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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  October 5, 2015 4:00pm-6:01pm EDT

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take a bite to the floor of the senate where members will be debating a judicial nomination for the easter district of california. tomorrow the senate plans to work on the compromise bill with the house on defense authorization which that' that e programs and policy for 2016. live now on the floor of the senate here on c-span2. to orde. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal god, ruler of all creation, each day seems to bring more bad news than good. we hear about floods, bombs, murders, disunity, pestilence, and anguish. in spite of bad news, we continue to look to you, our
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help in ages past and our hope for years to come. lord, today we pray for the many around our nation and world who are suffering from the effects of poverty experiencing incessant hunger. we pray also for those who don't have access to quality education and for the tens of thousands fleeing deplorable and dangerous conditions in their countries. sovereign god, intervene and help the hurting in our nation and world by providing our lawmakers with the wisdom and courage to be instruments of your glory.
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we pray in your great name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. mr. mcconnell: madam president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: we live in an
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incredibly dangerous world. the number of threats facing our nation is simply staggering. that's one reason both parties actually came together to pass the national defense authorization bill through both chambers by very large bipartisan margins. in the senate, it was 71-25. in the house, 269-151. a bipartisan committee then worked to merge both chambers' bills into one. republicans on the committee supported that unified defense bill. democrats on the committee also supported that unified defense bill. the house already passed the unified legislation and we'll vote on it here tomorrow. americans have every reason to expect that democrats will vote again to support -- not block -- america's national defense
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authorization bill. and yet -- and yet, at a time when the united states faces numerous conventional, cyber, and terror threats, the obama administration is goading democrats into the very legislation that sets out defense policy and authorizes funds for our military. democrats just voted to pass america's national defense bill this summer. now they might filibuster it? this is part of a pattern. it should be worrying to all of us. just consider what we've seen already. the senate passed a bipartisan veterans funding bill out of the appropriations committee. democrats voted for and praised the bill at that time. then they filibustered it. the senate passed a bipartisan defense funding bill out of the appropriations committee. democrats voted for and praised the bill at that time.
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then they filibustered it. twice. this really has to stop, madam president. these are serious times. it's time for democrats to prove they can be serious as well. mr. reid: madam president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. reid: about 10:45 this morning one of my friends passed away. the name was janice shelton. she was a fixture in the united states senate. she worked in the senate for more than three decades. but the reason i feel so bad this morning -- this afternoon,
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i should say, is that janice worked for me. janice shelton worked for me for 25 years. she was such a good person. she ran my office, and that's an understatement. she was born in virginia, in warrenton, graduated from mount vernon high school in a san degree i can't, attended northern virginia community college, married and two daughters, two grandchildren that i know well. eight total. but shelton and nelson worked for me as -- i shouldn't say worked for me. i got to know him very, very well. i read the papers every sunday to find out how his football team had done. he was a huge offensive lineman, weighed more than 300 pounds of solid muscle.
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his brother chris, who was 6'4" was a stunningly good baseball pitcher also at the college level. rebecca and holly worked at the senate here, senate pages. they have four great-grandchildren. janice started working at the department of the army. she worked in the carter white house, office of domestic policy. she worked in the reagan white house. she moved to the senate in 1981 as executive assistant, worked for paula hawkins from florida for six years, worked for smor mikulski for a year or so and worked for me for 25 years. she left me less than three years ago and moved down to north carolina with her two daughters, one of of course now
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lives in atlanta. janice spent her career bringing order where chaos could have easily been there. in my office everyone knew janice shelton. she ran that place so well, so polite, so firm in what she would allow to happen and not happen. there was no bad language. she had a little cup there, anybody use any bad language, they had to put money in it. she was so gracious, so kind, unbelievable energy. it didn't matter what the job was, big or small, she could handle that job. she was a stenographer. she was a person who could handle the most difficult administrative situation. a woman of tremendous faith.
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she had a love affair with her husband, bobby, for a long time. i remember bobby with that accent of his, that southern accent. and with bobby was -- when he was still in business around here, he would bother his morning breakfast crowd by wearing stirts t-shirts of mine. he ran with a rather conservative crowd. she and bobby were loyal to me. she knew my children, knew my grandchildren. she suffered with a -- the bad times we had. i remember i was heavily involved in the final stages of the obama health care bill. she walked into my office and said i've got to talk to you, and she told me my wife had been in a very bad automobile
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accident. she of course was available any time she was needed to help my wife with things, me with things, those personal things. you can't have just anyone help you. it had to be someone like janice. her desk was right outside my office door. she was a fixture there. she was there all the time that i was there. whatever my hours were in the senate, those were her hours. and i mean that without anything other than the truth. if i was there until 10:00, she was there until 10:00. and often when i would go home i would call back and say janice, why are you still there? she would say i still have a few things to do. i've miss janice now for almost three years, talked to her as often as i can. but i'm going to really miss her now. she will leave a tremendous void
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in my heart. i have -- so i'm going to go call my kids later today. i haven't done it yet. i haven't had time for anything. to tell them about janice having passed. i wish words could convey to everyone within the sound of my voice what a wonderful human being janice shelton has been. i will miss her often. the impact she's made in my life, my wife's life will be there forever. two of my staff have come into my office separately and broke down in tears about janice being no longer with us. she created such loyalty, such
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admiration for this hard work and professionalism. i love janice shelton and always will. madam president, i would ask that there be a break in the record now while i talk about other matters. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: just a few days ago last thursday our great nation which witnessed another tragedy. preparing these remarks, we were trying to come up with what we should say. tragedy? tragedy doesn't quite convey how horrible that mass killing was in oregon. once again a young man was able
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to take guns and end the lives of innocent people. nine men and women woke up thursday morning all to attend umpqua community college, but they were assaulted and killed and demented, sadistic killing rirt -- ritual. trefn taylor hunchback, age 20. rebecca ann clark, age 18. quinn cooper age 18. kin saltmarsh deitz, 59 years old. jason johnson 34. lawrence lef vine 57. all victims of a deranged gunman's murderous attack. mr. president, our hearts are
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broken for the families and loved ones, the victims, and for this whole community of roseburg. a broken heart really isn't enough, is it? this senseless act of gun violence is not an isolated tragedy. communities around our nation are shattered daily by these rule and undisturbed acts of gun violence. the realities of gun violence is not only shocking. it's pathetic. every day gun violence claims the lives of 30 americans. tomorrow this time, 4:15, 24 hours from now, about 30 more americans will be killed by guns. 11,000 americans are murdered with guns each year. this year alone -- the year's not over -- we have had 200 mass shootings. 200.
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anywhere else in the world these alarming facts would prompt action. sadly, here in the united states we've become so desensitized to the lives that are taken every day by guns, the response is to do nothing. to do nothing. each time gun violence claims the life of an american, the nation follows the same routine. here is what it is. same thing happens. we have shock and sorrow. then we start asking questions. who did that? who was the killer? we usually have to wait a few hours to find out who it was. why -- why did he do this? why did he carry out this horrible act? then we wonder, when the time allows it, what could we as a nation have done to prevent this terrible thing from happening? we don't do anything. we don't act. it's within our power to reduce gun violence in the nation and prevent mass shootings. not all of them, but some of
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them. a few of them. we know these tragic events almost always occur in instances where somebody's unstable and they are terribly violent and they are able to get a gun easily and use it to carry out these terrible attacks. we know this, yet we fail to process and approve federal laws preventing violent people from getting guns. instead of taking action, lawmakers all around this country pander to the extreme right-wing gun lobby that leaves americans vulnerable to these attacks. this year alone, there have been more than 200 mass shootings this year. the united states is a global leader in mass shootings. this great nation. can't we reach standards in this country for gun purchase? the answer is yes. we can do it by not infringing
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on rights to restrict access to firearms, but to keep americans safe. let's not mince words about who would stamp us from passing background checks. republicans that wage a right-wing ideological crusade fashioned by the n.r.a. and gun owners of america, these two organizations are in a scramble to who can raise the most money. that's what it's all about. one of them does something, the other we'll do better than that, and they are out, each request comes with can you send us some money? this right-wing ideological crusade fashioned by the n.r.a., the gun owners of america, is to prevent background checks that would keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, criminals and mentally ill. the n.r.a. n.r.a., -- the national rifle association is a far cry from the sportsman's association it once was.
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the n.r.a. once called mandatory background checks reasonable. that's what they said. now it uses its energy and its members to fight against even the most sensible reforms. with this deadly agenda democrats have long sought to strengthen background checks, but instead of joining democrats in finding ways to protect american lives, republicans have pledged their loyalty to what was once a moderate sportsman's organization. times have changed. now the n.r.a. and its leadership are committed to a radical agenda that allows criminals and mentally ill americans to access guns to commit these terrible acts. is this what the american people elected us to do? i think not. is this a protection they want or deserve? i think not. mr. president, americans are smarter than that. they deserve better than that. the majority of people who belong to the n.r.a. believe there should be background checks to stop people who are mentally unstable and are criminals from buying guns.
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90% of gun owners believe there should be background checks, including 86% of republicans. but even in the face of support, republicans refuse to take steps in implementing background checks that could save the lives of countless americans. we have witnessed the consequences of inaction too often. why do i say that? this isn't over a period of many, many years, not decades. fort hood, 13 americans hilled. tucson, 16 -- i'm sorry, six americans killed. carson city, four americans killed. newton, 27 americans killed, including 22 babies, little tiny children. aurora, 12 americans killed. navy yard here in d.c., 12 americans killed. charleston, nine americans killed while worshiping.
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monetta, virginia, two journalists shot on live television. now the massacre at umpqua. nine dead. these tragic be events have shattered the lives of too many families. the shooter was armed with, listen to this, was armed with six firearms, loads of ammunition, and when they came to his home, they found 14 guns and another gun. think thought it was only 14, but no, they found another one. so you add them up, 15 plus six. 21 guns, 21 guns. we do not yet know why this young man murdered these innocent people in cold blood, but what does it say about our country that they are willing to stand by idle while these tragedies happen, happen, and happen? smarter gun laws in this country are long overdue. the lives of innocent men and women and babies and children
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are at stake. how many more? how many more innocent lives must be taken before this stops? how many more communities and families' lives will be shattered? how many more sacred places of worship will be violently attacked? how many more colleges and schools will be terrorized or forever traumatized by this kind of violence? how many more americans will be warned? how many more solemn speeches of condemnation, frank discussions must take place? what will it take before we stand up as a nation and say enough, not another innocent american will fall victim to this ideological crusade of having more guns and more guns and more guns. we don't take action, we are equally responsible for innocent deaths as the sick individuals who plot and carry out these horrific massacres. i've started to reach out to senators in talking about what can be done to advance the cause of background checks while republicans are in charge for the next year or so.
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one thing is clear. to pass background checks, we need republicans to stop acting as puppets of the n.r.a. madam president, i see nothing here on the floor, anyone willing to speak, so would you announce what the schedule is for the rest of the day? the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business until 5:00 p.m. with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. mr. reid: i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas.
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a senator: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cotton: our founders designed a constitutional government powerful enough to defend us against threats domestic and foreign, yet safe enough itself not to threaten our liberty. the separation of powers is a primary feature of our constitution. our founders knew that encroachment by the executive under the legislature or vice versa isn't only a political dispute but ultimately a threat to the freedom of all americans. thus, they provided both branches with checks and balances to prevent such encroachment. late last week, we learned shocking news -- armed agents of the executive violated the law to intimidate a congressman from doing his job. this is the exact kind of encroachment against which our founders warned. the executive hasn't yet acted with anything like the gravity this matter deserves. until it does, i intend to use
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the powers of my office to demand action and to protect our constitutional order. let me say more about the shocking news. an inspector general report issued last week, we learned that dozens of secret employees illegally accessed the personnel file of representative jason chaffetz. more than a decade ago, he applied to the secret service. he was not hired. now he is the chairman of the house oversight and government reform committee. the committee held an important oversight hearing into serious mis-duct by socia secret service agents. an agent illegally searched the service's database which contains all manner of criminal, security, investigative, person he would and other data. the agent discovered congressman chaffetz's old job application. this was a blatant violation of the privacy act about which the computer-based system
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specifically warns on a prompt screen. the agent admitted to searching simply out of curiosity, presumably because congressman chaffetz was conducting an oversight hearing. word quickly spread throughout the secret service and 45 employees accessed congressman chaffetz's records over the next week on 60 different occasions. these employees were located around the world, from london to sacramento, and multiple headquarters' offices even on bill clinton's protective detail. the inspector general could identify only four instances of potentially legitimate access. moreover, the inspector general concludes that the information was shared with hundreds of people, each a violation of the privacy act. some employees realized their mistake and self-reported to their supervisor, according to the inspector general. while these employees did indeed make a serious mistake, at least they owned up to it. others remained defiant saying
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they didn't read the warning banner or even claim ago right to satisfy personal curiosity because the personnel files are -- quote -- "our database." now, let me state here for the record my admiration for the vast majority of secret service agents, officers, and professionals who saw their professionalism on display just last month during pope francis' visit and the u.n. general assembly. they're dead caughted professionals who risk their lives to defend our constitution and laws. indeed, secret service whistle-blowers aware of this situation helped to initiative the inspector general investigation. like the soldiers with whom i served in the army, the upstanding men and women of the secret service want to get rid of their bad apples more than anyone. unfortunately, the senior leaders of the secret service once again failed their people. the inspector general identified 18 supervisors who knew or should have known of the illegal searches and disclosures.
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with but one exception, the inspector general found no evidence that these senior managers reported the matter up the chain of command or took steps to stop or remedy it. these leadership fail ours went all the way to the top. one example is deputy director craig mcgaw, when briefed by a subordinate, he reportedly made a shooing manned motion and stated, yes yeah, yeah, we know. mr. mcga wrvment took no steps to stop the illegal activity. and he claims not remember this exchange. also a de facto gatekeeper for deputy director mcgaw. mr. beerman admits to hearing rampant rumors about the chaffetz matter within 24 hours of the hearing. he also apparently didn't inquiry any further to learn the truth or take action to stop illegal activity. the most egregious example of
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leadership fail our in the inspector general report is assistant director ed lowery, the head of training for the secret service. mr. lowery wrote in this e-mail about congressman chaffetz. "some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. just to be fair." lo and behold, two days later, a news web site ran an article, unsourced, about congressman chaffetz's decade-old job application to the secret service. i wonder who the source could have been? for that matter, woinder if this -- i wonder if this kind of attitude from the head of training explains some of the secret service's recent struggles. yet, there's even more egregious behavior not in the inspector general's report. thanks to a friday afternoon news dump, we now know that
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director joe clancy himself both knew of the chaffetz matter at the time and misrepresented the facts that the inspector general. in the report, director clancy states that he didn't learn about the matter until a week after the congressional hearing, on the eve of a "washington post" story about the matter. as we've seen, this would have made him a notable exception among the secret service's top leaders. but director clancy confronted with this report is now singing a different tune. he now admits that he heard a -- quote -- "speculative rumor" the day after the hearing and a week before "the washington post" story. yet director clancy says he considered the rumor not cebled and not indicative of wrongful conduct. that omission alone is damning and -- that admission alone is a damning and ironic confession of a degrees leadership failure. let's put this in context. director clancy was specifically hired just months earlier to clean up the secret service's leadership culture after a
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string of embarrassing incidents. at the very congressional hearing that started all this, director clancy testified that he was -- quote -- "infuriated that he hadn't been made aware of the latest security lapse." he further testified that he was -- quote -- "working furiously" "to break down these barriers where people feel they can't talk up the chain. despite all that despite hearing rumors that obviously should have triggered immediate investigation, he did nothing for a full week to look into the matter and put a stop to it, which he only did after the story hit "the washington post." how could this happen? who could you someone hired to change the culture of this agency be so indifferent to potential illegal activity and to such a constitutional affront to the legislature that he did nothing, absolutely nothing, until the press broke the story? and to make matters worse, director clancy misrepresented all of it to the inspector general until the report was
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released lastenc last wednesday. if anything remotely like this happened in the army, commanders would have been relieved of command months ago. the army holds its leaders responsible for everything their units do or fails to do. jason chaffetz and i served in the house together. he is a tough, smart guy. this isn't is partisan matter. i would feel the same way and give the same speech if secret service employees violated the law to intimidate representative he lie gentleman cummings. for that matter, how do we know that they didn't? although i am not in the house any longer nor on committees that oversee the secret service or homeland security, why am i so outraged by the secret service's misconduct in this matter? first, if secret service personnel will violate the law to intimidate and retaliate against the chairman of their
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oversight committee, what might they do to the normal arkansan, to the little guy who doesn't have chairman chaffetz's mega-phone and position of influence? what might other bureaucrats and agencies do? these abuses are far more than yet another example of government misconduct. they strike at the heart of our constitutional order. though troubled by secret service lapses like the colombian prostitute scandal, i haven't spoken out, believing my peers on the oversight committee could handle them -- as they did. this go far beyond simple misbehavior, low. armed agents of a paramilitary agency violated th the law to intimidate the chairman in charge of that agency. the gravity of this scandal hasn't yet been met by the executive branch.
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"he's confident u.s. secret service director joe clancy will take appropriate action to both handle those who violated those the laws and policies of this department." this response is woefully inadequate. first, when an abuse of power strikes the heart of our constitutional order, it warns the attention of a senate-confirmed department secretary. second, secretary johnson implies there may be some doubt about whether laws were broken. the inspector general identified no fewer than 56 instances of blatant illegal activity. third, director clancy cannot be trusted to handle this matter, given what we know now. to give secretary johnson the benefit of the doubt on this count, he issued his statement before director clancy's admission of misrepresented the facts to the inspector general. but responsibility for a constitutional confrontation such as this really calls for a presidential response. yet president obama has been silent.
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his spokesman last week acted as if an apology was enough and implied that it was just a matter of procedures not being followed, a as if there were ppropriate procedures to follow. he even suggested that the response thus far "is a strong indication that there is effective leadership in the secret service." effective at what, one must ask. this indifferent response is far short of the what the situation demands. first, secretary johnson must take appropriate disciplinary action against all secret service personnel involved including director joe clancy, deputy director craig magaw, and assistant director ed lowery. i would invite secretary johnson to brief not only me but the entire congress. once he makes his decision -- firings, revocation of security clearances or suspensions -- he can explain his reasoning. congress can then decide whether
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this discipline is adequate. most immediately, if it turns out that director clancy knowingly misled the inspector general, he should resign or be fired. he was hired to clean up wrongdoing at the secret service, not perpetrate it and cover it up. second, and independent of workplace discipline, the inspector general must start a criminal investigation of the secret service personnel who unlawfully accessed congressman chaffetz's personnel filed and disseminated its contents. criminal violations of the privacy act and other statutes must be punished. the inspector general lacks criminal authority and it is unclear from his report if he was able to take certain key reports such as obtaining personal e-mails and phone records. further, secret service officials sat in many of the interviews that the inspector general conducted raising genuine questions about improper influence in the process. what's needed is a vigorous and disinterested criminal investigation by a single federal prosecutor at the justice.
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-- at the justice department. senators often make requests for action from the scwif branch which are -- from the executive branch which are almost as often ignored. let issei for the record. these aren't requests. these are demands. they're quite modest demands given these most serious constitutional stakes. take and explain appropriate disciplinary action and start a criminal investigation. until then, i will be compelled to act by exercising our constitutional authority over executive branch nominations. every officer of the united states from the president to the newest clerk must understand that congress will fend off this kind of executive encroachment and there will be severe consequences for attempting to intimidate the people's elected representatives or obstructing us from doing our jobs. i'm not yet at the point of calling for a total blockade on all executive branch nominations, though i may reach that point. just before this speech, though, i did register an objection to
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three prominent political nominations and there will be more to follow if the executive branch doesn't act swiftly. none of these are nominees for the department of homeland security partly because they have no pending nominees but mostly because this is a constitutional question, not a parochial matter about a single department. i take this step reluctantly and with no if i can quarrel with these three nominations or future ones to which i might be compelled to object. i do not wish to prolong this dispute, only to defend our constitutional order. when president obama and secretary johnson take appropriate action, i will likewise take action and release these and future objections. i hope our two branches can resolve this confrontation quickly and in keeping with their constitutional traditions, the american people deserve no less.
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mr. murphy: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator connecticut. mr. murphy: thank you, madam president. i'm here on the floor this afternoon to talk about a young man named bill smolinsky, and a law that senator hoeven and i are introducing on behalf of him, his family, and the, quite literally, millions of other families throughout the united states who have had to deal with the trauma, the angst, the grief of a loved one missing. let me tell you a little bit about billy. bill liszt parents don't think that he's alive any longer, but they aren't sure because on august 24, 2004, at the age of 31, billy went missing.
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billy was a vibrant young man who lived in waterbury, connecticut, along with his treasured dog, and he didn't respond to calls and communications from his family over the course of a number of days, and his parents -- and i'll speak about his mother in particular, jan smolinsky, who has been the driving force behind billy's law, his parents went to law enforcement at the waterbury police department. it is a great police department. i have a lot of friends there. even they will admit that they really screwed this case up from the beginning. they told his parents that he probably didn't go missing, that he was just running away from personal problems that he had. one officer stated that billy was probably -- quote -- "drinking a beer in europe somewhere." the smolinskys pressed their
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case day after day and only two weeks after asking for help from the police department did the smolinskys finally get an investigation started. but it went slowly. d.n.a. samples were submitted and lost. it took four years before the police department ever actually searched his car to see if there was any information about what happened to billy. billy's case made a lot of news in connecticut and in waterbury and over the course of the last few years it's taken twists and turns, but he's never been found. his parents suspect he was killed by law enforcement hasn't made progress on that case either. what billy's parents found over the course of the last 11 years as they've tried to aid in the search for billy was they encountered obstacle after obstacle trying to participate
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in the investigation, to try to be helpful in the search for billy smolinski. they came to me, at the time, their member of congress from waterbury, connecticut, to discuss ways in which we in congress could take down some of the barriers they faced because what they found as they became reluctantly part of this big national network of families who have had loved ones go missing is their story was not unique. their story about finding obstacles at the local preponderance of the -- local police department but at the national level was all too common. what they got into was a national network of tens of thousands of individuals searching for a missing loved one, missing father, mother, brother or sister. there are nationwide as many as
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90,000 active missing persons cases at any given time. and there are some really simple things that we can do to help families who are trying to find their missing loved one. much of the attention rightly goes to missing children. missing children have an entire set of laws built up around them. and for good reason our priority lies in finding them. law enforcement, within a matter of hours has to post information about missing children on to a national databases. there are specific campaigns waged on billboards and media outlets to immediately find missing children. but our focus on finding missing children shouldn't absolve us from the responsibility to help families like the smolinskis find missing adults as well.
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we have a companion piece of legislation being introduced in the house by my colleague in connecticut, representative elizabeth estey and congressman ted poe of texas. let me explain what this piece of legislation does. here's what it does, at the foundation. it strengthens the database system that families access to try to find their missing loved one. currently there are two databases. one a law enforcement database, something called ncic. and second a public facing database called namus. these two databases very often aren't talking to each other and therein lies the primary problem this bill tries to solve. law enforcement uploads all sorts of information on to ncic but then that data doesn't often get transferred over to the data base the families can access called the namus database. why is that important?
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it's important because families are the super sleuths in missing persons cases. families are the ones that know all of the detailed, intricate information about the circumstances of a disappearance and the identification of their loved one. so i don't mean to get too gruesome, but think about this statistic. there are 40,000 sets of unidentified remains in the country today. think about that. there are 40,000 sets of unidentified remains in the country. but because not all of that information -- the detailed descriptions of those remains -- are uploaded on to a database that the public can see, billy's body may be out there somewhere. but his parents can't find it because they don't have access to the information. unfortunately, that's the reality, the problem that we're trying to solve. if you get more information that law enforcement has on to a
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public database, the super sleuths, the parents, the brothers, the sisters, will have more access to it. what about information that law enforcement has about a individual who's gone missing? a report of someone that's gone missing in california not uploaded on to a database, that a family who is looking for that information in new york may want. this legislation authorizes namus permanently in law and requires the two databases be connected. law enforcement is concerned, rightly, that any information that is sensitive to an open case should remain private. and this legislation allows for the f.b.i. to determine what information has to remain private as part of ncic and what information goes on to the public database. connecting those databases will give more information to families like the smolinskis to
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try to crack these 90,000 cases that are out there today. second, the legislation opens up a relatively modest but important training program for police, for coroners, for medical examiners to make sure they're getting this information. the databases don't work if you're not getting information uploaded, if you're not getting the data out of a coroner's office up out of a database there is no way a family across the country can access to to try to find the final resting place of their loved one. so this legislation authorizes a small new program that would provide training to those medical examiners, coroners, police departments to try to make sure information is getting up on the law enforcement data, ncic -- they put up all the information about missing kids right away but as you heard in the case of billy smolinski,
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often they don't put that information up about missing adults. some of these police departments are tiny. they don't have the resources to do training for their personnel on how to do this. this program would allow them to get that. in the end we can crack a lot of these cases, thousands of these cases if we are simply giving some tools to families to participate in the search and tools to law enforcement to talk with each other. the smolinskis haven't given up. jan has come to congress to testify on behalf of billy's laws. she ising changed practices -- she's changed practices of the waterbury police department. she wants to make sure those mistakes aren't repeated across the country. she thinks about what would have happened if that information about billy would have uploaded on to ncic immediately, the day that she reported it. maybe billy was taken to some
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other state. maybe the lack of that information being transmitted that day meant that a break in the case didn't happen in those early days. and she always thinks about what would happen if she had access to more information, in that database that she looks at virtually every day, the namus database, had more information about missing persons and about unidentified remains. she thinks about her ability to solve this case, help the police solve this case if those databases were better or more up to date. and so, in connecticut, we hope that we are eventually going to solve the case of billy smol smolinski's disappearance, but we also hope we can pass legislation here in the house, bipartisan, noncontroversial, measured, commonsense, that will assure that there are just less
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jan smolinskis in the world going forward. we passed this in the house when i was there with a broad, big bipartisan vote. this is the first time we've is introduced it on a bipartisan basis here in the senate, and i'm hopeful that speaking on behalf of not just the smolinski family but the 90,000 other families who are briefing -- grieving for missing persons that we can get this done and get this done shortly so we can give families and law enforcement the tools they need to crack more of these cases. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. leahy: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: madam president, i ask consent the call of the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: madam president, today we're going -- the presiding officer: morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, the judiciary, dale a.drozd of california to be united states district judge for the eastern district. the presiding officer: under the previous order, there will be 30 minutes for debate equally divided in the usual form. mr. leahy: thank you, madam president. i didn't realize we had not gone into executive session. but as the distinguished chair pointed out, we're going to vote on the nomination of judge dale
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drozd to be federal district judge for the eastern district of california. that's the good news. unfortunately, the bad news is so far this year, we've only confirmed six judges since the republicans took back the majority in january. it's not even a judge per month. some would claim this is reasonable, but i don't believe it is. when president bush in the last two years of his term, he had had a republican majority for up to that point, in the last two months of his -- last two years, rather, of his term, he had a democratic majority. i was chairman of the judiciary committee. i did not want to do what republicans have done to president clinton in blocking 75 of his judges, and i said we have to go with the regular order because at the -- if we
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didn't go with the regular order, we were going to be politicizing the judiciary. so we had a democratic majority, a republican president, and by this time we confirmed 33 judges. by this time, hoping to set a precedent and stop the things when they -- i said when the republicans blocked nearly 75 of president clinton's judges. i wanted to set a different pattern. i wanted to take at least confirmation of judges out of politics. well, it went back to the same old same old, doing just exactly as they did with president clinton. they have allowed only six judges to be confirmed so far this year under the obama administration as opposed to 33 that we had confirmed in the
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bush administration. in fact, at this rate, by the end of the year, the senate will have confirmed the fewest number of judges at any time any one of us have been in this body, the fewest number of judges in more than a half a century even though we have a much larger population, we have a lot more vacancies and we have a number of judicial emergencies. and this has had a devastating effect for americans across the country. i hear all the time from individuals and from small businesses that go to our federal courts, they want to seek justice, they want federal courts to hear these claims, and these businesses are saying we can't. we have so many vacancies in the judiciary, it's going to be years before we can hear your case. today nancy kaufman, the c.e.o. of the national council of jewish women, author of an op-ed
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which said what matters to the average person or business with a case in the federal courts is one of the lower courts is able to dispense justice in a timely manner with so many empty seats on the bench, and that is where the majority of the senate has strangled the process by running up the number of judicial vacancies. i ask unanimous consent miss kaufman's op-ed be included in the record at this point. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. leahy: in fact, because of the unprecedented nature of the republican obstruction, vacancies have been -- have increased by more than 50%, from 43 to 68. now, the women and men that have been nominated are all highly qualified, outstanding public servants. many of them have the support of both republican and democratic senators from their states.
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in fact, those pending on the floor were all voted out unanimously from the judiciary committee in voice votes. every single republican, every single democrat were supportive and those home-state republican senators who have issued press releases and publicly supported their judicial nominees should take the next step and ask their leader to schedule up-or-down votes. judge rstreppo was nominated last year to the third circuit in pennsylvania. if confirmed, the judge will be the first hispanic judge from pennsylvania to ever serve on the appellate court and only the second hispanic judge to serve on the third circuit. this senate had unanimously confirmed him two years ago to
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serve as a district court judge, but judge restrepo, this highly, highly qualified hispanic, is being blocked by the republican majority from being confirmed. he has bipartisan support from both pennsylvania senators. he's voted out of the judiciary committee unanimously by voice vote. he has the strong endorsement of the nonpartisan hispanic national bar association. in fact, at his confirmation hearing, senator toomey stated there is no question judge restrepo is a very well-qualified candidate to serve on the third circuit. so, given these remarkable creditdentials, given his wealth of experience, given his strong bipartisan support, the senate should have confirmed him months ago. instead, for ten months, since judge restrepo's nomination back
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in november 2014, he has been denied a vote on his confirmation. every single senate democrat has said they'll vote for him. he's being denied a confirmation vote by the senate republican leadership. no one doubts he'll be confirmed once the majority leader decides to schedule his vote, if he'd take the time to schedule his vote, he could be voice-voted five minutes later. i have a feeling the people of pennsylvania are wondering when this longstanding and emergency vacancy on the appeals court will be filed, when this body will stop turning their back on pennsylvania, when the republican leadership will allow pennsylvania to have their voice on the circuit court. in fact, the republican leadership continues with this obstruction. if home state senators cannot
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persuade the leader to schedule a vote for their nominee soon, it is unlikely that even the highly qualified nominees who have republican support are going to be confirmed by the end of the year. so let's stop this obstruction. let's follow what i did with president bush. stop the needless delays, schedule judge restrepo's confirmation for a vote this week and then the other pending 14 nominees without further delay. if you did that, you'd be up two-thirds to what we did for president bush at this time. mr. president, i see nobody else on the floor, so i would suggest the absence of 0 quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mrs. boxer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the
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senator from california. mrs. boxer: i ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: we're having a lot of trouble moving judges. it has taken a year since his nomination. it will be a year in november to get to this point. the eastern district of california is in a state of emergency. so i'm so glad we're going to add this good man to the court. cases are piling up. it's because we don't have enough judges to review them. so judge drozd's leadership is desperately needed. this position on the eastern bench, again, has been vacant since october of 2012, and judge drozd is an excellent candidate to fill it. he received his batc bachelor's degree in 1977 from california state university at san diego and his law degree from the university of california at los angeles, where he was a member of the order of the coif. he began his legal career as a
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law clerk for a district judge in the same judicial district where he now serves. followinfollowing clerkship, hed in private practice in sacramento and san francisco for is a -- for 15 years. he was apoipted to sesqui as a magistrate judge in the eastern district of california. l four years later he became the chief magistrate judge. judge drozd's 18 years on the bench, and his previous years in private practice, make him an excellent candidate to fill this vacancy. he also received a unanimous well-qualified rating from the american bar association. he is a noncontroversial nominee who has bipartisan support, including praise from two judges in the eastern district who were both appointed by president george w. bush. judge lawrence o'neil wrote to me, "at this point in
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desperation, desperation in the eastern district of california every day of delay makes an enormous difference. needing help is a severe understatement." this is what a judge who was appointed by george w. bush says. "any persona position of authority relating to the confirmation of this nominee should focus on his bipartisan support." mr. president, i think that's important. this nominee has broad support from both political parties. judge england said that judge drozd has all the attribute see abovecc to be an outstanding addition to the district court bench in fresno." "i know he has bipartisan support and i certainly support and encourage his confirmation at the he recalliest possible time." so i am so glad we're voting to confirm judge drozd today. the people of the eastern district of california really need his leadership, and the overworked judges of the eastern
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district really need his help. and i hope maybe we can start to move these nominees forward. mr. president, if i might speak on another topic at this time, i just wanted to send my condolence see abovecc to those -- condolences. we have to do more than pray. we have to stop this. now, i know you can't stop every single tragedy from happening, but i have to say, if you look at my home state, we have passed some very common sense laws. we don't have a gun show loophole. that's important. if it's foreign get a background check from a federally licensed
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dealer, it is foreign get a background check at a gun show. it is important to get a background check online. we have to make it harder for people who want to get guns for nefarious reasons, not to protect their families, but sometimes to actually harm their families, harm their communities. and i wanted to say that senator feinstein and i, after going through one of these horrible experiences with some of our communities, we introduced a bill which would give parents and families of mentally disturbed young people a chance to go to court and intervene so that that individual would not have this weaponry, because we knew in the last incident in california where a gunman came down and just shot up people
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sitting in a cafe, we knew that the mother was desperate, desperate to try and warn law enforcement that this was going to happen and to intervene. but there was no pathway that she could go. so this bill -- we call it the gun violence intervention act -- is very simple. it says, if a family member knows and believes that someone in their family is mentally unstable and is buying guns and they will use it, give that family member a pathway forward to intervene in the situation. i don't know who could be against this, because a judge will be objective if somebody is doing it, if a mom is doing it just out of whole cloth and there's no reason, the judge won't allow it. i'm proud to say that california
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has passed and identical bill -- pretty much identical bill, and it will go into effect in 2016. in california, if you see someone in your family who you know is acting strange, who you know is making threats, who you know is buying weapons, you have the ability to intervene and take your story to a judge and prevent these kinds of tragedies. that's just one example of some of the commonsense measures we should be taking here. so my heart goes out to the families, but i have to say, i agree with the critic whose say, just don't come to the senate floor and say your heart goes out to the families. that's not enough. and so i'm calling on this senate to do something, and i know wednesday we're going to have a press conference that senator blumenthal has organized to talk about a very important
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but small loophole closing that he is recommending that we do. at this time, i would yield the floor and the remaining time i would give it to senator nelson. mr. nelson: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: mr. president, i'm certainly going to help senator boxer. the question about guns, i'm an old gun boy, grew up on a ranch, grew up with guns, but guns should be for hunting not for killing. and one of the most commonsense measures is a measure that you ought to have background checks on the way that guns are sold to get around the background check law, such as in gun shows. but i came here on a happier note, and that is to
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congratulate our ambassador, u.s. trade representative for successfully completing the negotiation with 11 other nations in the pacific rim on this trans-pacific agreement, and there was one of the items in there that i had dug my heels in because we had heard in australia that had a law that required tobacco companies selling cigarettes, they had to put a warning label on the cigarette package, just like we have to do here in america. a warning about the hazardous effects of smoking. and lo and behold, it is now in a tribunal called the investor state dispute settlement, which
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had basically governed trade agreements between countries, and they were throwing out australia's law that said you had to have a warning on a cigarette package. and so having been involved from the get-go in florida about return of money from tobacco companies to the government of florida, for all of the medical expenses that florida had borne under medicaid, having removed tobacco stocks as one of the three trustees of what governed the florida pension plan and removed tobacco stocks from the florida pension fund, i am here to say "hallelujah."
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the fact is that our pacific trade agreement is going to honor countries' laws that want to cut down on tobacco use, as they refer to it in the trade agreement, it will exempt out from the investor state dispute settlement mechanism anything in a country with regard to tobacco control. this is a win for the health care advocates that are trying to keep our people informed about the hazards of what smoking tobacco will do to your health. mr. president, i yield the floor.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from idaho. a senator: i ask unanimous consent that we yield back all time? the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. the question occurs on the nomination. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be a sufficient second. the clerk will call the roll. vote: vote: noah
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