EXECUTIVE CALENDAR--Continued; Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 2
(Senate - January 04, 2018)

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[Pages S35-S44]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                     EXECUTIVE CALENDAR--Continued

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Jersey.


  Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I rise today as brave citizens in Iran 
are taking to the streets to exercise their fundamental right to freely 
express their opinions and protest against their government.
  As a democracy founded on core values, including the freedom of 
speech, equal rights under the law, and basic human dignity, the United 
States must always stand up for those peacefully advocating for these 
principles. For decades America has championed these principles, not 
only because they are right but because they promote our interests. We 
know that nations whose governments respect human rights and freedom of 
expression, that uphold the rule of law, and that protect the civil 
rights and liberties of their people serve as America's most reliable 
allies, most strategic security relationships, and most prosperous 
economic partners. Our enduring belief in democratic values compels all 
of us to stand up, not as Democrats or Republicans but as Americans, 
and to support citizens around the world courageously protesting the 
regimes that oppress them.
  We stand with those who speak out, and even risk their own lives, to 
make their voices heard in the struggle against oppression, inequality, 
and injustice. The fact that today's protests in Iran are against a 
regime that engages in activity that directly threatens our Nation, our 
allies, and our security interests is a separate matter.
  Iran's leaders may try to blame the protests on outside forces, but 
in reality this unrest is homegrown. The Iranians marching in Tehran 
know exactly who is to blame for the hardship, inequality, and 
oppression they face in their daily lives. It is the regime itself. For 
those who have closely followed the developments in Iran for years, it 
is no surprise to learn that the regime continues to disregard the 
basic rights of its citizens. The regime has proven that it has no 
moral qualms with forcing the innocent to suffer. Already security 
forces are responsible for the deaths of more than 20 Iranian 
protesters. They have detained and imprisoned hundreds of people who 
are simply speaking their minds.
  Of course, these abuses are just one example of the consistently 
odious behavior we have witnessed from Iran in recent years. This is a 
regime that has proven that it is more interested in building ballistic 
missiles than building bridges, that believes money is better spent on 
terrorist networks in Lebanon and Syria than on schools and hospitals 
for the Iranian people, that any revenue generated by Iran's 
international energy deals go directly into the pockets of those 
fomenting discord in the region and not into the hands of Iranian 
citizens trying to feed their families, and that will continue to 
engage in malign activity that isolates it from the community of 
nations, directly at the expense of the Iranian people. For these 
reasons and many more, I sincerely hope that the international 
community lives up to its responsibility to support all those who are 
protesting this repressive regime.
  However, words go only so far. The United States must continue to 
lead international efforts to counter the Iranian regime's 
destabilizing behavior overseas. Unfortunately, this administration has 
yet to take the lead. We hear plenty of bluster from this President, 
but threatening tweets do not constitute policy nor can they hold Iran 
culpable. Putting a nation ``on notice'' means nothing if there are no 
policies put in place. We need a real strategy that addresses Iran's 
destabilizing activities in the Middle East, whether it is the regime's 
continued support for terrorist networks, illegal ballistic missile 
development, or human rights abuses and political interference in other 
  These threats are what compelled me to work with my colleagues across 

[[Page S36]]

aisle last year to pass the Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities 
Act, a bill to hold Iran accountable for its ongoing support for 
terrorism, ballistic missile proliferation, and human rights abuses. 
This legislation passed the Senate with an overwhelming bipartisan 
majority of 98 to 2. Ultimately, it served as the base text of the 
Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which addressed 
a wide range of hostile behavior from not just Iran but from Russia and 
North Korea as well. This bill calls for the administration to develop 
a comprehensive regional strategy to deter conventional and asymmetric 
threats. We are fast approaching the deadline for that strategy.
  More importantly, however, we have heard the President say for more 
than a year that he was going to develop a plan to hold Iran 
accountable. Thus far, we have seen nothing more than tough talk. The 
reality is that this administration has yet to fully implement critical 
provisions of this law that could substantively counter Iran's 
nefarious behavior. The bill gives the President the authority to 
target human rights abusers, including those complicit in the ongoing 
repression of protesters, but he has yet to use that authority. The 
bill also authorizes the President to go after those individuals and 
entities that are violating international arms embargoes, exporting 
hateful ideologies and weapons across the region and fomenting violence 
and chaos against innocent civilians in Syria and Yemen, but he has yet 
to go after these actors.
  While the administration designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary 
Guard Corps under terrorism authority--something I applaud--it has not 
effectively targeted actors associated with the IRGC.
  All of my colleagues know that I was deeply skeptical and strongly 
opposed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. I voted against the 
JCPOA precisely because I thought it was a mistake to roll back 
sanctions on Iran without the total dismantlement of its nuclear 
infrastructure. However, refusing to certify Iran's compliance with a 
deeply flawed deal, as the President did in October, does little to 
address its shortcomings. The President's move in October was a hollow 
attempt to fulfill a campaign promise while continuing to let Iran 
enjoy the benefits of the JCPOA and continue its non-nuclear malign 
activities throughout the region. Furthermore, this decision was 
carried without a clear path forward and without specific proposals 
that could have garnered critical international support.

  At the end of the day, the Trump administration's actions may have 
actually left the United States with less leverage to address Iran's 
far-reaching, nefarious behavior in the Middle East, whether it be its 
support for terrorism, its human rights abuses, or its illegal 
ballistic missile development. None of these critical security 
challenges are addressed simply by not certifying the JCPOA, nor does 
it move us toward a comprehensive international strategy for the 
nuclear program Iran plans to resume immediately following this 
agreement's expiration. In short, the President's own lack of policy 
has squandered whatever leverage he may have hoped to gain.
  Furthermore, the President has severely disadvantaged himself by 
gutting the very instruments in his national security apparatus that 
should be taking the lead on Iran and all foreign policy matters. As an 
architect of the sanctions networks that crippled Iran's economy and 
forced its leaders to negotiate with the international community, I 
know how essential our diplomatic arsenal is to confronting Iran.
  The President, however, seems committed to hollowing out those 
agencies and offices that are in the best position to advance our 
diplomatic interests. The Trump administration, for example, has 
shuttered the office of sanctions policy at the State Department. The 
Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department is now 
woefully understaffed. As the President publicly talks about supporting 
democracy, his administration has scrapped funding for human rights and 
democracy programs and even removed the word ``democracy'' from USAID's 
mission statement.
  Meanwhile, Iran continues to increase its presence in Iraq, to 
maintain support for the terrorist organization Hezbollah, and to take 
credit for Bashar al-Assad's murderous grip on power in Syria.
  The United States must be willing to work with its allies if we are 
serious about holding Iran accountable. We should be corralling our 
allies in Europe to begin treating all of Hezbollah's entities as 
terrorist organizations. We should be moving our allies toward the 
development of a comprehensive international strategy for addressing 
Iran's nuclear ambitions once the JCPOA expires.
  Finally, this administration must prioritize the release of American 
citizens unjustly arrested and detained in Iran. Today, Princeton 
University student Xiyue Wang, a scholar from one of the most renowned 
academic institutions in the world, in my home State of New Jersey, 
remains in prison under ridiculous charges of espionage. Similarly, 
Siamak Namazi, a former student of Rutgers University in New Jersey, 
remains in prison, along with his father, a former UNICEF employee. And 
Robert Levinson remains missing after more than 10 years.
  In short, this President's approach toward Iran thus far has been a 
disjointed mix of campaign promises, bluster, and confusing signals to 
our allies--not a serious consideration of how to effectively confront 
an existing and growing threat.
  So, as we approach a legally mandated deadline for the President to 
present Congress and the American people with a sound policy to 
confront a real threat, I call on the President to make use of our 
incredible national security establishment, to consult experts who can 
help formulate a strong, sound policy capable of confronting Iran's 
destabilizing behavior in the Middle East, and to implement a strategy 
that will effectively confront Iran's continued support for 
international terrorism, its belligerent ballistic missile tests, and 
its ongoing public and brutal abuses of human rights within its own 
borders and around the world.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. CASSIDY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                            Tax Reform Bill

  Mr. CASSIDY. Mr. President, Republicans just passed the largest tax 
reform package in 30-something years, and middle America will go home 
in February with bigger paychecks than they did--I say in February 
because it will not take that long for the IRS to update their 
software. They will go home with more money in their pockets.
  If there has been a theme in the Trump administration, it is that 
they want those working Americans, those middle-class Americans, to do 
better under this President than they did in the previous 8 years. That 
tax reform package is part of that, and I am amazed that my Democratic 
colleagues objected to it. They objected to middle-class Americans 
having more money in their pockets, in their take-home pay, for no 
other reason, I think, than to resist President Trump.

                 Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Proposal

  Mr. President, what I am about to speak about speaks to better jobs 
and better wages for working Americans, for those middle-class 
  This afternoon, the U.S. Department of the Interior released the 
Trump administration's draft proposed program for offshore oil and gas 
leasing. This proposal would mean more affordable energy made right 
here in the United States of America. That is good news for American 
workers and families. I commend President Trump and Interior Secretary 
Zinke for their commitment to supporting American workers and making 
America energy dominant.
  For decades, past administrations have handcuffed American energy 
manufacturers by restricting offshore leases to the western and central 
Gulf of Mexico. You could only drill there, not elsewhere. Past plans 
left 90 percent of U.S. offshore resources off limits to energy 
producers and in the process said no to thousands of good-paying 
American jobs and billions of dollars in offshore investments--when I 
say ``offshore,'' I mean off the American shore

[[Page S37]]

but creating jobs here in the United States of America.
  The Trump administration's proposal rejects the status quo and puts 
American workers and families first. It would open areas with 
significant oil and gas potential--areas off the coast of Alaska and 
the Atlantic and Pacific and portions of the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
  What are the ramifications of this? According to one study, opening 
the eastern Gulf of Mexico would create nearly 230,000 new American 
jobs by 2035. It would bring roughly $115 billion of investment to the 
United States. Federal, State, and local governments would collect an 
additional $70 billion in tax revenue by 2035, not because rates are 
going up--rates have now gone down--but, rather, people are making more 
money, and because they are making more money at lower rates, Federal, 
State, and local tax receipts continue to increase. American energy 
production would be boosted by about 1 million barrels of oil, making 
our country more secure.
  Let's take a look at the State-by-State job increases from these 
lease sales. Florida gets the biggest gain of all--87,000 new jobs by 
2035. Texas would add 62,000. My home State of Louisiana would add 
31,000 new jobs. Alabama would add 21,000; Mississippi, 12,000; and the 
rest of United States, 15,000 new jobs.
  I know some of my colleagues across the aisle, including my 
Democratic colleague from Florida, have expressed concerns about this 
energy production plan's impact on fishing and military training in the 
Gulf of Mexico. Let's remember that oil and gas manufacturers have 
coexisted with other activities for decades. I share my colleagues' 
interest in protecting our communities, businesses, and the 
environment. The reality is that these goals are not mutually 
exclusive, especially on the gulf coast.
  Let me use Louisiana as an example. According to NOAA, Louisiana has 
4 of the 10 top ports in the country by volume and value of seafood 
landed. In 2016, two Louisiana ports alone received 670 million pounds 
of seafood landed in the gulf. This is in addition to the oil and gas 
production off of our coast. Together with Texas, our two States 
accounted for half of U.S. shrimp landings.
  NOAA also reports that roughly half of the jobs in commercial and 
recreational fishing in the gulf exist in States where there is also 
oil and gas production. Recreationally, gulf anglers accounted for 33 
percent of fishing trips, which equals 39 percent of the total U.S. 
  Of course, more than 85 percent of recreational landings were in 
inland estuaries or State territorial waters. Most of the oil and gas 
activity we are discussing today is in deeper, Federal waters many 
miles away.
  Again, the gulf coast is a working coast, and it has been proven over 
the decades that multiple industries can successfully coexist.
  When my colleague from Florida brought up his concerns about 
potential conflicts with the Department of Defense operations in the 
Gulf of Mexico, I took that very seriously. Ensuring that our military 
is equipped to train and test is vitally important. However, it is 
simply not true that the eastern Gulf of Mexico must be completely free 
of energy production in order for the military to conduct operations. 
Our military's own testing data from the last 5 years makes that very 
clear. This map shows all the Department of Defense testing done in the 
last 5 years in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The Department of Defense 
used only 19 percent of the eastern Gulf of Mexico during the last 5 
years. To put it differently, 81 percent of the gulf went untouched.
  When you look even more closely at the space regularly used by our 
military, it becomes clear that this objection to energy production in 
the eastern gulf does not pass the smell test.
  This is the Panhandle of Florida. Right here is the State of Alabama. 
For those who are interested in it, the Florida-Alabama bar is right 
there, and this is where folks from Louisiana love to go and enjoy 
  This is, if you will, zoomed in on the last map and shows the spaces 
the military used for more than 14 days during that 5-year period. So 
over 5 years, these are the spaces it used for more than 14 days--not 
per year but over the 5 years. Only 0.5 percent of the eastern Gulf of 
Mexico was used by the Department of Defense for more than 14 days over 
the last 5 years--0.5 percent. That means that the Department of 
Defense regularly uses only 1 out of every 200 acres in the gulf.
  I have met with both the Interior Department and the Defense 
Department and urged them to work together to ensure the best use of 
Federal waters. This data shows that it can be done.
  I am confident that, under the Trump administration's proposal, we 
can provide thousands of Americans with good-paying jobs, boost our 
energy manufacturing and security, strengthen our economy, and do it in 
a way that is environmentally responsible and protects our communities.
  I applaud today's announcements because it will make a true 
difference for our country and for the American people, the American 
worker who has not done well over the last 8 years but under this 
administration has begun to do well, and this is the next step in 
making sure that his and her future is as bright as it ever could be.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cornyn). The Senator from Utah.
  Mr. LEE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senator from 
Texas, Mr. Cornyn, be recognized at the conclusion of my remarks.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                      Remembering Thomas S. Monson

  Mr. LEE. Mr. President, I rise today to honor the life of a truly 
remarkable man: Thomas S. Monson, the president of the Church of Jesus 
Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  On Tuesday night, at the age of 90, President Monson was called home 
by his Heavenly Father. I expect that his reunion with his wife Frances 
was a joyous occasion, and I am confident that this reunion will 
provide comfort to his three children and eight grandchildren.
  But President Monson's legacy is far greater than his family, even 
though that was of paramount importance to President Monson and his 
wife Frances. President Monson's legacy also includes the countless men 
and women whose lives were touched by him, as well as the confident, 
global church he helped to shepherd, to expand, and to strengthen.
  Consider this: In the 54 years Thomas Monson served as an apostle, 
church membership swelled from 2 million to 16 million. That 
accomplishment is a blessing from God, but it was realized by saints 
like President Monson, who devoted their lives to serving Him--in his 
case, starting at an exceptionally young age.
  Thomas Monson was born and raised in Salt Lake City in a large and 
devoutly faithful family. He attended Utah State University. He served 
with honor in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and he worked for a time in 
printing, including for the Deseret News.
  By the age of 22, he was the bishop of a ward, a local congregation 
in Salt Lake City, charged with guiding over 1,000 people in their 
walks with Christ.
  By 36 he was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, one of 
the youngest people ever to receive that special calling.
  But Brother Monson did not give in to hubris as a result of those 
unexpected and, in many cases, early promotions. Quite the opposite, he 
was humbled by the very heavy mantle that had been placed on his 
shoulders with each of these callings.
  Members of President Monson's ward remember the young bishop as a 
steady companion to people who were enduring struggles and hardship. 
There were 80 widows in his ward, and Bishop Monson took the time to 
visit every single one of them on a regular basis. Also in his ward 
were 18 servicemen fighting in the Korean war. Every month, he sent 
letters to those 18 men to remind them that they had not been 
forgotten, and even decades later, he would speak of these servicemen 
and widows during the church's General Conference meeting. His love for 
them could still be felt by those in attendance.
  Those stories illustrate the kind of man President Monson truly was. 
I can testify to this fact through personal anecdotes of my own, 
including the fact that in 2010, shortly after I had been elected to 
the U.S. Senate, President Monson invited me, along with

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my wife Sharon and our three children, to visit with him in his office 
in Salt Lake City. He prayed with us, encouraged us, and offered us 
counsel. As much as anything, we just felt honored that he would take 
the time to meet with us and show interest in our lives.
  This is perhaps the single most consistent thread in President 
Monson's life. He was someone who at every step of his life, at every 
stage of his service, was always willing to reach out to others, to 
visit them even without anyone else expecting it. He was known--famous, 
in fact--for routinely interrupting his daily routine just to visit 
someone who happened to be sick, who happened to be in the hospital, 
who happened to be going through something difficult. President Monson 
didn't always know the reason why he needed to visit the person in 
advance; he just knew it needed to be done, and he always did.
  There are lessons that we can learn here in the U.S. Senate about 
this type of service--this type of service that is selfless, that is 
eternal in its scope and in its reach, this type of service that 
blesses the lives of other human beings without any expectation of 
remuneration. He was a leader who understood how even small, seemingly 
insignificant acts of kindness could affect people's lives in profound, 
lasting ways.
  He always urged his brothers and sisters within the church and 
elsewhere to be on the lookout for signs that God was calling them to 
help. ``Never fail to follow a prompting of the Holy Spirit,'' he would 
say, and on a regular basis, he did just that. This could mean visiting 
a relative in the hospital or delivering a meal to a coworker who was 
mourning a loss or just checking in on a friend he hadn't seen in a 
  For President Monson, it was always about taking time for that 
personal connection. President Monson knew that little encounters build 
strong relationships--and strong saints.
  In 2008, President Thomas S. Monson was called to lead the church. He 
proved to be a good steward of the church in a fast-moving world and in 
an expanding, growing faith community. Many obituaries have already 
noted how in 2012 he lowered the age requirement for missionaries, a 
decision that increased the missionary force in short order from 52,000 
to almost 70,000. That is almost 20,000 more young people to spread the 
Gospel and daily serve in those communities around the world.
  But President Monson did far more than that to strengthen the 
church's commitment to caring for the least in our community. Under his 
leadership, the church expanded its poverty and disaster relief 
programs. He even added ``caring for the poor and needy'' to the 
church's official mission statement.
  President Monson lived in Utah almost his entire life, but his heart 
was with the church spreading throughout the world. During the depths 
of the Cold War, he helped lead the Latter-day Saints trapped behind 
the Iron Curtain. Mormons in the Soviet Union were poor just like 
everyone else. They didn't have a temple, and their governments forbade 
them from traveling abroad. As a result, they didn't have access to 
temple ceremonies that are central to our faith. That didn't sit well 
with President Monson.

  As he told his brothers and sisters from the pulpit during a trip to 
East Germany, he wanted them to share in ``every blessing'' of the 
faith. So he gave everything he had to help those people, even the 
shirt off his own back--quite literally. He returned from one trip to 
the Soviet Union in his house slippers because he had given his spare 
clothes to the less fortunate, a funny story that brings to mind the 
words of the Savior: ``[For] I was a stranger, and ye took me in: [I 
was] naked, and ye clothed me.''
  Around that time, President Monson began two decades of quiet 
diplomacy with the Soviet authorities, including with Erich Honecker 
himself. His labor reaped a tremendous harvest. In a regime that was 
hostile to religion and to outsiders, he won approval for Mormon 
missionaries to come and spread the Gospel.
  In 1985, he won an even bigger triumph when a temple opened behind 
the Iron Curtain in Freiberg, Germany. Ninety thousand East Germans 
attended the dedication of that temple.
  He had followed a prompting of the Lord. The result was nothing less 
than that dramatic, impactful tear in the Iron Curtain, one that had 
stifled religious belief, but religious belief was facilitated by this 
noble servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  These are just a few stories from President Monson's life that I have 
shared, and I would like to conclude with just one more. Not long ago, 
President Monson was asked what he wanted for his birthday, which was 
coming up. Here was his simple response:

       Do something for someone else on that day to make his or 
     her life better. Find someone who is having a hard time, or 
     is ill, or lonely, and do something for them. That's all I 
     would ask.

  President Monson was always looking for little ways to help other 
people. That wish is as true in death as it was in life. In lieu of 
flowers for his funeral, the church has requested contributions be made 
to the church's Humanitarian Aid Fund.
  President Monson's legacy will outlast his death because he chose to 
follow the One who conquered death, taking upon Himself the sins, the 
transgressions, the pains, the miseries of all mankind so that we, too, 
might return to live with Him.
  President Monson will be missed. President Monson, God be with you 
until we meet again.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cassidy). The majority whip.

                    Accomplishments of the Congress

  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I know we are back, fresh from the 
holidays, at the start of a new year, and all of us are already 
thinking a lot and working hard on the tasks we have at hand. We have a 
lot to do, especially before the next continuing resolution expires on 
January 19.
  But I don't want to make the mistake of failing to recount the good 
work we were able to accomplish on behalf of the American people in 
2017 because, sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of life, we fail to 
acknowledge those things that we have actually been able to do, for 
which we ought to be grateful, and that our constituents need to know 
about. I would like to take just a few minutes to do exactly that 
because, unfortunately, in the hyperpolitical and hyperpolarized 
political environment we live in today--especially with the advent of 
social media--there are always some naysayers and pundits who want to 
offer their comments. One of the things I have noticed most about many 
of those naysayers and pundits when they comment on what is happening 
here in Washington is how little they know about the facts. The facts 
matter, and I want to offer those for the public's consideration now.
  In January of last year, the Nation was quickly called to order 
following the inauguration of President Trump. One of his first actions 
was to nominate Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. I think most of 
us were astonished at the quality of this selection, many of us not 
being familiar with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on which Justice 
Gorsuch served in Denver, CO.
  Justice Gorsuch was quickly confirmed in April, and then we moved on 
to fill other judicial vacancies, which, of course, are the prerogative 
of the President to make that nomination and to then be confirmed with 
the advice and consent of the Senate. We, like the President, have made 
filling these judicial vacancies a priority.
  The fact is, though, that the Senate is in the personnel business. In 
other words, our friends in the House of Representatives don't have to 
vote on confirmation of judges and other Presidential nominees, but we 
in the Senate have that responsibility. All told, we have confirmed 19 
men and women to the Federal bench in 2017, setting a record for 
appellate judges confirmed during a President's first year in office. 
Two of them, Jim Ho and Don Willett, I am pleased to say, will serve 
from Texas on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that sits in New 
Orleans. These are exceptionally qualified nominees--and typical in 
that description of the types of people that President Trump has 
selected to serve in the Federal judiciary.
  But our work wasn't just confined to confirming the President's 
nominees. After 8 years of overreach, hundreds of burdensome rules 
passed during the

[[Page S39]]

previous administration--many in the waning hours of President Obama's 
Presidency--were rolled back or suspended. I am glad Congress did its 
part, using the Congressional Review Act to roll back 15 harmful 
regulations last year. As much as anything, I think that has 
contributed to the soaring stock market, the increase in consumer 
confidence, and the extraordinary rebound of our economy.
  As last summer began, we passed a bill funding Texas priorities. It 
funded things like the National Space Administration programs at 
Houston's Johnson Space Center, which will advance missions, hopefully 
back to the moon and eventually to Mars. We allowed through that 
funding to make sure that the Department of Homeland Security had what 
they needed to hire additional Border Patrol and agents at ports of 
entry to improve those checkpoints and to add immigration court judges 
  I remember thinking about Hurricane Harvey. A friend of mine years 
ago asked the rhetorical question: Do you know what makes God laugh? 
Then he answered: When we make plans.
  Hurricane Harvey is perhaps an example of that, because we were 
making other plans when we got this natural disaster known as Hurricane 
  Texas was pummeled with the most extreme rain event in the history of 
the United States, devastating more than 28,000 square miles along the 
coast. I, along with the entire Texas congressional delegation, helped 
secure roughly $30 billion for recovery efforts, but the thing I am 
most proud of is the way ordinary Texans responded to their neighbors 
in need. They weren't waiting around for Washington to act first. They 
wanted to act to help their neighbors, their community, and their 
  Recognizing we have the Presiding Officer from Louisiana, I just want 
to make special note of the Cajun Navy that came over from Louisiana to 
help rescue people off of their rooftops. That is part of what makes 
not only Texas and Louisiana great, but it is what makes America great, 
too, when people will come to the aid of their fellow Americans.
  As Texans tore out sheetrock and molded carpet in their living rooms, 
Federal resources helped piece together the lives disrupted. Now we 
have to make sure we complete the task by delivering additional relief 
not only to Texas but to Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, 
as well as to those States devastated by the wildfires out West. The 
House having passed a substantial disaster relief bill and sent it over 
to us, I am hopeful that is something we will take up and pass very 
soon, perhaps as soon as January 19.
  I spoke about natural disasters, but now let me turn to a manmade 
disaster. After the hurricane, Texas was dealt a second blow just 2 
months later, when a man opened fire at a church in Sutherland Springs, 
TX. With multiple convictions for domestic violence, a felony 
conviction, and a history of mental illness, this individual should 
never have been able to legally purchase a firearm because, under 
existing law, those conditions disqualify you from being able to 
purchase a firearm, if you are a convicted felon, convicted of domestic 
violence, or have a history of mental illness.
  That is why, following this terrible disaster where 26 people were 
killed, I introduced the bipartisan Fix NICS Act--that is, Fix the 
National Instant Criminal Background Check System Act--to ensure 
existing laws are enforced and convicted felons don't exploit our 
background check system by lying and buying. I am going to continue to 
urge the passage of this important piece of legislation, which is, as I 
say, bipartisan, as it should be.
  The fall of 2017 gave way to winter and soon came the flurries of 
snow not only here in Washington but back home in Texas. The week 
before Christmas, we completed comprehensive tax reform--a historic 
overhaul of the Tax Code and the first in more than three decades.
  We said originally that our goals were threefold: One was to make the 
Tax Code simpler; the second was to make sure everybody in every tax 
bracket saw a decrease in their tax liability; and third was to make 
the American Tax Code competitive in the global economy. Until that 
point, we had the highest tax rate in the industrialized world, which 
caused companies to move or invest offshore and create jobs in other 
countries rather than the United States because we had the most 
burdensome tax in the industrialized world.
  As I said, this bill--now law--reduces taxes in all income brackets 
and boosts the standard deduction and child tax credit. This means that 
only 1 out of 10 taxpayers will likely choose to itemize because they 
will actually benefit more from the standard deduction along with the 
child tax credit. It will allow businesses to add jobs, raise wages, 
and reinvest in the United States from overseas. For example, a family 
of four making the median income will see their taxes drop by more than 
$2,000--a reduction of nearly 58 percent.
  Tax reform complements an economy that has already been truly 
unleashed under this administration. Just since January, the economy 
has added 1.7 million new jobs, and over the last two quarters, our 
economy has grown at more than 3 percent--as compared to an average of 
only 1.9 percent under the previous administration.
  While not historic in the sense that the tax bill was historic, there 
is other legislation we passed with little fanfare but significant 
impact that I would like to mention.
  One is a bill I championed called the PROTECT Our Children Act, which 
reauthorizes task forces to combat child exploitation online. The 
second I would like to mention is a bill that tackled elder abuse. A 
third, called the SAFER Act--which was signed today by the President--
reauthorizes rape kit audits and prioritizes the training of pediatric 
nurses handling sexual assault cases.
  I was shocked and chagrined a year or so ago to learn there could be 
as many as 400,000 untested rape kits either sitting in evidence 
lockers or in laboratories untested. Now, thanks to the Debbie Smith 
Act--named after a heroic woman who has championed the funding of 
Federal efforts to identify and test this backlog of rape kits--that 
number is far smaller today, but reauthorization of the SAFER Act is 
important to keep our commitment to victims of sexual assault that we 
will do everything in our power to help them identify their assailant 
and bring them to justice, and, at the same time, exonerate people who 
may be falsely accused because there is no DNA match.
  Finally, other legislation I filed and has now been signed into law 
assists police departments in hiring military veterans. We know our 
police departments are always in need of good, highly qualified 
applicants for those important first responder jobs. Once signed by the 
President, it will streamline the process that Active-Duty personnel 
and reservist members go through to apply for their commercial driver's 
  We know it is a long and arduous process to apply for a commercial 
driver's license, so why not take our Active-Duty military who are soon 
to retire or our veterans and expedite their ability to qualify for a 
commercial driver's license when they leave the military?
  As I said, these bills don't grab big headlines, but they chip away 
at problems and were passed on a bipartisan basis--which I think puts 
the lie to the canard that nothing ever gets done in Washington.
  The job of men and women in Congress is to serve the people who 
elected us. This last year we made important strides, but our work is 
just beginning. As I said at the outset, there is much that lies ahead. 
Many Americans and many Texans are still knocking at the door of 
greater prosperity. I hope we will make it our New Year's resolution to 
open that door a little wider in 2018.
  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. BOOKER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                        Rescinding the Cole Memo

  Mr. BOOKER. Mr. President, I rise today because earlier on this day, 
the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded 
the Justice Department's policy known as the Cole memo.
  The Cole memo is a policy issued under the Obama administration 
instructing prosecutors to shift away

[[Page S40]]

from a focus on nonviolent marijuana crimes and toward more serious 
crimes that threaten our communities. This memo was a critical step and 
a move in the right direction, undoing some of the catastrophic damage 
that has been caused by the failed War on Drugs. It was a step forward 
for the Federal Government in mending our broken drug policies that 
have so hurt our Nation in so many ways. I believe it was a step 
forward that the vast majority of Americans who believe the War on 
Drugs failed agree with. It was a step forward that improved Americans' 
safety, saved money, and better aligned our laws with our most 
fundamental values of fairness, equality, and justice. Yet, today, 
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has instructed the Department of Justice 
to not just double down on failed policy but to turn back the clock and 
undermine the well-being of our country.
  The policy change actually goes against what Jeff Sessions promised 
elected officials in this body before his confirmation. We already 
heard from the other Cory in the Senate--Republican Senator Cory 
Gardner--that he had a commitment from the Attorney General before his 
confirmation that this is not what he would do.
  This is an attack on our most sacred ideals and the very purpose of 
the Department of Justice, which is to protect Americans, to elevate 
ideals of justice, and to do right by people. It is a failure of this 
administration, which said--our President said during his campaign that 
he would honor what States are doing. It is a betrayal by our Attorney 
General, who gave a commitment to at least one Republican Member of 
this body. But most significantly, it will hurt America. It ignores the 
fact that there is a growing bipartisan consensus that the War on Drugs 
has failed. It sacrifices our critical, urgently needed resources in 
our communities, violating our values and destroying families, and has 
failed to make us safer.
  Let me walk through those four points one by one--first, this massive 
waste of public resources that are urgently needed in other areas. In 
the last four decades in this country, we have spent so much on these 
policies at the same time that we are disinvesting from public 
education, from our public colleges, disinvesting from investments and 
innovation, investments in science and research. Yet we have spent 
trillions of dollars on this failed War on Drugs.
  We have created a nation that says we are the land of the free, but 
we are the incarceration nation on the planet Earth. One out of every 
four incarcerated people on this planet is imprisoned here in the 
United States of America. One out of every three incarcerated women on 
the planet is incarcerated right here in the United States of America.
  Between the time of 1990 and 2005, we have devoted so much of our 
resources to building new prisons. During that time, we were building a 
new prison in the United States every 10 days to keep up with the 
massive amount of people who were being driven into our prisons. One 
new prison was being built every 10 days as our infrastructure and our 
roads and bridges crumbled.
  We have sidelined the resources of our law enforcement officials. I 
know this, having been a former mayor. The precious time, resources, 
and energy of our law enforcement officials have been sidelined, 
redirecting them to marijuana enforcement, and for what?
  At a time when we have real issues to deal with in our country, such 
as a drug epidemic; at a time when people cannot afford treatment and 
when there are waiting lists for treatment because we don't have the 
resources to deal with this opioid epidemic, we are instead using our 
resources to enforce marijuana laws.
  The Centers for Disease Control, the CDC, reported last year that 91 
Americans die every single day from the opioid epidemic in this 
country. Meanwhile, according to FBI data from 2014, one American is 
arrested every single minute for marijuana possession--one American 
every minute for marijuana possession. That is about 1,700 Americans 
being arrested every day for marijuana possession, using police 
resources, resources to put people in jail, to hold them, to feed them, 
court resources. All that can be used better and invested in our 
society to deal with the ravages of the opioid epidemic. Police 
resources that could be used to chase after violent offenders are 
instead being used for marijuana possession. It is somehow crazy that 
we think we can arrest our way out of a problem.
  Doubling down on these failed efforts makes no sense. It is a massive 
waste of our precious resources as a society.
  No. 2, it is also perpetuating injustice in our country. We believe 
that everyone in this Nation should have equal justice under the law. 
Those are the words written on the Supreme Court. But we know this War 
on Drugs has not been a War on Drugs, it has been a war on people--and 
not all people but certain people, the most vulnerable people. It has 
been a war on people, a war on mentally ill people. It has been a war 
on people of color.
  The unequal application of marijuana laws has created a justice 
system where outcomes are often more dependent upon race and class than 
dependent upon guilt or innocence. In privileged communities and places 
all across this country, marijuana is being used with little fear of 
consequences and openly spoken about and joked about with little 
understanding of the painful fact that the War on Drugs in America has 
scarcely affected their lives but the War on Drugs, because of the 
unequal application of the laws, is affecting people in other 
  I have seen this personally. I went to Stanford and to Yale, and I 
watched drug use being done openly--marijuana use. There are no FBI 
investigations, no sting operations set up to go after the privileged 
in this country.
  There are people in this body who openly admit to using marijuana 
with no consequence. But if you are poor or vulnerable in the United 
States of America, they are coming after you, and there will be 
consequences. I have had countless conversations with elected officials 
about their own personal drug use because it is outrageous to me, this 
outrageous hypocrisy that they could flaunt drug rules while poor 
people and people of color suffer as a result of our marijuana laws.
  The facts are clear. The disproportionate enforcement of marijuana 
laws has helped to create a system of massive injustice in our country, 
and it is obvious. There is no difference in America between Blacks and 
Whites using marijuana, no difference between Blacks and Whites selling 
marijuana. Blacks are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for 
marijuana possession than a White person is. This is a targeting of 
certain communities, a targeting of low-income people who are having 
their lives devastated by this unequal application of the law. Jeff 
Sessions' announcement today will make the problem worse.
  People don't understand what it means to have a felony conviction for 
marijuana possession. Most people have no understanding that this is a 
lifetime sentence in America. It not only affects the individual's 
ability to get a job, you can't get a Pell grant if you have a felony 
conviction for marijuana usage, which many people in this body have 
done. You can't get a business license with a felony conviction for 
marijuana. You can't get food stamps. You can't get public housing.
  It devastates individuals economically, but it devastates their 
families as well. It destroys the lives of children when suddenly the 
earner in their family, who is guilty of no more a serious crime than 
some of my colleagues--suddenly they have to pick up the pieces after 
one of their parents is sent away to prison. Missing 1 or 2 days of 
work often means losing your job, not being able to make your car 
payment or rental payment. We know that for children, where their 
father is in prison, they are more than five times more likely than 
their peers to be expelled or suspended from school.

  This marijuana enforcement is devastating families--the fundamental 
building blocks of communities--and it is devastating communities. 
These laws weaken our overall economic health. One study found that if 
it weren't for the mass incarceration explosion as a result of the War 
on Drugs, the poverty rate in this country would be 20 percent lower.
  We have a self-inflicted wound by wasting the resources--police 
resources and financial resources--of this country, and we have another 
self-inflicted wound by destroying families and communities 

[[Page S41]]

  It also has hurt our safety as a country. There are communities all 
across this Nation that worry about the safety of their children, the 
safety of their families, and the safety of their neighborhoods. By 
taking these critical resources away from law enforcement, this is a 
sacrifice of our efforts to make communities safe and strong.
  In 2016, more Americans were arrested for marijuana possession than 
for all violent crimes combined. How many unsolved murders are there? 
How many unsolved assaults? How much violence and crime should our 
police be investigating as opposed to dealing with marijuana 
prohibition? We have fewer police resources, fewer officers. We have 
occupied our prisons with more marijuana arrests than for rape, murder, 
aggravated assault, or even the unsolved robberies alone in our country 
because we are spending our precious police resources on marijuana 
prohibition. Our history shows this is true.
  Historians now attest to the complete and utter failure of another 
prohibition in this country, which is the prohibition of alcohol. It 
arguably made people less safe. It led to more drinking and was a blow 
to our economy and the ability of our officers to do their job. It was 
even a blow to officers' safety and security.
  If we are serious about making our communities safer or stronger, 
families more secure, we should be focusing on how to undo the 
catastrophic damage of marijuana prohibition, not double down on it.
  I say all of this as someone who ran a police department in Newark. 
It was under my authority as mayor. My officers would talk about the 
churn of people they arrested again and again on nonviolent charges--
which, by the way, many of our law enforcement officers may have 
engaged in and people in positions of authority, like Senators and 
Presidents, have done themselves, deepening the distrust between 
officers and the community.
  I saw firsthand how the disproportionate enforcement of our drug laws 
made communities of mine overcriminalized and underprotected--
overcriminalizing possession of marijuana and underprotecting them on 
serious crimes.
  This is an issue which I know too personally. I have seen this from 
walking privileged and elite communities like universities or here in 
Washington, and I know it because I may be the only Senator who, when I 
go home, I go home to an inner-city community. I go home to a community 
where my census track is about $14,000 per household. I love my 
neighborhood. I love my community. I love my neighbors, but it is 
outrageous to me that communities like mine and all over this country 
have seen the vicious impact of the War on Drugs, while other 
communities--elite communities--can brag and joke about their marijuana 
  I am proud that I spent most of my adult life working with the people 
of Newark, NJ--a city that is rich with culture, that is rich with art, 
that is rich with civic engagement--but I know, from Camden to 
Paterson, to Passaic, to Newark, there are communities like mine that, 
every single day, are getting the devastating blow of this 
prohibition--this war on marijuana.
  I see the anguish people feel about the unjustness and the unfairness 
of it all and having lives upended for getting caught with small 
amounts of marijuana. I have seen countless people who couldn't find a 
job or a decent place to live to support their families.
  I will never forget, as a city councilman in Newark, waiting in line 
at the DMV. A guy came over and told me the story that he was issued a 
uniform. He finally had a job that had a pension. He could support his 
family and move out of a bad neighborhood into a better one. He was so 
excited. They ran his record, and 18 years earlier he had a nonviolent, 
marijuana-related charge, and they took it all away from him. Think 
about that comparison to the highest office in the land, where 
marijuana users have occupied with no consequence--the hypocrisy of it 
  These aren't just a few people. These are hundreds of thousands of 
Americans who are bearing the brunt of nonviolent charges for 
marijuana. They have had their lives destroyed. They have that lifetime 
sentence of, time and time again, having to check a box about a 
marijuana arrest, having their uniforms taken away, opportunities 
  I have seen how these laws make us less safe. When are we going to 
get back to this understanding that we--all of us as Americans--put our 
hand on our heart and we make a pledge; we swear an oath that we will 
be a nation of liberty and justice, not for the privileged, not for the 
elite, but we will be a nation of liberty and justice for all.
  Countless people have talked about equal justice under the law. They 
have talked about these ideals and principles from this floor. They 
talked about it in the suffrage movement. They talked about it in the 
civil rights movement. It goes all the way back to slavery. Frederick 
Douglass, on the 24th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, 
made a statement that was as true then as it is now. He said:

       Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where 
     ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel 
     that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob 
     and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be 

  Well, this is the War on Drugs. This is the marijuana prohibition. It 
has been a systematic oppression of poor people in our country. It has 
destroyed and devastated individuals, families, communities, and 
cities. It has bled our national treasure. It has filled our jails to 
the point where we had to build more and more of them. It has taken 
away resources from investing in drug treatment or education, which we 
know not only drives down drug use but empowers people economically.
  This is the War on Drugs. This is the war on marijuana. Attorney 
General Sessions' policy rescission today will only make these problems 
worse, at a time that the majority of the American public agrees with 
me--agrees that this prohibition must end. The majority of the American 
people understand that this policy makes our communities less safe, 
wastes taxpayers' money, makes it more difficult for police officers to 
do their jobs, and ultimately hurts the struggling folks at the bottom 
of the economic ladder most. It disproportionately affects Black and 
Brown Americans. They are the ones who are bearing the brunt of our 
failure to get rid of this prohibition.
  Let's be clear about what this setback is. The American people know 
the War on Drugs has failed. They want change. Republicans and 
Democrats and Independents in States all across our country are making 
change at their legislature, at the ballot box--voting in a repeal of 
these awful, unfair, wasteful policies all across this country. In red 
States and blue States, Americans are marching, are standing up, and 
are fighting to change these laws.
  We know States that have legalized marijuana have seen a massive 
increase in revenue and decreased rates of serious crime. Crime is 
going down in those communities. They have been able to put more 
resources to use to address urgent public needs like education and 
  In Colorado, arrest rates have decreased and State revenue has 
increased. Washington State has seen a 10-percent decrease in violent 
crime over the 3-year period following legalization.
  It is time for Congress to step up to the plate. It is time for us to 
once again live up to our oath. It is time for us once again to fight 
to make our country a place of liberty and justice for all.
  I know right now Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Trump 
are standing squarely on the wrong side of history. I know what our 
ancestors have taught us about the arc of the moral universe bending 
toward justice. I know this is not a matter of if but a matter of when 
we will have sane marijuana policies in this country and end the 
prohibition that is destroying neighborhoods. I know these things.
  How long will people suffer? How long will we waste resources? How 
long will we make ourselves less safe? How long? This fight is more 
than about a substance--a plant. It is more. It is about the soul of 
our Nation. It is about our ideals. It is about justice. It is about 
justice for veterans who rely on medical marijuana to treat their PTSD. 
They fought for us, they stood for us, and now, according to Jeff 
Sessions, with the use of medical marijuana to deal with their PTSD, 
they are criminals.
  That is not the America I believe in. It is about justice for the man 
who has

[[Page S42]]

a criminal record for doing something that three out of four Presidents 
have done--who now can't get a job, can't get a business license, and 
can't move his family to a better home.
  This is not justice. This is not the America I know we are. This is 
about the mother I stood next to with her child who had Dravet 
syndrome--who fell into seizure after seizure multiple times a day--who 
was a marijuana refugee, leaving a State that didn't end prohibition to 
go to a State that had medical marijuana laws. According to Jeff 
Sessions, she is a criminal.
  This is not our America. This is not the land of truth and justice to 
treat a parent like that--like a criminal. This is about families and 
communities that too long have been fractured by the inaction of this 
body to address the overcriminalization of our country. This is about 
the very values people fight for and stand for. This is about who we 
will be. We cannot fall into this Nation where the privileged and the 
elite have certain laws and the poor and the struggling have others.
  What Jeff Sessions did today is unconscionable, unacceptable, and I 
will fight against it because when I go home, I see the communities in 
struggle. I can't turn my head and not understand that there are 
millions of Americans who are hurting from this decades-long War on 
  This is a self-inflicted wound that goes deep to the bone of our 
country. It undermines our health and well-being, and too many suffer 
because of it. We have to fight. I feel this sense of hopefulness 
because around this country, Democrats and Republicans on the State 
level are making changes. They are marching forward. They are undoing 
past wrongs. I feel a sense of hope and promise, and even though today 
we were delivered a painful blow by our Federal Government to cast a 
shadow against every American citizen who is using medical marijuana--
every American citizen who is doing things Senators have done--I still 
know that truth will go marching on. I still know we are a nation of 
justice. I know we are better than this, and I know what our future 
  I ask my colleagues to reject this action by the Attorney General, to 
speak out against this devastating reality. There are Senators here who 
represent States where the people have spoken. It is now time we speak 
for the people. It is now time we speak for our country's ideals. It is 
now time we don't just speak the words of our pledge but we make this 
country, in truth, a nation of liberty and justice for all.
  Thank you.
  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. 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.


  Mr. BLUNT. Mr. President, I have two topics I want to speak about 
today; one is Iran.
  There is no question that Iran is the principal state sponsor of 
terrorism in the world. Both the Obama administration and the Trump 
administration have without hesitation made that point. The Iranian 
regime provides money and it provides material support for groups such 
as Hamas and Hezbollah and a host of other terrorist groups. They have 
threatened to wipe out Israel, one of our closest allies. Their threat 
is to frankly wipe Israel off the map. And they have systematically 
trampled on the fundamental freedoms that all people everywhere would 
want to have. They have done that by taking those freedoms away from 
their own citizens and those human rights away from their own citizens.
  In recent days, we have seen what happens after a decade of that kind 
of corruption and oppression. Protesters began a week ago to protest. 
It was, by all accounts, unexpected by the previous protest groups, by 
the military, or by the government. It spread to at least 50 cities, 
where brave people wanting to stand up--and in the streets began 
standing up by the thousands--to protest a government that denies them 
their rights, a government that has impoverished their country while it 
funnels billions of dollars to terrorists across the Middle East and 
across the world.
  Where did those dollars come from? Unfortunately, too many of those 
dollars came from us.
  I came to the floor, to this spot, nearly 2 years ago to ask that 
same question about where that money came from, after the Obama 
administration paid Iran what amounted to $1.7 billion in what appeared 
to be a ransom for the release of five American hostages. At the time 
it was explained: Well, this is just money that we have had for a long 
time, which was part of an economic agreement, a foreign military sale 
that we have held on to. It turned out that the story was not true. We 
later learned that $400 million of that payment was delivered in 
pallets of cash that came off an airplane. The pallets were stacked 
high with cash. And, on top of the $100 billion in sanction relief, we 
had another stack of billions of dollars in just straight cash--the 
sanctions relief, under the terribly thought-out Iranian nuclear deal, 
and the cash to apparently grease the skids so that agreement and 
others could happen.
  We have heard of other things in recent days where the administration 
turned its back on bad things that were happening in order to see that 
the Iranian deal was going to go through. Now, if the Iranian deal had 
been a good deal, that would have been one thing, but to turn your back 
on bad things so that another bad thing can happen is even worse.
  So where is this money going? Protesters have seen that the money 
that we delivered to them and the sanctions relief that we delivered to 
them didn't go to them and didn't go to their economy. It continued to 
finance terror around the world and war in other countries.
  The State Department, once again, in their assessment said:

       Iran remained the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in 
     2016 as groups supported by Iran maintained their capability 
     to threaten U.S. interests and allies. The Iranian Islamic 
     Revolutionary Guard Corps--Qods Force, along with Iranian 
     partners, allies, and proxies, continued to play a 
     destabilizing role in military conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and 

  Those assessments always come about a year late, after you have had 
time to assess the previous year. I have no doubt that the same 
assessment for 2016 will also be the assessment for the year we just 
  Frankly, the Iranian people are tired of it. They are angry. They are 
putting their lives on the line to protest.
  The response of the Iranian Government has been predictable. First of 
all, they blame others for creating these problems. They said that we 
were agitating those freedom fighters in their country, those freedom 
protesters. They censored access to the social media. They have cracked 
down by arresting hundreds of people. The reports are that at least 20 
people have been killed.
  It is clear that their behavior hasn't changed; the hope that the 
Iranian deal would somehow bring the long sought-after moderates in the 
current government to the forefront has not happened. We should support 
the Iranian people.
  I join the administration in expressing my support for the men and 
women, young and old, and the courage that they have demonstrated as 
they stand up and try to achieve the greatness of that country, with 
its long heritage and its incredible assets in location and in 
resources, which they should be able to achieve; they just have not 
been allowed to do that.
  The last time this happened, our country was very quiet. This time, 
our government is speaking up. Hopefully, others will join in. The 
European countries have more economic impact in Iran than we do, and 
there is a good reason for that. We have been very thoughtful of 
wanting to support this regime. They have not. It is time for them to 
speak up as well.
  So I join the administration, I join the President, and I encourage 
friends of freedom around the world to not let this moment pass again--
to not, one more time, act as if nothing has happened, and that, 
somehow, this is exactly what the Iranian Government says it is, 
because it is almost never what the Iranian Government says it is. We 
wish for those who care about freedom to stand up and defend and 
encourage those who are seeking a greater freedom.

[[Page S43]]


                             FEMA Decision

  Mr. President, the other issue I want to speak about today very 
briefly is that I want to commend the administration and the Federal 
Emergency Management Agency for a decision they just made. That 
decision was to make houses of worship eligible for Federal disaster 
aid. This is in line with legislation that I introduced in September of 
last year. Senator Gillibrand and I introduced this legislation after 
the impact of Hurricane Sandy on houses of worship.
  FEMA's Public Assistance Program provides financial grants for the 
repair, reconstruction, and replacement of private nonprofit 
facilities--private nonprofit facilities. However, until yesterday, 
houses of worship were ineligible for FEMA public assistance grants.
  As we saw last year, houses of worship--churches, synagogues, 
mosques, and other places--are critical institutions within 
communities. They help feed people in need and, in trying to respond to 
disaster, they provide comfort and shelter during those disasters. FEMA 
not only did the right thing by making houses of worship eligible for 
disaster assistance, it did what our Constitution demands.
  According to FEMA officials, the change in policy was prompted by the 
Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of 
Columbia, Inc. v. Comer. We have a provision in our constitution which 
I argued against and other Missouri elected officials filed amicus 
briefs against where we said our constitution was wrong in finding that 
religious, not-for-profit organizations couldn't be eligible for State 
programs simply because they were religious. That is not what the U.S. 
Constitution says. It is not what the Supreme Court determined State 
constitutions have a right to do.

  So FEMA has taken an important step. I think it is equally important 
now that we make this policy permanent law. It is the right thing to 
do. It deserves to be permanently the right thing to do. I am hoping 
that we see the legislation that I have introduced and that many have 
cosponsored in whatever is the next supplemental disaster funding. 
Money is going to be spent. Let's go ahead and properly authorize it, 
as the Supreme Court said we had every right to do and as FEMA has 
decided that it is the right thing to do.
  We are in a new year. We have new challenges. One of the goals we 
have is to be sure that we move forward in strengthening our economy, 
to help those responding to disasters and expanding opportunities for 
hard-working families. We have done that with regulatory reform, with 
judges who will determine what the law says, and with a tax bill where 
people will soon see in their paycheck that it is actually all about 
hard-working families.
  I have an editorial from the Joplin Globe today. A tornado struck a 
community in 2011, and over 100 people were killed. According to the 
Joplin Globe editorial--just to remind me of the numbers--some 28 
churches were either destroyed or damaged by the tornado that came 
through Joplin. A significant number were totally destroyed. I have 
been to a number of those buildings that have been replaced, but they 
were replaced without any of the kind of assistance that other not-for-
profits would have had.
  The Joplin Globe editorial ends with this:

       Floods, fires, tornadoes and hurricanes don't treat 
     churches differently. Neither should FEMA.

  Again, I congratulate FEMA for the decision they made on this topic.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Joplin Globe 
editorial be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                        [From the Joplin Globe]

                    Our View: FEMA Aid for Churches

       During Joplin's 2011 tornado, some 28 churches were either 
     destroyed or damaged. But those that were still standing 
     quickly opened doors and became centers for those left 
     homeless after this national disaster.
       That's why we applaud the Federal Emergency Management 
     Agency's announcement that houses of worship are eligible for 
     FEMA Public Assistance program grants, which provide funding 
     for the repair, reconstruction or replacement of private 
     nonprofit sites.
       That's thanks to U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who introduced 
     the legislation in September to make houses of worship 
     permanently eligible for disaster assistance. Sen. Claire 
     McCaskill, the Democrat from Missouri, also added her name to 
     the bill in a show of bipartisan support.
       Both Blunt and McCaskill, in statements put out on 
     Wednesday, recognize the value churches can play in 
       ``I'm glad to see FEMA do the right thing by ensuring 
     houses of worship are eligible for disaster aid on the same 
     terms as other nonprofits,'' Blunt said. ``As we saw again 
     last year, houses of worship serve a vital role during 
     disasters, providing shelter, food and other services for 
     families who need it the most.''
       Previously, houses of worship were ineligible for FEMA 
     Public Assistance program grants. FEMA's announcement on 
     Wednesday means that churches, synagogues or mosques affected 
     by disasters declared on or after Aug. 23, 2017, and for 
     applications for assistance that were pending with FEMA as of 
     Aug. 23, 2017, are eligible for assistance.
       Blunt's right. Legislation is still needed to ensure houses 
     of worship remain eligible for disaster assistance under 
     federal law on a permanent basis. Floods, fires, tornadoes 
     and hurricanes don't treat churches differently. Neither 
     should FEMA.

  Mr. BLUNT. Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. SULLIVAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Blunt). Without objection, it is so 

                        Tribute to James Charles

  Mr. SULLIVAN. Mr. President, for the past year or so, I have been 
coming to the floor nearly every week, and I know the Presiding Officer 
looks at this as possibly his favorite time of the week because he gets 
to hear a lot of these ``Alaskan of the Week'' speeches. I know the 
pages love them. I come to the floor to talk about my State, really 
brag about my State, and recognize an Alaskan who has made a 
difference--made a difference in their community, whether it is a small 
community or a big community in the State, in the country.
  I have repeatedly stated--I am sure not all my colleagues agree, but 
maybe some of them do--that Alaskans live in the greatest State in the 
greatest country in the world. We certainly have the most beautiful 
landscapes and all the seasons. I was in Fairbanks and Anchorage over 
the holidays. It was wonderful. Winter is such a great time in the 
great State of Alaska. For those who love snow, Alaska is the place to 
be, so we want everyone to come visit. But it is truly the people and 
strong communities throughout Alaska that make our State so great--such 
a welcoming place.
  For those of us who live in Alaska, sustainable community is 
everything. Living in one of the most magnificent places on Earth, 
also, certainly has its challenges. We depend on each other. Our 
traditional knowledge, our ingenuity, our warm-hearted nature, and our 
determination to overcome these challenges is what makes our State 
great and is often the theme of our ``Alaskan of the Week'' speeches.
  Today I wish to transport you to the village of Tuntutuliak--a 
village of about 400 people, southwest of Bethel, AK, on the 700-mile 
long, mighty Kuskokwim River--and introduce you to a truly amazing 
elder who, for 77 years, has worked tirelessly for his community and 
for our State. This is James Charles, who is our Alaskan of the Week.
  Over the past decades, when there has been a meeting on the Kuskokwim 
concerning fish or wildlife or subsistence, James has been there 
helping to create and shape a fishing and hunting community and 
regulations, not only for the region but for the entire State of 
  James was born in 1940 in a fish camp below Helmick Point on the 
Kuskokwim River. During that time, Alaska was being devastated by a 
tuberculosis epidemic. In fact, in the mid-20th century, Alaska Native 
people experienced the highest incidence of tuberculosis of any 
population ever. This is one of the many challenges we talk about.
  Sadly, the epidemic took James's father, his uncle, and both 
grandparents, leaving his mother and the community

[[Page S44]]

to care for her three children. The community--like many still, 
unfortunately, in Alaska--didn't have hospitals or clinics. They didn't 
have medicine. The Federal Government basically turned a blind eye to 
the havoc that this disease was wreaking over all of Alaska, 
particularly in our small villages.
  What the community did have was each other. They had food, and they 
had the bounty of the land. They had elders to help teach the young 
people in the village the true meaning of subsistence living.
  James's mother, Emma, hunted and fished to feed the family, and she 
and James's uncle taught James how to be a conservationist, only taking 
enough fish and wild game to survive and ensuring enough was left for 
other villagers--lessons he has passed on to the younger generations of 
Alaskans, year after year.
  James met his wife Nancy 50 years ago. She lived in another village. 
He met her when he was out trapping for food. He said:

       I walked 52 miles and found my wife at the end of my 
     trapline. It was my best catch [ever].

  James's accomplishments are legion. He spent 22 years in the Alaska 
National Guard, like so many Alaskan Natives who serve at higher rates 
in the U.S. military than any other ethnic group in the country. He has 
served on the Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council, the Fish 
and Game Advisory Council, and the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management 
Working Group.
  James travels all around our great State, attending different 
meetings and testifying at the Board of Fish and Game. He has dedicated 
his life to fish and wildlife conservation so he can set an example for 
Alaskans today and future generations, including his own family.
  He has 5 children, 15 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren. He 
is so committed to keeping the culture and tradition alive that none of 
his kids or great grandkids are allowed into his house unless they are 
able to speak Yupik, the traditional language of his people.
  For all his work to help continue a vital tradition of subsistence 
and conservation in Alaska, James was awarded the conservationist of 
the year award by the Fish and Wildlife Service this past summer, which 
he accepted at this year's Alaska Federation of Natives Convention.
  For his work, James is our Alaskan of the Week.
  Thank you, James, for all you have done for the great State of 

                        Tribute to Alex Schenck

  Mr. President, I wish to say a few words about one of the members of 
my staff, who happens to be on the floor with me right now. Alex 
Schenck, unfortunately for me, is leaving my office on January 5 to 
pursue another opportunity in Washington, DC.
  Alex has been in my office since 2015. He has been a legislative 
correspondent and rose to be a legislative aide where he oversaw issues 
related to my work on both the Environment and Public Works Committee 
and the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Most notably 
and importantly for this body and, I believe, for the entire country, 
Alex was the key member of my staff who drafted S. 756, the Save Our 
Seas Act, the SOS Act, an important bipartisan piece of legislation we 
worked on with Senator Whitehouse and others. It passed the Senate last 
  This legislation, which is awaiting movement in the House, will 
address a very important issue not only for Alaska but for the entire 
country, which is the epidemic of marine debris affecting our oceans, 
our shorelines, inland waterways, coasts across the globe, fish and 
wildlife habitat, and the health and sustainability of our fisheries.
  What Alex was able to do in terms of this bill is very impressive. He 
brought together an impressive coalition of industry and conservation 
groups to support the bill. In addition to working on that important 
legislation--which we are hopeful will move in the House and get signed 
by the President--Alex ran point on hearings that I chaired at the 
Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard.
  He has a bachelor of science degree from High Point University in 
North Carolina and a master's degree in applied political science from 
American University. He is an avid outdoorsman, as you can probably 
tell. He is a good-natured and extremely hard-working member of my 
  He will be sorely missed. We wish him the very best.
  Thank you, Alex.
  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.