Skip to main content

tv   US Senate  CSPAN  May 12, 2016 10:00am-12:01pm EDT

10:00 am
quorum call:
10:01 am
10:02 am
10:03 am
10:04 am
10:05 am
the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. portman: mr. president, on march 10, this border, the united states senate, passed legislation to address what is a growing problem in all of our communities, and that's the heroin and prescription drug epidemic. on march 10, this body voted for a comprehensive bill called care remarks the comprehensive addiction and recovery act. it deals with prevention, treatment, recovery, helping our law enforcement getting prescription drugs off the shelves of our bathrooms so that i.t. not being used -- it's not being used to get people into this addiction, helping to stop
10:06 am
the overprescribing with a drug monitoring program. this was a comprehensive approach that was intended to help our communities back home to be able to deal with this growing problem. the number-one cause in my home state of ohio is not car accidents anymore. it is overdoses. it's overdoses from prescription drugs and heroin. since march 10, i will tell you i have come to the floor now four times. this is the fifth time. every week we've been in session since then, to urge the thousands act quickly on cara -- to urge the house to act quickly on cara because with that kind of consensus around this place, which is unusual, it shows -- >> we've worked with experts all over the community. we sought out best practices. this is a matter of taking the resources huer in washington and spending them more wisely, targeting them for what we know works -- toward evidence-based
10:07 am
programs and treatment recovery that has shown promise to begin to turn the tide on this horrible rep. the house has -- on this horrible epidemic. the house has begun to act. i wish they had taken up cara right away, send sent it to the president. it would have already been helping our communities in significant ways. between the time when the senate acted and now, march 120 now, by the way -- march 10 to now, by the way, we've lost 7,400 americans to drug overdoses. we lose a fellow citizen every 12 minutes, on average. but the house is moving, and yesterday the house passed legislation in the form of over a dozen different bills, smaller bills, that will help with regard to this problem that i think are steps in the right direction. today they're planning to take up a more comprehensive bill, the cara legislation, that has also been reported out of the judiciary committee, as it was in this body. and perhaps a couple of other
10:08 am
bills as well. i am told that vote is likely to occur today. that's great. i am concerned that the legislation that's passed in the house still leaves some gaps, and that's gaps are in some significant areas. i'm hopeful that some amendments will be adopted today that help to fill some of those gaps, so that we can indeed have a comprehensive afroach this issue. -- approach to this issue. sadly, this issue is not getting better. it's getting worse. the u.s. drug enforcement administration just last week conducted their national drug prescription takeback day. this is where you take drugs off the shelf and put them into a disposal unit to get rid of them, so that your kid or grandkid or somebody visiting your home doesn't get these prescription drugs and misuse them. they had a record number of drugs turned in, 893,000 pounds of unwanted medicine. that's 447 tons of prescription drugs that were not needed. i'm grateful for those who participated in the takeback program. this is goodous in get these drugs, again -- this is good
10:09 am
news, again, to get these drug off the shelves and not misused. this is the tip of the iceberg and shows the severity of this problem. we've continued to see throughout my state and the country communities that are being torn "part" by this issue. families that are being devastated. last week a man pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter in columbus, ohio, because his infant son has ink jested fentanyl-laced heroin and died. last week we also saw the arrest of three people who drove to steubenville, ohio, and then while driving there used it in the car. yesterday anachron man pled guilty to selling heroin to his uncle, who subsequently died of an overdose.
10:10 am
in cleveland we've lost 148 people to drug overdoses in just the first quarter of this year. that's double last rate in cleveland, ohio, one town in one state. the plurality of these deaths, by the way -- the majority of them were from fentanyl, and fentanyl often laced with heroin -- fentanyl is a sympathetic heroin. it is a -- is a synthetic heroin. these head linings are just the tip of the iceberg. we do see the death toll rising and it is tragic but we also need to focus on the wounded, not just those who overdose but those who because they have this addiction have lost their job, cannot get their lives back together, are separated from their families. as one addict told me, the drug was everything. i abandoned my kids, my wife. these are people also who are ending up in our jail system.
10:11 am
prosecutors back home tell me the majority of the crime -- one county prosecutor told me a couple of weeks ago, 80% of the crime in his county is being committed because of this issue. so theft, stealing in order to pay for a habit, ending up in the prison system. all of us are paying nor that, of course. -- all of us are paying for that, of course. everywhere i go in ohio, people tell me how this is affecting them. i had a telll a teletown hall. he wanted to talk about cara legislation. his voice had a quiver, and so i asked him, i said, would you mind sharing -- you're on the line with a lot of other people, but would you mind sharing why you're so interested on this issue. he was focused a lot on the treatment side. there was silence on the other line. and i knew what he was going to
10:12 am
say. when he came to the point where he could speak, he said, i lost my daughter. and then he proceeded to tell the story, and it was of a child who had started with prescription drugs, ended up with heroin, had committed some crimes, probably theft, ended up in prison, he said, in and out. she had fine lily come to the point where she was going to face up to her addiction. she was ready to go into treatment, to start long-term recovery. she had committed to it, to her parents. he said they took her to the treatment center. there was a 14-day wait. they pleaded, can she get in someplace else? no. no room at the in. -- no room at the inn. during those 14 days is when she
10:13 am
overdosed on heroin. his point was very simple: you guys need tog to do more to provide bein access to the treat and the right kind of treatment. that's what this legislation does. last tuesday i spoke at the ohio association of behavioral health societies. record attendance this year. over 1,000 people. i heard from doctors, nurses, counselors, social workers, attorneys, law enforcement, all saying the same thing to me, which is, rob, this problem is not getting better, it is getting worse, and washington does have a role to play, to be a better partner with the state and local governments, with the nonprofits thatter in -- that are in the trenches dealing with this issue every day. the kaiser family foundation released a survey saying that 44% knew someone struggling with addiction. one to five said it was a close friend. two-thirds overall said they want the federal government and
10:14 am
state government to do more about this addiction epidemic. of course they dovmen do. people are desperate to figure out, how do you get at this issue? and again our approach is evidence-based. it is based on the testimony of the experts around the country. it is based on best practices, what's working, what's not working. is walker goin-- is washington e this problem? no. but we're part of the solution. it is going to be solved in our communities, in our families. we can turn this tide. we have in the past. we can do it again. the question is whether we're serious about it, whether we can move this legislation through the house, through the senate, get to the president and get it working in our communities. in countless parts of ohio, at the state and local level, people are taking action, and i am encouraged by that and applaud them for it. in my hometown of cincinnati, the police force is now carrying narcan and getting training on how to use it.
10:15 am
that's in our legislation, providing the training. this is a miracle drug called narcan or naloxone to bring them back. i've tbhn drug treatment -- i've been in drug treatment centers all over my county. a man told me, i saw my father in heaven. n.r.a. conbrought me back to life. it's important, but the training needs to include as you are giving people narcan to use for their loved ones, giving the police officer to use when they're responding to -- or a firefighter, in most of our firehouses, you will find that there are more runs for learn and prescription drug overdoses than flr for fires. that's true in my state. it's probably true in yours. but you need to give them the ability also to tell these people if you're providing narcan to somebody, here's the treatment center.
10:16 am
it's not enough just to save a life from a tragic occurrence like an overdose. we also have to figure out how not to be, as some firefighters have told me and police officers told me, saving that life again and again and again, but instead getting these people into the right treatment and recovery program so they cannot just have a life saved but begin to lead a full and productive life. i'm very encouraged by something that just happened yesterday. steven stack, who is the president of the american medical association, issued a public letter to physicians. i think this is a major step forward. i don't know steven stack, but i read his letter very carefully because i think he's putting his finger on something that, frankly, the medical profession has been slow to realize. his letter said this: far too often opioid addiction started from a prescription pad. i call on all physicians to
10:17 am
avoid initiating opioids for patients with chronic noncancer pain, limit the amount of opioids prescribed for postoperative care. register and use your state drug prescription monitoring program and reduce the stigma to enable effective and compassionate care. that's a step in the right direction. i hope every physician in the country gets a copy of this letter. we've got incredibly compassionate, caring physicians out there, but we need to face the facts. there has been overprescribing. and that's part of the issue. four of the five people in my state of ohio who will die from heroin overdoses over this next month, four of the five of them will have started with prescription drugs. there is a link here. we need to face it, and the medical profession needs to face it. again, in the senate we have taken action, a 94-1 vote is not
10:18 am
the typical way things happen around here, as you know. that's highly unusual. that shows the seriousness of this issue. one of the things that i'm concerned about in the alternative to cara that's being voted on in the house today is that it omits some of the key pillars including a drug take-back program which i think is important for the reasons we talked about. prescription drug monitoring programs, we have in our legislation is very simple. it gives incentive grants to states to set up prescription monitoring programs. most states have them already but they have them so they work with other states. we need interoperability as they call it between the states. in my own state of ohio, we border many other states, and what they tell me is at the pharmacy, we can have this prescription monitoring program for ohio but if someone goes over to kentucky or west virginia or pennsylvania or indiana, we don't know. so if this is in our legislation, that would help. we hope that's added to the house bill.
10:19 am
prevention, recovery support services, all these are being adopted, i hope, in the house as amendments. if they're not we're going to work hard to get those included in conference. we're not going to send a bill to the president that's not comprehensive. with regard to prevention there are provisions omitted in the house alternative included an awareness program nationally to let people know what's going on with prescription drugs and heroin and that connection we talked about a moment ago. that's incredibly important. it will save lives, it will bring people's lives back on track. it will avoid the issue where somebody goes to get his or her wisdom teeth pulled, they're given narcotic pain pills, they end up getting addicted. they end up moving to heroin as a cheaper alternative. and sadly, in some cases, including a father who testified before a congressional committee in ohio last friday, a week ago friday, died of an overdose. that's what's happening out
10:20 am
there. so this prevention stuff is important. the prevention grants we are are important. it's the most effective way to fight back against this epidemic. if you can get people from getting into the funnel of addiction in the first place, think of the lives that can be saved. the families that can be kept together rather than torn apart, the communities that are not devastated by this spike in crime. the impact on our economy and people not going to work. they say there's a $700 billion impact per year now, economic impact based on addiction. it's the faces of addiction we care about the most. think about maureen riggs from pinkerton, ohio. i just hreurpbd about her. she was -- learned about her. she was a high school student. she was about to graduate. she was very smart, she had good grades. she was a star athlete. she was popular, full of life. it seemed like she had it all.
10:21 am
she made a mistake, she tried heroin with her boyfriend. she became addicted. something changed physiologically in her brain to give her this disease, and it is a disease. her parents started missing money from their wallets. charges started showing up on her dad's credit card. she tried to quit. she went into rehab. she wrote in her general she was heroin's worst enemy. she was going to beat this thing, but she relapsed. the grip of this addiction is horrible. her brother found her dead of a heroin overdose two weeks after her 20th birthday. this can happen to any family anywhere. it knows no zip code. this is not an inner city problem, not a suburban problem, not a rural problem. it is everywhere. addiction doesn't ask what your political party is, by the way, either. that's why we have kept this nonpartisan. not just bipartisan. that's why i hope we can move this legislation quickly to the president and get him to sign it into law because it's needed right now.
10:22 am
and prevention needs to be part of it. maureen's mom is letting her voice be heard throughout ohio educating kids and parents about the dangers of experimenting with drugs. i commend her for that. i'm grateful for her and the other moms and dads around ohio who are doing that. they are amazing. condra ray came to testify here at the judiciary committee. her daughter's name was holly. again, she died in her early 20's. she started something called holly's song. she's out there talking to people, working with people, families, letting them know what the dangers are but also letting them know if they have a son or child who is addicted how to get them into treatment or recovery so other lives will not be lost. i've heard stories, again, of these teenagers whose wisdom teeth are being taken out and they end up getting addicted to percocet and vicodin. andy trend is one of them in lake county. she tells me her son was 16 when he got his wisdom teeth taken
10:23 am
out. he's one of the lucky ones. he's now in recovery. he's 25 years old. but the pain and agony that family has gone through from age 16 to 25 could have been avoided when i think of these stories, i cannot leave out prevention. it has to be part of it. i started my own antidrug coalition in my home state, in my home city about 20 yearsing a. it continues to be effective today. it's all about prevention, getting the entire community engaged and involved. that's what needs to happen on a national basis. it needs to happen now in order for us to save lives. the approach we took in writing this legislation, the comprehension addiction recovery act was unusual around here. we spent three years pulling together experts, getting best practices but also accepting ideas from anywhere where there was a good idea. we didn't care whose idea it was. all we cared is whether it
10:24 am
worked or not. i know that these statistics about heroin addiction and overdoses are heartbreaking. and they can be pretty discouraging. but i also know that there is hope, because i've also run into people all over our state who have struggled with addiction, who have found their way to treatment and effective recovery, usually it's long-term recovery, with support from family, from friends, from others who have been through addiction. and they are now back on their feet and they are now not skwrufpt -- just productive working members of our communities but they are helping others. i heard the story of courtney golden, she was addicted to oxycodone, been in treatment and is now a worker in an out
10:25 am
patiented center. there is another one who was addicted for 17 years. she beat this and is helping other people. i see this in every treatment center i go to. there is hope. we can turn the tide. but it does require this institution to pull its act together, to get a good bill out of conference that's comprehensive, that's evidence-based, that's going to make a real difference throughout our communities and get that to the president for his signature. we've lost more than 7,400 americans since the senate passed this legislation on march 10. every 12 minutes we lose another american, as i said, another one of our fellow citizens. partial solutions will not suffice. we need a comprehensive approach. i will insist on it, as will others. mr. president, i thank you for the time today. i'm encouraged by what the house is doing today on the floor. i hope that the next time i come to the floor, i won't be talking about how the house must act but
10:26 am
rather congratulating the house for acting, congratulating the president for signing a legislative initiative that will make a difference in my home state and in our communities all around this country. i yield back my time. a senator: mr. president?
10:27 am
the presiding officer: the senator from indiana. mr. coats: mr. president, i appreciate the remarks of my colleague from ohio, has said about this opioid issue and the impact it's having on our citizens and particularly on our young people. and i support his significant contributions and efforts in terms of dealing with this problem. it's affecting my state, his state and all of our states, and we are passing legislation here to deal with it. it's going to take more than legislation. it's going to take an all-out effort, everybody in to this to watch our kids and our children and our young people and americans become addicted and victims of this scourge that's taking place is disheartening, to say the least. and we need to do all that we can to address that. and our state is trying to do that and making some significant steps forward. we all have a long way to go. that's not why i'm here today. i come down every week, as my
10:28 am
colleagues know, to talk about the waste of the week. i just want to mention this, that while i'm dealing with documented evidence of the waste of taxpayers' money through waste, fraud and abuse, and while we have totaled up well over $150 billion of documented waste, it's only a pebble in the sea, a grain of sand compared to what we're doing by allowing deficit spending to plunge us evermore into debt. without a constitutional amendment to balance the budget here, this body has not had the discipline to match our spending with the revenues that come in. or the political well to go to the american people -- the political will to go to the american people and say if you want this much government this is how much it's going to cost. instead we go out and say we'll give you what you want and we'll
10:29 am
borrow the money to cover it because we don't have the tax revenue and we don't have the will to go up to you and say woo we have to raise your taxes if this is what you want. so it's put us in a dire situation here from a financial standpoint. not talked about as much as it should be, but when i arrived back in the senate, in my second time back, having been elected in 2010 to serve another term in the united states senate, our debt level was bad enough at that point -- $10.7 trillion -- but under this administration, it took us 230 years to get to that $10 trillion -- under this administration in less than eight years it has almost doubled. 19.2 i think is the latest and the clock is is ticking. tune into my web site and you'll see the debt clock. it is stunning to sit there and look at how fast those digits are turning at money which is
10:30 am
being borrowed which we have to pay interest back on and which is slowing down our economy and crippling our future generation. i see these young pages sitting down here on the steps. many of them have listened to my waste of the week. i simply want to tell you that my generation -- this body, the president -- i am not pointing fingers at one party or another here -- has failed to achieve some kind of fiscal discipline that will put new a position where you can inherit from my generation something that my parents and our parents and our generation gave to us: that is a prosperous, dynamic, growing economy that gave us the opportunity to get an education, gave us the opportunity to be engaged meaningfully in the workforce, to become homeowners, to raise a family, to save for their kids' futures. i stand here as a grandfather of
10:31 am
10 grandchildren -- three children and 10 grandchildren. and it is sickening to me to think about the challenges they're going to have because my generation didn't step up to the responsibility to run a fiscally sound economy through the decisions that we make here in the united states senate and the united states congress and at the white house. yes, i have blamed this president for not treating this in a serious enough manner. you know, there's been every type of effort you can think of in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and finally we just threw our hands up and gave up, because of the six or seven things that have been presented to the president over a that tiernlg -- over thae has rejected every one of them. i have been involved with the president and his top people. we gave him a lot of -- of what he wanted and in the end he
10:32 am
turned it down. i wish we had the clock here, which was ticking behind me, evermore getting into debt that is going to have a significant impact on the future of this country. i was down here speaking yesterday. the latest quarter growth, if you can call it that, 0.5%, about as anemic as it gets, teetering on falling into a recession. that's what the statistics show the growth was for the first quarter of 2016. the number from the unemployment -- that came in from the department of labor, showed a very low amount of new jobs, basically replacing those who are retiring, far below are what we need to to provide meaningful jobs for people in this country. so having failed over a period of years on putting together a credible long-term plan to take
10:33 am
us out -- to put us on a balanced budget basis and take us out of adding to more and more debt and dealing with our debt crisis, i've come down here to document to my colleagues that, well, a the very least we could do is take documented evidence of waste, fraud, and abuse that nonpartisan agencies have told us -- inspected and told us about. and so now for over 40 weeks i have been in this cycle. i have been down on the senate floor each week identifying yet a new waste, fraud, or abuse, and it is totally significantly trending toward $200 billion of waste. it's no wonder the taxpayers -- it's no wonder americans at home are furious with the dysfunction that is taking place here in washington and demanding change.
10:34 am
we see this on both sides of the aisle, both parties facing -- the people have said, we've had it. that's enough. we're done with your guys and gals. we need to shake this place up. it's a revolution that's taking place across the country. the country is finally grasping onto the fact that we just sumly have not been functional. well, anyway, one way we can be functional -- at least do something -- is when the government's accounting -- own accountability office that looks into the programs that are part of what we have enabled and what is providing needed spending for certain areas, when they see that there's fraud, waste, and abuse counting up, they say, can't you at least do that? so that's the purpose for being here. now, look ... i have been a strong supporter for the u.s. military. i served in the military. i am a veteran.
10:35 am
i served on the senate armed services committee in my previous tenure in the senate. i have a deep regard and respect and of the need for adequate spending to provide for our common defense. that's the first obligation. constitution, that we -- that's the first obligation of the constitution, that we swear to when we're sworn in here in the united states snavment bu -- uns senate. but no agency is give an pass if they are engaged in bad decisions that spend money or waste money or they don't correct those things pointed out by their own inspectors general or by government agencies that look into all this. so today many a talking about -- so today i'm talking about the department of defense. they are not immean from issues of waste, fraud, and abuse, and we need to document those as well. one of the reasons we need to document those is they need every penny that they have,
10:36 am
because it is continuing to shrink, their budget of the budget, given the fact of our dire fiscal situation. and so at the very least we have to make sure that they're not wasting money because it is needed to protect us and provide security for americans. but this "waste of the week" involves an expenditure in afghanistan, where we know we have troops and commitments over there, and the request came forward that we need cargo planes. we need planes to transfer cargo around between our bases and to different parts of afghanistan. and so the decision was made to provide 20 cargo planes to fulfill that fission. -- that mission. for some reason, the department of defense went to the country of italy and said -- maybe because they're part of the coalition and they felt some tobles buy some -- felt some
10:37 am
obligation to buy some equipment from italy. so they bought 20 italian cargo planes. the purpose here was to support the afghan air force -- as i said, transferring troops and transferring equipment around the country. at the time, the afghans had o old, out-of-date soviet-russian era -- russian planes and the department of defense wanted to replace those. so, again, as i said, they went to italy to purchase these. the purchase price fo for 20 of these cargo planes was $486 million. i'm not here to say they should have paid less, they should have paid more. that's what the price was. that's what was negotiated. the problem is -- and this is documented by the inspector
10:38 am
general -- two inspectors general who have looked a this the program and said, whoa! wait a minute. here's the story. first, they didn't buy 20. they only bought 16. the price was $486 million -- $486 million for 20 planes. somehow only 16 arrived. i'm not sure what happened to those other four. but there were problems from the very beginning. it became abundantly clear early on that these planes really were not made to fly in the kind of conditions that existed in afghanistan. afghanistan is a lot of desert, a lot of sand, a lot of wind, and these planes apparently just had all kinds of problems flying in that atmosphere. now, you would have thought maybe since we were there, we kind of knew this. because our other planes fly in this at mass sphere.
10:39 am
so somebody -- in this atmosphere. so somebody basically didn't do their homework and say, you know, before we pay out $486 billion -- million, maybe we ought to make sure that these planes that we're buying, that are replacing the old soviet planes -- we know they don't work -- maybe we ought to make sure that in this atmosphere that they're capable of holding up under this kind of conditions. well, as it turned out, they flew the planes for only nine months. in that nine months, they only accumulated 235 hours of flight time. and one of the reasons for that is because they were constantly in the maintenance shop, having repairs being made because of the conditions that they were flying in. the planes were purchased on the basis that they could get 4,500 hours out of each plane, and that would carry allow the of cargo, and i can understand why they wanted that.
10:40 am
but because o the problems they had were so extensive, it turned out that they need add lot of small parts. when they looked in terms of what it would cost to buy new spare parts for these planes, the total came up to another $200 million. so on top of the $486 million, another $200 million would have to be are added -- have to be added. they didn't have the money to do that. so they said, well, delete this. let's take six of the remaining 16 planes and take them out of -- off the airfield, and we will tear them down and we will get the spare parts out of those six. so now we're down to 10. started with 20. somehow they only got 16. now they decommissioned six planes so that they could get
10:41 am
the spare parts to put into the other planes so they wouldn't have to spend the $200 million. so now we're down to 10 planes at a cost of $486 million. but, even then, they had -- they continued to have problems, and so they decided we're going to scrap the whole thing. now, you'd have thought, well maybe somebody somewhere in different conditions would want to buy those planes, because we're down 120. or you take -- because we're down to 10. or you take spare parts and maybe salvage a few more than that. but, no ... the decision was made to scrap those planes and decommission them. and so the next step was, can't use them, let's just tear them apart. so there's a nice picture of
10:42 am
what happens to the plane. you see this swedish -- here we are in afghanistan spending a lot of money to try to save that country. you'd have thought this would have said "john deere," "made in the u.s.a. requestings "it's volvo. i think that's made in sweden. planes made in italy. here's the result: a nice pile of scravment so the -- a nice p. they said, let's sell this scrap. the planes where we spent $486 million were sold for scrap -- as scrap for six cents a pound, six cents a pound, and we got -- retrieved $32,000. spent $486 million, decommissioned six planes so we could get spare parts. so that went down to 10 planes. that didn't work, so they just
10:43 am
took a bulldozer to that and scrapped the thing, and now this swedish-made machine here is scrapping -- picking it up, probably putting it into the container and sel selling it fox cents pound. i come down here every week and these stories just become mind-boggling. and the taxpayer hears about these stories. and, you know, some people said, in this atmosphere, maybe we shouldn't be exposing all this. no, we're exposings it so we can stop this, so we can have an efficient, effective government doing the thanks the federal government needs to do and not getting itself into this constant week after week after week. and, look, i mean, there's been books put out here by -- my former colleague tom coburn put out a scrap -- i mean -- a scrapbook? -- put out a wastebook documenting hundreds of billions of dollars of waste,
10:44 am
fraud, and abuse, and he stepped dprowdown from office two years. we miss him. i'm just trying to carry on -- probably in a less effective way than i did -- but carry on, exposing what's happening in americans' tax dollars. every day people haul themselves out of bed, start the coffee, get in the car, go to work, come home, trying to save money, look at their paycheck, the amount of money that's being deducted for taxes, and say ... okay, maybe that's what we need to do to protect our country and provide for programs. and then they learn about stuff like this and say, what am i going to work for? just to thorn money over to -- just to turn this money over to washington so they can spend it in ways and make decisions like this? so this is one of 40-some presentations here on the senate
10:45 am
floor -- and i'm going to keep doing this as long as i stay in the senate because our people need to know and they need to put pressure on their representatives, and they need to think about this before the next person they threct to walk -- they elect to walk into the white house is going to at least have the courage and will the to address our fiscal problem in a way that's not going to put our next generations in such dire situations. so with that, mr. president, i add to our ever growing list of waste, fraud, and abuse, another $486 million, now totaling $162,764,055, 817. think how that money could be used for essential programs like
10:46 am
zika, ebola, research at national institutes of health, education, paving roads, doing infrastructure repairs, any number of things that need to be done, think how that money could be better used than selling it for scrap for $6 a pound. or think about that money that could be returned to the taxpayer that they wouldn't have to pay in taxes if we could just simply run a much more efficient, effective government here. spending is a huge issue. it needs to be addressed in this election. the american people need to be aware of where we stand and where we stand today is just substantially worse than when i arrived back in my second term in the senate just five and a half years ago. mr. president, i think with that, i will yield the floor, and i note the absence of a
10:47 am
quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
10:48 am
10:49 am
10:50 am
10:51 am
10:52 am
10:53 am
10:54 am
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mr. blunt: may we suspend the quorum call? the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blunt: mr. president, today i will -- the presiding officer: the senator will suspend. morning business is closed. under the previous order the senate will resume consideration of h.r. 2028 which the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 96,
10:55 am
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. blunt: mr. president, i'd ask for 15 minutes to speak as if we were in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blunt: and, mr. president, i want to talk today about the obama administration's nuclear agreement with iran and the many ways that that agreement has failed to rein in iran hostile behavior over the course of the last year. i thought it was interesting over the last week the great reluctance on the side of -- on the part of people who voted for an enabling way to allow the iranian agreement to occur to take a stand on the position mre floor where we wouldn't now give iran millions of dollars to purchase heavy water that they would use to -- in their nuclear
10:56 am
activities and obviously continue, mr. president, to produce. in addition to that, i saw on monday of this week iran tested a variant missile with a range of over 2,000 kilometers capable of striking israel. just over and over and over again we see iran participating in hostile behavior, and somehow none of that behavior violates either the spirit or the letter of the agreement that was discussed as such an important breakthrough with what was going to happen in iran. for those of us who predicted that iran's behavior would not change and behavior in the neighborhood would change and fear of what would happen because of iran, i think those predictions are becoming more and more obviously true. april 2, 2015, a framework
10:57 am
agreement was reached on that program. here we are a year later, this agreement seems to have not accomplished any of the things that you would want to accomplish with the country of iran. according to president obama, iran so far has followed the letter of the agreement, but the spirit of the agreement involves iran also sending signals to the world community and business that it's not going to be engaging in a range of provocative actions that might scare business off. that's an absolute quote from the president. now why we're concerned about scaring business off from iran, i don't know, because another quote from the administration over and over again is that iran is the number-one state sponsor of terrorism. if we were talking more about
10:58 am
that activity of iran and less about what they need to do to encourage business activity, we'd be doing what we should be doing. jennifer rubin wrote in "the washington post" -- quote -- "his comments are curious both because of the letter of the agreement reference. his comments are curious both because of the letter of the agreement seems to be forever changing to incorporate iran's demands and because despite iran's actions, the president continues to make more and more concessions. the administration sold this deal on the promise that we'd see a great change in behavior. take, for example, the behavior that has occurred, iran's continued disregard for the united nations security council resolution dealing with ballistic missiles. iran's conclusion after the nuclear deal last summer that it could test fire new classes of
10:59 am
missiles whenever it wanted to, as i just mentioned, as late as last monday. in october they tested new missiles that were precision-guided and more sophisticated than the current missiles they have. they then have now tested missiles that could reach israel. despite the u.n. security council explicitly calling for iran to halt its ballistic missile activity, iran's leaders have consistently rebuffed anything that's coming from the international community that it says is out of bound of the resolution and apparently everything is out of bounds of the resolution. in august of 2014, the deputy foreign minister of iran and chief nuclear negotiator told the "tehran times" -- quote -- "the restrictions on weapons posed through resolution 2231 are not mandatory and we can
11:00 am
disregard them." that statement directly contradicts secretary of state kerry's statement when he talked about the resolution when he testified about the senate foreign relations committee last july, on july 23, secretary kerry said they are restrained from any sharing of mitchell technology -- of missile technology, purchase of missile technology, exchange of missile technology, missile technology work on missiles. they cannot do that under article 41, which is chapter 7 and mandatory, end of quote from our secretary of state. obviously, the administration has a much different interpretation of the current u.n. resolutions than iran, but they also appear to have completely inflexible interpretation of what the agreement actually says. march of this year, just a few
11:01 am
weeks ago, the department of justice unsealed an indictment of iranians who carried on cyber attacks against critical infrastructure and the financial sector of the united states with the knowledge of the iranian government. now, what does critical infrastructure mean? critical infrastructure means the utilities, it means the transportation network, it means the things that we have to rely on every day to provide the infrastructure the country needs to function. also financial sector pretty obvious but the iranians with the knowledge of the iranian government continue to attack that as well. the indictment notes that one of the hackers -- quote -- received credit for his computer intrusion work from the iranian government toward completion of his mandatory military service
11:02 am
in iran. now, i don't know any way to interpret that but way not only you're in the iranian military and if you want to cyber attack the united states, we'll give you military service time to do that. i think that the administration would consider applying sanctions to put more pressure on iran, not worry quite so much about iranian's future business opportunities. curiously yet predictably, the administration has taken the opposite approach and continues to reward bad behavior. that reward can come in the -- and has come in the -- and the administration basically easing financial restrictions that prohibit u.s. dollars from being used in transactions with iran. the dollar continues to be the principal economic currency of the world. why we would want iran to have more access to that currency i
11:03 am
don't know, yet secretary of the treasury jack lew said that giving iran access to u.s. currency would ease the blockade and said -- quote -- since iran has kept up its end of the deal, it's our responsibility to uphold ours, in bottler and spirit -- end quote. there may be only five people in the world and they are all in the obama administration who believe that iran has kept up its end of the deal. april 2 of this year, eli lake wrote about how the president has kept -- has to keep on giving to save his iran deal. in other words, mr. lake wrote -- quote -- that he, again -- quote -- was under the impression the nuclear negotiations with iran ended in july. there was no press conference in
11:04 am
vienna. the u.n. resolution that lifted the sanctions on iran and the fight in congress that follows that turns out has been to have been wrong. he goes on further to say it wasn't part of the deal in july, which only lifted nuclear-related sanctions on iran but kept other sanctions to punish the country's support for terrorism, human rights and ballistic missile programs. we don't seem nearly as committed to those sanctions. on april 3, 2016, the ambassador of the u.a.e. to the united states wrote an op-ed in "the wall street journal" highlighting concerns about iranian actions in the year since the nuclear deal. the ambassador pointed out that behind the talk of change, the iran we have long known is still around. he then goes on to list the concerning actions iran has taken in the last year. again, according to the
11:05 am
ambassador from the neighborhood, the ambassador from the u.a.e., one action, according to him, actions such as firing rockets near the u.s.s. truman aircraft carrier in december of 2015 while the truman was peacefully transitioning the strait of hormuz. number two, actions such as detaining ten american navy sailors in january of 2016. number three, actions such as iranian visits to russia to purchase military fighter jets and equipment, presumably with the billions they received as part of the nuclear deal. and according to the ambassador, the list could go on and on with iranian influence continuing to cause instability in yemen, in syria and iranian's support for hezbollah. now, there can be no doubt that the obama administration's nuclear agreement with iran has
11:06 am
left regional allies nervous. the ambassador from the u.a.e. and the -- in the editorial i referenced has made that point very clearly, and i'd like to submit that editorial as part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blunt: so, mr. president, the administration's nuclear agreement has left the region nervous, has left the world less stable, has left our colleagues here in the senate who voted for it unwilling to vote for anything else about iran. i think they are finding that the people that you and i work for and that they work for don't believe this was a good agreement, and we will be talking about this agreement and the aftermath that the agreement has created for a long time.
11:07 am
i would say we need to restore a world where america's friends trust us and our enemies are afraid of us. it's a dangerous world if you have exactly the opposite of that happening when our friends don't trust us and our enemies aren't afraid of us, and this iranian agreement is one of the reasons that that's the case, mr. president, and i would yield the floor and notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
11:08 am
11:09 am
the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. flake: i ask that the quorum call be vacated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. flake: i ask that i be allowed to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. flake: mr. president, spring has sprung. april showers are giving way to may flowers. soon we'll be in the dog days of summer. and every bit as much as a tired cliche, we have again heard sabres rattle in opposition to free trade, as it tends to happen at this point every even year. 'tis the season for antifree trade rhetoric. opponents of free trade are
11:10 am
vehemently arguing that the country needs to -- quote -- get tough and hide behind protectionist barriers. unfortunately, -- and this is what is most troubling -- a lot of these arguments are coming from the republican side of the aisle. when congress turned its attention to renewing trade promotion authority a couple of years ago, i commented that some republicans had to do some pretty impressive verbal gymnastics to put themselves in a position of opposition to free trade, and if that was the case then, then we have to be witnessing mental triple gainers here with calls to end nafta and reject the trans-pacific partnership outright, and to hike tariffs to ridiculous levels. it's indeed unfortunate that when this time of the year brings out strawman arguments,
11:11 am
scapegoating free trade for everything that ails the u.s. economy, the truth is free trade expands economic freedom, it spurs competition, it raises productivity, facilitates job creation and increases the standard of living of all countries who choose to embrace it. to put it simply, free trade provides the u.s. economy to access to global markets. now, according to the u.s. chamber of commerce, 80% of the purchasing power and 95% of the world's consumers live outside of our borders. in addition, 92% of the world's economic growth is also outside of u.s. borders. in an increasingly global economy, it's incredible to think of the financial opportunities that free trade opens up for a variety of sectors of our economy. according to the office of u.s.
11:12 am
trade representative, u.s. exports support our -- supporte. u.s. exports supported more than 11 million jobs in goods and services in 2013. that's a quarter of u.s. manufacturing jobs and more than 900,000 jobs in the agriculture sector, just since 2012. and it's not just jobs directly related to exports. in 2013, the u.s. spent more than $450 billion on research and development, more than any other country on the planet. do we really think u.s. companies are going to pour their hard-earned dollars into developing products and technology if they are only to sell to the u.s. market alone? not a chance. lowering trade barriers and allowing reciprocal access to u.s. markets also provides u.s. consumers with access to lower cost goods, boosting their purchasing power. by some reports, middle-class
11:13 am
americans gain more than a quarter of their purchasing power from trade, allowing individuals and families coast to coast to purchase a wider variety of goods at lower costs. and this is the part that some people don't appreciate. imports not only stretch dollars for consumers at the cash register but free trade also allows for access to cheaper inputs that make u.s. industries more globally competitive around the world. it's estimated, in fact, that half of u.s. imports, half of all imports are actually inputs for u.s. production, for u.s. manufacturing. now, lower inputs -- lower price inputs also helps in reducing production costs and can lead to expanded production, employment and wages in the united states. now, i bring up these issues today because in the midst of a
11:14 am
somewhat political -- predictable political heated comments, albeit from somewhat unpredictable sources, the republican side of the aisle, it's important to remember that trade is a critical component of the u.s. economy. we should be working to expand trade, not impede it. now, beyond marring the direct benefits i have noted, a protectionist agenda can only result in a chilling effect on foreign investment. in the long run, u.s. workers and industry and consumers will all lose out and foreign investors perceive the u.s. as a hostile place to do business. now, i understand that it's difficult for politicians to point to the benefits of free trade. it's tougher to look out there and find individuals who directly benefit from buying cheaper goods or having cheaper inputs for their own production.
11:15 am
it's easy to find individuals whose company closed down because of global competition, but in the aggregate, on the whole, the country is far better off, and we should understand that here. we have access to the information, to the modeling, to everything that tells us that trade is extremely beneficial for the economy. and it's good for the u.s. worker as well. we're often told to everything there is a season. unfortunately, this is the season where empty protectionist rhetoric is allowed to bloom. i urge my colleagues to consider this carefully the next time we're tempted to talk about protectionist free trade benefits or protectionist benefits rather than the benefits of free trade. with that i yield back. i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the
11:16 am
clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
11:17 am
11:18 am
11:19 am
11:20 am
11:21 am
11:22 am
11:23 am
11:24 am
11:25 am
11:26 am
11:27 am
11:28 am
11:29 am
11:30 am
quorum call:
11:31 am
11:32 am
11:33 am
11:34 am
11:35 am
a senator: mr. president?
11:36 am
the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. lankford: i would like to ask the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. lankford: i want to spend a few moments talking about the zika virus and our response to it from congress. there has been a lot of conversation about the zika virus, both in the media, multiple of our committees. for months, actually. this is not a new issue that has been brought up. this is an existing issue. the spread of the zika virus is moving across our hemisphere and it's rapidly spreading to multiple countries to the south of us. it's moving to the united states. as most of you know, the zika virus is carried by a mosquito, a particular type of mosquito. not all mosquitoes can transmit the zika virus, but they pick uf mosquito can carry the virus from one person that the zika virus is in their blood, it gets in the mosquito, the mosquito bites someone else and transfers it. the interesting thing i think most people don't realize is that the zika virus for most individuals is not all that difficult or painful to be able to work through.
11:37 am
the c.d.c. in their own materials that they have now put out in their response to the zika virus tries to list out the symptoms of zika, and what it really means for most individuals. for most individuals, it is something that they will have for a few days, and they said for many individuals, they don't even know that they have it. it's something similar to having a cold where they have some muscle pain and a headache. they may have some -- a fever or a rash, but it goes away after a few days, and they are then immune to it for the rest of their life. in fact, the c.d.c. says the treatment that they list for the zika virus, if you have it -- obviously, they always suggest that you check in with your doctor, but they said the common treatment from c.d.c. is get plenty of rest, drink fluids and take tylenol. not something that most people should be afraid of unless you're pregnant. and the risk of birth deflects is astronomical.
11:38 am
not everyone who is pregnant and gets the zika virus also has birth defects, but those that have, it can be very, very serious. this is to be taken serious, but it's not a new issue as well. the zika virus has been known to be around since the 1950's. it's moved through multiple different countries and multiple different regions. it's in the united states, although we have yet to have a single case in the united states that originated in the united states. these are individuals that traveled to other countries south of us, in central america or in south america, picked up the virus there or in puerto rico or in some of the other areas of the caribbean and then have come back to the united states, but it is yet to have a transfer that we know of from any individual in the united states to another person in the united states. again, that doesn't belittle the issue, but i want to be able to put it in the context of where we are. we are at the early stages of dealing with this as united states citizens. in puerto rico and other areas, it is very advanced and there are hundreds of cases that are there. so now the determination is what
11:39 am
do we do? c.d.c. has already stepped up and trying to intervene, trying to find ways to be able to not only develop a vaccine for it, which they feel confident they can do. i met with the director of the c.d.c. not long ago. he feels very confident they will be able to have a vaccine within a couple of years, but then we have a couple of years that we're dealing with in the process. just the development of the vaccine and then the distribution of that vaccine. the main thing that can be done right now is actually putting down mosquito populations. it is getting into areas where there is rapid advancement of mosquitoes and actually putting pesticides in those areas to greatly diminish the population of mosquitoes. it's developing better testing for zika. it's getting out the opportunity in different health departments around the country to say how are we going to evaluate this and how do we know if someone just has a fever and a rash, if that's something else, the heat or something related to zika? so c.d.c. is engaging in all of those things. in the middle of all this, the white house has requested almost
11:40 am
$2 billion in what they're calling an emergency request for zika. now, i do believe there should be a response to zika and we should aggressively lean in. the last thing we should do is sit around and wait until zika virus is spreading across the united states and affects many of these pregnant moms that are out there and we have birth defects in the days ahead because of our inactivity. but the almost $2 billion in emergency request is interesting to me because a lot of it they haven't given us great detail on it of really what all that will engage. they have said they need this large amount of money. i have to tell you i'm a little bit skeptical when anyone comes and says it's an emergency, i need $2 billion, and i'll tell you what it's for later. we went through this with ebola funding where there was a $5 billion request for ebola funding. two years later, they spent about $2.5 billion of that. recently, the administration transferred half a billion dollars of that funding for
11:41 am
ebola into the treatment and discovery for zika. so they have already reprogrammed some of that money and started to be able to move it over. so i would ask just a couple of things of this body as we consider how we're going to handle zika. one is treat it seriously, although for most people it's not a serious issue. if you're pregnant, it is serious. we should treat it seriously. the second thing is we should do this appropriation in the normal appropriations process. i do not think we need to have additional debt spending. we can reprogram existing funds to be able to deal with this. and we also need real detail of how this money is going to be spent so that we don't allocate dollars and then find out later how they were going to be spent. we have a responsibility as congress to know how american tax dollars are being spent, and i think my skepticism is justified in this. so let me give you just a quick
11:42 am
idea. right now, if we're going to deal with actually funding this area, which i believe we should, then we should begin with allowing the department of state and h.h.s. and usaid to have transfer authority within their existing accounts to be able to address this. these three agencies currently have $86 billion in what they call unobligated balances from previous years, that they already have right now. $86 billion. with this much money lying around, there is absolutely no need to ask the american people to pay an additional billion dollars on top of the already obligated and overobligated and bloated budget. transfer authority i would ask for would be accompanied by a comprehensive spin plan that requires the administration to detail exactly how it plans to use these funds, then report out any obligations to match up with
11:43 am
the original spending plan. before we write a blank check to the administration, i believe the american people should actually know how this is being spent. now, there are some individuals that would say this is an emergency. we just need to add a billion dollars more in debt and figure out how to pay for it later. i would disagree. we have transfer authority, and this is not new. in fact, if you go back to 2009, president obama requested transfer authority to h.h.s. to deal with the h-1, n-1 virus. remember when the big panic was about swine flu in 2009? way as a -- we as a nation stood up and addressed these issues. at that time the president made a very specific request for transfer authority to deal with this. that is not any different than what i'm saying is right now. i don't understand how this is different than how we were dealing with h-1, n-1. right now we have to have additional spending on top of everything else, but in 2009, it
11:44 am
was entirely appropriate to be able to reprogram funds. again, this is not new. as i have mentioned before for ebola emergency supplementals, the president has already taken about $600 million from ebola and transferred that over to zika already. in march, it's interesting to note president obama reprogrammed $500 million from the economic support fund which is designated by congress to go to combat infectious diseases. he took $500 million from the funds to combat infectious diseases and instead reprogrammed it over for the green climate fund. so he took half a billion dollars from the infectious diseases account and used it instead for the green climate fund internationally. he's done this before. in fact, it was just days ago that the president took $8 million out of a different account and reprogrammed it to purchase almost $9 million of
11:45 am
heavy water from iran. this body of all bodies has the responsibility to be able to not only deal with the health emergencies that are happening around the world but also the fiscal issues that we have in our nation. we can do both. there is no reason to do debt spending when the money is there right now to be reprogrammed so we do not have to break the budget caps and we do not have to accelerate into other areas of spending just to do what is our responsibility. we should do the responsible thing in dealing with zika. we should also do the responsibility that we have to take care of the american taxpayer at the same time. with that, mr. president, i yield back. mr. president, i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
11:46 am
quorum call:
11:47 am
11:48 am
11:49 am
11:50 am
11:51 am
11:52 am
11:53 am
11:54 am
11:55 am
11:56 am
11:57 am
11:58 am
11:59 am
12:00 pm
quorum call:


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on