VETERANS CEMETERY BENEFIT CORRECTION ACT--Continued
(Senate - May 17, 2018)

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[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 81 (Thursday, May 17, 2018)]
[Pages S2762-S2768]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




          VETERANS CEMETERY BENEFIT CORRECTION ACT--Continued


                           Order of Procedure

  Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the 
mandatory quorum calls with respect to the cloture motions filed in 
executive session today be waived.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The Senator from Indiana.


                          National Police Week

  Mr. DONNELLY. Madam President, as we observe National Police Week, I 
rise today to honor our fallen law enforcement officers and to discuss 
some of the ways we are working to make it safer for officers to do 
their jobs and protect our communities.

[[Page S2763]]

  Together, we honor and remember the lives of the law enforcement 
officers we have lost in the line of duty. These men and women put 
their lives on the line to protect our neighborhoods so that a Hoosier 
senior can safely sit on his porch and watch his grandkids play in the 
front yard or to ensure that working families can go to and from their 
jobs in peace. They are on the frontlines battling the devastating 
opioid epidemic that has plagued our State. Our police are the ones who 
work with our communities and local leaders to help stem violence and 
to help fight crime in our neighborhoods. They are the ones putting 
themselves in harm's way every single day.
  These officers are heroes. To their families, they are even more. 
They are moms and dads, sisters and brothers, wives and husbands, and 
their families pray that they come home safely at the end of every 
shift. Sadly, as we know, that doesn't happen every time.
  When we lose an officer, that loss is felt deeply, particularly by 
their family and those who know them and love them. It is a grief that 
is also shared throughout the entire law enforcement community and 
throughout our State.
  Since I began serving in the U.S. Senate in 2013, the Hoosier State 
has lost nine officers in the line of duty. I want to take a moment to 
pay tribute to these fallen heroes.
  In September of 2013, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department 
officer Rod Bradway was shot and killed while responding to a domestic 
dispute call in a northwest Indianapolis apartment complex. A veteran 
officer, he had served with the Wayne Township Fire Department for 10 
years before working for 5 years on the IMPD force. Officer Bradway is 
credited with saving the life of a domestic dispute victim and her baby 
before losing his life protecting them.
  In June 2014, Tipton County deputy sheriff Jacob Calvin was killed in 
a car crash while responding to an accident. Deputy Calvin served his 
community and our country in more ways than one. He was with the 
department for 2\1/2\ years and had previously served his country in 
Iraq in the U.S. Air Force and volunteered at the Kempton Fire 
Department as a firefighter and EMT.
  In July 2014, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer 
Perry Renn was responding to reports of gunfire when he was shot and 
killed. Officer Renn served more than two decades in the force. He was 
a two-time recipient of the IMPD's Medal of Bravery Award, and he was 
awarded the Medal of Honor and Purple Heart posthumously. Officer Renn 
was also a U.S. Army veteran.
  Also, in July of 2014, Patrolman Jeffrey Westerfield of the Gary 
Police Department was found fatally shot while on duty in his patrol 
car. He was killed on his 47th birthday. Patrolman Westerfield had 
served the Gary Police Department for 19 years and, prior to that, in 
the U.S. Army.
  In September of 2014, Merrillville Police Department patrolman 
Nickolaus Schultz was shot when investigating reports concerning an 
evicted tenant. Patrolman Schultz passed away 2 days later due to his 
wounds. Patrolman Schultz was only 24 years old and had been on the 
Merrillville police force for 13 months.
  In March of 2016, we lost Howard County sheriff's deputy Carl Koontz, 
who was shot and killed while serving arrest and search warrants in 
Russiaville in connection with a narcotics case. Deputy Koontz was just 
26 years old. He had served more than 2 years with the Howard County 
Sheriff's Department.

  In July of 2017, Lieutenant Aaron Allen of the Southport Police 
Department was shot while responding to a crash involving an overturned 
vehicle. Hours before he was killed--and there is a picture of this 
which tears your heart out--he walked his 5-year-old son to the bus for 
his first day of kindergarten. He was a 6-year veteran with the 
Southport Police Department and had previously been named the Officer 
of the Year for saving two Hoosiers' lives. He also previously served 
in the U.S. Air Force.
  Tragically, this year we have lost two Hoosier police officers in the 
line of duty. Boone County deputy sheriff Jacob Pickett was shot and 
killed in March during a vehicle pursuit in Lebanon, IN. As the suspect 
fled on foot, Deputy Pickett and Brick, his K-9 partner, followed in 
pursuit. Deputy Pickett was shot as he rounded the corner of a 
building. He served with the Boone County Sheriff's Office for 3 years 
and previously with the Tipton County Sheriff's Office and the Marion 
County Sheriff's Office.
  Earlier this month, just a few weeks ago, Terra Haute police officer 
Rob Pitts was shot and killed while investigating a homicide. As 
Officer Pitts and other detectives approached the suspect's apartment, 
the suspect opened fire, fatally injuring Officer Pitts. Officer Pitts 
had served with the department for 16 years and with the Sullivan 
Police Department for 6 years prior to that.
  These nine brave officers embodied values that should make their 
loved ones, their fellow officers, and every Hoosier incredibly proud. 
We remember their sacrifice and their courageous service, and we are 
thinking of their families, not only today, not only this week, but 
year round.
  As we pay our respects to those we have lost, we also have a solemn 
duty to support the family members of those officers who never had the 
chance to return home. We also must work to ensure that our officers 
and law enforcement agencies have the resources needed to do their jobs 
and keep our communities safe. Over the last few years, I have been 
honored to introduce and to get signed into law bipartisan legislation 
to help support law enforcement agencies and officers and to help with 
grant efforts to provide our officers with necessary tools.
  When officers and first responders are killed in the line of duty, 
they often leave behind beloved families, including school-age 
children. These families and children endure grief and trauma that we 
can't even begin to imagine. We must do all we can to help the families 
of our fallen officers and first responders, and this includes ensuring 
that their children get a good education. That is why I helped to 
introduce the bipartisan Children of Fallen Heroes Scholarship Act. 
This allows the children of fallen first responders who pursue a 
college education to have access to the maximum level of Federal Pell 
grants authorized by law.
  I was pleased to support the government funding bill that passed in 
March, which included a provision based on the Children of Fallen 
Heroes Scholarship Act.
  Another critically important area we must continue to focus on is 
helping to equip officers with lifesaving equipment. It is no secret 
that our officers may face dangerous situations at any moment as they 
respond to calls and do their job. That is why I supported the 
bipartisan Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization 
Act. It was signed into law in May of 2016. It helps law enforcement 
agencies purchase bulletproof vests. Having those vests can prevent 
injuries for our law enforcement officers and can save lives.
  We experienced this firsthand in 2014, when IMPD officer Greg Milburn 
was shot in the line of duty. He credits his vest with his survival. In 
the past 3 years, police departments across Indiana have received a 
total of more than $1 million to help purchase bulletproof vests for 
officers so they can all go home at the end of their shift every day.
  Another essential role law enforcement officers play is working with 
our community leaders, elected leaders, and law enforcement agencies to 
tackle persistent crime and to improve neighborhood safety. I, along 
with many of my colleagues, have long supported robust funding for the 
Byrne Memorial JAG Program. This supports State and local law 
enforcement agencies in their efforts to address the specific public 
safety and criminal justice challenges facing our communities. This 
program also supports information sharing on terror and criminal 
threats, drug and human trafficking organizations, and sexual 
predators.
  Lastly, as officers go to work every day, they can encounter horrific 
scenes and experience traumatic situations that are just impossible to 
leave behind once the day is done. Last year, I authored and introduced 
the bipartisan Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act with my 
friend and colleague from Indiana, Senator Todd Young. Our bill was 
signed into law by President Trump in January. It helps law enforcement 
agencies enhance or

[[Page S2764]]

establish mental health services for officers. It provides tools to 
help officers deal with mental health challenges and to combat the 
stigma associated with addressing those issues. This legislation also 
includes funding that the Department of Justice can use to initiate 
peer-mentoring pilot program grants for local law enforcement agencies.
  Our law enforcement officers deserve our support. They deserve it to 
ensure they can do their job safely and effectively. I will continue to 
work on bipartisan efforts to help our officers and their families.
  In the meantime, this National Police Week--this special week we have 
here every year--let's take a moment to pray for those fallen heroes, 
for their families, and for their fellow officers. They own our hearts 
for all they do for us. They protect our families, our children, and 
our communities, and they put their lives on the line every day for us, 
not knowing if they are going to come home safely or not. But still 
they go forward. Still they go out. Still our officers who are our 
friends and who protect us keep us safe every day.
  They earned and have always kept all of our respect and of everyone 
in our communities. They have our love. They have our devotion and our 
deepest appreciation for everything they do every day.
  May God bless all of these officers. May God bless Indiana, and may 
God bless the United States of America.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Kansas.


                           McCain Mission Act

  Mr. MORAN. Madam President, many of us this afternoon had the 
opportunity to see a screening of the HBO documentary ``For Whom the 
Bell Tolls,'' a tribute to Senator McCain. It is clearly a tribute, but 
it is also the story of his life and an expose of his sacrifice for his 
country. It is a moving story of Senator McCain's life and an 
inspiration to me and, I assume, to my colleagues for the commitment 
that he has made to always try to do right--putting his country above 
self.
  I have had the honor of working with Senator McCain for the last 
several years in regard to legislation trying to improve the 
circumstances that our Nation's veterans face as they access healthcare 
within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  Senator McCain and I introduced legislation to accomplish a number of 
things related to this, particularly the Veterans Choice Program. 
Choice was passed back about 2014, at a time in which the VA was in a 
crisis and a time in which the veterans they were created to serve were 
harmed by decisions made at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The 
problems were highlighted in Senator McCain's home city of Phoenix at 
the Phoenix VA, in which a number of veterans may have died as a result 
of the inability to access healthcare in a timely fashion.
  The solution to the problems exhibited in other places across the 
country--which included false waiting lists, in which the VA had 
determined a list that was not real but demonstrated that veterans who 
had no idea they had an appointment to see someone at the VA had an 
appointment, to camouflage the failures and the slowness of the 
Department of Veterans Affairs--resulted in a unanimous decision by the 
Senate to create a program called Choice.
  Choice creates the opportunity for a veteran, under certain 
circumstances, to access healthcare in their home community at the 
veteran's discretion. This program, in my view, has significant 
potential to alter the opportunities that a veteran has to be cared 
for.
  Those who served our country deserve the very best, and we want to 
make certain that happens both inside the VA and with a program that 
allows veterans to choose healthcare outside the Department of Veterans 
Affairs.
  The Veterans Choice Program has expired since 2014. We have 
reauthorized it in a number of instances. I think three, perhaps four 
times. It needed funding, and we reauthorized the funding. Choice was a 
limited program in which for the veteran to qualify to receive Choice 
care in the community at their discretion and at their option was 
determined by whether or not that veteran lived within 40 miles of a VA 
facility or whether the VA could provide the services within 30 days of 
the time the veteran needed that care.
  The committee here in the Senate has worked for a long time trying to 
reauthorize the Veterans Choice Program. It has been my position, with 
Senator McCain, that just to reauthorize Choice would be a significant 
error on our part and that in the authorization process, we should make 
community care work better for veterans.
  I judge whether or not the VA is providing the care and services that 
our veterans need by what you would call casework--what we do on behalf 
of our constituents who have a challenge or a problem with a Federal 
agency or department. Our casework regarding veterans who are 
attempting to access care in the community has been exponential.
  I checked the other day. At the moment, we have 80 cases for veterans 
in Kansas--not all related to this particular program but 80 veterans 
who contacted me and my staff and said: I need your help. Since I have 
been a Senator, that number is 2,650 veterans who have contacted me or 
my staff saying: I need your help. So when it came time for the Senate 
Veterans' Affairs Committee to begin the legislative process of 
determining how to alter the program, how to reform it, and, 
particularly, how to extend the program, I wanted to make certain that 
my input was based upon what veterans were telling me about how the 
program did and didn't work.
  Our committee passed a bill out of the Veterans' Affairs Committee 
months ago. That bill was passed by our committee on a vote of 14 to 1. 
I was the one opponent. I say that for my colleagues today--some of 
whom have asked my view, some of whom I hope were interested in my 
view, and even those who may not care. I want them to know that the 
bill now in front of the Senate--and the majority leader just filed the 
proceedings for us to have a cloture vote next week on this 
legislation--is legislation I support. It does do something more than 
just extend Choice. It creates opportunities for that program to work 
much better. Most importantly to me was the issue of who decides 
whether or not a veteran has the option of choosing community care.
  The legislation that we will consider next week allows for the 
Department of Veterans Affairs--in a sense, the Secretary of the 
Department of Veterans Affairs--to remain the gatekeeper. The VA has 
the opportunity to make the decision about who gets to have community 
care, but different than today, when the only criteria is 40 miles or 
30 days. We create access standards in this legislation that the VA 
must abide by in determining whether or not a veteran can have care in 
the community, and that is a significant difference.
  We had all kinds of challenges with the 40 miles and 30 days. We 
changed the definition of what a facility was in order to get the VA to 
allow individuals to have access to care at home. People may recall 
that the VA wanted to count the 40 miles as the crow flies. In addition 
to other challenges that the VA put in front of veterans, we have 
eliminated those and created a standard by which the VA must abide. So 
while the gatekeeper remains the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is 
not in the total discretion of the Department of Veterans Affairs. They 
must abide by criteria, and if the veteran believes he or she is denied 
care in the community, that veteran has the opportunity to appeal based 
upon a number of standards, including best medical interest of the 
veteran.
  We are changing a program in which the VA made decisions that often 
denied veterans the access to care in their community that veteran 
asked for, and we are saying: You now asked the VA for permission. The 
VA has to make a decision to grant or deny that permission, but they 
can't do it solely at the discretion of the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs. They must abide by criteria. That is a significant 
improvement.
  Secondly, if you feel like you have received the wrong decision, you 
can appeal that decision.
  Today--and we have plenty of examples of this in Kansas--when a 
veteran is denied community care by the Department of Veterans Affairs, 
their only appeal is to their Senator or their Member of Congress, in 
which we then have a new case to once again try to work our way through 
the Department

[[Page S2765]]

of Veterans Affairs: Why did you deny this veteran his or her choice to 
have community care?
  This bill is a significant improvement. It satisfies the concerns I 
had; my view that early on, we were mostly just trying to extend Choice 
as it was--as it is, and now this replaces it with really a 
circumstance in which veterans have rights, have standards the 
Department of Veterans Affairs must comply with.
  In addition to the issues of who can access care, who is the 
gatekeeper, and determining the standards, this bill merges and 
modernizes all community care programs and puts them all in one 
category at the Department of Veterans Affairs instead of multiple 
programs. It simplifies it.
  We have had too many instances in which, if you didn't access care 
under one program, you might be able to apply for another. This changes 
the circumstances that so many of my veterans have complained to me 
about, in which they get an authorization from the Department of 
Veterans Affairs, and they are allowed to see a physician in their home 
community, but then when they need lab work or an x ray--something that 
should be related to that visit--they have to go back to the Department 
of Veterans Affairs to get additional consent. This is more in the line 
of necessary procedures that should follow: one authorization that 
includes the things that are medically necessary for that appointment 
with the physician or that admission to a hospital. It just makes sense 
that these other things would be necessary if that physician whom the 
VA referred you to believes them to be necessary. It establishes a 
framework for the VA to build a high-performing healthcare network, and 
it implements new coordination so the veteran and the VA work together 
to determine what is in the best interest of that veteran.
  It is something I have cared about a lot. We required that in the 
original Choice Act; that the healthcare provider be paid Medicare 
rates. Those of us who come from rural States recognize there are 
various rates under Medicare, and for our smallest hospitals, they are 
entitled to cost-based reimbursement. That is not happening under the 
current legislation, the law today. This legislation corrects the 
problem, keeping the circumstance more likely in which our hospitals 
and doctors would be financially able to see a veteran and provide that 
care.
  This is not privatizing the VA. The VA serves a valuable and useful 
role. Many veterans choose to have care at the Department of Veterans 
Affairs, at their hospitals, and at their clinics. Again, it is the 
veterans' choice where he or she wants to go.
  For those of us who come from rural places, the distances in which a 
veteran must travel, in many instances, have eliminated the ability for 
that veteran to ever access care from the VA. The VA has programs that 
are important to veterans--traumatic brain injury, amputation, things 
that may not ever be as available or as desirable in the community.
  This legislation is supported by every veterans service organization 
I know of. We have come to the point in which it is time for us to pass 
this legislation. Memorial Day is approaching. The President has asked 
this legislation be approved prior to Memorial Day. We think it is 
appropriate to honor those who served our country at this point in May, 
where Memorial Day is around the corner, to provide the care they are 
asking for.
  The other aspect of why it is important for us to move on the 
legislation now is that the funding for Choice and community care has 
diminished. I serve on the Appropriations Committee that funds the 
Department of Veterans Affairs, and it is necessary for us to get the 
money in place. The VA is already rationing care for those veterans who 
use Choice today, and this legislation puts the necessary dollars in 
place for Choice to continue in its new reformed and improved status.
  It would be a shame for us to miss this opportunity. It would be 
wrong for our veterans. It would diminish the number of people who 
access care at the Department of Veterans Affairs and do so at a time 
in which the needs are great for those who have served our Nation.
  Again, referring to my colleague from Arizona, Senator McCain, we 
would honor him if we answer this call to do our duty to see that our 
veterans are cared for, that promises are kept.
  I appreciate the response that was given when the bill was suggested 
to be named in honor of Senator McCain. Both the House chairman and the 
House committee, along with Senator Isakson, the chairman here, and 
Senator Tester, the ranking member, have agreed to do that. This 
legislation is now known as the McCain Mission Act. Our colleague, for 
whom there are so many reasons to pay honor and tribute to, would 
receive another honor for his service to our Nation but of equal 
importance, his service to other veterans.
  For so many reasons, it is time for us to act, to pass the McCain 
Mission Act, and do so with the promptness that has followed long 
deliberations to try to get it right.
  In my view, too often the U.S. Senate, the Congress, politics, and 
government, in general, just put a bandaid on to get by. This 
legislation is significantly different than doing something to get by. 
It would improve the quality of life for those who serve our Nation. We 
should honor them, as we honor Senator McCain, prior to Memorial Day, 
at the end of next week.
  I thank you for the opportunity to address the Senate.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio.
  Mr. PORTMAN. Madam President, I want to first commend my colleague 
from Kansas for his passion for our veterans and for his hard work on 
legislation that is really going to help in Ohio and around the country 
to ensure they have the care they deserve and also for his mention of 
Senator McCain, who is a true national hero. He now has a documentary 
about him on HBO, as some of us saw earlier today. It will soon be 
available for everyone to see. It is very powerful.


                                STOP Act

  Madam President, we heard earlier from one of my colleagues from 
Indiana who talked about the fact that this is National Police Week. A 
number of us have come to the floor to talk about our incredible men 
and women in uniform back home who protect us every day through their 
dedication, their public service, and it is appropriate to commend 
them.
  I will say, as I have talked to police officers from Ohio this week, 
one issue came up again and again that doesn't get the attention it 
deserves; that is, the influx of synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, and 
the effect it is having on our law enforcement community, our first 
responders, in general, and, for that matter, all of our citizens. What 
they told me is, this is the issue that is creating so much crime in 
our communities. This is the issue that is filling our courtrooms and 
our jails.
  One police officer I met with this week is a corrections officer at a 
jail in one of our urban areas in Ohio. I asked him to just give me an 
estimate. What percentage of the inmates in this jail are there because 
of the drug crisis and specifically the opioid issue?
  He thought for a minute, and he said: Probably 90 percent--90 
percent. Some are there because of selling drugs, some of them are 
there, though, because they have committed a crime while they were 
trying to get the money to be able to pay for their habit--so it is 
shoplifting; it is fraud; it is burglary. This issue is now everywhere.
  The last year for which we have good information would be 2016. We 
have a lot of information nationally on that, and 2016 was the worst 
year on record in terms of overdose deaths attributable to these 
synthetic drugs coming into our country. Guess what. Almost certainly, 
2017 is worse.
  As one example, the coroner for Franklin County, OH--that is the 
Columbus area in Ohio, our fastest growing city--recently released 
their 2017 overdose report for the county. Franklin County had 520 
overdose deaths in 2017. That is a 47-percent increase from 2016. So 
2016 was the worst year on record; 2017, almost a 50-percent increase 
in overdose deaths. By the way, sadly, those overdose deaths are on 
track again this year to reach a record.
  Two-thirds of those overdose deaths in Columbus, OH, Franklin County, 
involve fentanyl, which is this synthetic opioid that is overtaking our 
communities in Ohio. Think about that. Two-thirds of those overdose 
deaths last year in Columbus, OH, were due to fentanyl.

[[Page S2766]]

  Just last week, a Cleveland man was sentenced to more than 11 years 
in Federal prison for selling fentanyl that resulted in a 46-year-old 
Ohio man's death. Earlier this month, a man in Lorain, OH, was 
convicted of selling fentanyl, resulting in a 23-year-old's death.
  This drug and the opioid crisis knows no bounds. It is in every age 
group. It is in every ZIP Code. It is everywhere.
  Unbelievably, this fentanyl drug--a synthetic form of heroin, a 
synthetic form of opioids--we are told by the experts is coming into 
our country through the U.S. mail system. This is shocking to me, and 
it should be something we can do something about. This is a Federal 
agency, after all.
  Unlike other drugs--let's say heroin or even crystal meth, which tend 
to come over land, mostly from Mexico--this drug primarily is coming 
through the U.S. mail system from one country primarily--China. It is 
coming from laboratories in China, where some evil scientist is mixing 
this deadly brew and then sending it through the U.S. mail into our 
communities. It is being shipped directly into your community in small 
packages. These are the deadliest drugs we have ever experienced, and 
they are being shipped directly through a Federal agency.
  What is fentanyl? It is 50 times more powerful than heroin. It is 
inexpensive. It is readily available now in many communities. It is the 
new scourge, killing more people in my State of Ohio last year than any 
other drug. We need to do all we can to stop more of these poisons from 
entering our communities. At the very least, if we can't stop it all, 
let's raise the price because the cost of this drug, being so 
inexpensive and it being so powerful, is one of the things that is 
driving these overdoses and these deaths.
  It is not just overdoses. It is people whose lives are getting off 
track, families breaking apart, community dysfunction, people leaving 
work. It is the babies who are being born with this neonatal absence 
syndrome, so they have to go through withdrawal as little babies whom 
you can hold in your two hands. It is affecting our communities in so 
many ways.
  There is a new study out showing that of the men who are out of the 
workforce altogether--probably 8\1/2\ million men--roughly half of them 
are taking pain medication on a daily basis. When pushed, two-thirds 
say it is prescriptions. What does that mean? This means it is 
affecting one of the big issues we are all hearing about back home, 
which is lack of a workforce. Well, here you have millions of Americans 
who are off track because of this issue. So, yes, it is tragic and 
unbelievable that over 60,000 Americans a year are dying from 
overdoses, but it is even worse than that. That is the tip of the 
iceberg, in a way. There are so many other aspects of this that are 
affecting the communities we represent in the Chamber.
  With regard to fentanyl, this new scourge, we conducted an 18-month 
investigation in the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which I 
chair. We did this because we are hearing more and more about fentanyl. 
We wanted to look into how fentanyl is being shipped into the United 
States and what can be done at the Federal level to stop it. The 
investigation revealed just how easy it is to purchase fentanyl online 
and have it shipped to the United States. It is so easy, in fact, we 
found that most of the overseas providers essentially guaranteed 
delivery if you use the U.S. mail system.
  Through a simple Google search, our staff found hundreds of websites, 
many affiliated with Chinese labs openly advertising fentanyl for sale.
  We went undercover, using an investigator from the Department of 
Homeland Security to help us find some of these websites. We found that 
in several cases--seven different cases--individuals who receive 
fentanyl through some of these websites had died from an overdose 
shortly after receiving their fentanyl. We were able to find that the 
sellers would tell you to ship the drugs through the Postal Service, 
not a private carrier like FedEx or DHL or UPS or any other private 
carrier. As we have learned in our investigation, this is because the 
Postal Service, unlike these private carriers, is not required to have 
what is called advanced electronic data as part of the package. In 
other words, law enforcement is not given information on these 
packages.

  The data that is in this advance electronic information is the name 
and address of the sender, the name and address of the person who is 
receiving the package, and what the contents of the package are. How 
does this help? Well, this gives law enforcement the ability to use big 
data to find out what region it is coming from--again, if there is a 
region in China that is sending a lot of this poison, they will know 
that; where it is going; if it is going to a particular post office box 
where they have reason to believe that it might be suspect, or perhaps 
it is going to an abandoned warehouse.
  The information about what is in the package obviously is very 
interesting to Customs and Border Protection. They need this help. Why? 
Because they can't otherwise identify suspicious packages. There are 
900 million packages a year now coming into the United States through 
the mail system--900 million packages. It is like finding a needle in a 
haystack.
  Yes, we need better detection equipment, and we have actually passed 
legislation recently do to that. We have additional legislation to be 
able to hire more individuals to help detect whether these packages 
have opioids contained within them. But this advance information that 
you can have on the package is so incredibly important, and it is the 
reason the traffickers are saying: Don't send it through a private 
carrier; send it through our own government agency because we think we 
can guarantee delivery there. It is a glaring loophole in our screening 
process, and it is a national security threat. It is a clear example of 
where Congress ought to come together on a bipartisan basis and enact 
Federal policies to fix this flaw.
  Shortly after the tragic events of 9/11--September 11, 2001--Congress 
did pass a law in this regard, and the law did require all private 
carriers to obtain advance electronic data on all international 
packages entering the United States and did require them to share that 
data with law enforcement. The concern was not just contraband or 
opioids; it was also explosives. They passed that legislation here in 
Congress because they knew it was important to have law enforcement get 
that information.
  With regard to the post office, they made it optional. Congress 
required the Postmaster General and the Secretary of the Treasury to 
determine whether the post office should also collect such data. This 
was 17 years ago. That determination was never made. They did not 
follow the law. From one administration to the next, to the next, to 
the next, there was no determination, which, of course, has resulted in 
no data requirements for the Postal Service. Again, that was in 2002.
  For about 14 years, the Postal Service sat by and did nothing on this 
issue, knowing that this was a loophole, that this was an opening in 
the law for traffickers and others to be able to send things into our 
country. To me, that is unacceptable.
  In the last couple of years, after pressure from Congress and, 
frankly, our investigation that I talked about earlier and the hearings 
we held talking about this issue in the Permanent Subcommittee on 
Investigations, the Postal Service did actually start to do what, in my 
view, they should have done starting 16 years ago, but unfortunately 
what they are doing is not nearly enough. They have begun getting some 
data on some international packages, but the efforts are inadequate. 
One hundred percent of private carriers' packages have to have it, and 
do, and they provide it to law enforcement.
  The U.S. Postal Service last year began an effort to get more of this 
advance electronic data, but they received it, based on testimony they 
provided to us, on only about 36 percent of the international packages. 
This means that the United States received more than 318 million 
packages last year that had no screening on them, no information for 
law enforcement to be able to identify the package.
  We also found that the quality of the data that was provided by the 
Postal Service was inadequate in many cases and therefore not helpful 
to law enforcement. That is again based on testimony before our 
committee.
  Even when the Postal Service conducted a pilot program to screen for

[[Page S2767]]

drugs, they only presented 80 percent of the packages targeted by 
Customs and Border Protection for inspection. So even when they did 
have information on it and law enforcement said ``I want that 
package''--again, using big data in figuring out what might be a 
suspicious package--only 80 percent of them were even delivered to law 
enforcement out of the 36 percent that had electronic data. So the 
other 20 percent of those suspicious packages were allowed to go into 
circulation, into our communities, without having any screening.
  Frankly, it has been a challenge to get the post office to address 
this problem on their own. We are talking about 900 million packages a 
year. And they have funding problems. I get that. But, folks, this is a 
crisis. It is a true epidemic. It is the No. 1 killer in my State.
  It is time for Congress to act. People are dying every day because of 
these synthetic drugs. How many more of our people have to die before 
our own Postal Service takes the measures that we know can be taken to 
stop these poisons?
  The STOP Act is a bipartisan bill I introduced with Senator Amy 
Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, that will close this loophole and 
therefore help stop these deadly drugs from entering our communities. 
Senator Klobuchar was on the floor earlier this afternoon and wanted to 
speak at this time about the legislation. She had to catch a plane to 
get back to her home State of Minnesota, but I appreciate her 
partnership on this issue and her promotion of our dealing with this 
issue here on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
  The STOP Act is very simple, and it is common sense. It is going to 
hold the U.S. Postal Service to the same standard as these private mail 
carriers that we talked about and require that they get advance 
electronic data not on 36 percent but on 100 percent of packages 
entering the United States--and good data--and then present that to law 
enforcement.
  We are not punishing the Postal Service or forcing them to jump 
through unnecessary hoops. We are simply saying that, given the crisis 
we face, the U.S. Postal Service, a Federal agency, should require the 
same types of advance electronic data from foreign countries that 
private mail carriers do, and we give the Postal Service a year to do 
it.
  By the way, when I talked to mail carriers about this issue, when I 
talked to postal inspectors about this issue, certainly when I talked 
to Customs and Border Protection individuals about this issue, they all 
agreed. Who wouldn't? They have families too. They understand. This 
issue needs to be addressed, and it needs to be addressed urgently.
  The United States of America provides this advance electronic data on 
90 percent of our packages that we send to other countries, so we are 
not asking for something that we are not doing. It makes sense all 
around the world. It makes sense here, and it will help save lives.
  Thirty-three of my Senate colleagues--20 Republicans, 12 Democrats, 
and 1 Independent--have signed on as cosponsors of this legislation. 
The Presiding Officer today, who is from West Virginia--her State has 
been getting hit really hard like Ohio. She has a passion for this 
issue. She knows that we need to do all we can do to stop this poison 
from coming in.
  The legislation has the support of a broad cross-section of this 
body. It has also been endorsed by President Trump's opioid commission. 
This is a commission that he formed to look at answers, and this is one 
of their specific recommendations: The STOP Act--pass it.
  Just this week, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, 
reaffirmed her support for this measure.
  The House companion bill has 271 cosponsors--more than half of the 
U.S. House of Representatives.
  By the way, asking every country for this kind of information, this 
advance electronic data, is not just common sense, it is also 
reasonable. The United States provides that data on nearly all of our 
packages that go into China, as an example, so why shouldn't China do 
that for us? At least one country--Sweden--recently returned packages 
from China that did not comply with Swedish postal rules on providing 
this information. So the Postal Service's argument that they have to 
accept and deliver packages from foreign posts under treaty obligations 
is simply not the case. If a country doesn't play by our rules, we can 
simply choose to return their packages. By the way, threatening to do 
so is all we need to do because these countries then will comply. We 
have the largest market in the world. We are the biggest economy in the 
world. We just have to insist on it.
  China is already starting to recognize the importance of providing 
this data for access to U.S. markets. For example, as of early this 
year, when we published our report from the Permanent Subcommittee on 
Investigations, we had information that China had already provided 
electronic data on roughly 50 percent of the packages headed to the 
United States. So this notion that somehow China can't do it--of course 
they can.
  Yesterday, instead of marking up this bipartisan STOP Act I talked 
about, the STOP Act legislation, the House Ways and Means Committee 
considered a weaker alternative to our bill. Apparently, they were 
hearing from some at the Postal Service who don't want Congress to 
require them to get this electronic data within 1 year, which we think 
is not just doable but reasonable. They don't want Congress to put in 
place penalties if they don't get that data, and our legislation, yes, 
has penalties.
  The Postal Service doesn't mind if Congress simply recommends that 
they get the data, but remember, Congress recommended that way back in 
2002. That was 16 years ago. And until very recently, just the last 
couple of years, the Postal Service did nothing to provide that crucial 
information.
  Unfortunately, the weaker alternative approved by the committee 
yesterday would eliminate the real, enforceable, and immediate 
requirement that the Postal Service provide law enforcement with the 
information they need to identify and stop the shipment of deadly 
synthetic drugs into our communities.
  In particular, the STOP Act requires that within 1 year, the Postal 
Service secure advance electronic data on 100 percent of packages here 
in the United States and transmit that data to law enforcement, to 
Customs and Border Protection. The version reported out yesterday gives 
the Postal Service 4 years--4 years. Remember the No. 1 killer in my 
State and in many States. Last year, there was an increase from the 
year before, and this year looks worse again. We can't wait 4 years. We 
don't have to.
  The version they reported out also requires only 95 percent of the 
packages to have that data.
  In addition, this alternative to the STOP Act that was reported out 
yesterday actually gives the Federal Government the authority to waive 
the requirements in the STOP Act that would get advance electronic data 
if it is in the ``national security interest of the United States.'' 
They can waive it altogether. I am struggling to think of a time when 
knowing less about what is coming into our country is in our national 
security interest.
  As the permanent subcommittee investigation's report from January 
makes clear, there are hundreds of millions of packages coming into 
this country through the Postal Service every year with little or no 
screening at all. That is frightening. This loophole is allowing drug 
traffickers to exploit our own Federal Government, and we can't allow 
this status quo to continue.
  The organization Americans for Securing All Packages--ASAP--issued a 
statement last week urging the Ways and Means Committee to ``reject 
this weakened alternative, and pass the STOP Act, a bill with 271 
bipartisan cosponsors.''
  Just yesterday, Shatterproof--another addiction advocacy group 
fighting against the opioid addiction issue--issued a similar statement 
calling on Congress to pass the STOP Act, not the watered-down version.
  I want to say today on the floor that I very much appreciate the fact 
that Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady has acknowledged 
these concerns and has committed to working with us to resolve these 
differences during the legislative process. I know him. I know he is a 
passionate advocate of addressing this issue. He wants

[[Page S2768]]

to reverse the opioid epidemic, and he wants this to work, so I look 
forward to working with him.
  I particularly appreciate the House coauthors of the STOP Act, 
including Representatives  Mike Bishop and Bill Pascrell. I talked to 
Mr. Bishop today, and I know his passion to deal with this issue as 
well.
  The coalition of support for the STOP Act, by the way, also includes 
the Fraternal Order of Police. I talked about the fact that police 
officers understand the dangers of this. By the way, to give an example 
of how dangerous this is to them, it is not just the overcrowding of 
our prison system and the courts and the crime that is being committed, 
it is a personal danger to them as law enforcement officers.
  In East Liverpool, OH, a police officer pulled over two men for a 
traffic violation, and he noticed there was a powdery substance in the 
car. Being alert, he put on his mask and his gloves and arrested those 
two gentlemen because the powdery substance was fentanyl. They had 
stupidly tried to spread it around the car. He took them down to the 
station and booked them.
  After he booked them, he was talking to his fellow officers, and he 
looked down on his shirt and noticed a few white flecks. So, as anyone 
would do, he took his hand and flicked the pieces of something white 
off of his shoulder. It was fentanyl. That exposure to his fingers 
caused him to drop, unconscious, on the floor. This is a big guy, 6 
feet 2 inches, over 200 pounds, and in good shape. He overdosed and 
nearly died.
  As his police chief said, if we had not been there to apply Narcan--
not once, twice, or three times but five and six times, having taken 
him to the emergency room--if we hadn't been there, he didn't think he 
would have made it. Think if he would have gone home to hug his kid 
without brushing those flecks off his shoulder.
  Our police officers are subject to this all the time, as are other 
first responders. It is appropriate that police organizations around 
the country are strongly in support of the STOP Act. So are the 
National Association of State EMS Officials, the U.S. Chamber of 
Commerce, and anti-opioid groups like Shatterproof, which I talked 
about, but also groups like SAFE, or Stop Addiction Fatality Epidemic, 
and other groups which have said: This is crazy; we have to stop this 
stuff from coming into our communities and, again, at a minimum, get 
the price up, because part of the reason it is spreading so much is 
that it is not just deadly and powerful, but it is inexpensive.
  There is a strong bipartisan consensus that this bill, the Senate 
STOP Act, is absolutely needed to help combat the wave of opioid 
addiction and overdose deaths on the front end, by keeping some of 
these more deadly drugs from ever entering our communities in the first 
place.
  This is a step we can take in the Senate to make accessing these 
deadly and inexpensive synthetic drugs more difficult.
  The STOP Act will make life a little easier for the people of Ohio 
and across the country who are increasingly fatally overdosing or being 
unknowingly exposed to these deadly drugs.
  Of course, this is only one part of combating the opioid epidemic. We 
understand that. We passed legislation here, which I coauthored, that 
increases treatment options, does more in terms of prevention, provides 
longer term recovery, and helps to provide our police officers and 
other first responders with the Narcan that is needed to reverse the 
effects of overdoses.
  But, to my colleagues, this one is common sense. Stopping more of 
these deadly drugs from ever entering the country in the first place 
and raising the price of these drugs will make a difference and will 
save lives.
  Let's pass this legislation. Let's work with the House to be sure it 
is legislation that will be effective immediately to be able to stop 
the increasing danger these opioids are causing in our communities all 
around the country.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Blunt). The majority leader.


            Unanimous Consent Agreement--Executive Calendar

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, as in executive session, I ask 
unanimous consent that at a time to be determined by the majority 
leader, in consultation with the Democratic leader, the Senate proceed 
to executive session for consideration of the following nomination: 
Executive Calendar No. 593. I ask consent that there be 4 hours of 
debate, equally divided in the usual form, and that following the use 
or yielding back of time, the Senate vote on the nomination with no 
intervening action or debate; that if confirmed, the motion to 
reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table; that the 
President be immediately notified of the Senate's action; that no 
further motions be in order; and that any statements relating to the 
nomination be printed in the Record.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                          ____________________