(Senate - April 22, 2021)

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[Pages S2170-S2175]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


      By Ms. COLLINS (for herself, Mr. Cardin, Mr. Marshall, and Mrs. 
  S. 1309. A bill to provide payments for home health services 
furnished via visual or audio telecommunications systems during an 
emergency period; to the Committee on Finance.
  Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I rise today, along with my colleagues 
Senator Cardin, Senator Marshall, and Senator Shaheen, to introduce the 
Home Health Emergency Access to Telehealth (HEAT) Act. This bipartisan 
bill would help ensure that seniors who rely on home health care have 
the choice to receive these critical services through telehealth during 
the COVID-19 pandemic and future public health emergencies.
  COVID-19 is the greatest public health challenge since the flu 
pandemic of 1918 and has claimed the lives of more than 565,000 
Americans. This public health emergency has underscored the need for 
older adults and other at-risk populations to have access to health 
care in the home setting. Home-based care is crucial to ensuring that 
this pandemic does not create devastating long-term health consequences 
due to delayed care. The highly skilled and compassionate care that 
home health agencies provide is an important component of this in-home 
  I have been a strong supporter of home care since my very first home 
visit, which took place in my hometown in Aroostook County early in my 
Senate service. This experience gave me the opportunity to meet and 
visit with home health patients, where I saw first-hand what a 
difference highly skilled and caring visiting nurses and other health 
care professionals make to the lives of patients and their families. I 
have been a passionate advocate for home care ever since.
  Last year, my bipartisan home health legislation, the Home Health 
Care Planning Improvement Act, became law as part of the Coronavirus 
Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This law, which I 
championed for 13 years, will improve the access Medicare beneficiaries 
have to home health care by allowing physician assistants, nurse 
practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse midwives 
to order home health services. Far too often seniors experience 
unnecessary delays in accessing home health care. To avoid these 
needless delays, it is common sense that other medical professionals 
who are familiar with a patient's case should be able to order these 
  Home health professionals have continued to provide face-to-face 
services during the COVID-19 public health emergency, but this crisis 
has created additional challenges, including the need to maintain an 
adequate supply of personal protective equipment to protect themselves, 
their patients, and their patients' families. The use of telehealth and 
virtual visits can help address these challenges. Unlike other Medicare 
providers, however, home health agencies are not eligible to receive 
Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services during the COVID-19 
  Last May, I chaired Congress' first hearing examining COVID-19's 
devastating impact on seniors. During the hearing, Dr. Steven Landers, 
President and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Association Health Group, 
testified that, despite this lack of Medicare reimbursement, his 
organization has found telehealth to be an essential part of providing 
high quality home health care during the COVID-19 public health 
emergency. He urged action to ensure that home health providers can 
continue offering these critical services remotely.
  Maine home health care providers have also shared their stories about 
how telehealth is helping them to continue caring for their patients 
during COVID-19. Through a combination of video visits and care calls, 
one provider has been able to care for a woman with severe heart and 
lung disease and keep this patient out of the hospital. The nurse would 
speak with the woman by phone a couple of times per week to assess any 
symptoms that needed follow up. If the nurse identified an issue during 
the call, she would schedule a video visit and also work with the 
patient's physician to modify medications as needed.
  The bill we are introducing today would authorize Medicare 
reimbursement for home health services provided through telehealth 
during an emergency period. The services would not be reimbursed unless 
the beneficiary consents to receiving the services via telehealth. To 
ensure that the Medicare home health benefit does not become a 
telehealth-only benefit, Medicare reimbursement would only be provided 
if the telehealth services constitute no more than half of the billable 
visits made during the 30-day payment period. The Secretary of Health 
and Human Services would be required to issue guidance on the 
authorization of and payment for home health services provided via 
  Home health serves a vital role in helping our Nation's seniors avoid 
more costly hospital visits and nursing home stays. The COVID-19 
emergencyhas further underscored the critical importance of home health 
services and highlighted how these agencies are able to use telehealth 
to provide skilled care to their patients. The Home Health Emergency 
Access to Telehealth (HEAT) Act would ensure that seniors in Maine and 
across the country retain access to remote home health services during 
the COVID-19 emergency and future public health emergencies.
  Thank you, Mr. President.
      By Mr. DURBIN (for himself, Mr. Wyden, Mrs. Murray, Mr. Brown, 
        Mr. Reed, Mr. Merkley, Mr. Blumenthal, Mr. Markey, and Ms. 
  S. 1314. A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide 
tax rate parity among all tobacco products, and for other purposes; to 
the Committee on Finance.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of 
the bill be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be 
printed in the Record, as follows:

                                S. 1314

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       This Act may be cited as the ``Tobacco Tax Equity Act of 

                   TOBACCO PRODUCT TAX RATES.

       (a) Tax Parity for Roll-Your-Own Tobacco.--Section 5701(g) 
     of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by striking 
     ``$24.78'' and inserting ``$49.56''.
       (b) Tax Parity for Pipe Tobacco.--Section 5701(f) of the 
     Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by striking 
     ``$2.8311 cents'' and inserting ``$49.56''.
       (c) Tax Parity for Smokeless Tobacco.--
       (1) Section 5701(e) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is 
       (A) in paragraph (1), by striking ``$1.51'' and inserting 
       (B) in paragraph (2), by striking ``50.33 cents'' and 
     inserting ``$10.74''; and
       (C) by adding at the end the following:
       ``(3) Smokeless tobacco sold in discrete single-use 
     units.--On discrete single-use units, $100.66 per 
       (2) Section 5702(m) of such Code is amended--
       (A) in paragraph (1), by striking ``or chewing tobacco'' 
     and inserting ``, chewing tobacco, or discrete single-use 
       (B) in paragraphs (2) and (3), by inserting ``that is not a 
     discrete single-use unit'' before the period in each such 
     paragraph; and
       (C) by adding at the end the following:
       ``(4) Discrete single-use unit.--The term `discrete single-
     use unit' means any product containing, made from, or derived 
     from tobacco or nicotine that--
       ``(A) is not intended to be smoked; and
       ``(B) is in the form of a lozenge, tablet, pill, pouch, 
     dissolvable strip, or other discrete single-use or single-
     dose unit.''.

[[Page S2171]]

       (d) Tax Parity for Small Cigars.--Paragraph (1) of section 
     5701(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by 
     striking ``$50.33'' and inserting ``$100.66''.
       (e) Tax Parity for Large Cigars.--
       (1) In general.--Paragraph (2) of section 5701(a) of the 
     Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by striking ``52.75 
     percent'' and all that follows through the period and 
     inserting the following: ``$49.56 per pound and a 
     proportionate tax at the like rate on all fractional parts of 
     a pound but not less than 10.066 cents per cigar.''.
       (2) Guidance.--The Secretary of the Treasury, or the 
     Secretary's delegate, may issue guidance regarding the 
     appropriate method for determining the weight of large cigars 
     for purposes of calculating the applicable tax under section 
     5701(a)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
       (f) Tax Parity for Roll-Your-Own Tobacco and Certain 
     Processed Tobacco.--Subsection (o) of section 5702 of the 
     Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by inserting ``, and 
     includes processed tobacco that is removed for delivery or 
     delivered to a person other than a person with a permit 
     provided under section 5713, but does not include removals of 
     processed tobacco for exportation'' after ``wrappers 
       (g) Clarifying Tax Rate for Other Tobacco Products.--
       (1) In general.--Section 5701 of the Internal Revenue Code 
     of 1986 is amended by adding at the end the following new 
       ``(i) Other Tobacco Products.--Any product not otherwise 
     described under this section that has been determined to be a 
     tobacco product by the Food and Drug Administration through 
     its authorities under the Family Smoking Prevention and 
     Tobacco Control Act shall be taxed at a level of tax 
     equivalent to the tax rate for cigarettes on an estimated per 
     use basis as determined by the Secretary.''.
       (2) Establishing per use basis.--For purposes of section 
     5701(i) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, not later than 
     12 months after the later of the date of the enactment of 
     this Act or the date that a product has been determined to be 
     a tobacco product by the Food and Drug Administration, the 
     Secretary of the Treasury (or the Secretary of the Treasury's 
     delegate) shall issue final regulations establishing the 
     level of tax for such product that is equivalent to the tax 
     rate for cigarettes on an estimated per use basis.
       (h) Clarifying Definition of Tobacco Products.--
       (1) In general.--Subsection (c) of section 5702 of the 
     Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended to read as follows:
       ``(c) Tobacco Products.--The term `tobacco products' 
       ``(1) cigars, cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, pipe tobacco, 
     and roll-your-own tobacco, and
       ``(2) any other product subject to tax pursuant to section 
       (2) Conforming amendments.--Subsection (d) of section 5702 
     of such Code is amended by striking ``cigars, cigarettes, 
     smokeless tobacco, pipe tobacco, or roll-your-own tobacco'' 
     each place it appears and inserting ``tobacco products''.
       (i) Increasing Tax on Cigarettes.--
       (1) Small cigarettes.--Section 5701(b)(1) of such Code is 
     amended by striking ``$50.33'' and inserting ``$100.66''.
       (2) Large cigarettes.--Section 5701(b)(2) of such Code is 
     amended by striking ``$105.69'' and inserting ``$211.38''.
       (j) Tax Rates Adjusted for Inflation.--Section 5701 of such 
     Code, as amended by subsection (g), is amended by adding at 
     the end the following new subsection:
       ``(j) Inflation Adjustment.--
       ``(1) In general.--In the case of any calendar year 
     beginning after 2021, the dollar amounts provided under this 
     chapter shall each be increased by an amount equal to--
       ``(A) such dollar amount, multiplied by
       ``(B) the cost-of-living adjustment determined under 
     section 1(f)(3) for the calendar year, determined by 
     substituting `calendar year 2020' for `calendar year 2016' in 
     subparagraph (A)(ii) thereof.
       ``(2) Rounding.--If any amount as adjusted under paragraph 
     (1) is not a multiple of $0.01, such amount shall be rounded 
     to the next highest multiple of $0.01.''.
       (k) Floor Stocks Taxes.--
       (1) Imposition of tax.--On tobacco products manufactured in 
     or imported into the United States which are removed before 
     any tax increase date and held on such date for sale by any 
     person, there is hereby imposed a tax in an amount equal to 
     the excess of--
       (A) the tax which would be imposed under section 5701 of 
     the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 on the article if the 
     article had been removed on such date, over
       (B) the prior tax (if any) imposed under section 5701 of 
     such Code on such article.
       (2) Credit against tax.--Each person shall be allowed as a 
     credit against the taxes imposed by paragraph (1) an amount 
     equal to $500. Such credit shall not exceed the amount of 
     taxes imposed by paragraph (1) on such date for which such 
     person is liable.
       (3) Liability for tax and method of payment.--
       (A) Liability for tax.--A person holding tobacco products 
     on any tax increase date to which any tax imposed by 
     paragraph (1) applies shall be liable for such tax.
       (B) Method of payment.--The tax imposed by paragraph (1) 
     shall be paid in such manner as the Secretary shall prescribe 
     by regulations.
       (C) Time for payment.--The tax imposed by paragraph (1) 
     shall be paid on or before the date that is 120 days after 
     the effective date of the tax rate increase.
       (4) Articles in foreign trade zones.--Notwithstanding the 
     Act of June 18, 1934 (commonly known as the Foreign Trade 
     Zone Act, 48 Stat. 998, 19 U.S.C. 81a et seq.), or any other 
     provision of law, any article which is located in a foreign 
     trade zone on any tax increase date shall be subject to the 
     tax imposed by paragraph (1) if--
       (A) internal revenue taxes have been determined, or customs 
     duties liquidated, with respect to such article before such 
     date pursuant to a request made under the first proviso of 
     section 3(a) of such Act, or
       (B) such article is held on such date under the supervision 
     of an officer of the United States Customs and Border 
     Protection of the Department of Homeland Security pursuant to 
     the second proviso of such section 3(a).
       (5) Definitions.--For purposes of this subsection--
       (A) In general.--Any term used in this subsection which is 
     also used in section 5702 of such Code shall have the same 
     meaning as such term has in such section.
       (B) Tax increase date.--The term ``tax increase date'' 
     means the effective date of any increase in any tobacco 
     product excise tax rate pursuant to the amendments made by 
     this section (other than subsection (j) thereof).
       (C) Secretary.--The term ``Secretary'' means the Secretary 
     of the Treasury or the Secretary's delegate.
       (6) Controlled groups.--Rules similar to the rules of 
     section 5061(e)(3) of such Code shall apply for purposes of 
     this subsection.
       (7) Other laws applicable.--All provisions of law, 
     including penalties, applicable with respect to the taxes 
     imposed by section 5701 of such Code shall, insofar as 
     applicable and not inconsistent with the provisions of this 
     subsection, apply to the floor stocks taxes imposed by 
     paragraph (1), to the same extent as if such taxes were 
     imposed by such section 5701. The Secretary may treat any 
     person who bore the ultimate burden of the tax imposed by 
     paragraph (1) as the person to whom a credit or refund under 
     such provisions may be allowed or made.
       (l) Effective Dates.--
       (1) In general.--Except as provided in paragraphs (2) 
     through (4), the amendments made by this section shall apply 
     to articles removed (as defined in section 5702(j) of the 
     Internal Revenue Code of 1986) after the last day of the 
     month which includes the date of the enactment of this Act.
       (2) Discrete single-use units and processed tobacco.--The 
     amendments made by subsections (c)(1)(C), (c)(2), and (f) 
     shall apply to articles removed (as defined in section 
     5702(j) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986) after the date 
     that is 6 months after the date of the enactment of this Act.
       (3) Large cigars.--The amendments made by subsection (e) 
     shall apply to articles removed after December 31, 2021.
       (4) Other tobacco products.--The amendments made by 
     subsection (g)(1) shall apply to products removed after the 
     last day of the month which includes the date that the 
     Secretary of the Treasury (or the Secretary of the Treasury's 
     delegate) issues final regulations establishing the level of 
     tax for such product.
      By Mr. REED (for himself and Mr. Van Hollen):
  S. 1343. A bill to amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to require 
that a consumer authorize the release of certain information; to the 
Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
  Mr. REED. I am joined by Senator Van Hollen in reintroducing the 
Consumer Credit Control Act, which gives consumers greater control over 
when and how their consumer reports are shared by consumer reporting 
  Our current consumer reporting system is backwards. Consumer 
reporting agencies collect massive amounts of personal information on 
consumers, often without their knowledge, in order to compile consumer 
reports. These reports are then shared with financial institutions and 
others, often without consent.
  Following Equifax's failure in 2017 to secure troves of valuable 
personally identifiable information it collected on approximately 147 
million Americans, it remains clear that this system needs to change. 
Indeed, the National Consumer Law Center's Chi Chi Wu stated in her 
October 2017 testimony before the House Financial Services Committee 
that the Equifax breach ``means half of the US population and nearly 
three-quarters of the consumers with active credit reports are now at 
risk of identity theft due to one of the worst--if not the worst--
breaches of consumer data in American history. These Americans are at 
risk of having false new credit accounts, phony tax returns, and even 
spurious medical bills incurred in their good names.'' To make matters 
worse, the risks of identity fraud may only increase with time. As Ed 
Mierzwinski, U.S. PIRG's federal Consumer Program Director, explains 
``unlike credit card numbers, your Social Security Number and Date of 
Birth don't change and may even grow more

[[Page S2172]]

valuable over time, like gold in a bank vault. Much worse, they are the 
keys to `new account identity theft.' ''
  The Consumer Credit Control Act aims to address these concerns and 
fix the current upside down system. Our legislation, at no cost to the 
consumer, seeks to give Americans greater control over when and how 
their consumer reports are released when applying for new credit, a 
loan, or insurance. It also requires consumer reporting agencies to 
verify a consumer's identity and secure the consumer's permission 
before releasing consumer reports in instances that are particularly 
susceptible to identity theft and fraud. Additionally, our legislation 
requires every consumer reporting agency to take appropriate steps to 
prevent unauthorized access to the consumer reports and personal 
information they maintain. These changes are intended to make it 
tougher for criminals to open new fraudulent credit or insurance 
accounts in other people's names.
  I urge our colleagues to cosponsor the Consumer Credit Control Act, 
and I thank Senator Van Hollen, the National Consumer Law Center (on 
behalf of its low-income clients), U.S. PIRG, Americans for Financial 
Reform, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, the Consumer 
Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Demos, the NAACP, the National 
Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Fair Housing Alliance, 
Public Citizen, Tennessee Citizen Action, and the Woodstock Institute 
for their support.
      By Mr. DURBIN (for himself and Ms. Duckworth):
  S. 1344. A bill to redesignate the Pullman National Monument in the 
State of Illinois as the Pullman National Historical Park, and for 
other purposes; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of 
the bill be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be 
printed in the Record, as follows:

                                S. 1344

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       This Act may be cited as the ``Pullman National Historical 
     Park Act''.


       In this Act:
       (1) Historical park.--The term ``historical park'' means 
     the Pullman National Historical Park.
       (2) Map.--The term ``map'' means the map entitled ``Pullman 
     National Historical Park, Chicago, Illinois, Boundary'', 
     numbered ____, and dated _____.
       (3) Secretary.--The term ``Secretary'' means the Secretary 
     of the Interior.


       (a) In General.--The Pullman National Monument, established 
     by Proclamation Number 9233, dated February 19, 2015, is 
     redesignated as the ``Pullman National Historical Park.''.
       (b) Availability of Funds.--Any funds available for 
     purposes of the Pullman National Monument shall be available 
     for purposes of the historical park.
       (c) References.--Any references in a law, regulation, 
     document, record, map, or other paper of the United States to 
     the Pullman National Monument shall be considered to be a 
     reference to the historical park.
       (d) Proclamation.--Proclamation Number 9233, dated February 
     19, 2015, shall have no force or effect.

     SEC. 4. PURPOSES.

       The purposes of the historical park are to preserve, 
     protect, and interpret Pullman's nationally significant 
     cultural and historical resources associated with--
       (1) the Nation's labor history and creation of a national 
     Labor Day holiday;
       (2) the first planned industrial community in the United 
       (3) the architecture and landscape design of the planned 
       (4) the pivotal role of the Pullman porter in the rise of 
     the African-American middle class; and
       (5) the entirety of history, culture, and historic figures 
     embodied in Presidential Proclamation Number 9233.


       The Secretary shall administer the land within the boundary 
     of the historical park in accordance with--
       (1) this Act; and
       (2) the laws generally applicable to units of the National 
     Park System, including--
       (A) section 100101(a), chapter 1003, and sections 
     100751(a), 100752, 100753 and 102101 of title 54, United 
     States Code; and
       (B) chapter 3201 of title 54, United States Code.


       To further the purposes of this subsection and 
     notwithstanding chapter 63 of title 31, United States Code, 
     the Secretary may enter into cooperative agreements with the 
     State, other public and non-profit entities, and other 
     interested parties--
       (1) to support collaborative interpretive and educational 
     programs at non-Federal historic properties within the 
     boundaries of the historical park; and
       (2) to identify, interpret, and provide assistance for the 
     preservation of non-Federal land within the boundaries of the 
     historical park and at sites in close proximity to the 
     historical park, but located outside the boundaries of the 
     historical park, including providing for placement of 
     directional and interpretive signage, exhibits, and 
     technology-based interpretive devices; and

     SEC. 7. USE OF FUNDS.

        The Secretary may use appropriated funds to mark, 
     interpret, improve, restore, and provide technical assistance 
     with respect to the preservation and interpretation of the 
     properties. Any payment made by the Secretary under this 
     clause shall be subject to an agreement that the conversion, 
     use, or disposal of the project for purposes that are 
     inconsistent with the purposes of this subsection, as 
     determined by the Secretary, shall result in a right of the 
     United States to reimbursement of the greater of--
       (1) the amount provided by the Secretary to the project; or
       (2) an amount equal to the increase in the value of the 
     project that is attributable to the funds, as determined by 
     the Secretary at the time of the conversion, use, or 
     disposal. Any cooperative agreement entered into under this 
     subparagraph shall provide for reasonable public access to 
     the resources covered by the cooperative agreement.


       The Secretary may acquire for inclusion in the historical 
     park any land (including interests in land), buildings, or 
     structures owned by the State, or any other political, 
     private, or nonprofit entity by donation, transfer, exchange, 
     or purchase from a willing seller.


       Not later than 3 fiscal years after the date on which funds 
     are first made available to carry out this Act, the Secretary 
     shall complete a general management plan for the historical 
      By Ms. COLLINS (for herself and Mr. Carper):
  S. 1345. A bill to establish a national mercury monitoring program, 
and for other purposes; to the Committee on Environment and Public 
  Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, today is Earth Day, and there are many 
issues, environmental challenges, that each of us could be discussing 
here on the Senate floor.
  I have chosen to speak on a bill that I am introducing today that is 
called the Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act. I am pleased 
to be partnering, once again, with my colleague from Delaware, Senator 
Carper, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public 
Works Committee. Our bipartisan bill would help ensure that we have 
accurate information about the extent of mercury pollution in our 
  Mercury is a potent neurotoxin. It poses significant ecological and 
public health concerns, especially for children and pregnant women. 
Mercury exposure has gone down as U.S. mercury emissions have declined. 
However, the levels remain unacceptably high.
  It is estimated that nearly 200,000 children born in the United 
States have been exposed to levels of mercury in the womb that are high 
enough to impair their neurological development. This exposure can 
impose a lifelong disability.
  In addition, the societal costs of neurocognitive deficits associated 
with mercury exposure are estimated to be approximately $4.8 billion 
per year.
  In Maine, some of our lands and bodies of water face higher mercury 
pollution compared to the national average. Maine has been called the 
tailpipe of the Nation, as the winds carrying pollution, including 
mercury, from the West drift into the State of Maine
  A system for collecting information, such as we have for acid rain 
and other forms of pollution, does not currently exist for mercury, 
which, ironically, is a more toxic pollutant. A comprehensive mercury 
monitoring network is needed to protect human health, safeguard our 
fisheries, and track the effect of emission reductions. This monitoring 
network would also help policymakers, scientists, and the public better 
understand the sources, consequences, and trends of mercury pollution 
in our country.
  Specifically, our legislation would do the following:
  First, it would direct the EPA, in conjunction with the Fish and 
Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park 
Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and other 
Federal Agencies, to

[[Page S2173]]

establish a national mercury monitoring program to measure and monitor 
mercury levels in the air and watersheds, water and soil chemistry, and 
in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial organisms at multiple sites 
across the Nation.
  Second, it would establish a scientific advisory committee to advise 
on the establishment, site selection, measurement, recording protocols, 
and operations of this monitoring program.
  Third, our bill would establish a centralized database for existing 
and newly collected environmental mercury data that can be freely 
accessed on the internet and that is compatible with similar 
international efforts.
  Fourth, our bill would require a report to Congress every 2 years on 
the program, including trend data, and an assessment every 4 years of 
the reduction in mercury deposition rates that needs to be achieved in 
order to prevent adverse human and ecological effects on our 
  Fifth, our bill would authorize $95 million over 3 years for these 
  We must establish a comprehensive, robust national mercury monitoring 
network. Otherwise, we will lack the data we need to help make informed 
decisions that can help protect the people of Maine and the Nation, 
particularly our children and pregnant women.
  I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bipartisan bill, 
the Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act.
  Thank you
      By Mr. CORNYN (for himself and Ms. Sinema):
  S. 1358. A bill to establish regional processing centers, to improve 
the asylum and credible fear processes to promote fairness and 
efficiency, to require immigration court docketing priorities during 
irregular migration influx events, and to improve the capability of the 
Department of Homeland Security to manage migration flows, and for 
other purposes; to the Committee on the Judiciary.
  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, over the last few months, we have been 
spending a lot of time talking about the surge of migrants at our 
southern border and, as the Presiding Officer knows, we are having 
bipartisan meetings here to try to figure out how to address that and 
other challenges of our broken immigration system.
  We know the spike in migration is not a new phenomenon, and sadly, 
neither is the increase in the number of unaccompanied children. But 
the current surge is unlike anything we have experienced in the past. 
We are breaking all the wrong kinds of records, including the numbers 
of unaccompanied children, total monthly border crossings, and capacity 
levels at care facilities. And, of course, all of this is happening 
during a pandemic which creates serious risks for our law enforcement 
and for those caring for these migrants and for the migrants 
  Unfortunately, the administration has not yet figured out how to stop 
this flow of illegal immigration. The President and his team are 
telling migrants: Don't come. But when it comes to his policies, all of 
his policies say: Come while you can.
  They haven't figured out how to replace Trump-era policies, and so 
what they have done is left a void that is being exploited by everybody 
from the coyotes, the human smugglers, the people who smuggle in drugs 
into the United States, as well as the people who understandably want a 
better life. Maybe they are fleeing poverty or violence. We all 
understand why people want to come to the United States, but we also 
believe the safest and fairest sort of immigration policy is legal 
immigration into our country.
  We are the most generous country in the world. We have naturalized 
about a million people a year. It is one of our comparative advantages 
compared to the rest of the world that restricts migration. Over the 
last few months, like many of us, I have spent a lot of time listening 
and learning from the folks on the ground in Texas who know the ins and 
outs of this topic better than anybody else.
  I have visited border communities and heard from Border Patrol 
officers, mayors, county judges, and nongovernmental organizations that 
try to help these migrants once they make their way to the United 
States, and whose experience precedes this current surge.
  I visited five of the facilities in Texas that are helping take care 
of the record number of migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Donna, 
Houston, Midland, and Dallas. I have heard about the heartbreaking 
circumstances under which many of these children have arrived on our 
doorsteps. I have seen the incredible ways that our nongovernmental 
organizations, like Catholic Charities, are trying to ease the burden 
of this crisis, even after a year of supporting their communities 
through a global pandemic.
  The reality of this situation is that we are quickly nearing a 
breaking point. We lack the facilities, the personnel, the resources, 
and the policies needed to manage this crisis. Law enforcement in 
border communities are being overwhelmed by the sharp increase in 
migration, and unless something changes, the entire system could 
  The light is flashing red, and the time for action is now. That is 
why today I am proud to introduce the bipartisan Border Solutions Act, 
along with Senator Sinema, to address this crisis.
  It is no accident that both of us represent border States and that 
both of us have heard from our communities and stakeholders on the 
ground about how important it is for Congress to step up and provide 
some way to mitigate the current crisis.
  On the House side, we have two of my friends in the Texas 
delegation--Congressmen Henry Cuellar, from Laredo, and Tony Gonzales, 
who represents one of the largest border districts in the country. So 
we truly have a bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation.
  Our knowledge of this crisis doesn't just come from the news or 
political talking points but, as I suggested, from real conversations 
with the real people who are dealing with this and have dealt with 
previous surges. We have heard from State and local leaders, law 
enforcement, NGOs, as I said, and a range of property owners whose 
property is being overrun by the coyotes and those who are involved in 
this illegal immigration process. So their input has been the driving 
force behind the bill, which includes, I believe, commonsense measures 
to address this crisis.
  It is not, admittedly, a comprehensive immigration bill, but we need 
to put the fire out first and then build on our success, once we have 
passed that legislation, to do the other things that I think we can 
probably agree on, on a consensus basis, such as we discussed with the 
majority leader and others last evening
  The Bipartisan Border Solutions Act is not about scoring political 
points. It is about solving a problem, and that problem is getting 
bigger every day. The most immediate problem is our inability to 
properly process the sheer number of people crossing our border.
  Our Border Patrol and Health and Human Services, and the Office of 
Refugee Resettlement are simply overwhelmed. In March, we saw the 
highest number of border crossings on record: 172,000 individuals. That 
was a dramatic increase from the eye-popping numbers in February, which 
totaled 100,000.
  As I said, we have seen these surges before but never a surge like 
this magnitude. Now, the busiest months for people to cross the border 
typically are April, May, and June but not February and not March. So 
we know that this is only going to get worse based on our historical 
  If our facilities and people are already overwhelmed, imagine how the 
strain will intensify if we do nothing. We already know that, in 
processing these migrants, important steps are being skipped in an 
effort to expedite the process.
  Normally, if someone comes across the border seeking asylum, for 
example, they will be processed and released with a notice to appear 
for a future court hearing. That document includes important 
information like when and where their first court date is set. In many 
cases, right now, it just isn't happening.
  Many migrants are being released in the interior of the United States 
with incomplete paperwork, and they are not given any notice to appear 
for a future immigration court date. And, you know, if they don't show 
up in court, a

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default order of deportation will be entered even if they have a 
meritorious claim for asylum. So it has real consequences.
  But what else can our government officials and our local communities 
do? Unfortunately, they do not want us to continue releasing people to 
the interior without a court date or information on what is needed in 
order to assert your claim. And as I said, without appearing in court, 
a migrant with a valid asylum claim won't be able to receive the relief 
that U.S. law provides for them.
  At one point, the situation was so bad, the Biden administration 
considered flying migrants to less busy locations on the northern 
border to be processed. So there is really no question we need to 
improve our capacity and our process to handle these migrants more 
thoroughly and efficiently.
  Our bipartisan bill here in the Senate and in the House will 
establish four regional processing centers in high-traffic areas along 
the border to streamline the intake of migrants. One reason that is so 
important, just beyond capacity issues, is that the smugglers who 
smuggle people into the United States for a price--part of 
transnational criminal organizations--they make a lot of money doing 
this, and they are smart. They know if they flood the zone with 
unaccompanied children, that the Border Patrol will go offline in order 
to take care of those children, which we want those children taken care 
of. But what the smugglers know and what the transnational criminal 
organizations know is once those Border Patrol come off the frontline, 
they are going to exploit that loophole by running drugs into the 
United States or more migrants.
  Last year alone--or the last 12 months alone, 88,000 Americans have 
died from drug overdoses. And 92 percent of the heroin that comes into 
the United States comes from Mexico, together with a lot of 
methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine, and you name it. So we are dealing 
with incredibly shrewd and crafty people who understand the border 
perhaps better than most of us do.
  One of the worst parts of the current crisis is the tens of thousands 
of unaccompanied children who are making the dangerous trip from 
Central America or Mexico without their parents. Many of us have seen 
the heartbreaking video of a young boy, abandoned by smugglers in the 
Rio Grande Valley, and he was asking for directions because he was 
lost. Smugglers left him behind. I don't know why. Maybe he was injured 
or ill or slowing them down, but these smugglers don't care about this 
young boy or any other human being. All they care about is the money.
  And we have also read the story about a young girl who drowned trying 
to cross the river. And who can forget the young girls, ages 3 and 5, 
who literally were dropped over the border wall by human smugglers?
  The truth is, migrant children endure unimaginable abuse and trauma 
in the hands of these criminal organizations. We need to try better, 
and we need to do better to provide protections to these children and 
ensure that they will not continue to be traumatized or abused once 
they cross our borders.
  For example, our bill also provides that children cannot be released 
into the custody of a relative or sponsor who could potentially inflict 
even more harm upon them. No sex offender, no child abuser, and no 
other dangerous criminal should be given the responsibility to care for 
one of these children.
  We also need to remove some of the pull factors that encourage 
migrants to make this dangerous journey to our border in the first 
place. Many smugglers, known colloquially as coyotes, know our 
immigration laws better than most Americans, and they know how to 
exploit them, as I said.
  There is no doubt our backlogged legal system is one of the pull 
factors for these migrants. One of the biggest selling points for the 
smugglers is the immigration court backlog, which is currently 1.3 
million cases. On average, it takes 2\1/2\ years to get from the border 
to an immigration judge.
  A person or family can come here illegally and present weak or 
virtually nonexistent asylum claims with an almost certain guarantee 
that they will be able to stay in the United States for years while 
their claims are being adjudicated. That needs to change. Our 
legislation takes a number of steps to reduce the wait times and 
eliminate the backlog as a draw for even more illegal immigration and 
ensure that meritorious claims are recognized in a timely manner.
  The first part of this is, we need to hire more people. We need more 
immigration judges. We need more asylum officials. We need litigation 
teams and other staff who play a role in these legal proceedings. The 
only way to eliminate this backlog is to work through it, and this bill 
allows us to hire hundreds of people to do just that.
  Our legislation includes another important change to remove this 
backlog as a pull factor. During surge events like we are experiencing 
now, the cases of those arriving will be prioritized. In other words, 
we will put them at the front of line, not the back of the line where 
we will never get to them. For those with legitimate asylum claims, 
that should be good news. About 10 or 12 percent of the people who show 
up on our front doormat have legitimate asylum claims that are upheld 
by immigration judges, and we should provide them a timely hearing in 
front of a judge so they can receive the benefit of U.S. law.
  But this will also serve as a deterrent for those who know their 
asylum claims are weak. Why pay smugglers thousands of dollars to reach 
the United States if your case will quickly be heard and dismissed for 
lack of merit resulting in your return? That is one of the pull factors 
that we can establish and we can improve to deter people from wasting 
their hard-earned money with nonexistent or weak asylum claims.
  And, finally, the bill will ensure that migrants are treated fairly 
and humanely so we can be confident that our asylum system is working 
as we intended. This legislation includes a large number of other 
commonsense measures to alleviate staffing shortages, improve 
coordination between Federal, State, and local officials, expand 
language translation and legal orientation services for migrants, and 
the list goes on.
  Former Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost once described this surge in 
migration as like holding a bucket under the faucet. It doesn't matter 
how many buckets you have if you can't turn off the water. In the short 
term, we do need a bigger bucket. That includes facilities to process 
these migrants and personnel to adjudicate their asylum claims. But it 
won't matter how big that bucket is if we don't stop the flow or at 
least reduce it.
  We need to eliminate the pull factors that encourage migrants who do 
not qualify under our law for asylum from even attempting the dangerous 
journey to our border in the first place. That is exactly why the 
Bipartisan Border Solutions Act is the answer or an answer to the 
crisis at hand.
  This bill will deter illegal immigration without interfering with 
legitimate claims. It will ensure that migrants' claims are processed 
efficiently, without skipping important steps, and it will provide 
critical protections for children who come here alone.
  The fact that we have a bill that is bipartisan and bicameral is a 
testament to the commonsense reforms included in this legislation, and 
I have been proud to work with Senator Sinema, Congressman Cuellar, and 
Congressman Gonzales on this bill, and we would invite our colleagues 
to look at the bill and join us in cosponsoring it on a bipartisan 
  Now, one thing I can guarantee is this is not the end-all, be-all. 
This is not some silver bullet that is going to solve all of our 
problems, but what I think it will do is help restore public confidence 
that we are serious about enforcing our laws, while remaining generous 
in providing legal claims the benefit of a hearing and validation.
  We are, in fact, the most generous Nation in the world when it comes 
to legal immigration--naturalizing, roughly, a million people a year. 
But the truth is, my State and all our States, those of us on this bill 
currently, have borne the brunt of this crisis because of the failures 
of the Federal Government to deal with them.
  So we have developed a list of bipartisan cosponsors, and I hope the 
chairman of the Judiciary Committee and

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the minority leader will commit to working with us to solve this crisis 
in a fair and humane way.
  And the last thing I will say is, we are all ears if somebody has a 
better idea, but so far we haven't seen anybody step up and say: I have 
got an answer or at least a partial answer or response that has 
bipartisan and bicameral support.
  So I hope our colleagues will take a look at this, will work with us, 
and if they have got a better idea, as I said, we are all ears