EXECUTIVE SESSION; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 131
(Senate - August 02, 2017)

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[Pages S4700-S4714]
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                           EXECUTIVE SESSION


                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the following 
nomination, which the clerk will report.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of Marvin 
Kaplan, of Kansas, to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board 
for the term of five years expiring August 27, 2020.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the time until 11 
a.m. will be equally divided between the two leaders or their 
  The assistant Democratic leader.


  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, many times over the last 6 months, I have 
come to the Senate to speak out on issues and to disagree with 
President Trump. It is clear that we have very profound political 
differences when it comes to the issues that face us, but I come to the 
floor this morning in an unusual position to express my gratitude to 
President Trump for a position he has taken, which I think is the right 
position for America.
  Let me explain. Five years ago, President Barack Obama created the 
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, known as DACA. It 
enabled approximately 790,000 talented young people to contribute more 
fully to this country. They are teachers, nurses, engineers, small 
business owners, and more. DACA, which was an Executive action by 
President Obama, provides a temporary legal status to immigrant 
students who arrived in the United States as infants, toddlers, and 
children. They have to come forward under this Executive action and 
register with our government. They have to pay a substantial fee for 
processing. Then they have to submit themselves to a criminal and 
national security background check. If they are successful, they are 
given 2 years of temporary relief from deportation.
  This program is based on the Dream Act, a bill that I first 
introduced in the U.S. Senate 16 years ago--in 2001. That bill would 
give undocumented students who grew up in this country a chance to 
become legal and to earn their way to citizenship.
  These young people have come to be known as Dreamers. They came to 
the United States under the age of 16, some of them 1 or 2 years old. 
They grew up in the United States, going to our public schools, singing 
the ``Star Spangled Banner,'' pledging allegiance to the only flag they 
have ever known, the American flag. They are American in every way 
except for their immigration status. We have already invested in them, 
as you can tell--invested in their education, bringing them up in 
American schools. I can't believe it makes any sense for the future of 
our country to squander their talents by deporting them to countries 
that many of them have never known.
  A recent study by the Center for American Progress finds that ending 
DACA, President Obama's Executive action, would cost our economy at 
least $433 billion in gross domestic product over the next 10 years. 
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates that the 1.3 
million young people eligible for DACA pay $2 billion each year in 
State and local taxes.
  As I said at the beginning, I have had many differences with 
President Trump, particularly on the issue of immigration in some of 
the speeches and statements he has made, but I do appreciate--
personally appreciate--that this President has kept the DACA Program in 
  I have spoken directly to President Trump only two times--three 
times, perhaps. The first two times--one on Inauguration Day--I thanked 
him for the kind words he had said about Dreamers and the DACA students 
and those protected by the President's Executive action.
  President Trump said to me: Don't worry about those kids.
  Well, Mr. President, I continue to worry about those kids. I worry 
about them now more than ever, not because I have heard any change of 
heart or reversal from you but because of other circumstances that are 
bringing this issue to a head. The Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, 
and nine other States have threatened to sue you, Mr. President, unless 
by September 5 you rescind the memorandum that established DACA by 
President Obama and announce that your administration will not renew or 
issue any new DACA permits. This direct, specific threat to the DACA 
Program has left hundreds of thousands of these Dreamers anxious, 
concerned, and worried about their future.
  Last week I was joined by Senator Chuck Schumer, our Democratic 
leader, and 40 other Senate Democratic colleagues in writing a letter 
to President Trump, asking him to order his Attorney General, Jeff 
Sessions, to use all legal options to defend DACA so that these young 
people can continue to contribute to a country they love.
  Some of my friends on the other side of the aisle oppose the DACA 
Program. To them I say: If you don't support DACA, let's immediately 
pass the bipartisan Dream Act. If you think President Obama went beyond 
his Presidential authority with this Executive action, then let's take 
up this matter where it should be taken up, here in the legislative 
branch of the government in the U.S. Senate.
  I recently reintroduced the Dream Act with my friend and colleague, 
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Now that I am in the mood of thanking 
Republican leaders, including President Trump, let me thank Senator 
Lindsey Graham, as well as Senator Jeff Flake and Senator Lisa 
Murkowski. They have stepped forward to join me in cosponsoring this 
Dream Act.
  Our government should give these young people a chance to earn their 
way to citizenship. They were brought to this country as children. They 
didn't make the family decision to cross the border. They have been 
raised in this country. They have created no problems in terms of 
criminal background.

[[Page S4701]]

They have gone to our schools. All they are asking for is a chance.
  When we introduced the Dream Act a week or so ago, Senator Graham 
said that the young people who have received DACA should be treated 
fairly and not have the rug pulled out from under them. Lindsey Graham 
is right.
  Over the years, I have come to the floor nearly 100 times to tell the 
stories of these Dreamers and to make it personal so that we come to 
know who they are and why I have taken the time to make this a major 
part of my service in the Senate. These stories put a human face on the 
DACA Program and on the Dream Act. They show what immigration actually 
means to our country in real terms.
  This is Juan Martinez. When he was less than 2 years old, Juan was 
brought to America from Mexico. He grew up in Dallas, TX, with his 
parents and brothers. He was an honor student in high school. He 
graduated and was valedictorian of his class with a 3.9 GPA, a member 
of the National Honor Society, an active member of the debate team, and 
in student government.

  He was an accomplished student, but he was also a very active 
community volunteer. Juan helped organize food drives at the local food 
banks, he cared for children at recreation centers while their parents 
worked, and he volunteered in soup kitchens.
  In his senior year of high school, he applied to his dream school--
once my dream school--Georgetown University, and he was accepted. As a 
college student, Juan has studied international politics, concentrating 
on security, minoring in the Arabic language. In his first year of 
college, Juan was elected as a student senator.
  In his spare time here in Washington, he mentors disadvantaged high 
school students so that they can apply successfully for college. His 
dream one day is to work for our government, to help our country--the 
country that he calls home--and to make the world a safer place.
  Juan sent me a letter, and this is what he said:

       Thanks to DACA I can focus on my studies without worrying 
     that it may all be taken away from me any second. I have 
     always thought of myself as an American, but it is thanks to 
     DACA that I can begin to truly feel like one, too. And that 
     feeling is something I am thankful for every single day.

  Juan and other Dreamers have so much to contribute to this country. 
But without DACA, without a similar protection, Juan could be deported 
back to Mexico, a country where he hasn't been since he was 2 years 
  Would we be a stronger nation if we lost Juan Martinez--if he were 
deported? I don't think so. I think the answer is clearly no.
  When we introduced the Dream Act last week, Senator Lindsey Graham 
said: ``The moment of reckoning is coming.''
  I would say to the President first: Again, thank you. Thank you for 
allowing DACA to continue under your administration. Thank you for 
keeping your word to me and so many others when you said that these 
young people don't have to worry. But we are reaching a moment, Mr. 
President, when we have to come together and do something. We need you 
and you need us so that we can pass important legislation and you can 
sign it--legislation that will give these young people the protection 
they deserve, the opportunity they seek, the chance to make America a 
greater nation.
  I know the reality of this issue. I know it from both political 
sides. I witnessed it for over a decade. I know it is not popular, Mr. 
President, that you have taken this position, to stand behind the 
Dreamers and those protected by DACA, but you told me that you thought 
it was the right thing to do, and I am sure you still feel that way.
  Your new Chief of Staff, General Kelly, and I have had many 
conversations about this, and I believe that he, too, thinks that 
legislation is necessary to protect these young people. I hope we can 
come together. I stand ready. Senator Graham stands ready. We have a 
bipartisan coalition prepared to work with you.
  Let's not let this decision be made in a courtroom somewhere far from 
Washington. Let's take on our responsibility, yours as President and 
ours in the Senate, to address this critical issue that really cries 
out for justice. This is the time to do it. The concern, anxiety, and 
stress is higher than ever among these populations of people affected 
by DACA and the Dream Act and, of course, their families as well. I 
hope you will join us in creating a legal option that will defend the 
DACA Program and will work with us in Congress to make the Dream Act 
the law of the land so that we can say to young people like Juan 
Martinez and hundreds of thousands of others: Yes, we will give you 
your chance--give you your chance to prove that you can become a 
valuable part of America's future, give you a chance to make America a 
stronger nation. That is all they have asked for, and that is something 
we, on a bipartisan basis with the President, should give them.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Daines). The Senator from Texas.


  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I note in this morning's news that 
insurance companies that provide health insurance policies on the 
ObamaCare exchanges are projecting that insurance premiums will go up 
about 30 percent next year.
  Since 2013, we have seen the nationwide average of premiums go up 105 
percent. That was before this latest announcement. We know that in 
2017, the national average increase in premiums was 25 percent, and in 
Arizona, for example, it was 145 percent.

  So why did all of the Senate Democrats vote against making progress 
on a solution toward these runaway premiums I have talked about ad 
nauseam on the Senate floor?
  We have almost become numb to the pain people across this country are 
experiencing because of the skyrocketing rate of their insurance 
premiums, and we know that 28 million, roughly, have dropped out and 
are uninsured. In my State alone, because of the individual mandate, 
which is the penalty the government imposes for one's failing to buy a 
government-approved health insurance plan--as the Presiding Officer 
knows because I got the figures from him--more than 400,000 Texans who 
earn less than $25,000 a year paid the penalty because they could not 
afford to buy the insurance. All in all, about a million Texans paid 
the penalty because of the individual mandate.
  When we tried to do something about that last week, in working with 
our House colleagues, what was the response from the other side? It was 
crickets--silence. Unfortunately, the people who were hurt by ObamaCare 
are still being hurt by ObamaCare.
  Now, here is the narrative. I have already seen it on social media 
and have read about it in the paper and elsewhere. Some people are 
saying: Well, the reason insurance companies are saying that premiums 
are going to go up 30 percent next year is that President Trump will 
not commit to the subsidies for insurance companies, the so-called 
  That is utterly false. How do they explain the 105-percent increase 
from 2013 to currently? How do they explain last year's increase in 
insurance premiums, 25 percent, on average, and 145 percent in places 
like Arizona before President Trump even took office? It is a 
demonstrably false narrative, and I cannot tell you how disappointed I 
am that we were not able to make some progress toward a solution on 
behalf of the people whom I represent in my State but also on behalf of 
the people whom we all represent across the United States.
  I dare say, as we search for a path forward, we ought to get our 
facts straight, and the idea that premiums are going to go up 30 
percent next year, unless something changes, is a product of the 
failure of ObamaCare. It is nothing that this administration has done 
or will do that has caused that. So let's get our facts straight 
because starting with the correct facts is absolutely essential to 
coming up with real solutions.

                         Work Before the Senate

  Mr. President, we sometimes are our own worst enemy in the U.S. 
Senate. We do something really important, really good, and really 
bipartisan, and then we do not tell anybody about it. We leave it to 
them to discover it for themselves. Last night, for example, we passed 
major, bipartisan, bicameral legislation to continue the Veterans 
Choice Program. At a time when so much is polarized here in Washington 
and people are hungry for bipartisanship and solution-oriented 

[[Page S4702]]

when they get it on something like the Veterans Choice Program, we do 
not talk about it. This is really important to our veterans--people to 
whom, I believe, we have a solemn commitment as a result of their 
service to our country.
  Over the last few years, we have heard how the Veterans Health 
Administration has been plagued by inefficiency, unaccountability, and 
poor quality of care. The VA has been hindered too long by unnecessary 
bureaucratic hurdles, which have been incredibly frustrating and 
deadly, I am afraid, in some cases, for our veterans. We have heard 
stories about veterans having to travel hours to get medical care, 
sometimes causing them to accept lower quality care or to forgo that 
care entirely. Sadly, in some cases, veterans turn to coping 
mechanisms, self-destructive activity--self-medicating--with drugs or 
alcohol because they simply cannot get access to genuinely helpful 
medical care.
  The Veterans Choice Program was designed to help address that by 
ensuring that veterans could receive timely appointments close to where 
they live. If they had to drive too far or if they had to wait too long 
for an appointment at a veterans facility, we said: You could show up 
at your local healthcare provider's, and we will pay for it through the 
Veterans Choice Program.
  The VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017 continues that 
important program and guarantees veterans that they will have access to 
care without interruption.
  This bill also strengthens the VA's ability to recruit, train, and 
retain its valuable workforce, which will help the VA continue to 
improve veterans' care. I am glad we were able to pass this legislation 
last night to ensure that this program can continue serving veterans. 
In moving forward, both Chambers should continue to work with the VA to 
get the agency back on track and right the years of poor quality of 
care and of service to our veterans for whom, I believe, we have a 
sacred obligation, a solemn commitment, based on their service to our 
  Next, we will focus on another important piece of legislation. This 
is authorizing the Food and Drug Administration's user fee program.
  This is how the Food and Drug Administration actually considers and 
approves new drugs that can save lives and improve the quality of 
lives. These partnerships between the public and private sectors ensure 
that patients will have access to safe and effective drugs and medical 
devices while also maintaining America's position as a global leader in 
medical innovation. Faster approvals mean treatments and cures reach 
patients sooner. Increased competition leads to lower costs, and that, 
in turn, means more lives saved. This is another example of what, I 
believe, will be a bipartisan accomplishment of the current Senate and 
current Congress.
  I heard one of our colleagues last week stand in front of the Nation 
and say nothing ever gets done. Well, we are doing some important 
things. The Veterans Choice Program and the FDA reauthorization bill 
are important, lifesaving bills that are being passed on a bipartisan 
  Then, of course, there is the backlog of the President's nominees.
  I have never seen anything quite like it. We had an election on 
November 8, but for many of our colleagues, the election remains 
undecided. They do not accept the verdict of the American people and 
the electoral college that President Trump won the election and that 
Hillary Clinton lost. That is how they, somehow, justify their 
consistent foot-dragging and obstruction when it comes to the 
President's nominees for important offices, including his Cabinet.
  It is the President's prerogative to nominate whom he wants to serve 
in the executive branch, but it is our duty, our responsibility, to 
carefully consider their qualifications before coming together to 
confirm them. Now, we have had people who had been waiting months for 
their nominations to be confirmed and who were confirmed by almost 
unanimous votes of the Senate, which tells me we were delaying those 
votes unnecessarily. If they were truly controversial, I think it would 
be reflected in the votes for their confirmations, but they are not.
  Let me just name one--our former colleague, Kay Bailey Hutchison, who 
has been nominated to serve as the Ambassador to NATO. I cannot think 
of a more qualified person than my good friend, the former Senator from 
Texas. Our country needs leadership in Brussels, at NATO, to help 
counter Russian aggression and threats and intimidation against our 
allies in the region, but that is just one example.
  Last night, the Senate confirmed the FBI Director--I am grateful for 
that--but they also confirmed--again, in the dead of night when nobody 
was paying attention--eight other Department of Defense nominees. Now, 
if our Democratic colleagues had good reason to delay those 
confirmations because they felt like they were controversial, that is 
their right, but evidently they were willing to let those people who 
had been nominated to the Department of Defense be confirmed, 
basically, by consent after months and months of delay.
  We have a lot of other nominations that are backlogged due to the 
unfortunate obstruction and foot-dragging of our Democratic colleagues, 
and I, for one, do not think we ought to leave in August--this month--
without a big, robust package of the confirmations of these 
noncontroversial nominees.
  It is time to get over the election. That was on November 8. We used 
to see a difference between elections and the responsibility of 
governing. Regardless of who wins the election, we still have the 
responsibility to govern. Some people seem to have forgotten that.
  Again, I hope we have a big, robust package of noncontroversial 
nominations approved before we leave for the rest of the month of 
August. I think it is too important to leave town without that. We need 
our President to succeed so the country can succeed. This is what every 
American who voted for President Trump hoped for, and they trusted him 
to choose men and women for his Cabinet to lead and guide our country. 
I have to say, he has done a remarkably good job in the people whom he 
has chosen for his Cabinet so let's come together and confirm these 
appointees so the administration can better serve our Nation and all 
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, thank you.
  I come to the floor today to urge my colleagues to vote no on the 
nomination that we will vote on shortly.
  On the campaign trail, President Trump promised to put workers first. 
Instead, President Trump's administration has rolled back worker 
protections and prioritized corporate interests at the expense of 
  It is critical, now more than ever, that the NLRB remain independent 
and committed to advocating for workers and their right to organize, 
but I am deeply concerned that President Trump's nominee, Mr. Kaplan, 
does not have a record of supporting the rights of workers and unions.
  At his nomination hearing, Mr. Kaplan confused basic labor issues and 
decisions, further proving he lacks the knowledge and experience to 
serve on this important board. NLRB members should be committed to 
standing up for workers, and it is clear Mr. Kaplan does not make the 
  I urge my colleagues to join me in doing what President Trump has 
failed to do, and that is to put workers first. Vote against this 
  Thank you.
  I yield the floor.

                             Cloture Motion

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Pursuant to rule XXII, the Chair lays before 
the Senate the pending cloture motion, which the clerk will state.
  The legislative clerk read as follows:

                             Cloture Motion

       We, the undersigned Senators, in accordance with the 
     provisions of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, 
     do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the nomination 
     of Marvin Kaplan, of Kansas, to be a Member of the National 
     Labor Relations Board for the term of five years expiring 
     August 27, 2020.
         Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley, Marco Rubio, Deb 
           Fischer, John Cornyn, Susan M. Collins, Lamar 
           Alexander, Roy Blunt, Luther Strange, Pat Roberts, 
           James Lankford, Bob Corker, Richard C. Shelby, John 
           Barrasso, Joni Ernst, Orrin G. Hatch.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. By unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum 
call has been waived.

[[Page S4703]]

  The question is, Is it the sense of the Senate that debate on the 
nomination of Marvin Kaplan, of Kansas, to be a Member of the National 
Labor Relations Board, shall be brought to a close?
  The yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk called the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the 
Senator from North Carolina (Mr. Burr) and the Senator from Arizona 
(Mr. McCain).
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sullivan). Are there any other Senators in 
the Chamber desiring to vote?
  The yeas and nays resulted--yeas 50, nays 48, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 183 Leg.]




     Cortez Masto
     Van Hollen

                             NOT VOTING--2

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. On this vote, the yeas are 50, the nays are 
  The motion is agreed to.
  The Senator from Washington.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to stand up for 
the workers President Trump is failing. As a candidate running for 
President, Mr. Trump promised workers that he would put them first and 
that he would bring back good-paying, respectable jobs to their 
communities, but since day one, President Trump has done the exact 
opposite. He has rolled back worker protections and made it harder for 
families to be more secure.
  Now, this doesn't come as a surprise to me, especially when I look at 
President Trump's record as a businessman. I have to say that he has 
refused to allow even his own hotel workers to organize or join a 
union, preventing them from having the opportunity to better advocate 
for safer working conditions and better pay.
  We all know that strong unions have helped to create our middle 
class, and for many working families in the 20th century, a good union 
job, or the right to collective bargaining, helped them move up the 
economic ladder. But over the past few decades, we have seen a decline 
in unions and union membership across the country. As a result of that, 
our economy has started to favor corporations and those at the top. 
This paved the way for President Trump and billionaires like him to 
take advantage of their workers, with little recourse for everyday 
people who are the backbone of our country.
  The National Labor Relations Board gives workers the opportunity to 
file charges against corporations when they are illegally fired or when 
corporations retaliate against workers for exercising their rights. 
President Trump should be familiar with the NLRB, as his own businesses 
have had complaints filed numerous times. That is precisely why it is 
so important that the Board is independent and is committed to 
advocating for workers and their right to organize.
  The preamble of the National Labor Relations Act clearly states that 
it is the policy of the United States to encourage collective 
bargaining and to give workers a voice, allowing them to speak up for 
fair wages and safe working conditions. It is the responsibility of the 
NLRB to ensure that workers are being treated fairly and to resolve 
disputes between corporate management and workers.
  So it is clear to me that Board members should believe in the core 
mission that I just stated of the NLRB and should be committed to 
standing up for workers and their right to collective bargaining, which 
is exactly why I have very serious concerns about Mr. Marvin Kaplan's 
record, which has largely been in opposition to the work and mission of 
the NLRB.
  As a labor staffer in the House of Representatives, Mr. Kaplan 
prepared and staffed hearings where Republicans consistently attacked 
the NLRB. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to name a single example of 
Mr. Kaplan supporting the rights of workers and unions.
  In addition to Mr. Kaplan's opposition to the core mission of the 
Board, I also have deep reservations about Mr. Kaplan's lack of legal 
experience practicing before the NLRB. When I asked Mr. Kaplan about 
his lack of practical qualifications, his responses were telling: Have 
you ever represented a party, employer, or a union in an unfair labor 
practice case or representation case before the Board? No. Have you 
ever represented a worker in an employment matter? No.
  What is more, when asked to speak on the pressing questions facing 
the Board at his confirmation hearing, he actually confused basic labor 
issues and decisions, further calling into question whether he has the 
experience and knowledge to serve on this critically important Board.
  This is not a difficult concept for workers across the country to 
grasp. If you are not qualified for a job that is this important or if 
you want to undermine the basic goals of the law, you shouldn't get the 
  So I will be voting no on Mr. Kaplan's confirmation. I urge my 
colleagues to do the same.
  I know my colleagues on both sides of the aisle want to strengthen 
our economy and rebuild our middle class. So I hope we can stand with 
working families across the country who today are simply asking for a 
fair shot.
  Thank you, Mr. President.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Hawaii.
  Mr. SCHATZ. Mr. President, there are two reasons why every Member of 
the Senate should vote against confirming Marvin Kaplan to the NLRB. 
The first is that he is just not qualified.
  The NLRB is the Federal agency that enforces our labor laws. It 
protects the rights of workers and the private sector to organize for 
better wages and better working conditions. It is up to them to make 
sure that their employers follow the law and that when there is an 
issue between employers and employees, everyone acts reasonably.
  Democrats and Republicans who have served on the NLRB have been the 
top labor and employment attorneys in their fields. They have had long 
careers working on labor issues, either as lawyers or as law 
professors. Many of them have spent time as staffers on the NLRB board. 
In other words, they understand the labor issues better than anyone. 
They may have a unique perspective on it one way or the other--sort of 
pro-management or pro-labor--but there is no question that previous 
nominees and previous members of the Board know labor law.
  Marvin Kaplan doesn't fit this profile. He is not a lawyer with any 
relevant labor experience. He has no record and no public positions on 
relevant labor law. What he is is a well-connected Capitol Hill 
staffer. His only qualification, that I can find, is that he has 
drafted some legislation for a committee in the House of 
Representatives. That does not stack up against the resumes of any 
other member who has served on the Board--Democrat or Republican.
  This lack of experience is dangerous. It means he will not know the 
intricacies and the historical development of labor law. He will simply 
be a rubberstamp who brings a political agenda to the Board, because he 
has no on-the-record opinions on these issues of his own.
  That was clear from the hearing on his nomination, when he would not 
properly commit to recuse himself from any issues he had worked on and 
to approach issues with an open mind, which brings me to the second 
reason. If somehow Senators can make an excuse for his lack of 
experience, we can't

[[Page S4704]]

deny that this is the opposite of the message that Congress should have 
received during the 2016 election.
  In November, Americans made clear that Washington had failed working 
families and that we have not done enough to stand up for American 
  Now here we are about to confirm a nominee to the NLRB, and the only 
experience he has is that he has drafted legislation to hurt American 
  The Board is about to face some important decisions. They could 
reverse a decision that holds big companies accountable for how their 
contractors treat workers. The future of American workers and their 
ability to organize will be influenced by this Board, which includes 
any members confirmed by the Senate.
  If Mr. Kaplan is appointed, it will further silence workers who 
already feel that they aren't being heard in Washington, DC.
  A vote for Mr. Kaplan is a vote that ignores the voices of American 
workers. It is a vote that further politicizes the NLRB at a time when 
we need to shore up our institutions against blind, corrosive ideology.
  I urge my colleagues to vote no on this nominee.
  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. CASEY. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Ernst). Without objection, it is so 
  Mr. CASEY. Thank you, Madam President.
  I rise to speak in opposition to the nomination of Marvin Kaplan to 
serve as a member of the National Labor Relations Board. Mr. Kaplan has 
spent much of his career as a staff member in Congress, where he worked 
to undermine unions and the rights of workers to bargain collectively.
  A key role of the National Labor Relations Board is to preserve the 
right of workers to bargain collectively. The Board itself is charged 
with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act, which Congress passed 
in 1935 in the depths of the Great Depression. The act gave workers the 
right to join unions, and it encouraged and promoted collective 
bargaining as a way to set wages and settle disputes over working 
  This law that passed in the 1930s--and is still in effect today--is 
not simply a benefit to workers; it also benefits businesses, and it 
also benefits the economy. Section 1 of the act says, in pertinent 
part: ``The inequality of bargaining power between employees . . . and 
employers . . . substantially burdens and affects the flow of commerce, 
and tends to aggravate recurrent business depressions, by depressing 
wage rates and the purchasing power of wage earners.''
  There are a lot of important words there. When you have inequality of 
bargaining power, the findings of the Congress at the time said that 
would burden and affect the flow of commerce. So that tells you the 
impact on commerce. It also says that when you have inequality of 
bargaining power, that aggravates business depressions, and the result 
of that is depressing wages and depressing purchasing power.
  Everyone here knows that when we are measuring the American economy 
today--I am sure this has been true for many generations but especially 
today--the consumer plays a substantial role in our economy. So if that 
consumer, that worker has lower wages, that is not good for anyone. So 
giving workers the right to both organize and collectively bargain 
allows them to demand higher wages, thereby increasing their incomes 
and that purchasing power which is so critically important. That, in 
turn, of course, increases consumption and demand for goods, which, of 
course, increases production and employment. So all of these are tied 
together. Wages and benefits affect the economy, not just the worker 
and his or her family.
  I believe there is now a concerning trend to weaken the National 
Labor Relations Act and to tilt the Board against workers. Mr. Kaplan's 
nomination is another sign of this disconnect between the rhetoric of 
the administration claiming to be pro-worker and its actions that are 
of late anything but pro-worker. The administration claims it is here 
to support workers, but at every turn, we have nominees who have spent 
their careers working in the opposite direction.
  We know that in the 1950s and 1960s, the economy worked well for 
working Americans because 35 percent of workers were in a labor union. 
The decline of unions, the decline of the workers' voice, and the 
decline of collective bargaining have helped to lead us where we are 
today--stagnant wages over a long period of time, as well as power, 
wealth, and income, of course, concentrated at the top.
  So we know that unions helped workers to win higher wages, job 
security, and unprecedented benefits, including paid vacations, paid 
sick leave, and pensions that gave those workers and their families a 
measure of security, but it also increased their purchasing power, and 
it also, of course, strengthened the economy. American family incomes 
grew by an average of 2.8 percent per year from 1947 through 1973, with 
every sector of society seeing its income roughly double.
  We know now that in the last number of years, it has been a different 
story. Families across Pennsylvania and the United States know that the 
story is much different. It is not a coincidence that union membership 
has declined from its peak of 35 percent of private sector employment 
in the 1950s to less than 7 percent of private sector employment today. 
This is all the more reason to stop this assault on workers and labor 
  Nominees with a partisan history of working to undermine unions or 
undermine the National Labor Relations Act or undermine the National 
Labor Relations Board should not be confirmed to a position where they 
are supposed to act as an arbiter to protect the rights of workers to 
form a union and to bargain collectively. So I urge my colleagues to 
oppose the nomination of Marvin Kaplan to the National Labor Relations 
  Madam President, 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. BROWN. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. BROWN. Madam President, during his campaign, President Trump made 
a lot of big promises to workers in Ohio and across the country. He 
told them he would look out for them.
  In a letter I sent to the President 2 days after the election, on 
November 10 or 11, asking the President to work with me to renegotiate 
NAFTA, insisting on ``Buy American'' provisions and infrastructure, the 
President scrawled across the top of the letter: ``I will never let 
down workers.''
  He said he would look out for them, but too often the people he puts 
in charge are along the lines of this latest nominee to the National 
Labor Relations Board, Marvin Kaplan. Mr. Kaplan has devoted his 
career--imagine such a thing--to working to strip workers of their 
rights and trying to undermine the workers' watchdog he is now seeking 
to join. I never question people's motives in this body. I just don't 
quite understand why somebody would devote his work life to trying to 
take away workers' rights and undermine labor protections. Someone who 
views unions and collective bargaining as a threat to be dealt with 
rather than as essential rights to be protected has no business serving 
on the National Labor Relations Board.
  The National Labor Relations Board was created, in part, at this 
desk. Then Senator Hugo Black of Alabama, in the early 1930s, sat at 
this desk. At this desk, one of the pieces of legislation he wrote was 
the minimum wage law. One of the other pieces of legislation he worked 
on with Senator Wagner was the National Labor Relations Act. In those 
days, people understood that you had created the National Labor 
Relations Act to strengthen workers, to create workers' rights, and to 
protect those workers' rights.
  Mr. Kaplan's nomination sets that on its head. It is the latest in a 
long, long line of evidence that we in this country

[[Page S4705]]

simply don't value work the way that we used to. Workers have 
continually seen their rights undermined. Workers' wages have been 
stagnant. People who work hard and play by the rules don't have the 
standard of living they had in our parents' generation or even half of 
a generation ago.
  We see companies refusing to pay overtime to workers who have earned 
it. We see companies misclassify workers so that companies can pay them 
less. We see executive salaries and CEO compensation going up and up 
and up. Yet for the broad middle class in this country, for people who 
aspire to be middle class, for low-wage workers, they have simply not 
gotten a raise for the last 20 years. So then, are we going to appoint 
somebody to the National Labor Relations Board--the President says we 
are going to confirm somebody to the National Labor Relations Board--
who has devoted his entire career to undermining workers, to taking 
away workers' rights, to scaling back workers' protections, and to 
scaling back wages--all these things we as a country never stood for?
  I don't know what is happening in this country that we think it is 
right to deprive workers of their wages, to take away overtime, to 
basically hit workers day after day after day in their pocketbooks, all 
while productivity goes up, profits go up, and while executive 
compensation goes up.
  When I was a kid, the average CEO-to-worker ratio of pay was about 35 
to 1 or maybe even less than that. Today it is often 300 or 400 to 1. 
The CEO will make 300 times what the average worker in the same company 
makes. How much is enough? What moral principle says to pay a CEO 300 
or 400 times what a worker makes? How much do they need? Why do they 
keep doing that?
  They keep doing that in part because of people like Mr. Kaplan, who 
always sides with the CEOs against the workers. As we think about this, 
I think everybody in this body can learn something from Pope Francis. 
At the end of June, Pope Francis spoke to workers in Italy at the 
Italian Confederation of Trade Unions. He was talking about something 
we do not think about much in this town that really ought to be at the 
heart of everything we do. He talked about the value and the dignity of 
work. An employer--a CEO--cannot say that he--and it is usually a 
``he''--values work when he takes away workers' rights. He cannot say 
he appreciates the dignity of work, when he scales back their wages or 
cheats them out of their overtime or takes away, by misclassification, 
the dollars she has earned.

  When Pope Francis talked about the dignity and value of work, he 
meant all work. He meant looking out for the little guy whether she 
punches a time clock or fills out a timesheet or makes a salary or 
earns tips, whether she is a contract worker or a temporary worker, 
whether he works in a call center or in a bank or on a factory floor.
  I went to my high school reunion in Mansfield, OH, about a year and a 
half ago. I sat across from a bank teller who works for one of the 
largest banks in the United States. She has worked at that bank for 30 
years. She makes $30,000 a year, and she has worked at a bank, as a 
bank teller, for most of the last 30 years. That is not respecting the 
dignity of work. That is simply undermining the value of work.
  Pope Francis said:

       The person thrives in work. Labour is the most common form 
     of cooperation that humanity has generated in its history.
       Work is a form of civil love . . . that makes the world 
     live and carry on.

  Yet too often that work--the cooperation that gives life purpose and 
that powers our country--does not pay off for the people who are doing 
it. While corporate profits are up, the GDP is up, and executive 
salaries have exploded upward, wages have barely budged. Workers simply 
have not shared in the wealth they have created.
  I went to an auto plant once after the passage of the North American 
Free Trade Agreement. At my own expense, I flew to Texas. I was 
representing a congressional district in Northeast Ohio then. I rented 
a car with a friend, went across the border from New Mexico, and I 
visited an auto plant in Mexico. It was an American company, but it was 
in Mexico.
  This auto plant looked just like an American auto plant. It was 
clean, and it was up-to-date. In fact, it was newer than most of our 
auto plants. The floors were clean, the workers were working hard, and 
the technology was up-to-date.
  Do you know the difference between the American auto plant and the 
Mexican auto plant? The Mexican auto plant did not have a parking lot 
because the workers did not make enough. They were not paid enough by 
this American auto company. They were not paid enough in Mexico to buy 
the cars they make. The work was not respected, profits were going up, 
the GDP was going up, executive salaries were going up, and the workers 
were not sharing in the wealth they created.
  This is a universal problem. It affects blue-collar workers, and it 
affects white-collar workers. It is in the industrial heartland of 
Ohio, and it is on the farmlands of Iowa. It is a problem on both 
coasts. People earn less. People cannot save for retirement. People 
feel less stable--all while working harder, all while producing more 
for their employers, which feeds right into huge executive 
compensation, but they do not share in the wealth they create for their 
companies. They are also less likely to have a union card that protects 
  So the President's appointment to the National Labor Relations Board 
is pretty much a guy who has tried to make sure unions do not get a 
foothold in our economy and in our companies.
  The Pope spoke about the labor group. He said it performs an 
``essential role for the common good.''
  He said:

       It gives voice to those who have none . . . unmasks the 
     powerful who trample on the rights of the most vulnerable 
     workers, defends the cause of the foreigner, the least, the 

  This is the Pope talking.
  Think about airline baggage handlers. Airline baggage handlers used 
to make a good union wage. They used to work for United. They used to 
work for American. They used to work for Delta. Now they work for 
private companies that are contracted by United, American, and Delta. 
Airline baggage handlers' wages in the last 10 years have dropped 40 
percent. They are working just as hard--they are probably working 
harder--but they are making 40 percent less than they used to.
  Again, the Pope said:

     . . . unmasks the powerful who trample on the rights of the 
     most vulnerable workers, defends the cause of the foreigner, 
     the least, the discarded.
       The capitalism of our time does not understand the value of 
     the trade union because it has forgotten the social nature of 
     the economy, of the business. This is one of the greatest 

  We know from rightwing attacks on the labor movement, from so-called 
right-to-work bills to Mr. Kaplan's efforts to undercut rules that 
protect workers, that too many in this country do not understand the 
value of the trade union.
  Right now, in Mississippi, autoworkers at Nissan are organizing and 
trying to form a union, and the corporation has responded. This foreign 
corporation has responded with despicable intimidation tactics. This is 
one of the most powerful, profitable companies in the world that is 
attacking workers one at a time in Mississippi.
  One worker said: ``There is no atmosphere of free choice in the 
Canton plant--just fear--which is what Nissan intends.''
  It is shameful the lengths that this corporation is going to--all to 
prevent workers from bargaining for fair pay. It is why we need a 
strong, not an undercut, weakened, emasculated National Labor Relations 
Board. We need a strong National Labor Relations Board to defend these 
workers and defend our laws on the books because an attack on unions is 
an attack on all workers. It is an attack on our economy as a whole 
because it depresses wages.
  There is the idea that you give tax cuts to the richest people in the 
country and that you make sure executive salaries are $5- and $10- and 
$15 million. You squeeze workers so they do not get increases. Is that 
a good economy? No. The money does not trickle down and build the 
economy. You build the economy from the middle out. We know that.
  In the 1990s, we built the economy from the middle out, with 22 
million private sector jobs during the Clinton years. In the Bush 
years, they had two

[[Page S4706]]

huge tax cuts for the rich under the Wall Street Journal theory that it 
would trickle down and everybody would be better. There was literally 
no net private sector job increase during the Bush years. There were 22 
million private sector jobs in the Clinton years and zero net growth in 
the Bush years. That is because, during the Bush years, they believed 
the economy was built from the top down. It is not large businesses 
that drive the economy--it is the workers. That is how you grow the 
economy--from the middle class out. If work is not valued, Americans 
cannot earn their way to better lives for their families no matter how 
hard they work.
  That is what I think of when I hear Pope Francis talk about the 
social nature of our economy. Work has to support families and 
communities. Today businesses seem to be more focused on cutting costs 
than on investing in their workforces. Workers are often nothing more 
than a line item in a budget, a cost to be minimized. More businesses 
use temp workers, more businesses use contractors--look at the 
airlines--and more businesses use subcontractors. They pay a lower 
wage. They provide less job security. They roll back their retirement 
benefits. They undercut their health benefits, and they take away legal 
protections. We have to change this.
  This spring, I laid out a plan to make work pay off by raising wages 
and benefits, including retirement, giving workers more say and more 
power in the workplace, encouraging companies to invest in their 
greatest asset--the American worker. My plan to restore the value of 
work has to include the labor movement. Modernizing labor law means 
recognizing the right of all workers, even those in alternative work 
arrangements, to collectively bargain for higher pay and better wages.
  Pope Francis concluded:

       There is no good society without a good union, and there is 
     no good union that is not reborn every day in the peripheries 
     that does not transform the discarded stones of the economy 
     into its cornerstones.

  We are a country of discarded stones--of people who rose from humble 
beginnings and joined together to build institutions that were greater 
than any one of us. We need laws that reflect that--that reflect the 
dignity of work and that reflect, as in the Pope's words, the dignity 
of every discarded stone, of each and every American who works too many 
hours for too little pay.
  The last thing we need for the National Labor Relations Board is 
another nominee who does not value work, who demeans work, and who 
demeans the workers and the unions who do it. Everyone in this town 
ought to listen a little more to Pope Francis and a little less to 
corporate lobbyists, a little less to big banks, and a little less to 
Wall Street. Maybe, then, we will start to make hard work pay off again 
for American workers. We can start today by rejecting this anti-worker 
  I yield the floor.
  (Disturbance in the Visitors' Galleries.)
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Expression of approval or disapproval is not 
permitted in the Gallery.
  Mr. BROWN. Madam 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.
  Mrs. FISCHER. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

      Honoring Nebraska's Soldiers Who Lost Their Lives in Combat

  Mrs. FISCHER. Madam President, I rise to continue my tribute to 
Nebraska's heroes and the current generation of men and women who lost 
their lives defending our freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each of 
these Nebraskans has a special story to tell.

                       Corporal Matthew Alexander

  Madam President, today, I recall the life and the service of Army CPL 
Matthew Alexander, a native of Gretna, NE.
  Matthew was drawn to the military at a young age. His parents Mel and 
Monica and brother Marshall described him as always eager to be part of 
a team. He practiced martial arts, played the piano, and participated 
in band as a kid. As a member of the Gretna High School band, Matthew 
helped to organize the uniforms and shoes before concerts to ensure 
that all of the band members were ready to perform. He helped his band 
mates play at their best, and his caring and compassionate nature stood 
out among his classmates.
  Matthew and his wife Kara had been friends since childhood. Kara 
described the teenage Matthew as somebody who could not sit still and 
who loved to learn. He took a keen interest in history and English 
classes in high school. He was also comfortable in talking with anyone 
and often referred to the mothers of his friends as ``Mom.'' Kara 
recalled how Matthew always had a grin or a smile on his face. Matthew 
also loved his church youth group, and he embraced his Lord and Savior, 
Jesus Christ.
  Matthew always wanted to be a soldier, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks 
further solidified his desire to defend his country. He enlisted in the 
Army shortly before graduating from Gretna High School in May of 2004, 
and he shipped off to basic training that summer.
  After he finished training, Matthew attended the Advanced Individual 
Training to become an infantry soldier. This was the first step toward 
his dream of joining the Army Special Forces. He was assigned to the 
5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Division, 2nd 
Infantry Division, and like both of his grandfathers, Corporal 
Alexander was stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington State.
  When he first arrived, his unit had just returned to Fort Lewis from 
a deployment. Matthew had to wait until the next deployment cycle to go 
overseas. He did not like that delay. As a brave soldier, eager to 
defend his country, Matthew wanted to be in the fight. Several months 
later, Matthew's unit deployed to Mosul, Iraq. They assisted with the 
training of the Iraqi militia.
  From the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mosul has been the 
center of battle. The fighting escalated in 2006 during the Sunni 
awakening. During the training of Iraqi forces and while conducting 
combat patrols, troops in Mosul encountered enemy attacks on a daily 
  Matthew returned home on leave in February of 2007, and he proposed 
to Kara. They were married 2 weeks later, on February 14, Valentine's 
Day. Regarding their very short engagement, Kara simply explained that 
Matthew felt strongly about being married before he returned to combat.
  When Matthew returned to Iraq, he learned that his unit had moved to 
Baqubah. The Battle of Baqubah began in March. The enemy used hit-and-
run tactics to harass Allied forces that were trying to control the 
city. During April and May, the fighting intensified, and casualties 
were high. Some likened the fierce fight to the close quarters of the 
combat of Vietnam.
  It was in this heat of battle that CPL Alexander showed heroism and 
leadership when an IED hit a Bradley Fighting Vehicle on one of his 
missions. As Matthew's section rushed to the burning Bradley, the other 
vehicle commander told him to block off the southern approach and 
prevent the enemy from attacking up the road. While the Bradley 
continued to burn and take machine gun fire, Matthew acted without 
further instructions, and he saved lives. He set up his vehicle to 
prevent the attacking enemy forces from shooting accurate fire into 
those helping with that rescue operation. For his valor, Matthew 
received the Army Commendation Medal.

  One of the members of Matthew's platoon, SSG Mark Grover, remembered 
Matthew feeling surprised to have been recommended for the honor. He 
said that he was just doing the right thing to protect his fellow 
  Days before a mission on Sunday, May 6, Matthew called home to talk 
to his mother Monica and to Kara. Tragically, this was the last time he 
spoke to loved ones. While on the mission, an improvised explosive 
device detonated near his vehicle, killing him instantly.
  Corporal Alexander was laid to rest on May 18, 2007, in a rural 
cemetery between Gretna and Elkhorn, NE. Hundreds of Patriot Guard 
riders led the funeral procession and over 1,500 people filled Gretna 
High School to say their final goodbyes. Staff Sergeant Grover traveled 
to Gretna to represent the

[[Page S4707]]

Third Platoon, nicknamed the ``Gladiators,'' at the service. Grover was 
riding in the armored vehicle just in front of the one carrying Matthew 
at the time of the explosion. He said that the entire company loved 
Matthew and that he was one of the best soldiers in the platoon.
  To honor Matthew's life, his family established Matt's Music 
Memorial. The charity helps children interested in music but who can't 
afford an instrument, and they receive one from the local community. As 
Matthew's father Mel put it, Matthew had two passions: music and the 
military. However, you didn't need money to join the military.
  CPL Matthew Alexander is truly a hero. He served with great 
compassion and respect.
  I join Nebraskans and Americans across our country in saluting his 
willingness and his family's sacrifice to keep us free, and I am 
honored to tell his story.
  Thank you, Madam President.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.

                           Order of Procedure

  Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that all 
postcloture time on the Kaplan nomination expire at 5 p.m. today; that 
if the nomination is confirmed, the motion to reconsider be considered 
made and laid upon the table; that the President be immediately 
notified of the Senate's action, and the Senate then resume legislative 
session and be in a period of morning business, with Senators permitted 
to speak therein for up to 10 minutes each.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. McCONNELL. 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. MERKLEY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Tillis). Without objection, it is so 

             Tribute to Fallen Soldiers' Motorcycle Brigade

  Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, a few moments ago, I had the opportunity 
to meet with a group called the Tribute to Fallen Soldiers. They have 
an annual cross-country motorcycle ride in honor of soldiers who died 
during combat. The motorcycle brigade escorts the Fallen Soldiers 
Memorial Flame from Eugene, OR, all the way to Arlington National 
Cemetery. Along the way, they visit Gold Star families--families who 
have a loved one who died on the battlefield in service to the United 
States of America.
  One couple who came today was Terry Burgess and Elizabeth Burgess, 
whose son Bryan lost his life fighting in Afghanistan, and they shared 
with me, in the military tradition, a medal.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to use a visual aid.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, this medal has a picture of their son. It 
says: ``In memory of SSG Bryan A. Burgess, who lived from April 23, 
1981, through March 29, 2011.'' On the back of it, it has a picture of 
a memorial that shows a pair of boots and a rifle and a hat and ``never 
  The Tribute to Fallen Soldiers is about never forgetting our fallen 
soldiers. We put them into situations of enormous stress and challenge 
and danger, and they are there for all of us. In those particular 
situations, time and again, one of our soldiers loses their life. So 
may we never forget our soldiers who have died, our soldiers who have 
been wounded, and may we continue to reach out to Gold Star families to 
provide a community of support to them.
  I completely respect and appreciate the Tribute to Fallen Soldiers' 
motorcycle brigade that rides across the country visiting with Gold 
Star families, making sure they have that community of support and 
making sure they know that the sacrifices of their son or daughter are 
not forgotten.

                        Transgender Military Ban

  Mr. President, while focusing on the military, I want to shift to 
another aspect of military service, and I am going to start by thinking 
about the foundation of our country, our ``we the people'' Nation. ``We 
the People'' are the first three words of our Constitution, the mission 
statement of our Nation. We are not a nation that is founded of, by, 
and for the powerful, not a nation founded to govern of, by, and for 
the privileged, but for the people. It was a very deliberate strategy 
of our Founders not to repeat the type of structure in America that 
they saw in Europe, where government became beholden and in servitude 
to simply the powerful class.
  Throughout our history, we have strived to live up to this vision of 
a nation where every individual has the opportunity to thrive. Time 
after time, we have broken down barriers, we have overcome 
discrimination, and we have thrown open the doors of opportunity for 
one group after another--for women, for Africa Americans, for 
indigenous peoples, for immigrants, for the disabled.
  Freedom, said President Lyndon Baines Johnson, ``is the right to be 
treated, in every part of our national life, as a person equal in 
dignity and promise to all others.'' So we strive to reach that 
perspective, that point where our vision of the pursuit of happiness 
embraces freedom as Lyndon Baines Johnson described it--``the right to 
be treated, in every part of our national life, as a person equal in 
dignity and promise to all others.'' It has not been easy.
  It was Martin Luther King who saw how challenging it was to progress 
toward that vision, and he noted that ``human progress is neither 
automatic nor inevitable. . . . Every step towards the goal of justice 
requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and 
passionate concern of dedicated individuals.'' And it is with that 
tireless exertion, that passionate concern, that dedication, that we 
have made progress time and time again.
  But last week, we did not make progress. Last week, we fell back from 
this vision of opportunity, the freedom to engage in our national life 
with the respect and promise accorded to all others. This step back 
came in the form of an attack by President Trump and Attorney General 
Sessions on our LGBTQ Americans. President Trump announced a ban on 
transgender Americans serving in the military, and Attorney General 
Sessions filed an amicus brief in Zarda v. Altitude Express arguing 
that discrimination is completely legal under the law, including the 
1964 Civil Rights Act.
  Well, let's talk for a moment about our members of the military who 
have joined a Volunteer military, who have gone through significant 
training--and I am not just referring to boot camp but the ongoing 
training in specialty after specialty--so they can operate that radar 
effectively that provides warning to an entire ship, or that 
communication device to make sure that patrol is where it is supposed 
to be and able to follow instructions in the field, or any of the 
hundreds of specialties within the military that these individuals step 
forward and gain training on. Each one of them is significant to the 
overall success of the entire unit. Well, that is something President 
Trump didn't understand last week when he attacked and said that he is 
going to throw our transgender individuals out of the military.
  What is important isn't whether you are gay or lesbian or 
transgender, it is whether you serve with your heart and soul and sinew 
the purpose of the security of the United States, and those individuals 
who do are respected within their units. They contribute to those 
units. The lives of each member depend on the success of the other team 
members. They are a team. And to reach in, in a cavalier fashion, as 
the President did, and say ``I am going to rip thousands of these team 
members out of their units'' is wrong in so many ways. It is 
disrespectful, of course, of those individuals and their dedicated 
service to our Nation. It is disrespectful and damaging to the units in 
which they serve and provide those various skills which they have 
worked so hard to acquire and which we have worked so hard to make sure 
they have the chance to acquire. And it certainly damages the security 
of the United States of America to eject individuals with those talents 
and that training from our military. Therefore, that should be 

[[Page S4708]]

  By the way, it was done without consultation with our military 
leaders. A Commander in Chief proposing a policy through a tweet 
without consulting with the experts who have dedicated their lives to 
the national security of our Nation--that in and of itself is a real 
betrayal of responsibility.
  Attorney General Sessions filed an amicus brief in Zarda v. Altitude 
Express, and this brief says that title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights 
Act, which provides protection against discrimination based on race, 
color, religion, national origin, and sex, does not provide protection 
against discrimination in terms of one's LGBT status. By the way, that 
is the opposite of what court after court has ruled.
  What happened, one might ask, to the President Trump who, as 
Candidate Trump, said: ``Thank you to the LGBT community!'' As a 
candidate, he said: ``I will fight for you.'' What happened to the 
President who, after the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, said 
in a tweet: ``Will fight for you.'' This last week, the President did 
not fight for you in that community; instead, he attacked that 
community, and he apparently approved of Attorney General Sessions 
attacking that community.
  This is why we need the Equality Act. The Equality Act would clarify 
that when we say no discrimination on the basis of sex, that is broadly 
applying to one's status of who they are or whom they love.
  If we go back to President Johnson's presentation of the issue in 
America, where he said every individual--the matter of freedom is that 
you have the opportunity to be treated as having the same promise and 
be treated with the same respect as everyone else, that it is all about 
being able to thrive in the United States, or to put it quite simply, 
not having a door slammed in your face when you go to rent an 
apartment, not having a door slammed in your face when you go to a 
restaurant or a movie theater, not having a door slammed in your face 
when you seek to be part of a jury. That is what freedom is in this 
country. That is the freedom that Attorney General Sessions and 
President Trump are seeking to rip away from a sizable share of 
Americans, and that is simply wrong. That is why we need the Equality 
Act--to make sure that this is remedied. That is why we need the courts 
to stand up against discrimination on the basis of who you are and whom 
you love.

  It has been a week in which the President attacked and damaged our 
military and Attorney General Sessions attacked and betrayed and 
attempted to steal freedom from a vast swath of Americans. That is a 
very sad week on both counts, and we in this Chamber should stand up 
and say: That is not OK. We will fight for the security of the United 
States of America, and we will fight for opportunity for every single 
  Thank you, Mr. President.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cotton). The Senator from Missouri.

                            Rural Broadband

  Mr. BLUNT. Mr. President, August is Rural Broadband Month at the 
Federal Communications Commission. The Commerce Committee just today 
put forward nominees for the Commission, and the Commission does 
matter. But I want to talk today specifically about highlighting the 
importance of broadband in rural America and rural Missouri.
  In January of this year, I joined a number of my Senate colleagues on 
a bipartisan letter to President Trump regarding the importance of 
broadband and expanding its access to all of the country and, 
particularly, the parts of our country that are not currently served.
  As part of any infrastructure legislation that the Congress is 
talking about, I think we and the administration need to consider 
policies that advance infrastructure not just solely in terms of roads, 
bridges, and ports, which are important, particularly where the 
Presiding Officer and I live, in Arkansas and Missouri. That 
transportation network means so much to us, but also important is how 
people are able to communicate and compete. High speed internet access 
cannot be overlooked as we consider what our infrastructure should look 
like going forward.
  Broadband can be delivered by wireless or wireline technology. It can 
be brought to customers by traditional communications companies in 
rural areas. Often, now, rural electric co-ops show great interest and 
capacity to do this, as do others. Following the significant steps that 
Congress took to deregulate the market as part of the 1996 
Telecommunications Act, the broadband industry has really responded. 
They invested a lot of money. In fact, they invested $1.5 trillion of 
private money to deploy better and faster networks. If you have access 
to one of those networks, you know what a difference it makes.
  In 2015 alone--that is the last number I have access to--the 
investment by traditional wireline companies, wireless companies, and 
cable providers was $76 billion. All of that is really good, except 
that there is a real divide between the rural areas of my State and the 
rural areas of the country and the other more populated areas.
  Some people say: Oh, that is just a myth; there is no digital divide. 
I would have them look at any number of articles. One article in the 
Wall Street Journal in June made the point that 39 percent of the 
United States' rural population lacks access to broadband. That sounds 
like a pretty big divide to me--that 39 percent of the entire rural 
population of the country doesn't have broadband, and 61 percent of 
rural Missourians lack access to broadband. These numbers are not 
  Most private investment has been directed, as you would assume it 
would be, toward high populations, highly populated and easily accessed 
areas, and future customers. This is like the same problem the country 
had 100 years ago transitioning to telephones. It was hard to get a 
telephone to a house that was 5 miles away from the nearest house, as 
opposed to a house that was in the same apartment building to the 
nearest apartment. It is a lot harder to do that. The government at 
that time said that there would be a universal service fee on phone 
bills, and then use that money to ensure that everybody would have 
equal access to what was obviously seen as a really important way to 
communicate. The concept of Universal Service was enshrined in the 1996 
act. It said that rural households should have the same access to 
advanced telecommunications enjoyed by their urban counterparts. It is 
a good goal for a lot of reasons.
  I saw some figures this week. When looking at the overdose deaths and 
the opioid problems in the country, they are much greater in rural 
counties than they are in urban centers. In our State, Kansas City, our 
biggest city by population and any of the five counties that touched it 
weren't anywhere close to the top list of other areas in our State that 
had this problem. It matters when you are not connected. It matters 
when opportunities that you otherwise would have simply aren't there 
because somehow a service that is essential to our society today isn't 
available to you in the same way it is available to others. I am not 
saying it should be free to some and cost other people something, but 
it should be available to you in the same way that it is available to 
others in our society, as the 1996 Telecommunications Act stated.

  Broadband is necessary to attract and retain business for banks, 
factories, distribution centers, and small businesses. It is necessary 
to start and maintain a business, large or small. If business is going 
to compete outside the local marketplace, there has to be that 
connectivity. Frankly, in order to compete in the local marketplace and 
to have the ability to buy at the best price and to get the kind of 
products needed, the internet really matters.
  Broadband is always there. We have to have it if we are going to 
compete in the world economy. Many people in rural America are able to 
do that in ways that nobody would have dreamed about 10 years ago, but 
not everybody has that same access.
  Certainly, it is critical for schools and libraries. Just today, a 
parent was telling me that students can't do their homework anymore 
unless they can get internet access somewhere close to where they live. 
Students depend on the internet for education and opportunity where we 
live today.
  A revolution has taken place in agriculture. The great food-producing 
economy that we have produces more food all the time. It actually 
produces more food with fewer people. So that creates some displaced 
people who otherwise would have had those jobs, but

[[Page S4709]]

it also uses wireless infrastructure, data, and GPS structures to 
decide what should happen in a field at a given time in that part of 
the field. There are data centers, autonomous systems, and fiber optics 
that are a part of agriculture today. If you are linked to broadband 
and you are in your combine and have a problem, sometimes that problem 
can be solved in a couple of minutes by quickly accessing your system, 
seeing where the problem is, resetting what you need to set and moving 
on, as opposed to the other option, which is calling the repair person, 
having the technologist come out with their computer, hook it up to 
your combine, and 5 or 6 hours later, at a time when you are in the 
critical moments of your annual livelihood, suddenly you are working 
again, when you could have been working 5 or 6 minutes later if you had 
been connected like many farmers are today.
  Broadband is more than just economic opportunity. Rural hospitals and 
health clinics are able to use telemedicine to bring services at a 
level that otherwise would not be available. This is particularly 
important in mental and behavioral healthcare. A lot of people are 
every bit as comfortable or more comfortable with telehealth than they 
are with somebody in the room with them. Also, with intensive care, 
suddenly all of the resources that may be available 100 miles away can 
be right there at the point where questions are asked and that 
information is handled. Suddenly, somebody's life is saved because of 
the capacity to have that kind of communication.
  For years I have tried to lead when I could, and joined my colleagues 
when they were leading, with numerous letters to the FCC urging it to 
reform the Universal Service Program for the digital era. Most people 
who don't have a line to their phone have a way to get a phone in their 
hand now, but they don't have a way to get this important way to 
communicate and to compete. It is frustrating, when we see the limited 
resources we have--the government resources--to put into something like 
this to see limited funds go to places where you are just creating 
another provider and more competition, except that the second provider 
has government money on its side to compete with the first provider 
that went in with its own money. There is a big difference between 
unserved and any level of underserved. If you are unserved, like 69 
percent of rural Missourians, the idea that somebody else doesn't have 
enough competition in the place they live doesn't seem to make very 
much sense to you. If there is a competitive marketplace and somebody 
wants to go in there and compete and get the prices down, that is all 
fine, but I think the government focus should be just like it was with 
telephones 100 years ago--to see that people had the opportunity to 
have that phone the same as their neighbors in more densely populated 
  The President recently designated Ajit Pai to be the Chairman of the 
FCC. We are finally seeing the Commission take actions to address rural 
broadband. In February, I wrote to the Chairman and urged him to act on 
the $2 billion available for rural broadband and open this money up to 
auction so new entrants into the field, like electric co-ops, can 
competitively bid alongside everybody else. The FCC has decided to do 
  Tomorrow the Commission will consider a notice to initiate the pre-
auction process for this money to deploy fiber optics in parts of 
Missouri. This will complement other initiatives underway, as the FCC 
looks at how to address rural broadband. They have launched a $4.5 
billion auction for mobile wireless service in rural areas. They are 
suspending out-of-date rules that forced small carriers to raise 
telephone rates. They are launching a proceeding to reduce costs for 
companies upgrading from copper to fiber optic networks--another FCC 
initiative. They are launching a broadband advisory committee. These 
are all steps in the right direction, where you and I live. They will 
make a difference.
  I look forward to continuing to work with the Chairman and others on 
the Commission on this issue. I think rural broadband is particularly 
leveling in creating the opportunities that we would like to see. The 
Commission will now be back up to its five-member intention of how many 
people are supposed to be there, making those decisions.

  There is still work to be done. We need to reduce the digital divide. 
Connectivity is critical. We also need policies that support efficient 
network structures that allow people to not just connect to a network 
but to connect with a network that really works.
  Let me talk about one other Missouri issue that relates here.
  I said earlier that Kansas City is now our biggest city, our most 
populous city. Still, St. Louis, I think, by region, is the bigger 
region, but the city of St. Louis is not as big as Kansas City. In 
Kansas City, they have an internet exchange called KCIX. It is a 
peering center that offers tremendous benefits to secondary educational 
institutions, to high schools, to vocational programs, and to others so 
they really maximize how they communicate with each other and have the 
availability of resources in one place much more equally available in 
others, and large amounts of bandwidth can be diverted by using this 
peering infrastructure.
  Frankly, what is happening in Kansas City this fall is that the North 
Kansas City School District will establish connections to KCIX. It is 
estimated that it may save the district almost $500,000 a year in 
bandwidth just by looking at peering. If peering helps there, maybe 
peering is one of the other things we can look at that will help solve 
the rural broadband challenge as well.
  We are going to be working on this. There will be legislation. There 
will be continuing efforts to urge the FCC to stay on point. We need to 
do what we can to make communities in rural America productive and 
competitive and as healthy as they can be.
  By the way, there are a lot of stories here to be told. I hope the 
next time I come to the floor on this topic that I will come to the 
floor with some things that are happening in my State that would not 
have happened if there had not been the access to broadband in not very 
big communities that are suddenly doing business all over the United 
States and all over the world.
  How we do that is by not letting any of our country wither away, 
where we have existing infrastructure and schools and sidewalks and 
water systems and by being sure the people who want to live there can 
live there, just like we are being sure now, as we see a revitalization 
of some of our downtowns and inner cities. People will want to move 
back to them and will have reasons and desires to want to do that. We 
are seeing an upswing there.
  I think we can see the same kind of thing happen in other parts of 
the country if we work to be sure we have an equity of opportunity. One 
of the major things that will provide that will be having access to 
broadband that works. I hope we can continue to fight that fight and 
see the progress we have made just in the last 6 months.
  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. PETERS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

            Great Lakes Environmental Sensitivity Index Bill

  Mr. PETERS. Mr. President, as we head into the month of August, many 
Americans are planning to spend time along our beautiful coasts. Our 
country is fortunate to have such a wide variety of natural resources 
along the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, and the east and west coasts. 
However, I am partial to America's best coast: The 4,500 miles of U.S. 
coastline along the Great Lakes.
  Our coastal resources make it possible to move cargo and goods around 
the world. They provide opportunities for outdoor recreation like 
fishing and boating and trips to the beach. Our coasts are not only 
beautiful, providing some of the most scenic vistas and picturesque 
landscapes our country has to offer; these ecosystems also provide many 
tangible benefits. They serve as flooding buffers, critical habitats 
for fish and wildlife, and locations for ports and other marine 
  In the Great Lakes, our freshwater coastline contains one-fifth of 
the entire world's fresh water and provides drinking water for over 40 
million people. We must be stewards of these areas

[[Page S4710]]

so that future generations can also benefit from them. In order to do 
so, we must properly document and keep track of this precious resource.
  That is why I partnered with Senator Young to introduce the 
bipartisan Great Lakes Environmental Sensitivity Index Act of 2017 to 
require NOAA to update environmental sensitivity index maps and map 
products. The bill passed unanimously out of the Commerce Committee 
this morning by a voice vote and now heads to the full Senate floor for 
  Environmental sensitive index--or ESI--maps provide an inventory of 
our valuable natural and human-use resources along our coasts. These 
maps chronicle sensitive ecosystems and the presence of various species 
as they migrate through regions and habitats for threatened and 
endangered species. They also document where we can access coastal 
resources from beaches and parks to docks, ferries, and boat ramps.
  We must maintain an up-to-date inventory of these precious coastal 
resources so that we know exactly where we need to focus our response 
efforts in a worst-case scenario of a harmful oil or chemical spill. 
Accurate documentation of these resources and their vulnerabilities is 
critical to both deploying the right response effort when a spill or 
accident occurs and assessing the damage and restoration efforts needed 
after the fact.
  In places like the Straits of Mackinac, where a 64-year-old oil 
pipeline sits at the bottom of the lake bed, it should be our top 
priority to have a current inventory of what shoreline resources could 
be impacted by a pipeline leak. Models have shown that a pipeline spill 
in the Straits of Mackinac could likely result in oil reaching the 
shores of Mackinac Island within hours, which would be an absolute 
catastrophe for Michigan's top tourist attraction.
  ESI maps don't just help with oilspill response; they can also be 
used for coastal development activities, and they even have significant 
research applications. They provide a clear reference point prior to 
natural disasters or major storms that may damage, destroy, or 
significantly alter resources along our coasts. Decision makers at the 
local and State level may use them for restoration efforts or to make 
informed decisions about how to balance all of the various uses in that 
coastal zone.
  ESI maps need regular updates in order for them to be truly 
effective. These updates are happening now for other areas of the 
country. Stretches of the west coast, along the Gulf of Mexico, and 
along the east coast have all received updates over the last 5 years.
  One region is continually absent from these updates: my home region 
of the Great Lakes. In fact, the most recent updates for some of the 
Great Lakes were completed over 20 years ago, but Lake Erie and parts 
of Lake Michigan haven't been updated for over 30 years. This bill 
gives the proper direction and resources to make sure these long 
overdue updates move forward.
  Supporters of the bill so far include the Great Lakes Charter Boat 
Association, the Coastal States Organization, the Great Lakes 
Commission, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the National Wildlife 
Federation, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and the group For Love 
of Water. With nearly 3,300 miles of coastline in Michigan, the second-
most coastline of any State in the Nation, we need to update Great 
Lakes environmental sensitivity index products as soon as we can.
  Modernizing these maps will provide a better picture of what 
resources could be at risk in the event of a disaster and will be an 
important tool to help us keep our Great Lakes safe and clean for 
future generations.
  I look forward to working with Senator Young and the rest of my 
colleagues in the Senate to move this bill forward and make sure that 
we have the tools we need to make the best decisions for the Great 
Lakes, no matter the challenges and opportunities facing us.
  Thank you.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, today the Senate will vote on the 
confirmation of Marvin Kaplan to be a member of the National Labor 
Relations Board, NLRB. I am glad that we are moving this nomination 
because the National Labor Relations Board needs to function as 
  The board hasn't been full in nearly 2 years. I am certainly not the 
only one of us who thinks a full Board is important. One Democratic 
senator said at a hearing on May 16, 2013: ``I strongly support a fully 
functioning NLRB with five members. I think confirming the entire slate 
will ensure that the NLRB is working for American workers and American 
  Another said at the same hearing: ``What we don't need now--the last 
thing we need here in Washington or across the country--is more rancor, 
more division, more ideology, at a time we need this Board fully 
functioning. We need five people to get confirmed here. Any Senator who 
is standing in the way of getting five people confirmed and having a 
functioning Board has a lot of explaining to do . . .''
  Then-Chairman Harkin said in September 2014: ``Keeping the NLRB fully 
staffed and able to do its work will send a strong message to the 
American people that yes, Washington can work, and our government can 
  The National Labor Relations Board has five members with 5-year, 
staggered terms, and a general counsel with a 4-year term. There is no 
statutory requirement regarding party affiliation, but the tradition 
has been for the President to appoint members on a 3-2 ratio favoring 
the administration, with nominations for the two minority seats 
recommended by the Senate minority leader.
  While we may often disagree with the opinions of the nominees for the 
other party's seats--many of us have ensured they had an up or down 
vote. For example, since 2013, I have voted for cloture for two board 
members and the current general counsel who I then voted against 
  Marvin Kaplan has been nominated for a position that has sat vacant 
for 23 months since President Obama declined to nominate a Republican 
for the then-minority seat. My hope is that this nominee will help 
restore some balance to the labor board.
  After years of playing the role of advocate, the Board should be 
restored to the role of neutral umpire. Board partisanship didn't start 
under President Obama, but it became worse under him. When the Board is 
too partisan, it creates instability in our Nation's workplaces and 
does not serve the intent of the law--which is stable labor relations 
and free flow of commerce.
  For example, under President Obama, the Board took three harmful 
actions, including the joint employer decision--which threatened to 
destroy the American dream for owners of the Nation's 780,000 franchise 
locations; the ambush elections rule, which can force a union election 
before an employer and many employees have a chance to figure out what 
is going on; and the micro-union decision, which gave factions of 
employees within single stores a path to forming their own unions.
  Nominee Marvin Kaplan is currently chief counsel for the Occupational 
Safety and Health Review Commission, where he has served since August 
2015. From 2009 to 2015, Kaplan worked as counsel for the House 
Education and Workforce Committee and the House Oversight and 
Government Reform Committee.
  Today some Senators have argued about Mr. Kaplan's experience 
practicing law. I want to note that Mr. Kaplan is in fact well-
qualified under the National Labor Relations Act statute. He is an 
experienced lawyer. He earned his law degree at Washington University 
in St. Louis and is a member of the New York and New Jersey State bars. 
The years he has spent considering cases and writing opinions at the 
Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, OSHRC, are an 
excellent preparation for the work of the National Labor Relations 
Board, NLRB. I will also point out that there have been a number of 
NLRB members confirmed with limited experience representing clients in 
labor law matters.
  Mr. Kaplan has an admirable record of public service spanning a 
decade. He could have taken a number of different career paths, but he 
chose public service, and that should be praised. There is bipartisan 
respect for Mr. Kaplan.
  At a July 2015 business meeting of the House Education and the 
Workforce Committee, Ranking Member Bobby Scott said this of Mr. 
Kaplan: ``A lot is said about the working relationships around here and 
how bad

[[Page S4711]]

they are from time to time. Staff can contribute to that. I just would 
like to say that Mr. Kaplan has not been part of that; he's been very 
cooperative even when you disagree. We have been able to work with my 
staff, have had good working relationships; a cooperative 
relationships. I want to add my two cents worth to your congratulations 
and God speed.''
  Mr. Kaplan was nominated to be a member of the NLRB on June 20, 2017. 
We held his hearing on July 13, and he completed all paperwork in 
accordance with the HELP Committee's rules, practices, and procedures. 
Our rules require that their HELP paperwork be submitted 5 days before 
their hearing. We received Mr. Kaplan's HELP paperwork and his Office 
of Government Ethics, OGE, paperwork on June 26, 17 days before his 
hearing. Mr. Kaplan also offered to meet with all HELP members. Mr. 
Kaplan met with 10 of them, including 5 Democrats. Following the 
hearing, Mr. Kaplan responded to 53 questions for the record, QFRs, or 
81 if you include subquestions, and those responses were provided to 
Senators prior to the markup. The HELP Committee favorably reported out 
his nomination on July 19.
  Recent comparisons show that this process was far from rushed. In 
comparison, under Chairman Harkin, the HELP Committee held hearings and 
markups on NLRB nominees with far less time for consideration. For 
former Board member Kent Hirozawa's seat, which Mr. William Emanuel has 
been nominated to fill, Mr. Hirozawa's hearing was held 7 days after 
his nomination, and his markup was held the next day. Former Board 
member Nancy Schiffer's hearing was held 7 days after her nomination. 
The HELP Committee also held a markup on her nomination the next day. 
Committee members were not able to get responses to any QFRs from Kent 
Hirowzawa or Nancy Schiffer before being forced to vote on them.
  I look forward to voting for this nominee. I hope the Senate will 
take up the nomination of William Emanuel, also for the NLRB, very 
soon, so we have a full board.
  Mr. PETERS. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. CRUZ. 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. CRUZ. Mr. President, I stand here today to speak about the 
devastation befalling Venezuela--the people raging in the streets 
against unfair elections, the dissidents being seized from their homes 
and detained by security forces, and those starving without food and 
  Venezuela--once one of the most richly resourced countries in Latin 
America--is being dismantled by Nicolas Madura and his flailing 
Chavista regime. It is a human tragedy impacting more than 30 million 
people who are literally witnessing society collapse around them.
  The numbers, sadly, speak for themselves. According to estimates from 
the International Monetary Fund, Venezuela's GDP contracted by almost 
20 percent last year, with inflation reaching some 550 percent and 
unemployment spiking to more than 21 percent. The Pharmaceutical 
Federation of Venezuela estimates that the country suffers from an 85-
percent shortage of medicine and a 90-percent deficit of medical 
supplies, including those needed to treat various types of cancer.
  Men and women, young and old, are going hungry. Thanks to Maduro's 
destruction of the Venezuelan currency, flour, cooking oil, and other 
basic commodities have disappeared from store shelves. Students and 
teachers leave their classrooms for hours on end to stand in line, 
hoping to receive a loaf of bread as a week's meal. The most vulnerable 
are going on what are called Maduro diets--skipping meals and reducing 
their food consumption.
  And Maduro's response? The would-be dictator is threatening to seize 
businesses that don't produce enough and has told Venezuelans that 
doing without makes them tougher. Thousands of Venezuelans have crossed 
borders in search of food and medicine, while Maduro and his cronies 
spin conspiracies and rail against phantom enemies on state media. The 
situation is so dire that the regime has begun ``rewarding'' some of 
its most loyal supporters with toilet paper.
  Alongside the disintegration of Venezuela's economy is the specter of 
Maduro's growing dictatorship. We have just witnessed the sham election 
of a so-called constituent assembly, which Maduro intends to use to try 
to rewrite Venezuela's Constitution, to crush what is left of its free 
political institutions, and to consolidate his grip on power. His 
electoral commission lied about the turnout and downplayed the number 
of government workers whom the regime pressured to participate. While 
Maduro preached dialogue on television, his security forces were busy 
rounding up political opponents and murdering peaceful demonstrators.
  This was not Maduro's first power grab. Earlier this year, his 
handpicked supreme court temporarily dissolved Venezuela's duly-elected 
National Assembly and stripped its members of immunity in what the head 
of Organization of American States called a ``self-coup.'' The regime 
backtracked only after ferocious pressure and condemnation.
  But this week's actions make plain Maduro's intent to complete the 
process begun under his mentor, Hugo Chavez, to transform Venezuela 
into a full socialistic dictatorship. We have seen that socialism 
doesn't work. We have seen the ravages of government control of the 
economy. The Venezuelan people are suffering, and when combined with 
dictatorship, it is a toxic mix.
  Maduro's actions must not continue unchallenged. I support the 
Treasury Department's sanctions against senior Venezuelan officials, 
including Maduro, placing him in the ignominious company of Kim Jong Un 
and Robert Mugabe. We must keep the pressure on and continue to isolate 
and delegitimize Maduro's regime, for behind Maduro can be found China, 
with its billions in infrastructure investments, and Russia, with its 
growing control over Venezuela's energy sector, and Iran, whose 
Hezbollah proxy launders money with Maduro's acquiescence.
  Yet Maduro is not without opposition. Brave men and women in the tens 
of thousands have taken to the streets to demand a better future for 
themselves and their families. Many dozens have been killed by the 
regime's security forces, and hundreds have been detained. These 
freedom-loving people represent the best of Venezuela and fearlessly 
follow in the footsteps of generations of dissidents against Socialist 
  Just yesterday, Maduro's security forces seized two prominent 
opposition leaders--Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma--for daring to 
criticize his regime on social media. These two men were carted away in 
the middle of the night, leaving their loved ones traumatized and 
frantic without information.
  To Lilian and Mitzi, the wives of these two extraordinary men, I want 
to say that you are two of the strongest people I have ever been 
blessed to meet. You inspire me. Your husbands' fight inspires me and 
millions of Americans and people across the globe. I urge you to 
continue to stand and fight on behalf of your husbands and the many 
others who are held captive by the Chavista government.
  I look forward to welcoming Leopoldo and Antonio back to freedom and, 
I hope, they will play leading roles leading a free Venezuela, a post-
Maduro Venezuela.
  Members of my own family have lived through this sort of oppression 
in Cuba, where a lawless government can raid your home without warning, 
arbitrarily detain your relatives and neighbors, and ensure that you 
hardly, if ever, see them again.
  To Lilian and Mitzi, I will continue to raise my voice and to call 
for action--real action--to help Leopoldo, Antonio, and every other 
Venezuelan willing to stand and risk everything to live in a free and 
prosperous and democratic country. It is well past time to consign 
Chavismo to the dustbin of history.
  To the millions of Venezuelans waiting in lines for food, clothes, 
and medicine, struggling with galloping inflation, fearful of Maduro's 
henchmen detaining their friends and families or gunning them down in 
the streets, and

[[Page S4712]]

thinking themselves helpless in the face of their country's decay, you 
are not alone and should not be afraid.
  America and our allies will help see you through this crisis and help 
you recover. Each new outrage from the Maduro regime only makes our 
solidarity with you grow. You are strong and Maduro is weak. You are 
Venezuela's future, and Maduro is its past. You will win, and Maduro 
will lose.
  Venezuela is not the private preserve of a ``busdriver turned 
authoritarian thug in a tracksuit,'' but instead Venezuela is a proud 
and free nation with a glorious past and an even greater future.
  Through its words and deeds, the Maduro regime has abandoned what 
little legitimacy it might have had. When this regime expires, 
Venezuela will restore its place at the forefront of Latin America and 
become a good friend and partner to America once again.
  We stand with the Venezuelan people as your friend against this 
socialist oppression, and we tell you that there are brighter days 
ahead, brighter days of economic cooperation, of energy growth, of 
abundance of prosperity, of throwing off the shackles of 
  Estamos contigo Venezuela, tus mejores dias estan por venir.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The Senator from New Mexico.

Protect Children, Farmers, and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides 

  Mr. UDALL. Mr. President, this May, a spray of pesticide from a 
nearby orchard drifted over to a field, exposing nearly 50 farmworkers 
in California. They soon became sick with nausea and vomiting. Several 
were hospitalized. The workers described it as a living nightmare.
  The chemical they were exposed to is called chlorpyrifos, a 
neurotoxic pesticide related to sarin gas. It has been in use since it 
was developed by Dow Chemical over 50 years ago. Today, it is most 
often used on fruits and nuts, including strawberries, citrus, apples, 
and pecans from my home State of New Mexico. It is also used on grains 
and vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.
  A few years ago, Bonnie Wirtz also experienced the effects of 
chlorpyrifos. Bonnie is a farmer in Minnesota. She was exposed when 
spray drift came into her home through the air-conditioner. Her heart 
started racing, almost to the point of cardiac arrest, and she couldn't 
breathe. At the hospital, her nurse practitioner told her she wasn't 
surprised. She had seen others with similar reactions.
  About 10 years ago, Claudia Angulo--a farmworker in California's San 
Joaquin Valley--was exposed to chlorpyrifos when she was pregnant. 
Claudia worked sorting oranges, apples, broccoli, and other produce 
treated with the chemical. When her son Isaac was born with a mental 
disability and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, she 
suspected the pesticides she was exposed to.
  A few years ago, European scientists tested some of Isaac's hair. He 
had traces of over 50 pesticides in his body, and the highest 
concentration was chlorpyrifos. It has long been known that exposure to 
chlorpyrifos can be deadly. After years of study, researchers in the 
United States and a number of other countries now believe there is a 
strong connection between chlorpyrifos exposure and mental disability, 
ADHD, and memory deficit in children. They believe the chemical damages 
children's developing brains, even if they are exposed before birth. 
Latino children, whose parents are exposed to the pesticide, and grow 
up near fields treated with it, are at the greatest risk.
  Scientists believe the pesticide poses a threat even to children 
exposed to it from produce from the grocery store or through drinking 
water. The connection is so strong that scientists at the Environmental 
Protection Agency recommended that the EPA ban all uses of the 
pesticide in 2015. The agency had already negotiated a ban on household 
use 15 years ago.
  This March, the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt ignored his own 
scientists and the body of scientific evidence that chlorpyrifos is 
dangerous. Instead, he reversed course and refused to ban chlorpyrifos. 
That is why I rise to talk about this danger to our children.
  When moms and dads feed fruits and vegetables to their children, they 
are trying to do the right thing. They shouldn't have to worry that 
these foods are laced with dangerous nerve agents. They shouldn't have 
to worry that the farmworkers who picked that produce or the farmers 
living near it were exposed.
  I have been part of the fight to protect public health and the 
environment from toxic chemicals most of my life. I remember when 
Rachel Carson published ``Silent Spring'' in 1962. My father, Stewart 
Udall, was her champion when she was fiercely attacked by the chemical 
  Just over a year ago, I led the bipartisan effort to reform the 
broken Toxic Substances Control Act. I spent several years working to 
reform how the EPA regulates chemicals, fighting to stand up a credible 
program that could be respected, that could restore confidence in the 
EPA on chemical safety.
  I am very disappointed to have to do this, to introduce a bill on a 
related matter, pesticide regulation. Normally, I would argue that 
Congress should stay out of the business of regulating individual 
chemicals. That is why the EPA was created, to make thoughtful, 
science-based decisions on issues that affect public health and the 
  In his first decision at the EPA, the administrator has shown his 
hand. He did not respect the science, not even his own scientific team, 
and not even when the science is overwhelmingly decisive. If the EPA 
and this administration will not act to protect the public, to protect 
children, then Congress must.
  I have studied the case for banning chlorpyrifos. There is no 
question it needs to come off the market. In this situation, I believe 
Congress must step in to protect children's health. That is why I have 
introduced the Protect Children, Farmers, and Farmworkers from Nerve 
Agent Pesticides Act--to do what the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt 
refuses to do: ban chlorpyrifos.
  Let's look at the reasons for banning chlorpyrifos. There are three 
very good ones. There are three reasons, I believe, this bill is 
necessary. First, Administrator Pruitt is wrong. The science is 
established that chlorpyrifos is a threat to health in its current use. 
The EPA has studied and studied the toxicity of chlorpyrifos for over a 
decade. I have talked to the scientists who have been studying it for 
over 30 years.
  In a December 2014 risk assessment, the EPA found chlorpyrifos caused 
unsafe drinking water contamination. Based on that assessment, the EPA 
formally proposed, in November 2015, to revoke the use of chlorpyrifos 
on food. As recently as December 2016, the EPA reaffirmed its 
  The pesticide is intended to act on the nervous system of insects, 
but it can act on the human nervous system as well. It can cause 
immediate symptoms like nausea, vomiting, convulsions, respiratory 
paralysis--as Bonnie Wirtz and farmworkers in California experienced. 
In extreme cases, it can kill.
  More worrisome, even low-level exposure of chlorpyrifos to developing 
fetuses in young children can interrupt the development processes of 
the nervous system. Exposure during gestation or childhood is linked 
with lower birth weight, slower motor development, and attention 
  Long-lasting effects on child brain development from in utero 
exposure also include impaired perceptual reasoning and working memory 
and undermined intellectual development by age 7. Exposure to 
organophosphate pesticides like chlorpyrifos is associated with changes 
in children's cognitive, behavioral, and motor performance. In plain 
English, chlorpyrifos damages children's brains.
  Second, chlorpyrifos was one of the most widely used household 
insecticides until the EPA raised concerns in 2000--17 years ago. 
Household use was phased out. That same year, the EPA discontinued use 
of chlorpyrifos on tomatoes altogether and restricted its uses on 
apples and grapes. Currently, chlorpyrifos is still widely used in 
agriculture, but its use is on the decline.
  In 2012, EPA required no-spray buffers around schools, homes, play 
fields, daycare centers, hospitals, and other public places. Growers 
are already working to find alternatives.

[[Page S4713]]

  The third reason is, scientists, doctors, advocates, I, and many of 
our colleagues were shocked when Administrator Pruitt changed course on 
chlorpyrifos in March, choosing to wait until 2022--5 years from now.
  The American Academy of Pediatrics wrote a letter to Administrator 
Pruitt in June telling him that ``EPA has no new evidence indicating 
that chlorpyrifos exposures are safe.'' As a result, EPA has no basis 
to allow continued use of chlorpyrifos, and its insistence on doing so 
puts all children at risk.
  The science hasn't changed since the EPA proposed to ban chlorpyrifos 
in 2015 and in 2016. Only the politics have.
  The law should protect Americans from unsafe pesticides. Under the 
Food Quality Protection Act, the EPA Administrator ``may establish or 
leave in effect a tolerance for a pesticide chemical residue in or on 
food only if the Administrator determines that the tolerance is safe.''
  ``'Safe' means . . . that there is a reasonable certainty that no 
harm will [come] from aggregate exposure.''
  If the Administrator can't determine that a pesticide is safe, the 
Administrator must revoke or modify the tolerance.
  In the case of chlorpyrifos, Administrator Pruitt did not determine 
the pesticide is safe with reasonable certainty, nor could he. Instead, 
he hid behind his claim that the issue requires years more study.
  This issue has been the subject of litigation for many years. When 
the EPA asked the Federal court overseeing the lawsuit for a mere 6-
month extension for more study, the court gave a resounding no. It 
called the request ``another variation on the theme of `partial 
reports, missed deadlines, and vague promises of future action' that 
has been repeated for the last nine years.''
  The EPA Administrator has now given himself a 5-year extension. He is 
failing to follow the Food Quality Protection Act, and he is tying up 
the Federal Government in more unnecessary and wasteful taxpayer-funded 
litigation. In the meantime, children, farmers, and farmworkers are at 
risk because the Administrator refuses to follow the law.
  It doesn't stop there. Administrator Pruitt wants to dismantle 
protections for farmworkers. The EPA is proposing to delay two rules 
vital to protecting our Nation's farmworkers: The agricultural worker 
protection standard and the certificate of pesticide applicators rule. 
Farmworkers have one of the highest rates of chemical exposure among 
U.S. workers. They are regularly exposed to pesticides. Despite the 
urgent need to protect them and their families, they actually are less 
protected than other workers.
  We don't know exactly why Administrator Pruitt is choosing to believe 
a chemical company over respected scientists at his own Agency and 
around the world, but we can follow the money and guess one reason. 
While the President and the Administrator ignore science and the law, 
they have not ignored Dow Chemical Company. Dow gave the President $1 
million for his inauguration. Its CEO attended the signing ceremony 
when the President issued his Executive order requiring agencies to 
roll back what he called unnecessary regulations. The CEO even got the 
signing pen. And the CEO met with Administrator Pruitt shortly before 
the order not to ban one of Dow's big moneymakers.
  Administrator Pruitt may choose to put aside science, public health, 
and environmental protection in favor of big chemical profits, but 
Congress should not. I urge all of my colleagues, especially those 
across the aisle, to stand with me and pass this protection for 
children, families, farmers, and farmworkers.
  I thank my cosponsors and the cosponsors who are coming aboard every 
day: Senators Blumenthal, Booker, Durbin, Gillibrand, Harris, Markey, 
Merkley, and Cardin.
  There have been many public health and labor groups that have stood 
up on this issue--just to name some of them today: National Hispanic 
Medical Association, Learning Disabilities Association of America, 
Farmworker Justice, Project TENDR, United Farm Workers, Earthjustice, 
GreenLatinos, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, LULAC, 
National Resources Defense Council, Environmental Working Group, 
Pesticide Action Network, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, 
Mana, and others.
  The pesticide registration information act is currently moving 
through Congress. This gives Congress the opportunity to address 
chlorpyrifos use and worker protection. This bill is a good start for 
those discussions.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Gardner). The Senator from Connecticut.

                          Veterans Legislation

  Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, sometimes bipartisanship and comity do 
work. They have in the last 24 and 48 hours on two measures that are 
critically important to help our Nation's veterans have access to 
benefits and healthcare that they vitally need, that they deserve, and 
that they have earned. Those measures relate to appeals reform and to 
the Choice Program.
  Last night the Senate passed by unanimous consent--which means 
without any objection--H.R. 2288, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and 
Modernization Act of 2017.
  I am proud to have worked on this measure with the chairman of the VA 
Committee, Senator Isakson, when I was the ranking member of that 
committee during the last session. I thank him for his leadership, his 
vision, and his commitment to this very important cause.
  This bipartisan measure now goes to the President. It provides a 
significant step toward securing benefits veterans have earned. Once 
these reforms are fully funded--and they should be--our Nation's 
veterans will no longer be bogged down by a cumbersome, time-consuming, 
irksome, and, in fact, aggravating process that denies them fair and 
full consideration when they appeal their claim's denial. This reform 
will begin--it is only a beginning--a better system involving 
transparency and communication for veterans and their families.
  As ranking member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, I heard 
testimony that the Department of Veterans Affairs' appeals process 
desperately needs updating and reform. We all in this body have heard 
from our constituents again and again and again about the antiquated 
delay and burdensome process that exists today. The average wait time 
on an appeal today is 5 years. Let me repeat that. The average wait 
time on an appeal is 5 years. Nearly half a million veterans are caught 
in a quagmire--often a quicksand--of repeated consideration, unable to 
claim benefits because of the VA's existing backlog.

  Between fiscal year 2015 and fiscal year 2017, the number of pending 
appeals increased from about 380,000 to 470,000. That is an increase of 
more than 20 percent. The increase in those appeals was the ``bad 
news'' side of improvements in the process to consider the initial 
appeal. There were more appeals because more claims were disposed of, 
but that is no excuse for that kind of delay in appeals.
  We worked with the VA and veterans groups to devise a new appeals 
system that allows veterans to choose an option that is right for them. 
The bill that passed yesterday will create three separate paths. They 
can choose among them for veterans seeking redress from a decision by 
the Veterans Benefits Administration. This reform is vitally important 
because it gives Secretary Shulkin the authority to test the new system 
before its full implementation.
  I know it will take time to implement these changes. It should take 
less time than is predicted because the Veterans Administration owes it 
to our heroes--the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our 
Nation. My constituent caseworkers in Hartford have tried to assist 
many individual veterans with their claims, and these efforts must 
continue around the country in all of our offices even as these new 
reforms are implemented.
  The second area where we joined together in a bipartisan way relates 
to the Choice Program. We have agreed to continue funding by providing 
$2.1 billion and authorizing 28 new leases for medical facilities 
across the country to improve access to the high-quality care provided 
at VA hospitals. Make no mistake, this action is a down payment, not 
the final word. I am going to continue to champion further reforms to

[[Page S4714]]

make sure we improve VA healthcare and enhance access to VA medical 
  I am particularly concerned by recent findings made by the VA 
inspector general, Michael Missal, about a troubling lack of health 
information sharing between VA and non-VA providers relating to chronic 
pain treatment. To put it very simply and bluntly, the lack of 
information sharing makes opioid addiction far more likely than it 
should be, especially among veterans who seek care from private 
providers through the Choice system.
  Connecticut was one of the first States in the country to have a 
statewide prescription drug monitoring program. I urged Secretary 
Shulkin at a hearing last year to make sure the VA prescription drug 
monitoring program exchanges information with the State system, which 
has data from private providers. The sharing of information is vital to 
prevent doctor shopping and excessive prescriptions. Without it, 
veterans potentially are susceptible to weaknesses and gaps that enable 
them to seek excessive prescriptions of opioid pain killer treatment 
that can lead to addiction and worse.
  We cannot allow the Veterans Choice Program to exacerbate opioid 
addiction. We must do everything we can to stop the opioid epidemic 
that is ravaging our communities. As Senator Manchin of West Virginia 
and other colleagues have made clear, the VA must close the information 
gap on opioid prescriptions through improved opioid safety initiative 
guidelines and enhanced prescription drug monitoring programs. While we 
work in Congress to reform the Choice Program, I call on the VA to 
immediately take certain commonsense steps, none of them novel or 
original. They have been identified by the inspector general:
  First, require all participating VA Purchased Care providers to 
receive and review evidence-based guidelines for prescribing opioids.
  Second, implement a process to ensure all Purchased Care consults for 
non-VA care include a complete, up-to-date list of medications and 
medical history.
  Third, require non-VA providers to submit opioid prescriptions 
directly to a VA pharmacy for dispensing and recording in the patient's 
VA electronic health record.
  Fourth, ensure that if facility leaders determine that a non-VA 
provider's opioid prescribing practices conflict with the guidelines, 
immediate action is taken to ensure the safety of all veterans 
receiving care from that non-VA provider.
  These are basic protections for our veterans. They are protections 
against overprescribing opioids or negligent misconduct--and worse--on 
the part of non-VA providers and others.
  My hope is that we are beginning on a path to better information 
sharing between those prescription drug monitoring programs at the 
State level for non-VA providers and the VA facilities and providers 
who care for our veterans directly. That information sharing is not a 
luxury or convenience; it is a necessity.
  We must help veterans of every era with their need for prompt appeals 
dispositions and effective healthcare that also protects them from 
opioid addiction. I am hopeful the Senate will quickly pass the Harry 
Walker Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, which has been 
unanimously approved by the House, to make comprehensive improvements 
to the GI bill. I helped to draft this measure and lead it, and I am 
proud the House has approved it.
  We must also help veterans of all eras suffering from toxic exposure 
and make sure we award a Congressional Gold Medal to the American 
Legion and make USERRA protections for our servicemembers meaningful 
and enforceable. These steps are part of an unfinished agenda that we 
owe our veterans. We cannot shirk that duty. We cannot postpone it. It 
is an obligation, not a convenience.
  I look forward to moving forward with these efforts, as we have done 
with Choice and with the appeals reform, and to learning what we know 
already--that we can work together across the aisle when it comes to 
keeping faith with our veterans and making sure that no veteran of any 
era is left behind.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arkansas.

                          Tribute to Bill Reed

  Mr. BOOZMAN. Mr. President, I rise today to recognize Bill Reed, an 
Arkansan who is retiring after more than 34 years of dedicated service 
at Riceland Foods, the world's largest miller and marketer of rice.
  Bill is a member of the company's senior management team whose 
responsibilities include government affairs, public relations, and the 
Riceland Sustainability Initiative. His interest in agriculture at a 
young age led him to pursue degrees in this field. Bill earned a 
bachelor's degree with honors in plant and soil science from the 
University of Tennessee and a master's degree in agricultural 
journalism from the University of Wisconsin.
  In 1976, he moved to the Natural State to work as a State specialist 
with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. He has 
continued his commitment not only to Arkansas but to Arkansas 
agriculture for more than 40 years.
  Bill is recognized as one of the most passionate advocates on behalf 
of the Arkansas rice industry. Bill is constantly looking out for the 
rice farmers and businesses by promoting policies to grow the industry 
and pushing for expanding markets. His advocacy extended beyond the 
boundaries of agriculture. He was always ready to lend a hand to me or 
to my staff on any issue important to Arkansas.
  He shares his passion for agriculture throughout the State, country, 
and the world as a representative of Riceland on numerous boards and 
trade associations, including the USA Rice Federation and the National 
Council of Farmer Cooperatives. In addition, Bill serves as chairman of 
the Associated Industries of Arkansas, vice president for agriculture 
of the Arkansas State Council on Economic Education, and vice chairman 
of the board of visitors of Phillips Community College of the 
University of Arkansas.
  He is a faithful servant of Jesus Christ and is leading his life as 
Christ calls us to do. In recent years, Bill began seminary school, and 
his retirement from Riceland will allow him to pursue the ministry full 
time and help people in need.
  I appreciate Bill's friendship, and I am confident that he will excel 
in this role, just as he had done as an advocate for Arkansas rice. I 
wish him well in all of his future endeavors and look forward to the 
great work he will continue to do in helping the great State of 
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant bill 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.