LEGISLATIVE SESSION; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 124
(Senate - July 23, 2019)

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[Pages S4986-S4993]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                          LEGISLATIVE SESSION



  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
resume consideration of H.R. 1327, which the clerk will report.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

       A bill (H.R. 1327) to extend authorization for the 
     September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 through 
     fiscal year 2092, and for other purposes.

                      Nomination of Mark T. Esper

  Mr. THUNE. Madam President, later this morning we will be voting on 
the nomination of Mark Esper to be Secretary of Defense. Dr. Esper is 
an outstanding choice. I don't need to tell anyone how essential the 
position of Secretary of Defense is to our national security. The 
Secretary of Defense is key to ensuring that our Nation is prepared to 
meet and defeat any threat. Dr. Esper has the experience, the 
knowledge, and the character for the job. He has an illustrious resume: 
West Point grad, Gulf war veteran, Bronze Star recipient, Rifle Company 
commander, a total of 10 years on Active Duty, and an additional 11 in 
the National Guard and Army Reserve.
  In addition to his practical military and leadership experience, he 
has extensive experience on the policy side of things as well. He has a 
master's degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at 
Harvard and a doctorate in public policy from George Washington 
University here in the Nation's Capital. He worked as a senior 
professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and 
the Governmental Affairs Committee, as policy director for the House 
Armed Services Committee, and as national security adviser to former 
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. He also served

[[Page S4987]]

as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense during the George W. Bush 
administration, and during the Trump administration, of course, he has 
served as Secretary of the Army.
  As Army Secretary, he has driven budget reform and Army 
modernization, supported Defense cooperation with our allies, and 
supervised the most significant reorganization of the Army in 45 years. 
His character and his expertise have won him respect from both sides of 
the aisle.
  The Democratic junior Senator from Virginia recently described Dr. 
Esper as ``a person of sound character and moral courage'' and 
encouraged his colleagues to support Dr. Esper's nomination.
  Reacting to Dr. Esper's appointment as Acting Defense Secretary, the 
Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee noted that 
the Department of Defense would benefit from Dr. Esper's leadership.
  Dr. Esper was confirmed as Secretary of the Army by an overwhelming 
bipartisan majority, and his nomination as Defense Secretary was 
reported out of the Senate Armed Services Committee with nearly 
unanimous support. I look forward to seeing a similarly strong 
bipartisan vote for his confirmation later today.
  In November 2018, the bipartisan National Defense Strategy Commission 
released a report warning that our readiness had eroded to the point 
where we might struggle to win a war against a major power like China 
or Russia. The Commission noted that we would be especially vulnerable 
if we were called on to fight a war on two fronts.
  Rebuilding our military and equipping it to meet 21st century threats 
has to be a priority. I was encouraged yesterday by the fact that the 
budget deal arrived at by the administration and Speaker Pelosi 
prioritizes money for our military. While it is not a perfect piece of 
legislation, it will ensure that we are able to keep rebuilding our 
military and deliver on-time funding for our men and women in uniform.
  During his confirmation hearing, Dr. Esper revealed his clear 
understanding of what needs to be done on the national security front: 
modernize and rebuild our military; ensure that we are prepared for a 
new era of great-power competition while maintaining our ability to 
confront terrorist organizations and rogue nations; cultivate our 
relationship with our allies; and support our men and women in uniform, 
who sacrifice so much to keep our Nation safe and free.
  I am confident that Dr. Esper will be an outstanding Secretary of 
Defense, and I look forward to supporting his nomination later today.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington.

                    Nomination of Stephen M. Dickson

  Ms. CANTWELL. Madam President, I rise today to speak in opposition to 
the nomination of Stephen Dickson to be the next Administrator of the 
  I have said that it is very important that in this day and age, when 
it comes to aviation, safety must always be our top priority. We 
considered Mr. Dickson's nomination, his record, and the ongoing case 
of a whistleblower retaliation, and given all of that, it is clear to 
me that he is not the right person for the safety culture we need today 
at the FAA.
  It is distressing to me that Mr. Dickson advanced out of committee on 
just a party-line vote. We have never had a partisan vote on an FAA 
nominee in the past, and I believe we should have found consensus on 
the nominee for the FAA given all the concerns the public has about 
flying safety.
  The reason why I oppose Mr. Dickson is from what I understood, after 
the hearing, from First Officer Karlene Petitt, who has a Ph.D. in 
aviation safety and is an experienced pilot over 40 years and happens 
to be one of my constituents. At a hearing, we basically understood 
that no one was holding Mr. Dickson accountable for actions that he 
took against her at Delta Airlines.
  Back in 2010, she was a pilot on an A330 flight. She had seen a crash 
of an A330 plane--tragically, an Air France plane in the Atlantic 
Ocean. She had also heard comments from those in the Delta executive 
team that if you have a concern about safety, say something. So she 
thought she was doing just that.
  As part of what she thought was important information following these 
A330 incidents, she said she had concern about pilot training when it 
came to potential automation and failures of making sure that they were 
giving enough rest time to pilots. She observed that there were issues 
she thought were putting both her and passengers at risk.
  So what did she do? She did what all employees, we hope, would do. 
She informed her superiors and suggested possible solutions. She was 
persistent and wanted to make sure that these recommendations were met 
with by the leadership of the organization--Mr. Dickson and his second-
in-command, Jim Graham. Some of the concerns she raised about 
inadequate pilot training and not enough pilot rest were things that 
you thought would have maybe gotten her recognized for the great 
contribution to a safety culture that is so necessary today in an age 
of more and more automation. Whether you are talking about an 
automobile or an airplane, it is essential that automation and training 
go hand in hand.
  Instead of Officer Petitt getting the attention she deserved, the 
company sent her for a mandatory psychiatric evaluation. Can you 
imagine a whistleblower bringing up concerns as a pilot flying for many 
years and instead of being paid attention to, being sent for a 
psychiatric evaluation?
  Just a few months after Officer Petitt raised her concerns, that is 
exactly what happened. Delta and Mr. Dickson removed her from duty and 
required her to undergo a mental health evaluation, forcing her to 
protect her career and her reputation.
  The psychiatrist Mr. Dickson's team handpicked to examine Ms. Petitt 
had his own problems of serious red flags and retaliatory threats. For 
example, the doctor cited that just because Officer Petitt had three 
kids, a job, and helped her husband with his career, she must be manic. 
I don't know about the Presiding Officer, but to me it just sounds like 
being an American woman today, juggling many things.
  The psychiatrist even had the nerve to ask when the first officer was 
pumping breast milk for her children. That is the kind of questioning 
the officer had to answer.
  The good news is that there are laws on the books that protect people 
in these kinds of incidents when they are a whistleblower and they have 
been retaliated against.
  Later, a panel of eight doctors from the Mayo Clinic and another 
independent doctor came to the opposite conclusion of this 
psychiatrist, stating that Officer Petitt had no mental issues and that 
she should continue to fly as she had done for many years.
  It is very unfortunate that this situation arose, but it is more 
unfortunate that Mr. Dickson was not evenhanded about it when his 
nomination came before the committee. It is standard operating 
procedure in the U.S. Senate to ask nominees this question: Have you or 
any business or nonprofit that you have been associated with been 
involved as a party to an administrative agency, criminal, or civil 
  Why do we want to know that? We want to know of any kind of 
derogatory information about a nominee whom we are about to entrust 
with the public confidence through the U.S. Senate. We want to know 
whether there have been any issues and whether that trust has been 
misplaced. Instead of answering that question, he did not bring up this 
incident at Delta.
  I don't know of any nominee before the Commerce Committee who, having 
failed to disclose this kind of information, then moved forward after 
it was brought up. That is right. The only reason we knew about this 
incident is not because of his requirement to disclose it and his 
failure to disclose it but because, during the hearing when everybody 
heard all of this glowing information, a whistleblower came forward to 
explain to members of the committee that this incident took place and 
exactly what had happened to her in her career as she tried to raise 
important issues.
  When Mr. Dickson was asked for further information about this lawsuit 
and why he didn't disclose it, he went on to minimize his involvement, 
saying that it amounted to essentially one meeting with the pilot; 
however, a review of written records, emails, depositions, and other 
materials showed that

[[Page S4988]]

Mr. Dickson was more involved than just one meeting.
  We all want our officials to show a commitment to safety, 
establishing rules and a culture that protects the flying public. That 
is one reason Captain Sullenberger has come out against this nominee. 
He knows that when it comes to creating a culture of safety, it has to 
start at the top, and we have to listen to people like the pilots who 
are showing concerns today about the Boeing 737 MAX. We should listen 
to them and the inspector general on what types of processes should be 
put in place to resolve the challenges we face as we integrate more 
  Automation can help us make things safer, but automation without the 
pilot training, without the integration, without a culture that rewards 
people for bringing up issues, instead of almost red-coding them as a 
response, is not what we need to be doing.
  A 2016 report by the Department of Transportation inspector general 
highlights the essential role of FAA oversight to reduce the hazards 
with regard to increased reliance on flight deck automation. The FAA 
estimates that automation is used 90 percent of the time in flight. 
Yet, according to the inspector general report, the FAA did not have a 
process to ensure that airline pilots are properly trained to use and 
monitor automation systems while maintaining proficiency in manual 
flight operations.
  The report recommended that the FAA provide guidance in defining 
standards that airlines can use to train and evaluate pilots in the use 
of automation. It also recommended that standards be established to 
determine whether pilots were receiving sufficient training to develop 
and maintain manual flying skills.
  These are the very matters First Officer Petitt had focused on when 
making her observations and suggestions regarding safety. They are as 
critical today as they were for the A330.
  We are living in an era of increasing automation, and we have work to 
do. I guarantee that we are going to continue to play a role in this in 
the Commerce Committee, making sure the inspector general's criticisms 
of the FAA with regard to these issues are addressed. We need someone 
on the frontline who takes safety seriously and listens to the pilots. 
I know these issues are weighing on the American public--the very 
questions that Dr. Petitt asked. I am sure, with the right amount of 
engineering and cooperation, we can get them right.
  But Mr. Dickson has doubled down. He basically said that he had no 
regrets about how he handled the situation when we came back at him 
about the fact that the information wasn't submitted. He basically said 
he had no regrets about trying to end a 40-year career of a 
whistleblower. I find this very challenging. I want the FAA to move 
forward with confidence that we are going to create the safety culture 
necessary for today's environment.
  Captain Sullenberger said it best:

       This nominee, while a senior executive at Delta Airlines, 
     either caused or allowed a whistleblower with validated 
     safety concerns to be retaliated against. I strongly oppose 
     his nomination. The decisions the next FAA Administrator 
     makes will determine how safe every airline passenger and 
     crew will be.

  I know that it is hard for people in busy jobs to slow down and 
listen to whistleblowers, but I guarantee they have helped us many 
times to solve many problems.
  I ask my colleagues to turn down this nomination today and to help us 
create an environment where whistleblowers will be listened to.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Scott of Florida). Without objection, it 
is so ordered.


  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, today I rise to rebut the deeply flawed 
proposal the Attorney General made this morning. This morning, he 
raised a tired, debunked plan to blow a hole in one of the most 
important security features protecting the digital lives of the 
American people. Mr. Barr--once again echoing the views of some on the 
far, far right--is trying to undermine strong encryption and require 
government back doors into the personal devices of the American people.
  ``Encryption'' is a technical term that gets thrown around by people 
in government who don't want you to use it. The idea, however, is 
simple: It is using math to encode your information so that the only 
people who can read it are the ones you want to read it.
  As is often known, encryption is used every time a credit card is 
swiped or an online bank account is accessed. It helps protect our kids 
from predators who would spy on them through their cell phone cameras 
or surreptitiously track their movements. It keeps our health records, 
our personal communications, and our other sensitive data secure from 
hackers. Strong encryption helps protect national security secrets from 
hackers working for the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, and 
other hostile governments.
  I have spent a full decade fighting off horrible plans to undermine 
strong encryption. My usual argument goes something like this: You 
can't build a back door only for the good guys, for government 
officials who are trying to protect people. Once you weaken encryption 
with a back door, you make it far easier for criminals and hackers and 
predators to get into your digital life. Then I go through all the 
reasons the government's plan to build a back door is just about the 
worst idea since Crystal Pepsi.
  Today, I want to raise some even more pressing concerns that are new. 
Many times in the past, I have warned that unnecessary government 
surveillance holds the potential to be abused, but I have never done 
what I am doing today. Today, I fear--rather, I expect that if we give 
the Attorney General and the President the unprecedented power to break 
encryption across the board and burrow into the most intimate details 
of Americans' lives, they will abuse those powers. I don't say that 
lightly. Yet, when I look at the record, the public statements, and the 
behavior of William Barr and Donald Trump, it is clear to me that you 
can't make the case for giving them this kind of power. There is too 
much evidence that they will abuse it. Their record shows they do not 
feel constrained by the law. They have not been bound by legal or moral 
precedents. Donald Trump, by his own words, has no ethical 
compunction--these are his words--about using government power against 
his political enemies.
  Never before have I been so certain that an administration in power 
would knowingly abuse the massive power of government surveillance. It 
is for that reason that building government back doors into the 
encrypted communications of the American people is now uniquely 
dangerous and must be opposed at all costs.
  These are serious charges that I have made, and I am going to walk 
through my reasoning. First, I would like to discuss the Attorney 
General's history when it comes to government surveillance and 
government power.
  When this body voted on Mr. Barr's nomination earlier this year, I 
laid out in great detail his history when it comes to Executive power. 
Anyone wishing for a full airing of Mr. Barr's lifelong devotion to 
unbounded Executive power can dial up those remarks of mine on C-SPAN, 
but I just want to highlight one item again this morning.
  Mr. Barr testified in October of 2003, and he laid out his 
ideological position that the President is not restrained when it comes 
to surveilling people here in the United States--not by laws passed by 
Congress, not by the Fourth Amendment, no constraints.
  In that 2003 testimony, Mr. Barr said that the PATRIOT Act didn't go 
far enough in terms of government surveillance. Even worse, Mr. Barr 
said that laws going back to the 1970s have no real effect on 
Presidential power. Mr. Barr said: ``Numerous statutes were passed, 
such as FISA''--Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act--``that purported 
to supplant Presidential discretion with Congressionally crafted 
schemes whereby judges become the arbiter of national security 
decisions.'' In one sentence, Mr. Barr just swept 40 years of 
congressional action and 200 years of constitutional governance out the 
window. We ought to take him at his word that he has contempt for the 
Fourth Amendment and critical laws that protect our law-abiding people.

[[Page S4989]]

  It is far more than just words, however, that lead me to this 
conclusion. It is now public record that William Barr, when he was 
Attorney General in the 1990s, approved a massive, illegal surveillance 
  The inspector general at the Department of Justice revealed this 
March that William Barr gave the OK to a bulk phone records dragnet at 
the Drug Enforcement Agency that ran for more than 20 years. The 
inspector general found that Mr. Barr never even looked to see whether 
that Drug Enforcement Administration bulk surveillance program was 
legal. The inspector general called it ``troubling'' because of the 
disconnect between what the law says and how it was secretly being 
interpreted and used. The Drug Enforcement Agency program that William 
Barr approved relied on subpoena power that requires that the records 
being collected be ``relevant or material'' to an investigation. But 
Mr. Barr didn't bother to consider whether all of those phone records 
that were collected in bulk were consistent with the law; he just went 
ahead and rubberstamped it.
  The inspector general tends to be polite about outright calling 
government programs illegal, but even the inspector general pointed out 
that there are multiple court cases that ``clearly suggested potential 
challenges to the validity of the DEA's use of this statutory subpoena 
power in this expansive, non-targeted manner.''
  Finally, the inspector general found that the records collected from 
the program were used outside the Drug Enforcement Agency for 
investigations that had nothing to do with drugs--a practice the 
inspector general said ``raised significant legal questions.''
  The inspector general goes on to note that Congress was kept almost 
entirely in the dark. At a time when the American people are hungry for 
transparency and openness and accountability, the inspector general 
says Congress was kept in the dark by Mr. Barr about a decades-long, 
illegal bulk collection program, with the exception of a single secret 
Intelligence Committee hearing in 2007. Even then, it was obvious the 
program was illegal. That is why my colleague Senator Feingold and I 
wrote to the head of National Intelligence pointing out that the 
subpoena authority the DEA was using was never intended for bulk 
collection. This was secret law, and it was wrong and dangerous.
  That is why I wanted to make sure people knew Mr. Barr's history, 
because this secret, illegal bulk collection program was approved by 
the current Attorney General. So you have an Attorney General who not 
only has said he is not constrained by the law, but he has a history of 
breaking the law. You also have a President who almost every day 
expresses contempt for any legal or constitutional restraints on his 
powers. That attitude applies to surveillance too. In 2016, in response 
to Russian hacking of his opponents, Donald Trump said: ``I wish I had 
that power.''
  So Donald Trump--a President who Attorney General Barr thinks can do 
no wrong--is the one who is driving this. This is the President who 
Attorney General Barr thinks is above the law. This is the President 
whom the Attorney General will, in effect, cover for at virtually every 
turn, as he did when he repeatedly lied about the contents of the 
Mueller report.
  Let me close by talking about why this matters to William Barr's 
efforts now to break into Americans' encrypted communications. The 
argument that the government needs to weaken encryption has always been 
based on the promise that the government will never use the back door 
without a court-ordered warrant.
  Yet Mr. Barr, in his own words and actions, has demonstrated 
repeatedly, when it comes to surveillance, that the laws don't matter, 
that the courts don't matter, and that even the Constitution doesn't 
matter. The only thing that matters is what he and the President feel 
like doing.
  So I would ask my colleagues who are here, what Senators in their 
right minds would give these men the authority to break into the phone 
of every single American? Imagine what kind of information they could 
gather on their political opponents. Imagine if a Member of Congress 
were secretly gay and were desperate to hide the fact. Despite 
campaigning on family values, imagine if a Member of Congress had 
cheated on his wife. Would a man like the individual I have described 
here use that information against them? Would Donald Trump use it to 
secure their loyalty in the face of his own wrongdoing?
  I understand that the world is a frightening place, and anybody who 
serves on the Select Committee on Intelligence would share that view. 
Some government agencies will always advocate for greater powers to 
surveil Americans and intrude into their digital lives. It is important 
to remember, as I touched on in the beginning, that the banning of 
encryption in America will not stop the bad guys from using encryption, 
and it will not ban basic math algorithms elsewhere in the world. It 
will only leave Americans less secure against foreign hackers, and--I 
regret having to say this--it will leave Americans less secure against 
intrusions by an administration that has shown it is willing to support 
lawless measures.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona.

                             Maiden Speech

  Ms. SINEMA. Mr. President, I am honored to rise to deliver my maiden 
speech as the senior U.S. Senator from the great State of Arizona. I 
was sworn in to this distinguished body just over 6 months ago. I am 
incredibly honored and humbled to join only a dozen others who have had 
the honor of representing the great State 48 in the U.S. Senate, and I 
am filled with gratitude to the people of the State who have entrusted 
me with this duty. In continuing the work of leaders who have held the 
Senate seat, from Senators Barry Goldwater and Dennis DeConcini to, 
most recently, Senators Jon Kyl and Jeff Flake, I have pledged to 
uphold Arizona's proud tradition of putting country above party.
  Most new Senators deliver their maiden speeches soon after being 
sworn in. I have waited so I could use these 6 months to demonstrate to 
Arizonans, in actions more than words, exactly how I intend to serve 
our State in the Senate. I promised Arizona that I would do things 
differently than have others in Washington.
  Americans see a lot of chaos in this city. There is intense pressure 
from all sides to spend time and energy on every scandal, every insult, 
every tweet, and every partisan fight, and it is very easy to get 
distracted. It is the simplest thing in the world to line up on either 
side of a partisan battle. What is harder, though, is to ignore the 
chaos and get out of our comfort zones to build coalitions and get 
things done. I promised Arizona I would do the hard work, and that 
approach has produced results.
  In these first 6 months, two bills I have sponsored to improve 
protections and services for veterans have passed the Senate and the 
House, and they now await the President's signature to put them into 
law. These new measures expand American Legion membership to veterans 
across the country, protect veterans from scam artists, and help 
veterans achieve the dream of home ownership. Few efforts better 
illustrate my approach to service or are more worthy of our attention 
than that of the Somers family.
  As a Congresswoman, I shared the story of SGT Daniel Somers on the 
floor of the U.S. House, and I will now share that story for the first 
time on the floor of the Senate.
  Sergeant Somers was an Arizona Army veteran who served two tours in 
Iraq. He served on Task Force Lightning, an intelligence unit, and ran 
more than 400 combat missions as a machine gunner in the turret of a 
humvee. Part of his role required him to interrogate dozens of terror 
suspects. His work was deemed classified.
  Like many veterans, Sergeant Somers was haunted by the war when he 
returned home. He suffered from flashbacks, nightmares, depression, and 
other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder--all made worse by a 
traumatic brain injury. Sergeant Somers needed help.
  He and his family did what all families who face similar challenges 
are urged to do--they asked for help. Yet, when the VA's answer came, 
it demonstrated exactly what happens when America's veterans are left 
behind. The VA enrolled Sergeant Somers in group

[[Page S4990]]

therapy sessions--sessions he could not attend for fear of his 
disclosing classified information. Despite repeated requests for 
individualized counseling or some other reasonable accommodation to 
allow Sergeant Somers to receive appropriate care for his PTSD, the VA 
delayed in its providing him with suitable support and care.
  Like many veterans, Sergeant Somers' isolation got worse when he 
transitioned to civilian life. He tried to provide for his family, but 
he was unable to work due to his disability. He struggled with the VA 
bureaucracy. His disability appeal had been pending for more than 2 
years without there having been any resolution, and he didn't get the 
help he needed in time.
  On June 10 of 2013, Sergeant Somers wrote a letter to his family.
  He wrote:

       I am not getting better. I am not going to get better. And 
     I will most certainly deteriorate further as time goes on.

  He went on to write:

       I am left with basically nothing. Too trapped in a war to 
     be at peace. Too damaged to be at war. Abandoned by those who 
     would take the easy route and a liability to those who stick 
     it out and thus deserve better. So you see, not only am I 
     better off dead, but the world is better without me in it. 
     This is what brought me to my actual final mission.

  On that day, we lost SGT Daniel Somers to suicide.
  Americans who return home from having served our Nation must always 
have somewhere to turn for support. I am committed to ensuring that no 
veteran feels trapped like Sergeant Somers did and that all of our 
veterans have access to appropriate mental health care.
  Sergeant Somers' story will sound too familiar to too many military 
families. Perhaps less common is the astonishing bravery that had been 
demonstrated by Sergeant Somers' parents, Howard and Jean, after their 
son's death.

  Howard and Jean are in the Senate's Gallery today, and I am so 
honored to have them here as I share their son's story.
  Howard and Jean were devastated by the loss of their son, and nobody 
would have blamed them if they had turned inward to deal with their 
grief, but they didn't. Howard and Jean faced the world and bravely 
shared SGT Daniel Somers' story, and they have created a mission of 
their own. Their mission is to ensure that Sergeant Somers' story 
brings to light America's deadliest war--the 20 veterans we lose to 
suicide in this country every day.
  While I served in the U.S. House, I worked closely with Howard and 
Jean to develop and pass into law the Daniel Somers Classified Veterans 
Access to Care Act, which is legislation that ensures veterans who 
serve in a classified capacity receive behavioral health services in an 
appropriate care setting.
  Now it is time to take the next innovative step in providing the 
support our servicemembers and veterans have earned, for 
servicemembers' loved ones are not always aware of the resources that 
are available to them--resources that can prove to be critical when 
those servicemembers encounter challenges during Active Duty or after 
their separations from the military.
  The Somers' family and I have worked over the past several months 
with the Department of Defense on new legislation to create a network 
of support for our military members. In May, I introduced the 
bipartisan Sergeant Daniel Somers Network of Support Act, which was 
cosponsored by my friend and colleague on the Veterans' Affairs 
Committee, Republican Senator Thom Tillis. Our legislation requires 
each new servicemember be asked for the names of loved ones whom he or 
she considers to be part of his or her network of support. In return, 
the Department of Defense and the Red Cross will provide information 
about benefits and services that are available to military members.
  By engaging loved ones and families from the beginning, the 
Department of Defense can better prepare and equip our military 
families and friends to better understand military life, to notice when 
servicemembers are in need, and to help ensure that servicemembers get 
the right kind of assistance or care. We must do everything possible to 
empower family and friends, who are the first line of defense in our 
preventing suicide amongst our veterans and servicemembers.
  This commonsense solution could be a game-changer for the men and 
women who have risked their lives to protect our freedoms, for their 
isolation leads to tragedy. We have worked with Congressman Scott 
Peters, of California, who has introduced companion legislation in the 
U.S. House. In working as a team across party lines, we successfully 
included our network of support legislation in the national defense 
bill that was passed by both the Senate and the House over the past few 
  I am proud of this accomplishment, but we have so much more to do. 
When servicemembers transition from active service to veteran status, 
they face old and confusing regulations that can be difficult to 
navigate even for those who are able to care for themselves. We must 
ensure that veterans who receive care from the VA also have a network 
of support in place to help them thrive and prosper when they return to 
civilian life. I have spoken directly with VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, 
who expressed his support for extending the network of support to 
veterans, and I look forward to working closely with him to get it 
  As we continue this work, I urge my colleagues to join me in 
expanding this critical program. We can help ensure together that all 
veterans have networks to turn to so they never have to face their 
challenges alone.
  The story of Sergeant Somers and his parents, the failure of the VA 
bureaucracy to provide the support this Arizona veteran needed, and the 
resulting tragedy is not a story that dominated the national headlines. 
It is not a political scandal, and it is not a partisan food fight to 
which Members of Congress are pressured to respond. It is not what 
reporters in the Capitol's hallways ask me about, and it is not what 
people tweet to me on a daily or on even an hourly basis. You will 
never see a push notification on your iPhone about legislation like 
ours. Yet this is the kind of work that matters. It matters to Sergeant 
Somers' parents, and it matters to veterans across my State. It matters 
to military families and to loved ones, and it matters to Arizona. It 
is exactly why, as Arizona's senior Senator, I will not spend my time 
focusing on areas of disagreement, because expending energy on the 
latest tweet, on the latest insult, and on petty politics simply 
doesn't move the needle for everyday people like the Somers.
  As a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, I am fortunate to 
serve with Republican Chairman Johnny Isakson and Ranking Member Jon 
Tester--two Senators who demonstrate every day what can get done when 
leaders put aside their differences and work toward common goals. Our 
bipartisan legislation got this far thanks in part to support from 
Senators Isakson and Tester, as well as from the leaders of the Armed 
Services Committee, Chairman James Inhofe and Ranking Member Jack Reed. 
However, in this effort and in so many others, I sorely miss the 
leadership of the former Armed Services chairman and my personal hero, 
John McCain.
  So many of my colleagues in this body came to know and love Senator 
John McCain for his military heroism and for his years of leadership in 
the Senate. Back home in Arizona, Senator John McCain is also a hero 
for what he represented in public service.
  What Senator McCain said in his last speech in this very Chamber 
shapes my service to Arizona every day. He said:

       But make no mistake, my service here is the most important 
     job I have had in my life. And I am so grateful to the people 
     of Arizona for the privilege--for the honor--of serving here 
     and the opportunities it gives me to play a small role in the 
     history of the country I love.

  He went on to say:

       Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what 
     they want isn't the most inspiring work. There's greater 
     satisfaction in respecting our differences, but not letting 
     them prevent agreements that don't require abandonment of 
     core principles, agreements made in good faith that help 
     improve lives and protect the American people. . . . What a 
     great honor and extraordinary opportunity it is to serve in 
     this body.

  Senator McCain talked of what is possible when the Senate works the 
way it was meant to work. He stood for everything we stand for as 
Arizonans: fighting for what you believe in, standing up for what is 
right even if you stand alone, and serving a cause greater than one's 

[[Page S4991]]

  He taught us to always assume the best in others, to seek compromise 
instead of sowing division, and to always put country ahead of party.
  One of Senator McCain's last acts in the Senate was to shepherd last 
year's annual Defense bill into law--the same annual bill which, this 
year, includes our Daniel Somers Network of Support Act. I hope we are 
making Senator McCain proud with such important work.
  With Senator McCain's example lighting the way, and with the trust of 
the people of Arizona shaping my service, I recommit to ignoring 
political games and focusing on upholding Arizona values to get things 
done for the State and for the country I love.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Ms. ROSEN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                            Border Security

  Ms. ROSEN. Mr. President, I rise to address an issue that transcends 
politics and strikes at the very core of who we are as Americans.
  Throughout my time in Congress, I have made it my priority to work 
with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, to look past 
partisanship, and to work toward passing commonsense legislation so we 
can help working families in Nevada and across our country.
  In the House, I was proud to be named one of the most bipartisan 
Members of Congress, and that is a title I plan to keep in the Senate. 
So I hope my colleagues recognize the seriousness of why I rise today.
  It is without partisan motivation when I say that we have a crisis on 
our hands. Make no mistake about it, there is a humanitarian crisis at 
our southern border and we are failing to address it. This 
administration is failing to address it. This Congress is failing to 
address it.
  With violence and political unrest increasing in the Northern 
Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, we are 
experiencing a surge in the number of migrants who have come to our 
southern border seeking refuge from violence and persecution.
  More than 60 percent of migrants are families and unaccompanied 
children fleeing for their lives and seeking a safe place. Children and 
their families are coming to our country for the same reasons so many 
of our ancestors did--because they have no other choice. They are 
coming to the United States, a nation of immigrants, a nation built on 
a foundation of core values, and we do not turn away those fleeing 
persecution and certain death.
  It is those same values that tell us that when children--including 
infants and toddlers--are at our doorstep, we do not put them in cages, 
tear them from their mother's arms, let them go without showers, food, 
or medical attention, or let them sleep on cold floors.
  The reality is, Customs and Border Patrol officers are not trained to 
care for children, much less those who have experienced trauma. They 
are not prepared nor qualified to provide the much needed care to the 
families and children who are coming here.
  What is also true is that there are members of our Border Patrol and 
law enforcement who are trying to do the right thing. Those men and 
women signed up to protect our country from terrorism, narcotics, and 
foreign threats. They are not trained to take care of traumatized 
children. The fact remains, the state of things in these immigration 
facilities is untenable and indefensible.
  I have had the chance to see this crisis firsthand, so allow me to 
speak a little bit on what I have witnessed and how we got here.
  Children and families have been placed into overcrowded and 
unsanitary facilities, left without suitable living conditions or even 
the most basic of necessities for days or even weeks.
  Last year, while serving as a member of the House of Representatives, 
I traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border with one of my colleagues. We 
toured the Tornillo unaccompanied minor facility and the Paso del Norte 
Processing Center in Texas. What we witnessed there was heartbreaking.
  We saw a tent city holding unaccompanied migrant children and 
children separated from their parents. They have no access to legal 
counsel, no way to regularly talk to their families. They are without 
any idea of what might happen next. Throughout their camp, there was a 
sense of anxiety, hopelessness, and despair. I have carried the images 
of what I saw during that tour with me to this day.
  In committee testimony and in followup briefings, in conversations 
with the administration and its agencies, we were told conditions would 
improve, that plans were in place to provide the care that is so 
desperately needed, and that families would be reunited. We now know 
that was wrong.
  We have all seen the news and read reports detailing the abysmal 
state of these facilities--children still in cages, still going to 
sleep hungry, still going weeks without bathing or having access to 
clean clothes, young children being tasked by officers to care for 
toddlers, and, in some cases, allegations of sexual abuse by officers.
  To find out firsthand whether conditions are improving, just last 
week I joined my Senate colleagues in touring detention facilities in 
the McAllen, TX, area. I am sad to say these news reports are accurate. 
These horrific conditions have not changed, families are still being 
separated, children are still in cages, not knowing if they will ever 
see their parents again, and this administration continues to ignore 
basic human rights. Children should never be held in these conditions 
under any circumstances, for any amount of time, period.
  We saw children stuffed into crowded spaces. The people detained in 
these facilities lack access to basic necessities like toothpaste and 
access to sanitary supplies. There are few, if any, pediatricians, no 
child welfare professionals, no hope, just thousands of children and 
families in the care of law enforcement officers. This is not who we 
  The dehumanization of migrants, including many tender-age children in 
our detention centers today, is unacceptable. The psychological trauma 
they have experienced, and that they are continuing to experience, will 
likely leave children with deep scars that will haunt them for the rest 
of their lives.
  Let me be clear: We are failing our law enforcement, we are failing 
our families, and we are failing children.
  We can agree that immigrants with criminal records or those who have 
falsified their reasons for coming should not be allowed to stay, but 
during my visit to McAllen last week, the acting head of Border Patrol 
told all of us that the vast majority of migrant families are not 
  I refuse to stand by while this takes place on American soil. So I 
decided to take action by placing holds on two individuals nominated by 
this administration to serve in administrative and policy roles of DHS 
until conditions in these facilities drastically improve, until DHS 
meets the standards it is obligated--obligated--to uphold.
  This is the United States of America. All children deserve to be 
treated humanely and with dignity, and those of any age who come to our 
country claiming asylum have a legal right to present their case.
  We must ensure that we achieve, at the very least, minimum 
humanitarian standards at CBP facilities. That means all CBP facilities 
where children are processed or detained need to have onsite medical 
professionals with pediatric training and child welfare professionals. 
That means implementing a process for announced and unannounced site 
visits by NGOs so we can ensure proper oversight and accountability, as 
well as direct services for children. Even something as simple as a 
sign that communicates to migrant families explaining where they are 
and what to expect--something that simple could reduce anxiety and 
hopelessness that these individuals and children are feeling.
  There is so much good in the American people, and that shows in the 
outpouring of support from NGOs that are ready and willing to step in 
and respond. They do so many other humanitarian efforts. Yet our 
government is

[[Page S4992]]

turning away these offers of help. Conditions at these facilities have 
not improved, and until they do, I will not remove my holds on this 
administration's nominees.
  Once we have taken the necessary steps to ensure migrant children are 
being held in safe and sanitary conditions, we must then take up the 
critical and long-overdue task of reforming our long-term immigration 
policy. We owe it to migrant children and families to reach an 
immediate solution. We owe it to our law enforcement to prevent this 
difficult situation from continuing.
  We must come together. We must take action now because, at the end of 
the day, these are human lives, and they depend on us.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. WICKER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                       Vote on Stephen M. Dickson

  Mr. WICKER. Mr. President, in a few moments, at 12 noon, the Senate 
will vote on a cloture motion for the nomination of Stephen M. Dickson 
to be Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. I rise in 
strong support of that motion. I think it will pass today. I will be 
supporting the nomination when it comes to a full vote on the floor of 
the Senate sometime later.
  As chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, 
let me report that we recently voted to report Mr. Dickson's nomination 
favorably out of the committee. I hope the Senate will soon confirm 
this highly qualified nominee. Steve Dickson was chosen for this 
important position based on his strong qualifications, which include 
almost 40 years of combined service in the U.S. Air Force and the 
commercial air transportation sector.
  Mr. Dickson is a 1979 distinguished graduate of the Air Force Academy 
and graduated magna cum laude from Georgia State University College of 
Law in 1999, where he earned his J.D. He served in the U.S. Air Force 
as an F-15 fighter pilot, including assignments as a flight commander, 
instructor pilot, and flight examiner. From 1991 until October of 2018, 
Mr. Dickson was employed by Delta Air Lines as a pilot and management 
executive. He retired after rising through the ranks to become Delta's 
senior vice president of flight operations.
  On May 15, the committee held a hearing to consider Mr. Dickson's 
nomination, and he clearly demonstrated the experience and leadership 
abilities necessary to lead the FAA. I don't know if there was a single 
member of the committee who failed to be impressed.
  After Mr. Dickson's hearing, new information came to the committee's 
attention, which we gave due diligence to looking into. The information 
involved employees reporting possible safety violations at Mr. 
Dickson's former employer while he was serving as senior vice 
president. These matters merited further examination. The committee 
conducted an extensive review of these allegations, including multiple 
followup conversations and meetings with Mr. Dickson. We have studied 
hundreds of pages of legal documents.
  Here is what we know for a fact about these allegations. We know for 
a fact--and it is uncontroverted--that Mr. Dickson was not a named 
party in any of these matters. We also know for a fact that he was not 
personally alleged to have retaliated against any of his fellow 
employees who raised the safety concerns.
  Mr. Dickson's responses to post-hearing questions for the record 
demonstrate that he has commitments to safety and to the protection of 
employees who report concerns and that that is paramount, in his view. 
In fact, Mr. Dickson unequivocally stated in his written responses that 
he was never named as a party to any judicial, administrative, or 
regulatory proceedings and was never accused of retaliation of any sort 
during his tenure at his former employer.
  I think the FAA, we all agree, should be the gold standard in 
aviation safety. I think Steve Dickson is the correct person to be 
confirmed and sit at the helm of the FAA at this crucial time for the 
agency. The majority of the committee believes that Mr. Dickson is an 
excellent nominee for this position and will bring the commitment, 
experience, and expertise necessary to lead the FAA and fulfill its 
mission. I am going to be urging my colleagues to vote yes on the 
cloture motion and then to swiftly confirm Mr. Dickson's nomination.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma.
  Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that I complete my 
remarks before we move to the vote to confirm our next Secretary of 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                      Nomination of Mark T. Esper

  Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, we are in a great position that we are not 
very often in. We have someone who is enthusiastically supported by 
Republicans, by Democrats, and he is obviously the right person. He has 
the trust of our President, he has the trust of our military, and he 
has the trust of Congress and the country to keep our Nation safe.
  Dr. Mark Esper is the right man for the job. He is a great choice to 
lead the Pentagon, and I am proud to support him. And I am not the only 
one. In fact, I would like to take a moment to share some of the 
bipartisan support we have for Dr. Esper from the defense experts, 
former officials, and my own colleagues.
  Senator Kaine from Virginia said this at Dr. Esper's confirmation 

       He is a person of sound character and moral courage. He's 
     been proactive and transparent . . . trademarks of 
     exceptional leadership.

  Secretary Mattis--you remember him--when Dr. Esper was being sworn in 
as the Secretary of the Army, then-Secretary of Defense Mattis said:

       The bottom line is the virtuous and vile alike have written 
     history, but let's remember here today that we're the good 
     guys . . . and this is the man who can take us forward.

  Mark Jacobson, a senior adviser to Ash Carter, said:

       This is someone who can work across the aisle. This is 
     somebody who can work with Congress. And that's really what 
     defines him. A soldier, a scholar.

  The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said:

       Anybody impartial would have to have come away impressed by 
     Dr. Esper's mastery, intelligence, and thoroughness.

  My colleagues in the Armed Services Committee also widely support Dr. 
Esper's nomination, advancing his nomination with an overwhelming 
bipartisan vote.
  Across the Capitol, both the chairman and ranking member of the House 
Armed Services Committee support Dr. Esper. They all support him. 
Chairman Adam Smith said that Dr. Esper is ``capable of executing the 
National Defense Strategy in a way that is insulated from outside 
influence and political considerations. . . . The Department would 
benefit from his leadership.'' That is my counterpart over in the 
  Ranking Member Mac Thornberry said he has ``done an outstanding job 
as Secretary of the Army.'' I agree with Congressman Thornberry.
  Under Dr. Esper's leadership, we saw Army modernization leap forward 
by leaps and bounds. He managed the largest reorganization of the Army 
in 45 years, prioritizing research, development, and innovation. He 
showed accountability to the taxpayers by being responsible with his 
budget, making tough decisions, tough choices, streamlining legacy 
programs, and directing defense dollars to critical future needs.
  It is impressive, but being a good Army Secretary isn't enough on its 
own. Secretary Mattis reminded us that civilian leaders in our military 
must be more than their past accomplishments. Mark Esper is more 
because he truly respects and honors his commitment to the men and 
women in uniform. I have seen this firsthand.
  Back in April, I asked Dr. Esper to join me on a visit to Fort Sill 
in my State of Oklahoma. What impressed me was how well he communicated 
with the troops in the field. He is one of the troops out there, and 
you could see the love that he had for them. In Fort Sill, he even 
joined them--and I was there--for an Army combat fitness test workout. 
He participated with the troops. He ate the MREs out in the field. 
Anyone who has been in the Army can tell

[[Page S4993]]

you that you don't often find people who choose to do that, but Mark 
Esper did.
  Dr. Esper deeply cares about the troops, whether it is making sure 
that they have the weapons, equipment, and training they need to 
succeed in their missions or simply that they have quality housing when 
they are on base.
  We moved quickly to consider Dr. Esper's nomination here on the 
floor, but that isn't because we didn't fulfill our duty of advice and 
consent. We did. Dr. Esper testified for over 3 hours. Between his 
hearing and his followup questions for the record, he answered 
approximately 600 questions. It is clear that Dr. Esper has what it 
takes to lead the Department of Defense and that most of my colleagues 
think so as well.
  He has served the Nation with honor and integrity, and I am certain 
that he is going to continue to do so when he is confirmed.
  I strongly request a strong vote to confirm Dr. Mark Esper to be our 
next Secretary of Defense.
  With that, I yield the floor.