EXECUTIVE CALENDAR; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 181
(Senate - November 13, 2019)

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[Pages S6520-S6525]
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                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the nomination.
  The bill clerk read the nomination of Steven J. Menashi, of New York, 
to be United States Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.

                   Unanimous Consent Request--S. 1416

  Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, I am proud to be here to advocate on 
behalf of a bill that has enjoyed, rightly, bipartisan support: the 
Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act.
  We all know that the astronomically rising costs of prescription 
drugs are a burden--in fact a bane for Americans regardless of where 
they live, regardless of their party, race, religion, or age, but 
particularly for our seniors. The choice between paying the mortgage, 
putting food on the table, and buying prescription drugs has become a 
daily challenge for people across the country.
  This bill offers a positive, solid step toward ending abuses in the 
use of patents--abuses that are called patent thicketing and product 
hopping--that all too commonly raise the cost of prescription drugs and 
preclude access for the people who need those drugs the most.
  This effort has been a bipartisan one involving many of us in this 
Chamber. It passed from the Judiciary Committee unanimously. It is a 
testament to the still-possible bipartisan cooperation on an issue of 
paramount concern to the people of America that we have reached this 
point of bringing it to the floor of the Senate.
  I am proud to have worked on this measure with my colleague from 
Texas who has really helped to lead this effort, Senator Cornyn, who is 
here on the floor with me, and I am happy to yield to him now.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas.
  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Connecticut for 
his leadership.
  At a time when people see bipartisanship in short supply in 
Washington, DC, this is one area where we can actually make some real 
progress for the people we represent.
  We all know that climbing healthcare costs are keeping people up at 
night. Many people reached out to me in my office about the impossible 
decisions they are required to make in order to keep pace with rising 
prescription drug costs--particularly the out-of-pocket costs--whether 
they pay some bills and have to defer or not pay others; whether they 
cut their pills in half or self-ration the medications, which is 
dangerous to their health, or don't fill prescriptions altogether 
because they simply can't afford the out-of-pocket costs. No family 
should be required to make those sorts of decisions.
  Sadly, I know my constituents in Texas are not alone. The Kaiser 
Family Foundation poll in September found that the No. 1 healthcare 
concern of the American people is prescription drug prices. This is 
something the President has said he wants to address, the House has 
said they want to address, and the Senate has said we want to address, 
and this legislation we are talking about will help move the ball in 
the right direction.
  A whopping 70 percent of people think growing prescription drug costs 
should be the top priority for Congress, which should make it our No. 1 
item on our to-do list. The good news is, we are making some progress. 
Here in the Senate, we have taken a bipartisan approach, which is the 
only way to actually get things done in Congress. We talked to every 
major player in the supply chain, and we asked questions about whether 
confusing practices that are not transparent to outsiders are all 
combining to drive up costs.
  What I find seriously concerning are the anti-competitive behaviors 
of some of the drug manufacturers, the gamesmanship, particularly when 
it comes to our patent system. We know companies pour a lot of time and 
money into the research and development of new medications, and we 
don't want to do anything to stop that. We want to incentivize that so 
that they are able to recover their costs and perhaps make a profit 
when the drug turns out to be successful. But we don't want them 
playing games with the patent system in a way that prevents others at 
some point, after that period of exclusivity, from being able to 
compete with a generic alternative.
  Ninety percent of the drugs we take are generic, and that is why they 
are so affordable and so inexpensive, but for the top 10 percent of 
branded drugs that people take, many of them simply are unaffordable. 
These patents I refer to do protect the intellectual property for these 
key drugs and are an important part of the incredible innovation that 
occurs here in the United States, but increasingly we are seeing 
companies using the patent system as a shield for competition beyond 
the life of the patent.
  It is time to put a stop to that. We can do that today. We can begin 
that process today. That is exactly why I introduced the Affordable 
Prescriptions for Patients Act with the Senator from

[[Page S6521]]

Connecticut. It targets two specific practices used by drug companies 
to keep prices high. First is product hopping, which occurs when a 
company develops a reformulation of a product that is about to lose its 
exclusivity period and then pulls that original product off the market. 
This is done not because the new formula is necessarily more effective 
but because it prevents generic competitors for that product that has 
now been pulled off the market. The second phenomenon we are trying to 
combat is something called patent thicketing, which occurs when an 
innovator uses multiple, overlapping patents with identical claims to 
make it nearly impossible for competitors to enter the field.
  This is not how patents were supposed to be used, and we shouldn't 
allow these anti-competitive practices to continue. In one case 
involving the drug HUMIRA, the most popular drug being prescribed 
today, there are more than 120 separate patents for essentially the 
same molecule. Meanwhile, patients can't get access to competitive 
drugs that probably would be cheaper here in America, while there are 
four approved alternatives in Europe.

  The American people simply should not have to put up with this. We 
need to stop companies from manipulating the system and keeping 
competitors tied up in courtrooms so that patients can start to feel 
some relief.
  Patients aren't the only ones who would benefit from this bill. The 
Congressional Budget Office released a cost estimate and found that it 
would lower Federal spending by more than half a billion dollars over 
10 years. That is not a whole lot of money in the grand scheme of 
things, but when you consider what the impact would be in the private 
insurance market, too, that begins to add up, and it adds up where it 
counts the most when it comes to seniors and other patients paying out 
of pocket for their copays and deductibles in order to get the drugs 
they need.
  This bill really checks every box. It protects innovation, increases 
competition, lowers prices for patients, and saves money for taxpayers. 
Not surprisingly, as the Senator from Connecticut pointed out, it has 
strong support on both sides of the aisle. The Judiciary Committee, 
which ordinarily is a pretty contentious place, unanimously voted this 
bill out of committee. Our friend from Illinois, Senator Durbin, and 
Senator Murray from Washington--two Members of the Democratic 
leadership--are both cosponsors of the bill, which shows just how 
noncontroversial this is.
  I think it is time that we pass this legislation and let our 
constituents know we have heard their concerns and we are committed on 
a bipartisan basis to bringing down drug prices.
  Mr. President, as if in legislative session, I ask unanimous consent 
that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of Calendar No. 
132, S. 1416.
  I ask unanimous consent that the committee-reported substitute be 
withdrawn and the Cornyn amendment at the desk be agreed to; that the 
bill, as amended, be considered read a third time and passed; and that 
the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Mr. DURBIN. Reserving the right to object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, let me start by saying I support this 
bill, the bill offered by Senators Cornyn and Blumenthal. It is 
bipartisan in nature and passed the Judiciary Committee. I not only 
voted for it, I cosponsored it, and I think it should become the law of 
the land. It will be helpful in reducing the cost of pharmaceuticals.
  I am offering a modification to the bill. I believe this modification 
is one that should be passed by the Senate as well. In fact, it did 
pass the Senate last year by a voice vote. Not a single Senator 
objected when it passed the Senate last year. We know--I have been told 
by my colleagues--that they support the concept, but they are not 
alone. The bill I am offering is also supported by the American Medical 
Association; the American Hospital Association; 88 percent of the 
American people, Republicans and Democrats; President Trump; his health 
Secretary, Dr. Azar; the AARP--a long list.
  What could I possibly propose that would have all of these people 
supporting it? Simple. When the drug companies decide to run an ad on 
television--and you see a lot of them, don't you? The average American 
sees nine every day. All we ask is that included in the ad, they 
disclose the cost of the drug.
  How did I pick this as the cost for the drug? I didn't pick it; it 
was chosen by the pharmaceutical company. That is the list price of the 
drug. They can go on to say ``You will not have to pay that amount,'' 
but I believe the American people should know what the drugs cost.
  The most heavily advertised drug in America today is HUMIRA. HUMIRA 
is used for forms of arthritis and psoriasis. But few Americans know, 
as they watch people sitting by the swimming pool with clear skin, that 
HUMIRA costs $5,500 per month. The reason I want to disclose this is 
because I think consumers have the right to know.
  Someone is going to pay that amount--your insurance company. Somebody 
is going to pay that amount. When Blue Cross and Blue Shield of 
Illinois says that the No. 1 driver in health insurance premiums is 
high prescription drug prices, I think people ought to know. It is not 
just a matter of being in a bathing suit without a red patch on your 
elbow; it is $5,500 per month.
  President Trump believes that disclosure should be made, the 
Secretary of Health and Human Services believes it, the American 
Medical Association, the Hospital Association, all the people I 
mentioned, as well as almost 90 percent of Democrats and Republicans. 
Who opposes this? Who would oppose disclosing the price of the drug? I 
will bet you are guessing the pharmaceutical industry, and you are 
right. They are looking for one Senator who will object to what I am 
offering. That is what they need. They need just one Senator to say no, 
and frankly I am afraid we are going to face that this afternoon.
  The bottom line is this: If you believe consumers in America have a 
right to know the cost of a drug, if you believe the pharmaceutical 
companies have a responsibility to disclose it, if you believe high 
prescription drug prices are unfair and costing a lot more in our 
healthcare system than they should, then support this basic measure 
that passed the Senate last year without one negative voice. None. None 
  So having reserved the right to object, I ask that the Senator modify 
his request so that in addition to the pending request, the Finance 
Committee be discharged from further consideration of S. 1437 and the 
Senate proceed to its immediate consideration; that the Durbin-Grassley 
amendment at the desk be agreed to; that the bill, as amended, be 
considered read a third time and passed; that the Durbin-Grassley 
amendment to the title be agreed to; and that the motions to reconsider 
be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action 
or debate.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Would the Senator modify his request?
  Mr. TOOMEY. Reserving the right to object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. TOOMEY. Mr. President, first let me say that I think Senator 
Cornyn's legislation is very constructive. I fully support it. I think 
it would result in lower costs for consumers. It is very commendable. I 
think we should pass it. I am sympathetic with the idea of requiring 
greater transparency on healthcare costs generally, but I have 
significant policy concerns and process concerns with the proposal from 
the Senator from Illinois.
  The policy concern, broadly, is that what his legislation would do is 
it would single out one industry and require a mandate that in their 
direct-to-consumer advertising, they provide systematically misleading 
information to consumers. It doesn't strike me, obviously, as a good 
idea to mislead people, including in this context.
  Why do I say it is misleading? It is because the legislation requires 
the list price or the wholesale acquisition price of a drug to be the 
price that is put in the ad, despite the fact that almost no one ever 
pays either of those prices. There are huge rebates that are built into 
the system.
  We can have a good debate about whether it is a good model by which

[[Page S6522]]

the government has created all of these perversities in our healthcare 
delivery system, but that is what it is. The truth and the reality is 
almost no one pays either the list or the wholesale acquisition price. 
Think about it. If you are on Medicaid, you pay zero. If you are on 
Medicare, you often pay zero--usually, nearly zero. If you have private 
insurance, it varies enormously from zero to something significantly 
different, but almost no one pays the price that the Senator from 
Illinois would require to be posted in all direct-to-consumer 
  Think about some of the unintended consequences. The number that 
would have to be in the ad is way higher than what almost anyone 
actually pays. Think of what could happen. I can imagine senior 
citizens sitting there watching an ad. Maybe they see a medicine they 
actually would benefit from, and then at the end there is some huge 
number that does not reflect--it doesn't come close to reflecting what 
the actual cost would be, but it is a big number so that a senior 
citizen would understandably say: Gosh, I can't afford that. I guess I 
can't pursue that therapy, even though they might need that. I am sure 
that is not the intended consequence of this legislation, but I am 
pretty sure it would happen.
  It is also peculiar to me that the authors of this legislation choose 
to single out a small fraction of the healthcare industry to impose 
this mandate. Prescription drug spending is about 10 percent of 
healthcare. Hospitals are about 32 percent, but I haven't seen that we 
are going to impose this. If you look at the rate of price increases in 
various sectors of healthcare, you see that actually prescription 
drugs, over the last 20 years--their increase in prices is considerably 
less than hospital services and considerably less than medical care 
  Then, of course, we have other sectors in the economy altogether. Are 
we going to put mandates on colleges, for instance? The rate of tuition 
increase in colleges is much greater than the rate of increase of 
prescription drugs in recent years. I haven't heard a proposal yet, but 
maybe one is coming that would require this of other industries as 
  If I didn't know better, I would think it seems part of a theme to 
vilify the industry that has developed the therapies that allow us to 
live longer, healthier, and save lives. Most importantly, maybe it will 
not lower costs. It is not going to lower costs for consumers. The only 
way we are going to do that is if we better align the incentives of the 
consumer and the person paying.
  In contrast, by the way, the Finance Committee and HELP Committee 
reported out legislation that actually would lower out-of-pocket costs 
for prescription drugs. We have Senator Cornyn's legislation that I 
think absolutely would lower the cost of consumer prescription drugs. 
Yet that is not what is on the floor today from the Senator from 
  Now, despite my policy concerns--and they are serious--I actually 
think we ought to debate these things. We ought to put this kind of 
legislation on the floor. We ought to have a debate. We ought to have a 
vote, but this is complicated, and it is fraud. We should not be trying 
to just pass this by unanimous consent. This legislation has not gone 
through committee, and contrary to my colleague from Illinois--this 
actual piece of legislation has never had a vote as a freestanding 
matter. A version of it that is different from what is being offered 
today was buried in a larger legislation which passed. That is not the 
same as scrutinizing this policy, subjecting it to amendments, and 
deciding on it. That is what I think we ought to do.
  Unlike my colleagues on the other side who have been consistently 
preventing us from taking up legislation, such as the approps bills 
they have not allowed us to get on to or the SECURE Act, on which I 
offered a unanimous consent process for us to take up and process, I 
think we ought to consider this legislation, even though I don't think 
I would support the final product.
  What I suggest we do is let's move on to the Defense appropriations 
bill. Arguably, the most fundamental responsibility of Congress is to 
fund our national defense. Let's make in order as the first amendment 
after the managers' amendment the amendment of the Senator from 
Illinois that he has just described. I don't support it, but I support 
his right to have a debate and have a vote. Let's go on to an 
appropriations bill and let's make his amendment in order as the first 
amendment. We can debate it; we can vote it; and we will all live with 
the consequences. I think that is what we are here for. I think the 
purpose of the Senate is to take on these issues, put them on 
the floor, have a debate, and have a vote. I am willing to live with 
the outcome of that.

  Mr. President, I ask that the Senator from Illinois modify his 
request and that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of 
Calendar No. 132, S. 1416. I further ask unanimous consent that the 
committee-reported substitute amendment be withdrawn and that the 
Cornyn amendment at the desk be agreed to; that the bill, as amended, 
be considered read a third time and passed; and that the motion to 
reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table; and finally, 
that following disposition of S. 1416, the Senate proceed to the 
immediate consideration of H.R. 2740, and following the offering of a 
substitute amendment by Senator Shelby or his designee, the first 
amendment in order be an amendment offered by Senator Durbin or Senator 
Grassley, the text of which is identical to S. 1437, as amended, which 
is at the desk.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Does the Senator modify his request?
  Mr. DURBIN. Reserving the right to object.
  I am not a zoologist, so I don't know if crocodiles can cry, but I am 
very concerned about the argument the Senator from Pennsylvania made. 
He is actually standing here, in defense of senior citizens, by 
objecting to disclosing the list price that the pharmaceutical 
companies charge for these drugs. I didn't choose that price; they 
chose that price.
  Mr. TOOMEY. Will the Senator yield?
  Mr. DURBIN. I will not yield until I am finished.
  I said they could put a disclaimer on that saying maybe you will not 
pay the full list price depending on your insurance or coverage, but to 
argue that you are standing here in defense of senior citizens and 
denying this information to them and that the only way we can consider 
this measure is call up the Department of Defense appropriations bill--
from where I am standing, this measure, which passed the Senate without 
your objection last year, should pass now with the underlying 
legislation. Let's get this done in a comprehensive way to help 
seniors, and let's not stand in defense of pharmaceutical companies. 
They have plenty of people to defend them.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Does the Senator object to the modification?
  Mr. DURBIN. I object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
  Is there objection to the original request from the Senator from 
Illinois to modify his request?
  Mr. TOOMEY. I object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
  Is there objection to the Senator from Texas?
  Mr. SCHUMER. Reserving the right to object.

                   Recognition of the Minority Leader

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Democratic leader is recognized.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I am so glad to be out here today to deal 
with the issue of reducing prices on drugs for seniors and others. 
There are so many things we must do. Some are small. Some are large. We 
want to do all of them.
  We Democrats know how bad drug prices are for seniors. We know how 
bad the sabotage of our healthcare system is for seniors. If you don't 
have insurance, you probably can't pay for the drugs no matter what 
  I would say to my good friend the Senator from Texas that we have a 
whole lot of legislative ideas, not just his. He demands his. It is 
good, but it is hardly large. There are millions and millions who need 
help who are not affected. The Senators from Illinois and Iowa have a 
bill to lower prescription drug costs. The HELP Committee has a bill 
that would help community health centers. The Senate Finance Committee 
has a good bipartisan bill to lower costs for seniors who are very

[[Page S6523]]

strong supporters of allowing Medicare to negotiate prices. That would 
do more than anything else.
  I ask my friend from Texas, Will he get his leader and himself to 
allow us to bring an amendment to a bill on the floor that protects 
seniors who have preexisting conditions from their insurance companies 
withdrawing from them? Will he let us do that? That is far more 
consequential than his well-intended good but not largely effective 
bill. The No. 1 thing--ask AARP--the No. 1 thing that will protect 
senior citizens and others from high drug prices is to allow Medicare 
to negotiate with them, something the Senator has blocked repeatedly. 
Will he change his position?
  Let's not have this charade, this manipulative charade, where my dear 
friend from Texas comes to the floor with a bill he proposes but blocks 
everything and his party blocks everything that would have a far larger 
  No. 1, allow Medicare to negotiate. Every Member of our caucus is for 
that. It will lower drug prices dramatically. No. 2, stop the 
administration--the administration the Senator from Texas supports 95 
percent of the time--even my microphone is excited about these remarks. 
I, once again, thank our capable staff who always come to the rescue.
  We need Senator Cornyn to come to the rescue of senior citizens and 
not play a little game like this. Again, preexisting conditions are 
probably the No. 1 bane of people. We want to bring an amendment to the 
floor to protect those people--a mom whose daughter has cancer, and the 
drug company says, ``You're off,'' and the insurance company says, 
``You're gone.'' Isn't that important? Let's not make a comparison, but 
wouldn't it do far more for the health of the American middle class and 
working people than this bill? Let's do them both, but we are not going 
to cherry-pick one unless the Senator from Texas walks across the aisle 
and joins us in saying: I want to help you get a vote on eliminating 
preexisting condition prohibitions. I want to join you in seeing that 
Medicare can negotiate with the drug companies and greatly lower 
  So, of course, I object. We Democrats believe we should bring a bill 
to the floor that has a debate and allows amendments because there is 
so much to be done here--not one small, decently put together and 
decently intended proposal but many more. We know, if we allow our 
Republican friends to just pass their little bills, we will never get 
the big picture done. That is how this place works. So let's come 
together and do it all.
  I object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
  The Senator from Texas.
  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, like the minority leader, I hope we are 
able to pass a larger bipartisan package this year. I serve on the 
Finance Committee--
  Mr. SCHUMER. Would the gentleman yield for a question?
  Mr. CORNYN. After I am through.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Thank you.
  Mr. CORNYN. I serve on the Finance Committee and on the Judiciary 
Committee, where this bill came from, and I know Senator Murray and 
Senator Alexander have a package out of the Health, Education, Labor, 
and Pensions Committee. I welcome the opportunity to have those bills 
come to the floor and to offer amendments and debate them and pass them 
because I agree that the country would benefit by bringing down 
healthcare costs, by bringing down prescription drug costs, and I 
believe that work is long overdue, but my bill is not going to sink the 
prospects of that larger package of legislation.
  What we have in front of us is an uncontested, bipartisan bill that 
we can pass today. Let's pass it. Let's not let the perfect be the 
enemy of the good. What I hear the minority leader saying is that it is 
either everything or nothing.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Will the Senator yield for a correction?
  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I will yield for a question after I am 
through talking.
  When there is a statement, in effect, of ``I want everything to be 
done now or there will be nothing done at all,'' do you know what 
happens? Every single time that argument is made and that position is 
taken, nothing happens. Nothing happens. That is what people hate about 
Washington, DC, and when they look at C-SPAN, if they do look at C-
SPAN, and see these debates. It is everything or nothing.
  The Democratic leader, who has now objected to the unanimous consent 
request to take up and pass a bill that he has called good and well-
intentioned and has said is not large, has objected to it. I think the 
only people who would be rejoicing at this very moment would be the 
very same people who are gaming the patent system and who are keeping 
the out-of-pocket prices of prescription drugs high for seniors. Those 
are the people who are popping champagne corks right now because this 
is nothing more than a big, wet kiss for the people who are gaming the 
patent system right now to the detriment of the American people.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Will the Senator yield for a question?
  Mr. CORNYN. I yield to the Democratic leader.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Would the Senator support a unanimous consent request so 
that we could protect people with preexisting conditions, and would he 
support bringing that to the floor in the same way?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas.
  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I would say to my friend the Democratic 
leader that I support coverage for preexisting conditions, and I am not 
aware of anyone in the Senate who opposes it. If such a bill is 
scheduled for a vote on the floor, I will be more than happy to 
participate in that process.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Democratic leader.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Will the Senator support a proposal that is coming out 
of the House to allow Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies to 
greatly lower prices?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas.
  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, in speaking through the Presiding Officer, 
I say to my friend that nothing gets done around here unless it is 
bipartisan. Right now, the bill that the House has sent us is one that 
divides people along party lines, which means it is unlikely we would 
build the bipartisan consensus we would need to get it done in the 
Senate. I am more than happy to engage in that debate and to vote on 
amendments on such a bill, but I am not going to agree to price-fixing 
by the U.S. Government, which will make more scarce and less available 
the lifesaving prescription drugs that many people need. Yet I am happy 
to engage in that debate, to vote, and to let the Senate and Congress 
work their will.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Democratic leader.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I thank my colleague for his answers.
  I would say this: Let him use his power and position as leader to go 
to the majority leader, who has prevented any debate on anything on 
drugs to come to the floor, including these two most significant issues 
that I have talked about. Let us put a package together of all three 
and have a debate on each, a ``yes'' or ``no'' vote on each, and really 
make progress for those who are paying too much in drug prices. I await 
his working with me on that. Then we could bring all three bills to the 
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas.
  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, as always, I am happy to work with the 
Senator from New York on things on which we find our interests aligned. 
Obviously, there are going to be things on which we disagree. 
Frequently, there are. Yet he and I have worked together on legislation 
on which we have been able to find enough common interest to be able to 
build a consensus and get things done. They call that ``legislating'' 
around here.
  There are other things that we should be doing here on a bipartisan 
basis. For example, taking up and passing the appropriations bills, 
including the Defense appropriations bill, so our U.S. military can 
remain the most powerful, the best equipped, the best trained, and the 
best led military in the world. That is of overwhelming importance. Yet 
our colleagues on the other side have objected to and have blocked, on 
at least two occasions, that

[[Page S6524]]

Defense appropriations bill. Now we have a short-term continuing 
resolution that expires this November 21. I am told or have read that 
there is likely to be a follow-on continuing resolution that takes us 
up to December 20, but that is important work, too, because none of us 
wants to see another government shutdown. No one wins with government 
  This sort of gamesmanship that occurs by blocking bills that should 
have support by overwhelming bipartisan numbers in the Senate is 
important, too--things like paying the military, making sure that it 
maintains its readiness to fight and win the Nation's wars, and even 
more importantly, making sure it keeps the peace.
  I know the majority leader has a challenge in trying to figure out 
how to schedule legislation on the Senate floor, but it certainly 
doesn't help when our Democratic colleagues repeatedly object to things 
like appropriations bills and put us into this dysfunction when it 
comes to paying the Federal Government's bills.
  I would say to my friend from New York that I am always happy to work 
with him and with any other Member in the Senate, no matter what one's 
political party is and no matter what one's ideological persuasion is, 
because I actually believe we were sent here to solve problems and to 
get things done.
  What I dislike and what I am disappointed about is the dysfunction 
that we see in the U.S. Senate, whereby, even though it is less than a 
year before the election, politics have overwhelmed our ability to get 
things done. I came to the floor to say that maybe we can't do all of 
this right now, today, but we can do this, and let's build on it once 
we have gotten the bill passed.
  I am disappointed that the Democratic leader has seen fit to object 
to passing this bill that he himself called good and well-intended and 
that is supported by organizations like the American Association of 
Retired Persons. I do not understand it, but maybe somebody else does. 
Their saying that we can't do something because it doesn't include 
everything we want to do here, right now, is disappointing to me, and I 
don't think it is what the American people sent us here to do.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Democratic leader.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in 
morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I thank my colleague for the interchange, 
and it will continue. We Democrats will not rest until we get votes, 
simple votes--not bring the house down--on issues of great consequence 
with regard to drug prices and the American people while the other side 
blocks them.


  Mr. President, as we speak, the House Intelligence Committee is 
conducting the first day of public hearings in its impeachment inquiry 
into President Trump.
  The list of witnesses this week includes several key figures with 
knowledge of the events in question. While most of the witness requests 
from House Republicans were non sequiturs, or individuals who would 
have no knowledge of the President's actions nor of the allegations 
against him, three of the individuals requested by the Republicans were 
agreed to and are slated to testify next week. The idea that the 
Republicans and the President have no due process and can't call 
witnesses or influence the process is simply inaccurate.
  As the impeachment inquiry in the House begins a new phase today in 
its pursuit of the facts, we have a serious responsibility here in the 
Senate not to prejudge the case but to examine the evidence 
impartially. We have a responsibility to let all of the facts come out 
and, as they do, to keep an open mind and let ourselves be ruled by 
reason rather than by passion or partisanship. As public hearings in 
the House begin, we would do well to remember our constitutional duty 
to act as judges and jurors in a potential trial when and if it comes 
to one. That is not to say we won't even read the transcript, and that 
is not to say the vote would come out this way. Yet, as jurors, we will 
be as dispassioned as each of us can be.

                            Turkey and Syria

  Mr. President, on another matter, President Trump will roll out the 
red carpet today for President Erdogan, of Turkey, as he visits the 
White House after everything that has transpired over the last few 
months. This is after President Trump green-lit Turkey's reckless and 
destabilizing invasion of northern Syria, after Turkish troops and 
their proxies committed atrocities against civilians and the Syrian 
Kurds, who are our former partners in the fight against ISIS, and after 
Erdogan cut a deal with our adversary President Putin and threatened 
our allies in Europe with the release of ISIS's detainees.
  The fact that President Trump will reward President Erdogan with an 
Oval Office meeting today is mind-boggling. The meeting will serve as a 
very public example of how President Trump has mismanaged the situation 
in Syria and, most importantly, how he has complicated and slowed the 
effort to secure the enduring defeat of ISIS. It is ISIS that creates 
the greatest danger to our American homeland. As al-Qaida did before 
it, it will try to create huge damage. We in New York know that this 
can sometimes, unfortunately, occur. God forbid it happens again.
  Yet, holy mackerel, the President has no plan for ISIS; detainees are 
escaping; and the Turks are far more upset with the Kurds, who have 
been on our side with ISIS, than they are with ISIS. Erdogan suppresses 
free speech, arrests opponents, and does so many other terrible things 
to his country, which was once a much more shining example of 
democracy--and the President invites him here? Does the President have 
no sense of value? Does the President have no sense of morals? Does the 
President have no sense of what affects American security? It is 


  Mr. President, on agriculture, a report issued yesterday by the 
Democratic minority on the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and 
Forestry shed new light on troubling disparities as to how the Trump 
administration has treated farmers through the Department of 
Agriculture's Market Facilitation Program.
  Farmers in need of Federal aid have leaned on this program to offset 
losses that have been caused by retaliatory foreign tariffs. In an 
industry in which margins are sometimes very thin, this support makes a 
real difference for struggling farmers across the country. Yet, rather 
than helping those farmers who are the most in need, the Trump 
administration, through this program, is picking winners and losers by 
using a flawed methodology to favor certain regions over others and 
wealthy agricultural conglomerates over small farmers.
  The whole idea of the program is to help small farmers throughout the 
Middle West, particularly those farmers with soybeans and corn and 
hogs. The bulk of the program went to five Southern States. Ninety-five 
percent of the top payments defined as $100 or more per acre all went 
to counties in Southern States. Where did the lowest payments go? They 
went to the counties in the Midwest even though the Midwest has 
suffered greater losses overall.
  Instead of coming up with a strategy to help smaller and less 
established farms, which are often more vulnerable during tough 
economic times, the Trump administration has doubled the payment caps 
for row crops while having left other caps in place. This will 
disproportionately funnel money to the largest farms in America while 
it will limit aid to smaller farms.
  Most concerning, however, is that our study shows the Trump 
administration has awarded tens of millions in purchase contracts to 
foreign-owned companies, including a large beef factory in Brazil. 
Instead of ensuring that aid goes to American farmers, the Trump 
administration has been handing millions of taxpayer dollars to foreign 
  This program was put together on the spur because the President was 
worried about political effects with, particularly, soybean farmers but 
with others, too, in the Middle West. Yet it was put together so 
poorly--in such a slipshod and unthought-out manner--that cotton 
farmers do the best of all even though their prices are not hurting the 
way soybean or corn or hog prices are.

[[Page S6525]]

  To my friends on the other side of the aisle, the fiscal 
conservatives, we need your voices.
  If this program were going to the urban areas or maybe to the poorer 
people, we would hear an outcry from certain Members on the other side, 
but our farmers need the help too. When you waste money on an ag 
program, the people who are hurt the most are our smaller and family 
farmers, particularly, in this case, in the Middle West.
  For years, my Republican friends in this Chamber accused the Obama 
administration--unfairly, in my mind--of picking winners and losers in 
the market. It was one of their favorite talking points. Here, we have 
the Trump administration literally picking winners and losers among 
American farmers. Sometimes the winners are not even American. 
Oftentimes, the losers are the small family farmers who need assistance 
the most.
  I am so glad that my Democrat colleagues on the Agriculture, 
Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, especially Ranking Member Stabenow, 
have worked to inject some transparency into the agriculture relief 
  The Trump administration should be using the Market Facilitation 
Program to help those farmers most in need--period. The Trump 
administration needs to stop picking winners and losers and make sure 
all American farmers get the help they deserve.


  Mr. President, finally, on veterans--this is another one--when I look 
at what this administration is doing, and if every American knew all 
these things, Donald Trump wouldn't stand a chance. This one, I hope, 
will get out.
  I talked a little bit about this yesterday. We all know that so many 
of our young men and women--my generation--went to Vietnam and risked 
their lives. Many of them gave their lives for our country. One of the 
worst aspects of things is that they were not treated as heroes when 
they came home.
  I think America has made up for that now, but here is a way that we 
are not treating them well at all. Many of them were exposed to Agent 
Orange, and it became clear that many got sick from exposure to Agent 
Orange while fighting in Vietnam.
  Well, what the VA has found is that certain illnesses are caused by 
exposure to Agent Orange, and they found that there are four more 
illnesses that have an Agent Orange link. But quietly and secretly, the 
Trump administration denied payments to over 60,000 veterans who had 
these illnesses and who received emergency care at non-VA facilities in 
  It has missed deadlines to expand the VA caregivers program to 
Vietnam and Korean war veterans, and there are some reports that the 
Trump VA hired doctors on probation, but what is galling at the moment 
is this Agent Orange situation and hiding the report.
  Mulvaney, evidently, the Chief of Staff, just said quietly: We are 
not funding it. It took a Freedom of Information Act action to reveal 
that they were cutting the money off for these folks.
  They went to Vietnam. Some of them volunteered. Some of them were 
drafted. They got sick because of exposure to Agent Orange, and the 
Trump administration, which loves to have rallies with veterans, cuts 
the money off from them, saying that Mulvaney said we couldn't afford 
  These veterans could afford to risk their lives for us. We can afford 
to help them in their hour of need. I hope the administration will 
reverse its decision.
  I yield the floor.