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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  April 7, 2016 2:00pm-4:01pm EDT

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the presiding officer: does any senator wish to vote or change their vote? if not, on the schumer amendment number 3483, it is not agreed to. 42 aye, 54 nay. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: mr. president, i rise today to urge my colleagues in the house of representatives to pass the legislation we passed here in the senate a few weeks ago called the comprehensive addiction and recovery act, or cara.
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we passed it on march 10. that was 27 days ago, almost a month. every day we lose about 120 americans, they say, to drug overdoses. that means during that time period, those 27 days, we've lost about 3,240 additional americans who we represent to substance abuse and death from heroin and prescription drug overdoses. since 2007, drug overdoses have killed more people in ohio than any other cause of accidental death, surpassing car accidents. it's probably true nationally now as well. addiction is treatable, but nine out of ten people who need treatment aren't getting it. that's a tragedy, and it shows that the system we have right now just isn't working. tha*gs what the legislation is -- that's what the legislation is intended to address among other things. in one five-day span since we passed car spa, in -- cara, in
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cleveland, ohio, we have had five people die from heroin and fentanyl overdoses. eufrgs -- i was in athens, ohio and received a tour of the rural women's recovery facility. two doctors took me around. i met with some of the brave women who stepped forward to treat their addiction issues, some of them there with their kids. they have an amazing success rate. i will tell you, three days after i left athens, ohio, $40,000 worth of heroin was seized at a traffic stop very close to this treatment center. it's everywhere. it knows no zip codes. it's in your rural areas, your suburban areas, your inner cities. states are starting to take action. ohio is taking action. your states are taking action. communities are taking action. local leaders know this is a problem, but they want the federal government to be a better partner. and that's what cara provides. it provides best practices from around the country.
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it provides more funding for some critical elements, but evidence-based, based on research, what actually works. our states and local communities are desperate for this right no -- right now. this legislation, by the way, mr. president, is not just bipartisan but it's also bicameral. in other words, we spent the last three years putting this bill together not just republicans and democrats across the aisle but also with our colleagues in the house. i'm encouraged by the fact that the cara legislation in the house has 113 cosponsors. it is bipartisan. it is based on good evidence. it is based on a lot of work and effort. today i heard through a media account that one of the house leaders said there is interest in moving something even this month. that's great. but he also talked about hearings and markups and so on. let's be sure that the hearings and markups don't delay what we know we should do, which is to pass the cara legislation. it's been bicameral, it's been bipartisan. it's passed the senate with a
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94-1 vote. and that never happens around here. 94-1. this is legislation that we know will make a difference right now in our communities dealing with a crisis we all face. let's move this legislation. i say to my friends in the house, with all due respect, this legislation has been carefully crafted and we've done the hard work. i mentioned we spent three years of fact finding on this bill. we didn't think we had all the right answers so we went out to experts all over the country. we took time to listen. we consulted with them. we listened to experts, doctors, law enforcement, patients in recovery. we listened to the drug experts in the obama administration. such as the white house office of national drug control policy, ondcp. they've been very helpful. we brought in people from h.h.s., from the health and human services, and listened to them. we brought in people from my home state of ohio and other states around the country. we've heard from family members, many of whom have channeled
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their grief at losing a loved one into advocacy for the cara legislation because they know it's going to help. one of them testified here in the judiciary committee when we marked up the legislation, had our hearing beforehand, tonda duray from carolton, ohio, she talked about having lost her daughter. she was a very successful high school student, engaged to be married, everything was going great. as she turned 21, she made a mistake. she tried heroin. she went into recovery. she relapsed. she ended up dying of an overdose. this unfortunately is a story that's retold all over our country. it's moms, it's dads, it's aunts and uncles, it's brothers and sisters who come forward to tell us about these tragic stories of losing a loved one. they want this legislation to pass because they know it's going to help another family member or a friend or coworker or someone else they've never met but who they want to help so they don't have to go through the grief that they've gone through. senator sheldon whitehouse, democrat, and i have worked on
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this legislation together along with many other people in this chamber. we've also worked, as i said, with many on the house side. we've worked with folks on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the capitol because this has become an issue that affects us all and it's a nonpartisan issue. we have to move it forward. we had five forums that we held here in washington, d.c., bringing in experts to get counsel and advice. they helped us develop a legislative proposal that was thoughtful because it actually addressed the real problem. in april of 2014, we had a forum on the criminal justice system which included alternatives to incarceration. and you'll see that in our legislation. the notion is for people who are users, who get arrested for possession, let's not just throw them in jail because that hasn't worked. let's get them into treatment and get them into a recovery program that works. in july 2014 we held a forum on how women are impacted by this drug epidemic, looking particularly as addiction and
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treatment responses. some new data that's out there now shows that most of the people who are suffering from heroin and prescription drug addiction are women. in december of 2014, we held a forum on the science of addiction, how we could get at this from a medical point of view, how we can come up with better medical approaches to this, to be able to stop the craving, to deal with the addiction problem, to get people through withdrawal. we also talked about how to address some of the clot ral consequences of addiction. -- collateral consequences of addiction. in april of 2015, we held a forum on our youth and how we can better promote drug prevention. after all, keeping people from getting into the funnel of addiction in the first place has to be a priority to avoid going down that funnel of addiction, with he need better prevention, better education. that is part of our legislation. we also had input there about what's working in recovery and what's not working in recovery. we held a forum in july of 2015 to talk about our veterans, to talk about the very sad
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situation with veterans who are coming back to our shores who have ptsd, post-traumatic stress syndrome, who have brain injuries. some recent data shows that about 20% of those returning veterans with those issues are becoming addicted to prescription drugs or heroin. therefore, veterans courts is a major part of our legislation to help these drug courts that are focused on mental health and addiction specifically for our veterans. and i've seen them in ohio. they're working. they're working great. it's unbleesm. i talked to a guy been in and out of the system his whole life. he's about 45 years old now. he finally found this court that was going to help him. took him out of jail, got him into treatment. hanging over his head the possibility of incarceration if he didn't do the right thing and stay clean. he's now a senior at the ohio state university about to get his degree and he's back reunited with his family for the first time in years and he's clean. it can work. the final result was a legislative text that reflected this open and deliberative
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process i've talked about. this bill, just like the research it supports, is evidence based. we didn't ask who had the idea. we just asked whether it was a good idea. it's no wonder that cara has support from 130 national groups now, from the fraternal order of police to stakeholders in public health, doctors and nurses, those in recovery, experts in the field, people who actually know what's going on because they're in the trenches working on this. they want this bill passed. they know it will help them and help them now. mr. president, as i said, the vote was 94-1. this means 94 senators say this bill's ready to go and these are senators from every state in the union now that support this legislation, therefore representing every congressional district in the united states of america. it makes sense. it expands prevention and educational efforts to prevent opiate abuse, the use of heroin, prescription drugs. it increases drug disposal sites to get medications out of people's hands and get it in the right hands.
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it takes this medication off the bathroom shelves. it has a drug monitoring program to get at the overprescribing issue. so many people who are currently addicted to heroin started with prescripon drugs. in fact, the majority did. there's different data out there but it's very clear. prescription drugs is a huge part of heroin addiction. it also authorizes law enforcement task forces to combat heroin and meth. law enforcement has an important role to play here. it expands training and the availability of senate loax honor na -- naloxone or narcan. this is to firefighters. when you go to the firehouse in your state or for those listening in the house, to juror district, ask them. are you going on more fire runs or are you going on more runs to help people with overdoses. they will tell you what they tell me, overdoses. that's what it's come to. that's happening in your fire department in your community. by the way, to tell you how much this law can make a difference because we do help get the training to be able to use
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narcan and get the narcan or naloxone into the right hands. to tell you how much this will help, ohio public safety officials have administered naloxone over 16,000 times, 16,000 overdoses that might have otherwise resulted in someone's death because for the most part this miracle drug works. first responders know how important it is. that's why again the fraternal order of police supports this bill. they want to equip their officers, but so do the firefighters. cara also supports recovery programs. including youth and building recovery to avoid people getting into addiction in the first place. it also creates a national task force on recovery because there's a lot of information out there that we need to bring together to find out what works and what doesn't work precisely in terms of dealing with the collateral consequences imposed by addiction. it also expands treatment for pregnant women who struggle with addiction and provides support for babies who suffer from what's called neonatal abstinence syndrome. what does that mean? that means babies are born
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addicted. in ohio, tragically, we've had a 750% increase in the number of babies born with addiction in the last 12 years. so i've been to the hospitals, i've been to st. ridas in lima, i've been to cleveland and rainbow babies and were cincinnati children's. these are tiny babies who are addicted and you have to take them through withdrawal. and these compassionate nurses and doctors who are doing it, god bless them, i ask them, what's going to happen to these babies. they tell me, rob, we don't know. we don't know what the long-term consequences are. this is so new. but it's dramatic and it's happening in all of your hospitals. these neonatal units are now taking on a whole nother task which is helping babies through withdrawal. i visited folks who are not only pregnant and addicted and talked to them about what they're going through and what the consequences are going to be and
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it's sad and many of them say, rob, the grip of addiction is so great, so great i'm now in treatment but i worry about what's going to happen to my baby. we also expand treatment for expectant and postpartum women for this reason. and these expectant and postpartum women who need this help can make the right decision with more help from us. it expands residential treatment programs for pregnant women who are struggling with addiction. it would create a pilot program to provide family-based services to women who are addicted to opiates. cara also helps veterans, as i said. it allows those veterans to get into a veterans' court where they can be helped to walk through how you get out of this addiction, how you get into recovery. you can get support from other veterans around you to provide the kind of help you need, to get out of this cycle of incarceration and addiction. what do we say to the 40 million americans -- 40 million americans -- who are struggling
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with addiction when they ask, why don't you guys act? the senate acted 94-1. why can't we get this done? it's time to move. they shouldn't have to wait. we shouldn't have to wait. to those 40 million, by the way, who struggle, to those who think they can't overcome this addiction, to those who believe there's no one out there to help them, the message is -- you are not alone. there is hope. you can beat this. i've seen it. there are people who care and want to help. there are so many heartbreaking stories of addiction but there are also so many stories of ho hope. i think about have vanessa per. she's from nelsonville, ohio. vanessa became addicted to heroin. once she became addicted, she also became a victim of sex trafficking. these two are related. in ohio, they tell me that most sex trafficking has now to do with heroin addiction. in other words, the trafficker gets these women, usually women,
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addicted to heroin and that's one way they become dependent on their trafficker. what vanessa tells me is that it took her a long time to turn her life around but she was courageous and brave enough to seek treatment and she's now back on track. for the last six years, she's been helping others. again, taking her experience and using it to help others to deal with their addiction. she's on the board of a group called freedom a la cart. it's a company in columbus, ohio, i visited last month which provides job opportunities for trafficking victims. they do a heck of a job and they teach these women a trade, too, the culinary arts. and now so many of these women who have been trafficked, who have been heroin addicts are back on their feet, reunited with their families. knowing the dignity and self-respect that comes from the work they're doing and from helping others. there is hope. treatment can work.
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mr. president, leaders in the house say they want to move antiheroin legislation through regular order. again, i heard today that one of the leaders said that they're planning to take action. i've had conversations with speaker ryan on this issue. i've had conversations with other leaders in the house on it. i take them at their word. i'm hopeful we can see the house begin to act next week when that chamber returns. but i will say this. the house must act and they must act soon. i'm not going to be patient on this. this is urgent. and people's lives are at stake. the house must pass this bill so the president can sign it and so it can begin to make a real difference in the lives of the people we represent. this is our responsibility. we need to take advantage of this opportunity that the senate has given us by this huge vote 94-1 to get this legislation to the president and get it enacted into law. thank you, mr. president. i yield back my time.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. ms. stabenow: mr. president, i'd like to speak about two different subjects today and they both are connected in the sense that they involve lack of action and people counting on us to act as united states senate. the first involves the fact that today we still in the city of flint, michigan, don't have people who can drink the water coming out of the tap. now, i think any one of us would have troab trouble if that was e day. but we're talking about months and months and months, going on two years now that we have seen a system completely broken down because of decisions, because of lack of treating the water, a whole range of things. from my perspective, the most important thing is the fact that
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people still don't have access to clean, safe water. they can't bathe their babies. they can't take a shower themselves. i mean, i can't imagine what it must be like for families in flint who are waiting and waiting and waiting for help. i want to thank president obama for doing what they can do through the administration to help -- from the standpoint of health and nutrition and education, but the fundamental problem is fixing the pipes, replacing the damaged pipes. so as my colleagues know, we have been working very hard and developed a bipartisan proposal, and i want to thank the chair and ranking member of the energy committee, senator murkowski and senator cantwell for working with us and for so many colleagues who are now
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bipartisan cosponsors on a bill with senator peters and i, and i want to thank senator inhofe as chair of e.p.w. and ranking member senator boxer and so many people who have come together to support this effort, not only for flint, but we now are seeing headlines across the country about other areas where lead poisoning in water is a serious issue, and we have all kinds of communities with water infrastructure needs. so we have put together a proposal, we have a bipartisan proposal. we are ready to move forward. we need a vote on this proposal. and as people in this building know, we have one senator from utah, the junior senator, holding us up from being able to get that vote. now, we have spent weeks now, mr. president, weeks trying to find a way to get beyond this
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objection, and we thought we had an agreement and then the bar just keeps changing. this isn't a game. this is not a game. this is real people, and we're trying to solve a real problem. we have put forward something fully paid for that actually reduces the deficit, paid for out of a program that i care deeply about because i authored it in 2007, and prior to senator peters being senator when he was in the house, he was the champion of the program that we are offering to use as a pay-for. so i just want to remind everyone, and i'm going to continue to come to the floor and remind colleagues every day that a group of americans in a city of 100,000, where there has been a federal emergency declared, are still waiting for us to act to help them.
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to not do the whole thing, to not pay for all that needs to be done in terms of water infrastructure, but to do our part as a federal government as we have done in communities across the country for other kinds of emergencies. the children of flint, 9,000 under the age of 6 with lead poisoning. 9,000 being exposed to lead poisoning. some homes with exposure higher than a toxic waste dump. i can tell you as a mother and now a grandmother, i would never tolerate something like that. i can't imagine what is happening for families. we have the opportunity to do something, and it's easy. it's fully paid for. paid for by something that colleagues on the other side of the aisle have wanted to eliminate, fully paid for. helps communities across the
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country and we have a situation where one member has indicated it's not his problem, doesn't care, not his problem. well, i hope as americans that we're willing to say that other people's problems are things that we care about, whether it's our own children, our own grandchildren, people we know or not. that's what we expect when there are emergencies and disasters across the country. and whether it's in the farm bill that i worked on with the distinguished presiding officer where we strengthened livestock disaster assistance, even though that's not a huge issue for me in the state of michigan, but i know it is for a lot of states and a lot of communities. that's what we do as americans. we care about people and communities. we have a group of people right now that are not being seen, and i want colleagues to see this
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baby and the picture that this represents of a group of people that are waiting for help and deserve help. mr. president, i'd like to talk about something else now and turn to history to talk about somebody else who is waiting. he can drink his water and take a shower, that's a good thing. but we have a very distinguished jurist, chief judge of the d.c. court of appeals, nominated by the president of the united states to be a supreme court justice who is waiting, waiting for the opportunity to be heard, to have a hearing, to meet with people, to have a vote yes or no. we have talked a lot about the
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constitution, about responsibilities, about debates. our three branches of government are sworn to uphold the -- both the written word of the constitution and the spirit of the constitution. and this spirit was expressed in a series of articles beginning in 1787. i wasn't there at the time. but in reading what our founding fathers said, those who framed the constitution, i think it's important to look at what they intended through the federalist papers. april 1, 1788, alexander hamilton writing in the federalist paper number 76, outlined two specific roles for supreme court nominees. that the president nominate justices and that the senate provide advice and consent. hamilton explained how the senate held the power to reject a nominee, to prevent the
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appointment of unfit characters from family connection, from personal attachment or from other biases. as you know, senators can investigate the character of a nominee by meeting the nominee in person and by holding person, looking at their writings. at the senate judiciary committee, they can ask the nominee questions in full view of the public, and based on responses, if they believe the nominee does not have the appropriate character, they can reject the nomination, they can vote no. that's our right as senators. but the senators in the majority, the current republican majority, are refusing to do any of that. they have said they will not hold hearings. most of them will not even meet with the nominee, judge merrick garland. and i want to commend senators,
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republican senators who are, in fact, meeting with judge garland. but this is their job, this is our job. the job established for us by america's founding fathers. and the majority of the majority is refuseing to do it. now, according to the average time for moving a supreme court nominee through the process, if the republican majority did their job like previous senates did, then there would be a hearing of the judiciary committee by april 27, but there is none scheduled. the judiciary committee would hold a vote by may 12, but there is no vote coming. and based on historical precedent, the supreme court nominee would then come to the floor for a vote on confirmation before memorial day.
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but because my colleagues across the aisle are refusing to do their job, that vote will not happen. republican colleagues like to say that the senate does not confirm supreme court nominees during a presidential year. but that doesn't square with the facts. more than a dozen supreme court nominees have been confirmed by the senate in an election year. in 1988, also a presidential year, the senate did its job by confirming president reagan's supreme court nominee, justice anthony kennedy, by a democratically controlled senate. in 1940, another presidential election year, the senate did its job by confirming president franklin roosevelt's nominee, justice frank murphy. in 1932, the senate did its job by confirming president hoover's
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supreme court nominee. in 1960, the senate did its job -- in 1916, the senate did its job twice by confirming president wilson's two nominees for the supreme court. the u.s. constitution was ratified in june, 1788, just a few months after hamilton published the federalist paper i mentioned a few minutes ago. and for merely 228 years, 228 years, during times of war, times of peace, periods of prosperity, periods of economic hardship, america has balanced the powers between the executive and the legislative branch in selecting who would serve in the third branch of government. we've done it during democratic majorities, republican majorities, for 228 years.
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to those who are refusing to hold hearings on a nomination, my question is what has changed, what has changed this year? what is it about this president that causes him to be treated this way? of what is it that is leading you to question the judgment and the wisdom of alexander hamilton and the rest of the founding fathers who signed the constitution and gave you and i the responsibility for advice and consent? in short, why now are you refusing to do your job? just do your job. do what we're paid to do. you know, mr. president, last month, i went over in front of the supreme court. it was a beautiful sunny day. a lot of people here visiting. i talked to a number of citizens and asked them what they thought about what was happening, the debate going on about filling a vacancy on the supreme court.
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and i also asked them what would happen to you if during a year you told your employer that a major part of your job, a very big responsibility that you had in your job, you were going to refuse to do for a year or so. what would happen? well, it's pretty easy. people said i would be fired. and people said why aren't you doing your job? why isn't the majority doing their job? because if you're not willing to do the work, why should you have the job? nobody else could do that in their job. that's why the polls show overwhelmingly that the american people side with those of us on the democratic side with all of us who stand together as democratic senators to say do your job. we're willing to do our job. people standing with the
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constitution and with the history, overwhelming history of our country. it's very simple. it's a very simple idea. it's a phrase we say all the time, in all kinds of circumstances. we say to our children, we say to the people we work with, just do your job. well, this is our job. hold hearings. meet with the nominee. have a vote. you can vote yes, you can vote no, you could skip that day. but this judge deserves a vote, and it is our responsibility to vote and to fill the vacancy in the highest court in the land. that's what the american people expect us to do, that's what they deserve, and it's time that the senate do its job. thank you, mr. president. i would yield the floor.
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and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call: a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. a senator: it is -- is the senate in a quorum call? the presiding officer: it is. a senator: may i can unanimous consent the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: mr. president, i rise today to discuss several provisions and amendments to the f.a.a. reauthorization currently before the senate. specifically benefits to my home state of louisiana. mr. cassidy: there are more than 253 air traffic control towers throughout the country operating through a successful
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public-private partnership called the federal contract tower program. this program is especially critical to rural areas as i have many of them so does the president to ensure america's air space and the traveling public remains safe. however, there are currently 30 towers awaiting on the f.a.a. to finalize an internal agency formula called the benefit cost analysis referred to as the b.c.a. which the would allow eligible towers to enter the federal contract tower program. one of these airports waiting is the hammond north shore regional airport in hammond, louisiana. the federal contract tower program has been in place for more than 30 years, a prime example of an effective public-private partnership contract towers handle approximately 28% of the nation's air traffic control tower operations, but despite handling 28%, account for only 14% of the f.a.a.'s total tower
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operations budget. repeated studies by the u.s. transportation department inspector general have shown that the contract tower program increases aviation safety while reducing costs to taxpayers in the federal government. it's important to know that approximately 80% of the contract controller work force are veterans. congress has demonstrated numerous times in bipartisan fashion the her it -- merit and need for the federal contract tower program. given the success of the program and the increasing likelihood of further f.a.a. delays, i am pleased the commerce committee included language in the f.a.a. reauthorization bill to strengthen and improve the federal contract tower program. senators cornyn, vitter, portman, wicker, have been leaders on the issue and their work is greatly appreciated. currently america's trade and economy are being hampered because many cargo planes from other countries are prohibited from flying into u.s. airports because they've not been
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upgraded to newer types of technology. some aircraft of what are called stage two. these aircraft are phased out following the passage of the airport noise and capacity act of 1990 which mandated the phaseout for stage two aircraft over 75,000 pounds. i've browsed an amendment that would per -- introduced an amendment that would permit flightflight for interest of ree flights of stage two aircraft over 75,000 pounds. one of these airports that meets the criteria is the acadia regional airport in new ie beer ya, louisiana. this airport is located in a heavy industrial complex and surrounded by agriculture land. the regional airport has an advantage over other types of airports because it is surrounded by land use compatible with airport operations. additionally, it is situated near the port of iberia which is home to more than 100 companies employing close to 5,000 people
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in industries such as construction, energy, equipment rental and trucking. this would bol ter louisiana's -- bolster louisiana's economy, help working families and improve america's ability to trade with the world. mr. president, louisiana's economy relies on the thriving maritime industry. in 2014 a study from the transportation institute showed that 54,850 maritime-related jobs contribute more than $11 billion annually to the louisiana economy. one in every 83 louisiana jobs is connected to the domestic maritime industry, nearly twice that of any other state. with ports along the mississippi and red rivers, our state sees vessels of various size and type while loading cargo, these ships must drain ballast water that they had taken on to maintain the balance of the ship. this can have the varying degrees of environmental effects with costly and confusing state
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and federal regulations making compliance difficult. senator rubio is sponsoring the vessel incident discharge act which creates a uniform enforceable and scientifically based national standard on ballast water discharges. this is needed in order to simplify the highly complicated and overly burdensome patchwork of state and federal regulations in place today. everyone i talked to in the louisiana maritime industry but also in little inland marine -- in the inland marine which would take the agriculture products from states such as the presiding officer represents necessary for these regulations to be harmonized and they emphasize the importance of passing this bill. i'm a cosponsor of this bill and i'm glad to see senator rubio has filed it as an amendment to the bill we're considering on the floor today. mr. president, the f.a.a. reauthorization contains many measures that will protect
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americans, improve our economy and protect our environment. i urge all my fellow senators to support the bill and these amendments. thank you, mr. president. and i yield back. mr. president, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the
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majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that -- are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. mr. mcconnell: i ask take further proceeding be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that monday, april 1 1-rbgs at 5:00 p.m. the senate proceed to executive session to consider calendar number 215, that there be 30 minutes for debate only on the nomination equally divided in the usual form, that upon the use of yielding back of time, the senate vote on the nomination without intervening action or debate. that if confirmed the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the president be immediately notified of the senate's action and the senate then resume legislative session without intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. moim i ask that the chair -- mr. mcconnell: i ask that the chair lay a message from the house to accompany s. 192. the presiding officer: the chair lays before the senate the following message.
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the clerk: resolved that the bill from the senate, s. 192, entitled an act to reauthorize the older americans act of 1965 and for other purposes, do pass with an amendment. mr. mcconnell: i move to concur in the house amendment and know of no further debate. the presiding officer: is there further debate? if not, all those in favor of the motion to concur say aye all opposed, no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the motion is agreed to. mr. mcconnell: i ask the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: now, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 402, s. res. 392. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 402, senate resolution 392, expressing the sense of the senate regarding the prosecution and conviction of former president mohammed nashid and so
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forth. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding with the measure? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i further ask the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. the presiding officerthe senato. mr. grassley: we have a unique opportunity for the american people to have a voice in the direction of the supreme court. the american people should be afforded the opportunity to weigh in on this very important matter. our side, meaning the republican side, believes very strongly that the people deserve to be heard and they should be allowed to decide through their vote for the next president the type of person that should be on the supreme court.
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as i've stated previously, this is a reasonable approach. it is a fair approach and it is a historical approach. one echoed by then-chairman biden, senator schumer and other senators. and also, i might say, it was something that was practiced during president johnson's administration, lyndon baines johnson, and it was also something that happened during the eisenhower administration. now, the other side, meaning the democratic side, has been talking a great deal about the so-called pressure campaign to try to get members to change their position. it is no secret that the white house strategy is to put pressure on this chairman of the judiciary committee and other republicans in the hopes that we can be worn down and ultimately
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agree to hold hearings on the nominee. this pressure campaign, which is targeted at me and a handful of my colleagues, is based on the supposition that i and they will crack and move forward on the consideration of president obama's pick. this strategy has failed to recognize that i am no strange to political pressure and to strong-arm tactics. not necessarily for mother democrat presidents -- not necessarily for more democrat presidents, probably for more republican presidents. when i make a decision based on sound principle, i'm not about to flip-flop because the left has organized what they call a pressure campaign. as many of my colleagues and especially my constituents know,
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i've done battle with administrations of both parties. i've fought over irresponsible budgets, waste, fraud and policy disagreements. i've made tough decisions. i've stuck with those tough decisions regardless of what pressure was applied. the so-called pressure being applied to me now is nothing -- it's absolutely nothing -- compared to what i withstood from heavy-handed white house political operations in the past. and let me say, by the way, most of that has come from republican white houses. just give you a few examples. in 1981, as a new member of the senate and a brand-new member of the senate budget committee, i voted against the first
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president reagan's first budget proposal because we were promised a balanced budget and it didn't balance. i recall very spreskly a budget committee markup april -- i recall very specifically a budget committee markup april 19, 1981, on president reagan's first budget. now, it happened to be i wasn't alone on this. i was one of three republicans to vote against that resolution because it did not put us on a path to a balanced budget. and you can imagine when a budget has to come out on a party-line vote, you can't lose three republicans. and three republicans that were elected in 1980 on a promise to balance the budget did not go along with it. and what a loss it was for this new president reagan that his budget might not get adopted by the budget committee.
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we were under immense pressure to act on the president's budget regardless of the deficits that it would cause. but we stood on principle and didn't succumb to the pressure. but just as an example, right after that vote when it wasn't voted out of the budget committee, i was home on a spring recess like we just had here when all of this stuff on the supreme court comes up at our town meeting. i remember calls from the white house. i remember threats from the chamber of commerce while i was home on easter break and even interrupting my town meetings. four years later i led the charge to freeze spending and to end the reagan defense buildup as a way to get the federal budget under control.
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the year was 1984. i teamed up with senator biden, a democrat, and senator kassebaum of kansas, a republican, to propose a freeze of the defense budget that would have cut hundreds of billions of dollars from the annual deficit. now, funny, at the time it was known as the kassebaum-grassley budget because it fit into what you recognize the soviet k.g.b. -- it came out k.g.b. defense freeze. but it should have been the g.k.b. freeze because it was my idea in the first place. and i think you can kind of sense, then, how the logic of was that it became k.g.b. freeze. but it doesn't matter. it was the principle that counted. we were going to make sure that
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across the board budgets were responsible, whether defense or anything else. so for months i endured pressure from the reagan administration and from my republican colleagues that argued a freeze on defense spending would constitute unilateral disarmament. president reagan had put together a less aggressive deficit-reduction plan. we didn't think it went far enough. my bipartisan plan was attacked for being dangerous and causing draconian cuts to the defense budget. i knew it was realistic and a responsible approach. i didn't back down. we were forced to vote that year, may 2, 1984, in the budget committee, we forced a vote on the senate floor and that particular year we were not successful.
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this effort required the senate and the nation to have a debate about a growing defense budget. we started that debate, including the waste and inefficiency in the pentagon and the growing fiscal -- federal fiscal deficits. despite the weeks-long pressure from conservatives in the reagan administration, i did not back down because i knew the policy was on my side. in this process, i stood up to pressure from president reagan, defense secretary caspar weinberger, secretary barry goldwater, senator john tower, chairman of the committee, and many others. i remember a meeting it he white house where i reminded the president that he had been talking through the campaign about the welfare queens fraudulently on the budget. it happens that i reminded him that there was defense queens as
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well. i started doing oversight on the defense department. it wasn't long before the evidence of waste and fraud began appearing. we uncovered contractors that billed the defense department $435 for a claw hammer, $750 for toilet seats, $695 for ashtrays. we found a coffeepot that even cost $7,600. i had no problem finding democrats to join my effort -- oversight effort back then, but it's somehow kind of interesting how hard it is to find bipartisan help when doing oversight in the current democrat administration. nevertheless, 12 months later, on may the 2nd, 18the 1985, afta year to make the case that the defense department needed structural reforms and slower
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spending growth, i was successful. my amendment to freeze the defense budget and allow for increases based on inflation was agreed to when a motion to table failed by a vote of 48-51. a majority of the republicans opposed me and a majority of the democrats were with me. that didn't matter because i knew that we were doing the right thing. i went against my own party, my own president to hold the pentagon accountable and i never backed off. i had a similar experience with president george w. bush, 1991. in january 1991, the senate debated a resolution to authorize the use of u.s. armed forces to remove saddam hussein hussein's forces from kuwait. i opposed it because i felt the economic and diplomatic sanctions i just voted for should have been given more time to work.
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i was not ready to give up on sanctions in favor of war. in the end, i was one of just two republicans, along with senator hatfield of oregon, that opposed the resolution. i was under pressure from president bush, vice president quayle, white house chief of staff john sununu. i even was pressured by then-iowa's governor, terry branstad, no once again iowa's governor. i heard from a lot of iowans, particularly republicans, who were disappointed and even angry with my position. some were even considering a public rebuke because of my vo vote. being one of just two republicans, it was difficult to differ with a republican president on such major issue, but as i stated at the time, my
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decision was above any partisa partisanship. it was a decision of conscience rather than a matter of republican versus democrat. after a tremendous amount of soul-searching, i did what i thought was right, regardless of the political pressure. now, the same is true today with regard to the supreme court vacancy. under president george w. bush, i faced another dilemma. the president and the republican congressional leadership determined after president george w. bush was elected president on a policy to get tax cuts done -- and i agreed with that policy -- but they wanted to provide a $1.6 trillion in tax relief in 2001. i was chairman of the senate finance committee. the problem is, we had a senate that was divided 50-50 at the time.
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the parties' numbers were equal also not only in the senate but on the senate finance committee. i had two members on my side who were reluctant to support a huge tax cut because they had concerns about the deficit and the debt. and, as we saw a few years later, their concerns were not totally unwarranted. but at the time, the administration leadership would have nothing to do with anything except what the president wanted , $1.6 trillion of tax increase, but obviously the president, the white house wasn't thinking anything about what republicans might vote against it. and when you have a 50-50 senate, you can't lose a lot of republicans. after very difficult negotiations, i finally rounded up enough votes to support a
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$1.3 trillion in tax relief, so what happened? there was a hailstorm of criticism following. there were republican house members who held press conferences denouncing the fact that i wasn't able to achieve the whole $1.6 trillion. now those house members were more professional in their criticism which we witness almost every day from the current minority leader about my role as chairman of the judiciary committee, but it was still a very contentious and difficult period that included both the budget and the reconciliation process. minority leader reid has already brought up the pressure that i came under in regard to obamacare back in 2009. of course, his version is his usual attempt to rewrite actual
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history. at that time, i was the ranking member of the finance committee. i was involved in a very -- in very in-depth negotiations to try to come up with a health care solution. we started in november, 2008. we had negotiations between three republicans and three democrats on the finance committee. met hours and hours, almost time consuming totally. so we met in november, 2008, and mid september, 2009, and then they decided that they -- the other side decided they ought to go political and not worry about republicans. the minority leader in his very unusual, inaccurate statement of facts about ten days ago, about three days before the recess,
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he's trying to say that republicans walked out of those negotiations on obamacare. the fact is we were given a deadline and told in that deadline that if we didn't agree with the latest draft of the bill, then the democrats would have to move on. and i would ask anybody in the senate that wants some reference on this talk to senator snowe, senator enzi. i was the other republican. talk to senator baucus. talk to senator conrad. and then the then-senator from new mexico. the president called six of us down to the white house early august of 2009, and the first question i got, would you, senator grassley, be willing to go along with two or three
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republicans to have a bipartisan bill with obamacare at that point, and i said, mr. president, the answer is no because what do you think we have been working on for nine months? we have been working trying to get a broad bipartisan agreement. it's something like 70-75 votes that you're trying to get if you really want to change social policy and have it stick. we didn't abandon this until 2009, but my idea is that probably it was that meeting at the white house early august, 2009, where this president decided we don't want to mess around with those republicans any more, we have got 60 votes, we're going to move ahead. well, that happened then in that september. the fact is we were given that deadline and we were shoved out of the room, so when we didn't
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bow to this pressure and agree to the democrat demands, that's -- it ended up being a partisan document, and that's why it still doesn't have majority support of the american people. i want the minority leader to know that's what happened, not what he described a couple of weeks ago. eventually, as we all know, the former majority leader, now minority leader, had his staff rewrite the bill that came out of the health committee and came out of the finance committee and the secret of the back rooms of his leadership office, and we ended up with a disaster that's called obamacare that we have today. the senate minority leader also recently proclaimed that rather than follow leader mcconnell mcconnell -- and these are senator reid's words -- republicans are sprinting in the opposite direction.
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the minority leader also wishfully claimed that the republican facade was cracking on the issue. senator schumer fancifully stated -- quote -- "because of the pressure, republicans are beginning to change." end of quote. you can almost hear the ruby slippers on the other side clicking while they wish this narrative they describe about us on this side of the aisle were true. the fact is the pressure they have applied thus far has had no impact on this senator's principal position, and i would have to say the principal position of almost everybody on this side of the aisle, and on this side of the aisle, the people that disagree with us, i
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wouldn't say that they're unprinted. i'd just say they're wrong. our side knows and our side believes that what we're doing is right, and when that's the case, it's not hard to withstand the outrage and the pressure they have manufactured and the the -- the headquarters for that is the white house. this pressure then as i have given you this whole thing about my career in the united states senate and the more opposition i have had from republican presidents putting pressure on me that i have been able to withstand, this pressure we're getting on this issue pales in some pair son to what i have endured and withstood mostly from republican presidents, but now, of course, i face it from the democrats. i yield the floor.
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the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i rise today to speak in support of the bill that's on the floor, the federal aviation administration reauthorization act. i thank senator thune and senator mels for their leadership. i serve on the commerce committee. i'm proud of this bill, and our state has a long history of aviation. it was a childhood home of charles lindbergh. we are home to the minneapolis-st. paul international airport, the 13th busiest airport in the u.s. we're home to ciris design corporation and duluth that makes planes and is a very successful company as well as many people whose jobs and wages and life depend on the aviation industry, not to mention the 148th fighter wing, a national guard base, as well as one in the twin cities and the one in duluth. i'm here to focus on one issue, and i see my colleague from arizona is here so i'm going to focus one issue, and that is aviation security. 9/11 was our wake-up call in
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this country that our transportation system is a target and the attacks in brussels last month remind us that we must continue to do everything we can to strengthen security, and not just in our security lines in the airports but also in places like baggage claim areas and also other forms of transportation like train stations. we need to make sure that our soft target, as they are called, soft target areas like the security lines, baggage claim and ticketing counters at the airport are safe. i am a cosponsor of the amendment that passed today that will help address this issue by doubling the number of visible intermodal prevention and response teams from 30 to at last 60. these teams help provide important deterrent security at potential ground transportation targets across our country. this amendment that passed today will also improve existing
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security systems in airports and train stations by expanding bomb-sniffing dog patrols, law enforcement training for emergency situations and security in all perimeter areas of the airport. we must also improve the secure areas of airports where airlines' employees have secure access to what are called sterile areas. in march, an airline employee, as we know, was arrested after attempting to use his badge to enter the boarding area of a terminal from the tarmac bypassing security gates. he had a backpack with $282,000 in it. in the same month, we saw another employee try to smuggle 70 pounds of cocaine in her suitcase at l.a.x. and was caught at a security checkpoint, and the most egregious breach of security happened at the atlanta airport where airline employees helped to facilitate a gun-smuggling ring and were successfully getting guns on at least 20 flights from atlanta to new york.
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needless to say, this continues to be a significant concern, as much as we know that so many of the vast majority of our airline employees are hardworking and good employees. so 85 senators just voted in support of the airport security enforcement and oversight act, a bill i cosponsored that would help address this issue of security at the airports. but i just wanted to add with our own story out of minneapolis-st. paul, and it is a story, first of all, of inefficiency, so we made a reconfiguration at our airport and there were lines at one point where the average time was 45-50 minutes, average time. that meant there were passengers waiting. this is just a month ago, for two hours, for an hour and a half, missing their flights, and there were simply not enough t.s.a. agents on. they rerouted a training that was of course necessary because of the inspector general report that came out this june showing
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some severe problems in security at our airports. so we had a perfect storm of people out for training, a new reconfiguration and then finally the spring break travel. but it was simply unacceptable when our taxpayers have been paying for t.s.a., and in fact this congress authorized $100 million more, $90 million more than they asked for in the last budget year. i know and i have appreciated t.s.a. administrator neffenger coming to minnesota, saying that it was unacceptable, saying they were hiring people with the budget money that was provided and also the plans to use these canine units, not just in the perimeters of the bill we passed today but also on these lines. not only do these dog teams add more security, they actually by working a line of passengers speed up that line because then those passengers essentially become precheck passengers and they don't have to be prechecked but they become prechecked because of the dogs and it speeds up everything for all
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airport passengers. i think we've seen enough of these terrorist hacks all across the country. every plane going down in other places with bombs. we know this is a danger. we don't want this in our homeland, and i appreciate the support of my colleagues for these amendments. we will continue to work on security issues. thank you very much, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. mccain: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: mr. president, i rise today to discuss the urgent need for congress to reform how the department of veterans' affairs delivers health care to our nation's veterans, one of the great scandals and shameful aspects of the greatest nation in the world is the way we treat our veterans. i believe that important progress has been made since the scandal in which veterans died waiting on nonexistent wait lists for care at the phoenix v.a. medical center and v.a. hospitals around the country. we have a long way to go to
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fulfill our solemn promise to every veteran who has served and sacrificed. in the matter of that terrible scandal in care, i was proud that congress quickly acted to pass the bipartisan veterans access choice and accountability act. this bill was an important first step, and i emphasize first step, in reforming the gross mismanagement and lack of accountability at the v.a. the hallmark of the bill, in my view, is the choice card program, which for the first time allows any veteran who is waiting more than 30 days for an appointment or lives more than 40 miles from a v.a. health care facility to receive a choice card that they can use to visit a participating doctor in their community instead of being forced to wait with no recourse. so how is the v.a. choice card working? my colleagues in the senate and i continue to hear from veterans in arizona and across the country about their ongoing
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problems receiving care. veterans find that v.a. staff don't know about the choice card or how to authorize care through it. veterans are forced to wait on hold for hours with a call center in order to schedule an appointment. community doctors and hospitals will volunteer to participate in the choice program are not getting paid for their services. veterans who are able to use the choice card once and use it again have to start all over from scratch. veterans still have to drive long distances to get prescription medications. there should be no doubt that the v.a. is failing to fully and effectively implement the choice card. in doing so it is preventing our veterans from receiving the flexible care that they have earned and deserve. we know that when implemented correctly, the choice card program is improving care for our veterans. after an extremely difficult start, the v.a. choice card is
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now authorizing more than 110,000 appointments for veteran care per month over 5,000 per work day. each of these appointments represents a veteran appointment that would otherwise be delayed and pending for months in the v.a. scheduling system. it also frees up appointments at the v.a. for veterans who do not use the choice card, helping countless veterans receive an appointment faster. we've also seen what can happen when the v.a. properly reimburses community doctors for their services. in the western region alone, community doctors participating in the v.a. choice program have increased from around 95,000 to nearly 160,000, more than 90% of all doctors are being paid within 30 days, and the vast majority of doctors are choosing to stay in the vet ran -- the
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v.a. choice program mainly because of their love of country to treat our nation's veterans. moreover, we've seen that when the v.a. is equipped to handle the demand for choice program appointments made through call centers, veterans are getting their appointments faster. recent openings of new call centers have greatly reduced wait and on hold times among our veterans. today wait time averages for veterans calling into the western region call centers for choice card appointments are less than one minute. and as a result of a positive v.a. policy change last year, contractors are now able to contact veterans and ensure their authorizations for care are approved ahead of time so that appointments can be made much faster over the phone. while we're seeing an important progress as a result of the choice card, far too many veterans are still experiencing long wait and on hold times with call centers and confronting difficulties getting an
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appointment. unfortunately, some veterans, veterans service organizations and opponents of the v.a. choice card cite these shortcomings as evidence that the whole choice card program is broken and needs to be eliminated. these opponents are wrong and they know it. the problem isn't the choice card. it's that the v.a. refuses to implement it correctly. instead of working to solve the problems at the -- at the v.a. head-on, the same bureaucrats that have completely bungled the implementation of the v.a. choice card are using their own failures as an excuse to shut down the expier program -- entire program. allowing them to do so would only send veterans back to the unacceptable status quo of never ending wait times for opponents. does anybody want to return to the status quo?
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i refuse to send our veterans back to the nonexistent wait list that led to the scandal of denied and delayed care in the first place. every representative in congress and every official at the v.a. should, too. according to a poll recently released by gallop, the american people overwhelmingly agree 91% of survey respondents believe that veterans should be allowed to get health care from any provider that accepts medicare, not just the v.a. this chart describes the main problems with v.a. health care before the choice program. today military and civilian retirees, federal employees, including v.a. employees, obamacare enrollees, civilians on an insurance plan and refugees and legal immigrants have the choice to choose their
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doctors. the only group of americans being denied the choice in health care is disabled veterans. how is it we have created a system where virtually every one in america gets to choose their doctor except for our nation's disabled veterans? our veterans want and need the opportunity to choose the health care that works best for them. it's simply unacceptable that half a million veterans nationwide today are waiting for a medical appointment that is scheduled more than 30 days from now. we can address this psoriasis now by making -- this crisis now by making simple changes to the law. under the law the choice pilot program expires next year. we cannot and will not go back to the way our v.a. operated before the scandal. while some senior v.a. leaders are aggressively implementing the choice program, many others believe veterans should be forced to stay within the walls of the v.a. no matter what. making the program permanent will send a clear message that
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we refuse to send veterans back to the days of denied and delayed care. that's why i introduced legislation to make the v.a. choice card permanent and universal. i believe that every veteran no matter where they live or how long they are waiting for annual appointment should have the ability to see a doctor of their choice in their community. last week i held a town hall meeting with veterans in phoenix, arizona along with mike broomhead, a dwshed -- distinguished leader in our community and with tears in their eyes and frustration in their voices, veterans describe the unending wait times for appointments and difficulty obtaining and using the choice card to receive the care they want and need. more than two years after the scandal and care first arose in phoenix, arizona and more than a year after legislation was signed into law, the v.a. is still failing our veterans.
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it doesn't have to be this way. there are additional steps we can take now to reform this broken health care system. that's why i recently announced my care veterans deserve action plan, the elements of the plan address some of the most urgent problems still plaguing the v.a. first, the action plan proposes keeping the v.a. open later during the week and opening the v.a. on weekends for local doctors and nurses to treat our veterans. this would address the most common complaint we hear, that wait times for appointments are still too long. in arizona wait times have gotten worse, not better. worse, not better over the last year. with more than 10% of all arizona veterans having to wait more than 30 days for care at the v.a. despite these long wait times, veterans are still not allowed to make appointments past 3:00 p.m. during the week and have very few appointment options on weekends. v.a. employees abruptly close
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clinics no matter what a veteran needs at the end of the day. by keeping the v.a. open later and adding hours on weekends, we can address these unacceptably high wait times and maximize the use of our v.a. affects. i've also proposed in the care of veterans deserve action plan that the v.a. allow community walk-in clinics to treat veterans for minor injuries and illness, such as a cold, the flu, allergies, sinus infections, immunizations, vaccines, sore throats, and minor headaches. again, this would greatly reduce the need for veterans to visit v.a. emergency rooms after hours and would free up appointments for everyone waiting for care at the v.a. the plan also proposes that we require v.a. pharmacies to stay open till 8:00 p.m. occurring the -- during the week and at least eight hours on saturdays and sundays. this would tackle a common complaint among our working veterans who cannot visit v.a. pharmacies during their limited work day hours to obtain a
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prescription. it is absurd that a civilian can go to a pharmacy 24 hours a day in most cities in america, but v.a. pharmacies close early on weekdays and completely on the weekends. i also propose in this action plan that individual v.a. hospitals undergo peer review from the best in health care, mayo clinic, cleveland clinic. there's a long line of them, and other top tier health care networks. i was disappointed that the independent review required by the veterans access choice and accountability act only resulted in a high level review of the v.a. health care system. its findings were so broad and general that they provided congress with very little guidance on what's happening at individual v.a. hospitals in our states. by requiring the v.a. to undergo peer reviews from the best in health care, we'll have better insight in how to fully reform the v.a. health care system. i intend to include the elements of that action plan in a bill i
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will introduce in this congress. by enacting legislation as soon as possible, we can fix the serious inequity in veterans health care. it's absurd to me and many others, virtually every american receives federal subsidies for choice and freedom in health care while veterans are forced to wait in line and ask permission from a v.a. bureaucrat before getting access to care. i want to thank my colleagues for working with me on these and other measures that will help finish the work we started nearly two years ago with the veteran access choice and accountability act, and urge passage of my common sense reform as soon as possible. before i close, i want to take a moment to applaud the efforts of my friend from georgia, the chairmachairman of the senate as committee johnny isakson for his leadership and accountability at the v.a. one of the most disgraceful aspects at the v.a. is only a small number of senior v.a.
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executives responsible for the wait time scandal were fired. this was despite the fact that congress provided the v.a. secretary broad authority to hold corrupt executives accountable for wrongdoing. i look forward to working with chairman isakson and my colleagues here in the senate to pass legislation that would ensure we hold all those responsible for denied and delayed care, even the deaths of some accountable. mr. chairman, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk shall call the roll. quorum call:
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