EXECUTIVE CALENDAR--Continued; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 94
(Senate - May 19, 2020)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.

[Pages S2498-S2500]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                     EXECUTIVE CALENDAR--Continued

  Mr. INHOFE. I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum 
call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


  Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, President Eisenhower once said: 
``Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a 
thousand miles [away] from the corn field.'' Those are wise words from 
a wise man.
  If you are trying to get a view of what is happening across America, 
you certainly can't get a comprehensive picture staying here in 
Washington, DC, or even listening to the national media. That is why, 
whether working on a farm bill, a highway bill, or a coronavirus 
recovery bill, I look to my constituents for feedback. I know we all do 
the same.
  Since we first learned that evacuees from China would be headed to 
Joint Base San Antonio for a 14-day quarantine, I have been in close 
contact with the folks in Texas--starting in San Antonio--about the 
coronavirus. I have joined dozens, if not 100 or more, videoconferences 
with groups covering every industry that have shared honest 
perspectives about how things are going, what is working, and what more 
is needed from Congress.
  I have spoken with nurses and hospital administrators about the need 
for additional PPE to protect our healthcare heroes. I have spoken with 
researchers and scientists, even as recently as today, about the 
ongoing quest to develop vaccines and treatments and, of course, with 
farmers and ranchers and producers about their struggle to cope with a 
glut of supply and reduced demand.
  I have spoken with small business owners about the impact of this 
virus on their businesses, their workforce, and their communities. 
Their feedback has been invaluable to the work of the Senate as we 
continue our mission to lead America through and eventually out of this 
  As States across the country begin to reopen their economies, the 
light at the end of the tunnel is getting a little bit brighter, but 
there is still a whole lot of work that needs to be done. Yesterday, I 
spoke with some of my friends at Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the Texas 
Civil Justice League, and a number of other business stakeholders about 
the critical need for liability protection in our next piece of 
coronavirus legislation.
  We are already seeing that, across America, there is a wave of COVID-
19-related lawsuits rolling in. Without action on our part, there is 
genuine fear that these lawsuits could hurt the very people we need to 
be helping right now get through this weakened economy.
  One of the Texans on the call talked about the vast challenges our 
healthcare workers have faced over the last several weeks. As hospital 
beds began filling up, the strain on healthcare workers became a 
serious problem.
  Many States loosened restrictions to allow out-of-State or retired 
physicians to join the fight on the frontlines, and countless 
healthcare workers are being cross-trained or redeployed to help fill 
personnel shortages. You may see pediatricians caring for adults or 
anesthesiologists working in the ICU.
  On top of that, these men and women are forced to make tough, almost 
impossible decisions every day. They may have half a dozen patients who 
desperately need a ventilator but only two machines available.
  We should not put our healthcare workers in an impossible situation 
where we ask them to do everything they can to help, and then we punish 
them by subjecting them to litigation when somebody claims that they 
could or should have done better.
  It is not just healthcare workers, though, who could emerge from this 
crisis only to be greeted by an avalanche of lawsuits. As our economy 
begins to reopen, businesses are dusting off their tables, barber 
chairs, gym equipment--whatever the case may be--and preparing to 
welcome customers back through their doors.
  They are following the guidance from the State and the Centers for 
Disease Control and taking every precaution they recommend to protect 
both their employees and their customers. However, despite their best 
efforts, there is nothing stopping someone who contracts the virus from 
saying it happened at that particular business and then suing.
  One of the people on our call yesterday said his business has faced 
many lawsuits before, and he knows that, even if you have done 
absolutely nothing wrong, defending these lawsuits can be a huge, huge 
expense. He pointed out that causation is of particular concern when 
you talk about a virus. We are still learning about it, but we know 
that the incubation period could last up to 14 days, making it nearly 
impossible to prove when and where the virus was contracted.
  While ordinarily it would be the burden of the person bringing the 
suit to prove causation, we know that, in jury trials, anything can 
happen and that this is not enough to stop opportunistic litigation 
from trying to either get a successful jury verdict and judgment or 
just a nuisance settlement because of the cost of defense
  Across the country, we are already seeing coronavirus lawsuits 
rolling in, targeting not only our healthcare workers and businesses 
but nursing homes, assisted living facilities, universities, 
governments--you name it.
  Without action from Congress, the litigation epidemic will be a big 
one and will add insult to injury from this pandemic. We simply cannot 
allow this tidal wave of lawsuits to sweep away our healthcare workers, 
nonprofits, and businesses who followed the guidelines and acted in 
good faith. Congress needs to put in place commonsense reforms to 
protect those who have helped the American people get through this 
crisis and who will help lead us out of it.
  I am working with my colleagues on a proposal that would achieve this 
goal through temporary and targeted protections related to COVID-19 
lawsuits. That includes our healthcare workers who have been on the 
frontlines battling this pandemic, the businesses that are going to 
great lengths to safely reopen their doors, and the nonprofits helping 
their communities during a time of unprecedented need.
  Despite what some of the folks on the left try to claim, this isn't a 
ban on lawsuits. Nobody is suggesting we have blanket immunity. No one 
wants to let bad actors get away with their bad behavior and to reward 
it. However, as my constituents told me yesterday, the fear of 
unrestrained litigation could be the boot on the neck of our economy 
and add insult to injury for our healthcare workers and others who, in 
good faith, did precisely what they were asked to do during this time 
of crisis.
  We need to put commonsense safeguards in place to ensure that those 
operating in good faith and following all the relevant guidelines 
cannot be sued into oblivion because of a particular outcome when 
people are doing the best they know how to do during a time of crisis--
in good faith--and doing exactly what the public health officials and 
their government officials are telling them to do.
  This is going to be a critical aspect to our recovery, not only in 
Texas but in every State across the Nation. We have counted on all of 
these people, from our healthcare workers to local businesses, to help 
get us through this crisis. We can't let them down now.
  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.
  Mrs. CAPITO. I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum 
call be rescinded.

[[Page S2499]]

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mrs. CAPITO. Madam President, I rise today to address the healthcare 
and economic crisis facing our Nation because of COVID-19. According to 
Johns Hopkins University, more than 1.5 million Americans have tested 
positive for COVID and more than 90,000 have died. And 1,509 West 
Virginians have tested positive for COVID, and 68 have died, according 
to our State's Department of Health and Human Services.
  We mourn each one of those lost lives and remember the families who 
grieve for them now and the friends who have lost a loved one. All of 
us join together, and we thank all of the heroes who are on the 
frontline performing lifesaving and life-sustaining jobs during this 
  The economic consequences of this pandemic have been devastating as 
well, but the health devastation is what really, I think, breaks all of 
our collective hearts.
  On the economic front nationally, the unemployment rate is 14.7 
percent, and 36.5 million Americans have filed for unemployment since 
mid-March--an incredible number.
  In our small State of West Virginia, 164,000 unemployment claims have 
been processed since March, and the unemployment rate is over 15 
percent. With these terrible facts and the urgency of them, it is right 
for Congress to come together to take bold action.
  We have enacted four major pieces of bipartisan legislation to help 
ease this crisis. Most significant of those, of course, was the CARES 
Act, which passed this body 96 to 0. With bipartisan support, the CARES 
Act provided $100 billion for our hospitals and medical providers to 
help them respond to this crisis.
  Together, we created the Paycheck Protection Program--PPP, as 
everybody knows it--to save jobs and to keep our employers and 
employees connected but also to save jobs at small businesses and help 
those businesses survive.
  As of this past weekend, 15,972 West Virginia small businesses had 
taken advantage of the PPP program.
  The CARES Act provided direct relief for the American people through 
payments of up to $1,200 apiece, and more than 780,000 payments 
totaling $1.3 billion have been sent to my fellow West Virginians.
  The CARES Act increased unemployment benefits to help meet the needs 
of those workers who lost their jobs due to the crisis, and we see the 
numbers. That has been a great benefit.
  It provided significant resources for our State and local 
governments. Our State of West Virginia has received $1.25 billion to 
help our State, city, and county governments.
  After the CARES Act, despite some delays, we came together again and 
passed additional bipartisan legislation that provided more funding for 
the PPP program and more resources for hospitals, more money for COVID 
testing. We just sent $57 million to the State of West Virginia for 
more testing.
  In a bipartisan way, Congress responded to the needs of our medical 
community, as we should. Our small businesses, our workers, our 
families, our State and local governments, and our heroes are essential 
workers. As our communities begin the process of carefully reopening, 
we know that more Federal resources and additional legislation will in 
all likelihood be necessary. We all hope that our economy, which only 
months ago was very strong, can rebuild quickly. But our small 
businesses and workers will need additional help. There is no question 
that will happen.
  As we face the possibility of a second wave of infections later this 
year, we should continue to build our stockpile of medical supplies and 
aid our hospitals.
  I have heard from our Governor, county commissioners, and our mayors 
across West Virginia about the lost State and local government revenues 
caused by COVID. Allowing the CARES Act funds to be used to replace 
these lost revenues will make sure that State and local governments can 
continue to meet the public safety and public health needs. This is 
  I have joined Senator Sullivan and others in supporting bipartisan 
legislation that would do just that. We should enact meaningful 
liability reform to protect our hospitals, doctors, businesses, 
college, universities, and nonprofits from lawsuit abuse. Those who do 
their best to treat patients, following government guidelines, and 
prevent the spread of the contagious virus should not be held liable 
when treatments fail or COVID spreads. Unless we act, lawsuit abuse 
could choke off our economic recovery. And we should hold China--
China--accountable for hiding the true scope of the COVID pandemic, 
making the global spread of this disease much worse.
  We should all work on all of these priorities going forward. It is 
appropriate that Congress should examine the effectiveness of the CARES 
Act--we have been doing that for the last several weeks; that is why I 
am glad we are here--as well as the ongoing need for resources before 
considering continuing new legislation to aid the Nation's response. 
But legislation passed in response to this crisis should be, as has 
been in the past--should be--bipartisan, and it should be tailored to 
respond to COVID and the economic problems that it has caused.
  Speaker Pelosi's legislation that passed the House of Representatives 
on Friday night fails on both of these counts. To the extent there was 
bipartisanship on Friday night, it came from the 14 Democrats who voted 
against the Speaker's wish list. The bill was certainly not tailored to 
help Americans respond to the COVID cases. There were things in there 
that did respond, but there was a whole lot more that I will talk about 
that I think was irrelevant.
  Speaker Pelosi's bill took a massive step toward federalizing our 
elections. That is the beauty of our elections. They are all different 
in every single State, and our States have the decisions to make. These 
decisions should be made by State and local officials and not 
micromanaged here in Washington. By the way, I think it makes our 
elections safer that they are not federalized.
  The bill prohibits States from requiring a photo ID to vote and 
requires States to allow same-day voter registration, something we do 
not do in the State of West Virginia. Aside from being bad policy, what 
does that have to do with COVID or helping small businesses and working 
  The word ``cannabis,'' as we might have heard already today, appears 
in Speaker Pelosi's bill 68 times. The bill requires a report to make 
sure that women and minorities are able to fully participate in the 
cannabis industry, and it makes sure that cannabis businesses are able 
to access the banking system. By the way, that is an issue that has 
been worked on since I was in Financial Services 10 years ago. But what 
does that and how does that relate to COVID?
  By allowing stimulus payments to be sent to individuals without a 
verified Social Security number, Speaker Pelosi's bill would send 
taxpayer dollars to illegal immigrants, and the bill requires the 
Department of Homeland Security to review the files of every illegal 
immigrant in custody to determine if he or she should be released.
  Speaker Pelosi also appropriates $50 million for environmental 
justice grants. It sounds good--environmental justice. I am not sure 
what it has to do with COVID, but it sounds good. In reality, a lot of 
these funds, among other things, assist those who are working to stop 
industries that are very critical to my State, all the energy 
industries from coal and natural gas. That is exactly the opposite of 
promoting an economic recovery in the State I am from.
  While working families continue to struggle, Speaker Pelosi's bill 
offers significant tax relief for rich taxpayers in high tax States. 
Coincidentally, that is not my State; we run our State on a balanced 
budget--and very well.
  Overall, the House bill costs more than $3 trillion while doing 
little to help our economy recover and get our laid-off workers back on 
the job. There is a bipartisan model out there for working together in 
response to this crisis. We have done it four times, as I mentioned. 
But that model is certainly not what the House passed last Friday 
  The Senate is continuing to hold hearings--we are having them today--
to learn more about the current crisis and provide oversight. More 
importantly, we are listening to the people

[[Page S2500]]

in our States and their needs and their wants and their fears and their 
hopes and dreams. I am confident that we will take responsible action 
to build our economy together, that we will put people back to work 
together, and that we will help keep our families safe and healthy. 
Together we can do this.
  Speaker Pelosi's legislation will not become law, and she already 
knew that when she passed it. But we will continue to press forward to 
respond as one Nation and one people for this unprecedented disaster
  I yield back.
  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. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cassidy). Without objection, it is so 

                           Order of Procedure

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that 
notwithstanding the provisions of rule XXII, the cloture votes with 
respect to the Manasco and Heil nominations occur at 11 a.m. and 12:30 
p.m., respectively, tomorrow; I further ask that notwithstanding the 
provisions of rule XXII, if cloture is invoked on the nominations, the 
confirmation votes occur at 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. tomorrow, 
respectively; further, that following disposition of the Heil 
nomination, cloture ripen with respect to the Badalamenti nomination; 
finally, that if any of the nominations are confirmed, 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 objection?
  Without objection, it is so ordered.

                       Vote on Trainor Nomination

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is, Will the Senate advise and 
consent to the Trainor nomination?
  Mr. CRAPO. I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. THUNE. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the Senator 
from Tennessee (Mr. Alexander), the Senator from North Carolina (Mr. 
Burr), the Senator from Arkansas (Mr. Cotton), and the Senator from 
South Dakota (Mr. Rounds).
  Further, if present and voting, the Senator from Tennessee (Mr. 
Alexander) would have voted ``yea.''
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from Ohio (Mr. Brown), the 
Senator from Massachusetts (Mr. Markey), the Senator from Vermont (Mr. 
Sanders), and the Senator from Rhode Island (Mr. Whitehouse) are 
necessarily absent.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Are there any other Senators in the Chamber 
desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 49, nays 43, as follows:

                       [Rollcall Vote No. 96 Ex.]


     Scott (FL)
     Scott (SC)


     Cortez Masto
     Van Hollen

                             NOT VOTING--8

  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 PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.