrational regulations that 
were being put out as part of the bill, and I had heard about taxes. 
Yet I would say that the No. 1 issue I had heard about for the whole 8 
years was that of out-of-control regulators who were clearly also not 
responsive to anybody and did not need to be. Frankly, in the second 4 
years of that Presidency, the regulators were even less responsive than 
they were in the first 4 years, and I think that is something that 
happens way too often.
  I hear from families, farmers, and job creators who tell me that the 
biggest barrier to job creation and economic growth is exactly what we 
are hearing about here this morning; that people do not think out the 
real consequences of the regulations.
  According to regulations.gov, Federal agencies finalized more than 
4,000 new regulations in 2016 alone. That was an average of 11 new 
regulations a day in the final year of the Obama Presidency. Let's 
think about that. Every one of those 4,000 regulations was a regulation 
that the country had lived without for the entire history of the 
country and that the Obama administration had lived without for 7 
years.
  A number of those regulations had been done so late that we had had a 
chance to look at them through the Congressional Review Act because 
they were still available to the new Congress. That is how late they 
happened. One of them went into effect on January 18, and the Obama 
administration was over at noon on January 20.
  They handed down a record-breaking 600 major new regulations that 
imposed more than $700 billion in costs on our economy. Senator Rounds 
just mentioned the estimated total annual compliance costs for 
regulations of $1.9 billion--almost $2 trillion. Imagine. If half of 
those regulations are either duplicative or unnecessary, talk about a 
stimulus, if somehow we go back and figure out how to eliminate the 
half that does not need to be done so one can really focus on the half 
that needs to be done. I am for every regulation that we absolutely 
have to have, but I am not for regulations that we do not absolutely 
have to have.
  What is worse is that the completely unnecessary aim of these 
regulations is frankly the amount of effort some of them require.
  There is a $12.3 billion regulation on efficiency standards for 
central air conditioners. Now, one has to find a lot of efficiency to 
find $12.3 billion in savings. That is a lot of efficiency. There is a 
$4.4 billion regulation that sets standards for ceiling fans. I like 
ceiling fans as much as the next person, but when you add $4.4 billion 
to standards, that has to be paid for by somebody just like the $3.6 
billion in regulations of the control of commercial vehicle operators.
  What the regulators so often do not seem to understand is that 
ultimately the consumers have to pay for the costs of these 
regulations. The cost of regulations is not really a reflection of the 
government's cost of being the regulator, it is the economic cost of 
having the regulations.
  That is why I have been particularly encouraged to see President 
Trump taking the steps he has taken to roll back many of the late 
efforts by the Obama administration. Since taking office, President 
Trump has signed 13 Congressional Review Act resolutions which, 
according to the administration, will save $10 billion in regulatory 
costs over a 10-year period of time. With regard to the Congressional 
Review Act, the Congress's passing a rejection of the rule and the 
President's agreeing to it happened exactly one time in 25 years prior 
to this administration. It has happened 13 times this year. It will 
happen, I am confident, a few more times, and it will have a real 
impact.
  When you look at the regulations that have been delayed or repealed 
by CRAs and Executive orders--Congressional Review Act resolutions or 
Executive orders--the American Action Forum estimates that $18.8 
billion would be saved annually. Now, the President is not going to get 
much credit for that, and the Congress is not either, but if in the 
last few weeks we figured out how to take an $18.8 billion burden off 
of people by not moving forward with regulations that the country had 
not had prior to just a few weeks ago, in some cases, that is a good 
thing.

[[Page S2578]]

  Many of the Missourians from whom I have heard are particularly 
relieved that the President is also moving back from a couple of 
rules--the power rule and the waters of the United States rule--that 
Federal courts, fortunately, up until now, had said to President 
Obama's administration they did not have the authority to do what they 
were trying to do in either of these rules. The rules would have had 
devastating impacts on job opportunities and on families in our State. 
The power rule would have doubled the utility bills in 10 or 12 years.
  I have been reminding Missourians over the last several months that 
if you do not think that is going to impact you when you pay your 
electric bill the next time, just write it right out of your checkbook 
one more time--write it--because that is what you would be doing 
sometime in the next decade and see what impact that has on the kinds 
of things you and your family would have been doing with the money that 
you would have been spending on twice your utility bill.
  A week ago, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was in our State, at the 
Thomas Hill powerplant, to talk about how these rules would have 
affected the State and how one can still fulfill the mission of the EPA 
for clean air and clean water and a better environment without having 
rules that devastate families as well as deal with problems, many of 
which have now been on the priority list for 10 years and longer and 
have never been dealt with, while the EPA has been coming up with 
something else to do. They would have driven up the cost of groceries. 
They would have driven up the cost of the utility bill itself. Of 
course, when the utility bill goes up, the utility bill work goes up, 
too, and work might not be there at double the utility bill.
  The combined cost savings is estimated to be as high as $67.3 billion 
over the very foreseeable future of the Congressional Review Act, the 
President's Executive orders, the announced decisions that they have 
made about things like the clean power rule and the waters of the 
United States rule. Even in Washington, $67.3 billion is a lot of 
money, not to mention the 52 million hours of paperwork that will be 
needed to comply with rules that were not necessary to be there and 
that Senator Rounds mentioned.
  Our economy cannot grow and thrive with billions of dollars' worth of 
regulations dragging it down. Let me say again that I am for every 
regulation that we absolutely have to have--there is no argument about 
that--but we need to have a process by which we know whether we have to 
have them. That is why, in the next few weeks, I plan to reintroduce 
the bipartisan Regulatory Improvement Act, which the Congress looked at 
last year.
  This bill would create a Regulatory Improvement Commission that would 
review outdated regulations with the goal of bringing the list back to 
the Congress and saying that we think that these can all be eliminated.
  I have also cosponsored an act called the REINS Act, which would give 
me and the rest of the Congress the obligation to vote on any 
regulation that has more than $100 million of impact on the economy so 
that if we need it, we are going to go home and justify it, and the 
American people--where I live and the Presiding Officer lives--can get 
their hands on us if we cannot explain why we thought it was a good 
idea to do that.
  I believe the government should work for the American people, not the 
other way around, and I believe the President and the Congress have 
taken advantage of this historic opportunity to drive that peg a little 
deeper in the ground.
  I look forward to continuing to work on these issues. I think we need 
to take more responsibility for these issues. I know some of our 
colleagues have said: Well, why did we repeal these late regulations? 
Well, they were late regulations for a reason, and the country had done 
just fine without them up until now.
  So I look forward to working with the Presiding Officer and others to 
continue working on this effort to have regulations that make sense 
when we need them and not to have regulations when we don't need them.


       Northwest Missouri State University Bearcats Championships

  Mr. President, I would also like to mention one more topic quickly. 
This is a very Missouri topic.
  The Northwest Missouri State University Bearcats this year, in NCAA 
Division II, won both the football championship and the men's 
basketball championship. It has been a long time in Division II when 
any school was able to bring both of those championships back to their 
campus.
  When I was a college president, we were in that conference, the MIAA, 
which is a competitive conference, and competitive enough that in that 
Division II level, the Bearcats brought home both of those 
championships.
  Mr. President, 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. FLAKE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


              Congratulating Snowflake Junior High School

  Mr. FLAKE. Mr. President, I have spoken a lot in recent years about 
how Arizona is quickly becoming one of our country's major tech hubs. 
From entrepreneurial startups to major technology companies, Arizona is 
supporting innovation like never before. In fact, it was just announced 
that Waymo, Google's self-driving car project, will be launching its 
first public trials of self-driving vehicles in the greater Phoenix 
area.
  But, today, the biggest news in tech isn't coming from publicly 
traded Silicon Valley companies. No, today, the talk of the tech world 
is the students from my alma mater, Snowflake Junior High School. That 
is because these students from my small hometown of Snowflake, AZ, just 
won the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest.
  This national contest tasks students from across the country with 
creating a solution to improve their local communities by using STEAM 
skills--Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.
  The winning project from Mr. Eilertsen's students is something 
special. Snowflake students designed and constructed a low-cost animal 
detection system to prevent fatalities from vehicle collisions with 
wild animals. They were motivated by the fact that an estimated 200 
people lose their lives each year in these collisions, which can be 
common around rural communities like Snowflake.
  The winning design consists of a 10-inch, weather-resistant motion 
sensor that blinks to warn drivers when a large animal is near. These 
durable, affordable sensors can be placed atop existing fence posts 
like the thousands that line roads all over rural Arizona.
  I had the opportunity to meet with these very bright students--2 of 
them from a class of, I believe, 23--and those 2 are in the Gallery 
today, along with their teacher Mr. Eilertsen. I had the opportunity to 
meet with them yesterday in my office and to hear all about this 
winning project. Let me tell my colleagues that they blew me away with 
their creativity, their knowledge, and, most of all, their desire to 
use the STEAM discipline to save lives.
  Think about how remarkable this project is. Here is a device that can 
actually save hundreds of lives and prevent harm to wildlife and to 
livestock. With the grit and ingenuity of a great startup, these 
students at Snowflake Junior High have shown the country that big ideas 
come from small towns.
  In recognition of their innovative project, the students won $150,000 
in technology for their school and an additional $20,000 for having the 
most popular project on social media and with the public--not bad for 
some kids from Snowflake.
  Before I yield the floor, I would like to thank Mr. Eilertsen for all 
that he has done to inspire his students to think big and for making a 
victory in this Samsung competition possible.
  I would also like to thank all of the faculty and staff in Snowflake 
for their tireless work as educators.
  Finally, I would like to congratulate the students of Snowflake 
Junior High for their victory. I am confident that your project will 
save lives, and by winning this competition, you have provided your 
school with educational resources that will help students for years to 
come.

[[Page S2579]]

  To the winning students from Snowflake Junior High School: 
Congratulations. You make me proud to be a Lobo, and, as always, proud 
to come from Snowflake and proud to be an Arizonan.


                                 NAFTA

  Mr. President, we can't simply ignore the benefits of NAFTA for the 
U.S. economy. Experts have said that more than one-quarter of global 
GDP--some $20.5 trillion--is produced in NAFTA's combined markets of 
the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Canada and Mexico are the 
largest export markets for the United States. U.S. trade with Canada 
and Mexico has more than tripled since 1993, and that was before NAFTA 
came into effect.
  In 1993, U.S. foreign direct investment in Mexico was slightly more 
than $15 billion. In 2016, it was more than $92 billion in foreign 
direct investment.
  NAFTA increased U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico by 350 
percent, supporting U.S. farmers and ranchers like those back in 
Arizona. NAFTA has resulted in an integrated supply chain between the 
United States and other countries.
  For example, the Wall Street Journal reported that ``tens of 
thousands of parts that make up a vehicle often come from multiple 
producers in different countries and travel back and forth across 
borders several times.'' Abandoning NAFTA would destroy these supply 
chains, making it harder for our country's private sector employers to 
grow and to do business.
  Arizona has certainly benefited from NAFTA. In 2016, Arizona's trade 
with Mexico exceeded $15 billion. Total trade between Arizona and NAFTA 
countries reached nearly $20 billion last year.
  The Arizona Daily Star noted back in November that ``trade with 
Mexico supports about 100,000 jobs in Arizona and retailers depend on 
roughly $8 million Mexican shoppers spend daily in Arizona.''
  The bottom line is that trade is good for American businesses, it is 
good for American workers, and it is good for American consumers.
  Trade deals like NAFTA make inputs for U.S. manufacturing cheaper 
than they would be otherwise. Cheaper inputs mean lower production 
costs for U.S.-based businesses, which, in turn, allows these companies 
to expand production and to reduce prices. That means everyday consumer 
products are more affordable for middle-class families.
  If the protectionist trade policies of the past have taught us 
anything, it is that when we increase trade barriers, nobody wins. Do I 
agree that we should work to make U.S. businesses more competitive? 
Absolutely. Do I agree that we can modernize NAFTA? You bet. Pro-growth 
trade policies have been at the top of my list of priorities since I 
came to Congress. But any efforts to impose new restrictions on our 
ability to trade with Mexico and Canada will have serious consequences 
for Arizona, leading to jobs being lost and higher costs for consumers.
  If we just think, in 2003 total U.S. trade with Mexico was just 
around $50 billion. Today, it is between $500 billion and $600 billion.
  What is not to like about NAFTA? It is good for Americans. It is good 
for the Mexican economy. It is good for Canada.
  We have noted many times that with regard to border security, the net 
flow of Mexican migrant workers has been south, not north, over the 
past couple of years. One of the biggest reasons for that, obviously, 
is the Mexican economy is doing better, and part of the biggest reason 
for that is because of NAFTA and their ability to trade. That is good 
for the United States. It is good for Mexico.
  Trade is not a zero sum game where one party wins and the other party 
loses. Free trade benefits everyone. I hope that we remember this as we 
look toward NAFTA's future. We need to improve it and to modernize it, 
certainly, but we shouldn't abandon it.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Colorado.
  Mr. BENNET. Mr. President, before I begin my remarks, I just want to 
say, while the Senator from Arizona is still here, what a privilege it 
is to hear somebody come to this floor and actually speak about facts 
as they actually are--economic facts, facts related to immigration. If 
we had more people in the Senate who spoke on the floor the way the 
Senator from Arizona just did, there is nothing we wouldn't be able to 
accomplish together. It is a privilege to serve with him. It is a 
privilege to hear the clarity with which he spoke about these important 
issues. So I want to thank him through the Chair for that speech.


                            Antiquities Act

  Mr. President, at the close of the 19th century, many of our 
country's--almost all of our country's--most historic sites were 
completely unprotected. Places like Chaco Canyon and Cliff Palace, home 
to some of the most ancient dwellings in North America, faced looting 
and desecration. So in 1906, Congress actually passed pieces of 
legislation and thought about the next generation of Americans. 
Congress acted to protect these places by passing the Antiquities Act. 
The act empowered Presidents to preserve sites of cultural and historic 
importance and protect our most spectacular landscapes by designating 
them as national monuments using that authority.

  Teddy Roosevelt moved to protect places like Devil's Tower, Muir 
Woods Forest, and even the Grand Canyon. Looking back, it is hard to 
imagine our country without those iconic places. It is hard to imagine 
our country without the legacy of those people who were thinking not 
between sound bites on the television but across generations.
  Since Teddy Roosevelt, administrations from both parties, Democratic 
and Republicans--he was a Republican, as it happens, but both parties 
have used the Antiquities Act to preserve places critical to our 
heritage, including the designation of Colorado National Monument in 
1911. I just visited there.
  In Washington, we may differ over policies--sometimes sharply. There 
is no surprise that is true. But both parties have long risen above 
partisan squabbles of today to protect these special places for 
tomorrow. But with yesterday's Executive order, President Trump has 
upended that tradition by opening the door to attacks on our national 
monuments for generations to come.
  I know there are people in this administration who have said they are 
``lifetime supporters and admirers of Teddy Roosevelt's policies.'' If 
they are, now is the time they need to be heard because today's action 
is an offense to Teddy Roosevelt's vision for America and threatens his 
bipartisan legacy of conservation. The administration's latest 
Executive order initiates a review of all national monument 
designations since 1996 that are larger than 100,000 acres, with an 
interim report on its findings just 45 days later. I wonder if they 
know how long it takes to build a consensus in the West and in other 
places that a place is sacred enough that it should have one of these 
designations, and in 45 days they are going to threaten to disturb the 
work of people all over the West who have supported these designations.
  Speaking yesterday, President Trump justified this action by calling 
earlier monument designations an ``egregious abuse of federal power.'' 
I wonder what he would call a Washington-led effort to undo protections 
for national monuments that enjoy deep support from communities all 
across the country, including in my State of Colorado?
  For all their rhetoric about Washington overreach, this 
administration and its allies in Congress seem to have no problem 
substituting their rash judgment for the thoughtful, community-driven 
designations of national monuments across the United States of America. 
Had they studied this issue at all, they would have learned that 
existing monument designations come from exhaustive consultation and 
hundreds of meetings over thousands of hours.
  Unlike this administration, western communities did our homework. We 
laid the groundwork and paved the way for these designations, which 
leads me to wonder what the administration's review hopes to achieve. I 
would challenge anybody in the Senate to come down here to this floor 
and explain exactly how this 45-day review will uncover information 
that somehow our western communities missed. They can't. They can't 
because that is not the point of this review, which is no more than a 
Trojan horse for advancing the agenda not of the West but for advancing 
the agenda of partisan think

[[Page S2580]]

tanks and politicians in Washington instead of the real-world interests 
of western communities.
  Worse, if the administration ultimately repeals national monument 
designations--which I hope they will not--as a result of this order, it 
would cause real economic pain to Western States, especially in rural 
areas. A recent study found that rural counties in the West with 
protected public lands saw jobs grow at a rate more than three times 
faster compared to areas without protected lands. It just makes sense. 
Just ask outfitters and guides near Browns Canyon, a national monument, 
or local business owners around Chimney Rock, a national monument, what 
the effect has been on their businesses. In fact, those businesses were 
huge champions of both those national monuments. You can go buy a beer 
in Pagosa Springs from a brewery that is brewing it and putting a label 
on it that says ``Chimney Rock National Monument.'' You can buy the 
beer and take it rafting through Browns Canyon with outfitters who 
strongly support the monument.
  National monuments not only preserve our heritage, they strengthen 
rural communities by supporting outdoor economies and attracting 
visitors from around the country and around the world. We should be 
more encouraging of that. Let's do more of that. Instead, this 
Executive order takes aim directly at our rural economies in the West.
  Look at this. As we can see here, nationwide, Americans spend $887 
billion on the outdoor economy each year, supporting $65 billion in 
Federal tax revenue and 7.6 million American jobs which can't be 
exported anywhere. There is not a country in the world that has a 
system of public lands like the United States of America and in 
particular the Western United States of America. There is not a country 
in the world that has what we have.
  If this administration really is serious about creating jobs, 
strengthening our economy, and remaining faithful to the bipartisan 
legacy of Roosevelt, it should keep our national monuments intact and 
uphold the traditions honored by every President since 1906.
  These are treasured places. Even though they have a huge value in 
dollars and cents, their value goes far beyond the economic value. It 
goes to the heart of who we are as a nation. It goes to our cultural 
heritage and to the legacy we want to pass on from our grandparents to 
our grandchildren.
  Teddy Roosevelt called conservation ``a great moral issue, for it 
involves the patriotic duty of ensuring the safety and continuance of 
the nation.'' We must do our duty, our patriotic duty, and I will use 
every tool at my disposal to protect the Antiquities Act and our 
national monuments because in the end our character as a nation is 
revealed in what we choose to preserve now and for generations to come.
  Mr. 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.
  Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, yesterday President Trump issued an 
Executive order that undermined the protection of dozens of our 
national monuments that were established over the past two decades by 
three different Presidents. In continuing his administration's war on 
our public lands, President Trump and Secretary of the Interior Zinke 
have attacked one of our Nation's most prized conservation laws--the 
Antiquities Act, which gives the President the authority to protect our 
nationally important lands and waters on Federal land by designating 
them as national monuments.
  In the 111 years since the Antiquities Act was signed into law by 
President Teddy Roosevelt, 16 Presidents--8 Republicans and 8 
Democrats--have used the law's authority to designate over 150 national 
monuments. President Trump is trying to undo over 100 years of 
conservation in just a few days.
  Many of our Nation's iconic national parks were first protected by 
using the authority of the Antiquities Act, including the Grand Canyon, 
Acadia, Glacier Bay, Joshua Tree, Zion, and in my home State of 
Washington, Mount Olympus National Monument, which later became Olympic 
National Park.
  No doubt Presidents of both parties have used the Antiquities Act to 
preserve the most beautiful places in our country. However, President 
Trump appears to be very uninformed on the history or the importance of 
the Antiquities Act. In his remarks signing the Executive order 
yesterday, he described the designation of national monuments as an 
``egregious use of federal power'' and vowed he would ``give that power 
back to the States.'' He truly does not understand the Antiquities Act, 
nor does he appreciate the bold leadership of all of those Presidents, 
both Democrats and Republicans, over a period of time--eight 
Republicans and eight Democrats--who have used this authority in an 
appropriate way to preserve for all Americans in the future and those 
in the past who have enjoyed these beautiful places--and to preserve 
our access to public lands.
  I can't tell you how important access to public lands is for 
schoolchildren, our returning veterans, our families, hunters, 
fishermen, and hikers. Putting the Antiquities Act and the millions of 
acres of national monuments that have been protected back into the 
hands of a few who are more aligned with special interests to try to 
open these areas up to oil and gas exploration is the antithesis of 
what the Antiquities Act is all about.
  We plan to continue to emphasize how wrong the President's Executive 
order is.
  First and foremost, in the Executive order, the President directed 
the Secretary of the Interior to review the designation or expansion of 
national monuments under the Antiquities Act where the Secretary deems 
that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public 
comment or coordination with relevant stakeholders. That literally 
gives the Secretary of the Interior broad authority to look at all the 
land that has previously been designated since 1996 and potentially 
open it up to saying they are going to try to reverse that.
  There have been many discussions about the last 20 years of the 
designation of some unbelievable, beautiful places in America that are 
so special--the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, 
which is 1.7 million acres; the Grand Canyon-Parashant National 
Monument in Arizona; the Giant Sequoia National Monument in California; 
the Canyon of Ancients National Monument in Colorado--I know my 
colleague Senator Bennet from Colorado was speaking about it earlier; 
Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington, which covers 195,000 
acres; the Ironwood Forest National Monument in Arizona; the Vermilion 
Cliffs National Monument in Arizona; the Carrizo Plain National 
Monument in California; the Sonoran Desert National Monument in 
Arizona; the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana; 
the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, on which my 
colleague Senator Heinrich worked so hard; the Organ Mountains-Desert 
Peaks National Monument, also in New Mexico; the San Gabriel Mountains 
National Monument in California; the Berryessa Snow Mountain National 
Monument in California; the Basin and Range National Monument in 
Nevada; the Mojave Trails National Monument in California; the Sand to 
Snow National Monument in California; Bears Ears, as I have mentioned, 
in Utah; and the Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada. That sounds 
like a lot of designations that we have made over the last 20 years. 
Presidents were very judicious about those designations. It took a lot 
of public comment, many community meetings, and a lot of scientific 
analysis about the preservation of these areas. The end result is that 
for these generations and future generations, national monuments have 
been designated on public lands that are in our national interests.
  This has been so important to us as a nation. As I said, places like 
the Grand Canyon, Olympic National Park in my State--many places have 
created what has become an outdoor recreation economy. That outdoor 
recreation economy is now over $800 billion of annual revenue and 
dwarfs what the oil and gas industry represents as an economy of the 
future. In fact, this industry sector is on par to compete with

[[Page S2581]]

other large sectors of our economy--the financial service sector and 
the healthcare sector. So why are we taking away the very tool that has 
launched so much outdoor activity and a burgeoning job economy, with 7 
million outdoor industry workers? Why are we taking away national 
monument designations that have been the priority of past Presidents 
and trying to return them because someone doesn't understand what the 
Antiquities Act is all about?
  In addition to those large monuments that I just mentioned, also 
under review will be a group of other monuments that are marine 
national monuments. Yes, according to the definition I mentioned 
earlier, Secretary Zinke could review all of these monuments. In fact, 
I noticed that there were several people at the President's signing who 
represented some of these monuments. I don't know if they are urging 
the President to remove their areas, but it raises great concern about 
how important these marine monuments have been.
  There is the Papahanaumokuakea marine national monument in the 
Hawaiian islands that was established in 2006; the World War II Valor 
in the Pacific National Monument, also in Hawaii; the Rose Atoll 
National Monument in American Samoa; the Pacific Remote Islands 
National Monument in Hawaii; the Marianas Trench National Monument in 
the Mariana Islands; and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine 
National Monument in the Atlantic.
  In addition to all of those maritime national monuments of grand 
scale, these also under consideration are an additional two dozen or 
so--I think it looks like 25--smaller national monuments that could 
also be reviewed by the Secretary of the Interior. Even though they 
were designated with this Presidential authority, in previous 
administrations after great review, they could, by this President and 
this Interior Secretary, be wiped away very quickly.
  We definitely do not believe the President has this legal authority, 
and we will pursue a vigorous fight. Why should we be wasting 
taxpayers' money when taxpayers' money was already spent to make these 
designations, and the taxpayer is getting the huge economic benefit of 
having these outdoor areas?
  What else could be on the President's list according to this 
Executive order? The California Coastal National Monument; Cascade-
Siskiyou National Monument; President Lincoln and Soldier's Home 
National Monument in Washington, DC; Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National 
Monument in New Mexico; Minidoka National Historic Site in Idaho; 
Pompeys Pillar National Monument in Montana; Virgin Islands Coral Reef 
National Monument; Governors Island National Monument in New York; the 
African Burial Ground National Monument in New York; Fort Monroe 
National Monument in Virginia; Fort Ord National Monument in 
California; Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado; the Cesar 
Chavez National Monument in California; San Juan Islands National 
Monument in the State of Washington; the Harriet Tubman Underground 
Railroad National Monument; the First State National Historic Park in 
Delaware; the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers Monument; the Honouliuli 
National Monument in Hawaii; the Pullman National Monument in Illinois; 
Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado; Waco Mammoth National 
Monument in Texas; Castle Mountains National Monument in California; 
the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument; Stonewall National 
Monument in New York; the Birmingham Civil Rights Monument in Alabama; 
the Freedom Riders National Monument in Alabama; and the Reconstruction 
Era National Monument in South Carolina.
  The Executive order says the Secretary of the Interior can review any 
national monument designation since 1996 ``Where the Secretary 
determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate 
public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.''
  The Executive order says that for any national monument on the list I 
just mentioned, the Secretary of the Interior could decide there was 
not appropriate public outreach. Even though the process used by 
Presidents under the Antiquities Act makes sure you have that, this 
Secretary could decide there wasn't enough and recommend to undo any of 
these monuments and eliminate access to the public for the purposes of 
recreation and enjoyment.
  So this administration has it dead wrong. He is no Teddy Roosevelt. 
In fact, I saw he had a press conference with a statue of Teddy 
Roosevelt behind him. Teddy Roosevelt would be appalled because his 
concept of preserving Federal land was so important. Teddy Roosevelt 
was an outdoorsman who spent many a time in these great places of our 
Nation and understood their great significance. That is why we have the 
Antiquities Act. He knew that these resources strengthened our country. 
They made us strong as a nation. They show the crown jewels of the 
United States of America in all their glory and beauty. He knew it was 
important to protect them for future generations to enjoy, not just for 
the special interests to take advantage of in the near term.
  We have a lot of Federal land and offshore land that is used for 
resource exploration and development. As people know, natural gas is at 
an all-time high in the United States and driving an all-time low 
price. It is not as if you need access to Bears Ears National Monument 
to drive down the price of natural gas or other fossil fuel. What you 
are going to do by pursuing this wrongheaded approach on Bears Ears is 
take away one of the historic and beautiful archaeological histories of 
Native Americans and early Americans in the United States--and an area 
that has excellent outdoor recreation opportunities--and throw it, 
along with the concept of the Antiquities Act, over the side just 
because someone wants to try to reverse what our previous Presidents, 
starting with Teddy Roosevelt, have done to protect these monuments in 
our national interest.
  Representing a State where we have several counties that have lots of 
Federal land, whether forest lands or BLM lands, I know that it can be 
challenging for local communities to maintain the infrastructure, the 
education, the hospitals, the law enforcement. I am a big believer in 
making sure that what are called PILT payments and the Secure Rural 
School Program are well funded and financed to make sure that these 
communities can be there to help us support these public lands. But the 
notion that with one act we would throw in Teddy Roosevelt's face all 
of these national monuments and now say that we are going to try to use 
it in reverse to review the work in the near term, of 3 different 
Presidents who used this authority is simply wrongheaded.
  What we need to do is embrace the outdoor economy. As I said, it is 7 
million jobs with over $800 billion of economic activity. In fact, 
since the last time they did their report, there has been a $200 
billion annual increase in the economic impact in the United States of 
America. What great news. An industry and sector, particularly in 
retail, is growing by leaps and bounds. It is an industry that is 
providing people with more tools and opportunity to enjoy our beautiful 
places. The only thing we can do to screw that up is start taking away 
the beautiful places where people go to recreate. I would say we should 
be examining how well these areas we have protected are being used and 
figure out how we can continue to communicate to the general public 
about these wonderful experiences.
  Do not think for one minute that the American people in their souls 
are not connected to the spiritual nature of these beautiful lands. 
They are. And that is what Teddy Roosevelt knew. He knew this is where 
we go to rejuvenate. Let's not take it away for some oil and gas 
exploration.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sasse). The Senator from Nevada.


                         No Budget, No Pay Act

  Mr. HELLER. Mr. President, as we approach yet another deadline to 
continue funding for the government, I rise to speak today regarding my 
frustration and disappointment that Congress is once again kicking the 
can down the road. I am frustrated that I keep having to have this same 
conversation with my colleagues. I am disappointed in the lack of 
responsibility of everyone here in Washington, DC, to

[[Page S2582]]

do their job. Washington, DC, is the only place I can think of where 
people believe it is OK not to do their job, miss their deadlines, make 
up a new deadline, and then repeat that same process year after year 
after year.
  I am upset that continually I have to remind everyone in Congress 
that the most basic responsibility that we have is to pass a budget and 
all of the appropriations bills and we should do it on time. It seems 
like Members of Congress now depend on the countdown clock at the 
bottom of every news channel to remind them to do their job.
  Here we are, 4 months into 2017, and we still have not completed the 
appropriations process that was supposed to have been done half a year 
ago. If that is not bad enough, we only have 15 legislative weeks left 
to finish funding for the next fiscal year. My colleagues, I believe we 
are setting ourselves up for failure.
  Washington is a consequence-free zone. That is why I will continue to 
advocate for my No Budget, No Pay Act. I have personally never seen 
Congress pass all 12 appropriations bills on time, on their own, 
without an omnibus or a CRomnibus. Regardless of who is in the 
majority, regardless of who is in the minority, my No Budget, No Pay 
legislation says that if Members of Congress do not pass an annual 
concurrent bipartisan budget resolution and all 12 spending bills on 
time, each year, then, they should not get paid.
  Let me repeat that last part. If Congress fails to pass all 12 
spending bills on time each year, then, they should not get paid. The 
American public is just as frustrated as I am. Since I have introduced 
No Budget, No Pay, I have been getting some much positive support for 
this idea. A woman by the name of Patricia from Fernley, NV, wrote to 
say No Budget, No Pay is long overdue.
  Dorothy from Henderson, NV, wrote me to say No Budget, No Pay is a 
wonderful solution. Just last week, speaking in Reno, NV, I was asked 
when Congress is going to finally pass the No Budget, No Pay Act. Until 
the No Budget, No Pay Act is passed into law, I don't see any other way 
to motivate Members of Congress to do their job and avoid these 
continuing resolutions in the future.
  I cannot support a CR that just boots our problems to another day 
without enacting the principles that are outlined in my No Budget, No 
Pay Act. There are important issues that need to be addressed through 
the appropriations process. For my home State of Nevada, we are looking 
at proposals from this new administration to cut funding to vitally 
important programs, such as the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management 
Act, better known as SNPLMA, or payments in lieu of taxes, better known 
as the PILT program.
  While these programs may not mean much to some of my colleagues, for 
Nevada they are vitally important to ensuring economic viability and 
competitiveness for our State. Moreover, Nevada has been a good steward 
of these dollars by utilizing them for job-creating projects within my 
State.
  By taking up individual appropriations bills and engaging in debate 
on programs important to particular agencies, Members have the 
opportunity to fight for priorities that are important to their State. 
Right now, I am fighting to fund these programs. Sometimes this fight 
needs to ensure certain programs are not funded because they are a 
waste of taxpayer dollars, like Yucca Mountain. I cannot say it enough 
times for my colleagues: Congress should not provide any funding to 
this failed project that has already wasted so many taxpayer dollars.
  Nevada will not be a federally subsidized national nuclear waste 
dump, plain and simple. If I can repeat that. Nevada will not be a 
federally subsidized national nuclear waste dump, plain and simple. 
Without exercising the power of the purse, which my No Budget, No Pay 
legislation ensures, we will all be right back here in a week, a month, 
or several months, making the same speeches, taking the same votes over 
and over.
  So I would like to say to any of my colleagues who are tired of these 
continuing resolutions, regardless of what specific issues they are 
fighting for, to support the No Budget, No Pay Act. I believe the 
Congress can work again, but it will take some of that accountability--
like the No Budget, No Pay Act--to get us there.
  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. PORTMAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                     Regulatory Accountability Act

  Mr. PORTMAN. Mr. President, I rise today to talk about legislation to 
give our economy a shot in the arm and to help raise wages for 
Americans all across our country.
  When I am back home, whether it is at a small auto body shop or 
whether it is at a big steel plant or whether it is at a soybean farm, 
I hear the same thing, which is people coming up to me and saying: Hey, 
Rob, with all of these regulations coming from Washington, I would love 
to hire more people, but I am spending too much time and money trying 
to keep up with these regulations.
  I think that is true with every Member here, whether you are a 
Democrat or a Republican, when you are back home talking to people. 
They get frustrated. Sometimes it is local and State regulations as 
well, but a lot of them are coming from the Federal Government.
  One example would be the Whitacre Greer Company, which makes bricks. 
It is a small family-owned business in Alliance, OH, just outside of 
Youngstown. They told me recently that complying with just one 
regulation is now costing this small company almost a million bucks a 
year that they don't have. They have had to go out and borrow the 
money, and that has been difficult for them. The cost of just complying 
with this one new regulation is about 10 percent of their annual 
revenue. Otherwise, that roughly million bucks would have been 
invested, they say, in plant, equipment and people. In other words, 
they would be able to create more jobs and modernize their facility if 
not for that compliance cost.
  They are not alone. It is happening all over Ohio and across the 
country. Costly regulations are causing companies to pull back on 
expanding jobs and creating more opportunity for the people we 
represent.
  Look, regulation has its place. There is no question about it. We 
need regulations. I think everybody acknowledges that. It has a proper 
role. We need reasonable laws that protect our health and the 
environment and prevent dishonest business practices. But let's make 
sure that, as we regulate more and more and more, we have smart 
regulations--regulations that make sense and that don't affect these 
small businesses, as I talked about with this brick company in 
Alliance, OH.
  The reality today is that a lot of Federal regulations are more 
extensive in scope, more expensive to these companies--and, therefore, 
these workers--more unpredictable than they have to be to meet whatever 
the policy objectives are.
  So Congress writes a law, and we have certain policy objectives, but 
then the regulators take that and they change the spirit of the 
congressional law instead of meeting that objective in the most cost-
effective way possible. So I get that from my constituents, and the 
question is this: What do we do about it?
  The other thing I hear about is the fact that regulators aren't 
accessible. People don't feel like they have any influence over it.
  By keeping new businesses from starting and small businesses from 
growing, regulations are just making it harder for people to be able to 
make a living.
  So how did we get here? Why are regulations so expensive and so 
burdensome on workers and jobs? I think a big reason is the way the 
Federal Government goes about writing regulations. Too often the 
process is unaccountable to the people. Too often it is based on sloppy 
or even bad information.
  The current law that gives us the basic framework for all this 
process is called the Administrative Procedure Act. This has been 
around for a long time. But guess what. It has not been reformed in any 
significant way in 70 years.
  The APA, or the Administrative Procedure Act, is something I have 
studied

[[Page S2583]]

in law school, as did other people here in this Chamber. It is 
something that you would expect to sort of change with the times, but 
it simply hasn't. That doesn't make sense.
  Imagine if we didn't update our healthcare laws for 70 years. We are 
talking right now about updating the healthcare laws that were passed 7 
years ago. Imagine if we didn't update our immigration laws for 70 
years. Imagine if we didn't update our criminal laws for 70 years. You 
know, the world changes. It just doesn't make any sense not to update 
our regulation policy because we live in a growing and dynamic economy. 
Things are changing, and we have changed a lot in the last 70 years.
  We didn't have things like microwave ovens or color TVs, and our 
economy was 10 percent the size of what it is today. Yet we are still 
using the same regulatory process that was put in place for a totally 
different kind of economy.
  By the way, in 70 years, we have also learned a lot about how to 
regulate in a way that it is more cost effective and more efficient, 
and we need to put that into practice. So a reform of our regulatory 
process, in my view, is long overdue.
  So far this year, we have taken some steps here in the Congress to 
give small businesses very specific regulatory relief by rescinding 
some of the recent regulations that the Obama administration had 
promulgated. We have done this about 10 times now with what is called 
the congressional review process. It is estimated that this has saved 
the economy a total of $65 billion in regulatory costs and about 45 
million hours of paperwork.
  I have supported most of these Congressional Review Act bills because 
I think they make sense. But this is just a handful of recent 
regulations. We have only addressed a few of the symptoms, not the 
underlying cause. We still have to deal with the underlying problem of 
the way regulations get made. If we don't do that, the regulatory 
burden will just continue to increase.
  By the way, this should be true whether it is a Republican 
administration or a Democratic administration. The same rules ought to 
apply.
  All of this is why yesterday Senator Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota 
and I introduced bipartisan legislation called the Regulatory 
Accountability Act, or the RAA, which would put in place some really 
important and very reasonable safeguards on the regulatory process to 
get better outcomes.
  Every President since Ronald Reagan--Republican and Democrat alike--
has agreed with the idea that regulatory agencies should estimate the 
costs and the benefits of something that we all accept. So they put 
this into what are called Executive orders saying that they have to go 
through the cost-benefit analysis the same way that your family does 
and that families in Ohio do when they make a decision as to whether to 
buy that car or whether they can afford to send their kids to college. 
They figure out what it will cost and what the benefit will be. That 
has to go into regulations. Although every President from Ronald Reagan 
to Barack Obama has agreed on the need for that, it has never been put 
into law.
  The first thing this legislation does is very simple. The Regulatory 
Accountability Act--the RAA--says that there should be a law, we should 
codify the practice so that businesses have the predictability of 
knowing that regulations are going to continue to use that commonsense 
cost-benefit practice.
  The Regulatory Accountability Act would then take the next step of 
requiring regulatory agencies, once they have figured out the costs and 
benefits of these proposals, to choose the most cost-effective way to 
achieve their policy objectives. That is common sense, right? It is not 
done now. This is a big change and an important part of the 
legislation. Again, it is the same thing people do every day with their 
families. When they are deciding where they are going to go to school 
or what brand of milk they are going to choose, they go through that 
kind of analysis. Let's find the most cost-effective way to accomplish 
the goal, one that costs less and has the least impact on the ability 
to create jobs.
  As I said before, a lot of regulations are expensive. According to 
the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, from 2009 to 2014, in 
those 5 years, the Federal Government published more than 80 major 
rules a year, every year. A major rule costs the economy more than $100 
million a year, and there have been 80 a year.
  For these major rules, the RAA would let stakeholders ask a court to 
review the cost-benefit analysis used by the regulators, so that we 
ensure that agencies are using the best information available, not 
relying on faulty information or making mistakes. That seems fair to 
me, that we should have some process to make sure they are doing the 
right thing. This is going to have a huge impact on regulations.
  The RAA makes regulators more accountable by bringing the public into 
the process. When folks talk about regulations, a lot of the time, 
their concern is that they feel they are cut off from the process. 
Although they can come to me or their other elected officials and state 
their concerns about this or that law, they have no access to the 
regulators. They are not elected; they don't feel as if they are 
accountable. They can't complain to them, and there is no influence if 
they do.
  So under the RAA, agencies would have to listen to public comments 
and proposals before making a decision. Again, this is an important 
change. Instead of waiting until after the decision has been made and 
potentially triggering years of litigation, the RAA would move up that 
process. An ounce of prevention, my colleagues, is worth at least a 
pound of cure. It is a lot better for our companies and for job 
creation to put some time into the effort upfront to get it right than 
to have to fix it later. I think it is better for the regulatory 
process and better for a smart regulatory process in terms of taking 
our laws and putting them into practice.
  So the RAA requires agencies to choose the most cost-effective 
regulations, creates more accountability by involving the public, 
ensures we are using better information, and takes existing practice 
and puts it into law. Ultimately, this is going to make smarter rules 
with better outcomes and will give us a better environment for creating 
more jobs with better wages. The RAA will free up more resources for 
small businesses to hire more people, raise wages, and purchase more 
equipment. That will boost economic growth and benefit all of us.
  There are some critics who have suggested that this bill will kill 
the regulatory process and prevent new regulations from being issued, 
but clearly they have not read the bill. The reason this bill is 
bipartisan is because it gives the American people a voice in the 
regulatory process and it makes it more effective for both our economy 
and for our health and safety. That is the kind of commonsense 
regulatory process that hard-working taxpayers expect and deserve from 
their government.
  We have a lot of support for this bill from workers all over the 
country and from a wide variety of industries, including organizations 
representing truckers, farmers, electricians, and manufacturers. It is 
a bipartisan bill because it is a common-ground bill. It is a middle-
ground bill.
  I first introduced the RAA 6 years ago, and it has passed the House 
of Representatives five times. By the way, on one of those stand-alone 
votes, 19 Democrats in the House supported it. Some Democrats who serve 
in the Senate today have supported it in the past; they were House 
Members then. By the way, that was when the regulatory burden was less 
of a problem than it is today. I have always had Democratic cosponsors 
of the RAA when I have introduced it here in the Senate.
  I am happy to have Senator Heitkamp, Senator Manchin, and Senator 
Hatch as the original cosponsors to this legislation because this idea 
is needed now more than ever. It is a great opportunity to break 
through the partisan gridlock and get something that creates more jobs, 
raises wages, and makes a difference in people's lives. I think that is 
what the American people are looking for. That is what my neighbors in 
Ohio tell me. They want us to get stuff done to help families. I urge 
my colleagues to join Senator Heitkamp, Senator Hatch, Senator Manchin, 
and me in supporting this legislation that will create

[[Page S2584]]

a more stable and reliable regulatory process and give the people we 
represent more opportunity.
  Thank you, Mr. President.
  I yield back my time.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Colorado.


                        Tribute to John Straayer

  Mr. GARDNER. Mr. President, in Denver today, the Colorado General 
Assembly will gather to pay tribute to Colorado State University 
professor John Straayer, whose 50-year teaching career included 37 
years of managing a legislative intern program during the spring 
semester. Every Tuesday and Thursday, rain or snow, Dr. Straayer, a van 
or two, and an over caffeinated, sleep-deprived, ambitious crew of 
college juniors and seniors would travel to Denver from Fort Collins 
under the tutelage of Dr. Straayer to learn the ``art of legislation.''
  After publishing several seminal books on Colorado politics, 
accumulating roughly 140,000 miles back and forth to the State capitol, 
and supervising over 1,000 interns over the years, he is retiring from 
his service as Colorado's legislative professor emeritus.
  Dr. Straayer has a true love of politics--the process, the policy, 
the people, and the place. He has a passion for every ounce of it, the 
kind of healthy obsession with a place that means so much to the lives 
of its citizens. He has seen it all--the good and the bad, the fights 
and the endearing moments. He watched the impacts of constitutional 
battles, term limits, and reforms, and 50 years later, he has never 
lost his passion.
  To be a part of his intern program, students were required to take 
his class on the legislative process. As a young CSU Ram myself, I 
remember his class vividly, absorbing his drive and drawn into the 
intrigue of policy. We talked about the cowboy coalition and the 
Sagebrush Rebellion; about Speaker Bev Bledsoe and Roy Romer; about 
Anne Burford, who served in the legislature as one of the self-
identified ``House Crazies,'' who in the 1980s became known as Ronald 
Reagan's EPA Administrator but who this past month became known as Neil 
Gorsuch's mom. We talked about the high-water mark of rural power and 
the rise of the suburban legislator.
  Dr. Straayer introduced new generations of students to oatmeal with 
vanilla ice cream and topped with maple syrup.
  Dr. Straayer introduced people to public service, including 
congressional and legislative staffers and many members of my own 
staff. According to a recent article in the Denver Post, those staffers 
and interns included former Democratic Governor Bill Ritter, Democratic 
State Senator Matt Jones, and Republican State Representative Dan 
Nordberg. They were all proteges of Dr. Straayer's. The article goes on 
to state that Straayer had arranged these internships, monitored them, 
and graded the reports of their experiences. Dozens of Straayer interns 
have risen to high electoral office or become key legislative 
lobbyists--and not just in Colorado; one of his former students is a 
city alderman in Chicago.
  I remember visiting Dr. Straayer when I first joined the program and 
was getting ready to be assigned to a legislator. When I received the 
assignment, I was disappointed to learn that I hadn't been appointed to 
the legislator I was hoping to be assigned to. Instead, I was assigned 
to a legislator from the Western Slope of Colorado. I am from the 
Eastern Plains, and I wasn't used to the Western Slope issues. Soon I 
would discover that Dr. Straayer had placed me with an incredible 
legislator named Russell George, who went on to become Colorado's 
speaker of the house--an individual who Dr. Straayer knew would be an 
incredible tutor and an inspiration to me. Dr. Straayer was right. 
Speaker George taught me about issues I work on each and every day here 
in the U.S. Senate--about public lands, water, and the West. He was and 
is an inspiration to me, and it is because Dr. Straayer had the 
discernment to go above and beyond for his students.
  After graduation, Dr. Straayer invited me to speak to his class and 
later would tease me in the State legislature that perhaps I talked too 
much from the well. He provided me interns from the very same program I 
was a part of 10 years before. Most of all, he reminded me of the good 
that comes from our teachers and mentors, those who look out for us 
because, from a special place in their heart, they know that through 
the gift of their teaching, they will have a lasting impact for 
generations to come.
  Congratulations, Dr. Straayer. Thank you for your service to Colorado 
State University and to the State of Colorado, and thank you for 
impacting the lives of so many people. From this U.S. Senator, thanks 
for being that life-changing spark.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Rhode Island.
  Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak for 
up to 15 minutes as in morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                             Climate Change

  Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, on Monday night we confirmed former 
Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to be President Trump's Secretary of 
Agriculture, and I am here for my 164th ``Time to Wake Up'' speech to 
urge Secretary Perdue to listen to his agency, to scientific 
researchers in farm States across the country, to our major food and 
agricultural producers, and to farmers, fishermen, ranchers, and 
foresters about the serious and growing effects of climate change.
  Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is changing the atmosphere 
and the oceans. We see it everywhere. We see it on drought-stricken 
farms and in raging wildfires. We see it in fish that are disappearing 
from warming, acidifying waters. We see it in our dying pine forests. 
We see it in extreme weather events.
  Secretary Perdue is taking the helm of an agency with a key role in 
mitigating those very effects. The USDA provides farmers, foresters, 
commodities markets, and State and local officials with analyses of 
trends and emerging issues affecting agriculture, the food supply, the 
environment, and rural communities. In its own Climate Change 
Adaptation Plan, the Department notes: ``Climate change has the 
potential to confound USDA efforts to meet these core obligations and 
responsibilities to the Nation.''
  During his tenure as Governor, Secretary Perdue issued a State energy 
strategy, stating: ``Strong scientific evidence exists that increasing 
emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are affecting 
Earth's climate.''
  That is encouraging. Yet, when asked by Senator Leahy about climate 
change during the Secretary's confirmation process, he backpedaled and 
said: ``It is clear that the climate has been changing,'' but there is 
``significant debate within the scientific community'' on whether human 
activities play a role in that.
  Whoops, that is the classic denier dodge, and it is just not true.
  Secretary Perdue said several times during his confirmation process 
that he will use the ``best scientific and statistical data available'' 
to make decisions. The National Climate Assessment uses the ``best 
scientific and statistical data'' to conclude this: ``In the long term, 
combined stresses associated with climate change are expected to 
decrease agricultural productivity.''
  In the Midwest, for instance, the National Climate Assessment reports 
that temperatures are increasing, and the rate of warming tripled 
between 1980 and 2010. Under the assessment's worst-case scenarios, 
temperatures across the Midwest are projected to rise 8.5 degrees 
Fahrenheit by the year 2100. If you are a farmer, 8.5 degrees changes 
everything.
  In the western mountains, massive forests stand dead on the 
mountainsides as warmer winters allow the killer bark beetle to swarm 
into higher latitudes and higher altitudes. Over 82 million acres of 
national forests are under stress from fires, these insects, or both. 
Ominously, the assessment says that the combined effect of increasing 
wildfire, insect outbreaks, and diseases is expected to cause an 
``almost complete loss of subalpine forests.''
  The cost to taxpayers of fighting fires in those dead and dying 
forests is growing dramatically. Firefighting has gone from just 13 
percent of the Forest Service's budget in 2004 to over 50 percent in 
2015. The Forest Service estimates that by 2025 fighting fires will 
take up to two-thirds of its budget.

[[Page S2585]]

Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell testified to the Senate: ``This 
increase in the cost of wildland fire suppression is subsuming the 
agency's budget and jeopardizing its ability to implement its full 
mission.''
  One place Secretary Perdue can go to find out a little bit about this 
is from our State universities.
  The University of Wyoming's Center for Environmental Hydrology and 
Geophysics, for example, reports: ``Many of the most pressing issues 
facing the Western United States hinge on the fate and transport of 
water and its response to diverse disturbances, including climate 
change.''
  At Kansas State University, professor of agronomy Charles Rice is 
using climate modeling to help anticipate climate effects in the Great 
Plains and to help the region mitigate and adapt to those effects.
  In Wisconsin, Victor Cabrera, an assistant professor in the 
University of Wisconsin-Madison Dairy Science Department, says that 
higher summer temperatures and increasing drought will interfere with 
both livestock fertility and milk production, and dairy cows could give 
as much as 10 percent less milk. Secretary Perdue's own Department of 
Agriculture predicts that by 2030 climate change will cost the United 
States' dairy sector between $79 million and $199 million per year in 
lost production.
  South Dakota State University professor Mark Cochrane is working with 
the Forest Service to better understand how a changing climate is 
affecting our forests. Professor Cochrane reported: ``Forest fire 
seasons worldwide increased by 18.7 percent due to more rain-free days 
and hotter temperatures.''
  Secretary Perdue could travel to Iowa and hear from Gene Takle, an 
Iowa State University professor of agronomy and geological and 
atmospheric sciences, who told a United Nations conference recently 
that climate change is already affecting Iowa farmers. ``This isn't 
just about the distant future,'' he said. At Iowa State's Leopold 
Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Secretary Perdue could also hear 
about what the center calls ``aggravated and unpredictable risk that 
will challenge the security of our agricultural and biological 
systems.''
  I am from the Ocean State. So let's turn to the oceans, where the 
National Climate Assessment predicts: ``Fishing costs are predicted to 
increase as fisheries transition to new species and as processing 
plants and fishing jobs shift poleward.'' In the Pacific Northwest, 
ocean acidification caused a 70-percent loss of oyster larvae from 2006 
to 2008 at an oyster hatchery in Oregon. Wild oyster stocks in 
Washington State have failed as weather patterns have brought more 
acidic water to the shore. This is an industry worth about $73 million 
annually. So we ought not to laugh this off.
  In Alaska, the University of Alaska has an Ocean Acidification 
Research Center. That is how seriously they take it. The Ocean 
Acidification Research Center warns that ocean acidification ``has the 
potential to disrupt (the Alaskan seafood) industry from top to 
bottom''--a top-to-bottom disruption of one of Alaska's major 
industries, and we cannot get a word on climate change out of the 
Republican side of the aisle in this building.
  It is, of course, not just scientists. Some of the largest 
agriculture and food companies are speaking out as well. For these 
companies, climate change is not a partisan issue. It is not even a 
political issue. It is a business survival issue. It is their new 
reality. In 2015, major food and beverage companies visited Congress to 
tell us how climate change is affecting their industry.
  ``Climate really matters to our business,'' said Kim Nelson, of 
General Mills. ``We fundamentally rely on Mother Nature.'' The choices 
we make to protect or forsake our climate, she said, will be 
``important to the long-term viability of our company and our 
industry.''
  Paul Bakus, of Nestle, agreed, saying that climate change ``is 
impacting our business today.'' His company cans pumpkins under the 
Libby's brand. They have seen pumpkin yields crash in the United 
States. Mr. Bakus told us: ``We have never seen growing and harvesting 
conditions like this in the Midwest.''

  Chief sustainability officer for the Mars Corporation, Barry Parkin, 
was blunter in his assessment: ``We are on a path to a dangerous 
place.''
  Greg Page, the former CEO of Cargill, has publicly stated that 
climate change must be addressed to prevent future food shortages. 
Specifically, he said:

       U.S. production of corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton could 
     decline by 14 percent by mid-century, and by as much as 42 
     percent by late century. From an agricultural standpoint, we 
     have to prepare ourselves for a different climate than we 
     have today.

  In advance of the Paris climate conference, the heads of Mars, 
General Mills, Nestle USA, Unilever, Kellogg Company, New Belgium 
Brewing, Ben & Jerry's, Cliff Bar, Stonyfield Farm, Danone Dairy, 
PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Hershey, and Hain Celestial signed a public 
letter--this one here--that said:

       Climate change is bad for farmers and agriculture. Drought, 
     flooding, and hotter growing conditions threaten the world's 
     food supply and contribute to food insecurity.

  They continued:

       Now is the time to meaningfully address the reality of 
     climate change. . . . We are ready to meet the climate 
     challenges that face our businesses.

  These big, successful companies don't take climate change lightly, 
and neither do our farmers, loggers, ranchers, and fishermen.
  In South Carolina, farms that have been in families for generations, 
like that of Representative Mark Sanford's, are under threat from 
climate change. Congressman Sanford said: ``At our family farm in 
Beaufort, I've watched over the last 50 years as sea levels have risen 
and affected salt edges of the farm.''
  Out West, ranchers are experiencing longer and more severe droughts. 
In a 2012 survey of Southern Colorado ranchers, roughly one-quarter of 
respondents said they would likely leave the industry if the drought 
persisted. Carlyle Currier, who owns a ranch in Molina, CO, said: ``We 
just can't grow enough to feed the cattle ourselves.''
  In New Hampshire, Jamey French, President of Northland Forest 
Products, has seen hardwood tree species begin to migrate, with less 
valuable timber trees like oak and hickory beginning to take the place 
of sugar maple and yellow birch.
  I sure hope Secretary Purdue will come to Rhode Island and meet our 
fishermen. Chris Brown is the owner of Brown Family Seafood and the 
president of the Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen's Association. He 
has fished in the waters of Rhode Island Sound for years: ``We used to 
come right here and catch two, three, four thousand pounds [of whiting] 
a day, sometimes 10,'' he told the New York Times. But the whiting have 
moved north to cooler waters. ``Climate change is going to make it hard 
on some of those species that are not particularly fond of warm or 
warming waters,'' Chris said.
  And he is not alone. I have been told by other fishermen that it is 
getting weird out there in Rhode Island's waters, that this is not our 
grandfathers' ocean. These changes are serious for this industry.
  So I hope Secretary Perdue will hear the message of our farmers, 
foresters, ranchers, and fishermen. They are sending this message loud 
and clear. Climate change is happening now, and they count on us to 
face the challenge.
  The problem, of course, is the fossil fuel-funded denial machine that 
has so much influence over the Republican Party in Congress today. That 
fossil fuel-funded denial machine will do its best to change the 
subject, to muddy the waters, to create artificial doubt, and to use 
its anonymous dark political money to break up and thwart any signs of 
progress, but all the dark money in the world can't change the things 
that Iowa farmers, Wyoming ranchers, South Dakota forest managers, and 
Rhode Island fishermen see.
  If this body--if our Republican friends here--will not listen to Mars 
Corporation, to General Mills, to Nestle USA, to Unilever, to Kellogg, 
to Coke and Pepsi and Hershey, it is really time to wake up.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Perdue). The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.

[[Page S2586]]

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that I be allowed 
to address the Senate as in morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


    Increasing the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability to 
                              Veterans Act

  Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, this afternoon, the President will be 
signing an Executive order to increase accountability within the 
Department of Veterans Affairs. For several years, I have been calling 
on the VA to hold bad actors within the VA accountable. In my view, in 
too many instances, that has not occurred. There are far too many 
examples of those who commit wrongdoing while working at the VA, and 
even crimes against veterans and other VA employees have occurred 
without any consequence.
  On his first day in office, I wrote the President urging him to make 
accountability within the Department of Veterans Affairs one of his top 
priorities. We see too many examples, and unfortunately one of those 
examples--one of those egregious examples--is in my home State of 
Kansas, where we face a terrible example of a VA employee violating the 
trust of veterans. Yet the VA seems to have no real sense of urgency in 
holding this person accountable or committing to fix the process by 
which he got into the position that he could commit the acts he did.
  In 2015, we learned from local newspaper reports--not from the VA--
that a physician's assistant at the Leavenworth VA hospital had been 
sexually abusing veterans. Shortly after that news broke, Leavenworth 
County prosecutors charged this individual with multiple counts of 
sexual assault and abuse against numerous veterans. He is currently 
awaiting trial.
  The stories continue to come into our office and to the prosecutor 
about other victims. Veterans who sought services at the VA--the place 
they would expect to be cared for, respected, and the place they 
certainly should find safe--found something exactly the opposite.
  As the story unfolded, we learned that Mr. Wisner--the person now 
charged with crimes--targeted vulnerable veterans suffering from PTSD, 
post-traumatic stress syndrome; he prescribed opioids that inhibited 
their thinking, and he used his position to deepen their wounds of war 
rather than to heal them.
  Although Mr. Wisner is now beyond the reach of the VA, he and others 
like him who fail our veterans are not beyond the reach of Congress. It 
is ridiculous that taxpayers continue to fund pensions of VA senior 
executives and personnel convicted of crimes that harmed our Nation's 
veterans when they should have been serving and caring for them.
  In the last Congress, we led significant efforts to develop, 
introduce, and pass legislation. Most of those efforts were with the 
Senator from Connecticut, Mr. Blumenthal, and we passed some 
legislation unanimously here in the Senate. That legislation increases 
the accountability of the Department of Veterans Affairs to make 
certain that senior VA executives and certain healthcare employees 
convicted of a felony do not receive the same benefits as those who 
diligently and honorably serve our Nation's veterans.
  Not as an aside but as a separate sentence, let me take this moment 
to say thank you to those people within the Department of Veterans 
Affairs who conscientiously care for and fulfill their responsibilities 
to our Nation's veterans each and every day. How saddening it must be 
that they have to work side by side with people who commit crimes--and 
other failures for our veterans--and receive no consequence for that 
behavior.
  We want to protect our veterans. We also want to make sure that those 
who work at the Department of Veterans Affairs know that their 
profession is honorable and that they are doing the right thing. It is 
difficult to reach that conclusion when surrounded by individuals who 
have not fulfilled that responsibility.
  In light of the situation with Mr. Wisner--and other cases of 
wrongdoing so awful that they have been found guilty of a felony--we 
will not tolerate crimes against veterans that cause harm to their 
personal safety or that involve corrupt, backroom dealings with senior 
VA executives.
  That legislation passed the U.S. Senate on the final day of our 
session last year. It passed unanimously. Unfortunately, that 
legislation did not then pass the House of Representatives, despite 
what we were told was significant support for it. It just didn't work 
in the schedule. So today I am back on the Senate floor. A hotline 
request is pending in which we ask--I ask--that legislation unanimously 
passed by the U.S. Senate on the final day of the previous session 
would pass today. That will then give the House of Representatives the 
time and the mechanics to see that this legislation becomes law.
  In fact, the very first piece of legislation I introduced in this 
session, the 115th, was Increasing the Department of Veterans Affairs 
Accountability to Veterans Act of 2017. We today call for its swift 
passage. I am hopeful this legislation will provide an ounce of justice 
to those victims who have suffered at the hands of this VA employee, 
and I call on my colleagues to once again stand with me in passing this 
legislation.
  In addition to the issues of accountability of wrongdoing employees 
of the Department, this legislation also has additional provisions. 
Those provisions include holding VA leaders accountable for Department 
mismanagement, hiring well-qualified people and addressing employee 
performance, preventing employees from conflicts of interest, and 
improving manager training.
  We have a duty. Of all people in this country, whom should we pay 
respect and honor to? Whom should we care for? For whom should we make 
certain we live up to the commitments that were made? One would think 
that those who served in our military, who protected our freedoms and 
liberties are the ones we would put on a high pedestal and make sure 
everything possible to protect them is done.
  We have a duty to taxpayers, as well, to make sure funds are not 
going to employees who are convicted of crimes against those veterans 
that they are charged to protect and to serve.
  There have been a number of VA scandals, corruption, and illegal 
activity in nearly every State. Whether it has been a secret wait-list 
in a hospital that delayed critical care, opioid overmedication that 
led to death or suicide, or physical abuse and neglect, crimes must 
come to an end. There must be accountability for us to be able to say 
we are doing everything possible to bring those crimes to an end.
  This legislation is an important step in making the VA worthy of the 
service of those who have sacrificed for this Nation. Given the 
previous unanimous support, I can't imagine--I hope there is no reason 
this legislation should not again pass today. I call upon my colleagues 
in the U.S. Senate to stand with me and Senator Blumenthal and others 
as we work to make certain the VA is a department worthy of the 
veterans it serves.
  Mr. 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. ALEXANDER. 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. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in 
morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, later this afternoon the Senate will 
vote on the President's nomination of Alexander Acosta to serve as the 
U.S. Secretary of Labor. Mr. Acosta has excellent credentials and is 
well qualified for the position. He understands that a good-paying job 
is critical to helping workers realize the American dream for 
themselves and for their families.
  After immigrating to the United States from Cuba, Mr. Acosta's 
parents worked hard to create more opportunities for their son. 
Alexander Acosta became the first person in his family to go to 
college, and from there he has had quite an impressive career.
  He has already been confirmed by the U.S. Senate three different 
times: He served as a Republican member of the National Labor Relations 
Board, he

[[Page S2587]]

served as Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Justice Department's 
Civil Rights Division, and he served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern 
District of Florida.
  Mr. Acosta's most recent role was serving as dean of Florida 
International University's law school. The school's president told the 
Miami Herald recently, ``Alex has a destiny in public service. . . . 
He's a person of integrity, conscientious, thoughtful, he doesn't 
overreach.''
  On March 22, Mr. Acosta had a hearing in the Senate Labor Committee 
that lasted two and a half hours. Following his hearing, he answered 
380 follow-up questions for the record--604 questions if you count the 
sub-questions. Then, on March 30, our committee approved Mr. Acosta's 
nomination, readying the nomination for consideration by the full 
Senate.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record 
a list of 140 groups, which includes business groups and labor unions, 
which support Mr. Acosta's nomination.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:


            140 groups that support Mr. Acosta's nomination

       Aeronautical Repair Station Association; Air Conditioning 
     Contractors of America; Alaska Chamber; Alliance of Wyoming 
     Manufacturers; American Apparel & Footwear Association; 
     American Bakers Association; American Beverage Association; 
     American Coatings Association; American Coke and Coal 
     Chemicals Institute; American Concrete Pressure Pipe 
     Association; American Fiber Manufacturers Association; 
     American Fire Sprinkler Association; American Foundry 
     Society; American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers; 
     American Home Furnishings Alliance; American Hotel & Lodging 
     Association; American Iron and Steel Institute; American 
     Moving & Storage Association; American Staffing Association; 
     American Supply Association; American Trucking Associations; 
     AmericanHort; Americans for Tax Reform; Argentum.
       Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Arizona 
     Manufacturers Council; Arkansas State Chamber/Associated 
     Industries of Arkansas; Asian American Hotel Owners 
     Association; Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.; 
     Associated Equipment Distributors; Associated General 
     Contractors of America; Associated Industries of Missouri; 
     Auto Care Association; Brick Industry Association; Can 
     Industry Association; Center for Worker Freedom; Coalition of 
     Franchisee Associations; Colorado Association of Commerce and 
     Industry (CACI); Council of Industry of Southeastern New 
     York; Corry & Associates; Delta Industries, Inc.
       Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International; 
     The Fertilizer Institute; Franchise Business Services; 
     Georgia Association of Manufacturers; Global Cold Chain 
     Alliance; Harsco; Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration 
     Distributors International (HARDI); Hispanic National Bar 
     Association; Hispanic Leadership Fund; HR Policy Association; 
     INDA, The Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry; 
     Independent Electrical Contractors; Independent Lubricant 
     Manufacturers Association; Insured Retirement Institute; 
     International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental 
     and Reinforcing Iron Workers; International Association of 
     Fire Fighters; International Foodservice Distributors 
     Association.
       International Franchise Association; International 
     Housewares Association; International Sign Association; 
     International Sleep Products Association; International 
     Warehouse Logistics Association; Investment Casting 
     Institute; ISSA--The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association; 
     Laborers' International Union of North America; The Latino 
     Coalition; Leading Builders of America; League of United 
     Latin American Citizens; The Linen, Uniform and Facility 
     Services Association (TRSA); Manufacturer & Business 
     Association; Metal Powder Industries Federation; Metals 
     Service Center Institute; Michigan Manufacturers Association; 
     Miles Sand & Gravel; Missouri Association of Manufacturers; 
     MMC Materials, Inc.; Montana Retail Association.
       Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA); MSPA 
     Americas; National Association of Home Builders; National 
     Association of Manufacturers (NAM); National Association of 
     Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM); National Association of 
     Professional Employer Organizations; National Automobile 
     Dealers Association; National Christmas Tree Association; 
     National Club Association; National Council of Chain 
     Restaurants; National Federation of Independent Business.
       National Franchisee Association; National Grocers 
     Association; National Lumber and Building Material Dealers 
     Association; National Oilseed Processors Association; 
     National Precast Concrete Association; National Ready Mixed 
     Concrete Association; National Restaurant Association; 
     National Retail Federation; National Roofing Contractors 
     Association; National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association; 
     National Wooden Pallet and Container Association; Nebraska 
     Chamber of Commerce & Industry; Nevada Manufacturers 
     Association; New Mexico Business Coalition; North American 
     Building Trades Union; North American Concrete Alliance; 
     Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association; Plastics Industry 
     Association; Port Aggregates, Inc.; Precast/Prestressed 
     Concrete Institute; Private Care Association.
       Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association; Retail Industry 
     Leaders Association; Rhode Island Manufacturing Association; 
     San Jose Police Officers' Association; Seafarers 
     International Union of North America; Sergeants Benevolent 
     Association, Police Department, City of New York; 
     Shipbuilders Council of America; Sioux Corporation; Small 
     Business & Entrepreneurship Council; SNAC International; The 
     Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates; Society for 
     Human Resource Management; South Carolina Chamber of 
     Commerce; Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association; 
     Specialty Equipment Market Association; Spurlino Materials.
       Technology & Manufacturing Association; Texas Assocation of 
     Business; Texas Association of Manufacturers; Tile Roofing 
     Institute; Tree Care Industry Association; Truck Renting and 
     Leasing Association; United Brotherhood of Carpenters and 
     Joiners; United Motorcoach Association; U.S. Chamber of 
     Commerce; United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; The 
     Vinyl Institute; Water & Sewer Distributors of America; Wine 
     & Spirits Wholesalers of America; Workforce Fairness 
     Institute.

  Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, the supporters include the U.S. Chamber 
of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, the National Federation of 
Independent Business, the National Association of Manufacturers, the 
International Franchise Association, the Associated Builders and 
Contractors, and the American Beverage Association.
  Here are some examples of what these groups had to say about Mr. 
Acosta. The International Franchise Association said, ``Franchise 
owners around the country are facing a great deal of regulatory 
uncertainty as a result of the wreckage created by the previous 
administration's out-of-control Department of Labor. Mr. Acosta's 
exemplary record handling labor issues as a member of the NLRB has 
shown the appropriate balance needed to protect the interests of 
employees and employers.''
  The National Federation of Independent Business said, ``Alexander 
Acosta is an experienced public servant with a distinguished record. 
His knowledge of labor issues and his service as U.S. Attorney make him 
an especially strong candidate to take on the entrenched bureaucracy, 
which has imposed unbelievably severe and costly regulations on small 
business in the recent years.''
  The National Retail Federation said, ``Mr. Acosta's diverse 
experiences in both public service and the private sector position him 
well to be an effective and pragmatic leader at the Department of 
Labor.''
  Why is this nomination so important? In his new book, New York Times 
columnist Thomas Friedman uses the term ``Great Acceleration'' for all 
of the technological, social, environmental, and market changes 
simultaneously sweeping across the globe and argues that we are now 
``living through one of the greatest inflection points in history'' as 
a result. Add Ball State University's finding that automation is 
responsible for the loss of 88 percent of our manufacturing jobs. Add 
globalization. Add social, cultural, climate changes, and terrorism, 
and you get a big mismatch between the change of pace and the ability 
of the average American worker to keep up and fit in the accelerating 
forces shaping the workplace.
  Earlier this year, after a group of senators listened to a group of 
scientists talk about the advances in artificial intelligence, one 
Senator asked, ``Where are we all going to work?''
  Tom Friedman says that probably the most important governance 
challenge is a great need ``to develop the learning systems, training 
systems, management systems, social safety nets, and government 
regulations that would enable citizens to get the most out of these 
accelerations and cushion their worst impacts.''
  One of the federal government's chief actors in this drama should be 
the U.S. Secretary of Labor. In fact, as many have suggested and the 
House of Representatives has done, the title of the job for which 
Alexander Acosta has been nominated should be changed to the Secretary 
of Workforce, not Secretary of Labor.
  Labor union membership in the private sector today is down to less 
than

[[Page S2588]]

7 percent. The issue for workers today is not whether they belong to a 
union. It is whether they have the skills to adapt to the changing 
workplace and to find and keep a job. To be accurate, to create and 
keep a job. My generation found jobs. This generation is more likely to 
have to create their own jobs.
  In his inaugural address, President Trump said he heard ``forgotten 
men and women'' who are struggling to keep up and fit into today's 
changing world: ``[F]or too many of our citizens, a different reality 
exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; 
rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of 
our nation . . . `' That is what President Trump said in his inaugural 
address.
  Ten days earlier, in his farewell address, President Obama said he, 
too, heard those same voices: ``[T]oo many families, in inner cities 
and in rural counties, have been left behind . . . if we don't create 
opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has 
stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come. . . . `'
  That was President Obama.
  What can we do about this? The most important thing is to work with 
employers and community colleges and technical institutes and find ways 
to increase the number of Americans earning post-secondary certificates 
and two-year degrees or more.
  Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce says 
that by 2020--3 years from now--65 percent of the jobs in this country 
will require some college or more. And at the rate we are going, 
Georgetown predicts the United States will lack 5 million workers with 
an adequate post-secondary education by 2020.
  Unfortunately, too many of the federal government's actions over the 
last few years have made it harder for American workers to keep up, to 
adjust to the changing world, and to create, find, or keep a job.
  President Obama's Department of Labor issued 130 percent more final 
rules than the previous administration's labor department. Overall, the 
Obama Administration issued an average of 85 major rules. These are 
rules that may have an impact of $100 million or more a year on the 
economy. Eighty-five major rules a year. President Bush, on the other 
hand, averaged about 62 a year. That is a 37-percent increase under 
President Obama.
  Take the overtime rule. In my state, its costs would add hundreds of 
dollars per student in college tuition and it would force small 
businesses across the country to reduce the jobs that provide the 
stability that families need. This rule has been delayed by the courts 
until at least June 30th of this year.
  Take the so-called joint employer policy. This is a policy that 
affects franchising and makes it more likely that a parent company will 
own and operate its stores instead of allowing franchisees to own and 
operate those stores. A Republican majority at the National Labor 
Relations Board can start undoing the damage caused by this harmful 
decision.
  Then, there is the fiduciary rule, which is going to make it too 
expensive for the average worker to obtain investment advice about 
retirement benefits--again making it harder, not easier, to adjust to 
the changing world of work. The Department of Labor under the Trump 
administration has delayed this rule for 60 days, until June 9, 2017. 
Some parts of the rule are delayed until January 1, 2018.
  One rule after another from the Obama administration has stacked a 
big wet blanket of costs and time-consuming mandates on job creators, 
causing them to create fewer jobs.
  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's EEO-1 form will require 
employers to provide to the government 20 times as much information as 
they do today about how they pay workers. Earlier this month, the 
Senator from Kansas, Senator Pat Roberts, and I asked the Office of 
Management and Budget to rescind this time-wasting mandate.
  There is the ridiculously complex 108-question FAFSA, the federal aid 
application form that 20 million families fill out every year as 
students go to college. It turns away from college many of the very 
students who most need to adjust to this changing world.
  The Affordable Care Act defined full-time work as only 30 hours, 
forcing employers to cut their workers' hours or reduce hiring 
altogether in order to escape the law's mandate and its unaffordable 
penalties.
  Many of these rules, like the persuader rule, which chills the 
ability of employers to retain legal advice during union organizing 
activities, seemed designed for the purpose of strengthening the 
membership and the power of labor unions.
  We are fortunate to have a nominee in Mr. Acosta who can use his good 
judgment to reevaluate labor policies that make it much harder to 
create jobs and to find jobs.
  We know that Mr. Acosta has support from members of both political 
parties, and that raises a question for me: Why did the Senate 
yesterday have to vote to invoke cloture on Mr. Acosta's nomination? 
The vote was bipartisan, with 61 senators voting to end debate so Mr. 
Acosta could have had an up or down vote. He could have been approved 
by majority vote yesterday. That has been the tradition in the U.S. 
Senate for 230 years. There never has been a Cabinet member denied his 
or her position by requiring them to get more than 51 votes. There have 
been some cloture votes for delay or to take some extra time, but no 
one has ever been denied the position by requiring more than 51 votes.
  During most of the 20th century, when one party controlled the White 
House and the Senate seventy percent of the time, the minority never 
filibustered to death a single presidential nominee. The practice in 
the Senate since the Senate's beginning has been that the President 
nominates and the Senate decides by majority vote whether to approve 
the nomination. Why are we having these cloture votes? We are getting 
into more and more of a difficult situation with these votes. It is a 
bad habit and both sides, Republicans and Democrats, have caused the 
problem.
  During the Obama administration, over the 8 years, there were 173 
cloture votes on nominations, and I voted to invoke cloture 41 of those 
times. For 10 of those nominees, I voted to end debate so that their 
nomination could have an up or down vote even though I opposed their 
confirmation.
  No one has ever disputed our right in the Senate, regardless of who 
was in charge, to use our constitutional duty of advice and consent to 
delay and examine, sometimes causing nominations to be withdrawn or 
even defeating nominees by a majority vote.
  What I would like to suggest today is that if we continue the trend 
of requiring cloture votes on presidential nominees--cabinet members 
and others--that may work fine as long as we have a president and a 
Senate of the same political party, but if we have a president and a 
Senate of different political parties and everybody has become 
accustomed to voting no on cloture, to requiring a cloture vote and 
voting no, the Senate may never be able to confirm any cabinet members 
or any sub-cabinet members when the Senate and the president are of 
different political parties.
  I would suggest to my friends on the other side of the aisle that the 
Senate is a body of precedent, and I think it would be wise for us to 
stop and think, as we proceed, about whether it is wise to require 
cloture votes for presidential nominees. Why don't we simply go ahead 
and approve them or not approve them by majority vote?
  We have an excellent nominee in Mr. Acosta. We are fortunate that 
someone of his intelligence and experience is willing to serve as our 
U.S. Secretary of Labor. I look forward to voting for and to the Senate 
approving his confirmation later today.
  I yield the floor.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. President, I oppose the nomination of Alexander 
Acosta to be Secretary of the Department of Labor.
  Our Nation's Labor Secretary has a responsibility to protect the 
safety and legal rights of the American workforce. From prosecuting 
civil rights violations to monitoring workplace safety, the Department 
of Labor ensures fair treatment. The Labor Secretary must also evaluate 
our economy and advocate for fair and equal pay and benefits for 
American workers. The Department provides the data and expertise for 
policymakers, employers, and workers to make economic decisions.

[[Page S2589]]

  Unfortunately, Mr. Acosta's testimony on these points at his 
confirmation hearing was disappointing. He would not commit to support 
updating overtime rules to make sure that employees get fair pay for 
the hours they work. He would not commit to prioritize closing the 
gender pay gap. He would not commit to keeping workplace safety 
inspectors on the job.
  Moreover, when Mr. Acosta led the Civil Rights Division of the 
Department of Justice during the George W. Bush Administration, the GAO 
reported that there was a ``significant drop in the enforcement of 
several major antidiscrimination and voting rights laws.'' The 
Secretary of Labor must be a vigilant defender of the rights of 
workers.
  In a Cabinet where too many department heads are looking out for 
millionaires and billionaires, we need a Secretary of Labor who will 
look out for the American worker. I am not convinced that Mr. Acosta 
will do that job.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Vermont.


             Coal Miner Pension and Retiree Health Benefits

  Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, it is no great secret that the American 
people do not have a great deal of confidence in their government. It 
is no secret that the American people think the Congress is way out of 
touch with their needs and aspirations. In fact, just confirming that 
point, a recent poll appeared in the Washington Post and ABC News, and 
it found that 58 percent of the American people believe that President 
Trump is out of touch with the concerns of most people in the United 
States today; 62 percent of the American people believe that the 
Republican Party is out of touch with the concerns of most people in 
the United States; and 67 percent of the American people believe that 
the Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of most people 
in the United States today. Those are numbers that should cause a great 
deal of concern to Members of the Senate and the House, to Democrats 
and Republicans, to everybody.
  I think one of the reasons is that there is a world outside of 
Capitol Hill where people are in pain; where people are working longer 
hours for lower wages; where people are scared to death about facing 
retirement because they have, in many cases, no money in the bank; 
where people today are paying 40 percent, 50 percent of limited incomes 
for affordable housing; where single moms can't afford childcare for 
their kids; where young people can't afford to go to college; where 
other people are leaving college deeply in debt. And all of that is 
taking place within the context of almost all new wealth and income 
going to the top 1 percent.
  We have the absurd situation today where the top one-tenth of 1 
percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and 52 
percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent. The middle 
class is shrinking. There are 43 million Americans living in poverty, 
and the very wealthy are getting wealthier.
  In the midst of all that, my Republican colleagues and President 
Trump are desperately trying to provide hundreds of billions of dollars 
in tax breaks for the top 1 percent and cut back on programs that 
working families desperately need, whether it is Pell grants to make it 
easier for kids to go to college, whether it is afterschool programs, 
whether it is the Meals on Wheels program, whether it is affordable 
housing, or whatnot--tax breaks for billionaires, cutbacks on programs 
that people desperately need.
  The American people will not regain confidence in the U.S. Congress 
unless we keep promises that were made to them. Today I want to talk 
about promises that were made to coal miners. For decades, coal miners 
contributed to their pension funds with the promise that when they 
retired, they would receive a pension and retiree health benefits that 
would last for a lifetime. Those were the promises to the people who 
went underneath the ground, who worked incredibly difficult jobs, who 
died of black lung disease or a myriad of other diseases or injuries. 
Promises were made to those workers, and those promises were broken.
  If Congress does not act by tomorrow, the retiree health benefits of 
more than 22,000 coal miners will be eliminated. We cannot allow that 
to happen. It is not only unfair to the retired coal miners and their 
families, it once again will tell the American people that they cannot 
trust their government. Promises were made, but they were not carried 
out.
  My understanding is that an agreement to protect these retiree health 
benefits may be included in the continuing resolution to keep the 
government from shutting down. As I have walked the hallways here in 
the Senate, I have met with members, retirees of the United Mine 
Workers, who have been back here week after week after week, and I 
applaud them for their persistence.
  Let us hope that, in fact, the continuing resolution does contain an 
agreement to protect those retiree health benefits. It is absolutely 
imperative that the agreement contain those benefits and that those 
promises be kept.
  Even if we do put that provision in the CR, it still does not address 
another problem faced by retirees in the coal industry and retirees all 
over the country, and that is the fact that we are doing nothing to 
protect the pension benefits of coal miners and tens and thousands of 
other workers. This is an issue that is of major crisis proportions all 
across this country, and it is an issue that must be addressed. That is 
why I am a proud cosponsor of the Miners Protection Act. That is also 
why I will be introducing legislation on May 9 to protect the pensions 
of not only 90,000 coal miners throughout this country, but the 
retirement benefits of 10 million workers in multiemployer pension 
plans--10 million workers.
  Over 40 years ago, the Federal Government made a solemn commitment to 
the workers of this country. If a retiree is promised a certain pension 
benefit after a lifetime of hard work, a company could not renege on 
that promise. Making that commitment 40 years ago was exactly the right 
thing to do. When someone works for their entire life, when they give 
up pay raises, when they work overtime, when they work weekends in 
order to make sure that he or she has a secure retirement, it is 
absolutely unacceptable to pull the plug from that worker's benefit.
  Guarantees were made, and those guarantees must be kept. This is not 
the negotiating of wage increases. This is not the negotiating of 
overtime. This is a promise made to workers and paid for by workers, 
which simply cannot be nullified if people are to have any faith in our 
political system.
  But more than 2 years ago behind closed doors, a provision was 
slipped into a must-pass spending bill that now makes it legal to cut 
the pension benefits of about 10 million workers and retirees in 
multiemployer pension plans. As a result, retirees all over this 
country are waking up to the unacceptable reality that the promises 
made to them could be broken and that the pension benefits they are 
receiving today may soon be cut by 30, 40 or even 65 percent. What this 
means is that retirees who are currently receiving a pension benefit of 
$18,000 a year are in danger of seeing their benefits cut by $3,843, a 
21-percent cut. Retirees who are currently receiving a pension benefit 
of $36,000 a year could see their pension benefits cut by up to 
$21,000, a 60-percent cut.
  In other words, tens of thousands of retirees all over this country 
who today are in the middle class, who worked hard their entire lives, 
who gave up on wage increases, who worked overtime in order to protect 
those pensions may be seeing significant reductions in what they 
anticipated. We are talking about retirees who will no longer be able 
to pay their mortgages. We are talking about retirees who will not be 
able to pay their utility bills. We are talking about families who may 
have to go on food stamps to feed their families after working their 
entire lives. That is unconscionable. We cannot allow that to happen.
  In my view, we have to send a very loud and very clear message to the 
Republican leadership in Congress and to the President of the United 
States, and that is when a promise is made to the working people of 
this country with respect to their pensions and retiree health 
benefits, that promise must be kept.
  Today, about 150 multiemployer pension plans are in trouble 
financially, but let's be clear. The retirees are not

[[Page S2590]]

the reason these pension plans are struggling financially. The reason 
many of these pension plans are in trouble is because of the greed, 
recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street that drove this 
country into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 
1930s. Let us never forget, when the largest financial institutions 
were on the verge of collapse 7 years ago, it was the taxpayers of this 
country who bailed them out. I didn't vote for it, but a majority of 
the Members of Congress did.
  Congress gave Wall Street some $700 billion in financial assistance. 
The Federal Reserve provided $16 trillion in virtually zero-interest 
loans to every major financial institution in this country and to 
foreign banks throughout the world because they were, as we will all 
recall, too big to fail. If Congress can bail out Wall Street, if 
Congress can bail out foreign banks, we have to protect the pension 
benefits of American workers.
  The legislation that I will be reintroducing on May 9 would prevent 
the retirement benefits of about 10 million workers and retirees from 
being cut by repealing the anti-pension rider that was included in an 
appropriations bill 2 years ago. It establishes an emergency fund 
within the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to make sure that 
multiemployer pension plans can continue to provide every pension 
benefit owed to every eligible American for decades to come.
  It is fully paid for by closing two tax loopholes that allow the 
wealthiest Americans in this country to avoid paying their fair share 
of taxes. Closing these loopholes will allow us to protect the earned 
pension benefits of every worker and retiree in multiemployer pension 
plans in this country.
  At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, when half of all 
older workers have no retirement savings at all, when 20 percent of 
seniors are living on less than $13,000 a year, we have to do 
everything we can to protect and expand the fine pension benefit plans 
in America.
  I look forward to the support of my colleagues for this important 
legislation.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cassidy). The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  (The remarks of Mr. Merkley pertaining to the introduction of S. 987 
are printed in today's Record under ``Statements on Introduced Bills 
and Joint Resolutions.'')
  Mr. MERKLEY. 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. LANKFORD. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                Regulatory Reform and the Budget Process

  Mr. LANKFORD. Mr. President, there is a lot of conversation about all 
that is moving this week in the Senate and the House and the executive 
branch. There is a lot of conversation about 100 days. It is somewhat 
of a look back, and it is reasonable for Americans to be able to look 
back and say the beginning of a new Presidency or the beginning of a 
new session of Congress has begun and what has already happened. There 
has been quite a bit that has actually happened, but let me highlight 
one specific area. I want to highlight an area that has moved and to, 
quite frankly, highlight an area that has not.

  What has moved has been a lot of conversation about regulation. When 
I walked into Congress just a few years ago, I had a lot of people in 
my State who would catch me and ask for one specific thing. They said: 
I don't want anything other than to make it stop. Because every time 
they get news, every time they open up something from an association or 
try to be able to track something, all they got was a new regulation. 
Some of them were large and some small, but it seemed like every time 
they opened the mail, they had a new requirement from some entity they 
had never heard of, 1,000 miles away, telling them how to operate their 
business or to submit some new form. Whether they are a school or a 
hospital or a small business or a large business, whether they are 
doing manufacturing or are service-oriented or technology, the flood of 
regulations coming out of Washington, DC, caused people around my State 
to say: Make it stop; we are trying to catch up. And literally they are 
hiring more people for compliance than they are to actually do what 
their business is designed to do. At some point, they want to hire 
somebody to actually do their business.
  A dramatic shift happened starting January 20 of this year when the 
administration stepped in and for a moment said: Pause on regulations. 
And literally the Nation could take a deep breath. They didn't turn 
anything back. They didn't turn anything off. America didn't become 
less safe. They asked a simple question: How can people actually get 
involved in the process? And before a regulation comes out, we make 
sure that it is, No. 1, consistent with the law, and No. 2, that the 
people who are affected by it actually get a chance to raise their 
hands and say: When you do a regulation, make sure you consider this.
  It doesn't seem unreasonable. If we are going to be a nation of the 
people, by the people, and for the people, it is a good idea to have 
people involved in the process of the regulations that affect them. The 
government should not be their enemy. The government should be their 
ally. It should be the way to make sure that we have fair rules, that 
everyone has a consistent set of guidelines and that those guidelines 
don't change all the time.
  Before this year, there had been only one time in the past decade 
that the Congressional Review Act was used. The Congressional Review 
Act was actually due to a fellow Oklahoman named Don Nickles who, in 
the Senate years ago, passed a simple piece of legislation to say that 
if a regulation is promulgated by an administration--any 
administration--that is not consistent with the desires of Congress, 
that Congress can pull it back out in the first few days after it was 
passed, and most of the time, it is legislative days--it is actually 
months in calendar time. In the first few months it is in existence, 
Congress can pull that regulation out and look at it and say: Is this 
consistent with what Congress passed? If it is not, Congress would have 
a fast-track process to be able to look at it and say: This is 
inconsistent with what Congress desired when it passed the law; that it 
had to go through the House, the Senate, and then to the White House to 
be signed. That has happened only one time.
  In the past few months, Congress has passed now 13 Congressional 
Review Acts--13 different reviews of different regulations that were 
put down by the previous administration in their final months, some of 
them in their final days of--the administration--an administration that 
lasted 8 full years. These were the things they crammed into the very 
end, what are called midnight regulations. Those regulations cost 
billions of dollars, and some had very little review. Thirteen 
different times this Congress has pulled those out. It is literally 
billions of dollars in regulations that were laid on the economy and 
millions of hours of work on people filling out compliance forms and 
submitting things to Washington, DC, that most likely no one will ever 
read.
  Those thirteen bills that have now been signed into law have helped 
free up our economy, and it has started a process that is very simple: 
What do we do to make sure that we have good regulations as a nation, 
that they stay consistent and have the maximum number of people 
involved?
  The administration has also laid out something that many called a 
radical idea; that is, for every one regulation that goes in, an agency 
would pull two out; to go back and review old regulations and say: Are 
there other regulations that need to come out? For those who have 
called this a radical idea, I have had to smile and say: You realize 
the United Kingdom has done that for years. Canada has done that for 
years. Australia has done that for years.

[[Page S2591]]

  It is not a radical, crazy idea; it is a simple statement to say that 
when regulations go in, we need to have consideration for those who are 
already regulated and say: Are we burying them in new compliance 
requirements? Is there an area where we can help free them of things 
that are not needed anymore, that are old, that are not used or not 
even appropriate anymore? It is a reasonable thing to be able to look 
at. It is not in statute, it is an Executive order, but it is one of 
those things that I think are wise for agencies to be able to take a 
look at.
  Every administration over the past several decades has said they are 
going to do what is called a retrospective review--go back and look at 
it. This administration has said: We are really going to look at it. If 
a new regulation goes in, we have to go back and review and see if two 
can come out at the same time, to force that retrospective review.
  Many other areas of regulations are coming out, but the primary issue 
that has come out is very simple; that is, slowing down the process and 
making sure it is wise to be able to impose new regulations. We should 
have them in health and safety areas, but we shouldn't do regulations 
just because someone in Washington, DC, thinks it is a good idea to be 
able to run everyone else's business.

  With any set of decisions made by the executive branch, we should 
resolve many of these things in law. The Congressional Review Act--
those are all in law. Those have all been settled. The executive 
actions like the ``one in, two out''--that is an executive action. A 
future executive can flip it back around and say: We are not going to 
go back and review it at all.
  I proposed a whole series of issues that we need to deal with on 
regulatory actions. I chair the Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee, in 
fact. We have had very bipartisan conversations to say: Where can we 
find common ground, and what do we need to do to be able to resolve 
this issue of regulations just showing up?
  So we have set out a simple set of ideas, one beginning in small 
business. If we are going to start with regulatory issues, let's start 
in the area where we have the greatest amount of agreement; that is, on 
small businesses. Small businesses should have an opportunity to have a 
voice at the table. Now, when regulations are put out, often those 
regulations are put out and only the largest businesses are consulted 
on them--those that might have lobbyists or government relations or 
have a team of attorneys to be able to go engage with the Federal 
Government and get their input considered.
  We required years ago that small businesses get a voice. The problem 
is, many agencies actually don't do it. We need to be able to press the 
issue and put into statute an absolute requirement that small 
businesses be consulted. So when a regulation is created, the people 
who are affected the most--like in my State of Oklahoma, where 97 
percent of the businesses are small businesses--that those folks 
actually get a voice.
  It may shock some people in this Chamber to know that small business 
owners in Oklahoma don't wake up every day and read the Federal 
Register to see if there is an area they have to give notice and 
comment to. It may be stunning to know that they don't have a team of 
lawyers at every small business. In fact, there are towns in Oklahoma 
where there are many small businesses but there is not a lawyer in that 
town. We should not require every business to hire attorneys and to 
read the Federal Register every day for them to be able to stay in 
business. We should actually reach out to them and say: We are not 
opposed to small businesses; we want to make sure we facilitate them.
  Here is a simple idea of many ideas in the small business bill that I 
have--not only getting greater input and to make sure they are in 
consideration, but how about this simple idea: If there is a paperwork 
violation for a small business, they are not fined immediately. They 
have forgiveness for that first-time offense. Many of them didn't even 
know there was a certain amount of paperwork that had to be turned in. 
It showed up as a requirement in the Federal Register. They are running 
their small business. They weren't tracking it. Someone comes in and 
evaluates and says ``There is a piece of paper you haven't turned in'' 
and drops a $5,000, $10,000, $15,000 fine on them for not submitting 
something, and they had no idea what it was.
  First-time paperwork forgiveness is a simple idea. To actually be 
engaged where the Federal Government can go to a small business and say 
``Hey, you missed one,'' and if they are not health or safety related 
issues, we give them forgiveness in the process--why should that be so 
hard for us to do?
  We have another piece of legislation we proposed called early 
participation in regulations. Before a regulation is written by an 
agency, this would require that they actually put out the word that 
they are thinking about writing a regulation on a certain topic and get 
as much input as they can, so before they even write the regulation and 
we are fighting over whether we should use ``or'' or ``and'' in a 
section, we actually talk about whether it is needed at all, or if they 
are going to write it, make sure it has these certain issues in it--
again, getting more people involved in the process.
  Just a week ago, there was a march through this town and through many 
towns saying: We need to have great science in our Nation. I could not 
agree more. We should have quality science in our research. We should 
have engagement from science when we put policy papers together.
  One of the challenges we currently have and one of the things we are 
trying to correct with another piece of legislation is just on using 
best science, just requiring agencies, when they make a decision about 
something in a regulation, to actually use peer-reviewed, good science 
that can be shared with other people. We bump into issues now commonly 
with agencies where they say they have made a decision on some of the 
regulations, and we ask for the science behind it, and they say that 
the science is proprietary and they can't share it with us or the 
American people. The American people aren't good about withholding a 
secret on something that actually affects their day-to-day life. Don't 
lay a new requirement on them and tell them: Trust us--we have thought 
about this, and this is the right way to go. Americans aren't great 
with that. They just want to be able to know the facts behind it so 
they can see that science themselves.
  So getting best science is something we have talked about within the 
framework of the Administrative Procedures Act for a long time--
something many administrations for the past several decades have said 
we should do. Well, let's go ahead and do it, and let's require that we 
actually have best science out there.
  This body, with a voice vote, just a year ago, passed a bill called 
TSCA. That TSCA bill dealt with chemicals and how we are going to 
approve chemicals and how the EPA can do it. We put new language in 
that requiring good science, peer-reviewed science, and on a voice vote 
from everyone in this body, we agreed that is the best way to handle 
science on chemicals.
  So what did I do? I took that exact language that we all agreed to on 
TSCA and said: Let's apply that to every agency so that whenever an 
agency of any type makes a decision that is science-based, it has good 
transparency and it is peer-reviewed. We have agreed that the EPA 
should do it dealing with chemicals; let's agree that everyone should 
do it. Let's agree on how we handle guidance, to not allow agencies to 
be able to create guidance documents. Let's have good transparency and 
simplicity.
  We have a simple bill, as odd as this may sound, that just says that 
for whatever regulation is out there, the agencies also have to put a 
description out on it in plain language that a non-attorney can 
understand in just 100 words, just a 100-word description of what it 
is. Right now there are folks who actually do try to research things, 
and if you are not a trained attorney, you can't even understand what 
it means. So just plain-language descriptions of regulations are called 
for.
  These should all be areas of common ground. These should all be 
straightforward issues that aren't partisan issues but are commonsense 
issues.
  We have made progress on regulations over the past 100 days. The 
American people have now been able to take a breath as regulations are 
not coming

[[Page S2592]]

out at rapid speed. We still need them, though. In the days ahead, we 
need to do good regulations, so let's figure out a good way to do it.
  Let me make one more note on the opposite side. We have made progress 
in regulations, with a ways to go. Where we have not made progress in 
the past 100 days is on how we do budgeting.
  There is a group of us who have talked for several years now and have 
said that we have to change the way we do budgeting. Year after year, 
the American people have said: Are we going to have another continuing 
resolution? Are we going to have another omnibus bill? Are we going to 
be late again on budgeting?
  Year after year, Congress has said: Yes, we are.
  Folks around my State occasionally catch me and say: This is 
different.
  I smile at them and say: No, it is not different.
  The way we do budgeting was created right after Watergate in 1974 to 
create a more transparent process. What they actually created was a 
process so difficult that it has only worked four times since 1974--
four times. So if it feels like every year you are saying ``How come 
the budget process didn't work again?'' it is because every year but 
four, since 1974, the budget process didn't work.
  At some point, we have to say: The budget process is not in the 
Constitution. Let's change the way we are doing the process. They were 
well-meaning in 1974 when they made that process; it just didn't work. 
So let's fix it instead of saying that once again it didn't work.
  We will never get a better product on our budget until we fix the 
process of our budget. We will never be able to solve the budget debt 
and deficit issues we have with this continuing resolution autopilot 
system and with an omnibus system that seems to just perpetuate the 
same issues over and over again.
  We have made specific proposals: doing the budget every 2 years, 
getting time to get more predictability, to get more time to be able to 
walk through the research of it; eliminating budget gimmicks, and there 
are a mess of budget gimmicks that are out there; and getting a better 
long-term view. The budget has what is called a 10-year window now, 
where we have to budget over 10 years. So what happens? Congress 
creates a budget that blows up in the 11th year. Well, that has been 
done year after year after year, and we have a lot of eleventh-hour 
years now stacking up and a lot of major problems that are out there.
  We need to find a way to prevent us from ever having to get in a 
conversation about a government shutdown. We have a bill called the 
government shutdown prevention bill that would keep us from ever having 
that, and it would put the pressure back on Congress and the White 
House to resolve the issues but would prevent us from ever having a 
government shutdown fight. We shouldn't argue about whether the 
government is going to be opened or closed. We should argue about how 
we are going to handle the issue of budgeting and how we are going to 
actually be able to get us back to balance.

  There are a lot of simple, commonsense things that are out there that 
we can do, but we as a body have agreed that we are going to actually 
tackle the way we do budgeting. That is going to involve some focus and 
some time commitment and a risk to say: How it was done in the 1970s is 
not the way we should do it now. It didn't work. Let's change the 
system so we can actually get us back on track and bring some 
predictability again to what we are doing.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arkansas.


                         Remembering Jay Dickey

  Mr. BOOZMAN. Mr. President, I rise to address the urgent crisis 
taking place in Sudan, but, first, I wish to take just a moment to 
remember former Congressman Jay Dickey, who, as many in Washington and 
Arkansas now know, passed away last week.
  Jay was a native of Pine Bluff and represented Southern Arkansas in 
the Fourth Congressional District for four terms between 1993 and 2001. 
Jay was known as a fierce advocate for Arkansas and worked hard to 
ensure that our State had a strong voice in Washington.
  A successful business owner and attorney, Jay was a well-respected 
member of the Pine Bluff community. He served as Pine Bluff city 
attorney and had a brief tenure on the Arkansas Supreme Court. Jay was 
a friend to many and built a warm relationship with almost everyone he 
met--even those who disagreed with him politically. He also wore his 
faith on his sleeve as a proud born-again Christian.
  I will always appreciate Jay's kindness to me when I first started 
serving in Congress and truly valued his friendship. He was a loving 
father, a dedicated public servant, and he will be missed by many.
  My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends as they mourn 
his loss, but I know they are also incredibly proud, as I have been, of 
the legacy Jay leaves behind, which will continue to have an impact on 
us all in the years ahead.


                              South Sudan

  Mr. President, the Trump administration has stated it will pursue a 
foreign policy focused on American interests that puts our national 
security first. I appreciate the President's commitment to a stronger 
and more respected America and stand ready to work with him to achieve 
that goal.
  A stronger, more respected America does not mean we disengage with 
the international community. In fact, it means just the opposite. While 
there are many important issues we must address here at home, we cannot 
lose sight of the places around the globe that are in need of American 
engagement.
  As we have seen with Syria and North Korea, it makes a difference 
when the United States acts, but not every international crisis gets 
front page headlines like Syria and North Korea do. One such crisis 
with little attention but in desperate need of U.S. leadership is South 
Sudan. Hunger emergencies are on the rise across Africa, but the 
situation in South Sudan is so grim that it has led the U.N. to use the 
word ``famine'' for the first time since 2011.
  ``Famine'' is not a word the U.N. or the international community 
throws around lightly. In order for the U.N. to officially declare a 
famine, a population must reach certain death rate, malnutrition, and 
food shortage thresholds. In blunt terms, a formal famine declaration 
means that many people have already started dying of hunger.
  The famine in South Sudan is almost entirely manmade. The much 
heralded August 2015 peace agreement has failed to bring peace to South 
Sudan, which has been mired in a civil war almost entirely throughout 
the young nation's lifetime.
  Thousands of civilians have been killed and millions more were 
displaced as a result of the civil war in South Sudan. Millions of 
those who are left in the country are facing a severe hunger crisis. 
Fighting between rival factions has left an estimated 4.9 million 
people--more than 40 percent of the country--in urgent need of food. 
That total is expected to rise to over 5.5 million people--5.5 million 
people--by summer if the international community doesn't act quickly. 
These innocent civilians are victims of competing groups that use 
hunger as a weapon of war while accumulating wealth by exploiting South 
Sudan's resources. Millions are suffering in South Sudan, but that is 
not due to shortage of food. It is because they are being denied food 
by a small few getting rich off the country's oil, gold, and livestock.
  Meanwhile, humanitarian aid workers trying to reach the hungry are 
being kidnapped and held for ransom. Some have even been killed. Food 
shipments are being blocked, crops are being torched, farmers and 
herders are being forced from the land, and civilians so fear for their 
lives, they have been driven away from the violence in population 
centers to remote locations where aid workers can't reach them to 
provide the relief they need.
  There is plenty of evidence to show that when people don't have 
enough to eat, they get desperate. Desperation fuels conflict. Conflict 
in a young country, in an unstable region, poses the risk of spillover 
into neighboring countries, further exacerbating human suffering. This 
is why U.S. leadership is needed.

[[Page S2593]]

  By that, I don't mean throwing money or military personnel into a 
conflict zone. In fact, that would likely exacerbate the situation as 
the structural causes will remain once the money dries out and the 
troops head home.
  The approach I am advocating is two-pronged. First and foremost, 
there absolutely is a need for the United States to take a lead in 
coordinating relief with NGOs and our international partners like the 
World Food Program--aid which has proven effective channels, the 
dedication and compassion of doers, not takers.
  Along with helping those who desperately need humanitarian aid, the 
international community must also take action to end the unchecked 
corruption that fuels the conflict in South Sudan. This is the 
structural cause of the crisis. We have to address this problem at its 
root. If we want to have any chance at long-term stability in South 
Sudan, we must seriously consider options that would end the corruption 
which enriches those in power at the expense of the citizens.
  I believe President Trump would support these efforts. The President 
understands how dire the situation in South Sudan is. The 
administration recently announced the continuation of the national 
emergency declaration for South Sudan, which was set to expire earlier 
this month.
  Earlier this week, Ambassador Haley rightfully called out the warring 
parties in South Sudan and urged the U.N. Security Council to move 
forward with further sanctions and an arms embargo. The Ambassador's 
words urging the Council to take action to break the cycle of violence 
in South Sudan are extremely encouraging. They show the administration 
understands that the United States must remain engaged in corners of 
the world that need our leadership. It is my hope that Congress and the 
President can work together to exert that leadership and put an end to 
the corruption that is causing so much suffering in the country.
  There is a role for soft power in a hard-powered administration. 
Human suffering is never in our national interest, no matter where it 
is happening. U.S. leadership, through diplomacy and smart foreign aid 
programs, help prevent situations which lead to serious threats to our 
national security.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Lankford). The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                       Republican Healthcare Bill

  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, House Republicans have revived their 
efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
  As a reminder, the original effort to repeal the Affordable Care 
Act--characterized by some as the TrumpCare bill--was so unpopular that 
it had to be withdrawn from the floor of the U.S. House of 
Representatives. That is because, after the Congressional Budget Office 
took a look, it would have taken away health insurance from 24 million 
Americans.
  Think about that for a moment. The Republican answer to ObamaCare--
the Affordable Care Act--was to remove health insurance protection and 
coverage from 24 million Americans. It would have devastated the 
Medicaid Program. The Medicaid Program, of course, is one that is 
easily characterized as a health insurance program for those who are in 
low-income categories, but that statement doesn't tell the real story.
  For example, in my State, half of the children who are born in 
Illinois are covered by Medicaid. Their mothers and the kids are 
covered by Medicaid. So when it comes to new babies, particularly in 
low-income families, Medicaid provides the prenatal care, delivery, and 
care after the child is born, but the most expensive part of the 
Medicaid Program is the help it gives to senior citizens--mothers and 
grandmothers who are in nursing homes who have only a little bit of 
savings, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid cover their medical 
expenses. The Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act would 
have decimated the Medicaid Program across the United States. It would 
have increased costs for the average person for health insurance by 
$3,000, and particularly for people in upper ages--I guess I fit in 
that category--these folks would have seen a change in the calculation 
of premiums.
  The Affordable Care Act protects premiums so they cannot be more than 
three times the lowest premium for any individual. The Republican 
approach said: Let's make that five times. If it goes up to five times, 
it can mean almost doubling the premiums paid by many senior citizens--
those approaching, I should say, being senior citizens, from 50 to age 
65.
  It also would have cut off funding for women's health centers, all 
while providing a massive tax cut for upper income, wealthy people and 
big businesses, including tax cuts for drug companies. What a deal--to 
eliminate health insurance for 24 million Americans, to devastate the 
Medicaid Program, to increase the cost of health insurance for the 
average individual, to cut off funding for women's health centers in 
order to give a tax cut to wealthy people and drug companies.
  The new bill does all those things as well--and then something I 
didn't think was possible. The new version of the Affordable Care Act 
repeal Republicans are now considering in the House allows insurance 
companies to impose--get this--an age tax and charge seniors 
significantly higher premiums than younger people. It says that 
insurance plans do not have to cover hospital visits, prescription 
drugs, maternity care, substance abuse treatment, or mental health 
services.
  The Affordable Care Act defined these as essential services so, if 
you are buying health insurance, you know you are buying that kind of 
protection. Well, Republicans have said: That is too much insurance for 
people. We ought to let them buy stripped-down versions of health 
insurance that may be cheaper. The obvious question, What happens to 
those people when they need coverage for substance abuse treatment? 
What if that son or daughter in high school begins an addiction to 
opioids, leading to heroin, and now your health insurance plan saved 
you money by not covering it or didn't cover mental health counseling?
  It guts protections for people with preexisting conditions. Is there 
a person alive who doesn't know someone or have someone in their family 
with a preexisting condition? That used to be grounds for denying 
insurance coverage or charging outrageous premiums. We did away with it 
with the Affordable Care Act.
  It is back, my friends, with the new Republican approach to the 
repeal of affordable care. It allows insurance companies to once again 
charge unaffordable premiums if someone in your family has a history of 
asthma, cancer, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
  Republicans made these changes to win the votes of the most extreme 
conservative Members of the U.S. House, the so-called Freedom Caucus. 
What they are fighting for is for freedom from individuals getting 
protection when it comes to healthcare. These changes may appeal to a 
handful of extreme people who conveniently see their health insurance 
policies--their personal policies--protected under their bill, but 
these sorts of approaches don't appeal to anyone in the medical 
community.
  Who opposes the new Republican repeal of the Affordable Care Act? The 
American Medical Association--that would be the doctors--the American 
Heart Association, the American Nurses Association, the American 
Association of Retired Persons, as well as every major medical and 
patient group out there. Every one of them opposes the changes proposed 
by the Republicans in the House to our healthcare system.
  Of course, we have a bottom line that we measure proposals against. 
We go to the Congressional Budget Office, and we say to them: What 
impact will this have?
  No one has sent this bill to the Congressional Budget Office, and no 
report has been given. So we don't know the impact on premiums of this 
new version. What is going to happen to seniors, to middle-income 
families?
  Ramming through a bad bill that will harm Americans just because the 
President wants to have something to say on the 100th day of his 
Presidency is a bad idea. It is time to stop this

[[Page S2594]]

madness. It is time for Democrats and Republicans to sit down and talk 
seriously about improving our current system.
  The Presiding Officer is from the State of Louisiana and is a medical 
doctor. He has joined on the Republican side with Senator Collins of 
Maine to open this conversation. Thank you. We should have this 
bipartisan conversation--not about repeal but repair, what we can do to 
make this better and fairer and more affordable while preserving 
quality healthcare for Americans. Thank you for your leadership in 
this. We have talked about it, and I want to continue the conversation.
  This notion coming over from the House is unacceptable. I hope that 
many people will tell the President and tell those who support it that 
this is no way to celebrate 100 days--by taking health insurance away 
from 24 million people.


                  For-Profit Colleges and Universities

  Mr. President, during the Senate's consideration of Betsy DeVos to be 
Secretary of Education, I asked a basic question: As Secretary of 
Education, would she side with corporate and other for-profit interests 
or would she be on the side of the students and their families?
  I was concerned that the record of Secretary DeVos indicated that she 
was on the side of corporate interests, looking for opportunities to 
profit off of students and often exploiting them in the process.
  Months into the job, now that she was approved by a historic 
tiebreaking vote by the Vice President, we are beginning to see which 
side the Secretary is on. A recent Chicago Tribune article entitled 
``Targeted by Obama, DeVry and other for-profit colleges rebounding 
under Trump'' put it this way:

       Less than 100 days into Trump's presidency, the Department 
     of Education under Secretary Betsy DeVos has delayed 
     implementation of gainful employment rules . . . withdrawn 
     key federal student loan servicing reforms . . . and signaled 
     a less onerous regulatory environment for the essentially 
     taxpayer-financed career education [or for-profit] sector.

  A group of State attorneys general, including Lisa Madigan of 
Illinois, warned of a return to ``open season'' on students in a letter 
to Secretary DeVos if she rolled back all of these protections.
  I ask unanimous consent that the full text of that letter from the 
State attorneys general be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:


                               Office of the Attorney General,

                                                February 22, 2017.
     Re How For-profit Schools Have Harmed Student Borrowers: the 
         Need for the Gainful Employment Rule, Vigorous Federal 
         Oversight of Accreditors, and the Borrower Defense to 
         Repayment Rule

     Hon. Elisabeth DeVos,
     Secretary, U.S. Department of Education,
     Washington, DC.
     Speaker Paul Ryan,
     Speaker of the House, House of Representatives,
     Washington, DC.
     Hon. Mitch McConnell,
     Senate Majority Leader, U.S. Senate,
     Washington, DC.
     Hon. Nancy Pelosi,
     House Minority Leader, House of Representatives, Washington, 
         DC.
     Hon. Charles E. Schumer,
     Senate Minority Leader, U.S. Senate,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Secretary DeVos, Speaker Ryan, Senator McConnell, 
     Congresswoman Pelosi, Senator Schumer: We, the undersigned 
     Attorneys General of Illinois, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, 
     Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, 
     New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, 
     Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of 
     Columbia, as well as the Executive Director of the Office of 
     Consumer Protection of Hawaii, write to express our support 
     for recent federal protections for students and taxpayers in 
     higher education. We are deeply concerned that rollbacks of 
     these protections would again signal ``open season'' on 
     students for the worst actors among for-profit post-secondary 
     schools. As the chief consumer law enforcement agencies in 
     our states, our offices handle thousands of complaints 
     concerning higher education every year. We also enforce laws 
     to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive practices 
     perpetrated by higher education providers.


  I. Background: The Need for Rules to Protect Students and Taxpayers 
  from Unfair and Deceptive Practices by For-Profit Higher Education 
                               Providers

       Over the last ten years, student loan debt has soared from 
     $450 billion to nearly $1.4 trillion. A major driver of this 
     increase has been for-profit colleges. Of the top 25 schools 
     where students hold the most student loan debt, over half 
     were for-profit schools in 2014. This is up from only one 
     for-profit institution in the top 25 in 2000.
       In addition to driving the increase in student loan 
     borrowing, for-profit institutions also have significantly 
     more loan defaults than other types of institutions. Since 
     2013, for-profit institutions accounted for 35% of all 
     federal student loan defaults, but enrolled just 27% of all 
     borrowers. Many for-profit schools are almost entirely 
     dependent on federal grants and loans. In December 2016, the 
     U.S. Department of Education (``ED'') found that nearly 200 
     for-profit schools derive more than 90% of their income from 
     federal sources. The only reason that many of these 
     institutions are in compliance with the federal 90/10 Rule is 
     that certain categories of federal money, including GI Bill 
     money, are excluded from the rule and thus count toward the 
     10% that is supposed to be non-federal money.
       Over the past fifteen years, millions of students have been 
     defrauded by unscrupulous for-profit post-secondary schools. 
     With accreditors asleep at the wheel, State Attorneys General 
     Offices have stepped in to stop some of the worst abuses. The 
     list of State Attorney General investigations and enforcement 
     actions against for-profit colleges is long, including 
     actions against: American Career Institute; Ashford 
     University/Bridgepoint Education, Inc.; Corinthian Colleges, 
     Inc.; Career Education Corporation; Education Management 
     Corporation; Daymar College; DeVry University; ITT Tech; 
     National College of Kentucky; and Westwood Colleges, among 
     others. These schools, and others like them, engaged in a 
     variety of deceptive and abusive practices. Some promised 
     prospective students jobs, careers, and further opportunities 
     in education that the schools could not provide. Many schools 
     inflated job placement numbers and/or promised career 
     services resources that did not exist. Many nationally-
     accredited schools promised that their credits would 
     transfer, even though credits from nationally-accredited 
     schools often do not transfer to more rigorous regionally-
     accredited schools. Many students were placed in loans that 
     the schools knew from experience their graduates could not 
     pay back. The schools were overseen by accreditors who failed 
     to take action to protect students or the taxpayers who 
     funded their federal student loans, despite ample evidence of 
     these and other problems. In short, the entire for-profit 
     education system was failing students and taxpayers. As 
     investigations and prosecutions initiated by our offices shed 
     light on these problems, ED began to take steps to remedy 
     these harms, issuing new regulations and reformulating 
     policies to help protect students and taxpayers.
       Three of these recent steps--the Gainful Employment Rule, 
     the policy of vigorous federal oversight of accreditors, and 
     the Borrower Defense to Repayment Rule--are essential to 
     protect both consumers and taxpayers from fraudulent actors 
     in the for-profit education sector. The Gainful Employment 
     Rule is a measure of graduates' debt-to-income and is 
     designed to ensure that programs produce graduates that are 
     able to pay back their student loans. Prospectively, the 
     federal government recognizes accreditors who have standards 
     sufficient to show that the schools they accredit provide a 
     quality education and should have access to federal student 
     loans and grants. Finally, where other protections fail and 
     students are defrauded by bad actors, the Borrower Defense to 
     Repayment Rule provides a formal process for students to 
     assert a defense to repayment of their federal student loans.


 II. Corinthian Colleges: An Example of the Harm Faced by Students and 
                               Taxpayers

       The egregious conduct of Corinthian Colleges illustrates 
     how each of these three policies is necessary to avoid harm 
     to both students and taxpayers. In March 2016, after an 
     extensive review of published job placement rates at 
     Corinthian campuses nationwide, the Department of Education 
     found that the job placement rates were fraudulent for 
     hundreds of cohorts from 2010-2014. Corinthian was telling 
     the world that far more of its students obtained jobs than 
     actually did, inducing students to enroll. Many of these 
     students were left without jobs in their field of study. 
     Without these jobs, many are saddled with debt they cannot 
     repay, defaulting on loans funded with taxpayer dollars.
       Had the gainful employment regulations been in place, 
     Corinthian's programs that weren't producing jobs for 
     students would have been shut down because the median debt-
     to-income ratio would have shown that students were not 
     making enough money to pay down their loans. Had Corinthian's 
     accreditors reviewed the school's self-reported job placement 
     data on a regular basis, the fraud would have been discovered 
     and stopped much earlier, saving students and taxpayers 
     billions of dollars.
       The absence of policies in place to protect prospective 
     students from Corinthian's fraudulent practices also 
     demonstrates the

[[Page S2595]]

     need for an effective process for students to assert a 
     defense to loan repayment. This defense was established in 
     the 1990s when Congress passed legislation allowing students 
     to assert claims against their schools as a defense to 
     repayment of their federal student loans. There was little 
     detail, however, on the process for asserting such claims. 
     The regulations set to take effect on July 1, 2017 give 
     borrower defense to repayment set processes so that students, 
     schools, and taxpayers have an orderly process, and a degree 
     of certainty, moving forward.
       Without the Gainful Employment Rule, meaningful oversight 
     of accreditors, and an orderly borrower defense process, we 
     face the prospect of for-profit schools continuing to line 
     their pockets with taxpayer dollars while students and 
     taxpayers experience another crushing wave of defaulted 
     student loan debt.


                    III. The Gainful Employment Rule

       ED's gainful employment regulations are designed to further 
     a simple idea--that students who attend career training 
     programs should be able to repay their federal student loans 
     once they graduate. The Rule allows prospective students to 
     compare debt-to-income ratios across schools. By doing this, 
     the Rule creates an incentive for schools to make good on 
     their promises to students, and protects students from 
     programs that will leave them saddled with debt and without 
     job prospects in the careers for which they trained.
       The Rule generally applies to vocational programs at for-
     profit institutions and to non-degree programs at community 
     colleges. If graduates' annual loan payments exceed 30% of 
     discretionary income and 12% of total earnings in two out of 
     three consecutive years, the program loses access to Title IV 
     federal student loans and grants. A program can also lose 
     access if graduates' annual loan payments exceed 20% of 
     discretionary income and 8% of total earnings for four 
     consecutive years.
       Data released on January 9, 2017 indicate that over 800 
     programs fail the Department's Gainful Employment metrics. 
     For-profit institutions are responsible for 98% of the 
     failing programs. But these 800 programs are only a portion 
     of the for-profit school programs that have failed their 
     students. With the Gainful Employment Rule pending, for-
     profit institutions have already eliminated hundreds of 
     programs where students did not make enough money to cover 
     their debt obligations, sometimes closing entire institutions 
     that would have failed to provide students with gainful 
     employment under the regulations.
       It is essential that the Gainful Employment Rule be kept in 
     place. Removing the Rule would open students and taxpayers up 
     to the worst excesses of the for-profit higher education 
     sector. It would greatly increase the regulatory and 
     enforcement burden on states and accreditors by removing a 
     central protection from the federal leg of the triad that 
     oversees higher education in the United States.


              IV. Vigorous Oversight of Accreditors by ED

       The federal government and states need strong partners with 
     specialized knowledge of higher education to provide 
     prospective quality assurance of schools in order to protect 
     students and taxpayers. Accreditors are the organizations 
     tasked with this role. Our experience, however, has shown 
     that without substantive oversight by the federal government, 
     some accreditors are negligent in their role.
       The primary example of this dereliction of duty to students 
     and taxpayers is the Accrediting Council for Independent 
     Colleges and Schools (ACICS). As noted in our April 8, 2016 
     comment to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional 
     Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) opposing ACICS's application 
     for renewal of recognition, a recent study found that only 
     35% of students enrolled in ACICS accredited programs 
     graduate, the lowest rate for any accreditor.
       NACIQI, a bipartisan panel, voted to revoke ACICS's 
     recognition in June 2016. The Senior Department Official at 
     ED agreed with NACIQI and revoked ACICS's recognition as an 
     accreditor in September, 2016. ACICS appealed the decision to 
     the Secretary of Education, and in December 2016, the 
     Secretary denied ACICS's appeal.
       An accreditor's failure to verify program quality at its 
     accredited institutions jeopardizes the effectiveness of 
     state enforcement efforts and regulations, exposing each 
     state's students to subpar educational programs that provide 
     little value, but for which each student may borrow tens of 
     thousands of dollars in student loans, that are nearly 
     impossible to discharge in bankruptcy.
       A prime example of the harm that stems from lax 
     accreditation was brought to light by state action against 
     Westwood College. The Illinois Attorney General's Office sued 
     Westwood College for systematically misrepresenting the 
     ability of its criminal justice graduates to pursue careers 
     in law enforcement. Thousands of Westwood students in 
     Illinois borrowed up to $75,000 each for careers they were 
     unable to pursue because many police departments in Illinois, 
     including the Chicago Police Department and the Illinois 
     State Police, did not accept credits from nationally-
     accredited schools. Graduates of Westwood's criminal justice 
     program have a median salary below the median salary of a 25-
     year old with a high school diploma, in part because they 
     were locked out of the career they had been promised. This 
     combination of high debt and limited job prospects is a 
     crushing blow not only to students, but to taxpayers who bear 
     the burden of defaults on these loans. Despite the Illinois 
     Attorney General's January 2012 suit against Westwood, ACICS 
     accredited Westwood up to the day it closed its doors in 
     March 2016.
       Similarly, on September 8, 2016, a Hennepin County Court 
     found that the Minnesota School of Business and Globe 
     University systematically misrepresented their criminal-
     justice program as allowing students to pursue careers as 
     Minnesota police officers or probation or parole officers. 
     The Minnesota School of Business and Globe University were 
     accredited by ACICS throughout the time period of the fraud 
     determined by the Court, and their Chief Operating Officer 
     during that time was in fact the Chair of ACICS's board of 
     directors. Terminating ACICS's recognition is a responsible 
     action that will protect students and taxpayers for years to 
     come.


               V. The Borrower Defense to Repayment Rule

       In order to fairly and efficiently redress the harms 
     suffered by for-profit college students, the borrower defense 
     to repayment rule promulgated by ED must be allowed to take 
     effect on July 1, 2017. As we noted in our August 1, 2016 
     comment to the proposed rule, students need a fair and 
     transparent process to apply for borrower defense to 
     repayment, and that process is missing from the existing 
     regulation. The regulation finalized by ED also contains 
     significant protections for taxpayers, including the 
     requirement that schools cannot use arbitration agreements to 
     bar students from bringing borrower defense claims directly 
     against the school in court.
       It is important to note that these regulations do not 
     create a new defense to repayment. Congress established the 
     borrower defense to repayment in the 1990s. Furthermore, over 
     the last two years, ED has created substantial documentation 
     of what constitutes a valid borrower defense claim under the 
     existing regulation. Not only will the defense continue to be 
     available, but it is likely that claims will continue to be 
     asserted, particularly if regulations surrounding for-profit 
     institutions, such as gainful employment, are loosened, 
     allowing the bad practices of the past to return. Because the 
     defense will continue to exist, a formal, transparent process 
     to assert the defense, as reflected in the new repayment 
     rule, is essential.
       A basic sense of justice requires that the borrower defense 
     to repayment rules be allowed to take effect. Millions of 
     students paid tens of thousands of dollars each in federal 
     student loan money to for-profit schools and received 
     worthless degrees in return. Federal student loan debt is 
     non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. These students cannot be 
     left without a clear recourse. The new borrower defense to 
     repayment regulations provide that recourse and should be 
     allowed to take effect.
       Our extensive experience in the higher education field, and 
     our participation in the process of developing these recent 
     policies and regulations, gives us unique insight into the 
     abusive and deceptive practices of for-profit schools over 
     the last ten years. We cannot overemphasize the harm to 
     students and taxpayers that a rollback of federal protections 
     would cause. Our offices hear from former for-profit students 
     on a daily basis; sadly, many are hopeless. They have little 
     hope of paying off their student loans without the career 
     prospects promised by their schools. They have little hope of 
     continuing their educations without the ability to transfer 
     their credits from the many nationally-accredited for-profits 
     to more rigorous regionally-accredited schools. Allowing for-
     profit schools unfettered access to federal student loan 
     money without reasonable oversight and accountability is a 
     mistake that American students and taxpayers should not be 
     made to pay for again.
           Sincerely,
       Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General; Matthew Denn, 
     Delaware Attorney General; Tom Miller, Iowa Attorney General; 
     Brian E. Frosh, Maryland Attorney General; Maura Healy, 
     Massachusetts Attorney General; Hector Balderas, New Mexico 
     Attorney General; George Jepsen, Connecticut Attorney 
     General; Douglas S. Chin, Hawaii Attorney General; Andy 
     Beshear, Kentucky Attorney General; Janet T. Mills, Maine 
     Attorney General.
       Lori Swanson, Minnesota Attorney General; Eric 
     Schneiderman, New York Attorney General; Josh Stein, North 
     Carolina Attorney General; Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania 
     Attorney General; TJ Donovan, Vermont Attorney General; Karl 
     A. Racine, District of Columbia Attorney General; Ellen F. 
     Rosenblum, Oregon Attorney General; Peter Kilmartin, Rhode 
     Island Attorney General; Bob Ferguson, Washington State 
     Attorney General; Stephen H. Levins, Executive Director, 
     Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.

  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, we know what open season means when it 
comes to these students. Gilbert Caro of Chicago can tell us. He was 
profiled in the Chicago Tribune article that I mentioned. Gilbert 
received his master of business administration degree from DeVry 
University. It is possibly the second largest for-profit college in the 
United States.

[[Page S2596]]

  He took on nearly $100,000 in debt for his master of business 
administration degree. He believed that debt was worth it because it 
was going to unlock the door to a high-paying job and financial 
security.
  Do you have any idea what Gilbert Caro is doing now with his DeVry 
master of business administration degree? He is a prison guard in 
Joliet, IL.
  While Gilbert has a good job, he certainly didn't need $100,000 in 
debt to be a prison guard. It is far from what he was promised by DeVry 
when he signed up. Gilbert, like so many other students who go to for-
profit colleges, was lured in by an amazing marketing campaign, flashy 
advertisements and empty promises.
  In 2016, DeVry University, a for-profit school, agreed to a $100 
million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for misleading 
``prospective students with ads that touted high employment success 
rates and income levels upon graduation.''
  DeVry is not alone. For-profit college giants like Corinthian and ITT 
Tech collapsed after they were caught engaging in similar deceptive, 
disgusting practices. The predatory practices of these and other for-
profit colleges have left tens of thousands of students across the 
country, just like Gilbert Caro, with worthless degrees and a mountain 
of debt.
  In fact, during the early part of this century, when for-profit 
colleges acted with near impunity, just the students from the for-
profit colleges and universities accounted for 47 percent of all 
student loan defaults. Ten percent of the students coming out of high 
school went to for-profit colleges, and 47 percent of the student loan 
defaults were those same students--10 and 47. Why? Because they were 
overcharged for worthless degrees. That is why.
  The University of Phoenix students held almost $35 billion in 
cumulative debt. When I look at their flashy advertising and the 
commercials about how life is going to be perfect if you sign up at the 
University of Phoenix, it is hard for me to imagine how many of those 
students are burdened with debt they will never be able to repay.
  We also know what open season means for the for-profit college 
industry and its executives and investors. Between 1998 and 2008, 
enrollment at for-profit colleges exploded by 225 percent--a lot of 
advertising, a lot of marketing, a lot of recruiting. With it came 
exploding profits for these schools.
  By 2009, the seven largest publicly traded for-profit college 
companies were worth a combined $51 billion--2009, $51 billion.
  In 2010, the University of Phoenix alone enrolled nearly half a 
million students, more than the combined enrollment of all the Big Ten 
universities.
  When former Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin released his 
seminal report on the industry in 2012, for-profit colleges had grown 
to take in an incredible $32 billion a year in Federal taxpayer 
dollars, 25 percent of all Federal aid in education, despite enrolling 
only 10 percent of the students that went to college after high school.
  For-profit colleges and universities are the most heavily subsidized 
private businesses in America that exist. No one rivals them. No other 
industry is even close, and 80, 85, 90, 95 percent of the revenue of 
these so-called private, for-profit universities ends up coming out of 
the Federal Treasury.
  John Murphy, the cofounder of the University of Phoenix, talks about 
those days by saying that what started off as a serious venture to 
educate students soon became too focused on ``chasing stock prices.''
  To pump up those stock prices, companies needed students and they 
needed Federal student aid dollars. They proved that they would do and 
promise nearly anything to get ``the juice,'' as Mr. Murphy, the 
cofounder of the University of Phoenix, called it.
  Boy, is this industry itching for the Trump administration to return 
to those bad old days. The Chicago Tribune reports that since the 
November 8 election, the stock prices of DeVry University, a for-profit 
college, have increased 52 percent.
  In a recent New York Times article by Patricia Cohen entitled ``For-
Profit Schools, an Obama Target, See New Day Under Trump,'' the paid 
spokesman for the for-profit college industry, former Congressman Steve 
Gunderson, said he ``has repeatedly spoken with members of Trump's 
transition team . . . White House domestic policy advisers . . . and 
congressional Republicans.''
  He is truly an insider. Mr. Gunderson promised: ``We're going to get 
some regulatory relief.''
  Sadly, it looks like he is right. Take for example the delay of the 
gainful employment regulation. The Obama administration spent years 
writing and rewriting regulations to ensure that career training 
programs meet the statutory requirement to prepare students for 
``gainful employment.''
  Is that a radical idea--that if the Federal Government is going to 
provide grants and loans for a student to go to a school, the school 
should provide education and training that would lead to ``gainful 
employment''?
  My colleague from Oklahoma was on the floor a little while ago 
talking about overregulation, too many rules, and the impacts on small 
business. I would say that I am prepared to stand up and defend what 
the Obama administration did in saying that if you were going to lure a 
young man like Gilbert Caro into a school and put him $100,000 in debt 
for a master's of business administration, he ought to at least end up 
with a job that is consistent with his education.
  Today, Mr. Caro is a prison guard with $100,000 of debt and a 
business administration degree of no value to him.
  The gainful employment rule cuts off title IV funding for programs 
where graduates' ratio of student debt to earnings is too high. 
Literally, the students are too deeply in debt.
  Prior to leaving office, the Obama Department of Education released 
the first set of gainful employment data. It showed that the graduates 
of public undergraduate certificate programs, like community colleges, 
earn $9,000 more than their for-profit counterparts on average.
  Think about that. You go to the virtually free community college, get 
a certificate, and you are going to earn $9,000 more than if you get 
deeply in debt at one of the for-profit schools seeking the same 
degree. Of the programs that saddle students with too much debt 
compared to the income its students receive after their program, 98 
percent of the violators were for-profit colleges.
  This is not just a chance occurrence. It is a pattern. The rule is 
meant to protect students from taking on debt to attend programs that 
don't lead to a good-paying job. The rule is also meant to prevent 
billions in taxpayers' dollars on worthless programs.
  Many for-profit colleges receive more than 90 percent of the revenue 
straight from Federal taxpayers. My Republican colleagues are committed 
to the free market system. So am I. I am committed to capitalism. I 
believe in it. Though, I think there is need for us to have regulation 
when it gets out of hand. That is why we have an antitrust division, 
for example.
  In this circumstance, to argue that these are just private companies 
that are doing what ordinary people do when they start a business is to 
ignore the obvious. These for-profit colleges could not exist if they 
weren't receiving 80, 85, 90, and 95 percent of their revenue directly 
from the Federal Treasury.
  In recent testimony before a House subcommittee, the Department of 
Education inspector general agreed that the gainful employment 
regulation ``is a good rule in terms of protecting [students] and 
protecting taxpayers.''
  I sent a letter--along with Senators Patty Murray, Elizabeth Warren, 
and nine other colleagues--expressing our concerns to Secretary DeVos 
about her delaying this rule. In our letter, we made clear that these 
delays undermine the rule and are going to be a danger to students and 
taxpayers.
  It is also a betrayal of students not to ensure that they are treated 
fairly after they have been taken advantage of by for-profit schools.
  Today, POLITICO reported that the Trump administration has 
dramatically slowed, if not stopped, processing applications from tens 
of thousands of students seeking to have their Federal student loans 
discharged after they have been defrauded by for-profit colleges.
  Think about that. A student is about to sign up for a for-profit 
school.

[[Page S2597]]

Maybe he doesn't know much about higher education. His parents say: 
Listen, if you can get a Pell grant and a Federal student loan, this 
must be a really good school.
  He is defrauded into signing up for a school that is too expensive 
and offers a worthless degree, and then they turn around and that 
school goes bankrupt. Now the student has the debt, no degree, and we 
are left holding the bag. What has happened in previous cases is the 
Federal Government stepped in and discharged the students from the debt 
if they were defrauded into signing up for the college.

  Secretary Betsy DeVos has decided to slow that down--to slow down the 
discharge of these students' debt. Students who were misled or 
defrauded by their schools are eligible for discharge of their Federal 
student loans under the Higher Education Act--the law as it now exists. 
Yet during her confirmation process, Secretary DeVos would not commit 
to providing this relief to students--relief already specified in law--
and has now effectively stopped processing the claims.
  On the day before President Trump took office, more than 3,200 
Illinois students applied to the Department of Education for relief. 
While the Department fails to process these claims, these students are 
left in the lurch. It adds insult to injury that students taken 
advantage of by for-profit colleges, nominally supervised and regulated 
by the Federal Government, are now being ignored by the Federal 
Government's Department of Education. That is unacceptable. It is 
unfair, and the Trump administration should change it.
  We've started to see the true colors of the administration and 
Secretary DeVos when it comes to these students who have been 
victimized. As feared, the Department has thus far put for-profit and 
other commercial interests ahead of students and taxpayers.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Blunt). The Senator from Mississippi.


                           T-45 Goshawk Fleet

  Mr. WICKER. Mr. President, I come to the floor to speak about a 
troubling issue for our Navy, our national defense, and a problem that 
should be of concern to Members of this body. Our Navy pilot training 
installations, including Naval Air Station Meridian in my home State of 
Mississippi, produce some of the finest pilots on the planet. They 
trained on the T-45 Goshawk.
  On Friday, March 31, a significant number of T-45 instructor pilots 
at NAS Meridian, NAS Kingsville in Texas, and NAS Pensacola in Florida 
decided not to fly because of safety concerns. As you can imagine, this 
was an almost unprecedented act and brought considerable attention to a 
problem plaguing the Navy's tactical fighter community: a dramatic and 
sustained increase in so-called physiological episodes, or PE events, 
across the FA-18 Hornet, the EA-18 Growler, and the training jet T-45 
Goshawk fleets.
  Physiological episodes occur when air crew experience diminished 
inflight performance related to loss or contamination of oxygen, 
depressurization in the cockpit, or other factors. There are some 
technical terms I am going to mention to my colleagues. Hypoxic hypoxia 
occurs when pilots are getting insufficient oxygen. A more serious 
phenomenon called histotoxic hypoxia occurs when they are breathing 
contaminated oxygen, and of course depressurization occurs when the 
cabin pressure drops.
  I have been assured that solving this physiological episode problem 
is now naval aviation's No. 1 one safety priority. As chairman of the 
Armed Services Committee's Seapower Subcommittee, I intend to continue 
the committee's oversight on this issue and, if necessary, include 
provisions in the upcoming Defense authorization bill to help. I 
applaud the work of our full committee chairman, Senator McCain, on his 
efforts so far. In fact, Senator McCain knows NAS Meridian very well, 
having served there as an instructor pilot. The airfield named ``McCain 
Field'' is in honor of Senator McCain's grandfather, ADM John McCain.
  The Navy has told Congress and the American people repeatedly that 
its effort to mitigate and solve the problems of these PE events, 
including histotoxic hypoxia, are ``resource unconstrained.'' In other 
words, the Navy has told us that money is no object in solving this 
problem, time is no object, and personnel is no object. As chairman of 
the Seapower Subcommittee, I intend to put that claim to test.
  I would like to update my colleagues on the situation--my factfinding 
trip to Meridian, the state of play, and the plan going forward.
  Beginning around 2010, a significant increase in reported PE events 
occurred, which led to the establishment of a Physiological Episode 
Team to identify root causes, develop mitigation efforts and solutions. 
This team mainly addressed the less serious problem of hypoxic hypoxia, 
but in recent months, there has been an alarming uptick in histotoxic 
hypoxia, a relatively new phenomenon involving contaminated oxygen in 
the cockpit. This has presented new challenges. The Navy has not 
identified a root cause for either type of hypoxia but has taken steps 
to mitigate effects through new maintenance rules, equipment changes 
and redesigns, and by adding data collection tools. However, there is 
currently not adequate mitigation for the more serious type of hypoxia, 
which has led to this halt in training.
  As a search for the root causes continues, data collection is worth 
stressing. These aircraft do not have automatic sensors. In effect, the 
pilot is the sensor. Maximizing data collection on every training 
flight is critical. The collection of more data can help in the 
analytical effort, which will get us closer to finding the root cause. 
After the instructor pilots' boycott--which I stress they had every 
right to do--the Navy issued a safety standdown and stopped all 
training flights for a period of days. This tactical pause allowed the 
Navy to send senior leadership to visit the training installations and 
hear directly from the instructor pilots and students. I respect the 
considered decisions of both of these groups, the instructor pilots who 
continued to fly and the ones who engaged in the boycott.
  After meeting with Pentagon experts on this matter, I then made a 
factfinding trip to NAS Meridian on April 8. I met with VADM Mike 
Shoemaker, the commander of Naval Air Forces. Admiral Shoemaker is the 
air boss who commands operational naval aviation forces. I also met 
with RADM Dell Bull, who is the chief of Naval Air Training, and I met 
with NAS Meridian's excellent installation leadership. Perhaps most 
important, I convened two focus groups: one group of instructor pilots 
who chose to fly and another group who chose not to fly. Both groups 
agree that a serious communication problem existed. The meetings with 
pilots demonstrated that some in the Navy hierarchy did not fully 
appreciate that this histotoxic hypoxia, contaminated oxygen, was a new 
and different phenomenon. In addition, the efforts of the Navy 
leadership were not being communicated effectively to the instructors 
and the students. In other words, the message was not getting down to 
the flight line, and the people on the flight line did not feel the 
message was getting back up to the hierarchy. Many felt their concerns 
were being ignored. The lack of action on the relatively new emergence 
of histotoxic hypoxia in the Goshawk only exacerbated the feeling among 
some that the Navy's actions were not matching its rhetoric.
  Following my visit on April 8, the Navy took the important step of 
establishing a Physiological Episode Team for the T-45 alone. This is 
an important action which should bring more focused attention to the 
Goshawk community. The Navy ended the safety standdown on April 14 and 
resumed flying the next week under restricted conditions, such as 
flying at lower maximum altitudes and pulling fewer Gs. Of course, this 
is not the optimal way of training.
  Then, following a subsequent PE incident in Kingsville and feedback 
from instructor pilots on the mitigation plan, the Navy has chosen to 
restrict training flights even further. This is a problem. The Navy 
tells us the current practice would allow a student to complete only 
about 20 to 25 percent of the curriculum. That is the status today. The 
Navy is already short on pilots, and continuing the status quo could 
further constrict the pilot production pipeline.
  Where do we go from here? The Navy has brought three T-45s that have 
experienced physiological episodes to

[[Page S2598]]

Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, for extensive engineering 
investigation and analysis. They are taking the airplanes apart at Pax 
River. I applaud this action. Initial results of the testing should be 
available next week with more information to follow as the data is 
processed. At the same time, engineers have teamed up with pilots from 
both the test community and the training command, including at least 
one Meridian instructor pilot. They are investigating possible 
mitigations, such as alterations to pilot masks. This will allow our 
instructors and student pilots to get back to what they want to do 
most; that is, to fly and train new pilots to fly.
  In addition, on April 21, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral 
Moran, directed Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific 
Fleet, to lead a month-long review of the facts, circumstances, and 
processes surrounding the recent episodes and how the Navy has 
addressed them. The Swift review will evaluate the Navy's 
organizational structures and processes and make recommendations for 
additional action.
  These efforts are desperately needed. Still, we have no real 
diagnosis. Still, we have no real solution in the works. Senators 
should know this: As of 3 weeks ago, problems with histotoxic hypoxia 
at our naval training bases have earned the full attention of the top 
leadership in the Navy. These problems also have the full attention and 
oversight of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Seapower 
Subcommittee.
  I look forward to continued interaction with the Navy leadership on 
this very important issue.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Utah.


                            Antiquities Act

  Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, I rise to commemorate an important day for 
Utah and the western way of life. Just yesterday, the President signed 
an Executive order calling for review of monument designations across 
the United States, with a specific focus on two national monuments that 
have caused significant damage in my home State of Utah: Bears Ears and 
the Grand Staircase-Escalante.
  Yesterday's Executive action is the culmination of countless hours of 
hard work and close coordination with the White House. When I first 
spoke with President Trump in the Oval Office during his first week on 
the job, I asked for his help in addressing the Bears Ears debacle. 
From day one, our President has been committed to helping us fix this 
disaster and ensuring that our smallest counties get a fair shake.
  Throughout my Senate service, I have fought to give voice to the 
needs of our rural communities in the debate over public lands. Too 
often, past Presidents have ignored the concerns of Utah's families in 
declaring massive monuments that threaten the western way of life. Too 
often, Presidents have abused the authority under the Antiquities Act 
to satisfy the demands of an extreme environmental agenda but no more.
  Following yesterday's Executive order, I look forward to working with 
the Trump administration to address past abuses and restore the 
original meaning of the Antiquities Act. The Executive order directs 
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke to review dozens of national 
monuments. This is a welcomed opportunity to set a new precedent for 
the responsible use of the Antiquities Act--a precedent that will take 
into account the needs of locals and foster greater trust between the 
States and the Federal Government as we work toward a shared goal of 
preserving our cultural antiquities.
  For decades, I have sought to rein in Executive abuse under the 
Antiquities Act. That is why I traveled to Bears Ears just last week to 
hear firsthand from the local residents and Tribal members who have 
been hurt most by this monument designation. That is why, in the 
opening days of his Presidency, I met personally with President Trump 
in the Oval Office to discuss the public lands issue at length. I made 
clear to the President that Utahns have had enough of monument 
designations that come down unilaterally with zero support from locals, 
State officials, or Congress. Many of my own constituents have had 
their lives upended by this abuse of Executive power.

  For too long, Utahns--many of whom depend on public lands for their 
very livelihood--have been at the mercy of out-of-touch bureaucrats who 
have little knowledge or personal connection to the land. President 
Obama only made their situation worse when he spurned the men and women 
of San Juan County by declaring the Bears Ears National Monument last 
December. In doing so, he defied the will of the State legislature, the 
Governor, and the entire Utah congressional delegation. President 
Obama's last-minute monument designation imposed even greater land use 
restrictions on a region that is already predominately controlled by 
the Federal Government.
  As I have said before, in opposing the Bears Ears National Monument 
designation, I am in no way opposing the protection of lands that need 
to be protected. Indeed, there are many cultural sites in Utah that 
warrant preservation, and I am committed to working with the President 
and with Congress to protect those sacred places for future 
generations. But as I have also said previously, I believe that it is 
both unlawful and undemocratic for any President to seize millions upon 
millions of acres of land through the Antiquities Act--a law that was 
geared to give the President only narrow authority to designate special 
landmarks, such as a unique national arch or the site of old cliff 
dwellings.
  We desperately need a new process for creating national monuments. 
Congress and impacted local communities, not the President alone, 
should have a say in decisions that restrict access to millions of 
acres of federally owned land. In making such decisions, the voice of 
the people is paramount.
  Let me be clear: Abusing the Antiquities Act at the expense of local 
communities is not a sustainable public lands strategy. This strategy 
is counterintuitive because it puts Antiquities Act authority at great 
risk. The Antiquities Act was designed to provide specific protections 
for objects of antiquity, but out West, particularly in Utah, the law 
has become synonymous with land grabs and Federal overreach.
  Restoring the legitimacy of Antiquities Act authority in the eyes of 
westerners requires a more measured approach to monument designations, 
an approach that takes into account the needs of locals and restores 
trust between States and the Federal Government.
  To be clear, I have no objection when Presidents use the Antiquities 
Act according to its original purpose, which was to protect cultural 
antiquities by designating the minimum acreage necessary. Take, for 
example, the great State of Washington, which is home to several 
national monuments that were created in line with the law's original 
intent. The State's beautiful San Juan Islands cover only 970 acres, 
while the Hanford Reach encompasses 195,000 acres. At first glance, 
this amount of acreage may seem large, but compared to Utah's two most 
prominent national monuments, it is a tiny speck on the map. In fact, 
the total acreage of the San Juan Islands and Hanford Reach combined is 
only 6 percent of the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante 
National Monuments.
  In the State of Washington, Presidents have used the Antiquities Act 
within reason. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my home State 
of Utah, where Presidents have repeatedly abused their authority under 
the law to declare eight national monuments that together span more 
than 3.3 million acres. In Utah, national monuments cover roughly 10 
percent of all Federal land in a State where 67 percent of the land is 
already owned and dominated by the Federal Government. By contrast, 
only 28 percent of the land in the State of Washington is owned by the 
Federal Government. Of that Federal land, only 1.6 percent is locked 
away as a national monument. It is no wonder, then, that Utahns feel 
more threatened by the Antiquities Act than Washingtonians. This is a 
law that past Presidents have brandished as a weapon to cut up entire 
sections of our State.
  This is far from the first time I have taken to the floor to speak 
out against Antiquities Act abuse. It certainly won't be the last. But 
I am encouraged by yesterday's Executive order with President Trump and 
Secretary Zinke

[[Page S2599]]

on our side. I believe we can plot a path forward to correct past 
abuses and forge a new precedent for future monument designations.
  The President's Executive action signifies a critical milestone in 
the effort to include local voices in the management of our public 
lands. As the Trump administration reviews various national monuments, 
we must replace the top-down approach of past administrations with a 
grassroots strategy that engages local leaders, State officials, and 
Members of Congress in the decision-making process. Bringing all 
stakeholders to the table is essential to establish a new precedent 
that will undo the decades of abuse we have endured under, I think, 
false interpretations of the Antiquities Act.
  I am eager to continue working with the President and the Secretary 
of the Interior to preserve our Nation's cultural treasures in a way 
that honors the original meaning of the Antiquities Act. I am likewise 
eager to involve locals in that process. With all parties working 
together, I firmly believe we can restore a relationship of trust 
between the States and the Federal Government in the management of 
public lands.
  I am grateful for a President who is willing to work with us to reset 
the status quo. Better than any of his predecessors, President Trump 
understands the lasting damage wrought by past Presidents under the 
Antiquities Act. Indeed, in all my years of public service, I have 
never seen a President so committed to reining in the Federal 
Government and so eager to address the problems caused by these 
overreaching monument designations.
  I wish to thank President Trump and Secretary Zinke for taking 
concrete steps to rein in abuse through yesterday's Executive order.
  I also wish to thank the President's Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, 
who helped make yesterday's victory possible. Reince has done 
exceptionally well in one of the toughest jobs in all of Washington. 
The President is lucky to have Reince in the White House. I am lucky to 
call him a friend.
  I also wish to thank my former chief of staff, Ron Porter, who is now 
a special assistant to the President and the Staff Secretary at the 
White House. Rob is an invaluable asset to the President's team and 
ours as well. Without him, yesterday's Executive order would never have 
come to fruition, at least in my opinion. Rob was among the finest men 
ever to serve as my chief of staff. I have enjoyed watching him succeed 
at the White House.
  Yesterday we took a meaningful first step to fix past abuses under 
the Antiquities Act. Yet there is still much work to be done, and I 
look forward to working with the White House every step of the way.
  With that, I am grateful for all those who have participated in 
helping us to right the wrongs that have been going on for far too 
long, as some of the Presidents have played pure politics with public 
lands at the expense of the States involved, especially my State. It is 
easy to pick on a State that is 67 percent owned by the Federal 
Government and up to well over 70 percent owned by the Federal and 
State governments. It is easy to pick on these States--a small State 
indeed. But our State is resilient. We have some of the better people 
in Congress, and we also have the ability to be able to raise all kinds 
of hell here.
  All I can say is that I just want my State treated fairly. I want to 
make sure the bureaucrats here in Washington don't walk all over the 
West because they think they can because of the wide expanses of 
territory and the many, many other aspects of the Western States that 
make them vulnerable to this type of inappropriate activity.
  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. BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                           VA Accountability

  Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, one goal we share in this body, which 
is a very bipartisan goal, is keeping faith with our veterans, making 
sure no veteran is left behind.
  I had the great honor to work as ranking member with Senator Isakson, 
the chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, on a bill called the 
Veterans First Act that unfortunately failed to cross the finish line 
during the last session. One of the major goals of that bill was to 
ensure accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs so 
employees of the VA who fail to do their job are held accountable. That 
goal of accountability is one of a number that must be pursued and will 
be sought during this session, including ending the backlog of appeals 
and providing better healthcare, ensuring skills training and job 
opportunities for our veterans.

  Today the President signed an Executive order at the Department of 
Veterans Affairs to designate an individual responsible for 
accountability and whistleblower protection, a worthwhile first step. 
It is a commendable step toward accountability. But that individual and 
the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection must have 
real responsibility and power and must be insulated from any kind of 
political interference through establishment through statute. That 
office should be established by statutory authority. That is why I will 
be advocating and likely introducing legislation that involves 
supporting and training employees and listening to veterans about what 
they want from the VA through that Office of Accountability and 
Whistleblower Protection, to provide real accountability to the 
Congress by requiring reporting to Congress about what it finds and 
real whistleblower protection, so that anybody who complains about the 
VA's misdirected or misguided action is assured protection against any 
kind of revenge or retaliation, which is the essence of whistleblower 
protection, and a Senate-confirmed director so that the accountability 
function is, again, accountable to us. That kind of statutory 
embodiment is necessary to make sure that the Office of Accountability 
and Whistleblower Protection has power and reporting requirements so 
that it is accountable to us as elected representatives and advocates 
for our veterans.
  My hope is that the Senate and House will adopt that provision, one 
that was contained in the Veterans First bill that Senator Isakson and 
I championed during the last Senate and which I hope we will pursue 
again in a very bipartisan way.
  I also hope that the Senate will take up and pass S. 12, the 
Increasing the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability to 
Veterans Act of 2017. My colleague, Senator Moran, a cosponsor with me, 
spoke about it earlier today. It would provide reduction of benefits 
for senior executives and certain healthcare employees of the 
Department of Veterans Affairs if they have been convicted of a felony 
in connection with their work. VA employees who commit serious crimes 
in connection with their employment should not be receiving pensions. 
That is one of the key provisions to activate a deterrent to misconduct 
and also to assure that misconduct is adequately punished.
  Accountability for leaders who manage the Department of Veterans 
Affairs Employee Affairs would be another goal of this legislation, S. 
12, so that the men and women who hire and fire are themselves 
evaluated when they do those jobs.
  These kinds of details are important--as important as any new office 
with an individual whose unspecified powers may include them or not. 
Right now they do not, under the Executive order, specifically include 
such enumerated powers. That is our job, to make sure that this office 
of accountability is real in its responsibility, is clearly assigned in 
its functions, is held accountable for its performance and has real 
teeth, not just rhetoric.
  I am hopeful that we will move ahead with this very, very important 
office to make sure that our veterans receive what they deserve--real 
accountability, a genuine assurance that the people who serve them will 
do their jobs, not just adequately but excellently. That is the goal 
that I believe we will share.
  I welcome this Executive order. I believe we can and must do more to 
make sure that the VA keeps faith with our veterans and leaves no 
veterans behind.
  Thank you, Mr. President.

[[Page S2600]]

  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. BARRASSO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Kennedy). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.
  All time has expired.
  The question is, will the Senate advise and consent to the Acosta 
nomination?
  Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk called the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. The following Senator is necessarily absent: the Senator 
from Pennsylvania (Mr. Toomey).
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from Michigan (Mr. Peters) is 
necessarily absent.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Are there any other Senators in the Chamber 
desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 60, nays 38, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 116 Ex.]

                                YEAS--60

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

                                NAYS--38

     Baldwin
     Bennet
     Blumenthal
     Booker
     Brown
     Cantwell
     Cardin
     Carper
     Casey
     Coons
     Donnelly
     Duckworth
     Durbin
     Feinstein
     Franken
     Gillibrand
     Harris
     Hassan
     Heinrich
     Hirono
     Kaine
     Klobuchar
     Leahy
     Markey
     Merkley
     Murphy
     Murray
     Reed
     Sanders
     Schatz
     Schumer
     Shaheen
     Stabenow
     Udall
     Van Hollen
     Warren
     Whitehouse
     Wyden

                             NOT VOTING--2

     Peters
     Toomey
       
  The nomination was confirmed.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader is recognized.


              Unanimous Consent Request--Joint Resolution

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, colleagues, it is my understanding that 
the four corners who are working on the omnibus appropriations are 
very, very close to agreement. We still need a few days to process the 
larger bill. The House has posted a 1-week CR to keep the government 
open. We are prepared to clear the 1-week CR on this side of the aisle.
  Therefore, I ask unanimous consent that the text of a joint 
resolution, which is at the desk--that is, a 1-week continuing 
resolution--be printed in the Record; further, that if the Senate 
receives a joint resolution from the House, the text of which is 
identical to the text of the joint resolution printed in the Record, 
the joint resolution be considered to have been read three times and 
passed, and that the motion to reconsider be considered to have been 
made and laid upon the table; provided further, that if the language is 
not identical, then this order be vitiated.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, reserving the right to object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Democratic leader.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, colleagues, I am objecting because we 
still have to resolve the issue of poison pill riders before Democrats 
can agree to the short-term CR.
  Let's make no mistake about it, we are indeed making great progress. 
I thank the majority leader. He has been cooperative and extremely 
helpful throughout the process. I thank Chairman Cochran and Senator 
Leahy the same. But our position has been clear, and it is nothing new: 
no poison pill riders. The sooner we can resolve this issue, the 
quicker we can have an agreement on appropriations for 2017.
  So I object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
  The majority leader.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I would only add--not to prolong the 
discussion, but I don't think the failure to pass the 1-week CR 
necessarily impacts in a positive way the concerns the Democratic 
leader has. But that is his call to make. This 1-week CR is cleared on 
our side.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Democratic leader.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, there is a simple way to resolve it, and 
that is, the Republican leader of the Senate and the Speaker of the 
House just agree to no poison pill riders.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Kansas.
  Mr. ROBERTS. Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. McCONNELL. 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. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I wish to make sure my colleagues on 
the other side of the aisle know that if we don't pass the 1-week 
extension, the miners' healthcare expires, but it is in the 1-week 
extension. If we don't pass the 1-week extension, the miners' 
healthcare revision expires.
  Mr. SCHUMER. We are aware.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I move to reconsider the vote, and I 
move to table the motion to reconsider.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on agreeing to the motion.
  The motion was agreed to.

                          ____________________