EXECUTIVE SESSION
(Senate - July 09, 2018)

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[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 114 (Monday, July 9, 2018)]
[Pages S4829-S4837]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                           EXECUTIVE SESSION

                                 ______
                                 

                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the 
Senate will proceed to executive session and resume consideration of 
the Bennett nomination, which the clerk will report.
  The legislative clerk read the nomination of Mark Jeremy Bennett, of 
Hawaii, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.


                   Recognition of the Minority Leader

  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Democratic leader is 
recognized.


               Filling the upcoming Supreme Court Vacancy

  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, as everyone knows, later tonight 
President Trump will announce his nomination for the upcoming vacancy 
on the Supreme Court. Whoever fills Justice Kennedy's seat will join an 
otherwise evenly divided Court and immediately obtain the ability to 
affect the laws of the United States and the rights of its citizens for 
generations to come.
  Enormously important issues hang in the balance: the right of workers 
to organize, the pernicious influence of dark money in our politics, 
the right of Americans to marry whom they love, and the right to vote.
  Two issues of similar and profound consequence are the fate of 
affordable healthcare and a woman's freedom to make the most sensitive 
medical decisions about her body. These two rights--affordable 
healthcare and a woman's freedom to make sensitive healthcare 
decisions--hang in the balance with this nominee. The views of 
President Trump's next Court nominee could very well determine whether 
the Senate approves or rejects this nomination.
  President Trump has already made up his mind. President Trump has 
repeatedly said that he believes Roe was wrongly decided. He has 
promised, in his own words, to nominate only ``pro-life judges'' whose 
selection will result in the ``automatic'' overturning of Roe

[[Page S4830]]

v. Wade. Those are his words: ``pro-life judges'' and ``automatic.''
  He also said that Chief Justice Roberts has been ``an absolute 
disaster''--his words--for voting to uphold the healthcare law and said 
his judicial appointments ``will do the right thing, unlike Bush's 
appointee John Roberts, on ObamaCare.''
  It is near impossible to imagine that President Trump would select a 
nominee who isn't hostile to our healthcare law and to healthcare for 
millions and millions of Americans and who isn't hostile to a woman's 
freedom to make her own healthcare decisions.
  We can be sure of this because President Trump, during the campaign, 
asked Leonard Leo, the founder of the Federalist Society, to assemble a 
list of possible Supreme Court Justices for him to pick from. Mr. Leo 
was not only aware of Candidate Trump's preference for a Supreme Court 
that would reverse Roe v. Wade; he himself spent his career in pursuit 
of it.
  That is not just my view. According to Edward Whelan, one of the most 
prominent legal conservative activists and bloggers, ``no one has been 
more dedicated to the enterprise of building a Supreme Court that will 
overturn Roe v. Wade than the Federalist Society's Leonard Leo.'' No 
one has been more dedicated to overturning Roe v. Wade than the very 
man who chose the list of 25.
  That is what we are up against here. That is why America is on 
tenterhooks, so worried about any choice from this list.
  Let me repeat again that Mr. Leonard Leo is the man who assembled 
Trump's list of potential Supreme Court nominees, and no one--no one--
has been more dedicated to overturning Roe v. Wade than Leonard Leo.
  Normally, in the Senate we have a process of advise and consent on 
the Supreme Court. In the old days, the President would consult with 
Republicans and Democrats in the Senate on a qualified judge and, then, 
after careful deliberations, nominate a jurist who could get bipartisan 
support. What we have here is the exact opposite.
  The President has gone to two ``far out of the mainstream'' hard-
right groups--the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society--and 
asked them, not the Senate, to advise and consent on a Supreme Court 
nomination.
  Whomever the President selects tonight, if that nominee is from the 
preapproved list selected by Leo and the Heritage Foundation, everyone 
ought to understand what it means for the freedom of women to make 
their own healthcare decisions and for the protections for Americans 
with preexisting conditions: Those rights will be gravely threatened.
  We are going to hear a lot this summer about precedents. The 
traditional question in these matters has been: Will the nominee defer 
to precedent? Nominees will be asked if they respect settled law. This 
is known as the principle of stare decisis. The nominee always answers 
that, yes, he or she will respect and defer to precedent, and Senators 
nod their heads, having received this rickety, vague assurance that the 
nominee will not rock the judicial boat and turn the clock back 
decades. But for two reasons, this standard of settled law--stare 
decisis--is no longer an adequate standard by which to judge nominees. 
Why?
  First, we have ample evidence from the past several years of judges 
who have sworn in their confirmation hearings to respect precedent and 
then have reversed their stand once on the Court. For example, in his 
confirmation hearings, then-Judge Gorsuch said:

       Precedent is like our shared family history of judges. It 
     deserves our respect.

  Last week--just last week--now-Justice Gorsuch voted to overturn 41 
years of precedent in the Janus decision, relying on flimsy and 
fabricated legal theory. It was so flimsy, in fact, that Justice Kagan 
wrote in dissent that the majority overruled precedent, ``for not 
exceptional or special reason, but because it never liked the decision 
. . . subverting all known principles of stare decisis.''
  Justice Roberts--another person who swore he would obey precedent--
said he would call balls and strikes as he saw them, that he would 
interpret law rather than make it. Of course, it was Justice Roberts 
who was then responsible for overturning 40 years of precedent in the 
Citizens United decision, which so set back our politics and so 
deepened the swamp that so many Americans despise, by allowing huge 
amounts of dark money, unreported, to cascade into our political 
system.
  On two of the most important rulings in the history of the Roberts' 
Court, a cumulative 81 years of precedent were thrown out the window, 
despite the earnest promises of Justices Roberts and Gorsuch at their 
hearings.
  When they say they will obey settled law, you can't believe it. You 
can't believe it because it just hasn't happened in this new 
conservative Court that is so eager to make law, not interpret it.
  There is a second reason, which is maybe even more important, why the 
principle of ``I will follow settled law'' no longer works, and that is 
President Trump. We already know that President Trump's nominee will be 
prepared to overturn the precedents of Roe v. Wade and NFIB v. 
Sebelius. We know that because President Trump has said so. When the 
President has a litmus test for his nominees and only chooses from a 
preapproved list of nominees designed to satisfy that litmus test, it 
is certainly not enough for a judge to prove his or her moderation by 
invoking stare decisis. Stare decisis and respect for precedent have 
become an almost meaningless bar to set for a Supreme Court nominee. At 
this critical juncture, with so many rights and liberties at stake, 
U.S. Senators and the American people should expect an affirmative 
statement of support for the personal liberties of all Americans from 
the next Supreme Court nominee.

  The American people deserve to know what kind of a Justice President 
Trump's nominee would be. President Trump is the one who made a litmus 
test for his nominee, not us. The onus is on his nominee to show where 
he or she might stand.
  Considering the ample evidence that President Trump will only select 
a nominee who will undermine protection for Americans with preexisting 
conditions, give greater weight to corporate interests than the 
interests of our citizens no matter what precedent says, and vote to 
overturn Roe v. Wade, the next nominee has an obligation--a serious and 
solemn obligation--to share their personal views on these legal issues 
no matter whom President Trump selects tonight.


                              North Korea

  Mr. President, briefly, on another matter--the ongoing negotiations 
with North Korea over their nuclear program. Despite all the reality 
show pomp and circumstance, the negotiations have, thus far, been a 
flop. After the summit, President Trump declared, without any 
evidence--that is so typical--that ``North Korea is no longer a nuclear 
threat'' to the United States. The reality, of course, is far 
different.
  Recent reports have shown that North Korea is making upgrades to a 
nuclear facility and expanding ballistic missile manufacturing. Just a 
few days ago, North Korean media called the negotiations with Secretary 
of State Pompeo ``deeply regrettable,'' accusing the Trump 
administration of pushing ``a unilateral and gangster-like demand for 
denuclearization.'' Talks are going great, and then our side is accused 
of being gangster-like?
  For the President to say North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat 
and then have North Korea's Foreign Ministry come back and say what 
they said, shows the disconnect between President Trump's rhetoric, the 
reality, and the sheer incompetence of this administration. For those 
who say--and I hear it all the time from many of my Republican friends 
in my State and throughout the country--they say: Look, we don't like 
the President's style. We wish he didn't tweet so much, but we support 
him because he is ``getting stuff done.'' Take a look at the yawning 
gap between what the President claims and what he has actually 
achieved. On North Korea and on so many other issues--taxes and 
healthcare are two other examples--the President makes grand promises 
but fails to deliver for the American people.


                               Healthcare

  Finally, Mr. President, one word on healthcare. Another issue the 
President has failed to deliver on is healthcare. After promising far 
better and cheaper healthcare for all Americans, President Trump has 
relentlessly

[[Page S4831]]

sabotaged our healthcare system, undermined key protections for 
Americans with preexisting conditions, done all he can to see the 
premiums rise. Probably the No. 1 issue bothering America today is 
rising healthcare costs.
  Last week, the Trump administration found another way to sabotage our 
existing healthcare system, suspending a critical program that 
stabilizes the healthcare insurance markets. This comes at a time when 
2019 premiums are being filed, and insurers from coast to coast are 
saying the Republican sabotage is causing premiums to increase, to be 
much higher than they need to be. Many of these insurers are also 
saying that if the Trump administration enacts further sabotage, such 
as actions like this one and the expansion of junk plans that hurt 
people with preexisting conditions, then insurers may need to amend 
their rates and raise premiums even more. This relentless healthcare 
sabotage is politically motivated, spiteful, and accomplishes nothing 
except to raise costs on middle-class families and taxpayers. The Trump 
administration needs to fix this newest sabotage as quickly as 
possible.
  I yield the floor.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The majority whip.


               Filling the Upcoming Supreme Court Vacancy

  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, this evening, the President of the United 
States will perform his duty and nominate a person to serve as the next 
Supreme Court Justice to fill the vacancy left by Associate Justice 
Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement at the end of July. I 
look forward to joining the President this evening, along with a number 
of my colleagues, for that historic announcement. It is an important 
day because the person selected will help decide many cases that will 
have a deep and lasting impact on American history. Certainly, Justice 
Kennedy played that role many times in many close cases.
  There are a great many talented men and women who are qualified for 
Justice Kennedy's seat, I believe, and that is why the President's 
choice is so difficult. All of these candidates who have been 
identified as a potential pool of candidates have the intellectual 
capacity that has developed over many years, along with a rigorous 
understanding of the law. They have demonstrated their analytical 
skills in a variety of ways--by studying at top-tier law schools, 
clerking for well-respected judges on the courts of appeals and the 
Supreme Court, in their public speeches, in the courses they have 
taught, in the articles they have published, working at the highest 
levels inside government and prominent law firms, and, of course, in 
the case of the final four, serving on an appellate bench, which is the 
midlevel, intermediate Federal court which, for all practical purposes 
in most cases, is the court of last resort since the Supreme Court only 
hears roughly 80 or so cases a year.
  I know the President has considered a handful of these jurists. He 
revealed a list of potential appointees to the Court when he ran for 
President, and I think that probably was one reason why he was elected 
because when people saw the quality, the experience, and the 
qualifications of the individuals he said he would consider for the 
Supreme Court, I think it gave them greater confidence he would choose 
wisely, given the opportunity as President, to appoint somebody to the 
Court.
  These individuals who are in the pool of prospective nominees have 
come from different academic and professional backgrounds, but I have 
no doubt the selection will be a good one primarily because of the one 
appointment the President has already made to the Supreme Court, which 
is Justice Neil Gorsuch.
  Justice Gorsuch did not disappoint those of us who supported his 
nomination during his first year on the Court. He has demonstrated not 
only the power of his pen but the clarity of his thought and the force 
of his legal reasoning. I am sure his predecessor, Justice Scalia, 
would be proud of the fact Justice Gorsuch succeeded him on the Court 
and has left a record of accomplishments in such a short time.
  President Trump and Justice Gorsuch taught us all a valuable lesson 
last year. At the end of the day, the decisions of the Supreme Court 
should not be much affected by the personalities or the life stories of 
the Justices themselves. That is because the interpretation of the law 
should always be separate and apart from the people who apply it, and 
the Justices and their work must be insulated from the day-to-day 
politics that happen inside this Capitol Building and the statehouses 
around the country.
  The Court is not a partisan or political institution. After all, that 
is the way our Founders--the people who created this great country--and 
our Founding documents wanted it to be. Wisely, they figured there 
needed to be someone who would make a final decision in the event of a 
controversy or a lawsuit, but the Court itself should not put a finger 
on the scale or be a player in the partisan battles that occur here in 
Washington, DC. Indeed, the Court should be and is a separate and equal 
branch of government and must stand on its own, apart from the 
political biases and persuasions that pervade the District of Columbia. 
So I, along with many other people, am excited to hear the President's 
choice.


                   Tribute to Justice Anthony Kennedy

  Before we begin this confirmation process, let me acknowledge the 
work and the legacy of departing Justice Kennedy. I thank Justice 
Kennedy for his 40-plus years serving this country on the Federal 
bench. He has presided over and authored the majority opinion in many 
high-stakes cases of national importance. He may be somewhat hard to 
pigeonhole at times, but I think it is safe to say he has remained 
committed to upholding the integrity of the judiciary throughout the 
course of his career. As a former State supreme court justice myself, I 
can attest that the work of a judge is painstaking, time-consuming, but 
obviously extraordinarily important. So we are grateful to Justice 
Kennedy for his willingness, his ability, and his determination to 
carry out his important work as a Federal judge.

  After being appointed by President Reagan and having served on the 
Supreme Court for the last three decades, he has furthered the pursuit 
of American justice one case at a time through calm times and turbulent 
times. He was an important member of the Court who recognized one's 
individual right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment, and 
he recently upheld the President's ability to protect national security 
and limit immigration from countries that have no ability to vet and to 
identify potential sources of terrorism in their own countries.
  As Justice Kennedy concludes his tenure on the Court at the end of 
the month, we wish him and his wife, Mary, and his children many more 
happy years together.


                   Filling the Upcoming Court Vacancy

  Mr. President, meanwhile, after the President's announcement this 
evening, the Senate will fulfill its constitutional role by providing 
advice and consent on whomever President Trump nominates. We plan to 
consider the nominee and his or her record thoroughly. That is our 
responsibility.
  As the senior Democratic Senator from Connecticut said recently, 
``the Senate should do nothing to artificially delay'' the 
consideration of the next Justice. I agree. It is also consistent with 
the standards set by former President Obama and Vice President Biden. 
In 2010, which was a midterm election, just like this year, Senate 
Democrats confirmed President Obama's nominee, Elena Kagan, to the 
Supreme Court.
  After President Trump makes his selection, Senators will have the 
opportunity to meet with the nominee, examine his or her 
qualifications, debate them, and then vote. We will vote this fall to 
confirm Justice Kennedy's successor. I know Chairman Grassley will 
manage a fair confirmation process in the Judiciary Committee. He 
always has.
  It is crucial that as this process begins to unfold, the President's 
nominee not be subjected to personal attacks from an increasingly 
agitated and vitriolic Democratic Party. My frustration is that we used 
to debate an individual nominee's qualifications, but, as with the 
Gorsuch nomination, we have seen that anybody whom President Trump 
would nominate would be uniformly opposed by our friends across the 
aisle.
  Based on what we have seen so far, we know that the confirmation 
process

[[Page S4832]]

will certainly be contentious. We hope that people will remind 
themselves of the benefits of civility and decorum. We have seen some 
of our friends across the aisle talk about the battle lines that are 
being drawn, and we have heard other hyperbolic language. They have 
indicated their unwavering opposition to President Trump's nominee no 
matter who he or she is and before they even know who he or she is. 
That is extremely disappointing.
  Our colleagues' pledge to stop the nominee at all costs is not 
encouraging, to say the least. Yet I assure you we will not back down 
from the fight, and we will see President Trump's nominee confirmed on 
a timely basis, consistent with the confirmations of previous nominees. 
The stakes are too important, and the character of the eventual 
nominee, we expect, will be too high to allow these sorts of things to 
happen without our pushing back. The American people deserve better.
  During the first 18 months of this administration, President Trump 
has nominated and we have confirmed 42 members of the Federal 
judiciary, including Justice Gorsuch. We look forward to another 
outstanding selection, and we will move efficiently and thoroughly 
throughout the confirmation process. Like I said, we will vote to 
confirm the President's nominee this fall.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so 
ordered.


                   Recognition of the Majority Leader

  The majority leader is recognized.


               Filling the Upcoming Supreme Court Vacancy

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, ``sexist,'' ``a disaster for women,'' 
``totally unacceptable''--these are just a few of the ad hominem 
attacks the far-left special interest groups hurled at a Federal 
circuit court judge whom a Republican President nominated to the 
Supreme Court. The name of the Federal judge--Anthony Kennedy.
  After President Reagan nominated then-Judge Kennedy to the Court in 
1987, these far-left special interest groups impinged his character. 
They cooked up apocalyptic warnings about all of the terrible things 
that would happen to Americans if he were to be confirmed to the Court. 
Of course, the American people didn't buy it, and a majority of 
Senators saw through the hyperbole and hysteria and confirmed that 
qualified nominee. Believe it or not, the sky didn't fall, but decades 
later, our Democratic colleagues still haven't tired of crying wolf 
whenever a Republican President nominates anyone to the Supreme Court. 
We have seen this same movie time after time.

  Less than 3 years after Justice Kennedy's confirmation, President 
Bush nominated David Souter to the Supreme Court. Guess what leftwing 
pressure groups said about David Souter right after President Bush 
selected him. That is right, the very same things we are hearing today. 
The same things you have heard from these same corners about every 
Supreme Court nominee named by a Republican President.
  One organization proclaimed that Justice Souter might ``undo the 
advances made by women, minorities, dissenters and other disadvantaged 
groups.''
  That was about Justice Souter.
  Back in 1975, they assailed the nomination of John Paul Stevens. They 
said he lacked impartiality and opposed women's rights. That is what 
was said about John Paul Stevens. So these far-left groups have been at 
these same scare tactics for over 40 years. The consistency is really 
quite amazing. Decade after decade, nominee after nominee, the far-left 
script hardly changes at all.
  Anyone and everyone the Republican President nominates to the Supreme 
Court is some kind of threat to the public, according to the hysterical 
press releases that inevitably follow. No matter their qualifications, 
no matter their record, no matter their reputation, it is the same 
hyperbole, the same accusations, the same old story.
  Tonight, President Trump will announce his nominee to fill the 
current Supreme Court vacancy. We don't know whom he will name, but we 
already know exactly what unfair tactics the nominee will face. They 
will not be new, and they will not be warranted. We can expect to hear 
how they will destroy equal rights or demolish American healthcare or 
ruin our country in some other fictional way.
  Justice Kennedy's resignation letter had barely arrived in the 
President's hands before several of our Democratic colleagues began 
declaring their blanket opposition to anyone and all--anyone the 
President might name. One Democratic Senator stated she would resist 
any attempt to confirm any nominee this year: ``It doesn't matter who 
he is putting forward.'' It doesn't matter who.
  Earlier today, just today, another Democratic Senator issued a press 
release declaring preemptively that he plans to oppose whomever the 
President nominates tonight, no matter who they are.
  Another of our Democratic colleagues offered this assessment: ``We 
are looking at the destruction of the Constitution of the United States 
as far as I can tell.''
  It is hard to keep a straight face when you hear stuff like that. 
There is not even a nominee yet. Justice Kennedy just announced his 
retirement, and they are talking about the destruction of the 
Constitution? Please, give the American people some credit. This far-
left rhetoric comes out every single time, but the apocalypse never 
comes.
  Americans see beyond this far-left fearmongering they have tried over 
and over again for 40 years, and Senators should do the same. We should 
evaluate this President's nominee fairly based on his or her 
qualifications, and we should treat the process with the respect and 
dignity it deserves.
  The Judiciary Committee under the able leadership of Senator Grassley 
will hold hearings, and the nomination will come to the full Senate for 
our consideration. One more round of 40-year-old scare tactics will not 
stop us from doing the right thing.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Ernst). The Senator from Florida.
  Mr. NELSON. Madam President, I would just say to my friend the 
majority leader, that is exactly what I intend to do--to be fair, 
respectful, and talk with and have a conversation with the nominee and 
then exercise my judgment of what is in the best interest of the 
country as well as my State of Florida.


                        Algae Blooms in Florida

  Madam President, I am here to talk about a condition that is in the 
State of Florida which is not a very good one.
  What has happened is the accumulation of hot weather and extra 
nutrients in the water, aided and abetted by the release of fresh water 
as Lake Okeechobee rises. That water is having to be released because 
of the pressure on the dike. Excess water is released to the west in 
the Caloosahatchee River and to the east in the St. Lucie River, and 
all of that has created a condition--with the humidity and the heat of 
the summer--in which the water is so fully laden with nutrients that 
algae starts to grow, then it starts to bloom, and then it starts to 
get excessive. It is toxic. It is slimy. It is called blue-green algae, 
and the bloom is spreading over those waterways.
  As a matter of fact, there are a lot of waterways in Florida that 
have an overgrowth of algae because of the excess nutrients in this 
water. This is particularly acute to the east of Lake Okeechobee and to 
the west of Lake Okeechobee.
  This past week, this Senator went from one coast to the other. I 
started in Fort Myers examining the Caloosahatchee River and talking 
with the elected leadership and environmental leadership. I then flew 
on to the lake, landing at the Pahokee Airport. I went to the Belle 
Glade Marina along with my colleague from Florida, Congressman Alcee 
Hastings. That is his district.
  We had a townhall meeting there and were able to announce some good 
news. Congressman Hastings, Senator Rubio, and I have requested the use 
of disaster relief money for the hurricanes--the last tranche was 
upward of $80 billion. We asked to use a portion of that to help us 
speed up the construction of

[[Page S4833]]

the dike so it can be reinforced to hold more lake water without the 
communities around the lake being threatened that the dike might give 
way due to the pressure of the higher water levels of the lake.
  At that meeting, we passed on the announcement from the U.S. Army 
Corps of Engineers and the White House, having utilized part of that 
money, their recommendation to utilize that $80 billion as a source of 
money to speed up the dike construction.
  That was a very welcome announcement, but it is only part of what has 
to be done. The algae is still there. The one thing I heard over and 
over from the people is, they are worried about the potential health 
risks associated with the algae bloom. They feel they are not getting 
timely, accurate information on what to look for and what they should 
do if a bloom takes place in the waterways in their particular area.
  I want to give some idea of the situation by showing these pictures, 
which are from 2 years ago, but they are fairly accurate as to what we 
are seeing today. You can see the blue-green algae located where some 
boats are tied up. You can see the effects of this same kind of algae 
out in more of a brackish water estuary. We are talking about some 
serious growth of algae. That is not pretty.
  Let me state that when this stuff starts rotting, the smell is awful. 
The question is, What are the health effects of this? The people are 
demanding answers. They want to know, and they should know.
  One young woman in Fort Myers told me something that was really 
rather surprising. She is a diver, and she had been 20 miles out in the 
Gulf of Mexico. There she encountered the slimy green algae that is 
usually in more of the freshwater and perhaps brackish waterways. She 
said she couldn't believe it.
  She told me she was worried that she may have been exposed to not 
just the toxic algae but also the red tide as well. That is another 
phenomenon that occurs in waters in the Gulf of Mexico. The red tide 
periodically appears. It is a toxin, and it is very noxious to human 
beings when it is breathed in. Of course, what the young woman who is a 
diver way out 20 miles in the Gulf of Mexico is saying is, when that 
blue-green algae meets the red tide, is that going to stimulate the red 
tide to release more toxins? We don't know.
  We have the same questions from residents in Stuart, FL. After I left 
Lake Okeechobee, I flew to Stuart, which is on the Atlantic coast. I 
started on the gulf coast and went to the Atlantic coast by late 
afternoon, where they were worried as well about the potential 
consequences to their health from the algae.
  Officials in Stuart were putting up signs in the emergency rooms 
warning people about the possible health risks. They were urging them 
to report any algae sightings or exposure as soon as possible. Even 
with those precautions, we still don't know the full picture of what 
the algae could mean for people's long-term health.
  That is why I have written to the Centers for Disease Control and 
Prevention, the CDC, to ask that they provide the people of Florida 
with the information they need, including the warning signs they need 
to look out for, the immediate health risk associated with swimming in 
or near the algae, or even breathing it in. That is just the short-term 
effect.
  I have also asked the CDC to look into the possible long-term effects 
of the algae exposure so we can begin to take whatever protective steps 
now in order to protect the people living in and around these blooms.
  Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that my letter to the 
Centers for Disease Control be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                                                  U.S. Senate,

                                     Washington, DC, July 9, 2018.
     Hon. Robert Redfield,
     Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 
         Atlanta, GA.
       Dear Director Redfield: As toxic, neon-green algae blooms 
     once again coat Lake Okeechobee and spread to Florida's 
     coasts, I'm writing to ask for emergency federal assistance 
     to properly communicate the potential health risks associated 
     with algae exposure, and a study of the long-term health 
     effects, especially for vulnerable populations like children, 
     the elderly, and fishermen who spend their days on the water. 
     As I travel across Florida, I continue to hear from residents 
     and officials that there is confusion about the potential 
     health impacts of living near or coming into contact with 
     algae, including cyanobacteria and Karenia brevis.
       Last week, I visited with residents and community leaders 
     in Fort Myers and Stuart, Florida, to discuss the algae 
     plaguing the local waterways there and I repeatedly heard the 
     same message: we need trustworthy, timely information about 
     the potential health consequences of exposure to toxic algae 
     for prolonged periods.
       During the ``lost summer'' of 2016, the blue-green algae 
     that overtook much of Florida's east coast was severe enough 
     to garner national attention. Yet even then, local officials 
     and residents say they did not receive enough information 
     from state agencies about the quality of the water or the 
     risks of exposure to toxic algae.
       Floridians and tourists need to know with certainty whether 
     or not the water is safe. If the Centers for Disease Control 
     and Prevention needs a specific request from the state of 
     Florida to provide assistance, and has not yet received one, 
     please let me know. I appreciate your attention to this time-
     sensitive issue.
           Sincerely,
                                                      Bill Nelson.

  Mr. NELSON. Just last week, the Army Corps of Engineers announced 
that additional money, the $514 million in disaster supplemental 
funding for the Herbert Hoover Dike, and that will complete that 
project earlier than 2025, accelerating completion to 2022, as Senator 
Rubio and I had requested. This funding is on top of what we have 
already spent over a decade and a half--$1 billion shoring up the dike. 
This didn't happen just yesterday. This happened 15, 20 years ago, and 
we have already spent $1 billion.

  We are going to get it accelerated all the way to 2022. That is 
coming in time. While getting that additional funding to speed up work 
on the dike is certainly good news, it is important to remember that 
fixing the dike is important for public safety, to protect the 
communities that are living around Lake Okeechobee. It is not the 
solution to ending the discharges, and it is not solving the algae 
crisis. It is one step on the road to try to stop all of this algae 
bloom that occurs every year.
  Once that dike is fully repaired, the Army Corps then expects to be 
able to store about 6 more inches of water. In a big lake like that, 
that is a lot of water. That is good news because that flexibility 
helps, especially during the algae bloom breakouts, because you can 
hold more water back in the lake and you don't have to dump it into the 
St. Lucie or the Caloosahatchee. The only way to end those damaging 
discharges is to move ahead with Everglades restoration projects north 
of the lake, as well as the projects designed to take water from the 
lake, clean it, and send it south, as Mother Nature initially intended 
it to go.
  That is why we need to get critical projects like the Central 
Everglades Planning Project and the new reservoir in the Everglades 
Agricultural Area south of the lake moving as fast as we can. To do 
that, we need more than the small amount the President has requested 
for next year. In fact, we need upward of $200 million a year to really 
start making progress in restoring the Everglades.
  Voters in Florida overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment to 
dedicate a portion of the documentary stamp tax to land acquisition for 
environmental projects. Florida is sensitive to the environment, and 
that is why the voters voted an increase in the documentary stamp tax 
for themselves. What happened is that the government of the State of 
Florida hasn't been using that money for what the people intended when 
they voted in a referendum. Instead of using that money as it was 
intended, the State of Florida is trying to divert it to other 
purposes, such as filling in budget shortages or employees' salaries or 
other items unrelated to environmental expenses, and now we have suits 
that have tied all that up in litigation. It is further distracting 
from the overall goal of restoring the Everglades.
  The Federal Government should take the lead and do what is right. We 
should move forward and fully fund the ongoing Everglades restoration 
projects. We also need to get the House of Representatives to pass the 
harmful algal bloom reauthorization bill, which was introduced by this 
Senator, and the Senate passed it unanimously a year ago. This bill 
would reauthorize

[[Page S4834]]

funding for the Federal task force that is studying the harmful algae 
blooms like the one I have been describing here.
  I hope every Member of the Florida delegation--especially those who 
are in areas where water is allowing algae to bloom--will join this 
Senator in calling on the Speaker of the House to take up and pass this 
important bill in the House. We need to do it fast while all of this 
algae is blooming, and that would be before the House goes out in 
recess for their August break. Time is critical.
  Again, I want to show you what this algae looks like. You can see 
these thick chunks on the surface of the water where it almost looks 
like a blue-green carpet. When that algae dies, you can't believe the 
smell that comes from it. We must act, and the time to act is now.
  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. GRASSLEY. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


               Filling the Upcoming Supreme Court Vacancy

  Mr. GRASSLEY. Madam President, tonight the President will announce 
his nominee for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United 
States. That announcement is because of a vacancy created by Justice 
Kennedy's recent retirement.
  Justice Kennedy left an important legacy of more than three decades 
on the Supreme Court. I voted for his confirmation 30 years ago. 
Justice Kennedy demonstrated his deep commitment to our constitutional 
liberties. It is no surprise that some of his greatest opinions 
defended free speech and religious liberty. I hope Justice Kennedy's 
successor carries forward this legacy.
  I am optimistic that the person the President nominates tonight will 
be highly qualified and committed to the rule of law. I am optimistic 
because President Trump already appointed one such Supreme Court 
Justice: Neil Gorsuch.
  The President's selection process is the most transparent in history. 
He issued a list of potential Supreme Court nominees directly to the 
American people during his 2016 campaign. To my knowledge, no other 
Presidential candidate has ever done that. The list demonstrated the 
types of Justices he would appoint to the Bench. The American people 
voted for President Trump in part because of that list of names and 
what it reflected and his promise to nominate these types of jurists.
  Any of the 25 people on the President's list would be an excellent 
choice and worthy of the Senate's serious consideration, but already we 
are seeing from liberal outside groups and some of the Democratic 
leadership a desperate attempt to block the nominee--any nominee--by 
whatever means necessary. Democratic leaders have pledged to block 
anyone from the President's list without even knowing who that nominee 
is and regardless of his or her qualifications. Think about that a 
while. The President has a list of 25 names, but some Democratic 
leaders have already said that not one of them is acceptable, zero out 
of 25 highly respected, highly qualified individuals--not even worthy 
of this body's consideration. That is an incredible statement by some 
of the leaders on the other side of the aisle.
  This preemptive attack on a yet-to-be-named nominee is a preview of 
the obstacles and calls for needless delays we are sure to see from 
some of my colleagues. I have already heard several weak arguments made 
in an attempt to delay the confirmation hearing, but the Democratic 
leaders have shown their hand. The motive is to block any nominee from 
the President's list. Whatever reasons for delay, it is clear that 
their single motivating factor is blocking the nominee selected 
tonight, whoever he or she is.
  The first delay tactic I heard was that the Senate shouldn't confirm 
a nominee during a midterm election, but the Senate has never operated 
like that. Justice Kagan and Justice Breyer were confirmed in midterm 
election years, in addition to many Justices who served before them. 
Democratic leadership and outside groups are so desperate to block this 
nominee that they are willing to rewrite history to do it.
  We have a long history of confirming Justices nominated during a 
midterm election year. We don't have a long history of confirming 
Justices nominated during a Presidential election year. It has been 
nearly 80 years since we have done that. Former chairman Joe Biden 
announced in 1992 that the Senate shouldn't confirm any Justices during 
a Presidential election year. Senator Schumer said something similar in 
2007--the year before a Presidential election. The Biden-Schumer rule 
pertains only to Presidential elections, not midterm election years.
  It is important to let the American people decide who should choose a 
nominee for a Supreme Court vacancy. That is why I waited until after 
the 2016 Presidential election to hold hearings for a Supreme Court 
nominee. But the individual who selects nominees--the President of the 
United States--is not on the ballot in midterm elections. The rule 
simply doesn't apply during a midterm election, and that is this year.
  Another losing talking point is that we shouldn't confirm any nominee 
while Robert Mueller's investigation is ongoing. And who knows when 
that is going to end. This argument is again inconsistent with the 
historical precedent. Look at what President Clinton was involved in--
an investigation of that President over Whitewater. At the same time, 
Justice Breyer was appointed to the Supreme Court--at a time when the 
independent counsel was doing that investigation. At the time, his 
documents were under a grand jury subpoena. What other constitutional 
powers do the proponents of this argument believe that the President 
should surrender simply because of an investigation?
  This is obstruction masquerading as silliness. What drives this 
preemptive obstruction, you might ask. It is liberal outside groups' 
stated fear that the President's nominee will vote to invalidate the 
Affordable Care Act or overturn Roe v. Wade. Well, the same five-
Justice majority who preserved the Affordable Care Act is still on the 
Court. Justice Kennedy voted to strike it down. Replacing him with a 
like-minded Justice would not change the outcome. We hear the same 
thing about Roe v. Wade every time there is a Supreme Court vacancy. It 
was a big deal when Sandra Day O'Connor was appointed to the Court 37 
years ago. Yet Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land.
  It is pretty clear that Justices have a way of surprising us. Who 
could have predicted that Justice Scalia would strike down a ban on 
flag-burning? It is a fool's errand to try to predict how a Justice 
will rule on some hypothetical future case.
  This regular uproar about Roe v. Wade shows the difference between 
how many Democrats and Republicans view the courts.
  Liberal outside groups and many Democrats have a litmus test. They 
seem to be very results-oriented and focus on policy outcomes of 
judicial decisions. They expect--they even demand--their judges to rule 
in favor of their preferred policies. Liberal outside groups and their 
allies simply want judges to be politicians hiding under robes. That is 
why Senate Democrats were so blatant in changing Senate rules so that 
they could stack the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Former Democratic 
leader Harry Reid made no bones about making sure there were enough DC 
Circuit judges to protect the Obama administration's policies on 
regulations.
  Republicans, on the other hand, want judges who will rule according 
to the law and leave policymaking to elected representatives, where the 
Constitution prefers and demands that it be.
  I don't want judges who decide cases based upon whether the results 
are liberal or conservative. Judges should rule according to the law, 
no matter what their views are on policy outcomes. Judge Gorsuch 
recently said that judges wear ``robes, not capes.'' I agree with that 
assessment.
  Liberal outside groups and their allies want judges who will decide 
cases with liberal policy results. Republicans expect judges to leave 
their policy aside when deciding a case. That is the

[[Page S4835]]

fundamental difference that will become crystal clear to the American 
people during this confirmation debate.
  The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing for the nominee in 
the coming weeks. Exactly when, I don't know, and I shouldn't know at 
this point. I want to emphasize a few things, though. One, it is 
inappropriate for Senators to ask the nominee how he or she would rule 
on certain cases sometime in the near future or 10 years from now. Two, 
it is inappropriate to ask the nominee about his or her personal views 
on the merits of Supreme Court precedent.
  The bottom line is that Senators should not try to extract assurances 
from nominees on how they will decide particular cases in exchange for 
a confirmation vote because how do you know down the road--1 year or 2 
years or 15 years--what the case might be at that particular time?
  Justice Ginsburg made it pretty simple for everybody. During her 
confirmation hearing in the early 1990s, she set the standard, 
promising, in her words, ``no hints, no forecasts, no previews.'' She 
said this in a further long quote:

       It would be wrong for me to say or to preview in this 
     legislative chamber how I would cast my vote on questions the 
     Supreme Court may be called upon to decide. Were I to 
     rehearse here what I would say and how I would reason on such 
     questions, I would act injudiciously.

  This standard was reaffirmed by every Supreme Court nominee since 
then. For the last 25 or 26 years, the Ginsburg rule has been what is 
followed by other nominees for the Supreme Court. Justice Kagan said 
this about Roe v. Wade, following the Ginsburg rule:

       I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to comment 
     on the merits of Roe v. Wade other than to say that it is 
     settled law entitled to precedential weight. The application 
     of Roe to future cases, and even its continued validity, are 
     issues likely to come before the Court in the future.

  I expect this nominee announced tonight to likewise follow the 
Ginsburg standard. I will ask the nominee how he or she views the law 
and a Justice's role on the Bench. I will not presume to know how a 
nominee will rule on any case that might come before the Court today, 
tomorrow, or 10 years from now. I certainly will not be basing my vote 
on whether I think I will agree with the majority of his or her 
decisions.
  The press has reported that the President has focused on six or seven 
potential nominees for this vacancy. Each one is well qualified and 
would make an outstanding Supreme Court Justice.
  The nominee will get a full and fair hearing. Under my watch, the 
Senate Judiciary Committee will never be a rubberstamp. Several recent 
nominees to lower courts learned that the hard way.
  The process will be fair and will be transparent, as much as I can 
make it. That has been my approach during my nearly 38 years in the 
Senate--and all of those 38 years on the Senate Judiciary Committee--
and I will not change that. The American people must be confident that 
this Senate has fulfilled its constitutional duty of very independently 
vetting this nominee before we confirm a Justice to a lifetime 
appointment on the highest Court in the land.
  I eagerly await the President's announcement this evening. I look 
forward to hearing from the nominee when he or she appears before the 
Senate Judiciary Committee.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Moran). The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Ms. HIRONO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Ms. HIRONO. Mr. President, I have been consistently voting against 
cloture motions to proceed to debate on judicial nominations because 
the process by which we are considering these nominations has been 
deeply broken.
  I will again, today, be voting no on cloture even though the nominee 
we are voting on to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 
Ninth Circuit is Mark Bennett from Hawaii. I support Mark Bennett's 
nomination, and I spoke on his behalf during the Senate Judiciary 
Committee hearing. When debate time ends, I will vote for his 
confirmation.
  Mark is recognized as being one of the best qualified lawyers in the 
State of Hawaii. He has served as a Federal prosecutor, our State's 
attorney general, and in private practice. He has experience in trial 
and appellate work, on civil and criminal matters, at the State and 
Federal levels. He understands legislating and has served in the 
executive branch. He has received high ratings from the American Bar 
Association and from the Hawaii State Bar Association. He is well 
respected and has been honored multiple times by his colleagues.
  I have every confidence that Mark will put his skills and experience 
to good use on the bench as a fair and impartial judge who is beholden 
to nothing but the law and the Constitution. However, as has been my 
practice since the beginning of this Congress and session, I will vote 
no on cloture on Mark's nomination. I will vote this way to call 
attention to my disagreement and deep concern over how the Senate 
Judiciary Committee is conducting its judicial nomination hearings.
  The Senate has a constitutional obligation to provide advice and 
consent on judicial nominees, and I take this obligation very 
seriously. The American people depend on the Senate to fully consider 
and vet each judicial nominee. Throughout the course of their lifetime 
appointments, these judges will issue rulings and opinions that will 
touch each of our lives. The process of nominating, considering, and 
confirming judges should be a deliberate one. Its purpose should not be 
to confirm as many judges as quickly as possible. Senators should be 
able to provide input on who should sit on the Federal bench. Senators 
should have adequate opportunity to hear from third-party experts about 
the records and qualifications of each nominee, and Senators should 
have enough time to question and examine a nominee during the 
confirmation hearing. Yet, over the past year and a half, we have seen 
a breakdown in the way this process should work.
  The President has, essentially, outsourced the judicial selection 
process to two organizations that have strong, ideologically driven 
agendas--the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. These 
nominees have been chosen without the consent of their home State 
Senators, as has been the practice through what is known as the blue-
slip process. By ignoring the traditional blue-slip process, the 
President and his allies in Congress have been rendering the Senate's 
constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent increasingly 
meaningless.
  The White House and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee have also 
undermined the independent processes through which the American Bar 
Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary evaluates 
whether a nominee is qualified for the job. Ignoring this traditional 
process has resulted in the nominations and confirmations of a number 
of deeply unqualified judges. Some of these nominees have been unable 
to answer basic questions about judicial procedure or the law during 
their confirmation hearings. Others lack the kind of experiences one 
would want in those who will have lifetime appointments to the Federal 
courts.
  Under this administration, we have also seen the rushed 
considerations of many nominees for the Federal circuit courts. Judges 
who serve on our circuit courts are only one step away from the Supreme 
Court and deserve to be scrutinized closely in the Judiciary Committee. 
Over the last year and a half, however, the Judiciary Committee has 
overridden the objections of the minority to hold an unprecedented six 
nomination hearings with more than one circuit judge nominee being 
considered simultaneously on one panel. This means that members of the 
Judiciary Committee have only 5 minutes in total to ask questions of 
not just one but two circuit court nominees, including the time it 
takes for them to answer our questions. This is scarcely enough time to 
vet these nominees, many of whom are highly controversial and deserve 
maximum scrutiny. The American people deserve much more as we consider 
lifetime appointments to the Federal bench.

[[Page S4836]]

  Until we return to a normal process through which we consider 
lifetime appointments to the Federal bench, I will continue to oppose 
cloture on each judicial nomination by this President and encourage my 
colleagues to join me in this effort.
  I yield the floor.


                             Cloture Motion

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Pursuant to rule XXII, the Chair lays before 
the Senate the pending cloture motion, which the clerk will state.
  The legislative clerk read as follows:

                             Cloture Motion

       We, the undersigned Senators, in accordance with the 
     provisions of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, 
     do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the nomination 
     of Mark Jeremy Bennett, of Hawaii, to be United States 
     Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.
         Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, Deb Fischer, Mike Rounds, 
           John Barrasso, John Hoeven, Roger F. Wicker, Shelley 
           Moore Capito, Steve Daines, John Boozman, Orrin G. 
           Hatch, Thom Tillis, David Perdue, Mike Crapo, Richard 
           Burr, Pat Roberts, Johnny Isakson.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. By unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum 
call has been waived.
  The question is, Is it the sense of the Senate that debate on the 
nomination of Mark Jeremy Bennett, of Hawaii, to be United States 
Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit, shall be brought to a close?
  The yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk called the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the 
Senator from Nebraska (Mrs. Fischer), the Senator from Arizona (Mr. 
McCain), and the Senator from Alaska (Mr. Sullivan).
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Lankford). Are there any other Senators in 
the Chamber desiring to vote?
  The yeas and nays resulted--yeas 72, nays 25, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 144 Ex.]

                                YEAS--72

     Alexander
     Baldwin
     Bennet
     Blumenthal
     Brown
     Cantwell
     Capito
     Cardin
     Carper
     Casey
     Cassidy
     Collins
     Coons
     Corker
     Cornyn
     Cortez Masto
     Donnelly
     Duckworth
     Durbin
     Feinstein
     Gillibrand
     Graham
     Grassley
     Harris
     Hassan
     Hatch
     Heinrich
     Heitkamp
     Hyde-Smith
     Isakson
     Johnson
     Jones
     Kaine
     Kennedy
     King
     Klobuchar
     Leahy
     Lee
     Manchin
     Markey
     McCaskill
     McConnell
     Menendez
     Merkley
     Murkowski
     Murphy
     Murray
     Nelson
     Perdue
     Peters
     Portman
     Reed
     Roberts
     Rubio
     Sanders
     Schatz
     Schumer
     Shaheen
     Shelby
     Smith
     Stabenow
     Tester
     Tillis
     Toomey
     Udall
     Van Hollen
     Warner
     Warren
     Whitehouse
     Wicker
     Wyden
     Young

                                NAYS--25

     Barrasso
     Blunt
     Booker
     Boozman
     Burr
     Cotton
     Crapo
     Cruz
     Daines
     Enzi
     Ernst
     Flake
     Gardner
     Heller
     Hirono
     Hoeven
     Inhofe
     Lankford
     Moran
     Paul
     Risch
     Rounds
     Sasse
     Scott
     Thune

                             NOT VOTING--3

     Fischer
     McCain
     Sullivan
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. On this vote, the yeas are 72, the nays are 
25.
  The motion is agreed to.
  The Senator from Ohio.


                         Stress Tests for Banks

  Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, earlier this month, the Fed released the 
results of its annual stress test--exercises designed to ensure that 
the largest banks can withstand economic shocks and will not need 
another taxpayer bailout in the event of a crisis. These stress tests 
were not in effect a decade ago before the last crisis and likely would 
have prevented--or made much softer--the economic landing that we had.
  What happened with these annual stress tests that just came out 
illustrates exactly what is wrong with Washington, what is wrong with 
this Congress, and what is wrong with Wall Street.
  The Fed allowed the seven largest banks to redirect $96 billion--that 
is 96 thousand million--that should be used to pay workers, reduce fees 
for consumers, or protect taxpayers from bailouts. Instead, it allowed 
the seven largest banks to plow that money into share buybacks and 
dividends to reward wealthy executives and generally wealthy investors. 
Two banks, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, had capital below the 
required amounts. That is right. Those banks failed the test, but they 
got passing grades anyway. The Fed called them up, let them haggle over 
the test results, and allowed them to proceed with buybacks and 
dividends that drained their required capital.
  In what classroom in America would a teacher grade a paper and 
preliminarily give it an F and then negotiate with the student over 
test results and then say, OK, you passed? But the stakes in this case 
are a lot higher than one midterm exam. We are talking about the 
biggest banks in the country. We are talking about whether they send 
money to the wealthiest investors or, instead, have enough skin in the 
game to protect taxpayers.
  So why are these buybacks such a problem? Share buybacks and 
dividends juice stock prices but do little to increase long-term growth 
in companies and do very little to reward the workers who make a 
company's success possible.
  During the last crisis, we saw big banks send money out the door with 
buybacks and dividends just months before they imploded and cost 
taxpayers billions. Watchdogs in the Bush administration had the tools 
to intervene sooner but, instead, courted Wall Street at the expense of 
the rest of the country. Some of those regulators today were in the 
Treasury Department, in the Bush White House, and the Fed in those days 
and didn't see the crisis coming. They turned their backs and said: It 
is OK to allow these dividends and allow these stock buybacks.
  Back to this year, the seven largest banks in the country increased 
their 2018 stock dividends paid to investors by 24 percent compared to 
last year. The banks that the Fed allowed to increase their stock 
buybacks increased their repurchases by a stunning 63 percent. What 
teller, what salesperson, what branch bank manager in Lorain, OH, 
Mansfield, OH, or Miamisburg, OH, got a raise like that in the last 
year?
  My colleagues don't think much about this, but the average teller in 
America makes $12.50 an hour. Bank executives are making $5 million, 
$10 million, and $20 million, and they get big raises on top of that. 
They get stock buybacks, juicing their compensation as their 
stockholdings go up and up. Yet the average teller makes $12.50 an 
hour.
  Wells Fargo doubled its buybacks--an increase of more than 100 
percent. The money spent on stock buybacks alone is 314 times more than 
what it would cost the bank to boost employee wages to $15 an hour. 
Remember that the average teller makes $12.50 an hour in this country.
  Wells CEO Tim Sloan got a 36-percent raise last year, even in the 
wake of scandal after scandal. I found the ads you see all over the 
place, watching a Cleveland Indians game on TV, sitting in my living 
room in Cleveland. I have seen these ads in Washington. I have seen 
them all over--how Wells Fargo is going to learn from its past 
mistakes. They were once the greatest company, they failed, and now 
they will be a great company again. But they gave their CEO--who 
clearly has had some serious issues at that bank--a 36-percent raise.
  Again, tellers make $12.50 an hour. Wall Street banks are rewarding 
themselves rather than workers and, in the process, draining the 
capital that should be their safeguard against taxpayer bailouts.
  I hear my colleagues on both sides of the aisle say: We will never 
allow a bailout again.
  We are doing things that will set us up to do that because we are 
moving away from the reforms we made. The problem is getting worse. The 
Fed wants to make the tests even easier next year, weakening the key 
constraints that caused Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to fail this 
year, or would have caused them to fail if they hadn't talked their way 
out of it. It is quite a student who can talk their teacher out of it.
  Federal Reserve Vice Chair Randal Quarles has also floated giving 
more leeway to banks to comment on the tests before they are 
administered. I like Vice Chairman Quarles. I did not vote to confirm 
him. I like him. I respect him. I sat across the table from

[[Page S4837]]

him for 2 or 3 hours, probably total, over his time there. I assume I 
will get to know him better as we talk on these issues. But he was in 
the Bush administration as the crisis built and built, when the economy 
was about to implode. He said things were rosy. We are trusting him. He 
is the Vice Chair for Supervision. We are entrusting him and others at 
the Fed to say that it is OK to give leeway to bankers to comment on 
the tests before they are administered. It is like helping students 
write the exam. We wouldn't do it anywhere else, but we do it with 
banks who risk our economy with their instability.
  They are even considering dropping the qualitative portion of the 
stress test altogether. That is the part of the test that examines 
banks' risk management processes, data systems, and the fitness of its 
very well-paid board of directors. I am not sure of the precise number, 
but boards of directors in the seven largest banks, I believe, all make 
at least $200,000 a year. I know they average significantly more than 
that--for part-time jobs. They are important jobs. They also have other 
jobs--most of them--but jobs where they so often seem to turn their 
heads at all of these problems.
  Banks such as Deutsche Bank, Santander, HSBC, RBS--all foreign-owned 
banks--and Citigroup, an American bank, have all failed on qualitative 
grounds before. But rather than taking that as evidence that these 
banks need to shape up, they are considering scrapping this critical 
part of the exam. The Dodd-Frank rollback bill that this Congress just 
passed will also make things worse next year.
  Right now the Fed is considering how to replace existing stress tests 
for banks with between $100 billion and $250 billion in assets to make 
them easier on the banks and less frequent--easier on the banks and 
less frequent. Rather than having annual company-run stress tests for 
the largest banks--those with more than $250 billion in assets--the 
tests now, because of the new law that bank lobbyists and President 
Trump wanted, will only be required to be periodic. They used to be 
annual. Now we are saying periodic. Who interprets ``periodic''? A 
bunch of Fed regulators that have already shown to be too close to bank 
interests.
  All of this test curving comes alongside the weakening of other 
financial protections: dismantling the Consumer Financial Protection 
Bureau, undermining the Volcker rule, weakening the Community 
Reinvestment Act--as if there is no discrimination in this country 
anymore--and loosening rules around bank capital.
  Imagine if the people in this town listened as much to workers as 
they did to Wall Street bankers. But money talks in this town. 
Lobbyists talk, representing money. Wall Street talks, representing 
money. Executives talk, representing money.
  We have very profitable banks--banks that taxpayers bailed out. 
Congress in the last year gave these banks huge tax cuts. Congress 
passed a deregulation bill that these banks demanded. We saw an article 
in the paper recently that Wall Street is retooling its whole lobbyist 
network in Washington because they didn't get quite enough on the 
banking deregulation bill. They thought it did a lot for community 
banks and midsized banks but not enough for the big guys. So they are 
retooling. I am not making this up. They are retooling their operations 
so they can do better. You have a Vice Chair for Supervision who 
clearly favors Wall Street in the rules that he has already suggested.
  Boy, it is good to be a bank. It is great to be a banker in America. 
It is great to be a banker in 2018. It is great to be a banker in 
Trump's America.
  I yield the floor.
  Mr. ENZI. Mr. President, I rise today to express my opposition to the 
nomination of Mark Bennett to be a circuit judge for the Ninth Circuit 
Court of Appeals.
  Mr. Bennett has had a long legal career and has served as the 
attorney general of Hawaii. My concerns lie not in his resume, but in 
his public history of opposing constitutionally protected freedoms 
essential to our way of life.
  I have been and always will be a defender of the right of people to 
keep and bear arms. Wyoming is a State full of law-abiding gun owners 
who grow up learning to respect firearms and how to use them 
responsibly. Folks use them for a variety of purposes, everything from 
self-defense to hunting to work.
  As Hawaii's attorney general, Mr. Bennet joined four other State 
attorneys general in an amicus curie brief on behalf of the District of 
Columbia in the Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller. The 
brief argued that the Second Amendment protects no individual right to 
bear arms. This position worries me that he would not uphold Supreme 
Court precedent on the Second Amendment.
  At a time when so many critical issues are being litigated in our 
courts, I cannot vote to confirm a nominee with a background of 
opposing fundamental constitutional rights. Therefore, I must oppose 
the nomination of Mr. Bennett.
  Thank you. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from North Carolina.

  Mr. TILLIS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that 
notwithstanding the provisions of rule XXII, all postcloture time on 
the Bennett nomination be considered expired at 2:15 p.m. tomorrow and 
the Senate immediately vote on the nomination; that if confirmed, the 
motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table and the 
President be immediately notified of the Senate's action.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

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