EXECUTIVE SESSION
(Senate - May 09, 2018)

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[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 75 (Wednesday, May 9, 2018)]
[Pages S2560-S2565]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                           EXECUTIVE SESSION

                                 ______
                                 

                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the following 
nomination, which the clerk will report.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of Kurt D. 
Engelhardt, of Louisiana, to be United States Circuit Judge for the 
Fifth Circuit.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from South Dakota.


                               Tax Reform

  Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, as I have said before, Republicans had two 
goals when it came to tax reform. First we wanted to put more money in 
the pockets of hard-working Americans right away. Second, we wanted to 
create the kind of economy that would give Americans access to economic 
security for the long term. To achieve the first goal, we cut tax rates 
across the board, nearly doubled the standard deduction, and doubled 
the child tax credit. Americans are already seeing this relief in their 
paychecks. To achieve the second goal, we reformed our Tax Code to make 
it easier for businesses to create jobs, increase wages, and expand 
opportunities for workers.
  I am proud to report that less than 5 months since the Tax Cuts and 
Jobs Act was signed into law, we are already seeing an improved playing 
field for American workers. There are a lot of things that go into 
giving a worker a secure economic future: a good job, good wages, 
opportunities to grow, good retirement benefits, and opportunities to 
achieve the education necessary for that good job or that wage hike. 
Sometimes a degree or certification can make all the difference between 
an OK job and the kind of job that brings financial security for the 
long term, but getting that degree or certification isn't always easy. 
Sometimes it can be cost-prohibitive, and sometimes it can be difficult 
to fit the degree requirements around an existing job.
  As I have said before, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is already improving 
the playing field for workers and creating the kind of economic 
environment that will give more Americans access to economic security 
for the long term. Businesses are creating new and better paying jobs. 
They are increasing and raising wages, and they are expanding 
opportunities. All of these are essential elements of giving workers 
access to the careers that will give them access to long-term financial 
security. But that is not all. Businesses are also increasing benefits, 
including, in several cases, education benefits.
  Grocery store chain Kroger recently announced its Feed Your Future 
program, which will provide employees with up to $3,500 a year to put 
toward their education, whether the employee is working toward a GED or 
an advanced degree. Both full- and part-time employees will be eligible 
for the program, which will provide employees with up to $21,000 for 
their education. The company is even introducing an educational leave 
of absence, which will allow employees to take time off for approved 
studies without losing their place at the company.
  It is not just Kroger. McDonald's is accelerating increased 
investment in its Archways to Opportunity education program, thanks to 
the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The program will now offer workers $2,500 a 
year toward their education costs, up from $700 a year previously. 
There is no lifetime cap on the amount an employee can receive for his 
or her education. Plus, employees can now work as few as 15 hours a 
week and still be eligible for the program, which will make it easier 
for employees to combine a job and an education.
  Then there is Boeing, which is investing $100 million in training and 
education for its employees.
  Express Scripts is investing in the workers of the future by creating 
an education fund for employees' children.
  Disney is investing $50 million in an education program for 
employees, and there are more.
  It is another way that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is giving American 
workers access to the resources they need for a secure and prosperous 
future.


                             Net Neutrality

  Mr. President, I would like to switch gears for just a moment and 
turn to another important topic that was addressed moments ago by the 
Democratic leader; that is, net neutrality. There is widespread 
agreement among Senators of both parties that we need to maintain a 
free and open internet, and there is widespread agreement among both 
parties that we need net neutrality legislation. But as with other 
issues that should be and technically are noncontroversial, Democrats 
have decided to take the issue of net neutrality and make it partisan. 
Instead of working with Republicans to develop permanent net neutrality 
legislation, they decided to try to score political points with a 
partisan resolution that would do nothing to permanently secure net 
neutrality.
  For years, the commercial internet flourished under a light-touch 
regulatory regime. Free of onerous, heavy-handed legislation, the 
internet grew and thrived, offering Americans a steadily increasing 
array of benefits from online education to online shopping. But during 
the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission, on a 
party-line vote, decided to change the way in which the internet was 
regulated. Instead of the regulatory approach that had worked for 
years, the Obama FCC decided that the internet should be regulated 
under a set of regulations that were developed over 80 years ago to 
manage monopoly telephone services. Think about that: the 
Communications Act of 1934 that was designed to govern and regulate Ma 
Bell being used to regulate the internet.
  That decision posed a number of problems for the future of the 
internet. For starters, heavyhanded government regulations tend to 
stifle the kind of growth and innovation that always flourished around 
the internet.
  There was also serious reason to be concerned that this new 
regulatory regime would discourage companies from expanding access to 
broadband. That is a big concern for my State, where too many 
individuals still lack reliable internet service. In fact, the FCC 
found that the decision to regulate the internet under the 1934 
telephone regulatory regime has, in fact, slowed investment, which has 
restricted the improvement of internet services for rural Americans, 
like many I represent in South Dakota.
  In response to these problems, the FCC recently decided to restore 
the light-touch regulatory regime under which the internet had thrived. 
Up until 2015, for two decades, the internet was regulated under the 
light touch. Everybody agreed that was the best approach. Let the 
internet grow, flourish, innovate, and expand to give more people 
access to high-speed internet services. Well, the FCC decided to change 
that. It created the opportunity for us to adopt net neutrality 
legislation to permanently address concerns about blocking, throttling, 
paid prioritization, and deal with these concerns under a regulatory 
regime that is suitable for the 21st-century internet. That is what the 
FCC did when they went back to what we had for two decades prior to 
2015. They opened the door to address this the way we should address 
this--through the people's representatives here in Congress.
  People are concerned about the blocking of lawful content on the 
internet and the throttling of internet speeds. Let's lock it into law. 
Let's put rules for the open internet into law so that we fully 
understand and can move forward in a way that doesn't have this 
constant ambiguity and back-and-forth from one FCC to the next or, 
worse yet, spending it in litigation in courtrooms.
  But instead of moving forward with that approach with Republicans to 
draft such legislation, the Democratic leadership decided to try to 
score political points by pushing a resolution to undo the FCC's 
decision, even though undoing this decision will do nothing to provide 
a permanent solution on net neutrality. The Democratic leader's 
position to pursue this partisan course stalled conversations that were 
occurring on a bipartisan basis between Members on both sides of the 
aisle who have wanted to come together to deal with this issue. I have 
been engaged in those conversations now for the last 3

[[Page S2561]]

years. We were making progress. We were coming together around a 
legislative solution that would get rid of all this uncertainty and 
unpredictability and ambiguity and the clouds that hang over this issue 
and allow open internet rules to be put into place and allow the 
internet to continue to thrive and grow and innovate.
  For decades, the commercial internet has been a source of innovation, 
economic growth, and opportunity, but that growth and opportunity will 
be stalled and stifled if we keep going the way we are going. We can't 
have internet regulations ping-ponging back and forth from 
administration to administration or from year to year, for that matter. 
That will bring innovation and investment to a standstill, and that is 
the worst possible thing you can do for those people across this 
country--many of whom I represent in South Dakota--who still don't have 
access to high-speed internet services. Nobody is going to be 
interested in taking risks or investing in innovation if they can't 
predict what the rules will look like a year down the road.
  The only way to preserve the dynamism of the internet, while also 
protecting consumers, is for Democrats and Republicans to come together 
on legislation to provide long-term certainty. For that to happen, 
Democrats are going to have to rise to the occasion, and they are going 
to have to stop playing political games to score political points and 
start focusing on actually legislating, because you see this CRA, this 
Congressional Review Act resolution, is going nowhere. Yes, they might 
narrowly get a vote out of the Senate because we have a Senator missing 
here, but it is not going anywhere in the House, and it is not going to 
be signed into law by the President. All it does is prolong this debate 
we are having. We could settle this debate once and for all if we were 
willing to sit down and actually work on a legislative solution.
  I hope that once the Democrats have gotten this latest political 
stunt out of their system, they will be willing to come to the table 
and develop a real solution that will allow the internet to flourish 
for generations to come.
  The Democratic leader, who was just down here, said the question here 
is, Whose side are you on? Well, I think that is a good question to ask 
because the question is, Whose side are you on? I think the choice is, 
Are you on the side of Big Government and heavyhanded regulation that 
stifles investment in the internet, stifles innovation, or are you 
truly for a free and open internet, a free market where the internet 
continues to thrive and to grow and to provide so many opportunities 
for people around this country?
  He said passing the CRA makes economic sense. Well, not if you want 
to get 5G, not if you want to provide high-speed internet services, not 
if you want to deploy broadband to rural areas in this country, because 
that takes investment. Investment follows certainty. They want to know 
what the rules are. They want the rules to be clear and unambiguous so 
that this can move forward, so that they can move forward and continue 
to see this economic miracle of the internet advance and continue to be 
taken advantage of and benefited by so many Americans.
  We have a chance to do that. We really do. But we can't do it when we 
sit around and mess around with political theater and political stunts, 
which is precisely what this is, and everybody knows it. Our colleagues 
on the other side know it. I have talked to lots of them who say: We 
want to work with you on legislation, but, you know, right now, we have 
this CRA we are going to vote on--which is a shiny object, and 
everybody gets to shoot at it. People can go out and raise money, and 
they can get people fired up at the grassroots that this is somehow 
going to be some magic solution, but it is not. It doesn't do anything.
  Even if it succeeded, what are you doing? You are just creating more 
back-and-forth from one FCC to the next. You are just requiring more 
money to be spent in courtrooms on litigation and lawsuits rather than 
invested in the types of technologies that will bring that high-speed 
access to more people in this country, that will get us to the fifth 
generation of technology, which is where everybody wants to go. Why 
don't we just sit down and do that? Why is this so hard? Well, it is 
because people think there are partisan political points that can be 
scored by doing this.
  Remember one thing too: The Congressional Review Act resolution of 
disapproval was created by Congress to unwind or prevent harmful 
regulations from going into effect--that an administration might be 
putting into effect. It is a way for Congress to be heard from if, in 
fact, the Congress--the people's representatives--believes the 
administration is heading in the wrong direction when it comes to some 
regulation.
  The CRA has never been used to reregulate. That is what this is 
doing. The FCC is unwinding the heavyhanded regulation that went into 
effect in 2015, and this is going to attempt now to reregulate, not to 
deregulate or prevent regulations from going into effect. That has 
never happened before. Do my colleagues on the other side honestly 
think that Republicans in the House of Representatives are going to 
vote for that or that President Trump will sign it into law? No. 
Everybody knows better than that.
  So what are we doing? We are playing a silly game here at the expense 
of a real solution--a solution that is out there waiting for us if we 
will simply sit down, as we should as elected representatives, as 
Senators, on both sides of the aisle, and address an issue that is very 
important to our economy and very important to a lot of Americans. I 
hope we can do that. We are not going to get there as long as we 
continue with this charade that we are taking on here today and in the 
weeks ahead.
  It is time for clear rules. We want an open and free internet that 
investors can invest in--and people can benefit from that investment--
and that provides opportunities and gains in productivity and continues 
the economic miracle that the internet has been for this country. That 
is what this debate is about, pure and simple. It is nothing else. We 
have a chance to do that, but we can't do it if we continue to play 
this sort of a game.
  I hope my colleagues will at some point--maybe we will go through 
this, and maybe we will have this vote. If we do, maybe they will win. 
They might win by a one-vote margin. It is not going anywhere. We all 
know that. Let's get serious on behalf of the American people. If there 
are legitimate, serious concerns about potential abuses by internet 
service providers when it comes to throttling speeds or blocking lawful 
content or any of that sort of thing--paid prioritization--let's 
address that in law. Let's quit messing around. Let's get to work.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sullivan). The Senator from Connecticut.


                               Healthcare

  Mr. MURPHY. Mr. President, this week people in Virginia and Maryland 
are waking up to the first rate filings by private insurance companies 
in 2018. The numbers are simply stunning.
  I am coming to the floor today to talk about what is going to be a 
very unhappy spring and summer for healthcare consumers all across the 
country, as health insurance companies--having now dealt with a full 
year and a half of President Trump's sabotage of the American 
healthcare system--are going to be looking at gigantic, unaffordable 
premium hikes for private healthcare insurance.
  I wanted to come down today, as we are starting to get into these 
rate filings, as our constituents are starting to ask why they are 
facing premium increases of, in some cases, up to 90 percent--think 
about that. Think about getting a notice from your insurance company 
telling you that in 1 year, your premium is going to double. The cost 
of getting health insurance is going to double. I feel it is time to 
come down and talk about why this is happening, why you are seeing 
these radical rate hikes being proposed from insurance companies.
  I want to walk through, for my colleagues, this very deliberate 
campaign of sabotage that this administration and congressional 
Republicans have waged against the Affordable Care Act and the American 
healthcare system writ large.
  It starts on January 20. Within hours of being inaugurated, President 
Trump issues an Executive order in which he directs all of his Federal 
agencies to use their administrative powers to begin dismantling the 
Affordable Care

[[Page S2562]]

Act ``to the maximum extent permitted by law.''
  This is before there is any proposal for what should substitute for a 
piece of legislation that insured 20 million people who didn't have 
insurance before the Affordable Care Act. It was before we knew that 
replacement would, in fact, uninsure, not 20 million people but 30 
million people and drive up rates by double digits.
  On the first day, President Trump tells his agencies to start 
dismantling and attacking the Affordable Care Act. At this point, the 
Affordable Care Act is so wrapped into the healthcare system of this 
country that when attacking the Affordable Care Act, you are attacking 
the entirety of the healthcare system.
  On January 26, 2017, the administration announces that it will stop 
advertising the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act. The 
administration says: We are no longer going to tell Americans that they 
have an option to become insured or to get less expensive coverage 
through the healthcare exchanges set up around the country or through 
the national exchange, leaving millions of Americans in the dark.
  Next, the President starts to threaten insurance companies--
threatening to pull the subsidies that Congress approved allowing for 
premiums to be reduced for lower income beneficiaries. The Trump 
administration starts threatening to pull those cost-sharing reduction 
payments in April of 2017. Eventually, in October of last year, the 
administration follows through on that threat and ends payments to 
insurance companies to help reduce cost-sharing for beneficiaries, 
driving up the cost of insurance all across the country.
  If you listen to health insurance executives talk to you about why 
they are passing on these big premium increases, they will tell you 
that one of the biggest reasons is the end of this program to help 
defray the costs for lower income individuals. Also, in 2017, about the 
same time he starts threatening to reduce these payments, the President 
cuts in half the open enrollment period. There is no reason to cut in 
half the open enrollment period other than you just don't want people 
to get insurance. It is a deliberate sabotage.

  Cutting in half the enrollment period is simply a mechanism to try to 
deny people the ability to get healthcare. There is no practical or 
logistical benefit to reducing the amount of time people have to buy 
healthcare, just as there is no practical benefit to cutting off all 
the advertising for the healthcare exchanges other than you don't want 
people to sign up.
  In July of 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services starts 
to unveil videos--23 of them in all--featuring individuals explaining 
how the Affordable Care Act has hurt the American healthcare system. 
They used their Twitter account to amplify these anti-ACA messages, and 
they removed any content promoting the exchanges from the website. Once 
again, it is just a spiteful attack on Americans who want to get health 
insurance and now will not know about it because of these attacks and 
removal of that content.
  Open enrollment outreach funding was reduced in August of 2017 by as 
much as 90 percent. So the helpful people you used to have trying to 
figure out whether you qualified for Medicaid or whether you qualified 
for a subsidy or a tax credit are no longer available because that 
money was taken away.
  Then there was the big legislative intervention, the repeal of the 
individual mandate. The individual mandate was repealed as part of the 
tax bill, even though CBO told Congress: If you do that, 13 million 
people will lose insurance. With full knowledge that the repeal of the 
mandate would result in 13 million Americans losing their health 
insurance, Congress went forward with it. CBO also said it will result 
in double-digit premium increases. Congress was told, if you take this 
step, 13 million will lose coverage, and premiums will go up. Congress 
still moved forward with it, and it was passed as part of the tax bill, 
with no Democratic votes.
  Finally, the President most recently unveiled what he called the 
short-term health insurance plan rule. These are more commonly referred 
to as junk plans. These are plans that last up to a year but don't need 
to comply with Federal regulations; for instance, regulations that 
require insurance companies to actually give you coverage for things 
like mental illness or maternity care or regulations that require 
insurance companies to protect people with preexisting conditions. All 
of those superpopular benefits in the Affordable Care Act--the ones the 
Republicans were so nervous to remove--are now no longer available to 
many Americans. Because of this short-term plan rule, these junk plans 
are going to be much more widely available.
  So you have this very coordinated, very deliberate attack on the 
American healthcare system: the Executive order in January of 2017, 
directing all Federal agencies to start undermining the American 
healthcare system; in April of 2017, the cut in the open enrollment 
period; in May, the votes start happening on the floor of the Senate to 
take insurance away from 23 million people--one of the bills took away 
insurance from 30 million people; in December, the repeal of the 
individual mandate, resulting in premiums going up by double digits; 
and now this junk plan rule, taking away protections from millions of 
Americans. The effect of that junk plan rule is also to move healthier 
patients out of the exchange pools into the junk plans because the junk 
plans don't have to cover anything, so healthy people will go to those 
plans, which drives up rates for the plans that people with any kind of 
preexisting condition would be able to access.
  You have this very deliberate plan to try to undermine the American 
healthcare system, and we are now seeing the consequences. As I 
mentioned, the period of rate filings is beginning across the country, 
where insurance companies have to announce what their rate increases 
are going to be.
  Healthcare inflation, on an annual basis, has been holding steady 
over the years. It certainly never gets above 10 percent, and for a 
number of years during the early rollout of the Affordable Care Act, 
that number was at or lower than 5 percent. So if you are just looking 
at the amount we are spending on an annual basis above last year on 
healthcare, that number has not recently been more than 5 percent. Yet 
one insurer in Virginia--a subsidiary of the big health insurance 
company, CareFirst--is proposing a 64-percent increase in Virginia. 
Other rate increase requests in Virginia are 26 percent and 15 percent. 
Nobody can afford a 64-percent increase in health insurance premiums in 
Virginia, but it is a consequence of this deliberate campaign of 
sabotage.
  Let's take a look at Maryland. There is one insurance company in 
Maryland that is asking for a 91-percent increase in premiums--again, 
this is a CareFirst plan--for its broad network PPO plan that currently 
has about 13,000 people in it. Thirteen thousand people in Maryland 
potentially are going to get a 91-percent increase in their health 
insurance premiums because of this deliberate campaign of sabotage.
  If you are in other CareFirst plans in Maryland, you are getting a 
19-percent increase. Your premiums are going up by one-fifth in one 
single year, in large part, because of this deliberate campaign to 
undermine the Affordable Care Act because of actions this Congress has 
taken that would knowingly increase rates for healthcare consumers.
  My colleagues and I are going to come down to the floor of the 
Senate, over the course of the spring and summer, to make sure everyone 
here and every one out there in America understands what the 
consequences of this American healthcare sabotage campaign is. It 
starts in Maryland with rate increases that get as big as 91 percent, 
and in Virginia, where health insurance increases get as big as 64 
percent. These numbers will continue to roll out all across the 
country, and Americans are going to be stunned--stunned--at how much 
this Republican campaign sabotage is costing them.
  I will just add one last note, which, to many of my constituents in 
Connecticut, feels like insult to injury. The tax bill did drive up 
rates by 10 percent, at least, in the first year. A big chunk of these 
increases, more than 10 percent, is a result of the repeal of the 
individual mandate, but the tax bill also gave a windfall to insurance 
companies and drug companies--some of the biggest players in the 
healthcare space.

[[Page S2563]]

  I just totaled up the projected 2018 tax savings to eight of the 
biggest insurance companies in the country, and it is over $4 billion. 
At the same time that these companies are passing along rate increases 
of 64 percent or 90 percent, they are getting billions of dollars in 
tax savings from this Congress. It appears none of the tax breaks this 
Congress bestowed on the insurance industry is going to consumers.
  When you look at the drug industry, where we have a little bit more 
mature information, you know why. One report, I believe released by the 
Finance Committee, showed that pharmaceutical companies already have 
announced $50--50--billion in stock buybacks and share buybacks as a 
result of the tax bill. These drug companies aren't announcing price 
cuts to insurance companies; these drug companies are not announcing 
price cuts for consumers; these drug companies are announcing massive 
share and stock buybacks that will largely benefit the millionaire and 
billionaire investors in those drug companies. This is insult to injury 
for the people in my State and people all across the country because 
they are watching their healthcare insurance premiums skyrocket, while 
the windfall of the tax bill accrues to the owners of the insurance 
companies and the drug companies.
  What a great time to be in the healthcare business today. You get a 
giant tax break, and you get to pass along gigantic premium increases 
to consumers all across this country.
  Think about it. Somebody in Maryland, making $30,000, $40,000 a year 
and being told the insurance company he does business with is going to 
get $1 billion in new tax relief from this Congress, and he is going to 
get a 91-percent increase in his premium. That is outrageous. That is 
outrageous, and yet it is just going to get worse.
  As this spring and summer plays out--I think every single week there 
is a new State or set of States unveiling rate filings--I will come 
down and update this chart so everybody knows what the numbers are. It 
starts with rate increases as high--and I am not saying every single 
increase is this high, but in Virginia it is 64 percent, and in 
Maryland it is 91 percent. I have a feeling there are going to be a lot 
of very big numbers on this board, and I want to make sure everybody 
understands that if you want to know why premiums are going up at the 
rate they are, you don't have to look any further than this campaign of 
healthcare sabotage that has been waged by the Trump administration and 
Republicans in Congress.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The President pro tempore.
  Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, I listened carefully to the distinguished 
Senator, and I am going to come back to the floor and explain why he is 
wrong on every point. I am just really amazed that they make these 
arguments when they are the ones who really caused the healthcare bill 
to come forth, which is just eating us alive, but I am here for another 
reason.


              Welcoming Home Americans Held in North Korea

  I would like to open my remarks by joining the President and the 
American people in welcoming home three courageous individuals who have 
been held in captivity in North Korea.
  We are all grateful for their safe return, but even as we celebrate 
their homecoming, we cannot forget about another brave American who has 
been unlawfully detained abroad--Joshua Holt.
  For 2 years, Joshua and his wife Thamy have been held on spurious 
charges in a prison in Venezuela, and for 2 years I have been working 
hard to bring them home. Rest assured that I will continue to work 
closely with the administration to secure their release.


                       Nomination of Gina Haspel

  Now, Mr. President, I would like to turn to another matter as 
President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate and as the longest serving 
Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. I ask my 
colleagues to come together in voting to support Gina Haspel's 
nomination to serve as the next Director of the Central Intelligence 
Agency.
  I took to the floor just 2 weeks ago to speak on behalf of Secretary 
of State Mike Pompeo. While I am delighted we were able to get behind 
his nomination, I am shocked and embarrassed by the scale of 
partisanship and enmity that marked his confirmation process.
  On the day of Ms. Haspel's hearing, I am once again disappointed at 
how poorly a dedicated servant has been treated by the press and by 
some in this Chamber.
  This is someone who has served her organization faithfully for over 
three decades. She is one, among a very small group, who rose up 
through the ranks within the Directorate of Operations during the 
Agency's transition from the Cold War to the War on Terror.
  The job of the CIA operative--our Nation's first line of defense--is 
a thankless one. For generations, the American people will never know 
the length of the sacrifices these men and women make to keep us all 
safe. For these men and women, public service is not only a profession 
but a lifestyle--a commitment that often requires the sacrifice of 
family and loved ones as well. It is a life of constantly being on the 
frontlines, being in the arena in every sense of the expression.
  Ms. Haspel embodies all these qualities and has given of herself in 
ways we can never imagine or begin to do ourselves. In turn, she has 
not only acquired the needed experience and expertise for this job but 
has also gained the respect of men and women of the organization she is 
to head.
  She has also worked closely with Secretary Pompeo as his Deputy for 
the year during which he was Director--a level of trust that would be 
critical in her new role as Director working with the Secretary of 
State.
  It is worth pointing out to my colleagues on the other side of the 
aisle the words of praise offered for Ms. Haspel's nomination by 
security officials who served under President Obama.
  James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, said: 
``I think the world of Gina; she is capable, smart, very experienced, 
well respected by the Agency rank and file, and a great person.''
  Leon Panetta, who served as both CIA Director and Secretary of 
Defense, said: ``I'm glad that they have a first woman as head of CIA, 
and I'm glad that it's Gina because frankly she is someone who really 
knows the CIA inside out.''
  John Brennan, who also served as President Obama's CIA Director, 
said: ``She will be able to provide that unvarnished, apolitical, 
objective intelligence input to Donald Trump and to others.''
  If these words do not represent a seal of approval, then I don't know 
what does. Never have I seen someone receive such widespread praise 
from such a distinguished and bipartisan group of seasoned authorities, 
and never did I think I would live to see the day that the CIA would 
receive its first female Director.
  I know we will all come together, ultimately, to vote to confirm Ms. 
Gina Haspel as Director of the CIA, but I would like to take this 
opportunity to again remind my colleagues in the Senate of the 
destructive nature of this partisanship. Two weeks ago, we were on the 
cusp of not having a Secretary of State all because we were more 
concerned with political loyalties.
  Today we see the same dynamic in play. We are again divided along 
party lines and, once again, on a candidate who is supremely qualified 
to lead the organization for which she was nominated. This type of 
partisanship is unprecedented in our history, and it is destructive for 
our future. It represents a true national security threat of the 
highest order.
  We can disagree about specific policies, we can have our political 
stakes, but let's keep those out of our first responsibility of serving 
the American people, whose physical well-being and safety should be our 
first priority. Who better understands this than Gina Haspel, a 
distinguished public servant who has kept our country safe during the 
most dangerous times in recent memory.
  I ask my colleagues to stop with this dangerous behavior. Enough of 
the partisan games. We will be able to hold Ms. Haspel, as other 
Cabinet members, accountable for specific policies, as is our job, but 
let's get them into their jobs first. Our Nation needs them, and our 
Nation needs us to behave as the representatives and stewards of our 
democracy that we ought to be.

[[Page S2564]]

  I urge all of my colleagues to vote in favor of Ms. Haspel's 
nomination.


                       Remembering Michael Beaver

  Now, Mr. President, on another subject--indeed, a deeply somber one--
I would like to address a tragic loss we experienced in the Senate. 
Last week, Michael Beaver, a beloved member of the Senate family, 
passed away unexpectedly. We will all miss him dearly.
  Michael served us as the Assistant Parliamentarian of the U.S. 
Senate, following a prior record of accomplishment in his legal career 
and a vibrant life which was tragically cut short at the young age of 
39.
  I am sure I speak for all of us in saying our hearts go out to 
Michael's family, including his beloved wife, young children, and 
parents.
  Michael was known and admired by us all for his legal and 
parliamentary talents, as well as for his sharp wit and humor. 
Parliamentarians in the Senate work hard for the American people and 
often face long hours and extended debates. They are an integral part 
of the fabric that holds the Senate in order and allows us to achieve 
results. With Michael's talents and demeanor, our accomplishments were 
made all the more rigorous and our work all the more pleasurable.
  It was not unusual for Michael to provide comment or advice on Senate 
work in progress that included a unique and brilliant mixture of 
insight, wit, and humor. Succinctly stated, working with Michael was 
refreshing.
  Michael engaged with my staff and Members of the Senate on a daily 
basis when the Senate debated healthcare reform and then tax 
legislation. There were many late nights, and work often spilled over 
into the weekends. Michael was always there to help us through and 
would often make us smile with his ever-present sharp wit.
  Without the dedication of public servants like Michael, it would 
simply be impossible for the rest of us in the Senate to function as we 
should.
  Michael's passing is hard on all of us, from his colleagues in the 
Office of the Parliamentarian to every committee in the Senate, and to 
those of us who saw him regularly seated directly below where the 
Presiding Officer sits. We all benefited from his counsel.
  My heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to Michael's family in 
their time of grief. He will be sorely missed.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. PETERS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                             Net Neutrality

  Mr. PETERS. Mr. President, competition is the lifeblood of the 
American economy. Competition is what makes capitalism work. It is 
competition that has established the United States as the world's 
dominant economic force for over a century.
  American competition is driven by innovation. We created the light 
bulb, the automobile, and the internet.
  We all know that the internet has revolutionized the way we 
communicate, learn, and do business. A free and open internet allows 
students in Houghton, Lancing, and Mount Pleasant to access research 
and to collaborate internationally. A free and open internet allows 
startups in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Flint to reach customers across 
the globe. A free and open internet allows a small bed and breakfast in 
Traverse City or Muskegon to reach millions of potential guests that 
they couldn't otherwise reach.
  While the internet has been a potent force for innovation and 
economic growth in recent decades, our economy has been facing some 
serious headwinds. I am deeply concerned that we are seeing increased 
business consolidation--big firms are getting bigger--and we are seeing 
fewer new small businesses and startups. A recent study found that 
across 900 different industries, over two-thirds have become more 
concentrated in the past decade. The formation of new companies is 
falling. The number of jobs created by new businesses has fallen, even 
as our workforce has grown.
  We have seen a large national internet service provider acquire a 
similarly large media company. We have recently seen the largest online 
retailer acquire one of our Nation's most successful grocery chains. 
Now we are seeing two of the four largest wireless carriers making 
preparations to merge.
  Certainly, consolidations and mergers are a part of our economy, but 
we need rules of the road to level the playing field, to help small 
businesses and startups to compete, and to drive innovation. This is 
exactly why we need net neutrality.
  Net neutrality protections prevented internet service providers from 
blocking, slowing, or prioritizing web traffic for their own financial 
gain. Without net neutrality, we could be subject to a two-tiered 
internet. Without net neutrality, large corporations, which keep 
getting larger and larger, can pay for a fast lane and buy the power to 
slow down or to block content. Without net neutrality, consumers, small 
businesses, and startups can be forced into the slow lane. Simply put, 
net neutrality keeps America competitive.
  Unfortunately, net neutrality is under attack by the Trump 
administration. In December, the FCC voted to repeal crucial net 
neutrality protections, despite the fact that 86 percent of Americans 
wanted the rules to stay in place. The decision to scrap these net 
neutrality protections is anti-consumer, anti-innovation, and anti-
competitive. It disadvantages small businesses, startups, and families 
all across our country.
  While the FCC vote to repeal net neutrality rules is over, we are 
still here in the Senate fighting. In fact, we are closer than ever to 
reinstating the rules of the road that will keep the internet free, 
open, and competitive.
  Fifty Senators, including the entire Democratic caucus, have signed a 
petition that would force a vote on legislation that would reinstate 
these crucial protections. With 51 votes, we could overturn the FCC's 
original repeal and move one step closer to restoring fairness.
  Students, artists, advocates, entrepreneurs, and other visionaries 
who could be inventing the future and creating the next big thing could 
once again be on an equal playing field with multinational corporations 
when it comes to using the internet.
  We need net neutrality to keep our economy dynamic, growing, and 
innovative. We need net neutrality to keep our startups and small 
businesses competitive.
  Five months ago, I stood here in this Chamber urging the FCC to 
abandon their dangerous vote. Now I stand here urging my colleagues to 
reverse this dangerous and disastrous decision.
  We have the power to do it, and we must. We need one more vote.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. SCHATZ. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Ernst). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.
  Under the previous order, all postcloture time has expired.
  The question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the Engelhardt 
nomination?
  Mr. INHOFE. I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk called the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the 
Senator from South Carolina (Mr. Graham) and the Senator from Arizona 
(Mr. McCain).
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from Indiana (Mr. Donnelly) 
and the Senator from Illinois (Ms. Duckworth) are necessarily absent.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Are there any other Senators in the Chamber 
desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 62, nays 34, as follows:

                       [Rollcall Vote No. 87 Ex.]

                                YEAS--62

     Alexander
     Barrasso
     Bennet
     Blunt
     Boozman
     Burr
     Capito
     Cassidy
     Collins

[[Page S2565]]


     Coons
     Corker
     Cornyn
     Cotton
     Crapo
     Cruz
     Daines
     Enzi
     Ernst
     Fischer
     Flake
     Gardner
     Grassley
     Hatch
     Heitkamp
     Heller
     Hoeven
     Hyde-Smith
     Inhofe
     Isakson
     Johnson
     Jones
     Kennedy
     King
     Klobuchar
     Lankford
     Leahy
     Lee
     Manchin
     McCaskill
     McConnell
     Moran
     Murkowski
     Murphy
     Nelson
     Paul
     Perdue
     Portman
     Risch
     Roberts
     Rounds
     Rubio
     Sasse
     Scott
     Shelby
     Sullivan
     Tester
     Thune
     Tillis
     Toomey
     Warner
     Wicker
     Young

                                NAYS--34

     Baldwin
     Blumenthal
     Booker
     Brown
     Cantwell
     Cardin
     Carper
     Casey
     Cortez Masto
     Durbin
     Feinstein
     Gillibrand
     Harris
     Hassan
     Heinrich
     Hirono
     Kaine
     Markey
     Menendez
     Merkley
     Murray
     Peters
     Reed
     Sanders
     Schatz
     Schumer
     Shaheen
     Smith
     Stabenow
     Udall
     Van Hollen
     Warren
     Whitehouse
     Wyden

                             NOT VOTING--4

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

                          ____________________