June 23, 2021 - Issue: Vol. 167, No. 109 — Daily Edition117th Congress (2021 - 2022) - 1st Session
RETAIN ACT; Congressional Record Vol. 167, No. 109
(Senate - June 23, 2021)
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[Pages S4720-S4723] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] RETAIN ACT Mr. INHOFE. Madam President, last year, the Federal Communications Commission approved an application by Ligado Networks to repurpose the Federal spectrum in a way that will drastically interfere with GPS and satellite communications. This a big deal. There are so many people who understand this situation. There is a list of companies behind us that grows every day. Almost every company in America that you know of or have heard of--their name is on this list. The decision that was made will threaten GPS and satellite communications reliability for millions of Americans who depend on it. The reliability of GPS and satellite communications is necessary for safety of life operations, national security, and economic activity. I am going to pause here for a minute to drive home what this actually means for every American because people don't know this. They don't know how important GPS is. Yet there is not an American I can think of by description who isn't using it every day. So if something happens to it, there is a serious problem. Here are some of the day-to- day activities that would be difficult when experiencing GPS interference from Ligado. A big one--using your credit card or your debit card. When you are making a purchase or using an ATM, our financial systems rely on GPS timing in order to work. Another one--making a phone call. Cell phone networks rely on GPS to synchronize cell towers so calls can be passed seamlessly. If they experience interference, your call could be dropped when moving from one tower to another. Another one that people are not aware of and don't expect is energy, whether that is filling up your tank with gas at the pump or electrical grids to light our homes. We rely on GPS timing to safely operate underground pipelines and our electricity grid. Farmers and ranchers--this is something that a lot of people are not aware of, but they depend on GPS and satellite communications when planting crops, applying fertilizer, and during harvesting operations to move large and critical machinery with precision. Working out--a lot of people don't. I don't as much as I used to, but a lot of people do. They say that one-fifth of the population, 20 percent of the population, of all Americans, use a fitness tracker or a smartwatch. The majority have used GPS to count steps to track distance. We all know that. You see them out there every day. They depend on GPS. Taking a flight--I have been involved in aviation for over 70 years now and had occasion with three friends to fly around the world in 1991 using GPS. At that time--it may have been the first--the equipment I used was a Trimble TNL 2000. Trimble is one of the big GPS companies. I was using one, the TNL 2000. At that time, that may have been--we are checking to see--the first time that had been used for private [[Page S4721]] aviation, flying all the way around the world. Again, that is GPS, and that was 1991. Driving around right now, each day, countless Americans rely on Google Maps, Waze, Apple Maps, and any other navigation system to get them from point A to point B. While no one hopes to ever need a firetruck or an ambulance or the 9-1-1 operators, the EMS, they use GPS on a daily basis. There is more--weather forecasting, the movement of goods on our highways, surveying maritime harbors, channels, and everything else. The list goes on and on. How do we know that Ligado will cause interference? The FCC told us when they approved the Ligado order. I will read that now because people need to understand. I guess you could say we were warned. The FCC said in their document--that was the document they used on their approval order. They said: Ligado shall expeditiously repair or replace as needed any U.S. Government GPS devices that experience or are likely to experience harmful interference from Ligado's operations. That is a quote. That is what they said. That is what the FCC said at that time. Over 21 organizations and companies and industries filed petitions for reconsideration after the order was released, documenting the damage they would face from the Ligado interference. This thing right behind me is now up to 82; it was 78 this morning. The list goes on and on. You can hardly think of a corporation in America that isn't on this list. So it is something that is a very serious problem and widespread. Here is one way to put the interference into perspective. Because GPS signals travel from satellite in space, by the time those signals get to Earth's surface, they are low power. Because the FCC order allows Ligado to repurpose spectrum to operate a terrestrial-based network, Ligado's signals on Earth's surface will be much more powerful than GPS, causing substantial and harmful interference. While the FCC required Ligado to repair damage to Federal Agencies that results from the interference, congressional action is needed because the FCC's Ligado order fell short in two important ways. First, the order did not provide an adequate description of costs to the Federal Agencies that would result from Ligado's interference. We took bipartisan steps to correct this last year in the NDAA. The NDAA is the largest bill of the year. I happen to have been for several years the chairman of this thing. The NDAA is the national defense authorization bill. It does all the things that we do in the military. So that is the bill we are talking about. We included in that bill a provision directing the Department of Defense to produce an estimate of damages and costs associated with the harmful interference to GPS. We also directed DOD--Department of Defense--and the National Academy of Sciences to conduct an independent technical review of the harmful interference that Ligado can cause. Secondly, the FCC failed to require that Ligado bear the costs of interference in State governments or pay for interference to devices owned by individual users. Now, we are talking about all Americans out there now--not just government, not State government, not Federal government, but everyone else, these individual users. I talked already about how many ways we rely on GPS in everyday life. None of that would be protected from interference under the existing Ligado order. That is why I am introducing legislation--it is a long name, but I am going to say it anyway. It is called the Recognizing and Ensuring Taxpayer Access to Infrastructure Necessary for GPS and Satellite Communications Act, 2021. Got that? All right. I call it the RETAIN Act. That is a little more accurate and easy to understand. My legislation ensures that Federal Agencies, State governments, and all others negatively impacted by the actions of a private actor are not left holding the bag when it comes to costs, the amount of money it would cost to rectify, and, worse, aren't put in a position where they have to push the costs onto the American consumers. Why is this legislation necessary? Reliable GPS and satellite communications are important to everyone in the world and drive much of the Nation's economy. That is why I am going to ask my colleagues to embrace, endorse, and cosponsor this legislation. Otherwise, others may be forced to pay for damage that is done by the system. Anyway, I am going to ask our colleagues to join me in cosponsoring this legislation. If we don't do this and something happens, then it will be paid for not by those responsible parties but by the taxpayers. With that, 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. Mrs. GILLIBRAND. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. The Senator from New York. Unanimous Consent Request--S. 1520 Mrs. GILLIBRAND. As if in legislative session, I ask unanimous consent that at a time to be determined by the majority leader in consultation with the Republican leader, the Senate Armed Services Committee be discharged from further consideration of S. 1520 and the Senate proceed to its consideration; that there be 2 hours of debate, equally divided in the usual form, and that upon the use or yielding back of that time, the Senate vote on the bill with no intervening action or debate. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? Mr. INHOFE. Reserving the right to object. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma. Mr. INHOFE. I object. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New York. Mrs. GILLIBRAND. I rise for the 14th time to call for every Senator to have the opportunity to consider and cast their vote on the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act, which would ensure that servicemembers who have been subject to sexual assault and other serious crimes get the justice they deserve. For nearly a decade, the DOD has argued that removing convening authority from command, as our bill does, would undermine military readiness and good order and discipline. But yesterday, our Secretary of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin endorsed the Independent Review Commission's recommendation that sexual assault and related crimes be moved from the chain of command to trained military prosecutors. It is historic. It is historic that we have, for the first time ever, a Secretary of Defense agreeing that good order and discipline does not rest on a commander deciding whether a case goes forward or not. But we have to remember that the limited changes he endorsed come from a panel that was only asked to look at one type of crime. They were specifically asked to look at ways to solve the problem of military sexual assault and harassment. They drilled down on those issues of sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and child abuse, and they agreed that all of those crimes must be taken out of the chain of command and put in the hands of specialized, highly trained military prosecutors. They see no conflict with making those changes and retaining command control. I remind my colleagues the mission we are tasked with is larger than the mission that the IRC was tasked with. Our job is to provide our servicemembers with a military justice system that is worthy of the sacrifices they make for our country every day. That is why our bill addresses the fundamental flaw in the military justice system that puts the fate of our servicemembers in the hands of commanders who often know both the accuser and the accused and are not trained lawyers. Our reform draws a bright line and moves all serious crimes, which can lead to serious consequences, to independent military prosecutors. Secretary Austin's endorsement of the IRC's reforms makes it clear that he understands what we understand--convening authority is not necessary for maintaining command control or [[Page S4722]] for maintaining good order and discipline. Right now, 97 percent of commanders maintain good order and discipline without having convening authority for general court-martial. Only 3 percent, level 06 and above, have that unique authority. Our allies have drawn a similar bright line. They decided that in their military, serious crimes should be taken out of the chain of command and given to trained prosecutors. They have told us, through letters and testimony, that they saw no diminution in command control or good order and discipline. Good order and discipline rests not on the commander's ability to act as judge and jury but on their ability to do their job of instilling a culture of respect between servicemembers and instilling a command climate where these types of actions aren't tolerated. There is no reason to continue to subject servicemembers to a system where commanders, rather than trained military prosecutors, are deciding which cases go to trial. We must move decisions about whether to move forward on cases dealing with serious crimes to the most qualified, most highly trained person. That would be trained military prosecutors. That is all that our bill does. That is what the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act does. In addition to having a filibuster-proof support in the Senate, this is now a bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation. This morning, I stood with Congresswoman Speier, Speaker Pelosi, Congressman Turner, and a bipartisan group of Members in the House as they introduced this version of the legislation. The bipartisan support we have in the House includes Republicans with years of military service--former JAGs, former commanders. We had a general from the Republican Party stand up and support that bill this morning. Not only do they understand the importance of having a military justice system that is impartial and highly trained but also the importance of command and what their role is. We have a great deal of bipartisan support. This type of bipartisan, bicameral support is rare. It speaks to the importance of this reform, the importance of us meeting our obligation to provide oversight of our military, and the importance of serving those who serve our country in uniform. This morning, we were also joined by the sisters of Vanessa Guillen. Her youngest sister Lupe talked about what happened to Vanessa. She said: ``The system that we have now failed my sister, [and] it's up to us to change [it].'' To change the system that failed Vanessa, moving just sex crimes out of the chain of command would not be enough. She was murdered. We must move all serious crimes, including murder, to independent, impartial military prosecutors. This morning, Lupe said: ``Someone will always have to suffer for someone to care--but that stops now and it stops with us.'' It is time for us to do the job right, to prove Lupe right. Our servicemembers, as Secretary Austin said, deserve nothing less. 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. MORAN. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. Filibuster Mr. MORAN. Madam President, earlier this week--in fact, yesterday-- the Senate Democrats attempted an unprecedented power grab in the Senate that, in my view, clearly would have affected the sanctity of our elections and violated our Constitution. S. 1 was one of the most monstrous bills I have seen during my time in Congress, and it certainly didn't meet my standard of doing things that are constitutional. In doing so yesterday, the Senate Democrats underscored for me something I thought I knew well, and they reaffirmed it, and that is the importance of maintaining the legislative filibuster, the 60-vote threshold for legislation. I am sorry we went down the path of changing the rules for judges, then for the Supreme Court, and now, potentially, for legislation. Sixty votes is a good thing. Sixty votes allow--people say they want us to work together--60 votes require us to do that. In the absence of 60- vote rule, everything becomes political. In the absence of 60-vote rule, there is no certainty. A party in power, one that has the majority of the Senate, the President--the election changes, and there is a new majority, and then we change what we just passed 2 years before. There is nothing good for job creation and economic security. There is nothing good for families and trying to figure out what is next in their life when the law can change every time a new, a different party has the majority in the U.S. Senate and House or there is a new President. My view is that what happened yesterday was not by design. As a matter of fact, the vote, among others, was designed to fail in order to pressure Democratic Senators into altering the rules of the Senate and render this place a majority-run institution. Democrats achieved control--the voters gave them control of both Chambers of the Congress and the White House--and are convinced that they have a mandate to erode the governing norms of the Senate. By my count, the Senate stands at an evenly divided, 50-50, and the majority, by a slight number, Democrats have in the House of Representatives. Surely, this is hardly a mandate for a radically progressive agenda, much less changing the threshold for which minority rights are protected and bipartisan cooperation is promoted. Should the legislative filibuster meet its demise at the hands of this Senate because Democrats decide on a majority vote, that the rules that have been in place for decades should be changed overnight on a whim, the august U.S. Senate will be condemned to a partisan spectacle. The idea that everything should be decided by one vote means that everything here becomes political and that the American people become even more partisan. If every vote in the U.S. Senate--every outcome--is determined by one person, then politics become the passion of the American people by necessity. The 60-vote rule is designed to moderate both sides of a question, to bring us together, to pull us to the middle in something that is more acceptable to the American people than anything we might decide if we could decide it on our own, Republican or Democrat. It means that every citizen would feel the need to lobby us. The normal course of life becomes much more about politics. While politics is important to the country and while it is important for the American people to be engaged, they send us here to make decisions. That 60-vote rule allows us to make decisions that are more acceptable to them so they can spend their lives living their lives, not worrying about what, on any given day, the U.S. Senate might pass. I don't think the motivation by the Senate Democrats is what it may seem to some. The suggestion is that we can't seem to pass any legislation here. I read this week in the Wall Street Journal an editorial, an op-ed piece, by Mike Solon and Bill Greene, and this was a comment that stood out to me: The movement to end the filibuster is less about a Senate that doesn't work than it is about a socialist agenda that doesn't sell. The idea that everything is decided on the margin of one means that we become politics, that politics rules in this country. The freedoms and liberties that the American people enjoy every day because they can rely on not radical change but modest change--on improvements day by day, not improvements overnight--means that we have a different country. We certainly would have a different Senate, but a consequence of having a different Senate means America is not what it is today. Again, I say this in a way that would, I hope, remind my colleagues on both sides of the aisle: I stand ready to work on many issues on which we can bring ourselves together. I hope this week--tomorrow, today--that we learn there is an infrastructure agreement, a bipartisan agreement. This isn't a belief that I have the ability to dominate the agenda of the U.S. Senate or that one party should. It is a reminder that America is better when we work together and that eliminating the 60-vote [[Page S4723]] rule, ending the filibuster, changes America for the worse. I yield the floor. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New York. Mrs. GILLIBRAND. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the scheduled vote proceed immediately. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? Without objection, it is so ordered. Vote on Boardman Nomination The question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the Boardman nomination? Mrs. GILLIBRAND. Madam President, 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 legislative clerk called the roll. The result was announced--yeas 52, nays 48, as follows: [Rollcall Vote No. 248 Ex.] YEAS--52 Baldwin Bennet Blumenthal Booker Brown Cantwell Cardin Carper Casey Collins Coons Cortez Masto Duckworth Durbin Feinstein Gillibrand Graham Hassan Heinrich Hickenlooper Hirono Kaine Kelly King Klobuchar Leahy Lujan Manchin Markey Menendez Merkley Murphy Murray Ossoff Padilla Peters Reed Rosen Sanders Schatz Schumer Shaheen Sinema Smith Stabenow Tester Van Hollen Warner Warnock Warren Whitehouse Wyden NAYS--48 Barrasso Blackburn Blunt Boozman Braun Burr Capito Cassidy Cornyn Cotton Cramer Crapo Cruz Daines Ernst Fischer Grassley Hagerty Hawley Hoeven Hyde-Smith Inhofe Johnson Kennedy Lankford Lee Lummis Marshall McConnell Moran Murkowski Paul Portman Risch Romney Rounds Rubio Sasse Scott (FL) Scott (SC) Shelby Sullivan Thune Tillis Toomey Tuberville Wicker Young The nomination was confirmed. The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Ossoff). 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. ____________________