SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2019; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 54
(Senate - March 28, 2019)

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[Pages S2079-S2082]
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  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Utah.

                         Free Trade Resolution

  Mr. LEE. Mr. President, for the last 3 years, the world has watched 
with rapt attention as the United Kingdom has debated and negotiated 
that country's exit from the European Union after the historic Brexit 
vote in June of 2016.
  There have been multiple deals proposed since then, and now the 
deadline for withdrawal fast approaches this Friday. As the special 
ally of Britain for a very long time--a very close ally for well over 
100 years--this is and it ought properly be of great interest to us in 
the United States of America.
  Throughout times of change and tumult, the UK has been one of our 
staunchest and most loyal allies. We stood beside each other through 
two world wars and throughout the Cold War. Now, in the 21st century, 
the United States and the United Kingdom have become even stronger 
friends and partners, both in the fight against global terrorism and 
for freedom, peace, and prosperity.
  The United Kingdom, significantly, is the seventh largest trading 
partner the United States has. In 2017 alone, we are talking about $232 
billion in goods that were traded between our two countries. Now, 
Britain's impending exit from the European Union presents an enormous 
opportunity to strengthen and to preserve our special relationship.
  As the Brexit deadline approaches, the United States should stand 
ready and willing to negotiate a free trade agreement with the United 
Kingdom, which is the purpose of the resolution that I want to bring 
before this body today. Prior to this, we haven't been able to have 
true free trade with Britain, precisely because the UK was a member of 
the EU and, therefore, had to play by its rules.
  Yet once the UK leaves, it will reclaim the authority to make its own 
trade agreements, opening up a window of opportunity for genuine, 
bilateral free trade with our own country. Such an agreement would 
advance prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic as an engine of 
economic liberty.
  This resolution--the one I would like to bring up and plan to bring 
up either later today or Monday, based on the schedule I am trying to 
negotiate with Senator Wyden--is a good deal. It is a good deal for the 
United States and for the United Kingdom. I think it is such a no-
brainer, in fact, that most Americans would probably be surprised to 
find out that we don't already have a free trade agreement with our 
friends on the other side of the pond.
  Yet there are some objections to this resolution. Some of my 
colleagues have argued that by encouraging a free trade agreement with 
Britain, we would somehow be meddling in this affair or picking sides, 
or that we would somehow be affirming Brexit. Yet this resolution that 
I want to offer and am suggesting that we call up and pass by unanimous 
consent, itself, says nothing about whether or not Brexit should or 
should not happen--not at all. That is not a decision that belongs to 
this body, and it is not a decision that I am even suggesting that this 
body make. It is not ours to make. It is a decision for the British 
people to make--the people of the United Kingdom--and they, of course, 
have made it. They have decided to stand on their own. We should stand 
with them just as they have stood beside us in conflict after conflict, 
in cause after cause, defending the dignity of the immortal human soul 
and the cause of freedom throughout the world.
  Others have claimed that the point of this measure is somehow to 
lambaste the EU, but this, too, badly misses the point, which is simply 
to preserve a unique and important alliance and to promote America's 
interests in the world.
  Finally, some have suggested that this resolution that I want to 
propose and call up and pass before this body did not go through the 
Finance Committee. First of all, this is not a complicated resolution. 
It is simple. It is a straightforward, 2-page resolution declaring the 
sense of the Senate that No. 1, the United States has and should have a 
close, mutually beneficial trading and economic partnership with the 
United Kingdom without interruption and, No. 2, that the President, 
with the support of Congress, should lay the groundwork for a future 
trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom.
  Also, the vast majority of resolutions that simply specify a general 
sense of the Senate do not normally go through the full-blown 
legislative committee process. A straightforward assertion of 
friendship, support, and economic partnership with one of our oldest 
and closest allies in the world should not be controversial--not in the 
least. America's special relationship with the United Kingdom is 
special because we make it so--our two peoples, our two governments.
  It is not our job to decide whether or not the UK stays in the EU. It 
is up to the British people to decide whether to stick with the EU or 
not. It is up to us to decide whether we stick with the British, and we 
should. We should do that by supporting this resolution today.
  Thank you, Mr. President.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma.

                         Women's History Month

  Mr. LANKFORD. Mr. President, I want to be able to talk about a couple 
of subjects today, but I want to be able to set the context on these 
with the recognition of Women's History Month. A lot of fairly 
remarkable ladies in Oklahoma have set American history and world 
history into a different pace based on what they have done in the past.
  I can't help, when I am talking about Women's History Month, to be 
able to talk about my own mom, who is a pacesetter in her own 
leadership. She was a student, librarian, and mom. She went through 
elementary school librarian and high school librarian and then became 
the director of libraries for a very large school district.
  She led the way for our family and community. She even led the 
American Association of School Librarians around the country. She was a 
pacesetter there.
  There are other pacesetters that I would highlight who are Oklahoma 
pacesetters. The first is Claire Luper. Born in Okfuskee County, OK, in 
1923, Claire Luper was the first African-American student to enroll in 
the History Department at the University of Oklahoma. She was a civil 
rights leader. She led Americans at lunch counters in 1958 as she was 
seated there and helped to train youth to be seated at lunch counters 
to break through the racism that was existing in Oklahoma City and in 
  Claire Luper herself was arrested 26 times for just eating lunch--for 

[[Page S2080]]

leading for the rights of what every single human being should be 
allowed to do in our great country.
  After 26 arrests and the breakthrough leadership that she 
experienced, she now has been recognized with over 500 different awards 
and honors in her lifetime. She taught in the Oklahoma City area for 41 
years, was a senior adviser for the NAACP Youth Council in Oklahoma 
City, and is now a member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
  Another great leader from Oklahoma is Shannon Lucid. She was raised 
in Bethany, OK. In 1979 she became an astronaut in a time period when 
ladies did not become astronauts. She set the pace. She was the chief 
scientist at NASA from 2002 to 2003. She served as the capsule 
communicator for numerous space missions. She was the first woman to 
receive the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
  Jeane Kirkpatrick is another Oklahoman. Born in 1926, she was the 
first woman appointed to serve as a Permanent Representative to the 
United States for the United Nations. She served from 1981 to 1985. She 
served on President Ronald Reagan's Cabinet, was a political science 
professor at Georgetown University, and was a fellow at the American 
Enterprise Institute. She made Oklahoma proud.
  Let me tell you about a current one now. LaRita Aragon. LaRita Aragon 
was born in Shawnee, OK, but she was raised in the big town of Dale, 
just outside of Shawnee. She became the first woman to hold the rank of 
brigadier general in the Oklahoma Air National Guard and the first 
female commander of the Air National Guard.
  Before her military career, she was an elementary school teacher and 
a principal. After retirement from the military, she returned to 
education. She served as the director of advanced programs in the 
University of Oklahoma College of Continuing Education. Then, in 
January 2011, she started serving as secretary of veterans affairs for 
the State of Oklahoma. She is a remarkable military leader from our 
State and a tremendous role model for people in our State--boys and 
  Maria Tallchief was born in 1925 in Fairfax, OK. She was a member of 
the Osage Nation. At age 17, she did a crazy thing. She moved to New 
York City to pursue her dream of becoming a dancer. As her career began 
to take off, people tried to persuade Maria Tallchief to change her 
last name so that she wouldn't face the prejudice of being Native 
American. She refused to do that. She continued to work and to prove 
herself. In 1947 she became the first American to dance with the Paris 
Opera Ballet. She led the way, and she set the pace.
  Oklahomans are proud of these ladies and many, many others who have 
done great work and made remarkable advances. We are proud of them.

                       Long-Term Budget Planning

  Mr. President, from recognizing Women's History Month, let me make a 
comment on something currently happening in the Senate. Right now in 
the Senate, the Senate Budget Committee is continuing to work on a 
  The President turns in a budget. As many people know, since 1974, the 
President's budget has been just a document of ideas. The Senate and 
the House agree together on a budget, set a number, and then do 
appropriations bills. That is how we actually do the spending for the 
Federal taxpayers' dollars. Since 1974, it has typically begun with a 
budget document from the Senate and from the House.
  They are working on that budget document right now in the Budget 
Committee, but here is the difficult thing. In all likelihood, that 
budget document that will come out of committee will never come to this 
floor and will never be voted on because of the difficulty we face 
right now in our deficit and the challenges the budget will have in 
order for it to move through the process. In all likelihood, this body 
will deem a budget number, where there will be no real plan. It will 
just set a budget number and then move on and start heading toward 
  Layer upon layer of debt and deficit will be added to where we are as 
a nation. Our simple challenge is, how do we get around this?
  Last year, 16 Members met--eight Senators, eight House Members; eight 
Republicans, eight Democrats--to try to strategize how we could change 
the budget process. Though I commend Chairman Enzi of the Budget 
Committee and his remarkable work, thought, and incredible staff, once 
again that document will not make a difference on this floor, and once 
again it will not set us on a long-term path to getting back to 
solvency. We have to change the process of what we do.
  These 16 Members met all last year to establish a set of ideas of how 
we could change the process, but it failed in December. I am 
challenging this body to step up to it again and to reengage on some 
simple sets of ideas of how we can get our budget back in balance and 
how we can do better planning. Though we do budgets and though we will 
do the deeming of a budget number, there is no real plan for how things 
can get better. We have to get better at planning, so let me give you 
some simple ideas that were birthed out of the conversation last year.
  We hold debt ceiling votes, which are supposedly to limit our debt, 
but they never do. They did decades ago, but they have not for decades. 
We will have 12 appropriations bills in some form and in some way so as 
to actually do the spending in the next several months, but there will 
be no bill to deal with how we can reduce spending.
  A simple idea that came out of that conversation last year was this: 
How do we add a 13th bill?
  As simple as I can say it, we have 12 spending bills. In every single 
Congress, the 13th bill would be set aside for how we will reduce our 
deficit. We have a structure with which to do that. It is the 
reconciliation process. It will certainly take work to reform this. We 
have a process in place right now that we could use but that we don't. 
What if we mandate it each year? We would have our 12 spending bills in 
whatever form they would take, but in every single session of Congress, 
we would have to have some conversation about what we would do to 
reduce spending or to fix our deficit. It is not an unreasonable 
proposal. It is an opportunity for us to sit and plan, to actually 
think about things, and to work things out.
  Senator Maggie Hassan and I also have another idea for working 
through the process. How do we end government shutdowns? How do we stop 
the perpetual cliffs of budgeting issues? There is a simple way to do 
  The simple way to do that, as odd as it may sound, is for Members of 
Congress and our staffs, as well as for members of the staff within the 
Office of Management and Budget from the White House, to not travel if 
you get to the end of a budget year and the budget is not done. You 
can't leave until the work is done, is as simple as I can say it. That 
may sound overly simplistic, but I guarantee you, if this body has to 
work through 2 weeks, no one would have the opportunity to travel. 
Everyone would have to be here days and weekends. There would be no 
official travel. There would be no opportunity to head back and see 
your family. There would be no codels or staffdels or any kind of other 
opportunity to leave. Each day, we would also have to have a quorum 
call and be here until the work gets done. Then we would solve this.
  Last December, we had this protracted shutdown that began when 
Members of Congress left for Christmas. They just left with there being 
an unresolved budget issue here. If Senator Hassan's and my idea were 
to pass, we would have finished that work last December, and Americans 
would never have experienced that protracted government shutdown.
  We have differences of opinion. It is who we are as Americans, and 
that is what we represent in the U.S. Senate, but we should not punish 
Federal workers and the American people because we have not worked out 
our differences here. We should stay until the work is done, and we 
should keep negotiating until we are finished. That is a simple, 
straightforward way to resolve this.
  With our adding a 13th bill to enable our having to plan for how we 
will actually deal with debt and deficit, there will be some moment 
created every year to compel us to actually be here until our work is 
done as well as having a more systematic structure of how we are going 
to do budgeting. All of these are simple ideas, but they are ideas that 
will help us get on top of a $22 trillion debt and an approaching $1

[[Page S2081]]

trillion yearly deficit. It is as if we have lost the importance of 
this, and we cannot.
  My challenge to this body is to make the budget mean something again. 
Let's actually do long-term planning, and let's figure out how to make 
a process work for the taxpayers. We can figure this out, and we can 
work together to do it.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Boozman). Without objection, it is so 
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, what is the pending business?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. H.R. 268, the supplemental appropriations 

                             Cloture Motion

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I send a cloture motion to the desk for 
H.R. 268.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The cloture motion having been presented under 
rule XXII, the Chair directs the clerk to read the motion.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

                             Cloture Motion

       We, the undersigned Senators, in accordance with the 
     provisions of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, 
     do hereby move to bring to a close debate on H.R. 268, making 
     supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending 
     September 30, 2019, and for other purposes.
         Mitch McConnell, Josh Hawley, John Thune, Shelley Moore 
           Capito, Johnny Isakson, Mike Crapo, Richard Burr, James 
           Lankford, Tom Cotton, Roy Blunt, David Perdue, Mike 
           Rounds, Bill Cassidy, John Cornyn, Rob Portman, Steve 
           Daines, John Kennedy.

                               S. Res. 50

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I come to the floor to discuss the 
unprecedented obstruction that has faced President Trump's nominees for 
the past 26 months--and counting--and to announce that the Senate is 
going to do something about it.
  The systematic, across-the-board delay and obstruction that have 
crippled this administration's nominations are unique in American 
  Every Presidential election since Adams beat Jefferson in 1796 has 
left some Senators disappointed that their side lost. There is always a 
losing side, and they are never happy about it. But the past 2 years 
have been the first time--the first time ever--that the unhappy party 
has used Senate procedure to systematically blockade the new 
President's nominees and prevent him from even staffing up his 
administration. Let me say that again. Since January 2017, for the 
first time in the 230-year history of the U.S. Senate, a minority of 
Senators have used Senate procedure to systematically prevent the 
President of the United States from putting a full team in place.
  During the first 2 years of the last six Presidential administrations 
before President Trump, 24 total cloture votes had to be held to 
advance a nomination, but in President Trump's first 2 years, there 
were 128 cloture votes on nominees.
  For 42 different executive branch positions, cloture votes have been 
required for the first time in history--the first time ever. 
Uncontroversial Assistant Secretaries and Agencies' general counsels 
never required cloture votes before--ever--until this particular 
Democratic minority.
  Just compare President Trump's first 2 years to President Obama's. 
Overall, we have confirmed 22 percent fewer nominations for President 
Trump and sent more than twice as many back to the White House.
  Take just the Foreign Relations Committee as one example. The share 
of nominees sent to the Foreign Relations Committee who were still not 
confirmed after President Trump's first 2 years was more than three 
times--three times--what it was for President Obama.
  To be clear, the lion's share of all of these are not controversial, 
high-profile figures. In most cases, they are unambiguously well-
qualified nominees for critical but lower profile jobs.
  For example, it took more than 6 months--6 months--and several tragic 
railroad accidents that made national news before a minority of 
Senators would allow us to confirm the President's nominee to head the 
Federal Railroad Administration. That is 6 months and several railroad 
accidents to get us to confirm the President's nominee to head the 
Federal Railroad Administration.
  He had worked in railroads as an engineer, manager, and executive for 
45 years. Our colleagues on the Commerce Committee voice-voted him out 
of committee. Actually, when Democrats finally allowed his nomination 
to come to the floor--when they finally allowed that--he was confirmed 
by voice vote. Despite the fact that nobody actually objected to this 
nominee, this important job was held empty for 6 long months. It is 
obstruction for obstruction's sake.
  It is the same story with even the least controversial judicial 
nominees. Last January, it took more than a week of floor time to 
confirm four district judges, all of whom had been voice-voted out of 
the Judiciary Committee the previous autumn, but there were still 
months of delays. Then cloture votes were required for each, but once 
we finally plowed through to the confirmation votes, they were all 
confirmed unanimously.
  There were months of delays and procedural roadblocks for four 
bipartisan nominees whom not a single Senator actually opposed.
  This is not a principled maneuver, not thoughtful use of minority 
powers, but obstruction simply for the sake of obstruction.
  This historic campaign isn't fair to our duly elected President, and, 
more importantly, it is not fair to the American people. The American 
people deserve the government they elected. They deserve important 
positions to be promptly filled with capable individuals, not held open 
indefinitely out of political spite.
  As we all acknowledge, from an institutional perspective, this is 
completely unsustainable, but if we allow it to persist, it seems 
guaranteed to become standard operating procedure for every 
administration going forward.
  Let's assume 2 years from now that my side is in the minority, and 
there is a Democratic President. If we allow this to persist, we will 
be doing the same thing to those guys that they have been doing to us. 
It will be the new norm.
  Some of our colleagues who are leading the systematic obstruction are 
actually running for President themselves. Well, these tactics will 
virtually guarantee that any future Democratic administration is 
subjected to the same paralysis. Everybody will be doing it.
  Is this how the American Government is supposed to work from here on 
out--whichever party loses the White House basically prohibits the new 
President from standing up an administration?
  We can't accept this. This just can't be allowed to continue. We need 
to restore the Senate to the way it functioned for literally decades.
  Remember, the idea that nominees would regularly require cloture 
votes was completely foreign to the Senate until this sad chapter began 
during the administration of President Bush 41, in the early 2000s.
  As of 1968--1968--cloture had never been required for any 
nomination--any nomination. As of 1978, it had been required for two--
two as of 1978.
  Until 2003, in no conference--none--had more than 12 cloture motions 
ever been needed for nominations. But now, again, President Trump's 
chosen nominees faced 128 cloture votes in the Congress that just past. 
So this entire conversation is a modern aberration. This hasn't been 
going on forever. This is a fairly recent thing. This behavior is new. 
We need to restore the Senate's tradition in this area. Fortunately, we 
have a clear roadmap to do just that.
  In 2013, immediately after President Obama's reelection, 78 Senators, 
including me, passed a bipartisan standing order to speed up the 
consideration of many Presidential nominees. Seventy-eight Members of 
this body passed a standing order to help President Obama speed up the 
Executive Calendar.
  It reduced the postcloture time for most nominations without touching 
the Supreme Court, circuit courts, or the highest levels of the 
executive branch. Essentially everything else got

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a more streamlined process so nominees could be confirmed more 
  Again, President Obama had just been inaugurated for the second time 
days earlier. You better believe Republicans were disappointed we had 
lost, but we did not throw a systematic tantrum. Instead, a sizable 
number of us came over and joined the Democrats to help the Senate 
process noncontroversial nominations, as it had for the vast bulk of 
the history of the Senate. I was a Republican leader in the minority, 
and I still supported it. We judged if it was the right thing to do, 
and we did it. The standing order passed 78 to 16.
  So, today, I am filing cloture on a resolution that takes that 
bipartisan effort as its blueprint. This resolution from Senator Blunt 
and Senator Lankford would implement very similar steps and make them a 
permanent part of the Senate going forward.
  The Supreme Court, circuit courts, Cabinet-level executive positions, 
and certain independent boards and commissions would not change, but 
for most other nominations--for literally the hundreds of lower level 
nominations that every new President makes--postcloture debate time 
would be reduced from 30 hours to 2 hours.
  This would keep the floor moving. It would facilitate more efficient 
consent agreements, and, most importantly, it would allow the 
administration--finally, 2 years into its tenure--to staff numerous 
important positions that remain unfilled with nominees who have been 
  This resolution has come up through the regular order, through the 
Rules Committee, and next week we will vote on it. It deserves the same 
kind of bipartisan vote that Senator Schumer and Senator Reid's 
proposal received back during the Obama administration.
  I understand that many of my Democratic colleagues have indicated 
they would be all for this reform as long as it doesn't go into effect 
until 2021, when they obviously hope someone else might be in the White 
House, but they are reluctant to support it now. Give me a break. That 
is unfair on its face.
  My Democratic colleagues were more than happy to support a similar 
proposal back in 2013 under President Obama. They whisper in our ears 
privately that they would support it now if it took effect in 2021, oh, 
but they can't support it now, especially under these unprecedented 
circumstances, simply because we have a Republican President.
  Fair is fair. Members of this body should only support reforms that 
they would be as ready to support in the minority as they are in the 
  Put another way, if my side is in the minority 2 years from now, I 
don't think this will be unfair, and it will not disadvantage us in the 
wake of a new Democratic President. This is a change the institution 
needs--a change the institution made already, basically, with a 2-year 
experiment when President Obama was in office. This is reform that 
every Member should embrace when their party controls the White House 
and when it does not control the White House.
  I urge every one of my colleagues: Let's get the Senate back to a 
normal historical pattern for handling Presidential nominations. Let's 
give President Trump, as well as all future Presidents, a functional 
process for building their administrations. Let's give the American 
people the government they actually elected, and let's seize this 
chance to do so through the bipartisan regular order that we are 
pursuing here, both in committee and now on the floor.
  The status quo is unsustainable for the Senate and for the country. 
It is unfair to this President and to future Presidents of either 
party. It cannot stand, and it will not stand.
  Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, will the minority leader yield for a 
  Mr. McCONNELL. I still have the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader has the floor.
  Mr. MERKLEY. Will the majority leader yield for a question?