STRENGTHENING AMERICA'S SECURITY IN THE MIDDLE EAST ACT OF 2019-- Resumed; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 22
(Senate - February 05, 2019)

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[Pages S843-S847]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
resume consideration of S. 1, which the clerk will report.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

       A bill (S. 1) to make improvements to certain defense and 
     security assistance provisions and to authorize the 
     appropriation of funds to Israel, to reauthorize the United 
     States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act of 2015, and to halt 
     the wholesale slaughter of the Syrian people, and for other 


       Risch amendment No. 97, to clarify the deadline for the 
     reporting requirement relating to the establishment of a 
     Jordan Enterprise Fund.
       Menendez (for Risch) amendment No. 98 (to amendment No. 
     97), to provide for a classified annex to be submitted with 
     the report on the cooperation of the United States and Israel 
     with respect to countering unmanned aerial systems.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority whip.

                                 S. 130

  Mr. THUNE. Madam President, last night, our colleague from Nebraska, 
Senator Ben Sasse, brought a bill to the floor to protect infants who 
are born alive during abortions.
  The legislation is simple. In the words of the bill, it finds:

       If an abortion results in the live birth of an infant, the 
     infant is a legal person for all purposes under the laws of 
     the United States, and entitled to all the protections of 
     such laws. Any infant born alive after an abortion . . . has 
     the same claim to the protection of the law that would arise 
     for any newborn.

  In other words, any living, breathing baby outside of its mother's 
body should be protected. That is a pretty basic standard of decency. 
One would assume that there is no human being alive who would object to 
such a bill--that even my colleagues across the aisle who don't think 
that living, breathing unborn babies should be protected could get 
behind this bill--but you would be wrong because, last night, Senate 
Democrats objected to the consideration of this bill. They objected to 
the consideration of legislation to protect babies who are born alive.
  Let's take a step back and remember why Senator Sasse brought this 
bill up in the first place.
  Last week, the Democratic Governor of Virginia was asked about an 
extreme proposal from a Virginia Democrat to remove restrictions on 
late-term abortions. In his comments on the bill, the Virginia Governor 
had this to say:

       If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would 
     happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be 
     kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that's 
     what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion 
     would ensue between the physicians and the mother.

  In other words, the Democratic Governor of Virginia not only endorsed

[[Page S844]]

late-term abortions--abortions performed on babies old enough to 
survive outside of the mothers--he left open the door to infanticide. 
He left open the possibility of killing a baby born alive.
  I would think those would be comments that my Democratic colleagues 
would be recoiling from in horror. I would think they would be rushing 
to make it very clear that they absolutely do not support the killing 
of a baby born alive. Yet, yesterday, my Democratic colleagues objected 
to a bill that would do nothing more than declare that any infant who 
is born alive during an abortion is entitled to be protected--to be 
given the basic medical care that would be afforded any other baby.
  Most Americans think there should be, at least, some limits on 
abortion. Most countries in the world think there should be some limits 
on abortion. Only China, North Korea, the United States, and two other 
countries allow elective abortions through all 9 months of pregnancy--
not a list we ought to be on. At least some of my Democratic colleagues 
used to be a little bit more moderate on the issue of abortion. Safe, 
legal, and rare was their claim, which you always heard them say, but, 
yesterday, my Democratic colleagues made it very clear that they have 
decided to dispense with moderation and espouse the most radical and 
extreme position possible--no restrictions at all on abortion, ever, up 
to and, apparently, now after the moment of birth.
  Chuck Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship, once noted: ``A 
government cannot be truly just without affirming the intrinsic value 
of human life.''
  I think it is fair to say that pretty much every great injustice in 
human history sprang from a failure to affirm the intrinsic value of 
every human life--from a decision that certain individuals' rights were 
not equal to those of others or that their life or liberty could be 
sacrificed for the greater good.
  Today, we unfortunately see another great injustice with the failure 
to affirm the value of the lives of the most vulnerable among us.
  I am horrified by my Democratic colleagues' decision to object to 
legislation to protect babies born alive, and I will continue to fight 
to ensure that the right to life of every human being, born and unborn, 
is protected.

                              The Economy

  Madam President, here are just some of the news stories we saw at the 
end of last week. This is from the Guardian: ``U.S. jobs growth smashes 
expectations''; from CNBC: ``Worker wage gains just broke 3% for the 
first time in more than 10 years''; from Fox Business: ``U.S. employers 
added 304,000 jobs in January, soaring past expectations''; from the 
Wall Street Journal: ``U.S. Stocks Post Best January in 30 Years''; 
from USA Today: ``Employers add booming 304,000 jobs in January, 
marking 100th straight month of employment gains''; and from the 
Associated Press: ``A robust job gain in January shows US economy's 
durability.'' The list goes on. Simply put, the U.S. economy is 
  After years of stagnation under the Obama administration, the economy 
has come roaring back. Job creation is strong, and unemployment is low. 
January marked the 11th straight month that unemployment has been at or 
below 4 percent. That is the strongest streak in nearly five decades.
  The economy grew at a robust 3.4 percent in the third quarter of 
2018. In 2018, for the first time ever, the number of job openings 
outnumbered the number of jobseekers. The Department of Labor reports 
that for 9 straight months there have been more job openings than 
people looking for work.
  Wage growth is accelerating. 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 all-time inflation-adjusted record 
of $6,372.
  Small business optimism hit record highs in 2018. The year 2018 saw 
the most impressive job growth in the manufacturing industry since 
  The list goes on and on and on. My point, very simply, is that 
Republican economic policies are working.
  When Republicans took office 2 years ago, the economy had been 
underperforming for years, and American families had been feeling the 
effects. We were determined to remove the obstacles that were holding 
the economy back, like burdensome regulations and an outdated Tax Code 
that was acting as a drag on economic growth. So, along with the 
President, we got right to work, lifting excessive regulations.
  In December 2017, we passed a historic, comprehensive reform of our 
Tax Code. We cut taxes for American families, doubled the child tax 
credit, and nearly doubled the standard deduction. We lowered tax rates 
across the board for owners of small and medium-sized businesses, 
farms, and ranches. We lowered our Nation's massive corporate tax rate, 
which previously was the highest corporate tax rate in the developed 
world. We expanded business owners' ability to recover the cost of 
investments they make in their businesses, which frees up cash that 
they can invest in their operations and in their workers. And we 
brought the U.S. international tax system into the 21st century so that 
American businesses are not operating at a competitive disadvantage 
next to their foreign counterparts.
  Now we are seeing the effects: a thriving economy, good jobs, higher 
wages, and low unemployment.
  So what is the Democratic response to all of this good economic news 
and economic growth? Is it to continue the policies that are creating 
prosperity for American families and look for ways for grow these 
policies to expand the economic benefits even further? No.
  Democrats want to reverse the policies that are producing economic 
growth. They want to undo the tax cuts that are creating jobs and 
opportunities for American workers, and they want to increase--
increase--the tax burden of American families.
  That is right. Democrats are currently advocating various proposals 
that would not only reverse the gains the economy has made but would 
severely damage economic growth for the long term. For example, there 
are the proposals to impose a government-run healthcare system, like 
the so-called Medicare for All plan, whose price tag is so staggeringly 
large--by one estimate, more than $32 trillion--that no one has even 
come close to figuring out how to pay for it. Doubling the amount of 
individual and corporate income tax collected would still not be enough 
to pay for the mammoth cost of this plan.
  Think about that. All of the revenue collected--income tax on the 
individual side and on the corporate side, double it--double it--and 
you still wouldn't be able to pay for this massive, massive plan.
  The Democrats' promise that if you like your healthcare plan, you can 
keep it will be broken again. More than 175 million Americans get their 
health insurance through their jobs. That will be no more under this 
proposal. The Vermont Senator's government-run Medicare for All plan, 
which many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have 
cosponsored, would eliminate private sector insurance for millions of 
families who like the coverage they currently have.
  Then there is the so-called Green New Deal, which could raise 
families' energy bills by more than $3,000 each year. When I travel in 
my State of South Dakota, I hear a lot about the high cost of living 
and how it is still difficult for families to make ends meet. The last 
thing my constituents in South Dakota or any hard-working family needs 
is to have their energy costs go up by more than $3,000 a year.
  Then there are the plain old tax bills that some of the Democrats are 
proposing to raise the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent or higher. 
House Democrats are also proposing to substantially increase business 
tax rates.
  Prior to the passage of the tax reform, America's global companies 
faced the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. That put 
American businesses at a serious disadvantage on the global stage, 
which, in turn, put American workers at a disadvantage.
  Part of the economic growth that we are experiencing now and all of 
the benefits for workers that come along with it are direct results of 
the lower corporate tax rate that we passed as part of the tax reform.

[[Page S845]]

  It is staggering--staggering--that Democrats can look at all of the 
benefits that come from lowering the corporate rate and all of the 
positive effects it is having on the economy and workers and then turn 
around and propose a tax rate hike.
  In short, here is what our country would look like if the Democrats' 
far-left agenda is forced upon the American people: Government-run 
Medicare for All would eliminate employer-sponsored insurance for 175 
million people, increase government spending by $32 trillion, 
jeopardize Medicare for today's seniors, and raise taxes on just about 
everyone under the sun. The Green New Deal would increase energy costs 
by up to $3,000 or more per year for our families, and Democrats' new 
taxes would slow economic growth, destroy jobs, and reduce economic 
opportunity for hard-working Americans.
  Our economy is thriving, and that is bringing real benefits to 
American families and to American workers. We want to continue heading 
in the right direction with more policies to grow the economy, to 
reduce the cost of living, and to help Americans save for retirement. 
We will strongly oppose Democrats' attempts and proposals to undo the 
progress that our economy has made and to burden Americans with higher 
taxes, fewer jobs, and fewer opportunities.
  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. CORNYN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Scott of Florida.) Without objection, it 
is so ordered.

                       State of the Union Address

  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, as the world knows by now, tonight 
President Trump will deliver his delayed State of the Union Message.
  This is a tradition that, of course, dates back to the Constitution, 
but the Constitution is ambiguous or unclear or actually doesn't say 
exactly how that annual message should be delivered. We know that 
George Washington, for example, delivered his annual message in 1790 at 
the Federal Hall of New York City, which was the temporary seat of the 
Federal Government at the time. Although John Adams delivered an in-
person address, the tradition didn't last very long. Our third 
President, Thomas Jefferson, chose to deliver the message in writing, a 
practice that lasted for nearly a century--that is, until President 
Woodrow Wilson chose to speak to the Congress in 1913.
  According to the Washington Post, people were outraged at this breach 
of tradition, which maybe speaks to how hard change is in Washington, 
  The paper wrote ``All official Washington was agape last night over 
the decision of the President to go back to the long-abandoned 
  Coming face-to-face with Members of Congress was President Wilson's 
attempt to bring about a closer intimacy between the Congress and the 
Chief Executive, and I am glad this time the tradition has stuck. I 
know there are those who disagree, and perhaps that has to do with the 
endless wave of standing ovations that Congress gives that punctuates 
the modern speech, which I could do with less of.
  The State of the Union Message also serves another important purpose, 
and that is the President's ability to speak not only to the Members of 
Congress but over the heads of Congress and directly to the American 
people. This address is carried live on every network and streamed 
across social media platforms.
  We are all waiting to hear what the President has to say, 
particularly during these polarized and unusual times. This is a time 
to reflect on the great work that has been done in the last couple of 
years to help move our country in a positive direction. Unfortunately, 
given the propensity of the media to focus on conflict and not on 
accomplishment that is credited to bipartisan efforts, most of the 
American people probably aren't aware or need to be reminded of what 
has actually happened the last 2 years, and I hope the President will 
reflect on that.
  President Trump took office in January 2017, and Congress has passed 
legislation since that time to improve nearly every aspect of society. 
No one stands out greater than the economy.
  I remember that during the Barack Obama administration, particularly 
after the great recession of 2008, we were told that 2 percent growth 
was the new normal, even though for the last previous 25 years that was 
definitely subnormal. Annual growth rates were more often in the 3.5 to 
4 percent range.
  Now we know that the American economy has gotten its groove back and 
people are optimistic and confident. They reacted in large part to the 
increase in take-home pay they see in their paychecks and the fact that 
many businesses, large and small, have chosen to reinvest in their 
people by raising wages, improving benefits, or providing a bonus.
  I hope that we hear from President Trump more about this tonight 
because this has been nothing less than a miracle. You can undoubtedly 
trace it back to the landmark tax reform bill we passed over a year 
  The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act sought to solve a problem that had 
befuddled Congress for many years, whether they be Republicans or 
Democrats. The question was, How do we fix this outdated, archaic, and 
overly complicated Tax Code?
  When President Trump signed this bill into law, it marked the first 
major overhaul of our Tax Code in 31 years. Our reforms lowered rates 
all across the board, doubled the child tax credit, and incentivized 
U.S. businesses with earnings abroad to bring that money back home and 
work here in America for the American people. We quickly saw a steady 
stream of headlines about businesses, big and small, announcing, as I 
indicated earlier, bonuses, pay raises, new jobs, and other investments 
in their employees.
  In the months that followed the law's enactment, I have met with a 
number of employers throughout Texas to see how the new tax law has 
changed their way of doing business.
  In Corpus Christi, for example, I visited with a seafood 
distributorship company called Groomers Seafood. They gave their 
employees a bonus and increased their wages after the Tax Cuts and Jobs 
Act became law.
  In Houston, at Southland Hardware, a quaint neighborhood hardware 
store whose tagline is ``the store that has `almost' everything,'' they 
were able to provide bonuses and raises for their staff, as well as 
hire a new employee and do improvements to their store.
  In Austin, I visited with the owner of Wally's Burger Express. He 
told me he is using the savings from tax reform to expand his business 
and create new jobs.
  It is clear to me that businesses across the country have felt the 
same way as these owners of small businesses did in Texas, and it 
didn't take long for Americans to begin to feel the benefit.
  I have heard from countless of my constituents about the impact this 
legislation has had on their daily lives, and it is all for the better. 
One of them was a gentleman from Arlington, TX, named David. David 
wrote to me to say that the company where he is employed increased the 
hours people were able to work. Christmas bonuses increased, too, and 
the company hired more people, bought new machines, and made long-
overdue repairs to their building. Now with these changes in place, 
David says the guys down on the shop floor are taking home a little bit 
more money each week in their paychecks. He said: ``All of this adds up 
and makes a huge difference in the lives of the guys on the shop 
  The impact also extends to retirees across the country. One of my 
constituents from Midland, TX, named Glenda reached out to me about how 
the tax reform bill changed her life. She wrote to me to say that she 
has been retired since 2013, which, she reminded me, means that she has 
a fixed income with no possibility of pay raises or year-end bonuses, 
but that doesn't mean she is not grateful. She said that the reduction 
in income taxes to her feels like a raise.
  Because of this legislation, middle-class Americans are living more 
comfortably and the economy is booming. If you don't believe me, just 
look at the numbers. Since this legislation was passed, 3 million new 
jobs have been added in our country, wages are on the

[[Page S846]]

rise, and unemployment has hit a 50-year low. I read the other day that 
because of tight labor conditions, people with disabilities are 
reentering the workforce, and we have seen the lowest level of Hispanic 
and African-American unemployment ever.
  This revitalization of the economy has led to big benefits on Main 
Street and in the homes of average Americans. America has regained its 
status as an economic powerhouse once again, and we are going to keep 
these successes going.
  So looking back on the last 2 years, there are countless 
accomplishments I am proud of, but certainly reforming the Tax Code for 
the first time in 31 years stands out near the top of the list.
  I should also mention that we confirmed 85 Federal judges, including 
two incredibly qualified Supreme Court Justices. This all comes despite 
the unprecedented obstruction we have seen from Senate Democrats to 
slow down or block the process. We still have a number of judicial 
vacancies to fill in this Congress, many of them in Texas and many of 
whom were just renominated. I hope we can move quickly to vote on these 
nominations--these good men and women who offered to serve the public 
as Federal judges.
  Under this administration we have taken some positive bipartisan 
efforts, such as combatting the opioid epidemic, which plagues nearly 
every community in the America. We supported pay raises for our 
military and authorized additional resources for their equipment and 
training. We promoted public safety with the passage of bills to stop 
or deter school violence. We have given farmers and ranchers the 
certainty they need when we passed the critical farm bill. We supported 
better career training and education for American workers. And that is 
just the beginning.
  This administration, in working with the Congress, has delivered real 
changes for the American people. I am ready to keep those changes and 
improvements moving forward, so I am eager to hear what the President 
has to say tonight on everything we have accomplished together and for 
him to outline his priorities for the coming year.
  With the Democrats' gaining control of the House, though, I expect 
the President to ask about the importance of working on a bipartisan 
basis. Speaker Pelosi has a fundamental choice: Is she going to work 
with the Republicans in the Senate and the President to do good things 
for the American people or is she simply going to oppose anything and 
everything President Trump proposes--given the fact that the 35-day 
shutdown represents not an effort to find middle ground and negotiate a 
sensible outcome but rather one of political point-scoring, of trying 
to determine who is the winner and loser in any particular battle no 
matter what the collateral damage may be?
  I hope our colleagues in the House and, I hope, all of our colleagues 
in the Senate will look at trying to continue this record of 
accomplishment for the American people and will commit to working in 
good faith to keep that progress moving.
  Under this administration, our government has taken major steps to 
strengthen our economy and to make changes that benefit the American 
people. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish. I am not 
focused on the frustrations that plague us every day; I am focused on 
the positives we have been able to do, and I hope we can keep it going.
  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. RISCH. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cruz). Without objection, it is so 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Louisiana.
  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that I be able to 
complete my remarks in the unlikely event I don't finish them by 12:30.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                                  S. 1

  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I want to talk again for a few minutes 
about S. 1, which is sponsored by Senator Rubio.
  As I have cautioned the last few times I spoke on the subject, 
nothing I say is meant to be construed as a criticism of Senator Rubio. 
There are some really good things in this bill, as the Presiding 
Officer knows.
  I forget the title of it. I think Senator Rubio is calling it the 
Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act. I like the 
fact that S. 1 reaffirms our commitment to protecting Israel. I think 
that is important. I think Israel is certainly our best friend in the 
Middle East and one of our best friends in the world. Some days I think 
Israel is our only friend in the world.
  S. 1 is going to strengthen America's bonds with Jordan, and I think 
that is very important. Jordan has been a key ally in fighting 
terrorism and, frankly, a key ally in helping us deal with the 
humanitarian catastrophe as a result of Assad and his butchering of his 
own people in Syria.
  S. 1 is going to combat a radical economic warfare campaign against 
our friend Israel. That is long overdue. S. 1 is also going to create 
new sanctions on the Government of Syria. I support all of those. I 
intend to vote for S. 1, despite the fact that, in my opinion, there is 
a great deficiency with S. 1.
  I know Senator McConnell offered an amendment to reflect the will of 
the Senate with respect to whether America ought to get out of Syria. 
In his amendment, he suggested that we should not. I voted against 
Senator McConnell's amendment not because I think he is wrong but 
because I just don't know if he is right. I don't think most Members of 
Congress know.
  We have received such conflicting information, and I have asked 
Senator McConnell to hold a briefing for us--a classified briefing in 
which we bring over people who think we should get out and people who 
think we shouldn't get out, and let us hear the facts and the informed 
opinions of people who know better than we do. Frankly, I would like to 
see us do the same thing with respect to Afghanistan.
  I share the President's concern about nation-building. We have spent 
$6 trillion since 2001 in the Middle East. I share the President's 
concern about mission creep. But, once again, just as I am not saying 
that Senator McConnell is wrong; I just don't know that he is right, 
and, quite frankly, I am saying the same thing with respect to 
President Trump. I am not saying he is wrong about withdrawing from 
Syria; I am just saying I don't know if he is right.
  I do know this: President Trump is going to do what he thinks is best 
for America. The Senate can pass all of the bills and resolutions about 
the will of the Senate that it wants to, but if the President of the 
United States thinks it is best for the American people and the world 
to withdraw all troops from Syria, then my experience is, by God, he is 
going to do it.
  If he does it, one of my biggest concerns, which could have been 
addressed in this bill, is if we would have been allowed to offer 
amendments, supposedly as the world's greatest deliberative body, we 
could have fixed this problem. The problem I am talking about is the 
Syrian Kurds.
  Let's just call it like it is. I mentioned that Israel has been a 
great ally, as well as Jordan. This bill is being sold as, well, this 
is to protect our allies in the Middle East, in part. What about the 
Syrian Kurds?
  I think there are 50 or 60 million Kurds throughout the world. They 
are mostly in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Why aren't the Kurds 
allowed to self-determine?
  Even if the Kurds didn't believe in democracy--and I think they do; 
they want sovereignty like we have, and they want to be able to self-
determine--the truth is, we wouldn't have beaten back ISIS without the 
help of the Syrian Kurds.
  I don't want to get off into this discussion about whether or not 
ISIS is defeated. If you look at just the statistics, a couple of years 
ago, there were 100,000 ISIS jihadists. There are not 100,000 now. 
There are less than 5,000. A couple of years ago, ISIS had its own 
caliphate. They just went in there and carved out their own country. 
They don't have it anymore.
  So you can debate whether we defeated them. I am not sure we will 

[[Page S847]]

completely defeat the jihadists, whether they call themselves ISIS or 
al-Qaida or what. But I know this much: We could not have beaten back 
ISIS without the help of the Syrian Kurds.
  A lot of our other friends said: Yeah, you go get them. You go fight. 
We will be glad to hold your coat while you fight. That was not the 
Syrian Kurds. They got in there with us.
  The Syrian Kurds have enemies in this world. I am not making any 
accusations or disparaging comments about our friends in Turkey, but 
President Erdogan has been very vocal about how he feels about the 
Kurds, including, but not limited to, the Syrian Kurds. I worry about 
them if we leave.
  I had an amendment that didn't require--it didn't require--anybody to 
do anything. It just said: Mr. President, if we leave Syria, this will 
give you the authority to keep our friends, our allies, the Syrian 
Kurds, from being butchered, from being opened up like a soft peanut.
  America's foreign policy has never been just about interests; it has 
been about values. America's foreign policy has always had a moral 
component. Part of the moral component in our foreign policy is that we 
don't leave our friends behind. That is what we are potentially doing 
with this bill.
  It could have been easily fixed. It could have been fixed if the 
Senate had been allowed to be the U.S. Senate.
  I don't hate anyone. I love and respect all of my colleagues, and I 
mean that--even the jurists and everybody in their own way, especially 
in this body, and I have gotten to know all of them, and I am so proud 
to be a Member. But it does bother me sometimes; it seems we are kind 
of like--it is almost Orwellian. We are all equal, but some of us are 
more equal than others, and I think that irks the American people. I 
think had we been able to offer amendments, we could have fixed that 
problem with the Syrian Kurds.
  I hope I don't have to come back and say told you so. I hope after we 
leave Syria--and I think the President is going to leave Syria--I hope 
the Syrian Kurds are just fine. I hope they are just fine. But if they 
are not, I hope we will not look back and say that we had a chance to 
protect our friends and do the right thing, but we didn't do it.
  I yield the floor.