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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  May 10, 2016 2:15pm-6:16pm EDT

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spirit you can see this online at c-span.org. we leave here as the u.s. senate comes in returning after yesterday failing to advance the energy and water spending bill. it was the third attempt to move the legislation for. democrats have prevented the bill from advancing over an amendment by tom cotton that would prevent the purchase of heavy water from iran. and less an agreement is reached vote on energy and water spendinspending bill and they ct amendment will happen tomorrow but it's the first appropriations bill to send has taken up. live coverage here on c-span2. eternal god, help us to so live that the generations to come will know of your mighty acts. today, guide our senators in the
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path you have created, inspiring them with the potency of your powerful presence. may they trust you in times of adversity and prosperity, knowing that they will reap a productive harvest if they persevere. lord, keep them from underestimating the power of your great name, inspiring them never to forget that nothing is impossible with you. give them the wisdom to solve the hard problems of our times and grace to live in harmony
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with one another. we pray in your strong name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge f allegiance to our 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. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington, d.c., may 10, 2016. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable rob portman, a senator from the state of ohio, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: orrin g. hatch, president pro tempore.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. coons: i'd 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 majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that further proceedings under the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: yesterday, mr. president, we had another opportunity to move the energy security and water infrastructure funding bill forward, and i was disappointed to see it stall once again. i want to reiterate what senator alexander, the chairman of the energy and water subcommittee, has said. advancing this funding bill is important, not only for policy but also for process. members worked in committee and arrived at a bill they reported out unanimously. then even more members had their voices heard out here on the floor, where we processed 17 amendments from both democrats and republicans. now, after much research -- much research, debate, and i put from both sides, we're almost ready to move this bill across the finish line. we have one outstanding issue to
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address. i.t. the amendment you a -- it's the amendment authored by senator cotton. we'll have a vote on it no later than tomorrow. senator cotton was rightly concerned about the administration's recent announcement that it would purchase so-called heavy water from iran. so he filed an amendment that would keep the funds we're appropriating through this bill from being spent on future heavy water purchases from our country -- or from that country. let me repeat the point. this amendment does not impact the current heavy water agreement. instead, it aims at preventing future funds from going to iran, funds that the country could use to procure ballistic missiles or air defenses that could be used against us or other allies. i agree with senator cotton's objective, and i'll be supporting his amendment, which aims to keep americans safe. but regardless of members' positions on this issue, we will each have an opportunity to have our opinions count with a vote.
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whether senators support the amendment or not, this is the way the process works. the amendment is a restriction on the use of funds. clearly a matter related to the use of appropriated funds. so no matter how senators choose to vote on this amendment, we all know the importance of moving forward with this energy and water appropriations bill. i would leave colleagues with one last point offered by senator alexander yesterday. this energy security and water infrastructure funding bill is one that virtually every senator had this -- in this body has some interest in and passing it would help us set a good example for the other is 1 appropriation -- the other 11 appropriations bills. we'll soon have the opportunity to keep moving forward. i suggest 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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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. casey: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. casey: mr. president, i would also ask consent quorum call: the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania, under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order the senate will resume consideration of h.r. 2028 which the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 96, h.r. 2028, an act making appropriations for energy and water development and related agencies for the fiscal year ending september 30, 2016, and for other purposes. mr. casey: mr. president, i ask consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. casey: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i rise to talk today about judges, specifically district court judges across our country. we have a number of judges in pennsylvania who have not moved forward, and i wanted to speak to that today. i think it's a case, a story
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about obstruction. it's as simple as that, and there's no excuse for this kind of obstruction. these nominees came from senators of both parties, and that applies to pennsylvania as well, and have had all their credentials vetted and approved by the judiciary committee. pennsylvania currently has four nominees to the district court and one seat on the third circuit court of appeals is vacant as well. all of these excellent nominees deserve immediate consideration and confirmation. the pennsylvania judges were agreed to by my colleague from pennsylvania, senator toomey. we worked together to arrive at a consensus. just by way of example, the two that we're talking about today in particular are judge susan baxter and judge marilyn horan, pennsylvania judges who have sterling qualifications and credentials selected on a
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bipartisan basis, as i mentioned, in our state, unanimously approved by the senate judiciary committee, and have been languishing now for amongst even after judiciary committee consideration. we have two other pennsylvania district court nominees, judge john coville and judge john milton young who are still inexplicably stuck in the judiciary committee, despite being equally qualified and nominated the same day as judge baxter and judge haran. so the old expression applies here -- justice delayed is justice denied, and that's what we're seeing when we have this kind of obstruction preventing the confirmation of judges who have come through the judiciary committee. the american people have some fundamental basic rights here. one of those rights, i believe, is the right to expect that their courts are working with a full complement of judges. president obama has seen just 17
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judges confirmed in the last two years of his presidency so far. i know we're still in the midst of those two years, but 17 judges to date in the last 18 months roughly compared to 68 when democrats controlled the senate the last years of president bush's administration. we've seen the same obstruction at all levels of the court system. we know that, for example, the chief judge of the district of columbia court of appeals, judge merrick garland, has in fact been completely obstructed, not even getting a hearing, not even getting a vote of any kind. that might be the most glaring and egregious example of obstruction. so i hope our republicans colleagues would -- would -- when it comes to judge garland and his consideration for -- to be a member of the supreme court, i hope our republican colleagues would simply do their job. that's what the constitution tells us we must do.
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the constitution says advise and consent, not advise and consent when you feel like it or when it's politically expedient. one last point about the judiciary, in terms of how essential it is for our democracy, is that we pride ourselves as a nation having a judiciary which is independent, separate from the legislative branch, separate from the executive branch, an independent and in fact co-equal branch of government, not an institution that is the instrument of one party, especially the party in power. so we simply ask when it comes to judge garland for republican senators to do their job, allow a hearing, conduct a hearing, ask a lot of questions and then to have a vote on judge garland to be a justice. and on the district court nominees, it's as simple as agreeing what -- agreeing to
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what has already been agreed to, that all these candidates are of the highest caliber, that through the judiciary committee, all we need now is for folks here in the senate to come together and make a collective decision to move these district court judges forward. with that, mr. president, i would yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: will the senator withhold his quorum request? mr. casey: i would -- the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: mr. president, i would just thank my colleague from pennsylvania, senator casey, for bringing to the attention of this body the fact that we have not done our
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constitutional responsibility in the advice and consent, appointments made by the president to the courts. i think we all understand the challenge on the supreme court of the united states where the failure to hold a hearing on judge garland is basically saying that the president's term is no longer four years but three years in an election year that makes no sense at all. we all have been talking about that. but as senator casey pointed out, this is now becoming a matter for our district courts. so let me just share with my colleagues, this past week i went by the u.s. district court in greenville in the state of millionaire and had a chance to talk with some of the vudges that were there, and they were telling me that there is a series urgency to fill the vacancies on the maryland district court. we have two vacancies on the maryland district court. one was appointed by a president, by the president in march of last year, paula zenis
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to fill the vacancy. we have a judicial emergency in maryland. the president did his job in making the nomination in march of 2015, and for reasons i don't quite undan it took nine months -- excuse me, six months before the judiciary committee reported out that nomination, but they did. they reported it out in september of 2015, six months later. now, this is not a controversial appointment. it passed by a voice vote of the judiciary committee. paul a zenis is well qualified. she has clerked for judges. she has distinguished record in public service, public interest law as well as in private service -- private law firm. i would go through her full record, i have done it before. paul a zenis has now been waiting for over a year for consideration. i am sort of puzzled. are the republican leadership telling us that the term of the president is no longer four years but two years for the appointment of district court
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judges? this is a noncontroversial appointment that should have been confirmed well before now and is still on the calendar. as my friend from pennsylvania pointed out, when you look at the number of actions that this congress has taken on president obama's appointments, 17 confirmations by the senate compared to a comparable number in 2008 when the democrats controlled the senate and it was the last two years of president reagan's term, 68 nominations were filled in that year, 68 -- excuse me, of president bush's last term, 68 appointments were filled. currently we have 20 nominations on the executive calendar that have been approved by noncontroversial votes of the judiciary committee, waiting for action. the number of vacancies have increased under this two years from 43 to 79. i know the distinguished leader
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is on the floor, and i am just hopeful that we will find a way forward that we can act on some of these nominations. so, mr. president, i would yield the floor to my colleague from pennsylvania. mr. casey: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. casey: mr. president, i rise today to ask for unanimous consent that the senate proceed to executive session to consider the following nominations -- calendar number 307, calendar number 357, calendar number 358, calendar number 359, calendar number 362, calendar number 363, calendar number 364, calendar number 459, calendar number 460, calendar number 461, calendar number 508, that the senate proceed to vote without intervening action or debate on
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the nominations in the order listed, that the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate, that no further motions be made in order to the nominations, that any related statements be printed in the record and that the president be immediately notified of the senate's action and the senate then resume legislative session. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. mcconnell: i reserve the right to object. mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: as i noted before we left for recess, the way to look at these judicial appointments is to talk about apples and apples, not apples and oranges. at this appointment in president bush's eight years, he had 303 judicial nominations confirmed. president obama so far has had 324. according to my math, that's 23
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more judges confirmed during the eight years of president obama to this point than during the eight years of president bush to this point. so that said, we are looking to see if we can set up another vote on a judicial nominee, but until that process is complete, i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. cardin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: mr. president, as i pointed out to the floor, the number of vacancies has increased during this term from 43o judicial emergencies in my state and many states around the nation. i will try a smaller number and see whether we could get agreement on that, and i would ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to executive session to consider the following nominations -- calendar 307, xinis, calendar number 357, martinotti, calendar
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number 358, rossiter, calendar number 359, stanton, that the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table with no intervening action or debate, that no further motions be in order to the nominations, that any related statements be printed in the record and the president be immediately notified of the senate's action and the senate then resume legislative session. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. mcconnell: mr. president, reserving the right to object. as i indicated a minute ago, the way to measure a president's success in getting judges confirmed is to compare two presidencies -- president bush who was in office for eight years and president obama who will be in office for eight years to this point, and at this point, president obama has gotten 23 more judicial confirmations than president bush did to this point. so he has been treated very fairly. therefore, i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard.
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mr. coons: mr. president? i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination -- calendar number 307, paula xinis, nominee to the district court from maryland, that the motion to reconsider be made and laid upon the table, with no intervening action or debate, that no further motions be in order to the nomination, that any related statements be printed in the record, that the president be immediately notified of the senate's action and the senate then resume legislative session. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. mcconnell: i object. the presiding officer: the majority leader. objection is heard. mr. coons: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. coons: mr. president, there are today 81 vacancies in our federal courts, 29 of which are judicial emergencies. i note with respect that the majority leader has compared the number of district court nominees confirmed under the previous president and the current president, but in my view what matters most is that there are 29 judicial emergencies in district courts across this country and that
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there are 20 district court nominees who were voted out of the judiciary committee on unanimous voice votes but that continue to await action on this floor. the one that i just sought unanimous consent for, paula xinis of the district of maryland and 19 others. at this point, a year and a half into this congress, only 17 months have been confirmed into district courts in the united states and last year the senate matched a record for confirming the fewest judicial nominees in more than half a century, 11 the entire year. what i am most concerned about is its impact on the operations of the courts of the united states. as a member of the judiciary committee, i'm frustrated and concerned. we have 24 nominees waiting for a hearing in the committee as well. seven of these nominees are to courts of appeals, including rebecca ross whard nominated to serve on the third circuit, the appellate court covering my home state of delaware. then of course there are ongoing concerns about the vacancy on the supreme court. it's been 55 days since
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president obama nominated chief judge merrick garland, a consensus candidate who was previously confirmed to his seat on the d.c. circuit by a bipartisan majority of a previous congress to our nation's highest court. last week, a bipartisan group of former solicitors general, paul clement, todd olson, ken starr, former s.g.'s have served in both republican and democratic administrations, endorsed judge garland as superbly qualified and -- quote -- having demonstrated the temperament, intellect and experience to serve on the supreme court. i am gravely concerned that we have sunk to a level in terms of delays in confirmation of qualified judicial nominees to the courts at all levels in our country, that we are having a significant ongoing and negative impact on the functioning of our courts and access to justice in this country. obstruction in this body has sadly allowed too many of our courts to grind to a halt on the important business of our federal judicial system. it's time, i believe, that we do
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our jobs. there are vetted, qualified americans ready, willing and able to serve in our nation's justice system. we should embrace their willingness to serve and let them get to work. thank you, mr. president. with that, i yield the floor. mr. mcconnell: is there a consent -- was there a unanimous consent request? the presiding officer: no consents are pending. mr. lee: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: mr. president, i rise today to pay tribute to a man who was truly a giant in my home state of utah and in this institution, in the united states senate. he was a friend to everyone he
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met and someone whose life of service to the people of utah we celebrate. at the same time we mourn his passing. senator robert f. bennett. senator bennett loved the political arena. although his heart was always with his family in utah, he spent many years working on capitol hill, in both the senate and the house and later as a congressional liaison for the department of transportation. he also spent many years in business where his management abilities and his keen mind helped build a successful corporation and earn him awards such as, inc. magazine's entrepreneur of the year. but senator bennett's true passion was for sound public policy, for the development of good policy. he cared little about who wrote policy. he cared even less for who would get the credit for good policy. so long as wise policies were
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enacted into law, he was happy. that was his objective, and it was a nob one at that. this was apparent to me after a memorable conversation i had with him in 2010. just about six years ago, just before our state's nominating convention at which we were both candidates, i was in the lobby of a local radio and television station waiting to go on the air and watching the national news on a large television screen. i don't remember the exact issue that was being discussed, but i remember the general topic, and i'll never forget what happened as i watched this broadcast. senator bennett walked into the lobby, and seeing me simply strolled over to stand next to me. to be honest, i was anticipating the type of understandably awkward interax that might occur near the end of a heated political contest. instead with his charismatic and
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characteristic charge and affability, he quickly put me at ease by nodding towards the screen and saying rather diplomatically, you know, there's a pretty good chance that you may be the person who has to deal with this issue. having gracefully defused the situation and defused any tension that might be between us at that moment he proceeded to share words of wisdom and personal insights, imparting to me some of the lessons he learned from his porn experience on that matter -- from his own experience on that matter. it was clear to me that he not only had thought long and hard about it but he was less concerned with who addressed the issue, less concerned with who would get credit for fixing the problem, and more concerned with ensuring that the problem was dealt with thoughtfully, wisely and in a manner most likely to result in a good outcome for the american people.
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in senator bennett's view, there was no such thing as a political opponent. there were only potential political allies. though senator bennett was a serious statesman, he was also one who did not take himself too seriously. this is one of the many reasons why people everywhere were drawn to him. many utahans will remember his flair for self deprecating humor emblazoned on his campaign billboards in 2004, summarizing senator bennett's most distinctive qualities, one billboard read bold, bean pole. another one read big heart, big ideas, big ears. perhaps everyone's favorite declared better looking than abraham lincoln, adding parenthetically, just barely.
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in the political arena where egos are large, bob bennett was a breath of fresh air. he could speak extemporaneously and at length on everything from graphics to business trends and do so without notes. he was a master story teller, one who had the uncanny ability to entertain and challenge his audience at the same time, the result of a lifetime of learning and profound thinking. he always maintained an open mind, never unwilling to rethink policy issues in light of new information. these qualities are but a few of the reasons that he was a trusted colleague and that he was trusted by colleagues on both sides of the aisle in this chamber. though much has been written about his public and his political accomplishments, there was a side to him that does not receive the attention that it
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probably deserves. a day in the life of a u.s. senator is often stressful and inner varyably unpredict -- and invariably unpredictable. under such circumstances the likelihood for errors are high and plenty of scheduling mistakes could have been made and anger at staff would have been justified, but these same staffers said in 18 years in the united states senate, they never saw bob bennett or even so much as raise his voice at any of his staff members. he was always kind, patient and understanding with them. and they were committed and loyal to him in return. i'm convinced that one of the reasons so many members of the senate trusted bob bennett so completely was because they saw how his own staff treated him and how he returned that trust.
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i've been the beneficiary of the staff that he built. some of my very best staffers were those i hired on from senator bennett's office who not only helped me get my office up and running and have helped keep it running efficiently and effectively as the trained professionals that they were having been mentored by one of the greats of this institution. senator bennett was a man of the utmost eupbl tegt and was -- integrity and was the same calm and thoughtful person whether speaking in public or speaking to close confidantes. at 6'6", he towered over most people but that didn't prevent him from treating everyone with dignity and respect and exhibiting true understanding and true compassion with all whom he interacted. whether he was talking with ranchers in iron county or
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consulting a grieving parent visiting him in his office, bob bennett treated everyone the same, with kindness, respect and concern. he often quoted president reagan's famous aphorism that there is no limit to what a man can do or where a man can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit. senator bennett didn't just recite those words, he lived them. they were part of who he was and what he did. on more than one occasion he worked at lengths to craft a legislation on a difficult issue only to discover at the last moment that the price of its passage would be to give all the credit to someone else. because his objective was, first and foremost, to make sure that the right thing was done, this was a price that senator bennett was always willing to pay. that was an obstacle from which he never shied away. this was something that never deterred him from doing the
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right thing. since the election of 2010, i've been asked countless times about my relationship with senator ser bennett. my opinion answer invariably reminds me of the great privilege it is to serve the state of utah in his seat. our conversations were always meaningful and focused on innovative approaches to dealing with difficult and important policy issues. a consummate statesman and a classic gentleman, he always made clear to me that good policy is always good politics in the end. senator bennett's achievements were numerous and he'll be remembered for his tremendous impact on the state of utah. however, i'm certain that if he were to make a list of his greatest accomplishments, he would likely say nothing about his business successes or his political endeavors. rather, it would focus entirely
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on his family, on his dear wife joyce, the six children they raised together, and on their 20 grandchildren. mr. president, senator bennett truly was in every way a giant. he was a man of integrity, a man whose word was truly his bond, a man who left both the state of utah and his country better than he found them. he was a man who had a firm and unwavering commitment to his faith in god and was true to that faith until the very end. it is my hope and prayer that senator bennett's wife joyce, his children and grandchildren are comforted at this difficult time. knowing that our state and our country are forever grateful for their husband, father, and grandfather's exemplary life of service. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor.
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mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i want to thank my colleague from utah for his generous remarks about our bennett. i had the opportunity to serve with senator bennett for a number of years, and those of us who are of a certain age, who are raised in the star wars period, you know, sometimes i think about bob bennett as the jedi master, one of the wise men of the senate, people it's been a pleasure i've come to know and learn from. certainly we will miss him and send our very best wishes and condolences to joyce and their
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entire family along with 20, i believe my colleague said 20 grandchildren. a huge, wonderful family of which i know they were very, very proud. mr. president, i want to talk a little bit about the senate's work and what we've been able to do and what we still have to do. we know in the past there's been an experiment principally under the leadership of the former majority leader, now the minority leader, senator reid, of basically not allowing the senate to function and not allowing senators to offer amendments, including members of the majority party, lest people be forced to vote on things that they later would be held accountable for by the voters. what a concept is that. in fact, we've seen a different approach at work under the leadership of senator mcconnell, the senate majority leader in the 114th congress.
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that's over the last roughly year and a half. and that is where everyone gets to participate. and when people have a better idea, that they be allowed to offer that by way of an amendment and constructive proposal to improve legislation and to try to do what we can to build consensus, to get legislation pass the senate, the house and get it on the president's desk. are we going to have differences? of course we are. but it's important that we try and we not just come here to make speeches and vote no on everything, but we actually try to find some way of getting the "yes," particularly where it doesn't violate our principles and where able to make incremental progress on the important work we've been sent to do. so fortunately, we have seen the senate get back to work. we just recently passed important legislation like the energy policy modernization act,
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a bill that will update our country's energy policies. this follows on the heels of a vote late last year where we lifted the antiquated ban on crude oil exports, something to give our domestic producers access to global prices for their product, something which encourages domestic production, helps us become less dependent on foreign imports and helps us help our friends and allies around the world who are dependent on sometimes pretty unsavory characters for their source of energy. they can cut it off using energy as a weapon. but particularly it's important in terms of getting americans back to work. while the unemployment rate continues to tick down, i think to roughly about 5% now, the untold story is that the percentage of people actually participating in the workforce is at a 30-year low, and people have, unfortunately, given up
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looking for work in too many instances, making that 5% unemployment statistic a little bit misleading. but i think one of the things we can sense is that people feel that when our economy grows so sluggishly. we learned last week i think it was our economy grew at .5%. i remember when we used to talk around here about the economy growing at 4% or 3% at least. in other words, as our population increases, the only way more jobs get created is for our economy to continue to grow. and if there's not a lot of problems that america has that couldn't be made better by a growing economy. and unfortunately, we've seen the negative consequences of some of the policies, particularly of the executive branch, when it comes to regulation, which have made that very difficult. but we have been making some progress in the energy policy
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modernization act is part of that. to pass consumer-friendly legislation that will help people get access to energy, help provide the incentives for them to conserve. we've also done things like pass a reauthorization of the federal aviation act, the f.a.a. it may not seem like a benefiting a deal, unless you fly in an airplane and care about safety. this legislation has passed -- that we passed, the senate i think has done that. it's helped regulate the growing number of remotely-run aircraft or drones to make sure that those don't conflict with passenger planes. those are otherwise made safer. and that's just another example. we also have passed important legislation to deal with this prescription drug abuse crisis
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-- many call it the opioid crisis. these are prescription drug painkillers, as we know. too often people get access to these prescription pain killing drugs that are addictive themselves and when they can't get access to them anymore, they simply turn to the cheaper forms of addictive drugs like heroin. we were able to pass the comprehensive addiction and recovery act back in march. i know the house of representatives is, i believe, this week taking up that same legislation, a understand my hope -- and my hope is that we can continue to work together to bring relief to those struggling with addictions and to help save those who would otherwise suffer from fatal overdoses of drugs. we still have a lot of work left ahead of us. we did start the appropriations process last month, which i know has been an enormous frustration to a lot of people. but i remember all too clearly,
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as the presiding officer does, when we -- the alternative to doing it in a 12-step process through the regular appropriations process is to do an omnibus appropriations bill at the end of the year, which is a lousy way of doing business, having one bill that spends roughly $1 trillion with a lack of transparency and the sort of accountability that necessarily goes into a step-by-step process where we move 12 separate appropriations bills across the floor. we've all said we want to do this, which of course is the basic work of the legislature -- to pay the bills, according to the limits that we've agreed upon in terms of spending, but we've continued to run into roadblocks. last night we had a vote to try to get back on the energy and water appropriations bill. the objec-- the obstacle appeare our friends on the other side of
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the aisle don't want to vote on a germane amendment by the senator from arkansas. but the fact of the matter is, as a result of their objections to proceeding in the normal way, the majority leader filed for cloture on that bill, which will guarantee a vote on that amendment. hopefully once that's resolved, we'll get back on final passage of that appropriations bill and on to the transportation, housing, and urban development appropriations bill, and i believe the plan is to move on to the military construction-v.a. appropriations bill. in other words, it's not fancy work, but it's our work and something we should be doing in a transparent and methodical sort of way. these bills actually represent the fundamentals of legislating, the sort of blocking and tackling. they include resources to fund our military, something we all say we're for, to keep our
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commitments to our veterans, which is a sacred obligation, and to help provide the necessary infrastructure across our country and to keep our folks who serve our country in diplomatic posts abroad, to keep them safe, and to protect our borders here at home. so i hope we can grind our way through this, we can take up and pass all 12 appropriations bills. the people who've elected us deserve that, and not some end-of-the-year mad dash to the finish line where everybody comes away pretty much dissatisfied by the process. but beyond the appropriations process, i also want to ponts out some important -- i also want to point out some important work being done at the committee level here in the senate. i serve on the judiciary committee under the leadership of chairman chuck grassley from iowa. at the end of the april i was proud to join a number of my colleagues on a bipartisan basis
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to announce major proposals to reform our criminal justice system. back when i -- when i wnts to law school -- when i went to law school, more years ago than i want to count, we used to be told that the criminal law was to be used to punish people who violated the law, to deter others who might be tempted to commit crimes in the future, and, third, to rehabilitate people who have made a mistake or ended up in prison. my experience and my observation has been we have largely forge gotten the -- forgotten the rehabilitation process. now, in texas and in other states beginning in 2007, we began to provide incentives for low-risk offenders who were in prison who, if given the opportunity, would begin the process of turn their lives around -- of turning their lives around, dealing with a drug or alcohol addiction, dealing with an education deficit like the fellow i heard about when i was
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in a prison in east texas recently. the shop teacher said, i have guys in my shop class here in this prison who can't even read a ruler. how are they supposed to get a job on the outside? how are they supposed to turn their lives around once they get out of prison? we simply seem to forget back then -- or, before then that people who go to prison most often get out of prison and the only question is, how well-equipped will they be to work in society and turn their lives around and become protective members of society? i'm not nig -- i'm not naive toy or think that many will take advantage of those opportunities. that's based on the experience of states like texas and georgia
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and north carolina. as former attorney general judge mukasey said, the gold standard in terms of criminal justice reform is the crime rate. i know some of our -- you hear some discussion about the incarceration rate. some people want to talk about other things. but he said really the question is the crime rate. if the crime rate is going down, you're doing something right. if the crime rate is going up, you're doing something wrong. but the good news is, the crime rates in places like texas have gone down as a result of some of these programs that help prepare people who are willing to take the help, accept the help, to turn their lives around. it also helped us deal with the ballooning prison system costs. indeed, we've been able to shut down in texas alone three prisons as a result of reducing the population, as a result of
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slowing down or in many cases eliminating altogether this turnstile where people go to prison, they get out, they commit other crimes, they end up right back in prison again. so this is an example of something i think the president, i know, is for -- criminal justice reform. there is another component of it on sentencing reform, which i think ver vincennesably deals wh some of the mandatory prison -- which i think very sensibly deals with some of the mandatory prison sentences that i think are really overshot the mark. the most important thing is the certainty of the sentence, not the length of the sentence. again judge mukasey, former attorney general of the united states, said many times people who commit crimes have impulse control problems and they're not thinking about what's going to happen to me 25 years from now or 50 years from now. they're thinking about what's going to happen to me next week
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or today or later today or to. the seniority of punishment is i believe, a more important consideration than the length of punishment. it may make people feel good to say we're going to put some people away for the rest of their lives. particularly when it involves a nonviolent offense -- maybe it is a product of stacking sentences for mandatory minimum sentences in a way that's disproportion nodisproportionate commits, i this it is -- i think it is important to consider the options. but we've also create add safety valve. nobody gets the benefit of these changes in mandatory minimum sentences without appearing before a judge, the same judge who sentenced you in the first place, who's not only able to
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consider the circumstances of the crime but your post conviction and post-incarceration conduct. as well as the comment commentsy of the victims of the crime. based on all the circumstances, they then determine whether you ought to get considered by a federal district judge but only if it does not involve a serious crime as defined by federal law. we've categorically excluded that to make sure this is focused on nonviolent owe fen derks people who are -- offenders, people who are at least likely to put the community at risk. there's one other area that i think there is an opportunity for us to kin to work on -- to continue to work on and perhaps succeed with because there seems to be no real objection to the idea, and that is how to deal with people with mental illness
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in our society. back in the old days, people with mental illness used to be put in institutions, basically locked up and the key thrown away. well, we know that didn't work very well. it was basically warehousing people with mental illness. so the idea was, we would deinstitutionalize people with mental illness. they would get to live in the community and receive the sort of appropriate follow-up, help, and assistance and care they would need in order to maximize their potential, whatever it might be. well, it was good in theory, but what happened is once the deinstitutionalization tack -- took place, what happened is people started living in the streets, the homeless that we all see. they're living in the streets because they have nowhere else to turn, they're not getting the treatment they need that might help them become more adaptive and productive, or they end up
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in our criminal justice system. i've told the story before -- i'll repeat it briefly here -- a friend of mine who is the sheriff in bexar county, san antonio, texas, said recently, how would you like to meet the largest mental health provider in america? i said, well, sure. she said, well, let me introduce you to the sheriff of los angeles county. the person that runs the l.a. county jail. so in addition to people living homeless on our streets or crowding our emergency rooms with a variety of illnesses, real and imagined, a large number of people end up in our jails, and thanks to great innovative programs like that in bexar county, san antonio, texas, as a result of what the sheriff and others have done, we have begun to address the problem at its root and to make sure that people who need help are not just warehoused and
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jailed but actually diverted to treatment. there's also legislation that i've introduced which i think might help the situation. it's called the mental health and safe communities act. the fact of the matter is, if you were adam lanza's mother -- this is the shooter at sandy hook who stole his mother's gun, killed his own mother, and then went on to murder these poor, innocent children at sandy hook elementary school -- she had basically two choices the way it looks to me. one is she could seek an involuntary temporary commitment to a mental institution, which is only temporary, after which he gets out,s a angry at her -- he's angry at her, their relationship deteriorates even more and she's got nowhere else to turn. or you could have a mechanism where she could go to a civil court and ask a judge to enter a
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order requiring her -- enter a court order requiring her son to enter outpatient treatment, to make sure he saw the psychiatrist or mental health professional and he was compliant with the doctor's orders in terms of taking his medication. this is one of the biggest problems in the medical health area is that people simply starting to feel better and they end up taking their meds and become sicker and sicker and sicker. in adam lanza's case, because his mother didn't have any mechanism to make him compliant with his doctor's orders and to take his medication, he became more and more mentally ill until this tragedy occurred. i think it would have provided another tool that that loved onn use and that they, i believe, need when a member of their family suffers from symptoms of mental illness and they refuse to deal with that and to comply with their doctor's orders.
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this month is actually national mental health month. and an appropriate fippl time fs to talk not only about the solution or at least something that will improve the status quo when it comes to mental illness our country but a time to educate people about mental health issues a tongdz highlight -- and to highlight on-going efforts and support those who are struggling. i dare say there is not a single family in america that's not affected by this problem. or perhaps if not an immediate family member, then somebody they know or somebody they live with in the community. so we have got a lot of work to do, and i just mention the criminal justice reform, the mental health reform as two things that are absolutely the opposite of partisan, they are nonpartisan issues. they are issues where people have some differences of view, and that's fine. let's talk about those. let's see where we can build consensus and what things maybe
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we have to leave for future legislation, but the basic point i wanted to make is that even though the media is obsessed with what's happening in the presidential races, both in the primaries -- basically the primaries on both sides, we have been able to continue to do the people's work here. there is a lot we have done. frankly, a lot more we can do, but we have the opportunity to build on nearly a year and a half of strong bipartisan records of accomplishment, one that's benefited those in the majority and those in the minority. but frankly the focus shouldn't be on us and who is up and who is down. it ought to be on what we are able to do together to pass legislation that helps the american people. mr. president, i yield the floor.
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mr. cornyn: mr. president, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. mr. sullivan: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sullivan: mr. president, i also ask unanimous consent that
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privileges of the floor be granted to the following member of my staff, dave detulla, during the pendency of today's session. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sullivan: mr. president, we all know that the obama administration's eight years in office are beginning to wind down. as it does, as is natural for a president ending his time in office, the president and members of his team are starting to focus on their legacy and how they want to be remembered. now, with regard to this administration's policies in the middle east, unfortunately for them a legacy and a narrative that is beginning to take hold is one of not leveling with the american people, not one of honesty, and that should concern all of us, all of us in this
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body, whether democrats or republicans. when the president of the united states is in open disagreement with the secretary of defense, with the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff on one of the most critical issues our nation faces, whether to send our sons and daughters into combat, it should be cause for significant concern for all of us. in this body and across the country. now, president obama has repeatedly told the american people that u.s. troops in the middle east are not in combat. in 2010, he announced that we are -- quote -- ending our combat mission in iraq. in 2014, he used the same words to talk about afghanistan, and more recently he said that our mission in syria -- quote -- will not involve american combat
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troops fighting on foreign soil. yet just less than two weeks ago, in a senate armed services committee hearing, when the secretary of defense ash carter and the chairman of the joint chiefs, general dunford, were asked if our troops in the middle east, in syria, in iraq, are engaged in combat, these two senior u.s. officials unequivocally said yes, they are. now, to members of our military serving overseas, particularly in the middle east, secretary carter and general dunford were stating the obvious. indeed, there has been recent news reports, in "the washington post," in "the military times" that describe up to 200 marines at a place called fire base bell
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in northern iraq firing artillery missions on a daily basis in support of iraqi troops in order to kill isis terrorists. our soldiers serving in the middle east as part of the joint special operations command conduct regular missions, counterterrorism missions to kill and capture terrorists in the middle east, and of course we see it on a daily basis. our brave pilots from all the different services have dropped approximately 40,000 bombs in iraq and syria, in close air support missions, again focused on destroying and killing isis members and their infrastructure and their logistics bases. since 2014, almost 1,200 bombs
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and closed air support missions have been conducted in afghanistan. just yesterday, we were informed of a successful strike, again coalition strike with fighter aircraft that killed three isis leaders. mr. president, as you know, these missions have entailed risk. some of our members of the military have been killed. others have been wounded. but there is no doubt that all of what i just described is the very definition of combat. the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs have all stated this, and indeed in a lead editorial in the "military times" just on friday that was titled" it's combat, mr. president," the editorial concluded by saying when u.s. and allied troops are on islamic
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state turf with the mission of wiping it from existence, which is their mission, they are on a combat mission. calling it anything else is wrong. now, to secretary carter's credit, again, just at a hearing last week, he agreed and stated unequivocally, these members of our military are in combat, and i think we need to say that clearly. this is the secretary of defense well, apparently the white house didn't get the memo. just last week, when asked about a very brave navy seal who unfortunately was killed in a fierce firefight involving u.s. special operation forces, kurdish commandos and islamic state fighters, white house
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spokesman josh ernst told reporters that -- quote -- the relatively small number of u.s. service members that are involved in these operations are not in combat but in a dangerous place, unquote. so that's the white house. relatively small, not in combat. so why does president obama and his white house continue to peddle the fiction that u.s. forces are not engaged in combat. that's a really important question that we need to be asking. why? the whole world knows that we are. why are they peddling this fiction to the american people? perhaps the commander in chief is truly unaware that our military forces are in combat. and there are hundreds of them that are. if that is the case, that would be very, very troubling indeed.
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what's more likely is that the president has told the american people repeatedly that he will end wars and won't send combat troops to the middle east, and so the word contortions coming from the white house are part of a twisted attempt to salvage and protect the president's legacy. but by spinning the truth for political purposes, the president is coming perilously close to leaving a legacy of dishonesty when it comes to our military involvement in the middle east. and much more worrisome, mr. president, is that this dishonesty comes with a cost. first and foremost, it diminishes the service and sacrifice of our troops and their families. again, in the military times editorial on this very topic, just on friday, it stated
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calling it a training mission in the middle east is cold comfort to the parents, spouses and children of the deployed troops. the more the white house insists that these troops are not part of a combat mission, the more distrust it breeds in the ranks of our military and among the public. it's viewed as a sort of condescending semantics washington plays to deny the obvious. that can only serve to erode support for the important mission. americans serving in iraq and syria and afghanistan know that they are in combat. the commander in chief needs to acknowledge this fact, and the bravery it entails, not disguise the true nature of their duty. second, the costs that come with
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this dishonesty are that it further undermines the administration's very tenuous foreign policy credibility regarding its stated goal of degrading and destroying isis. while this is the correct goal, a series of missteps in the middle east, including the president's failure to enforce his own red line when it was crossed by bashar assad and syria have brought us to the point where our adversaries and our allies question u.s. credibility and resolve. islamic state terrorists know that they are in combat against american forces. they see it every day. but when the president says otherwise, it signals a lack of conviction, making it harder for us to defeat these terrorists. third, this dishonesty about the role of our troops allows presidential candidates to duck
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a tough issue. for example, presidential candidate hillary clinton has repeatedly said, unchallenged by anyone, including in the media, that she would continue the president's policies of not sending combat troops to syria and iraq. but the president is sending combat troops to syria and iraq. finally, mr. president, and more broadly, by playing fast and loose with the facts about our policies in the middle east, the obama administration is making it harder to gain congressional support for its policies. i strongly believe that when the executive branch and the legislative branch on national security and foreign policy issues are in agreement and working together, that's when we are most strong as a country. i have been critical of this administration's policies in certain areas and supportive in
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others, but in congress feels like the administration is being played and the american public are not giving the courtesy of the truth, support in this body for these important policies will crumble. mr. president, we saw an extreme example of this over the weekend. in a remarkable "new york times" magazine piece about the president's deputy national security advisor who is credited with selling the iran nuclear deal to congress and the american people, we see line after line in this very length any article about not leveling with the american people on that deal which we debated leer on the senate floor -- here on the senate floor. let me give you a couple of quotes from that article. one is just how they sold the deal. now i'm quoting the article. "the way in which most americans have heard the story of the iran deal presented, that the obama
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administration began seriously engaging with iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in iran which came about in 2013 because of elections that blot moderates to power -- brought moderates to now we are was largely manufactured by the white house for the purpose of selling the iran deal." so here we have white house officials saying they manufactured a story to sell the nuclear deal to the congress and the american people. another quote talked about a speech that the president gave on the deal, a very important speech. and it says -- quote -- "while the president's statement and speech was technically accurate -- this was about the timing of the negotiations -- it was also actively misleading."
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so again top white house official pretty much admitting that he was fabricating a narrative to get the american people and the congress of the united states to -- quote -- sell and buy off on the iran deal. you know, mr. president, reading this article, one gets the sense that to some of the people in the white house, this is all a game. facts don't matter but cleverness does. the quotes in this article from young white house officials are almost gleeful when they recount how they sold the nuclear deal to -- quote -- "to clueless reporters." any of the press listening, i hope you like that adjective. and members of congress. how the white house created a -- quote -- echo chamber and where the pup pit mast -- pup pit masters literally putting words
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in the mouths of members of congress and reporters to sell this deal. my colleague should read this article. again it's like a game. but of course this is not a game. all of this, american troops in combat, whether the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism should obtain a nuclear weapon, this is not a game. this is a deadly, serious reality. and i was reminded of this serious reality this past week when i spent much of my recess with the assessment and selection team of the marine corps special operations command. it wasn't clever 30 somethings with fine arts degrees out in the field working on little sleep but 20 somethings of all backgrounds from every corner of america going through some of the most rigorous military
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training possible. some of these young marines will make the cut for special operations command. others won't. but all are striving for the honor of defending their nation during challenging times. no doubt in due time many will be heading down range to the middle east and other parts of the world doing their duty to keep us safe. the obama administration owes these brave young americans the truth, not spin. the obama administration owes congress the truth, not spin. and the obama administration certainly owes the american people the truth, not spin. the sooner the president and his white house start leveling with the american people about our roles and our policies in the middle east, the better it will be for all of us.
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mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. a senator: thank you, mr. president. before i give my intended remarks and while the gentleman from alaska is still on the floor, let me just share with him though i probably wouldn't have used some of the pejorative terms, let me agree with him that this distinction that has been made between combat troops and noncombat troops in the middle east is ridiculous. mr. murphy: that we need a more fullsome discussion on the floor of the senate as to the scope of our deployment there. we just heard evidence last week that we have u.s. troops on the ground in yemen in addition to iraq and syria. and that frankly the appropriate forum to have that discussion is a debate on an authorization of the use of military force to fight our enemies in the region. and so i -- while i might not share the way in which the
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sentiments were expressed, i think that this conversation about brave men and women, american soldiers putting their life on the line as we speak in the middle east is as important as it gets. and the fact that we are not having a broader discussion about this is deeply problematic. so i thank the gentleman for raising the issue, and i hope that it's something that we can come together on as we provide legal cover. you know, perhaps restrictions on the use of force in the region. so i thank the gentleman for bringing this important subject up. mr. president, i'm here to talk on the floor today about the 31,000 people a year, 2600 a month, 86 a day, these are rough numbers that are killed by guns all across the country.
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for a lot of kids who grow up in neighborhoods like the north end of hartford or the east end of bridgeport, it feels like a war zone because they fear for their life every day that they're walking to school. they're dealing with levels of ptsd when virtually everyone -- every one of these kids knows someone very close to them that's been shot that rival the diagnosis that come back from war zones abroad. mr. president, today in my campaign to try to bring the voices of victims to the floor of the senate, i want to talk about one aspect of this epidemic all across the country, and that's the epidemic of young children being killed accidentally by guns. the numbers are really hard to believe that in this country in any one given year there's
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somewhere between 2,000, 3,000 children and teens who die from guns in the united states. and that doesn't even count all of the kids who suffer nonfatal gun injuries. in 2010, the official number is about 18,000. and there's a lot of reporting that suggests that the numbers that we know are dramatically lower than what the actual numbers are. there are a lot of injuries that happen in the home because of guns that aren't reported as part of the official statistics. but here's just a handful of headlines from recent papers including "the new york times" headline in one week in april. four toddlers shot and killed themselves. on average last year in 2015, people were getting shot by toddlers on a weekly basis.
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and i think it's time that we start talking about this epidemic of young kids as young as one or two years old getting their hands on weapons and either killing themselves or killing their parents or their brothers or their sisters. and we start talking about the fact that this isn't happening anywhere else in the world. so here's the rates of gun g.t.e.s per 100,000. and this is children and teens. we're going to take high income countries. it's not close. canada, our neighbor is the next highest with poi 75 per is00,000 but 3.24 children and teens die from gun homicides, gun deaths, accidental, intentional every year. other countries barely register.
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and there's nothing unique about the nature of american children that explain this away. the only thing that can explain this is the large number of unsafe weapons that are available to children. and so, mr. president, i want to just talk for a little bit today about what's happening out there. so here's the broader number. on average every day 46 people are shot or killed by accident with a gun. and in 2015 there were at least 278 unintentional shootings at the hands of young children and teenagers. these are young kids and teenagers unintentionally firing a weapon. we know there are at least 278. "the new york times" found unintentional shootings occurred roughly twice as often as the
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records indicate because of idiosyncrasies in terms of how such deaths from accidental shootings are classified. we know that there are about 1.7 million children in youth under the age of 18 who are living in homes with loaded and unlocked firearms. 1.7 million kids are in homes with loaded and unlocked firearms. a harvard survey showed that children who live in gun-owning households by a rate of 70% -- and these are kids under the age of 10 -- 70% of kids under the age of 10 who live in households that have a gun knew where their parents stored their guns even when they were hidden, and 36% of those kids under 10 years old reported that they had handled the weapon themselves. one out of three kids under 10 had found the weapon and had handled the gun themselves.
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one analysis found that 70% of unintentional child deaths from firearms could have been prevented if that firearm had simply been stored, locked, or unloaded. and so this is a part of the story of gun violence in this country that doesn't often get talked about but given this one horrific week we lad in april, maybe -- had in april, maybe we can have a conversation about what we can do to try to reduce the number of accidental shootings that happen at the hands of little kids. so my, you know, goal in these speeches is to tell you who these victims are. as hard as it is, let me tell you a little bit about some of the children who passed away in this week during april. holholston coal was a 3 crearld from dallas, georgia who shot himself with his father's loaded gun on april 26. the gun according to his near was located in a backpack.
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holston removed it from the backpack and accidently fired the weapon. autopsy results condition firmed the shot was both accidental and self-inflicted. after the gunfired, holston's's father called 911. i wouldn't recommend you listen to the recording. you'll hear the father wailing no, no. stay with me, holston. can you hear me? daddy loves you, holston, please, please. this is a kid full of energy from morning till night as his relatives described. his pastor who officiated holston's funeral remembered him as a boy who loved super heroes and sometimes wrestled cardboard boxes. he loved to play in small inflatable bouncy castles whenever he could. shaquille was 2 years old when on april 21 in kansas city,
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missouri she died after accidentally shooting herself in the head with her father's gun. she had been taking a nap with her father, taking a nap with her father when she found the gun under a pillow on the bed where her father generally kept it. her father woke up from the nap to shaquille by his bed bleeding and crying, the gun at her feet. shaquille's mother was devastated by her daughter's loss and noted that her daughter's first word was daddy. she was buried in a pink coffin. her favorite doll by her side and a tiara strategically placed to hide the self-inflicted gunshot wound to her forehead. finally and i promise i'll spot, shelton, 2 years old, same week, indianapolis, indiana, shot and killed himself with a handgun that he found in his mother's purse. she had briefly stepped away when the toddler climbed on to
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the kitchen counter and reached for her mother's purse where a cell phone was ringing and he found the weapon. he fired the weapon and he wounded his shoulder in critical condition. he was quickly taken to a nearby hospital but he died shortly thereafter. a neighbor who lived across the street remembers that kiyan had just learned thousand ride a bicycle. he was out on his bicycle can training -- with training wheessments he and his mother used to keep watch of the stray dogs in the neighborhood trying to keep their neighbors safe. he was two years oavmentd he died because he was reaching for a ringing cell phone in his mom's bag and he shot himself and died. there's a way to solve this. i know we're not supposed to have props on the floor, but this is a cell phone. it opens and closes based upon my fingerprint. there is technology ready and available to make sure that weapons can only be fired by the
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owner of that weapon. and yet there is a pretty open conspiracy in the gun industry today to prevent that technology from becoming available to consumers. smith & wesson tried to develop a smart weapon, but they were boycotted. they were boycotted by the rest of the gun industry. when retailers have tried to sell smart guns in their stores, they have faced boycotts regularly, and in some cases even threats of physical violence. that doesn't make sense to most people. why on earth would the gun industry not want -- or the gun lobby not want for safe guns to be an option, to be available? well, from what i understand, it is rooted in a law that was passed a decade ago by new jersey that says that if smart gun technology is developed that it would be mandatory. well, first of all, that's one state's law. so there's no national conspiracy to mandate that every
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single gun be a smart gun. but let's play this out. let's say that technology was developed so that you could assure that no gun could be fired if it wasn't you or another authorized user of the gun. i mean be, i think it would be logical for us to have a conversation as to whether or not that should be mandatory. maybe we won't develop the tegnology that is -- the technology that is fail-safe enough. but when we figure out how to make cars safer -- we've thraird to be built in as part of the car -- i don't think we're at the point where we could discuss making that technology mandatory on guns. but i wouldn't suggest it would be something we should rule out. and to the stnts that -- and to the extent that a retailer or gun maker wants to invest in understanding how to make a gun more fail-safe, thousand build in this kind of technology,
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whether it be your fingerprint or other biometrics, other guns connected to a wristband that you may wear, they should be able to sell though, they should be able to make them without facing reprisals from the rest of the gun lobby and the gun industry. i mean, shouldn't we try to do something to prevent these deaths, one every week last year? that's just -- that's just people that were shot by toddlers, in addition to the dozens more children who are injured or killed themselves accidentally by a weapon. i struggle to try to figure out the ways in which we can come together on this issue. i certainly understand that there are difficult compromises on issues like the prohibition of certain weapons.
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but smart gun technology should be something we should be able to come together on. the president has taken steps on his own. he's start add process by which federal agencies would help to stimulate research in smart gun technology, mabe maybe with the -- maybe with the goal of a pilot program being developed at a law enforcement agency. so the president is taking steps on his own. but we can do something together. and we should, because it's only a problem here. it's not a problem anywhere else. and so, to me, that's got to tell us that we're doing it wrong. and that there's something more that we can do so that this reality -- that u.s. children and teens are 17 times more likely to dprie a gun than children in the 25 other high-income countries combined -- isn't a reality for much longer. if there is anything we could do stop there from being another
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kiyan, another shaquille, another holstan, we should do t thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. president, i notice the answeabsence 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 rhode island. mr. whitehouse: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: i ask unanimous consent that i be allowed to speak for 120 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: thank you. i rise on my 136th in my series of speeches on global climate change, real science, the peer-reviewed kind, continues to prove the established connection between carbon pollution and the startling changes we see in our
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climate and oceans. changes that are so profound that we will leave to our children and grandchildren a world very different from the one we knew growing up. nonetheless, powerful fossil fuel interests still willfully spread disinformation about climate science. there are obvious similarities between the fossil fuel industry's denial of its products' climate effects and the tobacco industry's denial of its products' health effects. these similarities are sufficient that a proper inquiry should be made about pursuing a civil lawsuit like the one the justice department brought and one against big tobacco. i have made that suggestion,
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and, wow, did that set off an outburst. the right-wing climate denial outfits and the fossil fuel industry mouthpieces went into high gear. i think there were about 100 spontaneous reactions to my "washington post" op-ed and to a related question that i asked attorney general lynch. this outburst was interesting. there was usually only a degree or two of separation between the outlets and mouthpieces engaged in this outburst and the fossil fuel industry. most of the arguments were the same with the same telling false hoods, omissions and oversights. among these misstatements, various outlets said that the aim of any such investigation
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would be t-- and i'll quote -- "silence climate dissidents" and squelch -- quote -- -- quote --. that would be an affront to the scientific method. any investigation of fraud would be an attack on science. well, maybe if most of your science is fraud, you see things that way. but the charge is just not true in any ordinary sense of the words involved. and the language was near hysterical. i was the grand inquisitor torquimada and the mighty was
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galileo. the attorney general was involved in a -- quote -- "soviet-style investigation." and another quote -- "gangster government" big talk indeed. but it does raise this question: if the "wall street journal" editorial page and the other fossil fuel industry mouthpieces were such resolute guardians of the scientific method, where were they when actual peer-reviewed climate scientists were investigating and harassed and bullied for doing their jobs? so we took a look, and here's what you see. from the mouthpieces, possible civil investigation of the fossil fuel industry, massive indignation. actual investigations of legitimate climate scientists,
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silent equanimity. here's some of the history. this february the chairman of the house science committee issued a government subpoena to noaa administrator kathy sullivan seeking to investigate noaa scientists' deliberative materials. and this was not the first time the chairman issued a previous government subpoena against noaa scientists after the journal of science published a noaa report debunking the fossil fuel-funded climate deniers contention that global warming had paused. so, the junior senator from rhode island mentions possible inquiry into fossil fuel industry fraud, industry mouthpieces go ape, the committee chairman actually issues subpoenas against scientists. not a peep. in 2005, a former chairman of the house energy and commerce
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committee sought to investigate the personal e-mails of a climate scientist after he published a study showing the rapid increase in global temperatures. this investigative effort was so rank that even fellow republicans objected. sherwood baylor, a republican congressman from new york expressed his -- quote -- "strenuous objections to the chairman's misguided and illegitimate investigation." even with that public warning of a misguided and illegitimate investigation against scientists, not a peep from the mouthpieces. in 2010, the attorney general, ken cuccinelli of virginia, launched an investigation against a university of virginia faculty member, a climate scientist, of course. the attorney general served the university of virginia with a series of civil investigative
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demands to produce documents related to the work of the offending u.v.a. faculty member. well, to its credit, u.v.a. refused and won a multiyear legal battle with the attorney general that went all the way to the virginia supreme court. so again, attorneys general consider investigating the fossil fuel industry, and all the mouthpieces go ape. an actual attorney general harasses an actual climate scientist to the point where the university has to send its lawyers to defend him, and from the mouthpieces, not a peep. through all those years of litigation. in 2011, as the cuccinelli investigation was underway, an oil industry front group called the american tradition institute, which is now known as
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the energy and environment legal institute, doubled down and sought identical materials from u.v.a. through a freedom of information request, freedom of information act request. again u.v.a. objected and in 2014 the supreme court of virginia unanimously threw that out too based on -- and i quote -- -- and i quote -- the supreme court of virginia "the contract of academic freedom and the interest of protecting research." so you suggest an investigation of the industry and the denial apparatus goes ape, but here an industry front group actually went out to investigate climate scientists in a way that caused the supreme court of virginia to call in the concept of academic freedom against them. and they're still at it despite
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the u.v.a. loss in court, the energy and environment legal institute has since filed foia requests against scientists at nasa, texas, a&m, texas tech, the university of alabama huntsville, the university of delaware, and the university of arizona. some double standard. in 2009, a hacker stole more than 1,000 e-mails and 3,000 other documents from climate scientists at the university of east anglia in britain who were working on a united nations report on climate change. naturally the climate denial apparatus went to work to select passages from e-mails to assert that the climate scientists manipulated data. this turned out, after
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multiple -- yes -- investigations to be false. six official investigations ensued, clearing everyone of any wrongdoing. a three-part penn state university investigation, two separate reviews commissioned by the university of east angli, a united kingdom parliamentary report, an investigation by the noaa inspector general's office and an investigation by the national science foundation's inspector general's office. throughout all of these investigations of the climate scientists, was there a peep of concern out of these mouthpieces about investigative intrusion on science? nope. here in this chamber, a senator,
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then the ranking member on the environment and public works committee, our senior senator from oklahoma, publicly called for a criminal investigation into american and british scientists who had worked on the u.n. report or had communications with the university of east anglia's climate research unit. the senator claimed that scientific data was con sraoeufn attempt to seal the climate data, information disclosure laws may have been violated. he even named 17 key players in the controversy, including, wouldn't you know it, that u.v.a. scientist who had been the subject of harassment by the attorney general. his staff report suggested that the scientist violated fundamental ethical principles and -- quote -- "may have violated federal law." he called scientists at the climate research unit scientists
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who commit crimes. wow, there you go, a senator calling for criminal investigation of actual climate scientists. that must have set these mouthpieces squawking about the intrusion of investigation into science; right? well, actually no. again, there was not a peep of concern. mr. president, climate science constantly finds itself in the cross hairs of a climate denial apparatus that has an ugly side. inside climate news reports climate scientists often face death threats, vie -- vituberation, claims of fraud and other intimidation and science is starting to look at that denial apparatus.
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sound, peer-reviewed academic work shows how a carefully built apparatus of disinformation has been misleading the public and policy-makers about the risks of carbon. that's scientific work. sound, peer-reviewed academic scientific work shows how disinformation campaigns funded by fossil fuel interests to sow doubt about climate science have been effective in shaping american public opinion. a recent study by 16 scientists, including john cook at the university of queensland and peter doran of louisiana state university examined the discrepancy between what the public thinks and scientists know about climate change, and they found -- i quote -- "the consensus that humans are causing recent global warming is shared by 90% to 100% of
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publishing climate scientists." end quote. why the gap in public recognition from what the scientists know? because of a persistent effort -- and i'll quote the report here -- "manufacturing doubt about the scientific consensus on climate change." end quote. part of the work of this denial apparatus has been to harass and investigate climate scientists over and over and over again. so, when these mouthpieces with one or two degrees of separation from the fossil fuel industry is an outburst about the sanctity of science from any investigation, well, that deserves an eyebrow. and when the only time their
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concern for scientific integrity appears is when an investigation might look at the fossil fuel industry but they're quiet as mice whenever actual climate scientists are being investigated, well, that merits further skepticism. there are a lot of reasons why the civic integrity argument doesn't apply to a fraud investigation of the fossil fuel industry and its front groups. actually, too many reasons for me to go into here and now in the allotted time. but here's the bottom line. one, the argument is a phony, designed to protect from investigation an industry that may well have engaged in deliberate fraud on a massive
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scale. two, the clamor is phony. whipped up 100fold but through -- a hundredfold, but through industry mouth pieces. and three, come on, the sincerity is completely phony because the mouth pieces have had nothing to say for years when real climate scientists were actually investigated. they only swung into action when the possibility emerged that the fossil fuel industry may have to face investigation for fraud. there is a wooden cross in faraway antarctica memorializing the scott expedition to the south pole. it is carved with the closing line from alfred lloyd
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tennyson's "iew little -- iew list -- ulysis". to strive, to seek, to find, not to yield. to the real physicists, chemists , oceanographers, meteorologistists, geologists and climatologists actually engaged in climate science, let me say you embody this spirit of discovery and perseverance. the real scientists have not shrunk in the face of fossil fuel threats, investigations and intimidation. the fossil fuel campaign of denial has not stymied the flow of new climate research nor dimmed the fervor with which the
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real climate scientists pursue and share their knowledge. these men and women, hardworking, often unsung deserve our praise, and after some of the nonsense they have been put through, they probably also deserve an apology. but right now, they must be looking on in wonderment, and i hope with some wry humor at the sudden outbursts of newfound concern from fossil fuel mouthpieces for the so-called sanctity of the scientific process. of all people to make that claim, this crew has the least business making it. with that, i will yield the floor.
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. cotton: today i would like to honor mary lorraine wood borman of fayetteville, arkansas, as this week's arckian of the -- arkansan of the week. her advocacy to improve the quality of life of those living with downs syndrome is noteworthy and she is a joy and inspiration to many across the state. outside of her work as an activist, mary is involved as a junior at fayetteville high school in fayetteville, arkansas. not only does she excel academically as indicated by her track record as an honor roll student, but she is also gifted
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athlete and has won awards in swimming events at the arkansas state special olympic games for three years. mary is also a talented dancer and actress, specializing in hip-hop, jazz and the waltz. i recently had the pleasure of meeting with mary when she visited my washington, d.c., office while in town for the buddy walk hosted each year by the national down syndrome society. because of mary's advocacy and compelling reasoning, i cosponsored the able to work act of 2016 shortly after our meeting. this bill will help persons with disabilities save additional amounts in their able accounts. mary has big dreams, and i'm confident she will achieve them. i look forward to keeping track of her many accomplishments in the future. arkansas is lucky to have someone like mary borman fighting to make our state a better place, and i applaud her for her work. her story is a testimony of the spirit of arkansans. i'm certain it will inspire others to take action on causes they believe in.
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madam president, i yield the floor. i apparently do not yield the floor. madam president, i have 11 unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent that these requests be agreed to and that these requests be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cotton: i now 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. gardner: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. gardner: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. gardner: thank you, madam president. i rise today to recognize and commend admiral bill gortney, who will retire on june 1 of this year, after 39 years of exceptional leadership and service to our country.
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most recently, admiral gortney served as commander of the north american aerospace defense command and united states northern command headquartered at peterson air force base in colorado. in his current capacity, he is responsible for homeland defense, defense support for civil authorities, and theater security cooperation with mexico and the bahamas. additionally, as head of the binational norad command with canada, he is responsible for aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning in defense of north america. and for those of you who have children, i think you may know what norad also does, which is the very famous santa tracker every year on christmas eve. it's been a tremendous pleasure to work closely with admiral gortney since joining the senate, in particular as chairman of the senate foreign subcommittee on east asia and the pacific i have often sought his counsel to gauge north
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korea's missile program to our homeland. admiral gortney is no stranger to military service. he is a second-generation naval aviator. his father real estate tired as captain from the navy after 28 years of service that included time in world war ii, the korean war and in vietnam. admiral gortney received his gold and his -- his wings of gold in 1978ate in beeville, it and began a career under the call sign "shortney." he has completed numerous staff assigns manies both in the u.s. and brad. his first opportunity for command was onboard the u.s.s. roosevelt. from there he has amassed an impressive resume of command experience including three command tours in u.s. central command area of operations providing support to maritime security operations and embayed operations for operations
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enduring freedom and iraqi freedom. these assignments included commander of u.s. central services u.s. fifth complete, combined maritime forces, commanderrer of carrier strike group ten and commanderrer of carrier air group 7 onboard the u.s.s. john f. kennedy. his first graying tour was on the deputy chief of staff for global force management, u.s. fleet forces command norfolk, virginia. more recently he served as director of the joint staff, then commanded u.s. fleet forces command. prior to taking command at norad. he has flown 5,550 hours and completed 1,265 carry rested landings. his military decorations include the defense distinguished service medal, two awards; two
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awards, navy distinguished service medal, defense superior medal and bronze star, among others. from other nations his military decorations include the french national order of the legion of honor award, the bahrain medal first-class, the secretary of the national defense for mexico military merit first-class medal. mr. president -- madam president, admiral gortney's unique combination of operational experience, carries matter ache leer and unyielding patriotism +sr served his well in a lifetime of military service. today we honor his admiral service to our nation and all the airmen, sailors, soldiers, and civilians who have served along his side. we offer our heartfelt appreciation to bill, to his wife sheri, his children and daughter-in-law and grandchildren for all their
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sacrifice and support to our country. on behalf of the senate and a grateful narks i congratulate him on a job well done and wish him the best as he begins a hard-earned retirement. i just wish that his retirement would land him in colorado springs, but i think he has other ideas. admiral, we thank you for your service. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. madam president, i 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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the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: i ask consent the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: this morning i joined many of my colleagues in bidding a former farewell to our colleague, senator bob bennett, who died last week. it was great to see senators from both sides of the aisle at senator bennett's viewing and funeral service, and it was fitting. bob bennett was a proud conservative. he was an old-fashioned conservative, but he understood that the senate only really works when we talk to each other and reason things out. he was old school. he understood that printed compromise is not a moral or political sin, it's an ideal we should strive for. it's how we solve big problems in america. it's the only way the senate can work. i served with bob bennett for years on the senate appropriations committee. he was an honorable man. dyed in the wool fiscal conservative. 84% lifetime approval rating for
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the american conservative union. but he was a real-world conservative, not an ideologue. no vote demonstrated that more clearly than the vote he cast in 2008 to create the troubled asset relief program known as tarp. i'm not going to forget the day when hank paulson, treasury secretary under president george w. bush, came to talk to us about the economy. lehman brothers had just declared bankruptcy. secretary paulson told us that the entire u.s. financial system could collapse within days, maybe hours. he warned that such a collapse of the u.s. financial system would trigger a global economic cataclysm. bob bennett knew that he was taking the supreme political risk, but bob bennett voted to create the tarp program anyway. he risked his political career rather than risk the life savings of untold millions in america and around the world. he paid a price for it.
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in 2010, bob bennett became the first incumbent u.s. senator in utah in 70 years to lose re-election after he was toppled in his party caucus. senator bennett challenged orthodoxy on a lot of other issues as well. bob bennett, a devout mormon, supported embryonic stem cell research with very careful restrictions. in 1996, he was one of only three senators from this party to vote against, against amending the u.s. constitution to criminalize flag burning. he said he thought flag burning was reprehensible, as we all do, but that it occurred far too infrequently to warrant changing the constitution. that amendment failed in the senate by one vote. when the senate passed comprehensive immigration reform in 2006, senator bob bennett of utah was one of the many members of his party to stand up and support it. four years later, when the senate voted on the dream act, a
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key part of that earlier bill and one that i introduced 15 years ago, the political winds on the right had shifted dramatically. there were only three of my colleagues from across the aisle on the republican side who supported passing the dream act in 2010. bob bennett was one of them, and i will never forget it. i will always be grateful to him for that courageous, courageous vote. he understood that we needed a realistic, humane way to deal with immigration in this nation of immigrants. robert bennett was a member of one of his state's leading families. his grandfather, abraham j. grant, was the president of the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints. his father wallace bennett served four terms in the united states senate. bob came to washington in 1962 to work as an aide in his father's office when such arrangements were still allowed. in 1969, he took a job as a top congressional liaison of the
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u.s. transportation department under president nixon. his short tenure at transportation earned him an unlikely footnote in history. for decades, some conspiracy theorists speculated that he was deep throat, the nixon administration insider who helped steer "the washington post"'s bob woodward and carl bernstein in reporting the watergate scandal. that theory was finally disapproved in 2005 with the -- disproved with the 2005 death of f.b.i. director mark lane who was in fact the real deep throat. bob didn't need public service. he had already built a successful career in business before he decided to run in 1992 for the seat his father once held. he took a pay cut to serve his state and our nation in the senate. bob bennett and i disagreed on many issues. when we did, he was always principled and polite. i suspect that was a reflection of his upbringing. watching his father serve in the senate where members of differing political parties
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could disagree without questioning the other senator's motives. in his last political race in 2010, senator bennett was targeted for defeat by the force we now refer to as the tea party. after his loss, he spoke to a reporter for """the salt lake tribune"" and he said -- quote -- " the political atmosphere obviously has been toxic, and it's very clear that some of the votes i have cast have added to that tamoxifennic environment. then bob bennett said something that any senator would be fortunate to say at the end of his tenure. he said, and i quote -- "looking back on them with one or two very minor exceptions, i wouldn't have cast any of them any different, even if i had known at the time it would cost me my career, because i have always done the best i can to cast the vote that i think is best for the state and best for the country." i want to extendy condolences to senator bennett's family. a large family. it includes his brother and sister, his widow, joyce, their six chairnl, julie, robert,
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james, heather and heidi, 20 grandchildren and so many of bob bennett's former staffers and friends who join me in paying this great tribute. mr. president, i ask consent to speak on a different issue and then it be placed in a separate place in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: thank you. congress is supposed to be working on an appropriations bill and we're moving in that direction till the senator from arkansas added an amendment to the central and water appropriations bill. this amendment was designed to undermine a historic agreement that the obama administration reached with iran for the sole purpose of preventing iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. the senator who offered this amendment had led an unprecedented letter to iranian hard lines lineliners. a letter signed by i believe 46 other republican senators that they were wasting their time negotiating with this president,
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that whatever he agreed to would be undermined by congress and particularly by the next president. in all the time that i followed the history of the senate, i cannot remember a letter of that nature being sent by senators of either political party to undermine a delicate negotiation involving peace and an -- in an important part of the world. well, so now we are stuck until we deal with his amendment. regardless of whether you agree with the iran agreement, adding this amendment to the energy and water appropriations bill would destroy all the hard work that senators alexander and feinstein have put in drafting this bipartisan bill. let me tell you why this amendment from the senator from arkansas is a poison pill. this amendment would prevent the department of energy from spending any f. xy funds. the jcpoa agreement closed the four pargt ways for which iran
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could get to breakout time for a nuclear weapon in less than a year. it bought valuable time for israel, for other nations in the middle east, and for the united states before israel could violate the agreement and build a nuclear weapon. as part of this agreement, iran agreed to limit the amount of heavy water it would accumulate. any heavy water in excess of 130 metric tons had to be disposed of, moved out of iran. the department of energy has announced that its isotope program will purchase 32 metric tons of heavy water from iran to fulfill a significant amount of the domestic heavy water needed in america for research and industrial applications. there's no american domestic source for this heavy water. now this transaction provides u.s. industry with a critical product and it enables iran to rid itself of excess heavy water ensuring this product will never be used for developing a nuclear weapon. heavy water is used in the
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development, production and sale of compounds used in biomedical and diagnostic research, such as m.r.i.'s and pharmaceutical development as well as chemistry, physics and environmental analysis. a portion of this heavy water will be used at the new tron source s.n.s. and oak ridge national laboratory in tennessee. the heavy water will increase the intensity, the beam which will according to lab director tom mason benefit hundreds of research teams. while the administration does not anticipate undertaking another purchase of heavy water from iran, we should not give up with this amendment offered by the senator from arkansas the ability to ensure that this material which could be potentially used in iran's nuclear industry is instead put to use in the united states by our industry for peaceful research and product development. the amendment offered by the senator from arkansas merely focuses on one thing, to
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undermine this agreement with iran. after we've seen tons of material removed from iran, 16,000 centrifuges destroyed, and a major potentially dangerous reactor decommissioned, this senator from arkansas believes it was a bad agreement, we ought to let the iranians go about their business. i couldn't disagree more. taking this heavy water out of iran makes that region of the world safer for israel and for the other countries in the region. for iran to keep this heavy water is a temptation which we should eliminate by defeating this amendment by the senator from arkansas. his amendment will jeopardize a historic agreement that limits iran's ability to produce nuclear arms. that's an important protection for the entire world and it would deny researchers and industries in our country a resource they need to make new scientific discoveries, medical
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diagnosidying and -- diagnoses d probably save lives. i urge my colleagues to do so. mr. president, if no one is seeking recognition, i ask consent to speak on a separate issue and that it be placed in a separate place in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: thank you. mr. president, three months ago the president asked congress for funding to help prepare for and combat the zika virus. that very week i set the appropriations hearing with representatives from the senator from disease control and the national institutes for health who talked about how time sensitive that request was. in the 13 weeks since that hearing, republicans have put up roadblocks, set preconditions, and really mocked the administration for arguing that there was urgency to fight the zika virus arks virus which is dangerous for pregnant women, children and many others.
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what's happened in the 13 weeks while the president's request for $1.9 billion has languished before the republican-controlled congress? over 1,100 americans in 43 states, washington, d.c. and three u.s. territories including over a hundred pregnant women have contracted the zika virus. six more have contracted gill indiansyndrome. recently the first zika caused death was reported in puerto rico. in illinois 13 people have tested positive for zika. at least three president clinton nantz women. over the -- at least three pregnant women. over the last weeks we have learned even more about zika and its danger. we now know it's lirpged to serious neurological and birth defects. we now know it can be sexually transmitted and warmer weather
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is coming. we know the spread of zika will grow even worse. it seems like everyone across the world recognizes the urgency of this public health threat to the united states except for the republicans in congress. last week, last week major league baseball announced it was canceling two scheduled ballgames to be played in puerto rico because the players were concerned about contracting the zika virus. i spoke with cdc director tom frieden two weeks ago. he told me this is no way to seriously fight a public health danger. we need a multi-year commitment so c. d.c., n.i.h., public health departments can begin studies to understand the risks to others, improve our surveillance system, study how long these mosquitoes actually carry the virus and definitely a vaccine as quickly as possible. the cdc takes this seriously. the center, for disease control
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is the front line of defense of the united states of america when it comes to public health danger. and how seriously do they take the zika virus? they have dedicated a thousand staff members to fighting it. they understand this is a public health emergency and we have a limited opportunity to catch up and try to stop its spread. last week i held a round table event in chicago with local health department officials, medical professionals, vector control expects. they're coming neferg they can to prepare for -- everything they can to prepare for zika. ramping up health education. we're lucky because in our part of the united states, there's no evidence of the mosquito that's the carrier. however, travelers who have contracted the virus in other places can bring it back to our region and they can be the carriers for it to be spread to other people. as a major transportation hub in
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chicago and illinois, we must be prepared to deal with these travelers carrying the zika virus. i have the highest confidence in our state and local health officials, but they need a helping hand. because congressional republicans have refused to pass the emergency supplemental zika funding, the administration has been forced to divert resources from illinois and to states like florida, texas, louisiana and mississippi to fight zika. we're taking public health resources out of other states to send them to the front line states on the zika virus. i understand it but it's totally unnecessary. if the republican leadership in congress accepted their responsibility, took this seriously and realized lives are at stake, we would approve the president's emergency request long ago. my state of illinois, city of chicago just lost a total of $2 million in c. d.c. public health
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emergency preparedness grants, money diverted from our states to deal with our local public health challenges to the zika virus front line states. we don't get to be 8% less prepared even with 8% less money from the c. d.c. health departments across illinois used these grants to prepare and respond to outbreaks of all kinds, such as ebola, zika, and a new bacterial outbreak elizabeth kenya. already that's taken six people's lives in our state. we're moving the money to protect the people in illinois to go to the front line of the zika virus attack because the republican majority in congress will not approve the president's emergency supplemental request. robbing peter to pay paul is short siewghted -- shortsighted. we need for make sure we're not diverting necessary ebola money to use for the zika virus. i don't understand it. in the last election many republicans were making a big
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issue about ebola and its threat to the united states, and now they're so calm to take the money away from protecting us from the spread of ebola and spend it on zika on a temporary basis because they won't address the serious threat of both problems. the c. d.c. incident incidentally is reporting knew flare-ups after learning the virus can stay in a man's system for over a year. just because it may not be front page news anymore, the ebola crisis incidentally is not over. funding is still needed. we've seen zika coming for many months. we were warned. and we've had the administration's detailed comprehensive plan sitting on the desk of the republican leaders of the house and senate. right before congress adjourned two weeks ago, senate democrats sent a letter to republican leader senator mitch mcconnell urging immediate action on the zika supplemental. and we introduced a bill to provide the necessary funding. we tried to bring it up. we were blocked by the republican leadership.
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so what do the republicans think we should do? send a memo to mosquitoes telling them not to buzz and bite until they get around to funding the president's emergency request? i've got news for them. the summer mosquito season is about to hit and hit hard in some parts of our country and where there is a mosquito that carries the virus can be found, people will be in danger. research es at nasa forecasted by mid summer cities nationwide, st. louis, kansas city, new york city, not just southern cities like miami and houston could possibly be a venue for these zika-carrying mosquitoes. they found not just geography but rainfall, transportation hubs, and challenging socioeconomic conditions translate to less air conditioning, worse housing infrastructure. they could all contribute to the presence of these mosquitoes. we're learning more and more about zika, the cases are growing. as we near the summer travel season and we start hearing more about the real olympic -- rio
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olympic games, inaction and further delay will put many women, particularly child bearing women and their kids in danger. i urge my republican colleagues in both chambers, work with us to approve this money this week before it's too late. mr. president, i ask consent to speak on one additional issue. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, there's publications given to us on the floor of the senate. one of them is the executive calendar. this executive calendar, parts of it, may be characterized as a political obituary column because, you see, these are the nominees of the obama administration for important posts across america. in the -- and the names on here, many of them have been sitting for months, some for over a year, waiting for senate action. so far this year we've approved
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17 federal judges, two sur cut court -- circuit court judges and 15 judges. there are 20 judicial nominees still sitting on this calendar. you think to yourself, they must be pretty controversial if they're sitting on the calendar. every single one of them was reported unanimously from the senate judiciary committee. there were no dissenting votes, no objections and still they just sit and sit and silt on the calendar -- sit on the calendar. why? we know we have a serious problem, not just these 20, but the fact that we have 87 vacancies in the federal judiciary, many of them in an emergency situation. why? why in the world would some of these nominees, some of who have been supported by republican senators, why aren't they being called for a vote, a routine vote on the floor of the united states senate?
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it is part of the obstruction that the republican party has decided to make part of their leadership in the senate. and, of course, exhibit a in that obstruction is the vacancy on the u.s. supreme court occasioned by the untimely death of antonin scalia. it's been nearly two months since president obama nominated chief judge merrick garland to fill the scalia vacancy on the supreme court. it's been three months since justice scalia passed awaw. three months and still the republican-led senate has refused to consider president obama's nominee to fill the supreme court vacancy. we ought to be doing that right now. today we received all of the investigative materials and binders and answers to questionnaires from judge garland, boxes after boxes,
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thousands of pages available to be reviewed by the senate judiciary committee and every member of the senate. it's the senate's constitutional obligation under article 2, section 2, to provide advice and consent when the president submits such a nomination. mr. president, it's rare for a political figure, public, elected official to stand up and use the word "never," bim about to use it. we have never, never in the history of the united states senate deny add supreme court nominee from the president a hearing and a vote -- never. in 100 years that these nominees have been sent through the senate judiciary committee. we had a press conference today and we talked about the precedent. senator franken of minnesota noted the time when john adams had lost the presidential election but filled a vacancy on the supreme court by nominating john marshall to be a member of that court. so here was john adams, a
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defeated president, making a nomination to fill a vacancy on the supreme court. and the senate in those days, there were still founding fathers, men who had actually written the constitution. five of them were members of the senate when john marshall's nomination came before them. if there was ever a lame duck, it was john adams, who had been defeated for reelection and had a few months more to serve, made a nomination for the supreme court and by voice vote the united states senate approved it. including the five founding fathers who joined in that effort. the argument being made on the republican side is, well, we can't fill this vacancy until after the election. we got to wait and see if president trump will be chosen by the american people and he'll get to fill this vacancy on the supreme court. interesting ... i missed it. i read that constitution and thought for sure that president obama was elected for four years
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in 2012. by the republicans' math, it was three years and two months. he is a lame duck and has no power left. well, they're wrong. by a margin of 5 million votes, president obama was elected president over mitt romney. thousand this decision by the -- now this decision by the republicans to stop this president from exercising his constitutional authority is just wrong. what about judge garland? judge garland is one of the most extraordinary nominees ever presented to this senate. he is now the chief judge of the d.c. circuit. that's the second-highest court in the land, well-respected, he's received the endorsements of so many different groups, people that are conservative and liberal alike respect his judgment, as they should. he's done his job andwell. but the republicans in the senate refuse to do their job. they say it's because they want the next president to fill that
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seat. i cannot even imagine the nominee that a president donald trump would send to the senate. last week the chairman of the republican national committee, a man named reince priebus, announced that mr. trump was the presumptive nominee of the republican party. it's astonishing to me that senate republicans would seriously want to put donald trump in charge of filling supreme court vacancies. how would they explain that to their constituents? most of them are saying they're not even going a tend the republican convention -- attend the republican convention for fear of what it'll do to their reputations, and yet they're trusting the judgment of donald trump to shape the highest court of the united states of america? make no mistake, by failing to move on merrick garland's mom -- nomination now in a timely and fair way, the republicans have cast their lot with mr. trump. that's a risky bet for the american people.
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the american people also understand merrick garland is well-qualified, rock solid. every week we see nor praise for him. last week nine former solicit generals sent a public letter praising him. the list includes prominent republicans and democrats: ken "star," drew days, ted olson and paul clement. we know the solicitor general serves as the chief advocate before the u.s. supreme court. these men know the supreme court as well as anyone and they know a good judge when they see one. here's what they said about judge garland. "as a group we have argued hundreds of cases before the u.s. supreme court and the federal court of appeals. each of us have served as the u.s. government's top representative before the supreme court and while we've served in different administrations, we unified in our belief that judge garland is superbly qualified to serve on the supreme court if he were confirmed. we are confident that judge
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garland would bring his brilliance, work ethic, and broad experience to the cases that come before him. close quote. very high praise, isn't it? president obama selected a nominee highly regarded by advocates who know the supreme court better than most. yet my republican colleagues will not even give this sue punishly qualified -- superbly qualified nominee the dignity of a public hearing. they would rather keep a supreme court seat vacant for more than a year and allow the court to deadlock for year with 4-4 votes on key cases and wait in the hopes that they can roll the dice with president donald trump and his supreme court nominee. it's hard to fathom how this strategy is either constitutional or in the best interests of our nation. not only are senate republicans failing to do their job and consider judge garland's nomination, they're obstructing 20 other well-qualified judicial nominees who are currently pending on the senate floor.
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the senate republicans, as i've said, have held votes on only 17 judicial nominees. that is the lowest total in decades, far fewer than the 68 judges the democratic-controlled senate confirmed in the last two years of george bush's administration. republicans are apparently conittent to leave vacancies -- content to leave vacancies on courts across the united states and even on the supreme court of the united states. is that why they were elected? to leave vacancies on these courts? they cannot hide from the fact that there is a need in this country for a competent jurist to guide us. i hope that a few more of my republican colleagues will come to their senses. rather than save judicial seats for donald trump to fill, they should do their job and give president obama's well-qualified nominees a hearing and a vote, and they should start with merrick garland. i ask unanimous consent that the letter from these solicitors general be added in the
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"congressional record" at the end of my statement. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the help committee be discharged from further
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consideration of s. 1352. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: s. 1352, a bill to increase federal pell grants for the children of fallen safety officers and other purposes. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent -- the presiding officer: the committee is discharged and the senate will proceed to vote. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the bill be read a third time and passed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of h.r. 4923, which was received from the house. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: h.r. 4923, an act to establish a process for the submission and consideration of petitions and so forth and for other purposes. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the bill be read a third time and passed, the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the

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