lives in a coverage. a reminder you can see this event and any c-span program online anytime at c-span.org. as mentioned, the u.s. senate is about to gavel into start the day. first up, final debate on a bill regarding federally inspections. a vote on that measure is expected at 11:00 a.m. eastern. also, at 11:00 a.m., a vote to advance the 2017 defense program bill. now, lie to the senate floor on c-span 2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain dr. barry black will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. o god, who renews our strength and guides us along right paths, we honor your name. we do not fear what the future may bring,
for you are close beside us. send our senators forth today to do right as you give them the ability to see it. may their deeds fit their words and their conduct match their profession. by your sustaining grace, may their hearts be steadied and stilled, purged of self and filled with your peace and poise. as memorial day nears, we pause to thank you for those who gave their lives that this nation might live. and lord, today we thank you
for the more than four decades of service on capitol hill by ruby paone. we're grateful for the joy she has brought to our lives. as she prepares to leave us, bless her more than she can ask or imagine. we pray in your mighty name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: after two days of needless delay from across the aisle, this morning we'll vote to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the national defense authorization act and hopefully adopt that motion quickly thereafter. this critical defense bill passed the committee on a strong bipartisan basis. there is no reason for further delay from our democratic colleagues. the national defense authorization act authorizes funds and sets our policy for our military annually. it's always an open -- it's always an important bill. it's especially important today.
consider the multitude of threats facing us from nearly every corner of the world. consider the need to start preparing our armed services for the many global threats the next president will be forced to confront. as i have noted before, some of the most senior national security officials within this administration, like secretary of defense carter and general dunford or those recently retired from service like retired general campbell have spoken of the need to better position the next president in theaters from afghanistan to asia to libya. so whomever that president is, regardless of party, we should take action now to help our next commander in chief in this year of transition. that's what this defense legislation before the senate will help us do. number one, it will support our allies and partners authorizing
funds to combat isil, preserve gains in afghanistan, increase readiness at nato and assist friends like ukraine. number two, it will enhance military readiness, providing more of the equipment, training and resources our service members need. number three, it will help keep our country safe, getting us better prepared to confront emerging threats like cyber warfare, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. critically, this bill will also honor our commitment to service members, their families and veterans, authorizing raises, supporting wounded warriors and delivering better health care and benefits for the men and women who stand on guard for us every single day. this bill contains sweeping reforms designed to advance
american innovation and preserve our military's technological edge. the funding level it authorizes is the same as what president obama requested in his budget, and like i said earlier, it passed the armed services committee on a strong bipartisan vote 23-3, including every single democrat on the committee. the armed services chairman, senator mccain, knows what it means to serve. he's always on guard for the men and women of our military. this bill is a reflection of his commitment. it's a commitment to them and it's a commitment to every american to preparing our country in this year of transition for both the threats we face today and the threats yet to emerge. now, on another matter, last week senators came to the floor to highlight the continuing broken promises of obamacare. we did so in the shadow of proposed double-digit obamacare premium increases in states
across our country, everywhere from tennessee to oregon to new hampshire. americans have gotten further bad news since, including obamacare premium spikes that could reach as high as 83% in new mexico. and each day seems to bring more and more troubling news, which could mean heartbreak for even more americans. take, for instance, just some headlines from last night. more arkansan insurers propose double-digit hikes for 2017, and some rates in georgia's insurance exchange could soar in 2017, and by soar, they are talking about as high as 65%. as one paper put it, there is no end in sight for higher obamacare premiums. now, these are not just abstract numbers. they can represent real pain for families already stretched to the limits under the obama
economy. a recent survey showed that health care costs are now the top financial concern facing american families, ahead of concerns about low wages and even job loss. and what does the democrat response too often seem to boil down to? they say just get over it, get over it. just the other day, the democratic leader in the senate said that americans who like us disagree with the pain obamacare is causing need to just get over it and accept the fact that obamacare is here to stay. it's hardly the only calloused comment we've heard from across the aisle on obamacare. i would ask democrat colleagues to listen to the americans who continue to share heart breaking obamacare stories with us like these kentuckians. the elizabethtown man who says he can't afford to see a doctor under his obamacare plan, despite the fact that he pays more for his premium than his house payment, should he just get over it? should the dad from owensboro
who said he has seen his family's health costs increase by nearly 250% under obamacare just get over it? what happened to being rewarded for working hard in america, this dad asks? what happened to the american dream? many americans are wondering the same thing. obamacare continues to right a record of broken promises at the expense of the american people. instead of lowering premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family as then-senator obama talked about on the campaign trail, obamacare has raised many families' rates. instead of making health care costs more affordable for all, obamacare has led to unaffordable out-of-pocket costs for families all across our country. the bottom line is this -- obamacare is tobacco often hurting those it proposed to help. it's a direct attack on the middle class. the republican-led senate sent a
bill to president obama's desk to repeal this partisan law so we can replace it with policies that actually put the american people first. because let's remember, the american people do not need to get over obamacare's failures. our democratic colleagues need to finally join us in working to end those failures. now, one final matter. when ruby paone started here, her first day on the job in 1975, she was fresh out of college. today she has served here longer than any current senator, save one, the senior senator from vermont. ruby paone, our senate doorkeeper, has seen a lot in her 41 years in the senate. she has watched legends in action, like baker and mansfield. she acquired a unique title like card desk assistant and reception room attendant.
we're really going to miss her when she retires later this month. i think ruby's looking forward to kicking back in myrtle beach after more than four decades of senate service. more importantly, i think she is anxious to spend some time with her family away from work. her son tommy works at the senate appointments desk. her daughter stephanie works in the democratic cloakroom. her husband marty used to as well. the two of them even met right here in the senate. so we're glad that ruby will get to spend more quality time -- that is, non-senate time -- with her family, and we're sure she would like to see a little more of her son alexander as well. but as ruby knows, she will be leaving a family behind here, too. she served as a surrogate mom of sorts to many doorkeepers, pages and interns. they have looked up to her for wisdom and for advice, and it's
no wonder. she has got a lifetime of stories and experiences to share in a retirement that's richly deserved. so we'll miss ruby paone and wish her the very best, and above all, we thank her for her many years of service. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. reid: it's real unfortunate that the republican leader comes here often and continues to harp, complain about obamacare. even though it's continuing to work. more than nine out of ten americans now have health care. this is the best it's ever been. never been this way before. they say they want to repeal obamacare. they have tried scores of times. it hasn't worked. so what they are saying, i guess, is that they just want to
get rid of this and have people go back to the way it used to be, the way it used to be. i remember, people out in america remember canceling insurance. when you're sick, if you got a really serious illness, they would cancel it because your bills were too high. if you had a preexisting disability, forget about it. you couldn't get insurance. if you were a college student, you would get cut off quickly. you couldn't stay on your parents' insurance policy. that's not the way it is now. millions of men and women can stay on the insurance of their parents. so we would be much better off with obamacare and with helping the american people if rather
than complain, as they have for six, seven years, they worked with us to try to improve the bill. we know it can be improved, but we can't do it alone. so that's how unfortunate this argument has been. everything obamacare does, we don't have anything better, and we're not going to do anything to help improve it. it's a strange way to conduct business, but that's the way it's been in a filibuster-laden republican party since obama was elected. mr. president, over the next few weeks, the senate will be voting on both the defense authorization and defense appropriation bills. these are two very important pieces of legislation. we need to take the time to understand them and of course to read these bills and to make sure we're doing the right thing. just reading the defense authorization bill is not going to be a -- an hour-long deal. it's not going to be done while
you're watching the ballgame or watching a television program. why? it's a very big piece of legislation. this is it. try reading that. 664 pages. chairman o'keen, he may have understood every line in it. wee have a better chance than most of us because he's the one that conducted the hearings behind closed doors. secret sessions, few outside the committee probably know what's in this monstrous bill, this big, big bill. you want to get an idea how the bill was hastily put together even though the chairman of the committee came here and started complaining about this legislation, consider this.
the bill was put together behind closed doors. at 5:00 p.m. last night, 5:00 p.m. last night, senator mccain's committee voted on the classified annex defense authorization bill. he'd been ranting and raving out here on the floor about democrats holding up this bill. that's what the republican leader did here today. he didn't rant and rave but he did say we're holding it up but the committee hadn't finished its work as of last night. the bill wasn't done. they just finished it again i repeat last night at 5:00 p.m. unfortunately it appears that this massive bill is everything that senator mccain has in the past complained about. in fact, he says he's hated it, what's gone on in the past. this bill is loaded with special projects, loaded with them, sprinkled with special favors and many different flavors. has extraneous provisions and who knows what else.
if this were ever anything that could be identified as an earmark or two or three or four or a few hundred, it's in this bill. and i thought senator mccain didn't like that. i can understand why some would want to rush this bill through the senate without a lot of public scrutiny but we're not going to do that. this legislation is far too important. mr. president, i started reading a book last night called "red platoon." it's a brand new book written by a man who won a medal of honor talking about a remote -- outpost in afghanistan. i know, we know what sacrifices a red platoon made and men and women who have fought in the new wars in iraq and afghanistan, so we know they deserve better than
just rushing through this bill. hard-working taxpayers deserve better. the one thing we can all agree is that americans must have a strong, strong military with the capability to defend america's national security interests around the world and protect us here at home. there's no dispute about that. democrats believe we must take care of our middle class also and we must know the security of all americans depends not only on the pentagon, bombs and bullets, but also on other national security interests, f.b.i., department of homeland security, drug enforcement administration, and the when especial that comes through this legislation -- help that comes through this legislation through local police departments and first responders. that's why we fought so hard as democrats last year to stop the devastating cuts from sequestration which was generated by the republicans which would have been a disaster for the military, our national
security, and millions of americans in the middle class. we need a bipartisan budget agreement. we reached that and i think that's commendable that the republican leader said we're going to stick with that well, we need to stick with it because that bipartisan budget agreement was based on the principle that we need to treat the middle class as fairly as the pentagon, and that agreement was intended to avoid another budget fight this year, but it doesn't appear that's possible. i was pleased my republican friends stuck to this budget agreement in the committee in both authorization and appropriations but we've been told and told publicly they intend to break the bipartisan budget agreement and propose $18 billion increases only for the pentagon. this money is going to come from a strange source. it's going to come from the military itself. i had the good fortune of meeting last thursday with the secretary of defense.
they use these so-called oko moneys, overseas contingency moneys. to take this use from some other source, other purpose is wrong. so my friend talks about how the military supports this legislation president of course they do. but they don't support what chairman mccain is going to try to do. in the process we need only look at what else is going on with the republican senate. they refuse to provide money to fight the zika virus, to stop the terrible situation regarding opioid drugs. the people in flint, michigan, are still waiting for help. they need funding for local law enforcement. that's not been forthcoming, intelligence agencies, our first responders. it's wrong not to take care of these folks. so, mr. president, we reached agreement last year.
now both sides need to keep our promises and agreement for the american people. we simply must treat the middle class fairly and make no mistake as the appropriations process moves forward, we're going to insist on that. so we'll support cloture to proceed to the defense authorization bill today, even though in 2010, my friend the chairman of the committee, voted with other republicans to stop moving forward on the bill, the defense bill. but democrats are going to proceed deliberately. we're going to hold republicans to their word on the budget agreement. we're going to do our jobs as we want them to do theirs. our armed forces and middle class americans deserve nothing less. mr. president, i would ask consent that this next statement appear in the record at a different place. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: mr. president, my friend, the republican leader talked about ruby paone.
i have so much admiration and respect for her that it's hard to put into words. a young woman from north carolina, 1975, came to the united states capitol overwhelmed by everything, overwhelmed especially by this huge building she was going to work in. ruby was excited for her first day at work at the senate reception desk. as she proposed the capitol realizing what her new job was all about, a new city set in, she said and i quote, "walking into this building i was overwhelmed." she remembers. it's understandable. she felt that way. many of us have and do feel the same way. this capitol was a big change for ruby. she was raised in a small town of bladensboro, north carolina. she was a farm girl who spent her centers pulling peanuts.
i didn't know you pulled peanuts but that's what you call it and harvesting tobacco. ruby graduated from a small presbyterian school, st. an crews -- st. andrews university, the only one in her family to leave the small town. as she got situated in a new job that day, another feeling set in. she said, quote, "it just felt right here." now, 41 years, two months, nine days after she walked through the capitol doors to start a new job, she's leaving. it's hard to imagine her not being here. to borrow from her own words, it just feels right. it just does feel right to have ruby here. tomorrow is going to be her last day in the senate after more than four decades of service to the greatest body, she's going to spend more time with her family. her family gain is of course our
loss. she's an institution, a fixture in the senate. she is he's -- she's the longest serving woman who works with the door keepers, second longest serving senate employee in the entire senate. she's been here for seven different presidential administration, ten consecutive inaugurations, 16 different sergeant-at-arms, 283 different senators. she knows all these -- would recognize every one of these senators, and there's a reason that she does that. when she was first hired, we didn't have the names and faces in these little books that we give to the pages, give to new senators. it wasn't done that way then. she had to do it by memorizing their names and learn to recognize them when they came into that capitol rotunda, the capitol -- the floor here, on the senate floor. she would walk around and look for these senators so she could
get to know who they were. she grew close to many of these senators. blanche lincoln, tom carper, thadcochran. i know ruby, i know her family quite well. her husband worked on the senate floor for many years. he was instrumental to majority leader george mitchell, tom daschle, me. no one knows the rules of the senate better than marty paone. he now works for president obama in the legislative affairs office. he is a very special person and i have such admiration for him. when their children were in high school, we would often talk about our children, how they laid ball -- played ball, how they did well, how they didn't do so well the night before. that's what our conversations were about. we didn't talk a lot of senate business unless we had to. i'm sorry to say we had to lots
of times. marty helped me so many times through very difficult situations here on the floor. so to say that i'll miss ruby is an understatement. i would be able to come to ruby and say how's marty, how is he doing? but throughout my time in the senate, she's always been here with a smile and a kind word. she's as much a part of this place anyone who has ever served in the senate. so i along with the entire united states senate, senators, staff wish her the best as she embarks on her well deserved retirement. so, ruby, thank you very much for your 41 years. that's not -- that's too many years -- let's go back and check and see how many years she's
been here. 41 years. so i was right. i was thrown off a little because it says 41 days -- so it's -- my staff made a little mistake here. it's 41 years, 2 months and 9 days so i may have messed up the ending here, ruby, but that doesn't take away from the fact of my admiration and respect for you and all the good you've done for the senate. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of s.j. res. 28 which the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 479, s.j. 28, providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, united states code and so forth. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the time will be equally divided between opponents and proponents until 11:00 a.m. with senators that
sheen controlling ten minutes of the proponent time. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from mississippi. a senator: mr. president, i rise in opposition to s.j. res. 28 and ask to be allowed to speak. the presiding officer: the senator is recognized. mr. wicker: thank you, mr. president. it seems there are only two speakers so perhaps we'll be able to finish this discussion by the top of the hour. last week the senate appropriated a large sum of money to fight the threat of the zika virus. we're going to spend together with what was already available and what was appropriated last year -- last week at least $1 billion fighting this zika threat and probably $2 billion and rightly so. because zika is a potential health threat to americans and we believe it's money well spent to prevent more serious diseases
and more serious aflicks -- afflictions to americans. and yet we have in place today an f.d.a. -- a usda program that is protecting americans against 175,000 cases of cancer according to usda documents. it's protecting americans against 91 million exposures to antimicrobials. this usda catfish inspection program that is under threat this morning is protecting americans from some 23.3 million exposures to heavy metals. and yet this program cost the taxpayers in the department of agriculture only $1.1 million a
year compared to the $1 billion or $2 billion we're going to spend on zika, a relatively small $1.1 million a year is protecting americans against contaminated foreign catfish coming in from overseas. now, we have been inspecting imported fish for quite a while in the united states of america. under the old procedure, the food and drug administration inspected imported catfish. there was a problem, though. under the old procedure, f.d.a. inspected only 2% of all imports, and what we found out was that in the 98% of catfish imports that were coming in, there was a lot of bad stuff coming in to threaten americans and to threaten their good health.
and so in the farm bill of 2008 and reiterated in the farm bill of 2012, the congress passed and the president signed a change which has recently been enacted, and that provides for 100% inspection of foreign catfish instead of the 2% that we've had before. now, what's been the result of that? by comparison, when f.d.a. was inspecting vietnamese and other foreign catfish coming into the united states, during the years 2014 and 2015, f.d.a. picked up on a whopping total of two shipments of foreign catfish containing known carcinogens. over the course of more than two years. well, i'm glad they found them and stopped these cancer-causing agents from coming in, but think
of what we could have discovered that was later eventually consumed by americans if we had inspected not just 2% but the whole 100%. by contrast, the usda inspection procedures began in april, and in that short time, usda has intercepted two shipments of foreign catfish containing known carcinogens. in less than two weeks. and so if you do the math, usda is intercepting harmful catfish, and there is no question that the carcinogens are harmful. no question we can't legally bring this contaminated catfish in, but they intercepted harmful catfish at a rate 21 times greater than under the old procedure under f.d.a., and so
it -- it is mystifying today that we will soon vote on a resolution that we go back to the old way. we caught two deadly shipments in the last two weeks, and we are having before us today a resolution that would put us back to a procedure that got us to -- that found us two violations in the course of two years. now, mr. president, i have in my hand and i ask to be included in the record at this point a letter dated may 24, 2016, from the safe food coalition. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. wicker: led me read just a few paragraphs -- a few sentences from the second paragraph of this safe food coalition. this is a letter by coalition including the center for foodborne illness research and prevention, the consumer federation of america, the consumers union, food and water
watch, nationals consumers league and stop foodborne illness. those groups have formed this coalition, and they said this. starkly different catfish farming practices in foreign countries often accompanied by inadequate environmental and food safety standards raise significant public health concerns. the f.d.a. regulation of catfish did not sufficiently address those concerns. i'll say they didn't, mr. president. 2% of all imports were inspected. the others came in without a single look from the government. the letter goes on to say as the u.s. government accountability office found in 2011, f.d.a.'s inspection of imported seafood products was -- quote -- ineffectively implemented, unquote. and subjected to just 0.1% of all imported seafood products to testing for drug residues.
yet chemical residue violations in imported catfish are ram pant. according to testing performed by f.d.a. and the agriculture marketing service, fully 9% of imported catfish products tested positive for the bad antimicrobe ial chemical malachite green. 9% tested positive for this carcinogen. and 2% tested positive for the banned chemical gientin violet. i appreciate this going in for the record. i would simply say these people don't have an ax to grind. they don't stand to make a lot of money selling cheap catfish to the american consumer. they are looking out for food safety and they say there is a starkly different farming practice here than they have in foreign countries, and it strikes me as stunning,
mr. president, that with the starkly different practices, the unsafe practices in vietnam and places like that in asia and the safe practices here, that we would be about to vote in a few moments on a procedure that is very tough on catfish produced by american workers. this resolution passes today, 100% of catfish produced by american workers earning a living doing this for their families will be subject to inspection, and only 2% will be subjected -- only 2% of the starkly different catfish procedures bringing in carcinogens will be subjected to testing by the government. it's completely backwards. i hope my colleagues will vote
no on final passage of this s.j. res. 28. let's treat american workers at least the same as we treat important workers. let's treat products grown and produced in america the same as products grown and produced in foreign countries, and let's do it in the name of food safety. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mrs. shaheen: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. mrs. shaheen: mr. president, i rise to support this congressional review act resolution to block the usda catfish inspection program.
despite what my colleague from mississippi has said, there is no evidence that the catfish program provides any additional food safety benefit. it was designed to create a trade barrier. now, i appreciate my opponent from mississippi's opposition. he's working for his catfish farmers in mississippi. i like mississippi catfish, but i like all kinds of catfish. and in fact the usda, the f.d.a., the c.d.c. and the g.a.o. have all confirmed that catfish, both domestic and imported, is already safe under f.d.a.'s jurisdiction, and in fact you're more likely to get hit by lightning than to get sick from imported or domestic catfish. so let's not lose sight of what we're talking about here. f.d.a. inspects hundreds of
species of domestic and imported seafood. there is nothing particularly dangerous about catfish that merits setting up a whole separate inspection program under the u.s. department of agriculture. the fact is the f.d.a. is responsible for the safety of most, about 80% to 90% of all u.s. domestic and imported foods, and it has years of successful expertise in the unique area of seafood safety. so the f.d.a. system has worked for both domestic and imported seafood, and it has done so for years. so let's talk about how we got to this point. before 2008, the f.d.a. was responsible for inspecting all foreign and domestic fish products. while the usda, the department
of agriculture, the food and drug administration responsible for inspecting all foreign and domestic fish products, the department of agriculture inspected livestock such as beef, pork and poultry. however, a provision was added to the 2008 farm bill that transferred the inspection of catfish. not all seafood, not all imported seafood, just catfish to the united states department of agriculture, requiring that agency to set up a new separate program to inspect just catfish alone. again, inspection of all other noncatfish seafood remained at the food and drug administration and still does today. so this means that seafood businesses across this country that handle catfish are now subject to two different sets of regulations from two completely
separate federal agencies. now, i've heard from businesses in new hampshire and across the country who are being hit by these burdensome new regulations. they are affecting these businesses' abilities to grow and create jobs, and there is no scientific or food safety benefit gained from this new program. there is no evidence that transferring catfish inspection to usda will improve consumer safety. you know, i appreciate that there have been some -- a couple of examples in the last few weeks of imported catfish. i think we ought to address that and do it very quickly, just in the same way that we address domestic problems with our food system and do it very quickly. now, officials from the f.d.a. and usda have explicitly stated
that catfish is a low-risk food. usda acknowledges in its own risk assessment that no one has gotten sick from eating domestic or imported catfish for more than 20 years. the usda catfish inspection program is a classic example of wasteful and duplicative government regulation that is hurting our economy, and it's expensive. f.d.a. has been inspecting catfish up until now for less than a million dollars a year. usda by comparison has spent more than $20 million to set up the program without inspecting a single catfish during that time. and going forward, estimates are that the program could cost as much as $15 million to operate per year. the general accounting office, the g.a.o., has recommended eliminating this program ten
separate times. so if there is no food safety benefit here, it's costing us millions and it's actively hurting jobs across the country, why was this program created in the first place? well, this program, as i said earlier, is a thinly disguised illegal trade barrier against foreign catfish, and this kind of a barrier leaves us vulnerable on other american products, beef, soy, poultry, grain, to a wide variety of objections from any w.t.o. nation. since there is no scientific basis for what we're doing, any w.t.o. nation that currently exports catfish to the u.s. could challenge it and secure w.t.o. sanction trade retaliation against a wide range of u.s. exports. as i said, things like beef, soy, poultry, grain, fruit,
cotton, to name a few. and again, it's important to go back and note how this policy change was created. it was not included in either version of the 2008 farm bill that passed the house or the senate. it was never voted on or debated in either chamber before it was enacted. it was secretly included in the final version of the farm bill by the conference committee in 2008. and the only other time the senate has voted on this issue in 2012, we voted to repeal it in a strong bipartisan voice vote. so the resolution that we're talking about today has strong bipartisan support. 16 democrats and 17 republicans signed a discharge petition in order to initiate floor action, and most important, this resolution actually has the chance to become enacted law.
this is not a program that this administration ever wanted to have to implement. in fact, it delayed implementing a final program for eight years, i think in hopes that we in congress would finally be able to get a vote that repealed the program. unfortunately, this is an expensive and harmful special interest program, something some might call an earmark. and it's already having severe impacts on some businesses. so i'm hopeful that my colleagues will join me in supporting this important resolution to block the usda catfish inspection program once and for all. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. a senator: i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. shaheen: i should have said when i asked to go back into the quorum call that the time be charged equally against both sides so can i ask unanimous consent to do that? the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. shaheen: thank you. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that further proceedings under the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: mr. president, this morning we'll be voting on a joint resolution of disapproval for the rule that establishes u.s. department of agriculture's catfish inspection program. as i mentioned yesterday, i would remind my colleagues that the general accounting office, a watchdog organization that we rely on for their views, particularly on fiscal issues and matters that i have -- i think of all the institutions of
government right now probably the g.a.o. is arguably the most respected. g.a.o. i has more than ten different reports between 2009 and 2016 that the responsibility, and i quote, "responsibility of inspecting catfish should not be a sign to the usda. calling the program is wasteful of tax dollars and duplicative of f.d.a.'s existing inspections on all other seafood products." that's an interesting item here, i say to my colleagues. the f.d.a. performs inspection on every seafood product that comes into the united states of america. and guess what? guess what? that's only one and that's catfish. let's be very blunt with the reality. the reality is this is to stop
the competition from foreign sources, specifically one of which is the country of vietnam from coming into this country. it isn't much more complicated than that when you see that there is only one. by the way, that only one, according to the g.a.o., cost the taxpayers $30 million -- $19.9 million to develop and study the inspection program, and then the g.a.o. says it will cost the federal government an additional $14 million annually to run the program. thus, after the g.a.o. found the food and drug administration currently spends less than $700,000 annually to inspect catfish. so according to my calculations, over $13 million a year will be saved by doing away with this duplicative inspection program.
i noticed in the vote yesterday that a majority of my colleagues on this side of the aisle who call themselves fiscal conservatives, including the chair, have said, well, we want to -- we want to keep this duplicative program. that's fine with me, if that's your view. but then don't come to the floor and call yourself a fiscal conservative if you're willing to spend $14 million a year that is not needed and not wanted and is clearly duplicative and especially is earmarked for a special interest, i.e., the catfish industry in southern states. so vote however you want, but don't come back to the floor when you see a duplicative or wasteful program and say that you're all for saving the taxpayers dollars because you're just voting to spend $14 million of the taxpayers' dollars on a duplicative and unnecessary
program. so then don't wonder why the american people, about 13% or 12% of them approve of what we do. because of programs like this where parochial interests override what is clearly the national interests and the taxpayers' interest. and that's why the taxpayers alliance, the -- that's why the center for individual freedom, the national taxpayers union, the heritage foundation, on and on are all totally in favor of this amendment. the taxpayers protection alliance, the campaign for liberty, the independent women's forum, the national ta taxpayers union, the taxpayers for common sense. every watchdog organization in this town and in this country
favors this amendment. so i'd also like to point out that one of the arguments that my dear friend from mississippi will raise again is that somehow that unless we have this special office, this specific offices for inspecting catfish, then there will be a problem with the safety of the catfish that are imported into this country. in classic farm bill politics, proponented worked up specious talking points about how americans need a whole new government agency to inspect catfish imports. as a result, usda has begun operating a program that will require foreign importers to adjust the catfish program over a period of five and seven years while either the usda duplicates
the f.d.a.'s inspection program. so all i can say is that the f.d.a. has been doing this job for years and has intercepted compounds in foreign imported catfish, and i would point out that the usda has encountered catfish -- problems in domestic catfish as well. the presiding officer: time for the proponents has expired. a senator: mr. president? do i understand the time for the opponents of this resolution, that we have four minutes remaining? the presiding officer: the senator is correct. mr. wicker: i would yield one minute of that time to my friend from new hampshire who has sought recognition and then reserve three minutes for myself to close. so i'll be happy to yield to the gentlelady one minute at this time.
yot mr. president? -- ms. ayotte: mr. president, you have ten g.a.o. reports that have found this to be duplicative and wasteful. for some reason we need just a special office just for catfish but no other fish species. the usda normally inspects meat and poultry, not fish. and so to waste taxpayer dollars in this way just lacks common sense. and i would say to my friend from mississippi, i know that he's made an argument on the budget committee, but the budget committee's opinion basically says there's no direct spending. we all know that a lot of the domestic spending is discretionary spending. discretionary spending will continue on this program. g.a.o. itself has found that this could cost an additional $14 million a year to run this additional -- this duplicative program. and by the way, the one and a half million that has been cited has not been confirmed by g.a.o. we followed up on it. so to my colleagues, let's not
be bottom dwellers. let's get rid of duplicative and wasteful spending. when you have 20 g.a.o. errors stacked up, if we can get rid of this program and inspect catfish like any other fish which by the way, senator mccain, has intercepted both of these types of toxins that my colleague from mississippi has cited and has found toxins in f.d.a. particular. we don't need a special office for catfish. the presiding officer: the senator's time has expired. mr. wicker: mr. president, i oppose the resolution. my friend from new hampshire said let's inspect catfish like all other catfish. i would tell her and i would tell my colleagues, american-produced catfish is inspected by usda at a rate of 100%. if the resolution passes, that will not go for foreign catfish. how does that make sense? how is that fair to americans? how is that fair to american consumers when we have
information that indicates clearly that there are different less safe procedures overseas that we have in the united states. so, yes, let's treat all catfish the same. we inspect american catfish. let's inspect foreign catfish. now, you can say this new program is expensive, and i guess if you say it enough, it becomes true. the fact is that the agency that's going to enforce this program, usda says it's going to cost $1.1 bl million a -- $1.1 million a year. is seems like a reasonable cost to prevent cancer causing agents to come in from overseas in goods that will be eaten by americans. you can say that it's duplicative, and i guess if you say it enough, you think it becomes true. the fact of the matter is f.d.a. is out of the inspection
business, according to law. and usda is in the business and they can do it for a million dollars a year. that is not, mr. president, a duplication. so saying it's expensive doesn't make it true.t saying it's duplicative doesn't make it true. the facts are exactly otherwise. this is about food safety. this is about preventing cancer-causing agents from coming in and being consumed by our americans. now is the time. this is the vote. vote no to protect american consumers from cancer-causing agents. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: all time is expired.
the nays are 43. the joint resolution is passed. the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: cloture motion, we the undersigned senators in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the motion to proceed to calendar number 469, s. 2943, a bill to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2017, for military activities of the department of defense and so forth and for other purposes signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: the unanimous consent -- by unanimous consent the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question is, is it the sense of the senate that debate on the motion to proceed to s. 2943, an
original bill to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2017, for military activities of the department of defense, for military construction and for defense activities of the department of energy to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year and for other purposes shall be brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
the presiding officer: any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? if not, on this vote the yeas are 98. the nays are zero. three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn having voted in the affirmative, the motion is agreed to. the clerk will report the motion to proceed. the clerk: motion to proceed to calendar number 469, s. 2943, a bill to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2017 for military activities of the department of defense and so forth and for other purposes. mr. cotton: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. cotton: it is an honor to
serve in the senate and an honor to serve the people of arkansas. i would never complain the tasks i've been given. there is one small burden. as a junior senator i preside over the senator which means i'm forced to listen to the bitter, vulgar, incoherent ramblings of the minority leader. normally like other americans i ignore them. i can't ignore them today, though. the minority leader came to the floor grinding the senate to a halt all week long saying we haven't had time to read this defense bill, that it was written in the dead of night. we just had a vote that passed 98-0. it could have passed unanimously two days ago. let's examine these claims that we haven't had time to read it. 98-0 and in committee all the democrats on the armed services committee voted in favor of it. when was the last time the minority leader read a bill? it was probably an electricity
bill. what about the claims it was written in the dark of night? it's been public for weeks. and this coming from a man who drafted obamacare in his office and rammed it through this senate at midnight on christmas eve on a straight party-line vote. to say that the senator from arizona wrote this in the dead of line, slipped in all kinds of provisions, that people don't have time to read it, that is an outrageous slander. and to say that he cares for the troops, how about this troop and his son and his father and his grandfather, four generations of service, to include almost six years of rotting in a prison of war camp, say that he's delaying this because he cares for the troops, a man who never served himself. a man who in april of 2007 came to this very floor before the surge reached its peak and said the war was lost when 100 americans were being killed in iraq every month when i was carrying their dead bodies off an airplane at dover air force base. it is an outrage to say we have
to delay this because he cares for the troops. we're delaying it for one reason only, to protect his own sad, sorry, legacy. he now complains in the mornings that the senate is not in session enough, that our calendar is too short. well, whatever you think about that, the happy by-product of fewer days in session in the senate is that this institution will be cursed less with his cancerous leadership. i yield the floor.
mr. mccain: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: the senate is not in a quorum call. mr. mccain: mr. president, i think that -- the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: mr. president, i believe that the other side of the aisle has been informed that at noon i would ask that we move forward with the bill, but first i ask unanimous consent lieutenant commander navy gabriel, a fellow in my office be given floor privileges during the national defense act during fiscal year 2017. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: mr. president, it's my understanding now that most likely the democrat leader will object to moving forward with the defense authorization
bill. that is deeply regrettable. that is in fact con founding to me that even though there may be differences on the other side of the aisle that we would not move forward given the situation in the world today and the men and women who are serving in our military. i don't have to -- i would remind my colleagues that this legislation was passed through the committee with a unanimous vote from the democrats and under the leadership of my friend from rhode island, senator reed, who has also served this nation honorably in uniform, albeit poorly educated. but the fact is -- the fact is
that we have a tradition that the senator from rhode island and i have been scrupulously observing, and that is to work in a bipartisan fashion for the good of the country. mr. president, i would just mention a couple of things. one is the senator, the democratic leader yesterday, or the day before said that they hadn't had time to read the bill. the bill has been online since last wednesday. last wednesday, a week ago, and obviously that seems to be sufficient time for most to be able to examine the bill. we've been on the floor explaining it. there have been press releases. there's been all kinds of examination of the legislation. as has been pointed out, we've had legislation when the
democratic leader was in the majority that we never saw until the time that he demanded a vote, particularly when they had 60 votes in order to override any objections that we might have, including, by the way, the passage of the now disastrous a.d.a., or known to some of us as obamacare, which now we are seeing catastrophic consequences, including our citizens seeing dramatic increases in their premiums that the point where it's simply unaffordable, and there's more to come. but the fact is after 13 hearings with 52 witnesses, a unanimous vote on the other side , three in opposition on my side, that we came up with a defense authorization bill. the defense authorization bill has reached the president's desk
and been signed by the president for 53 years, and there's another greater example, in my view, over that 53-year period over the ability of both sides to work together for the good of the country. so here we have just recently what appears to be, most evidence indicates a terrorist act blowing up of an airliner. we have almost unprecedented suicide attacks in the city of baghdad that has killed over 1,000 people in the last year. we have isis metastasizing throughout the region, including libya and now rearing its ugly head in afghanistan. we have a situation of the abuse of human rights which is almost unprecedented. we have a refugee flow into
europe which obviously it is well known that mr. baghdadi has instructed some of these young men and possibly young women to be prepared to commit acts of terror in european and american countries. already some of those plots have been foiled. the director of national intelligence has testified before our committee that the world is more crises than at any time since world war ii. that america is in danger of terrorist attacks. who do we rely on? we rely on the men and women who are serving in the military. that's why we passed on a vote of 24-3 through the senate armed services committee the work on both sides in a cooperative and bipartisan fashion, the defense authorization b