U.S. Senate Confirms HUD and Energy Secretary Nominees CSPAN March 2, 2017 5:29pm-6:01pm EST
mr. sullivan: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. mr. sullivan: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sullivan: mr. president, i've been coming down to the floor over the past several weeks now to highlight my state
and the great people who live in it. as you and everybody in this room and those watching on tv probably know, alaska is a breathtaking place. in fact, there's no place like it in the world. mountain ranges that seem to go on for eternity, salmon-filled waters and rivers, streams, massive glaciers. people save up their whole lives to come to visit my state, and we welcome them. we want this all to come. in ale conditions are often extreme, we depend on each other. communities do. sometimes even for survival.
mr. president, today i would like to recognize joyce mccombs, the director of the community library in delta junction, alaska. as the alaskan of the week. on march 9, joyce will be celebrating 30 years as the library director, 30. she was also recently named by the alaska library association, the audrey p. cole public service award winner and public library round table certificate of appreciation for, quote, her significant and innovative activities to improve her library. now that award is named after audrey kobe who is a legend in the library world in alaska and joyce has that award as well as our award.
delta junction, where she lives, is a beautiful community about 1,000 residents, surrounded by three sec tack already a mountain ranges. the community is i close to fairbanks in alaska's interior and gets closely in the winter. as a matter of fact, this morning, in delta junction, it was 26 below zero. it is home to fort greely, was the cornerstone of our nation's entire missile defense protected by 300 brave soldiers, part of the alaska national guard there. for many in delta junction, the library recognized by the library journal as one of the best in the state, is the place where people converge and find warmth and community. it is open six days a week and it only closes when it gets below 40 below zero. tough people. tough people in gale delta
junction. joyce sponsored so many in delta junction, including fort greely, has made sure that this library stays one of the best in the state and in the country. in her words, delta's library is, quote, the community living room. in a small town like delta junction, such spaces are rare and, indeed, precious. joyce brings all sorts of services and learning to the library, including bands, authors, cooking classes, what the community wants and needs, she said. sometimes those needs entail sitting someplace warm and reading a book. sometimes it means skypeing a spouse who might be serving overseas in afghanistan or iraq or applying for a job or getting the right form to file your tax returns with.
joyce said, quote, we're open six days a week, serving everybody from nursery schools to nursing homes. one delaware at that reserve can't -- one delta resident told joyce on facebook, quote, your assistance to the literary education of now two generations of children in alaska has been an invaluable contribution to our community that will be paying dividends for years to come. this statewide honor is only a larger recognition of what we already know here in delta, that you, joyce, are a great librarian. unquote. after 30 years as the director of the library, joyce still loves her job, saying she learns something every day from her patrons. thankfully for all of us, she has no plans to leave. congratulations on your award, joyce.
happy birthday to your grandson trek, and thank you and to the many librarians across our state and across our nation for your efforts to provide a warm learning space for all alaskans. mr. president, i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that further proceedings under the quorum call being dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that the senate mca period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that the appointments at the desk appear separately in the record as if made by the chair. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the consideration of s. res. 79 submitted earlier today. the presiding officer: the clerk will report.
the clerk: senate resolution 79, designating march 2, 2017, as read across america day. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table, with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of s. res. 80, submitted earlier today. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: senate resolution 80, designating march 3, 2017, as world wildlife day. the presiding officer: is there, to proceeding? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i further ask the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table, with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: now, mr. president, i ask unanimous
consent that when the senate completes its business today, it adjourn until 2:00 p.m. monday, march 6. following the prayer and pledge, the morning hour be deemed expired, the journal of proceedings be approved to date, the time for the two leaders be reserved for their use later in the day. and morning business be closed. further, that following leader remarks, the senate resume consideration of h.j. res. 37. further, that the time until 6:00 p.m. be equally divided in the usual form. finally, that all debate time on h.j. res. 37 expire at 6:00 p.m. monday. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: if there is no further business to come before the senate, i ask it stand adjourned under the previous order following the remarks of senator klobuchar. the presiding officer: without objection.
ms. klobuchar: mr. president? mr. president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are not. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i rise today to express my deep concern about this administration's ties to the country of russia. we are just three months into the 115th congress, and i have come to the senate floor multiple times to discuss inappropriate contact between trump administration officials and the russian government. this is truly unprecedented. our constitution was set up to
guarantee that our democracy would be free of influence from foreign powers. vermont's u.s. intelligence -- for months, u.s. intelligence agencies have said that russia used covert attacks, espionage, and propaganda to try to undermine our democracy. reports show it, and the facts prove it. and as i learned from my trip at the end of the year with senator mccain and senator graham to the baltics in georgia and ukraine, this is not unique to our country and our elections and our democracy. this is something that has gone on for years, where russia shut down the internet in the little country of estonia simply because they had the audacity to move a bronze statue to a public square, or in lithuania where they invited members of the ukrainian parliament that were in exile from crimea in kiev and invited them to lithuania to
celebrate their 25th anniversary of independence from russia and then they attempt to hack into the computers of the members of the parliament in lithuania. this is not just, as senator marco rubio noted, this the not just about one party or one candidate. well, it's not even about one country. this is an assault on democracies across the world. last month we learned that the very day president obama imposed sanctions on russia for its unprecedented attacks on our democracy, general flynn, a member of the trump transition team, spoke to a senior russian official regarding those sanctions. the national security advisory, the person charged with the most sensitive matters of u.s. national security, misled the vice president of the united states and in turn the american people. he resigned, as did the former chairman of the trump campaign. he resigned.
and now we have learned that attorney general sessions met with the russian ambassador. fine. members meet with ambassadors. we know that that happens. but in fact, he met with the russian ambassador only three days after our then-president, president obama, was at the g-20 summit. he was at the g-20 summit, and he met with vladimir putin himself, and he told him to stop the cyber attacks. but he also told him that america was not going to back down from the sanctions. in fact, president obama told the whole world that day in a press conference that we were not going to roll over and back down on the sanctions against russia imposed because of their illegal invasion of ukraine. what happened three days later? then-senator sessions, now our attorney general, in fact met
with the russian ambassador. senator sessions was then asked about contacts with the russians from trump officials during his hearing, and i was there. i serve on the judiciary committee. and as senator franken himself, who posed some of those questions, in addition to senator leahy, has noted at best the answer was misleading. and that is why i feel so strongly that a press conference today is not enough, that senator sessions must come before under oath the judiciary committee and answer the questions that we now have. what are those questions? what was actually said at the meeting? were sanctions discussed? remember, three days -- this meeting occurs three days after president obama has said he won't roll back the sanctions. were the sanctions discussed? why did the russian ambassador, by the way, not meet with many other members that day? we may not have a full accounting, but it appears that
many of the armed service committee members did not meet with the russian ambassador that day. number two, what were the discussions with the trump administration then campaign officials back in september before that meeting occurred between senator sessions and the russian ambassador? what were the discussions leading into it? what were the discussions after the meeting? those are things that we truly need to know. for weeks senator sessions could have corrected the record. for weeks during the time in which this russian issue and the contacts with the trump administration were discussed thoroughly. for weeks i have been calling on senator sessions, now attorney general sessions, to recuse himself from any investigations into russia. there are clear department of justice guidelines about
conflicts of interest. and as i have said for weeks, when you read those rules, there is a clear conflict of interest. today attorney general sessions agreed to a partial recusal. he recused himself on the part of the investigation that relates to the presidential campaign. well, guess what? the american people deserve a full recusal. think about it. the meeting between general flynn and the russian ambassador took place after the campaign ended. the meeting that we've just learned about today between the president's son-in-law and russian officials happened after the campaign ended. we need a full recusal and an independent counsel to manage the investigation of contacts between the russian government, the trump campaign and the trump administration. i believe, as i've noted
earlier, that attorney general sessions must come before the senate judiciary committee under oath and answer these questions. were sanctions discussed? what were discussions leading into that meeting with the russian ambassador? what were his discussions afterwards? and i'm sure my other colleagues on the judiciary committee have many, many questions. i know when i asked about russia at senator sessions' nomination hearing, i asked him very specifically if he had any reason to doubt the evidence put forward by our 17 intelligence agencies that there had in fact been an attempt by a foreign government, the country of russia, to influence our election. he said he had no reason to doubt those findings. he had no reason to doubt those findings. so he clearly understood when you read that report how important this is. both the $200 million funded
propaganda by russian tv as well as the hacking as well as the attempts to influence the election. so we have these facts. we know that that meeting took place just three days after the president, our then-president, president obama, met with vladimir putin at the g-20 summit. we know that is a time when putin was told by the president of the united states to stop undermining the u.s. election system with cyber attacks. remember, this is back in september before the election even occurs. we saw paul man forifort resign. we saw general flynn step down over his contacts with the russian ambassador. then we have that meeting. to me, it seems like a pattern. i want to not only see the facts through the investigations that are ongoing, but also hear from the attorney general himself. that is why i'm calling for the department of justice inspector general to investigate the
actions of the attorney general and whether the ongoing investigation into the trump campaign and administration contract with the government, the russian government, has been compromised in any way. we know that russia attempted to interfere with our election. russia tried to undermine our democracy. this is not fake news. this is as real as it gets. aides and surrogates of this administration during the campaign and the transition were in contact with officials from a foreign government that was actively working to bring our democracy down. they were actively working to influence our election. and as senator rubio has noted, one time it was one candidate and one political party. the next time it will be another candidate and the other political party unless we all come together in a bipartisan fashion to get to the bottom of
the facts. so, how do we do that beyond the recusal and the independent counsel and having senator sessions come back before the judiciary committee to thoroughly answer my questions and the questions of my colleagues? well, the other way we do it is by having an independent commission, and that is why i introduced, along with senators cardin, leahy, feinstein and carper, the bill that was announced by senator cardin and myself with adam schiff and elijah cummings, the bill that would create an independent, nonpartisan commission to uncover all the facts and make sure future elections and political campaigns are safeguarded from foreign interference. now remember, this commission can go alongside the intelligence committee investigations. not to replace it, but to be in addition to it, because this committee and experts appointed by this congress from both sides
of the aisle, just like the 9/11 commission so successfully did, could actually not just uncover some facts publicly that aren't known publicly, but most importantly they can make recommendations to make sure that this doesn't happen again. and, by the way, there are upcoming elections in germany and in france, and getting the information out there not just helps our democracy, it also helps democracies in other parts of the world. we also need -- and i touched on this earlier -- we need an independent counsel special prosecutor to look into all the contacts between the trump administration and the campaign and have a full recusal. but what else can congress do besides the independent commission? well, we have to make sure that the intelligence committee proceeds with its investigation. i am pleased that senator burr and senator warner have come together and announced that they're going to do a full and thorough investigation and that they will also be looking into
the contacts with the campaign. incredibly important. now we have the issue of the sanctions. as i mentioned, the day that the obama administration was imposing additional sanctions on russia and the trump campaign through general flynn was actually meeting during this transition day with the ambassador to russia to perhaps undermine those sanctions, i was with senator mccain and graham in eastern europe. as i noted when we were in the baltics, we heard and met with leaders, prime minister, presidents of these countries in lithuania, estonia and latvia who have seen this movie before. we went to ukraine, we went to georgia. we heard from ukraine, 6,500 attempts to hack into their country's systems, computer systems alone. shutting down access in estonia. trolls in a building in moscow,
nearly 1,000 people that are right now working and have been working to undermine democracies all around the world. so this isn't just about defending our own democracy. it's about defending the world's democracies. it's about saying to our country that thinks they can get us to roll over and say, hey, you can influence our election; no, that's not right. that's why we worked for expanded sanctions. that's why we have introduced on a bipartisan basis with senator mccain and senator graham -- and i was one of the original sponsors with senator cardin and others -- the countering russian hostilities act. it's legislation that would impose stronger sanctions against russia. the sanctions would address russia's cyber attacks, its human rights violation and its illegal annexation of land in ukraine and georgia. just this weekend on sunday afternoon, i met with my ukrainian community, hundreds of people showed up on a sunday afternoon in minnesota because
they are so concerned about their friends and relatives, and they so believe in our democracy. right down the road from the ukrainian center where we held our meeting and where i listened and answered questions from my constituents is a deli owned by a ukrainian immigrant family. and the parents came over to our country and fled oppression, and they came over to our country, and they bought this deli, and they put this beautiful mural. it goes across an entire wall. it's a beautiful photo, picture of our statue of liberty, that beacon of democracy. and because of that, the kemerchecks, they believe in our country, they believe in america, they believe in a country that's going to stand up for the freedom of the press, that's going to stand up for freedom of religion, that's going to stand up for them and their rights as immigrants to be
citizens in this country. they believe in it because they've seen the worst of it. they've seen dick tairptships -- dick -- oppression. they expect our country as they serve ukrainian food to people from all over minnesota in front of that big mural of the statue of liberty, they believe that our country is going to stand up for democracies. and that was the message that senator mccain and senator graham and i brought to the people of ukraine. we not only, of course, met with the president and their official leaders, but we also went right to the front line. on new year's eve, we were in eastern ukraine on the sea, cold, snow coming down, hundreds and hundreds of ukrainian troops, hearing the stories of a mother so young who had just lost her son a week before to russian separatists snipers.
heard the stories, 10,000 people killed just since this conflict began, standing up for democracy, just like we have stood up for our democracy. so when all of these discussions go on about recusals and about who should resign and what should happen, let's remember what this is all about. this is about saving our democracy and making our democracy strong so we can continue to be the beacon that those ukrainians put on their wall in their deli because they believe in this country so much that this isn't about partisan divides. this is simply about being a democracy. getting to the bottom, when something goes wrongened a a foreign country is trying to influence things, you have to be able to say i want to know what po happened here. if i'm a democrat or republican, i want to know what happened so it doesn't happen again. i want to be able to protect our citizens and our election system
and our democracy. that's what this is about. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. and i note the absence of a -- and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate stands adjourned until 2:00 p.m. on monday floor. ms. murkowski: thank you, mr. president. mr. president -- the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. ms. murkowski: thank you. the matter pending before the senate this morning is the nomination of rick perry to be secretary of energy, and i have come to the floor this morning come to the floor this morning