ECONOMIC GROWTH, REGULATORY RELIEF, AND CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued
(Senate - March 06, 2018)

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[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 39 (Tuesday, March 6, 2018)]
[Pages S1350-S1374]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




ECONOMIC GROWTH, REGULATORY RELIEF, AND CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT--MOTION 
                         TO PROCEED--Continued

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio.
  Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, 10 years ago almost to the day, this 
country was on the verge of a financial crisis that would wreck the 
lives of millions of families. The experts--let's say the so-called 
experts--had their heads in the sand. They shrugged off the warnings. 
They told the public everything was fine.
  Jim Cramer was telling hard-working Americans to invest their money 
in Bear Stearns. Maybe younger Members of the Senate don't really 
remember what Bear Stearns was. Jim Cramer said: ``I'm not giving up on 
the thing.''
  Bank of America was putting the finishing touches on its plan to buy 
the subprime lender Countrywide, which they called ``the best domestic 
mortgage platform.''
  Hank Paulson, the last Treasury Secretary who got plucked from 
Goldman Sachs--we have had at least one since--downplayed homeowners' 
pain. He said: ``You know, the stock market goes up and down every day 
more than the entire value of the subprime mortgages in the country.''
  Meanwhile, advocates in communities--the people who were actually 
dealing with the consequences of the crisis--were sounding the alarm. 
The fair lending group Greenlining began meeting with Federal Reserve 
Chairman Alan Greenspan at least once a year, starting in 1999--1999--
to warn about predatory mortgage lending. Attorneys general from across 
the country started to caution about troubling trends.
  In Cleveland, which is in the Presiding Officer's home State, we saw 
home prices climb 66 percent in 10 years, with the housing market 
juiced by ``flipping on mega-steroids,'' according to a government 
panel that investigated the crisis. City officials in Cleveland began 
to hear reports that predatory home refinances were being pushed on 
buyers regardless of whether they could afford to repay the loans. 
Those refinances mean fees to bankers.
  Foreclosures began to shoot up in Cuyahoga County--5,900 foreclosure 
filings in 2000, and by 2007, 15,000. My wife and I live in ZIP Code 
44105, which includes Slavic Village in Cleveland, OH. In the first 
half of 2007, that ZIP Code had more foreclosures than any ZIP Code in 
the United States of America.
  The city of Cleveland went to the Fed and asked it to use its 
authority to restrain subprime lending. The Fed did nothing. The people 
in charge in Washington were too certain, too detached, and perhaps too 
comfortable to listen to the warnings from Ohioans and from people 
across the country.
  We saw what happened. All of these people who had the hubris to say 
that the economy could keep growing and keep growing and keep growing 
while the middle class was being looted--those people, thank you very 
much, weathered the crisis just fine. No one with a cable show had 
their home foreclosed on. Nobody on Wall Street who tanked the economy 
went to jail. In fact, many of these same people now have fancy jobs in 
fancy buildings and dress in fancy clothes and have fancy titles and 
work on Wall Street and in the White House. But in ZIP Codes like 
44105, in Slavic Village and Cleveland, OH, and places like it across 
the country, parents were sitting down at kitchen tables to have 
painful conversations with their children.
  Think about what this means. You lose your job, or you can't keep up 
with your mortgage payment. The husband, the wife, two teenage 
children. You have a family pet, a dog. You realize you are falling 
further and further behind. You are still working and you are still 
trying, but things aren't going well. The first thing you do--your dog 
has to go to the vet. You can't pay for that. You simply don't have the 
money. You take the dog to the shelter. You do what a lot of families 
in Cleveland unfortunately do; you just try to give your dog away or do 
something.
  You then face your children. You say to your children: We are going 
to lose our home. We are going to have to move. We don't know where we 
are going to move yet. We don't know which school district. We don't 
know where your friends will be because we are going to have to move.
  I don't think people around here really think much about what 
foreclosures mean to families. Remember what I said--5,900 foreclosures 
in Cuyahoga County in 2000 and 15,000 by 2007. Hundreds of those were 
in ZIP Code 44105. Think what that does to those families. My 
colleagues, when we vote today and tomorrow and Thursday on whether we 
are going to pass this giveaway bill to Wall Street, just think about 
that.
  The CEOs and the boards at the banks and people in Washington who are 
supposed to be watching failed these Americans. That is why Congress, 
including some Republicans, did something about it 10 years ago, 
something to stop this from ever happening again. We passed a law. We 
created important protections for the financial system, for taxpayers, 
for homeowners. We held banks and watchdogs accountable to prevent 
another crisis.
  Fundamentally, we did it right a decade ago, but Wall Street never 
gives up that easily. They didn't like that bill. They opposed that 
bill--most of them. Big bank lobbyists, the same ones who were so sure 
the 2000s crisis wasn't going to happen, those who flippantly said that 
things are all right--remember what Hank Paulson said. Hank Paulson, 
the Bush Secretary of the Treasury, said: You know, the stock market 
goes up and down every day more than the entire value of subprime 
mortgages in the country. Well, Hank Paulson didn't pay much of a 
price.

[[Page S1351]]

None of the regulators paid much of a price.
  Ten years ago, we did it right. As I said, the big banks never gave 
up. Big bank lobbyists went to work.
  Get this: The day the President signed the Dodd-Frank bill 
implementing these safety rules and regulations--implementing the 
consumer protections, making sure that the government was actually on 
the side of consumers and people paying their mortgage and homeowners--
the same day President Obama put his ``Barack Obama'' signature on the 
Dodd-Frank law, the top financial services lobbyists in Washington 
said: Now it is half time. In other words, we may have lost the first 
half. They passed this bill. We didn't want it, but don't worry about 
us in the second half.
  To these people, the economy is a game. They can't tell the 
difference between putting millions of Americans' lives and homes and 
savings at risk and a game of pickup basketball.
  Piece by piece, Wall Street has gone to the agencies, they have gone 
to the courts, they have gone to Congress to dismantle the consumer 
protections we put in place. The drumbeat is constant. It is ongoing. 
It has been happening for 10 years. They always want a new exemption, 
they always want a weaker standard, they always want a new tax break, 
and do you know what? They can always find a whole lot of Senators and 
House Members who will write a letter to the Federal Reserve, who will 
make a call to the Office of Consumer Counsel, who will go at it and 
will attack in public the Consumer Bureau. They can always find Members 
in this body who are fueled by lots of Wall Street contributions and a 
lot of allies in New York. They can always find people to do their 
bidding. That is why you see this drum. That is how you hear this 
drumbeat. They want a new exemption, a new weaker standard, a new tax 
break.
  The last year has been a really good time to be a bank lobbyist. 
After the crisis, we had created the Consumer Protection Bureau to 
represent the interests of regular Americans who have to fight with 
their bank or their credit card company. Now, in this administration, 
the Consumer Bureau, unbelievably so, is run by a guy who believes--
publicly said it--it shouldn't even exist. The Consumer Bureau's new 
protections are under attack.
  One quick story. All Democrats, even some Republicans, agreed we 
should protect consumers' right to take their bank to court. What is 
more American than that; if you think your bank cheated you, that you 
should be able to go to court.
  Bank lobbyists, with a lot of allies on this side of the aisle, 
convinced the Vice President of the United States to come to this very 
Senate Chamber late at night--late at night here, at 9 or 10, the 
public is not watching, but you can be damned sure the special 
interests are alive and well and watching in their offices and making 
calls and doing all that.
  The Vice President of the United States came to this Senate Chamber 
to break a tie, to cast a tie-breaking vote to vote against hard-
working American families. Instead of protecting these families, the 
Vice President and his allies in the Senate--they voted for Wells 
Fargo, they voted for Equifax, they voted for Citigroup. The rule is 
gone. That rule to ensure that consumers have their day in court if 
their bank cheated them, that rule is gone, piece by piece by piece.
  The watchdogs who are supposed to be protecting Main Street all come 
to their jobs fresh from--surprise--Wall Street and K Street. The 
President's Cabinet looks like an executive retreat for Wall Street 
bankers. They have released blueprint after blueprint on how to 
dismantle all the rules put in place after the crisis, and they are 
putting their people in place to do it. They just rammed through 
Congress a bill to give Wall Street an enormous tax break that will 
cost American families $1.5 trillion, but it gives big bank CEO's a 
huge raise.
  That is 10,000 times more than what we spend at HUD every year to 
protect kids from toxic levels. Back to ZIP Code 44105, the health 
department of the city of Cleveland told me almost all those homes 
built before World War II, 99 percent of them have levels of toxic lead 
that will make children sick--99 percent of those homes. Yet we can do 
this big tax cut and not take care of those families.
  Not long ago, another bank lobbyist told us their plan: We don't want 
a seat at the table, he said, we want the whole table--and they are 
about to get it under the bill the Senate will consider this week. 
Piece by piece, they tear these protections down. This bill gives them 
the whole table. It leaves nothing for working families.
  If you thought the Secretary of HUD's $31,000 he spent to buy that 
fancy table for his dining room--31,000 taxpayer dollars--if you 
thought that was a bad deal for taxpayers, wait until I tell you about 
the billions and billions of dollars at risk that are packed into this 
effort.
  This bill puts Americans at risk of another bank bailout. The 
Congressional Budget Office, the independent, nonpartisan scorekeeper, 
confirmed yesterday that this bill would increase the probability of a 
big bank failure and a financial crisis. It will add $671 million to 
the deficit. The Washington Post said: ``Senate banking bill likely to 
boost chances of bank bailouts.''
  It is bad enough we are going to pass--after banks have been so 
profitable the last decade, after they were bailed out by the public--
thank you very much--they have had a really, pretty darned good decade. 
Then they got a big tax cut. Now they want this and a little cherry on 
top. First, they get this bill, which is about to pass--which will be 
really good for bankers--but then they get $671 million extra from 
taxpayers. So, again, thank you very much, taxpayers, for taking care 
of the banks. So we are going to weaken the rules, and we will pay Wall 
Street for the privilege of doing it.
  This bill weakens stress tests for all large banks, even Wall Street 
megabanks that are designated as global, systemically important banks--
like JPMorgan Chase, $2.5 trillion in assets. Now, 2.5 trillion is 
2,500 billion, and a billion is a thousand million. So $2.5 trillion--
that is hard to calculate, but that is a lot of money. So JPMorgan 
Chase gets a break. They get their $2.5 trillion in assets. Bank of 
America gets a break. They get $2.3 trillion in assets. Wells Fargo, 
which can't stay out of trouble--every week there seems to be something 
new--$1.9 trillion in assets. Citibank, $1.9 trillion in assets. These 
banks--and the Wall Street Journal, hardly a paper hostile to business 
or a bank that is really always close to Wall Street. Wall Street 
Journal headline this morning: ``[Wall Street] Banks Get a Big Win in 
Senate Rollback Bill.''

  So don't let my colleagues--don't let anybody who supports this 
bill--tell you this is all for the community banks. The community banks 
get some things in this bill. I would love to support the community 
banks and make this a bill about community banks, about credit unions, 
even about the regional banks like the ones in my State that generally 
do the right thing--Huntington and Fifth Third and KeyBank. But this 
bill, this is the Wall Street Journal: ``Big Banks Get a Big Win in 
Senate Rollback Bill.''
  This is about those four banks I mentioned: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of 
America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup. These banks hold 51 percent--more than 
half--of all industry assets. They are a pretty darned big part of our 
economy, and we are doing things for them. As they are profitable, as 
their executives make maybe tens of millions of dollars, as they are 
doing stock buybacks to make even more millions of dollars, we are 
doing things for them. We are not dealing with infrastructure, we are 
not dealing with the opioid crisis, we are doing nothing here about 
guns, but we have time to do a lot for America's largest banks. With 
this deregulation, these are banks whose collapse could cause ripples 
across the world.
  Together, the country's biggest banks took $239 billion in taxpayer 
bailouts. So without the rigorous annual stress test that we put in 
Dodd-Frank a decade ago and we are relaxing now, taxpayers could, once 
again, be on the hook if too-big-to-fail banks collapse, and we don't 
have the right tools in place to see it coming.
  This is maybe even more unbelievable than the fact that this body has 
fallen all over itself to help the biggest banks. This bill also 
weakens the oversight for foreign megabanks operating in the United 
States--the same banks that repeatedly violate U.S. laws. Let's

[[Page S1352]]

run through the rap sheets of some of these banks.
  Deutsche Bank, a big German bank, manipulated the benchmark interest 
rates used to set mortgages. It is also known as the only large bank in 
the world that will finance the President's businesses.
  Santander, a Spanish bank, illegally repossessed cars from members of 
the military who were serving our country overseas. So we are going to 
give a break to a Spanish bank that repossessed the cars of men and 
women at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and others when they were 
serving overseas. Santander repossessed their cars, a Spanish bank, and 
we are going to deregulate and make them more profitable with less 
accountability.
  Barclays, a British bank, manipulated electric energy prices. If you 
live on the West Coast--I don't; my constituents weren't affected--but 
a whole lot of people were as they manipulated energy prices.
  Credit Suisse and UBS, two Switzerland banks--one of them illegally 
did business with Iran. We have tried to tighten the sanctions on Iran 
to get Iran to behave better so they don't continue to harass--or 
worse--Israel and all the threats they make. We are going to help a 
bank that did business with Iran, and UBS sold toxic mortgage-backed 
securities.
  It didn't have to be this way. I tried for months to work with the 
chairman of the committee--and I like Senator Crapo a lot. We work 
together well. I tried for months to work in a commonsense package of 
reforms aimed at lifting up community banks and credit unions. That is 
what we ought to do. That is what we could do. That is what we still 
could do. These are the local financial institutions that fuel home 
ownership and small businesses. I know a lot of them. They come to see 
me when they are in Washington. I see them in their communities. I see 
them in Sycamore, Columbus, and Mansfield, and all over the State. 
These are not the people who caused the meltdown 10 years ago. These 
are the ones who got dragged down when big banks crashed the economy. I 
support relief to those banks and regional banks that do things right 
and play by the rules. I want to do more to help average Americans who 
have to cope with unfair tricks and traps, but that is not what this 
bill does. That is how it started out. That is what Wall Street wants 
you to think; this is a bill for the community banks.
  Don't forget, they said that about the tax cut bill: It is a tax cut 
for the middle class. Well, 81 percent of the benefits of the tax cut 
go to the richest 1 percent. So don't always believe what they say when 
they talk about this.

  This was a false choice. Why should we have to roll back rules for 
the largest banks in Switzerland to help out community banks or credit 
unions in Ohio? Of course we shouldn't. It has been a false choice. We 
could pass a bill today that helps those local banks invest more in 
their communities while keeping in place strict rules for Wall Street 
megabanks, but Wall Street and Republicans don't want to do that. They 
want to use the little guys, the community banks we all want to help. 
They want to use the little guys to extract something for the big guys. 
It is the oldest trick in the book around here.
  We are going to cut taxes for the middle class. Well, really we are 
kind of hoping we can give big tax breaks to the richest 1 percent. We 
are going to help the community banks, but really we are hoping--we 
know we are going to help Wall Street.
  This city, Washington, this government, this Senate, this Senate 
Banking Committee are all suffering from collective amnesia. They just 
forgot what happened 10 years ago. Maybe it is convenient they don't 
want to remember what happened. Thankfully, the IMF, the International 
Monetary Fund--an agency of international financial experts--has done 
us a favor, to help jog memories. They have cataloged 300 years of 
history of bank deregulation efforts all across the globe. Do you know 
what they found? We deregulate, the economy explodes. We put in 
protections, the economy gets better. We deregulate again, the economy 
explodes. We put in protections, the economy gets better. We deregulate 
again--wash, rinse, repeat.
  We can do better. We owe it to the people we serve to do better. The 
Senate owes it to 176,000 kids in Ohio and other kids across the 
country whose lives and education were disrupted by the foreclosure 
crisis. Think how many children lived in homes when their parents were 
foreclosed on or their parents were evicted, and everything in their 
lives turned upside down. We don't care about them. We are going to 
forget about them, this collective amnesia. We are going to forget 
about them because we want to help the big banks get bigger and bigger 
and bigger. Is that what we are going to do? We owe it to the millions 
of people whose retirements were wiped out. Millions of Americans lost 
big chunks of their retirement, but we bailed out the big banks at the 
same time. We owe it to the students who graduated in the great 
recession and may have low earnings for the rest of their lives.
  The watchdogs who understand these markets are trying to warn us. 
Paul Volcker, former Chair of the Federal Reserve, has cautioned us 
about this bill. He was the Fed Chair for a Democrat and a Republican 
President. Sheila Bair, who helped us put protections in place after 
the crisis, is a Republican warning us about this bill. Tom Hoenig, the 
current Vice Chair at the FDIC, selected to that position by 
Republicans, has told us this bill is harmful. Barney Frank, as in 
Dodd-Frank, has said he would vote no if he were here. Former member of 
the Federal Reserve Dan Tarullo, who used to do the bank regulation 
with the Federal Reserve, has outlined a long series of concerns. Sarah 
Bloom Raskin, Antonio Weiss, Gary Gensler, law professors, fair housing 
advocates, big bank experts, people who provide legal services across 
this country who deal with foreclosures and civil rights groups are 
telling us we can't go down that path again.
  We know what happens next. It is hubris to think we can gut the rules 
on these banks again but avoid the next crisis. If you strip the rules 
away from the big banks and you turn your back as regulators on 
misfeasance and malfeasance, that collective amnesia--we are going to 
pay for it, and we know we are.
  There are so many important things we should be doing here instead. 
We should be addressing the fact--and the Presiding Officer and I have 
been working on this bill--that workers and retirees in Ohio and across 
the country might have their pensions they have spent a lifetime 
earning slashed in half if Congress doesn't act. We can be doing that. 
We could be addressing the fact that 400,000 Ohioans pay more than half 
their income each month on rent to keep a roof over their head. We 
could be creating jobs. We could be attacking the opioid epidemic. We 
could be fighting against high drug prices. We could be investing in 
our crumbling roads and bridges. Instead, guess what. We are here 
helping the big banks. Everybody is willing to work full time to help 
Wall Street.
  It is a question of whose side are we on? Are we on the side of 
megabank lobbyists or are we on the side of American taxpayers and 
homeowners and students and workers?
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Montana.


                Protect Public Use of Public Lands Bill

  Mr. DAINES. Mr. President, Montanans want to access and enjoy our 
State's public lands, and for a very good reason. Nothing beats our way 
of life in Montana--our hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, skiing, 
backpacking, climbing, all with a backdrop of breathtaking views and a 
very rich history of conservation. That is why Congressman Gianforte 
and I introduced the Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act.
  Our bill protects our pristine natural resources while also ensuring 
that Montanans are able to recreate in U.S. Forest Service lands that 
are not wilderness, but they have been locked up in regulatory limbo 
for decades. Congressman Gianforte's second bill deals with similarly 
locked-up Bureau of Land Management lands.
  Here is what the Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act does. It 
ensures public access to land within five wilderness study areas across 
Montana. They are also called WSAs. While there are thousands more 
acres of public land that are still in limbo, I put these five

[[Page S1353]]

WSAs in my bill for two simple reasons. First, the Forest Service 
determined that these lands were not suitable for wilderness in their 
final plan. In fact, that was a charge given by Congress in 1977. They 
said: Go out and study these Forest Service lands and tell us which 
acres are suitable for wilderness and which are not.
  The acreages I am proposing we should release are those that were 
deemed not suitable for wilderness in the final plan by the Forest 
Service.
  Second, there is strong local support for unlocking these lands from 
the grassroots up, including the Montana State Legislature, countless 
local community members, and dozens of sportsmen, county commissioners, 
and wildlife groups, including the Western Montana Fish & Game 
Association and the Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.
  Unlocking these lands from a WSA does not--does not--automatically 
authorize any particular use of the land. It simply opens up and allows 
for public conversation about how the lands should be used by setting 
up the planning process for public comment. In fact, protections like 
the 2001 roadless rule, the Endangered Species Act, and the existing 
forest and travel management plans remain intact. Do you know what this 
means? You can't construct a new road, and that would be kept after the 
release of the WSAs.
  This has been a bottom-up approach from the get-go, and here is the 
bottom line. Montana's public lands are meant for everyone. They are 
meant for people who like to recreate in many different ways--for those 
who love to hike, of course, but also folks who enjoy recreating with 
mountain bikes, hunting, snowmobiling, and riding ATVs.
  Creating access to our public lands is critical to Montana's jobs and 
our $7 billion outdoor economy. In fact, communities in Montana 
understand this is an important local economic driver that will 
strengthen local economies that depend on outdoor jobs. In fact, just 
recently, the Bureau of Economic Analysis agreed. They said that 
outdoor recreation generates $373 billion of the GDP across our 
country, mostly from motorized vehicles, boating, fishing, hunting, and 
shooting. Our bill will help Montanans recreate with all of these uses 
by unlocking our public lands.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Idaho.
  Mr. CRAPO. Mr. President, I am going to be joined today by some of my 
colleagues from the Banking Committee who are also supporters of the 
Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act. We 
rise today to speak about this bipartisan legislation, which advanced 
out of the committee last year by a vote of 16 to 7, a bipartisan vote. 
The primary purpose of this legislation is to make targeted changes to 
simplify and improve the regulatory regime for community banks, credit 
unions, midsized banks, and regional banks to promote economic growth.
  Many of us represent rural States where community banks and credit 
unions are the primary providers of credit and financial services. 
These institutions hold a competitive advantage over their larger 
counterparts, operating with a relationship-based knowledge of their 
customers and an understanding of their unique needs. They are 
decidedly disadvantaged when it comes to keeping up with the ever-
increasing compliance and examiner demands coming out of Washington.
  Our bill offers much needed reforms that will reduce unnecessary 
burdens on smaller financial institutions so that they can use more of 
their capital serving customers rather than complying with Federal 
regulations that were never intended for them. It also adds protections 
against fraud and identity theft for consumers, veterans, senior 
citizens, and others, as well as for those falling on hard financial 
times.
  This bill is the product of robust, bipartisan negotiation. It was 
years in the making. It is the outgrowth of feedback and input garnered 
from a process we initiated in the Banking Committee across all 
stakeholders in America, as well as from previous meetings, briefings, 
and many conversations and negotiations among the members.
  I see Senator Heitkamp is here, and I am going to ask her to talk 
about this process, how we reached this point today, and what it means 
for North Dakotans.
  Senator Heitkamp.
  Ms. HEITKAMP. Thank you. I was going to say ``Mr. Chairman,'' but I 
guess at this point he is just Senator Crapo.
  Mr. President, I want to take a moment and personally thank Senator 
Crapo from Idaho for his incredible leadership. Frequently we are 
asked: What is wrong in the U.S. Senate? Why can't you seem to get 
anything done, even though there is common purpose; that is, to protect 
the American public, defend the American public, and help the American 
public be prosperous?
  Frequently my response is that many times it is a lack of leadership. 
It is a lack of willingness to sit down, listen, and prepare a product 
that can get results. That hasn't been our problem with Senator Crapo. 
He has been there personally every step along the way, not delegating 
to staff but working with us one on one--sometimes, maybe, four on one. 
He may feel a little bit ganged up on, but I think it was fair odds for 
him, I might say. I also know that this would not be here without the 
leadership of Senator Crapo and the Banking Committee, a committee that 
historically has a reputation for being notoriously bipartisan. I want 
to extend my great appreciation for his work and for his willingness to 
listen and to work with all of us.
  What are we celebrating today? We haven't quite gotten it over the 
finish line, but certainly the vote we just had a couple of hours ago, 
which was broad bipartisan support on a cloture vote, is not something 
we see very often in this body. I think what we have to say is that 
this bill is a piece of almost old-fashioned legislating. It is a prime 
example of how Senators can work together to effectively achieve a 
result and do it in a bipartisan way.
  Despite the Washington gridlock of partisanship, a group of us on 
Banking wrote and introduced this bipartisan bill through a good-faith 
negotiation, which lasted literally years. I have been working on this 
since coming to the U.S. Senate and being assigned to the Banking 
Committee. In fact, I have been working on these reforms since 2013.
  The bill didn't come together overnight. It was carefully crafted. It 
was done not just with these regulators in discussion but also the 
Obama-era regulators as well. We know that we have an opportunity to do 
something that no one thought was possible--take a piece of legislation 
that didn't come through in rule XIV, didn't come through in 
reconciliation. It came through in the traditional way, through a 
Banking Committee process where we sat--and I will again applaud the 
Chairman. No amendment was told it was out of order. No amendment 
wasn't given an opportunity to be heard or voted on. In fact, we sat 
for 7 hours and voted on amendments and listened to debate on this 
bill. Those people who think it came quickly are wrong. This did not 
come quickly. It came over a long period of time, through extensive 
discussions.
  I want to talk about why I care so much about this bill. When I was 
going around the State in 2012, talking to folks who had opinions about 
the Federal Government, one of the things I frequently heard from my 
small credit unions and my independent community bankers and my 
bankers--in North Dakota, independent community bankers frequently tend 
to be members of the North Dakota Bankers Association. They said one 
thing to me that really resonated, and that was: How is it that Dodd-
Frank, which was supposed to deal with the largest lenders in this 
country, the largest institutions in this country--how is it that you 
have this Dodd-Frank bill that was supposed to stop too big to fail, 
and it has become too small to succeed? The compliance burdens are 
overwhelming. The confusion that we have about this--we wonder why all 
of this is on us when we weren't part of the problem. We are getting 
punished for being a financial institution and for no good reason, 
other than we are in a class that includes much bigger actors.
  One of the things I would tell you is that this bill is critical to 
rural America. When you look at the challenges that rural America 
faces, access to capital has to be on top of the list. Plus, I

[[Page S1354]]

think all of those who have been to a Class B basketball tournament or 
a Class B basketball game can look at the program, turn it over, and 
what they will see is sponsorship from their local lending institution; 
they will see a part of the community. Whether it is helping host 
fundraisers, whether it is being involved in cancer drives, that Main 
Street institution of the community bank is there every step of the 
way. We are seeing more and more those institutions being challenged by 
things such as overregulation.
  I want to talk a little bit about my hometown bank, the first bank in 
which I had a checking account and a savings account. It is a little 
bit of a funny story. The statute of limitations has probably run, but 
back in the day, in every small town, there was illegal gambling. I 
know, people might be shocked.
  My dad put my name in a raffle they were having. That night at the 
stag party, I won the raffle. It was $30, which years ago was a lot of 
money. The first thing my dad did was take me to Lincoln State Bank to 
open a savings account. I put that $30 into a savings account. That 
institution was there, and from there, we had our first checking 
account. From there, I knew that my dad had a relationship with his 
banker that would help him through some tough times when he needed a 
little bit of extra cash and help him through times when he needed a 
car loan.
  When we lose those local lenders, when we lose the ability of those 
local lenders to do business, that means the opportunity for 
relationship banking is gone. What do I mean by that? I have told this 
story many times in committee. You are the small town banker. A guy 
comes in, and maybe he has a shoebox full of receipts. He doesn't have 
a fancy cash flow statement. He doesn't have a fancy work plan. But you 
know that this guy has never not paid a bill. He owes nobody any money. 
That is part of his character--who he is. He never cheats anyone. He 
fixes the plumbing. He fixes the furnace, and it stays fixed. He 
doesn't ask for a lot in return, but maybe he needs a new piece of 
equipment. Maybe he needs a new car. He goes to the local lender. That 
may not pencil out. It may not be the best loan they are going to make, 
but it is who they are, and it is what they contribute to that 
institution.
  They give that guy the loan, not based on any paperwork in that 
shoebox. They give that guy the loan based on who they know he is.
  Then, there is the other guy in the small town who comes in. He may 
have a fancy cash flow statement, and he may have a wonderful statement 
of net worth that he can present to the bank.
  Yet one thing the banker knows about him is that there may be some 
unpaid bills and that he may be the guy who takes out a loan but then 
wants to negotiate 80 cents on the dollar.
  In America, we have to bring back relationship lending. You can say: 
Well, none of these regulations really apply to them. Why don't you 
talk to these folks who are in the banking world and realize that they 
have retracted from mortgage lending because they are fearful that they 
will do something wrong and will not be able to afford the fines that 
they may be assessed. They are fearful that they will not be able to 
contribute and be part of the community effort because we have 
overregulated the smallest institutions to the point at which they 
wonder if their children, who could inherit their institutions, really 
want to stay in business.
  There will be a lot of discussion about this bill. There has been a 
lot of discussion already. The one thing I want to say is that we stand 
ready to defend any of these provisions.
  Before I close and turn this over to the Senator from Georgia, I want 
to just say that one of the things we need to be very careful of here 
when we debate this bill is that we do not in any way misstate the 
effects of this bill, because that misstatement will become part of the 
public record. I am going to be very aggressive in making sure that we 
push back against statements that I believe are false, statements that 
characterize this bill in a way that was not intended and that, in 
fact, is not part of the legislative language.
  Mr. CRAPO. Before the Senator yields to the Senator from Georgia, may 
I make one comment?
  Ms. HEITKAMP. Yes.
  Mr. CRAPO. I just want to express appreciation for the Senator's 
chart.
  For those who cannot see the chart, this is a chart that the Senator 
from North Dakota has put up that shows the intersection of Main Street 
and relief for Main Street. The reason I mention this is that back when 
we were debating this regulatory system that was put into place that we 
are now trying to rightsize and correct, I had held a news conference 
on Main Street in Boise, ID. I had said: This legislation is being 
promoted as targeting Wall Street excesses, but the bulls-eye is on 
Main Street across this country, which is what we are trying to fix 
today.
  So I just wanted to tell the Senator how much I love her chart.
  Ms. HEITKAMP. The Senator from Idaho can borrow it at any time. I 
have no pride of authorship, and there is no copyright on here. He may 
pass it around.
  Mr. CRAPO. I will take the Senator up on that.
  I yield to the Senator from Georgia.
  Mr. PERDUE. Mr. President, I thank the Senator and am honored to 
follow my good friend from North Dakota.
  It took courage for the Senator from North Dakota to be a leader on 
this issue in committee. The Banking Committee fought hard and long on 
this issue. I think there were 30 amendments that we discussed and 
voted on in coming to this bill that we are bringing forward today. The 
Senator from North Dakota was a shining star in that debate, one that 
reminded both sides of what was most important--the people back home. 
The Senator has reminded me today of something that I have come 
prepared to talk about but that, I think, warrants merit.
  The Citizens State Bank was my hometown bank, and it has been bought 
and sold a few times. My father, who was a schoolteacher and a school 
superintendent, was actually on that board. It was my first exposure as 
to how banking worked. I remember going with my dad then, who was a 
schoolteacher and didn't make a lot of money but who wanted a loan to 
buy a car. At that time, I was a little older, but this was a 1954 Ford 
that my dad had been driving. I am not really that old, but it was an 
old car, and he wanted to buy a new car. I remember sitting off to the 
side and listening to the conversation.
  When you talk about relationship lending, relationship lending could 
not go very long if that relationship lending didn't lead to a loan 
that got paid back. I knew the lending officer because he taught me in 
Sunday school. We saw him every week in church. His children went to 
the school where my dad was the principal.
  This is a different time today--I understand that--but the fact still 
remains that relationship lending, as the Senator from North Dakota 
just reminded us, should be at the core of what we consider here when 
we talk about this being a lending institution, making a transaction 
with an individual for him to then pay that loan back. That is what we 
tend to forget sometimes because of the debacle in 2008.
  Since Dodd-Frank has become law, over 1,700 banks have been closed. 
Let me say that again. Since Dodd-Frank has become law, 1,700 banks 
have been shut down. Most of these are community banks and regional 
banks--entities that had nothing whatsoever to do with the financial 
situation in 2008. While some in this body may see that as encouraging 
signs that Big Government is now getting more control of the lending 
principal in the banking industry, I think they are misguided. I think 
they are overlooking the reality that these 1,700 banks aren't the 
massive big banks or the very few banks that had responsibility in the 
2008 financial crisis. These are local banks, credit unions, regional 
banks--the banks supporting our Main Street, as the Senator from North 
Dakota just reminded us. They are providing small businesses with 
capital and sponsoring Little League Baseball games.
  I grew up in Little League, as many Senators here did--and in 
softball leagues and so forth. Right there in center field was The 
Citizens State Bank sign, for, every year, they were involved in that 
effort in that community. Yet, for nearly 8 years, those same small 
town entities have been hammered by Big Government regulations that had 
been enacted by the

[[Page S1355]]

Dodd-Frank Act. Credit unions, community banks, regional banks were 
simply not responsible for the financial crisis of 2008, period. None 
of the draconian rules put on them make them safer today than they were 
in 2007. These onerous rules have subjected these small lenders to the 
same regulation and compliance costs to which the major four or five 
banks are now being subjected. Overall, it is estimated that compliance 
costs for community banks have risen by at least 20 percent, but I 
think it is much higher than that.
  I met with a regional bank just this morning from Georgia, and their 
compliance costs have gone up $400 million because of Dodd-Frank. That 
is money that could be in the community in the form of loans; yet it is 
now coming in the form of higher compliance costs. Some of those are 
fines, by the way, coming from the Federal Government up here. That is 
another topic for another day that we don't address in this bill.
  This is eating up those small banks' bottom lines and is discouraging 
some banks from offering some services to their communities--services 
that small businesses and Main Street rely on for capital every day as 
they try to grow. What happens when a bank grows? Lending grows. That 
means small businesses grow. What happens when small businesses grow? 
Jobs are created. Compliance costs run diametrically opposite to that 
dynamic and do not increase or lower the risk.

  The CFPB's qualified mortgage rule is a perfect example. This rule 
has driven many community banks actually out of the mortgage lending 
business altogether. So, while it was intended to protect the consumer, 
yes, it protected the consumer all right. It protected him from being 
able to get a mortgage.
  Government restrictions on reciprocal deposits are what is at topic 
here in this bill. Reciprocal deposits have created uncertainty around 
this critical lifeline for community banks and especially minority-
owned banks that have specialized in serving customers with limited 
discretionary income and limited access to capital. Dodd-Frank is 
crippling the ability of community banks and regional banks to serve 
these communities.
  We recently heard from one community bank in Georgia that has not 
even established a residential mortgage department to serve the 
community because of these draconian compliance regulations. Why isn't 
it doing this? It is simply because the Federal Government--the people 
in this room--decided a few years ago in the Dodd-Frank Act that they 
knew more about the free enterprise system, the capital formation 
dynamic, the relationship between a lending entity and a borrowing 
entity, and how all of that translates into jobs and economic growth. 
Because of that, we have ended up with this arcane Dodd-Frank rule that 
overregulates these small regional and community banks.
  Look, we are not trying to blow up Dodd-Frank. Many of us have taken 
a big step back in terms of what we think we need to do in terms of 
growing the economy in order to accommodate this bill. I think there 
are some 14 cosponsors on the other side of the aisle, and I applaud 
them for the courage that it has taken to work with us to get to a bill 
on which we both give and take. In the Senate, the No. 1 criticism we 
get back home is: Why can't you guys work together to get anything 
done? Here is a shining example. If we can get it across the finish 
line here and get a vote on this, we may have a tremendous example that 
will have a dramatic impact on Main Street back home.
  Small banks tend to spend too much time and resources dealing with 
the regulation and compliance costs that this Dodd-Frank law has 
created. Put simply, Dodd-Frank is just another one-size-fits-all, 
Washington bureaucratic policy that hurts the very people it claims to 
champion--the middle class and the working poor and those communities 
that have the least access to capital to borrow. Fortunately, we have 
an opportunity to do something today to fix these problems.
  The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act 
takes major steps to roll back Dodd-Frank's overreach. It will bring 
relief to the more than 5,000 community banks across the country. It 
will help free up capital for small businesses to invest in our economy 
and put people to work. It will help minority-owned banks, again, to 
provide a wider range of services.
  In my State, the Citizens Trust Bank is a minority-owned bank in 
Atlanta. Why is that important? You may have heard of that bank. Martin 
Luther King, Jr., was a customer of the Citizens Trust Bank. Martin 
Luther King, Sr., served on its board. Many distinguished Atlantans and 
Georgians have been customers and members of the board of this 
auspicious bank in Georgia. Citizens Trust, though, has been forced to 
draw back its entire mortgage business because of the regulatory costs 
that have been imposed by Dodd-Frank. This is counterintuitive. Thanks 
to the action we are taking this week in the U.S. Senate, Citizens 
Trust will be able to grow its mortgage business again because of safe 
harbor provisions in this plan.
  Citizens Trust is not alone. Carver Bank is a minority-owned bank 
that has been serving Savannah, GA, for 90 years. The restrictions and 
regulatory uncertainty on reciprocal deposits have limited its 
resources. This bill we are voting on this week will more than remove 
government restrictions on reciprocal deposits, meaning Carver Bank and 
Citizens Trust and many others will have additional lending capacity 
and lower compliance costs, which is another way to provide more 
capital to the community.
  This bill was written by both Democrats and Republicans. It is a 
shining example of what people back home expect us to do up here--our 
job. No, it is not perfect from my perspective. It is not perfect from 
the Senator from North Dakota's perspective, but do you know what? 
Between us, there is common ground, and we have found it. This bill 
will bring relief to rural communities and help small businesses, which 
will, in turn, grow our economy--something that both sides want dearly. 
This bill also preserves and improves consumer credit protections.
  A vote on this plan is a vote for Main Street growth, obviously. It 
is a vote for rural communities and small businesses. It is a vote for 
people who work with their local banks to secure capital so that they 
can keep building the American dream.
  I commend my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for coming 
together in support of this bipartisan effort, and I encourage every 
Member of this body to think seriously about this and to support this 
bill in its final passage.
  I thank the chairman of the Banking Committee, the Senator from 
Idaho. I cannot tell him how much I appreciate his leadership. This has 
been a yeoman's effort, and I am committed to seeing this through, 
across the finish line, and getting a vote on it this week. I thank him 
for his leadership.
  Mr. CRAPO. I thank very much the Senator from Georgia.
  I next ask Senator Corker if he would like to weigh in and let us 
know his thoughts on this.
  Mr. CORKER. Mr. President, I will be very brief as I know numbers of 
people here would like to speak to this bill, which will be an 
accomplishment for us, and we greatly appreciate the Senator's 
leadership in making it happen.
  I was here when Dodd-Frank was passed. I was on the Banking Committee 
at that time. I didn't support it. The reason I didn't support it is 
for the many reasons and the many things we are doing today to correct 
it.
  Whenever regulation passes, it begins at the targeted group, which, 
in this case, was made up of the larger institutions in our country 
which failed. Then, over time, the regulatory processes seeped down to 
the smaller entities, the smaller banks, that were housed in the 
communities all across our respective States--the members of the Rotary 
Club, the Kiwanis Club, the Lions Clubs International, the Chamber of 
Commerce--the people who make things happen in our communities back 
home. We have ended up in a situation now in which our community banks 
and credit unions, which serve our communities and cause economic 
growth to occur, have these large back office operations that are 
spread over a smaller asset base. It has made them noncompetitive and 
has made it very difficult for them to do the jobs we all cherish that 
they do back home, which is to help to grow those economies. This bill 
is focused on them.
  Senator Tester, I know, has been focused on this for many years, but 
what

[[Page S1356]]

we are doing here is giving relief to those institutions. It is about 
time. We have had enough time to see what needs to happen. This was 
done in a bipartisan way, for which I am thankful.
  Mr. President, I would like to thank Senator Crapo for his leadership 
here in working with people on both sides of the aisle to create a 
responsible bill that is not an overreach. Some of the provisions of 
Dodd-Frank, we all know, are good. Some of them are good, and we are 
leaving many of those in place. At the same time, what we are doing is 
taking a very constructive step to make sure that these smaller 
institutions, which represent a very small amount of the assets in our 
Nation but have such outsized impact on the communities they are in, 
have the ability again to flourish and do the things that are necessary 
for our economies back home to grow.
  I thank Senator Crapo. I am proud to be a part of this and a 
cosponsor. I thank Senator Crapo for letting us be a part of it, and I 
hope that collectively we will ensure that this is a very successful 
effort.
  I yield the floor.
  (Mr. HOEVEN assumed the Chair.)
  Mr. CRAPO. I thank Senator Corker. I appreciate that.
  Next, I would like to turn to my colleague from the other side of the 
aisle--another colleague from the other side of the aisle, just showing 
the bipartisanship we have here on this bill--Senator Tester from 
Montana.
  Mr. TESTER. Mr. President, I thank Chairman Crapo. I want to 
associate myself with my good friend from Tennessee, Senator Bob 
Corker. We always say ``good friend,'' but the truth is that Senator 
Corker has truly been a good friend. We came to this body together, and 
he has exhibited uncommon common sense in this body time and again, and 
once again, he has today. I thank Senator Corker for his remarks about 
this bill.
  Mr. President, time and again over the past year, I have been here on 
the Senate floor raising my concerns about the direction this body is 
heading--secret backroom deals on the healthcare bill, a ``take it or 
leave it'' tax bill that was dropped on our desks literally hours 
before the vote, and the floor time that has been wasted to score 
political points. Quite frankly, this dysfunction has turned the 
world's most deliberative body into a shell of its former self.
  Folks in Washington have shied away from the big debates and refused 
to tackle the tough issues that are facing hard-working Americans every 
day, but this week I am hopeful that can change.
  Today we begin the debate on the bipartisan Economic Growth, 
Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act. This bill is the 
product of years of bipartisan negotiations, hearings, and compromises. 
Under the leadership of Chairman Crapo and my good friends Senators 
Heitkamp, Donnelly, and Warner, we have struck a bipartisan agreement 
that is needed to provide an economic boost for rural America. Folks 
from both parties put their differences aside. We negotiated from our 
points of agreement, and we emphasized common ground. We kept working 
toward our shared goal of strengthening America's economy by providing 
commonsense regulatory reform to small- and medium-sized banks, 
community banks, and credit unions.
  During the committee process, this bill was marked up and debated for 
7 hours. We voted on 36 amendments during an open amendment process. 
The chairman handled that committee process incredibly professionally.
  Since this bill was introduced in the Banking Committee last year, it 
has been strengthened by Senators who are not on that committee, and it 
has been endorsed by regulators, veterans groups, and job creators from 
both parties. This bipartisan bill has support from folks of all walks 
of life and is cosponsored by more than a quarter of this body because 
they know that reform is desperately needed.
  In my home State of Montana, prior to the financial crisis in 2008, 
there were 72 chartered banks. Today that number has dropped to 49. 
What we have seen in Montana is not unique throughout this country. 
Across rural America, bank consolidation is leaving communities 
underserved. Community banks and credit unions didn't cause the 
financial crisis back in 2008, but they have suffered under a one-size-
fits-all set of regulations specifically designed to rein in the 
behavior on Wall Street. As a result of complying with these 
regulations, many of our community bankers are hanging up their hats, 
and our local banks are being swallowed up by bigger banks. Ultimately, 
they will be swallowed up by the folks on Wall Street.
  Furthermore, when a community bank is bought out by a big bank, its 
business model changes and it is no longer tailored to fit that 
community. Despite being a small portion of the banking industry, 
community banks provide--listen to this--48 percent of the small 
business loans in this country, 15 percent of the residential mortgage 
lending, 43 percent of farmland and farm lending, and 34 percent of 
commercial real estate loans. These banks are designed and built to 
serve their communities.
  Since the passage of Dodd-Frank, the number of banks in this country 
has declined by 14 percent, and in our State of Montana, with some 
quick math, it is closer to 30 percent. If you are a product of rural 
America like I am, you know full well the consequences when a bank 
leaves town. It is just a matter of time before that community shrivels 
up. Folks, something must be done.
  Eight years ago, during the dark days of the financial crisis, I 
proudly supported Dodd-Frank. Dodd-Frank was needed to crack down on 
risky financial behavior. For the most part, Dodd-Frank has been 
successful, but, like all major bills, Dodd-Frank had some unintended 
consequences. Since its passage, small business lending has declined by 
41 percent. That is why our bill is needed--to bring more capital to 
Main Streets across America and to protect community banks from further 
consolidation.
  Our bill provides small and midsized banks and credit unions with 
more flexibility to meet the unique needs of the communities they 
serve. It also provides our community banks with much needed regulatory 
relief and cuts the redtape to keep our local banks competitive. It 
includes critical consumer protection provisions to better protect our 
veterans, our seniors, and tenants. This bipartisan bill makes it 
easier for young families to purchase their first home. It helps family 
farmers and ranchers secure the capital they need to survive a tough 
year when Mother Nature doesn't cooperate. It helps small businesses 
and startups secure the funding they need to grow their businesses and 
create more jobs. It protects the small banks that serve as a 
cornerstone of rural communities from being eaten alive by the big boys 
on Wall Street.
  In addition to banking reform, this bill strengthens the rights of 
consumers. It provides consumers with unlimited free credit freezes and 
unfreezes. It prevents mortgage companies from immediately kicking 
tenants out of their homes if a landlord is foreclosed on. It increases 
safeguards against fraud for veterans, Active-Duty servicemembers, 
seniors, and children.

  Over the course of this debate, there are going to be some folks who 
come to this floor and peddle misinformation, so let me be clear about 
what this bill does not do. It does not roll back the regulations on 
Wall Street's fat cats. It does not make structural changes to the 
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It does not weaken or repeal the 
Volcker rule for large banks. It does not change the way the Federal 
Reserve regulates foreign banks. It does not weaken efforts to combat 
lending discrimination.
  I have already seen a lot of falsehoods about this bill claimed out 
there, so I hope this debate stays grounded in the facts, and the fact 
is that folks in rural America need this bill.
  Take for instance the Community Bank in Polson, MT. Polson's 
population is 5,000, and that might be generous. The Community Bank had 
faithfully served this community for decades, but the regulations from 
Dodd-Frank were so burdensome on that small bank and so costly that it 
was forced to sell out to a larger bank.
  But it is not just Polson. Here is what other folks in my State are 
saying about the bill. A small credit union in Billings, MT, said:

       As a small credit union, we spend a ridiculous amount of 
     time complying with complex rules and I am pleased to see a 
     bill that would eliminate some of this red tape so I can 
     focus my resources on serving members.


[[Page S1357]]


  That was from Sydney El-Bakken, manager of Homestead Federal Credit 
Union in Billings, MT.
  This is a quote from another bank in Jordan, MT:

       Dodd-Frank has disproportionately affected small banks like 
     mine who have limited staff and resources to comply with the 
     regulations created by the bill. Prior to Dodd-Frank's 
     passage, my bank was able to keep up with compliance 
     regulations with one staff member. Now, in addition to our 
     one staff person, we also have outside compliance consultants 
     that cost us over $23,000 last year alone.

  I am going to get back to that figure in a second.

       I have talked to many of my fellow bankers who decided to 
     sell to, or merge with, another bank. Almost every one of 
     them has told me that the regulatory burden was one of the 
     main reasons for them to sell or merge.
       The loss of small community banks is not good for our 
     country, our consumers, or our economy. This bill provides 
     many remedies to lessen the regulatory burden on small banks, 
     which allow us to remain competitive, viable, and able to 
     serve the needs of our communities.

  The reason I bring up the $23,000 is that there are some out there 
who may be listening and may say that $23,000 is not even a rounding 
error in a lot of businesses. Rex Phipps is the CEO of Garfield County 
Bank in Jordan, MT. Their total assets are $86 million. This is a small 
bank that is getting pounded and that this bill is going to help in a 
big, big way.
  I am going to tell you, I could go on reading the words of community 
bankers and credit union leaders and businesses in Montana that support 
this bill, but the bottom line is this: Folks sent us to the Senate to 
do something to help out the folks we represent. For too long, this 
body has been dragged into the mud, and as a result, we have had 
partisan and zero-sum policies and zero-sum politics. Dysfunction has 
kept this Congress from doing its job, and part of that job is to fine-
tune laws to ensure that regulation fits the risk.
  Enough is enough already. We must do something. And I am proud to 
work with 13 Republicans, 12 Democrats, and 1 Independent who worked so 
hard to compromise on this bill that I think works very well for rural 
America. The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer 
Protection Act is a jobs bill, and it is a much needed solution for the 
folks who power our local economies. I look forward to this week's 
debate.
  It is encouraging to see that the Senate is back here doing the job 
we were sent here to do. It is encouraging that we have a bill here 
that has gone through the process to gather public input, gather 
bipartisan support, and it is now on the floor so that we can debate 
it. I look forward to that debate, and I hope that debate is based on 
the facts.
  I want to say one more thing before I yield the floor. We would not 
be here today without Chairman Crapo. Chairman Crapo has done a fine 
job getting everybody's opinion, respecting everybody's opinion, and 
walking that line to allow for negotiations and having a good bill as 
the final product. I don't know what is going to be in the final 
managers' package, but I hope it doesn't change this bill dramatically 
because I think this bill really fits the needs of our economy, 
especially in rural America right now.
  With that, I would just say, look, we have some work to do. Hopefully 
we can do it in a timely fashion and get this bill off to the House. 
Hopefully the House doesn't screw it up and we can get it to the 
President's desk for his signature.
  I yield the floor.
  Mr. CRAPO. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from Montana, Senator 
Tester. Earlier in my remarks, I said that this bill had been years in 
the making, and Senator Tester is one of those who have been involved 
the entire time, helping us to get here, as are Senator Donnelly from 
Indiana and Senator Warner, who is here--he had to step out for just a 
second--and Senator Heitkamp, who was here earlier.
  I now want to turn to one of our colleagues on the Republican side, 
Senator Moran from Kansas, who also is one of those who have been with 
us for years, working to make sure we get this critically needed 
legislation to the floor.
  Senator Moran.
  Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Idaho for his kind 
remarks, and I join my colleagues in expressing our gratitude for his 
efforts to make certain we are here today. What a long time it has been 
to get us to this point.
  This is important legislation, and we ought not suggest that because 
there is such bipartisan support, that this is a minor accomplishment. 
We come together, it seems, on the small things around here, but on the 
big things, it seems awfully impossible for us to bridge the gap. 
Therefore, to suggest that what we are doing here today is nothing 
important would be a total mistake,would be a fabrication of the facts.
  If we are successful in passing this legislation and the House 
accepting it in a form that is acceptable to the Senate and having it 
signed by the President, this legislation will make a significant and 
tremendous difference in America and especially on Main Street, in 
farms and small businesses across the country.
  A significant component of what I am about in my work in the Senate 
is trying to make certain that my colleagues from places that are not 
rural understand the rural nature of much of America and understand how 
we do business and how things get done.
  As has been indicated by many of my colleagues, in smalltown America, 
nothing gets done without the support of your local financial 
institution. We earn a living in much of Kansas by small businesses--by 
farms and ranches--and in the absence of access to credit, the ability 
for us to continue to earn a living in smalltown America disappears.
  It was a sad day when the Banking Committee--now 3 years or so ago--
passed Dodd-Frank reform legislation but did so with only Republican 
votes. The sadness is that we were unable to find common ground and 
make a difference in a piece of legislation that was passed in years 
gone by. We were unable to make the improvements that were necessary, 
the changes, the alterations that could make Dodd-Frank work for rural 
America, that could limit its scope to Wall Street, not Main Street.
  I think when Dodd-Frank was passed and many of us voted against it, 
Republicans were saying: We are going to repeal Dodd-Frank. That caused 
many Democrats to say: We are not going to let you touch Dodd-Frank. So 
we have been at an impasse when Republicans and Democrats alike know 
that this legislation, Dodd-Frank, is causing serious harm to places 
across the country. But we have gone to our corners. We have argued for 
full repeal, and you have argued that we are not going to touch it. 
This is a good day in which we have decided that it is neither one of 
those extremes. It is the idea that we can find the solutions to 
problems that exist as a result of legislation that Congress approved.
  This legislation is important, and it matters. It is important 
because it demonstrates that the Senate can function in its proper 
form, that we can accomplish good, commonsense things. It is also 
important because it will alter the landscape in the future for 
communities across Kansas and around the country.
  In rural America, we need access to credit. It is too often that 
access to credit is only available from that smalltown lender--that 
local bank, that credit union--and they know the community and know 
their borrowers.
  Earlier, one of my colleagues talked about relationship banking. It 
is the banking system that many of us grew up with, and it is the 
banking system that still works for us in smalltown America. In the 
absence of the reforms included in this legislation, the ability of 
many of my banks in Kansas to make home loans will continue to be 
absent.
  For the years that I have been on the Banking Committee, I have 
questioned the examiners, the FDIC, the Comptroller of the Currency, 
and the State banking commissioners: What are you doing to make certain 
that the regulations don't put out of business the smalltown lenders 
who are so important to the communities that I represent?
  It seems that we have gotten lipservice: We have a committee. We have 
a commission. We study these things. When you ask ``What rule or 
regulation have you eliminated?'' there is never an answer that 
outlines that that has happened.

[[Page S1358]]

  Today, we are altering the opportunity for the regulators to continue 
to overregulate financial institutions that are only important to the 
communities they serve, and if they have financial challenges, it does 
not create a threat to the rest of our banking system or to our 
country's economy and fiscal condition. Relationship banking matters.
  Today we have a regulatory environment in which bankers are fearful 
of making a home loan to a citizen within their community. If somebody 
wants to buy a home or build a home, they are told by their local bank: 
We can't afford the cost associated with the regulations for making 
these loans. We can't afford the risk that if we make a technical 
error, the financial consequences to our bank will be so great, we will 
be out of the home loan business.
  Who would ever expect to go to their hometown bank and discover they 
don't make home loans? And it is not because there is not the 
opportunity to make a loan that will be repaid--the bank will make 
money, and the borrower will get the benefit of the loan--it is 
because, upon a mistake, the regulations are so onerous and so 
expensive that the business decision is made not that this person is 
not creditworthy but that the risk associated with the regulations is 
so great that they can't make the loan.
  We need more banks, more financial institutions making home loans in 
more communities so that more people in rural American can access the 
American dream. If we create a banking system in which the rules and 
regulations dictate that every ``t'' must be crossed and every ``i'' 
must be dotted, and it is like you have a computer program and plug in 
the numbers and make a decision whether that local banker can make a 
loan, rural America will no longer be here.
  For much of the time I have served in Congress and tried to explain 
rural America to my colleagues, I have indicated that in communities 
that I represent, it is often true that economic development can be the 
difference between whether or not there is a grocery store in town. 
Most people in Washington, DC, don't understand the nature of that 
small town. Is there a hardware store? Can the newspaper continue to 
print newspapers and sell enough advertising and subscriptions to make 
ends meet? When you lose your grocery store, you begin to lose your 
home town.
  What I have learned over time is that if only that local financial 
institution is making a loan, are we going to have a grocery store in 
our town? That local relationship lender knows their community, knows 
their borrowers, and knows whether they have the character to repay the 
loan.
  I saw this happen recently, and we are experiencing this in Kansas 
again this month. Wildfires are consuming acres of land across rural 
Kansas. Our grasslands are burning. A year ago this month, nearly 80 
percent of Clark County, KS, was consumed in a wildfire. It is a 
ranching community. Ashland, the county seat, has a population of 900. 
That is rural. That is the biggest town in the county. As a result of 
those fires, thousands of head of cattle were killed in the fire or had 
to be euthanized. As you would think, there was a terrible economic 
consequence to the community. You would wonder, how do we recover? One 
of the things you would think about is, well, I can go to my bank and 
borrow money to keep my farm or my cattle operation in business. But 
those cattlemen no longer had any collateral. There was no collateral. 
You could not tell your banker: I pledge my cattle to repay the loan. 
If I don't repay the loan, you get my cattle. The fire consumed their 
opportunity to rebuild.
  The Presiding Officer is a member of the Agriculture Committee. He 
will be asked about the safety net that is in a farm bill, and that is 
important to us. But the safety net that many farmers and ranchers have 
in Kansas is the relationship they have with their banker, who makes a 
decision. It is not based upon a computer program or that every ``t'' 
is crossed and every ``i'' is dotted. That banker makes a decision 
based upon the character and the relationship and the history.
  Many of our banks in Kansas are owned by families. They have been in 
the family for generations. The same is true of our farms and ranches. 
That relationship allows a banker to make a loan even when there is no 
cattle due to the result of a natural disaster. The collateral is gone, 
but the banker knows the family. He knows the history and knows whether 
this potential borrower has character. They know that if he or she 
makes a promise to repay, that he or she will.
  All too often, those decisions have been taken away from those 
relationship lenders and reside here in Washington, DC, with a myriad 
of regulators who are telling our bankers through their examiners, 
through the examination process, this is a loan you can't make or this 
is a loan we will write for you.
  Today, we make another step in the process toward returning the 
ability for smalltown America--its businesses, its farmers, and its 
ranchers--to have a future. This is important legislation that will 
make a significant difference in the future of communities and the 
people who live in rural America and in rural Kansas.
  This is not about taking care of bankers. It is not about taking care 
of credit unions. It is about taking care of the people they serve, 
their borrowers, and that means a bright future for the rest of rural 
America, for the other people who live in the communities, because 
access to credit determines whether there is a grocery store in town or 
whether a farmer or a rancher can borrow money to keep their business 
going, to keep their farm or ranch going.
  This is a good day, and I commend my colleagues. It is a good day for 
the Senate, to see us working together, Republicans and Democrats, to 
reach a result that will make a difference. It is a good day for 
America. It is a good day for rural America. It is an opportunity for 
us to correct when we went too far following the financial collapse of 
2008.
  Thank you for the opportunity to speak. I appreciate my colleagues, 
especially the chairman, the Senator from Idaho, for his tremendous 
efforts in bringing us together and getting us to this point.
  Mr. CRAPO. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Kansas, Mr. Moran, 
for his kind comments and especially for so clearly explaining the true 
beneficiaries of this legislation.
  There is a lot of talk about financial institutions and even small 
banks and credit unions, but the real beneficiaries are the borrowers. 
They are the small businesses and the individuals who live in small and 
rural communities across this country and, frankly, even in some of our 
larger communities across this country. I thank you for explaining that 
so well.
  The first words in the name of this bill are the ``Economic Growth,'' 
then ``Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Bill.''
  I would like to turn to Senator Donnelly from Indiana--another one of 
the giants in terms of sticking to it and helping us get this important 
legislation drafted and moved to the floor.
  Mr. DONNELLY. Mr. President, I want to thank Chairman Crapo and my 
good friend from Kansas, whose statement is so similar to mine in many 
ways.
  In rural Indiana--you talked about relationship banking. That is, in 
many ways, the heartbeat of a community. Our small businesses, our 
farms that are handed down from generation to generation--you find the 
grandsons of our farmers dealing with the grandsons of the person who 
developed the bank. It is a privilege to be part of this.
  I thank the chairman of the Banking Committee, Senator Crapo, for 
leading this debate and for his good-faith efforts to make this a 
bipartisan process.
  As we debate the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer 
Protection Act, the Senate is on the verge of doing something 
significant. We are breaking through the gridlock on a bipartisan 
legislative package to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens on Main 
Street banks and credit unions, while also expanding protections for 
consumers, servicemembers, and veterans.
  This is an example of what we can achieve when we work together. I am 
proud to have worked closely with my friend the chairman, Senator 
Crapo, among others, to craft this bipartisan legislation that, as my 
friend Senator Tester mentioned--13 Republicans, 12 Democrats, 1 
Independent.
  I have worked on this issue since I came to the Senate in 2013. This 
bill is

[[Page S1359]]

the result of dozens of meetings, Banking Committee hearings, and a 
7\1/2\-hour committee markup, where more than 100 amendments from both 
sides were filed, and 36 were considered and voted on. This bill is 
carefully written and narrowly tailored.
  This commonsense legislation is intended to help Main Street 
community banks and local credit unions to focus more on traditional 
banking--our small businesses, our farms, our families--while 
maintaining the safety and soundness of our financial system.
  In rural areas and in many towns across my beloved home State of 
Indiana, Main Street community banks and credit unions are the 
institutions that Hoosiers turn to--whether it is a family seeking a 
mortgage for their first home to make their dreams come true or an 
entrepreneur with a dream who is looking to start a small business, 
create more jobs, and make his or her community grow.
  Unfortunately, the 103 community banks and 154 credit unions in 
Indiana have been unintentionally burdened by rules and regulations 
that were intended to hold Wall Street accountable, to make sure they 
would never damage our economy again. Since 2008, the number of small 
business loans is down 41 percent nationally. That is according to our 
Federal banking regulators.
  This package includes a number of important new consumer protections 
as well, including for servicemembers, as I mentioned, for veterans, 
seniors, and tenants.
  One provision is based on my bipartisan Protecting Veterans Credit 
Act. It ensures that veterans are not wrongly penalized when the 
Department of Veterans Affairs is late in paying a vet's medical bills.
  In response to Equifax's massive data breach and other data breaches, 
for the first time, every American--let me repeat that--every American 
would be able to freeze and unfreeze their credit free of charge and 
set year-long fraud alerts.
  This bill also provides free credit monitoring for all Active-Duty 
servicemembers.
  This makes a big difference. It helps folks like Cpl Logan Hartz, a 
Hoosier, who serves proudly in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was training 
at Camp Lejeune when he learned his personal information may have been 
compromised by Equifax. He said it was really stressful to try to 
figure out what to do and challenging to get his credit frozen. 
Corporal Hartz says the free credit monitoring in this bill would 
provide peace of mind to servicemembers like him whose first focus is 
on protecting our country.
  I also want to highlight another provision I authored on manufactured 
housing, which serves as a vital source of affordable housing not only 
in Indiana but across our country, particularly in rural and 
underserved communities. This effort provides a narrow exemption to 
allow consumers to receive general financing information from a 
manufacturer, while creating new disclosures to prevent conflicts of 
interest and prohibiting retailers from directly advising consumers on 
financial transactions.
  This legislation has broad bipartisan support, it maintains strong 
financial oversight, and it adds new consumer protections. It is 
reasonable, it is balanced, and it is the result of very thoughtful 
negotiation and hard work. I am very hopeful it will pass the Senate 
soon.
  Again, I thank our chairman, Senator Crapo, for his bipartisan work, 
for his willingness to be flexible, to stay with it when it looked so 
difficult to get done. As a result, there are families who are going to 
be in homes for the first time from loans they were able to get from a 
banker who knew them in town, who, when every computer program showed 
something different, they knew the family was worth investing in. That 
is what this bill is going to do.
  I very much thank the chairman.
  Mr. CRAPO. Mr. President, I very much thank Senator Donnelly. I truly 
appreciate the Senator's solid, strong, and continued commitment to 
making this bill work, come to be a reality, and now helping to get it 
across the floor of the Senate. The Senator truly is appreciated.
  Next, I turn to my good friend and another great colleague on the 
Democratic side of the aisle, Senator Warner from Virginia, another one 
of those who has consistently been there for years working to help us 
get to these solutions and to get them right.
  Senator Warner.
  Mr. WARNER. I thank the distinguished chair.
  Mr. President, first of all, let me thank my good friend, the Senator 
Indiana, for his great work on this and actually getting rid of half of 
my speech. I think he started to go through, in very good detail, a 
number of the new consumer protections that are put into this 
legislation, and a lot of that is due to his good work.
  The truth is, in a few days, we may actually do something that hasn't 
been seen in a really long time--the Senate producing a meaningful 
piece of legislation with a strong bipartisan coalition.
  Now, neither side got everything they wanted. I compliment the 
chairman for his good work, but as my friend from Indiana--you should 
have seen the original list of wants of the Senator from Idaho. The 
truth is, we are only here because, at the end of the day, we all went 
back and recognized the people we work for--our constituents in our 
respective States and, for that matter, Americans at large--one, they 
want to see the Senate work; and, two, they want to see it work in a 
meaningful way to protect people's lives. What this legislation will do 
is, bottom line, make sure there is more access to capital on Main 
Street by cutting some of the excessive regulations on community banks 
and credit unions, as well as a number of the consumer protection items 
and others that have been put forward. It also provides some relief for 
regional banks and, as mentioned, major expansion of consumer 
protections.
  Let me also step back. As somebody who got to the Senate right after 
the financial crisis, we all know the system needed stronger financial 
reform a decade ago, and I am very proud of the role I played, in some 
small way, on drafting Dodd-Frank. Title I and title II were areas that 
then-Chairman Dodd gave me a great deal of responsibility.
  Let me be clear that I will do nothing and support no legislation 
that seriously undermines or cuts back on the provisions and the 
systemic protections that were put in place by title I and title II 
and, for that matter, for all of Dodd-Frank, but 8 years later--2 years 
it took us to do the bill--there is widespread agreement that some of 
the standards we set in Dodd-Frank needed time for review.
  One of those was the standard we put in place at the $50 billion 
threshold for enhanced prudential standards. We know, 8 years later, 
that number is just too low. There is a legitimate debate about where 
that standard should be reset, but recognizing that this standard was 
set 8 years ago at $50 billion, if you just take inflation and growth 
in the economy, it would be dramatically different. That is a view 
shared by Federal Reserve Gov. Dan Tarullo, who is the architect of 
much of the legislation implementing Dodd-Frank. It is also the view of 
former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and current Reserve Chair Jay 
Powell.
  The fact is, there is an awful lot of difference even between some of 
these regional banks and some of the largest six banks in our country. 
At this point, they still control about 60 percent of all total assets.
  If we don't do this legislation, what we will see--and this is where, 
again, I have to disagree with some of my Democratic colleagues--is 
there will be more pressure on consolidation, not only for community 
banks and credit unions but, for that matter, more consolidation among 
regional banks, which will place more and more power in those largest 
of institutions, where I think we have pretty good protections and 
protections that we don't want back at all in this legislation, but I 
don't think we ought to encourage that greater consolidation. So, 
again, we focus not only on community banks and credit unions but also 
on some of these regional banks.
  I want to make clear, what we have done is make no changes to the 
applicability of enhanced prudential standards for the big banks with 
assets above $250 billion. These are both the largest and, in many 
ways, because of some of their products, the riskiest financial 
institutions, and the full set of postcrisis regulations should apply 
to

[[Page S1360]]

them, but we have required the Fed to tailor those standards 
appropriately for banks with total assets between $100 billion and $250 
billion. I want to highlight that the bill actually sets a very low bar 
for the Fed to apply enhanced standards to regional banks.
  Under the bill, the Fed can apply enhanced prudential standards to a 
bank with assets larger than $100 billion for financial stability 
reasons or to promote the safety and soundness of the bank--part of 
their traditional prudential regulations as they stand, but I don't 
think every enhanced prudential standard should apply to every bank 
with assets larger than $100 billion. There is a broad agreement that 
standards should be tailored for this group.
  Again, let me cite someone whom most of the folks on this side of the 
aisle, myself included, have a great deal of respect for: former Fed 
Chair Janet Yellen. She called this bill ``a move in a direction that 
we think would be good.''
  More recently, Chairman Powell testified that the Fed will implement 
standards over the next 18 months for banks with assets between $100 
billion and $250 billion. Chairman Powell also testified that the 
regional banks will continue to be subject to the most important 
enhanced prudential standard: meaningful, strong, and frequent stress 
tests. Those are his words, not mine. He called himself a strong 
believer in stress testing. Again, let me say, so am I.
  Critically, again, this bill does not change the existing requirement 
that the Fed conduct annual stress tests on banks with assets larger 
than $250 billion. I know I am getting into a lot of details, but 
details in banking regulations are important. Again, unfortunately, I 
don't think some of my colleagues who are in opposition to the bill are 
setting out what this bill truly does or doesn't do.
  Again, let me point out another thing on stress tests. The bill also 
does not alter the comprehensive capital analysis and review or what 
banking regulators call the CCAR process. The Fed capital planning 
process is actually not part of Dodd-Frank, but it is another core 
pillar of the Fed's supervisory regime. We believe it should continue 
to apply as much as it does today.
  So for banks within this $100 billion to $250 billion range, you have 
not only CCAR, but you have the chairman himself saying he will put in 
place--somewhat similar to the existing DFAST stress test--meaningful, 
strong, and frequent stress tests. As has been mentioned as well, banks 
with assets above $250 billion should expect to have the annual stress 
test.
  Let me touch on another subject, foreign banks. Another thing this 
bill does not do is change the enhanced prudential standards applied to 
the largest foreign banks' U.S. operations. This gets pretty technical, 
but I think for the record it is important that it is reflected.
  All foreign G-SIBs that have total consolidated assets greater than 
$250 billion have enhanced prudential standards, and those enhanced 
prudential standards will continue to apply to these largest and 
systemic important foreign banks, and the Fed will continue to have the 
authority to apply these enhanced prudential standards on foreign banks 
with total consolidated assets of more than $100 billion.
  So a large foreign bank--let's say Deutsche Bank, for example, that 
had problems recently--that may have only $100 billion or less than 
$250 billion of American assets, but the fact that their consolidated 
balance sheet has greater than $250 billion will mean that the Fed will 
continue to enhance the full G-SIB regulation.
  Again, let's move to Chairman Powell. He was approved by 84 Senators 
to this post--40 Democrats. He made clear in his Banking Committee 
testimony that the Fed requires establishment of intermediate holding 
companies by certain foreign banking organizations independently of 
Dodd-Frank. Chair Powell made clear that nothing in this bill requires 
any change to the IHC requirement. This is by design, as we believe the 
IHC requirement is an important innovation that greatly helps 
international holding companies. For those keeping track of these 
comments, it is an important innovation that greatly helps the Federal 
Reserve supervise and apply enhanced prudential standards to the U.S. 
operations of foreign banks.
  As explained by the Federal Reserve in its final rule, in applying 
enhanced prudential standards to foreign banking organizations, there 
were unique financial stability issues associated with some of the 
large foreign banks' operations in the United States during the crisis.
  We remember that it was some of the foreign banks and operations in 
the United States that were part of causing the crisis back in 2008, 
and those enhanced standards need to stay in place.
  In that final rule and in other rules implementing prudential 
requirements for the intermediate holding companies of foreign banks, 
the Federal Reserve has distinguished between which standards should 
apply to U.S. banks and the IHCs of foreign banks and how they should 
apply it.
  The Federal Reserve remains fully capable of assessing the unique 
risks associated with large foreign banks' U.S. operations and applying 
appropriate enhanced prudential standards on these institutions and 
their IHCs, giving due regard to the principle of competitive equality, 
while remaining focused on the mandate under this bill and under 
section 165 of Dodd-Frank to protect financial stability and safety and 
soundness.
  This is the final point I want to make. I also want to make clear 
that my support for section 402 in this bill--again, which deals with a 
technical issue but a very important issue, the supplemental leverage 
issue, which excludes deposits from the calculation of supplemental 
leverage ratio for custody banks--this exclusion for custody banks, 
those assets deposited within a central bank, such as the Fed, while we 
are carving out this one exclusion, it does not mean that I support 
removing other assets from the calculation of that leverage ratio.
  Again, there is widespread agreement from former Governor Tarullo to 
current Chair Powell that the leverage ratio should not be the binding 
capital constraint on custody banks because of a unique business model 
that relies on less risky business.
  When the leverage ratio is the binding constraint on a business, it 
encourages actually riskier activity and rewards making bets that tend 
to decrease, rather than increase, safety and soundness. That gives the 
wrong incentive. This bill will fix the narrow problem that exists for 
custody banks and goes no further.
  I personally say that I would have no support for any movement 
further than what is narrowly carved out in this bill.
  I know my friend the Senator from Vermont is here, and he will have a 
different opinion on some of these issues, but I want to again thank 
Senator Crapo. As well, I do hope we will have a chance to enter into 
further colloquy on this debate and to further make clear for the 
record both his and my support for strong capital, that our system is 
stronger and, particularly for the largest institutions, that nothing 
we are doing will reverse keeping American banks the strongest in the 
world.
  I know there are strong opinions on the other side. I look forward to 
the continued debate. I look forward to a managers' package that I 
believe will actually continue to expand certain areas around consumer 
protections and other areas where there is broad-based general 
agreement. I look forward to the conclusion of this debate and an 
amendment process that again allows other issues to be vetted.
  With that, I thank the chairman, and I look forward to further 
discussions.
  Mr. CRAPO. Mr. President, I thank Senator Warner, my good friend and 
colleague from Virginia. I see that Senator Sanders from Vermont is 
here and the time has arrived for his time on the floor.
  I will just conclude by saying that I agree with Senator Warner. We 
both support strong capital standards for our banks. I have a pretty 
solid, long speech on that that I was going to give if there was time. 
I will give it later.
  I agree with Senator Warner that one thing we need to make clear is 
that the foreign banks with $250 billion in global consolidated assets 
will continue and still be subject to enhanced standards. Our bill does 
nothing to change that.
  Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, if I could ask the Senator a question--we

[[Page S1361]]

may come back for a more formal colloquy at some point. We are working 
on some additional language to further reinforce this point.
  I thank the chairman for his good work on this bill. I am thankful 
for the fact that the legislative Record will reflect at least this 
short conversation and other speeches and conversations which recognize 
that a consolidated balance sheet of foreign banks, if they only have 
$100 billion in assets in the United States but $1 trillion in total 
assets, will still be subject to the enhanced prudential standards.
  Again, I thank the chairman and look forward to continued debate.
  Mr. CRAPO. I thank the Senator from Virginia.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Flake). The Senator from Vermont.
  Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, I get around my own State of Vermont a 
lot. In fact, I get around the country a lot. I hear from a lot of 
people and I talk to a lot of people about what is on their minds.
  Needless to say, in these very complicated and difficult times, there 
is a lot the American people are concerned about. They are concerned 
about gun violence, and they want strong legislation to be passed as 
soon as possible to protect their kids and the American people.
  Overwhelmingly, they want legislation--over 80 percent of the 
American people in poll after poll--want legislation to protect the 1.8 
million young people who are eligible for the DACA Program. That is 
what people talk about.
  People talk about the high cost of healthcare, and they talk about 
the fact that they cannot afford prescription drugs because the drug 
companies are ripping us off every single day.
  They talk about climate change and their fear about what kind of 
planet we are going to be leaving our kids and our grandchildren if we 
don't transform our energy system away from fossil fuel.
  The people I talk to in Vermont and throughout the country talk about 
our crumbling infrastructure.
  They talk about the need for decent-paying jobs.
  They talk about the high cost of a college education. I just talked 
to a teacher the other day in Wisconsin. She had tears in our eyes 
because she cannot afford to send her own daughter to college. I talk, 
every day it seems, to people who graduate from college, $30,000, 
$50,000, $100,000 in debt, and they wonder how that debt will impact 
the rest of their lives.
  I talk to people in Vermont and around the country about the 
childcare crisis that we have and about the lack of affordable housing 
and about a million other issues that are on the minds of people in 
Arizona, in Vermont, and all across this country.
  But I can honestly say that I have not heard one person come up to me 
and say: Bernie, we have to deregulate 25 of the largest banks in this 
country with cumulative assets of $3.5 trillion. No one has ever come 
up to me and said that is a major priority for the American people. No 
one has ever suggested to me that instead of talking this week about 
and moving forward on gun safety legislation or the DACA issue or the 
high cost of prescription drugs, we should be here on the floor of the 
U.S. Senate talking about the needs of some of the largest banks in 
this country. But that is precisely what the Senate will be discussing 
this week and probably next week as well.
  If you want to know why the American people, in very, very strong 
numbers, hold the U.S. Congress in contempt, it is precisely because we 
have a Republican leadership that does exactly the opposite of what the 
American people want. And it is not just not dealing with the DACA 
issue or dealing with the gun violence issue. Over the last year, 
despite the overwhelming objections of the American people, Republican 
leadership tried to throw some 32 million Americans off of health 
insurance. Thank God we were able to beat that back.
  At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, the American 
people do not believe that the Koch brothers and other billionaires 
should receive massive tax breaks. That is exactly what the Republican 
leadership provided.
  And on and on it goes.
  The needs of the middle class and working families are ignored while 
the needs of the wealthy and powerful, including Wall Street, are 
addressed.
  Today, my Republican colleagues, along with some Democrats, tell us 
that what we should be doing right now is spending our time on 
deregulating some of the largest banks in America. How absurd is that? 
Not gun violence, not the DACA crisis, not the high cost of 
prescription drugs, not 30 million people without health insurance, but 
deregulating some of the largest banks in America.
  Are our memories so short that we learned nothing from the 2008 Wall 
Street crash? Have we learned nothing from the savings and loan 
disaster of the early 1990s or the thievery of Wells Fargo over the 
last couple of years or the dishonesty of Equifax or the accounting 
fraud at Enron and Arthur Anderson or the failure of long-term capital 
management or the billions of dollars in fines that financial 
institution after financial institution has paid out for illegal or 
deceptive activities?
  Just 10 years ago, as a result of the greed and the recklessness and 
the illegal behavior on Wall Street, this country was plunged into the 
worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The official 
unemployment rate shot up to 10 percent and the real unemployment rate 
jumped to over 17 percent. At the height of the financial crisis, more 
than 27 million Americans were unemployed, underemployed, or stopped 
working altogether because they could not find employment.
  Fifteen million families, as a result of that financial crisis, lost 
their homes to foreclosure as more and more people could not afford to 
pay their mortgages. Thousands of Americans set up tent cities in 
Sacramento, Fresno, Tampa Bay, and Reno because they had no place left 
to live.
  As a result of the illegal behavior of Wall Street, American 
households lost over $13 trillion in savings, which shattered 
retirement dreams, wiped out life savings, and made it impossible for 
parents to send their kids to college. That is what Wall Street did 10 
years ago. Against my strong opposition then, Congress and the Federal 
Reserve provided the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of the 
world to these huge banks because they were too big to fail.
  But now, 10 years later, hoping that we forget all about that, these 
large financial institutions are back again. How pathetic is that? Just 
yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office told us that the legislation 
we are debating today will ``increase the likelihood that a large 
financial firm with assets of between $100 billion and $250 billion 
would fail.'' That is from the CBO.
  In other words, this legislation makes it more likely that we will 
see another financial crisis and makes it more likely that there will 
be another huge taxpayer bailout and massive dislocation of our 
economy.
  Under this bill, large banks with assets of up to $250 billion will 
no longer have to submit comprehensive plans on winding down if they 
fail. They will no longer have to hold sufficient capital in case their 
loans go bad. And they may never have to undergo a stress test to find 
out if they are adequately prepared to withstand an economic downturn.
  Further, this legislation makes it easier for financial institutions 
to offer bogus subprime mortgages that caused so many Americans to 
suffer during the 2008 financial crisis.
  This legislation makes it easier for large banks to steer African 
Americans, Hispanics, and the elderly into mortgages with high interest 
rates and hidden fees.
  This legislation deregulates foreign banks like Deutsche Bank--a bank 
that in January of 2017 agreed to a $7.2 billion settlement for selling 
toxic mortgages during the financial crisis.
  This legislation guts the Volker rule, allowing banks all over this 
country to gamble with the bank deposits of their customers on risky 
derivative schemes that were at the heart of the financial meltdown.
  Let us be very clear. The major banks that we are deregulating in 
this bill were forced to pay over $49 billion in fines for a wide 
variety of fraudulent and deceptive activity. These very same banks 
received a taxpayer bailout of $47 billion from the Treasury and 
trillions in financial assistance from

[[Page S1362]]

the Federal Reserve. Many of these banks, it should be pointed out, 
like Wall Street in general, have enjoyed record-breaking profits over 
the last 2 years. They are not coming here because they are losing 
money. Over the last 2 years, most of these banks have done very, very 
well.
  So how does it happen that Congress finds itself worrying about the 
needs of huge financial institutions but ignores the concerns of 
ordinary Americans? The answer, as I think most Americans understand, 
has everything to do with following the money. Follow the money.
  Since the 1990s, the financial sector has given more than $3.2 
billion in campaign contributions and last year alone spent over $200 
million on lobbying. If you want to hear about the corruption of the 
     American political system, here it is. Since the 1990s, 
     the financial sector has given more than $3.2 billion in 
     campaign contributions and last year alone spent over $200 
     million on lobbying. That is why Congress will be spending 
     day after day trying to make life easier for these large 
     financial institutions, while at the same time ignoring 
     the needs of working families.
  No, we can't get a bill on the floor of the Senate that will lower 
the cost of prescription drugs. We can't do that. The American people 
overwhelmingly want us to act on gun violence. We can't do that. We are 
not able to protect the 1.8 million young people who are eligible for 
the DACA Program. We can't do that. But we can spend a week or two 
worrying about the needs of some of the largest financial institutions 
in this country. And that is why the American people are disgusted with 
what goes on in Washington, DC.
  I have a radical idea, and that is that maybe--just maybe--instead of 
listening to the lobbyists here in DC, maybe we should listen to the 
American people, who believe that we should strengthen, not weaken, 
Wall Street regulations.
  Believe it or not--of course we are not going to hear any discussion 
of this at all--believe it or not, the four largest banks in America 
are, on average, 80 percent bigger today than they were before we 
bailed them out because they were too big to fail. Incredibly, the six 
largest banks in America--this is wealth. This is power. This is who 
owns America. The six largest banks in America have over $10 trillion 
in assets--six banks, $10 trillion--equivalent to 54 percent of the GDP 
of this Nation. The six largest banks hold more than half of all credit 
card debt, control over 90 percent of all bank derivatives, underwrite 
a third of all mortgages, and control over 40 percent of all bank 
deposits. If any of these financial institutions were to get into 
financial trouble again, there is no doubt in my mind that once again 
the taxpayers of this country would be asked to bail them out--except 
this time, the bailout might be even larger than it was in 2008.
  Now is not the time to be talking about deregulating large financial 
institutions--quite the contrary. If a financial institution is too big 
to fail, in my view, it is too big to exist. Now is the time to take on 
the greed and power of Wall Street and break up the largest financial 
institutions in this country, and I will be introducing an amendment to 
this bill to do just that.
  I understand fully, as the American people do, the power of Wall 
Street and the huge amounts of money they spend on campaign 
contributions and lobbying. That should not, however, intimidate us. 
Now is the time for us to have the courage to stand up to these very 
wealthy and powerful institutions, defeat this legislation, and support 
the needs of the American people.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Tennessee.


                School Safety and Mental Health Services

  Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, later this week Senators Blunt, 
Cassidy, Collins, Roberts, and Young will join me in introducing the 
School Safety and Mental Health Services Improvement Act.
  Three weeks ago, 14 high school students, a teacher, a coach, and an 
athletic director were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School 
in Parkland, FL. As the authorities tried to get to the bottom of 
exactly what happened in the shooting, many of us in local, state, and 
federal government have been looking at what can be done to help keep 
students safe at school. We can't stand still and do nothing while our 
children are being killed.
  I am the chairman of the Senate Health and Education Committee and 
sponsor, with Senator Murray, of the Every Student Succeeds Act of 
2015, which reauthorized the law overseeing kindergarten, elementary, 
and secondary education. I also sponsored with Senator Murray the 21st 
Century Cures Act of 2016, which made the first major mental health 
reforms in a decade, focusing the federal government's efforts on early 
intervention.
  The bill I am introducing this week with several of my colleagues 
will help States use every federal dollar available to them to keep 
their schools safer from violence and have the mental health services 
they need. This is complementary to a bill Senator Hatch introduced 
this week that addresses programs in the Judiciary Committee to improve 
school safety and stop school violence.
  There are 100,000 public schools in the United States, and most of 
the responsibility for making them safer for children lies with the 
State and local governments and families and communities that provide 
90 percent of school funding. But the Federal Government can and should 
help create an environment where communities, school boards, and States 
can create safer schools.
  Under this bill, the Federal Government can help in the following 
four ways:
  No. 1, allow schools to use title II funding under the Elementary and 
Secondary Education Act to hire more counselors.
  About a fifth of all children age 9 to 17 have ``a diagnosable mental 
or addictive disorder that causes at least minimal impairment.'' In the 
2014-to-2015 school year, there was a counselor-to-student ratio of 482 
to 1, while the American School Counselor Association recommends a 
counselor-to-student ratio of 250 to 1. This bill would help schools 
make up that difference.
  No. 2, make it clear that schools can use federal funding they are 
already receiving through titles II and IV under the Every Student 
Succeeds Act to improve the professional development of school 
counselors and to improve the school safety infrastructure, including 
installing new alarm systems, improving entrances and exits of schools, 
installing security cameras, and other infrastructure upgrades.
  No. 3, our bill renews and updates a law to expand a successful 
program that helped to train education personnel and ensure children 
have the services they need after a violent incident. This program was 
piloted after the shooting in Newtown, CT, and has shown to be 
effective.
  No. 4, create an interagency task force led by the Secretary of 
Education, with the Departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, 
Homeland Security, Interior, and Defense, to make recommendations--not 
mandates; recommendations--on best practices, policies, and procedures 
to improve school safety and school safety infrastructure.
  This bill would encourage and reinforce for Tennessee and for all 
other States that Federal dollars may be used to hire more counselors, 
psychologists, and other mental health professionals at schools; to 
build safety infrastructure--such as securing doors, automatic locks, 
and smart entrances--to prevent intruders; and to develop mental health 
programs to identify children who might be dangerous to other children.
  While most of the responsibility for improving the safety of our 
schools and the environment or climate of our schools rests with local 
and State officials, the federal government has a role to play.
  In conclusion, in addition to the policies in this bill that I 
described, I support President Trump's directive to the Department of 
Justice to craft regulations to ban so-called ``bump stocks,'' which 
have the effect of making a semiautomatic firearm function more like an 
automatic firearm.
  I, along with 49 other Senators, have cosponsored bipartisan 
legislation to have more effective background checks. This legislation, 
sponsored by Senator Murphy and Senator Cornyn, would ensure that 
Federal agencies and States get information about individuals who 
should be prohibited from buying a gun through the National Instant 
Background Check System.
  I hope my colleagues will cosponsor and support our legislation to 
help

[[Page S1363]]

States use every Federal resource available to them to keep their 
schools safer from violence and have the mental health services they 
need.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts.
  Ms. WARREN. Mr. President, this week we are considering a bill to 
roll back the rules on some of the biggest banks in the country. Over 
the course of this week, I am going to be spending a lot of time on the 
Senate floor talking about the problems with this bill and how it 
threatens working families and American taxpayers, but I want to start 
by looking back to 2008 and the reason we have these rules in the first 
place.
  Ten years ago next week, Americans started holding our breaths. For 
years, financial institutions had been riding high, selling dangerous 
products to consumers, and making risky bets. All the while, Washington 
looked the other way, cozying up to big banks, loosening rules left and 
right, and shrugging off rules they couldn't get rid of. And no 
wonder--the revolving door was spinning like crazy. Bank officials 
became regulators and then went back to the banks, getting richer and 
richer. Bank profits were sky high and getting higher.
  But business built on scams and hype can't grow forever. Ten years 
ago this month, Bear Stearns, an 85-year-old institution on Wall 
Street, went belly up because of $46 billion in scam mortgages and 
other questionable investments on its books. The failure gave the rest 
of the world a glimpse of Wall Street's addiction to risky bets. The 
disease spread. It turned out that a lot of other banks had invested 
heavily in scam mortgages too. Investors panicked, sending the markets 
into a nosedive.
  When the American economy fell off a cliff in 2008, American families 
got crushed. Almost 9 million people lost their jobs. Workers lost $2.6 
trillion from their retirement accounts--about 25 percent of their 
savings for someone who had been working for 20 years. In 2008 alone, 
foreclosures spiked 81 percent, and 3.1 million notices went out to 
homeowners across the country telling them they would lose their homes. 
In a single year, 1 out of 54 homes in the United States was in 
foreclosure.
  Behind those enormous numbers were real people and real families 
whose lives were shaken up and turned upside down, little kids who 
worried about where they were going to live, and bigger kids who 
worried about whether they would lose their chance to go to college.
  I know that feeling. I lived in Oklahoma City, and my folks had 
picked out our house because it was right inside the boundary line of 
what my mother believed was the best school district in the county. Our 
lives seemed to be on track right up until the day my daddy had a heart 
attack, and then it all started sliding sideways. He was out of work 
for a very long time.
  My mother usually picked me up from school in our bronze, two-toned 
station wagon, and one day she showed up driving the old, off-white 
Studebaker that daddy had been driving back and forth to work. As I 
climbed into the car, I asked where our station wagon was.
  It is gone.
  Gone where?
  Gone.
  I just kept pushing. My mother was staring straight ahead, fingers 
tight on the steering wheel, and after one more ``Where?'' from me, she 
answered in a low voice: We couldn't pay. They took it.
  The house was next in line. My family was right on the brink of 
foreclosure when my mom put on her best dress, walked into the Sears, 
and landed a minimum-wage job. But that feeling--the feeling of being 
on the brink, the feeling of no security, nothing under your feet--is a 
feeling no family in this country should have, especially not have it 
because Congress decided it was OK to let the big banks gamble with the 
economy again. Yet here we are, on the verge of making the same mistake 
Congress has made so many times before.

  The banks don't want you to know what is in this bill because if you 
did know, you would fight back. It was written by Senators in back 
rooms and jammed through the Banking Committee, where its authors voted 
down every single amendment, every single idea to make the bill even 
one smidgen better or protect consumers just one tiny bit more. They 
voted against every amendment, even if they agreed with it, because 
Republicans and Democrats had locked arms to do the bidding of the big 
banks.
  There is a lot of dangerous stuff in this bill. Today I want to focus 
on the harm it will do to America's consumers, but I will start with 
what is not in the bill because what is not in the bill should make 
Congress ashamed. Strong consumer protections--that is what is not in 
this bill. Banks get their wish list, but consumers get next to 
nothing. This bill is called the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, 
and Consumer Protection Act, but in all 148 pages, there are only a few 
watered-down provisions to help consumers.
  Equifax loses data for nearly half of all adults in America, lies 
about it, and this Congress, these Senators, still can't manage to pass 
a bill with some teeth in it to hold the company accountable. That says 
it all.
  This bill was written by big banks to help big banks. It is not a 
bill to help American families who are still getting cheated by the 
companies that make huge profits off them.
  What is actually in this bill? Start with the first part of the bill, 
section 101, ``Improving Consumer Access to Mortgage Credit.'' When you 
get a mortgage, usually your lender spends some time combing through 
your financial records to make sure you can repay the loan. That is 
good. American families don't want to take out loans they can't afford, 
and banks don't want to make loans that can't be repaid.
  Before the financial crisis, that whole process went haywire. Lenders 
were making crazy loans with balloon payments and exotic features that 
consumers didn't understand. Lenders didn't care if their customers 
could repay. Why? Because they got their fees up front and then sold 
the loans to distant investors, and the original lender was long gone 
before the homeowner got in trouble. But the families were stuck. 
Eventually, the payments skyrocketed, and homeowners who couldn't keep 
up defaulted and lost their homes.
  After the crisis, Congress changed the rules. They told lenders that 
they had to start underwriting their loans again to protect consumers 
and the economy. But that takes time and money, so Congress told the 
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to write a rule that says that 
there is no need to investigate if the lender knows that it is issuing 
a super-safe, boring, plain-vanilla loan. OK. That sounds reasonable. 
But section 101 of this bill is not reasonable. It takes the CFPB rule 
and stretches it in all directions, tearing open big, dangerous 
loopholes. This bill that is on the floor says: Banks, have some fun 
out there. It says: Bring back the greatest hits of the financial 
crisis housing scams. Scoop up profits on the front end, and leave 
families holding the bag on the back end.
  I understand breaks for banks that make straightforward loans, but 
these loans in this bill are too risky and they come at a bad time. 
Rising interest rates mean that exotic products like adjustable rate 
mortgages are starting to make a comeback. Bank lobbyists are dragging 
us back to the bad old days when banks had free reign to scam their 
customers.
  Here is another section. Section 104 makes it harder to enforce anti-
discrimination laws by telling loads of institutions that they don't 
have to comply with a law called the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, or 
HMDA. HMDA requires most financial institutions to tell the public and 
the CFPB who they are lending to and at what rates and what terms. 
Regulators and law enforcement then use that data to make sure that 
American families don't have a harder time getting one of those loans 
because of who they are or where they come from.
  This bill takes a sledgehammer to HMDA by exempting 85 percent of 
banks from reporting HMDA data. If this bill passes, there will be 
entire communities in America where there will be no data whatsoever, 
which means there will be no ability to monitor whether people are 
getting cheated because of their race or their gender.
  Once again, this couldn't come at a worse time. Lending 
discrimination is real. A new, comprehensive report that

[[Page S1364]]

looked at housing markets all across the country just came out from the 
Center for Investigative Reporting and Reveal, and its findings should 
make us all sick to our stomachs.
  In 2015 and 2016, nearly two-thirds of mortgage lenders denied loans 
to people of color at higher rates than for White people. According to 
Reveal, in the Washington metro area, ``in 2016, Native American 
applicants were 2.3 times as likely to be denied a conventional home 
mortgage as white applicants. For black applicants, it was 2.2 times as 
likely. For Latino applicants, it was 1.9 times as likely. For Asian 
applicants, it was 1.6 times as likely.
  The Reveal report showed that this problem happens in giant banks and 
also in small banks.
  Here is the thing: None of that analysis--none of it--would have been 
possible without HMDA data from big institutions and small ones. 
Without the data, we would all be sitting in the dark, wondering if 
maybe some mortgage lenders discriminated against African Americans or 
women or Native Americans, but we wouldn't have any way to know. That 
means we wouldn't have any way to change it if it was happening. 
Gutting HMDA allows us--actually forces us--to look the other way when 
discrimination happens, and that is disgraceful.
  There is one more section in this bill that really hurts consumers; 
that is, section 107, ``Protecting Access to Manufactured Homes.'' 
Eighteen million Americans live in manufactured homes. Many are low-
income, elderly, or disabled. It is a good option for many Americans, 
especially in rural areas, but it is very important to make sure buyers 
don't get scammed.

  Under today's law, mortgage lenders cannot steer a borrower toward a 
higher cost loan so the lender can get a kickback. That is the law 
today but not if this bill passes. Instead, the rules for mobile home 
lenders will be weaker rules, and that means it will be much easier to 
cheat buyers of mobile homes.
  Congress imposed strict requirements on loan originators because 
Congress knew most of us don't buy a lot of homes in our lifetime, and 
we rely on the people helping us through the process to tell it 
straight. Owners of mobile homes deserve the same protection as people 
who buy brick-and-mortar homes. They need that protection.
  Abusive lending practices are rampant in the manufactured housing 
industry. In 2015, the Seattle Times wrote about Kirk and Patricia 
Ackley in Ephrata, WA. Kirk worked construction, and Patricia worked at 
Walmart. They had already bought the foundation for their new mobile 
home when they sat down to close on their mortgage. What happened at 
closing? Surprise. The interest rate was higher than they had been 
told, and the payments were larger than they could afford. The mortgage 
broker then convinced them to go ahead and sign up anyway, promising 
that they could refinance that loan later on.
  You can probably guess the end of the story. The Ackleys signed, the 
lender wouldn't refinance, they lost all the money they had put in up 
front, and they lost their home. It turns out that the homebuilder, the 
dealer, and the mortgage lender--all three of them--were owned by one 
company, Clayton Homes. All the incentives were to push the Ackleys 
into a loan they couldn't afford because Clayton got the purchase 
price, the commissions, and the fees, and they got the mobile home back 
again. No one was looking out for the Ackleys.
  The backers of this bill say that this provision will help small 
lenders, but the truth is that manufactured home lending is mostly done 
by giant lenders like Clayton. In fact, in 2013, Clayton alone--one 
company--provided 39 percent of mobile home loans. Savings from rolling 
back these consumer protections would go right out of the pockets of 
working families like the Ackleys and right into the pockets of dealers 
like Clayton.
  The Ackleys' story is not unique. I wish it were. These same problems 
happen all over the country, and they are exacerbated by the special 
characteristics of mobile homes. The lifespan of a manufactured home is 
shorter than a traditional home. That means the purchaser may not be 
able to take out equity by reselling it.
  A woman from Oklahoma told the CFPB:

       I was given a loan for a single width mobile home through 
     [a mortgage company]. They switched it to Green Tree and next 
     to Ditech. The home started deteriorating in 10 years and is 
     now unsafe to live in, as I have had electrical problems and 
     many of the pipes are broken where the bathtub and faucets in 
     the master bathroom are not functioning. The floor under the 
     shower has completely caved in, windows are crooked and allow 
     flies to get into the house in warm weather. Most of the 
     floors have buckled under the legs of furniture, and the rain 
     has caused the areas around the windows to buckle. Walls are 
     little more than cardboard. I believe the flooring is 
     waferboard and unfit for floor foundation.
       When I tried to trade this [model], the dealer [] told me 
     he couldn't because the house is worth much less than what I 
     owe and that this sounded like a Predatory Mortgage Loan. He 
     said that mobile homes do not have 30 year mortgages because 
     they don't last that long. He said my loan should have been a 
     15 year loan at the most. Also, right before Ditech took the 
     predatory loan over, they added about {$100.00} to my monthly 
     payments, which went from {$360.00} to {$460.00} a month. 
     Ditech claims the {$100.00} is for insurance; however, as of 
     yet they have repaired nothing, although I have made several 
     claims.
       I was also told I should complain because when they put the 
     mobile home on my property, they did not put it on a cement 
     foundation and instead put it on the ground, which has caused 
     the home to sink.

  This bill is designed to make it easier for the lender/dealer to 
squeeze people like this woman from Oklahoma.
  This bill is a punch in the gut to American consumers. If it passes, 
it will be harder to police banks that sell abusive mortgages, harder 
to police lenders who discriminate against their customers, and harder 
to police giant monopolies that build, sell, and offer financing to 
mobile home buyers. Only a bunch of bank lobbyists and their friends in 
Washington would call this a consumer protection bill.
  American families weren't in the back room when this bill was 
written. They don't have millions of dollars in campaign cash to get 
Senators' attention. They don't keep an army of lobbyists on their 
payroll. No. American families are busy going to work, helping the kids 
with homework, and trying to catch up on a thousand things. They are 
trying to pay off student loans or maybe save a little for their own 
kids to go to college. Some are trying to put aside a few bucks for a 
mortgage so they can buy a home. They trust us to stand up for them and 
make sure they have a fair shot at home ownership, at the American 
dream. They trust us to make sure we are not turning over the keys to 
our economy to the same people who crashed it 10 years ago and ran over 
a bunch of American families on the way.
  I know we are outnumbered, but this fight isn't over. Make no 
mistake--I am going to do whatever I can to convince enough other 
Senators that this is a bad deal for American families and a dangerous 
one. I will push and I will tug and I will talk to anyone who will 
listen about how this bill will hurt the people we were sent here to 
represent. And maybe, just maybe, for once, the Senate will start 
listening to voters instead of donors.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Johnson). The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. FLAKE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                  Unanimous Consent Request--H.R. 1551

  Mr. FLAKE. Mr. President, I have been in Congress now for about 18 
years--12 years in the House and now 6 in the Senate. It is an honor of 
a lifetime, obviously, to represent Arizona here.
  After being here so long, I have to say I get a little defensive when 
I hear somebody say that Congress is incapable of solving big problems. 
Yet it is a hard point to argue after watching the Senate squander the 
best opportunity we have had in a long time to pass legislation to 
protect young immigrants who are impacted by an uncertain future of the 
DACA Program and to strengthen security along the border. Somehow, 
despite sweeping public support for both of these items, we have been 
incapable of finding a compromise that can garner the support of 60 
Senators. To say this has been a disappointment would be an 
understatement.

[[Page S1365]]

  I do appreciate Majority Leader McConnell's attempt to facilitate an 
open debate. I truly believe he wanted this process to provide the 
necessary dialogue so as to deliver an effective bipartisan solution. I 
am certainly not alone in my efforts to forge genuine consensus on 
these subjects. There are a lot of Senators on both sides of the aisle 
who want to fix this problem. Unfortunately, as too often happens, the 
siren call of politics brought too many of us back into partisan 
trenches and blocked any hope of real results.
  There are teachers and students and members of the military who are 
DACA recipients. They are friends and colleagues who represent the very 
best ideas of America. They are hard workers and productive members of 
their families and communities. They don't have the luxury of being 
able to admit defeat and move on to the next topic.
  Likewise, those of us from border States, like Arizona, know that law 
enforcement officers who are tasked with patrolling the borders and 
protecting our neighborhoods just can't give up and go home. We have 
neighbors and family members who simply cannot shrug off failure and 
accept the status quo when it comes to securing the border.
  That is why I have introduced legislation to extend DACA protections 
for 3 years and to provide 3 years of increased funding for border 
security. I am the first to admit that this is far from a perfect 
solution, but it does provide a temporary fix to these crucial 
problems. It begins the process of improving border security, and it 
ensures that DACA recipients will not lose protections and be left to 
face potential deportation.
  We in Congress have too regularly confused action with results and 
have been entirely too comfortable with ignoring problems when they 
seem too difficult to actually solve. To put it as bluntly as possible, 
this is not something we can ignore any longer.
  I thank Senator Heitkamp for joining me as a cosponsor on this bill 
and for illustrating that the drive to get something done on these 
issues is a bipartisan effort. She has been a trusted partner on border 
security and sensible immigration reform measures.
  We may not be able to deliver a permanent solution to these problems, 
but we cannot completely abdicate the responsibility of Congress to 
solve them. There are many people whose lives and well-being depend on 
our ability to deliver meaningful results here.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the 
immediate consideration of Calendar No. 300, H.R. 1551. I further ask 
that the Flake substitute amendment at the desk be considered and 
agreed to, the bill, as amended, be considered read a third time and 
passed, and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon 
the table.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  The Senator from Oklahoma.
  Mr. LANKFORD. Mr. President, I reserve the right to object. There is 
no question that I want to see legislative solutions here, and I am 
actually glad to stand with my colleague from Arizona to talk about how 
we get a solution on this issue.
  As we have seen from Congress, especially over the last 20 years, the 
challenge has been, if Congress does a temporary patch once, it will do 
it 20 times again. My concern is for the 7,500 DACA kids who are in my 
State of Oklahoma. They are looking for an actual solution. They want a 
sense of permanence. Their status has been in limbo since 2012. The 
question is, Can we actually resolve this for them?
  I have put forward a presentation--Senator Flake has been passionate 
about this as well--for those individuals to actually end up toward 
naturalization, not to have a temporary patch of just being in limbo 
status again. It would be to work them through a process to get them in 
a line in which they actually end up in naturalization at the end of 
it. At the same time, there would be border security and some other 
things that we think would be connected to it. I would like to see us 
work through this process to actually get to a resolution. A couple of 
Federal courts have pushed back on the administration and have bought 
Congress a little more time to be able to resolve this issue. I would 
like for us to use the better wisdom of that to actually get to a 
solution during this time period.
  The goal is: How do we get this resolved?
  I am pleased to say the President has moved a long way on this issue. 
The President has laid out naturalization for 1.8 million people, has 
dealt with border security, and has engaged in a conversation to 
actually get it resolved. We had a completely failed effort a couple of 
weeks ago with four different proposals coming up, with all four of 
them getting bipartisan support, but with all four of them failing. I 
would love to see us get on any one of them and start amending it.
  The Senator from Arizona and I have already had conversations about 
changes that I would like to see even in some of the bills that I 
supported, but the way to resolve that is get on one of them. Let's 
actually start amending one, and at the end of it, let's let this body 
work its will. The frustration I have had with this body in these 3 
short years that I have been here is, most of the time, we fail to even 
debate an issue. When it requires 60 votes to even open debate on 
something, we just, simply, start the process, never get 60, never 
debate it, never resolve it. Then this body just moves on to another 
topic.
  I commend my colleague from Arizona for reminding this body again 
that we have an unanswered issue still sitting out there that needs to 
be resolved. I agree with him completely on that one. Let's get on it. 
Let's resolve it long term, and let's provide a sense of permanency to 
this solution, not another temporary patch that will end up being the 
same temporary patch we will do 3 years from now, 3 years after that, 
and 3 years after that.
  May I remind our body that we are on our fourth continuing resolution 
just this year. We need to resolve this and take the moment to be able 
to do that.


                  Unanimous Consent Request--H.R. 2579

  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senator modify his 
request so that the Senate resume consideration of H.R. 2579. I further 
ask that the pending amendments be withdrawn with the exception of the 
Grassley amendment No. 1959. Finally, I ask that the Grassley amendment 
be agreed to, the bill, as amended, be considered read a third time and 
passed, and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon 
the table with no intervening action or debate.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Does the Senator from Arizona wish to modify 
his request?
  Mr. FLAKE. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, let me just 
say that we had a debate for a week, and I commend the Senator from 
Oklahoma for his hard work on this topic and constructive contribution 
during that entire time. We considered several proposals, one of which 
was this proposal, the Grassley amendment. It did get bipartisan 
support, but it still fell well short of the goal. I think there were 
39 votes in favor. We had bipartisan support for a countermeasure that 
I supported, but we failed to get the 60 votes as well. We got only 54.
  I would love to get a permanent solution. I have been working my 
entire 18 years in this body to try to get comprehensive immigration 
reform through. The problem is what has been proposed as an amendment 
here is, for all intents and purposes, comprehensive immigration 
reform, which, in moving ahead, would make changes to the legal 
immigration structure. That is, simply, too much to bite off at this 
time.
  As much as I don't like to do it, I am offering something that is a 
stopgap, but at least it is for 3 years. At least it will give 3 years 
to those who are affected and give us in Congress some time to actually 
come to a solution. What we cannot do is force these kids through more 
uncertainty. I would love to get to a permanent solution. That is what 
I have tried to do for a number of years here. I know the Senator from 
Oklahoma has, as well, but we just cannot do it right now.
  I prefer to simply go with the 3 for 3 amendment for which I am 
asking 3 years of extended protections on DACA in exchange for 3 years 
of border security funding at the President's request for this year. I 
think that is a realistic proposal for which we can get bipartisan 
support here and in the House. I believe the White House can support it

[[Page S1366]]

as well. So I object to a modification of the request.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection to the modification is heard.
  Is there objection to the original request?
  Mr. LANKFORD. I do object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
  The Senator from Florida.


                              Gun Violence

  Mr. RUBIO. Mr. President, since the tragedy 3 weeks ago tomorrow in 
Parkland, FL, we have all, as a nation, had a conversation about how 
did this happen, why did it happen, and what can we do to make sure 
something like this never happens again. As part of that conversation, 
we have spent a significant amount of time talking to all sorts of 
different groups and individuals--from students and teachers impacted 
by this to experts across the country, to other communities that have 
put in place policies to address this. We have learned a lot about not 
just this particular incident but some of the dangers around the 
country.
  It is interesting, just in the last couple of weeks since it 
happened, you have seen a significant increase in the number of 
potential shooters who have been reported to law enforcement and people 
who have been arrested. I think one of the lessons from this terrible 
tragedy is, we live in a day and age when someone who is out there 
talking about hurting people has to be taken seriously. We can no 
longer afford to be a country in which people make these sorts of 
threats, and they are taken lightly.
  Based on all of this information we have gathered, last week I came 
to the floor and announced a number of initiatives that I hope the 
Senate will move forward on to make sure these things never happen 
again. It is important to begin by recognizing that those of us who 
serve here are in the business of passing laws and making public 
policy. Making public policy isn't just about coming up with the best 
idea you can come up with, but it is also about coming up with the best 
idea you can come up with that actually has a chance of being 
implemented into law. What that means is, in order to get something 
done, we need 60 votes in the Senate on virtually any issue, we need a 
majority of the votes in the House, and we need a White House that is 
willing to sign it. If those three things don't happen, you do not have 
a law.
  So what we spent time trying to do is identify what can we get 60 
votes for in the Senate, can pass in the House, and be signed by the 
President that will make a difference. That has been our criteria. That 
does not mean there are not other important issues that deserve to be 
debated--and they will continue to be debated--but it means what can we 
pass quickly and put in place because, unlike tax policy or some of the 
other issues we talk about here, there is a time urgency related to 
this. The time urgency is that it is fair to say there is a high 
probability that somewhere in America today there is someone like the 
killer in Parkland who has ideas about doing something similar, and we 
do not have the luxury of waiting until November or waiting until next 
year before we act, especially if there are things we agree on.
  Something remarkable happened over the weekend. Almost all of the 17 
families impacted by this horrifying event came together and spent a 
significant amount of time meeting and talking because they wanted to 
issue a joint statement as families. It was difficult because these 
families and some of the people in these families have very different 
views on a number of issues, including on the Second Amendment, but the 
one thing they all agreed on is, our schools should be safe places and 
that when we drop our children at school in the morning, they should be 
safe, and no one should be worried there is a possibility their 
children may not come home that afternoon because someone walked into 
the school and took their life.
  I would say that is not just true of these 17 families; I think that 
is true of the country. No matter where you are on the issues regarding 
the Second Amendment--how much or how little you believe our laws 
should govern and regulate the sale of guns and what type of guns 
should be sold--I cannot imagine there is anyone in this country in 
their right mind who does not believe our schools should be safe. I 
also do not believe there is anyone in this country in their right mind 
who would disagree, if we have the opportunity to identify someone 
before they act, we should act against them and stop them. Because 
there is such broad consensus on those issues, those are the first 
steps I believe we should try to take.
  Now, sometimes when you describe it that way, people think, ``Well, 
that is all you are going to do or that is all you want to talk 
about,'' and that is not true. That can't be true because these Second 
Amendment issues preexist Parkland. We have debated them in the past, 
and we will continue to debate them in the future. They often find 
their ways into court. So those issues aren't going anywhere, and they 
will continue to be here for us to debate and act on, if the body so 
chooses.
  The issue that I am afraid will go away, the issue I am afraid may be 
forgotten in a number of weeks is the fact that, in this case, there 
was the chance to stop the shooter before he acted. There were clear 
signs. It is one of the things you see in every single one of these 
events. It isn't like from one moment to the next they woke up one 
morning in a bad mood and did these sorts of things. They had been 
showing signs, for a significant period of time, in case after case 
after case. If we know this, should we not then create systems in this 
country to identify people before they act and stop them?
  On that point, I believe there is broad consensus, and on that point 
is where I think we should start. Let's act. If there is a law we can 
pass or a program we can put in place to prevent one of these things 
from happening, let's do it. Obviously, we may part ways on different 
views on the other parts of this, but at least, for now, we are 
together to get these things done. This is the commonsense way forward. 
This is the way people operate in real life.
  In real life, if you and another group of people agree on something, 
you do the thing you agree on first, you get that out of the way, and 
then you have the debate and the vote on the things you may not have 
a consensus on. We have a chance to do some things, and they are 
meaningful.

  The first is a bill Senator Hatch introduced yesterday. We joined 
him, along with a broad bipartisan coalition, on the STOP School 
Violence Act. Senator Hatch's bill is a bill that was innovated by 
Sandy Hook Promise. It is their No. 1 legislative priority right now, 
and it is a bill I cannot imagine having a single ``no'' vote in the 
U.S. Senate. What the bill does is it basically creates a Federal grant 
program through the Department of Justice for States and through the 
States' local communities to create risk assessment programs--in 
essence, to have programs in place to train teachers, administrators, 
and students to identify the warning signs of someone who may hurt 
themselves or may hurt other people. It also sets up a task force in 
each one of these school districts to monitor these students, to 
identify them collectively. For example, if it had existed in Broward 
County or something like it that was effective, you can only imagine a 
room where the sheriff's office and the school and the Department of 
Children and Families and potentially even the FBI were all there 
comparing notes. If those entities had been together in one room 
comparing notes, the sheriff's office would have said we have been to 
his house 40 times for all sorts of things. The school would have said 
we had to kick him out, and we had to do all kinds of things because he 
had fights, he was violent, and made threats. The FBI would say someone 
actually called our hotline and said this guy was going to shoot up a 
school. I cannot imagine, through that collaboration, there would not 
have been action or, at least, the opportunity for action. It didn't 
happen that way, and we have a chance now to change that.
  By the way, I saw last week where it was described by some media 
outlets as a modest bill. This is not modest. Just because it is not 
controversial doesn't make it modest. Preventing an attack, identifying 
an attacker, and stopping them before they act is the best thing we 
could possibly do.
  Hopefully, the STOP School Violence Act is something we will be able 
to move on fairly quickly. The House announced earlier today that they 
will be

[[Page S1367]]

taking that bill up next week on the floor, and I hope we will move 
quickly to pass Senator Hatch's bill that has already over 20 other 
Senators involved in it.
  Another bill that has been filed that we have joined with as well, 
with Senators Toomey and Coons, is ``Lie and Try.'' Another problem we 
have identified in the broader scheme of things is that local law 
enforcement may not always have sufficient information to investigate 
individuals who try to buy a firearm, knowing that they are prohibited 
from doing so. Under our current law, when a person fails an FBI 
background check, some State law enforcement authorities are not even 
made aware of the failed background check. Individuals who are willing 
to lie and try to buy a gun in these situations could very well be very 
dangerous, and laws are only as good as our willingness and our ability 
to enforce them. We have to crack down on this. If someone who is 
ineligible to buy a firearm is trying to buy a firearm, shouldn't law 
enforcement already, at least, know that--because they may be able to 
take that piece of information and put it together with other pieces of 
information to realize this is someone we need to be looking at because 
they might be up to something.
  I hope we can pass that. Again, I cannot imagine anyone not being in 
favor of it. This law would require Federal authorities to alert State 
law enforcement within 24 hours when someone who is prohibited from 
buying a firearm lies and tries to do so.
  The third thing I hope we will look at--and we are working on the 
language now to address this--is the PROMISE Initiative in schools. As 
I already said, improving our prevention and information sharing 
systems as the first two pieces of legislation would do is the best 
thing we can do to stop school shootings before they happen, but these 
systems will not work if the clearest warning signs of school 
shootings--suspicious and violent misbehavior at the school--are not 
reported in the appropriate places in the first place. Anything 
blocking this flow of information is very dangerous, and it is a risk 
to our children. For this reason, a directive to schools issued by the 
Federal Government during the previous administration deserves for us 
to look at it again.
  In 2014, the Department of Education, working with the Department of 
Justice, issued guidance which used the threat of reduced Federal 
funding to encourage schools to alter how and which misconduct at 
school is reported to law enforcement. Now, the goal of this directive 
was to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline, to reduce suspensions and 
expulsions, to prevent racially biased discipline. These are laudable 
goals, which I share and support, but we have to balance that with some 
common sense. The failure to report violent misbehavior from students--
like the shooter in Parkland--to law enforcement can end up having some 
very serious repercussions as we saw. So no matter how laudable this 
goal is, it is not worth risking the safety of our children or losing 
the public's trust and the trust of our parents about sending their 
kids to school. This directive needs to be refined. It has to allow for 
schools and law enforcement to communicate, when warranted, for the 
safety of the student and the community, and furthermore we need clear 
pathways of intervention and repercussions that need to be established 
and followed so local education agencies and law enforcement are 
effectively able to work together to either navigate students back onto 
the correct path, properly identify and address red flags that can lead 
to severe consequences or prevent a student from being lost in the 
system altogether.
  Yesterday, I wrote to the Department of Education and the Department 
of Justice, and I asked them to immediately revise this directive from 
2014, and any associated guidance, to make sure that schools are 
appropriately reporting violence and dangerous actions to local law 
enforcement.
  In addition to asking them to do that, proactively, I will also be 
introducing legislation to make sure that the Federal Government does 
not fail our children in this way.
  Finally, I believe the Parkland shooting has identified an area of 
law that can be improved to reduce gun violence of all kinds, 
particularly school shootings. Amidst the many systems that we have in 
place, law enforcement often lacks a flexible tool that they can use to 
prevent the sale or the possession of guns to someone who should not 
have them, based on their behavior and the behavior that they have 
exhibited around those who know them best.
  There has to be a way to identify and prevent circumstances like what 
occurred in Parkland, while also preserving the Second Amendment 
constitutional right of law-abiding Americans and the right to due 
process. That is why we are working to try to figure out a way to 
encourage States to enact policies like the gun violence restraining 
order, so State and local law enforcement and families who have 
identified someone who is at risk of either taking their own life or 
hurting other people could petition a court to obtain a court order 
that allows law enforcement temporarily to stop that person either from 
buying a gun or from possessing that gun and the ammunition. This would 
put power back in the hands of people who see something, not just to 
say something, but they have the opportunity to do something about it.
  We continue to work on what the right formulation of that is. The 
most effective implementation is at the State level. We are trying to 
figure it out with our colleagues. There are different ideas floating 
around about the right way to structure it.
  It has to have strong due process. You don't want this used to abuse 
people. You don't want courts to misuse it or have it being used for 
false claims, but we need to have a tool at our disposal. If the 
schools and local law enforcement, and others, identify someone who 
poses a threat but has yet to commit a crime, there has to be a tool 
available to stop them from buying guns or using the ones they already 
have.
  The State of Florida is probably going to be passing, either today or 
tomorrow, a law that puts that in State law. Other States like Indiana 
and California have one as well. What can we do at the Federal level to 
incentivize more States to do this and have these tools? That is what 
we are working on.
  Hopefully, we will have the resolution on a bill that doesn't just 
work, but that can pass. We can all file the perfect bill in our own 
minds, but if it doesn't have 60 votes, it is nothing but a piece of 
paper. That is why we need to work toward that.
  I want to conclude by mentioning one of the students, Kyle Kashuv, 
who is a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Like many 
students at that school, he is motivated to advocate for changes in our 
laws to prevent something like what happened in his school from ever 
happening again. In his advocacy, he wants to make sure that the Second 
Amendment is protected. His No. 1 concern is to make sure that the 
rights of innocent Americans aren't infringed upon.
  His opinion on this issue might be different from some of his other 
classmates, but that doesn't change their shared goal, which is to stop 
this from happening to anyone ever again. Although their opinions may 
vary, he and his classmates still go to school together and still root 
for the same sports teams at their school. They take the same classes 
with the same teachers, and they still faced the same danger on 
February 14. As they lift their voices in political discourse to 
advocate for change, they have differences. They have differences on 
some issues, but they share a common goal, to keep themselves and 
students like them safe.
  I think we can learn something from this example--from them and from 
their parents. The lessons learned from Parkland are that changes can 
be made. Some of them I just mentioned action on would immediately 
reduce the chances of school shootings but would not infringe upon the 
Second Amendment rights of all Americans.
  The Members elected to the Senate, like the students at Parkland, 
have a wide array of opinions on many of these issues, but I think we 
all share a common goal. We all agree that our schools should be safe. 
So I am here to urge my colleagues to remember that we have to share a 
country, no matter what our views may be on any political issue. We 
have to find a way not just to live together but to thrive as a nation. 
We have to find a way to keep our children safe. If we keep that in 
mind, I am

[[Page S1368]]

sure we can work together to create real, enduring consensus on 
solutions, on things we agree on that will stop these from happening 
again.
  We can have respectful and productive debates on the issues upon 
which our Nation and this body are still divided, but let us first come 
together and do the things we agree on. Then we will have the time to 
argue and debate and solve the things we may not agree on. This is the 
opportunity before us, and we should not let it pass us by.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Rhode Island.


                     Russian Election Interference

  Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I will be joined by a series of my 
colleagues who are coming to the floor this afternoon to talk about the 
November 2018 elections coming up and the steps we need to take to make 
sure that the Russian influence effort that bedeviled our 2016 election 
is not replicated in the 2018 election.
  I guess the first question to answer is, Is this a realistic 
prospect? Is this something we should concern ourselves with--that the 
Russians would come back again in 2018 and try to meddle in our 
elections?
  Everyone in the Trump administration who has been asked about this, 
perhaps outside of the Oval Office itself, has said: Yes, absolutely. 
They are coming. The Director of the CIA, the Director of National 
Intelligence, the head of the FBI, the Attorney General, the Department 
of Justice--there is no contest. There is no disagreement. There is no 
doubt, even among the President's senior national security and law 
enforcement team that they are coming back, that they are going to do 
this again. That leads us to the question of what we are doing about 
it.
  It seems that the silence from the Oval Office on this subject is 
deafening. The White House doesn't ever want to talk about doing 
anything about this. To the extent that we get signals from tweets and 
things like that, they are usually nonfactual and highly politicized 
challenges to the basic facts that all of the President's senior 
Cabinet staff seem to agree with.
  I don't know why they haven't sorted out why the President says one 
thing and all of his Cabinet officials say something else, but that is 
for them. What is for us is to review this in Congress, to do 
oversight, and to do what legislation might be necessary to raise our 
defenses to make sure that we can effectively counter what we have been 
warned is coming at us.
  We have no proposal from the administration. One would think with 
something like this, where we have an election that has been attacked 
by a hostile foreign country--one would think that would be the kind of 
thing that would bring our country together and would get the 
President's attention. He swore an oath to protect and defend the 
Constitution, and last I heard, the elections are a part of our 
Constitution. Yet there is nothing--crickets.
  Where is the proposal? Where are the congressional hearings on our 
proposals? Where are the markups? Where are the bills? We are seeing an 
extraordinary lack of interest and initiative in something about which 
we have been very forcefully warned.
  The failure at the White House is very profound. Over and over again, 
we have heard senior Trump officials say that they have not been 
instructed by the President to take this seriously. My senior 
colleague, Senator Jack Reed, asked Director Chris Wray of the FBI 
about whether the FBI had taken specific actions to confront and blunt 
Russian influence and disinformation activities. On February 13, in the 
Senate Intelligence Committee, he said, ``not as specifically directed 
by the President, no.''
  To read the transcript more completely, Senator Reed asked:

       So let me begin with Mr. Wray and say, has the President 
     directed you and your agency to take specific actions to 
     confront and blunt Russian influence activities that are 
     ongoing?
       Wray: We're taking a lot of specific efforts to blunt 
     Russian . . .
       Reed: . . . directed by the President?
       Wray: Not--not as specifically directed by the President, 
     no.

  Similarly, 2 weeks later, February 27, in testimony before the Senate 
Armed Services Committee, the NSA's Director, ADM Mike Rogers, said 
that he had not been granted the authority nor directed specifically by 
the President to take action to disrupt Russian election hacking 
operations.
  Again, Senator Reed asked:

       So, you would need, basically, to be directed by the 
     President, through the Secretary of Defense, to get--

  Rogers interrupts:

       Yes, sir, as I--I mentioned that in my statement.
       Reed: Have you been directed to do so, given the strategic 
     threat that faces the United States and the significant 
     consequences you recognize already?
       Rogers: No, I have not.

  There is a lot of room for improvement here. You can also add to this 
list the failures of activity at the State Department, which was 
allocated $120 million to counter foreign efforts to meddle in 
elections to sow distrust in democracy. According to the March 4 story 
in the New York Times:

       Not one of the 23 analysts working in the department's 
     Global Engagement Center--which has been tasked with 
     countering Moscow's disinformation campaign--speaks Russian, 
     and a department hiring freeze has hindered efforts to 
     recruit the computer experts needed to track the Russian 
     efforts.

  So when Congress provides $120 million to the State Department to 
take steps to protect against Russian election interference, what we 
get back is that none of that money gets spent, and a hiring freeze 
prevents the people with the necessary qualifications from even coming 
in to do the job. That is not taking the problem seriously--not at the 
FBI, not at the NSA, and not at the State Department.
  As far as I can tell, there actually is no formal executive branch 
interagency process that is designed to examine what the Russians did 
and put together legislative recommendations for Congress to follow up 
on. In national security matters, that is the President's role; that is 
the executive branch's role. We have the authority to make the laws, 
but because they are doing the day-to-day work, we count on the 
executive branch to put the proposals together for us. And again, there 
is nothing.
  There is one thing that we did do. We wanted to send a strong signal 
to Vladimir Putin that there was a price to be paid for this kind of 
misbehavior--manipulating our elections. We voted, virtually 
unanimously, in this Chamber, 98 to 2. I don't know the numbers on the 
House side, but it was equally virtually unanimous on the House side.
  It was 98 to 2 here in the Senate. We passed tough sanctions to hit 
Vladimir Putin where it hurts, which is right in the oligarchs. That is 
what he cares about, the oligarchs who support him, the oligarchs whose 
corrupt enterprises he has corruptly engaged with. That whole 
racketeering enterprise that runs the Russian Government is what the 
sanctions would go after.
  Well, the administration has refused to implement them. The State 
Department has said that they are not needed. Not needed? We are 
hearing from all of the Trump administration's own senior executive 
agencies that they are going to come and do this again in 2018. How are 
they not needed if this is no deterrence for what they did in 2016? It 
would be one thing to say they are not needed if the evidence was: OK, 
they got the message. They are not going to do this again. We are fine 
in 2018.

  But that is not what Trump's own Cabinet officials and national 
intelligence leaders are telling us. They are telling us that they are 
needed because they are coming at us again. So this added bit of 
deterrence would be very important.
  When it came to something as simple as putting together the list of 
targeted oligarchs to put maximum pressure on President Putin, they 
didn't even put a list together on their own; they went to Forbes 
magazine and took the list out of a public magazine. That doesn't look 
like a serious or conscientious effort.
  So right up and down the administration, you see failure to take this 
seriously traceable directly to the White House, and that is very, very 
regrettable.
  The other thing that we don't know is what the White House has been 
up to with respect to Congress. There was a lot of talk early on about 
how we needed to have an independent committee to take a look at this, 
to be independent, to put together a package of reforms, observations, 
and recommendations, and we have had no

[[Page S1369]]

support for doing that. What we were told was: Don't worry. Work 
through the committees.
  Well, the committees aren't doing much, to tell you the truth. It is 
like the gavels are made out of foam rubber around here. We could do a 
lot better, and there is no independent commission.
  It raises the question, what was the role of the White House? What 
was the role of the President in stopping an independent commission? 
How active were they in doing that? Those are questions that need 
answers, but obviously, if there aren't serious investigative processes 
going on in our committees, it is hard to get those answers.
  Here is another question: What was the role of the White House in 
coordinating or colluding with the House Intelligence Committee--with 
Representative Nunez and/or his staff--in preparation for the so-called 
Nunez memo?
  We have learned a lot about that memo since it came out. We have 
learned that it was essentially phony. It had a couple of basic 
accusations. One was that the FBI had misled the FISA Court. They were 
misled that one of the sources that supported the affidavit that got 
the FISA warrant for the surveillance of Carter Page--that one of those 
sources had been in touch with or had been funded by a political 
campaign; that this was a phony effort cooked up on behalf of the 
Clinton campaign and run before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance 
Court.
  Well, as it turns out, the FISA application stated specifically the 
FBI's speculation that the source, Steele, had been hired to ``find 
information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1's campaign''--
Trump's campaign. As somebody who has pursued affidavits for search 
warrants and for surveillance warrants before, I can tell you that it 
is common and standard FBI and Department of Justice practice to leave 
out unnecessary names. So the fact that Mrs. Clinton wasn't mentioned 
is perfectly consistent with longstanding Department practice.
  The other thing that it omitted was that the Steele information was 
actually corroborating information for a lot of other information that 
had begun this investigation beforehand. So the theory that this all 
depended on this particular source and that this source had an 
undisclosed relationship with a political opponent was simply baloney. 
The fact is that that was disclosed in the warrant, and there were 
additional sources.
  That leaves me with the question of why. Why would a legislative 
committee apparently deliberately put together a report that contained 
misleading or false statements but tried to create an erroneous or 
false impression about something that had taken place? Well, did the 
White House have any connections in that process? That is the question 
we are entitled answers to. If this was just a botched job by a 
partisan crew in a legislative committee, that is one set of problems. 
If this is the Congress of the United States taking its oversight 
authority and handing it over to the executive branch of government, 
handing it over to White House operatives when the White House itself 
is the subject of the inquiry, that is a very different problem. And we 
are owed an answer as to what the communications were between the White 
House, the Trump legal team, and the staff of the House Intelligence 
Committee that prepared the Nunez report.
  I have been joined by the distinguished Senator from Connecticut, so 
I will leave my remarks there.
  I yield the floor
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Rubio). The Senator from Connecticut.
  Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Thank you, Mr. President.
  We are here at a critical time for our democracy because our country 
is under attack. In fact, we are here because Russia is attacking our 
democracy as part of a campaign of informational warfare. That term is 
not mine; it is Russia's. It is quoted in an indictment that was handed 
down by the special counsel less than a month ago against 13 
individuals and 3 entities. That document is absolutely stunning. It is 
chilling in its detail and breadth and in its revelations about the 
apparatus and personnel, the skills and expertise that Russia 
methodically and relentlessly brought to bear in the 2016 election, in 
its attack on our democracy.
  That attack began in 2014. It was not a few hackers in the basement 
of some Moscow apartment; it was literally thousands of people, divided 
into different departments with different skills, pursuing 
disinformation, cyber attack, misinformation, and propaganda directed 
at undermining our democracy and, in fact, our election.
  Let's remember, constitutionally, elections are foundational to our 
democracy, and Russia sought not just to sow discord and dissension but 
to affect the outcome. According to the indictment, its effort to 
affect the outcome was to assist then-Candidate Donald Trump and to 
disparage and damage Hillary Clinton. We will never know how much it 
affected the outcome, but it certainly impacted the views and the votes 
of some people in the United States of America.
  That attack is now continuing. Our intelligence community is 
unanimous in the view that Russia interfered in our last election and 
that this effort is continuing. Indeed, all of the intelligence 
community that has come before the Armed Services Committee in the last 
2 weeks has been unanimous that Russia is continuing its attack.
  In his testimony, Admiral Rogers is very clear that they will 
continue that attack because they are paying no price for it. The cost 
to them is minimal, if any, and the benefit is highly asymmetrical. In 
other words, they pay very, very little to undermine our democracy, and 
they see a lot of return. That is because this country is doing little 
or nothing--or I should say more accurately that this administration is 
doing absolutely nothing to make Russia pay a price. In effect, that is 
the testimony from representatives of the intelligence community, 
including, most recently today, the Director of National Intelligence, 
Dan Coats, and GEN Robert Ashley.
  When I asked what was being done to deter, counter, or retaliate 
against the Russians, Director Coats said, in effect, that it is 
everyone's responsibility, which means, in effect, it is no one's 
responsibility; that it was the whole of government responding, which 
means no single agency, and there is no plan and no action underway. 
There is at most perhaps some kind of study of what should be done.
  But the denial of meddling is really the reason why nothing has been 
done and why no action is underway, and that denial comes from one 
person--the President of the United States. He has refused to 
acknowledge that the Russians interfered on the scale and scope that 
they did, and that denial or refusal to acknowledge is itself a 
tremendous boon to the Russians continuing to attack our democracy.
  As recently as this afternoon, at his press conference with the 
Swedish Prime Minister, the President said, in effect, that perhaps 
Russia might have meddled, other countries might have meddled, and 
other individuals might have meddled, but he has refused to acknowledge 
the extent and the depth and breadth of past and continuing Russian 
interference in our democracy.
  Make no mistake--others of us on both sides of the aisle have said 
that the Russians will escalate in the sophistication of their attacks, 
in the depth of their interference, in the types of tools used through 
cyber and social media and platforms that are now being developed. They 
will use American voices. There will no longer be the broken English, 
no longer be the payment in rubles. They will become ever-more astute 
and adroit in their attack on our democracy.
  So the question is, Why? Why has the President declined to 
acknowledge this attack--a continuing assault on our democratic 
institutions, particularly on our elections, which are foundational to 
our democracy? Some have put it this way: What do the Russians have on 
him? But my view is that we need to look back at the knowledge that the 
Trump campaign had of that attack in 2016 as it was proceeding.
  To take one example, the stolen or hacked emails. Clearly, Trump 
campaign contacts with WikiLeaks and Russia show that the campaign knew 
about those stolen or hacked emails, which were then used to attack the 
Clinton campaign. If those members of the Trump campaign knew about 
it--those in responsible positions--the question is, How could the 
President not have known?

[[Page S1370]]

  In April of 2016, George Papadopoulous, a member of the Trump foreign 
policy team for at least a substantial period of time, was eager to 
communicate with senior staff of the Trump campaign that he knew the 
Russians had hacked emails and that those emails could help the Trump 
campaign. He was anxious to ingratiate himself with his connections to 
make himself more valuable in their eyes. So he boasted, in effect, 
about his contacts with Russians and with Russian officials. 
Papadopoulous was already working overtime to ingratiate himself with 
the Trump campaign leadership, and he certainly was not likely to keep 
valuable information about stolen emails possessed by the Russians to 
himself.
  Remember, when the Trump campaign--specifically Donald Trump, Jr.--
was offered dirt on Hillary Clinton, he replied: ``I love it.'' From 
everything we know about Donald Trump, Jr.'s relationship to his 
father, he is unlikely to have kept that information to himself.
  George Papadopoulous is one of several Trump associates who seemed to 
know that Russia was trying to help the Trump campaign win the 2016 
election. Donald Trump, Jr., again, was in contact with WikiLeaks 
beginning in September of 2016, and we know this communication 
continued at least through July of 2017. We know that Donald Trump, 
Jr., turned over these messages to investigators. When Trump, Jr., 
received the first message from WikiLeaks, he emailed other senior 
officers within the Trump campaign. Those officers included Steve 
Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Trump's son-in-law, Jared 
Kushner. How could that information and other similar communications 
not have been transmitted to Donald Trump himself?
  Donald Trump, Jr., received an email in which Rob Goldstone offered 
to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents from Russia 
that would supposedly incriminate Hillary Clinton. We know now that 
Donald Trump, Jr., jumped at the chance to receive this information, 
responding with the famous: ``If it's what you say, I love it.'' That, 
then, led to the meeting involving Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul 
Manafort at Trump Tower.
  There is more here that raises the likelihood of collusion. There is 
a credible case of obstruction of justice against the President of the 
United States. There is a solid factual basis to believe that the Trump 
campaign not only knew but encouraged and cooperated and even colluded 
with the Russians in this effort. If motive is necessary for the Trump 
campaign to have done this kind of collusion--certainly it is in the 
prospect of impacting the outcome. If motive is necessary for President 
Trump now refusing to acknowledge Russian meddling during the election 
campaign and now continuing meddling, it is collusion as well.
  So we are in a dangerous time because, in fact, Russia will continue 
to interfere and undermine our democracy if it pays no price for it. 
The only way to make sure Russia will pay a price to counter, deter, or 
retaliate is for the President of the United States to demonstrate 
leadership and to put aside whatever concern about legitimacy there may 
be. No one is relitigating the 2016 election as to what the outcome 
was, in fact. We have a President in office, but that President now 
must act to protect our democracy and our elections going forward from 
this day into the future.
  Thank you.
  I yield the floor to my distinguished colleague from Illinois.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from Connecticut as 
well as our colleague from Rhode Island for calling us together on the 
Senate floor today to discuss a timely and important topic.
  We know that Vladimir Putin and Russia attacked America's democracy 
in 2016, and it is clear Vladimir Putin will try again. CIA Director 
Pompeo recently said he had ``every expectation'' that Russia would try 
to influence our 2018 election. We have been warned.
  We can expect Russia to continue to use the tactics they have used 
before and to come up with new ones. We can expect them to hack and 
leak sensitive information. We can expect these Russians to use social 
media and propaganda to spread false information. We see it almost 
every week. We can expect them to try to hack into State election 
systems and more.
  I was home over the weekend in Springfield, IL--of course, the State 
capital--and ran into a fellow who works for the State Board of 
Elections. We talked for a few minutes about the experience we had in 
our State in the last election cycle when the Russians hacked into the 
computer network of the Illinois State Board of Elections. We were the 
only State, of those that were hacked, to come forward and identify the 
culprit. It was Russia. We also came forward and notified hundreds of 
thousands of our voters that their identity--at least in terms of the 
State election agency is concerned--had been compromised by the 
Russians. We were open about it.
  I asked the individual what was being done for the next election 
cycle. He said we have patched the problem that gave the Russians entry 
into the system in 2016, and we spent over $100,000 as a State to put 
in new security, new cyber protections. We are taking it seriously in 
Illinois because we know what the Russians tried to do to us. We don't 
believe they changed a vote or changed a ballot, but we are not sure 
they will not try in the future.
  That is the reality of what we face in Illinois, and that is the 
reality of what America faces.
  Just last week, NSA and U.S. Cyber Command head ADM Mike Rogers 
bluntly acknowledged what most of us already know; that President Trump 
is doing nothing--nothing--to protect Illinois or any other State 
against Russia's ongoing and future attacks on our election process. In 
fact, President Trump reportedly refuses to even talk about the issue.
  Admiral Rogers told the Armed Services Committee that Vladimir Putin 
has paid ``little price'' for his previous and ongoing attacks and, 
therefore, hasn't been stopped. Incredibly, the admiral said President 
Trump has not granted him any new authorities to strike at Russian 
cyber operations.
  Can anyone here imagine what President Ronald Reagan would have said 
at the stunning abdication of responsibility in addressing this Russian 
threat to America?
  In the face of this fundamental threat of Russian attack on our 
democracy, we should have spent the last year coming together, on a 
bipartisan basis, establishing a sound national defense when it comes 
to the exercise of our democracy. We should be working--Republicans and 
Democrats together--to hold anyone accountable who participated in this 
Russian effort. We should be strengthening our laws against foreign 
election interference--a responsibility of the Senate Judiciary 
Committee, which has never even taken up that issue--and we should 
punish and deter Russia and other nations from ever attacking our 
Democratic process again.
  Instead, we have seen the Trump administration consistently refuse to 
hold the Russians accountable for their election interference or impose 
meaningful sanctions. President Trump has even gone out of his way to 
invite top Russian officials to the Oval Office and to call Russia's 
election interference a ``hoax.'' Despite the fact that all of our 
intelligence agencies say he is wrong, President Trump calls Russia 
election interference a hoax.
  So what are Republicans in Congress doing about this? With a few 
exceptions like Senator John McCain, they have mostly tried to change 
the subject. In fact, instead of trying to get a full accounting of 
what Russia did to us, Republicans have focused far more on 
scrutinizing and criticizing anyone who suggests that the Russians 
interfered.
  We need to take a step back and remember what this is all about; 
specifically, that a foreign adversary of the United States interfered 
in America's election. They continue to use weaponized cyber campaigns 
against us and our allies, and most in the majority party of Congress 
and the President seem not to care at all.
  How have we let it get to this point? Have we forgotten our 
obligation to our Constitution and to this country? For those who 
watched the devastating two-part episode of the PBS documentary 
``Frontline'' last year entitled ``Putin's Revenge,'' there was a 
deeply telling moment.

[[Page S1371]]

  Months before the 2016 election, our Nation's top intelligence 
officials came and told key congressional leaders about Russia's 
efforts. These intelligence officials were deeply concerned about what 
Russia was trying to do to the 2016 election. President Obama had 
wanted a bipartisan message condemning Putin for his efforts so as to 
avoid any hint of partisanship as we approached the election and so we 
could put a common face on this common view of unity on this effort.
  What was the response of the Republican Party leadership after 
hearing this bombshell revelation by our intelligence agencies, this 
threat from Vladimir Putin, which actually goes to the heart of our 
democracy--the election process? The response of the Republican leader 
was: No thanks. We don't want to get involved. And they didn't.
  Is there anybody in the Senate--anybody who took the oath to protect 
the Nation against enemies, foreign and domestic--who thinks that any 
of us, regardless of political party, should get help from a foreign 
adversary to be elected?
  Yet here we are, with aggressive efforts to discredit investigations 
into this threat, with a White House that ignores Russian sanctions, 
with the majority party blocking legislation that offers aid to States 
that request it to secure our election systems, with the failure of 
this Congress or this White House to do anything to protect against the 
next such threat, and all the while, Russia continues to conduct 
disinformation campaigns right under our noses.
  On February 14, the tragedy in Parkland, FL, invited comments of 
those who wanted more gun safety and those who opposed it. When we 
traced the source of many of the comments, we found out they were 
Russians--Russians preaching to the United States on both sides of the 
issue, trying to rile us up at this moment of great human tragedy. That 
is now commonplace.
  We need to wake up. Russian cyber campaigns were pushing for the 
release of the discredited Nunes memo from the House of 
Representatives. They have tried to undermine the FBI's credibility. 
They are at work every single day trying to undermine our democracy. 
Russian cyber campaigns have attacked even Republican Senators who have 
been critical of President Trump.
  So I say to my Republican friends that not one of us is immune from 
these threats, and it is long overdue that we put Nation before party 
in this extremely important matter. The next time it might be China or 
North Korea taking different sides or pushing a different agenda when 
it comes to the American political process, but, of course, it doesn't 
matter whom a foreign adversary is trying to help. An attack on any 
American political party or Democratic institution by any Nation is an 
attack on all of us--at least it should be.
  This can't be tolerated. We don't want to make America great by 
letting foreign powers undermine it.
  So I ask my Republican friends; in fact, I invite them: Join us to 
get to the bottom of this. Let's pass legislation together that helps 
request these States secure their election systems. Let's pass 
legislation together that forces the administrations--this one and 
future administrations--to protect our national infrastructure against 
these cyber threats. Let's work together on a bipartisan basis to 
ensure that Russia and others are genuinely deterred from such actions. 
Let's use sanctions when necessary, and other measures, and let's work 
together to denounce the Russian disinformation campaign regardless of 
who it might help on any given day.

  We have a lot of work to do, and we are only months away from this 
November election. In just 6 months or so, there will be early voting 
in this election. Are the Russians going to get to vote? Maybe not 
directly, but indirectly? Will they be able to invade America's 
political machinery, election machinery? Will they make a difference in 
this next election campaign? Shame on us if we can't answer those 
questions, and shame on us if we do nothing to stop them.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Jersey.
  Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I am stunned by President Trump's 
willful paralysis when it comes to holding Russia accountable on 
threats made crystal clear by our intelligence community.
  Indeed, it has been more than a year since 17 U.S. intelligence 
agencies issued their report on how the Kremlin sought to ``blend 
covert intelligence operations--such as cyber activity--with overt 
efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party 
intermediaries, and paid social media users, or `trolls' '' in order to 
undermine our 2016 elections.
  Today, even the administration's own national security strategy warns 
that Russia will continue to challenge American power, influence, and 
security interests, at home and abroad. These threats are precisely why 
Congress imposed a mandate on President Trump to act. Yet, time and 
again, this President has refused to hold Russia accountable and 
refuses to take steps to defend our democracy and our national 
security. It is alarming, it is reckless, and it is absolutely 
unacceptable, and, to be honest, I also find it baffling. Here is why.
  Pick any policy issue. Chances are, since taking office, President 
Trump has changed his mind about it at least once. Last week he changed 
his positions on gun safety so many times in 24 hours, it could make 
your head spin. A few weeks before that, he rejected a bipartisan deal 
to protect Dreamers that met the very specifications he outlined to my 
colleagues and me just days before. Throughout the past year, the 
President's remarks with respect to NATO's Article 5, the alliance's 
bedrock principle that guarantees mutual defense, have been wholly 
inconsistent.
  But there is one thing that President Trump has shown rock-solid 
consistency on since taking office, and that is his shameful embrace of 
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his refusal to protect American 
democratic institutions.
  President Trump's embrace of Putin has put a straitjacket on U.S. 
policy toward Russia. In many ways, we are more vulnerable today than 
we were in 2016. Think about it. Mr. Putin made a serious gamble when 
he decided to interfere in our election--a gamble that would normally 
draw the ire of any American President, regardless of their political 
party. But, as we know, nothing about this administration is normal, 
and the truth is that we are in far greater peril today because Mr. 
Putin knows that he has a friend in the White House--a friend who won't 
do anything to stop him from interfering in our democracy, nor those of 
our allies; a friend who won't even issue a statement condemning 
Putin's nuclear sabre rattling last week when he proudly showed a video 
simulating a nuclear attack on Florida.
  It is time for the President to recognize that Mr. Putin's intentions 
are not up for debate. From the spread of extremist propaganda across 
Europe, to Russia's continued attack on Ukrainian sovereignty, to the 
latest revelations made public by Special Counsel Mueller's 
investigation, the Kremlin is orchestrating a systematic and ongoing 
campaign to undermine the democracies at the heart of the post-World 
War II international order.
  Consider President Trump's response to the revelations made public by 
Special Counsel Mueller when he indicted 13 Russians for interfering in 
our democracy 3 weeks ago. The special counsel's findings left many 
Americans shocked by Russia's outstanding, sophisticated effort to 
defraud American voters, stoke division on Facebook, and sow doubt in 
our electoral process in 2016. Yet President Trump's only response to 
these stunning revelations of foreign interference--nothing. Nothing. 
Not a word from the President beyond a victorious tweet once again 
proclaiming no collusion.
  At every turn, President Trump has dismissed the significance of 
Russia's interference in our elections, and his willful paralysis on 
Russia is in full display through the White House's refusal to impose 
sanctions under CAATSA, as well as the unacceptable delays in 
establishing a strategy for countering the Kremlin's propaganda and 
disinformation.
  Let's remember why Congress passed CAATSA in the first place, why the 
Senate voted 98 to 2 and the House of Representatives voted 419 to 3 
despite overwhelming opposition from the Trump administration. We voted 
to

[[Page S1372]]

hold Russia accountable for its assault on our democracy, and we voted 
to increase pressure on the Kremlin to stop its illegal war against our 
friends in Ukraine and its aiding and abetting of war crimes in Syria. 
But apparently President Trump fails to see that these are real threats 
from a real foreign adversary--real threats that undermine the 
integrity of our elections and therefore the security of our country; 
real threats from a brutal leader who seeks the erosion of Western 
democracy as a strategic imperative for Russia's future.
  We saw it in March of 2014, when Russia authorized the use of 
military force to illegally occupy Crimea, blatantly violating the 
sovereignty of the Ukrainian people--violence that continues in eastern 
Ukraine to this day. We saw it in 2016, when the Kremlin's 
disinformation campaign targeted American voters on Facebook. We see it 
today, as Russia continues to spread propaganda throughout Western 
Europe. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Russia continues to prop up 
Assad's brutal dictatorship, dropping bombs on hospitals, homes, and 
humanitarian aid convoys working to help the Syrian people under siege.
  This President's schoolyard swagger stops cold when it comes to 
confronting the world's biggest bully: Vladimir Putin. It has been 7 
months--7 months--since Congress passed the CAATSA sanctions law. While 
the administration has upheld some sanctions imposed by Obama-era 
Executive orders, it is appalling to see this White House refuse to 
implement sanctions that Congress made mandatory--mandatory. Let me say 
that again: provisions that were made mandatory.
  So let me tell you what I have learned about CAATSA's implementation 
in the recent briefings I have received as the ranking member on the 
Foreign Relations Committee and membership on the Banking Committee.
  President Trump has imposed no sanctions in response to Russia's 
cyber aggression, as required by section 224. President Trump has 
imposed no sanctions related to Russian crude oil products, as required 
by section 225. President Trump has imposed no sanctions on serious 
human rights abusers in the Russian Federation, as required by section 
228. President Trump has imposed no sanctions on those facilitating the 
transfer of assets owned by the Russian people to oligarchs, handpicked 
by Putin, as required under section 233. President Trump has imposed no 
sanctions punishing Russia for its transfer of arms to Syria, as 
required under section 234. I could go on, but you get the picture.
  The Trump administration has refused to implement the law despite the 
overwhelming, bipartisan will of Congress--a Congress that decided to 
put ``shall'' in that legislation versus ``may,'' which made it 
mandatory. The Constitution made Congress a coequal branch of 
government for a reason, and I take very seriously our responsibility 
to hold the executive branch accountable.
  Given what we know about Russia's interference in European elections 
over the last year alone, I am especially disappointed in the White 
House's failure to implement sanctions under section 224. That section 
targets anyone knowingly undermining the cyber security of an 
individual or a democratic institution on behalf of the Russian 
Government. I find it hard to believe this administration has yet to 
identify one single sanctionable offense, but in case they need some 
tips, here are two they can look into.
  In November, Spain's Government discovered Russian state-sponsored 
groups using social media to spread disinformation and influence 
political events in Catalonia. Just last week, the German Government 
pointed to a massive cyber hack against its foreign ministry, allegedly 
carried out by a Russian state-sponsored group called Snake.
  Meanwhile, our intelligence leaders, including many who were 
appointed by President Trump himself, have testified that Russia 
continues to interfere here in the United States and looks forward to 
doing so during the midterm elections.
  I have cosponsored a resolution calling upon President Trump to 
implement these sanctions, and while we shouldn't have to pass a 
resolution calling on the administration to enforce the law we passed, 
which was mandatory, we clearly do. Fortunately, we will have the 
opportunity to do so next week when the Foreign Relations Committee 
meets to mark up legislation, and I urge the chairman of the Foreign 
Relations Committee to take up this important resolution.
  Let's remember that Congress also gave the administration additional 
tools to thwart Russia's disinformation campaigns--an essential 
priority if we want to protect the integrity of our democracy. Yet it 
seems that Russia's disinformation campaigns continue to sow chaos 
online unabated.
  Every day that ticks by is one that the Russian Government continues 
to sharpen its tools and go on the attack. Every day that ticks by, the 
Russian Government has further encroached on sovereign democracies. We 
saw it most recently when Russian trolls amplified rightwing hysteria 
over Congressman Devin Nunes' memo with the Twitter hashtag 
#releasethememo. According to Politico, ``Russian bots and their 
American allies gamed social media to put a flawed intelligence 
document atop the political agenda.''
  Just this week, the New York Times reported on an ``American 
strategic void'' in response to Russian threats, highlighting the 
administration's inability to spend even one dollar--even one dollar--
of the $120 million that Congress authorized over a year ago to counter 
the Kremlin's information warfare.
  The Defense Department last week transferred $40 million--a third of 
what was authorized--to the State Department's Global Engagement 
Center, although not a penny's worth of action has been taken. Why the 
ridiculous delay? Why not the full amount?
  Any responsible President would be vigorously working to protect 
Americans from foreign interference aimed at undermining our democracy. 
Any responsible President would have communicated to the American 
people the seriousness of the threat and rallied our citizens to 
respond with classic American resilience and courage. Any responsible 
President would have worked with Congress on a robust strategy and 
secured funding for it, and once he got the resources, any responsible 
President would have moved swiftly to spend them, to empower all the 
relevant security agencies to mobilize a collective effort to protect 
the integrity of our democracy. We don't have a responsible President. 
We have a President asleep at the wheel or maybe even too scared to get 
into the car at all.
  We cannot afford further delays that only cede more ground to Putin 
on the battlefield of information. Our Global Engagement Center must 
immediately put these funds to use blunting the effects of Russian 
Government disinformation. Most urgently, we need the Trump 
administration to finally develop a comprehensive strategy to shore up 
American democracy against Russian malign influence and implementing it 
without delay.

  I will close with this. Every day that ticks by, the Russian 
Government burrows deeper into our society, cultivating extremists and 
sowing discord. Consider Alexander Torshin. NPR reported that for 6 
years, he traveled to the United States to deepen his friendships with 
the NRA, one of the most active groups in our country. Mr. Torshin 
cultivated its leadership, meeting with them in Moscow, and now the FBI 
is reportedly investigating whether he funneled money through the NRA 
to support Trump's campaign. It is disturbing to think the NRA is so 
eager to cultivate ties with Putin's inner circle. As we all know, this 
organization's efforts has left our country a more dangerous place, 
from our schools to our movie theaters, to our concerts, to our 
churches.
  The American people overwhelmingly want Congress to uphold its solemn 
responsibility to keep our families safe. Yet the NRA's opposition to 
commonsense gun safety laws have made this Congress more dysfunctional 
and less responsive to the needs of our citizens. That, to me, sounds 
right in line with Kremlin policy.
  More than anything, I hope President Trump and our Secretary of State 
will start treating this threat with the seriousness it deserves. They 
should appreciate the level of careful planning, resources, and energy 
the Russian Government invests into destabilizing

[[Page S1373]]

American democracy. It is time to protect the integrity of our 
elections and secure our democracy against the cyber threats of the 
21st century, whether they come in the form of election machine 
tampering or paid propaganda on social media or targeted hacks on 
public officials.
  In the meantime, President Trump's inaction speaks louder than his 
words. His willful paralysis only serves to embolden our adversaries 
and weaken democratic institutions at home and abroad. That simply 
cannot stand, and it cannot stand with the silence we hear from too 
many of our colleagues on this issue. We need to speak up. We need to 
act. We need to make sure the law we pass gets enforced. Otherwise, we 
neuter the very essence of this institution.
  With that, I yield.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon.
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, as I was walking into the Chamber tonight, 
the press outside was telling me that they had just been told--and I 
hope to hear otherwise tomorrow--that the Senate Select Committee on 
Intelligence, on which the distinguished Presiding Officer and I both 
serve, would not be holding any public hearings on the financial issues 
so central to holding the President of the United States accountable.
  What I am going to describe for a few minutes is how the executive 
branch, particularly officials such as Secretary Mnuchin, are ducking 
these issues, and now it appears the President's Republican allies on 
the Hill are ducking the issues as well.
  I especially believe it is a great mistake for the Senate Select 
Committee on Intelligence, on which the distinguished Presiding Officer 
and I both serve, to fail to follow up on the follow-the-money 
questions. Following the money, as the Presiding Officer knows, is 
counterintelligence 101. Right at the heart of our duties on the 
Intelligence Committee is our mandate to vigorously pursue issues 
relating to counterintelligence. The reason that is so extraordinarily 
important, it is money that is one of the best and easiest tools to 
compromise people, to take advantage of counterintelligence measures 
that, for example, would compromise American public officials.
  I believe it is a great mistake for the executive branch, 
particularly Treasury Secretary Mnuchin--and as the ranking Democrat on 
the Finance Committee, we have jurisdiction over his agency--and the 
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to just punt on these issues 
that are central to the question tonight, that Senator Whitehouse 
deserves great credit in terms of pursuing, which is holding the 
President accountable.
  The public, in particular, deserves the full story about financial 
entanglements between Russia and the President and his associates. 
Obviously, the American people are constantly reading stories in the 
press about these connections. The special counsel's indictments of the 
Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and the campaign aide, Richard 
Gates, contained voluminous information about money laundering and tax 
evasion intended to hide money from pro-Russian Ukrainian entities.
  The distinguished Presiding Officer and I know a bit about money 
laundering because we have introduced bipartisan legislation to deal 
with shell companies and money laundering. It is clear that this is a 
serious matter because when you are talking about money laundering and 
tax evasion, particularly as it relates to national security and 
American sovereignty, it has great implications.
  Donald Trump and his administration have consistently tried to 
prevent the American people from seeing not only his finances but the 
activities of Russian oligarchs. The President's allies, both here in 
the Senate and elsewhere in Washington, are just going along with it. 
Americans need to see both sides of this. They need to understand the 
corruption in both Russia and in the United States in order to 
determine how they may be connected.
  That is why the Congress required the administration to provide--and 
I want to emphasize this--a public report on the Russian oligarchs, 
their relationship with President Putin, and indications of corruption. 
Secretary Mnuchin released nothing other than a list of rich Russians 
taken from public sources.
  I have wanted to know if the intelligence community had warned the 
Secretary of Treasury against releasing what they saw as sensitive 
sources or methods. When I asked the leaders of the intelligence 
community whether they had weighed in, they all said no. What you have, 
in effect, is a whitewashing of the responsibilities of the Secretary 
of Treasury, possibly the White House, and possibly senior Republicans 
in the Congress on this issue.
  I then asked Secretary Mnuchin why the Russian oligarch report was 
covered up. I have gotten no answer to that either. This is just part 
of the stonewalling that is preventing the public and the Congress from 
following the money. In addition, I have inquired of Secretary Mnuchin 
about Treasury documents associated with a suspicious real estate 
transaction in which a Russian oligarch bought an estate in Florida 
from Donald Trump for more than twice what the President paid for it. I 
have gotten no response from the Secretary on this matter either.
  What you have is a period of time--and I just speak from popular news 
accounts--when President Trump bought this property, essentially did 
nothing with it. It was at a time when it was very hard in our country 
to get access to money, and the President sold it to a Russian oligarch 
for tens of millions of dollars beyond what he paid for it.
  I was particularly concerned when I read the press accounts of 
Florida newspapers with accountants and lawyers and others in the Palm 
Beach area saying they thought this transaction smelled. They thought 
it was suspicious. They thought it was questionable. They couldn't see 
why anybody would pay that amount on top of the purchase price without 
there being some more sinister kind of motive.
  In addition to getting no response from Secretary Mnuchin on that, I 
have also written to Secretary Mnuchin about press reports regarding 
connections between the National Rifle Association and yet another 
Russian oligarch. I wanted to know if there were records held by the 
Department of the Treasury that would shine a light on these reported 
connections.
  As the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, we have 
jurisdiction over the Department of the Treasury and the work done by 
the Secretary and his associates. You would think that just as a matter 
of courtesy Secretary Mnuchin would respond. We have received no 
response on that matter as well.
  I intend to pursue this matter until we get some answers. If the 
President, his associates, or powerful political entities, like the 
NRA, have been corrupted by Russian money, the Congress and the public 
need the full story. There needs to be open hearings, and they need to 
be in the Senate Intelligence Committee.
  The President's associates have not been shy about releasing their 
side of the story, and they ought to face questions from Members of 
Congress. Secretary Mnuchin needs to testify about whether the 
Department of the Treasury knows about these financial entanglements.
  I would like to close simply by saying that these questions of 
following the money, which I have made my top priority since the period 
in which the Intelligence Committee began to dig into these issues, are 
central to holding the President accountable. The executive branch and 
their allies in the Congress simply cannot justify ducking these 
questions, as apparently the press is about to report on the basis of 
conversations I had walking into the Chamber.
  The American people deserve to know the extent to which Russian money 
has corrupted their leaders and their democracy. It is long past time 
to open this up and, for the sake of American national security and 
sovereignty, get this information out. I intend, as the ranking 
Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee and a member of the 
Intelligence Committee, to stay with it, the issue of how this 
administration and its financial entanglements may have affected 
policies important to all Americans.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Minnesota.
  Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I rise tonight to join my colleagues in 
speaking to the need to immediately

[[Page S1374]]

respond to Russian interference. I would like to thank Senator 
Whitehouse for bringing us together.
  This evening, many of my colleagues have spoken about how Russian 
aggression affects Americans and our allies across the world. Some have 
discussed the need for sanctions to defer Russia and the fact that the 
administration has not yet imposed sanctions, the same sanctions that 
were passed by the Senate 98 to 2 and 419 to 3 in the House of 
Representatives. Those were the additional sanctions that were directly 
related to the interference in the elections and what we saw take place 
over the last year. They sit dormant.

  Others have talked about the importance of Special Counsel Mueller's 
investigation and the fact that it must move forward without 
interference from the White House. Nearly a dozen Senators have come to 
the floor to highlight the need to stand up to Russia. I am here to 
talk about the critical need to safeguard the most fundamental part of 
our democracy--the U.S. elections.
  Today, I heard the Prime Minister of Sweden address our Nation. When 
standing next to the President, he was asked a question about this, and 
he put it simply. He said that in their country, they believe that the 
people, the citizens of their country, should be the ones who make the 
decisions about their elections, that they are the ones who should be 
able to vote, that they are the ones who should be able to have their 
own opinions not be influenced by foreign countries acting as if they 
are people in their country.
  It is the Presiding Officer who made the statement that I have quoted 
so many times--that in the last election, it was one candidate and one 
party, and in the next election, it could be the other candidate and 
the other party. We do not come here in a partisan way. We come here 
because the clock is ticking.
  Today marks an important day in the 2018 election cycle. Texas is 
holding the first State primary, and others begin in the coming weeks, 
including in Illinois. Illinois was one of 21 States that the Russians 
attempted to hack into--Illinois, where they actually hacked into their 
voter data, which is the personal information about their voters. Those 
elections are coming. We are glad that we have a decentralized system 
so that they have different systems. It is easier to hack into one 
centralized system. It also means that they have many things to choose 
from, and we have 40 States that haven't updated their equipment in 
over 10 years. We have 10 States that don't even have backup paper 
ballots, and we sit here doing nothing when the solution is right in 
front of us.
  Over the course of the last year, I have come to the floor a number 
of times to urge this body to take immediate action to beef up our 
election cybersecurity. There is no longer any doubt that our elections 
have been and will continue to be a target for foreign adversaries. 
Intelligence reports make it clear that Russia used covert cyber 
attacks, espionage, and harmful propaganda to attack our political 
system.
  I mentioned the attempts on 21 State election systems. Do you know 
when the real election--the general election--is? It is 245 days away, 
with primaries beginning today. We have not imposed the sanctions--the 
administration hasn't--despite this body's taking firm action that we 
wanted to see these sanctions imposed.
  We have had six security heads from this administration--not from the 
Obama administration; they already spoke out on this. The head of the 
CIA, the Director of National Intelligence, and the head of the FBI 
have all testified before U.S. Senate committees that, in fact, this is 
happening now. It was Director Coats, who was once a Senator here, who 
said that, in fact, he believes the Russians are getting bolder. These 
are not the words of Obama's security people. These are the words of 
Trump's security people.
  Last week, NSA Director Rogers said this about Russia: ``They haven't 
paid a price at least that is sufficient to get them to change their 
behavior.''
  Earlier this year, CIA Director Pompeo said that he has seen no signs 
that Russia has decreased its activity and that Russia is currently 
working to disrupt the upcoming 2018 elections.
  It is the policy of the United States of America to defend against 
and respond to threats to our Nation. This is a cyber attack. It is not 
with bullets, and it is not with tanks. It is not with aircraft, but it 
is an attack. It is, simply, using the computer system. In every 
briefing that I have gone to, this is always listed as one of the major 
ways in which foreign adversaries are going to attack our Nation--they 
are going to use the internet. Here we have it happening right here on 
our very democracy, itself.
  In order to protect our election system, we need to do three key 
things.
  First, we must give State and local officials the tools and resources 
they need to prevent hacks and safeguard election infrastructure from 
foreign interference. They need those resources now, not after the 
election, not after the primaries. Today, more than 40 States, as I 
mentioned, rely on electronic voting systems that are at least 10 years 
old. Do you think the Russians don't know that? Do you think I am 
giving away some state secret here? Of course they know that.
  Ten years ago, on February 6, 2008, it was Super Tuesday for the 2008 
Presidential election. A lot has changed in the last 10 years but not 
our voting equipment. It has remained the same. That is why I am 
leading bipartisan legislation with Senator Lankford. This is a 
bipartisan effort. We also appreciate our cosponsors Senators Harris, 
Graham, Collins, and Heinrich. We call this bill the Secure Elections 
Act. It would provide $386 million in grant funding for States to 
secure their elections systems. It is paid for. We found a pay-for.
  We have a similar bill that is led by Congressman Meadows in the 
House--the head of the Freedom Caucus--because they understand that 
freedom is not cheap, that to guarantee freedom, you must have a secure 
democracy, and $386 million is just 3 percent of the cost of one 
aircraft carrier.
  I think most Americans would agree that, as we see more and more 
sophisticated types of warfare happening, to not even pay attention to 
helping the States fund this election equipment that has been woefully 
underfunded is a huge mistake.
  The second thing that we need to do--by the way we can do this now. 
We can do this in the omnibus bill. The second thing we need to do is 
improve information sharing so that local election officials know when 
they are attacked and how to respond. It took the Federal Government 
nearly a year to notify these 21 States that were targeted by Russian-
backed hackers. That cannot happen again.
  Finally, we need a reliable backup system. I am talking about paper 
backup ballots--the old-fashioned way. There are 10 States that don't 
have them.
  The integrity of our election system is the cornerstone of our 
democracy. Americans have fought and died for our democracy since our 
country was founded, and we must guarantee that democracy continues.
  I thank the Presiding Officer.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.

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