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tv   U.S. Senate Meets for Legislative Business  CSPAN  March 8, 2017 3:29pm-5:30pm EST

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instead of letting states determine how best to proceed. this resolution skutles new and -- skutles new and burdensome requirements which reported new reporting requirements on states in district that's would drive up compliance costs. let me conclude, mr. president, by dealing with some of the arguments and misinformation i've been hearing about the resolution. number one, i want to -- number one, i want to make clear that this resolution, overturning the regulation strengthens accountability in our public schools the way congress determined to do it in the law fixing no child left behind. we transferred most of that responsibility for accountability from washington, d.c. to states and local school boards. we did not want a national school board. the law also includes federal
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guard rails to ensure quality public education for all students including requiring states to identify and provide report to low-performing schools, at least the lowest performing bottom 5% of state schools, requiring academic an english proficiency indicators to be included in the accountability system. this will shape how states design the accountability system because the state plan would not follow the law if the state fails to include accountability provisions in their plan. so repeal of this does not let states, the ones that are supposed to be addressing accountability cialtion off the hook by any -- accountability, off the hook by any means. it simply ensures that individual states and their governors, legislators, local school boards, superintendent, principals, p.t.a.'s, parents, classroom teachers are responsible for these decisions.
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this resolution overturning the regulation will make sure -- will allow states to implement the new law on the existing timetable to submit their plans and have the department review and approve state plans. u.s. education secretary devos has said she favors the current timetable, the one established by former secretary king. they said this at her confirmation hearing before our committee. she confirmed that again after taking office. i'd like to insert in the record at this point, and i ask consent to do that, her letter from february 10 to the chief state school officers outlining the timetable. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. alexander: so there's no confusion, let me clearly state what that timetable is. states should continue, number one, to submit state
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accountability plans by the april or september 2017 deadline. number two, implement a state accountability system in the 2017-2018 school year. number three, identify the lowest performing schools and needs of comprehensive support and improvement by the beginning of the 2018 or 2019 school year. to right these -- write these plans, states simply need to consult the law. the every student succeeds act requires states to submit a plan to peer review and approval by secretary devos and the education department. the department is committed to working with states, providing technical assistance, issuing nonregulatory guidance and other support materials. if questions arise, there are a variety of ways to answer the questions. the department will continue to provide states with clarification on how to comply with the law through the use of, for example, nonregulatory guidance, through dear colleague
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letters, through frequently asked questions documents, web fares -- webinarss, phone calls, conferences. in other words, are there any questions about how to comply with the timetable under the new law. there are plenty of ways for chief state school officers and others to ask the u.s. department of education to provide the answer. it's important to emphasize, i suppose, that this regulation does not in any way give the education secretary a path to creating a new federal voucher program. some of my friends on the other side of the debate have been resorting to scare tactics and alleging secretary devos will use the opportunity to regulate into existence a mandate that state and local school districts adopt a school voucher program. the secretary of education doesn't have that power, and this secretary of education has said she doesn't want it. secretary devos has repeatedly
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affirmed her opposition to federally mandated school choice saying that she does not and will not advocate for any federal mandates requiring vowers. states should determine the mechanism of choice if any, unquote. a school choice program cannot unilaterally be created by the united states department of education. only congress could create a voucher program. i tried to do that on the floor of this senate during the debate about fixing no child left behind. i offered an amendment called scholarship for kids. it would have allowed states to use existing federal dollars to follow the children of low-income families to schools of their parents' choice. senator scott of south carolina offered a similar amendment. but only 45 senators voted for our proposals.
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if you pay attention around here, you know that for most important things, it usually takes 60 votes to gain approval. also, the 2015 law that we passed actually includes provisions that would prohibit the secretary from mandating, directing, or controlling a state district or school district's schools allocation of state or local resources and bars the department of education from requiring states and districts to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under the law. for example, vouchers. now, i agree that previous secretaries of education have imposed their own personal policy preferences on states and school districts. i opposed such mandates, even if i agreed with them, and worked against them. congress writes the law, not the secretary, not the bureaucracy. but instead of using this scare tactic to rile up teachers and
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parents around the country misleading them and confusing them about what the secretary of education might do, i'd take that argument and turn it around. if congress takes a stand here and now and says that this regulation exceeds the authority granted by congress, the authority delegated to the secretary of education, because the secretary imposed conditions on states not allowed by law, then that means any current or future secretary of education would be similarly prevented from imposing their own conditions on states. so there could be no legal method of forcing states to adopt a voucher program unless congress passes a new law. there could be no legal method of reinterpreting the every student succeed act to impose the next good education idea. however well intended unless congress acted first. then the suggestion has been made that these regulations --
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that this new law requires regulations. this regulation and other regulations are not required by the law fixing no child left behind. the law does not specifically call for accountability regulation. the law allows for accountability regulations but, quote, only to the extent that such regulations are necessary to ensure that there is compliance, unquote. so there is no requirement for this regulation. it is allowed but it is not required. congress wrote prohibitions on the secretary so that states wouldn't be faced with a bunch of new mandates that add new requirements that are inconsistent with or outside the scope or add new criteria that are inconsistent with or outside the scope or in excess of statutory authority granted to the secretary. that's what we did. in the law we laid out
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requirements for state plans, states can simply follow the law. a regulation isn't necessary. mr. president, future secretaries will still be able to write regulations on this subject. under the congressional review act, which is the procedure under which we're operating, if congress overturns a regulation as i hope it will in this case, the agency, the department of education, is prevented from making final a new regulation that is, quote, substantially the same, unquote, to the overturned regulation unless congress passes a new law to create an opportunity for that new regulation. no court has defined what substantially the same means, but the common sense interpretation of that is very simple. the department simply can't turn right around and do the same thing congress has just
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overturned. it could do something else by regulation, but it couldn't do precisely that. so this is a question whether we're going to restore the national school board that 84 senators voted to reverse 15 months ago, and this is also a question of whether you believe that the united states congress writes the law or the u.s. department of education writes the law. i believe that under article one of our constitution, united states congress writes the law, and when it's signed by the president, then that's the law and that the regulations must stay within it and that is especially true when congress has written explicit prohibitions about what a secretary may do and may not do. the remarkable consensus around the bill fixing no child left behind was to reverse the trend to a national school board and restore to states, to classroom teachers, and parents the decisions about what to do about
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their children in public schools. teachers, governors, school boards, parents all were fed up with washington telling them so much about what to do about their children in 100,000 public schools. so this regulation which contravenes the law specifically goes to the heart of the bill fixing no child left behind which received 85 votes here in the senate. this resolution to overturn that regulation upholds the law that received aye votes from those 85 senators. i encourage my colleagues to support this resolution and to vote aye one more time. i believe that overturning the regulation preserves the consensus and the compromise that we achieved when we enacted the law fixing no child left behind. mr. president, i yield the
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floor. i notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. murray: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that dr. mary shue, a fellow if my health, education, labor and pensions committee be granted floor privileges for the
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remainder of the 115th congress. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. murray: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i come to the floor today on behalf of students and parents and teachers and communities around the country to urge my colleagues to support our bipartisan every student succeed act and to oppose this resolution today. this resolution will roll back a rule issued by the department of education that is critical to the effective and intended implementation of the every student succeed act or essa. mr. president, i'm urging my fellow senators to vote against this resolution for the following reasons, and i will go through each one of them. first of all, this legislation will throw our states and school districts into chaos just as they are beginning to implement our new law. secondly, it will give secretary devos a blank check to promote
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her antipublic school agenda. third, passing this resolution would be a retreat from the bipartisan law president obama called a christmas miracle and one that takes us down a strong partisan path instead that could undermine essa's civil rights protections and guardrails. but before i go into that i want to remind my colleagues of what we are working on here and what this resolution would unwind. mr. president, as many of my colleagues remember well, in 2015, the senior senator from tennessee and i came together with so many others in this body to fix no child left behind. we both agreed, in fact nearly everyone in the country agreed the law was badly broken. no child left behind relied too much on high stakes standardized
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testing. it gave schools unrealistic goals but failed to give them the resources to meet those goals. and it included one-size-fits-all punishment if those goals weren't met. mr. president, we knew overhauling our public education law was not going to be easy but we took the time to listen, to teachers, to parents, and to students around the country to make sure their voices were heard. and i'm proud that we were then able to break through the partisan gridlock in congress and find common ground and pass the every student succeed act with strong bipartisan support. after a major law like the every student succeed act passes, federal agencies usually issue rules to implement and clarify that law. the every student succeeds act maintains the secretary's authority to issue rules and clarifications that are
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consistent with the law. and this rule before us today is consistent with essa. and it provides important clarity to states, school districts, and schools. mr. president, using such a blunt instrument like this resolution to overturn the entire rule will be a retreat from bipartisanship. here's how. this resolution would roll back a critical department of education rule that gives states more flexibility in key areas while at same time maintaining strong federal guardrails to ensure our most vulnerable children don't fall through the cracks. this rule provides clarity on accountability, on reporting requirements, and state plan requirements, and it helps ensure that no student, no
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matter where they live, can fall through those cracks. in other words, mr. president, this is a rule that gets at the heart and soul of what we are trying to accomplish with our bipartisan law. and, mr. president, the department of education did not simply come up with this rule on their own. it incorporated over 20,000 comments from education stakeholders, state chiefs, and district superintendents, many of whom, including the state chiefs and superintendents, applauded the department of education for listening to their concerns and incorporating those comments into the final rule that was then released last fall. mr. president, during the debate around the every student succeeds act, there was some division about what accountability should mean in the law. but our final law showed that we can balance flexibility with
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strong federal guardrails -- until this point, until this point, when republicans now want to tear down the rule that ensures that those guardrails go into effect. so, mr. president, now i want to get into some of the challenges that would be created if this resolution passes and this rule was now eliminated. mr. president, one important thing this rule did was clarify state submission plan requirements and set deadlines for submission of those plans. based on this, states have been working now with the department of education for months on their state plans and approximately 18 states and the district of columbia intend to submit their plans in the beginning of april. but if this rule goes away now, if the rug gets pulled out from under these states, there could be chaos and confusion and an undermining of confidence in this new law. and, mr. president, by the way,
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we're already seeing this start. in february, secretary devos sent a letter to our state chiefs suggesting a new template for their state submission plans would be, quote, coming. even before the senate voted on this resolution and that the new template would be available less than a month before state plans are due. this could force those impacted states to abandon their plans and start from scratch, and it does not allow enough time for the stakeholder review process that is required in the law. so, mr. president, that is the first reason that we should oppose this legislation, because there is simply no reason to insert more chaos into a system that is finally settling into our new law. but the second reason is that passing this legislation would then give secretary devos a blank check over implementation of the every student succeeds
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act to promote her anti-public school agenda. we saw in her confirmation hearing, secretary devos, we know, has dedicated her career to privatizing public education. she has a long record of fighting to cut investments in public schools and shift taxpayer dollars toward private school vouchers. in her hearings, she showed a lack of even basic understanding of key concepts in public education policy, and she has openly questioned the role of the federal government in protecting our most vulnerable students. after her hearings, millions of people across the country stood up, made their voices heard, and called on the senate to reject her confirmation -- reject her confirmation. and although she squeaked through with an historic tie-breaking vote from vice president pence, it was clear people across the country rejected her anti-public school
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agenda. instead, they want the department of education to stand with students and with our schools. and, mr. president, one month into her tenure as secretary of education, secretary devos has not done a lot to reassure parents who had serious concerns. she has made mistake after mistake, from grossly mis-unde mis-underestimating the origins, from failing to protect transgender students in schools, approving her lack of public education is hurting our students. we cannot in good conscience provide secretary devos another potential tool to implement essa, our bipartisan bill, with her anti-public education slant, and that's exactly what passing this resolution would do. if this resolution passes, make no mistake, i will do everything
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i can to ensure that secretary devos implements essa as congress intended. let me be clear, congress did not intend that devos or any future secretary of education could use this law to encourage, prioritize, or even require states to incentivize private school choice, and we will work to ensure that she does not take advantage of the chaos that will follow if the rule is overturned. providing secretary devos a blank check would absolutely be the wrong way to go in the early stages of this law's implementation. so that is the second reason. and the third reason, mr. president, is that at et cetera heart -- at its heart, the every student succeeds act is a civil rights law, and the rule that this resolution would eliminate reflects that reality.
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we know from experience that without strong accountability, kids from our low-income neighborhoods, students of coal or, kids with disabilities, students learning english too often fall through the cracks, and now it's up to all of us to uphold the civil rights legacy of this law and its promise for all of our students. i was proud to work with my colleague, the senior senator from tennessee, on this law. i know he is proud of what we accomplished. but i am disheartened to see my republican colleagues are jamming this partisan play through in the same fashion they did with secretary devos' nomination. voting for this resolution will ruin the bipartisan nature of our every student succeeds act, and it will hurt our students. but by voting against this resolution, we can make sure essa works for all of our
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students, regardless of where they live or how they learn or how much money their paints make. finally, mr. president, i want to make one more point. even people who had concerns with the final rule do not -- do not want to see it overturned. in fact, the american federation of teachers, civil rights groups, and the chamber of commerce -- groups that aren't always actually on the same side of education issues -- are all speaking out against rolling back this rule. and parents and teachers and community leaders are all on the same page. in a letter to the senate, randy wine garden, being -- wine garten said, and i quote, "repealing these regulations now with not just be counterproductive and disruptive but would demonstrate a disregard by congress of school districts, operations, and time
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lines." and in a letter to my colleague senator mcconnell and senator schumer, the chamber of commerce and various education groups, including the national center for learning disabilities, wrote that rolling back this rule will, and i quote, cause unnecessary confusion, disrupting the work in our states and wasting time that we cannot afford to waste. so, mr. president, if unions, business, and civil rights groups disability advocacy organizations, and the states are not asking for this, we must ask the question, why are my colleagues jamming this resolution through? what perceived problem are we trying to solve? mr. president, millions of students and parents and teachers have made their voices heard about the importance of public education. they want us to work together to uphold and build on our
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bipartisan law, not for it to become just the latest partisan exercise that only hurts our students. so, mr. president, a vote against this resolution is a vote for our students. it is a vote for our schools. it is a vote not to give secretary devos power that she could abuse. and it is a vote to keep working together to build on the bipartisan law, not tearing it apart. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor, and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. nelson: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: mr. president, i ask consent that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. nelson: mr. president, i rise today to express serious concern about reports in the press that the administration is considering deep cuts in funding to crucial aspects of our nation's national security and our homeland security to pay for the construction of a border wall and also for a crackdown on illegal immigration. and the first target that alarmed me is america's maritime guardian, the u.s. coast guard. even as the administration says it plans to secure the borders
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and increase funding for our military by $54 billion which, in fact, may be a good thing, it's reportedly considering cuts on the non-defense side but that includes the department of homeland security, a cut of $1.3 billion, or 12%, to the very military service that secures our vast maritime borders, and that's the coast guard. that plan just doesn't make any sense especially when it comes to securing our borders. you'd be putting a bunch of money in a wall, but you're losing the security of the border over here on the oceans. the 42,000 member-strong coast
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guard plays a vital role in the -- in protecting our nation from narcoterrorism, from combating human smuggling, from preventing and responding to maritime environmental disaste disasters, as well as protecting living and property at sea, and, oh, by the way, in other foreign parts of the globe, the u.s. coast guard is assisting the u.s.el military in our military -- u.s. military in our military operations. back to the border security, if securing our borders and supporting our military is a true priority for the administration, then it ought not be slashing the coast guard's budget. instead, we should be supporting
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the coast guard's ongoing and much-needed fleet recapitalization program, including the design and con strubgs of the new -- construction of the new offshore cutter and production of the new fast response cutter. she's are desperately needed assets for the coast guard. this senator has personally visited dozens of coast guard units all around, not just in my state of florida, but in alaska, the great lakes. it's just amazing the job that the coast guard does and what i have witnessed firsthand is what they do in the service to our country. the constant theme of my visits is the need and what i learned
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from those visits is the need to modernize an increasingly -- and increasingly become nimble given the host of threats that could be delivered from our maritime borders. let me give you just one exam. the caribbean, it is a coast guard admiral that heads up the task force that has all agencies of government participating as we look to protect the southern borders in the caribbean as well as the southern pacific from anything that's coming to our borders -- drugs, mi sp grant grants -- my grants, - -- if, fr
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example, there are u.s. navy ships in the area or air force assets in the air that might pick up one of these threats coming toward america, they were hand in glove with the coast guard because it is the coast guard that has the legal authority as a law enforcement agency to stop, apprehend, and board that vessel. and, yet, we are doing all of this border protection with cutters that have an average age of 45 years old. the average age of a coast gua guard's 210-foot medium
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endurance cutter is 48 years o old. the coast guard high endurance cutter average age, 45 years. these are just two classes of ships that the coast guard uses for interdiction and rescue missions and they do it worldwide. and, as you may expect, with assets this old, the coast guard struggles with major mission debilitating casualties which result in severe losses of operational days at sea and drastically increased maintenance costs. to correct that, the new offshore patrol cutters and the past response cutters will give the coast guard an effective coastal and offshore
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interdiction capability in order to meet the objectives. what are they? combating transnational organized crime networks, securing our national maritime borders, safeguarding water-borne commerce, and safeguarding life and property at sea. now, look at the administration's second target to pay for the wall, what's the second target? believe it or not, fema, the federal emergency management administration. well, if you're singling out that agency that comes to the aid of millions of americans during any kind of natural disaster, single that out for
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cuts? that doesn't make common sense and it's certainly not going to be a popular thing to do in the eyes of those who have to turn to fema after a tphaur disaster to -- after a natural disaster to try to get their lives back on track. last year -- just take one year -- two major hurricanes hit florida in addition to many other devastating natural disasters that struck nationwide and resulted in many deaths and billions in damage. fema was critical to people's survival and recovery in each of these events. just think of what we hear on the news all the time, storms, tornadoes, earthquakes.
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you remember the mountain that erupted out in the state of washington decades ago, not to speak of hurricanes. for the sake of people's safety and that of our country, we simply cannot use fema as a piggy bank to pay for the administration's trillion dollar spending programs. the administration's third target -- this has just been reported. what's the their target? you're not going to believe this. it's t.s.a., the transportation security administration. now, if you target t.s.a. for budget cuts, is that really what you want to do with a threat environment every time we're going through the airport. t.s.a. is on the front lines of
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protecting our country from test attacks and that's its security mission at airports across the country. and, oh, by the way, air marshals that fly on our fligh flights. need i remind the administration why t.s.a. was created? it was after the september 11 attacks in 2001, a funding is vital to ensure the success of t.s.a.'s mission. in fact, just last year congress responded to concerns over insider threats and security at airports like the bombings in brussels and is stan istannbul. and specifically what we did in the commerce committee when we
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formulated the faa bill, we included bipartisan provisions enhancing the background and vetting requirements for airport employ degreees and ex -- employees and expanding the physical inspection of airport employees in secure areas. remember the case of the atlanta airport? for several months people had a gun-running scheme coming from atlanta to new york. they didn't drive up interstate 95 to take the guns. they had an airport employee in atlanta who could get into the airport without being checked carrying a sack of guns, that airport employee would go up into the sterile area where passengers are, go into the
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men's room, would exchange knapsacks with a passenger and t.s.a. claim and that passenger took the sack of guns on the airplane flight from atlanta to new york and the new york city police department couldn't figure out how they were getting all those guns on the street in new york. that was a gun-running scheme over several months. thank goodness they were criminals, not terrorists. you want to cut that kind of security? if you want to cut the strongest security that we have at an airport screening passengers going through, it's the nose of a dog, the viper teams, the dog teams, the most efficient way to
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screen passengers is a dog team that has been trained with his handler. it's amazing what those dogs can sense. and so when we did the faa bill last year, we kub doubleed the r of viper teams, the dog teams. and we want to cut this? that was all done in a bipartisan manner. we double the number for the protection of the american public, and we also, in that bill, granted expanded the grant funding to assist law enforcement in responding to mass casualty and active shooter instance which is very important in, for example, again, another
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tragic example of the recent shooting in fort lauderdale at the airport. to counter the issue of long lines, which i know we had to all go through last spring, the legislation included provisions to expand t.s.a. precheck and to require t.s.a. to evaluate staffing and checkpoint configurations to expedite pass sequester security straoepbg. -- passenger security screening. does that sound like a lot of administrative mumbo jumbo? perhaps, but let me tell you it works, and all is designed to protect americans going to airports and getting on airplanes. now, none of this is possible without continued funding, and, in fact, even more funding.
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any cuts are certainly going to impair t.s.a.'s ability to keep our country safe. so the bottom line here is that we must do whatever's necessary to keep our country safe and our citizens secure. slashing the budgets of the u.s. coast guard or fema or t.s.a. is only going to make us less secure. need i say any more about these proposals to pay for some of these other things like a wall by slashing these kind of budgets? mr. president, i yield the floor.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: thank you, mr. president. along with the presiding officer, i have the distinction of serving on the senate foreign relations committee, i'm the ranking democrat of that committee, and there are many areas of challenge for our national security. and we could talk about what we think is the greatest threat to the united states national security, and unfortunately, mr. president, there are a lot of candidates. one could certainly be china. china has been very provocative in the china seas. raising concern about maintaining maritime security, which is so critically important to world commerce, so clearly china could be a candidate. or north korea could be a candidate. you know in north korea, they
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have a nuclear capacity. we know that their government will gas and poison people that disagree with them, including family. it's a repressive regime. and that they are developing the capacity not only to have a nuclear weapon but the capacity to be able to deliver that nuclear weapon beyond just the region in which they are located. so we could pick north korea. or we certainly could mention the threat of isis, which is a growing threat of terrorism that challenges not only the middle east but our own country at home. or we could mention the security threat of iran. iran was one of the greatest sponsors of terrorism of any country in the world, which is causing major problems for the sunni gulf states, causing problems in syria, causing problems in the middle east. clearly, iran is a candidate for major interest in our national
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security. but, mr. president, the country that i would pick as the greatest threat to america's national security would be russia. russia has been very aggressive in trying to dominate beyond its own geographical borders. it has occurred in other countries and it's attacked the united states of america. so i want to take you back to 1975 when the helsinki final act was passed, through the leadership of the united states and the ussr. i have had the opportunity through several congresses to either be the chair or the cochair or the ranking member of the u.s. helsinki commission, so i've spent a lot of time working on the helsinki work. and what was remarkable about that document that was entered into in 1975, it recognized that security is beyond just
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military, that for a country to be secure, it must pay attention to its borders, yes, to its military, but also must have economic security and must respect human rights, which was also very unique in the helsinki final act was the commitment that these -- these standards that we agreed to would not only be of internal interest to the member country, but that any country to the helsinki final act could challenge the actions of any other country. we had not only the right but the responsibility to call out countries that fail to adhere to the basic principles that were agreed to in 1975. well, the helsinki final act now applies to 56 countries, all the countries of europe, canada, the united states and all the republics of the former soviet union. so let me just review with my colleagues the guiding principles that were agreed to in 1975 under the helsinki final
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act, signed by russia so that they are bound by these principles. and let me as i read through these ten principles talk about how russia has violated every single one of the basic ten principles that they agreed to in helsinki. the first couple, one that sovereign equality rights and respect inherent in sovereignty. two, refrain from the threat or use of force. three, the inviolability of borders. four, the territorial integrity of states. in each of these cases, russia has violated these basic principles. they invaded ukraine and took over crimea, annexing it against the will of the sovereign country. they're interfering in the eastern part of ukraine as we speak here, violating the
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territorial integrity of ukraine. russia's troops are in georgia, violating the sovereignty of that country. russia's presence into moldova, not respecting the territorial integrity of a member state. russia has violated the basic principles of sovereignty that was -- that was brought out in the helsinki final act. let me read some of the other principles. five, the peaceful settlements of disputes. the peaceful settlements of disputes. russia shoots first. they've taken their troops into ukraine, they took their troops into georgia, they used -- have not used peaceful methods. the nonintervention into internal affairs. that's another one, the sixth principle. nonintervention into internal
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affairs. russia attacked the united states of america in our free election system. that's not subject to any dispute today. they attacked america. they interfered with our internal affairs. they tried to influence our election. that's an attack against america and a violation of their basic commitments. let me read through the remaining. respect for human rights and fundamental freedom. respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. ask the people who disagree with the russian government, who have tried to form a party as to whether there is respect for human rights and fundamental freedom in russia today. ask independent journalists who are arrested and killed for trying to carry out their profession. russia today is intimidating civil societies and n.g.o.'s and anyone who disagrees with mr. putin is subject to arrest,
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torture and perhaps death. we know that in the case of mr. mr. magnitsky, a cause that has been taken up by magnitsky laws. cooperation among states. this is the one -- let me conclude with the tenth principle. and fulfillment in good faith of international legal obligations. well, russia entered into an agreement in regards to ukraine's sovereignty only to invade ukraine a few years later. ukraine gave up its nuclear stockpile, believing that russia would live up to its commitments. russia's violated the minsk agreements that were entered into to resolve the problems with ukraine and russia. russia has not lived up to its international agreement. so let me sort of summarize here why i think russia is the number
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one candidate for concern on our national security. they have violated the sovereignty of many countries of the world. they violated the sovereignty of ukraine, they continue to do that. they have violated the sovereignty of georgia and moldova. and they have attacked the united states of america through cyber. it may not have been a mig but it was a mouse, and its intended purpose was to bring down our democratic election system and to favor one candidate. that cannot go unanswered. russia is engaged today in syria supporting the assad regime that attacks humanitarian convoys, uses civilian population as an instrument of war, gases its own people, violating basic international human rights and war crimes. that's what president putin is doing in russia today. russia's human rights records are deplorable.
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an opposition leader is now in the united states, recovering from the second poisoning episode. the russian authorities tried to kill him. why? because he dared to oppose the putin regime. we need to speak out. we need to do more about that. it doesn't end there, mr. president. russia is violating the i.n.f., the international nuclear force agreement. that is of major concern to all of us. but russia's bottom line is they're trying to dismantle the transatlantic partnership that has been the bulwark of security since the end of world war ii. the relationship between europe and the united states providing a blanket of protection, not just for our physical security, providing international leadership in dealing with the
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development of democratic countries around the world. that's what russia is trying to do today, is to dismantle that protection. so what should we do? we've identified russia as our number one concern. i think most members of the senate would agree with that assessment. i've talked to many, particularly on the senate foreign relations committee. what should we do? what is the role for congress to do? we know we're waiting for president trump to give us his foreign policy as it relates to russia, and that's an important thing for us to know how the president intends to deal with a country that has done so many things against our national security interests. but we have a role. we have the first branch of government mentioned in the constitution, article 1. we have responsibilities to act. we need to take steps. i have encouraged my colleagues, there has been a lot of accusations made around here about russia's contacts with
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americans, that russia's stealing of information through cyber, planting that information through wikileaks in order to influence elections, the potential conflict with -- contact with general flynn, what happened with the ambassador of russia, what happens as far as domestic wiretaps. there have been a lot of comments made around here, but we don't have the facts. first and foremost, we need an independent commission similar to what we constituted, the congress constituted after the attack on 9/11. so that we get independent, nonpartisan experts without restriction to jurisdiction or turf that can determine exactly what russia's game plan is and what steps we can take to protect ourselves moving forward and what action we should take against russia. that is the first thing that we should do, and congress should pass a resolution -- i have introduced one -- that would set up that type of an independent
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commission to look at what russia has done. there's a second issue that i want to bring to our attention. i know the presiding officer is very familiar with it, and that is countering russia's hostility act, a bill that i filed. and i'm very proud that this bill was not created by one member. it was created by a group of us working together, recognizing that congress needed to speak with a strong voice. so i'm proud that in addition to my sponsorship, senator mccain helped draft this bill. senator menendez is a key leader on this bill. senator graham has been one of the architects of the bill. senator shaheen, senator rubio, senator klobuchar, senator sasse, senator durbin, senator portman, senator murphy, senator gardner, senator blumenthal, senator sullivan, senator daines, senator donnelly, senator young, senator whitehouse, senator coons and
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senator cornyn. you might lots that i alternated between democrats and republicans. -- you might notice that i alternated between democrats and republicans. we all recognize the seriousness of what russia has done to the united states. we all recognize that congress needs to respond. when you're attacked, you don't stand by. if you do you get attacked and if you do, it could be more devastating. so we have to take action to protect ourselves. what the countering russia hostilities act does, first and foremost it codifies the sanctions currently imposed against russia for its sieberattack on the united states election. secondly, it extends the sanctions for what we called secondary sanctions, countries doing business with those that are sanctioned so that we can enforce the sanctions and the presiding officer recognized that when we were working on the north korea sanctions law, that we needed to strengthen that and i congratulate the presiding officer on the work that he did in regards to north korea.
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i was pleased to join him, and i'm pleased that he's joining this group to see how we can strengthen our sanctions and pressure on russia to know that they can't get away with this type of an attack against america. but then we go even further. we recognize that ukraine today, we have sanctions against russia, but we can strengthen those sanctions. we can apply those sanctions to the energy sector. we can apply those sanctions to prevent american companies from financing the russian economy through the moneys they need for sovereign debt or privatization. so we extend the program of sanctions to include those types of activities. but we take up two other major issues. i just want to share with my colleagues because these were contributions made by the members who joined together to file this bill. we recognize that the rules of engagement have changed. russia is using tactics today
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that we never thought would be used. they attack our country, get private information, give it to wikileaks, use it as part of a strategy to get news out there that could influence our election. then they develop fake news, use that fake news through the social media to make it look like real news in an effort to try to affect our free election system in the united states. this is pretty frightening. we got to meet them. we've got to protect ourselves. so this legislation provides for a democracy initiative similar to what we've done, mr. president, on our security initiative with europe. we have stationed troops, nato troops on the border countries of nato with russia to let them know we won't tolerate the invasion of a nato country. we've done that. that's our security initiative. we've got to have a democracy initiative to protect the democratic institutions of western europe because russia
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will use the democratic institutions to try to undermine the democratic institutions, the free press, the opportunities of free speech, the opportunities to try to influence through their money the election process. they tried to do that in montenegro during the parliamentary elections to affect month nay grow's accession into nato. so we have to protect the democratic institutions. and this legislation would authorize that protection. and then it sets up a resource so that we can fight this propaganda. we can find ways to counter russia's use of propaganda in order to carry out their nefarious activities. so this is a comprehensive bill. i urge all of our colleagues to take a look at it. we're looking for input. we're looking for making sure that this does exactly what we need to, speak as one voice in congress to make it clear to
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russia that it's not business as usual, that we intend to take action and be strong to let them know they cannot do this type of activity that america will protect its national security. there is another bill, let me just mentioned, that senator graham is the principle sponsor, that i have cosponsored and others have sponsored also. it's the russia review act. and i mention that one because we had a great debate here in the last congress on the iran nuclear agreement. and part of the reasons we had a great debate is because the senate foreign relations committee was able to pass a review act and get broad consensus on it, get it signed by the president, which gave us a role but more importantly it gave the american people a role in getting transparency on a very important agreement, the iran nuclear agreement. so we had time for public
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hearings. we had time for national debate. we had time to question. because that law passed i am convinced the agreement was stronger. the administration knew there were millions of eyes looking at what they were doing. they just couldn't do it in the dark of night. and it helped us, i think, carry out our responsibility as the legislative branch of government. so senator graham and i and others believed we should have a similar process if there's going to be a fundamental change in the relationship between the united states and russia, that the president should consult to work with congress and give us an opportunity for transparency and the american people to be heard. and that's exactly what this bill does. it's a bill that i think is for good legislating, for good governance, and i would encourage my colleagues to take a look at this and hopefully we'll be able to get this done. i want to just say in conclusion, mr. president, we have no issue with the russian people. they're good people. we want to have a good
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relationship with the russian people. it's mr. putin and his government that are directing this country to do things in interference with the sovereignty of other countries, in violating human rights, in supporting violations of human rights and war crimes and should be held accountable for that and what they're doing in syria and of course very personally attacking our own country. that's what we're aimed at. mr. horotsky was in my office yesterday. i think you might recall he was a leader in russia, a great business leader, made a lot of money, decided that russia needed reforms to protect the rights of all people, that human rights were not strong enough. the right of expression was not strong enough. so he took up that cause as a successful business person. as a result, he was arrested,
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served ten years in prison, and they tried to keep him out of politics because it was not mr. putin's politics. well, he's been very active. he no longer lives in russia because of fear of his life. he has been here championing the cause for good governance within russia and the importance for the international community to be engaged in that. as he left my office yesterday, he said, please continue to speak out. mr. president, he said please continue to speak out. the united states must lead. when a country driven by mr. putin does what it does, it's our responsibility to speak out about this outrageous conduct, threatening the integrity of so many countries,
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and violating the human rights of so many people. we can make a difference. the congress can make a difference. it's for all those reasons that we need to act. and i urge my colleagues to take a look at the legislation that i've talked about here on the floor and which so many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have joined and let's get together. let's speak with a united voice, and let russia know that we're going to protect the national security of the united states of america and we're going to protect the rights of our friends. with that, mr. president, i would yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. a senator: mr. president, i am pleased to join with my colleague from the great state of maryland and to commend him for his leadership on the foreign relations committee and here on the floor today. mr. coons: his great work with the helsinki commission, his tireless bipartisan work with the committee chair and many others. you just heard detail in terms of the legislation that he's put forward, the effort and the time
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and the engagement he's put into standing up. and i think it's important for all of our colleagues and the american people to hear us working together to push back on russian aggression and on vladimir putin's regime for its interference in our most recent election and it's long and stad record -- and sad record of appalling human rights violations. mr. president, in 1950, in 1950 the c.i.a. delivered a report to then president harry truman that outlined two key goals of the soviet government. the first goal was, and i quote, destruction of the unity among the western countries thereby isolating the united states. the second goal was alienating the western people from their governments so that the efforts of the western countries to strengthen themselves will be undermined, closed quote. nearly 70 years to date, nearly 70 years later, the regime of vladimir putin in russia remains fundamentally committed to these
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same two goals. but today his government has a whole new arsenal of cyber tools and information tools which it uses to interfere in democratic elections. here in the united states and across europe, among the nations that are our vital allies, to launch propaganda, misinformation campaigns that spread falsehoods and create a climate of doubt and uncertainty among citizens and democracies around the world. last week on this floor, i rose to speak with my friend and colleague senator marco rubio to highlight the threat that we know russia poses to the american-led rules-based national order that has been sustained by both republican and democratic presidents and leaders in this body since the second world war. and just yesterday several of us participated in a hearing of the state and foreign operations appropriations subcommittee chaired by senator lindsey graham of south carolina. we heard directly from representatives of the governments of ukraine, poland, georgia, lithuania, and estonia,
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all these nations know better than any others just how serious the russian government is today about fulfilling the goals the c.i.a. quoted jowtline -- outlined in that report from 1950. russian troops today mass on the borders of many of these countries. in the case of ukraine, russia has recently invaded and continues to illegally occupy crimea while arming and supporting separatists in the eastern 20% of the country. russia previously invaded georgia in 2000 # and continues to -- 2008 and continues to occupy its territory. the russian government has tried and in several cases succeeded in executing cyber attacks against these countries' governments most famously against estonia in 2007. its ongoing disinformation campaigns have created widespread doubt about western institutions, like nato, the european union, the osce, institutions that have helped to maintain a stable and peaceful
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world for seven decades. these ambassadors and the foreign minister who testified yesterday before our appropriations subcommittee made clear their countries depend on the united states not just for leadership, not just for military strength but for leadership and our commitment to effective foreign assistance. these are the same requests i heard last august from eastern european leaders when i led a bipartisan congressional delegation, two republican house members, two democratic senate members, the five of us went to ukraine, estonia and the czech republic and we heard exactly the same message, that they are threatened by a constant wave of attacks of disinformation both overt and covert efforts to subvert their dms and to change -- dms and to change the -- democracies and to change the direction of their countries. our support for the democracies, the civil societies and the military, strength of these nations in eastern europe is not
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charity. a world committed to democracy and the rule of law is a more stable world. a stable world means americans are safer and more economically secure. it is that simple and that's why we must push back against russian aggression in a bipartisan way and stand up for our allies and our values. conversations like this one here on the floor today are important to educate our american people about the true nature of the russian threat that we face. the russian government's current strategy relies on disinformation and propaganda in an effort to divide the american people both from their government and from each other. in our decision -- and our discussion this afternoon makes clear that both be republicans and democrats haven't lost our will to highlight, to condemn, and to fight russian actions. unassailable facts must serve as the basis for a bipartisan foreign policy, a cleareyed understanding of russian intentions and actions will protect us from their anti-western propaganda and avoid the internal decisions
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russia seeks to leverage in an attempt to project its influence worldwide. to that end i'm determined to support senator cardin and senator graham's efforts. senator graham's efforts to provide sufficient funding that specifically targets the russian government's subversive actions. i'll also continue to work with my colleague such as senator cardin to see that his s. 94 counteracting russian hostilities act is marked up this work period so the full senate can consider this important legislation. as senator cardin commented, there are ten democrats and ten republicans who have already cosponsored this important bill. why is this bill the counteracting russian hostilities act so important? it will make sure the russian government pays a price for breaking the rules by supporting sanctions for its occupation and illegal annexation of crimea, for its egregious human rights violations in syria and elsewhere and most importantly for directly interfering in our election. this bill would prevent the lifting of sanctions on russia
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until its government ceases the activities that caused these sanctions to be put in place in the first place. and it would support civil society, pro democracy anticorruption activists in russia and across europe. mr. president, today vladimir putin has a whole array of powerful modern tools that he intends to use to undermine democracy and promote his brand of thore tearism. but as that 1950 memo to president harry truman made clear, russia's goals haven't changed. russia's goals are to oppose us, our vision, our values and our democracy. we must make it clear that america's vision of a freer, safer and more democratic world haven't changed either. i want to thank senator cardin for organizing this discussion and thank senator menendez for everything he's done to support these important efforts and thank senator graham for hosting yesterday's important hearing. i look forward to working with all of my colleagues to continue this important fight. thank you, mr. president w that i yield the floor.
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mr. menendez: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. menendez: mr. president, i rise to join my colleagues in this important conversation on the senate floor and to once again demand answers to the many questions raised about russia's interference in our elections. now, not so longing a i came -- not so long ago i came to speak about an adversarial act, an attempt to undermine democracy, an effort that we now know from our own intelligence community's assessment was ordered by president putin himself, a campaign that senior intelligence officials have concluded, and i quote, blended
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covert intelligence operations such as cyber activity with overt efforts by russian government agencies, state funded media, third party intermediaries and paid social media trolls to undermine our 2016 presidential elections. in recent weeks, the american people have been confronted by a daily drumbeat of headlines regarding russian interference in our elections and possible ties to president trump's campaign. they learned that the president's former national security advisor, general michael flynn, was not truthful about -- truthful about the nature of the conversations he had with the russian ambassador shortly after president obama sanctioned russia for meddling in our elections. they learned that attorney general jeff sessions, the highest law enforcement officer in the land, did not fully disclose at least two meetings he had with the russian ambassador during his nomination
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hearings. they learned through reporting in the us in media that -- in the news media that u.s. law enforcement continues to investigate russian agents' contacts with president trump's inner circle. yet despite these revelations, the american people now face more questions, more questions, thans answers. has anyone else on the president's team been in contact with the russian government? what were the nature of those conversations? how credible are reports of business dealings between russian oligarchs and the trump organization? but here's the reason that i came to the floor today, as serious as those questions are: getting answers to these questions, whether it be through a special prosecutor or an independent commission that senator cardin has legislation on, which i strongly, strongly support and believe i.t. the ultimate vehicle -- believe it's the ultimate vehicle, or the senate intelligenc intelligences
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own investigation, those efforts are not about president trump. it is about the american people. it is about protecting our free and democratic way of of life and our time-tested system of self-governance. it is about showing our constituents this when the stakes are high, when the allegations are this startling, when the implications are this alarming, we are capable of setting politics aside and getting to the truth. time and time again the president has dismissed the significance of russia's interference in our elections, and he derives report about his financial interest, a quote, fake news. well, this isn't fake news. on the contrary, these are real threats, real threats from a real foreign adversary, real threats that i didn't understand mine the integrity of our elections and, therefore, the security of our country.
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real threats from a brutal leader who seize the erosion of western democracy as a strategic imperative for russia's future. so let's be clear about why these threats matter. vladimir putin's rise to power in russia has been marked by the suppression of the freedom of the press, the oppression of the russian people, the murder of political opponents, and the transfer of wealth and assets from the russian people to a handful of powerful oligarchs. president putin sees the spread of western democratic values that we enjoy here in our country and others in the western world like freedom of speech and the rule of law and human rights as a threat to his power. and so russia has embarked on a systemic campaign to undermine the democracies that uphold the international order that was established after world war ii and has been the we hadrock of
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-- of bedrock of peace and tranquillity since then. these threats must be taken seriously. russia's aggressive behavior reaches back years and extends to this day. we saw it in 2508 when russia -- we saw it in 2008 when russia declared acazia an independent state. we saw it in 2014 when i was in ukraine, when russia authorized the use of military force to annex crimea, blatantly violating the sovereignty of the ukrainian people and the budapest memorandum, a memorandum that we, the united states, and russia, among others, signed saying that we would observe the territorial and sovereignty rights of ukraine if they gave up the nuclear weapons that had been left to them after the collapse of the soviet union. and they did just that.
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they did just that. and what happened to them afterwards? their territory has been annexed and invaded. today putin continues to break cease-fires, sow discord, incite violence throughout eastern ukraine, an effort that to date has claimed 10,000 lives and displaced two million people. and, unfortunately, russia's interference in our 2016 presidential elections is not an isolated incident. according to u.s. intelligence reports, these efforts are only the most recent manifestation of the kremlin's on-going campaign to undermine western democracy. in recent years, we've seen russian oligarchs funnel money to fringe political movements across europe and russian operatives conduct sophisticated disinformation campaigns. and after the revelations that interfered in our own elections, russia has shown no signs of
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slowing document just weeks ago, russia's defense ministeria nnounced they will begin you using troops, emphasizes that propaganda must be smart, competent, and efficient. russia's end goal is no mystery. putin aims to undermine european unity and fracture the trans-atlantic alliance, an alliance that has served as the bedrock for international security, peace, and stability and economic cooperation between the united states and europe for over half past a century. in the middle east, president putin continues to ignore international norms. he lines russia with iran, the world's leading state sponsor of terror. he aided el-assad in his atrocities against international civilians. in ahelp pokers russia bombs fall on homes, russian bombs fall on schools and hospitals,
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fall on aid convoys that only seek to feed trapped families and reserve could you children from the rubble. just last month russia violated the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty when they illega illegally launched a cruise missile, showing no regard for an agreement that has been a hallmark for nuclear security cooperation for nearly four decades. that is not an ink significant act. -- that is not an insignificantage of the united states cannot ignore such destabilizing behavior. that's exactly why senator graham and i introduced s. res. 78 just two weeksing a recognizing three years of russian military aggression and calling on russia to respect its obligations to the international community. our resolution should serve sasse a reminder to this administration -- our resolution should serve as a reminder to this administration that the sanctions should remain in place until russia starts respecting and returning to the
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international norm. nor can we let russian efforts undermine western democracies to continue unabated. that's why i have joined my colleagues in the counter russia hostilities bill. this codifies the sanctions imposed by president obama for russia's annexation of crimea and interference in the u.s. elections into law. it is the same type of proposition that we had with the iranians. weight won a congressional opportunity to voice ourselves and make sure that those sanctions are lifted -- aren't lifted arbitrarily without russia paying the consequences and coming back into the international order. and at the same time the legislation authorizes $100 million for the state department and other agencies to counter putin's propaganda. so the time for action and for answers is now. we can get to work immediately by holding hearings in the senate foreign relations committee to ensure that the
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united states has a strategy in place to protect the security of our democracy and to promote stability abroad. from the spread of extremist propaganda aprocess europe, the denial of ukrainian sovereignty to the bombing of civilians in aleppo and the cyber attacks, putin's intentions are not up for debate. russia's destabilizing behavior should make -- should be made absolutely clear to the president of the united states that the russian federation is not our friend. when the president hesitates to acknowledge this reality or addresses such -- or fails to address such agreasive behavior, it's up to us -- such aggressive behavior, it is up to congress toage of there can be no hesitation when it comes to protecting the security and the sanctity of of of our elections. but to take action, we need answers. that's why we need an independent investigation into russia's interference in the
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2016 elections. when president trump fails to realize time and time again is that this investigation is not about whether or not russia successfully swayed the american elections. this election is not about him. this investigation is about the american people. it is about ensuring that our elections are free, fair, and secure so that the government that we elect is responsive and accountable to the people. it's about understanding russia's tactics in cyberspace and preparing for future attacks. it's about standing with our allies, preserving peace and avoiding war and preventing the need to send our sons and daughters into harm's way. it's about ensuring that when the president of the united states faces tough decisions, the american people can trust that he puts their interests -- their interests -- ahead of any
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other interests he has abroad. it's time to protect the integrity of our elections and to secure our democracy against the cyber threats of the 21st century. whether they come in the form of election machine tampering or paid propaganda on social media or targeted hacks on political and public officials. mr. president, russia poses a real strategic threat to the united states, to our core values, and to the international order. i call on the president to treat these threats with the serious ness that they deserve, and i look forward to working with my colleagues both sides of the aisle to protect the integrity of out of elections here at home, defend democracy abroad, and ensure that that trans-atlantic alliance, so vital to international security and stability, remains strong for generations to come. and with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: let me thank my
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colleague from new jersey for his excellent statement summarizing the challenge we face. let me thank my colleague from maryland and from delaware as well. yesterday we had a hearing in the judiciary committee. there was an individual seeking the deputy attorney general spot and of course he is seeking this position, this key position, at a critical moment in american history. the attorney general of the united states of america, jeff sessions of alabama, announced publicly last week on thursday that he was going to remove himself, recuse himself, from any prosecution involving the russians and the last presidential campaign. that is historic, and it was the right thing to do. many of us on the democratic side had equaled on him for -- had called on him for weeks to do just that. senator section sessions had -- senator session been an active
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participant in the trump campaign. we felt in the best interests of preserving the integrity of the department of justice, he had to step aside when it came to the investigation of this russian involvement in that campaign. in the meantime, during the course of this national debate, the national security advisor to the president of the united states, general flynn, resigned, after he misrepresented to the american people and to the vice president of the united states conversations he had with the russian ambassador. it came to light last week that then-senators sessions during the course of his confirmation hearing, gave misleading comments and answers to a question by senator franken saying that he had no contact with the russians either. in fact he had. so he sent a clarification letter, but yesterday's hearing was about his successor, the deputy attorney general who would have the power to initiate this investigation. the gentleman who was nominated
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is well known to the senator from maryland because he served as u.s. attorney there for a number of years, more than eight years. he served under president obama, was initially appointed under president bush, a rare bipartisan selection who by every indication is a professional prosecutor. the disappointing moment at the hearing is when we asked mr. rosenstein if he had read the intelligence report that was publicly announced in january about the russian involvement in our election campaign. it is an unclassified report. it's on the internet. it's about 15 pages long. it is as precise and conclusive as you can expect, and it said quite clearly that the russians did attempt to change the outcome of the election, that they were in fact working on behalf of donald trump and against hillary clinton. and i quickly added this was not published by the democratic national committee. this was by the intelligence
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agencies of the united states government. i was disappointed when mr. rosenstein said, no, he had not read it. he was asked over and over again why he would not read a piece of information, a document so critical to his service as deputy attorney general. i'll set that aside for a moment and just observe the obvious. there is no question, if you believe our intelligence agencies that russia was trying to change the outcome of the presidential election. they were engaged, we believe, with up to 1,000 trolls in some office buildings in moscow, invading the internet, invading the e-mails and the security of the united states in an attempt to glean information that they could feedback to the public through wikipedia and other sofses. -- sources. although there is no evidence to date that they had an impact on the actual casting or counting of ballots their intent is
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clear. they wanted to pick donald trump as president. they believe he was a better choice for russian interests than hillary clinton. is that worthy of an investigation? i certainly hope so. to our knowledge, it's the first time in the history of the united states that a foreign power and one that has been an adversary time and again to our interests around the world, tried to invade our election. it was in fact a day that will live in cyber infamy in terms of this russian effort. and if we ignore it, we can expect several things. get ready for the next election. you think they learned anything during the course of the last one? you think the russians will be involved again? we would be naive to believe otherwise. secondly, there is a critical element here we cannot ignore. three weeks ago i visited war saw, poland, lithuania and kiev, ukraine. talked to those leaders, in a couple of instances presidents of those countries as well as opinion leaders and parliamentarians, and they continued to raise the same question to me, and it came
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down to this, if the united states does not take seriously the invasion of russia in your own presidential campaign, will you take it seriously when putin invades our country? you've told us under the nato alliance article 5 that you'll stand by our side and protect us. but if you don't take putin seriously when he invades your own presidential election, then there's a lot of doubt. questions are being asked. several republican senators have stepped up. i want to salute them. i'll start with lindsey graham who yesterday again before the senate foreign operations subcommittee on appropriations made it clear that he believes we have to thoroughly investigate this russian involvement in our presidential election. a few others have said the same. but unfortunately, the reaction by many republican senators has been lukewarm to cold. they don't want to spend the time to look into this. they'd rather start talking about investigating leaks in the
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trump administration or even the president's far-fetched tweets suggesting that somehow president obama was engaged in a wiretap, something that's been denied not only by the former president but also by the director of national intelligence and the head of the federal bureau of investigation. to date there is not one shred of evidence for the claim made by president trump in his tweet in the early morning hours of sunday. at the same time the need for this investigation continues. you've heard cataloged in detair the last several years. i've seen it. i've seen it throughout history, at least during my lifetime, and i've seen it more recently in ukraine, in georgia. and threats that go on every single day in countries in the baltics, in poland. it's clear to them that they're fighting a hybrid war, not just the military threat, which is very real, but also cyber
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threats that at one point closed down the estonian economy, russian cyber invasion closed it down. and propaganda threats which are nonstop through a cable television known as r.t., russia today, they continue to broadcast false information into countries like the baltics and try to do it with impunity. that is the reality of what we are facing. the question we face, though, as the united states senate sworn to uphold this constitution is whether we are prepared to defend it against foreign powers that will undermine it, in this case the russian federation. now there's been a suggestion that the intelligence committees can have an investigation of this matter. i'd say that that in and of itself is not objectionable. but it is certainly not complete and satisfactory. you see, the intelligence committee is going to meet behind closed doors. we won't see the witnesses. we won't hear their testimony. the american people may not ever
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hear who testified and what they had to say. some parts of this must continue to be classified, and i understand that. but by and large, the american people have a right to know what the russians did and how they did it. so that we can make sure we defend ourselves against this in the future. so the intelligence committees have a role, but not in its entirety. i think there should be a special prosecutor from the department of justice to see if any crimes have been committed. i don't know where the evidence will lead, but we should have someone we trust, a person of integrity, who will step up and assume that role and make that investigation for the department of justice. and one other thing, i think this is of sufficient gravity that we should have an independent transparent bipartisan commission. and my colleague, senator cardin of maryland, is the sponsor of that legislation which i am happy to cosponsor. that's the ultimate answer. let us get to the bottom of this once and for all to make certain we know what the russians tried
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to do to us and to make doubly certain that it never happens again. that is the reality of this challenge. and i hope that we can get bipartisan support for it. when it comes to sanctions against russia, we've had good bipartisan support, and that is encouraging. equal numbers of democrats and republicans saying they should pay a price for what they did. but let's get the investigation to its conclusion. leon panetta is a friend of mine and served in our government on many different levels. over this sunday, in the sunday talk shows, he talked about what he would recommend to the trump administration. he said to them very simply, get in front of this. don't keep reacting to this. say that if you've done nothing wrong, you're going to cooperate fully with any investigation to get to the bottom of it. that's the way to deal with it. and i hope we'll have an end to the tweets and a beginning of the cooperation that is necessary so that we can get to the bottom of this situation and know the facts wherever they may
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lead us. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: mr. president, i want to thank senator durbin, senator menendez and senator coons for joining on the floor today to talk about the threat russia poses. senator durbin is correct and i want to thank him for his leadership on this, that the only way that the american people will have a full accounting of what russia's intentions were and what they did in attacking our country is for an independent commission. we had such a commission after the attack on 9/11. democrats and republicans came together. there was no controversy about that. we wanted to find out what, how we were attacked, how they got through our intelligence network, how they put together the horrific attack on our country. and then we wanted to know how we could get recommendations to protect us moving forward. i will tell you, that
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commission served a very important national security function, because we learned a lot. we learned we were stove piping too much information. we weren't sharing it. that the way the agencies were set up it was more over turf than over mission. congress acted on the recommendations and we're safer today as a result of it. well, mr. president, we don't know what russia's intentions are all about. we suspect that they are trying to undermine our democratic system of government. we suspect that russia is interested in regaining its reputation as the form you are are -- former soviet union and are looking for a greater geographic footprint. we see that in their military operations not just on their border countries such as ukraine or what they're doing in georgia or moldova but we're seeing it in the middle east where they have a military presence today and they have a footprint there. we believe they want to become a greater russia. we know that they don't like democratic systems of government.
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their government stays in power through making sure that there is no effective opposition. they have quelled any opportunity for democratic opposition and for the free press. so we know those. but what are their ultimate aspirations? what do they intend to do with the trans-atlantic partnership? we talked about that. we are safer today because of the trans-atlantic relations. nato has made our nation safer. the strength of e.u. has made our nation stronger. we know that russia is trying to interfere with that. they interfered with the montenegro election in an effort to prevent montenegro from joining nato. we know they are e trying to pull other nations out of europe. we know that. so what we need to have, though, is a full accounting as to what happened in the attack on our country and how we can prepare ourselves to defend ourselves. and, by the way, it might also
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give us a blueprint for what we need to do to show russia we won't tolerate that type of activity. now, senator durbin's absolutely right. we have responsibilities in congress. the committee i serve on, the senate foreign relations committee, our relationship for russia, we have to have hearings. senator menendez was right in calling upon our committee to have additional hearings. what is russia doing? how does it affect not only our relationship with russia, but how do we deal with europe? how do we deal with the authorization for use of military force? because if we were attacked, can you use cyber as an attack vehicle? and does that require congressional authorization? we have to be prepared in our committees. the intelligence committee has a responsibility to find out exactly what happened and whether we need to change our intelligence network because russia was able to invade our country. they were able to get private information and then send it to wikileaks to use it politically
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against us. and they may have compromised some of our classified information. we don't know. we need to find that out. the intelligence committee has a function to play. the judiciary committee has a function to play. they have -- and i know the subcommittee is doing some work under senator whitehouse and graham. the armed services committee certainly has a role to play. but there's only one way that the american people will get a clear view of how serious this matter is all about and that we're taking every conceivable, possible step to make sure that we protect the national security of the united states and our democratic institutions, which is part of our national security. and that is to have an independent commission. there's no turf problems there. they can look at everything. they can have a transparent problem and the american people can get an eye as to what is happening and they can make the recommendations we need. i thank senator durbin for underscoring that point.
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it is something i think we can ultimately get to. it is something i hoped we could get to sooner rather than later. i want to thank senator coons for putting this in an historic perspective. he's absolutely right, we go back a long time as to what russia's intentions are all about and i thought that was extremely helpful to fill in all the aspects of what we're trying to do. senator menendez's point was very much critical, and that is our reasons for being here, our reasons for wanting to take action is to protect our country. it's the american people. we are not talking about any one person or any one election. this is not challenging the results of this past election. this is all about making sure that we protect the integrity of our free election system. and particularly moving forward knowing that russia may very well be engaged as we speak -- as we speak -- in trying to interfere with the elections in the netherlands, in germany and france. we need to have a better game plan on how to deal with this.
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and then as senator menendez said, i think it's a very important point -- i just want to underscore this. you can't trust russia. let's be clear about that. ask the ukrainians. they signed the budapest declaration. the united states was part of that. they gave up their nuclear capacity and in exchange they got the security of russia on their jurisdiction, on their territory, on their sovereignty. look how long that lasted before russia invaded -- invaded ukraine, annexed part of ukraine and continue to supply resources to disrupt the eastern part of ukraine so that ukraine will have a very difficult time in its integration into europe. that's what russia is doing today in contravention to their written commitments which
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ukraine. and then i tell my colleagues, look at the minsk agreements to try to end this hot war and russia has violated all the aspects of the minsk agreements. you can't trust russia's agreements, as senator menendez pointed out, and he's absolutely right, look at the i.n.f. and the treaty obligations. russia is violating their treaty obligations which directly affect the security of europe. so these are pretty serious things. we countered this by unity. mr. president, we countered this unity. that's why i am so proud that we have democrats and republicans working together. this is not one party. both parties recognize the danger of russia. both parties recognize that we have to protect ourselves. i would just urge my colleagues, let's figure a strategy where we can show the american people
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that unity, that resolve and that we will not allow russia to attack our country, that we will prepare and defend our democratic system of government and that we will be united in standing up to those types of activities that are against our national security interests. with that, mr. president, i would yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. van hollen: thank you, mr. president. we've now had a little more than 24 hours to get a peek at the republican plan to get rid of the affordable care act, and, mr. president, now we know why they kept it in hiding for as long as they did because it is a total mess and it will wreak
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havoc on the health care system in the united states of america and severely harm millions of americans. i mean, mr. president, after seven years in waiting, is this really the best that they can do? the first thing people need to know about the republican plan to replace the affordable care act -- and let's be clear, this is no replacement, this is a fake replacement -- the first thing they need to know about it is it will strip away affordable health care for millions of americans in order to give the wealthiest households a huge tax cut. how big is that tax cut? well, first of all, it goes to households who make over $250,000 a year. here's the thing -- the richer you are, the more money you make over $250,000 a year, the bigger
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tax cut you're going to get under the republican health care plan, under trumpcare. in fact, if you're a millionaire, you're going to get a tax cut, on average, about $50,000. to be precise, $49,370 average tax cut for millionaires. and if you're in the top one tenth of 1% of american households, you will get, on average, a $200,000 tax cut under the republican plan to get rid of the affordable care act. so that's great news if you're name is donald trump or you're one of the billionaires or millionaires in his cabinet. it's great news if you've got loads of money. mr. president, i want to be clear. i've got nothing against
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millionaires. the more millionaires, the better in terms of growth in the economy. but certainly at this point in time, they don't need a tax cut and they certainly don't get -- shouldn't have a tax cut when the impact of that is to harm tens of millions of americans and hurt their health care. so i guess we're beginning to learn exactly what president trump meant when he said that his health care was going to be, quote, much better, unquote. well, yeah. if you're one of those folks in the top one tenth of 1% of american income earners, if you're in the wealthiest strata of this country, you're going to get a big tax break, and so i guess it's much better for you from that perspective. you know who else it's going to be better for? it's going to be better for insurance companies and their
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c.e.o.s. it's really hard to believe, but if you look at the house bill, and, again, i know why it was under lock and key for so long, if you take a look at it, you will find their plan gives insurance companies a new tax break when they pay their c.e.o.'s multimillion dollar bonuses. in fact, the bigger the bonus, the health care -- the bigger the bonus the health care company pays to the c.e.o., the bigger tax break the corporation gets, the more american taxpayers will be subsidizing those bonuses for those insurance c.e.o.'s. so you know what, you're a c.e.o. of the insurance company, you raise premiums, the company makes more money, you get a bigger bonus, taxpayers foot the bill in terms of a larger taxpayer subsidy to those c.e.o.'s. when you add up all the tax
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breaks for the c.e.o.'s and insurance companies and the wealthiest americans, it's a tax break windfall of $600 billion. that's the number by the experts on the joint committee on taxation here in the congress. these are the nonpartisan experts who look at legislation and determine what the fiscal impact will be. and what they say is that trumpcare bill will provide tax breaks in the amount of $600 billion over the next 10 years. so i guess that's what president trump must have been referring to the other day when he was tweeting about, quote, his wonderful new health care bill. it will be wonderful for those who are getting those big tax breaks. so we know who the winners are, mr. president. who are the losers?
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well, just about everybody else ends up on the short end of the stick. just about everybody else in america, and that's why you're seeing such strong opposition coming from all over the country. first, there are the millions of americans who are going to lose their health care coverage all together because they can't possibly afford to pay the huge additional premiums and cosponsors and -- copays and deductions they would be faced with under these plans that would be offered. and then there are tens of millions more who will pay much more for much less coverage. older americans are going to be especially hard hit, which is why we're all hearing from aarp. you know, aarp, you know, they
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sometimes give their opinion. they weigh in a little bit here and there. but they are out full force against this trumpcare bill because it's going to have a very negative impact on seniors in america. they call it a sweetheart deal to big drug companies and other special interests. they argue and will talk about how it will weaken medicare, and then they say it's going to impose an age tax on older americans, and that is what it does. in fact, they calculate, and i'm quoting, that the change in structure will dramatically increase premiums for older consumers. we estimate that the bill's changes to the current law's tax credits would increase premium costs for a -dz 55 -- for a
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55-year-old earning $55,000 a year by more than $2,300 a year. for a 64-year-old earning $25,000 a year, that increase rises to more than $4,400 a kwraer -- a year. $4,400 more a kwraer for that 6 -- a year for that 64-year-old earning $25,000 for the health insurance they have today. then they calculate that it will be $5,800 more for a 64-year-old earning $15,000. so, in other words, compared to the affordable care act, the less income you have, the more you're going to be paying under trumpcare than you're paying today under obamacare -- under the affordable care act.
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we're also hearing from groups that fight for the rights of people with disabilities from all over the country who are against this legislation because of its impact on medicaid and the impact those cuts to medicaid will have on people with disabilities throughout the country. we're also hearing about the impact on medicare. one of the promises candidate trump made was that he wasn't going to do anything that would harm medicare. that's what he said then. but, in fact, in january the congress received a letter from the medicare actuaries. these are the professionals that look at the impact of various proposals on the medicare system, and what they concluded was this proposal to provide tax
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cuts to wealthy americans would actually reduce the life of the medicare program by three years. so here's what they are proposing -- we're going to give a tax cut and one of the tax cuts means that wealthy americans will not have to pay a portion of their medicare taxes. right. that portion of that medicare taxes today goes into the medicare trust fund. you say to those wealthy americans, we're going to give you a tax break, that's going back in your pockets, it means it's no longer going into the medicare trust fund. that shortens the life of the medicare trust fund. that's the -- that's the views, that's the opinion, that's the facts stated by the actuaries for medicare. now, as you begin to reduce the life of the medicare program, there will be more and more
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pressure to go to the plan that's been much discussed, especially by house republicans, to a voucher program -- to turn medicare into a voucher program. and the aarp raises this issue as well in their letter. because if you're going to start cutting down on the medicare trust fund, if you're reducing the revenues going into that trust fund because you're giving wealthier americans this tax cut, obviously there's less money in that program to pay for the bills in medicare, so one of the ideas that's been pushed is, all right, let's -- let's save money for medicare by transferring the risks that medicare currently takes on to the backs of seniors, so we're going to give them a voucher -- a voucher that does not keep pace with the rising costs of
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medicare. that means over time seniors have to pay a lot more, get a lot less in health care, and that's how they save the medicare plan money. so make no mistake, by providing a tax cut, and particularly the tax cut to the wealthy -- wealthy -- the medicare program right now you're hurting medicare. now, mr. president, i know that the president says he's a terrific negotiator -- just a terrific negotiator. i have here, in fact, a book, "trump," the art of the deal. i don't know whether trump is a good negotiator or bad negotiator, but what i know is this -- when you look at this trumpcare plan, whoever did the negotiating was


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