EXECUTIVE CALENDAR; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 71
(Senate - May 01, 2019)

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[Pages S2541-S2551]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the nomination.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of Andrew 
Lynn Brasher, of Alabama, to be United States District Judge for the 
Middle District of Alabama.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas.


                            Rape Kit Backlog

  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, from time to time, our country has 
listened with empathy and heartbreak as survivors of various forms of 
sexual abuse come forward, men and women alike, who have bravely shared 
their stories, reviving a national conversation about sexual violence 
and inviting others to share their stories after years or even decades 
of silence. We know that these cases aren't limited to any class, 
place, age, gender, or circumstance. We have heard from major public 
figures and close friends alike, highlighting an issue that has for too 
long hidden in the shadows.
  Some of the most disturbing allegations are those that take place 
against our children in school. Last month, Senator Hassan and I 
introduced the Jenna Quinn Law, which would help educators and 
caregivers identify and prevent child sexual abuse. It literally 
teaches people how to recognize the symptoms, what children are saying, 
when they are not vocalizing their plight, by the way they act. It 
would allow the use of grant funds for specialized training to ensure 
that teachers and school personnel are prepared to recognize and report 
child sexual abuse.
  This legislation is named after a brave Texan, a child abuse survivor 
herself, and has been modeled after successful State legislation. It is 
an important step in our efforts to stop sexual abuse, and I hope we 
can take these reforms, which have been adopted now by more than half 
the States, and make them nationwide.
  Of course, protecting students from sexual abuse doesn't end after 
high school, as we know. In recent years, our country has followed 
high-profile cases involving students even at our colleges and 
universities. We all remember 2011, when the now notorious Penn State 
football coach, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested and charged with 52 counts 
of sexual abuse of boys. What happened next was a combination of 
support for the survivors and disgust with those who knew about the 
allegations but did nothing. Employees, ranging from a graduate 
assistant to the university president himself, were aware of the 
allegations but remained silent.
  Then there is Larry Nassar, an employee at Michigan State University 
and a former USA Gymnastics national team doctor. He was accused of 
molesting hundreds of young athletes under his care, and more than 250 
women shared their testimony at his sentencing last year. Despite 
numerous complaints about Nassar's behavior, some dating back to the 
1990s, university officials kept quiet. Law enforcement was never 
informed, and his disgusting abuse was allowed to continue unreported 
for years.
  Sadly, these are not the only instances of university officials 
turning to avert their gaze from sexual misconduct. It has happened at 
other major universities across the country, including one in Texas. In 
each of these cases, university leaders did not take action against the 
abusers despite the fact that official title IX or external 
investigations had been conducted. Some of them said: ``We just simply 
didn't read the results of the report.''
  These stories of abuse are difficult to hear, but they have led to 
positive changes by highlighting the ineffective and sometimes 
nonexistent policies to handle these types of abuse.
  That is why last month, along with my colleagues from Michigan, 
Senator Peters and Stabenow, I introduced the Accountability of Leaders 
in Education to Report Title IX Investigations Act, or ALERT Act for 
short. The purpose of this legislation is to ensure greater 
accountability by requiring colleges and universities to submit an 
annual certification to the Secretary of Education, to include the 
following:
  First, it would affirm that the university president and the board 
members have reviewed all title IX and Clery Act sexual offense reports 
of an employee involving sexual misconduct. This would compel 
administrators to take this matter more seriously and thoroughly 
examine all the allegations.
  Secondly, it would require that the university certify that the 
president or board members had not interfered with or inappropriately 
tried to influence an ongoing investigation.
  In any educational institution, especially those that receive 
taxpayer funds, administrators should be held accountable for their 
actions and place the health and well-being of their students above all 
else.
  The public conversation regarding these abuses has encouraged more 
victims to confront their abusers and pursue justice.
  Throughout my career, dating back to my time as Texas attorney 
general, it has been my privilege to work with advocates for victims' 
rights and to help provide them with the resources they need in order 
to heal and recover. But what if we could do more to prevent people 
from becoming victims in the first place? What if we could improve 
accountability on college campuses related to reports of sexual assault 
perpetrated by their employees? Well, it seems to me the answer is 
obvious. While there is nothing we can do to turn back the hands of 
time and prevent these young men and women from being taken advantage 
of in the first place, we can take action to hold universities 
accountable for employee sexual misconduct that they already know about 
and stop abusers from continuing to harm students.
  I hope this bill can work its way quickly through the regular order 
through Congress, the House and the Senate, and make its way to the 
President's desk so we can begin to improve accountability on college 
campuses all across our country.
  While we continue our work to prevent sexual abuse in all its forms, 
there is more we need to do to support victims. Tomorrow, the Senate 
Judiciary Committee will vote on what I have no doubt will be a major 
bipartisan achievement for the 116th Congress.
  We see many pieces of legislation that divide Members of the Senate, 
and sadly those are often the ones that get the most attention. But the 
Debbie Smith Act is the type of bill we should be talking about and 
celebrating. The namesake of this legislation is an incredibly 
courageous woman whom I have had the pleasure of working with over the 
years.
  Debbie Smith is an ardent advocate for eliminating the rape kit 
backlog and expanding the DNA database to provide victims with answers 
and peace of mind. Sadly, her personal advocacy was borne from 
experience. In 1989, Debbie was home doing laundry when a stranger 
broke into her house. He blindfolded her, abducted her, and took her to 
a wooded area behind her home, where he robbed and repeatedly raped 
her. Debbie reported the crime to the police and went to the emergency 
room for a forensic exam, but because of the nationwide backlog, there 
were no immediate answers. Her rape kit was not even tested right away, 
as it should have been.
  Although exact numbers are difficult to estimate, experts believe 
that as many as 400,000 rape kits remain untested in the United States. 
We really don't know with any precision. Each one of them represents a 
story of a sexual assault victim and holds the key to identifying and 
apprehending a vile criminal. Like every other victim whose DNA 
evidence sat or still sits on a shelf, Debbie simply had to wait. In 
her case, it took 6\1/2\ years before she finally got the answers she 
had been looking for when a cold hit revealed the identity of her 
rapist.
  Debbie knows the fear and uncertainty that comes upon victims just by 
not knowing the answers to who did it and how we make sure justice is 
served. She made it her mission to eliminate the backlog. She has 
become a trusted voice for sexual assault victims all across this 
country and, of course, works the Halls of Congress on a bipartisan 
basis to make sure we don't lose sight of this important goal, which is 
to eliminate the rape kit backlog.
  The Debbie Smith Act was signed into law in 2004 and provides local 
and

[[Page S2542]]

State crime labs with resources they need to end the backlog of 
unsolved crimes. So far, more than $1 billion has been provided to 
forensic labs because of this law and has led to some pretty incredible 
results.
  One reason it is important that the Federal Government assumes part 
of this responsibility is because many jurisdictions--small police 
departments, rural counties--simply don't have the tax base, don't have 
the money, and don't have the expertise to be able to solve this 
problem of untested rape kits. Since 2005, thanks to Debbie Smith, more 
than 860,000 DNA cases have been processed because of the Debbie Smith 
Act, accounting for 43 percent of all forensic profiles in the FBI's 
DNA database.
  Though the primary goal is to reduce the rape kit backlog and 
identify their assailants, processing this DNA evidence can assist 
investigations for nonviolent crimes as well. Similar to criminal 
fingerprint databases, this DNA evidence can help convict people who 
commit other crimes.
  The Debbie Smith Act of 2019 will reauthorize this important funding 
that supports testing of these rape kits so we can eliminate the 
backlog and ensure it will not grow again in the future. This law also 
authorizes important training for law enforcement, correctional 
personnel, forensic nurses, and other professionals who assist victims 
of sexual assault.
  So I am grateful to Debbie for her courage and the courage of 
countless other survivors who have shared their stories publicly--it 
can't be easy--and who continue to advocate for reforms to eliminate 
the backlog. Two other inspiring survivors from Texas, Lavinia Masters 
and Carol Bart, have also been strong advocates in my State and at the 
Federal level. It has been my privilege to know them and work with them 
on this issue.
  This legislation is undoubtedly stronger because of the input of 
these and other brave survivors who are champions for victims all 
across the country. I admire these women who have given their voice to 
the voiceless and continue to fight for these reforms.
  I thank Chairman Graham and Ranking Member Feinstein of the Senate 
Judiciary Committee for quickly moving this important legislation 
through the committee, and I hope we will soon be able to vote for it 
on the Senate floor.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so 
ordered.


                                Medicare

  Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, during the last week I was home in 
Wyoming, traveling the State, visiting with people, talking to 
constituents, listening to what they had to say. I had the chance to 
attend a couple of health fairs in Rawlins, WY, and Mountain View, WY. 
The health fair is a gathering of the community. It is based on 
prevention and early detection of problems as ways to help lower the 
cost of care. For many years, I was the medical director of the Wyoming 
Health Fairs bringing low-cost health screening to people of Wyoming. 
At the fair, people come out. There are booths from the heart 
association, diabetes association, the American Cancer Society. People 
learn information about diseases, how they work, and how they affect 
their bodies. It can aid in early detection of problems. People can get 
their blood drawn and visit with healthcare providers from the 
community to go over blood results. All of this is aimed at prevention, 
early detection, and early treatment.
  It is interesting that during the same time Democrats running for 
President have been traveling the country talking about healthcare as 
well, and specifically Senator Bernie Sanders has talked about 
``BernieCare''--Medicare for All.
  To me, Medicare for All is going to drive up costs for Americans in 
terms of taxes, and it is also going to take away the kind of choice 
people look for when I talk with them at Wyoming health fairs.
  I come to you today to talk on the floor about the real problems I 
see with this so-called Medicare for All, and I come to it as a doctor 
who has practiced medicine in Wyoming for 25 years, taking care of 
patients for decades. When I go to health fairs, more people refer to 
me as Dr. Barrasso rather than Senator Barrasso.
  I also want to talk as the husband of a breast cancer survivor. My 
wife, Bobbi, has had three operations, chemotherapy twice, and is now 
disease-free for 15 years, but I know how critically important it is as 
a doctor as well as a husband to make sure that people with preexisting 
conditions are protected.
  I also speak as the son of a 96-year-old mother, and she is a 
motivating force in our lives. She is a constant reminder to me that we 
must do everything we can to care for our seniors. So as I have been 
listening to the Presidential candidates talk about this Medicare for 
All proposal, whether it is Senators Harris, Warren, Gillibrand, or 
Booker, all of them back what Senator Sanders has been proposing. I am 
just not sure most Americans understand what Medicare for All means and 
what it would mean for them personally. Maybe some of the Presidential 
candidates don't even want people to know what it means.
  Senator Sanders has claimed that Medicare for All is, as he said, ``a 
struggle for the soul of who we are as a nation.'' Let's be clear. 
Americans are facing a critical choice. It is a choice between a big, 
government-run healthcare system and a system that gives Americans 
access to quality, affordable care that they can choose that is right 
for them and their families. That, to me, is the choice we are facing.
  Medicare for All essentially means a complete government takeover of 
all healthcare in this country. Central planners in Washington, DC, 
would then be in control of the healthcare for all of us.
  Medicare for All would enroll every American in a government-run 
healthcare system. It will take away America's healthcare choices. 
Senator Harris talks about, perhaps, a supplemental plan, but the 
legislation I have read that has been introduced is crystal clear--
Medicare for All outlaws private health insurance plans. The only 
exception, Senator Sanders says, is some limited insurance for cosmetic 
surgery--he says procedures like nose jobs.
  With about 180 million Americans getting insurance through work, 
currently covered through their employers, people who get insurance 
through work like the insurance they have. All of them will lose their 
coverage under what is proposed under the Medicare for All legislation. 
All of them will be forced onto this new government program--every one 
of them. Never mind that 71 percent of Americans covered through their 
employer actually say they like their current plan. A single-payer 
Medicare for All proposal says, basically, if you like your current 
healthcare plan, you cannot keep it. The government will take it away 
and make it illegal.
  Seniors are going to suffer, too, and, actually, I think seniors may 
end up suffering the most. I am talking about people who are already on 
Medicare because this legislation threatens the 60 million Americans 
who currently get their healthcare as part of Medicare. They get their 
healthcare today through Medicare. Medicare is already expected to run 
out of money by 2026. It was confirmed by last month's trustee report, 
but the Democrats' proposal will even outlaw Medicare Advantage, a 
program that 22 million Americans currently use for their healthcare. 
It is called Medicare Advantage because there are advantages to being 
on this program in terms of preventive care and coordinated care. There 
is a reason people sign up for Medicare Advantage. All 22 million would 
lose that as well under the Democrats' Medicare for All plan.
  Healthcare programs benefiting military families and children will 
also be eliminated. Democrats plan to abolish servicemembers' TRICARE 
and the Children's Health Insurance Plan. All of that goes away under 
what the Democrats' radical proposal is talking about.
  Perhaps the greatest deception of Medicare for All is the suggestion 
that government-run care would be free. Let me say to the American 
people: Do not

[[Page S2543]]

be deceived. Do not be deceived. Americans will pay a very high price. 
Medicare for All has been estimated at a 10-year pricetag of $32 
trillion. There is only one way to even try to pay for this massive 
plan and that is to dramatically raise everyone's income taxes to the 
point where they may need to pay double. That is what is being 
proposed.
  So the result will be less freedom, lower quality of care, and longer 
lines as people have to wait to get to a doctor, because Washington 
will be controlling the doctor-patient medical decisions--and, mark my 
words, Washington will ration care. Rationing means delays and delay 
means denial of care. Government-run healthcare is notorious for 
producing long lines, long waiting periods, delay in care--even 
urgently needed care.
  The government-run system has failed where they tried to put it in 
place in Vermont, in Senator Sanders' home State. They started it and 
ended up having to eliminate it. They couldn't afford it. It wasn't 
working. It was too complicated. That is in one State.
  We also have the situation of what is going on both in England and 
Canada right now in terms of costs and limits of care, the denial of 
treatment, the delay in treatment.
  I think people watching may have seen the stories as a result of what 
is happening in England, where elderly patients are going blind in 
Britain right now. Why would they be going blind? Because the 
government is rationing cataract surgery. People can Google ``going 
blind in Britain.'' It is the British healthcare system that is causing 
it because of the rationing of care. So Democrats are promoting this 
Medicare for All. Basically they are saying that ObamaCare needs to be 
repealed and replaced because it has failed the American people. The 
solution they are offering is not one that I think would make things 
better, but it is one that I think would make things worse.

  Republicans, at the same time, are working for meaningful, workable 
solutions that lower the costs of prescription drugs, solutions that 
increase healthcare choice and transparency, and solutions that expand 
all Americans' access to affordable care. We want to make sure patients 
can get the care they need from the doctor they choose at a lower cost.
  So instead of proposing higher taxes, which is what the Democrats are 
proposing, instead of proposing healthcare rationing, which will come 
with Medicare for All, Democrats need to begin working with Republicans 
to improve healthcare for all Americans, and they should start by 
rejecting BernieCare.
  Thank you.
  I yield the floor.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Ohio.


                         Tribute to Mark Powden

  Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, I rise today to honor the career of my 
longtime chief of staff, staff director of the Democratic staff on the 
Senate Banking Committee, former staff director for Republicans on the 
HELP Committee, and my good friend Mark Powden.
  Mark is the model of a public servant and of a Senate staffer. He 
spent decades serving in these Halls, first for Senator Jeffords, and 
then, in 2007, he joined my office, becoming my chief of staff less 
than 2 years later.
  I was a brandnew Senator. I still had a lot to learn. There were few 
better teachers in this institution and this city than Mark Powden. He 
helped steer our office in its early days, setting up a well-oiled 
machine, I would like to think, that would serve Ohioans at home and 
advocate for them in Washington. Under Mark's leadership, we delivered 
results for the 12 million people in Ohio.
  When the country wanted to write off the American auto industry, we 
said no. We weren't going to abandon this industry and millions of 
American workers--literally hundreds of thousands in Ohio. Mark was 
passionate about making sure we got the best deal possible for Ohio 
workers. It wasn't just auto workers.
  Mark took over the job as chief of staff in my office during the 
depths of the recession around the time President Obama took office, 
after the economy was tanking with a loss of 800,000 jobs a month at 
the end of the Bush administration. Ohio had lost 423,000 jobs over a 
2-year period--nearly 8 percent of the jobs in the State. Under Mark's 
leadership, we worked to create the Hardest Hit Fund, which targeted 
resources to communities in places like Ohio that had been devastated 
by the financial crisis. Mark and so many others have heard me say that 
the ZIP Code where my wife Connie and I live in Cleveland, OH--ZIP Code 
44105--at that point, in the first half of 2007, there were more 
foreclosures in that ZIP Code than in any other ZIP Code in the United 
States of America.
  Mark always made sure that investing in Ohio was a priority. We 
helped secure $100 million to expand cancer research and treatment at 
the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and James Cancer 
Hospital.
  Through all of these accomplishments, Mark remained true to his 
Vermont roots. It is where he grew up. His first major job in 
Washington was with a Republican in those days, a Senator from Vermont. 
He tried his hardest always to bring Vermont's bucolic vales to the 
Nation's Capital, and he maintained the utmost respect for the 
institution of the Senate.
  He had an incredible wealth of knowledge on the history of this place 
and on legislative procedure and tradition, and he passed it on to 
other staffers--from my new chief of staff, when Mark moved over to 
lead the Senate Banking Committee, to the LCs new to the Senate, hoping 
to learn. We will miss all that about Mark Powden.
  I will miss Mark's counsel. I will miss his hard work. I will miss 
his sense of humor. I will miss his modesty. I will particularly miss 
his farmer jokes that he tells so well after growing up in rural 
Vermont. It is not surprising that Mark would not want to be here today 
as I honor him because he just doesn't want to show up to be honored. 
But after decades in public service, he has earned a long retirement 
with his wife Wendy; his two sons, Joseph and Russell; and his entire 
family.
  Mark, thank you for what you did for me, thank you for what you did 
for our State, and thank you for what you do for our country.
  I would add to this that one of the people Mark helped to teach is 
with me on the floor today. She is about to join a Presidential 
campaign. Her name is Hannah Fine. I want to recognize her service. 
This is the first time, I believe, she has been on the Senate floor for 
a moment like this. So, Hannah, thank you.


                      Nomination of Stephen Moore

  Mr. President, this weekend, the President's pick for the Federal 
Reserve, Stephen Moore, said that we should focus a little less on all 
of his offensive and outlandish articles, the comments he made about 
women in print and on the air, the comments he made about places like 
Cincinnati and Cleveland, the attacks he has made on middle America, on 
working families. He said: Forget about all that. Let's talk about my 
economic record.
  Well, Mr. Moore should be careful what he wishes for. His economic 
record is dangerous. It is out of touch. It is a big part of the reason 
we have suffered so many of the economic problems we have had in the 
last decade. Even conservative economists have criticized him.
  He has claimed over and over again that the country is experiencing 
deflation. In other words, he thinks prices are falling. I don't know 
where he gets these ideas. I don't have any constituents who complain 
to me about prices falling--about deflation--but Mr. Moore seems to see 
things that aren't really there.
  Tell someone who is paying college tuition, whether it is at Sinclair 
Community College or whether it is at Ohio State or Kent State 
University, that the prices are going down. Tell it to someone with 
diabetes trying to afford insulin. Tell somebody in Columbus, OH, who 
is trying to pay the rent that prices are falling. It is absurd. He 
makes economic statements like that with so little basis in fact.
  He has been a conspiracy theorist. He thinks government statistics on 
the economy can't be trusted. Maybe that is where he got the idea that 
the cost of living is going down. He wants to return to the gold 
standard. He said on CNBC this morning that instead of talking about 
equal pay for women, the problem actually has been the steady decline 
in male earnings. I don't disagree the problem has been stagnant

[[Page S2544]]

wages for men, but I also can't believe he would say the problem is not 
women's wages when we know that--I have spent a lot of time on this 
floor talking about the dignity of work. I understand that so many 
Americans have seen corporate profits go up; we have seen executive 
compensation explode upward; we have seen workers working harder and 
being more productive; and we have seen wages remain flat. The issue is 
that wages are flat, in large part, because this body and this 
President have followed the advice of Stephen Moore and continued to 
cut taxes on rich people, underinvest in infrastructure, underinvest in 
working families, underinvest in public health, and underinvest in 
public education. So to put it on women and say that the problem has 
actually been the steady decline in male earnings--we shouldn't even be 
talking about women's wages--just makes no sense.
  He doesn't seem to understand that, fundamentally, as challenged as 
so many working families are with stagnant wages and with lack of 
opportunity, if you are a woman in this country, if you are someone of 
color, the challenges are even greater. He should know that. Every 
economic statistic shows that. Sentient human beings walking down the 
street and listening should know that. But for some reason, this man 
who wants to be a Governor on the Federal Reserve thinks otherwise.
  He wants the entire country--and this is probably even more serious. 
He wants the entire country to look like Kansas. He was the 
mastermind--or one of the masterminds--behind Governor Brownback's move 
in Kansas to basically eliminate tax liability for a whole group of 
mostly prosperous people, to cut taxes overall on the rich, and then go 
after public education and cut public education. It was so extreme that 
once it was enacted in a very Republican State by a Republican 
Governor, it was the Republicans in the legislature who unenacted it. 
They repealed most of the things he did and overrode this far-right 
Republican Governor's veto, again, based on what Mr. Moore had 
suggested. While almost all of the 50 States were gaining jobs, once-
prosperous Kansas lost jobs during this time. He wants that disastrous 
economic model to go nationwide, and we know he is not alone. It is the 
same philosophy that so many in this town say we should do--tax cuts 
for the rich and not for working families. It is this view that if you 
cut taxes on the rich, the money will trickle down and everybody will 
have a better standard of living. We tried that with President Reagan, 
and it didn't work. We tried that with President Bush, and it didn't 
work. If you remember in the 8 years of the Bush economy, a few hundred 
thousand in a country of 300-plus million, there was no net job growth 
to speak of in the Bush 8 years. Then the Trump tax bill cut taxes on 
the rich, and maybe it will trickle down, and we will have more jobs 
and more wages and all that. It just never works. It works for the 
rich. They get huge tax cuts. Bill Clinton, on the other hand--during 
his 8 years, in which they increased taxes on upper income people, we 
saw a 20 million net job increase.
  For some reason, Stephen Moore and his corporate crowd don't 
understand what happens when you cut taxes for the rich. You don't grow 
the economy by giving more money to the superwealthy, who will invest 
it in Swiss bank accounts. You focus on the middle class, and you give 
the tax breaks to the middle class like our earned-income tax credit 
bill. If you focus tax breaks on the middle class, you will grow the 
economy because you are putting money in the pocket of somebody making 
$20- or $30- or $50- or $100,000 a year. They are going to spend it. 
They are not going to put it in a Swiss bank account. When you give tax 
cuts to some of the people in the Trump Cabinet, they are going to put 
more in Swiss bank accounts. They are not going to spend it. They are 
not going to invest it. They are not going to make any difference in 
our economy.
  So I ask my colleagues to vote no on Stephen Moore not only because 
there is so much about him and what he has done and what he has 
written, but mostly for what he would advocate as a member of the 
Federal Reserve.
  If you love your country, you will fight for the people who make it 
work, and you respect and honor work. There is nothing about Mr. 
Moore's record that would suggest he would do that. We need someone on 
the Federal Reserve who actually understands that.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so 
ordered.
  The Senator from Iowa.


                      National Small Business Week

  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I would like to first give approximately 
a 1-minute speech and then speak for a longer time on another subject.
  I am happy to recognize small businesses in Iowa, and, of course, we 
should recognize them all across our country. We do that by celebrating 
National Small Business Week.
  In my State of Iowa, 99 percent of all businesses are small 
businesses. Also, almost half of Iowa's employees are employed by small 
businesses.
  Government regulations have a disproportionate impact on small 
businesses, often costing them 20 percent more than the average of all 
businesses. So we need to remember that small businesses are the main 
source of America's innovations and economic strength. We should all be 
proud of and support these men and women who work hard to keep our 
communities vibrant.
  This week is devoted to honoring small business.


                               Tax Reform

  Mr. President, a few weeks ago, our tax filing season came to an end. 
This filing season was a very important milestone as it was the first 
tax filing season under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed by the 
President before Christmas 2017.
  Congressional Democrats sought to turn the filing season into an 
indictment of the tax reform through a campaign of misinformation and a 
campaign of half-truths. They were obsessed with finding anything--just 
anything--they could hang their hat on to declare that the tax filing 
system was a failure.
  I will give you a case in point--maybe, several cases.
  They attempted to use early and incomplete tax reform data to mislead 
taxpayers into believing that since the average tax refunds went down, 
taxpayers' taxes actually went up. Of course, such a claim is just 
simple hogwash. The size of the tax refund tells you absolutely nothing 
about a taxpayer's overall tax liability. The tax refund, as most 
people ought to know, tells you how much a taxpayer overpaid the 
Federal Government throughout the year.
  None other than the Washington Post Fact Checker called out Democrat 
tax refund falsehoods as, in their words, ``nonsensical and 
misleading.'' The Democrat talking points earned the Democrats a 
whopping four Pinocchios from that Fact Checker. Yet the Democrats 
wouldn't let facts or reason get in their way, because if it did, it 
wouldn't be a political win for them. The Democrats continued to 
mislead and scare the public for several more weeks. And why not? The 
truth might hurt.
  Then, more complete tax refund data came in showing that the average 
tax refunds were actually in line with the previous years. Much to the 
Democrats' chagrin, their favorite talking point was, once and for all, 
exposed for the nonsense that it is.
  The fact is that this filing season was a resounding success for the 
Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed before Christmas 2017. The filing season 
happened to run remarkably smoothly. This became even clearer the 
further into the filing season we went and a more complete picture 
emerged. On four points, all the IRS computer systems functioned as 
planned, refunds were processed in a timely manner, the total number of 
refunds sent to taxpayers are up--and the average refund amount 
differed by only $55 compared to the previous tax year--and, lastly and 
most importantly, millions of middle-income taxpayers saw less of their 
hard-earned money go to Washington. And, of course, that was the 
purpose of the tax bill in the first place.
  Now, unfortunately, the Democrats remain yet today as determined as 
ever

[[Page S2545]]

to take down tax reform through a campaign of misinformation. For 
years, they misled the American people and promoted a narrative full of 
distortions and misrepresentations about what the law does and doesn't 
do. Even when the bill was a little more than a 1-page outline, 
Democrats began their campaign depicting tax reform as a giveaway to 
the wealthy and a tax hike for the middle class. As the committee 
discussed new ideas and as the committee drafted a final bill, it 
actually evolved. It was never like somebody 6 months before said: This 
is what we are going to pass, and we are going to pass it just this 
way.
  No, it evolved considerably from the initial framework.
  Yet the Democrat talking points that began when we first started 
talking about the bill never changed and, still today, haven't changed. 
Analysis after analysis, ranging from the nonpartisan Joint Committee 
on Taxation to even the very liberal Tax Policy Center, showed that tax 
reform would cut taxes on average for every income group. These 
analyses showed that to the extent there were tax increases, they were 
largely concentrated on the wealthy--in other words, a more aggressive 
tax law.
  That is right. The taxpayers Democrats claimed were the big winners 
in the tax reform are actually the ones most likely to see a tax hike. 
Moreover, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation analysis, the 
largest percentage of tax cuts are concentrated among low- and middle-
income groups. For emphasis, the Joint Committee on Taxation analysis 
also shows that tax reform made the Tax Code more progressive. I have 
said it twice now. I say it a lot of times. I am trying to get somebody 
to understand that this is what experts say, not what this Senator 
says.
  Millionaires now shoulder an even larger share of the total tax 
burden than under prior law. As you can expect, Democrats are 
determined not to let these facts get in their political way. Since the 
beginning, they have argued that up was down and that tax cuts were tax 
increases, and have even suggested the bill's passage was a sign of 
``Armageddon.''
  Unfortunately, their constant drum beat, coupled with little pushback 
from the mainstream media, has worked to mislead too many taxpayers. 
However, there are signs that some in the media are starting to see 
that the Democrats' talking points are the nonsense that those talking 
points really are. You might not believe this, but a few weeks ago the 
New York Times, of all papers, published an article highlighting how 
Democratic talking points and far too many Americans' perceptions of 
the law don't match reality.
  I would like to ask you to study this chart. It compares the liberal 
Tax Policy Center's analysis of taxpayers receiving tax cuts under the 
individual income provisions of the law with a recent survey of 
taxpayers who think they received a tax cut.
  Follow me on this chart. As you can see, there is a large gap between 
how many taxpayers actually received a tax cut and those who think they 
did.
  Based on the Tax Policy Center analysis, nearly 70 percent of 
Americans earning between $30,000 and $50,000 saw a tax cut, but only 
about 36 percent think they got the tax cut. Similarly, more than 80 
percent of Americans earning $50,000 and $70,000 received a tax cut, 
but only half that amount, 40 percent, think they got a tax cut. The 
gap between perception and reality continues as you go up the income 
scale. Only about half as many people who did actually get a tax cut 
think they did. As noted in the New York Times:

       To a large degree, the gap between perception and reality 
     on the tax cuts appears to flow from a sustained--and 
     misleading--effort by liberal opponents of the law to brand 
     it as a broad middle-class tax increase.

  Now, read ``liberal opponents'' as people in the leadership of the 
Democratic Party, both in Congress and outside of Congress, misleading 
the people. You can see from these statistics on the chart that they 
were enormously successful and they probably knew what the information 
was, but for some people, when it comes to politics, the truth doesn't 
matter.
  Something I don't get a chance to do very often is to applaud the New 
York Times for finally calling Democrats out for their efforts to 
mislead the American public, but even in this New York Times article, 
the paper was selective in its reporting. The paper chose to highlight 
only the Tax Policy Center's analysis of the individual income tax 
provisions rather than its analysis of all major tax provisions enacted 
in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Even the liberal Tax Policy Center 
recognizes the person who has the legal burden of paying a tax isn't 
necessarily the one who bears the economic incidence of that tax. For 
instance, it is widely recognized that a portion of the corporate tax 
ultimately falls on individuals in the form of reduced wages, so we cut 
the corporate tax rate. There ought to be a positive benefit from that 
for the workers.

  Thus, when all major provisions of tax reform are considered, the 
percentage of taxpayers receiving a tax cut is not 70 percent, as 
reported, but 80 percent. Moreover, when you look at taxpayers with 
incomes between $50,000 and $70,000, the percentage receiving a tax cut 
climbs to 90 percent.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record 
the complete Tax Policy Center analysis of Americans who receive tax 
cuts under tax reform.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

   TABLE T18-0026--THE TAX CUTS AND JOBS ACT (TCJA). ALL PROVISIONS AND INDIVIDUAL INCOME TAX PROVISIONS TAX UNITS WITH A TAX INCREASE OR TAX CUT, BY
                                                            EXPANDED CASH INCOME LEVEL, 2018
                                                                    [All provisions]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                          Tax Units                 Tax Units with Tax Increase or Cut             Average Tax Change
                                                 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------   (Dollars) for all Tax
                                                                                  With Tax Cut            With Tax Increase               Units
 Expanded Cash Income Level  (thousands of 2017                            -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                    dollars)                         Number     Percent of                                                                      Major
                                                  (thousands)     Total      Pct of Tax    Avg Tax     Pct of Tax    Avg Tax        All       Provisions
                                                                               Units      Change ($)     Units      Change ($)   Provisions    Included
                                                                                                                                                 Here
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Less than 10....................................       13,260          7.5         19.3          -40          0.3          430          -10          -10
10-20...........................................       23,850         13.5         62.0         -100          1.1          850          -50          -50
20-30...........................................       22,240         12.6         79.1         -250          2.6          780         -180         -180
30-40...........................................       16,640          9.5         87.3         -460          4.5          750         -360         -360
40-50...........................................       13,220          7.5         90.4         -670          6.2          710         -570         -570
50-75...........................................       24,450         13.9         91.6       -1,010          7.0          810         -870         -870
75-100..........................................       16,650           95         91.5       -1,540          8.1        1,200       -1,310       -1,310
100-200.........................................       30,860         17.5         92.5       -2,560          7.4        1,510       -2,260       -2,260
200-500.........................................       11,640          6.6         95.1       -7,000          4.8        2,820       -6,560       -6,520
500-1,000.......................................        1,530          0.9         95.0      -22,170          5.0        9,970      -21,240      -20,570
More than 1,000.................................          670          0.4         88.3      -88,940         11.7      121,920      -69,660      -64,300
All.............................................      176,100        100.0         80.4       -2,140          4.8        2,770       -1,610       -1,590
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                           [Individual income tax provisions]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Less than 10....................................       13,260          7.5          4.4          -80          0.3          440            *            *
10-20...........................................       23,850         13.5         29.8         -150          1.3          790          -30          -40
20-30...........................................       22,240         12.6         51.0         -320          3.1          700         -140         -140
30-40...........................................       16,640          9.5         65.2         -520          5.5          660         -300         -310
40-50...........................................       13,220          7.5         73.9         -720          7.6          660         -480         -480
50-75...........................................       24,450         13.9         81.7         -990          8.7          750         -740         -740
75-100..........................................       16,650          9.5         86.6       -1,380         10.1        1,140       -1,080       -1,080
100-200.........................................       30,860         17.5         89.1       -2,250         10.1        1,450       -1,850       -1,860
200-500.........................................       11,640          6.6         90.9       -6,020          8.5        2,450       -5,280       -5,270
500-1,000.......................................        1,530          0.9         92.1      -19,050          7.3        8,930      -17,340      -16,900

[[Page S2546]]

 
More than 1,000.................................          670          0.4         78.2      -75,110         20.8       98,200      -41,910      -38,290
All.............................................      176,100        100.0         64.8       -2,180          6.3        2,760       -1,260       -1,240
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Source: Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center Microsimulation Model (version 0217-1).
* Non-zero value rounded to zero.

  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I hope that the New York Times article 
will be a wake-up call to congressional Democrats and people outside of 
Congress to abandon this misleading rhetoric. Unfortunately, it is more 
likely they will continue their campaign of misinformation. Yet, as 
more and more hard data come in on the benefits of tax reform, it will 
become harder and harder for the American public to take the Democrats 
seriously with their rhetoric.
  With the tax filing season now behind us, we are finally starting to 
get some of this hard data. H&R Block has released data for this filing 
season based upon its experience in helping taxpayers during this 
filing season, which demonstrate how taxpayers fared in each State. 
Again, as you can see from this chart, taxpayers who are in red and 
blue States alike have all benefited from tax reform.
  One knows what the rhetoric was around here even before we voted on 
this bill: It is an attack on the blue States. Well, it didn't turn out 
that way. On average for all States, taxpayers saw a 24-percent 
reduction in their tax bills.
  This data directly contradict misleading arguments by these 
Washington Democrats, as I stated, that tax reform was an attack on 
high-tax blue States due to the cap on the State and local tax 
deductions, and we set that cap at $10,000.
  According to H&R Block, not according to this Senator, some of the 
largest tax reductions are actually found in the high-tax blue States. 
On average, taxpayers in New Jersey saw the largest reduction in their 
tax bills at 29 percent. New Jersey, based on the last several 
elections, is a blue State. Massachusetts had the second largest 
reduction of 27.6 percent, and California had the third largest with 
27.1 percent. They are blue States.
  The fact is, on average, taxpayers in every State have benefited from 
tax reform, and in some cases, high-tax blue States have fared even 
better than red States.
  I am proud of the work we did on tax reform. No bill is perfect, and 
we still have work to do in addressing a number of technical correction 
issues, but we have kept our promise to enact meaningful reform that 
has cut taxes for the middle class.
  Even more important is what tax reform means for long-term economic 
growth. It doesn't take a tax expert to see that income, wages, jobs, 
and unemployment numbers have all very much improved since the 
enactment of this tax bill. That then reflects in significant benefits 
obtained by American workers. Of course, that is on top of the direct 
tax relief that hard-working individuals and families are already 
receiving, which I described at the beginning of my remarks.
  Annualized growth in real after-tax personal income averaged 2\1/2\ 
percent during the Obama administration; it has averaged 3.3 percent 
since tax reform.
  Annualized growth in real average hourly earnings averaged a mere 0.6 
percent under Obama compared to 1.7 percent following the enactment of 
the tax bill. So it is about three times as much.
  Monthly job gains averaged 110,000 under President Obama; they 
averaged 215,000 after this tax bill passed.
  There have been nearly 5.4 million jobs created since January of 
2017, with more than half of that job creation having occurred since 
the enactment of tax reform.
  Under President Obama, the unemployment rate averaged a whopping 7.4 
percent. Today, it averages 3.9 percent.
  Following tax reform and for the first time since 2001, the number of 
job openings in the national economy has exceeded the number of 
unemployed Americans--a phenomenon that has continued for the past 
year. That means an American who wants a job can get a job.
  To say it simply, tax reform is working for America. For the 
Democrats to suggest otherwise is nothing more than their continued 
effort to mislead the American public. I invite the Democrats to take a 
page from the New York Times article, acknowledge the facts, and work 
with us to continue to improve the economic environment for hard-
working individuals and families all across this great country.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BRAUN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so 
ordered.


                           Opportunity Zones

  Mr. BRAUN. Mr. President, I thank Senator Ernst for allowing me the 
opportunity to talk about opportunity zones.
  So much has happened since President Trump has been elected that I 
think has brought opportunity. The economy is obviously booming. In the 
State of Indiana, for instance, we have 156 opportunity zones in 83 
different cities and 58 counties. That is a lot in one State. This is 
investment into these areas that need jobs. Capital investment is hard 
to measure. Thank goodness it has come along and has been an 
opportunity that we in the Hoosier State have taken advantage of.
  We are one of the lowest unemployment States in the Union. I am from 
Dubois County, from the town of Jasper, which supports the lowest 
unemployment rates in our State--a State of enterprise, a State of 
commerce. Workforce development is probably the most critical issue 
that faces our State, but we do a lot of other things well. We live 
within our means. We addressed infrastructure back in 2017 by repairing 
roads and bridges and by doing a lot of things well.
  We have 80,000 jobs in our State that need one simple thing, and that 
is proper training.
  When I went to school back in the seventies--it dates me a little 
bit--I took industrial arts. You had a shop class. You had a welding 
class. You had practical training that led you into good-paying jobs. 
Somewhere along the way, we kind of almost stigmatized that pathway 
called career and technical education. We have schools like Ivy Tech. 
When I was a State legislator, there were 19 different programs, and we 
were spending nearly $1 billion a year, but we were not providing 
proper training for high-demand, high-wage jobs.
  In our State, we are shipping out twice as many 4-year degrees as we 
use. Something is not right. I just spoke with an online college, which 
is another issue I want to mention. The cost of these 4-year degrees 
has gotten way out of hand. Many graduates spend $80,000, $90,000, 
$100,000. They take on that debt and have jobs that are not marketable.
  We need to pay attention to the simple things that most States need 
by reorienting the focus of education and providing proper training for 
jobs that

[[Page S2547]]

in many cases pay more than 4-year degrees, those that start in the 
neighborhood of $40,000 to $60,000 and have good benefits and potential 
wages of over $100,000 a year. In our State and in most States across 
the country, those are the jobs that need to be filled.
  In my own company, 80 jobs can't be filled because, really, there 
needs to be a better curriculum at the high school level, one from 
which you get basic skills taught rather than the misguided approach of 
overemphasizing 4-year degrees. There is nothing wrong with that, and 
everyone should aspire to that, but the market doesn't necessarily need 
it. It will pay more for a lot less education, and you will not be 
walking away with the debt that so many students do in this day and 
age.
  Tax reform then came along. As a business owner, I can clearly say 
that there has been nothing in the 38 years of building a little Main 
Street business into a national company that has catapulted our ability 
to do more for our employees than what has happened with tax reform.
  An opportunity zone is a great idea. We need to have more of it, and 
we need to make sure this institution starts to set an example across 
this country whereby we live within our means and not create $850 
billion deficits annually on top of $22 trillion of debt. We all know 
that is going to lead us nowhere other than into despair down the road.
  Again, I am here to tout what tax relief and the JOBS Act did, as 
well as opportunity zones, which we have run with in the Hoosier State. 
We also need to fix a few things, like matching training and education 
with high-demand, high-wage jobs. If we do that across the country, I 
think we will be into decades of prosperity that will prevent us from 
maybe going down that trail of some of the things we have heard about 
recently, like the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and a lot of 
things that we know we can't afford and that will not work.
  Thank you.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Perdue). The Senator from South Carolina.
  Mr. SCOTT of South Carolina. Mr. President, I thank Vice Chair Ernst 
for putting this event together on the floor to talk about the success 
of opportunity zones and what they could mean for so many Americans who 
desperately need the assistance in so many places. Without any 
question, this is a great part of the tax bill that has not received 
enough attention. A lot of folks know about opportunity zones, and a 
lot of folks are excited about opportunity zones.
  I would like to spend a little time talking about the success of our 
economy and touching on some of the issues that my colleague Senator 
Braun spoke about as well, those being the importance of workforce 
development and of making sure our workforce has the skills that meet 
the jobs of our current economy.
  One estimate said that perhaps there are a million more jobs than 
there are people looking for work, and a part of the reason why that is 
so is because we still need to make sure that we harmonize the skill 
set necessary to do the work with the skills being taught or trained to 
our younger folks and folks looking for work.
  This has been an amazing journey from an economic perspective, when 
you think about where we are financially as a country.
  This past quarter we saw the announcement of a growth rate of around 
3.2 percent. That is astounding because all of the estimates were so 
significantly lower.
  We finished 2018 with a growth rate of around 3.1 percent. Now, we 
have not seen that acceleration in our economy in a very long time. So 
it is really good news for those folks looking for work.
  Our unemployment rate is near a 50-year low--somewhere between 3.8 
and 3.9 percent. This is something we haven't seen in a very long time. 
African-American unemployment is near 7 percent. Some of the lowest 
numbers ever recorded in the history of the country for African-
American employment are there now. Hispanic unemployment is in the same 
range--very low, record lows.
  We have seen wages in the last several months continue to increase. 
Wage growth is now hitting the bottom quintile of our workforce at a 3-
percent growth rate, which is really good news because it was another 
one of those targets that we knew was important for us to reach.
  Said differently, income disparity is shrinking because of the 
success of our Tax Code and the success of our regulatory reset, and 
that is good news for everyone.
  The economic recovery, however, has been uneven. Part of the 
challenge that we see is that there are areas of our Nation that are 
not doing as well as the numbers I have just indicated. That reinforces 
the fact that, as a whole, the Nation is succeeding and the people of 
our country are succeeding at a much higher level and at a faster clip. 
However, rural America still lags a little behind and needs more tools 
in the toolkit, more arrows in the quiver to address some of the 
challenges that are endemic and specific to those rural parts of our 
country.
  I am thankful to have partnered in the opportunity zone legislation 
with folks who are compassionate and who are committed to making sure 
that rural America realizes its full potential.
  I have had an opportunity to travel this country on my national 
opportunity zone tour. I have gone from places in Florida, with Senator 
Rubio, to parts of our country that I have really enjoyed seeing, but I 
can't articulate fully the passion that I saw in folks from West 
Virginia, New Hampshire, and Iowa when we had a chance to tour these 
three States and learn more about the rural economy and the potential 
in those rural economies.
  I remember vividly walking down in Huntington, WV, with my good 
friend Senator Capito. We had a great visit in Huntington, WV, and what 
we realized there was the passion of the people and the willingness to 
work were evident and that we needed to bring more resources to the 
table so that the employers and would-be employers would make the 
investment in Huntington, WV, and in other parts of rural West 
Virginia.
  We left there encouraged and enthusiastic because the opportunity 
zone legislation was seen as a true tool in the toolkit for rural 
America that needed to be rolled out. At that time, it hadn't been 
rolled out like it has been now.
  So today we see over $100 billion migrating toward opportunity funds. 
That means good news for rural America. If we are able to continue that 
progress, we will see rural America live its full potential, and that 
is great news.
  I enjoyed visiting New Hampshire with Governor Sununu, where the 
unemployment rate is 2.4 percent, one of the lowest in the country. But 
even in a place like New Hampshire, where the unemployment rate is 
really low, the rural parts of the State were still devastated and 
needed an infusion of hope and opportunity. The O zone, or the 
opportunity zone, has presented itself as one of the many solutions 
necessary to confront some of the rural issues that we saw in New 
Hampshire.
  I enjoyed my time in West Des Moines with Senator Ernst, as we had a 
chance to visit a potential housing project incubator at a church, 
where folks were fascinated by using the tax deferral to encourage and 
to attract more investment into West Des Moines because the people are 
willing to work. There is dignity in all work, and they understood 
that. They were passionate about opportunities, and they needed another 
tool to make it happen.
  Opportunity zones are a part of that toolkit, and I will say, without 
any question, that when you think about great leadership, it is hard to 
have missed the compassion and the passion that Joni Ernst has for her 
constituents and her business owners and her willingness to partner 
with legislation like the opportunity zones and partner with the 
entrepreneurs of her State and the folks who are looking for ways to 
reinvest in their own neighborhoods to help encourage and to support a 
willing workforce.
  That tool of opportunity zones can be brought to bear against some of 
the strongest and hardest challenges in rural America, and I am here to 
say thank you to my colleagues for, a, making sure that opportunity 
zones are a reality; b, for taking this time on the floor to encourage 
others, especially our rural Americans, to stay hopeful; and, c, to 
continue to address some of the challenges that Senator Braun mentioned 
about the workforce

[[Page S2548]]

development and harmonizing the skill set with the workforce in a way 
that allows for those folks to realize their full potential and live 
the American Dream.
  I yield to Senator Capito.
  Mrs. CAPITO. Mr. President.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from West Virginia.
  Mrs. CAPITO. Mr. President, I want to thank my colleague Senator Tim 
Scott from South Carolina. I am going to talk a little bit about our 
visit later, but our visit was really tremendous in West Virginia.


                           Order of Procedure

  Mrs. CAPITO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that all 
postcloture time on the Brasher nomination expire at 3 p.m. today and 
that, if confirmed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and 
laid upon the table and the President be immediately notified of the 
Senate's action.
  I further ask that following disposition of the Brasher nomination, 
the Senate vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the Ruiz II, Arias-
Marxuach, and Wolson nominations in the order listed, and that if 
cloture is invoked on the nominations, the postcloture time on the 
nominations expire at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 2, and the Senate 
vote on confirmation of the nominations in the order in which cloture 
was invoked; and finally, if confirmed, that the motions to reconsider 
be considered made and laid upon the table and the President be 
immediately notified of the Senate's action.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there any objection?
  Without objection, it is so ordered.


                           Opportunity Zones

  Mrs. CAPITO. Mr. President, I am here to join my colleagues today to 
speak about what I believe is one of the most significant parts of the 
Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that we passed a little over a year ago, and that 
is the opportunity zones.
  Senator Scott is the author and the brains behind this concept that 
he has been working on for years, and I was really proud to be a 
cosponsor of that bill and am excited to see what is going to happen.
  Ever since that historic legislation that we passed and became law in 
2017, I have heard from many individuals, families, and small 
businesses back in West Virginia about all the ways that they have 
benefited from this. I have met with families who have been able to 
save for their children, whether it is to increase their children's 
education or to actually get some things done around the house that 
they hadn't been able to afford before.
  I have spoken with small businesses that have been able to expand 
their operations and create new jobs. I have heard from individuals who 
have been able to give back to their churches and to their communities. 
I have seen--which, I think, may even be the most significant--a 
renewed sense of optimism and hope about where our economy is going, 
not just in our State but across the country.
  Many critics of the tax cut legislation said folks like those living 
in West Virginia wouldn't feel the positive effects, but I can tell you 
that we have experienced that in West Virginia. Those same critics then 
said that the benefits would only be temporary.
  I heard Senator Scott talk about the growth figures over the last 
quarter. It is phenomenal. I have seen figures in West Virginia of how 
wage growth is increasing and how our annual salaries are increasing.
  Our unemployment still remains a little bit high, but it is still 
moving down over the last month.
  As recently as last week, I met a small business owner in South 
Charleston who is currently creating new jobs because of that tax 
reform.
  But thanks to a specific provision in the tax reform bill--a 
provision, as I said, that Senator Scott sponsored and that several of 
our colleagues joined in--I am positive that the new tax law will 
continue to drive economic growth and optimism through opportunity 
zones.
  Now there is no State better made for an opportunity zone investment 
than our State. I am going to sell it right here.
  As my colleagues before me have explained, the idea is quite simple. 
It is to incentivize private investment in communities that need it the 
most--communities that, for one reason or another, have struggled more 
than others economically and that have been hit hard and are in need of 
not just a little but a major jump start. They are communities full of 
great people--people with great ideas and strong ambition--but they are 
in need of the capital to get those ideas off the ground, to start and 
expand their businesses, and to drive that growth and development.
  That is something that is really not easy to do in a small State, 
particularly a small rural State. It is very difficult.
  The New York Times actually reported recently that the rural areas 
around our country accounted for just 3 percent of America's job growth 
between the years of 2010 and 2014.
  But with the creation of the opportunity zones, enthusiasm is growing 
across the Mountain State when it comes to our economic potential.
  Senator Scott talked about his visit to Huntington, and he did remark 
on the enthusiasm that he saw firsthand when he visited with me and we 
toured 3 of our State's 55 opportunity zones. During that visit, we met 
with a lot of businesses. We met with local and government leaders, and 
we met with education officials and city officials about how 
opportunity zones can shape growth in that community, as well as in 
others across our State.
  I think Senator Scott would agree that the optimism was there and the 
excitement was palpable.
  The mayor of Huntington, Mayor Steve Williams, actually put it best 
when he characterized the trip as an opportunity to show not only what 
the community has been able to do to attract investment but, better 
yet, what the community aspires to do and become in the next 
generations or the next decades.
  That is really what opportunity zones are all about--not only driving 
investments today but building those foundations of growth and 
development for the future.
  I think we can all think of an area we either live near or we have 
driven through in our respective States that maybe used to be vibrant 
communities, whether in, say, Wheeling, where they had a big steel 
industry at some point, or in Weston, where there was a glass industry 
at some point. The downtowns have begun to shrink, but they are almost 
like sleeping bears. They are ready to wake up, and that is what I 
think opportunity zones are going to do.
  Today, a little less than a year ago, the Governor made the 
appointments of 55 areas in our State. Law firms, accounting firms, 
investors, and several others are working in our State to use this new 
tax provision to bring jobs and growth to parts of our country that 
need it the most.
  Communities are developing pitch books--I have seen a couple on the 
internet--to market their projects and proposals. Our city of 
Parkersburg is a great example of that. A nonprofit put together a 
pitch book that shows where the investments can occur in and around 
those opportunity zones surrounding Parkersburg.
  We have also seen the establishment of our first opportunity fund, 
called the Savage Grant.
  So we have some great momentum. We are working to build on it. My 
staff has just done an outreach in almost every single county, and we 
just finished a 3-day educational tour in partnership with West 
Virginia Forward, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, the West 
Virginia Department of Commerce, and the Benedum Foundation to spread 
the word.
  Also, nonprofits are really interested in seeing this work. It takes 
some of the pressure off of them. If the private investor can come in, 
then the nonprofits can come in and provide some of the alternative 
services and additional services that would be needed.
  So we are going to keep at it, and with Treasury's release of the 
most recent opportunity zone regulations, the program will be a viable 
tool that will be more viable than ever for investments in our 
operating businesses.
  I am confident that West Virginians and others will make the most of 
it, and we should make the most of it because this is a great idea and 
a great opportunity. It is a way to transform our communities and to 
improve our communities and to lift up individuals and businesses that 
contribute, and to

[[Page S2549]]

build that bigger and greater foundation for a brighter future.
  So these are the kinds of opportunities that, as Republicans, when we 
voted for this bill, we knew that this was a core part of our mission 
in terms of being able to deliver that firm foundation, and we are 
going to continue to deliver for West Virginians and for all Americans.
  I wish to thank the Senator from Iowa as well.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Iowa.
  Ms. ERNST. Mr. President, today we have an economy that is booming. 
Unemployment is at its lowest in Iowa since 2000, and wages are up.
  In the first quarter of this year, we saw 3.2 percent GDP growth, 
which far exceeded expectations, but we know economic statistics alone 
don't completely tell the story of the health or wealth of a community.
  More than 52 million Americans, including approximately 90,000 
Iowans, live in economically distressed communities. Some have dubbed 
these communities as ``left behind'' due to low incomes, their high 
housing vacancies, people out of work, and not a lot of hope for the 
future. For too long, so many of these communities were limited not 
because of lack of ingenuity but simply by a lack of access to 
opportunity. Folks across Iowa have felt the door to a better job or a 
higher wage was closed to them.
  The Governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, has been doing a tremendous job 
working to help these areas through both economic development and 
workforce development efforts. Programs like Future Ready Iowa help 
folks learn the skills they need to prepare for rewarding careers and 
the jobs of tomorrow.
  Places like Dubuque, through its Development Corporation and Chamber 
of Commerce, are working day in and day out to improve the local 
economy, spur on investment, and get workers trained and back on their 
feet. They also recognize the challenges unique to the city and its 
people, like childcare access and housing.
  At the Federal level, we also took concrete steps in late 2017 to 
recognize the specific needs of these communities. Senator Tim Scott's 
wonderful initiative, Investing in Opportunity Act, was included in the 
tax reform package and created what we now know as the Opportunity 
Zones Program. I thank Senator Tim Scott for working so hard on this 
opportunity for millions of Americans. They are seeing the benefits. 
Thank you, Senator, very much.
  The Opportunity Zones Program is tremendous. This program 
incentivizes long-term investment in these low-income and distressed 
communities by allowing private capital to be used to support small 
businesses, encourage our entrepreneurs, and to develop dilapidated 
properties in ZIP Codes most in need of resurgence.
  From the heart of Des Moines to rural areas around my State of Iowa, 
opportunity zones are beginning to unleash the economic potential of 
Iowa's communities.
  Nearly a year ago, the Treasury Department approved 62 opportunity 
zones in Iowa, which include the communities of more than 200,000 
Iowans.
  Last summer, as part of his opportunity zone tour, Senator Scott 
joined me in visiting two of these Iowa organizations located in one of 
the opportunity zones. He had talked about these briefly. One was the 
Des Moines Dream Center, and the other was the Phenix School Apartments 
in West Des Moines. Since becoming eligible for private investment, the 
Des Moines Dream Center has been able to carry out their mission of 
working to restore hope and helping Iowans to pursue their dreams.
  Today I am proud to say that with the passage of the Tax Cuts and 
Jobs Act, we are working for Iowa families and communities to help them 
turn a page and to change the rhetoric from ``left behind'' to ``moving 
ahead.''
  One of the best parts of the Opportunity Zones Programs is that it is 
powered by the people on the ground, not by bureaucrats right here in 
Washington, DC. That is a very good thing. The 62 designated 
opportunity zones were nominated by their mayors and Governors because 
folks back home in Iowa know where help is needed the most.
  As a result of the Opportunity Zones Program, we are seeing greater 
investment in Iowa's small businesses and entrepreneurs, more 
educational programs for our children, and affordable housing for our 
families.
  Opportunity zones can help power a renaissance in communities across 
Iowa and reopen doors families once thought were closed. The potential 
is truly amazing, and I firmly believe this is only the beginning.
  I thank my colleagues for coming to the floor today. I thank Senator 
Scott for his wonderful innovation. We look forward to seeing many more 
wonderful years of opportunity presented to the Americans who need it 
the most.
  With that, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio.
  Mr. PORTMAN. Mr. President, I would like to join my colleague from 
Iowa and my colleague from South Carolina, Senator Scott, to talk about 
opportunity zones.
  Senator Scott has shown incredible leadership on this issue. He has a 
big heart, and he has a passion for dealing with communities that have 
been left behind.
  The tax reform bill we passed is doing a great job in growing the 
economy. If you look at the numbers, they are unbelievable. In the 
first quarter, there was a 3.2-percent economic growth. That is exactly 
twice what was projected by the Congressional Budget Office, a 
nonpartisan group in Congress, before tax reform was passed. Now tax 
reform has passed, and growth is twice as fast.
  By the way, the same is true with job creation. Over the last year, 
we have created twice as many jobs as was projected before tax reform 
was passed. There is no question but that tax reform has helped 
stimulate development, helped stimulate economic growth, and helped 
stimulate jobs. Actually, what is most exciting to me is that it has 
also increased wages for people in Ohio and around the country.
  Wages have increased higher in the last year than they have in the 
previous decade. You have to go back to before the great recession to 
find wage growth like we have seen. Wage growth is great across the 
board, but it is particularly encouraging that there is slightly more 
wage growth among what is called nonsupervisory jobs--think about 
middle-class jobs and blue-collar jobs. So this thing is working, and 
it is working well.
  However, the fact is, the prosperity we are seeing is not evenly 
spread. There are some communities that haven't recovered since the 
great recession, and those are the communities--low-income communities 
that have been stubbornly poverty stricken--that the enterprise zones 
and opportunity zones are meant to focus on. It is a critical tool, and 
it is in the tax legislation. It is designed to help encourage 
investment and therefore job creation in these communities.
  As I was listening to others talk earlier, they talked about States 
that are identifying urban communities and rural communities that are 
most in need. I will tell you that in my State of Ohio, we now have 
320--320--census tracts that have been identified. When I am traveling 
around the State, it doesn't take me long to find one of these census 
tracts and to talk with people who are excited about it.
  It allows investors and companies to defer paying these capital gains 
taxes, and, in some cases, if they make a commitment for long enough to 
invest additional money, they can avoid the capital gains tax 
altogether. This is working, and over time it is going to create more 
investment in these communities.
  Throughout the past year, I have been traveling to Ohio and talking 
to people about this. In Youngstown, OH, and in Cleveland, OH, we had 
roundtable meetings with investors, businesses, and community leaders, 
and what I have heard is that people are excited about it. They think 
there is great potential here. To ensure that it works like it is 
supposed to work, we have to make sure everybody is involved, and that 
does include economic developers and all levels of government, not just 
the businesses and investors who are interested in getting the tax 
incentives. We have to work together to make sure these programs work 
and do expand opportunities in these communities.

[[Page S2550]]

  By the way, I want to highlight the promising work Ohio has done to 
bring everyone to the table to ensure that happens. Specifically, last 
week, Governor DeWine announced the creation of a new website to serve 
as a one-stop shop for businesses, investors, and economic development 
officials who are looking to invest in Ohio's opportunity zones. The 
website includes an interactive map that shows investors where the 
projects are around the State, streamlining the flow of capital into 
these areas that need it most. These are the kinds of things we need to 
be able to ensure that this works properly.
  I am also encouraged by the ongoing implementation of this program by 
Secretary Mnuchin and the Department of Treasury. Since the 
implementation process began, I have been urging the Secretary to issue 
taxpayer-friendly regulations and rules with regard to this. In other 
words, look at our intent--what we intended to do--which is, again, to 
create more jobs and economic opportunities in these zones. This 
includes a letter we sent, which was bicameral--meaning both the House 
and the Senate--and bipartisan to Treasury that named a number of 
concerns we had about where we were up to that point in terms of the 
regulations. We asked for some further guidance on a number of 
threshold questions that investors were asking about, including 
clarifying an onerous proposal that was out there that opportunity zone 
businesses have to make 50 percent of their revenues within their 
specific zones. That doesn't make sense for some businesses. I mean, 
think about a restaurant that is going to be built in an opportunity 
zone. If they don't get 50 percent of the revenue from people who live 
in that community, that is not necessarily a bad thing. We want to be 
sure they are hiring people from that community, but it may be that 
this 50-percent rule does not work for all of these businesses, 
including the ones that are going to sell to the outside or maybe even 
sell to other countries from an opportunity zone.
  A few weeks ago, Treasury issued a second set of regulations that 
took important steps to responding to each of the requests we laid out 
in our January letter. I am pleased to see that, specifically, they 
addressed the 50-percent revenue requirement, providing safe harbors 
that seem to allow operating businesses to generate revenue outside of 
their opportunity zones without the risk of losing those tax 
incentives. Again, I commend the Secretary and the Department for 
taking these steps. We need that kind of certainty in order to ensure 
we take full advantage of this great opportunity. With the release of 
these new regulations, many more investors are going to have certainty 
to start making these investments in struggling communities throughout 
Ohio.
  Overall, I am excited about the benefits of this new tax incentive, 
and I am committed to doing everything I can do to make sure Ohio 
communities benefit from it.
  Thank you.
  I yield back my time.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Colorado.
  Mr. GARDNER. Mr. President, I appreciate the words my colleague from 
Ohio has started with and shared and the work done by this Chamber not 
only to cut taxes and grow our economy for businesses and entrepreneurs 
around the country but for individuals, small towns, and families.
  I live in a town of about 3,000 people. It is a little, tiny town. 
Growing up, we had two stoplights, and thanks to some of the oil and 
gas development that took place around our town several years back, we 
now have a third stoplight. It is big time now. The reason it is, is 
because we allowed innovation to flourish. We allowed technology to 
develop new ways to develop our energy resources, but while the 
policies in the field and in commerce have advanced, sometimes the 
policies in this place have grown stale. That is why I was excited to 
support the tax cuts of last Congress that have energized our economy, 
that have created new opportunity for American workers and families, 
and that have led to billions of dollars being brought back into the 
United States from overseas.
  Of course, one of the provisions many of my colleagues have talked 
about today is the Opportunity Zones Program that was established in 
the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. When we were getting the Opportunity Zones 
Program up and running, as a cosponsor of that legislation, my office 
heard complaints that there might not be enough money for the 
investments that would be utilized within these opportunity zones. In 
fact, we heard from people who were saying that no one would be 
interested in starting a business in struggling American communities. 
Other critics complained it would be too tempting to pick only census 
tracts that were already well-positioned for growth. What I am hearing 
and seeing in Colorado have proven both of those criticisms wrong.
  Clarity is the compass to navigating any new venture. Treasury has 
been actively working to make sure its regulations best position the 
Opportunity Zones Program for success.
  Real estate investments have experienced early success with this 
program; however, we need more than just real estate investments to 
make all of America and all of Colorado prosperous. Operational 
businesses and other entities will support the long-term successes of 
these communities as well--not just real estate, the operational side.
  With its second round of regulations recently released, operating 
businesses received much awaited, positive news from the Treasury. 
Industries like clean energy, new breweries, or other capital-heavy 
businesses received the clarification they need for opportunity zones 
to succeed. These critical tax provisions--those for accelerated 
depreciation--will encourage money to come off the sidelines and will 
translate into large investments in our communities.
  While we are still in the infancy of the Opportunity Zones Program, 
Colorado already has roughly 40 projects in the works. The Office of 
Economic Development and International Trade, which is the office 
tasked with implementing opportunity zones in Colorado, has been 
working alongside local and State entities to maximize its programs for 
Coloradans. It is in an effort to ensure that the 126 opportunity 
zones--of which about 60 percent are in rural areas--are successful.
  I am going to make sure we continue to fight to leave no part of 
Colorado behind, and the Investing in Opportunity Act will promote 
growth in all four corners of our great State.
  That little tiny town that I talked about is going to benefit from 
the opportunity zones that take place. Whether it is a new 
manufacturing plant, a pizza shop, or a movie theater, investments like 
these will make a world of difference to small communities. It is the 
difference between people staying in the town they love versus being 
forced to leave and find a different job.
  Let me give an example. There is a jewelry store in Wray, CO, Amos 
Jewelry. It is on the main street of this little town. My guess is that 
when this jewelry store leaves, if there is nobody to take over the 
business, maybe that will be just one more empty storefront in that 
town. Nobody will come in to take it over. There is no Zales or Kay 
Jewelers that is going to come in and replace this smalltown jewelry 
store. But through an opportunity zone and the chances we are giving 
people to invest in rural areas and underinvested areas, maybe there 
can be new life breathed into these small communities--that business, 
that jewelry store and others like it--to make sure that we don't lose 
businesses and to make sure that we grow active businesses and that we 
start new businesses as well.
  It is the difference between having access to services on our local 
Main Street--like that jewelry store; like fixing a watch--and being 
forced to travel to the next town over and taking the dollars out of 
that town and bringing them to a different city. It is the difference 
between going out at all and staying home. A boarded-up storefront 
tells people to go somewhere else; it is not a ``Welcome Home'' sign. 
When those boards are taken down, the town comes back to life--new 
spirit, new opportunity. Opportunity zones have the potential to take 
those boards down and to revive our Main Streets.
  Whether it is small towns, big cities, or midsized economies and 
communities, the zone shares one common trait: They are communities 
across

[[Page S2551]]

America that have been left behind. These opportunity zones can unlock 
investment, rebuild infrastructure, and rebuild hope for so many 
struggling families who no longer feel they have the ability to climb 
America's economic ladder--those opportunities that were in reach for 
America's previous generations.
  Looking ahead, it will be important to ensure that these real estate 
and commercial developments are benefiting community members. We know 
that with new businesses comes new job opportunities, which in turn 
provide investments in struggling education systems and housing 
markets. It is a tide that lifts all ships. In the end, these 
investments are aimed to help all families who are working to pay rent, 
to become homeowners, and to pay down a mortgage.
  We need to work together across the aisle to ensure that we develop a 
pipeline for the next generation of workers to enter these new job 
markets, because each and every person in Colorado and everyone across 
our great Nation should have access to the American dream.
  I was pleased that not too long ago, at a White House conference 
hosted over at the White House, the mayor of Silt, CO, was able to join 
in the discussion at the Opportunity Zones Conference. Mayor Keith 
Richel and other officials from Colorado met in Washington, DC, to 
discuss opportunities, and I am very pleased they were able to do this.
  I hope my colleagues, instead of fighting to repeal the tax law, 
which included opportunity zones, will instead embrace the opportunity 
to invest, to grow, and to create more prosperous communities.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Iowa.
  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, as chairman of the Senate Finance 
Committee, I have worked to secure tax policies to help spur 
entrepreneurship, competition, and innovation. Opportunity zones are a 
perfect example of the type of tax policy that creates that kind of 
growth in our economy.
  Opportunity zones were created under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed 
by the President in December 2017. That bill stimulates economic 
development and job creation across the country by incentivizing long-
term investments in economically distressed neighborhoods. Last year, 
more than 8,700 census tracts were identified as opportunity zones by 
the Governors of each of the 50 States. These zones are home to 
approximately 31 million Americans, or roughly 10 percent of the 
population.
  Even in just this short period, we are already seeing wage increases 
within these economically distressed areas after their having been 
designated as opportunity zones. For example, during the second and 
third quarters of last year, our counties with a large presence of 
opportunity zones experienced an annualized wage growth of 8 percent. 
That is compared to other economically distressed counties that were 
not designated as zones, which did not see a significant spike in 
wages.
  We are also seeing States across the country showing an interest in 
opportunity zones, with at least 17 State legislators considering their 
own opportunity zone measures at the State level.
  Although States can't make direct investments into the Federal 
opportunity zone projects, many are considering measures to encourage 
initiatives such as solar energy or affordable housing. Even in my home 
State of Iowa, cities such as Iowa City and Coralville have made local 
investments in their economically distressed communities and are 
actively recruiting investors for development projects in their 
opportunity zone areas.
  I also want to applaud the efforts of the Treasury Department to 
provide much needed clarity for community leaders and investors. These 
include two packages of proposed regulations dedicated to implementing 
opportunity zone rules.
  As the Treasury Department works to finalize these regulations and 
provide other guidance, I will continue working with Secretary Mnuchin, 
States and cities, and the investment community to ensure that 
opportunity zones succeed in driving new business investment and 
activity to America's low-income communities.
  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. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                           Order of Business

  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, for the leader, I ask unanimous consent 
that following disposition of the Wolson nomination, the Senate proceed 
to legislative session and resume consideration of the veto message on 
S.J. Res. 7, and the Senate vote on passage of the bill, the objections 
of the President to the contrary notwithstanding, with no intervening 
action or debate, at 1:45 p.m., Thursday, May 2, and with 5 minutes of 
debate prior to the vote under the control of Senator Menendez.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. GRASSLEY. 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. UDALL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cotton). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.
  The question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the Brasher 
nomination?
  Mr. UDALL. I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There is a sufficient second.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk called the roll.
  Mr. THUNE. The following Senator is necessarily absent: the Senator 
from Indiana (Mr. Young).
  The result was announced--yeas 52, nays 47, as follows:

                       [Rollcall Vote No. 87 Ex.]

                                YEAS--52

     Alexander
     Barrasso
     Blackburn
     Blunt
     Boozman
     Braun
     Burr
     Capito
     Cassidy
     Collins
     Cornyn
     Cotton
     Cramer
     Crapo
     Cruz
     Daines
     Enzi
     Ernst
     Fischer
     Gardner
     Graham
     Grassley
     Hawley
     Hoeven
     Hyde-Smith
     Inhofe
     Isakson
     Johnson
     Kennedy
     Lankford
     Lee
     McConnell
     McSally
     Moran
     Murkowski
     Paul
     Perdue
     Portman
     Risch
     Roberts
     Romney
     Rounds
     Rubio
     Sasse
     Scott (FL)
     Scott (SC)
     Shelby
     Sullivan
     Thune
     Tillis
     Toomey
     Wicker

                                NAYS--47

     Baldwin
     Bennet
     Blumenthal
     Booker
     Brown
     Cantwell
     Cardin
     Carper
     Casey
     Coons
     Cortez Masto
     Duckworth
     Durbin
     Feinstein
     Gillibrand
     Harris
     Hassan
     Heinrich
     Hirono
     Jones
     Kaine
     King
     Klobuchar
     Leahy
     Manchin
     Markey
     Menendez
     Merkley
     Murphy
     Murray
     Peters
     Reed
     Rosen
     Sanders
     Schatz
     Schumer
     Shaheen
     Sinema
     Smith
     Stabenow
     Tester
     Udall
     Van Hollen
     Warner
     Warren
     Whitehouse
     Wyden

                             NOT VOTING--1

       
     Young
       
  The nomination was confirmed.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the motion to 
reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table, and the 
President will be immediately notified of the Senate's action.
  The majority leader.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the 
remaining votes in this series be 10 minutes each.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Without objection, all votes will be 10 minutes each.

                          ____________________