LEGISLATIVE SESSION; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 81
(Senate - May 10, 2017)

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[Pages S2851-S2853]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                          LEGISLATIVE SESSION

                                 ______
                                 

PROVIDING FOR CONGRESSIONAL DISAPPROVAL OF A RULE OF THE BUREAU OF LAND 
                     MANAGEMENT--MOTION TO PROCEED

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I move to proceed to H.J. Res. 36.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the motion.
  The legislative clerk read as follows:

       The Senator from Kentucky [Mr. McConnell] moves to proceed 
     to H.J. Res. 36, a joint resolution providing for 
     congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United 
     States Code, of the final rule of the Bureau of Land 
     Management relating to ``Waste Prevention, Production Subject 
     to Royalties, and Resource Conservation.''

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent the Democratic 
leader and I be allowed to give our leader remarks at this time.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


          Welcoming Kentucky Veterans to Our Nation's Capital

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, today it is my privilege to welcome a 
distinguished group of Kentuckians to our Nation's Capital. Because of 
the incredible work of the Honor Flight Program, over 80 World War II, 
Korea, and Vietnam veterans from across my home State will travel to 
Washington. Here they will see the memorials built to honor their 
service.
  The Bluegrass Chapter Honor Flight has brought hundreds of veterans, 
most of them Kentuckians, to Washington for this purpose. Despite the 
significant logistical and financial planning that goes into these 
trips, Honor Flight works to make sure veterans have the opportunity to 
travel at no cost to themselves.
  The program organizes travel and food for these veterans, many of 
whom would never be able to visit our Nation's Capital or see the 
memorials at all without Honor Flight.
  The national monuments built on the Mall pay tribute to those who 
sacrificed for the cause of freedom. I wish to add my voice to those 
who welcome these veterans and thank them for their service to our 
country.


                         Healthcare Legislation

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, on another matter, I am glad to see 
many of our Democratic friends here with us today. Yesterday they sent 
me a letter indicating they want to participate as we work on 
legislation that can bring relief from ObamaCare. In that letter, they 
acknowledged the need to ``improve and reform the health care system.''
  After 8 years of defending this failing law and its higher costs, 
reduced choices, and dropped coverage, I am glad to hear that Senate 
Democrats are finally willing to concede that the status quo is simply 
unsustainable. I appreciate their willingness to acknowledge that 
ObamaCare hasn't lived up to its promises.

[[Page S2852]]

  That is certainly a reality that Senate Republicans entirely agree 
with. It is why we are working to keep our commitment to the American 
people to move beyond the failures of ObamaCare.
  If our friends on the other side of the aisle want to join us in 
replacing ObamaCare with commonsense reforms, I welcome their input. It 
is disappointing that it has taken our Democratic colleagues this long 
to come around, but I look forward to hearing their ideas now, and I 
look forward to joining in a robust debate on the Senate floor as we 
pursue smarter healthcare solutions.
  As we continue working to address this critical issue, it is 
important to remember why we need to act in the first place. Across the 
country, more and more Americans are feeling the pain of ObamaCare. 
Listen to these recent headlines.

       Thousands of Obamacare Customers Left Without Options As 
     Insurers Bolt.
       More Insurers Abandon Obamacare: Who Might Be Next?
       Obamacare Choices Could Go From One to Zero in Some Areas.

  ObamaCare is failing the American people, and it keeps getting worse. 
Families face skyrocketing premiums, fewer choices, and the risk of 
losing the doctors or plans they like. Just this week, we saw even more 
troubling news out of States like Maryland, where one major insurer 
proposed a premium increase of more than 50 percent, warning that the 
ObamaCare market is ``in the early stages of a death spiral.''
  We saw similar stories out of Connecticut too. There, insurers have 
also requested double-digit increases, which could top out at 52 
percent amid worries that the last two insurers on the exchanges ``may 
leave.''
  These States aren't alone. I continue to hear from Kentuckians who 
are desperate for relief from ObamaCare. Take this Campbellsville woman 
who purchased insurance on the ObamaCare exchanges after researching 
the best policy to fit her needs. Only then did she find out how hard 
it would be for her to actually get care. Here is what she had to say.

       Today I am making payments for a health care plan that does 
     not cover my doctors, [and] does not cover all my 
     prescriptions. It is almost totally useless.
       I am only one person but I'm sure I speak for many people 
     who are finding themselves in this difficult situation.

  ObamaCare is a failed law that continues to hurt Americans every 
single day. It is taking a bigger bite out of their budgets while, as 
too many have discovered, covering fewer services they actually need.
  We have all received letters from our constituents like the one I 
just shared. These families are the ones shouldering the burdens of 
ObamaCare. They are the ones counting on us to act and move past the 
failures of ObamaCare. If we don't, this situation will only get worse.
  That is why we continue to engage in productive conversations with 
each Member of our caucus on the way forward on providing relief from 
ObamaCare. I look forward to continuing these talks and welcoming our 
Democratic colleagues to the conversation if they are ready to join us. 
It certainly is an important step for the entire Democratic caucus to 
acknowledge that the status quo is failing the American people and that 
Congress cannot sit by while Americans suffer the consequences of this 
failed law.


                         Removal of James Comey

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, one final matter, whatever one thinks 
of the manner in which Director James Comey handled the investigation 
into Secretary Clinton's unauthorized use of a private server and her 
mishandling of classified information, it is clear what our Democratic 
colleagues thought of it--both at that time and consistently 
thereafter.
  Last year, the current Democratic leader said it appeared to be an 
``appalling act,'' one that he said ``goes against the tradition of 
prosecutors at every level of government,'' and the prior Democratic 
leader, when asked if James Comey should resign given his conduct of 
the investigation, replied ``[o]f course, yes.''
  It is also clear what our Democratic colleagues think of the man who 
evaluated Mr. Comey's professional conduct and concluded that the 
Bureau needed a change in leadership. The Democratic leader just a few 
weeks ago praised Mr. Rosenstein for his independence and said he had 
developed a reputation for integrity.
  What we have now is our Democratic colleagues complaining about the 
removal of an FBI Director whom they themselves repeatedly and sharply 
criticized; that removal being done by a man, Rod Rosenstein, whom they 
repeatedly and effusively praised--when Mr. Rosenstein recommended Mr. 
Comey's removal for many of the very reasons they consistently 
complained about.
  Two investigations are currently ongoing: The Senate Intelligence 
Committee's review of Russian active measures and intelligence 
activities and the FBI investigation disclosed by Director Comey.
  Today we will no doubt hear calls for a new investigation, which 
could only serve to impede the current work being done to not only 
discover what the Russians may have done but also to let this body and 
the national security community develop the countermeasures and 
warfighting doctrine to see that it doesn't occur again. Partisan calls 
should not delay the considerable work of Chairman Burr and Vice 
Chairman Warner. Too much is at stake.
  Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein was just confirmed on a bipartisan 
vote, 94 to 6--94 to 6--and that sort of fair consideration should 
continue when the Senate receives an FBI Director nominee. As I said 
yesterday, once the Senate receives a nomination to fill this position, 
we will look forward to a full, fair, and timely confirmation process. 
This is a critical role that is particularly important as our country 
continues to face serious threats at home and abroad.


                   Recognition of the Minority Leader

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Democratic leader is recognized.


                         Firing of James Comey

  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, yesterday the President fired the 
Director of the FBI, Jim Comey, who was leading an active investigation 
into the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia.
  The President provided no reasoning for the firing other than he had 
the recommendation of his Attorney General--who has already had to 
recuse himself from the Russia investigation for being too close to the 
President--and his Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein.
  There is little reason to think Mr. Rosenstein's letter is the true 
reason President Trump fired Director Comey. Why? Because if the 
administration truly had objections to the way Director Comey handled 
the Clinton investigation, they would have had them the minute the 
President got into office, but he didn't fire Director Comey then.
  The question is, Why did it happen last night? We know Director Comey 
was leading an investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded 
with the Russians, a serious offense. Were those investigations getting 
too close to home for the President?
  The dismissal of Director Comey establishes a very troubling pattern. 
This administration has now removed several law enforcement officials 
in a position to conduct independent investigations of the President 
and his administration--from Acting Attorney General Sally Yates to 
Preet Bharara and now Jim Comey.
  What should happen now, what must happen now is that Mr. Rosenstein 
appoints a special prosecutor to oversee this investigation. Deputy 
Attorney General Rosenstein sat in the Judiciary Committee and promised 
to appoint a special prosecutor at the appropriate time. He said: ``I'm 
willing to appoint a special counsel whenever I determine that it's 
appropriate.''
  My colleague Senator Coons asked him: ``Would you agree that it's 
vital to the assurance of confidence in our democracy and law 
enforcement system that any investigation into these matters be fair, 
free, thorough and politically independent?''
  Mr. Rosenstein answered: ``Yes, I do.''
  If there was ever a time when circumstances warranted a special 
prosecutor, it is right now.
  Mr. Rosenstein already expressed concern that Director Comey damaged 
the integrity of the FBI. The Attorney General has already had to 
recuse himself from the investigation for being too close to the 
President.

[[Page S2853]]

  If Mr. Rosenstein is true to his word, that he believes this 
investigation must be ``fair, free, thorough and politically 
independent,'' if he believes, as I do, that the American people must 
be able to have faith in the impartiality of this investigation, he 
must appoint a special prosecutor and get his investigation out of the 
hands of the FBI and far away from the heavy hand of this 
administration.
  Mr. Rosenstein has the authority to appoint a special prosecutor 
right now. He needs no congressional authorization. This would simply 
be a step that he could take, as outlined in the Department of Justice 
guidelines and in a law passed after Watergate, to get an independently 
minded prosecutor who would be insulated from various pressures.
  A special prosecutor is not subject to day-to-day supervision by the 
Attorney General or anyone else at the Justice Department. That means 
the special prosecutor would have much greater latitude in whom he can 
subpoena, which questions they can ask, and how to conduct an 
investigation. The special prosecutor can only be removed for good 
cause, such as misconduct, not to quash the investigation.
  Third, there is built-in congressional oversight. Congress is 
notified whenever a special counsel is appointed, removed, or has 
finished with the investigation. The appointment of a special 
prosecutor would be a welcome step in the right direction, but it is 
not the only action that should be taken.
  There are a great many outstanding questions about the circumstances 
of Director Comey's dismissal, the status of the executive branch 
investigation into the Trump campaign ties to Russia, and what the 
future holds for these investigations.
  So I will be requesting that the majority leader call a closed, and 
if necessary, classified, all-Senators briefing, with the Attorney 
General separately at which, and the Deputy Attorney General 
separately, at which they can be asked questions.
  Some of the questions: Why was Attorney General Sessions, who had 
recused himself from the Russia investigations, able to influence the 
firing of the man conducting the Russia investigation? Did Deputy 
Attorney General Rosenstein act on his own or at the direction of his 
superiors or the White House? Are reports that the President has been 
searching for a rationale to fire the FBI Director for weeks true? Was 
Director Comey's investigation making significant progress in a 
direction that would cause political damage for the White House? Why 
didn't the President wait for the Inspector General's investigation 
into Director Comey's handling of the Clinton email investigation to 
conclude before making his decision to fire him? Was this really about 
something else?
  No doubt, we will have an opportunity to question Mr. Comey, now a 
private citizen, about what happened, but we need to hear from this 
administration about what happened and why, and what is going to happen 
next. That is why, again, I am requesting that the majority leader call 
a closed, and if necessary, classified, all-Senators briefing with the 
Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General separately, at which 
they can be asked these questions.
  I hope the majority leader agrees with me that we need to get to the 
bottom of this and get a handle on all the facts so that we can grapple 
with them. I remind him and my Republican friends that nothing less is 
at stake than the American people's faith in our criminal justice 
system and the integrity of the executive branch of our government.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is on agreeing to the motion to 
proceed.
  Mr. McCONNELL. 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 legislative clerk called the roll.
  The result was announced--yeas 49, nays 51, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 125 Leg.]

                                YEAS--49

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

                                NAYS--51

     Baldwin
     Bennet
     Blumenthal
     Booker
     Brown
     Cantwell
     Cardin
     Carper
     Casey
     Collins
     Coons
     Cortez Masto
     Donnelly
     Duckworth
     Durbin
     Feinstein
     Franken
     Gillibrand
     Graham
     Harris
     Hassan
     Heinrich
     Heitkamp
     Hirono
     Kaine
     King
     Klobuchar
     Leahy
     Manchin
     Markey
     McCain
     McCaskill
     Menendez
     Merkley
     Murphy
     Murray
     Nelson
     Peters
     Reed
     Sanders
     Schatz
     Schumer
     Shaheen
     Stabenow
     Tester
     Udall
     Van Hollen
     Warner
     Warren
     Whitehouse
     Wyden
  The motion was rejected.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cotton). The majority leader.

                          ____________________