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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  May 18, 2016 4:00pm-6:01pm EDT

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too far." end of quote. i'm glad that senator durbin being a nounalled that many of the names on the gun ban list supplied by the v.a. do not pose a danger and should be removed. but again my amendment is thought about purposing names from the list. i would be happy to take him up on his offer to work with him on that problem. surely we can agree that going forward, the v.a. should start affording due process to veterans before they're stripped of their second amendment rights. if you really want a solution to this problem, stop objecting to this amendment. as i stated yesterday, my amendment does three things. first, it makes the danger to self or others standard applicable to the v.a. we all agree that dangerous persons must not own or possess firearms. second, it shifts the burden of proof from the veteran and back to the government where it
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belongs. and third, it fixes the constitutional due process issue by removing the hearing from the v.a. to the judicial system. and the last thing i will note is something that i wholeheartedly agree with senator durbin on. he said yesterday -- quote -- "we need to find a reasonable way to identify those suffering from serious mental illness who would be a danger to themselves or families and others and to sort out those that don't fit in that category." well, senator durbin, i have made clear my amendment does exactly that. that's why, then, are the democrats refusing to fix this problem if they admit the problem exists. this is an outrage. we all know that veterans are being treated unfairly. my amendment fixes the problem, yet democrats object. what is dangerous is that democrats are allowing veterans to be subjected to a process that casts their second
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amendment rights aside. all of this smells of hypocrisy. for months the democrats and their allies have been attacking me and the republicans for not voting on the supreme court nominee, but the democrats won't even allow a simple vote on protecting a veteran's constitutional rights. can you imagine the chaos that will reign over this chamber again if the democrats were to take control over the senate? i will continue to stand firm in defense of our veterans' population. i will continue to fight to protect their constitutional rights from offensive and oppressive government outreach. our veterans are a special group. they give life and limb for our safety so that we can sleep in peace at night. the iron fist of government must submit to the constitutional rights of the veterans and those constitutional rights have been taken away by the v.a. willy-nilly just because
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somebody needs a fiduciary, nothing to do with the competence of that veteran to not be able to buy a gun. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. a senator: thank you, mr. president. i rise this afternoon to speak about amendment 4012.
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i want to thank my cosponsor senator sessions, vitter, canton and inhofe. mr. toomey: this amendment addresses a very serious public safety threat and that is the threat posed by sanctuary cities. this is a problem, mr. president, that's not a theoretical abstraction. it's a problem that some americans know all too well. one father in particular. on july 1, 2015, just last year, jim steinly was walking arm in arm with his daughter kate on a pier in san francisco. a gunman opened fire, hit kate, and within moments she died in her father's arms. her last words were "help me, dad." now what's maddening about this, mr. president, is the shooter should have never been on the pier that day in the first place. he was an illegal immigrant. here illegally, he had been convicted of seven felonies and
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he'd been deported five times. but it gets worse. just three months prior to his shooting and killing kate steinle, the san francisco police had him in custody. they had him in custody. federal immigration officials knew that the san francisco police had him in custody. they knew that he was here illegally in violation of multiple deportations, a violent criminal convicted on multiple occasions, and they said hold him till we get somebody there to pick him up and deport him. but the police refused to hold him. instead they released the shooter out into the public. why did they do that? because san francisco is a sanctuary city. and that means that they are a city that specifically and by law within the city, they forbid their police from cooperating with federal immigration
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officials, even when the police want to cooperate. it's against the law in the city to do so. now, the local police and president obama's administration, they agree that with respect to a dangerous person, the federal and local law enforcement authorities ought to cooperate. but the local politicians in san francisco in this case have overridden that judgment, and so the police who had every opportunity to prevent this man from being on the pier that night instead released him. he went on to kill kate steinle. as a father of three young children, i can't even imagine the pain that family has gone through, but, mr. president, sadly the steinles are not alo alone. according to the department of homeland security, our current administration's department of homeland security during an eighth-month period that they examined last year alone, sanctuary city jurisdictions
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released over 8,000 illegal immigrants and 1800 of them later were arrested for criminal acts. it included two cities that arrested individuals who had been arrested -- they released individuals who had been arrested for child sex abuse, and in both cases the individuals released later sexually assaulted other children again. you know, you'd think that in the wake of these tragedies, you'd think elected officials across america would end this practice of having these dangerous sanctuary city policies. sadly, that is not the case. in the biggest city in my state by far, philadelphia, they've taken the opposite approach. in fact, they've imposed one of the most extreme versions of sanctuary cities anywhere in america. two weeks ago the current
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president obama's secretary of homeland security visited philadelphia for the specific purpose of trying to persuade the city government to make a little tiny exception to their sanctuary city policy. here's what he wanted. he wanted to allow, change the policy so that the philadelphia police would be able to notify federal immigration officials that they're about to release from their custody a person here if the person has been convicted of a violent felony or convicted of a crime involving a gang or he's a suspected terrorist. the mayor of philadelphia refused. so even under those circumstances, the police of philadelphia are forbidden from cooperating and sharing that, even just the information with federal immigration officials. so what are the kinds of
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consequences for this? well, consider the case of alberto suarez. in 2010 he kid naped and raped a girl from -- raped -- kidnapped and raped a girl. they bragged that the police would never be able to catch him because he's here illegally. five months later he kidnapped a 22-year-old woman from a philadelphia bus stop and he raped her. now, he's been apprehended. he's pleaded guilty. he's awaiting sentencing but some day he's going to be released. and under the current philadelphia city policy of being a sanctuary city, the police cannot inform federal immigration officials when they're releasing him. this is ridiculous. or imagine that the philadelphia police have in their custody an illegal immigrant whom the f.b.i. suspects of plotting a terrorist attack. the department of homeland security might very reasonably ask the police hold on to him
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till we can get an agent down there, take him into custody, and ask him some questions because we suspect that he's involved with a terrorist plot. the philadelphia police response? not by their choice but the response by virtue of philadelphia being a sanctuary city to the federal official, come back again after he's actually committed the terrorist act and then convicted of it and then we'll see if we can help you. this, mr. president, makes no sense at all. so it's no wonder that leaders across the political spectrum, this is not a partisan thing. this policy has been criticized by former philadelphia mayor, former pennsylvania governor, and democrat ed randel. it's been criticized by president obama's secretary of homeland security, pennsylvania law enforcement officials across the political spectrum, and let me be very, very clear. this is not principally about
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immigration. it's really not about immigration at all. it's about criminal -- violent and dangerous criminals. everybody knows, i certainly know the vast majority of immigrants are never going to commit a violent crime. it isn't about them. it's about the fact that if you have any significant population and certainly 11 million people here illegally, some subset of that population will be violent criminals. we know that. and so, mr. president, i've got an amendment. it's modeled on a bill that the senate voted on last october. it was supported by a bipartisan majority of senators in that vote. and it deals with this problem. here's what it does. it says, first of all, there's an -- i won't say legitimate but an understandable reason why some communities have become sanctuary communities. and that's because a court decision has created a legal liability for the cities if they
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at the request of the department of homeland security detain someone who later turns out to have been the wrong person. well, that legal liability has scared a number of communities. it's understandable. and so this amendment changes that. it makes it clear that when the local officer, the local police are in compliance with the department of homeland security detainer request, the local police have the same authority as the department of homeland security. and if that person has been identified wrongly, then the liability still exists. the person if their civil rights have been violated, they can sue, but the liability is with the department of homeland security as it should be and not against the local law enforcement who are simply acting on behalf temporarily of the department of homeland security. having corrected that problem if this amendment passes, what we say is if you want to nevertheless be a sanctuary city
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and refuse to allow the local police to cooperate with federal immigration officials, then we're going to withhold community development block grant funds from such a community. these are the funds, as you know, that have great discretion in the hantdzs of local -- hands of local elected officials to spend on various projects. the fact is sanctuary cities impose a very real cost, a real cost for the federal government, a real cost -- the most important costs by far is the danger to society that it imposes, and so it's entirely reasonable for the federal government to withhold some of these grants in the event that a city chooses to inflict that cost on the rest of us. mr. president, this legislation is endorsed by the federal law enforcement officers association, the national sheriffs association, the national association of police organizations, the international union of police associations, which is a division of the
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afl-cio. it's a simple common sense amendment and stands for the simple principle that the safety of the american people matters. the life of kate steinle matters. now, let me just right up front i want to defunct some of the misinformation that is occasionally promulgated about this amendment. one is the idea it would discourage people from coming forward and reporting crimes or reporting that they witnessed a crime or that they were a victim of crime and, therefore, it's a bad idea. well, the fact is our legislation has been drafted in such a way that if a local community has a law that says local law enforcement shall not inquire about the immigration status of a crime victim or witness, according to our legislation that doesn't make you a sanctuary city. so any city would still be free to offer that protection to people so that they would not have to fear deportation for
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disclosing a crime. the fact is this amendment is jermaine. jermaine. it was timely filed. this is the right venue. this is the right time and this is the legislation to consider this. it's really time to stop with this political correct nonsense and being so worried that we can't offend anyone that we are going to risk the safety of our communities. and so, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the pending amendment be set aside so that i may offer my amendment number 4012. the presiding officer: is there objection? a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. reed:, reserving my right to object, the senator has already pointed out issues with respect to immigration law, with respect to public safety. but what i believe is at the remedy of cutting off cdbg fund something not the aappropriate response to these very serious problems. cdbg fund something available throughout the nation, to large communities, small communities
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and in many cases it provides support for public safety projects, infrastructure that protects people, and on and on and on. so with all due respect to the senator from pennsylvania, i would object to making the amendment pending at this time. the presiding officer: objection is heard mple the senator from pennsylvania. mr. toomey: mr. president, i just have to say with all due respect to my friend and colleague from rhode island, this is exactly what americans are so fed up with. there is a real problem out there, a real problem with public safety. they know it. this is a ridiculous and indefensible policy. but i'm willing to have debate about it. i did not ask for unanimous consent that my amendment be adopted. i asked for consent that we debate it and have a vote. and if a majority of senators disagrees with me, then i don't know why they can't come down here and cast a vote and let us know. it's germane. it's in order. it complies with all the rules. and the status quo means dangerous criminals are being released onto our streets. that's a fact.
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i can tell you -- i'll tell you what's going on here. we have colleagues who are afraid to cast a vote. they are afraid of having to make a choice. they're afraid if they vote with me to put pressure on cities to end sing ware cities, it's going to offend some cities. they don't want do that. if they vote against it, they know they're endangering their own constituents. they don't want their constituents to know that. so rather than standing upped and making a decision, when do they do? they say, let's not allow the debate. let's not allow the amendment. this is exactly what the american people are so fed up with, mr. president. but i am not -- i'm not giving up on this. this is a very, very important issue. we have a responsibility to be stewards of the money that we give these cities, and i think the vast majority of pennsylvanians, the people that i represent, they want me to be a steward that's looking after their safety. the status quo doesn't do that. this amendment would solve a very important problem. it is outrageous that my
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colleagues on the other side of the aisle are afraid to have that debate, afraid to go on record, afraid to let their constituents know whether they support sanctuary cities or not, and we're not finished with this, mr. president. i yield the floor.
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ms. collins: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: i would 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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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: mr. president, i come to the floor today to talk about the issue --
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the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. portman: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. portman: mr. president, i come to the floor today to talk about the heroin and prescription drug epidemic that's gripping my state and our country. i come to talk about the 200,000 people in ohio who are addicted. i come to talk about the police officers during police week who are doing their jobs to address this issue and why they need more help from us and how we should provide that to them. this is the sixth time i have come to the floor since the senate passed back on march 10 legislation called the comprehensive addiction and recovery act. it was voted on by a 94-1 vote in this chamber, which is highly unusual. that never happens around here. it happened because in every single state, people are seeing this addiction epidemic overdose issue. we need to address it. the house has been working on its own legislation. i have come here every single week that we have been in session since we passed our legislation to urge the house to
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act. i come this week to thank the house for acting because on friday last week, the house of representatives passed by again a large bipartisan vote legislation 18 different bills that were combined into one bill to deal with this opioid epidemic. it's very similar in some respects to the legislation we passed in the senate. in other respects it has additional provisions i think are very helpful. in other respects, it doesn't pick up everything that's in the senate legislation. our focus here in the senate was to have a comprehensive approach, and i believe that by including some of the senate provisions in the house-passed version we'll end up with a more comprehensive approach, and that's what's needed. in the senate, we spent three months working with the house, in fact, on companion legislation. we had a number of srcheses here in washington, d.c., five different conferences on different issues to deal with this issue, and we came up with legislation that took best practices from around the country and included them in the legislation to deal with again a
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very real problem in our communities. it has to be comprehensive. yesterday i had the opportunity to speak with the director of the office of national drug control policy as well as the acting administrator of the substance abuse and mental health services administration. it was a hearing of the governmental affairs committee. we were talking about how to come up with the right response to this issue in so many different respects, and the bottom line is both of them strongly agreed it has to be a comprehensive approach if we're really going to make a difference, if we're really going to begin to turn the tide and begin to save lives, get people back on practical and deal with this level of drug addiction and overdose that's happening in our communities. we have to provide the resources but we've also got to provide resources that are wisely spent. in other words, we have to be sure we're spending the money on things that are affected. i was grateful that both director "baseball tonight" -- botacelli and director atamoto
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said we will work to get this done as quickly as possible. the house bill and senate bill coming together is very important so we can get this to the president and more important get it to communities so they can help. they offered to continue to work with us going forward and i appreciate that and we'll need them. everybody needs to pull together on this. it's been 67 days since the house and senate -- 67 days since the senate acted. in those 67 days, if you assume that about 120 americans are lost every day to drug overdoses, about 8,000 americans have lost their lives to drug overdoses since the senate passed its legislation on march 10. think about that. that's what i called an epidemic. unfortunately, my state of ohio has been particularly hard hit. the center for disease control and prevention says that in 2014, ohio had the second most overdoses of any state in the union and the fifth highest overdose death rate. we're losing about five ohioans every day on average to overdoses. we have lost 330 since the
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senate passed their legislation on march 10. since march 10, unfortunately, the headlines have continued to show that families are being torn apart, communities devastated. these headlines make it clear this is not slowing down. i talked to some experts on this in ohio last week and i said tell me, are things getting better, are we beginning to change the attitudes that turn the tide and the answer was no, the hotline is lighting up more than ever, more people are coming for treatment, there is more crime than ever related to this. sadly i do not believe, at least you can say in my home state of ohio that we have begun to make the progress we have to make, and it's happening everywhere, in the suburbs, in the cities, in the rural areas. addiction and its consequences are affecting everybody of every age. no matter where you're from, no matter what neighborhood you live in, it knows no zip code. just in the time since i spoke on the floor just last week, in the past week in ohio, here are some things that have happened.
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in northeast ohio, in a city, lorain, police searched three different drug houses, this happened last thursday, they arrested seven people possessing more than 120 grams of heroin. in southwest ohio, in a are rural area in brown county -- not in the city, in a rural area, a couple was arrested for possession of heroin. they have four children between the ages of 3 and 6. this all happened in the last week. in a suburb of dayton, ohio, this time not a city, not the rural area but in the suburbs, harrison township, police say a man was driving under the influence of heroin, veered into the wrong lane, struck a vehicle head on, killing an immigrant woman and injuring her husband. more and more traffic accidents are being linked to addiction. in central ohio, the columbus area, the city has now spent $144,000 last year alone on narcan, which is this miracle drug to be able to deal with overdoses and save people's lives. paramedics in columbus spent 10% of their entire budget just on narcan last year.
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reversing, by the way, over 100 overdoses. paramedic pete bolen says sometimes he takes up to four overdose calls every day. i have been to police fire stations around ohio. in the firehouses, do you know what they tell me? they are responding to more overdoses than they are fires. i think that's generally true in my state and maybe in yours. dr. eric atcontinues of ohio state's western medical center says their emergency room sees two to four overdose patients every day. last year the center spent $1.2 million treating overdose patients. that's just one medical center in one city. in chilicothe, assistant fire chief jeffrey creede says overdose calls are expected to double this year as compared to last year. again he will tell you more overdoses than fires. rita gunning of grove city, ohio, lost her daughter sara who was just 30 years old to a heroin overdose. last year sara was trying to fight an opiate addiction and managed to stay clean for 50 days, but she relapsed and three
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days later she died of an overdose. rita is now raising sara's children and trying to increase the availability of naloxone around ohio. she is on a mission because she believes this miracle drug could have saved her daughter. she says if they had it that night, maybe they could have saved sara's life. she shouldn't have to say that. making it more available is one thing the legislation does that we passed here in the senate. we have to be sure that the house and the senate legislation does that and also provides the training to go along with it. our legislation also says that when you provide naloxone or narcan, you provide not just training with it but also information about where to get treatment because it's not enough just to apply narcan. we need to get these people into treatment so we aren't applying narcan again and again and again. karen young lost her daughter cale la at 223. she had awrnlgry at 22 years old and was prescribed pain pills. she became addicted to those
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pain pills and like so many others when the pills ran out, she switched to a less expensive and more accessible alternative, heroin. she went to rehab for about seven weeks but she relapsed, overdosed and died. just like that. in a span of to years she developed an addiction because she went in for surgery and she died from it. as karen put it and i quote, "her dad will never get to walk down the aisle with kayla." unfortunately that's true across the country. the stories are heart wrenching. you hear about kids who go in to have their wisdom teeth pulled. they're given prescription pain pills. they get addicted to the pain pills. they then turn to heroin or maybe not. they may die from the pain pills themselves which has happened but this should not be happening, that overprescribing of pain medication is one of the issues. four out of five of the heroin
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addicts in ohio started with prescription drugs. people need to know that our legislation would allow people to know that by the way, through an awareness campaign about that very issue. unfortunately, these overdoses are just the tip of the iceberg in the sense that in addition to the 8,000 we've lost since march 10 in this country, there are hundreds of thousands more who are among the wounded. what do i mean by that? they've lost their jobs. they've been driven to theft or fraud to pay for their habit. they've gone to jail. they have broken relationships with loved ones because of an addiction. i hear this time and time from recovering addicts saying when i had this addiction, the drug was everything. it was everything. and that's how my family broke up. that's how i last my job. that's how i lost my self-respect. i've seen the consequences firsthand. on moongdz i visited -- monday i visited a treatment center in ohio for women only. it's an extraordinary place, the only place in my home state where people can get treatment with hair kids which has been
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very effective. -- their kids which has been very effective. i got to meet with the women. each had a heart wrenching story to tell. each was committed to dealing with their addiction for their sakes but also for their babies' sake because these women were pregnant. there's been a 750% increase in ohio in the last 12 years of babies born with addiction. this si syndrome, babies born wh addiction requires babies to be taken through the same kind of rehab that adults are taken through, of course different levels of treatment. it's a very sad situation. many doctors and nurses tell me who are incredible compassionate they don't know what the long-term consequences are. at this treatment center in my hometown called first step home, they're doing impressive work. they're teaching women how to be better moms in addictio additioo providing the treatment they need. they don't just get medication. they get a sense of home and security. talking to these women, listening to their stories inspires me to make the federal government a better partner with first step other nonprofits
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around the country to ensure that we are indeed beginning to turn this tide. today and tomorrow the addiction policy forum which is a coalition of advocacy groups is leading a cara family day on capitol hill here in. i'll be joining them in that effort. i thank them for calling attention to this pressing issue and for their strong support of the comprehensive addiction recovery act, cara. with this being police week, mr. president, i'd also like to thank our police officers who are on the front lines every single day confronting this epidemic. police, other first responders, medical personnel confront this epidemic more than anyone else. i've been told by prosecutors back home that in some counties in ohio, more than 80% of the crime is directly related to this issue of heroin and prescription drug addiction. in some areas i'm told nearly all the thefts that are committed are done by those struggling with addiction to pay for their habit. the fraternal order of police has been incredibly helpful to us in this legislation.
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they contributed valuable advice and feedback during the three years we were crafting cara and i'm grateful for their help and their endorsement of cara which was very important in getting such a strong vote in the floor of the house and senate. police officers across ohio told me about the extent of the epidemic. they've told me about the need for the federal government to take action that is comprehensive. major jay mcdonald who is the president of ohio's fraternal order of police has told me that -- quote -- "heroin fixed with fentanyl is the most deadly cocktail i've witnessed in my entire career." i visited jody's house, a residential house for women in recovery in mile an hou miriam,. our response should include enforcement, prevention and treatment. in other words it has to be comprehensive. he's absolutely right. our police want cara for a lot of reasons. for example, cara would authorize a new law enforcement task force, task forces around the country to investigate trafficking and heroin fentanyl, meth am met means, prescription drugs. police know the extra resources will help them do their jobs.
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by the way, these task forces are not included in the house-passed legislation. we have to get that in in conference to ensure that we are helping our police officers who are out there on the front lines. another reason i think the law enforcement community wants cara passed is that they are using natural loxon every day -- that loxon every day and more first responders used it 16,000 times in ohio, 16 thowr times -- 16,000 times. cara would increase access to nalaxone and improve training. it would also insist again as it's being administered the drug treatment programs in the community locally are made available, information available to people so that we haven't just seeing this revolving door. if we give our police the tools they need, they'll be able to save even more live, and get more people into treatment. our police are also helping to take drugs off the streets. since 2014 d.e.a. arguments in ohio working with local -- agents in ohio working with local police -- sometimes the
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intervention of a police officer is exactly what it takes to get somebody into treatment. i have found that again and again. two weeks ago there was a heartbreaking story of a woman in the miami valley area, dayton area named sherry. said she was glad her son was in jail because, quote, i'd rather have him sitting behind bars in jail than have to carry him out in a body bag, end quote. two weeks ago in wellington, ohio, there was a town meeting held about the crisis. nicole told the story of how after postpartum surgery at age 19, she was prescribed a prescription painkiller. she became addicted. she ended up being arrested 18 times and convicted of two felonies. i sold my moral, she said. i sold my soul. drugs became everything. after an overdose in youngstown, they begged her probation officer to send her to jail. that's how bad it was. that's how difficult it is sometimes to find treatment. she asked the police officer and the judge to send her to prison
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because that's the best way to get good treatment than be convicted of a felony, she said, and even then sometimes not the best treatment is available. that's the status quo today. unless and until we get a more comprehensive bill to the president and signed into law, this continues. too many are going without treatment. too many are afraid to come forward. too many are treating this not as a disease which it is which needs to be treated, but instead are concerned about the stigma. we need to get people to come forward and come into treatment. but thanks to help from police in the case of nicole i mentioned she did get treatment. for three years she's now been living a clean and productive life and helping others do so, too. police across ohio have been offering treatment to those struggling with addiction. i'm impressed with what's going on in lucas county which the toledo area. they have started a response team which offers addiction counseling, free rides to treatment and follow-up visits for those who overdosed. in talking to the sheriff and
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deputies, they've made an incredible difference in people's lives. in lodi, ohio, anyone can simply turn themselves into police and get treatment no questions asked. this is done entirely using private donations. they placed 28 people in rehabilitation who had no insurance and no income. the police there report since they started the program overdoses and property crime have decreased considerably. in wellington, police make the same offer. turn yourself in and get treatment. we won't ask any questions. we'll get you the help you need. i'm told this is also the case in cresston, ohio, newark, ohio. locally police departments are taking this issue up dealing with it effectively and i salute them for that. i also salute them for putting their lives on the line every day for all of us. and for their compassionate care of those they run across who need this treatment. i know the statistics about drug abuse are heartbreaking, mr. president. and they can certainly be discouraging. including the ree lapse rates. -- relapse rates. but thanks in part to our police
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officers, good treatment providers around the country as i visited on monday, there are a lot of stories of hope, too, that encourage and inspire us. many of those who are struggling have inspirational stories, too. near my hometown, police started what's called the quick response of police, paramedics and addiction counselors when they arrest someone or save them from an overdose, they get them into treatment. again, not just applying narcan but getting them into treatment. last summer they found day monday carol, who was just 22 years old on his bedroom floor after an overdose. they got him counseling, treatment. day monday is living a clean and productive life. you know who stops by his house and the restaurants to make sure he's okay? the police officers who found him. thanks to our police, he's beating this. there is hope. they saved a life. and they're hoping this young man -- they're helping this young man to give out his god given potential. mr. president, i hope we can send comprehensive legislation to the white house as soon as possible because it's needed.
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it's urgent. it's an emergency. we've lost nearly 8,000 americans since the senate passed this comprehensive addiction recovery act. that's the status quo today. and again that doesn't begin to tell the story of those who did not die because of an overdose but struggle with that addiction every day and our police officers and those nonprofits i talked about, the treatment centers, shows who are struggling with addiction, all of them, all of them deserve better. they deserve us to act. again, we're not going to solve the problem here in washington, d.c. but we can be better partners with state and local government, with these nonprofits, with these law enforcement officials around the country who are dealing with this issue every day. they deserve a better partner. mr. president, thank you for the time. i yield back.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from indiana. a senator: mr. president, i was pleased to come over here early before i spoke and listen to my colleague from ohio. mr. coats: we have the same issueissues in indiana and i th, mr. president, in your state and every state. serious opioid addiction issue, particularly with our young people. we can't solve all the problems here. we passed needed legislation. hopefully we can reconcile with the house shortly and put it on the president's desk that will provide support in a number of ways for dealing with this problem. but it is a national issue. it's a state issue. and it's a city issue. it's a small town issue.
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it's a rural america issue. it's all hands on deck here. we're losing precious lives through this scourge of addiction that is sweeping through our country. but today i am back as i have been every week for now 43 weeks for the waste of the week. and this is waste of the week is where i highlight waste, fahd and abuse in the -- fraud and abuse in the federal government system that are using hard earned taxpayer dollars that ought to be able to be used by the taxpayer to pay the mortgage, pay the bills at the end of the week, to put aside some money hopefully for the children's education as they grow, for any number of needs out there. we have the responsibility and the duty to be carefully managing the tax money that is assessed to our public.
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waste of the week has pointed out in some of the significant but yet just a drop in the bucket expenditures that have not been successful, not been used for the purpose that it's supposed to be used, part of a waste, fraud and abuse category of now nearly -- well, nearing $200 billion. not small change. this week i'm highlighting a federal program that has a lousy track record, and over $7 billion in leftover money, funds congress that has appropriated for this program. let me explain the program here. in 2000 #, shortly after -- 2008, shortly after the economic recession began, congress created something called the home affordable modification program. in short, hamp. home affordable modification program. this was a new emergency program established to help homeowners
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facing financial distress to avoid foreclosure by reducing their monthly mortgage payments. now this all occurred at a time when our country truly was in distress, a serious recession. people were working less hours or no hours and those who owned homes were finding it difficult if not impossible to pay the monthly mortgage payments. so the hamp program, which is a voluntary program for homeowners and mortgage lenders, that the two of them get together and agree to restructure their loan payments, they can stay in their home, and is it doesn't have to go through foreclose. it is a -- through foreclosure. it is a sensible program at a time of need, and learns work -- and lenders work through the treasury department to real estate duce those monthly mortgage payments to no higher than about one-third of the homeowner's income. if you're telling your kids about buying a home or you're
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graduating from school and you want to buy a home, the solid advice has always been, don't spend -- don't commit yourself to more than 25% of the income that you're earning to pay on your mortgage. you're going to need the rest of that money to pay the rest of your bills, all the utilities, food, transportation, buying a car, so forth and so ofnlt well, this program said, all the way up to a third, if you qualified on that, we would use 33% instead of 25% and restructure your mortgage so that you had fewer -- lower amounts of payment that you had to make each month on that mortgage. so as i said, treasury -- the department of treasury put this program in place. it was scheduled to expire at the end of 2012. in 2013, after the program had technically expired, an inspector general found that the number of participants who ended
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up redefaulting on their new modified mortgage was increasing -- understand and i'm quoting here -- "increasing at an alarming rate." what is this word "redefaulting?" if you don't pay your mortgage payments, you are a new england default. and if you're in default long enough, the mortgage company says we're going to foreclose and take your house back. this program was designed to help people avoid that catastrophe. so redefaulting is the process by which the person having already agreed to with the mortgage company and with the support of the federal government, agreed to a program to lower the payments so you could keep the house, they defaulted again. so the technical term is redefaulting, but it is two defaults. so if joe smith has problems, he gets together with his program, he gets a new program in plashings but then down the line
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he defaults again. this became, according to the inspector general, something that needed to be addressed because we just sumly cannot -- simply cannot continue to proceed with this program with the taxpayers' dollars if the participants aren't doing their share. the congress then, despite the poor performance of this -- not the congress, but the administration, unilaterally -- how many times have we seen that happen during the obama administration, bypassing congress? -- unilaterally extended the program beyond its 2012 expiration date. interestingly enough, even with this extension, the number of applicants steadily declined. people either couldn't meet the measures or they didn't need it. the economy was improving, they didn't need to do this. according to the treasury department, the number of hamp participants declined because
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there was shrinking number of eligible mortgagees. so, given that the outcomes of those receiving help were largely subpar and the number of applicants was declining, you would think then that we would come to the conclusion that the program needed to be terminated. it was already extended past the deadline, but on the basis of what was happening with the program, essentially, we should terminate that. when hamp was created, the goal was to help about 4 million homeowners. as it turned out, fortunately, the program ended up with only 1.3 million homeowners making it through the trial phase and ultimately accepted into the program. and of those people, about one-third ultimately redefaulted, costing taxpayers an additional $1.5 million. so here we had a broken program. what was left in the fund with the treasury was $7 billion.
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now, some people call these slush funds. this is money that's been aappropriate odd, put into a -- appropriated, put into a program, not expended in the program, but sits there ands -- and how many times have we heard about government agencies with excess money, excess taxpayer money saying, well, don't give it back. sometimes we say, give it aboutk to the treasury. this is the treasury itself. well, don't terminate this thing and give it back. we might want to use it for something else. that's a classic way of describing how washington often works. spend all the money that's been appropriated to you or they will reduce the money they give you next year. i previously sat on the appropriations committee, and this is not a one-off proposition. every year we have to scrub through these agencies' spend dhiewrs, and we--
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--spend dhiewrs, and we -- expenditures and we find that -- so they don't get a reduced amount of funds sent to them for the next fiscal year think of the ways that this money could be used. if it was put back into the treasury. number one it could be used for essential federal functions. i wouldn't -- wouldn't n.i.h. like to have $7 billion to be able to hopefully break through on a wonder drug that would address alzheimer's or diabetes or something else? wouldn't the department of defense want to have this money for the shortcomings that they've had with the drastic reduction of expenditures for our national defense and security? wouldn't any number of federal agencies that produce essential programs that have to be addressed financially want to use that money for the right
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purposes? and, most importantly of all, wouldn't the taxpayer want to ghat money back---- get that moy back or not use it at all, or use it -- wouldn't the treasury want to use it to reduce or ever-deepening national debt? so a lot of uses for this money sloshing around in a trust fund -- not a trust fund, but sloshing around in a fund held by the treasury department. that is waste because it's sitting there. it's going to be spent on something it was not intended to be spent on. and for that reason, it becomes a "waste of the week." as a "waste of the week," we had $7 billion -- we add $7 billion to our ever-growing total of waste, fraud, and abuse, taking our total now to over $170 billion. this is not small change. we have people struggling in america to make ends meet. they live paycheck to paycheck. they want their hard-earned taxpayers that are taken from their paycheck used for the
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right purposes, and if it's not used for the right purposes, they don't want to send it. they want it back. and we have an accountability to the american people and the people we represent to do the best we can to provide the most efficient, effective use of their tax dollars. and if we can't provide that -- and this is just, as i said, a drop in the bucket -- i couldn't be standing here -- i could be standing here every day with a waste of the day. i could be standing here with a waste of the hour. we have a responsibility to be kltable to the people -- accountable to the people whose money is taken by the federal government and used. use it for the right things. maybe a veterans' program needs that $7 billion to treat more veterans more -- better than the way that they're treated now. in any event, we add this total. we've got $170-plus billion.
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i will be back next week with the next version of this. we will continue to expose funding that is unnecessary and is putting a real burden on our hard-earned tax dollars being paid to the federal government. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. coons: mr. president, i rise today to draw attention to the pernicious and maligned impact that the iranian government and its intrusion into iraq and syria is having on regional security, on the condition of people in those two countries, and in the stability and future of that whole region. today iraq is riven by sectarian divides, presented by barbaric isis terrorists in its north and west, and led by a tragically fragile government. meanwhile, the oppression of the murderous regime of bashar
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al-assad is syria has helped create a humanitarian crisis on the scaifl nothing we've -- on the scale of nothing we've seen since the second world war. iran claims that it wants to be a legitimate contributing member of the international community, but despite those claims, iran has played and continues to play a major role in flamenting. today i would like to give a brief overview of the tragedies of iraq and syria, explain iran's destabilizing role in each country and highlight a number of steps i think the united states can make take to counter iran's dangerous influence. let's begin with where we are in iraq. in recent months, iraqi and coalition forces have reduced the territorial presence of isis in iraq by roughly 40%. since taking office in 2014, prime minister al-abadi has taken concrete steps to reduce
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corruption, to share power with sunni and kurdish leaders and to form a competent technocratic government that can deliver real results for the iraqi people and reduce the many grievances that have forced iraqis into the arms of extremists. yet dangerous divides continue. hindering iraq's ability to fight isis and defend against the terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds of people, 200 in the last week alone. as coalition forces retake land previously captured by isis, isis appears to be bringing its savage and elbaradeiic tactics -- and barbaric tactics to the capital and to other cities in teanlt to stoke sectarianism and to retake the major city of mosul. divisions among the people anding within the government itself make political reconciliation even more difficult. syria meanwhile faces a nearly
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unimaginable humanitarian crisis. since march of 23011, more than 400,000 syrians have been killed and more than a million injured because the assad regime has engaged in a murderous campaign against its own people in order to cling to power. some estimates put the number of dead as high as half a million. nearly 5 million syrians have been forced out of their country with 6.5 million displaced and 13.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance, and even more tragically, a huge number of those syrians have been unable to receive international aid or relief because the assad regime blocks access to international aid organizations. rather than playing a constructive role in this tortured and difficult region such as by contributing more meaningfully to the anti-isis fit or by moderating conflicting factions, iran continues to prop up the assad regime. in fact, what iran's help, i believe assad would have like lay fallen or come to the table
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to negotiate peace. iran continues to foment instability and support terrorism. in iraq, iran continues to fund shia militias and exacerbate tensions between the populations. iranian-backed shia militias have pushed some out of some areas but rather than allowing people to return, they've engaged in human rights violations against the very sunni communities they've just liberated from isis. according to human rights watch inresponse to isis bombings in january of 2016, shia militias designation demolished sunni homes and stores and mosques and killed dozens of sunni civilians." this is just one of many examples of atrocities committed by iranian-backed shia militias. these killings only further raise tensions and drive more recruits to extremist groups. in syria, iran has joininged
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russia in providing the that i had has kept the assad regime in power, despite hundreds of thousands willing to fight against assad and despite the coordinated effort of many countries. although iran's government denies the presence of its military forces in syria, it is clear that in addition to financial support and weapons, iran has sent thousands of its own troops to reinforce the murderous regime of assad. one estimate puts the number of syrian forces -- of iranian forces in syria at 3,000, including 2,000 of the a leet qud -- elite quds force, the hard-line group dedicated to the iraqisary government. iran in fact recently doubled down on its support for assad by sending soldiers from the regular army, from the regular iranian army to join the troops on the ground in syria and
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there's rumors they are even mobilizing and deploying afghans and other from the region to join militias in support of assad. although it remains clear that a lasting resolution to the syrian conflict will be impossible until assad leaves power, ali akbar said in a recent televised interview "the removal assad a red line for us." as long as iran continues to increasing its support, its military support, financial support for assad, it will bear direct responsibility for the carnage in syria.. extremism on all sides of the conflict and humanitarian exodus from syria causing massive suffering on three continents. this behavior from iran is a clear sign the regime is not to be trusted, does not intend to comply with international norms and deserves close scrutiny and constant push back from the united states and our allies. briefly noting another colleague
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who stands to speak soon, there is a number of steps the united states and our allies have to take in response. at the very least to prevent iran from obtaining material to advance its nuclear program. we must work with allies to enforce all corners of the nuclear agreement between iran, the united states and other world powers. we must continue to work with our allies and their navies to interdict iran's ongoing illegal weapons shipments to support the houthis and others of their terrorist proxies in the region in yemen, and lebanon. in february u.s. forces -- since february u.s. forces and allied forces interdicted on international waters shipments of thousands of ak-47's, tank missiles, grenade launchers, sniper rifles and other weapons destined from iran to the houthi rebels. the united states must maintain sanction on iran for support of
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terrorism, human rights violations and continued illegal ballistic missile tests. we must be willing to sanction individuals and entities linked to the irtgc and the missile program. in addition to punishing iran for its dangerous and provocative behavior these actions send a signal to iran that the international community won't tolerate its ongoing bad behavior. we have to use diplomatic channels to urge countries like russia to not sell more dangerous arms to the iranian regime, allegedly defensive arms that will simply further destabilize the regime and to press russia to allow u.n. security council action in response to iran's recent ballistic missile tests. finally, we have to continue to make smart investments in training, technology and innovation in which our military depends. america's ability to push back on iran critically depends on maintaining a credible conventional military deterrent. so, mr. president, the united states must do everything we can to support our allies in the
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middle east, in particular by strengthening our partnership with the state of israel, by concluding a ten-year memorandum of understanding that provides a reliable long-term and significantly enhanced pathway towards support. senator graham and i along with 81 of our colleagues wrote a letter to the president urging the administration to support a stronger m.o.u. to ensure israel has the resources it needs to defend itself in this chaotic region. mr. president, in closing, in the years to come i hope this body will be just as dedicated to enforcing the terms of the nuclear agreement with iran in pushing back on iran's continued dangerous behavior outside the parameters of the deal as we were in the months leading up to its consideration in this body. iran continues to exercise a maligned influence on iraq, on syria and the region and it is our responsibility to use every tool we have to make it clear to iran that we will contain its bad behavior and we will not tolerate its ongoing actions. thank you. with that, mr. president, i
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yield the floor. mr. mccain: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i rise to discuss my amendment with senator blumenthal thapld extend the veteran -- that would extend the veteran choice card program for three years and restore funding that was moved out of the program last year. our amendment is critically important. it extends the veterans choice card program so it does not expire prematurely next year. it restores funding removed from the program last year to pay for other v.a. programs, provides additional funding to stabilize the v.a. choice card program for the next three years. while congress works on long-term solution to reform veterans health care and allows the secretary of the v.a. to standardize and modernize the way it pays all the doctors, hospitals and clinics participating in the many programs the v.a. offers to veterans to get the care they need in their communities.
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i was very proud two years ago that congress acted quickly to pass major v.a. reform legislation following the scandal and care that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of veterans waiting endlessly for care. we now know that what was originally uncovered in phoenix, arizona, had been occurring throughout the country. fortunately we acted decisively and in a bipartisan manner by passing the veterans access choice and accountability act in near record time. that law provided extra emergency funding for the v.a. to hire doctors and nurses and to build more hospitals and clinics. but perhaps the most important and the most promising piece of the legislation was the $10 billion emergency fund for the veteran choice card program. this program allows any veteran who has to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or lives
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more than 40 miles from a v.a. v.a. -- from a v.a. facility to visit a participating doctor in their community instead of continuing to wait for care with no options. after an extremely difficult start, the veteran choice guard program is authorizing more than 150,000 appointments for veteran care per month, over 6,000 per work day. according to the v.a., as of the end of march, nearly one million appointments for veterans had been scheduled under the veteran choice card program. each of these appointments represents a veteran appointment that would have otherwise been delayed potentially for months in the v.a. scheduling system. an extra advantage of the choice card is that it also helps veterans who don't use it. by enabling some veterans to
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receive care in their community, the v.a. is able to free up its appointment backlog and accommodate veteran appointments sooner. over the last year the number of participating doctors and medical professionals in the veterans care -- veteran choice program in the western region has jumped from around 95,000 to nearly 160,000. the turnover rate is very low. more than 90% of all doctors are being paid within 30 days and the great majority of doctors are choosing to stay in the veteran choice card program to treat our nation's veterans. unfortunately, under current law the veteran choice card program is scheduled to expire in the middle of next year. the veteran choice card program is capped at $10 billion in emergency spending and three years of operation, whichever is reached first. i know that members on both sides of the aisle don't want to return to the status quo of
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never-ending wait times for appointments and poor care at the v.a. too many of our constituents have been harmed. too many lives devastated. i remember standing here on the senate floor in 2014 and urging passage for the veterans access choice and accountability act. at that time we acknowledged that the veteran choice program was a first step towards fully reforming the v.a. that law created a blue-ribbon commission on care that is still meeting and owes congress recommendations this summer on long-term reform. but we need time for hearings, investigations, oversight and analysis of the commission's report to get long-term reform right. as the chairman and ranking member of the veterans' affairs committee will attest, this is the dictionary definition of an emergency. while it cannot rush the reforms the v.a. health care system needs, we also cannot bring the
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veterans choice program to a full stop. too many veterans in v.a. hospitals depend on the choice program to provide care in a timely fashion. i've heard from multiple administrators and v.a. officials who have told me and my staff that they do not know what they will do if the choice card program ends. i urge my colleagues to adopt this amendment and commit to continuing the hard work of enacting long-term reform to the v.a. health care system. so, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendment in order to call up amendment number 4039 with the changes there at the desk. the presiding officer: is there objection? a senator: reserving the right to object. the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: john mccain is my good friend. i have ultimate respect for him. i was just informed of this amendment and was informed that it would not enable -- we have a real problem in rochester where they don't have enough v.a. services.
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they have to drive very far away to go, and it's a big metropolitan area. so i'm going to object hoping that i can talk to my friend from arizona and see if we can work this out. so i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. mccain: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i don't know what the senator from new york's credentials are as far as veterans are concerned. i know this. i know this, that what the senator from new york is stopping is 160,000 veterans -- 160,000 veterans -- from participating in this program in the western part of the -- mr. schumer: if my colleague would yield? what i've simply asked him for is not to block it but to sit and talk to him and see what exactly his amendment does and the effect it will have on rochester. i was just told that. and that's all i want to do.
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okay? i don't know the details. i have great respect for my friend, but i have an obligation to the veterans in rochester who have come to me about their problem. so i want to talk to him about it. mr. mccain: mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. schumer: i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. the presiding officer: the senate's in a quorum call. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. blumenthal: mr. president, i hope very strongly that my colleague and friend, the senator from new york and senator mccain will succeed in resolving this potential roadblock to amendment number 4039 because i very fervently
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support it. it would extend the temporary veterans choice program for an additional three years and provide funding to do so. the extension of this program is vital, and the current authorization is coming to an end. and at this point we lack a path forward on any of the proposals to overhaul v.a.'s care in the community program. while the veterans choice program has been far from perfect, requiring multiple legislative and administrative changes to make it function for veterans, extending it for an additional three years will allow us to address these necessary changes that senators tester and burr have provided in a bipartisan way in the committee earlier this year. our men are committed to working with them and with chairman isakson to make further changes to the program as well as continuing to improve access to care within the v.a., which is
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the preferred choice for many veterans. in addition to extending choice, this amendment also would allow the v.a. to move closer to consolidating existing programs for care in the community. eliminating some of the bureaucratic hurdles to smoothe contracting for the v.a. i want to thank my colleague from arizona, senator mccain, for championing this cause because this amendment will ensure that all veterans currently using project arch to access care through the v.a. will be grandfathered into the veterans choice program. this is important for some veterans in rural areas to maintain continuity in care. it is of great interest to our colleagues from maine and kansas and other states where these
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veterans live primarily, but to all of us who care about veterans' health care. i urge my colleagues to support this amendment as well as support the veterans first act, another bipartisan bill that i was pleased to work with chairman isakson to achieve. and it makes additional changes to veterans health care to improve opioid therapy, access to chiropractic care as well as ensure strong accountability within the department. again, i want to express my appreciation to my colleague and friend, senator mccain, and say that i look forward to working with him closely on this amendment. which would be helpful, in my view, to the veterans choice program. without this extension, the
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veterans choice program would expire next year before congress enacts long-term reform for veterans health. and the stability provided by this extension and funding will help ensure maximum participation by doctors, hospitals, and clinics in the community who wish to treat our veterans. this amendment is one i support, having worked with my colleague, senator mccain, on it, and i am very hopeful that we can move forward with the support of this body. thank you, mr. president. and i yield the floor. mr. mccain: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i tell senator schumer's staff that he may want to come back. it's -- what senator schumer is asking for is for a 25-year lease on a clinic in rochester, new york.
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according to his staff. now, mr. president, i have been privy to examples of blocking the greater good because of a specific geographic area, but i've got to say that i haven't seen anything quite like this one. this is to extend a card -- i suggest -- i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. a senator: i ask i be recognized. the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. a senator: i move that we vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. blunt: well, this is an important issue that's being discussed on the floor. i would join senator blumenthal
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certainly in my commitment to do whatever we can to extend more choice to veterans. there are less than a handful, i believe, of issues that the v.a. is the best provider in all likelihood. post-traumatic stress, they should be better at that, mr. president, than anything else. the v.a. should be better at i.e. dz attack injuries. -- i.e.d. attack injuries. they should be better at prosthetics. there is no reason they should be the better place to get your heart valve replaced or your kidney cancer dealt with, and more choice for veterans will make both -- is better for veterans and it will make the v.a. a better provider than the v.a. is today. so i'm certainly supportive of that discussion. but senator warren and i today have filed a bill to the transportation bill. part of this debate that deals with transportation. the bridge act really helps us,
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creates new ways to help us funding our infrastructure last year. congress was finally able to come together with the highway bill, the fast act. it took a while to get to the fast act, mr. president, because we had 37 short-term extensions of the highway bill from 2009 on, but finally we have a highway bill, a five-year bill that provides certainty for the next five years, but this is a chance where at every level of government now we can put extra tools in the toolbox, we can involve the private sector in ways that the private sector is not involved as a funding partner for many things that the private sector can do in partnership with the public sector. strengthening our overall infrastructure, especially our transportation network, is vital to boosting economic growth, to
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creating jobs and to increasing competitiveness in missouri. in senator warner's state of virginia and across the nation. the crept infrastructure fails to meet our current needs, including needs and drinking water, highways and ports, energy transmission. in addition to all the things we see aboveground, there are many things below ground that need to be dealt with. the storm water system in the city of st. louis, part of that system was built while abraham lincoln was president. it's amazing how long wood will last if you keep it soaked in water for 152 years or so, but that's what a part of that system is all about. we're way short in infrastructure investments. senator warner and i for three congresses now have been trying to find the best way to -- to add more ability to do the things that need to be done. we have a transportation system
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that's interconnected. it has an extensive network of highways, of roads, of bridges, of freight and passenger rail travel, rural rail transit, airports, waterways, all of those things, pipelines make us more competitive than they woob woob -- we would be otherwise, and it means paycheck to paycheck people have an opportunity to have paycheck to paycheck plus savings, have an opportunity to have paycheck to paycheck plus retirement, have an opportunity to see those things happen that needs to happen in their lives and for their family. the transportation system links our country up. it links urban america and rural america. it serves as a backbone for interstate commerce and connects the united states to the rest of the world. our economic competitiveness and our ability to export in the most competitive way, very
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dependent on our infrastructure. the american energy revolution is directly related to the ability to access unconventional oil and gas. we have more new american energy than we ever dreamed possible, but we can access that energy but we don't have the ways to transport that energy that we need to have to use it most efficiently. the greater mississippi river basin, the biggest contingencyious piece of agricultural land in the world is where the riverways of the country come together. these riverways allow us again to be more competitive. they allow farmers to easily ship their products to domestic and foreign markets. a modern transportation system will be key to maintaining competitiveness with other grain producers elsewhere in the world. brazil is a great example of a country whose ability to grow
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agricultural products has outgrown its infrastructure, and the ability to compete, the ability to get things to market, the ability to get things all over the world is dramatically impacted by that. the american society of civil engineers continues to give the united states poor marks on our infrastructure and says we need billions of dollars in investment over the next several years to bring it up to adequate conditions. the bridge act is a way not for federal taxpayers to become responsible for every local obligation but for states and communities along with the federal government to have new ways to do the things that need to be done. we can't continue to ignore the infrastructure needs of the country. we particularly can't continue to ignore the infrastructure needs of the country we can't see. we just saw the appropriate attention in flint, michigan, to a problem that didn't meet the
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eye because it's underground. the gas lines, the water lines, the storm sewer lines all need attention. the capital markets and private sector investors have growing interest in being part of meeting that great infrastructure need. the bridge act will incentivize private sector investment by establishing an independent infrastructure financing authority to provide loans and loan guarantees to critical infrastructure projects, including transportation, water, energy infrastructure. it's a proposal like the ones we need to help create -- to close the gap that needs to be closed. during this week, a week that i am not sure how well the planning worked here, but we have the transportation bill on the floor during infrastructure week. i think we ought to be giving serious consideration not just to the infrastructure that we appropriate money for but the
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process we put in place, the tools we put in place so that the infrastructure needs of the country can be met. i'm certainly pleased to get to work with senator warner on this project. we have had lots of input from people who understand the infrastructure needs of the country, and i hope the congress looks at this as one of the things that can be done to help meet those needs. and with that, mr. president, i believe there is an absence of a quorum on the floor. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presidin the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i want to thank -- the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. mccain: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: and i address the senate as if in morning business. i want to thank the senator -- senator warner and senator schumer, the senators from virginia and new york. they're committed to the veterans in their states and in this country, and i believe that we have worked out an agreement to try to get them the vet ran services that -- veteran services that they have earned and are not receiving at this

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