EXECUTIVE SESSION
(Senate - January 11, 2018)

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[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 7 (Thursday, January 11, 2018)]
[Pages S145-S150]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                           EXECUTIVE SESSION

                                 ______
                                 

                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the following 
nomination, which the clerk will report.
  The bill clerk read the nomination of Michael Lawrence Brown, of 
Georgia, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District 
of Georgia.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Montana.


                National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

  Mr. DAINES. Mr. President, today is National Human Trafficking 
Awareness Day. Montana, like much of the United States, is suffering 
from the rise in human trafficking. I am grateful that Montana's 
attorney general, Tim Fox, has taken this issue head-on. In fact, 
Montana has had three times as many human trafficking cases in 2017 as 
we had in 2015--a threefold increase. Unfortunately, this number will 
likely continue to rise in the coming years, and online platforms are a 
driving force for it. Like so many things, the internet has tremendous 
power for good as well as for evil.
  Having spent 12 years building a startup cloud computing business in 
my hometown of Bozeman--a business we grew to over 1,000 employees. We 
took the company public. This became a large, global business. I 
understand the power of the internet for good. But I also believe we 
must and can have better safeguards to protect our children, our 
families, and our neighbors from sex trafficking, while at the same 
time protecting innovation on the internet.
  Unfortunately, a startup business--your business--has the potential 
to be used for terrible reasons without your awareness. Even more 
upsetting, it is also possible that online platforms do know that bad 
actors are using that platform and they do nothing about it. During my 
first hearing on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs 
Committee, we investigated one of these platforms: backpage.com.
  Bad actors like backpage.com must be held accountable. That is why 
today, on Human Trafficking Awareness Day, I will be joining the Stop 
Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. This act strips protections for platforms 
that knowingly assist, support, or facilitate sex trafficking. We must 
take steps now to stop human trafficking and protect vulnerable members 
of our community. The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act moves us closer 
to that goal.
  I tip my hat and I am thankful to Senator Portman for introducing 
this bill. I am thankful for the work of the Senate Commerce Committee 
to ensure that this legislation protects the millions of companies on 
the internet that are building our economy and creating high-paying 
jobs and doing so in good faith.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to be added as a cosponsor for 
S. 1693, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. DAINES. Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sullivan). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.
  Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to address the 
Senate as in morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


    Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act

  Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, on Tuesday of this week, I regained my 
previous held seat on the Senate Banking

[[Page S146]]

Committee, a committee I served on from 2011 until the beginning of 
this Congress. While this committee sometimes flies under the radar for 
many Americans, the oversight it conducts and the issues it considers 
under its substantial jurisdiction are of great consequence to America 
and to the American people.
  The owners and employees of banking institutions have experienced 
success when their communities experience success. What I am saying is, 
how we lend money matters to every kind of person every day. So what we 
have experienced across Kansas, in many instances, is difficulty and 
really hard times.
  I want to talk about community. Community financial institutions are 
of great importance to the folks I represent in Kansas. What I want to 
do, in part, with my opportunity to serve on the Banking Committee is 
to make sure those financial institutions have a regulatory environment 
in which they can benefit their communities and benefit the citizens 
who live there.
  Communities in Kansas are losing their hometown banks to 
consolidation and sales, and some of these banks that are moving in 
that direction have been family owned for generations. In order to 
better understand why these lenders are consolidating or selling, I 
have sought out the nature of this decline by speaking with financial 
leaders from across the country. The overwhelming response I received 
is that the costs associated with complying with new Federal 
regulations are simply too much to absorb in their business model.
  In the aftermath of our country's significant financial downturn, a 
new regulatory framework was put in place to rein in those bad actors 
and punish bad behavior that led us down that path in 2007 and 2008. We 
have had more than 7 years to determine what the effects are of this 
new regulatory environment--Dodd-Frank--and what it has meant to our 
community banks and our community financial institutions. The most 
glaring aspect of these new regulations is the disproportionate burden 
placed upon those smaller institutions seeking to comply with their new 
responsibilities.
  Rather than extending credit to best fit the needs of their 
customers, banks are exiting entire lines of business because the 
penalties for making a mistake far outweigh the economic benefits 
derived from extending a loan. I experienced this damaging news and 
reality during the Senate Banking Committee's consideration of 
legislation to reform the secondary mortgage markets in 2014. I was 
attempting to solicit feedback from Kansas lenders of the financial 
impact some of these proposed changes would have on their communities, 
and what I learned, unfortunately, was this: ``Jerry, we don't make 
home loans anymore.'' When pressed for a reason, they responded it just 
didn't make business sense for them to do that any longer due to the 
increased Federal regulators' crackdown on mortgage lending.
  As a member of the Senate who cares deeply about rural America and 
the special way of life we enjoy in Kansas, this is a very damaging 
occurrence. If a community banker determines they can no longer extend 
credit to what would have otherwise been a creditworthy borrower 
because of the fear of making a mistake and the repercussions that 
follow, then they decide not to make the loan at all and not even to be 
in the business. What community would expect their financial 
institutions in their community to refuse to make a home loan? It is 
the American dream.
  While community banks had been consolidating for a number of years 
due to shifting demographics and market conditions, we cannot nor 
should we attempt to discount the role the post-Dodd-Frank regulatory 
environment has played in the acceleration of the harming of our 
community banking structure.
  I am not opposed to regulations, and neither are the community 
bankers working to serve their communities, but there has to be 
prioritization on the part of Congress to create an environment where 
local lenders can succeed because the success of these institutions 
means the success of their communities and the people who live there.
  During the fall of 2015, I worked alongside a number of committee 
colleagues--both Republicans and Democrats--to see if we could bridge 
the divide and bring relief to our community lenders across the 
country. While these efforts did not then produce a result, these 
discussions demonstrated that the issues facing the financial service 
world need not be partisan, and they sowed the seeds for what has now 
resulted in legislation moving its way through the legislative process 
today.
  I am happy to support S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory 
Relief, and Consumer Protection Act recently reported out of the 
Banking Committee on a bipartisan vote. Many of the provisions in this 
bill originated in legislation I have promoted since I came to the 
Senate, first as the Communities First Act, and most recently as the 
CLEAR Relief Act. While this legislation will not solve every issue 
that needs to be solved, it is meaningful progress that will make a 
difference.
  It is Congress's responsibility to ensure that economic growth is not 
needlessly impeded, and it is our duty to ensure that economic 
opportunities flourish and that Americans have access to the tools 
necessary to pursue the American dream.
  The Banking Committee can and will play an important role in 
providing these tools, and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to 
lend the voice of Kansans to that effort. I look forward to working 
with the chairman, Mike Crapo, the Senator from Idaho, and the ranking 
member, Sherrod Brown from Ohio, as we work together to make sure good 
things happen in Kansas and across the country.
  Again, I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Banking 
Committee and on the Senate floor to see that all Americans have the 
opportunity to have access to credit so we can continue to pursue 
growing economic opportunities for all Americans to keep the American 
dream alive and well.
  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. BLUNT. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                            Opioid Epidemic

  Mr. BLUNT. Mr. President, I am here today with my colleague Senator 
Capito to talk about something that is getting a lot of attention but 
needs even more attention from this Congress, which is the opioid 
epidemic--the epidemic the President has rightly called a crisis, and 
he then turned to Congress and said: Find the money to solve the 
problem. We have been doing a substantial amount of that, but I think 
we see a clear desire here and in all of our States to find a better 
solution.
  This is an issue that has hit every town in America, small and large, 
I believe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 
over 40,000 people died from an opioid overdose. This is a fraction of 
the people who had an opioid overdose. These are the people who died 
from an opioid overdose in 2016, 40,000 people; over 90 Americans every 
single day. It was a 28-percent increase over 2015 and a dramatic 
increase over where we were just 10 years before.
  Opioid overdoses now surpass car accidents as the No. 1 accidental 
cause of death in the country. Both of our States and our surrounding 
States, I think almost every one of them, have had more overdose deaths 
in 2016--and an increased number, I think, in 2017--than car accident 
deaths. The Centers for Disease Control estimates the economic burden 
of this epidemic is almost $80 billion a year.
  We have just gone through a tax discussion, an economic growth 
discussion. When we were talking about billions of dollars, seldom were 
we talking about $80 billion to do something with or to stop doing 
something with, but the economic cost of all of this--lost 
productivity, addiction, the crime related to that addiction--the CDC 
says $78.5 billion a year is now the cost.
  We are both appropriators. The members of the Appropriations 
Committee have looked at this carefully. Our colleagues have had a 
chance to confront this issue in our committee head-on. We brought 
bills to the floor that have passed and made a big difference in a

[[Page S147]]

short period of time. Over the past 2 years, not counting what we hope 
to do this year, the committee has increased opioid funding by over 
$900 million, nearly a 200-percent increase for the Department of 
Health and Human Services--more money for justice, more money for the 
Department of Veterans Affairs.
  This funding is focused on developing alternatives for pain 
management, giving our State, Federal, and local law enforcement 
partners the tools they need to combat opioid trafficking, ensuring 
first responders we are working to see that there are better ways to 
respond with opioid reversal.
  One of the things we have seen recently is that opioids of all kinds 
are now laced with new drugs like fentanyl, and you don't even know 
what you are taking. Narcan, the former way to deal with this and still 
the most effective way to deal with this--you think you have dealt with 
a problem, and the dose is so strong, the same person in just a few 
minutes lapses back into another seizure, attack, that has often been 
fatal. Even though people are there and the traditional way to respond 
is there, it isn't enough for what is going on now.
  One thing you would have to tell anybody doing this is, it is 
unlikely you have any real idea what you are putting into your system. 
What you think was a narcotic high the day before could easily kill you 
the next day. We have been looking for better ways to monitor programs 
so prescriptions in West Virginia and Missouri--they are both States 
where, in some counties, the number of prescriptions people have been 
walking into the pharmacist with are just ridiculous.
  The committee that funds the Department of Health and Human 
Services--that is the committee we are both on--in the last 2 years, we 
have increased funding by 1,300 percent, $745 million--13 times more 
than we were spending just 2 years ago. We have given grants to States, 
in ways we haven't before, to look at specific State needs and ideas 
they have to deal with this and then share. We have looked at 
increasing Federal surveillance on how prescriptions are being written, 
how drug stores are becoming the conduit, and how many substances are 
coming through the mail to find new ways to determine whether this is 
reasonable in the area these drugs are going into. We have looked at 
ways to increase the tools necessary to communities and first 
responders. We are talking right now to the National Institutes of 
Health about what they can do on a number of fronts. One is to work 
with the pharmaceutical companies themselves to develop alternatives to 
the kind of pain management we have had.
  Also, let me say on that front, we have gone through a period where 
doctors and hospitals were too often graded on whether people had any 
pain or not as opposed to whether they had pain they didn't understand, 
pain that was unacceptable. More and more people ought to be saying, as 
opposed to taking this potentially addictive drug, give me a dose that 
is not as addictive, and maybe I am still more achy than I would be 
otherwise, more pain than I would have otherwise, but I understand it 
and am aware of it, and I am not in some cloud of no pain but not much 
of anything else in terms of real quality of life.
  We are looking at how we can work with these companies for pain 
management. I have talked to the pharmaceutical companies. I think it 
is time for them to step up, maybe in partnership with NIH, so there is 
some Federal money to encourage more private sector money to find 
alternatives that are less addictive and better understood, to find 
more effective and affordable ways to respond. Just the amount of money 
in the first responders' kits around the country, and local governments 
paying for the Narcan, the more expensive injectable treatment--we need 
to look for ways where that can be more available and in a way that 
local governments have a better way to deal with this.
  This needs to be dealt with locally. The first responder is going to 
be a local person. If you are a fire department that also has first 
responders, your department is three times more likely to go on an 
overdose call than they are to go to a fire. That is where we are in 
this situation today.
  In trying to figure out what the impact really is at home--as we all 
are trying to do--I had a meeting not too long ago with medical 
professionals, with State officials, with emergency responders, in 
Springfield, MO, to talk about how we deal with prevention, treatment, 
and recovery. We talked about the critical partnership between local, 
State, and Federal law enforcement and the dangers the first responders 
themselves face. Sometimes what people are putting into their system is 
so powerful and so addictive that walking into the room or touching the 
clothing becomes a potentially great danger for the person who is there 
to help you. I talked to doctors and hospitals about the challenges 
they face in prescribing less habit-forming pain medications and how 
patients are still not fully aware of the danger of dealing with pain 
if you overdo it as you are dealing with pain.
  I talked to one person who talked about his daughter who had just 
gone to the dentist and got pain medicine and had no sense that the 
pain medicine could be addictive and she should stop taking it when it 
had done its job, whether or not it was when the last pill was gone.
  Then, of course, there is a new issue of underprescribing. Nobody 
likes to go back to the pharmacy twice to get the same prescription 
they just got a few days ago, but giving people more pills than they 
need to take themselves or have them sit in the medicine cabinet 
doesn't make any sense.
  In our State, there are large urban areas, but it also has a lot of 
small and remote communities and, frankly, rural communities have been 
hit particularly hard by this crisis. Certainly, West Virginia is a 
State that understands this. There has been no more vigorous advocate 
for funding and new ways to solve this problem than Senator Capito. I 
am glad to be here with her today as we talk about this issue.
  I can assure the people we work for that this is a top priority. It 
has been a top priority for over 3 years now. The first 2 years showed 
dramatic increases in the willingness we had to deal with this and the 
breadth of how we deal with it, and that is one reason we need to move 
on and get this funding bill, which should have been done by October 1, 
done right now. As we get a new number to deal with, one of our 
priorities will be the opioid epidemic, and one of the leaders in that 
discussion will be the Senator from West Virginia, Mrs. Capito.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from West Virginia.
  Mrs. CAPITO. Mr. President, I wish to thank Senator Blunt from the 
great State of Missouri for his leadership on this issue. He chairs the 
subcommittee that is very pivotal--the Appropriations Subcommittee on 
Labor, Health and Human Services--and has moved forward so aggressively 
to up the funding in this area. We have the pedal to the metal now.
  As he said, when we are moving and coming to a final spending bill, 
this has to be a top priority for us. It is absolutely critical. I am 
really pleased to be on the subcommittee, but I want to thank him for--
I know he works diligently with NIH, which holds big promise. We are 
always looking for solutions. Can we treat ourselves out of this? Can 
we law enforce ourselves out of this? Can we prevent ourselves out of 
this? I think we can do all of those. We have to have a component of 
research that looks at the alternatives to pain medications and pain 
management.
  The current bill we have looked at is $816 million for programs to 
combat opioid abuse issues, and that is a 440-percent increase from the 
previous year.
  I am going to go through this. It might sound a little mundane and 
detail-oriented, but people say: That is great to ``up'' the amount of 
money that you are spending, but where are you really spending this 
money?
  The Senator from Missouri, Mr. Blunt, mentioned that it has to be 
done locally, and there is a lot of emphasis on where these dollars are 
going.
  Some of them are going, of course, to the CDC, the Centers for 
Disease Control and Prevention, for prevention issues, which is 
critical, while $50 million is going to our community health centers. 
In States such as Alaska, West Virginia, and Missouri, community health 
centers are seeing hundreds of

[[Page S148]]

thousands--millions--of people every day and many more who are dealing 
with mental health and substance abuse. SAMHSA oversees the mental 
health grants that go to our States, and there is $15 million for a new 
SAMHSA program for opioid prevention. We have our drug-free communities 
program, which works well in my State. It is a total grassroots-up, 
bottom-up, when you get everybody from your local county or public 
health and others in the room to try to solve this issue. Then again, 
there are some block grant programs to our community health centers 
along with the funding to NIH. This is a broad-based look at where the 
funding is going.
  We have an opportunity here in the next several weeks to ``up'' that 
funding, to make sure that the national priority that we feel, as 
Senators from States that are highly affected, is reflected in our 
funding. I believe that with Senator Blunt's leadership on the 
subcommittee and with other members on the subcommittee, that is 
something we are going to be doing.
  I happen to chair the Financial Services and General Government 
Appropriations Subcommittee, which appropriates the money for the high-
intensity drug task forces. Our State has over 22 counties that are in 
that. Is that a branding that you really want--that you are a high-
intensity drug trafficking area? Not really. What that does is 
coordinate Federal, State, and local resources to help meet the 
challenge and face what a difficult problem you have. I work with 
funding on that, with the drug-free communities, and also with the 
President's Office of National Drug Control Policy. We have done a lot, 
and we have pushed for resources.
  The Senator mentioned resources for our first responders. He 
mentioned how dangerous it is. There have been local stories about our 
first responders who have just touched fentanyl--just touched it--and 
have gone into overdose situations. We were at the White House 
yesterday and were talking, and the President mentioned drug-sniffing 
dogs that have had reactions to fentanyl. So this is a very lethal 
substance. Actually, I saw in the statistics for West Virginia that 
more of the recent overdose deaths are attributable to fentanyl than to 
heroin itself, and that is rising. We need the money for enforcement, 
prevention, treatment and recovery, and more resources for research, 
and I have mentioned how critical that research will be.
  Nationwide, we had over 63,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016, and a 
number of these were attributed to heroin and fentanyl. In my State of 
West Virginia, we had the highest deaths per 100,000 for overdoses. I 
would like to say it is happening somewhere in which maybe we would 
have predicted that it would happen, but it is happening everywhere. It 
is happening to the children of friends of mine.
  Ryan Brown, a young man in West Virginia, lost his life. He had a 
loving home, loving parents, and had been through treatment. He just 
couldn't fight it. He went back and injected himself with a lethal 
dose. He died in a very public place too. It was very tragic. To his 
credit, his parents have taken up the mantle for Ryan to try to get 
more treatment centers in the State of West Virginia. I thank them for 
that.
  We were just at the White House--Republicans and Democrats--for the 
President to sign the INTERDICT Act. I sponsored that bill with Senator 
Rubio, Senator Markey, and Senator Brown. What it does is help give our 
Customs and Border Patrol folks the ability to detect fentanyl when it 
is coming in. We know it is coming in from across our borders, 
principally from China, maybe China through Mexico. We need to equip 
our Border Patrol agents to be able to stop that--interdict the flow of 
that lethal substance.
  Just this week, The Hill newspaper published an op-ed about the 
Martinsburg Initiative. Martinsburg is in West Virginia, in the Eastern 
Panhandle. Everybody needs to visit Martinsburg. They have an 
innovative police-school-community partnership that is spearheaded by 
the Martinsburg Police Department, the Berkeley County Schools, and 
Shepherd University, along with the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA. This is 
a comprehensive strategy of intervention and treatment for families to 
help prevent the beginning of the addiction to opioids.
  In December, I attended the kickoff of the Bridge of Hope Fund, and I 
want to highlight what some of the local communities are doing in my 
State to try to get a comprehensive spectrum of solutions. This is a 
new scholarship program that was developed by Fruth Pharmacy, which is 
a locally-owned, family-owned pharmacy, that will allow people who have 
completed addiction recovery programs to get a jump-start on their 
college educations and career training.
  The founders of the program started it because they wanted to 
encourage people who have reclaimed their lives and been successful to 
be able to get back into the mainstream. We know one of the roadblocks 
to recovery is getting back into the work environment--to be able to 
get a job. Many of these young folks who are in this position have 
already burned through their education grants and their availability of 
Pell grants. So this Bridge of Hope scholarship is an organic, from-
the-ground-up scholarship program for those who have been through 
treatment.
  We had a young man who talked about his road to recovery and how 
important getting his education and getting back on his feet was. We 
need more everywhere. I think that is essential to all of us. We have 
to prioritize our Federal funding for States like mine that have been 
the hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.
  I see my colleague from New Hampshire here. Both of us have joined 
together on the Targeted Opioid Formula Act so that those of us who 
have high statistics and greater need are able to have those funds more 
squarely targeted toward us for prevention and treatment.
  There are a lot of good ideas out there. There are a lot of things 
going on, but there is a lot of tragedy around all of us. I would say 
to the folks in the gallery and certainly to everybody on the floor 
that you probably know a family or you probably know a community or you 
probably know somebody who has been hard hit by this. It is absolutely 
crushingly sad, heartbreaking, because it is preventable. It is 
something on which we can have an impact. If we don't, we are going to 
lose another generation.
  I have great fears that we are going to look back on this moment in 
time and think we didn't do enough. So I think, with Senator Blunt's 
help and the help of others, particularly with Senator Blunt's chairing 
the Appropriations Committee, this is the direction in which we need to 
go. We need to have more targeted funding so those local resources can 
be creative in order to stop the scourge, to handle the scourge, and to 
educate the next generation as to how devastating this could be if one 
were to ever begin to go down this road.
  Thank you, Mr. President.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Hampshire.
  Mrs. SHAHEEN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak for up 
to 10 minutes.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mrs. SHAHEEN. Mr. President, let me applaud my colleague from West 
Virginia, Senator Capito, for her work in addressing the opioid 
epidemic. It is something that I know, in a bipartisan way, we care 
about in this Chamber, and it is one place in which I think we could 
come to some agreement about increasing resources as we come to an 
agreement on the budget for the upcoming year. So I thank the Senator 
for her comments.


        Special Counsel Mueller, Department of Justice, and FBI

  Mr. President, I come to the floor this morning because I believe the 
United States is a nation of laws. The bedrock of our democracy is the 
rule of law. We are blessed with a judicial system and Federal law 
enforcement agencies that are respected worldwide for their integrity, 
impartiality, and professional excellence.
  As the lead Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, 
Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, I have a responsibility, along 
with my chairman, Senator Shelby, and our colleagues, to ensure that 
the Department of Justice, including Federal law enforcement agencies 
and Federal prosecutors, have the resources they need to do their jobs. 
I also have a responsibility to ensure that they are independent and 
shielded from political interference.

[[Page S149]]

  On that score, I am deeply troubled by a rising chorus of partisan 
attacks on the integrity of the Department of Justice, the Federal 
Bureau of Investigation, and in particular Special Counsel Robert 
Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 
election.
  Actually, this is the cover of the report from our intelligence 
agencies on that interference in the 2016 election.
  I believe these attacks against Special Counsel Mueller are part of a 
broader campaign, orchestrated by the White House, to undermine the 
investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 campaign, 
including the possible collusion by the Trump campaign. This effort to 
discredit the investigation has profound national security implications 
for the United States.
  Yesterday, Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign 
Relations Committee, released a report on behalf of the minority of the 
Foreign Relations Committee that documents Russian President Vladimir 
Putin's two-decade assault on democratic institutions, Western values, 
and the rule of law. This report complements a finding by the U.S. 
intelligence community that was issued last January that Russia 
interfered in the 2016 election and will continue to interfere in our 
elections if it is not deterred. This was the unanimous conclusion of 
all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. Yet President Trump continues to be 
dismissive of claims that Russia interfered.
  This is not about partisanship. This is not about who won the 
election. This is about whether Russia is trying to disrupt our 
democracy. President Trump's comments about what happened here are an 
extraordinary abdication of the President's duty to defend our country 
and safeguard our democracy.
  Our Foreign Relations Committee's report concludes: ``Never before in 
American history has so clear a threat to national security been so 
clearly ignored by a U.S. president, and without a strong U.S. 
response, institutions and elections here and throughout Europe will 
remain vulnerable to the Kremlin's aggressive and sophisticated malign 
influence operations.''
  Meanwhile, the campaign by the White House and certain Republicans in 
Congress to discredit and deflect the investigation continues. Indeed, 
it is a campaign that has become even more bizarre. Republicans on the 
Judiciary Committee refuse to release testimony by the cofounder of 
Fusion GPS--testimony regarding Russian efforts to collude with the 
Trump campaign. Last week, Senator Grassley and Senator Graham took the 
unprecedented step of calling on the Justice Department to investigate 
former British MI6 intelligence officer Christopher Steele, the author 
of the Fusion GPS report. Think about that. Instead of calling for an 
investigation of the serious charges in the so-called ``Russia 
dossier,'' these Senators are demanding an investigation of the author 
of the report. Meanwhile, the President is becoming increasingly 
aggressive in attacking the investigations. Yesterday, he again called 
them a ``witch-hunt'' and demanded ``Republicans should finally take 
control.''
  The partisan attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller are especially 
shameful. A decorated marine Vietnam veteran, he is a Republican who 
was nominated to be FBI Director by President George W. Bush and was 
approved by the Senate, at that time, 98 to 0. In 2011, when his 10-
year term was up, President Obama, a Democratic President, asked the 
Senate to extend his term for an additional 2 years. Director Mueller 
was confirmed for another 2-year term by a unanimous vote of 100 to 0.
  When Mr. Mueller was appointed special counsel in May, he was greeted 
with bipartisan praise for his integrity and professionalism. Here are 
some of the quotes we heard at the time.
  Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said:

       I have a lot of confidence in Bob Mueller. I think it was a 
     good choice.

  Senator Rubio said:

       I believe [Mueller] is going to conduct a full and fair and 
     thorough investigation that we should have confidence in.

  Senator Isakson said:

       [Mueller's] been appointed for a purpose. Let him carry 
     that purpose out, and let the evidence take us where it may.

  Yet today, in the wake of indictments of key Trump campaign 
officials, some Republicans in Congress are joining with voices in the 
conservative media in smearing Robert Mueller as ``corrupt'' and 
``dishonest.'' Those are quotes.
  In early December, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said:

       Mueller is corrupt. The senior FBI is corrupt. The system 
     is corrupt.

  The day after Christmas, a prominent House Republican called for top 
officials in the Department of Justice and FBI to be ``purged.''
  It is unfortunate that many Republicans appear to believe that in 
order to support the President they must attack and discredit not only 
Special Counsel Mueller but also the career employees of the Department 
of Justice and the FBI. These partisan attacks are baseless and 
reckless. They are undermining trust and confidence in the rule of law, 
and this must not be tolerated. It is time for responsible Senators on 
both sides of the aisle to speak up in defense of these institutions 
that are at the heart of our democracy. It is time to come together on 
a bipartisan basis to demand that Mr. Mueller be allowed to follow the 
facts wherever they may lead.
  The FBI is also under attack. President Trump has said that the 
agency's reputation is in ``tatters'' and its standing is the ``worst 
in history.'' The truth is that the FBI continues to be the gold 
standard for law enforcement agencies worldwide.
  The prosecutors in the Department of Justice are superb professionals 
who adhere to a strict ethic of honesty and impartiality, as do the 
nearly 37,000 employees of the FBI. They put their lives on the line 
every day to protect the American people from violent criminals, 
terrorists, and foreign agents who mean our country great harm.
  Just last month, as the agency was being attacked on FOX News as 
equivalent to the Soviet-era KGB, undercover FBI agents were hard at 
work stopping an ISIS supporter who was planning a Christmas Day 
terrorist attack on Pier 39, the iconic San Francisco tourist 
attraction. This is just one example of more than 720 potential acts of 
terrorism that were disrupted and prevented by hard-working FBI agents 
last year. We can see the headlines from some of those plots that were 
thwarted in New York, San Francisco, Florida, and Oklahoma City.
  On June 13, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified before 
the Appropriations Subcommittee. Because the Attorney General has 
recused himself, Mr. Rosenstein is the top DOJ official overseeing the 
special counsel. At the hearing, I asked him if he had any evidence of 
good cause for firing Special Counsel Mueller. He answered: ``No, I 
have not.'' In response to my further questioning, Mr. Rosenstein 
responded: ``You have my assurance that we are [going to] faithfully 
follow that regulation and Director Mueller is going to have the full . 
. . independence that he needs to conduct that investigation 
appropriately.'' More recently, on December 13, testifying before the 
House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Rosenstein was again asked if there is 
good cause for firing Special Counsel Mueller. He responded with a firm 
no.
  Members of Congress and commentators in the media who are now 
attacking the special counsel, the Justice Department, and the FBI for 
partisan political purposes are making a grave mistake. They will not 
succeed in deflecting law enforcement from its duties and missions, but 
they may well succeed in undermining the American people's faith and 
confidence in these institutions so vital to a healthy democracy. That 
is not only deeply unfortunate, it is shameful.
  This is a remarkable moment in our Nation's history. A hostile 
foreign power has interfered in our Presidential election. Our law 
enforcement agencies and special counsel are working diligently to 
uncover the scope and methods of that intervention so that we can 
prevent a recurrence in the future. Supporting these efforts isn't 
about party or partisanship; it is about patriotism and defending 
America's democracy, which has been attacked and continues to be 
vulnerable to attack.
  Our democracy is being tested, our law enforcement agencies are being 
tested, and we as Senators are being tested. Our responsibility is 
clear. We

[[Page S150]]

have a duty to come together, Senators of both parties, to defend the 
independence of the Justice Department and the FBI, and we must insist 
that Special Counsel Mueller be allowed to conduct and complete his 
investigation without political interference.
  Thank you.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Fischer). All time has expired.
  The question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the Brown 
nomination?
  Mr. SCHATZ. I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk called the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the 
Senator from Tennessee (Mr. Alexander), the Senator from Arkansas (Mr. 
Cotton), the Senator from South Carolina (Mr. Graham), the Senator from 
Nevada (Mr. Heller), the Senator from Arizona (Mr. McCain), and the 
Senator from Georgia (Mr. Perdue).
  Further, if present and voting, the Senator from Tennessee (Mr. 
Alexander) would have voted ``yea.''
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from New Jersey (Mr. Booker) 
and the Senator from Illinois (Mr. Durbin) are necessarily absent.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Are there any other Senators in the Chamber 
desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 92, nays 0, as follows:

                       [Rollcall Vote No. 7 Ex.]

                                YEAS--92

     Baldwin
     Barrasso
     Bennet
     Blumenthal
     Blunt
     Boozman
     Brown
     Burr
     Cantwell
     Capito
     Cardin
     Carper
     Casey
     Cassidy
     Cochran
     Collins
     Coons
     Corker
     Cornyn
     Cortez Masto
     Crapo
     Cruz
     Daines
     Donnelly
     Duckworth
     Enzi
     Ernst
     Feinstein
     Fischer
     Flake
     Gardner
     Gillibrand
     Grassley
     Harris
     Hassan
     Hatch
     Heinrich
     Heitkamp
     Hirono
     Hoeven
     Inhofe
     Isakson
     Johnson
     Jones
     Kaine
     Kennedy
     King
     Klobuchar
     Lankford
     Leahy
     Lee
     Manchin
     Markey
     McCaskill
     McConnell
     Menendez
     Merkley
     Moran
     Murkowski
     Murphy
     Murray
     Nelson
     Paul
     Peters
     Portman
     Reed
     Risch
     Roberts
     Rounds
     Rubio
     Sanders
     Sasse
     Schatz
     Schumer
     Scott
     Shaheen
     Shelby
     Smith
     Stabenow
     Sullivan
     Tester
     Thune
     Tillis
     Toomey
     Udall
     Van Hollen
     Warner
     Warren
     Whitehouse
     Wicker
     Wyden
     Young

                             NOT VOTING--8

     Alexander
     Booker
     Cotton
     Durbin
     Graham
     Heller
     McCain
     Perdue
  The nomination was confirmed.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the motion to 
reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table and the President 
will be immediately notified of the Senate's action.

                          ____________________