March 5, 2019 - Issue: Vol. 165, No. 39 — Daily Edition116th Congress (2019 - 2020) - 1st Session
EXECUTIVE SESSION; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 39
(Senate - March 05, 2019)
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[Pages S1635-S1645] 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 bill clerk read the nomination of Allison Jones Rushing, of North Carolina, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Fourth Circuit. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Iowa. Mr. GRASSLEY. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to speak for 1 minute as if in morning business. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. The Green New Deal Mr. GRASSLEY. Madam President, I would like to make a point about the so-called Green New Deal. It is very obvious it is a reference to Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s. The implication is that what the New Deal did for the Depression should be a model for the environment. There is just one great big problem: The New Deal in the 1930s didn't work. It didn't get us out of the Great Depression. The Depression didn't end until we entered World War II. Just like the original, the Green New Deal sounds like really bold action, but it is really a jumble of half-cocked policies that will dampen economic growth and will hurt jobs. Everything our government ought to be trying to do is to encourage economic growth and to create jobs. 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. McCONNELL. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. Recognition Of The Majority Leader The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader is recognized. Nomination of Allison Jones Rushing Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, yesterday the Senate voted to advance the nomination of Allison Jones Rushing to serve on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. As I noted yesterday, Ms. Rushing comes with significant appellate experience and has filed 47 briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court. It is clear to me, as it was to a majority of our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, that she would make a fine addition to the Federal bench. So I will support her confirmation later today, and I recommend that each of our colleagues do the same. Nomination of Chad A. Readler Madam President, following Ms. Rushing, the Senate will consider Chad Readler of Ohio to serve on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Mr. Readler is a two-time graduate of the University of Michigan, earning his J.D. with honors in 1997. Following law school, he held a clerkship on the Sixth Circuit and has built a longstanding reputation in private practice as a consummate legal professional. Mr. Readler is also active in pro bono work, including for the United Way of Central Ohio, and his nomination earned a ``well qualified'' rating from the American Bar Association. So I look forward to advancing yet another of President Trump's impressive judicial nominees later this week. H.R. 1 Madam President, on another matter, this week the House will be devoting floor time to the Democrat politician protection act. That is what I call the signature effort that Speaker Pelosi has given top billing--top billing--as H.R. 1, because this new House Democratic majority's top priority is apparently assigning themselves an unprecedented level of control over how they get elected to Washington, along with how, where, and what American citizens are allowed to say about it. That is their priority No. 1. Over there, across the Capitol, more than anything else, Washington Democrats want a tighter grip on political [[Page S1636]] debate and the operation of elections nationwide. But the Democrat politician protection act is just part of a trio of massive, unprecedented government takeover schemes that Democrats have already rolled out just this Congress. On its face, this proposal might seem less outrageous than Medicare for None or the so-called Green New Deal. It wouldn't seem to impact the middle-class families as directly as making private health insurance plans illegal or sending the U.S. economy on a nosedive in the name of tackling carbon emissions while China goes roaring right by. Here is the thing. Those two proposals are just terrible policy. Bad policy can be stopped or undone through the political process, but H.R. 1 isn't just terrible policy. It is an attempt to rewrite the underlying rules of that political process itself and skew those rules to benefit just one side--that side. By every indication, the Democratic politician protection act is a massive, partisan solution in search of a problem. Democrats want to convince everyone that our Republic is in crisis, but when you scratch the surface of these scare tactics, their two main complaints seem to be that Democrats don't win enough elections, and people Democrats don't like also happen to have First Amendment rights. Just look at the data. In 2016, turnout reached its third highest rate since the 1960s. Turnout was very high. By the sheer number of Presidential ballots cast, an all-time record was set, and these numbers were hardly a fluke. Last November, the midterm turnout rate set a new 50-year record for off-year elections. Nevertheless, the Democrats are intent on fixing our elections even though they aren't broken. Their solution amounts to a hostile, one- sided takeover of the electoral process without--without--the input of both parties. In the Democrats' view, our federalist system, in which State laws evolve to address unique challenges, is old-fashioned and no longer to their liking. Now it is time for sweeping new decrees from Washington. What each State has found works best for them to register voters or to maintain voter rules--all of that is now supposed to yield to what Washington Democrats want. It starts with a massive influx of government data to the registration rolls. In one sweep, all of the duplicative and conflicting data from across State and Federal Government Agencies--as well as colleges and universities--would flood the voter registration system--flood it. This isn't the slightly tested, automatic voter registration some States have installed with the DMV. This is a massive data dump that is sure to invite risk of inaccuracy and a loss of privacy. It is especially concerning, as the Democrats want to mandate that agencies register 16- and 17-year-olds. What about things like one-size-fits-all online voter registration, where the simple safeguard of signing a document can be easily side- stepped? Or a mandatory new one-stop registration and voting procedure in every State, without the assurance of verifying the voter's identity or address before adding their ballot to the ballot box? If your State requires even the loosest voter ID requirement, the Democrats' bill would undermine it. Everything down to the type of paper the ballot is printed on is dictated by Washington Democrats under their proposal. The list goes on and on. Now you might think that with Democrats insisting that every locality subscribe to ever looser registration standards, they must provide strong tools for verification and maintenance of the voter rolls. Think again. In fact, they seem more focused on taking away these safeguards. The bill leaves States with less ability to maintain voter records and to ensure that people aren't registered in multiple States. In many instances, it seems the Democrats want more identification required to correct an erroneous voter entry--listen to this: more identification required to correct an erroneous voter entry--than to register a new voter. In other words, it is harder to get off the rolls than it is to get on the rolls. What if we look at the problems that actually exist? What about the murky ``ballot harvesting'' process that invites misbehavior? It was already illegal in North Carolina, where a congressional election result was thrown out recently due to fraud, but the practice that threw out the election in North Carolina just the other day remains perfectly legal in California, where it seems to benefit, amazingly enough, the Democrats. Somehow, for all of the other top-down changes that H.R. 1 would force on the country, somehow addressing ballot harvesting didn't make the cut. Imagine that. It is almost like Democrats' purpose here is not promoting integrity but, rather, preserving the chaos that would make close elections ripe targets for their DC lawyers to contest. The law itself suggests as much by creating new private rights of action--new private rights of action--for trial lawyers to ramp up litigation when they are unhappy with an outcome. Now as I mentioned, elections aren't the only focus. Democrats are also coming after America's political speech. Under H.R. 1, a newly partisan Federal Election Commission would be empowered with sweeping-- sweeping--new authority to regulate speech that is deemed to be ``campaign related.'' New rules apply to the mere mention of a politician's name. There are new limitations on advocacy groups to speak on substantive issues and strict new penalties for when private groups of citizens cross the lines that Washington Democrats have drawn. But it doesn't stop there. Protecting Democrat politicians is hard work--hard work, indeed--and it requires a multipronged approach. So not only does H.R. 1 deploy stricter regulations on political speech; it also ramps up requirements when private citizens engage in it. Even small expressions of First Amendment rights could require extensive documentation, and in many new cases, forced public disclosure of your private activities would be required. So we are in a dangerous climate for the robust exchange of ideas. There is outright government bias like we saw from Lois Lerner's IRS. There are activist-driven online mobs that come after individuals' reputations and their livelihoods. This is not--I repeat, this is not-- a climate where the people's representatives should be rushing to make more of Americans' private information public. The ACLU is not often an organization that would be described as bipartisan--not always--but here is what the ACLU wrote in a letter to House Democrats just a couple of days ago: There are . . . provisions that unconstitutionally impinge on the free speech rights of American citizens and public interest organizations . . . [the bill] strikes the wrong balance between the public's interest in knowing who supports or opposes candidates for office and the vital associational privacy rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. That is the ACLU. They go on: [H.R. 1] interferes with that ability by impinging on the privacy of these groups, forcing the groups to make a choice: their speech or their donors. Whichever they choose, the First Amendment loses. This is the very issue that the NAACP had to sue the State of Alabama over way back in the 1950s. They won a critical victory when the Supreme Court confirmed that the First Amendment is eroded when Big Brother forces private organizations to publicize the people who work to support them--the NAACP v. Alabama, in the 1950s. It was true in the 1950s, and it remains true today, but that erosion is exactly what House Democrats want to achieve. It is what they want to achieve. Their bill even supports a constitutional amendment to take away First Amendment protections. Even if their proposal does chill the exercise of the First Amendment--fear not--House Democrats have a plan to make sure there is still plenty of activity come election season. It is a taxpayer-funded stimulus package for campaign consultants and political candidates. They are going to take your tax money and give it to candidates you oppose to buy commercials, buttons, balloons, bumper stickers with your tax money. Democrats want to sign taxpayers up to a six-times matching subsidy for certain political contributions. It could total about $5 million in taxpayer money--$5 million in taxpayer money--for every candidate who wants it. What a great idea--right into the pockets of political campaigns--your tax money. That is what these guys want to pass. Middle-class Americans will have the [[Page S1637]] privilege of watching television commercials attacking their own beliefs and the candidates they support and knowing their own tax dollars bought the airtime for candidates they oppose. All of this is what House Democrats are debating on the floor this very week--H.R. 1--all of this and more. I have only scratched the surface of the Democratic Politician Protection Act: running roughshod over States' and communities' control of their own elections, regulating and chilling the American people's exercise of the First Amendment, forcing taxpayers to indirectly donate to the politicians they don't like, and a dozen other bad ideas to boot. Behold the signature legislation of the new House Democratic majority. 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. SCHUMER. Madam 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 Minority Leader The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Democratic leader is recognized. Mr. SCHUMER. Madam President, just briefly, I heard my good friend, the Republican leader, decry H.R. 1. He called it the Democratic protection act. Well, if making it easier for people to vote and getting Big Money out of politics hurt the Republican Party and is good for Democrats, what a sad commentary on the Republican Party that they don't want to see people vote, make it easier to vote, and that they don't want Big Money out of politics--a sad commentary on the Republican Party to be afraid of H.R. 1. Nomination of Chad A. Readler Madam President, later this afternoon, the Senate will vote to take up the nomination of Chad Readler to be a judge on the Sixth Circuit. Mr. Readler was the man behind the curtain last year when the Trump administration decided to side with Texas and 19 other States with Republican attorneys general in suing to repeal our healthcare law. Mr. Readler didn't merely work on the case; he was the lead lawyer who filed the Justice Department brief declaring the administration would refuse to defend the laws of our country. His recommendations were so outrageous that many career Justice Department attorneys refused to sign it. Mr. Readler argued that protections for Americans with preexisting conditions should be eliminated. Let me repeat that. The nominee up for a vote later this afternoon argued that protections for Americans with preexisting conditions should be eliminated. Then, a day after Mr. Readler filed this awful brief hurting average Americans--hurting tens of millions of average Americans--he was nominated for a lifetime appointment on the Federal bench. Coincidence? I think not. You see, in the Trump administration, depriving people of protections for preexisting conditions is actually something to be rewarded. Shame. Shame on the Trump administration. Shame on anybody who votes for Mr. Readler, particularly those who claim they want to protect preexisting conditions. Those who say they want to protect them and vote for the chief cook and bottle washer who pulled them away and was given this nomination the next day, shame on them. During the past campaign, as I said, many Republicans stood up and said, rightly, that they supported keeping protections for Americans with preexisting conditions. That is all well and good, but that is what is so typical of our Republican friends in the Senate. They talk the game that we do--they are for more healthcare, they are for protecting Americans with preexisting conditions--but their votes on the floor of the Senate are exactly the opposite. It is all well and good to say you want to protect them, but those promises and pronouncements mean next to nothing if they will not vote to reject a lifetime appointment for the man who played the starring role in the legal effort to take these conditions away. Republicans who vote yes on Mr. Readler, I believe, will regret that vote in future years. A vote to confirm Mr. Readler is an endorsement of the Republican lawsuit to eliminate protections for preexisting conditions and repeal healthcare for millions of Americans. Declaration of National Emergency Madam President, on another matter, the national emergency. It seems with each passing day, another Republican comes out to oppose the President's declaration of a national emergency at the border. Over the weekend, Senator Rand Paul, who often speaks his own mind, became the fourth Republican to officially announce his support for terminating the President's emergency declaration, apparently guaranteeing enough votes for passage in the Senate. I hope and expect that Senator Paul will not be the last Republican to announce their support because this should be an issue that transcends party. The President's emergency declaration gnaws at our very fabric, particularly the separation of powers. The President--this President--is trying to bend the law to his will, to accrue powers that are not his. There is no evidence that some new emergency exists at the border. The President himself has said he ``didn't need to do this.'' An emergency, by definition, is something that you need to do. Everyone here knows the truth. The President didn't declare an emergency because there is one. He declared an emergency because he lost in Congress, threw another temper tantrum, and wanted to go around it. That, my friends, is a gross abuse of our constitutional system. Article I--not article II, the executive branch article, not article III, the judiciary branch article, but article I, Congress--gives Congress the power of the purse, not the President. Were we to permit an Executive--any Executive--to declare an emergency every time they lost in Congress, what would be the point of Congress? We would be trading our democracy for a monarchy, the very thing our Framers abhorred and that our Constitution guards against. Remember, back then, why did the colonists--the brave colonists--rebel? It was against the overreaching power of King George. They said: We need a government that is going to protect us from the overreaching power of any individual, particularly one empowered to lead a nation. That is why they did it. It is relevant today. Donald Trump has shown more desire to overreach than any President. Some people may like that, but it goes against 200 years of wisdom in this country, and I hope people will reject it. Whatever you think of the policy at the southern border--I suppose Senator Paul is very much for the wall--no President should be allowed to discard the Constitution on a whim and do an end run around a coequal branch of government. This vote on the resolution to terminate this emergency is not a vote about policy, it is not a vote about party. It is a vote about Presidential power and the precedent it will set, which will reach far beyond the current debate about the border. The debate about the border will be forgotten, but the fact that this Congress, this Senate, allows a President to so overreach and rearrange singlehandedly the balancing blocks in our democracy will be regarded by historians as a bleak day. I say to my colleagues, that doesn't just apply to how you vote. It applies to whether we have enough votes to override the President should he veto this resolution when it passes. Climate Change Madam President, on climate, Leader McConnell has spent a great deal of time talking about bringing his version of the Green New Deal to the floor. Everybody knows it is nothing more than a political stunt. Everybody knows the same Republican leader decried bringing bills to reopen the government because the President wouldn't sign them, and he said those were stunts. Now he is doing the same thing. It is amazing sometimes that there can be a 180-degree turn so quickly. So let's talk about some of the things Leader McConnell could actually do to move the ball forward on climate change, which now more and more people--two thirds of Americans, if you believe in polling-- believe is a real threat to our planet that demands the Senate's action, not stunts, not games. All 47 Democrats have introduced a resolution that affirms three simple things; one, climate change is real; [[Page S1638]] two, climate change is caused by human activity; and, three, Congress must immediately act to address the problem. Leader McConnell could bring that resolution to the floor. He could say he believes climate change is real and deserves our time and attention. Given the rampant denialism from some wings of the Republican Party, including so many in the White House, that would be notable progress, but I don't think it will happen. You scratch your head and wonder why. Why would they be so afraid to even say climate change is real? One possible answer many people think is the cause, one of the main causes, is oil money--oil money. The oil industry has such power around here--and much of that money is dark, by the way--that Republicans are afraid to admit the candid truth and say climate change is real. Our resolution doesn't talk about how you propose to deal with this very real issue. We are not locking people into this proposal or that proposal. We are simply saying, let's start talking about it. Actually, the one good thing about Leader McConnell's stunt is we are talking about it, and that is a good thing. I have news for the leader. We will keep talking about it throughout this whole Congress, and we will keep trying to use our leverage to make it easier to resist the bad forces of carbon dioxide entering our atmosphere. So we are going to keep at this. We are going to keep at this, Leader McConnell. No stunt that you put on the floor is going to deter us. We are preparing legislation to defund President Trump's attempt to create a fake climate panel within the executive branch. Leader McConnell can bring that legislation to the floor once it is ready so Congress can tell the President that we do not tolerate the intentional dissemination of disinformation to the American public on any issue, especially climate change. Democrats have also said any infrastructure bill must include substantial investments in green jobs. That is something Leader McConnell could pursue. We all like jobs. Many Members on his side of the aisle believe in wind and solar power--well, not many but at least some. Let's move forward on that. We need to upgrade our power grids. We need to make energy more available and cheaper and greener. Let's do that. There are many more things besides, but make no mistake, before and after Leader McConnell's political stunt on climate change, Democrats will continue to focus on the issue, propose solutions, and try to get some of those solutions enacted into law in the places we have some leverage, even as a minority. There is an enormous energy--enormous energy in this country, particularly among young Americans--to take bold action on climate change. They see the planet on which they live changing before their eyes, not for the better, and they are absolutely right. It is our job to channel the energy of those young people--wonderful energy; I am so glad it is out there--into bold legislation that addresses the climate crisis head on, and that is exactly--exactly--what Democrats will do, even if Republicans continue to play these political games in their efforts to try to keep their heads in the sand and ignore that climate change is real. China Madam President, finally, on China, recent news reports have described an emerging trade deal with China that would see the United States ease up on tariffs in exchange for the Chinese buying more American goods and making some--some changes to its trade practices. As the New York Times reports this morning, ``The agreement does not appear to require the sweeping changes to China's economy that prompted Mr. Trump to begin the trade war.'' If the reports about the emerging agreement are accurate, I would say to President Trump, you are heading down a precarious road. The President's instincts were right when he took a hard line on China. I supported his hard line on China. China is killing us in terms of stealing our intellectual property, in terms of not letting American companies compete fairly in their large market while they are allowed to come here, in terms of not creating a level playing field for companies no matter what country they are from. The President was right when he said we have to do something about it. In fact, as he began on this road, he did a lot more than previous Presidents. Both President Bush and President Obama did less to get China to understand the seriousness of this problem than President Trump did. He knows that. When you are getting close to a victory, to relent at the eleventh hour without meaningful, enforceable, and verifiable structural reform to China's trade policies would be an abject failure of the President's China polices, and people will shrug their shoulders and ask, what the heck did he begin this for if he will not complete it? We need to put an end to the forced transfer of American technology and American know-how as a ransom for doing business in China. We need to put an end to China's systemic theft of American intellectual property. A big hack from China was found out just last month. Our companies need the same unfettered access to China's markets that we allow Chinese firms to have to markets in America. This may be our last shot. If the President squanders his own efforts now, there will be lasting and untold consequences for generations to come. The President is too focused on trade imbalances. That is short term. Those come and go. The reason our trade balance is so bad is because of all of the structural things China does to make it harder for us to export to China and easier for them to import here after stealing a lot of our know-how. A temporary narrowing of the trade deficit would be cold comfort to the millions of American workers who have suffered and will continue to suffer the abuse of China's policies. When the President was headed to North Korea, I said to him: When it comes to North Korea, don't let March go in like a lion and come out like a lamb. The President did the right thing on North Korea, and I got up here and said that he did. He backed out when the North Koreans wouldn't give him much and resisted the opportunity of a photo op, which we know is hard for him to resist. He should do the same thing on China. He got a lot of credit for backing out on North Korea. The President will get a lot of credit if he stands up to China and will eventually win because the Chinese economy is hurting. They just reduced their own biased estimates on growth. It is lower. My plea to President Trump is this: Stand firm. We will win this fight that you correctly began, but don't back off for some temporary salve. America's future depends on it. The income of our workers and the number of good-paying jobs we create all depend on our standing tough with China right now when we sort of have them where we want them and completing a strong deal. Please, Mr. President, don't back off. When it comes to China trade and your actions, don't let March come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. I yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Republican whip. The Economy Mr. THUNE. Madam President, last week, we learned that the economy grew at a rate of 3.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018. That is the strongest economic growth in over 10 years. Economic growth for the fourth quarter of 2018 smashed market expectations. In January, the economy created more than 300,000 jobs. More than 5.3 million jobs have been created since President Trump was elected. Job openings hit a record high of 7.3 million in December, substantially exceeding the number of those looking for work. The Department of Labor reports that the number of job openings has exceeded the number of job seekers for 10 straight months. Unemployment is low. January marked the 11th straight month that unemployment has been at or below 4 percent. That is the longest streak in nearly five decades. Wage growth has accelerated. Wages have now been growing at a rate of 3 percent or greater for 6 straight months. The last time wage growth reached this level was in 2009. Median household income is at an alltime high. U.S. manufacturing has rebounded. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday: [[Page S1639]] America's factories are hiring again. After years of job losses, U.S. manufacturing employment has risen for 18 straight months among those holding production or nonsupervisory jobs, the longest stretch of gains since the mid-1990s. That is from the Wall Street Journal. The list goes on. The economic growth we are experiencing is the direct result of Republican policies. Economic growth has accelerated over the past 2 years, thanks to the lifting of the burdensome regulations and a historic reform of our Tax Code. Before we passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, our Tax Code was acting as a drag on economic growth. Small businesses faced heavy tax burdens that frequently made it difficult for them to expand and create jobs or even to get their businesses off the ground in the first place. America's global businesses faced the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world, which put them at a competitive disadvantage on the international stage. Of course, all of that had real consequences for American workers. A small business owner facing a huge tax bill was highly unlikely to be able to expand her business or to hire a new employee. A larger business was going to find it hard to create jobs or improve benefits for employees while struggling to stay competitive against foreign businesses paying much less in taxes. So we reformed our Tax Code to make it easier for businesses to grow, create jobs, and expand opportunities for American workers. Now we are seeing the results-- economic growth, low unemployment, higher wages, a record-high number of job openings, and more. Importantly, the benefits of this growth are being experienced widely. The Wall Street Journal reports: Racial minorities, those with less education and people working in the lowest-paying jobs are getting bigger pay raises and, in many cases, experiencing the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded for their groups. They are joining manufacturing workers, women in their prime working years, Americans with disabilities and those with criminal records, among others, in finding improved job prospects after years of disappointment. Again, that is from the Wall Street Journal. The Obama administration was characterized by a weak recovery and years of economic stagnation. There were predictions that 2 percent growth would be the new normal. But Republican economic policies have turned the economy around. Now we need to focus on ways to extend the benefits of tax reform even further and to secure the gains we have made for the long term. Unfortunately, our colleagues across the aisle are more focused on dismantling the policies that created the growth we are experiencing today. Apparently, it doesn't matter to them that workers are doing better after years of economic stagnation or that jobs and opportunities are increasing. They are set on dismantling tax reform and raising rates to fund their socialist fantasies. They want to spend $93 trillion--more money than the GDP of the entire world--to put the government in charge of Americans' healthcare, energy usage, and more. I wish I were joking, but Democrats' turn toward socialist insanity is all too real. The kinds of tax hikes that would be required to pay for Democrats' proposals would cripple our economy and severely downgrade America's standard of living--not to mention robbing Americans of their freedom to make their own decisions about all the various aspects of their lives. It is mind-boggling that more and more Democrats are embracing socialism and the less free and less prosperous future it would bring. Let's hope their socialist fantasies stay just that--fantasies--because our economy might never recover from the reality of Democrats' proposals. I yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The assistant Democratic leader. Mr. DURBIN. Madam President, when I hear my friend from South Dakota describe the state of the economy, it is amazing how political amnesia can take over on the floor of the Senate Chamber. Do you remember the election of 2008 when Barack Obama was elected President of the United States? Was there anything going on with the economy when he took office? Oh, something that the Senator failed to mention--our country was facing the one of the worst recessions in the history of the United States. You had to go back to the Great Depression to see the impact of this recession on the American economy, and it happened under a Republican President--George W. Bush. President Obama inherited that, and most people will never forget it because in 2008 and 2009, many people saw their savings devastated by the drop in value in the stock market. They saw this economy teetering on the edge and financial institutions failing. This all happened on President George W. Bush's watch. President Obama inherited it and had to turn it around--without the cooperation of the Republican Party, I might add. A handful of them stepped up to join him in a bipartisan effort, but most of them opposed him. He did everything he needed to do to save this economy and then started turning it around with job creation--unprecedented job creation--throughout the 8 years of his term. Now, of course, along comes a new President who wants to take credit for all of it and, as the Senator from South Dakota suggested, blame President Obama for the state of the economy he inherited. History tells us a different story. After this tax cut that the Senate Republicans are so proud of, I think you ought to ask the American families paying their taxes now to take a look at their taxes and tell you how the Trump tax cut helped them as working families. For some, there is some value to it, but for most, there is none. You see, over a long period of time, the vast majority of the benefits of this Republican tax cut go to people in the highest income categories. If there were ever a group who didn't need a break, it is people who are already making millions of dollars each year. Yet this Republican tax cut gave them the break. It added trillions of dollars to our deficit, it helped the richest people in America, and it forgot working families and left them behind. Yet Republican Senators still come to the floor and boast about it with regularity. There is a better way to approach this. Yes, I want to give tax incentives and tax relief to working families because we know they are not getting the paychecks they need to meet their obligations, to save for the future, and to make sure their kids have a better life. We should be focused on them, not the wealthiest among us--they are doing quite well, thank you. Let's focus on working families instead. The Trump tax cut forgot that. (Mr. SCOTT of Florida assumed the Chair.) Diabetes Mr. President, millions of Americans got up this morning and faced the challenge of diabetes. For most of them, it is now routine to measure their blood sugar and to inject insulin when necessary so that they avoid the terrible outcomes of untreated diabetes. At the highest levels of government, the person I think about immediately is Sonia Sotomayor, who is an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Hers is an amazing life story. This woman from a Puerto Rican family went to law school, became recognized as a talented and brilliant lawyer, and eventually ascended to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. I got to meet her during the period of time when she was going through her nomination process. She slipped and fell at an airport in New York and broke her ankle and couldn't get around as much as she wanted to, so she parked herself in my office upstairs and invited Senators to come in to meet her. Between those meetings, I stepped in the room and got to know her and learned a lot about her. It turns out, to no surprise, that this wonderful Supreme Court Justice from the Bronx is a passionate fan of the New York Yankees baseball team. We talked about baseball, and I said to her: Occasionally, the Yankees play the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Would you join me there? She said: Sure. Invite me. Well, I wasn't sure she would actually show up if I did, but I invited her. A few years ago, Justice Sotomayor came to Wrigley Field. She was a great sport. They had a Cubs jersey for her to wear, which I am sure she didn't exactly feel comfortable in, and she went [[Page S1640]] out and threw the first pitch. We had a wonderful time. The reason I tell that story is, during the course of that baseball game, as we sat together at Wrigley Field, I noticed that several times she tested herself and her blood sugar because of the diabetes she battles with every day. That is not an uncommon experience with diabetics. What is uncommon is what has happened to the price of insulin facing people with diabetes in America. You have to go back almost 100 years to the discovery of insulin. This is not a drug that just appeared on the market. Almost 100 years ago, researchers in Canada ended up discovering insulin extracted from animals, and they ended up making it available to Americans and everyone, for that matter, because they surrendered their patent rights. Those who discovered insulin said: We don't want to make money off of this. This is a lifesaving drug. Over the years, insulin has evolved from human-based insulin to what is known as analogue insulin and synthetic insulin in different dosage, but the fundamental chemical that is saving the lives of those who suffer from diabetes has been known for almost a century. What has happened to the cost of the insulin that has been around for many decades? It has risen dramatically. Last week, I took to the floor for the first pharma fleecing award, which went to the three companies that make insulin and sell it in America today. Those companies are Sanofi, Novo Nordisk, and Eli Lilly. I took them to task for this increasing cost of insulin, a drug that has been around for so long. They are just raising the cost way beyond the reach of many people who have to pay for this lifesaving drug. I told the story of a young man covered by his parent's insurance--thanks to ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act--who, when he reached age 26, was on his own, managed a restaurant, couldn't afford the insulin dosage that was required, rationed his own insulin, and died as a result of that decision. I made the point on the floor of the Senate that these pharmaceutical companies are not sensitive to the reality of life and death in what they are charging Americans for the cost of insulin. Yesterday, there was a news flash. Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company, one of the producers of insulin products, announced that they were going to reduce the cost of a generic form of insulin known as Humalog to $140 a dosage. That is bringing it down from as much as $329 to $140--dramatic. Let's put this in perspective for one moment. We checked the records, and it turns out you can buy that exact product made by that same company for sale in Canada for as little as $38. They are expecting--I think Eli Lilly is expecting all of us to send flowers to their corporate headquarters in Indianapolis--to send flowers because they reduced the cost of their drug from $329 to $140 a dosage. I am not going to send them any flowers, and I am not going to express any great gratitude. They are charging Americans, under this new bargain approach, almost four times what Canadians are paying for exactly the same product--four times. To the other drug companies involved in this that are producing insulin: America is watching. If you are going to continue to kite the cost of this lifesaving drug, pressure is going to grow politically even to the point where the U.S. Senate may take action. I think that day is coming. So, for Eli Lilly: Nice first step. When you bring the cost of insulin in the United States for the same products that you are selling in Canada to the same level, then I will send you some flowers. Nomination of Allison Jones Rushing Mr. President, we have three judges before us on the floor of the Senate this week. It turns out that the filling of judicial vacancies is the highest single priority of the Republican leadership in the Senate. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has gone to extraordinary, precedent-breaking lengths to fill vacancies. Of course, the most notorious example was when Senator McConnell, then in charge of the Republican majority, announced that despite the death of Justice Scalia and a vacancy on the highest court of the land, he would refuse to fill that vacancy for almost 1 year because President Obama was in office. The man President Obama wanted to put in that position, Merrick Garland from the D.C. Circuit Court, was widely respected by Democrats and Republicans alike, but his qualifications meant nothing to Senator McConnell. The end game, in his mind, was the chance that a Republican President might be elected and fill that vacancy with a Republican nominee. Well, Senator McConnell's dream came true when Donald Trump was elected President, and he turned around and nominated Justice Gorsuch, who now serves on the Supreme Court, filling the Scalia vacancy. That was the most extreme example that we have, in the history of the U.S. Senate, of the defiance of tradition and precedent, a defiance by Senator McConnell with one goal in mind: to make sure that the judicial branch of our government became a political branch of our government, to make sure that as many Republican conservatives, some with the most extreme views, were appointed to the bench. That has been his goal, and he pursues that goal to this day. There are three nominations before us that amply demonstrate his efforts. When Donald Trump became President, Senate Republicans stopped their obstruction of judicial nominations and started moving nominations through at a breakneck speed. During the last 2 years, Republicans in the Senate bragged about filling the courts with Trump nominees at record pace. The Republican philosophy, when it comes to Trump judges, seems to be, in Senator McConnell's words, ``plow right through'' no matter how questionable the nominee's credentials or judgment. There are three more confirmation votes scheduled this week. Let me tell you about these nominees whom they want to put on the court. Allison Jones Rushing is President Trump's nominee to fill a North Carolina seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. For those who are students of the Constitution, you know that the circuit court of appeals is the highest court below the Supreme Court. Allison Jones Rushing checks a lot of the standard Trump nominee boxes. She is a member of the Federalist Society, an absolute requirement if Trump is going to nominate you for a lifetime appointment to the Federal bench, and--this is a recurring theme as well--she clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She is 36 years old. She has practiced law for 9 years. How many cases has she tried to verdict or judgment? Four. Has she been the lead attorney on any of those cases? No. She is not a member of the bar association of the State of North Carolina, the State in which she would sit if she is confirmed. That is the most scant, weakest legal resume imaginable for someone who is seeking a lifetime appointment to the second highest court of the land. At our hearing--which, by the way, was held during a Senate recess over the objection of committee Democrats; we weren't even in town when her hearing was scheduled--Senator Kennedy of Louisiana, who is becoming famous for this, started questioning her about her breadth of legal experience. Senator Kennedy is a real lawyer. On the Republican side, he has put some of Trump's nominees on the spot by asking them some pretty tough questions about legal procedure in a courtroom. Senator Kennedy said: ``I think, to be a really good federal judge, you've got to have some life experience.'' Ms. Rushing struggled to describe how her life experience actually prepared her for this lifetime appointment to the second highest Federal court. Senator Kennedy made a valid point. The fact that a judicial nominee meets all of the litmus tests of being a loyal Republican doesn't mean the nominee has the experience or the legal ability to be a good Federal judge. It is inconceivable to me that in the State of North Carolina, they couldn't find a qualified and experienced conservative Republican judge. The Federal circuit courts are critically important. Since the vast majority of cases don't reach the Supreme Court, the circuit courts are often the last word. This is a position where experience matters, and, unfortunately, Ms. Rushing doesn't have enough of it. I am going to oppose her. [[Page S1641]] Nomination of Chad A. Readler Mr. President, the second nominee is Chad Readler, a 46-year-old attorney in the Trump Justice Department. When he was nominated to another circuit court of appeals, the Sixth Circuit, it was a clear sign of the Trump administration's strong negative feelings about the Affordable Care Act and the fact that that act covers preexisting conditions. Mr. Readler filed the Trump administration's brief in the Texas v. United States case, in which he opposed the Affordable Care Act's preexisting coverage requirement. Do you remember that issue from the last election? It was a big one. It might have been the biggest one. We basically said that we think health insurance should be available to you even if you don't have a perfect medical record. And who does? Hardly any of us. Certainly, each of us knows someone in their family who struggles with a medical challenge, and without a perfect medical record, you can be denied insurance or charged premiums you can't pay, unless you have the protection of the law. The law is known as the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare. Mr. Readler argued that this requirement of covering people with preexisting conditions, which benefits tens of millions of Americans, had to be stricken from the law. The brief Mr. Readler signed was deeply controversial. Our colleague Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican from Tennessee, called the argument that Mr. Readler made in his brief opposing ObamaCare ``as far-fetched as any I ever heard.'' Thank you, Lamar. Two Department of Justice attorneys withdrew from the case when they were asked to sign the crazy arguments in this brief, and a senior Department of Justice litigator resigned in protest of the bizarre arguments that Mr. Readler signed up for. However, almost immediately, after Mr. Readler signed this crazy brief, he was nominated by the White House for a lifetime appointment to a Federal judiciary. What message is the Trump administration sending with this nomination? They are doubling down on their attack on coverage of people with preexisting conditions. They are putting in a lifetime appointment a circuit court judge who will be watching for vindication. They are rewarding those who have led the fight against the preexisting coverage requirement. This is deeply troubling. That is not my only concern with Mr. Readler. He has also defended the Trump administration's unconscionable family separation policy. Do you remember that one? Remember when, in March of last year, Attorney General Sessions came forward and proudly announced the family separation policy? Do you remember then that 2,800 infants, toddlers, and children were forcibly, physically removed from their parents and placed in detention and that these infants, toddlers, and children were then lost in the system? They didn't keep a computer check on where they were sent or who their parents were. It took a Federal judge in San Diego, CA, to mandate and require this administration to account for these children. It is one of the most shameful chapters in recent American history, and, of course, Mr. Readler, this nominee, defended it. He argued in favor of the Trump administration's efforts to end the DACA Program--790,000 young people brought here as children to this country, who went through all of the hoops and paid the fees and qualified to have a chance to stay in America without fear of deportation. Well, it turns out Mr. Readler thinks that is a bad idea. He litigated against the rights of same-sex couples and opposed anti- discrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans. He advocated for making the death penalty more widely available and applying it to children. He argued for denying Byrne JAG violence prevention funds to a city I represent: Chicago. It is hard to imagine a more controversial partisan nominee than Mr. Readler. Yet his nomination is going to be rammed through this week. Nomination of Eric E. Murphy Mr. President, Senate Republicans have also scheduled to vote this week on Eric Murphy, a 39-year-old nominee to another Ohio-based seat on the Sixth Circuit. Mr. Murphy is well known for his advocacy against LGBTQ rights, including the landmark Obergefell case, in which he argued against the right of same-sex couples to marry. He has a lengthy record of defending restrictive voting laws. He has fought for laws to make it more difficult for Ohioans to exercise their fundamental right to vote, including voter purge laws and laws limiting the ability of poll workers to assist voters. I know a little bit about Ohio's experience because, a few years ago, I chaired a subcommittee that held a hearing in Cleveland, OH, discussing their decision as a State to start limiting the opportunity of people to vote in Ohio. I called those witnesses before my subcommittee--election officials from both political parties, Democrats and Republicans--put them under oath and asked them a basic question: What was the incidence of voter fraud in Ohio that led you to restrict the access of people to vote, to require voter IDs, to limit early voting? What were the instances which led to that conclusion? They could tell me none, not one. I asked them: How many people have been prosecuted for voter fraud in Ohio that led to this? Well, maybe one several years ago--here or there--despite millions of votes being cast. Let's call this for what it is: voter suppression authored by Republicans at every level of government, even here in Congress, designed to fight demography. Republicans understand they are not doing well with growing segments of the U.S. population, so they are trying to restrict and limit the rights of some groups who may vote against them to actually show up and vote. They go to ridiculous lengths. It turns out that Mr. Eric Murphy--a nominee we will have before us this week for a circuit court position--agrees with their position on voter suppression. My Republican colleagues are largely silent about the outrageous incident that occurred in North Carolina last week. There was a glaring case of election fraud, and it involved their party, not the Democrats. It involved a gentleman whose conduct was so outrageous and criminal, they voided the congressional election. I can't remember that ever occurring. Why would the Republican Party ignore that occurrence in their own ranks and then try to restrict voting for people who, frankly, have a right, as all of us do, to legally vote in this country? Why are they appointing judges who would defend that approach? I think it is because of the endgame. The endgame is to restrict the number of people who are going to vote in the future and try to limit those who might vote against the Republican Party. I also am troubled that Mr. Murphy, the nominee before us, has declined to commit to recuse himself from matters involving tobacco. As the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids noted, Mr. Murphy personally and extensively represented the tobacco company R.J. Reynolds when he was in private practice. For example, Mr. Murphy was the attorney to R.J. Reynolds on a series of petitions to the Supreme Court that sought to limit that tobacco company's liability from a landmark lawsuit in Florida. Mr. Murphy's refusal to commit to recuse himself from matters where he clearly has expressed his opinions and has gotten paid for it raises serious questions about whether he can serve the cause of justice. The nominations of Eric Murphy and Chad Readler are being pushed through this week over the opposition of Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. Senator Brown testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his opposition to Murphy and Readler. He said: ``I cannot support nominees who have actively work to strip Ohioans of their . . . rights.'' I hope my colleagues will listen to Senator Brown. No one has fought harder for the rights and opportunities of Ohioans than that Senator. It is shameful that circuit court nominees like Murphy and Readler are being moved forward over the legitimate objections of their home State Senators. Each of us as Senators knows our State. We know when our State's legal community lacks confidence in a nominee's qualifications. The blue-slip procedure is the mechanism Senators use for each State to speak as to these nominees. This last week, when it came to a circuit court position in the Ninth Circuit, two Senators from the State of Washington [[Page S1642]] were denied their blue-slip rights, which have traditionally been given to them in the Senate. That broke the precedent last week and continues this week. The Republican Senate leadership will break every rule, every precedent--whatever is necessary--to fill these vacancies. Without blue slips, the White House can ignore home State interests and pick extreme judges like the ones before us this week. It pains me to watch my Republican colleagues systematically dismantling guardrail after guardrail in the judicial nomination process, all for the sake of stuffing the court with their ideologues. The nomination process in the Senate is breaking down before our eyes. Our ability to fulfill our constitutional responsibility to advise and consent is diminished under the Constitution we have all sworn to uphold and defend. That is a shameful chapter in the history of the Senate. Mr. President, I yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma. Government Funding Mr. LANKFORD. Mr. President, the number 22 trillion should matter to us. That is our current debt in the United States. Not to be confused, we have debts, and we have deficits. You will hear those names get thrown around together. Deficit is the amount of overspending in a single year--1 year of overspending--and debt is the collection of all of those deficits. As a nation, our current debt is $22 trillion. To give some perspective on 22 trillion, if you were to take the total distance of 22 trillion miles, you would have to fly from Earth to Pluto and back 3,081 times to get to 22 trillion miles. This is heavy debt. We are used to hearing about debts and deficits in relationship to things like home mortgages. Many of us think about taking 30 years to pay off our mortgage. Well, for us to pay off our national mortgage, this $22 trillion--if we were to balance our budget, which is way out of balance right now, and then have a $100 billion surplus--so let's say that by next year, we have a balanced budget and a $100 billion surplus. That would be a very large surplus for us. How many years of $100 billion surpluses in total revenue would it take to pay off $22 trillion? The quick math on that is 220 years. That is approximately as long as we have been a republic. If we had a $100 billion surplus every single year for the next 220 years, we could pay off our mortgage. Does anyone think that every single year over the next 220 years, we are going to both balance our budget and have a $100 billion surplus? The issue we face as a nation is that we have fumbled a lot in our past. We fumbled our spending. We fumbled our handling of Federal tax dollars. We have to work our way out of this. Climbing out of this is not going to be a 1-year deal. This is not a short-term fix; this is an intentionally long-term fix. There are two things we have to have. We have to have economic growth. If our economy is stagnant, we never catch up. The reason for that is, when the economy is stagnant, more people in our Nation need assistance. They need housing support. They need food support. They need other things to help them in those scarce times. Unemployment benefits go up significantly during the time period that our economy is down because people can't find jobs and our safety net kicks in larger amounts. When we have economic growth, fewer people need housing assistance, fewer people need food assistance, and fewer people receive unemployment benefits. The economy itself grows. As more people have jobs and make money, more people pay taxes. So economic growth is essential to the growth of our economy and to working our way out of debt. That is why the tax reform bill was so incredibly important to us--to get a growing economy again. Our economy had been stagnant for a decade. We would literally have never gotten out of it if we had stayed in a stagnant economy. Folks called me and said: When the tax revenue changed, when the tax reform bill happened, it also blew a hole in the budget. I have had folks throw all kinds of numbers around and say this is the giant hole that is in the budget. Interestingly enough, we are now a fiscal year through. Our revenue for fiscal year 2017--the year before the tax reform--was $3.315 trillion. Our revenue after the tax cut and the tax reform, for fiscal year 2018, is $3.329 trillion. If you are doing the math in your head, that is $14 billion more in revenue after the tax cuts. That means our revenue went up the next year. Contrary to all the myths that were out there early on saying we were going to have this giant hole in the budget, our revenue went up after the tax cuts went into place. Why? More people had more money to invest. More people invested. As they invested, as they engaged in the economy, as they had more money in their pockets, they bought more products, and that stimulated more profits. That meant people got paid more. In this past year of our economy, wages have gone up--especially wages for the lowest income Americans. Their wages have gone up. Unemployment has come down. More people have a job. There are more opportunities to get a different job. All those things are great benefits, but that doesn't solve $22 trillion in debt. We need to have economic growth, but economic growth by itself is never going to solve the issue. We also have to deal with our spending and our plans. Each year for the last 4 years, my office has released something we call ``Federal Fumbles.'' It is ways we believe the Federal Government has dropped the ball. Each year, we take on different areas. Over the last 4 years, we identified over $800 billion in ways that we could save Federal tax dollars. For the specific problems we laid out, there is a solution. If we want to try to start attacking some of these things, here is a proposal. Our goal from our office is very simple: We believe all 100 offices should be looking for ways to save Federal tax dollars. We believe everyone should look for ways to be more efficient. What we are doing is not unique to our team; every team can do it. In fact, we believe that everyone wants to see the debt and deficit go down, but now there is the next step of actually identifying how to do it. In the last 4 years, we have identified $800 billion in ways to save Federal tax dollars. That is a start. That is a beginning point of how to actually get us there. That would get us back to balancing our budget, but we still have a ways to go to get to a surplus and paying off our debt and deficit. We just released our ``Federal Fumbles'' report. It is actually out today online. People from any office or anyplace can go to lankford.senate.gov and download the free report. This report is a little bit different for us. We want to identify the major problems we have not only in overspending and blowing our deficit, but we want to identify ways that we are actually being inefficient in how we operate. We begin by talking about government shutdowns, as I think we should begin with. We just experienced the longest government shutdown in American history. It is not the first by far. People have short memories when they forget the government shutdowns that happened during the Carter administration, the three times Tip O'Neill shut down the government on President Reagan in the 1980s, or the multiple shutdowns that occurred on almost every Presidency in the modern day. But that is not solving the problems we have. Last year, eight Republicans and eight Democrats met almost the entire year and talked about how to reform the budget process. I am a firm believer that we will never solve the problem with our budgeting until we solve the problem with how we do budgeting. We don't budget in a way that actually determines more efficient spending. We determine how to spend more but not how to spend less. That is an issue we have to solve. The 1974 Budget Act has only worked four times since it was written in 1974. It is not gospel. It is not the Constitution. It needs to be redone. There are proposals we put into place specifically on how we can fix the budgeting process. Again, until we get a better budget process, we will never get a better budget product. We identified some simple things--how we can do a 2-year budgeting system; how we can avoid government shutdowns. There are simple solutions we put into place that I think would actually be effective. [[Page S1643]] We released a bipartisan bill in the last couple of days on ending government shutdowns that I hope we can actually get momentum toward and solve the issue of government shutdowns. We deal with the issue of the President's budget--not just this President's but every President's budgets. It has been a problem. There has never been a time since the 1974 Budget Act that the President's budget has ever been implemented. It is an informational document. Let's turn it into what it should be. Let's figure out how we can start reducing our deficit. We have 12 bills we put out every single year for spending. There is no mandatory bill for savings. As simple as this sounds, why don't we add a 13th bill to our appropriations process? There would be 12 bills that are designed for spending and 1 that is designed for savings. For every single Congress, there would have to be a savings bill. Now, that Congress can choose how much it wants to save, but every single Congress would have a mandatory savings bill to figure out what it is going to do to actually pull our deficits back. With our being $22 trillion in debt, I don't anticipate anytime soon that we are not going to need that 13th bill. We could do this. We could fix the way we actually make the law regarding the budget, which currently is not law but is a suggestion made by Congress that has been blown past every single year. There are all kinds of budget games that are out there that make the budget actually look better than it is. Some of them are great, cute names, like CHIMPS, or Changes in Mandatory Program Spending. They sound adorable, but what they actually do is to make the budget look like it is closer to balancing when it is actually even further from balancing but has a budget gimmick. We need to end some of those. We lay out proposals on how to resolve the debt ceiling. Process reforms will make a big difference in our being able to get on top of the big issue. They may not be exciting and they may not be headline- grabbing, but until we fix these things as a body, they are never going to get better. We deal with Senate rules on how we are actually going to work together to solve these issues. The Senate has stopped working together on a lot of these things. So we lay out some of the internal aspects as to how to solve them. We lay out some bills that are out there that we have proposed. One is called the Taxpayers Right-To-Know Act. We don't have great transparency in our spending. If taxpayers wanted to find out how many government programs there were that were similar in function, they couldn't find out. The hard part is, as Congress, we can't find out either. The only way that we can get a programmatic list or get the details of different programs from different Agencies is to make the request through an entity called the GAO. Usually, between 12 and 18 months later, it will give us back a report just to say what programs are out there and what those programs do. I have met multiple times with the director of the GAO regarding a bill proposal called the Taxpayers Right-To-Know Act, a bill that passed unanimously in the House of Representatives during the last session. Then it came to the Senate and stalled. This bill does something very simple. It tells lawmakers and taxpayers what their government actually does. It is not trying to hide anything. It is trying to list every program that we have and how much we spend on that program. If it is evaluated, how is it evaluated? How many employees are dedicated to it? There is no gimmick to it. It is just that simple. It is transparency. The great gift to our democracy is transparency in how we spend dollars. Just this basic bill would allow every single person in the country to ask questions of its government. Why do we have four programs that seem to do the same thing? Why do we have 18 programs in another area and 16 different entities that seem to do something similar? Why can't we combine that? Why can't we crowd-source ideas? The reason is that we don't put transparent information out. We could crowd-source the ideas of how to fix our government if only we allowed the taxpayers to see their government. The Taxpayers Right-To-Know Act allows us to do that. We deal with our grant reforms. It is one of the areas in which we have pushed pretty hard in the last several ``Federal Fumbles'' books, but we lay out a set of ideas. There is a bill called the GREAT Act, which passed in the last House of Representatives overwhelmingly. By the way, the House of Representatives in this session, led by the Democrats, has also passed the GREAT Act and has sent it over to us in order to reform the grant process and how that information gets out. Now, it is a first step in getting information. I think there are more, but it is a great first step for that. Grants always seem to be our issue. Some $600 billion a year is spent by the Federal Government just on grants. There is a great need for greater transparency in that. Some grants are very large, and some of them are small. We can't figure out why we do some of them at all as Federal taxpayers. For instance, last year, the National Endowment for the Humanities gave a grant to a California professor to use Federal tax dollars to study Soviet winemaking--not current Russian winemaking with Federal grant dollars but historic Soviet winemaking. Now, I can kind of understand why California winemakers may want to do a study of Soviet winemaking for some reason, but why are Federal taxpayers being asked to pay for a study on Soviet winemaking? Yet we did. Since 2001, we have given a Federal grant for a mariachi program in California. Now, I kind of understand how a successful mariachi program that works with children and youths may be something we would do for a couple of years to get it started as a community program. That makes total sense. Yet we have done it every year since 2001. At some point, shouldn't the local entities pick that up? Why is that a Federal program that has to be done year after year after year? The grant issues don't have a lot of transparency, and there is a reason for that. It is that people don't want to be seen. They don't want anyone to know that the program is out there. We want just to ask a simple question. Let's do the grants, but let's make sure they line up with Federal priorities. Let's make sure they actually line up with strategic things that actually help our economy and help expand our Nation and protect our national security. There are basic things that we can do, and we lay some of those things out. We lay out some questions that we think are practical questions on renewable fuel and, in particular, on ethanol. The ethanol program was designed to reduce emissions, but when it was designed to reduce emissions, it also grandfathered in all of the entities at that time that had produced ethanol, and none of those were required to reduce emissions--only new ones. What has happened? Practically no new ones have come on board because it is a lot more expensive to limit emissions than it is to be an old facility that doesn't limit emissions. You can't be competitive in limiting emissions. So really what the ethanol mandate does is to protect the old ethanol companies to make sure they never get competition. As a Congress, why aren't we looking at that? If you are not in the Midwest, you pay more at the gas pump every time you fill up because of the ethanol. If you are in the Midwest, it may be a little cheaper for you, but if you are on the east or the west coast, your gas prices are higher because of the ethanol mandate. Are you happy with that? As a government, we need to look at that. We think it is a legitimate question to ask about not only our debt and deficit but just about basic consumer spending for our GDP and the growth of our economy. We deal with a lot of issues with regard to the Federal workforce. We deal with regulatory reform. We walk through some of the hardest issues about how we are taking care of our veterans and what is happening with regard to taking care of things like healthcare and transitioning them into vocational work. We feel it is important. We have dug into small programs--for instance, an IT development program for veterans in Muskogee, OK--because if you are in the veterans service center in Muskogee, which is one of the largest veteran service centers in the country, you handle a lot of different documents. As you go through [[Page S1644]] that process for those great employees who are there--and there are really some solid people who are there--they have to log in multiple times and use a whole list of workarounds in their system, which gets bogged down. Each employee there spends 45 minutes a day just going through the logistics of logging in and changing around the system to make it work. There are 45 minutes a day of lost productivity for every single person there. The good news is that Congress allocated $30 million to fix the IT problems there. The bad news is that the problems are still there. So we are asking the simple question: Where did that money go? How come the problem wasn't fixed? We can go on and on with regard to these issues. In page after page, we have tried to lay out sets of solutions--things that we see as problems and inefficiencies in the way our government is working and in the way our Congress is working--and establish what can be done. Our goal is simple. Laying out ``Federal Fumbles'' is a to-do list for us. This is what we are working on right now along with a lot of other issues. We encourage every office to glance through it. Ask your staff members to glance through and see the things that they are working on in their offices, and see if we are not laying out some ideas. Let's find ways to work together. Of all of the things to agree on, we should be able to agree that our $22 trillion of debt needs to be addressed. Let's strategize as to how we are going to solve it. Let's find ways that our government is inefficient and find ways to fix it. Let me give you one more number. We met in a bipartisan group last year--eight Republicans and eight Democrats--and tried to solve this issue on budgeting. Unfortunately, it was unsuccessful. Those with the Congressional Budget Office visited with us, and we asked them a very specific question as to our current level of debt. If we were to just try to stay at our current level of debt--not grow any more, not get any worse--how much would we have to tax or cut? Their response was $400 billion a year, every year, for the next 30 years. To just not make the problem worse, we have to either tax more or cut $400 billion a year, every year, for the next 30 years to keep it from getting worse. That is because, as the CBO stated, Federal outlays, which is how we are spending, are projected to climb from 20.8 percent of the GDP in 2019 to 23 percent by 2029. The aging of the population and the rising healthcare costs contribute significantly to the growth of spending for the major benefit programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, and the rising debt and higher interest rates drive up the Federal Government's net interest cost. We have reached a tipping point in interest. Last year, our interest payments were $325 billion just in the interest on our debt. The CBO estimates that within 10 years our interest payments alone will be $928 billion. We have crossed over that tipping point we talked about before. Now, just to stay at the status quo, because of the rising interest rates and interest payments, we have to find $400 billion a year, every year, in new taxes or new cuts. We are fumbling on the biggest issue that Americans have handed us. It affects our national security. It affects the future of our children. It affects how we take care of those who are in poverty. It affects those who are in the most vulnerable moments of life. It affects those with disabilities, and it affects our transportation. We have to have a real dialogue about this. We are doing our part. We are trying to get the word out. Let's have a dialogue and together figure out what we can do next in order to solve this because none of us have plans for a $400 billion cut next year. That means that next year it will again get worse, and it will keep getting worse until we solve it. I yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut. Mr. MURPHY. Mr. President, I appreciate the remarks of my good friend, the Senator from Oklahoma. I look forward to working with him on ways that we can try to come together and solve some of these big problems. In a minute, I am going to talk about the Affordable Care Act, which is probably the signature accomplishment of a Democratic Senate and Congress. It is notable that the Affordable Care Act, for all of its controversy, reduced the deficit. It did not increase the deficit. It is also notable that the signature accomplishment of the Republican Congress and the Republican Senate was a tax reduction bill that has dramatically spiraled the deficit out of control. There is $2 trillion of additional deficits in that provision. I share the concerns about the deficit, and I find it curious that this Congress, under Republican control, has chosen to dramatically increase deficits, making us on pace for having the biggest deficits in our legislative history--with enormous additional new elements of debt as well. Nomination of Chad A. Readler Mr. President, I am here, though, to talk about the Affordable Care Act. One of the things we talk a lot about here on the Senate floor is of our mutual concern for people with preexisting conditions. These are the 130 million Americans who are sick or who have histories of sickness. If you were to listen to both sides of the aisle, you would believe that everyone is on board with the idea that we should provide protections to individuals who are sick or who have ever been sick. Yet actions do not meet words when it comes down to it in the U.S. Senate. Over the last 2 years, my Republican colleagues have spared no expense or effort to try to strip away protections for those individuals with preexisting conditions that were in the Affordable Care Act. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act is the most obvious example of that. This week, we will have a rare opportunity to take an up-or-down vote on this issue of whether we support keeping protections for people with preexisting conditions in this country. The reason for that is, we are going to vote on a nominee to the Sixth Circuit Court who orchestrated--who directed--the Department of Justice's attempts to take away protections for people with preexisting conditions through the court process. Chad Readler filed a brief in a case brought by State attorneys general--all of them Republicans--to strike from the Affordable Care Act the protection for people with preexisting conditions. Normally, when State attorneys general come after the constitutionality of a statute, whether those are Republican or Democratic attorneys general, the administration, whether it be a Republican or Democratic administration, defends the constitutionality of the statute. This was an exceptional case in which these Republican attorneys general were trying to take away protections for people with preexisting conditions, saying the ACA was unconstitutional, and an Assistant Attorney General by the name of Chad Readler stood up and volunteered to file a brief alleging that, in fact, the attorneys general were right--a rare, almost completely unprecedented example of the Department of Justice arguing against the constitutionality of a statute that had been passed by the Congress and signed by the President. Interestingly, before Chad Readler decided to file that brief, others at the Department of Justice refused. In fact, one lawyer left the Department of Justice because he wouldn't put his name on something so absurd as the brief Chad Readler filed. I am not the only person who thinks the arguments in his brief trying to strike down those protections for people with preexisting conditions was absurd. In fact, Senator Alexander read Readler's brief and said the arguments in it were ``as far-fetched as any I have ever heard.'' That is a Republican Senator. Now, the consequences of the judge following the recommendations of Chad Readler were catastrophic. In fact, the judge struck down the Affordable Care Act. That order has been held in abeyance temporarily, but the consequences of the Readler brief would be that 133 million Americans would lose their protections from higher rates because they were sick or had been sick. The 20 million people who had insurance would lose it virtually overnight. Admittedly, the Readler brief didn't agree with every single element of the lawsuit of the attorneys general but enough of it such that it was very clear [[Page S1645]] the administration was weighing in on the side of the petitioners. Almost immediately after filing that brief, he was nominated to serve on the appellate court, sending a very clear signal to all of those in the administration that if you take a leadership role on trying to strip away protections for people with preexisting conditions, you will be rewarded--in this case, rewarded with a lifetime appointment. So we are about to vote on the architect of this administration's legal strategy to try to undo the most popular, most important protections in the Affordable Care Act, and it represents this rare opportunity to understand where Senators stand. It is super easy. It takes no political risk to stand up and say you support protecting people who are sick and making sure insurance companies don't jack up their rates. As it turns out, it is a little bit harder to actually back up your words with actions, but this one isn't that hard. Voting against Chad Readler isn't that difficult, in part, because Senator Brown, who is the Senator from Ohio who did not sign a blue slip for Chad Readler's nomination, has made it clear as early as 10 minutes ago that he is willing to support and sign a blue slip for a mainstream conservative nominee. In this case, Democrats aren't saying we want a nominee to the Sixth Circuit who isn't one who could be charitably described as a conservative nominee. We just don't want a nominee who has made his mark trying to tear down protections for sick people in this country, but that is what happens when you get rid of the blue ship. Senator McConnell and Senator Grassley have gotten rid of this decades-old protection to try to make sure nominees to the Federal bench, to the appellate bench in this case, have the support of their home State Senators. When you do that, you tend to get a little bit more mainstream nominees. Now that the blue slip is gone, now that Senator Brown has no ability to weigh in on individuals who are going to be making law in his State, you get a much more extreme nominee like this. So let's see what happens. I hope there are some Republicans who will stand up and decide they are going to put their votes where their mouths have been on the question of protections for people with preexisting conditions, but at the very least, the American public will get to see where we all stand on this very important question in a matter of hours. 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. Mrs. FISCHER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. Nuclear Deterrence Mrs. FISCHER. Mr. President, in the 116th Congress, I am once again chairing the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, which oversees our nuclear forces. Over the coming months, I will be coming to the floor to discuss specific components of our nuclear deterrent and their contributions to the defense of this Nation. Today, I rise to speak about the critical role strategic bombers play in our nuclear triad. The triad is known for its flexibility and resilience, and bombers contribute to this flexibility in important ways. They are highly visible, and they can be forward deployed. They can be used to signal resolve to our adversaries and commitment to our allies. This benefit is not theoretical. Bombers have been used in exactly this way many times, particularly on the Korean Peninsula. Bombers are also recallable and, when armed with standoff weapons, they can offer the President a variety of tailored response options in a crisis. As the oldest leg of our nuclear triad, bombers have a long and distinguished history. In some ways, the story of the strategic bomber begins in the great State of Nebraska. In the early 1940s, Bellevue, NE, was home to the Martin Bomber Plant, which was located on the land that is now Offutt Air Force Base. The Martin plant, with the help of thousands of Nebraska workers, built and modified the Enola Gay and Bockscar. These two B-29 bombers went on to deliver the Little Boy and Fat Man nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War II and ushering in the nuclear age. The horrific destruction of these attacks established the deterrent power that has prevented conflict on a global scale ever since. As ballistic missile technology evolved, the bomber continued to be the mainstay of our nuclear deterrent forces through the early 1970s. Although bombers carried the heavy load for many decades, today we no longer rely on them in the same way. Nuclear-armed bombers have not been on 24-hour ready alert status since the end of the Cold War in 1991, and the responsiveness that alert-status bombers provided now resides primarily with our ICBM forces. The strength provided by the other legs of the triad have allowed us to take our nuclear capable bombers off alert and use them for conventional missions. When we send B-52 bombers to Afghanistan to complete a conventional mission, we exercise the triad's flexibility. When U.S. B-2 bombers struck targets in Libya, we utilized the triad's flexibility. These examples clearly demonstrate that the flexibility of the triad is not an abstract concept. It is something our forces use every single day. Our current nuclear bomber force consists of 46 B-52 and 20 B-2 aircraft. While we rely on this highly capable but aging fleet, we also look ahead to the future of the bomber force, and that is the B-21. As the B-21 development progresses, it is important to remember the lessons learned from the last time we developed a nuclear bomber, the B-2. As the Cold War ended, nuclear tensions cooled and the need for an expensive nuclear-capable stealth bomber seemed to diminish. Even though the B-2 had already been developed and significant resources spent on research and development, Congress decided to reduce the final order from 132 aircraft to 20. In so doing, the per-unit cost of the airframe rose to $2 billion. The Air Force has said it plans to buy at least 100 B-21s, but many in this Chamber believe more are likely required to meet the conventional mission the Nation expects our Air Force to perform. The nuclear triad is the bedrock of our national security, and the airborne leg continues to contribute to the strength and resilience of our nuclear forces. It is our responsibility to ensure that this capability is modernized, particularly as the global security environment transitions to one of long-term strategic competition. I yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Nebraska. Mrs. FISCHER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate stand in recess under the previous order. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. ____________________