EXECUTIVE SESSION; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 186
(Senate - November 20, 2019)

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[Pages S6682-S6688]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                           EXECUTIVE SESSION

                                 ______
                                 

                           EXECUTIVE CALENDER

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the following 
nomination, which the clerk will report.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of Barbara 
Lagoa, of Florida, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Eleventh 
Circuit.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. 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for the quorum call be rescinded.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 Minority Leader

  The Democratic leader is recognized.


                             Appropriations

  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, with government funding set to expire 
tomorrow, the House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution 
yesterday to fund the government through December 20. It is now up to 
the Senate to pass the continuing resolution without much fuss and send 
it to the President's desk before the deadline.
  As the Republican leader and I work to set the time for that vote, we 
must look ahead. The continuing resolution will give appropriators 
additional time to get a bipartisan appropriations process back on 
track before the end of the year. The Senate has been able to process 
several noncontroversial appropriations bills, bipartisan, but several 
more can't move forward until the Democrats and the Republicans both 
all agree on the allocations. You can't do it with one party. That 
leads to trouble. In recent days, we have made some progress, and I 
hope the talks between both sets of appropriators--House and Senate, 
Democratic and Republican--will continue in good faith and in earnest 
after we finish the continuing resolution.
  At the same time, there are several very important issues the 
Democrats are trying to address in the continuing

[[Page S6683]]

resolution that the Senate Republicans refuse to address. Most notably, 
the Republicans objected to restoring expired funding for the minority-
serving institutions, including historically Black colleges and 
universities, Tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving 
institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-
serving institutions, and predominantly Black institutions.
  These are ladders up. Such a high percentage of people of color--
people in minority groups--use these colleges to create great lives for 
themselves. They work hard, and they study. There are no alternatives 
for them other than these institutions. To hold the money back, which 
is what the other side is doing, is so wrong. It is so unfair.
  The Democrats will not stop fighting the fight to help these 
institutions, and we are committed to securing this funding in any way 
we can. These are American dream institutions. If you believe in the 
American dream, you shouldn't be holding this money back.


                            Turkey and Syria

  Mr. President, on Syria, the Defense Intelligence Agency--it is like 
the CIA, but it is for the Defense Department; it is very well 
respected and very nonpartisan and is great in many ways--released a 
new assessment yesterday that confirms, unfortunately, many of our 
worst fears. If people haven't seen this assessment, it is really 
important. I would urge people to look at it.
  What did the assessment indicate?
  President Trump's own Defense Department wrote that President Trump, 
by his precipitously withdrawing our troops from northern Syria, has 
given ISIS a lifeline.
  In the chaos that has followed Erdogan's military offensive--an 
offensive, unfortunately, that President Trump green-lit, much to the 
consternation of people on both sides of the aisle--ISIS has had room 
to rebuild. Not only did the assessment suggest that the Islamic State 
is ``postured to withstand'' the recent death of its leader, Abu Bakr 
al-Baghdadi, but it concluded that the Islamic State ``exploited the 
Turkish incursion and subsequent drawdown of U.S. troops to 
reconstitute capabilities and resources within Syria and''--my emphasis 
but their words--``strengthen its ability to plan attacks abroad.''
  By President Trump's giving in to Erdogan, ISIS has been able to 
``strengthen its ability to plan attacks abroad.'' Every American 
should hear that. Let me repeat. Because President Trump abruptly 
withdrew U.S. troops from northern Syria, ISIS has been able to 
strengthen its ability to plan attacks abroad. That is not an 
assessment from some outside group or agency; that is the assessment of 
the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is part of the Pentagon. The 
Trump administration needs to get a handle on this situation fast.
  Despite this new damning assessment, we still have no idea what the 
President plans to do to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS. President 
Trump has welcomed President Erdogan to the White House, but he hasn't 
produced a plan to defeat ISIS. This is an administration run amuck. 
This is security. This is vital to America. There is no plan about 
ISIS, but there is the greeting of Erdogan--a dictator whose desire to 
go after ISIS isn't close to ours. He would much rather go after the 
Kurds--our main protector from ISIS other than the United States 
itself.
  Meanwhile, there are now reports that Russian forces have taken 
control of the former U.S. military base in northern Syria. The 
pictures of Russia's entering that deserted base because American 
soldiers were told they had to leave by the President is not a picture 
Americans want to see. It is incredible. The President continues to 
demonstrate an uncanny ability to get steamrolled by autocrats like 
Erdogan and like Putin without getting a thing in return.
  It has been nearly 2 months since the President announced the 
withdrawal of U.S. troops, and we still don't know what comes next. We 
all know that a small band of terrorists far away is more than capable 
of inflicting great damage on our shores, and the intelligence 
assessments have now confirmed that ISIS has been able to strengthen 
its ability to do just that.
  President Trump, what is your plan to defeat ISIS and protect the 
United States?


                   National Defense Authorization Act

  Mr. President, on the NDAA, the Defense authorization bill, the 
annual Defense bill, which passed this Chamber months ago, has been 
stalled in the process of reconciling the Senate's version with the 
House's version.
  One of the snags, it now appears, is the Republican leader's 
unwillingness to include a strong package of sanctions directed at any 
foreign nation that should try to interfere in our elections. That is 
right. One of the reasons the national defense bill has not been sent 
to the President's desk is because Majority Leader McConnell and his 
Republican colleagues do not want to include a strong deterrent to 
interfering in American elections.
  Earlier this month, all leading U.S. national security officials--
Attorney General Barr, Secretary of Defense Esper, Acting Secretary of 
Homeland Security McAleenan, Acting Director of National Intelligence 
Maguire, FBI Director Wray, and U.S. Cyber Command Commander Nakasone--
released a statement that read the following:

       Our adversaries want to undermine our democratic 
     institutions, influence public sentiment and affect 
     government policies. Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign 
     malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting 
     process or influence voter perceptions.

  Those are not my words. They are from the leaders of this 
administration, including the Secretaries of Defense and State and the 
head of the NSA.
  We know that Putin interfered in the 2016 elections. We know he is 
trying to do it again. That is clear. We need to send an unmistakable 
message to President Putin and other foreign actors--China and Iran--
that we will not tolerate any interference in our elections.
  Unfortunately, Leader McConnell seems to have missed that memo. How 
he could ignore a statement by the leaders of the administration he 
supports is beyond me. The Republican leader has repeatedly downplayed 
the threat to our democracy from foreign actors like President Putin. 
He has repeatedly blocked commonsense, bipartisan legislation to 
protect our elections and is now blocking the inclusion of tough, 
mandatory sanctions on Russia or on any other foreign country that 
seeks to interfere in our elections.
  I hope, for the sake of the Defense bill and for the sake of our 
elections, the Republican leader will relent and allow a package of 
tough sanctions to be included.
  Unfortunately, election security is not the only issue holding up the 
Defense bill. The Republican leader is blocking many other important 
provisions.
  The Democrats want to extend family leave benefits to all Federal 
employees. The majority leader and the Republicans are blocking that. 
This is a new world. Family leave is necessary to everyone. Here we 
have a chance to do it for Federal workers, and our Republican friends 
are saying no.
  The Democrats want to clean up our communities and military 
installations that have been poisoned by PFAS and other contaminants, 
but the majority leader and our friends, the Republicans here in the 
Senate, are blocking that.
  The Democrats want to send a signal to the Trump administration that 
it does not have a blank check to wage a war and that only Congress can 
approve major military operations. Majority Leader McConnell and the 
Republicans are blocking that as well.
  There are hosts of important issues that are holding up the final 
passage of the national defense bill. These are just a few of them. I 
strongly urge my Republican friends and, especially, Republican Leader 
McConnell to work with us to address these provisions. The Democrats 
want to see that this bill gets done and that it gets done in a way 
that safeguards our elections, our troops, our communities, and 
advances America's interests around the globe.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

[[Page S6684]]

  



                  For-Profit Colleges and Universities

  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, there are various options available for 
graduates of high schools across the United States. Some of them choose 
to go to college or university, but even making that choice gives you a 
lot of options.
  There are basically two categories of schools, though, that I want to 
address in this statement this morning. One category is called for-
profit colleges and universities, and the other is the traditional not-
for-profit colleges and universities, which would include your 
community colleges and public universities and many not-for-profit, 
private universities.
  But I want to focus this morning on the for-profit colleges and 
universities in the United States. People sometimes can't make the 
distinction between which is which. Some of the big names in the for-
profit industry include the University of Phoenix. That is one you 
probably heard of. DeVry University is another one you might have heard 
of.
  There are some defining characteristics of these schools. They, of 
course, are in business to make money, and they have a different 
economic model than many of the other universities.
  I have met the CEOs of for-profit colleges and universities and found 
that in some cases they have limited or no experience when it comes to 
education. They are investors. They are business people. The idea of 
education is a secondary part of why they were chosen.
  There is an important statistic--in fact, two statistics--that I want 
to preface my remarks with, and these will be on the final, I might 
add, for those who are following this statement.
  The numbers 9 and 33--9 and 33. Why are they important? Nine percent 
of postsecondary students go to for-profit colleges and universities--9 
percent--but 33 percent of all the federal student loan defaults in the 
United States are students from for-profit colleges and universities--9 
percent of the students, 33 percent of federal student loan defaults.
  What is going on here?
  Well, what is happening here, unfortunately, is that many of these 
students are signing up for the for-profit schools that they think are 
legitimate colleges and universities, and, frankly, they are 
dramatically overcharging them.
  Every analysis we have gone through says that the tuition at these 
for-profit schools far exceeds what students are likely to pay, 
certainly, in a community college and in the case of many public 
colleges and universities. So they have a big tuition bill to start 
with, and they have poor results.
  What kind of results? Students graduate believing that they are being 
trained or educated to do a certain profession, and then they find out 
that they can't do the job or they don't qualify for the job, or they 
get so deeply in debt on the way to graduating, they give up and quit--
the worst of all possible outcomes.
  So that is the preface on these for-profit colleges and universities. 
I have come to this floor many times over the years to talk about this 
industry because we treat it in the eyes of the public like higher 
education across the board, and yet it is much, much different. It is 
for profit as opposed to not for profit, and, frankly, the results of 
that education leave a lot to be desired.
  It has been more than 5 years since the for-profit giant Corinthian 
College collapsed. Their economic model didn't work. For years, 
Corinthian had lied, inflating its job placement rates and engaging in 
high-pressure tactics to lure students into enrolling, often leaving 
them with massive student loan debt and a diploma that didn't work to 
find a job.
  But Corinthian was not unique. As I have said many times, it turned 
out to be the canary in the coal mine. Since Corinthian College, we 
have seen the collapse of several other major predatory for-profit 
colleges and universities. They include ITT Tech, Westwood, Education 
Corporation of America, and Dream Center. Nearly every major for-profit 
college company has been the subject of extensive investigations and 
lawsuits for unfair and deceptive practices similar to Corinthian 
College.
  Check with the attorney general of your home State about that for-
profit college and university, and, almost without fail, you will find 
that they have been investigated for misleading and deceiving the 
students who go to school at their universities.
  I have long said that we shouldn't leave the students holding the bag 
for the misdeeds of these institutions because, you see, we are 
complicit. The Federal Government is part of the problem.
  How do these schools reach the point where you can take out a Federal 
student loan to attend? We accredit them. We recognize their 
accreditation. We tell the world and the families and the students that 
these are legitimate schools. Depending on that, these students who 
sign up for a better experience, are often misled, deceived, and 
overcharged. Ultimately, a third of them are in default on their 
student loans because they can't pay them back.
  There is a provision in the Higher Education Act known as borrower 
defense. It gives the students the right to have their Federal student 
loans discharged by the Secretary of Education if they have been 
defrauded or subject to deception by these schools.
  After Corinthian's collapse, this little known, rarely used provision 
in the law became a hot topic. All of a sudden, here were large numbers 
of students who had been defrauded and deceived by Corinthian College 
and went deeply into debt, and now the college goes out of business.
  It turns out that most of the hours they took can't be transferred 
anywhere. It is worthless. They were defrauded, start to finish, and 
now they are left holding the student loan bag.
  Thousands of Corinthian students and other borrowers, mostly from 
for-profit colleges, began applying for this borrower defense discharge 
from the U.S. Department of Education. It was in the law. It led the 
Obama administration to undertake a new rulemaking to update the 
borrower defense regulation, which dated back to 1994, and to create a 
standard process for dealing with the inundation and to attempt to 
prevent future collapses.
  Soon after taking office, Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Trump 
administration delayed implementation of the Obama rule, despite the 
Department's own inspector general saying that implementing the rule 
would ``avoid costs to students and taxpayers that result from school 
closures.''
  Secretary DeVos said: I am not going to be a party to that. Her delay 
was challenged in court. Her decision to delay this new rule was found 
illegal by a Federal judge, after which the current rule went into 
effect, and it remains in effect today. Secretary DeVos also announced 
she would begin a new rulemaking to replace the current rule.
  In late August, Secretary DeVos released her borrower defense rule, 
the new rule which she wants to put in place. It actually guts the 
borrower and taxpayer protections in the current borrower defense rule 
and makes it nearly impossible for students holding this student loan 
debt who have been defrauded to get relief.
  How does she make it so hard?
  It is estimated that the rule will provide $11 billion less in relief 
to defrauded borrowers--students--than the current rule. Among other 
things, the new Betsy DeVos rule increases the burden on these 
defrauded students to gather and submit almost impossible amounts of 
evidence to somehow prove their claim. Student borrowers will have to 
provide evidence that the school intentionally harmed them.
  Now, how are they supposed to do that?
  The DeVos rule--the new one--requires borrowers to apply individually 
rather than receiving automatic discharges when they are part of a 
group of student borrowers who have been harmed by similar practices by 
places like Corinthian. In other words, you are on your own. Get your 
own lawyer. Lawyer up. Get some evidence together. Come see us, and 
maybe we will be convinced.
  Student borrowers who have been cheated are not exactly the 
wealthiest group in America. They are often facing incredible financial 
difficulties and deep emotional strain, with a mountain of debt and 
nothing to show for it because of these for-profit schools. Now 
Secretary DeVos wants them to be investigators and lawyers and get 
their own relief one by one.

[[Page S6685]]

  The DeVos rule also eliminates the current prohibition on class 
action restrictions and mandatory arbitration clauses in enrollment.
  What does that mean?
  Under the current rule which Secretary DeVos wants to replace, you 
could gather the other students from Corinthian College and work on 
this together as a class action claim, share whatever expenses that 
might be involved in proving your claim, and you couldn't be forced 
into an arbitration where you are likely to lose. You could have your 
day in court under the rule that Secretary DeVos wants to replace.
  Class action restrictions and mandatory arbitration were used by 
Corinthian and ITT Tech and others that required students to sign away 
their rights to sue the school as an individual or as part of a class 
as a condition of enrollment.
  The DeVos rule prevents students from holding schools directly 
accountable for their wrongdoing and seeking financial redress through 
the courts. It gives students no other option than to seek relief from 
taxpayers through borrower defense, but, as I just mentioned, it makes 
that process almost impossible.
  And if anyone doubts the devastating effect this rule will have on 
the defrauded students' ability to get relief, just look at what 
Secretary DeVos has done to date.
  Since taking office Secretary DeVos has had the authority to 
discharge hundreds of millions of dollars in student loan debt held by 
hundreds of thousands of defrauded student borrowers. Instead, she has 
allowed a backlog of more than 200,000 borrower defense claims from 
virtually every State in the Nation--student borrower defense claims 
coming from all 50 States--to build at the Department. She is sitting 
on it. She is playing slow ball. She has not approved a single claim. 
Although more than 200,000 claims are pending, she has not approved a 
single claim in more than 1 year.
  Here I want to show you what is behind this. In the few cases where 
Secretary DeVos has been legally required to provide discharges, she 
has done so with extreme displeasure.
  Think about that. Using her authority to help defrauded borrowers get 
a fresh start brings her extreme displeasure.
  How do I know that?
  She wrote it. Here is one of them. Recommendation to discharge. She 
approves it, signs it, and puts down as a comment: ``with extreme 
displeasure.''
  Discharging a student loan from a for-profit institution that 
defrauded borrowers, she is displeased to be forced to do such a thing.
  She defied a Federal court order and was held in contempt for 
continuing to collect from these students who had been defrauded by 
Corinthian.
  This is not a Secretary who rewrote the borrower defense rule to help 
student borrowers. In September, I introduced a resolution in the 
Senate to overturn the DeVos borrower defense rule; 42 of my colleagues 
have cosponsored that resolution.
  I plan to bring the resolution to a vote on the Senate floor where we 
will only need a simple majority to pass under the expedited procedures 
provided for in the Congressional Review Act. At that time, my 
colleagues will have a choice. Will you stand with Secretary DeVos or 
with the defrauded student borrowers in your State?
  There is no doubt where the American people stand. In a 2016 New 
America poll, the question was asked whether Americans agreed that 
students should have their Federal student loan debt canceled if their 
college deceived them, exactly what the borrower defense rule is about.
  Seventy-one percent of Republicans said yes, 87 percent of Democrats. 
On average, 78 percent of Americans understand it is fundamentally 
unfair to penalize these students, having been defrauded by a school 
that this U.S. Government said was doing business honestly and 
professionally. When you break the numbers down, it is clear. The 
overwhelming majority of people in this country stand by the students, 
but not by Secretary DeVos.
  I will stand with the defrauded students and the American people over 
Secretary DeVos, and my colleagues in the Senate will get a chance to 
vote. I hope they will, too.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sasse). The Senator from South Dakota.


                         Judicial Confirmations

  Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, yesterday, we confirmed Robert Luck, a 
Florida supreme court justice, to be a U.S. Circuit judge for the 11th 
Circuit Court of Appeals. With Justice Luck's confirmation, the Senate 
has now confirmed 47 appellate court judges during this administration 
and 163 Article III judges overall.
  That is more appellate court judges than had been confirmed at this 
point in any of the previous five Presidential administrations, and it 
is a particularly outstanding number when you consider that the 
Democrats have made confirming these judges as difficult as they 
possibly can. From day one of this administration, Democrats were 
determined to obstruct anything this President did, his nominations in 
particular.
  Again and again and again, they have attempted to block nominees for 
no other reason than the fact that they were nominated by this 
President. Democrats have subjected roughly 75 percent of the 
administration's judicial nominees to the time-consuming cloture 
process. Compare that to the treatment of President Obama's nominees. 
At this point in President Obama's administration, roughly 3 percent of 
his judicial nominees had been subjected to cloture votes--just 3 
percent, 3 percent versus 75 percent for President Trump.
  The difference in these numbers is not because this President has 
nominated scores of extreme nominees who Democrats felt they could not 
support. In fact, Democrats have repeatedly turned around and voted for 
the very same judges they have obstructed. In one particularly 
egregious example, in January of 2018, Democrats forced the Senate to 
spend more than a week confirming four district court judges, even 
though not one single Democrat voted against their confirmation. These 
judges could have been confirmed in a matter of minutes by voice vote, 
but Democrats forced the Senate to spend more than a week on their 
consideration, time that could have been spent on genuinely 
controversial nominees or on some of the important issues facing our 
country.
  Despite Democrats' obstruction, we have continued to move forward, 
and as I said, yesterday, we confirmed our 163rd judge to the Federal 
bench. Today, we will confirm our 164th. We are putting judges on the 
bench with a real respect for the law and for the Constitution and a 
commitment to applying the law as written.
  Now, those sound like basic requirements for a judge, but too often, 
it seems like my Democrat colleagues are interested not in judges who 
will uphold the law, but in judges who will act like superlegislators, 
rewriting the law and the Constitution when they do not fit with the 
Democrats' political opinions, and that is a very dangerous thing.
  When judges rule based not on what the law actually says, but what 
they think the law should be, they undermine a fundamental principle of 
our system of government. Our system is based on belief in the rule of 
law. In the American system, the law is supposed to be the final, 
impartial arbiter. Cases are to be decided based on what the law says, 
not on what a particular judge feels.
  Sure, it might seem nice when an activist judge goes outside the 
meaning of a law and rules for your preferred outcome. But what happens 
when that same judge reaches beyond the law to your detriment? What 
protection do you have if the law is no longer the highest authority? 
Equal treatment under the law, equal justice under the law, these 
principles can only be maintained as long as judges actually rule based 
on the law and not on their personal feelings or personal opinions.
  My Democrat colleagues have shown a disturbing tendency to believe 
that their opinions are the only ones that should prevail. They 
disapproved of the outcome of the last election, and so for 3 years, 
they have done everything they can to undermine a duly-elected 
President. They are upset by the fact that the President got to replace 
a perceived swing vote on the Supreme Court, and the solution floated 
by more than one member of their party was to pack the Supreme Court.

[[Page S6686]]

  For anyone who needs a refresher on an idea that most thought had 
been consigned to the dustbin of history decades ago, the theory of 
court-packing is as follows: If the Supreme Court is not deciding cases 
to your liking, add more Justices to the Court until you start getting 
the decisions that you want.
  Listen to Democrats question judicial nominees, and it soon becomes 
apparent that their biggest concern is not finding judges who will 
uphold the law and the Constitution, but judges who will uphold 
Democrats' political opinions and preferred policy outcomes. It is a 
disturbing trend. It is natural to want your party to prevail and to 
believe that your ideas are the best ones for the country. It is 
another thing entirely to start acting like your opinions are the only 
ones that should ever prevail, regardless of election outcomes or the 
wishes of the American people.
  I am proud that we are putting judges on the bench who will rule 
according to the law and to the Constitution, not their personal 
opinions, their political beliefs, or the political party of the 
individuals before their court. I am proud that we are putting judges 
on the bench who will help ensure that the rule of law is maintained 
and that everyone in their courtroom receives the equal protection of 
the law.
  I look forward to confirming more excellent judges in the near 
future.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Montana.


                 United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement

  Mr. DAINES. Mr. President, Montanans are growing restless, as Speaker 
Pelosi and the House Democrats continue to slow-walk a very important 
trade agreement for Montana and for our country. That is the United 
States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
  In fact, just last week, I was in Billings to celebrate the Montana 
Farm Bureau Federation's 100 year anniversary--and, again, another big 
congratulations to the Montana Farm Bureau. As I was talking with folks 
at the farm bureau event, there were a lot of cowboy boots and hats. 
These are the farmers and ranchers of Montana, the salt of the earth 
folks. They are all asking the same question: Why is it taking so long? 
What is going on?
  Frankly, there is one answer: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House 
Democrats are playing political games and holding up this trade deal. 
They are holding this trade deal hostage. It has been a year since the 
USMCA was signed by President Trump and leaders of Canada and Mexico--a 
year. Nancy Pelosi has had this signed trade agreement in her hands for 
about a year, and rather than deliver this win for our farmers and 
ranchers in Montana and across the United States, she is focused on one 
thing: impeachment--because, at the end of the day, this is about our 
farmers and ranchers. It is time we get the job done because, in 
Montana, agriculture is the No. 1 driver of our economy, and it is a 
large part of our Montana way of life.
  This trade agreement is expected to create over 180,000 new American 
jobs and to boost our GDP by over $70 billion. Canada and Mexico both 
are in high demand for our products like wheat, barley, beef. In fact, 
in 2018 alone, Montana had $731 million in total exports to Canada and 
to Mexico. For our producers and our ag-related industries in Montana, 
passing this trade agreement would help provide certainty and alleviate 
the challenges and obstacles they have faced over a very tough season.
  Mexico is ready. Canada is ready. The United States is ready. I can 
tell you, Montana is ready. Unfortunately, Nancy Pelosi is not. While 
the Democrats continue to obsess over impeaching our President, they 
continue to ignore the voices of our rural communities. This 
unnecessary reality TV show is nothing but a waste of time to stall the 
important work like the USMCA. Montanans are sick and tired of the 
politics and the partisan games being played here in Washington, DC, 
and frankly, I am, too.
  I am grateful for the leadership of my good friend and colleague,   
Greg Gianforte, who is standing up to House Democrats and fighting 
boldly for the USMCA. Realize, Montana has but one Member in the U.S. 
House of Representatives, and he is fighting a good fight over there.
  We are both fighting to ensure that the votes of Montana farmers and 
ranchers are heard loud and clear in both Chambers of Congress. The 
longer the House Democrats stall on this deal, the further we stall 
opportunity and economic growth in Montana and across our Nation.
  To Speaker Pelosi, to my colleagues in the House, enough is enough. 
Let's deliver the USMCA for the American people and for Montana farmers 
and ranchers.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Missouri.
  Mr. BLUNT. Mr. President, first of all, let me say that I totally 
agree with my friend from Montana on the importance of, after a year of 
deliberation--or maybe ``deliberation'' is too strong a word--more than 
a year since all three countries agreed on an agreement, that we still 
have not gotten a chance to vote on this agreement on the Senate floor; 
we have to wait for the House to do that. I want to do everything that 
I can to encourage the House to move forward with this. I think better 
trade policy can turn a good economy into a great economy, and we need 
to be working on that great economy.


                        National Adoption Month

  Mr. President, I am here today to talk about another topic. I want to 
talk for a few minutes about the importance of November as National 
Adoption Month and to recognize the celebration of National Adoption 
Day, which will take place on Saturday, November 23. I am pleased to 
work with my colleague and Senate cochair of the Congressional 
Coalition For Adoption, Senator Klobuchar, again, to introduce this 
resolution supporting National Adoption Month and National Adoption 
Day. This is the 5th year Senator Klobuchar and I have worked together 
on this legislation and the 5th year where I hope our colleagues will 
unanimously support it and do that this week.
  The Congressional Coalition on Adoption is the largest bipartisan, 
bicameral caucus in all of Congress, and there is a good reason for 
that. In the Senate Subcommittee, where agreement is really too often 
hard to find, the idea that every child deserves to grow up in a safe, 
stable home with a loving family is something that not only everybody 
should be able to agree with, but in the Congress, we have been able to 
agree with that in a broad-based sort of way.
  Right now, there are more than 437,000 children in the foster care 
system in our country. More than 125,000 of those are children who are 
ready and waiting for families who want to get this adoption completed; 
yet the average length of time it takes a child from foster care to 
adoption, once the adoption decision has been made by the adopting 
family, is 19 months. I was in a meeting just last week with the 
administrator of this program in the administration who is doing 
everything I believe they can for the first time in a while to do what 
they can to reduce this wait.
  I would also like to see the State Department, frankly, become for 
vigorous in encouraging foreign adoptions for those kids all over the 
world who are in need of families.
  I don't disagree with the idea that if someone in Ethiopia wants to 
adopt an Ethiopian child or someone in Guatemala wants to adopt a 
Guatemalan child or someone in Russia wants to adopt a Russian child, 
that is all fine. But if they don't have adoptive families in the 
country they were born in, let's open the door in a more effective way 
for American families who want to be part of that.
  There is some good news. For the fourth year in a row, the number of 
children who were adopted increased. Four years in a row, more kids 
were adopted than in the previous year. For the second year in a row, 
the number of children who entered foster families decreased. I don't 
want to say that in a way that takes anything away from people who are 
willing to be foster families, to give that security, that emotional 
embrace to kids who don't have that at home. Foster families serve a 
great purpose, but even foster families often become adoptive families, 
and they do this because they know that is a situation that becomes 
permanent. Knowing that you have a family forever makes a difference.

[[Page S6687]]

  In my home State of Missouri, there are almost 13,000 kids in the 
foster system right now. I want to share a few of their stories.
  Gabe, who is a 10th grader in Missouri, is a big fan of reading and 
big fan of watching movies. He hopes to join the military when he is 
older.
  Natalie is 14. Natalie loves to read. She loves to draw. She loves to 
write. She loves to be outside. If she had a superpower, she says she 
would choose invisibility. This second grader really would like a 
permanent home. She wants to be a veterinarian someday. She is doing 
well in school. The thing she really needs is a home she can always go 
back to.
  Ragan and Haylee are sisters who hope to have pets in their home. 
They don't have pets in their home right now. Ragan is a sixth grader 
who likes to laugh and draw and learn. Haylee is a fifth grader who 
likes to play soccer and spend time with her soccer teammates. Even 
sisters have different ways they look at the world. They would all like 
a family.
  Last week, I had the privilege to meet with three families from 
Missouri who were here to be celebrated at the Angels in Adoption 
activity that occurred last week. This is something we do annually to 
recognize families who have gone above and beyond what you could expect 
in the adoption community. This was the first year there were Angels in 
Adoption being recognized from all 50 States and from Washington, DC. 
Of the three Missouri families I had a chance to spend some time with, 
one included Justin and Kristin Akin from Chesterfield. I actually 
first met Kristin when she came to my office to be an advocate for Be 
The Match. Be The Match is a Federally authorized and funded registry 
program that matches unrelated bone marrow donors with patients 
suffering from leukemia and from 70 other fatal blood cancers.
  Kristin was here advocating for that because she and Justin had lost 
two sons, Andrew and Matthew, who were diagnosed with a rare disease 
and were unable to find matched donors. Kristin and Justin, after 
losing those two sons, adopted William and Christopher.
  Kristin continues to be a volunteer to help other families trying to 
find that match. We are doing better with that program. In fact, we 
increased that program in our proposed budget for this year by $5.4 
million, as we increased the National Cord Blood Inventory Program 
also.
  As important as that constant effort to do what they can so that 
other families didn't have happen to them what happened when they lost 
their two children was their decision to bring two more sons into their 
house and to do that by adopting.
  I also had a chance to meet Zach and Joanna Holden. The Holdens began 
fostering in May of 2010. They were already parents of three young 
girls of their own, but they became foster parents to make an impact on 
the lives of children, knowing it wouldn't be easy for their family but 
it would be an important thing to do for the kids they brought into 
their family. Through their 9 years as foster parents, the Holdens have 
had 30 different foster kids in their house and adopted 2 of those 30 
kids through the foster care relationships they had.
  In early 2012, they began a small ministry out of their garage called 
The Caring Closet, which later merged with Fostering Hope, another 
local foster care ministry. Joanna and that ministry--and the 
partnership now with Fostering Hope--gathered and sorted donations, put 
together packs of clothes, distributed them to local foster families 
wherever there was a need. Fostering Hope now supports children in 
foster care. They help foster families as they help foster kids, and 
they help foster care agencies across several communities in Southwest 
Missouri.
  Jody and Mary Ann Allen-Parker also shared their incredible story 
with me. Nearly two decades ago, Mary Ann witnessed a tragic 
circumstance involving the friends of one of her sons. He explained a 
challenging situation he and his family were in, and he asked Mary Ann 
if he could move in with them. She took this child and, shortly after 
that, his two siblings under her care along with her own two children.
  After going to court, Mary Ann was able to establish custody over 
those three kids as well. The oldest of them has joined the Marines and 
the other two are still at home with Mary Ann. She has given them the 
structure and focus they didn't have in their original home but they 
have through her, and they also have reconnected with their parents on 
a much different level than they ever had before.
  There are lots of stories to be shared. There are lots of families 
who are waiting to adopt. There are lots of families who haven't 
thought about it yet who would be willing to adopt.
  According to one survey, nearly one-quarter of the people in the 
United States who haven't adopted have considered being an adoptive 
parent. There are many concerns about adoption that aren't there once 
you get in, open that door, and look at what can happen when you create 
a forever family for somebody who needs one.
  The same survey showed that over one-third of the participants 
believe that foster care adoption is expensive, and a majority of those 
considering foster care adoption indicated that receiving financial and 
emotional support would make a difference in deciding whether to adopt.
  I will be sponsoring again this year the refundable tax credit for 
adoptive parents. About 50 percent of all the parents who adopt don't 
make enough money to pay income tax, which says a lot about them. It 
also says a lot about the fact that the system we have now--in which 
you get a tax credit, but you get a tax credit only if you pay taxes--
serves to encourage only about 50 percent of the families who are 
willing to stretch in unique ways and adopt kids.
  Senator Klobuchar and I have introduced the Supporting Adoptive 
Families Act to ensure adoptive families have access to pre- and post-
adoption services, including mental and physical and behavioral health 
screenings and assistance. In February, we also introduced the 
Intercountry Adoption Advisory Committee Act to improve the 
intercountry adoption process.
  Since National Adoption Day started in 2000, tens of thousands of 
children have been adopted. If only a few of them are adopted because 
this month and this day draw attention to that, that is certainly worth 
the effort we will make on the Senate floor this week to recognize this 
important month and to recognize next Saturday as National Adoption 
Day.
  With that, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is, Will the Senate advise and 
consent to the Lagoa nomination?
  Ms. HASSAN. I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk called the roll.
   Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from New Jersey (Mr. 
Booker), the Senator from California (Ms. Harris), the Senator from 
Minnesota (Ms. Klobuchar), the Senator from Vermont (Mr. Sanders), and 
the Senator from Massachusetts (Ms. Warren) are necessarily absent.
   The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Lankford). Are there any other Senators 
in the Chamber desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 80, nays 15, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 360 Ex.]

                                YEAS--80

     Alexander
     Baldwin
     Barrasso
     Blackburn
     Blumenthal
     Blunt
     Boozman
     Braun
     Burr
     Capito
     Cardin
     Carper
     Casey
     Cassidy
     Collins
     Coons
     Cornyn
     Cotton
     Cramer
     Crapo
     Cruz
     Daines
     Duckworth
     Durbin
     Enzi
     Ernst
     Feinstein
     Fischer
     Gardner
     Graham
     Grassley
     Hassan
     Hawley
     Heinrich
     Hoeven
     Hyde-Smith
     Inhofe
     Isakson
     Johnson
     Jones
     Kaine
     Kennedy
     King
     Lankford
     Leahy
     Lee
     Manchin
     McConnell
     McSally
     Menendez
     Moran
     Murkowski
     Murphy
     Paul
     Perdue
     Peters
     Portman
     Reed
     Risch
     Roberts
     Romney
     Rounds
     Rubio
     Sasse
     Scott (FL)
     Scott (SC)
     Shaheen
     Shelby
     Sinema
     Smith
     Sullivan
     Tester
     Thune
     Tillis
     Toomey
     Udall
     Warner
     Whitehouse
     Wicker
     Young

                                NAYS--15

     Bennet
     Brown
     Cantwell
     Cortez Masto
     Gillibrand
     Hirono
     Markey
     Merkley
     Murray
     Rosen
     Schatz
     Schumer
     Stabenow
     Van Hollen
     Wyden

[[Page S6688]]


  


                             NOT VOTING--5

     Booker
     Harris
     Klobuchar
     Sanders
     Warren
   The nomination was confirmed.

                          ____________________